What are MOOCs all about?

This is a continuation of my previous post on What theory best supports Future Education and Learning?

Here is Stephen Downes nice post on MOOC.

I found Stephen’s talk resonating, especially when he says:

I think that in the MOOCs that we’ve done, to some degree, and in the MOOCs that others have done, to a much larger degree, too much of the interactivity has been focused around the facilitators. In the Stanford AI MOOC, it’s all about the facilitators, who are famous names in Artificial Intelligence. That’s not networking. And in our MOOCs as well people line up to – well they don’t really line up – they gather in small clusters to listen to George and Dave and myself and it’s hard to get them to gather in small clusters to communicate among themselves. So it all becomes centrally focused, and if you can’t find that centre you become lost.

It is not that facilitators are not important in MOOC, what Stephen commented was that interactivity shouldn’t be just around the facilitators, but rather be around the peer-to-peer interaction, where participants form into clusters, most likely based on self-organised learning, and thus creating the networks just like the webs all around, and a part of the internet.

What is even more important is to “democratise” learning through open, distributed and diverse networks, where people could join or leave the network, based on their interests, goals, and their “sharing”, in order to further enrich their learning experience, with interaction and conversation.  Here in MOOC, everyone’s voices could be shared openly, thus starting the conversation and initiating the discourse.

In a MOOC, it is not about the content, where participants are expected to remember, as Stephen re-iterated.  Rather, it is about the “valued” connections and process where participants would interact individually and socially with learning and reflecting on the current “themes”, or that part of the content or topic in a MOOC.  So, each participant could sense and perceive the pattern out of the topics of interests, and share what they have found from  the artifacts, discuss and debate about them, and challenge one another on the assumptions, the findings, the conclusions.  They could further critically examine about the pros and cons of each of those view points, and explore about the applications and limitations of their use in real life or work settings.  To this end, artifacts created and shared are the sensemaking tools that enable participants to connect, share and cooperate, and learn in networks.

It is interesting to reflect on what the problems are with MOOCs and those possible solutions.

Now it seems obvious that facilitators have been playing a significant role in the content-rich and skills based MOOC where the outcomes of MOOCs are measured in terms of the number of passes or successful completion in MOOCs.

Here Professor Peter Norvig shares his experience:

Professor Sebastian Thrun also shares his story:

Both professors are focussing on “teaching” the content of their courses, as that is also the expectation of them to deliver the content of the course to the learners, and their institutions or providers that they be “responsible” for the outcomes of the course.  This is typical in an online course, where instructors are expected to satisfy the needs and expectations of the learners, especially for those who are looking for the learning of certain skills in these courses.

The results of teaching tens or even hundreds of thousands of students were both amazing and fascinating.  When one examines the MOOCs based on such approaches, we could see that facilitation or instruction was based principally on how the instructors would provide the content, mainly in the forms of (short videos) instruction, followed by short quiz, readings, assignments, and tests and examinations.  Students who are accustomed to the Universities teaching would surely find this quite a familiar approach to learning, as it is still premised on the model of instructional design with a taxonomy of learning outcomes.

Here Udacity is posting lots of challenges for different groups of learners – with the target of secondary school students too.  This sounds exciting as this is far reaching to the secondary schools, together with teams being encouraged to engage with the courses.

How about edX?  Here you will find the answers to FAQ in edX.

It’s too early to evaluate the successes of such initiatives, and so time will tell.  Overall, it is interesting to see different MOOCs evolving, and providing education using different strategies, pedagogies and media to reach the learners around the world.

What is interesting in these MOOCs is that they are now falling under the following patterns:

1. Those MOOCs based on a connectivist approach – with learning focusing on the learning process, with network construction and navigation,where connections, interactivity, diversity, openness, autonomy are emphasised.  Here George elaborates on the theory under our MOOCs.  Stephen explains what a MOOC does here.

2. Those MOOCs based on an instructivist – behavioral/cognitivist (blended with constructivist) approach – with learning focusing on the learning outcomes and thus are basically content based, where learners are guided by the main instructors, and are also assessed based on either the machine based assessment tools or peer assessment.

I have compared these two types of MOOCs under the assumptions about learning here.

