Life Long Learning and MOOCs

See this research in the 90s Problem based and self-directed education on lifelong learning

In the MU curriculum students learn through inquiry to set clear learning objectives from the study of health care problems and from early contact with patients. Students must identify areas of deficiency in their own performance, find appropriate educational resources, critically appraise these resources, evaluate personal learning progress and apply newly acquired knowledge and skills in solving patient problems.

Yes, we all are involved in lifelong learning, and many of us would like to use problem based and self-directed education programs (offered by others) or self-directed, self-paced learning programs (i.e. we developed them for ourselves) to keep up with the knowledge advancement and technological changes.

In this social software for life-long learning:

effective and efficient learning need to be individualized – personalized and adapted to the learner’s preferences, acquired competences, and evolving knowledge, as well as to the current context. Adaptive learning systems keep the information about the user in the learner model and based on it they provide certain adaptation effects. Based on the information about the learner and the current context an appropriate educational method should be chosen, which uses suitable learning activities that reference proper learning materials.  This process is usually accompanied by selection of adequate tutors and co-learners.

This reinforces the importance of personalized and adaptive learning, in the case of life-long learning.

We could all be learning as Ana and Carol mentioned, with various options, and paces, based on our own needs, or changes required in our organisation or environment.

The questions are: How far is such lifelong learning already embedded in an organizational culture? What sort of culture would nurture one’s lifelong learning? Is MOOC a way to complement and supplement such lifelong learning? In what way does it impact on our learning?


What is the driver of these MOOCs movement?  I have shared this in previous post – MISSION, MOOCS AND MONEY.

I see MOOCs as a transition towards opening up Higher Education to different parties – and some may call it fragmentation, whilst others would call it as transformation and disruptive innovation.

The response to these changes seem to lie with FIGHT, DEVELOP or FLIGHT responses, with opponents of MOOCs fighting hard to sustain certain traditional values, and proponents claiming glory towards marketization and transformation, with democratization of Higher Education.

Jonathan says in this post on moocs could be disastrous for students and professors:

Somewhere right now, private companies, university administrators, and/or politicians are already planning an all-MOOC future for most of tomorrow’s college students. Unlike today’s MOOC participants, these future students will have to pay for access to them.

Not too many people might have predicted and thought about the impact of xMOOCs on HE institutions, faculty, professors, learners and community at large. We need debates, discourses, voices of both pro and anti MOOCs to gain a better understanding of their concerns or interests, and what may be some of the better options to overcome those challenges and “wicked problems” faced by Higher Education institutions.

There is now a trend that MOOCs would move on, when all the big 3 players (edX, Coursera, and Udacity) and many other players in other parts of the world (UK, Australia, Europe, Japan, Asia) continue to offer taster MOOCs or experimental MOOCs to test the waters, or that MOOCs providers and HE institutions to reap as much as possible (global students, money, market share etc.) using this golden opportunity.

There are set-backs such as the recent report on San Jose State University Puts MOOC on hold, also shared here.  We need more data to understand the problem and how MOOCs might solve the problem.

Many educators and professors are obviously concerned about their job security and long term prosperity.  Tamar reports in this post: “Most faculty objections arise out of concerns about how online courses impinge on the professor-student relationship — and how they may lead to the privatization of public universities, and the loss of faculty jobs.”

However, this is not just because of MOOCs, but rather systemic and pedagogical issues, where hundred years of traditional model of HE has been challenged by the professors and xMOOCs pioneers themselves. This may be once in a life-time or century opportunity for all stakeholders concerned, including MOOCs, HE institutions, professors, educators, learners, and others like businesses, venture capital firms and investors, philanthropists etc. to exercise their “power”, control over education and learning. Would those win take all?

How would our Higher Education Institutions, faculty, professors and educators and MOOC providers adapt and change in response to these huge flux in the ecology?

Here is my share where I conceive MOOC as an adaptive system and network ecology to the future of Higher Education.

MOOC or not?  That is not A SIMPLE question, BUT THE QUESTION that every Higher Education Institution must answer in the near future.  There is simply no return!

Would the traditional model of education with MASS LECTURES WITH FEW HUNDREDS OF STUDENTS SURVIVE? May be, but may be not with the revolution and tsunami of MOOCs.

What would you see might be the future of Higher Education?

What would be the relationship between MOOCs and Higher Education Institutions?

What is the relationship between MOOCs and the Higher Education Institutions?

Higher Education Institutions have always been the flagship leading Higher Education, and they would surely continue to play an important role in taking the “passengers – the customers, students” along in their sailing.

Further to the paper cited in my post “What is the mission of higher education institution and moocs?” – FROM TEACHING TO LEARNING – A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education (Barr and Tagg, 1995) where Barr and Tagg comment:

Buckminster Fuller used to say that you should never try to change the course of a great ship by applying force to the bow.  You shouldn’t even try it by applying force to the rudder. Rather you should apply force to the trim-tab. A trim-tab is a little rudder attached to the end of the rudder. A very small force will turn it left, thus moving the big rudder to the right, and the huge ship to the left. The shift to the Learning Paradigm is the trim-tab of the great ship of higher education. It is a shift that changes everything.

