#Oped12 #MOOC Have people really understood what a great MOOC would look like?

What does a great MOOC look like from learners’ perspective? Through reading this post on MOOC,  it seems to me that the principal pedagogy of instructivism with a sage on the stage (with one SUPER PROFESSOR) teaching in a MOOC is emphasised in the x MOOCs.  Isn’t that the way most people are perceiving the x MOOCs (or the super MOOCs) too?

Ideally, Udacity and other MOOC providers will help strip away all the distractions of higher education — the brand, the price and the facilities — and remind all of us that education is about learning. In addition to putting downward pressure on student costs, it would be nice if MOOCs put upward pressure on teaching quality. Read more: http://nation.time.com/2012/10/18/college-is-dead-long-live-college/#ixzz29nAtt4gH

I think people might have got the whole ideas of MOOC too much relying on “teaching quality” alone. To me, MOOC is about LEARNING!  In an ideal learning ecology, learning (and teaching) should be focused on the learners’ needs, NOT just what the teachers want to teach. If MOOC is only about teaching, then the educators and designers need to be mindful about what is needed to support education and learning.  This is why Niazi has been struggling with the MOOC, when she couldn’t reach the media (Youtube) of instruction and assessment that she wanted. There are indeed so many roadblocks and distractions when learning online, that everyone has a story to tell.  But is it really what the learner wants?  How could we support our fellow educators and learners in MOOC?

Niazi loved MOOCs more than her own school, and she wished she could spend all day learning from Andy Brown. Read more: http://nation.time.com/2012/10/18/college-is-dead-long-live-college/#ixzz29nCE5Bh7

Isn’t it interesting to learn about students’ wishes, to learn from ONE professor only in a MOOC.  It is important to learn from professors and experts on specialized knowledge domain, in MOOCs, and I would fully think that is valuable from a learning perspective. My questions are, however: Is it good enough? Why?  Why not?  Especially in the case of online learning, and MOOCs.

The problem with the learning with an instructivist appraoch with ONE BEST TEACHER, might have assumed a knowledge transmission model in pedagogy.  This way of teaching would lead us to believe that if the teacher teaches “best” with the short video lectures, or the “flipped classroom”, then the learners would learn best. What are the assumptions made here?  Have we considered the motivation, the learning styles, the learning context and need for personalized learning here?  Perhaps, not much.  Or may be one could argue, these need not be considered in the case of “mass education” or, these are not THE HELPFUL questions to ask in MOOCs.

Without considering these basic assumptions, I don’t think we have addressed the core challenges in teaching and learning, when designing and delivering online courses such as MOOCs. What is more important is not the mere consumption of the content of the course (MOOC), but the application of theories and LEARNING (such as networked learning) into actual practice, in the learning process and journey. The assessment is just part of the learning, though it could play an important role when it comes to accreditation and certification of learning in formal education.

Learning is not just about certification alone, and so is not about getting a high grade, just to beat your other learners or to compete with others, and be the 1 or 3% genius on the top rank.   That is the traditional way of assessing and measuring students’ performance based on an elitist approach, in order to screen students – from the brightest to the worst students.

Does it help the students to perform better, just by testing alone?  No!  That’s why we need to provide plenty of options, opportunities of learning, and time for our students to keep practising, reflecting, and learning through different means – interaction with the professor(s), experts, other educators, peers, learners, industry specialists, and communities and networks WITHIN AND OUTSIDE the MOOC.

Learning in a MOOC takes its roots from conversation, interaction and new ways of thinking and practice takes place, in ourselves, with the network, and among the networks and community.  Learning would then relate to the achieving of personal goals, developing one’s learning strategies and literacies whilst constructing and navigating the networks.

Here in this post:

Creating a simple LMS is not simple, particularly when you are trying to align curriculum and instruction with modern constructivist pedagogy while simultaneously transforming a giant mob of participants into engaged community members.

