Culture and changes in this digital era

What is culture?

This is a big question and we have seen many cultures come and go, in organisation, networks, communities and society.

Take for instance climate change debate.  We once have an interest in understanding climate change and how and what we could do to change the world, in saving the world.

What emerged out of this climate change are solutions based on sustainable work practices.

We are now implementing these Sustainability in Higher Education.  But what happens to Higher Education?

Having a culture is great, but should culture be able to embrace change?  A change that supports sustainability.

It takes me awhile to re-conceptualise what educational changes there are, and what MOOC is trying to achieve.

I re-examine the tenets of wicked problems:
Wicked problems, according to Horst and Webber, have ten characteristics:[1]

  1. There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem. 
  2. Wicked problems have no stopping rule.
  3. Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false but good-or-bad.
  4. There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem.
  5. Every implemented solution to a wicked problem has consequences. 
  6. Wicked problems do not have a well-described set of potential solutions.
  7. Every wicked problem is essentially unique.
  8. Every wicked problem can be considered a symptom of another problem.  
  9. The causes of a wicked problem can be explained in numerous ways.
  10. The planner (designer) has no right to be wrong. 

What kind of problems are wicked problems?  Here are some examples:

  1. Locating a new freeway or homeless shelter.
  2. Optimizing all the features on a new model car.
  3. Deciding on the best way to re-engineer a business process.

Wicked problems arise when an organization must deal with something new, with change, and when multiple stakeholders have different ideas about how the change should take place.

So, if the problem is deciding on the best way to re-engineer higher education, surely this is a WICKED PROBLEM that we are all facing.  This post summarises some of the problems of higher education well – like rising tuition fees and the perception of inferiority of online education as compared to face to face education in the past.  You might come up with a symptom of another problem behind higher education.

I hope this is my last post on Higher Education in 2012.

Let’s bring hope to 2013, and resolve all those wicked problems.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Postscript: A good reference on wicked problems


#CFHE12 #Oped12 The Yin and Yang of MOOCs : Part 4 Digital Identity and Openness

In my last post of The Yin and Yang of MOOCs, I shared what I believe to be the Yang (bright) side of MOOCs.

This post is devoted to the Yin (dark) side of MOOCs.  I would close it with the Yang (bright) side as the Yin is always embraced under the Yang (bright side) too.

This post exposes the dark side of MOOCs.  Doug says:

Coursera and its devotees simply have it wrong. The Coursera model doesn’t create a learning community; it creates a crowd. In most cases, the crowd lacks the loyalty, initiative, and interest to advance a learning relationship beyond an informal, intermittent connection.

Why should we be impressed that an online course can reach 100,000 students at once? By celebrating massification, advocates of Coursera elevate volume as the chief objective of online learning. Is that truly our goal in academe?

Our goal should be to design a customized program that matches technology with a student’s day-to-day objectives, not just course objectives or weekly learning objectives. We need to operate on a small scale where the online course or program is calibrated to meet the need of the individual student.

There are certain assumptions that we often made that relate just to the “good” and the “bad” sides of the tools or technology, and the use of MOOCs as platforms.  This also depends on what lens we might have used in judging the appropriateness of a tool (mooc) for particular learning context, from educational, administrative or learning perspective.

We might tend to struggle with the duality of many dimensions, facets of education and learning.  These include:

  1. pedagogy – the instructivism (teaching as an emphasis) versus connectivism (learning – PLE/PLN as an emphasis, and learning as practice and reflection, teaching as demonstration and modelling (Stephen Downes), or flipped classroom versus peer-to-peer learning (peeragogy and heutagogy)
  2. teaching style versus learning style
  3. the face-to-face versus online (or blended learning)
  4. the community of practice versus the networks of practice
  5. the group (classroom) learning versus individual learners personalised learning, or social learning versus personalised and self-paced & organised learning
  6. openness versus closeness, unity versus diversity
  7. governance versus autonomy
  8. education (provided by others) versus learning (do it yourself or independent learning)
  9. prescriptive versus emergent curriculum
  10. canonical versus emergent knowledge

These different “dualities” are indeed all interwoven with each others and could most likely be illustrated as evolving Yin and Yang cycle, with the social, cognitive, and teaching presence both evolving and significantly embedded in between each others during the education and learning process.  They are the yin and yang part of the MOOCs.

