Is big data the next wave?

Big data and learning analytics would transform education, much more than MOOCs.

To what extent is big data  (big-data-not-moocs-will-revolutionize-education) the solution to higher education?

Big data in the online learning space will give institutions the predictive tools they need to improve learning outcomes for individual students. By designing a curriculum that collects data at every step of the student learning process, universities can address student needs with customized modules, assignments, feedback and learning trees in the curriculum that will promote better and richer learning.

In this post on learning analytics:

They found that people take classes or stop for different reasons, and therefore referring globally to “dropouts” makes no sense in the online context. They identified four groups of participants: those who completed most assignments, those who audited, those who gradually disengaged and those who sporadically sampled. (Most students who sign up never actually show up, making their inclusion in the data problematic.) The point of all this is not simply to record who is doing what but to “provide educators, instructional designers and platform developers with insights for designing effective and potentially adaptive learning environments that best meet the needs of MOOC participants,” the researchers wrote.

For example, in all three computer science courses they analyzed, they found a high correlation between “completing learners” and participation on forum pages, suggesting a positive feedback loop: The more students interacted with others on the forum page, the better they learned. This led the researchers to suggest that designers should consider building other community-oriented features, including regularly scheduled videos and discussions, to promote social behavior.

These findings were revealed in our earlier researches in MOOCs and so these latest researches were reinforcing what most of the researches have found, in particular the engagement and interactivity of learners as a critical success factor in MOOCs.

As I have shared in my previous posts, there are assumptions about design of curriculum, where students’ motivation and learning could be accurately traced, assessed and evaluated with the clicks of videos, engagement with discussion boards, and answering those “multiple choice questions” or assessment tasks.   To some extent, big data could provide some clues as to students’ skills and interests, and their degree of connections with others, resources and networks, the connectivity as one could define.  There are questions that still need to be addressed though, as each individual has his or her own learning style and motivation, which could not be predicted simply by tracing using the big data, especially when they are merely visitors to the sites, and have weak links to others in the networks or social media.

Trying to track down students’ attendance may be one way to gauge their engagement, but then again this requires enormous amount of follow up work and intervention from the professors or institutions in order to develop those customized units, assignments, and feedback.


Will the winner take all in MOOCs?

In this post on MOOCs, Ms Koller says that the winner takes all.

Mr Koller said that, although there were currently many competitors in the MOOC market, she thought it would tend toward being winner take all.

“Right now, we’re four times larger than anybody else in terms of students, 10 times larger than anybody else in terms of courses,” she said.

“So I think we are well positioned to be that platform that will enable everyone to learn.”

I think we are now witnessing a game of competition among MOOC players, where I once commented that

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.

Though I am a strong supporter of MOOCs throughout the years, I still have many questions relating to the sustainability when MOOCs are totally free.  I am for free open education, and I have thought about the implication of freebies with education.  This could be a pathway with no return though we keep “promising” education could be delivered free to a global audience.

What I found challenging is education has turned into edutainment on one hand, by trying to keep education interesting and engaging (that is quick fix and learn of certain vocational skills, or mere basic concepts), whilst education has been turned into a commodity for selling the brand, with a teach, tell and assess mentality, without thoroughly thinking about what the learners have actually learnt and thought about their learning, and their relevance to their work or lives.  To what extent have we really prepared our learners to learn and confront the challenges that they are facing in this 21st century?

Yes, we have the best education in the world teaching us.  The question is: Have we got the best learning yet?

I won’t repeat what I said here, and so you could refer to my previous posts relating to the differences between x and c MOOCs.

I hope Coursera would be equally successful in winning in this game of MOOCs, though edX and Udacity would surely like to share that big win in these few years.

Let’s see if there are other cMOOCs contenders who would challenge the winners of this game of MOOCs.

Wasn’t the cMOOCs the first winner after all?   I reckon they were, at least in creating the big name for others to follow suit.

What is education?

A lot to think about education.  In a democratic society, what is education?

Steve Denning’s post on what does it mean to be educated referred to Kohn’s suggestions and critiqued on them:

  • To develop the intellect, presumably including linguistic, mathematical and analytic capabilities.
  • To produce competent, caring, loving, and lovable people.
  • To create and sustain a democratic society
  • To invest in producing future workers for the workforce and, ultimately, corporate profits.

I agree with points 1 to 3 on the goals of education . For the investment in producing future workers, there are a few imperatives that we need to think about more deeply, as to why and what that involves in such an investment.

What sort of skills and literacy do we want our future workers to develop and possess?  If we don’t even know what future work looks like, would it be too early to come up with a set of skills and literacy that would pre-define what these workers must have?

Steve raises interesting points:

A culture of learning

Like 21st Century management, 21st Century education needs to be different,say Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown in their book, A New Culture of Learning (CreateSpace, 2011). It’s all about collaborative learning, where the teacher is less of a “sage on a stage” who knows all the answers, and more of a “guide on the side”, who encourages the students themselves to ask questions and find the answers from the incredible wealth of resources now instantly available to them on the Web.

Education is also about asking good questions, so as to become a critical thinker with intellectual capability, who could analyse situations, discern fallacies, misguided information, develop options and wisely choose the best option in decision making.  It is about living one’s life in full potential and capacity, based on one’s strengths, and the ability to add values to organisation, work and other people,  developed through both learning and formal education.

My ideals in education would be to prepare people to develop themselves as creative, critical and autonomous learners, who would challenge themselves to overcome obstacles in life, and solve problems that they are confronted with throughout life.  They would make decisions that creates values for themselves and others in the community or society at large.

Here, the purpose of education is to engage with the world, and to prepare ourselves (as learners) to be tenacious and resourceful, imaginative and logical, self disciplined and self-aware, collaborative and inquisitive.  And one of the most important purposes of education is learning how to learn.  Learn globally and act locally, and be connected to the international communities.