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.

Intellectual property of MOOCs and who own them

MOOCs and intellectual property.  Who own the content of MOOCs?  Are they intellectual property of the professors, the institutions or MOOC providers?

In this post on professors want to own moocs before moocs own them by Meghan Neal:

“If we lose the battle over intellectual property, it’s over,” former American Association of University Professors president Cary Nelson said at the group’s annual conference this week. “Being a professor will no longer be a professional career or a professional identity.”

But since the explosive popularity of MOOCs, universities stand something to gain by retaining ownership over a course even without the original professor. Though some super-star teachers attract potential students on their own, more often than not students choose a course based on the institution offering it.

Read more:
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This would be the concerns for most professors, as that’s where professors would add significant values to the education system, under MOOCs.

Here is my part of my previous post MOOCs:

Are We MOOC’d Out? – Huffington Post –
Who would win this race of MOOC mania? Of course the institutions who have the resources, money, professors, and support from those who are looking for values from the xMOOCs. Time has proven that. Did you see most news on MOOCs are praises (hypes) which are unlike the typical news in newspapers which are more than 80% negative? Do we need more good news? To be more patriotic, and loving and caring the society and institutions? In my post  , I commented that this is what educators love to do – promoting good values of good citizenship, pro-social behavior, demonstrating and modelling wonderful professionalism in public. All these are good acts of being an educator.

The reality is: with the shrinkage of funding, more educators would need to work their way out, in order to remain “employable” and stay in their education business. Be proactive in learning, get skilled, be adaptive, and be innovative, or else, there is another exit for those who couldn’t cope or adapt to the system – would they leave, or “die”? This applies not only to teachers, administrators, but also to institutions and corporations. I am trying to be optimistic. But I reckon the ones who might have to worry most are those who are teaching MOOCs now, as once their work are shared, would you still need them any more?

In a Chinese proverb, when the cunning rabbit is dead, you could cook the dog. When the flying birds are gone, you could pack up the bow and arrows. The moral of this proverb is: if the teachers have already served its needs, do you still need them? May be for a different purpose, or a different job.

In xMOOCs, only the content and assessment is the most valuable part. We all know the interaction and engagement with the professors (through dialogue, conversation and feedback) is where students perceived to be most valuable for their learning, but that would be reserved for fees paying students, when these students attend the institution course. Once all content and assessment is opened to the public, there is limited added value that would be perceived by the teacher or students. The teacher might no longer be needed, as the videos are already prepared. Would you still pay the professors for that? May be for branding purpose! You could still employ the professors for face-to-face teaching, but as Sebastian Thrun mentioned, only some tens (was it less than 50 left out of his 200 students) attended the live sessions? Even the best professors would go and set up their own education business (Sebastian, and many who followed suite).

Online Education and MOOC

What is online education like?

There was an old Chinese motto: Poor rice fields won’t attract farmers to plow, but once there are farmers plowing such fields, many other farmers would join in and compete.

Does it sound like what happens in online education?  Here the rice field is online education.  Once online education was found to be of an inferior quality in terms of yielding of academic results, with poor progression and completion rates.

I just happened to come across the post on Conversation:

The expected 4 billion new members of the middle class who will join the rest of us by 2050 will likely demand more dairy and meat. These require an enormous amount of grains to produce.

Are we entering a new era where online education and MOOCs have become the near to “life safer” to Higher Education?  In this article:

This week, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, a group of provosts from Big 10 universities, issued a position paper saying that higher education must take advantage of new education technology — but perhaps on its own.

To what extent is this a reality?  Would school compete, leading to students winning?  May be when education is centered around competition for students among school, a new form of education with a different business education model would emerge.

There is another side of education, when MOOCs become the battleground for education, as Justin shares in MOOC the opium mass:

Why suddenly then are we so eager to accept Massive Open Online Courses –gigantic classes for the masses- as a good thing? The truth is that the massiveness inherent in the MOOC model is a throwback to darker days of Industrial Age education packaged in a shiny new hi-tech wrapper. And we, the sheep-like masses are swallowing this hollow candy with reckless abandon.