Does it also mean that LMS is the way to go with MOOC? What does it mean when a constructivist pedagogy is adopted as the main approach to the  “teaching” of the massive students in MOOC? MOOCs would likely be best situated and appropriated when people apply what they have learnt not only from the professors, but with each others, through networking, interaction, conversation with a Connectivist and or Constructivist approach, where the learners could ultimately develop into fully autonomous, self-motivating and life-long learners. As commented in this post relating to Sebastian Thrun’s AI MOOC:

Mr. Thrun is talking like a true Silicon Valley entrepreneur. “The AI class was the first light. Online education will way exceed the best education today. And cheaper. If this works, we can rapidly accelerate the progress of society and the world.

Will online education way exceed the best education today?

Postscript: Watch this video presentation by Sebastian Thrun.  Rockstar professors – sound like a return to education by the SUPER PROFESSORS AS FIRST CLASS CITIZENS, NOT THE RESEARCHERS!

Sebastian admitted that a 25 years old graduate who taught in the Physics course in Udacity could do a better teaching than him, as a professor.   That sounds interesting.

But what is good teaching?  Is it just using multi-media to teach?  Or should it be more than just posting “great videos”?  How about facilitation skills of a teacher?  How about a visionary teacher who could mentor and guide learners towards learning (in learning metacognitive skills), and learning how to learn?

Should we focus more on adaptive learners and adaptive learning instead?  I still have reservation with the PUSH approach towards learning in online learning, where education is pushed to the students.

Is Khan Academy using an open PUSH or PULL approach towards learning?   Your view is important.

Here is a post about MOOC and Sebastian Thrun’s presentation.

Are we at the intersection of an education revolution?

Education revolution, these are buzz words that prompted me to think about what it means, and the implications on Higher Education, K-12, and even corporate education and training.

The recent blossoming of MOOCs have sparked new waves of educational reforms, and most spectacular, education revolution – online education is now up-and-coming with its full frontal launch.  This article on Come on revolution by Thomas Friedman has attracted 370 comments.

These top-quality learning platforms could enable budget-strained community colleges in America to “flip” their classrooms. That is, download the world’s best lecturers on any subject and let their own professors concentrate on working face-to-face with students.

All sounds good. What are the reactions of the commenters?

For any course that can’t be machine tested, and that would include any course that involved critical thinking and advanced problem solving, whether in the sciences or the humanities, who exactly will review the research, the solutions or the papers? Who is present to challenge students, to moderate discussions, to give them considered feedback, to make them think for themselves?

And where is all the informal education that takes place when students live together and share ideas and experiences based upon what they are learning?

These are all good questions and there are divided responses, as to what it means   when classes are flipped when teaching online.

The instructivist approach with intensive short lecture videos and posting of lecture notes, powerpoints, examinations, quizzes  in those MOOCs may be pretty effective in certain information transfer, and thus allowing students to acquire knowledge and skills in technical subjects, or subjects that have known and definite answers.  That’s why true and false, multiple choices or even short answer questions would be effective and useful in checking students’ understanding of concepts.  Such activities are often used in assessment in most traditional courses, from K-12, as they could also be easily marked, and viewed as “objective and valid” tools in assessment, if properly designed.  Does it challenge students to think and reflect on what they learnt?  To what extent are they effective in checking on students’ learning?  What happens if there are no one “right” answers to the questions?  How to ensure that students are not sharing their answers when responding to the questions online?  How to ensure that learning is applied in projects, problems, or at work?

How to teach in courses that involved critical thinking and advanced problem solving?  I don’t think the traditional teaching by “lecturing” over the students would provide the solution to the learning of critical thinking and advanced problem solving.  Why? First, critical thinking requires both educators and learners to re-think about the questions that need to ask, when wearing different but parallel thinking hats.  At times, with the additional hats, this may lead to further thinking which is transformational.