Professor Gilly Salmon in an article here on Quality of MOOCs uses the metaphor that Higher Education Institutions as supertankers and MOOCs as tug boats.

So learning innovators and change agents everywhere… use your little, powerful MOOC-tug boats and judge their quality by the signs of a change of direction in your supertanker. The quality lies in the tugs’ potential to constructively disrupt.

Your tugs might prevent a catastrophe. Sure, a few MOOC-tugs might get run over as your supertanker reverses, but such is the innovator’s dilemma.

– See more at:

My experience and metaphor of MOOCs

My first experience with MOOC was in Connectivism and Connective Knowledge CCK08.  Here I had shared my experience and what I have learnt through the course.  I had conceptualized taking MOOCs as virtual flight, where MOOC could be viewed as a Virtual Aircraft steered by the pilot at the time, with global passengers taking on the flight.

There are some set-backs as mentioned in this current post here on “mooc-mashup-san-jose-state-university-udacity-experiment”

However, there are real-world, long-term consequences when we “fail fast” in higher education.

For students, it is wasted time and lost money that for many represented a family sacrifice. For some it means increased debt for courses that lead to nothing. The price of failure for students can also be nonmonetary. They can easily become demoralized and think they are not college material when in fact the medium of their instruction has simply been a bad match.

See my previous post “Moocs as double edged swords” on what would happen for the success or failures with MOOCs and how they could impact on Higher Education Institutions.

Are MOOCs part of the “wicked problems” or solutions? Why? What are the reasons for introducing MOOCs? If MOOCs are to address the weaknesses of the present system – too inefficient and expensive, then who should be involved in improving and innovating the system? Are MOOCs improving the overall education productivity and quality – i.e. in the provision of more efficient and cheaper education? Will MOOCs, offered for free cheapen the brand of the world’s most prestigious universities?   If we think MOOCs are cheap, should we consider the actual cost per MOOC?

Despite all the concerns by media, educators and professors, it seems MOOCs are here to stay, and it has already ignited the interests of administrators, professors, educators and Higher Education Institutions to consider the MOOCs and alternative models in online education, in order to tackle and tame the “wicked problems”, and re-direct its efforts to combat those “disruptive innovation” through its own “disruptive innovation”.

As I have already landed on the Wonderland (post MOOCs), I would move on to explore what’s in the land, and how different ships and supertankers (Higher Education Institutions) and tug boats (xMOOCs) would lead the way to the wonderland.

Photo: from Google.

images on education

What is the mission of Higher Education Institution and MOOCs?

“Can we assume that our education system (including most MOOCs) is primarily built on a behavioral/instructivist model of education? Teachers are expected to motivate students, keep them interested in class & in school, and ensure that they perform to the standards required, through TEACHING.”

Thanks to Doug Holton for the reference:  FROM TEACHING TO LEARNING – A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education (Barr and Tagg, 1995) where Barr and Tagg say:

To say that the purpose of colleges is to provide instruction is like saying that General Motors’ business is to operate assembly lines or that the purpose of medical care is to fill hospital beds. We now see that our mission is not instruction but rather that of producing learning with every student by whatever means work best.

Hasn’t there been any changes from Teaching to Learning? What pedagogy and education paradigm are being adopted by institutions and MOOC? Most of us as educators know “how to teach” through teacher training. How about the production of learning that our institutions should aim for as a mission? Without learners taking responsibility, learning in action (likely through motivation), what teachers could best do is to “transmit knowledge and information” from their heads to the students’ head. How to ensure such knowledge is always kept up to date, if such knowledge is transmitted in our education system?

How do these relate to the mission of MOOCs?

The mission of edX via MOOCs:

“While MOOCs have typically focused on offering a variety of online courses inexpensively or for free, edX’s vision is much larger. EdX is building an open source educational platform and a network of the world’s top universities to improve education both online and on campus while conducting research on how students learn.”

This seems similar to my posting here in opportunistic education:

There are further opportunities in building education models where quality of education and learning experience are co-constructed and co-created by multiple networks of institutions and communities and networks, with a consortium of MOOCs like edXUdacityCoursera or the UK Open Learn initiative.

Alternative platforms of MOOCs in forms of opportunities of learning are emerging, and competition is keen, among MOOCs’ providers as more and more institutions joined the bandwagon of MOOCs. As I shared in my post, MOOCs need to be viewed differently in an institutional framework, if a business model is to be adopted.  Developing and adopting a vision and mission that embrace disruptive innovation and take calculated risks is never easy.  It is however the best time to transform education through integrating pockets of changes, where a ground breaking attempt would eventually help the institution in morphing into a totally new world of education, probably with MOOCs.

Measurement of effectiveness of cMOOCs

Here is my response to Christina’s post on difficulties researching cmoocs.

How to measure the effectiveness of a cMOOC?

