Reflection on Transformational Learning Experience

This is my reflective response to George’s paper on Transformational Learning Experience entitled: Designing Opportunities for Transformation with Emerging Technologies.

I have divided this post into two parts, with part one on my reflection of transformative learning with PLENK and Connectivism based on my previous post, and the second part of my reflection on George’s paper on designing opportunities for transformation with emerging technologies.

Part 1

I would first re-post part of my previous blog post (comments) on transformative learning below as reference.

We all learn differently, due to many factors. So when it comes to learning on the web & internet, we may have used different strategies that are based on our capacity, skills and experience – critical literacies etc.
1. Do a full understanding of PLENK theory and practice necessary?
2. Does a full understanding of PLENK in theory and practice require “transformative learning” (as asked by Carmen)

There are two questions here: For Q1, what is involved in PLENK theory and practice? I don’t think we have come up with an agreed PLENK theory as yet. There are PLENK practice which are all based on idiosyncrasy and again there are only general principles which are found to be useful if followed. I think we have been discussing and critiquing on the constructivist (VLE) and connectivist approaches (PLE) and it would take another post for further sharing.

Q2. Relating to transformational learning theory:
This theory has two kinds of learning that is involved with it. Those learning theories are instrumental learning and communicative learning. With instrumental learning, it focuses on “learning through task-oriented problem solving and determination of cause and effect relationships” (Taylor, E. W., 1998, 5). With communicative learning, it involves how others communicate their feelings, needs and desires with another person.

In a post by Elmine Wijnia (Communigations) ( she posted: Weblog serves as a communication hub

“I’ve been thinking about whether weblogs can be a medium for discourse. .. Habermas makes a distinction within communicative action, between conversation and discourse. I figured that no single medium can offer a platform for discourse, so weblogs as a sole medium can’t be seen as discourse. Rather, weblogs are a very good starting point for discourse. The weblog can serve as a filter for getting to know people who are interested in the same things. Through weblogs one can have conversations with ‘self’ and (preferably) others. These conversations can transcend into discourse when people start using multiple communication tools simultaneously (VoIP, chat, forum, e-mail, wiki, webcam etc.) ” “Combining different media is the strength and the weblog serves as a communication hub”
To me, that sounds like the communicative and instrumental learning based on the PLE/N, and if there are further ontological learning happening, based on the connectivist approach, then that would be the connectivist approach towards learning and knowledge in action.
Also, the reason why it is so difficult to fully understand connectivism might be based on the fact it addresses the three levels in an integrative manner – neuro (neuroscience approach), conceptual (cognitive approach) and social and external (social learning approach with complexity theory and various social learning theories integrated). This is similar to viewing 3 D pictures where the images of 3D are all overlapping, and you need to put on 3D glasses (technology, agents, TV, tools) in order to view them properly. Besides, you need to interpret the 3D movies based on the emergent properties, as each 3D patterns may be different when shown, due to the complexity nature of the environment and 3D glasses one puts on.”

Part 2

Designing opportunities for transformation with emerging technologies

Design opportunities that Allow Engagement Beyond Course Activities

“First, it is important for learners to understand and instructors to acknowledge that knowledge is distributed and that the instructor is not the sole source of knowledge on a topic. Second, while the instructor can provide opportunities for engagement and transformation, such outcomes cannot be forced or achieved unless learners exploit such opportunities.” These echoed with the basic principles of Connectivism, where knowledge is distributed, and the most significant learning points are based on sensemaking and wayfinding by the learners, through navigation and building of learning networks.

Here some of the engagement opportunities are captured in the reflection about MOOCs by Jackie.  I could see that she has designed a highly structured course where students are guided through detailed instructions.  This may be useful for those novice students with little experience and limited skills in networking.  Here Fabio, one of the learners reflected:

 In this model the entire group would teach and learn from each other. I’d really love to take part in the one that I designed and others that I saw my peers start and design. I may not make an entire course into a MOOC, but I definitely will add aspects of MOOCs into my courses.

I do think these are interesting trends, as it seems that some learners do prefer the structured learning approach, though this may differ significantly from the Connectivist model suggested by George Siemens and Stephen Downes, in that under Connectivism, it is more related to self-organised learning, with Complexity Theory of Learning, and learning as informed in Neuroscience.

I still reckon that Connectivism would provide a more long-lasting impact on transformational learning, especially when learner plays the dual role of teacher and learner in the learning process as I have shared in my previous post on Complex Learning Theories.  Would cMOOC providers be offering a value proposition in this transformational learning experience?  How would such values be “designed” into the course?

Design for Lasting Impression

“A lasting impression may be more likely if the activity is extended to include added elements of interaction such as conversations with cooperative learning experts.”  This is frequently practised by many learning experts, where interviews were held, see below.

