Reflection on a Video Presentation by Peter Norvig on Online Education

Here is my reflection of Peter Norvig’s fabulous presentation on Online Education.

The take away:


– Will power

– Due dates

– Peers

– Pride (Early Adopter, Accomplishment)

– Authenticity

I agree with Peter’s explanation on motivation, mainly that participants of MOOCs took pride in their participation, especially when they were the first to embark on the MOOC journey.  Such views got me thinking about what I felt when I joined CCK08 back in 2008, with the excitement associated with learning something “novel” as Connectivism.  As I wasn’t doing the MOOC for credit purpose, the due dates for assignment didn’t compel me to complete any assignments suggested.  The motivation of connecting with others who are also participating in MOOCs could be unique given the huge number of students who one doesn’t know much.


Here Peter quoted: Learning results from what the student does and thinks and only from what the student does and think.  The teacher can advance learning only by influencing what the student does to learn. (Herb Simon)

I have reflected on how Constructivism and Connectivism might be perceived under a MOOC learning environment here.

– Problem first, then explanation

– Student has to make prediction, get things wrong

– They didn’t like that

– Would like to have more open-ended activities

– Can do (to some extent) with programming problems, or activities that doe not need to be graded right/wrong

I like Peter’s approaches with his xMOOCs.  I do find that students might prefer to have explanations given before they try the problems.  However, I also find that students who are well experienced would prefer challenges, and so the problem first, then explanation makes a lot of senses in encouraging students to do it first, by exploring and experimenting through project or problem, rather than “spoon-feeding” them with answers.  This depends much on the pre-requisite knowledge and background experience of the students, and the context of learning too, when deciding whether to present theory first, before application, or vice-versa.

I was struck by remarks on the quote:

“Richard hamming told me his secret:  First get together the problem sets and exams that you want the students to be able to solve.  Then write a book that will teach them how to solve them.” Hal Varian (1993)

That was based on Test Driven Development.  Under an institutional framework, it seems natural to “teach to the test or exams” as that is exactly what “many students” want, in order to achieve great results.  From an efficiency point of view, teaching exactly what the students need to answer, based on the questions asked in the assignments and examinations provides a perfect solution.  The demerit with such a teaching approach seems to lie with the assumption that for each “ounce” of teaching, there would be an “ounce” of learning, that could be tested by the examination, test or assignment question, and that such learning be best validated by the repetition of knowledge remembered by the students.  Would this approach lead to surface and rote learning?  Would students merely regurgitate the information (and remember the “correct answer”) without clearly understanding the concepts behind the right answer?  This is important from an education point of view.  Besides, what sort of advanced learning – like critical thinking, creative thinking is encouraged with such a teach to test approach education?

Individualization.  Peter elaborated on the drawbacks of having a course where all students are taking a linear path.  This does not take into account the needs and expectations of students in MOOCs.  The one-on-one tutoring would make a lot of senses in learning in a MOOC, though this is really difficult to achieve.

– Mixed initiative: lecture only for a few minutes

– Multi-path, not single path

– Flipped classroom (Koller)

– Peer Instruction (Mazur)

I have commented on the above in my previous posts.  It seems that these are common learning with our experiences with the cMOOCs in the past 6 years (since 2008).


– Interaction between students

– Discussion forums

– Dynamic range (differences in background)

– Cohorts plus flexibility

– All sorts of social media sites (created by students)

– Students went to all these sites, have more sense of identities, and a feeling of “we made these sites”

– Students gained a sense of intimacy – by working in groups and sharing their learning

I agree on what Peter mentioned in the presentation, in particular for the students to be active in sharing their views in the various social media platforms.  I would add that students could create their own blogs (especially with cMOOCs), wikis and various social platforms to advance their learning.  We have experienced a sense of community with the cMOOCs, during and after the MOOCs.

Continuous Improvement

– Move away from single sequence from one to another, but to community of authors

– Online education classes – not based on individual classes.  Rather, students could be learning in different ways, with different objectives.

These sound exactly as what I (and some of our peer learners) have experienced in MOOCs, and have been reported and shared in various blog posts and MOOC research papers.

Evaluation Model

– The use of portfolio approach to document the evidence of learning, where people could present to their employers a portfolio of evidences

Data Threshold – This relates to the diversity of students’ interaction that would likely enrich the quality of learning.

To move from a broadcasting mode to an interactive mode (preferably one-on-one) where peer learning takes place.

Pedagogical Practice

– 1 on 1

– 100,000 at a time

– Power of square of 100,000 – as a result of peer-to-peer interaction and learning

I think that is also what we have learnt from the cMOOCs.  What I would conceive is a MOOC model where learning is more customised and personalized,  learner-centered and learner originated, with self-organised learning, likely based on a PLE/PLN coupled with a mentoring (one-on-one or one-on- a few) model, in the coming future.

Conclusion: I found Peter Norvig’s presentation wonderful and insightful.  He has fully addressed the issues and challenges related to MOOCs – in motivation, pedagogy, and the need of socialization and interaction among students in MOOCs.  The suggestions and recommendations on improvement by Peter were valuable for further exploration and experimentation.  I think there are lots of common grounds between x and c MOOCs, and that there are lots of experiences that I could find similar to those with my learning in cMOOCs.

One thought on “Reflection on a Video Presentation by Peter Norvig on Online Education

  1. Pingback: How to explain the current xMOOCs in terms of education model and pedagogy? | Learner Weblog

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