#CFHE12 #Oped12 MOOC as the Wonderland

If you haven’t read this post, you may wonder what Sebastian Thrun meant when he says:

“I feel like there’s a red pill and a blue pill,” he said. “And you can take the blue pill and go back to your classroom and lecture your 20 students. But I’ve taken the red pill, and I’ve seen Wonderland.”

I had already experienced and seen that back in 2008 when I exclaimed here:

Then, there came the turbulence, power in between the pilots and passengers, when I have to fasten my seat belt.  It was a bumpy ride, and luckily, I have got my gears ready, and so I was safe and sound.  On one occasion, I took the breathing apparatus to keep alive.  But after a few more roller coaster rides, the complexity and chaos theories, the jargons, metaphors on friction, pipes, etc. I managed to focus on my exploration.  I finally understand where I am, and who I am talking to. And I soon got accustomed to the flight.

Once we have moved to the 9th week, we were safe.  And here came the landing in Week 12. Safe and sound landing on the wonderland of connectivism.

I am wondering what comes next, when many have now experienced the wonderland.

Ryan seems to suggest that xMOOCs are better than cMOOCs here.  I would try telling a story (narrative) in comparing the two.

What would be xMOOCs like?  xMOOCs are like going to a theme park where you know what is inside the park.  Every event is well organised, and shown on time, with measurable quality outcomes.


cMOOCs on the other hand is like visiting a wonderland where there is chaos, with the events all connected to each other, though you have to find out each of the event, by inquiring and exploring those events.  The event could turn up to be one searching for


Keith used the bee and bee hive story to illustrates the cMOOCs.

Apparently, when bees want to move their hive, the scout bees fan out in all directions. Most of them find nothing, but a few find something, and through their connections, they channel the other bees into these promising pathways until finally the way to a new hive emerges. What starts as chaos (MOOCers will be familiar with this sense of early chaos in a MOOC) turns out to be a highly efficient way to create new meaning for the hive.

Peter Sloep contrasts the xMOOCs the cMOOCs here and here.

May be both are spots in the Wonderland, just that we are visiting the spots (platforms) with different exciting events and activities.

Both MOOCs could have “wonders” for us to play, and see, though soon, some wonders would turn into private ones, where you need to pay, in order to enjoy.

Presently, they are still FREE.


#CFHE12 #Oped12 Research into MOOCs Part 1

Why are there so few researches done on MOOCs?

What are the challenges in conducting researches into MOOCs?

Here oped12-need-for-more-research-related, Osvaldo concludes:

These are just 4 illustrations that exemplify some important issues in online education today.

  • Academic papers whose references are based on blogs and newspaper articles.
  • Numbers quoted by newspapers and blogs that can be totally misleading.
  • More precise information from learning analytics and more published research are needed.
  • Since the average time it takes for a research paper to get published in a peer reviewed journal is around 4 months, when they do appear they are most probably obsolete.Research in online education needs to change its publishing methodology to a more dynamic format. (If interested in this particular point I have discussed it in more detail in a previous blog post (Rodriguez 2012)).

There are 5 challenges of researching into MOOCs:

1. Difficulty in coming to generalization, with views and perspectives of learners posted on forum or discussion boards and blog posts

Sounds like a sandwich approach in comments. Start with praises, followed by criticisms, then supportive reinforcement  http://coursetalk.org/machine-learning-stanford …

If you were to write a research paper based on such postings, isn’t it perfect to say xMOOCs provide great learning experience for the learners?  To what extent are such claims applicable to all participants?  Most MOOC participants to a survey research would likely do the same, by providing valuable and honest feedback about the course design and delivery.  However, what are the presumptions here?  Those who like the MOOCs would post their comments on the discussion board.  Those who don’t wouldn’t even bother to comment.  May be, or may be not?

How about the views and experiences of other educators, professors of these MOOCs?  You would find a lot in the blog posts, where praises and criticisms are all nuanced or mixed, using the sandwich approach, in order to show an “appreciation” of MOOCs.

