MOOC – challenges and opportunities to Higher Education

This post aggregates some of the posts relating to MOOCs – challenges and opportunities to Higher Education.

There are now thousands of posts on MOOCs, with praises, criticisms, challenges and opportunities.  Here is just one of them, summarizing some of the pros and cons of MOOCs.  Tony Bates has provided valuable insights on the issues and opportunities relating to MOOCs.

This one on the challenges of MOOCs is especially interesting, Don says:

In the industrial model of student mass production, the teacher is the broadcaster. A broadcast is by definition the transmission of information from transmitter to receiver in a one-way, linear fashion. The teacher is the transmitter and student is a receptor in the learning process. The formula goes like this: “I’m a professor and I have knowledge. You’re a student you’re an empty vassal and you don’t. Get ready, here it comes. Your goal is to take this data into your short-term memory and through practice and repetition build deeper cognitive structures so you can recall it to me when I test you.”

The definition of a lecture has become the process in which the notes of the teacher go to the notes of the student without going through the brains of either.

Is MOOC a threat or opportunity to universities?

If the MOOC model were really such a disruptive threat, why would universities take the trouble to disrupt themselves? Why would the board members of University of Virginia be so obsessed with it, even going so far by attempting to fire their president?

Below are a few key take-aways after this insightful conversation with Professor Meinel.

  • Extend
  • Capture Value  
  • Continue  
  • Customize
  • Be There

I have raised similar questions in my previous post here.

If the mooc is better than the existing teaching and learning in the elite or most universities, wouldn’t that be the greatest disruption to their own “mainstream” teaching and pedagogy? If the mooc is far less valuable, attractive and useful than their mainstream teaching and pedagogy, who would be losing? Would that be the professors teaching in the MOOCs? So, no matter whether MOOCs are providing a better or worse pedagogy to the mainstream teaching, either way would not be beneficial to the HE institutions and the professors. But without the MOOCs as the starting point, what would happen? No change, no innovation needed? Would that be totally different if the pedagogy is aligned with cMOOCs? I don’t know the answer.

See this on some of the interesting points about MOOCs relating to its turn down by faculties, with more concerns follow here.

On a larger scale, MOOCs might create a “new and different kind of competition” that could jeopardize more-vulnerable colleges, if not Amherst itself; they could “enable the centralization of American higher education” and “create the conditions for the obsolescence of the B.A. degree.”

So, it seems MOOCs are indeed disruptive technology as viewed from many colleges point of views, and there is simply no return, but to accept that these would deepen the divide between those in favor and against the wider adoption of such technology.

This open letter could be one of the greatest concerns on MOOCs to Faculties of Higher Education Institutions.  See this response letter from Michael Sandel.

What would happen to the faculties, the professors and administrators of those institutions offering MOOCs?  Would some of the faculty staff become Teaching Assistants (TA) to the super-rockstar professors, as the demand of professors is lessened?  What about the opportunities of “teaching” in MOOCs with tens of thousand of students around the world?  What are the ethical and social issues and implications when MOOCs become the mainstream in colleges and Higher Education Institutions?

Is Connectivism a New Learning Theory – Part 2

Here is my response to George and others’ comments to my previous post of Is Connectivism a New Learning Theory?

Hi George, Agreed that the theory has to work at an individual level, and it would have to explain and predict how your learning could or do occur. My questions to you include: How do you learn? How has learning occurred to you?

Do you learn through building and or navigation of networks (aggregation, curation of information sources), personal level (neuronal-level connections, thinking and reflection of personal experience (what sort of changes in behavior?), and way of thinking with conceptual connections of various concepts based on those experiences (sense-making)?

In this way Connectivism is based on a thesis that learning is a networking phenomenon and that knowledge is where one could sense and recognise the pattern emerging out of the building and navigation of the networks. Learning is then a dynamic process, with certain adaptive properties associated with the networks, which could happen under a Complex Adaptive System and Knowledge Ecology (Chatti, 2012) (such as a MOOC). This means that when information changes, a person would need to examine the knowledge pattern resulting from those changes. The MOOC movement and the implications are good example illustrating such knowledge pattern. No one single expert (of MOOCs) so far has fully been able to definitely explain the knowledge and learning that are embedded in MOOCs for both the networks and individuals.

However, when individual professors and all associated learners are co-evolving and co-learning with the learners, each would sense the learning emerging out of the interactions or engagement, with some perceiving knowledge and learning with different degrees of meaning – based on sense-making.

Professors and learners (some, if not all) would each define their way-finding (goal setting, learning how to explore their own pathways) resulting from those exploration, connections, engagement or interaction. These sort of learning also result in various interpretations of what constitutes self-determined learning, self-organising learning (both individually and networks and groups) and emergent knowledge and learning, apart from prescriptive knowledge and learning.

There are people who may learn and interact differently from those as defined under the “formalised” and theorised learning approaches, based on legitimate peripheral learning (as peripheral learners) or other reasons (<a href=”; rel=”nofollow”>Anderson, 2013</a>).

Such patterns of both individual and social learning are appearing in various forms throughout the cMOOCs in repeated ways, and also re-emerging in xMOOCs despite the “assertion” that the pedagogy is based on Mastery Learning. Indeed, you could associate the learning associated with Connectivism to be an integration of the previous learning theories of behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism and situated learning (and COPs) all based on connections and interactivity (Connectivism).

May I relate to my previous post:”How would a connectivist approach work? Yes, you still require the deconstruction of the student’s existing thinking, but not just based on the teacher’s input. Rather, you would suggest the students to be immersed in networks, based on navigating activities and the using of appropriate tools or media (i.e. media and technology affordance), in exploring about the “right” and “wrong” concepts, and discerning those right from wrong through navigation tools and reflective thinking. This is similar to what I have suggested here:

The concepts that are crystallised through such networked learning may be based on the ability of the learner to recognise and interpret the pattern (i.e. principally on the navigation and exploration, with or without the teachers), rather than the demonstration of the teacher and explanation of the concepts via “Constructivism or Social Constructivism”. This means that the concept development under Connectivism is far more reaching than the typical “classroom” or social networks environment, but would also include technological and media enhancement for its nourishment.”

There are lots of factors which could impact or influence a person’s learning under such a knowledge ecology (MOOCs), including the authority and power exerted through formal authority, professors, peers etc. and the emotional and affective dimensions (likes/dislikes of certain aspects) emerging from the interaction with course, professors, experts, networks, peers, preference of learning based on individual learning styles, autonomy and self-determination or organisation of individuals, and most importantly personal educational and learning experience which would ultimately impact on one’s perception and appreciation or adoption of those properties of networks – openness, diversity, autonomy, and connectivity or interactivity.

Thanks again for your valuable comments and insights.

Anderson, T. (2013). Promise and/or Peril: MOOCs and Open and Distance Education (accessed 3/5/2013)

Chatti, M. (2012). The LaaN Theory