All these led me to reflect on what problems that we are actually facing in Higher Education.  Aren’t these all wicked problems associated with disruptive innovation (MOOCs offered by others) where Higher Education Institutions are trying to tackle, using MOOCs to counter-act them?

What about the quality of teaching and learning in MOOCs?

The fact that quality may be understood – and perhaps also operationalised – so differently, according to context and perspective, renders it a particularly wicked area to theorise and analyse.

Approaches to theorising the questions of quality in higher education are wide-ranging and contested. One reason for this is that these approaches represent the confluence of several theoretical paradigms and discourses. These paradigms include the often tacit performativity agenda (Blackmore, 2009; Cowen, 1996) and the Total Quality Management model (TQM; Bensimon, 1995) taken directly from industry and applied as a governance methodology for higher education. This has deeply influenced how universities approach the ‘business’ of education.

In the position white paper  CIC-Online-Learning-Collaboration-for-IHE-FINAL released, adaptive instruction was highlighted.  It is about “what do I want my students to learn?” being the focus of future Higher Education, in order to improve the overall value proposition to the students, and those who support the students, including the institutions.

This means not only a philosophical shift of attitude from “What do I want to teach?” to “What do I want my students to learn?” It also means a shift of accountability toward promoting student learning and collecting systematic data about whether or not our teachers and students are succeeding—together. There are implications here for how we evaluate the quality of instruction within the institution, as well as how we respond to external demands from a variety of constituencies (including our students and their parents) to better document what students are learning from their coursework and degrees.

These also reminded me of the parable of the Sower sows his seeds:

Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

MOOC could also be perceived as a platform, in the form of garden, whereas the central theme of a garden is to grow its plant.

Would such garden be free?  As I have shared it here, where the wonderland is free for awhile, it is hard to sustain.

Would MOOCs be here to stay without tears?  I am afraid they would still be facing a lot of challenges, like the pedagogy to be adopted, sound business models that are to be established, cultural and quality issues that are yet to be overcome.

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.


Authentic Learning with projects

Does it sound familiar to you?  This may be new in the Western world.   Or is it new?

This prompted me of my learning back decades ago.  In my second year of Polytechnic University Engineering studies, I spent the whole semester (half a year) learning and working in the factory workshop, doing similar to what this girl was doing, though I was to produce objects based on drawings, with machining, and numerous engineering projects.

Learning could be fun, when working on projects of one’s interest.

It is however a different type of learning, when learning in a workshop or factory environment, as it requires much more than the knowledge of mathematics and technology.

Remember Taylorism?  And the scientific management principles, where efficiency and effectiveness is the golden rule to achieving best performance in factory.

For those of you who have worked in years in factories, you would surely know what are most important skills at work.  These include team working, communication, information and communication technology, interpersonal skills, problem solving, critical thinking and creative thinking, and leadership skills etc.

Nevertheless, that is the authentic personal learning with projects.  A good start for teenagers!

Can we slay the dragon king?

Very interesting presentation on Financial Crisis and the predictions on such bubbles by Didier.

If this theory is able to rightly predict the Financial Crisis, I wonder if this could also help in predicting the Education Crisis – based on the current debates on MOOCs.

There are certain similarities between Financial Crisis and Bubbles and those with education – and Higher Education in particular.

The use of Complexity and Emergence theory could explain parts of the phenomenon we have observed in Higher Education in the past few years, and the theory of Disruptive Innovation as highlighted by Clayton Christensen significantly provides the predication on what would happen to Higher Education and MOOCs.

In the  “MOOC bubble and attack on public education“:

The MOOC revolution, if it comes, will not be the result of a groundswell of dissatisfaction felicitously finding a technology that naturally solves problems, nor some version of the market’s invisible hand. It’s a tsunami powered by the interested speculation of interested parties in a particular industry. MOOCs are, and will be, big business, and the way that their makers see profitability at the end of the tunnel is what gives them their particular shape.

– See more at:

Could we predict what happens next with education, when disrupted by technology and changes in environment?

Harvard Business School professor and disruption guru Clayton Christensen says that a disruption displaces an existing market, industry, or technology and produces something new and more efficient and worthwhile. It is at once destructive and creative.

We are still at an early stage of such innovation disruption, though the trend and pattern is apparent.