Research into professors’ experience in teaching and learning in x and cMOOCs

Do we need to conduct such researches?

Throughout the past years, there had been researches done on the learning experiences of participants of cMOOCs, and more recently, with the participants of x and cMOOCs.

I don’t see many systematic and inter-disciplinary researches into professors’ or facilitators’ experience in teaching and learning in x or cMOOCs, conducted by independent researchers or participants of MOOCs though.  There might be self-reflective blog posts by the professors of x or cMOOCs, and surveys and research interviews on the professors, by the professors, but not much by the participants or independent researchers.

What MIGHT BE the reasons for such rare research studies on professors?

Most researches are based on participants’ experience where learning could be investigated, with MOOCs. However, when it comes to research into x or cMOOCs, most of the professors might have preconceived what might be best as a pedagogy for their MOOCs, or that such pedagogy (Mastery Learning, an Instructivist – with behavioral/cognitivist approach) has already been pre-determined in the MOOC platform or in their design.  It could also be challenging to request professors to self-reflect fully on their experiences in teaching and learning in x and c MOOCs, as they would need to disclose their impressions, feelings and emotions, and how and what they have taught, facilitated and learnt through the MOOCs.  Besides, such researches might only be possible if they are conducted with independent researchers who have a good mastery of MOOCs, with adequate design of the research, and that researches are done in an ethical manner.  Besides, would MOOC professors be interested in participating in such a research?

Why this sort of research is important?

We have often heard about learners’ experience relating to MOOCs, and the constructive criticism for further improvement and innovation, with the use of technology or networks in MOOCs.  To what extent has such learning and development took place, by the professors and designers of MOOCs?

I would like to consider adopting such approach into the research on x and cMOOCs.  Some of the questions are included here.

Questions for the Designers, Instructors, or Professors of MOOCs:

Decisions to take part in MOOCs

1. Why would you like to create a MOOC?

2. What would you like to achieve with a MOOC?

3. What prior teaching or learning experience do you have with online education or MOOCs?

Design and delivery of MOOC

1. What would you like to include and expect in the design of MOOC? What are the design criteria? Why are they important to you and the participants?

2. What would you like to include and expect in the delivery of your MOOC? What are the delivery factors that you have considered? Why are they important to you and the participants?

3. What are the essential elements of a MOOC that would enhance the learning of the participants? Why do you think they are essential?

4. How would you evaluate the learning of the participants in MOOC?

5. What would you suggest to improve in your MOOC?

Research into MOOC

1. What research areas would be helpful to you in MOOC?

2. How would you conduct such research into MOOC?

3. What have you learnt through the design, delivery and review of MOOC?

4. What would you have done instead if you were to re-create a MOOC or start another MOOC?

More questions for professors and you

What do you think about such researches?

What research topics of MOOCs interest you?

MOOCs on spotlight again!

It seems MOOCs are now on spotlight again.  They have attracted the attention of educators and thinkers around the globe to talk about them seriously.

Never in history have Higher Education Institutions been so keen in moving this online education to the forefront, pushing them into the mainstream so fast, and so desperate to have them without much hesitation.

Remember the early talks on MOOCs where MOOCs are adopted as experiments only.  Here MOOCs organizers reinforced that their introduction of MOOCs are there to improve their in-campus or their online courses, and that they would not be offered for credit transfer to formal courses.  MOOCs are not intending to replace university degrees courses, as that would impact on the provision of mainstream courses which carried fees.

There are still perceptions that MOOCs would have limited impact on the Higher Education institutions where regulations on Higher Education is high, as shared in this post relating to the Australian Higher Education context:

MOOCs are not going to replace campuses anytime soon for Australian students. MOOC providers don’t offer degree programs, there is no credit for their subjects at Australian universities, and Australian students can’t get income support while they study a MOOC. Even if these obstacles are overcome, MOOCs don’t offer the social and lifestyle experiences of a campus.

The recent changes in MOOCs movement have turned the attention of focusing on the development of both online education programs and the offer of Master degree program based on MOOCs as outlined here and here with Udacity, Georgia Tech and AT&T partnership.

In this report on MOOCs by Brian Ross, where he says:

This IS about a new approach to pedagogy. Technology, trends, and broad actions in the market are disruptively changing teaching and learning. That is beyond the control of faculty members and academic leaders. And often their tendency is to examine this as an academic experiment—to study it and wait for outcomes.
Faculty members must understand that online learning is a new approach to pedagogy and embrace its possibilities.  Academic administrators— chairs, deans, provosts, and presidents—must also embrace the change and encourage a constructive response.

There are major challenges with MOOCs, such as those relating to quality, pedagogy, plagiarismstudent identity and concerns of professors.

