From Best Practice to Creative, Innovative, Emergent and Novel Practice with MOOCs

I have often come across instructional designers and institutions grappling with best practice, in instructional and curriculum design.

A research on instructional design indicates the various “best practices” ranging from teacher-centered approach with LMS, to learner-centered approach with PLE/PLN.

Here in a paper on MOOC-Design-Principles.-A-Pedagogical-Approach-from-the-Learner by Lourdes GuàrdiaMarcelo MainaAlbert Sangrà:

focus on empowering learners in networked environments for fostering critical thinking and collaboration, developing competence based outcomes, encouraging peer assistance and assessment through social appraisal, providing strategies and tools for self-regulation, and finally using a variety of media and ICTs to create and publish learning resources and outputs.

These MOOC Design Principles are well argued and grounded.  In reflection, there are many useful strategies that are applicable both for the c and x MOOCS.  I would argue that these are based on emergent practice rather than best practice experience.

What sounds like best practice often doesn’t deliver to its promise, despite huge efforts in promoting and educating various designers, instructors and assessors.  Why?  The reasons lie mainly with the assumptions behind what makes best practice, especially in MOOCs.

In my previous post relating the differences between x and c MOOCs in attracting number of participants, I discuss on:

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.

I still think the notion of best practice would be applicable only to simple scenarios of the Cynefin Model as developed by Dave Snowden.  You could have good practice under complicated learning scenario.  In the case of complex learning scenario such as MOOCs (especially in cMOOCs), then it is important to realise the emergent practice which is relevant, rather than good or best practice.  In the case of chaotic learning scenario such as cMOOCs,  novel practice is required in the curriculum and instructional design.

In summary, design of curriculum and instruction for MOOCs could be based on sound design principles as the research into MOOC reveals.  It would be imperative to move from best practice to creative, innovative, emergent and novel practice in the case of MOOCs, based on the needs of the learners, and the learning context, rather than the traditional “best practice”.  One size doesn’t fit all, especially in learning in MOOCs and so it would be necessary to consider emergent design learning principles rather than the “static” instrumental didactic instructivist approach in MOOCs (such as xMOOCs).

Pictures: From Google image

Cynefin model images

Cynefin model 2 images


6 thoughts on “From Best Practice to Creative, Innovative, Emergent and Novel Practice with MOOCs

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  4. Hi Mary, Thanks for your comments. Would you please expand on the “more”? How about PLE (Personal Learning Environment) & VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) philosophy & practice?

  5. Pingback: Market Intel blogs, distance learning | Pearltrees

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