Tony Bates has written a nice post on MOOC and I would like to respond here:
As Tony has pointed out, 2012 was certainly the year of the MOOC.
I have read Audrey Watters provides a comprehensive overview of what happened with MOOCs many times, and still found something interesting to reflect on. MOOCs are just emerging phenomena that comes from social media revolution, isn’t it?
What I found most interesting is: “MOOCs – what appears to me to be highly irrational organizational behaviour, more akin to lemmings than pillars of higher learning.”
To me, I think MOOCs are behaving in a highly rational organizational manner. It has become part of our life, to some extent, as I have explained in my previous posts.
For more reasons about why MOOC is rational, see below.
“So why have MOOCs in particular got so much press?” he asks. I think there are five reasons for these “hypes”:
1. Social media is a place where memes and ideas travel fast, and re-cycle fast. So any news about higher education would soon be twisted to make it fashionable. MOOC soon became headlines of nearly every journals (even the Times magazine) and the Higher Education media sites as journalists soon churn these topics out. Who don’t want to grab with the latest news on education? Education based on MOOCs is revolutionalising higher education. Isn’t it the best news to be spread to the world?
2. MOOC does make an impact on everything, especially Higher Education and Institution. As reported, it is disruptive, it is punctuating, and it is even devastating for some of the institutions, and professors and educators (the adjuncts especially), as they would likely be the hardest on the hit. Declining enrollment, lack of funding, and decrease in completion rates are just some of the challenges that many institutions are facing. MOOCs do find a way to reverse these challenges to some extent, as institutions would soon find that they have suddenly got a lot of enrollment, an offer of funding (from the philanthropy, and other venture capitalists), and may be an overall increase in completion rates (due to the other MOOC participants graduating together with their mainstream students). Aren’t these all good news to the world?
3. MOOCs have been promoted as one of the panaceas to the often “criticized broken education”. Though there were some issues and challenges with Higher Education, like rising tuition fees that many university students could hardly or no longer afford, a degree is still what makes university education so attractive. So, MOOCs seem like a para-professional course associated with a degree. When anyone could enroll in MOOCs without even needing to pay a dollar, why not?
4. With MOOCs, any one who have access to computer, technology and internet could get some forms of recognition and “certificate”. This sounds both revolutionary and unconventional. Besides, participants of MOOCs could be in reach to the best professors of the elite universities of the world, like MIT, Stanford, and Harvard, and many other providers like Coursera, Udacity, etc. This is unprecedented and so that also explains why many participants were awed when they took the courses from last year to this year. Many participants have been so thankful for these wonderful courses that they posted videos, blog posts to praise and thank their professors, institutions for their generosity. Do these help in promoting the courses? For sure!
5. MOOCs have their origins of traditional higher education, and so is the basic philosophy and pedagogy. The flipped classroom that has been introduced into the latest paradigm has shifted many educators’ attention in the adoption of short video lectures, use of LMS and discussion boards or forums, and to some extent, the use of online quizzes and examinations in open spaces. These all sounded revolutionary as compared to the traditional mass lecture of 1 to 2 hours with all teachers’ talk. News reporters, bloggers and educators and researchers have all turned their attention to this latest “trend” and give them an applause, as they seem to have proven to have greatly enhanced the interaction and engagement of students in class, as revealed in many posts and reports.
May I response to Tony” themes? My comments in blue.
I believe there are several themes that have led to MOOC hysteria in 2012:
- Tony says: they appear to be free.
- My response: MOOCs are expensive, but then the marginal costs for adding participants are near to zero, as most of the teaching are already factored in the costing, and so it doesn’t change if there are thousand or tens or hundreds of thousands in doing the course. The only costs which may have increased are those administrative costs, where large database are needed to keep in storing the assessment and in distributing the certificates. These are however also absorbed by the mainstream course where the institutions are running. In other words, the costs are distributed between the institutions and the professors, and that much of the resource development costs are already catered for when professors prepared for the MOOCs. What may be missing here are the intangible costs: the cost of goodwill, the cost of quality, and the cost of lost business (education) if MOOCs are not taken up.
- Tony says: it’s also a numbers game: input matters more than output. The focus of the media has been on the massive numbers enrolling. However, there has been little focus on what students are actually learning.
- My response: I do agree with Tony on some of the numbers – poor completion rates. I would however think that there are actual learning achieved, based on the results as posted by MOOCs. It may be a matter of interpretation, when we could only induce learning based on the number of students who have achieved excellence in their examination (machine graded) and peer-assessment. This is indeed one of the emergent areas that required more research be done – on the quality and value of online assessment in MOOCs.
- Tony says: technology triumphs over teaching:
- My response: I see this differently, in that both technology and teaching goes hand in hand, when we immerse ourselves in social media, and in particular MOOCs. This is based on Connectivism and Actor Network Theory, in that learning is embedded in teaching, when the professors are connected to the students, and that the professors need to be part of the learning process, in order to adequately respond to the learners’ learning needs. One could argue that in xMOOCs, due to the instructivism adopted, there is little feedback from the learners back to the professors. That to me is totally incorrect, as I could see that many professors are already picking up the cues and feedback from the MOOC participants.
- Tony says: it’s all about the elite institutions. The media love to focus on the ivy league universities to the almost total neglect of the rest of the system (the cult of the superstar). Here is an appalling irony. The top tier research universities have by and large ignored online learning for the last 15 years.
- My response: I won’t judge on the elite institutions and the professors based on the xMOOCs. I don’t think it is possible to judge whether the institutions are making a right or wrong move, as all education institutions are trying to help in educating the world, though they have to stay in business, and make a reasonable return to their investments in order to make education happen. We could only have good or bad MOOC, or something midway between – a mediocre MOOC. However, I think institutions and their leaders are all intelligent in ensuring that their MOOCs move is aligned with their vision and mission, and so their marketing and promotion campaign would surely be making sure that MOOCs would make it a success. There is simply no return by now.
- Tony says: don’t forget the politics:
- My response: there are always two sides of the coin – the yin and yang, and politics is just the same. The one who stays in power would determine the future of education, whether it is MOOC or not. As I have posted in my previous post, the response may be based on “who moved my cheese“
As Tony said, I believe that there is a future for MOOCs, as I have posted in the past posts.
What would come next?
As I speculate here, there will be more providers joining the competition & global collaboration – with MOOC supply chains versus MOOC chains. The next ring could be Canada, Australia, Europe and Southeast Asia – like China, Hong Kong etc. This is like a chain reaction, with multiplier effect. I think it will surely happen, just a matter of time, when the first fruits are harvested, and there is no reason why it would stop. Change is inevitable. Wait and see.
Stay tuned with my coming post – on my prediction of 2013, if you like. It would be MOOCkey! The black swan.