What are the differences between training and education in MOOCs?

Roy Williams posted this very insightful post on MOOCs.  I would like to quote it below:

how do we achieve a good balance and mix between openness and prescription, and what ‘mixes’ are appropriate for what contexts, people, tasks, etc.  The Stanford AI xMOOC is very different from the CCK MOOCs, or PLENK, or the KPI JAM, or the IBM JAM, but that is how it should be.  And we found the distinction between ‘emergent’ and ‘prescriptive’ to be more useful than ‘openness’ and ‘closed’ – in an attempt to avoid the simplistic, normative equation of open=good, closed=bad, and take the both/and option instead (both emergence and prescription) in which there is a place for the Stanford AI xMOOC, as it happens.

There are two questions which would be critical:

To what extent would emergent and prescriptive be useful when they are placed in juxtaposition?

Is open=good, closed=bad, in which there is a place for the Stanford AI xMOOC, as it happens?

I think we would likely have to sacrifice one for the sake of others (i.e. either emergent or prescriptive) in the case of institutional formal education, though it is totally possible to have mere emergent learning in the case of informal learning (and perhaps education outside the institution framework).

This may impose a series of challenge on institutional learning though.

First, institutional formal education is grounded on the pedagogical framework that only prescribed education and learning outcomes are legitimate and could be assessed and accredited.  This is rational given that institutions are like “education brokers”, acting on behalf of the governance of education authority, to formalize the curriculum and endorse the designed programs.

Second, in the vocational education and training sectors, education and training programs are often designed by the industry, for the industry, and so that is where industries would accredit the training programs.  However, it is often noted that there are not only training components but also educational components which may not have been fully considered and addressed in those training programs, mainly because training focuses on the skill development, whereas education focuses on the holistic development of the person in terms of the learning to learn skills, digital literacy and critical thinking.

Why is it like that?

Education is indeed different from training, in many aspects.

The purpose of education could be different from training too.

The purpose of education is to prepare our youths to have global competence, and engage with the wider community and the world.  See my previous post on The purpose of education.

Training is defined as:

-acquisition of knowledge and skill for present tasks

– a tool to help individuals contribute to the organization and be successful in the current position

– a means to an end

The purpose of training is to equip employees with the skills required for the tasks.

It is more cost effective to lecture to a group than to train people individually. Lecturing is one-way communication and as such may not be the most effective way to train. Also, it is hard to ensure that the entire audience understands a topic on the same level; by targeting the average attendee you may under train some and lose others. Despite these drawbacks, lecturing is the most cost-effective way of reaching large audiences. Role playing and simulation are training techniques that attempt to bring realistic decision making situations to the trainee. Likely problems and alternative solutions are presented for discussion. The adage there is no better trainer than experience is exemplified with this type of training. Experienced employees can describe real world experiences, and can help in and learn from developing the solutions to these simulations. This method is cost effective and is used in marketing and management training.

In retrospect, it seems that the AI MOOC falls into the training of people with skills, and thus could be done on a massive basis, though openness may be viewed as a “by product” only when it comes to the delivery.  Such sort of skills development are premised on the acquisition of skills and knowledge, which could be tangibly evaluated, using automated assessment tools (multiple choice, true or false) and provide the automated grading.  This is also a perfect example where prescriptive learning outcomes are matched with the pedagogy of mastery learning and instructivism, where the professor would likely determine the standard methods of competency, based on the “traditional tools of assessment” and competency standards.

Would the current xMOOCs be equally applicable for training programs?  Yes, I do think you could massively assess students in nearly most disciplines, so far if the prescriptive knowledge and learning of those disciplines have well defined and known solutions, where standardized answers are adopted for assessment.  That is also where “massive” training is possible.  For instance, the knowledge test in driving could be administered to hundreds, thousands or even unlimited number of “learners” using automated training system, and so MOOCs could be modeled on that basis.

How about a MOOC based on education?  Could it be a reality?  The cMOOCs have been modelled based on the education outcomes, and to a great extent, instead of prescriptive learning outcomes, it turned out the emergent learning outcomes would be product of the MOOCs, where education relates back to the achievement of personal goals and the development of personal learning strategies.   I think education would likely be a combination of training and education, which could consist of acquisition of skills and knowledge and the development of literacies which may go behind the skills.  These skills include those which are not easily defined, like the metacognition – thinking how to think, and learning how to learn, and thus not easily achieved within a single course of education.  There could also be a threshold number of students who could be “managed” by the instructors in the facilitation, as Roy has mentioned, if education is considered a “mentoring” or coaching process that relate to development and support of the learner as a person.