There are 4 semantic conditions of networks that Stephen Downes has proposed. As Stephen has commented, those properties – openness, diversity, autonomy and connectedness & interactivity is not perfect in cMOOCs. Besides Connectivism as applied in cMOOCs could likely best be based on an informal learning, rather than a traditional institutional model.

I have reiterated that the constraints typically imposed with an institutional model would be huge challenge for administrators and educators to adapt, as is witnessed even in xMOOCs, where a totally new approach (such as flipping the class or flipped learning) as perceived by professors would be at odds with the mass lecture approach typical in mass-education, with a broadcasting model. How to overcome those challenges, and ensure learning is more effective, when cMOOCs are embedded in an institutional model?

Here is my response  that I perceive as a way to measure the effectiveness of cMOOCs – in its

1. awareness of Networked Learning and Connectivism as an “informal learning paradigm”,

2. an adoption and leveraging of the 4 properties- openness, diversity, autonomy and connectedness & interactivity when networking,

3. an achievement of personal goals with immersion in the network and community (and community of practice) on personal basis,

4. adoption of Personal Learning Environment and Network PLE/PLN in pursuit of life-long learning, and

5. a shift of frame of reference and paradigm from knowledge transmission to knowledge sharing and creation model under a knowledge ecology.

John Mak

What sort of education do you envision for our coming generation?

I have been wondering about the sort of education that would truly transform the world of education and learning of the future.

Here in this post referred by Stephen Downes,  Neil Butcher says:

we are primarily harnessing the innovation of OER predominantly to reproduce content-heavy, top-down models of education that were developed hundreds of years ago to meet the needs of societies in the aftermath of the industrial revolution, models in which the student is still primarily a passive ‘consumer’ of educational content whose main task is to complete standardised assessment tasks in order to receive accreditation.

Thus, the urgent imperative – and the real transformative potential of OER and MOOCs – is to evolve new systems of education that can help our societies, and especially our youth, to navigate their way through a world in which the disruption wreaked by information and communication technologies requires a completely new approach to knowledge, skills and competence.

So, what sort of education model of knowledge and learning should we be envisioning?

Stephen says: “This is what I would like to see with our connectivist MOOCs but it takes time and has to be built from the ground up.”  Couldn’t agree more.

What is most significant is a shift from a transmission of knowledge to an active participative and engaging model of knowledge sharing, development and creation, in between learners, learners and knowledgeable others, teacher(s), scholars and experts in the field, so teachers, learners and the resources and networks are interconnected.  This would then provide a real break-through in education, in particular in Higher Education, where learners’ potential are fully developed together with their co-learners and teachers.

This is elaborated in this paper referred to by Keith Hamon:

Theory R assumes not that students’ heads are empty but that they are full. The primary instructional challenge, then, is not to transfer new knowledge but to help students reorganize existing knowledge to make it more useful, consistent, or true and to supplement it with insights and skills that will help explain more fully what they already know.… Students in Theory R classrooms must be active processors of information. Theory T emphasizes recall; Theory R requires students to engage in every known thought process. … Theory R requires students to make connections, to perceive relationships, and to synthesize ideas. It sends students searching the far corners of their minds without regard for the artificial, arbitrary boundaries imposed by academic disciplines.

See more at:

I have shared some of the fundamental shifts in the envisioning and pedagogy in future education model here:

To me, MOOCs (x MOOCs) are still bounded by the constraints of what the students need to know, and so they are expected to respond to the questions posted by the teachers, as that is part of the curriculum of the course.  As pointed out by Williams, et al 2012: ”The curriculum has become more instrumental, predictive, standardized, and micro-managed in the belief that this supports employability as well as the management of educational processes, resources, and value. Meanwhile, people have embraced interactive, participatory, collaborative, and innovative networks for living and learning.”

The real revolution that we might anticipate in education would be a paradigm shift where education is about encouraging and supporting learners to develop themselves into creative, autonomous, independent and critical learners who could initiate their own questions, and to explore and implement their own solutions to their questions, in study, and life.

This would then truly transform education, based on an inverted pyramid of education structure, where learners are situated at the pinnacle of their learning.  This is premised on that “learners who find the answers for themselves, retain it better than if they’re told the answer.” as reinforced by Sugata.

Indeed, this is also underpinned in the wisdom that learners would learn better when they are active in their learning journey, based on authentic learning.

Being knowledgeable is about knowing the stuff.   Knowledge able is being able to find, sort, analyse, criticize and able to create and share new information and knowledge. (Michael Wesch)

Future education and learning is no longer restricted to the “learning of facts and knowledge out there in the books, artifacts, information networks, and internet”.  Any one who could access the internet, webs and social networks, Google and wikipedia etc. could easily get the answers and solutions to their basic questions.  Learning is more about knowing what questions are important to the learners, and searching for responses to those questions in the quest of knowledge, and the creation of new knowledge and wisdom in a world of change.  It is the critical lenses that learners wear that would allow them to perceive the world differently, and to change, adapt and transform where necessary in their pursuit of knowledge and upgrade of skills and abilities.

I have also envisioned our future education here.