Why c and x MOOCs are attracting different number of participants?

Here is a post on FB on a discussion on the question:

Why are xMOOCs attracting tens or hundred thousands of students?

Thanks to Ana and Steve for their comments and conversation.

Here are my reflections on why some moocs attracted hundreds, tens of thousands of learners (xMOOCs), whilst others attracted a few hundreds or a few thousands of learners (cMOOCs).

In summary, the key reasons include: 1. branding and affiliation with elite institutions and professors, 2. well established courses with rich support on resources and assessment (grading/peer assessment), 3. granting of certificates of achievement or statements of attainment (in recognition), 4. degrees of difficulties – xMOOCs are much easier compared to cMOOCs, 5. perceptions of learners – xMOOCs are based on 1,2,3 above, and 4 – learners – cMOOCs would have to curate resources and create blog posts/join forums, 6. pedagogy, 7. assessment.

1. Branding and affiliation with elite institutions and professors.

Branding, is the new name of the game, under a MOOC arena.

Sounds too good for us.

Branding within institutions have been based on the Open Educational resources (OER) movement for more than a decade.  The introduction of xMOOCs last year has shifted the attention from OER to MOOCs for many institutions.

The success of xMOOCs could also be attributed to the branding of many elite institutions – as ones who would provide MOOCs, that are believed to be able to transform education, and revolutionize Online and Higher Education.

Lead the change, with branding seems to be the way to go, with lots of higher education institutions, together with the MOOC providers.

Here in my previous post on assumptions and challenges:  Assumption 2: MOOCs attract students as the MOOC providers carry the big “brand” together with the “super-professors”.  I reckon this assumption is very true, especially when nearly everyone said that this is true.  Most learners would prefer to learn with the prestigious institutions and famous and super-rock star professors.

2. Well established courses with rich support on resources and assessment (grading/peer assessment).  Both c and x MOOCs are structured courses, though cMOOCs have been based principally on a decentralised system with input and contribution from the participants whilst xMOOCs have been based principally on the curation of the organisers (course designers and instructors).


cMOOCs are grounded as shown, on emergent learning and self-organised learning:

xMOOCs are grounded on prescribed content, and group learning:

flipped-classroom (1)

3. Granting of certificates of achievement or statements of attainment (in recognition of the learning and achievement).  This is especially the case for x MOOCs which could attract learners to attend the course, especially as they are still free.

4. Degrees of difficulties – xMOOCs are much easier compared to cMOOCs.  This is grounded on that in xMOOCs, the instructors would have done most, if not all of the ground work necessary for teaching and learning for the learners.  What the learners are normally expected to do would be to consume the knowledge transmitted or broadcasted to them, and to confirm their understanding of the concepts through repeated quizzes or assignments.  This requires certain perseverance from the learners, though it is possible to achieve a high or perfect score in test, assignments and examinations through drills, repeated practice, as is common in a rote learning scenario.   The use of standard answers in the case of multiple choices, true/false, or short case scenarios, could all be checked with automated grading or assessment software.  For peer assessment, these are done in a closed manner, with the merits of “protecting” the learners from being “criticised” in public, but the demerits of being critiqued by only a few participants (4-5 other peers) in the whole evaluation.  Nevertheless, this seems to be well accepted as a way to assessment in the xMOOCs, as that might be the only feasible and reliable way to assess students in an institutional environment, without overly involving the professors in the assessment.

On the other hand, cMOOCs are much more difficult in terms of the wide array of skills and capabilities – such as a thorough understanding of the various artifacts posted, an evaluation of the artifacts, an aggregation of information, and the re-mixing, re-purposing or re-creating of posts that are based on knowledge creation and re-creation.  These artifacts or posts are also publicly available for assessment by peers and other educators, leading to further critique and discourse.  The main assessment has still been based on the feedback of the instructors, in the case of for-credit participants, though the assessment for non-credit participants are based on an optional basis, without any particular feedback report from the instructors (as this is not possible for the instructors to deal with massive number of participants).

5. Perceptions of learners – xMOOCs are based on 1,2,3 above, and 4 – learners – cMOOCs would have to curate resources and create blog posts/join forums.  The centralised platform (LMS) typically employed in the xMOOCs may be much simpler than the blogs and Personal Learning Environment/Network (PLE/N) as used in cMOOCs.

