Participation and engagement patterns, and Social Network Analysis in MOOCs

Fabian posted on FB:

Can you imagine a population of around 3 million students in one centralized LMS? It would be like MOOCs inside the firewall… pros and con

My response:

That could be interesting to explore. MOOCs inside a firewall is like those typical institution LMS. You could “force” lots of discussion and debates by incorporating assessment which are based on the posting of comments, number of research papers quoted, the “likes” and voting one gets from others, and the quantity and quality of responses by each students (traced through LA). If these form part or whole of the assessments, then there could be tens and hundred thousands of posts and responses. Whether the professors and TAs would be able to cope with such huge number of posts and comments are another matter. Such challenge may be overcome with the 1-9-90 rule based on the votes, so the post and comments having highest votes would be elected to be given attention, or debated upon. This has been reported in many of the xMOOCs posts and you could Google to explore them.
Is this also applicable to cMOOCs? May be. You would need lots of TAs and knowledgeable others who have expertise in studying the LA, and report on the patterns of interaction. Relating to the course nature of MOOCS, you might find that some of the MOOCs are of an advanced nature, more likely suitable for sophomore undergraduates or graduate students pursuing a Master or PhD. It is no wonder that these MOOCs have a low completion rate, as they require a strong background knowledge in a number of fields, including Statistics and Mathematical tools.
Refer to this post It is likely that these few million students in MOOC or centralized LMS would likely behave in a hub and spokes with 10 or less in the population and 80 or 90% + falling outside the core of the MOOCs. These are typically similar to most MOOCs we have studied in the past. You could even analyse those patterns of study or learning using highly sophisticated mathematical modelling – as theoretical construct to explain those behavioral patterns – on interactions, connections and the emergence, though this requires also careful and sophisticated SNA and interpretation. There may be some PhD or Postdoc studies working on this, as many PhD candidates and TAs are using XMOOC to carry out LA( Learning Analytics) and relevant theorization to support their PhDs. I learnt this through the study of those xMOOCs blog comments, but I have not seen one such research paper released.
See this post It is typical to have 10% or less MOOC participants active in the course. It is relatively difficult to precisely determine the exact percentage of very active, active, not so active, and no participation, but likely 1-9-90 is what happened in most MOOCs, unless you close the MOOCs and force everyone to be onboard, and count their interaction and assessment as part or full for completion requirements. It could be risky to coerce participation, though not impossible to develop a course like that. In fact there has been reports of course with blogs participation where everyone’s postings and commenting is part of the assessment for the course unit.
Treating MOOCs as experiments surely is interesting, as these lessen the accountability and responsibilities of “failures” by students (especially when they are not paying any fees to the institutions or providers) and there aren’t substantial duty of care required, mainly because drop-out is ethically acceptable, and there is no loss in finance to the providers or institutions. Would this be a critical difference between MOOCs and the formal open online courses offered in formal institutions?
Refer to this slideshare by Stephen Downes
Some other studies here:
Social Network Analysis
Photo: Credit (Anonymous) (Google)

What does it mean to learn in a cooperative manner in online courses? Part 1 Authority and Pedagogy

Cooperation is the key to learning with others under networked learning, especially if one is to acquire the social learning skills.

Here in her post Towards a Literacy of Cooperation, Jenny shared her learning relating to her participation in a course facilitated by Howard Rheingold.

There are three points that I would like to reflect on:

Linked to this recognition of needing a balance between large loose learning environments and more intimate communities, is a consideration of the balance between cooperation, collaboration and competition.

The intention is that through the use of a variety of media tools and by taking on specific roles (my role is live session note-taker) we will by the end of the course see the world in a different way through having new frameworks and lenses for looking at cooperative behaviours.

Cooperation and competition are two sides of the same coin and seem to be co-drivers of evolution.

1. How to balance between cooperation, collaboration and competition in an open learning environment?

There are research evidences that could reveal its relationship to the following factors: (a) Authority and Pedagogy, (b) Power and Relationship, (c) Autonomy and motivation, and (d) Openness and Connectivity.

I would like to reflect on my experiences below on authority and pedagogy in this post – Part 1.