Whether such MOOCs could stimulate critical thinking would be dependent on how the course is designed, how the professors would moderate and provide feedback to learners, and how the learners would reflect on their learning.  I don’t think we have enough information at this stage, though there are a glimpse of insights from the comments:

First, this is not some sort of neocon plot to destroy higher education. In fact, several upcoming courses such as “Health Care Policy and the Affordable Care Act”, taught by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel or “Introduction to Sociology”, taught by Mitchell Duneier, promise to have ample room for progressive ideas and teaching.

Second, Coursera and similar efforts are not meant to replace the traditional classroom. I am currently enrolled in a course on programming language compilers which is being taught simultaneously to Stanford undergraduate students. The instructor is using the ‘flipped’ model, where classroom time is used to dive deeper into the material and explore areas that normally would not be covered. The free online students don’t participate in this, but we are still getting the entire core syllabus as taught at Stanford.

Finally, many people have insinuated that these courses are not rigorous. This is simply not true. In the compilers course that I am currently enrolled in, I have spent well over 100 hours working on the class project so far. (comments by Nic)

That’s interesting, as such learning seems to provide ample rooms for both the instructors and learners to flip the classroom.  Engaging learners in the learning process is critical to online education, and even more so if a flipped model is to be successful.  Flipping increases student interaction.  That surely helps students in learning in a classroom environment. Is flipped classroom the solution to education?

I think assessment is also an important part of active learning, not just the teaching.

In this what the students think on MITx:

Many of those taking 6.002x already have degrees, and are using the course to sharpen skills for personal or professional reasons. Brian Ho, the owner of a software-development company in Honolulu who has a long-running interest in robotics, has an electrical engineering degree and is using the course to “refresh” his knowledge of the subject.

“We are learning to think intuitively when approaching electrical engineering — an intuition I didn’t have before,” Ho explains. As far as the discussion forums go, he adds, “I equally enjoy helping other students … in the process of helping others, you are actually helping yourself because in order to explain a concept perfectly you really need to understand the subject.”

Are these typical in the responses from the Connectivist MOOCs?

There are strong views here on Faculty responses.

“But it’s not education, and it’s not even a reliable means for credentialing people,” Nelson said. Education calls for real interaction with faculty members and a consensus through which faculty members can design, manage and evaluate degree programs, he said. “It’s fine to put lectures online, but this plan only degrades degree programs if it plans to substitute for them.”

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/05/23/faculty-groups-consider-how-respond-moocs#ixzz1vjyZhcZ0
Inside Higher Ed

Is that education? May be, it depends on the purpose of education, and its content.

Is such online education or learning inferior?  I don’t think so.  See paper by Kop et. al. here that reveals learning experiences and pedagogy when learning in MOOC.

Are we at the intersection of an education revolution?

Do not expect an overnight revolution, as much time is needed for teachers and students to understand how to utilize e-learning capabilities fully.

Identify, target and support key likely benefits of e-learning, such as saving teachers’ time, supporting individual and group student working and opening new ways to reconfigure the geography and timing of class activities.

Netagogy would then be used as a holistic pedagogy, integrating and embracing the different, and overlapping pedagogy – a pedagogy relating to Information and Communication technology,  a pedagogy of abundancedigital pedagogy, and pedagogy in transnational education – transnational pedagogy.

#Change11 Gamification in Education

Is autonomy the name of the education game?
Here is a report on how gamification in education works.

Some experts call his approach an example of  “gamification”: use of game-like elements to increase student motivation or engagement.

“It is the use of game mechanics to make courses more engaging,” said Matt Kaplan, managing director at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan. “Students will have to think, ‘How do I learn in this class, or where should I spend my effort?’ And they have to do it very carefully,” he said. Since the course is self-regulated, students have to take responsibility in building the coursework. And they have to have explicit goals early on and then take steps to achieve those goals.