6. Pedagogy – xMOOCs employ a familiar pedagogy – mastery learning based on an instructivist approach (behavioral/cognitivist strategy) and peer assessment, whilst cMOOCs employ a relatively demanding pedagogy – social constructivist/connectivist approach which could sound chaotic at first sight.

xMOOCs rely principally on video lectures, resources posted on the LMS/main course website,  followed by questions, quizzes, some forum discussions, assignments, tests and examination.

cMOOCs rely principally on the connectivist principles as proposed by George and Stephen, with networked learning and connectivist knowledge based on aggregating, re-mixing, re-purposing and feed-forwarding of information.  As I have suggested here.

7. Assessment – xMOOCs are based principally on structured, formal testing, examination, or peer assessment, which align principally with the course goals and objectives, whilst cMOOCs are based on assessment with projects or assignments, whilst these align principally with individual goals and objectives.

In conclusion, people are “buying” in with the xMOOCs for reasons as simple as: branding and easier to learn (as all information are already curated for them), and that a strong belief still with the instructivist approach reigns best, at least, that is what institutions want to see – a complete control under an institutional framework of education. Is that xMOOC sustainable? From a historical perspective, this fate would be like cMOOCs being “decimated” and “replaced” by xMOOCs (to some extent).

But then this trend would appear in the K-12 sector soon, when automation of education and gamification, mobile learning takes their foothold in changing the education arena into “commercial minefield”. Mobile technology could and would help in improving digital literacy, though it might not be reflected easily in improving the basic literacy on Science, Maths, Reading and Writing in the K-12. As I have shared, we are now in the Lord of the Ring game, where those who win takes all. Education is now a game, not as much as the once enlightenment or passion sort of education vision, but a pragmatic sort of education of whether one could get a job after taking a course of study, or getting famous through “educating” others in MOOCs. It is the media that would likely determine who is the winner, not the test anymore, as no one could objectively test or examine what is really “competent” or “capable” under those framework, mainly because they are producer driven, not user driven. John


Post on moocs a view from the digital trenches

Post on how was it the UKs first coursera moocs assessed

Post on the massive open online professor


46 thoughts on “Why c and x MOOCs are attracting different number of participants?

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  3. The thoughts on branding may be correct in that students understand “education” as featuring certain rituals and clearly stated outcomes–like if you take our courses you will be required to perform certain familiar tasks and if successful will receive a small blessing that is recognized and exchangeable for status and good of value. An xMOOC is taking one small step into the unknown while remaining within easy reach of the familiar. This notion of safety may not be what xMOOC’ers perceive though. They may in fact be stretching their sense of vulnerability to the limit and we have to credit them that. Be interesting to explore the idea of pioneering and willful exposure to the uncomfortable–not in terms of risk taking or thrill seeking but doing something a bit closer to the edge than you normally would.

    In the cMOOC there are nothing but unknowns (this list need work):
    • untried theories
    • new approaches to doing things
    • crossing disciplines with known and unknown pedigrees (made up on the spot) that may not result in viable offspring
    • no particular procedures or rules of engagement
    • difficult to explain in terms of conventional returns on effort–even to yourself

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  5. I’m an admitted novice on cMOOCs, so I’m probably going to inadvertently cause some offense here, but another explanation could be the subject matter of cMOOCs. Without meaning to sound to flip about it, I really have a hard time understanding what cMOOCs are about except about the cMOOC itself. The subject matter usually seems to be the course’s own theoretical model. If I want to learn about programming or mythology or biology, I enroll in courses on those subjects, and I’m not aware of any cMOOCs that fit the bill. And there’s a much bigger audience for those subjects than for the theory of connectivism. Glad to be corrected if I’m missing something.

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  7. Hi Robert, you mentioned cMOOCs as being about themselves and I wonder if it isn’t appropriate for some place in education to be openly about itself? Education as a system is hugely complex and “taking courses” embedded in the accepted form of the system without occasionally questioning the form itself is a kind of blindness that cMOOCs might be suited to investigate. This sort of looking inward becomes necessary in times of change when assumptions about what we are doing begin to fail us–and especially when the gates are unlocked and non-members wander in asking difficult questions like “why do we assume education ‘works’ when so many drop out?” or “is education simply a set of procedures to be mastered in order to satisfy its own criteria and of no use beyond that?”

    cMOOCs don’t have to become the next educational format or even be formalized into a predictable pattern that stays the same or settles down. Maybe the educational system could use an uncomfortable relationship with a critical equal? To my mind the practice of educating has become an exclusive club without any sense of obligation to serve, just a mechanism to sort, reward some why play by the rules and dispose of those it fails to reach.

