More reflections on MOOC

This is a response to Cathy Davidson’s post “What can moocs teach us about learning?”:

Here are some assumptions I’m making about why we need MOOCs and what we might learn from them: 

 (1) Even great teachers often know more about what of their “tricks” works than we know how and why they work and for which students.   

(2)  Teachers are no different than any other human.   

(3)   It is ridiculous to think that MOOCs should only be about teaching skills.  

Cathy asks:

Do MOOCs today teach us about learning?    Not yet.  But they have the potential if we ask the big, right questions.  Do MOOCs work?  What value do they add and for whom?  How do they add value?  Do they supplement other forms of learning or substitute?   Do they replace the classroom or prepare for it?  If they prepare for the classroom, how can they help us transform it?   What new can the performance of hundreds of thousands of online students tell us about motivation–especially the motivation to learn versus the motivation to be certified?

There are lots of assumptions here about teaching, learning and c and x MOOCs.

Here I have attempted to summarize the assumptions of the c and x MOOCs:

My suggested assumptions in MOOCs (c MOOCs) include:

  • people would learn in a self-directed and organised 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

Connectivist learning is emphasized. 

whereas on the other hand, the more formal or traditional education/learning approach or even the online approach of x MOOCs:
  • 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
Mastery learning is emphasized. 

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.

We are trying to evaluate MOOCs using the typical standards of value, quality, and certification as set by institutions, education authority, and the corresponding criteria of educational/business standards.

We are also trying to evaluate MOOCs using Wisdom of Crowds – Crowd sourcing, bloggers’ comments, forum discussion, COPs etc.

Here are a list of questions for reflection:

Is that how we would evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency in education in the case of informal learning, non-formal learning and the xMOOCs?  

What do xMOOCs try to address?  

What makes great teaching in x MOOCs?

Why use flipping the classroom approach?  

How effective are the video lectures in learning?

What are the merits, demerits of xMOOCs?

Are they effective in deep learning? What stimulates and inspires deep learning?  

Finally, what are the educational values of MOOCs?  What do learners want and achieve with MOOCs?

In this post, I would focus on the responses to the following questions only, as I have addressed the other questions in my previous posts:

Why use flipping the classroom approach?  

See my previous post on flipping the classroom.

How effective are the video lectures in learning?

Participants reported that short video lectures are significant improvement over traditional lectures.  I have also tried some of the video lectures of x MOOC myself.  Throughout the videos, short quizzes in the form of multiple choice or true/false were used to check on participants’ understanding of the concepts as explained in the videos.  Besides, one could pause the videos, or repeat watching the videos until full “mastery” of the content is achieved.   When the participants still have questions over the topics presented in the video lecture, they were advised by the professors to join the forum or to form study groups to explore the questions further.

What are the merits, demerits of xMOOCs?

The merits of  MOOC include anyone with an internet connection can attend for free.   This enables people all over the world, including those who live in remote regions to access high-quality university education.   There are substantial merits with xMOOCs as cited: open, portable, and interoperable.  Many professors have welcome the use of xMOOCs in reaching tens of thousands of learners from around the world (see here).  Learners have also reported favorably in their learning through the xMOOCs (see here).

Demerits include low completion rates.  Here “But MOOC’s do little to foster engagement or cross-cultural understanding, and in most cases don’t offer students a credential. By promoting centralized knowledge production, MOOC’s limit the spillover effects that can help build the academic infrastructure of developing nations.”

Here I have summarized some of the responses from different stakeholders from xMOOCs.  Another post on Ann’s experience of xMOOC here.

I have posted the review of MOOCs here by Sir John Daniel, also mentioned by Tony Bates here.