#CFHE12 #Oped12 MOOCs Emerging as Landscape of Change Final Part (Part 8) – The Conversation

This is my final part of the series, where I try consolidating some of the conversations around MOOCs.

Dominik says in his post on MOOC:

Connectivist MOOCs seem to produce proportionately as many reports of confusion and demotivation among their participants as the more impersonal extension MOOCs. They certainly don’t see many fewer drop outs (which would perhaps be better called drop offs).

I don’t think our MOOC which combines features of both c and xMOOCs with traditional online and blended learning, is any more successful at this than any other form of education.

My response to Dominik’s post could be represented in my views  here.

Drop out in MOOC

Drop out in MOOC is an issue, but also an opportunity to reflect and learn with.

Challenges with MOOCs

There are many challenges with MOOCs, with x MOOCs at the moment.

In this post on Coursera Fantasy by Laura Gibbs, she elaborates on the issues that need to be addressed:

1. Anonymous posting makes a toxic discussion board

2. Coursera is unresponsive to student requests for help and information

3. Work for the class not intended to have any lasting value

I think these issues centered around the need of a supportive,  adaptive and responsive (quick response) learning environment that may not be easily achieved when the course is structured around an instructivist approach

If we were to adopt an instructivist approach in x MOOCs, what might be our emphasis?  What would it lead to?

Would it be a teacher-approach towards education?  As more and more students are expecting responses to their questions, what would they resort to?  Discussion board sounds an ideal way to share information and knowledge, but as Laura said, anonymous posting could be a big issue in such forums.   How would one rectify the situation?

As discussed in the past CCKs, one of the ways to enhance and support learning in MOOC would be to have a distributed approach towards learning, through aggregated discussion, where “self-organised” groups would be encouraged and supported, and individual and inter-dependent learners and bloggers are also connected through different ways or platforms.

The following model which would be offered in a future course sounds useful in aggregating and integrating the Learning resources, Interaction tools and Personal blogs etc.   It could be helpful in tackling the issue 1 highlighted by Laura.

More facilitators, TAs and peer-mentors  may also be needed in order to resolve some of the critical issues on the lack of responses to help or information, on an just-in-time, “just for me” basis if we are to further improve the xMOOCs.

Motivation in MOOC

Before I could reflect on the motivation aspects of MOOC (based on the high drop out), I would like to ask:

Why are the students NOT MOTIVATED in their education journey?  What would really help and support them (our fellow educators and learners) in education?

Do we remember we all have once been students?  The feedback from MOST OF MY STUDENTS are that many of them want to learn with their educators and THEIR PEERS, if given the opportunity.  They like to feel valued, and respected in their learning, and not being spoon-fed by their teachers with the “knowledge” based on a transmission model.

There are exceptions, when many young students and some adult learners who really struggle in their learning, and would need more guidance and “teaching”.

However, trying to tell or “teach” our learners all the “information and knowledge” that is necessary to pass a course would not only deter them from further growth and development in learning, but also take away their opportunities to experience the joys and “risks” associated with learning online and over the networks.

If we want to repeat history, it’s not too late.  We might be able to learn all the facts by what we used to learn, by rote learning, or by regurgitating what our teachers have taught us.  Why not?

What are we now heading towards in this MOOC movement?  May be we need the instructivist approach for those who need a helping hand, especially when they haven’t got the skills and knowledge to embark into the LEARNING ONLINE journey.  However, should we still keep telling students what to do, and how to do, without considering the actual needs and expectations, and most important of all motivation of these students (or participants of MOOC)?

Here is a post on Connected learning – the power of social learning models.

Here is a summary that I would like to refer to:

Connected Learning “is an answer to three key shifts as society evolves from the industrial age of the 20th century and its one-size-fits-all factory approach to educating youth to a 21st century networked society.”

1) A shift from education to learning. Education is what institutions do, learning is what people do. Digital media enable learning anywhere, anytime; formal learning must also be mobile and just-in-time.

2) A shift from consumption of information to participatory learning. Learning happens best when it is rich in social connections, especially when it is peer-based and organized around learners’ interests, enabling them to create as well as consume information.

3) A shift from institutions to networks. In the digital age, the fundamental operating and delivery systems are networks, not institutions such as schools, which are one node of many on a young person’s network of learning opportunities. People learn across institutions, so an entire learning network must be supported.