My suggested assumptions in MOOC include:

  • people would learn in a self-directed manner
  • Knowledge is distributed
  • Knowledge is negotiated
  • Knowledge is emergent
  • Knowledge is rhizomatic (thanks to Dave’s video posted – refer to How to be successful in MOOC?)
  • Learning is capacity to construct, navigate and traverse across networks
  • personal learning networks would be a far better way for people to learn
  • people like to learn via social networks
  • people know how to connec(people have the communication, literacy and critical literacy skills)
  • people know how to use the technology to connect
  • people are self motivated (intrinsic motivation)
  • people like to accept challenges, chaos and complexity is just part of the learning process
  • people don’t need to follow a course or qualification for learning to be effective
  • Learning is emergent, and is based on connections, engagement and interactions
  • Learning is open
  • Identity in networked learning is based on individual’s “participation, interaction” in the networks, and is reflective of ones involvement in the media, it’s dynamic, adaptive
  • Individual and social learning is emphasised – cooperation
  • Sensemaking and wayfinding are important
whereas on the other hand, the more formal or traditional education/learning approach or even the online approach of:
  • people need to learn in a structured manner, in a course (face to face or online), with teacher’s instruction (zpd) zone of proximal development,
  • people construct knowledge via a constructivist pedagogy – with an expert.
  • Knowledge is acquired
  • Learning is about acquisition of knowledge, skills and experience
  • people like to learn with Learning Management Systems (LMS)
  • people prefer to learn independently (in a closed environment) (behind the walls in schools) or learn collaboratively in a group or team
  • people don’t have enough skills, knowledge and experience to use technology to connect, formal training/education is the solution
  • people don’t want chaos, complexity – don’t want to be overwhelmed with information or knowledge
  • people need to be motivated with rewards (extrinsic motivation)
  • people need to follow a course or qualification for learning to be effective
  • Learning is based on instruction by the teachers
  • Learning is closed (in a closed classroom or closed online network)
  • Identity is based on the association of oneself as a student or that of the group – it’s static
  • Group learning is emphasised – collaboration
  • Teaching and close mentoring are important

There are certainly some blurring boundaries and overlapping between the two sets of assumptions, and I don’t claim it provides a complete picture of the reality.
Finally, I think it is up to the educators and learners to consider what might be aligning most with what they perceived would be the ideal learning for them, as I have also shared them in my previous post, relating to the matching of teaching with learning – and matches of teachers and learners.

What theory best supports Future Education and Learning

For the past decade, I have been exploring about the effective use of learning theories in formal, informal and non-formal education and learning.

What is fundamental in learning and teaching, especially in education relates back to

(a) learners – characteristics, autonomy, motivation and determination, learning styles.

(b) educators – design and delivery of instruction, media, teaching style.

(c) content, curriculum.

(d) pedagogy – learning and teaching strategies, paradigms.

(e) technology, tools and resources – Web 2.0, Blogs, Twitter, social media.

(f) environment – platform, networks, communities, schools, universities, internet, webs.

(g) education philosophy – leadership, purpose of education, vision and mission of education.

In this post, I will focus on the theory that best supports future education and learning

The debates between various “isms” had also undergone years of discourse, debates and heated arguments.  There were many excellent posts which captured the essence of the discourse.

In this post by Karlkapp

“What is the best, how do we know what makes sense or what doesn’t?” I suggest that lower level learning (lower cognitive load) requires a behaviorist approach (memorize, recognizing, labeling) as does the expectation of outcomes that must be measured. I then suggest that procedural and rule-based learning requires an emphasis on Cognitivism and finally, problem-solving, collaboration and creativity require a view of Constructivism.

Though all these sort of learning sound pretty reasonable, what I am concerned is whether lower level learning and higher level learning are all mixed up in a behavioral education and learning approach in even the most advanced courses in Universities.

The behavioral/cognitive dimensions in a “learning” when designing and developing courses in traditional higher education is now challenged, as more and more learners found it both difficult to “concentrate” with the hour or two long approach in mass lecture.

The urge for more innovative approach towards education and learning using a diverse approach – combining behavioral, cognitive and constructivist approaches have since evolved, and so this has given rise to “flipping the classroom” where the learners are encouraged and supported to learn with short snippets of educational videos where the instructors would instruct the learners in short  learning sessions at their own time, while coming to online synchronous session or face-to-face class session to work on projects, discussion activities or assignments, with instructors acting as mentors and or facilitators.

To what extent is this effective?   There have been numerous efforts in experimenting the flipping the classroom, and transformation of education was “reported”.  Overall, it seems some of the reported merits with such approach was overwhelmingly positive.

In this post:

Darren Nelson, who teaches Basic Algebra, Algebra II/Trig, and Senior Math, describes some of the benefits he’s seen: “This saves an amazing amount of time. We can demonstrate a math concept in a 10-minute video that normally we’d spend a whole period on in class. Students work at their own pace and, if they finish the problems in class, they move on to the next lesson.”

