Part of a conversation on MOOCs

Thanks to Fabian for his wonderful presentation:
celmooc – Google Drive

Here is the presentation by Fabian Banga:

Here is part of our conversation on FB after Fabian’s presentation.  I have only included my views here.  You could view the full conversation there on FB.

Coursera has been designed for a xMOOC and so are their platforms. If the pedagogy is based on instructivism and mastery learning, would that be achievable with a connectivist approach? I do see there could be lots of challenges, as the expectations of the different parties may be different. These have led to lots of tensions and misunderstanding between professors and students, relating to their roles and responsibilities.
As Fabian Banga said, when it comes to tests, assignments and examinations, these are mandatory for certification under an institution education system, and there is little leeway towards negotiation, as that is the policy. Though you could provide examination as an option in xMOOC, this could be an issue if there are huge number of participants taking the examinations, and that the professors have to make sure that they could cater for such arrangement. Also, what about the problem of identity, cheating and plagiarism? How would management be convinced that there are adequate assessment control and risk management in place to prevent or eliminate those cheating and copying of answers from others? This is not the case for participants of cMOOCs as it is offered as an option, and there is NO CREDIT available for cMOOC unless you set up a portfolio approach towards recognition. As Stephen Downes proposed here, there would not need to be test, examination or any other “formally” pre-set assignments for the participants, (though this is different, as George Siemens did use the standard assignments for CCK and LAK courses). The question lies with: what sort of assessment would be possible with x and c MOOCs? Given the massive number of participants, with divergent needs and expectations, and the numerous challenges yet to be tackled, and conflicts to be resolved, is it achievable using x or c MOOCs?
As our research on PLENK (cMOOCs) revealed, many participants of cMOOCs are putting assessment as (lowest) in priority. This is different from the xMOOCs where assessment is given a high priority by the instructors (professors), and may be some students, especially the undergraduate students who would like to use that to improve their performance with their own courses. Besides, there are lots of graduates and adult learners and educators in cMOOCs who are more interested in learning about the pedagogy, the different learning theories, and the emergent tools and technology. They may already have got their qualifications, or that they aren’t keen in being assessed, or being “instructed” under a “mastery learning approach”. There are also professors, experts, professionals who wish to know how MOOCs are designed and run, and how they might be used in their own fields. These all “contradict” to the initial design of xMOOCs, though could be easily accommodated in cMOOCs, as that is exactly what cMOOCs are designed for.
How about the pedagogy involved in MOOCs? In terms of interaction theory, there are three main types of interaction – student-content interaction, student-student interaction and student-instructor interaction. xMOOCs expect students to have high student-content interaction, some to little student-instructor interaction and certain “student-student” interaction in their forums (in order to study their behavior and improve the learning experience). cMOOCs expect students to have high student-student/networks/expert interaction (self-organising, emergent knowledge & learning via interaction and connectivity to students, artifacts, networks), up-to-date emergent student-content interaction (via the sharing of posts and or forum sharing for discourse), and some student-instructor interaction (synchronous and asynchronous) via blog postings, Google Hangouts, or Elluminate, Twitter or FB with distributed learning platforms. This is where the central tenets of both x and c MOOC differ.
c MOOCs would address life-long and wide learning, and could be highly sustainable if they are given the support from community (or networks), institutions and governments. There are certain constraints as to where they could develop, due to numerous “power” and authority challenges and issues they could impose. The mob and community could impose pressure for changes to the whole education and learning ecology, as the recent drama revealed those pressures and responses (i.e. xMOOCs responses to the requests from government and institution to innovate and improve teaching and learning). There are also private sectors and venture capitalists who would like to leverage the opportunities in taking part in this business of education, as commercialisation and privatization is high on their agenda. x MOOCs would however be able to use this as an opportunity to reduce the overall cost of education, and to serve those students who are in urgent need of HE, in content knowledge and the acquisition of a qualification, and perhaps some skills in their profession or study. It seems that there are lots of overlapping areas /domains and students of interests where c and x MOOC could serve.
As most institutions are really looking forward to use xMOOCs to attract more students to do their courses as tasters and continue paying for subsequent courses in their institutions, they may soon find out that this may be an issue. Most participants who have accustomed to doing the MOOCs for free would hesitate in paying for more advanced courses, unless they could see the benefits in doing so. Also, commercialisation, commoditization and monetization of MOOCs would possibly lead to severe competition, strong push for branding (via the news, and using the news reporters and bloggers) to advertise and promote the courses, which may have a great impact on the public HE system.
What would the future of HE look like? I think MOOCs would soon be audited by the government authorities, especially the education authority, in response to the society needs and expectations. There are already stringent legislation in place which would soon regulate the whole education “industry” and business. cMOOCs are still placed under an informal learning category, if that is the case, when they are not able to fully comply with the mastery learning and LEARNING OUTCOMES which are prescribed by the authority. My 10 cents contribution.
Here is our conclusion from the paper (see my blog publication on pedagogy to support human beings): A challenge associated with the educational use of the Web, social networking, and media, based on the MOOC distributed learning model, is that the open, emergent, chaotic nature of online interaction might conflict with the rigidly organized social structure of formal education, which involves prescriptive learning, standardized goals and curricula, fixed schedules, age-based grouping, classroom-based organization, and examinations. This formal view of education is problematic for professional learning and highlights a tension between learning in everyday life facilitated by emerging technologies and the philosophical stance and the pedagogies adopted by universities. A change in the thinking, philosophy, design, and pedagogies of institution-based online courses may be necessary if the affordances of emerging technologies are embraced and adopted within formal educational institutions. Considerable efforts will also be required to ensure an effective balance between openness and constraints when an online institutional course is fused with social networks. The adoption of MOOCs in formal education institutions is challenging, though it opens up new opportunities to experience the co-creation of networks within communities and new and participatory forms of communication and collaboration for both learners and educators.
I understand that this could be way too challenging for most institutions, and of course the xMOOC providers and elite institutions, as professors and branding are the last call cards that could change and transform HE, in accordance to the views of institutions. We all realize that there are huge demands for systemic review from grassroots levels, and that there are huge implications if these demand are not met and realized. The recent quests from government authorities to review the policies – social media policy and the raising of education and teachers’ standards all indicate that the current education system needs to put more emphasis on technology innovation and pedagogy in order to compete internationally.
I think there is still a role for professors and instructors, especially in the more traditional settings of face-to-face teaching, in the adoption of instructivist approach, and mastery learning. We all have done that and surely it could be highly effective, if the conditions of learning – assumptions about adult learning, motivation are all based on a teaching centred approach – back to the industrialised mass production education model. What could be challenging is that our coming generations are way too smart in the adoption of new and emergent technology, especially with the mobile devices. They would soon be turned off, due to the short attention span, and the heavy theorised knowledge and information that they have to learn and remember, in order to regurgitate in the examinations or tests. Besides, lots of talented students are “promoted” by the institutions as the “best of the breeds” leading to a great divide between those haves and haves not. This form of elitism based on individual academic merits may be an excellent promotion strategy. If you check on those who are successful in xMOOC, many couldn’t afford to attend the formal HE, though they are passing with great honors and high distinctions. There are also other participants of xMOOCs who greatly adored the professors (and that could be very good), and so would try every efforts to excel in the course, in order to get a place in focus. These all relate to both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, as the xMOOC providers and professors would do: “You have done well, and so keep up with the great work” sort of message sending to the participants.
Have you seen much from cMOOCs, or those from the instructors of cMOOCs? I don’t know, but I am not interested in self-promotion, and don’t even know what it means in a cMOOCs. What I am interested are not being the “focus” of the course, but the learning that emerged.
What I mean is cMOOCs are based on a different philosophy, the technology as the platform and PLE as part of the pedagogy. Intrinsic motivation is assumed and so there is less emphasis on the praises or positive reinforcement from instructors or peers (as in common in most formal courses – face-to-face or online, or xMOOCs at least on those who successfully secured a job as a result of xMOOCs or having testimonials of successes). I am not trying to stress that this is important or even needed in cMOOCs, but just thinking that xMOOCs are using those marketing and behavioral tactics in a more strategic way, thus showcasing the benefits of taking xMOOCs.
This is where I think positive reinforcement – like those Cloud-Grandma and Khan Academy is now adopting, by providing support and feedback using the technology- despite that they are just messages of encouraging words sent by the computer. Besides, the monitoring of learning in xMOOCs is based on the concept of Learning Analytics, which to some extent would provide the guidance to the participants as to what they are good or weak at, in terms of their level of competence, as revealed in the quizzes, tests, attendances, participation and engagement with the artifacts etc. This doesn’t appear in cMOOCs as they won’t appeal much to adult learners or participants who don’t need or want to be “assessed” under a behavioral – stimulus- response or mastery learning approach. How does it sound?