Learning relates strongly to our tacit knowledge and life experience.  As we experience life, we store our learning as tacit knowledge in memories and intuitions.  What we don’t experience or learn, we can glean from others. (See here)

Design for Intrigue, Risk-taking and Challenge

“Requiring learners to devise solutions to real problems and present their solutions to interested parties invites them to take risks, and challenge themselves to devise solutions good enough to address competing requirements.”

Design for Engagement

“- Deep learning engagement

– Should aspire for learning that changes the ways a learner acts in the world

– Indicators of “transformative” education may be student discussions of their desire to make a difference in the world, improve their skills, or become leaders in their profession.”

I noted that engagement could be achieved through gamification, and the use of multi-player online games:

Design for Reflection

– Participants have shown shifts in perspectives about themselves and their teaching.  I think this is the critical part of a course – so participants could see things differently.  Here I have shared my views about MOOCs and connectivist learning and the role of reflection throughout my involvement in the course.

Here are the key points and guiding principles on the design of transformative learning experience from George’s paper:

  1. Employ technology as a means to provide opportunities for personally relevant and meaningful transformation.
  2. Transformative learning experiences cannot be “imposed” on learners.
  3. Deeper forms of learning can just be made to happen; they are invited, and encouraged, and facilitated.
  4. Technology has been described as an agent of changes, as a way to provide opportunities for transformation while sculpting pedagogical practice.
  5. Since it is not possible to construct transformative experience but, to provide opportunities for transformation, these learning experiences are bound to encompass unknown outcomes.
  6. Due to instructional designers’ inability to pinpoint clear-cut transformational outcomes, and because related learning outcomes are invited (as opposed to constructed/designed), transformational learning experience may not be replicable or even predictable.
  7. The extent to which transformative outcomes can be realized depends on numerous factors including individual learners, the scaffolds presented to them, and the design of the opportunities for transformation.

Here are my suggested additional Design for transformation:

Design for conversation and Community Building

There are various forums and platforms for conversation, as an example here on Cube for teachers, where teachers could design a community with resources and artifacts (lesson materials, lesson plans etc.) for sharing.

Design for feedback

Most of us are familiar with the design of feedback in learning.  This is especially useful if such feedback are built in during and after the course such as a survey on learners as a feedback mechanism. (see here)

Thanks again to George Veletsianos for an excellent and insightful paper.  I reckon an extension of conversation based on research papers would further help us in exploring their applications in wider context, in global networks and communities.

How about your experiences and views on transformative learning?


Veletsianos, G. (2011). Designing Opportunities for Transformation with Emerging Technologies.
 Educational Technology, 51 (2), 41-46.

What would be the implications of MOOCs on Higher Education? Part 2

Here is an update on MOOCs.

What is the number one challenge with current education model?

Our current education model would be shaken and further disrupted as there are urges to populate courses to accommodate an increasing number of students, in order to stay economical and competitive.  Increasingly, there is huge problem that is associated with the funding and the continuing rise of tuition for a degree in colleges.  “The cost of a college degree in the United States has increased “12 fold” over the past 30 years, far outpacing the price inflation of consumer goods, medical expenses and food.

According to Bloomberg, college tuition and fees have increased 1,120 percent since records began in 1978.

“Soaring tuition and shrinking incomes are making college less and less affordable,” Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in an e-mailed statement. “For millions of young people, rising college costs are putting the American dream on hold, or out of reach.”

The figures tell it all, when falling enrolment figures in traditional universities and colleges led to further pressures to attract more students to take up college and universities places, whilst MOOCs are now registered with millions of participants.

Would that be a concern to most higher education institutions – colleges and universities?

As more and more universities are relying on the MOOCs to help them in reducing the costs of delivery, what would happen?

What could MOOC (xMOOCs) offer?

xMOOCs are offering education of a significantly “different kind”, and apart from them being free, they are open.  Have they disrupted the education model?

Tony says:

My concern with MOOCs is that their proponents see them as a means to educate the masses for the first kind of learning, while reserving the second kind of learning for those who pay very high fees to come to their campuses. This will merely widen the inequalities that already exist. We need to find ways of making the second kind of learning available on a mass scale, but there has to be a price paid to do this, whether it is through taxes, tuition fees or a combination of both.

So, MOOCs could put significant pressures back to institutions, where transactional learning would need to be “scale up” to the masses, with tens or hundreds of thousands of students, in order to attract more students to study.

Would such way of educating the massive number of students be sustainable with the existing funding model?

How would these not disrupt the traditional higher institutions if they are not responding to the call of open on-line education if their enrolment continues to fall, and that more and more students are joining MOOCs for continuing studies and learning?

