#CFHE12 #Oped12 Emergence of MOOCs Final Part 5 xMOOCs meeting the cMOOCs

In this post, I would continue to reflect on xMOOCs and cMOOCs.

Could free online courses (MOOCs – xMOOCs in this context) change engineering education?  Why not?

Kathy says:

they also present a host of challenges. Grading isn’t consistent, cheating is even more prevalent than in a typical classroom setting, and plagiarism is a big concern. Because courses are free and available worldwide, students can number in the tens of thousands and come from all walks of life. They can be retirees, people who want to make a career change, or just someone interested in the topic. That means students lack a common knowledge base and educational background.

I have mentioned in my post of What is the value and purpose of MOOC?

I reckon MOOC offered by George and Stephen would be more suitable for lifelong learners (especially for the adults learners, though there are some young learners who may be interested) and experienced educators, whilst AI, Machine Learning courses are more suitable for those young students – university or college students, or those adults who would like to pursue college education, and those who are lifelong learners, but are just interested in learning about the content, rather than the social learning associated with MOOC.

I know it is difficult to compare and contrast xMOOCs and cMOOCs in terms of effectiveness and efficiency, in education and learning.

Here Ryan says:

The cMOOC’s participant is active whereas the xMOOC’s participant is passive. As Siemens puts it, cMOOCs focus on knowledge creation and generation whereas xMOOCs focus on knowledge duplication.

Despite Siemens’ evangelism though, I don’t think the cMOOC is necessarily better than the xMOOC.

Are MOOCs for the people?  It seems that there are a diversity of opinions on the value of xMOOCs, in particular.

Here Barbara raised doubts about the role and values of MOOCs as a public “utility or platform”:

It struck me how much the arguments made for MOOCs are similar to the public library movement of the 19th century. MOOCs are for the people, they are meant to spread knowledge, they help the poor and disenfranchised get a leg up by assimilating a body of knowledge created by great minds. They are free to all and a terrific opportunity to advance the reputation of that site of learning.

But there is a difference. MOOCs are not, like Boston’s library, founded by the public for civic purposes. They are not built by the people. They are gifts from great institutions to an invisible audience across for-profit platforms that will eventually have to come up with a steady revenue stream to keep going.  They incorporate the entrepreneurial spirit of tech startups which is, at its heart, very much about products, markets,  and individual desires. They fuse the intellectual star power of TED talks with the traditional authority of the universities involved, add a dose of educational theory, and mix in the fizzy, intoxicating momentum of the latest social media platform.

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/library-babel-fish/people%E2%80%99s-history-moocs#ixzz2DmszuDCs
Inside Higher Ed

I still remember one of the research respondents’ comments to the research into cMOOC: “WE ARE THE MOOCs”.

Without participants, MOOCs are just empty platforms without visitors or residents.

The current xMOOCs mostly consist of  a LMS that have loads of repository of artifacts – video lectures, quizzes and learning resources.  How do they differ from a virtual library?  May be the discussion forum and boards make a difference, as most libraries still haven’t got the forum yet.  And there are more to the xMOOCs, like the credential, the recognition etc.

What I think critical is not about which MOOC is better, but rather, which one (could be both) would create a better education experience and a future for the learners, and that could be run in a sustainable way, as compared to the traditional or existing education system.

I see content knowledge and practical competency as essential “elements” of certain MOOCs, as they are important for job seekers.  Students would need those basic skills in order to get a job, so yes, traditional education and that of the xMOOCs would better suit their immediate needs. Students need some forms of certification and qualification to convince their employers, and also their employers are expecting them to perform on the job, with the skills acquired from schools.  Unfortunately, not every student could afford to go to college to continue their studies, and have to join the workforce straight after high school.  MOOCs sound good for some of these students.

xMOOCs have since become a business entity invested by the entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.  Here education and technology is viewed as an opportunity for business.  Bonnie has put it squarely here that MOOCs are now based on venture capitalism – and a manifest destiny model.  MOOCs are about money.  Education is about money, and not only about money.