You are right in that xMOOCs (with university courses like Coursera) must address – in particular the accreditation. Formal courses are based on standardized curriculum and certification, and those who are formally enrolled (and paid) are entitled to assessment and this must be done based on institution policy and procedures. This is not the case for non-paid or enrolled participants of cMOOCs or in some xMOOCs, though soon this form of MOOCs is not perceived as a traditional formal course. Is our conversation and interaction here a MOOC or part of a cMOOC? Why/Why not?

Have you considered the possibility of a semi to fully automated assessment response system that could be robust in accreditation? There are systems using a eportfolio approach, like the Mahara, or Skills Book. Once the students have learnt enough through the x or cMOOCs, they could be asked to post their artifacts or portfolios onto those system, and the assessment could be based on the evidence provided. This may mean that teaching could be separated from the assessment, though learning could be incorporated in the assessment process. The problem and project based learning could all be used for such accreditation and assessment purposes. The professor would become a principal assessor working in partnership with student, student’s mentor (or workplace supervisor), or any other professors who could provide reference to the students. This sort of education is based more on the recognition and PLE model, and could be more student-centered in learning.
Postscript: See this post on your first degree course is mooc.

2 thoughts on “Part of a conversation on MOOCs

  1. Pingback: Part of a conversation on MOOCs | CUED |

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