Community of Inquiry framework 755-4502-1-PB

We might have to un-pack each of these “themes” and re-bundle them to see which would lead to the extreme yins and yangs as perceived by administrators, educators and learners.

I also think one of the most important “themes” that most MOOCs haven’t addressed to the full extent is digital identity, and openness.

Digital Identity

Here in a post on enacting digital identity by Catherine, she says:

“In research on social networking within education, for example, Keri Facer and Neil Selwyn (2010) found that students saw a clear divide between “social interaction” and “educational interaction” on social networking sites, based on existing educational assumptions that “learning is organised around the individual and… oriented around content rather than process”. However, this may be changing. In their review of the research, Facer and Selwyn concluded that educators might need to “pay attention to social networking sites as important for the social construction of identity, including personal, social and learner identity”.”

As I have shared above, social construction of identity would be embedded as yin and yang of personal, social and learner identity.  I have also shared my views on digital identity here.

(Slides taken from –


In this post on Openness, Eric highlights the pros and cons of Open Standards, Open Content and Open to the World.  Stephen commented that “there is a sense in the new world of ‘open’ that ‘open to the world’ means broadcasting rather than interaction, hence the focus on initiatives like TED and Khan academy rather that open discussion networks and wikis.”

I found this point on openness by Stephen especially resonating, and that is why I still think there are lots of lost opportunity for connectivist and emergent knowledge and learning that could have occurred in MOOCs (especially in the instructivist xMOOCs).

To me, what distinguishes x from c MOOCs is that xMOOCs focus mainly on individual’s performance and individual professor’s teaching excellence, whereas c MOOCs focus mainly on the growth and development of learners and instructors through the co-construction of community and networks, with openness and autonomy as fundamental pillars to individual and social learning.

As conceptualised by Stephen, what is most important is the decentralized nature of distributed learning, that is both a healthy and natural growth of the MOOC, with a landscape of community of learners (including those MOOC facilitators, guest speakers, and experts) continuing to interact and explore in the emerging fields of education and learning alongside the webs and internet.

In this connection, we could all sense the continuing engagement, support and stewardship of various pioneers like Stephen Downes, George Siemens, Dave Cormier, David Wiley, Alec Couros, etc. throughout the MOOCs development and community building in the past few years.  To me, these are based on open scholarship practice, and the establishment of both individual and community identity where values are shared and exchanged through conversation, in and beyond MOOCs.

There are however also another side of openness, when it comes to the establishment of MOOCs under formal institutional environment.  Here openness would be constrained by the various legislation laid out by governments.

Most institutions are expected to uphold the key of excellence and quality in higher education, as bound by the governance of education authorities, or their own constitutions.  This would ensure their status of awarding qualifications and the accreditation of courses.   From an institutional point of view, MOOCs must be established with the grounds of reinforcing the quality of online or distance education, so as to be aligned with the institution’s vision and mission.  Otherwise, it would diminish the role of formal institutions in Higher Education.  This is perhaps the critical point in deciding whether MOOCs are sustainable in the implementation of online education.

To be continued.

Does creativity come with a price? Part 2

This is part 2 on creativity.

In this creativity closely entwined with mental illness:

As a group, those in the creative professions were no more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders than other people.

But they were more likely to have a close relative with a disorder, including anorexia and, to some extent, autism, the Journal of Psychiatric Research reports.

There has been studies about creativity and mental illness.  I have copied them here as reference:

Creativity is known to be associated with an increased risk of depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The thalamus channels thoughts

Similarly, people who have mental illness in their family have a higher chance of being creative.

Creative people, like those with psychotic illnesses, tend to see the world differently to most. It’s like looking at a shattered mirror”  Mark MillardUK psychologist

He believes it is this barrage of uncensored information that ignites the creative spark.

This would explain how highly creative people manage to see unusual connections in problem-solving situations that other people miss.

In an earlier review on Creativity and mental illness, however the

Conclusions: There is limited scientific evidence to associate creativity with mental illness. Despite this, many authors promoted a connection. Explanations for this contradiction are explored, and social and research implications are discussed.

I found these findings fascinating.  As I reflected on the significance of developing ourselves and others as more creative educators and learners, we might need to be aware of these research findings.

Would creative sparks for some creative people and geniuses  be associated with some forms of mental illnesses?

Could we be highly creative, but are perfectly healthy mentally?

It seems that we still have a lot of unknowns about creativity and its association with our mental being.