6 thoughts on “#CFHE12 #Oped12 MOOCs Emerging as Landscape of Change Final Part (Part 8) – The Conversation

  1. Hi, thanks for reacting to my post. But I’m not sure you really addressed my point. (Which by the way was not meant as a criticism of MOOCs – x or c – I addressed the issue of drop outs and motivations here http://researchity.net/2012/08/18/mooc-motivations-and-magnitudes.) But my point is that motivation is not a straightforward thing that can just be activated. There are many more things involved. There are time pressures, cultural, cognitive or physical barriers. All of those contribute to somebody’s not engaging with a subject. There is simply personal preferences. I may just find the subject boring. That’s not my fault nor the fault of the subject. Some people like jazz, some people like classical music, others like heavy metal. So if I drop a MOOC or any other course, it may well be that I’m just not that into it. I may like the idea of taking the course, but not really be able to fit all the work involved into my life.

    Or I may just really really not get on with that particular presentation of the subject. The style of instructions, the personality of the presenter, the approach to exposition. And I don’t just mean the “knowledge transmission” paradigm. Every course or uncourse has to pass some information along: What it’s about, what to do when and where, how it all ends, etc. This may make immediate sense to me or it may require some work to understand. I was just talking to a desperate sounding student on our unMOOC. She was doing all the things right but felt she was just not getting the point. But she put in enormous amounts of work but still wasn’t getting it. Not so much the subject, the point of it all. Others on the other hand are ecstatic about the way the course allows them to self-organize, expand their horizons, and create something of value – even if they cannot really engage fully.

    I’m trying to track down a paper I read (in the Cambridge Journal of Education, I think) that concluded that “student-centred education” is not suitable for or at least not preferred by about 25% of students. Remember all the things you extol about connectivist education come with huge personal pressures, completely new modes and approaches. Exclusion is a part of the self-organization process. Confusion and disorientation is a consequence of decentralization. Some people thrive in these contexts, some people thrive despite them but for some people they are insurmountable barriers.

    As HG Wells called them, there are hidden utopias, in our conception of educational reform. But the reality is always more diverse.

  2. Hi Dominick, I greatly appreciate your comments, and I totally agreed with you, that there are all sorts of reasons for the dropout, and that motivation is not a straightforward thing that can just be activated.

    I also agreed that: “student-centred education” is not suitable for or at least not preferred by about 25% of students. Remember all the things you extol about connectivist education come with huge personal pressures, completely new modes and approaches. Exclusion is a part of the self-organization process. Confusion and disorientation is a consequence of decentralization. Some people thrive in these contexts, some people thrive despite them but for some people they are insurmountable barriers.”

    It takes time, courage and perseverance to adopt a “connectivist approach” towards learning (networked learning with tools, PLE/N, and social learning). And there could be confusion and disorientation as a consequence of decentralization. That’s why cMOOC fits better into the informal learning, as a start, IMO. I would however think that the more we try to adhere to the traditional way of teaching and learning, with one size suits all, and a total centralized way of a single teacher serving tens of thousands of students (MOOCs), there would just be more people dropping out of the MOOCs, leading to a poor “image” and reputation of great online education and learning.

    Could we do much better with MOOCs? Like what you said: “there are hidden utopias, in our conception of educational reform. But the reality is always more diverse.”

    As I have shared here in my response ( https://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/oped12-have-people-really-understood-what-a-great-mooc-would-look-like/) :”Learning in a MOOC takes its roots from conversation, interaction and new ways of thinking and practice takes place, in ourselves, with the network, and among the networks and community. Learning would then relate to the achieving of personal goals, developing one’s learning strategies and literacies whilst constructing and navigating the networks.”

    This may not be that obvious in a cMOOCs when new comers join in, and expect a “well-structured” course and its content “taught” by the professors typical in an online course. It is more than that, in most of the cMOOCs. The professors (or instructors) are taking different roles in cMOOCs, such as facilitators, mentors, connectors, curators, etc. and so the participants may also be taking and sharing some of the professors’ roles, in the conversation, interaction and sharing with each others, and the creation of artifacts, curation of blog posts, visiting and commenting on blog posts like what “we” all are doing here. Learning doesn’t all need to be about just those “specific learning objectives or activities” specified by the course syllabus, but that it is a series of learning in action activities and conversation, leading to emergent knowledge and development of new and emergent learning strategies and goals for the individuals. This is where most xMOOCs might have to consider in future, especially when tens of thousands of students found themselves looking for information, and trying to consume as much information as possible from the “best resources”, and “best professors” in the world, and to pass the course, by learning through those resources and videos posted by professors.

    There is another question that we seldom ask: What does it mean when 23,000 students passed the course in AI? What do those “passes” mean, in terms of learning for the participants in an online courses? What has been learnt by the MOOC participants? What sort of knowledge and skills have been learnt by them? How about the learning of how to learn, in AI?

    I don’t know the answer to these questions, and I don’t have enough information. Just curious to learn more about what has been learnt in most of the machine graded MOOCs, from the professors and learners’ point of views.