As I have shared here, flipping the classroom may not be the solution.  What is fundamental to the problem of education goes far beyond how time is spent in learning, but whether learning HOW TO LEARN is achieved through the learning process and journey.  A student who is learning the basics with declarative knowledge and certain procedural knowledge may benefit from such flipping the classroom.

There are many assumptions which need to be addressed when introducing flipping the classroom in the case of higher level of learning, especially when a learner-centred approach is adopted.  This requires a totally different approach where more efforts should be spent in catering for personalised learning, with innovation the focus of education and learning.  To what extent are professors and students ready to adopt innovative approach towards education and learning?

Online Education seems to be the focus in Future Education and Learning.  However online education has teachers conflicted, also reported here.  Why?  Over all, the faculty view of online quality was bleak, with 66 percent of respondents saying learning outcomes are inferior compared to traditional courses, and only 6 percent saying online is superior.

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/survey/conflicted-faculty-and-online-education-2012#ixzz1yh5scUPV
Inside Higher Ed

What are the best pedagogies to support such online education and learning?

In this pedagogies of the 21st century:

1. Curriculum – has passed its used-by date.  A frame work – constructed collaboratively and with imagination out of mutual respect for both learners and teachers is needed.  This could be a huge challenge, under the existing education framework, where standard curriculum is the norm rather than the exception.  This implies that knowledge is not only shared, but negotiated, when learning happens with a dynamic curriculum in a community.  This is also where MOOC with community as the curriculum would likely transform education.

2. The skills needed in dynamic present and future:

– interconnectedness

– managing meaning

– living with paradox

– working intelligently towards positive change

– maintaining a global perspective

These all fit well into the skills sets and could be related to the digital literacies educators and learners working with a dynamic workforce.

3. Such skills require transforming pedagogies which will focus on the nurturing of clear thinking, discerning, flexible and creative problem-solvers who will exercise their developed capacity to make the world a better place.

4. The emerging technologies must be used to enrich these transforming pedagogies.

5. To facilitate such learning and teaching, the use of learning spaces both within and beyond the immediate school plant, must be characterised by creativity and adaptability.

Finally, I would reiterate about future of education based on a new paradigm of knowledge:

I conceive new and emerging knowledge would be created through such “Global Community and Networks” which would be based on an environment, education and learning ecology with a network of learning platforms such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), MOOCs (Massive Open Online Communities) and MOOP (Massive Open Online Projects) over different spaces, network chains.

This would eventually lead to a community or community of practice approach towards learning in a MOOC, as a starting point towards education and learning in a global education arena and platform.

It is where the school is the centre of students, where students have complete autonomy, control of what, when, where, how, who they want to learn with, and also why they would like to learn, and learning how to learn, in their own way:

To this end, Connectivism and Constructivism do play a part in the whole learning, though I still think the following applies:

All these are based on metaphors and assumptions.

Postscript: See this 21st century literacies.

Future of Education and MOOCs

What would be the Future of Education?