2. Difficulty in evaluation of MOOCs (both x and c MOOCs), due to differences in the lenses of pedagogy adopted by the researchers

If we were to evaluate MOOCs for xMOOCs based on Mastery Learning as a pedagogy, then we would likely come up with the conclusion that Mastery Learning is a perfect way to teach and learn, as the assumptions behind such pedagogy are “proven” based on “facts” and “praises” by the learners, likely those who successfully achieved mastery through learning with the course.

What about those participants (or researchers) who prefer to learn with other pedagogy, likely due to their different “schools” of thoughts?  For instance, those who learn through a connectivist or constructivist approaches towards learning, where learning is based on Connectivism, or Constructivism, and Social Constructivism.  Would these participants come up with the same or similar evaluation of the course and the presenter(s)?  There are many assumptions behind such nuances and differences in views of the MOOCs.  The strong criticisms on both sides of the MOOCs are evident, from both educators and participants.

3. Who are conducting the researches on MOOCs?  Would that make a difference in the research findings and conclusion?

Would the research studies be coming out from researchers, academics, scholars, or students?  It’s likely that each groups of researchers would look at MOOCs from different angles, perspectives, even with the findings pretty much similar, through research studies.  This has been revealed through many researches, where participants continued to praise the MOOCs.  The challenge is: would researchers be able to disclose any “negative” or “not so positive comments” about the courses?  These are sensitive issues that are bound by research ethics and confidentiality protocols, that none of these comments would be named, and so they remained anonymous.  To what extent would researchers disclose such remarks in their research papers?  How would that type of research findings add value to the research, and respond to the research questions?

4. How would research into MOOCs be funded and supported?

Who would fund such researches in MOOCs?  I have worked with Jenny Mackness, Roy Williams, Rita Kop, and Helene Fournier in research into MOOCs, and none of them were funded by institutions.  I found such researches both interesting and challenging, mainly because research done on a “personal basis” would only be “recognised” by oneself, and organisation so far if it adds value to them.

5. Challenges in collaborative research in MOOCs

As Jenny has posted in her blog here:

For me collaborative research also works best when partners are equally enthusiastic about the research topic and have a genuine desire to dig deep, i.e. it’s more than a jumping through hoops exercise to meet an externally imposed target. The rewarding bit of the research for me is in the discussions that can take place, possibly over many months or even years about the ideas being researched. The actual publication is simply the icing on the cake.

Finally, for me the most rewarding research collaborations have been those where the discussion doesn’t end simply because the paper has been submitted for publication – the discussion has been rich enough to generate too much to say in one publication and ideas for further research immediately spring to mind.

We need partners who would be willing to collaborate with each others, and more importantly willing to open up each other’s minds, in the design and development of research tools and methods which work.  Research into MOOCs is an emerging and evolving practice, and so the publication of paper is just one part of the whole story.   Research into MOOCs also needs to take into considerations the protocols of academic research, where researchers need to understand their roles and responsibility to each others, and to the community that they are associated with, in this case the MOOCs.

mooc download 101

Picture Credit: From Lisa Lane’s post


#CFHE12 #Oped12 The emergence of MOOCs part 4 Assessment, Certification and Accreditation

Are MOOCs suitable for all disciplines?  What are some of the disciplines or domains which could be difficult for institutions to adopt an MOOC approach?  What about education and training of doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc.?

In this post Online learning glitch: MOOC flaws will be hard to resolve by Ed Byrne:

The other major problem the MOOCs haven’t solved is assessment. They work very well for subjects like maths, which have objectively right and wrong answers, and can therefore be pretty easily marked by computers. It remains to be seen whether the model can be extended to softer subject areas, like, say, politics, philosophy or the social sciences.

MOOCs covering subject areas of politics, philosophy and social sciences based on a xMOOC approach would be really difficult to be assessed as there is no objectively right and wrong answers.  How about the use of a connectivist approach in these subject areas?

In this post on MOOC, the connectivist approach towards MOOCs is revealed:

MOOCs, after all, were originally intended to provide for engagement and collaboration. The first MOOC made use of participatory-engagement tools now familiar to all liberal arts colleges: a wiki, a learning management system, blogs, Twitter, and videoconferencing. And originally, the MOOC was based on four types of activity, all key to the connectivist model:

1. Aggregate, in which students engage with lectures from experts, daily content links provided through a course newsletter, and reading content on the Web.
2. Remix, with students being encouraged to communicate with peers about content and what they are learning, through blogs, discussion boards, or online chat.
3. Repurposing, as students construct or create knowledge.
4. Feed-forward, with students encouraged to publish (and thus share their knowledge) in blogs or other “open” venues.