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/05/18/university-michigan-professor-explores-innovative-grading#ixzz1vGo3RhYp
Inside Higher Ed

I have created a number of posts on gamification in education here, here, here and here.
In a conversation with one of my best friends on MOOC, I wrote:
How many of the participants in MOOCs have ever thought about using Game Theory in facilitation, discourse and assessment (and grading)?  First, I am not sure if there are any education training programs having game theory as part of it. Second, the win – loss in games seem to be too dangerous in education, especially when it would become a behavioral approach towards learning, manipulating people in order to achieve the goals and outcomes.
Game Theory is used throughout business.  The recent edX, MITx, Udacity, Khan Academy, etc. all use Game Theory to a certain extent.  How? They all recruited lots of participants to join their “education revolution” and claimed glory because of that.  The Professors got their sponsorships, fame through promotion of their courses, their flipped classroom theory, their ground-breaking teaching etc.
So, why aren’t many others (in MOOCs) using such Game strategies to achieve similar Halls of Fames.  I am not saying that we should sacrifice education with commodification and monetization. What I think is, if one (or George, Stephen and others) wants to play the game of MOOC, then the application of Game Theory would help in understanding how we could achieve, using a hybrid of education/business model which is sustainable.
This similarly applies to Connectivism.  I think the principles behind Game Theory is also part of Connectivism, when applied in education and learning.
So, is Game Theory built on scientific grounds? Can Game Theory be used in online and distance education (as a business or personal learning)?
The closest to Game Theory that have been used in education is Learning Analytics, and in theory it is based on a scientific approach.  However, like Game Theory, there are still lots of ethical and privacy concerns.  Also, those sponsoring the project would try every means to influence the outcomes, so that only favorable ones would be published, and unfavorable ones would be dampened or never published.  That’s again a part of the Game – under Game Theory.
In summary, I reckon education and learning is a game, and now it’s a different game that we all need to adapt in order to play well.  Education Institutions could shape, respond, or adapt to the game as they play. This philosophy could equally be applicable to every educator and learner, as we are all part of the GAME, the Game of education and learning in this evolving and emergent world of education  and learning.


#Change11 Assessment, Active Learning and Project-based Learning

Is assessment part of learning and instruction?

If we assume that assessment forms an important part of learning, then assessment itself could also be considered a good pedagogy, in formal education and learning environment.  This is evidenced in most formal online courses, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning ML offered by Stanford University.  Here assessment determines the quality of the courses offered.  This stems from the notion that assessment should align with the learning outcomes, which the course is also based upon.  Accreditation of courses and award of qualification are normally based on the achievement of learning outcomes by the students or learners in formal education.

If assessment is so important in formal education, why do people still prefer to adopt the instrumental teaching based principally on mass lecture, tests and examination rather than assessment as an effective pedagogy?  Take a test or examination, and if you could pass it, you are qualified for a pass of the unit.  Isn’t it simple?

Some of us might have watched this video.

So, a lot of students would ask a basic question: Are the lecture materials delivered by the teacher during the lesson to be tested in the tests and  examinations? If not, could we focus just on what is to be tested or examined, and leave the rest to be “learnt” outside the classroom?  This is exactly the type of questions most students are asking in each semester, in a traditional lecture type of education and learning. Is that what the educators are most concerned too?  Teaching the content of examination or test to the students, so students could achieve high marks in the assessments. So, why not teaching to the test?

A test and or examination is a typical assessment tool used in education for decades. That’s where students could demonstrate their competency, and that is how assessment is conducted in most schools.  And if students are learning in online distance education, then they would be expected to submit the standard assignments (say completing a 2,000 words essay or answering a series of questions as required in the problem or project set), attend the examination, and if they pass in both assessment, congratulations!

Doing assessment requires more than the mere completion of the written assignments.  An excellent example of assignments as shown here requires the preparation and collection of evidences, and through an exploration and research process in the assessment, the learners would be able to demonstrate the competency required.  Also learners could identify their own learning needs and gaps in the learning process, when working through the assignments.  With the feedback from peers and or facilitators, the learner could also identify what would need to do to improve his or her learning.  These will all involve sensemaking (giving meaning to experience) and metacognition (cognition about cognition or knowing about knowing).