(a) Authority of the course and course organisers, facilitators etc – To what extent are the organisers and facilitators experts or authority figures of the courses?  If the facilitators are leading figures or experts in the field or in the global business, would the delivery and presentation be more aligned to the connectivist, facilitative, or  instructivist approach?

This is important as each approach would likely allow and enable different degrees of cooperation, collaboration and competition in online education and learning.  This would also be a decision that the course organiser, facilitators, participants and learners would consider in the design and delivery of the course.

Connectivist approach (Connectivism)

For instance, in most of the connectivist courses (CCK08, 09, 11, 12, PLENK2010, CritLiteracy, Change 11, etc.) that I attended, I realised more cooperation, with some collaboration, but not much of competition from the peers or others emerged from the courses.  Here the authority might likely be decentralised, with a loose structure and membership developed throughout the course, where each networker might take up certain tasks or roles that would be expected in an network-group course, based on individual learners’ needs.

I have participated in these forms of networks for years, and found them pretty adaptive and agile in nature.  A learner-centred learning typically emerged from such online courses, as the feedback from participants would likely inform the course organisers how the course could be improved. This seems to be inherent in the design and delivery of most cMOOCs.  Since innovation, creativity and connectivity is encouraged in the course design and delivery, the focus would tend to be cooperation of all parties concerned, when diversity of opinion and openness is practised.  The vision may be to satisfy the learners’ achievement of goals, through the MOOCs.

Photo credit: PLENK2010 course


Facilitative approach (social constructivism)

However, when it comes to online courses where the facilitators are holding high authority, or are expecting a high respect on authority, then the group learning may be the expectation, either by influence, or to a certain degree of persuasion or coercion to conform to the rules and protocols set up by the group, and its associated group members.

Such way of forming groups are often common in Communities and Community of Practices, where small clusters or groups of educators or learners are focused to work on a particular project – like a wiki, an ebook, or an e-project required for completion in a course.

The authority may be vested from the course organiser or facilitator, but then each of the members may be required to take up certain roles and responsibilities in order to ensure the running of the course.  This seems to be inherent in the design and delivery of a hybrid of c and x MOOCs and a lot of communities of practitioners (education and learning).  The focus would likely be a balance between cooperation and collaboration, though a process based on group work is used for the evaluation of the need to re-design the course, rather than an immediate adaptive response.  The vision may be to satisfy a balance between the learners, educators and course/institution’s achievement of their goals, through the MOOCs.

Instructivist approach (behaviorism/cognitivism)

At the other end of the spectrum is where facilitators are adopting an instructivist approach, then most likely the learning strategies like mastery learning are already pre-determined and presented to learners, so all participants are expected to comply with the course requirements and the way the course is presented.

The authority figures of these courses would likely be holding the central accountability and responsibility and so they are expected to exercise certain levels of controls in the design, delivery and evaluation of the course (xMOOCs in particular).

Due to the requirements to comply with accreditation, assessment and validation of learning, authority figures are required and expected to ensure a high degree of quality in the course design, delivery and review, in order to ensure conformance to the granting of awards.  Standardisation of course structure and content is again based on the authority, where only canonical knowledge with known and reliable authoritative resources are recommended for the study.

This is why cooperation is more likely required in terms of compliance to the course requirements by the participants, rather than the creativity and innovation as is expected in a connectivist approach.  To what extent would creativity and innovation is valued in an xMOOCs is yet unknown, as there aren’t much explicit requirements of such approaches be adopted by the learners or students?

With an instructivist approach, collaboration is highly focused, with a view that the groups should and must contribute to the overall vision and design as set out by the course organiser and the institutions, with priorities set off for learners, stakeholders, community and institutions to follow.  This also explains why most institutions would like to exercise appropriate authority and controls to ensure the courses are aligned to the standards and quality requirements set out under an institutional framework.

In  summary, each of the three approaches outlined here – connectivist, facilitative and instructivist approach would impact on how cooperation, collaboration and competition is achieved.  The learner centered approaches would likely lead to more cooperation and collaboration, whilst the teacher centered approaches would likely lead to collaboration and competition among the learners and the educators.

I will continue to explore power and relationship in Part 2.