When it comes to MOOCs and the liberal arts college, then, everything but size matters. Take the “massive” out of “massive open online course” and you have a course delivery program/support model highly useful to liberal arts colleges for outreach and engagement.

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2012/11/29/essay-challenges-posed-moocs-liberal-arts-colleges#ixzz2DflaFX00
Inside Higher Ed

May I quote a few of my previous posts in response to these?

In my post:

“In networked learning, “it is not just what we learn, but how we feel about what we learn, which counts in the long term.” So is dancing as a metaphor. It’s the feeling of learning which makes a difference from the traditional education and learning, where group learning is believed to be based on a scientific approach, and individual feelings need to be constrained to avoid intervening the group’s performance.

So, it is important to encourage a dynamic between thinking and feeling in order to promote learning more effectively, rather than focusing on critical thinking alone, especially in networked learning.

“Learning is an interactive experience best achieved in a climate of relatedness, care and mutual respect. Such care is offered, not imposed, and respects humans’ need for autonomy, self-determination, and challenge as well as security” Rosyln Arnold (2005) (pg 28). This could be crucial to networked learning, especially where humans are interacting with each others in communities of practice. However, there are still paradoxes in between autonomy, diversity, openness and interactivity when educators and learners are immersed in a complex, emergent learning environment (MOOC).

It would be important to reflect on assumptions behind connectivist learning. Some questions include:
1. How could learning be best achieved under a connectivist environment?
2. What are the pre-requisite literacies and skills for educators and learners to consider in networked learning?

I suppose meaning created by each learner (under Constructivism or Social Constructivism) does assume the recognition and interpretation of networks.

I suppose there are overlaps in the Constructivism and Connectivism approaches

In this Beyond constructivism: navigationism in the knowledge era:

Teachers and educators should become the source of how to navigate in the ocean of available information and knowledge. We should become coaches and mentors within the knowledge era. Instructional designers should start to design coaching and navigating activities instead of designing learning facilitation and learning activities; to configure navigation tools instead of the re-configuration of content.”

The differences between the instructivist approaches adopted by xMOOCs with Mastery Learning and connectivist approaches adopted by cMOOCs with Emergent, Constructivist and Connectivist Learning are nuanced, when assessment and certification are based on the actual performance adopted by both EDUCATORS AND LEARNERS, in a collaborative and connective manner.

It is a challenge to distinguish what constitutes purely as the work  and performance of individual learners, as those learners may actually be taking the role of the professors, as curators, wiki-creators, course designers, mentors and coaches, in certain ways, and the typical learners’ role, learning side by side with other learners.  We would be too happy to learn that our co-learners are all over the MOOCs, like Stephen Downes, George Siemens, Dave Cormier, David Wiley, Alec Couros, Grainne Conole, Howard Rheingold, Tony Bates, Terry Anderson,  and many more, as I have shared in my various posts.

I re-posted here for reference:

Open/Online/Distance Education

Terry Anderson

Tony Bates

David Wiley

Alec Couros

Grainne Conole

Kurt Bonk

On Communities of Practice

Etienne Wenger

Jean Lave

On Social Media

Henry Jenkins

Howard Rheingold

Jay Cross

Jane Hart

Harold Jarche

Clark Quinn

Will Richardson

Clive Shepherd

Tony Karrer

Nancy White

In a cMOOC, the learning is derived from being part of a Practitioner, and an Open Scholar and Researcher of the Community to immerse, engage, interact, cooperate and collaborate with each others – the peers, the other professors, the educators, the learners, and all other researchers to co-design, develop and deliver MOOCs in an adaptive, dynamic manner.  This would lead to emergent communal learning, based on Crowd Sourcing of knowledge and information, by leveraging the Wisdom of the Crowds – in creating new and emergent knowledge.  