Is this active learning familiar to you?

I think such active learning have been adopted by experienced educators (especially in vocational education and training) for years.  May be this form of Active Learning is still new to those who are new to the teaching profession or that in the online learning.

We have learnt that lectures are still the predominant methods of transferring knowledge in Higher Education though there have been some changes as  reported here, with the use of small study groups of students discussing the questions posted by the professor.  Such study mode in classes was used as a driver to learning, with peer instruction as a means of active learning.

In this active learning in the classroom, everyone is engaged.

For those educators who have undergone formal education and training, active learning has always been part of the training.  I would assume that it is already part of any lessons for most experienced educators.

How about the reality?  Is it the case in Community College and Higher Education Classroom learning?

What are the challenges, when active learning is “transferred” and migrated to an online or virtual learning environment? What sort of pedagogical approaches would be more relevant and effective in such online courses?  I reckon that these have been explored in our past MOOCs here and here.

There are some assessment challenges that are still inherent in MOOCs, as past researches indicated that not all participants would undertake the assessment as designed for the course.  The learning also takes on different forms, with some active learning, whilst others would prefer to lurk in the course.

Learners need to have more control over their assessments in an online course, as remarked by Jenny.  But where does this leave ‘the expert’ and will students have the skills to take control of their assessment?

Here Jim Groom has adopted digital media projects as the main assignment for the MOOC.  I reckon these projects are highly relevant for students learning in formal online courses.   How would these project-based learning be used in MOOCs? Would these projects be adopted by life-long learners in MOOCs?


Kop, R., Fournier, H., Mak, S.F. J. (2011). A Pedagogy of Abundance or a Pedagogy to Support Human Beings? Participant Support on Massive Open Online CoursesThe International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Vol 12, No. 7 (2011).

Kop, R., Carroll, F. (2011). Cloud Computing and Creativity: Learning on a Massive Open Online Course.  European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning. (2011).


I reckon one of the slides in the video relating to hearing, seeing and doing is not correct.  In my previous post, I commented on the use of visuals in lesson presentation.  I also cited George’s comments: ” Will Thalheimer debunks/questions the validity of this claim. This automatically calls into question related statements in the article (not cited properly) about the prominence of visuals in learning and retention.”

Also refer to this post where the author says:

“Not only is it easier to communicate something using a picture, but it’s also much easier for people to remember things that have been communicated to them visually. Psychologist Jerome Bruner of New York University has studied the art of communication, and his studies have shown that:

  • People remember 10% of what they hear;
  • 20% of what they read; and
  • 80% of what they see and do.

Most people are visual learners; a recent study by the U.S. Federal Government suggested that up to 83% of human learning occurs visually. The study also indicated that information which is communicated visually is retained up to six times greater than information which is communicated by spoken word alone.”

There are still lots of assumptions about the percentage of people remembering what they hear, read, see and do in human learning, and further research is required to validate those claims.

Postscript: A relevant post here by Stephen – on experimentation with new forms of higher education.

A useful video on problem based learning.

#Change11 Creativity and Connected Learning

I have been thinking about this basic question: How does creativity impact on learning?

In this post on Why Creative Teaching is Essential for the Information Age? http://summify.com/story/TvhSby7XrzJFKqGg/www.good.is/post/why-creative-teaching-is-essential-for-the-information-age/ and this post on Why Making Schools Creative Requires Radical Change http://www.good.is/post/why-making-schools-creative-requires-radical-change/

“Our modern information age needs curious, humble minds—people willing to absorb new knowledge, think critically and put information into context. Abandoning a narrow, one-size-fits-all approach to curriculum standards would help students develop the curiosity they need to become the innovators of the future. That matters more than the ability to recall an answer on the test.”

