Is MOOC about Community Building?

I just come across this post on MOOC. So Coursera community is starting to introduce student profiles to enable students to build connections with each others.  That’s a great move towards community building.

There are suggestions to develop groups in these courses, and again that would surely help in supporting connectivity in MOOC.

The challenge in MOOCs is: how do we know who someone really is, in their identity online?  Also building groups with similar language and cultural background may help in clustering learners who speak and write the same languages, but then this would weaken the chance of those people meeting others coming from different backgrounds too.

If someone is coming from a “weak” educational background, then would that hinder them from connecting with those more experienced learners with a strong educational background?

As Roy points out:

On the question of elitist or egalitarian MOOCs … I think there is room for both, but the only really important point for me is it should be upfront: the polite equivalent of something like …

  1. ‘this MOOC is a conversation in which experts are free to participate in expert discourse, without regard for novices’
  2. ‘this MOOC is a conversation in which experts are free to participate in expert discourse, but they should be aware of the need to relate to others who may be novices in particular fields’ (which includes just about everyone)
  3. ‘this MOOC is a conversation in which experts are not free to participate in expert discourse if that leads to the exclusion and marginalisation of novices’.

What is Coursera built upon?  Is it an elitist or egalitarian platform?  That would determine how the conversation would flow, and who would be engaged in those conversations.  This is also a question for c MOOC too, as experts’ interests could be very different from those of the novices.

So, it is rather hard to resolve the issue – on whether experts and novices could be encouraged and supported in the discourse or conversation, by merely having a central forum in the course, where tens of thousands of students resided.

Has this been a challenge in c MOOCs – where MOODLE forum was used?   A definite YES.

In the post:

The connectivist model is more visionary in that it understands that one of the most dynamic assets of an unbound open learning system is the people, but in execution there is a lot of same chaos in identifying, absorbing, and building upon meaningful contributions. At the end of the day it is still too many voices overflowing seemingly never-ending streams.

There were suggestions on how these be rectified by:

1. Managing information: purposing a meaningful discussion

– Setting up the proper framework and controls

– Facilitating digestion of information

– Encouraging engagement

2. Facilitating action: tangible engagement beyond words

– Forging meaningful connections

– Translating into real-life interaction

Sounds great.  I suppose most of the actions mentioned are extremely useful and worthwhile to pursue, if most if not all students are coming from similar background experience, and thus with similar expectations.  However, in the case of MOOC, I think it would be quite a challenge to ensure the meaningful discussion and the provision of facilitation, unless these are based on self-organising action and volunteer master facilitators who could help and support the facilitation.

I also see those nuances in learning differently.  First connectivist model requires an appreciation of chaotic learning, due to the interaction between different agents and information sources, and are therefore highly valuable for people who would like to master sensemaking and wayfinding, as a goal in the learning.  Would that be applicable in structured courses such as x MOOCs?  May be, may be not.  As shared, the prescriptive learning that is based on known and declarative knowledge would not be learnt most effectively with approaches other than mastery learning, as there are definite answers that the learners are expected to respond to in assignments and examinations.

Second, even in the case of peer learning and assessment, the emergent learning that emerged out of the interaction in assessment would be “structured” around a few learners only.  Each of the peers need to have a certain mastery of the knowledge and skills before they could make a “valid” and reliable assessment of their fellow peers.  This is similar to the peer-review in articles for publication in journals or conference, only that the review here is related to certain course work, rather a formal paper for publication.

To achieve a mastery of skill in vetting and grading peers’ assignment required mastery of assessment too.  This might require certain “validation” of the skills before one could take up such assessment role.

Under a formal structured course of instruction, the instructivist approach seems to be the norm rather than exception, in endorsing and assessing the learners to peer assess.

If one wants to know whether the responses in assessment are meeting the standards set up by the education authorities or professors or not, then such assessment has to go through another assessment process – like auditing or peer-review by experts.  How would this work in x MOOCs?

How about the cheating and plagiarism issue that are challenging the Coursera?  Are these also part of the learners’ roles to check and report while assessing their peers’ work?

The peer assessment, however, may best be approached with a connectivist approach, provided any suggestions to improvement and development are co-created in an educator-learner environment.  This is both a challenge to the professor, and to that of fellow learners, who might have believed that chaos in learning is undesirable, thus causing frustrations among learners, who would then drop out of the course, without any raising of the concerns.

In summary, building community to approach learning in MOOC would surely be the way to go, when all those learning are happening in open space, rather than the limited closed space in forum or videos instruction.  There are however challenges which still need to be resolved, when language barriers, chaotic learning, peer assessment and cheating and plagiarism issues are emerging out of the MOOCs.

What are the solutions?

Postscript: Cheating has become a huge concern in Higher Education.  See this post.  Here is the post relating to the language and peer grading issues.

Photo: image from Google

8 thoughts on “Is MOOC about Community Building?

  1. Pingback: Is MOOC about Community Building? | Networked Learning - Learning Networks | Scoop.it

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  6. Pingback: Jorge González Alonso (jgonzalonso) | Pearltrees

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