It doesn’t end with the cMOOC, but continues to lead to new and novel ways of developing further MOOCs.  You could find many MOOCs development by Jenny Mackness etc.  See this reference list on MOOCs resources and research papers.

The Connectivist approach to MOOCs is not about content knowledge that is static, but connectivity to the experts, masters, artifacts, peers, networks, either mediated via tools and networks, or in direct contact if one is having face-to-face facilitation and mentoring.  It is not about knowing something that makes us an expert of a field, but the ability to construct and navigate the networks with the design of coaching and navigating activities, and configuration of navigation tools (PLE/PLN) etc.

In my other post:

At what point could this become connectivist if the actions are on the internet and interaction/development of ideas takes place? https://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/change11-connectivism-and-constructivism-whats-similar-and-different/ We are all connected with our local communities and networks in certain ways, patterns, but with technology as media, and social media as “catalyst” and agents, we are now able to reach different corners of the world, beyond the traditional closed walls (schools, classes) or local groups or communities. The tyranny of space and time could also be overcome with such a connectivist approach. So, whilst constructivist approach addresses the construction of meaning between agents (mainly human, or actor networks), connectivist approach goes beyond that through multiple agents, multiple actor networks, technology and tools, and most important of all, with a basis of openness, autonomy, diversity and connectedness (properties of networks) in order to strengthen the learning.

For an elaboration on the characteristics of early MOOCs, you will find them in George andStephen’s various posts and other papers here and here. You could also find some papers inmy publications on the right hand side of this blog menu, which documented how the MOOCs were designed, delivered and developed. The MOOCs are evolving and emerging and so they are based on adaptive, self-organising and emergent learning principles, rather than the static prescriptive instrumental learning principles.

An ideal MOOC to me would likely be distributed over different learning spaces, which again would align with learners’ different and changing needs and goals. As Stephen mentioned the product of learning is the learner, and so the learning is based on a growth model where learner’s growth of “knowledge” and wisdom with the navigation and construction of networks upon time. This also requires pruning of obsolete network patterns (outdated concepts, information, knowledge etc.), with the growing and nurturing of new and emergent network patterns.

This is also one of the most difficult and challenging part of education and learning, as it challenges the values of traditional canonical knowledge often prescribed in books and are determined by authorities, and are confined to be “delivered” in a closed wall settings. With the rapid changes in information and knowledge landscape, such ways of “transmitting” information and knowledge limited the discourse and inquiry, reducing knowledge to a set of memorable known facts, information, or procedures which, if understood would constitute learning.

Answers to questions, if shared would provoke further thinking and reflection, in a connectivist learning ecology. As each of us may look at the answers from our own lens, experience, we could then share our understanding, and critique on the “strengths” and “weaknesses” of those answers, and thus be able to improve or innovate through deeper inquiry and critical thinking. This is also based on a social scientific approach where “truths” are revealed in light of evidences and arguments, rather than the mere showing of facts and figures in experimentation.

I think it would be necessary to write a paper elaborating on the changes in MOOCs since their inception.

Image: from Google & Dave Cormier

Postscript: Stephen Downes has posted this Video that relates to Connectivist Learning.

On assessment in MOOCs, here is my post:

” Online education through MOOC could be feeding us with knowledge like steroids”  Is such claim a hyperbole?  May be, may be not.

I found this post and the comments pretty fascinating, and I would like to respond below. Stephen summarises and evaluates it, and comments:

  • it’s too easy to cheat
  • star students can’t shine
  • employers avoid weird people (he writes: “Getting an unconventional degree suggests you’re probably one of the usurpers who are more trouble than they are worth. MOOCs are the nose rings of higher education.”)
  • computers can’t grade everything
  • money can’t substitute for ability

In fact, none of these are genuine issues, as they are rooted in perception rather than any fact. If you get past a vision of the world where students compete with each other through grades then you see a world in which a MOOC is normal and acceptable, as students participate in online projectys that reflect their true abilities, creating portfolios than can be judged with much more fine-graded nuance than opaque grading systems.

1. Cheating

I agree with Stephen’s views on “these rooted in perception rather than fact”.  We don’t seem to have enough evidences: facts and researches to support those claims.