To what extent is the following true?  I would like to examine the assumptions behind these.  When the dropout rate of students is high, we need to ask: Why did students drop out?

Posts on High School dropouts – here and here.


  • Didn’t like school in general or the school they were attending
  • Were failing, getting poor grades, or couldn’t keep up with school work
  • Didn’t get along with teachers and/or students
  • Had disciplinary problems, were suspended, or expelled
  • Didn’t feel safe in school
  • Got a job, had a family to support, or had trouble managing both school and work
  • Got married, got pregnant, or became a parent
  • Had a drug or alcohol problem

“While there is no single reason that students drop out, research indicates that difficult transitions to high school, deficient basic skills, and a lack of engagement serve as prominent barriers to graduation.

Most dropouts are already on the path to failure in the middle grades and engage in behaviors that strongly correlate to dropping out in high school. Various researchers have identified specific risk factors, such as low attendance or a failing grade, which can identify future dropouts—in some cases as early as sixth grade.

Ninth grade serves as a bottleneck for many students who begin their freshman year only to find that their academic skills are insufficient for high school-level work. Up to 40 percent of ninth grade students in cities with the highest dropout rates repeat ninth grade; only 10 to 15 percent of those repeaters go on to graduate.

Academic success in ninth grade course work is highly predictive of eventual graduation; it is even more telling than demographic characteristics or prior academic achievement.

Unfortunately, many students are not given the extra support they need to successfully make the transition to high school. As a result, over one third of all dropouts are lost in ninth grade.

The six million secondary students who comprise the lowest 25 percent of achievement are twenty times more likely to drop out of high school than students in the top-performing quartile.

Both academic and social engagement are integral components of successfully navigating the education pipeline. Research shows that a lack of student engagement is predictive of dropping out, even after controlling for academic achievement and student background.”

In response to these, what might be the options and possible solutions?

For poorly motivated kids or school dropouts, surely the school environment may not be the best community for them to learn.  However, there are lots of potential for these kids to be connected to others via the community, both inside  and outside school, so they could develop themselves into adult lives.  So why not leveraging the potential of community as part of their classroom activity to re-boost their interests of learning and socializing?

Here in this video:

I re-post part of the transcript as shown on Youtube here:

“We can debate outcomes of engagement all we want, but the thing that’s really important, I think, to have on the public agenda is really the question of ‘Who is getting access to the kinds of experiences that are productive and engaging, and who is not?’ And what are the factors contributing to that?” (3:30)

“I think there’s still a persistent perception among parents and teachers that activities like gaming and social media use are a waste of time and a distraction from learning, rather than something that is inherently a support for productive forms of learning.” (6:25)

“It’s often profoundly uncool to care deeply about something […] kids have mechanisms for hiding these kinds of identities[…] Now, the online world suddenly offers an opportunity for kids to affiliate and connect with others who share these passionate interests in a way that’s not bound by the social status hierarchies of high school.” (12:46)

“Now what was extremely interesting about Clarissa that made her different from […] almost all of the kids who we talked to as part of our study was she was able to take the work she did in the role-playing world and make it visible and consequential, in a positive way, to the adult-facing world.” (15:33)

“We’re doing work right now in trying to develop some alternative assessments, ways of thinking about dispositions, metacognitive capacities, preparation for future learning […] that can really enable us to make an argument why it’s not domain-specific knowledge that we should be looking at as much as an underlying disposition for learning and capacity for future learning that’s the most important outcome.” (22:27)

“Our theory of change, it’s really centered on the fact that–in the best circumstances–new technology can really lower the barriers of access to connected learning experiences. That it can help really connect the dots between these diverse spheres of learning that young people navigate through in their everyday lives.” (27:09)

The connected learning mentioned by Mimi are based on:

-Friendship, Community

-Interests, Affinity

-Reputation, Achievement

She also mentioned about a Theory of Change that is based on the use of technology, with technology affordance, media and community that would:

– lower the barriers towards connection with community and others,

– recognize their achievement of competencies,

– connect the dots, via community,

– navigate the networks, community and webs,

–  negotiate with others, and

– voice their views and opinions.

