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:
- 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)
- teaching style versus learning style
- the face-to-face versus online (or blended learning)
- the community of practice versus the networks of practice
- the group (classroom) learning versus individual learners personalised learning, or social learning versus personalised and self-paced & organised learning
- openness versus closeness, unity versus diversity
- governance versus autonomy
- education (provided by others) versus learning (do it yourself or independent learning)
- prescriptive versus emergent curriculum
- 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.
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.
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 – http://www.slideshare.net/Downes/the-meaning-is-the-message)
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.