When students are immersed in the learning environment, focusing on learning and practising what has been learnt, through the creation of portfolios and collaboratively or cooperatively working with others in the networks, then assessment is merely the collection of such evidences of the learner’s own work, and “cheating” is not that important.  In fact, that is how most people (both educators and learners) would “reblog” or aggregate and curate blog posts and artifacts through RSS, Delicious, Google, wikis, and add their comments and evaluations based on those parts of the original posts.

Cheating would however become a critical issue if grading in assessment comes into play, where a candidate or student is judged based on the performance on assignments, tests and examinations.  It could also be a concern to educators and education authority, or even businesses on how such practices are allowed to take place in education.  So, when it comes to assessment, it depends on the level of “copying” of contents that are in the artifacts, blog posts or  videos, podcasts, slides, etc.  In summary, some of those perceptions would still be a concern for institutions, when accreditation and validation of  course work of assignments or examinations of MOOC are concerned.

2. Star students cant’ shine

I am not sure if there are significant number of star students who can’t shine in MOOCs.  What makes a star student?

This is how Tom Peters perceives an A student, or a star student.

May be there are some truths, though we need more evidences on this.

3. Employers avoid weird people

I don’t think that is true.  Employers want people who are productive, creative, and hardworking.  Employers want results.  So, how would we equate those who took MOOC to be weird people that employers don’t want?  May be too many assumptions behind here.

4. Computers can’t grade everything

Yes.  There are certain learning that computers can’t grade, especially when it comes to humanity studies, or ontology.  However, there are many mundane tasks or examinations (with MC, T/F) which could be easily graded by computers.  So, it depends on what you are assessing in MOOCs.

5. Money can’t substitute for ability

I think money can “buy” the ability of a person, and that is where people are employed to do the work and get paid.  Can money substitute for ability?

The creation and development of more MOOCs

There is an interesting trend in MOOCs. Wonder if this has caught institutions by surprise!  I think this is what most opportunistic learners would do.

So, aren’t these star students?  They even organised their own MOOCs.  Are they the ones who are creating their own learning platforms, spaces, based on their own choices?  Aren’t Sal Khan doing similar things?

These xMOOCs might have laid the golden eggs, ready for the hackers and opportunistic learners to hatch.  What would be the implications?  Aren’t these Entrepreneurship Movements of MOOCs on steroids?

What is actually learnt in a MOOC, and MOOC MOOC in particular?

What makes these MOOCs attractive?  Here are some of my points of learning about MOOC:

1. Connections – to ideas, concepts and thinking of others, yours, and mine. As I shared in my main post about Connectivism, MOOC is a platform where different ideas are entered into our minds, with some forms of aggregation, followed by curation if you like.  The remixing and repurposing of those ideas would come naturally, once you allow for the “flow” to guide you.  The feedforward part is where you share with others through the media, tools. The connected learning elaborated here provides a summary of what it means to be connected.

2. Conversation – this is the most important of all in a connectivist learning, where conversation with oneself and others form the basis of learning, turning tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge with thinking out loud.

3. Critical thinking and literacy – here is my previous post on critical thinking in MOOC.

Will further elaborate on how certification and accreditation be achieved using a Connectivist approach in the coming posts.

Postscript: My comments on the post
What MOOCs, and cMOOCs could offer are not just “knowledge” and “skills” but the extension of those knowledge and skills and apply them in a variety of context, through engagement, conversation, and interaction, as practiced in various media, platform and tools. The traditional practice of one teacher, many students are then substituted by many “experts”, “teachers”, “professors” and practitioners which would act as mentors, facilitators, curators etc. They are the open scholars and MOOCs professors (both xMOOCs, and cMOOCs) who are devoted to education and research. These practitioners are not just looking for recognition, or monetary rewards, but an interest to co-create community of knowledge and learning, and new knowledge in their fields and domains. So, if we take education as a much broader vision, it is not difficult to envision an education that take into consideration of all of those who take an active role in both education and learning, like you, and many others who contribute in many ways in the provision of constructive comments and feedback. Such conversation would be the back-bone, the infra-structure where institutions could build upon, by partnering and embracing the communities, other partner institutions, in building a better future society and community, rather than merely competing for more budgets, money for their own growth and survival. My 20c offer here. John