How would we apply quality assurance in MOOCs?

As I have shared in this post, quality assurance could be applied in formal open online education courses under institutional framework, as one could relate to the education system – quality polity, procedures and instructions.

However when quality is applied in an open networked model, it could be perceived differently, as quality is valued laden, and such value could include

(a) value for money,

(b) value for purpose (fitting one’s purpose of doing the MOOCs),

(c) value for conformance to requirements (suiting the learners’ requirements, in terms of time spent, content to be learnt)

(d) value for connections (prestige or status associated with those connections, to the institutions, to the networks, to the professors) etc.

Professor Martin Weller says in this post on MOOCs and quality:

We therefore develop quality measures and procedures that monitor these intentions. These could be student completion rates, student satisfaction scores, external assessment of course content, checks against external benchmarks, etc. In a MOOC many of these intentions are altered, either radically or subtly. At the moment it’s not entirely clear what the intentions of institutions are – is it to attract more formal students, to provide a public good, to make money?

– See more at:

Refer to this slide on MOOC and its implication on educational institutions.

There is a proposed model on Quality Assurance
Process 1: Best practice professional standards reviewed and accepted by experts in the discipline.
Process 2: All participant final portfolios assessed against agreed standards by independent assessors.
Process 3: Agreed portion of institutional/mentor assessments moderated by quality assurance panel

Pedagogy of MOOCs

In this Understanding MOOC, professor Allison Littlejohn provides a thorough review on the MOOCs, where most of the pedagogy mentioned in her paper relates to the networked learning approach, that aligns more with Connectivism as a basis of cMOOCs.

I could relate those findings to my post on What are MOOCs all about?

In this white paper, the cMOOCs are distinguished from the xMOOCs:

cMOOCs emphasise connected, collaborative learning and the courses are built around a group of like-minded ‘individuals’
who are relatively free from institutional constraints. cMOOCs provide a platform to explore new pedagogies beyond
traditional classroom settings and, as such, tend to exist on the radical fringe of HE. On the other hand, the instructional
model (xMOOCs) is essentially an extension of the pedagogical models practised within the institutions themselves, which is
arguably dominated by the “drill and grill” instructional methods with video presentations, short quizzes and testing.

Relating to the differences to cMOOCs and xMOOCs (slide 7):

First MOOC format to be developed MOOC format on the rise at Universities
More connectivist learning oriented: George Siemens More behaviorist learning oriented: Burrhus Frederic Skinner
Based on dialogue Based on student/content
More informal (participant input & content production), open badges More formal (behaviorist approach: easier for assessment and accreditation)
Network building, trust in collaboration,. Less networking, trust in content and institution
Ad Hoc learner space: Learning Quilt Fixed LMS: Coursera, Udacity
Social media rich Social media used
Expert learning, Community of Practitioners (CoP), lifelong learning for high knowledge workers Personal accreditation, lifelong learning basics, personal knowledge increase, starting from basic information.
Room for emergence More stick to the plan
High drop out, free in most cases

Referring to this paper on MOOCs.  The authors conclude:

This review has demonstrated that MOOCs have a sound pedagogical basis for their formats. What we have not addressed however are the larger questions around whether taking a collection of MOOCs could replace obtaining an education on campus at a university in all of its facets of personal development and education.

What are the merits of MOOCs?

“The real value of attending a great university isn’t just the content.  It’s the interaction with the person delivering that content.” said Professor Andrew Ng, cited in this post by Cassidy on Coursera-Udacity-and-Edx-get-pushback.

So it is the interaction with the professor in university that would be of real value, when attending a great university, not just the content.

How about the concerns of professors towards MOOCs?

Here is another critique on the economics of online education:


In conclusion, MOOCs are here to stay.  There are major challenges with MOOCs, such as those relating to quality, pedagogy, plagiarismstudent identity and concerns of professors.

As shared in my previous post, the emergence of MOOCs has touched the nerves of many college and educational leaders. To some educators, professionals and learners, MOOCs seem to have become the hype of education of the year.  To others who are working as professors, educators and administrators, MOOCs have become part of their institutions’ growth and development, especially so in institutions like Coursera, Udacity and edX and the associated universities.  To some learners in the developing countries, MOOCs have afforded them with opportunities to learn from the highly prestigious institutions in the world that they couldn’t even dream of in the past.

So, MOOCs values could be viewed differently by different people.  It surely could be one of the most significant trend in this time of flux in Higher Education.

Based on the present trajectory of MOOCs, it seems that they would likely become the future of education.  This trend is based on the increasing number of  Higher Education Institutions and MOOCs providers joining the MOOC bandwagon.

2013 could be another MOOCs mania.