#CFHE12 #Oped12 MOOCs emerging as Landscape of Change – Part 2

Mancy commented in my blog post:

“You mention that you believe that with the emergence of MOOCs, the “current education model would be “shaken” and further disrupted…” Are you referring to MOOCs constituting a technological discontinuity within the current tertiary education industry? Because I thought that whilst the MOOCs offers a dominant design, it is not a type of discontinuity (As we have already seen this technology in the former development of e-learning and online education, the only difference being that it is now available to a large market, as well as being free). You have also made comparisons to traditional forms of learning, and explained how MOOCs can offer the ‘future of education’. I am just not sure whether you mean MOOCs will offer the future of education in regards to ‘online’ teaching & learning, or future of tertiary education overall. Because in my opinion, I would have thought that the tertiary education format of the ‘face-to-face- teaching & learning still stands as the ‘dominant’ design, and due to institutional logics, cannot be easily replaced. Rather, the MOOCs will be a dominant design of the type of ‘e-learning’ and ‘distance education ‘s have seen in history, referring to the likes of University of Phoenix, NYU Online, and Fathom. I thank you for taking your time to read this and look forward to your reply. Kind Regards, Mancy

My response as follows:

Our current education model would be shaken and further disrupted as there are urges to populate courses to accommodate an increasing number of students, but these institutions are finding it difficult to get enough students to enrol into their courses.  Institutions are busily restructuring their organisation and deploying various education strategies (with online and distance education courses offered) in order to stay economically viable and competitive in a global education market.

Increasingly, there is a huge problem that is associated with the funding and the continuing rise of tuition when studying for a degree in colleges and universities.

“The cost of a college degree in the United States has increased “12 fold” over the past 30 years, far outpacing the price inflation of consumer goods, medical expenses and food.

According to Bloomberg, college tuition and fees have increased 1,120 percent since records began in 1978.

“Soaring tuition and shrinking incomes are making college less and less affordable,” Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in an e-mailed statement. “For millions of young people, rising college costs are putting the American dream on hold, or out of reach.”

The figure tells it all, when falling enrolment figures in traditional universities and colleges led to further pressures for institutions to respond to the needs of the society and large number of potential applicants applying for colleges.  Institutions are strategically positioning their course to attract more students to take up  their colleges and universities places.

On the other end of the education spectrum, MOOCs are now registered with millions of participants.  Though these MOOCs are mostly associated with the elite higher education institutions (universities), they have become derivatives that could out-perform their mainstream courses, as evidenced in the Stanford University’s AI course by Sebastian Thrun.

Would that be a concern to most higher education institutions – colleges and universities?

As more and more universities are relying on the MOOCs to help them in promoting their courses, and reducing the costs of delivery by associating or partnering themselves with MOOCs, what would happen?

You could get college credits from MOOC (see this want-college-credit-for-a-mooc-no-problem-says-antioch-university).

“Whilst the MOOCs offers a dominant design, it is not a type of discontinuity.”

xMOOCs are offering education of a significantly “different kind”, and apart from them being free, they are open.  This paper provides an overview of the MOOCs and their development.

MOOC – Coursera has disrupted the traditional classroom.

Tony says:

The first kind of ‘knowledge’ can be delivered efficiently on a mass scale using information transmission, automated testing, etc. The problem is though that these jobs are increasingly being replaced by either cheap labour or increasingly by machines. To develop the second kind of outcomes, learners need interaction with other learners and experts, qualitative assessment by subject experts, and a rich learning environment.

In ‘traditional’ online courses, there is this kind of interaction; in MOOCs there is not, at least to date. The problem is that this kind of ‘transactional’ learning between student and teacher is difficult to scale up, at least on a large scale. In traditional online learning, where a faculty member designs the course and delivers it, the development cost is less than a third of the delivery costs – the time of the instructor interacting with students. This is the trade-off when you try to scale up.

My concern with MOOCs is that their proponents see them as a means to educate the masses for the first kind of learning, while reserving the second kind of learning for those who pay very high fees to come to their campuses. This will merely widen the inequalities that already exist. We need to find ways of making the second kind of learning available on a mass scale, but there has to be a price paid to do this, whether it is through taxes, tuition fees or a combination of both.

So, MOOCs could put significant pressures back to institutions, where transactional learning would need to be “scale up” to the masses, with tens or hundreds of thousands of students, in order to attract more students to study.

The challenge is: would such way of educating the massive number of students be sustainable with the existing funding model?

What about the high drop out and attrition rates, and low completion rates, the on-line identification of students, plagiarism and cheating, and language issues that had all impacted the reputation of online education, in particular MOOCs?   How would these not disrupt the traditional higher institutions if they are not responding to the call of open on-line education if their enrolment continues to fall, and that more and more students are joining MOOCs for continuing studies and learning?

In this post:

“And that’s when I have my being-blown-away moment. The traffic is astonishing. There are thousands of people asking – and answering – questions about dominant mutations and recombination. And study groups had spontaneously grown up: a Colombian one, a Brazilian one, a Russian one. There’s one on Skype, and some even in real life too. And they’re so diligent! If you are a vaguely disillusioned teacher, or know one, send them to Coursera: these are people who just want to learn.”

This is interesting, though not a surprise at all.  These sorts of forum postings and discussions had been ongoing for years, like wikieducator, Google groups, only this time every one seemed to be amazed for the first time of its pervasiveness – with networks all springing up seemingly from nowhere.

If we refer these to study groups, then what would be the role of formal classes, in a traditional classroom, within institution?   Would students like to have a try, and dip a toe into MOOC?  Why not?

Is face-to-face teaching learning still dominant design of tertiary education?  Yes.  That is why MOOCs would soon be taking over some aspects of the traditional teaching, when one could reach a massive number of students normally not afforded in the face-to-face mode of teaching.

Is that the reason why Sebastian Thrun preferred to take the red pill after his experiment with the AI MOOC?  How about the rock star professors who are teaching under MOOC?  Isn’t it great to be admired by hundreds of thousands of participants of MOOC?  What would happen to those who are still teaching in a face-to-face teaching mode?  Would they need to shift their teaching mode because of the need of the community and learners?  What would happen to those educators and students who are accustomed to the face-to-face teaching?

If you still think that xMOOCs are not making any impact on HE, I reckon you have to think again, as this post provides some good food for thoughts.

Education of adults in MOOCs

If children can educate themselves, why can’t adults? This is indeed the philosophy of cMOOCS,  where self-organised learning and peer-to-peer teaching and learning forms the pedagogy of the cMOOCs.

There are educators who don’t think xMOOCs would post any significant “threat” or disruption to higher education institutions with reasons:

MOOC’s have five fundamental problems.

1. It’s too easy to cheat.

2. Star students can’t shine.

3. Employers avoid weird people.

4. Computers can’t grade everything.

5. Money can substitute for ability.

The major challenge is the huge drop-out rate of MOOCs where majority of participants of MOOCs didn’t complete the courses due to various reasons.  Is drop-out really that important in online learning such as MOOCs?  May be not, as I have shared them here.  The more connections one has, the more proficient one has to become, in face of chaotic and complex learning environment.