In this post:

“And that’s when I have my being-blown-away moment. The traffic is astonishing. There are thousands of people asking – and answering – questions about dominant mutations and recombination. And study groups had spontaneously grown up: a Colombian one, a Brazilian one, a Russian one. There’s one on Skype, and some even in real life too. And they’re so diligent! If you are a vaguely disillusioned teacher, or know one, send them to Coursera: these are people who just want to learn.”

This is interesting, though not a surprise at all.  These sorts of forum postings and discussions had been ongoing for years, only this time every one seemed to be amazed for the first time of its pervasiveness – with networks all springing up seemingly from nowhere.  If we refer these to study groups, then what would be the role of formal classes, in a traditional classroom, within institution?   Would students like to have a try, and dip a toe into MOOC?  Why not?

Is face-to-face teaching and learning still dominant design of tertiary education?

Yes.  That is why MOOCs would soon be taking over some aspects of the traditional teaching, when one could reach a massive number of students normally not afforded in the face-to-face mode of teaching.

Is that the reason why Sebastian Thrun preferred to take the red pill after his experiment with the AI MOOC?  How about the rock star professors who are teaching under MOOC?  Isn’t it great to be admired by hundreds of thousands of participants of MOOC?  What would happen to those who are still teaching in a face-to-face teaching mode?  Would they need to shift their teaching mode because of the need of the community and learners?  What would happen to those educators and students who are accustomed to the face-to-face teaching?

If you still think that MOOCs are still under the control in HE, I reckon you have to think twice, as this post provides good food for thoughts.

What about the high drop out and attrition rates, and low completion rates, the on-line identification of students, plagiarism and cheating, and language issues that had all impacted the reputation of online education, in particular MOOCs?  

Is drop-out really that important in online learning such as MOOCs?  May be not, as I have shared them here.  The more connections one has, the more proficient one has to become, in face of chaotic and complex learning environment.

This video on xMOOCs – Millions of lessons learned on electronic napkins provides an interesting perspective.  Can MOOCs be free and open?  Would there be free lunch with MOOCs? Someone got to pay for the course, and it’s likely that learners need to pay, in order to have sustainable MOOCs.  That’s the reality.

A useful reference here on MOOC – a European view.



What would be the implications of MOOCs on Higher Education?

Here is a provocative post on moocs and other ed tech bubbles.  My first response below:

I would like to write a detailed response, but by now a few questions and comments first. 1. Would technology undermine formal education? 2. Could learner pick and choose their education? 3. When none of the peers is an expert, is there too much risk of misconceptions and bad habits becoming established within the cohort? 4. Who are the experts? How are these experts identified and recognised? Are we looking for experts as “teachers” or “facilitators”, or machine based AI generated experts? 5. Are experts available for “free” in mooc or  would they only “teach” when paid? 6. Why would professors want to teach in MOOCs? What are their motivations? Are they assuming the role of a teacher, or a learner among the networks?

My comments: Sebastian Thrun has tried his experiment with the AI MOOC as he is a highly enthusiastic educator and is willing to devote time and efforts in doing the “extra” teaching. Could we presume and assume all the professors in MOOCs are having and sharing the same spirit of teaching, apart from their research loads?

One of the questions is: If the mooc is better than the existing teaching and learning in the elite or most universities, wouldn’t that be the greatest disruption to their own “mainstream” teaching and pedagogy? If the mooc is far less valuable, attractive and useful than their mainstream teaching and pedagogy, who would be losing? Would that be the professors teaching in the MOOCs? So, no matter whether MOOCs are providing a better or worse pedagogy to the mainstream teaching, either way would not be beneficial to the HE institutions and the professors. But without the MOOCs as the starting point, what would happen? No change, no innovation needed? Would that be totally different if the pedagogy is aligned with cMOOCs? I don’t know the answer.

To me, the xMOOCs are still organization driven and well developed online courses, which seem to be significantly different from the adhoc organization driven and adhoc (COP, mentoring) and the cMOOCs which are learner driven and adhoc (social networks, forums, wikis, blogs).  The cMOOCs are leveraging the affordance of emerging technology and tools, together with the social networks to achieve learning (both formal and informal learning).  This seems to be a race between technology affordance and professors and the associated pedagogy employed in the conversation and engagement of learners in the MOOCs.

Do you want learners to learn from the organizations or from the self-initiated networks (PLE/PLN)?

Would it be possible to sustain education with prescriptive knowledge and emergent knowledge?

What would be more valuable for learners – in terms of knowledge duplication or knowledge creation?

Which would be the model of education (push or pull in knowledge generation and creation) that would fit into the learners’ present and future needs?

Would that be a matter of sensemaking and wayfinding if the digital learning is employed?

Emergence category-matrix2 (1)