Further research is required to explore how such connected learning based on informal learning outside school setting be integrated with the school education and learning.

In reflection, this connected learning relates to Connectivism and Connective Knowledge significantly.  Also the concepts of Conversation as part of the pedagogy in Community and Online Learning (see here and here) are not only valid for adult and community learning, but also crucial to K-12 learning, though the degree and depth of conversation among learners may vary, depending on the maturity of the learners, and the context of conversation and discourse.

I reckon creativity is related to connected and connective learning.  If we could help and support our fellow learners and educators in creating a learning environment and ecology via technology and media, then they would feel more comfortable and easy in connecting, conversing, cooperating and collaborating with each others, and be able to exercise their creativity and talents in the engagement, production and sharing of artifacts.  Surely that would lead to networks and communities of learning that could fulfill their life-long and life-wide learning aspirations.

I will continue to explore this in the coming posts.

#Change11 Authentic Learning in Classroom and Higher Education

This is my second post relating to Authentic Learning. Here is my previous post on authentic learning, where I have thought about using community as the classroom.

Jan’s video about authentic learning well illustrates the concepts and principles behind.

Here Jan distinguishes the learning – academic and real tasks into four main categories:

1. Academic tasks set in academic settings (Tests, quizzes, essays, lab reports, short answers questions, exercises). Jan remarked that more than 90% of the schools and universities are using these methods for assessment.

2. Realistic tasks set in academic settings.  Jan suggested that this to be the authentic learning rendered possible in classroom setting.

3. Academic tasks set in a real setting.

4. Real tasks completed in a real workplace.

To what extent is such authentic learning applicable to the classroom teaching, especially in High School and Higher Education Institutions?

I have great interests in the teaching and assessment strategies employed by the 2 professors – Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig of Stanford University course on AI.  George Siemens once commented on the way it (AI course) was structured, urging for transparency in learning and assessment (who is behind the scene) and a pedagogy moving towards more substantial active student engagement (a connectivist approach), when scaling it up with openness. As shared by Tony Bates here, and here in my previous post on re-inventing education, the teaching is based similar to the Salman Khan’s approach in posting videos instructing readers on the steps and concepts behind those theories, with examples.  The assessment falls mainly with the academic tasks under a classroom framework, though it is still using typical assignments, quizzes, examinations to assess the learners.  The use of computerized assessment further validated that it is more “decontextualised” rather than authentic in nature.  Nevertheless, these are bold experiments based on an innovative approach, especially when it comes to openness in the instruction and interaction with the learners.

Here in the blog post:

“Not all educators are enamored with Khan and his site. Gary Stager, a longtime educational consultant and advocate of laptops in classrooms, thinks Khan Academy isn’t innovative at all. The videos and software modules, he contends, are just a high tech version of that most hoary of teaching techniques—lecturing and drilling. Schools have become “joyless test-prep factories,” he says, and Khan Academy caters to this dismal trend. Khan’s approach “suffers from this sort of ’school über alles’ philosophy: They’re not going to question anything the schools do. They’re not going to challenge any of the content.” Stager admires the fact that Khan is trying to improve education, but he says research has shown that kids who are struggling at math won’t be helped by a “filmstrip.””

So, here comes the first challenge, with online distance learning, where we don’t have enough background information of the learners, and then, as instructional or learning designers, we might have to exercise constraints, in order to make it effective and efficient, and be scalable, by using standardized test, assignments and quizzes (which would allow for computerized marking) and examinations which are criteria-based, not norm based.   With openness, there comes competition, as the results of all assessment would then be compared to the norms of the cohort of learners, indicating who are the best achievers and who are the mediocre performers, and those who fail to achieve the minimum benchmarks.  This could be a good and fair way of assessing learners, based on an objective system, from a teaching and educational point of view.  But it could also lead to a dilemma.