Manifest Destiny = A Mythology of Power

In times of change, we humans tell ourselves stories. When we feel powerless and uncertain, we are particularly vulnerable to grand stories, ones that make us feel as if history is on our side. That where the MOOC as Manifest Destiny comes in.

Classroom teaching is equally important, especially in the case of k-12, and that is evident from research that it serves the needs of majority of students.  Unfortunately, there are a significant number of students who might feel disconnected with the school system, due to various reasons, and thus  drop out of the system.  So, would MOOCs be the panacea to those types of students?  Again, not, because they might not have mastered the basic common knowledge to learn with the existing xMOOCs.

How about the cMOOCs?  It depends on the background and level of proficiency of these participants and the type of MOOCs offered.  These types of students may learn better through those massive online games (with gamification incorporated in the design of activities) or they would likely learn through their daily mobile connections to the internet and social networks.  These types of students may also respond better with a mix of real life social networking and online virtual networking.

The learning is in the connections, so those students could share the learning, and reflect on their experience in a peer-to-peer learning environment.  Would they benefit more from enrolling into a MOOC?  I think it depends on the design of the MOOC and the content of the course.  Most MOOCs so far are designed for undergraduate and graduate students, though some specific courses like Khan Academy are designed for K-12.

Gordon succinctly summarises here:

The application of the MOOC model in many other learning situations (apart, perhaps, from the ‘orientation’ type of activity I’ve previously discussed) may be much less straightforward due to a lack of human or other resources or, perhaps more likely, fundamental conflicts between the MOOC ethos and institutional aims and objectives. Innovation such as networked learning certainly has a potential for disruption, good and bad, but in Higher Education with the careers and life prospects of individual students at stake, changes need to be carefully rolled out over a period of time as reliable evidence of the benefits grow.

I would like to reflect on Self-directed learning by Garrison (page 162) here

“The foundation of the interest and movement in SDL (Self-directed Learning) was a focus on the freedom and responsibility of the individual learners to construct their own learning experience.  It was also a rejection of an excessively teacher-centered traditional educational experience, which too often demonstrated little trust and respect for the competency of individuals to take responsibility for learning.”

MOOCs to me are ideal platforms for learners to exercise their self-directed learning, and to be connected to other experts, professors, other learners and peers, internet of things and networks, etc. in order to fulfill their individual goals.  The purpose of MOOCs is then to help in educating the people and to enlighten people’s life through such education opportunity, by connecting people in a fruitful and meaningful way, and to provide the knowledge, skills in an open, adaptive and embracing learning ecology.

Give people fishes, and they would live another day, teach them how to fish, and they would then be able to catch fishes themselves and live a decent life.

Which of the MOOCs promote Self-directed Learning?  Which of the MOOCs focus on the learners most?  Which of the MOOCs support the notion of giving people fishes (knowing the content), or teaching people how to fish (learning how to learn, and thinking how to think)?

You could make your own judgment.


7 thoughts on “#CFHE12 #Oped12 Emergence of MOOCs Final Part 5 xMOOCs meeting the cMOOCs

  1. Thanks for the quote John. At the time, I was trying a ‘bottom-up’ approach to MOOCs – how MOOC-like ideas might be applied to a few real educational scenarios I’d come across and then (hopefully!) working up to the generalities. This soon reaches a limit of usefulness when done from an armchair but now there seems to be much more interest in actually trying things out in the field.

    I think there’s always going to be a tension between the ideal of learner self-direction and the good of the learner as seen by those who organise learning in one way or another. Yes, in contrast with cMOOCs, the xMOOCs of today focus on “giving people fishes (knowing the content)” but for the very first time thousands of people across the globe have free access to specialized higher education subjects with at least some expert tuition. This population may initially favour xMOOCs because of their proximity to traditional courses but given the right opportunities, progress to a more nuanced style of self-learning at a later stage.

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