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  15. Scott, you say above that cMOOCS rely on a list of unknowns. Are these unknowns the subjects or the methods? I run a class (and have done for several years) based on connectivist principles (before I even knew what connectivist principles were). It isn’t a MOOC, but a final year psychology class about applying the principles of psychology to education (see sciol13.wordpress.com for this years work). The methods work, and the students love it (being a traditional class, I evaluate and grade all the outputs). These aren’t unknowns as much as resisted methods.

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  17. Hi Jesse, I meant methods when by the term “unknowns.” It may be that my knowledge of what is considered an unknown is influenced by working with trades students in a 2 year community college in the middle of nowhere. While knowing there will be trouble in saying this, the problem isn’t with the students but with the system of apprenticeship, traditional trades training and certification bodies fossilized into place. Add to this the assumption that trades people need not think at the level of psychology students (as an example) and we have a perception that change is unnecessary.

    Not news in that reality. I’m interested in how Connectivism enters into your teaching. Most trades work is based on crews of people working together and like all other career, the work is becoming more complex and would benefit from cooperative interaction.

  18. Great post! This may be some part of “branding,” but another thing that strikes me as important in this question is that mainstream media talk pretty much ONLY about xMOOCs as “MOOCs,” so not as many people know about cMOOCs. Gaining exposure wouldn’t be sufficient–the other issues here play a role, too, I expect.

  19. Another post comparing the c and x MOOCs http://moocnewsandreviews.com/ultimate-guide-to-xmoocs-and-cmoocso/ Interesting to note the remark by Debbie that x MOOCs are no better or worse than c MOOCs. Would this depend on criteria used to evaluate the MOOCs, or the learning experience of students from these MOOCs? Based on my observations of xMOOCs, as quoted, students who have benefited from x MOOCs (i.e. those who have completed MOOCs and got satisfactory results) would likely give a high rating to xMOOCs. This is also rational given that most learners would likely prefer a simpler way of learning (at least for those who like to follow a structured learning pathway and require guidance throughout learning in their education). There are also many assumptions here in the MOOCs, as I have highlighted in my Assumptions Theory. At the end, who wouldn’t like the added values or benefits as a result of “free” education? It is interesting to see what the implications are, when lots of students would study with the xMOOCs, where students who don’t study with the MOOCs would likely prefer to go back to the lecture theater and continue with their mainstream face to face study. Would this lead to the self-fulfilling prophecy of disruptive innovation?

  20. Scott,

    I definitely agree it is “appropriate for some place in education to be openly about itself” and cMOOCs seem like an excellent way to do that. I’m not trying to question the legitimacy of cMOOCs or promote one kind over another. I’m responding the question in the post, which was why one is more popular than the other.

    I think the answer is because of the subject matter. There is less of a market for classes that are about education being openly about itself. And I’ve yet to hear an example of a cMOOC where the subject matter isn’t its own theory. If I want to learn about cMOOCs, cMOOCs are the place to be. If I want to learn biology or literature or a programming language or developmental math, I’m not aware that I have a choice between xMOOCs and cMOOCs, so I don’t think preference has anything to do with it.

    It may not be clear from my profile, but I’m the editor of MOOC News and Reviews, the site where Debbie Morrison’s piece that is mentioned above is published. I’m probably feeling a little defensive of that essay. I suppose she is operating with some assumptions that are worth examining.

    But I would encourage anyone arguing in favor of cMOOCs to think about their own assumptions also — that students in xMOOCs are looking for the simpler route, for example. I don’t see how anyone whose spent time in those spaces conclude that. The energy is tremendous, and the students in those classes apparently want to learn, given that there is no tangible benefit at the end. MOOCs are offering them an opportunity to learn. If cMOOCs in subject matters that interest them were available, we might be surprised by the enthusiasm they bring.

    Debbie is at least open to the idea that there is no one best way in this new and fast-developing field. It sounds to me like a lot proponents of cMOOCs have made up their minds.