    Similarly, we need to know the responses to those participants of cMOOCs.

    What I think is critical for educators is: What sort of learning experiences would help our fellow educators in designing and delivering online courses (MOOCs) that would best support their learning? It is not just the pedagogy, it is more than that….

    What do you think?

    Renewed thanks for your visit to my post here.

  3. Thanks for the response. I agree that “What does it mean when 23,000 students passed the course in AI?” is an important question. But the core of my defense of MOOCs in general has been that we just don’t have an answer to that question for any course. What does it mean you attended a lecture, read a book, completed a quiz? What does it mean that you have an engineering degree? Ultimately, all of these things are just proxies for other social scripts – like knowing something, talking about something, doing something – kind of like voodoo dolls are proxies for real people. And like voodoo dolls they are not very effective – or their effect often rests in our imagination and willingness to attribute causality where none may exist.

    There are many paradoxes around these causalities in education. Industrial revolution preceded universal education let alone any technical education, the moon landing happened long-time before the renewed focus on science education could have made any impact on that particular achievement and when the results of that effort may have supposedly kicked in, space travel went into a decline. We decry US and UK results on international math test scores yet we sneer at the rote learning that happens in the countries that lead those tables. We have completely standardized secondary education (and try to even more) but we question its results where the completely non-standard university education is still held in high prestige.

    I am bullish on MOOCs for exactly the same reasons you mention. They reflect more accurately what we know about knowledge acquisition. But that doesn’t mean that rote learning, repetition of patterns, etc. can go away. We also know that they are absolutely essential for skilled expertise. These can be incorporated into MOOCs, though, through camps, roaming labs, etc. I talked about that in my suggestion for flipping the school year: http://researchity.net/2012/08/14/space-the-final-frontier-of-online-education-or-flipping-the-school-year/

    But I’m also convinced that these innovations can only work if we abandon the traditional cargo cult curriculum. If somebody doesn’t want to learn history or physics or whatever, they have all sorts of ways of passive resistance and passing tests and writing essays means nothing. However, even then, I doubt that the effects would be all that great. Education is not the driver of social change, it is an expression of it.

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  5. Why would institutions adopt MOOCs? See this post http://www.forbes.com/sites/singularity/2012/11/21/who-says-moocs-will-cause-the-death-of-universities/

    There are many reasons behind this joining of the bandwagon of MOOCs, and the one that surprises people most would be “to revolutionise education through online education and learning.”

    Is rote learning still emphasised in the xMOOCs? What does it mean when I remember the right answers to the test, after repeated trials? I had tried such means of “mastery learning” decades ago, in order to understand what it means by remembering and regurgitating the answers in typical examinations (that I set for myself). My conclusion was: I may be able to get 100% in MC after a few trial and error, but I may not have really learnt what the content were.

    Relating to your comment: “We decry US and UK results on international math test scores yet we sneer at the rote learning that happens in the countries that lead those tables. We have completely standardized secondary education (and try to even more) but we question its results where the completely non-standard university education is still held in high prestige.” That is where “we” should reflect on, and envision better ways of education and learning at this digital age.

    I agreed that rote learning would still has a role to play, especially in basic, elementary and tertiary education, but then it would be of limited use for advanced and graduate education where critical thinking, digital literacies and skills are required at studies and work.

    I have enjoyed watching the flipping the school year: http://researchity.net/2012/08/14/space-the-final-frontier-of-online-education-or-flipping-the-school-year/ and surely that is a fantastic approach towards motivating the class group to try something different from the pure didactic lecturing by the professors.

    As you have posted in your video, many educators might have adopted the flipping the class, or even flipping the schools for years, or even decades.

    The use of summer school, school camps or special seminars presented by outside experts and professors had been practised for decades.

    I remember attending an end of course seminar where outside experts (or professors) were invited to present seminars in the 1980s, and so these would be ideal examples of “flipping the class” to a certain extent.

    The concepts of watching videos, slides, and reading artifacts, or joining forums, or working on PLE/N have been gaining traction in the past few years, and so, flipping the learning in class might not sound novel any more. However, there are still lots of challenges that educators have to face, when introducing flipping the class in MOOCs, as not all students are motivated to do all those advanced watching and readings before the class.

    This is especially the case for MOOCs as participants have all sorts of commitments and so it is un-realistic to expect everyone to have read the artifacts or watch the videos before joining the class discussion.

    Trying to “capture” all episodes of learning may be difficult in cMOOCs, as we would hardly be able to assess such learning using the traditional examination approach. That is why “competency based education and assessment” using a professional conversation approach would seem appropriate for cMOOCs or xMOOCs.

    Back to you🙂

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