I reckon the current xMOOCs are mostly based on the training mode, where certain skills and knowledge are transferred or transmitted through various means, from the professors and or the artifacts to the learners.  The learners could then assessed on those skills and knowledge using the traditional assessment tools and feedback mechanism.  In this respect, I would think Khan Academy is aligned more with the training of basic skills (or some advanced skills, when feedback is incorporated), but it is not always aligned with education, though one could argue that it is education of massive number of students, though this is afforded and mediated by the technology – via video lectures, and practice and drills.  There are nuances in education and training, when applied in such MOOCs, and in particular xMOOCs.

Have we missed this differentiation of education and training throughout our discourse in MOOCs?

If we treat skills and knowledge as a thing, as in traditional education, then surely the present xMOOCs could be a perfect model for commoditization.

As Roy says:

In practice, the Knowledge in the Public Interest JAM, and the CCK MOOCs (and related ones) worked very well, within reason, at levels of participation of something like 80 and 120, respectively.  The KPI (72-hour) JAM had 12 facilitators, taking 1 hour facilitator slots.  The CCK MOOCs were variable/ light facilitation, but facilitated they were.  Don’t throw the facilitator out with the MOOC-water.  The AI xMOOC was as prescriptive as it comes, and with some really neat instant feedback to 20,000 (?) effective participants, and it achieved what might not have been much more than ‘complex-training’.

Knowledge would not be treated solely as a thing to be transferred from the professor to the students, in the case of cMOOCs, mainly because that those transfer would only mean that such knowledge would fall back to the prescriptive knowledge as pre-determined by the authority – the professor or the institutions etc..  In that case the massive part would not work, mainly because education requires participation and engagement with agents (including human) in such MOOC, and that the more opinions there are in the network, the more confusing would such “knowledge” be if that is from the professor and other students.  That seems to be the limiting factor to any MOOCs when education becomes the main focus.

Such cMOOCs would quickly be re-shaped into the xMOOCs as in its current form, when learners would prefer to get the canonical knowledge from the authority, thus limiting the gaining of further perspectives from other sources, or learners.

Finally, I would argue that cMOOCs would be ideal for education, though there would be clusters and individuals who would learn within the network, with various pedagogy – including Connectivism, Social Constructivism, and it is not easily proved to be superior to the xMOOCs significantly due to the emphasis on education ideology.

xMOOCs would be ideal for training on a massive scale, when skills and knowledge are treated as a thing which could be transferred, and commoditized like a commodity, with commercial value (job skills acquired by the learners), though it may not be the ideal way for education due to the limited prescriptive knowledge and learning that is “acquired”, rather than the emergent knowledge that is relatively important at this digital age.

Would it be possible to have a hybrid of cMOOCs and xMOOCs offered where both prescriptive and emergent knowledge and learning are supported and encouraged?  I don’t seem to see such MOOCs in place, mainly because most learners of xMOOCs (especially those who are seeking higher education) are still looking for the accreditation model of formal education (and thus are more likely to welcome an instructivist approach towards learning), rather than the model of cMOOCs where life-long learning is the goal, and a connectivist approach towards learning.

I am still pondering on this question about difference between education and training in MOOCs.  What about your views?

Emergence category-matrix2 (1)


10 thoughts on “What are the differences between training and education in MOOCs?

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  8. John, there are too many things to think about here in one shot so I’ll start with the question:
    To what extent would emergent and prescriptive be useful when they are placed in juxtaposition?

    It seems to me that both strategies for getting to know something are entirely valid. Prescriptive can act as a base for further learning without looping back to relearn the past plus it can initiate questioning and in a way become a cause-agent of experiential exploration—again a base to work from. I think our minds are quite happy to be given conditions of reality to play with and alter which results in discovery and another step up.

    Emergent is important as a form of permission to extend our thinking beyond what we are sure of. By permission I mean the assumption we are rational and responsible thinkers equipped with well functioning imaginations that also know when we are lying to ourselves or wandering down paths of convenience. (Reading right now about logical jumps that occur when we are building analogies and need more information). There may be a form of emergence that sends out beyond a point where we can recover meaning but knowing of those places we could conceivably build a path of understandings to them. The path building itself is a prescriptive process as a return to the reliable in order to build a path that we and others can use.

    My feeling is the emergent and the prescriptive can operate simultaneously without conflict within a dialog of respect or common purpose. Also, in a time of change we need some sort of mechanism the allows us to ignore the flight response triggered by the unknown. This is a curious form of confidence I’m not sure how to describe.

  9. Well said Scott, and I agreed with your insights. We need both to succeed in learning, and as you said, both emergent and prescriptive can operate simultaneously without conflict within a dialogue of respect or common purpose.

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