The emergence of MOOCs: part 2 – The future of education and learning

Following the emergence of MOOCs, what will be the future of education?

Would it be based on the MOOC model, as I have explored last year?

With the proliferation of MOOCs this year, MOOC providers have started to work on business models which would ensure a return on their investment.  Antioch University is the first US institution to receive approval from Coursera to offer college credit for specified Coursera MOOCs (massive open online courses).  MOOCs have now become a major challenge to the traditional business models which had been held by higher education institutions for the last few decades.  Prepared by William Lawton and Alex Katsomitros, the reportMOOCs and Disruptive Innovation: The challenge to HE business models, says it is also clear that many in the elite group of universities have calculated they have little to lose by joining the MOOC club now to extend their reach.

 The arrival of ‘massive open online courses’ appears to be another tectonic shift in the evolution of higher education and HE internationalisation. MOOCs are free of charge, designed for large numbers of people to take them at once, encourage peer-to-peer learning, and award certificates rather than academic course credit. This article, the first of a short series on disruptive innovation in HE, describes three new start-ups – Coursera, edX and Udacity – and explores the challenges they pose to traditional models of delivery in higher education.

Even course management companies are challenging MOOC providers as discussed in this post.

Bonnie argued here: The Internet makes it possible for things to scale, and to be copied and remixed indefinitely. It changes our concepts of what counts as knowledge, and what counts as education.

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed

May be it is too early to foretell, but the signs and patterns are clear, that the current education model would be “shaken” and further disrupted by the development of MOOC models and platforms.

It is the tsunami that would eventually transform education, in particular higher education and the insitutions.  But is it a result of the seismic or the tectonic shift that gives rise to these HUGE WAVE of changes?  

What are the changes that are undergoing in education?  Is it the pedagogy, the business model, or the way education is designed and delivered, in schools?

Are we in a stage of progressive education, transitioning to a multi-faceted emergent model of education?  But what is the difference between our traditional and progressive education?

A comparison between traditional and progressive education points to an urgent need for a more open, flexible and responsive education that would nurture individuals to become independent, autonomous and critical thinkers.

The promise of such formal education includes educated learner who is:

‘a confident person who has a strong sense of right and wrong, is adaptable and resilient, knows himself, is discerning in judgement, thinks independently and critically, and communicates effectively;

a self-directed learner who takes responsibility for his own learning, who questions, reflects and perseveres in the pursuit of learning;

an active contributor who is able to work effectively in teams, exercises initiative, takes calculated risks, is innovative and strives for excellence; and,

a concerned citizen who is rooted to Singapore, has a strong civic consciousness, is informed, and takes an active role in bettering the lives of others around him’. [7]

New ways of education and learning

There are a number of questions that we might need to ask in order to fully embrace new ways of educating and learning:

To what extent would we need to change our education system, in order to achieve these results?

How would these be achieved, with the various modes and avenues of learning then?

In this future of learning,

“Knowing something is probably an obsolete idea,” says Sugata Mitra, Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University. “You don’t actually need to know anything, you can find out at the point you need to know it. It’s the teacher’s job to point young minds towards the right kinds of questions.”

1. If the teacher’s job is to point young minds towards the right kind of questions, what should be the role of “teachers” in MOOCs then?  Are professors supposed to give all the answers to the participants in MOOCs?

I suppose most professors nowadays would like to challenge their learners, especially in HE, though there are lots of assumptions that would relate to the type of learners we are working with, in terms of the learning context, and the skills and experiences of the learners.

May be there are still lots of teachers who would prefer to give out answers, though the answers are everywhere.

2. What and how would learners learn and with whom, especially in a vast arrays of networks, webs and internet?  Has the mode of learning changed with the emergence of technology, webs and internet?

3. What is school for?  In this stop stealing dreams, Seth Godin perceives schools differently.

I think we have different schools of thoughts, when relating to schools.  Schools based on formal education, and schools based on informal learning, where learning emerges both naturally and artificially, with and without constraints, on a life long basis.

The future of Learning

In the case of learning at this digital age, learners could learn through artifacts, peers, social networks, schools, communities, networks or DIY, through action, experimentation, theorising, thinking and reflection and repeated practice etc.

It is common that learners learn through the interaction with others – teachers, experts, scholars, learners, etc. and even with people of different domains or disciplines.  Learners may indeed learn significantly better with their co-learners as I have argued here, especially when such learners could feel and sense the world of learning from a LEARNING point of view.

When it comes to MOOC learning, do learners learn differently?  It really depends on what sorts of MOOCs environment or platform that you are engaged in, and what sort of learning and learning outcomes that you are trying to achieve then.

Nicholas in this The crisis in Higher Education says:

While MOOCs include videos of professors explaining concepts and scribbling on whiteboards, the talks are typically broken up into brief segments, punctuated by on-screen exercises and quizzes. Peppering students with questions keeps them involved with the lesson, Thrun argues, while providing the kind of reinforcement that has been shown to strengthen comprehension and retention.

Does it sound familiar to us, with the “progressive education” where students are expected to perform to the level of competency required in their studies, at work or in society?

To me, MOOCs (x MOOCs) are still bounded by the constraints of what the students need to know, and so they are expected to respond to the questions posted by the teachers, as that is part of the curriculum of the course.  As pointed out by Williams, et al 2012: “The curriculum has become more instrumental, predictive, standardized, and micro-managed in the belief that this supports employability as well as the management of educational processes, resources, and value. Meanwhile, people have embraced interactive, participatory, collaborative, and innovative networks for living and learning.”

The real revolution that we might anticipate in education would be a paradigm shift where education is about encouraging and supporting learners to develop themselves into creative, autonomous, independent and critical learners who could initiate their own questions, and to explore and implement their own solutions to their questions, in study, and life.

This would then truly transform education, based on an inverted pyramid of education structure, where learners are situated at the pinnacle of their learning.  This is premised on that “learners who find the answers for themselves, retain it better than if they’re told the answer.” as reinforced by Sugata.

Indeed, this is also underpinned in the wisdom that learners would learn better when they are active in their learning journey, based on authentic learning.

Being knowledgeable is about knowing the stuff.   Knowledge able is being able to find, sort, analyse, criticize and able to create and share new information and knowledge. (Michael Wesch)

Future education and learning is no longer restricted to the “learning of facts and knowledge out there in the books, artifacts, information networks, and internet”.  Any one who could access the internet, webs and social networks, Google and wikipedia etc. could easily get the answers and solutions to their basic questions.  Learning is more about knowing what questions are important to the learners, and searching for responses to those questions in the quest of knowledge, and the creation of new knowledge and wisdom in a world of change.  It is the critical lenses that learners wear that would allow them to perceive the world differently, and to change, adapt and transform where necessary in their pursuit of knowledge and upgrade of skills and abilities.