  21. Thanks Robert for sharing your valuable insights. I think we all agreed that both x and c MOOCs add considerable values and benefits to both institutions, professors and learners. What I suggested was “This is grounded on that in xMOOCs, the instructors would have done most, if not all of the ground work necessary for teaching and learning for the learners. What the learners are normally expected to do would be to consume the knowledge transmitted or broadcasted to them, and to confirm their understanding of the concepts through repeated quizzes or assignments. This requires certain perseverance from the learners, though it is possible to achieve a high or perfect score in test, assignments and examinations through drills, repeated practice, as is common in a rote learning scenario. ” As you said “The energy is tremendous, and the students in those classes apparently want to learn, given that there is no tangible benefit at the end. MOOCs are offering them an opportunity to learn. If cMOOCs in subject matters that interest them were available, we might be surprised by the enthusiasm they bring.” it is undeniable that this requires hard work too. The point that I wish to make in this post is to explain why there are such significant differences between the number of registered students in the x and c MOOCs. If someone (institutions, public/private Higher Education providers, education authority, consultants, educators, designers) were to design their MOOCs, I do hope they would take these into considerations, in the design and delivery of MOOCs. That’s why we need to analyse and challenge the assumptions behind each of the MOOCs, but then would step back to see and understand why it works, and why it doesn’t. What I think is critical is not just the proponent of cMOOCs or xMOOCs, as I have often shared, but the need to bridge the connection and understanding between the two MOOCs. Have each of the proponents made up their minds? I can’t speak on their behalf. For me, I was educated on a behaviorist/cognitivist (instructivist) model of education, and was brought to the attention of Social Constructivism in the past decade, and Connectivism since 2008. It appears that each has their own schools of supporters. I do think we have come to a point where diversity of opinions is more important than convergence in this MOOC discourse and debate. This may also impact on the way where we (each of us) perceive education and learning. Another assumption is: we might have assumed that learners learnt in a certain pattern, whereas in fact, they are adopting their unique and personalized pattern that most educators or researchers might hardly be aware of, especially in MOOCs. When I conducted the online survey, many peer learners and instructors would honestly tell me what they think, and that is why we need to keep an open mind on what the individual needs are, rather than “generalizing” that is the only way someone learns. In general, I still think lots of learners would prefer to continue with the xMOOCs as that is associated with the elite Higher Education Institutions, where they could get their credentials and may be having their credit transfer. That is a reality, isn’t it? I don’t see many institutions are offering any cMOOCs as yet in the subjects mentioned, as I have highlighted the challenges involved in adopting the connectivist approach in a formal institutional environment.

  22. John, thanks for this excellent piece on cMOOCs and xMOOCs. Good summary of the key points, which I agree with. The article that I wrote for MOOCs News and Reviews that you refer to is on the differences between the two MOOCs – a primer to the MOOCs – is how I wrote it. Your article really gets to the reasons why they attract different audiences, and thus the differences in numbers of participants. I agree with your points – too add point #4 to the degree of difficulty — I see it this way – with an xMOOC content is ‘pushed’ meaning for the most part the content is delivered to the student without much effort on the student’s part to consume it, where with cMOOC, content is ‘pulled’, students of the MOOC need to actively engage to interact with the content, it’s not served up to the student in a consumable format. There is an effort that needs to be invested to source and consume the content.

    However, the difficulty level between the two is from the perspective of the student, and depends upon the skill level and educational background of him or her. A student with little education may find the content of the xMOOC very difficult, and would likely feel the same about a cMOOC of a similar topic, though likely he or she would be able to participate more easily in the xMOOC because of the pedagogical premise, the behavourist approach (the ‘push’ of content).

    All this to say I agree with you. Though the xMOOC certainly opens up educational opportunities to many. Though has you said, the sustainability of the xMOOC remains to be seen. Those that continue to provide a service to students with an economic stream that can sustain itself will thrive.

  23. Great points Debbie, I agreed, and your elaboration touched on the important differences between the two MOOCs – the push versus pull. This may be of interest for reference.
    1. Cooperman said the latest round of MOOC enthusiasm has prompted concern because of the top-down nature of the material being offered on MOOCs by professors from elite Western universities.

    2. But, in China, Gunawardena found students don’t necessarily openly argue with each other based on points of view. They build knowledge based on collaboration. What effect will this have on the uptake of Western-made courseware?

    There are political and cultural reasons behind the use or non-use of MOOCs in developing countries – such as those in China and Africa. Students coming from another cultural background such as China would have different needs, and there could be significant language barriers since their mother tongue is Chinese (Mandarin). Besides, the pedagogy adopted in mainstream China tends to follow the Confucius system – with a strong didactic teaching approach.