George Siemens in his current post on the Future of Education and other imponderables says:
Education can be broken down into numerous areas of functionality:
  • Content and curriculum
  • Teaching and learning
  • Accreditation and assessment
  • Research and dissemination
  • Administration and leadership
The problems of education are mainly economic, but they arise in a context of rapid technological change, so it is hardly surprising that technology is seen as a solution to cure the ills of the system.
I could sense the concerns within HE institutions, where the changes in Higher Education are so rapid that many institutions have to adapt and respond with more innovative approaches.
We see no bright lights on the financial horizon as we face limits on tuition increases, an environment of declining federal support, state support that will be flat at best, and pressures on health care payors.  This means that as an institution, we have to be able to prioritize and reallocate the resources we do have, and that our best avenue for increasing resources will be through passionate articulation of a vision and effective development efforts to support it. We also believe that higher education is on the brink of a transformation now that online delivery has been legitimized by some of the elite institutions.
 There are concerns relating to the future of education, in particular when it relates to the adoption of technology and internet in education and the use of MOOCs.  Would this bring forward the education revolution that some professors have predicted?
1. How will MOOCs make money?  Various ways of making money though MOOCs are discussed there.
One of the more provocative potential business models for MOOCs is to bypass credentialing altogether. Udacity has suggested that it might double as a headhunter for companies that might like to hire some of its more impressive students. Instead of simply selling those students credentials that they can list on their resumes while looking around for jobs, Udacity would offer to match students with companies that have enlisted Udacity as a talent scout. (The company has already hired a full-time jobs counselor to lay groundwork with potential employers.) Udacity would take a commission for each successful match, same as a headhunter.
A sustainable model would need to be based on a fee for service – i.e. requiring a fee for the award of a certificate from the University.  “So far the only revenue stream that the major new MOOC providers have said they will pursue is charging a fee for a certificate.”To what extent would institutions be ready for the development of a business model and plan?  What would be the actual running cost per participant who successfully completed in a MOOC?  These are important considerations for any Higher Institutions, before they would embark on MOOC.
2. How will MOOCs provide credentials for recognition of prior learning and associated assessment? The use of open badges may be one way to recognition of any informal or non-formal learning or studies, together with any formal learning or study through the MOOCs (edX, Couresa, MITx, Udacity, Stanford AI) etc.
3. What pedagogy work best with the MOOCs (edX, Couresa, MITx, Stanford AI) and the connectivist MOOCs?  Is flipping – the classroom with short videos the way and pedagogy to design and deliver such MOOCs?
Throughout the past connectivist MOOCs, participants of MOOC often exhibited learning behavior based on self-organised manners.  This seems to coincide with the OSOSS that David Wiley and Erin Edwards have discussed in this Online Self-Organising Social System:
While none of the existing OSOSS consider themselves learning communities, learning is happening among their users, and happening in an extremely innovative manners.
A distributed expertise model obtains in sufficiently large distributed learning communities, meaning that because expertise exists across the community no individual community member is overly burdened with the primary responsibility for answering questions and providing feedback.
These sort of interactions couldn’t be emphasized more, even in virtual synchronous classroom learning environment as Steve mentions that everyone contributes to the class, leading to positive learning experience.
The move towards more online education and learning, with a MOOC movement seems to be accelerating.
Here I have shared the challenges that we are facing when designing, developing and learning with MOOCs.
The first challenge is: Should the learning design of MOOC be based on Cognitivism, Constructivism, Social Constructivism, Situated Learning and/or Connectivism?
The second challenge would be whether structured education and learning is better suited to learners to semi-structured education and learning, in the case of MOOC.  How much structure should a MOOC or MOOOC has?
What I conceived would be a trend towards a behaviorist approach towards learning, when the SUPER MOOC approach driven by technology based learning is adopted  (edX, Couresa, MITx, Stanford AI) etc.  Here

Computer technology can provide support to many different educational pedagogies.  Drill and practice software can accelerate behaviorist methods, while the vast amount of knowledge on the Internet furthers the constructivist argument.  Since the knowledge available is both overwhelming, yet fairly easy to attain, creating learners that desire to learn and can acquire knowledge on their own will lead those learners to success.  Learning communities provide a support structure to learners taking this path.

Courses delivered online have student populations that are separated by distance so extra thought is needed to make an online course become a learning community.
What might be the different types of MOOCs offered in future?  
Professor Kurt Bonk brainstormed on a possible list of future MOOCs here.  I think they could be categorized under the following major types:
1. Skills and competency based MOOCs – the Just-in-Time skills could be relevant to those working in industry, while skills achievement are important at work.  The instructivist MOOCs (edX, Couresa, MITx, Udacity, Stanford AI) would likely be the popular MOOCs for learners.
2.  Theory and application based MOOCs – this relates to the development of new and emergent theories, knowledge and possibly applications at work.  The Connectivist MOOCs  (CCKs, PLENK, CritLit, Change11, LAKs) are typical MOOCs.
3. Research based MOOCs – These have been incorporated in the recent Change11 and PLENK.
4. Professional Development based MOOCs- the eportfolio MOOC, eduMOOC, mobiMOOC, FSLT MOOC, and wikieducator.
5. Business and Marketing based MOOCs.
6. Personal interest based MOOCs – these are networks and communities that formed all over different social media, often mediated by and with technologies.
7. Learning and Community based MOOCs – these are a combination of theory and application based and skills and competency based MOOCs.
There are many other types of MOOCs as Kurt mentioned, though I think they would soon converge or amalgamate to a few major MOOCs.
What are the values and implications when more educators and learners are resorting to the use of MOOCs in their courses?  Here I have shared the values of MOOC.
As George stated in his post: “Our goal with the course was to communicate how individuals learn in distributed networks and to do for teaching what MIT’s OCW did for content.”  Each of the course organisers of MOOC must also have their goals in mind.
How these MOOCs are designed and delivered would be based on the goals (or vision and mission) set forth by the organisers.
To this end, I would like to share that education is a never ending process (or business) where the goals are ever changing in this rapid changing world.