Are there failures in Connectivist approach towards learning? I would say NO!

Ignatia’s post got me thinking about the significance of MOOC disasters.  Debbie’s post with the three take aways helped in formulating the following questions and assumptions:

I have one question: What takes precedence in instructional design? Design of performance outcome first from an instructional perspective or a learning perspective (i.e. from the learners’ point of view)?

Most of traditional course design assumes a linear instructional/learning pathway, a mastery learning by drills and practice, to acquire all the knowledge that is decided by the instructor.  To what extent is this effective and efficient in an online course such as MOOC?

course design screen-shot-2012-02-12-at-9-39-01-pm

May be for prescriptive knowledge, yes, and duplication of knowledge by the learners, sure! But when we want to explore why these types of MOOC fail, the problem seems to lie with the interface between what the instructor want and design and what the learners actually want or design.

If I were the learner of the course, I would have designed it for me to learn, straight away, though this assumes that I have the experience and network or mentors/professors that I could work with.  Do you wait for the course or instructional designers to design your learning, or should you design your learning? Is that the question, under a connectivist learning paradigm?  There is no failure in connectivist learning, only if we fail to connect altogether, or we don’t want to connect. Isn’t it right?

Learning in an online environment is ubiquitous and is no longer bounded by the traditional four walls,  MOOCs, or single network or community.  It is far more reaching, when one is adopting a connectivist approach towards learning.  Unfortunately, it seems that many of us are still struggling with the pedagogy, the pros and cons with all the different approaches, models of learning – in trying to convince each others that one model is better than the other, or that the online is as good as the other offline learning.

Children nowadays are learning with mobiles, likely everyday, without worrying about whether they have used the right design, technology or pedagogy.  It may be true that sometimes the learning may be too disruptive to their formal education, and so this does not fit into educator’s model of linear learning, and thus follow instructions by the instructors.  Are adults following similar approaches, especially when there are so many ways of learning, via technology and social networks that they could learn with and learn from?

What we may be trying to do with formal courses is to direct learners back to formal models of education and learning.  On one hand, there may be a desire to organise education in a linear pathway, so they may be able to achieve all the learning outcomes that we desire them to learn.  It seems this sort of paradigm is adopted by the xMOOCs, and the educational philosophy is: learn through me, with me, and you would become competent.  Whether this is similar to our traditional lecture format of mass education is still moot, especially when these sort of education is immersed in an open online education and learning environment.

On the other hand, if we are to really transform our education, and make it really customised and adaptive, then we need to strip off the industrialist model of education, where massification of education with lectures, on a didactic mode with “drill, test, drill, test and test”  are replaced by adaptive facilitation of learning via networks and COPs, and personal learning networks, coupled with professional learning communities which are open and democratic in nature.

Test and examinations may still be good ways for learning, and accreditation, that is undeniable.  However, it is important to realise that testing without real understanding of the subject matters could be an illusion about real learning, and the higher order or deep learning that we wish and aspire to.  This has been highlighted by so many professors and educators that we need to keep reminding ourselves on the importance of deep learning, not just rote learning, shallow learning, and testing.

It is not just about learning certain learning outcomes that make learning effective at this digital age, it is about resilience, and preparing ourselves, our professors and learners for the world of the future.

A collection and reflection on my learning in MOOCs

Would students want to learn using the traditional teaching approach, the current xMOOCs based on behaviorist/cognitive and mastery learning approach, or the connectivist learning approach in x or c MOOCs?  See my wiki here.

David posted here where he says:

The learners who have been successful in formal education have spent years developing expertise in – and perhaps preferences for – the didactic approach to learning. For some of these learners, the pedagogy of the xMOOC may be seen as significantly better than that of the cMOOCs or whatever pedagogically sound approach is imposed by a university. I recognise that there are very different cohorts of learners that will likely have different perspectives. But the argument here is that if Universities are trying to figure out how to respond, then they better have a reasonable idea of what their current students are experiencing.

If we were to conduct surveys with students, then there could be students who prefer the xMOOCs over cMOOCs, at least at the moment, because they could “get” all the information they want “at their finger tips”, without resort to too much efforts. Right?  May be, that is only true if it is based on the survey on xMOOCs university students, graduates, etc.

I doubt if the traditional “xMOOCs” would really challenge the learners and graduates in terms of their talents and intelligence, though most, if not all students are so used to consuming huge amount of information direct from the professors.  Is that a dilemma that both professors and students are facing when delivering an online course solely by “teaching” the students what is to be taught, by covering all the content required to pass the test or examinations?

To learn with the best professors in the world might be one of the aspiration of many students who don’t have access to Higher Education, though there might be lots of students too who prefer to learn in solitude or with their own peers.  Is learning with best professors and teachers always providing the best outcome?  May be not, as this depends on whether the students are able to learn “what is being taught”.

This is why I think each of our students are different, in terms of their needs, and motivation in learning, and that we shouldn’t just assume what “we” want to educate is what they want in their learning.

Could MOOCs save Higher Education?

Clay Shirky says in this how to save college: “MOOCs are a lightning strike on a rotten tree.”

On the other end there were strong views about MOOCs.   The answer seems to be no, MOOCs are not the panacea to HE.

Photo: From Martin Weller’s post


What could we learn through failures (or opportunities) in MOOCs?

Debbie’s posting here about the three takeaways sound interesting and helpful:

1) The instructional model is shifting to be student-centric, away from an institution or instructor-focused model.

2)  Sound instructional design is the key to supporting self-directed learning experiences.

3) Prepare students for the Learning Experience.

Another theme emerged within the discussions around the FOE course, how much responsibility should the learner assume in a MOOC? Does the responsibility not fall upon the student for the success of a course?

Here I have summarised my views and suggestions on the design and delivery of MOOCs – for both x and c MOOCs.

How about my learning out of all these?

Should we argue with reasoning?  May be: do not argue with others, argue with yourself, your own assumptions first, and then all others’ arguments would be viewed in an emergent perspectives.  See this post relating to rhizomatic learning.  How do you see it?  If you think those kinds of learning would help you in learning over networks, or in an online course, then you could surely take your education pathways and chart out your course of learning.  No two pathways are exactly the same, for all of us, though there could be many similar pathways that could lead to similar destinations.

What do students want?

Each of our students want to learn in their own ways, if they have a choice.  That’s why connectivist learning would likely fit into each of their learning, when they make their choice of connections, be it with the teacher, other learners, artifacts and networks, or not to connect at all, if that would help the learners to learn.

Is xMOOCs significantly better than cMOOCs in learning? It really depends on the lens one uses to see learning, and the assumptions one have based upon, in education and learning as I have shared them here.  That’s really a matter of choice!  What assumptions have you made in your learning?