  24. Robert, I have in the past argued against xMOOCs as products over learning vechicles but I can’t make judgments on how people choose to use or find meaning in them. Humans are naturally curious and many are tired of the drivel of in-consequence they find available “free” elsewhere / everywhere media touches. As for cMOOCs being mostly about themselves I don’t see that to be a problem. I’m currently editing a Power Engineering test bank and the section on Boilers is pretty confined to Boilers and makes no effort to serve the interests of fans of the Bronte Sisters. (Of course should the Ladies appear on the certification exam you can bet they will be covered).

    cMOOCs may indeed be non-specific to anything in mainstream education and just represent an attitude or a state of perpetual indecision, that’s cool with me.

    Today we learned at an all-staff meeting that on top of the cuts we are already adjusting to the provincial government is talking about introducing MOOCs to replace whole fields of study in HE on the business principal of sameness for all. This is strictly a cost cutting measure and no fault of the MOOC family but it is interesting to see how fast something with promise can go can be turned to crap.

    From our students’ perspective these changes will have little effect as they are barely on the doorstep of education. Push or pull means nothing to people who need to be accompanied in their learning. Many of our student exist at the edge of society and just don’t process the world in a Western-Centric manner. Yet, in an odd way they may find a home in MOOCs if we can hold back our need to classify and contain and allow MOOCs status as unknown potential or an unbranded vehicle of learning.

  25. Hi John,

    Thanks for the link! It is interesting that you brought up the point about participation patterns of learners from different countries. Along the same lines as your comment about MOOCs in China etc., I see how MOOC platforms in the US are geared to US value systems, and don’t take into account cultural differences. I wrote recently about this very topic when reviewing the new NovoEd platform from Stanford which emphasizes group collaboration by mandating group work and peer grading of each group member, here’s an excerpt from my post:

    “Furthermore, the idea of assigning grades to an individual’s work on a group project is a reflection of the North American value system, which values individual contributions over team. Other countries view teamwork as a collective effort, and the idea of grading individuals within the team is quite extraordinary. Professor Geert Hofstede created a well-known framework centered on four dimensions [individualism versus collectivism is one dimension] for analyzing how countries values affect workplace interactions and productivity. I see these dimensions playing a role in the projects put forth by NovoEd. You can find out more from this website and even compare different countries rankings of its values.”

    As always, so great to engage in discussion with you John!

  26. Hi Debbie, great to engage in discussion with you too. Individualism versus collectivism is a very interesting topic. Thanks for sharing too. It seems the North American values highly individual’s performance, as is revealed in the announcement of those top talents and highest achievers in the xMOOCs (like Introduction to Artificial Intelligence course, and the various Udacity courses). This hinted that importance placed on competitiveness as a value on xMOOCs, and this is a reflection of how elite institutions would also like to highly praise and value those talented people (the super-rockstar professors, the MOOCs creators, the Venture Capitalist Investors, the Entrepreneurs etc.) under a Western Society value system. Would this sort of individualism be “honored” under an Eastern Society value system? I wouldn’t generalize this values difference between East and West, though I do see a “downplay” of the individual’s talent under a collectivism society. An example would be the highlight of Quality Improvement Teams over individual’s performance in an enterprise setting. Working and learning as a group could be challenging in a MOOC environment. Group work in MOOCs requires strong interaction between agents (professors, TA, participants), unity of voices and mutually agreed action, trust and some engaging activities, projects, or games (multi-player virtual collaborative games), or an assignment which are both interesting and exciting for members to work on. Here is my share of a previous post on interaction in online learning versus traditional learning (face-to-face) https://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/change11-cck12-is-online-learning-more-supportive-of-interaction-than-traditional-learning/

  27. Hi Scott, Thanks for sharing your valuable experience and insights. As you said:”Many of our student exist at the edge of society and just don’t process the world in a Western-Centric manner. Yet, in an odd way they may find a home in MOOCs if we can hold back our need to classify and contain and allow MOOCs status as unknown potential or an unbranded vehicle of learning.” MOOCs may fulfill some of those who would like to define their goals, learning and connections in their own ways. This reminded me on one of the survey responses in past PLENK research: We are the MOOCs, reflecting that the participants would determine their own learning pathways and how and what they would like to learn and connect, rather than being pre-determined for them.

  28. Maybe. But, again, I’m just responding to your exploration of the question asked in your post. Why are cMOOCs xMOOCs attracting different number of participants? And at present, as far as I know, if I am interested in X,Y or Z subject, there is no more difficult cMOOC option for me to avoid. The millions of people active in MOOC spaces right now might all turn out to prefer the easiest or most traditional or most attractively branded route possible. But right now I think the simpler explanation is they prefer the subject matter being offered.

