Discourse on MOOCs: where should it be heading?

Here is my response to Cathy’s insightful post on MOOCs – if moocs are the answer, what is the question?

Is MOOC the problem or solution to Higher Education, especially to the Future of Higher Education?

What is the question? What are the issues that MOOCs are trying to address? Whose perspectives would be educationally, socially, politically, and economically sound? What are the value propositions of each of the MOOCs offer?  How have they been responded by those in needs, or those in favor of or against MOOCs?

I have shared some of those voices, merits and demerits of MOOCs in series of posts.

Neoliberals, real liberals, DIY pundits, pro and against MOOCs, educators and learners have all got their perspectives, their open or hidden agendas, though now they are putting them openly (and sometimes semi-openly) on the virtual tables, via their formal channels, or social media platforms, blog or twitter posts.

The rapidly changing educational landscape has turned the discourse into a teaching as important to a learning as a more important topic, BUT not always the MOST IMPORTANT one as the business models of MOOCs have not yet fully emerged.

How could learning be fully exploited if it is not centred around learners?  May be we are still searching, experimenting and exploring some of the tips of the icebergs relating to Higher Education, especially with the WICKED problems in Higher Education.

The wicked problems and social complexity provides some clues – the forces of fragmentation could be the forces that challenge collective intelligence, not only in groups in organisation, but also in networks.  Compare this with the typical problem solving approach as outlined here.

“Fragmentation suggests a condition in which the people involved see themselves as more separate than united, and in which information and knowledge are chaotic and scattered.  The fragmented pieces are, in essence, the perspectives, understandings, and intentions of the collaborators. Fragmentation, for example, is when the stakeholders in a project are all convinced that their version of the problem is correct.  Fragmentation can be hidden, as when stakeholders don’t even realize that there are incompatible tacit assumptions about the problem, and each believes that his or her understandings are complete and shared by all.”

The antidote to fragmentation is shared understanding and commitment. In the case of networked and collective learning, it also requires forms of curation and aggregation – both on the fragmented resources collected and conversation held all over the places, in order to make sense, and to form a more coherent response to the problem statement.  This would then be shared through further conversation, by redefining the problem, analyzing the data, developing alternative options and solutions, followed by implementation of solutions.  The use of wikis and google documents are typical examples to illustrate the crowdsourcing solutions to such problems.

“Social complexity makes wicked problems even more wicked, raising the bar of collaborative success higher than ever.

Because of social complexity, solving a wicked problem is fundamentally a social process.  Having a few brilliant people or the latest project management technology is no longer sufficient.”

I have reflected on the problems and some possible options and solutions relating to the design and implementation of MOOC here and here.

The current scenario indicates that we are at a state of fragmentation in the midst of Higher Education, where MOOCs, OERs, privatization, partnerships, alliances, and co-operation and collaboration are just part of these fragmentation and disruption movement.  The actual tsunami may not even be the MOOCs, but the technological, economic and social “revolution” uprising for fundamental human rights to Higher Education at a free or affordable cost and a quest for innovative and improved Higher Education.

George Siemens in his response to the fragmentation of Higher Education highlights the current trend of MOOCs and the possible future scenarios of Higher Education.

There are both complicated and complex  “problems” that have emerged throughout the last decade, especially in HE, that may necessitate a global conversation, and the social media just release all the voices that sounded to be polarised, when both reasons and emotions are nuanced in those postings.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many research papers on MOOCs (especially the xMOOCs) which are based on concrete statistics and evidences that reveal the actual learnings associated with the MOOCs.  Here are some of the orthodoxes and hypothesis relating to MOOCs.

The challenges ahead go deeper than what MOOCs are addressing, when viewed from a global perspective, unveiled by the various professors  in these global stories.

How to achieve a balance among all stakeholders, when learning is at the heart and mind of venture capitalists, philanthropic opportunists,  education idealists, progressive educationists, transformative educationists?  Are people either pushing or pulling their wishlists in this opportunistic education transformation and innovative disruption to the limit?