#CFHE12 #Oped12 What is critical in MOOC?

I have a dream. (Dr. Martin Luther King)

My dream:

“Education as a means to fulfill the needs and expectations of the people, to become who they want to become, and so they could make responsible decisions that could contribute to their own growth, their fellow citizens, the community and society at large.  On the other hand, there are also expectations from the community and society on education, whereas education is directed by “governance” in a modern world of business and government.

We all need to take responsibility for our own learning, and that is also a way to self-educate, under the education system.”

What is then critical in MOOC is the educational values and perception the learners and educators could derive from, in their journeys of learning through the networks and systems of MOOCs.

Alan shares his views and experience of xMOOCs and concludes:

Let me repeat, 98% of the people who signed up for this course did not get the certificate, or 60,059 people. NOW THAT IS MASSIVE (as in hemorrhaging).

Yet the bulk of the hyper and fervor on MOOCs is the massive numbers of enrollments whichm, frankly, when you look at these numbers, it is the wrong end of donkey (to quote Neil Young), or maybe in this case… MOOcows.

Steve Ediger comments:

That said, I believe that there were SIGNIFICANT differences in the two MOOC styles. The Downes/Siemens course provided a peer-to-peer based learning experience that was quite open and could lead to a unique and distinctive opportunity for equal exchange of ideas. On the other hand,the Princeton course was a top-down and traditional pedagogy with limited peer-to-peer exchanges. Most of these exchanges involved more experience students acting as mentors to those who did not have the background or were struggling with the technologies (R) used in the lessons. The former has real possibilities for reforming education. IMHO, the latter continues a well worn path that I rejected decades ago. Now when I discuss MOOCs with people, I am careful to make the distinction between the different styles.

This begs the question whether one needs to have massive numbers of “registrants” and “participants”  in MOOCS in order to realize some of the “emergent” learning that might take place, when participants interact with each others, and thus giving rise to a network form of education and learning, rather than a typical closed system of education in a traditional classroom.  This is likely the case for cMOOCs, but might not be the case for xMOOCs.

Do you need massive numbers of agents (participants of xMOOC or cMOOCs) for the emergence of networks?

Here is part of my previous post, where I reflected on the significance of system thinking, and the sensemaking based on the emergence of networks.

Systems intelligence and complex responsive processes provide a rich concept on “system thinking”. I think it provides an alternative framework for thinking – and it highlights the importance of emergence, rather than the focus on the components of systems – a rather static view.

I could relate to the MOOC – CCK and now PLENK experience, in that I would need to “participate” in it in order to make sense of the notion of emergence of networks and their behavior. I could see that the individuals (participants including the facilitators) and “organisation” (ie. PLENK) would co-evolve. One could not predict precisely what the outcomes would be, based on the system working model (the traditional course structure, learning outcomes, assessment etc.).

Would this explain why so many participants find it hard to “believe” that PLENK would ever work in a formal institutional course basis? If we are trying to force an open system thinking (PLENK with loose structure, individualised learning “outcomes” and no assessment) into a closed system model (a predictive structural course, with defined learning outcomes), surely there would be great challenges (and issues) – like putting jigsaws together without a clear pattern. The pattern of PLENK is in fact EMERGENT.

Based on the concept of system thinking, the “course – MOOC or MOON (Massive Open Online Network)” would need to co-evolve with individuals (participants, facilitators) and organisation (the institution) (and the networks so formed) through active participation in order to adapt to the changes resulting from the individuals (actors, agents) acts and responses (the gesture response concept).

“systems intelligence sees systems as constructs and thus relative to the point of view. Systems intelligence highlights the role of the strong dependence of the assumptions held by individuals of systems they are a part of. On the negative side, such characteristic of human systems can be seen to drive systems towards repetitive and undesirable behavioural patterns. These systems are perpetually evolving wholes which are only seemingly fixed, yet they potentially give rise to illusions of command and fixedness” That is a wonderful explanation of why command and control in systems which are perpetually evolving could lead to failure.

That also explains why so many strategic plans and actions, and the day to day controls often fail when one consider systems to be fixed and rigid, without consideration of the emergence arising out of the system.”

Could we use the systems intelligence and sensemaking to explain why it’s so difficult to monitor education progress and control the “output” of MOOCs?   Huge number of participants didn’t complete xMOOCs due to numerous factors, and these factors might be categorized using learning analytics.  See this article on MOOCs.

However, it would be illusions to try to fix this sort of dropout problem in MOOCs by imposing a solution – like giving out badges (as a form of motivation and recognition), or praising the participants that they have done a great job, etc.  These are great motivation tools, though they would hardly touch on the core issues – the complex nature of the networks, and the emergent behavior of the participants, which cannot be “controlled”, but could only be responded through “Probe, Sense and Respond” in emergent scenario and “Act, Sense and Respond” in novel learning scenario in MOOCs.

I would conclude that massive numbers is useful for promoting a course to the world, as it impresses everyone how many do take part in such an online course.  The real value of learning emerges from the actual education and learning experience that each of the participants have, and as they could all vary, it is difficult to generalize the sort of emergent learning that one could consolidate.  In the case of xMOOCs, the achievement of learning outcomes as measured by the assignments, examinations, or peer-to-peer assessments form the basis of evaluations.  It is too early to conclude whether such high drop-outs could be an indication of “success” or “failure” in education and learning, as we still don’t have an agreement on what count as success in xMOOCs.

Picture: Google