    My own hunch is that college credit is going to have a lot less to do with how MOOCs shake out than expected, a point echoed in the piece we’re running today, an interview with the director of the National College Credit Recommendation Service.


  29. Hi Robert, thanks for sharing your valuable insights and interview. I agreed with you, that participants prefer the subject matter being offered. For those life-long learners who have already got their degrees or qualifications, college credit doesn’t necessarily fit into their needs or expectations, even if they are offered via MOOCs. Those learners are looking for courses that may help them in developing their personal/professional interests, hobbies or performance. We may have to collect more research statistics relating to the proportion of participants of these life-long learners in both c and x MOOCs to validate such claims.

  30. Hi Debbie and Robert,
    Here is a video that shows some differences in views between American and Chinese students (reflective of the western and eastern cultures to some extent).

  31. HI John
    This is a really interesting video that highlights cultural differences in such an honest way. A benefit of online learning is that visual differences are minimized, allowing for more acceptance of other cultures. Online learning I believe is a great vehicle to bridge some of the differences that these students are discussing in the video. However as we discussed there are many cultural differences that will affect and collaboration and learning outcomes if the course is structured around American values. The learning outcome then may be about cultural awareness rather than learning of the subject matter.

    I find this a fascinating aspect of online learning that is just beginning to be acknowledged and explored and the article you references earlier suggests. Thanks for sharing!

  32. Relating to cultural awareness, there has been some research studies done, and even a cultural intelligence has been identified. I have attended a cultural awareness training course but found that most of the researches done might have been over-generalized and “stereo-typed”. As you said the learning outcome may be about cultural awareness rather than learning of the subject matter, and some people coming from another culture may easily be misunderstood, misinterpreted or incorrectly judged due to the differences in their gestures, way of connection and communication, and their customs or cultures. Similarly, MOOCs coming from a western cultures may have a strong “flavor” of western style of living and cultural values, especially in areas like literature, politics, arts and dancing, and this could be significantly different from those of the eastern cultures. Conflicts in values or cultures may not be obvious, but could hinder the education and learning process. The shadows of neo-liberalism, imposed or biased values of certain beliefs, imperialism and the associated dominance with powers and authority, might be perceived by participants coming from a different culture to the west.
    Here is a paper on cultural intelligence (CI).
    Some more research papers here, here and here.
    Thanks for visit too.

  33. Looks like I have some reading to do! Thanks John. The rise of MOOCs has created an excellent opportunity to revisit our assumptions about learning.

    I have no conclusions yet though I do have questions. Our major and traditional student population (soon to be reduced by government decisions) are the Indigenous Peoples of this area of Canada. Though this isn’t a characteristic of learning “style” (maybe) we have two types of student housing. One type is dormitory, single room and the other family style townhouse which is the more popular. A few of the residences are for couples and the rest go to whole family groups. We may register one student and end up needing to house whole extended families. To me, this is very different than the Western norm of college being a time of venturing out as an individual and breaks the notion of intellectual “development” having anything to do with the creation of the individual. (This idea was reinforced by the Chinese and American student interview video). Instead of steps to development of the person–something education might play a part in–we seem to be witnessing a continuum where the person may change, but within an unbroken contextual background. How does this hold with our Western notions of transformation, development or change brought about by learning?

    Another question relates to family ties and values. Two years ago we had a summer student helping us update and edit the online companion site for nursing. This was a huge job spread between 3 of us with a tight deadline. Our student had her own office and would work morning to night without a break when she was there. At least twice in a few months though she simply disappeared from work without contact for over a week. We had no warning she was leaving nor contact to know when she would be back. Our instructors have mentioned this phenomenon too where students simply stop coming to class then reappear without warning or explanation beyond “troubles in the family”. Given that they work hard when at work or in class this isn’t laziness or avoidance but a duty to be where they are needed which is different than Western expectations. Again, it seems we have people residing in a continuous reality that takes precedence over an almost duty to commit to roles such as “worker” or “student” that Western thinking accepts. How do we create a sense of the importance of learning here?

    Do we perceive learning as residing in a different reality than the one we normally inhabit? If so, then the qualifications earned are a bit like foreign currency and may be seen by some as without value outside the school boundaries. If school is seen as a simulation of a value system many do not hold to, then testing becomes a simulation of a simulation which isn’t a useful conclusion here because it is important to know what people have learned. Otherwise, why teach? Why people seek learning might be a place to start?

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