Are these courses designed for the elites, or the “average” students?  Though the courses are open to anyone interested in the courses, there are pre-requisite skills for the course.  So, it is not true that anyone would be able to follow the course, though one could argue that so far if you are interested in the content, why not just follow the course without doing any assignments, quizzes or examinations, as you could still benefit from it, by learning something new there.  From a personal learning point of view, I think that is what open education could offer, and that is why I greatly appraise the professors and the University in making this education available and allowing students in interacting with the professors, through various means.

However, when it comes to education, one of the greatest challenges is to check on students’ prior learning, the educational background, and how to assess on the learning progress of the students, through formative assessment.

What happens if the learners are falling behind in the learning, in connectivity, or in the submission of quizzes, assignments or poor performance in examination?  Learning analytics might reflect what would likely be the issues, when it comes to lack of engagement with the resources, artifacts, or failure to watch the video, or poor connectivity.  But it may not reveal what the actual problems are, like the failure to understand the concepts behind the theories, or failure to remember the “answers” to the questions, or the failure to comprehend the lectures, due to lack of language skills (fail to understand English).

How could authentic learning be applied in this situation?  May be decontextualization is the only way to assessment of students on a massive scale,  as computerized system is employed.

Another question is: What are we trying to assess in a course?  Is the course having standardized and rigid learning outcomes?  Are the learning outcomes catering for the learner’s needs, or are they designed to cater principally for the accreditation of the course?

Paul in his post on The Complexities of Designing Authentic Learning in Open Distance Learning says:

“While residential lecturers have the luxury of seeing and knowing their students (I assume) in classroom interactions, open distance learning institutions never “see” their students – and open distance learning (ODL) institutions have to rely on up-to-date student profile data and learning analytics to get to know our students. Add to this that many of our foundational courses (modules) have more than 15,000 students per 16-week semester with relatively limited Internet access; then the issues Herrington raises such as “collaboration”, “coaching and scaffolding”, “authentic assessment” and “authentic activities” are real challenges.

With the digital divide slowly disappearing; mobile and online learning will soon create huge possibilities and opportunities for more authentic learning design in a 16-week semester. However, my main concern is that for authentic learning to become a reality, course design teams will really have to take student profiles and student contexts much more seriously.”

In this E-Learning – Learning Papers

“Leanne Cameron and Miriam Tanti describe an interesting case study of students as designers. They argue that the ‘students as learning designers’ approach challenges transmission models of pedagogy and requires teachers to relinquish some control to their students so that they might have the space to experiment and discover how to learn.  This paper outlined the findings of two studies that allowed students to explore new ways of learning, where they were encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning, and outlines what potential social media tools may have in facilitating this experience.  These projects demonstrate that when students are empowered to design their own learning activities, they can deeply engage in the learning process.”

So, instead of teachers as instructional designers of the course, would it be possible to encourage and support students as designers, where tasks, activities and even the course is based on what might be a product of negotiation, or coming from the students as an initiative.  Such an approach has also been reported by Williams et al (2011) here:

“Although the course emphasis is collaborative assessment, peer feedback, and students’ contributions to the marking process, it is acknowledged that the power of assessment remains invested in the tutors and institution and that there are hierarchical differences between students and tutors.  Whilst tutors recognise that academics are not necessarily authorities in a course where students can negotiate their curriculum and that they can learn a lot from the negotiated curriculum and students, the course is not a free-for-all and tutors do not abdicate responsibility for their students’ learning.”

So, to what extent would authentic learning and assessment be applicable to classroom environment, especially in open distance learning environment?

I reckon there are still some resistance, especially in the classroom environment, to resort to other means of learning, like on-the-job or workplace learning, or the project-based and problem-based learning with the learners at the center of teaching and learning, or being mentored or coached on a one-on-one or a small group, rather than being taught in the classroom, on a lecture basis.

For a course which have “simple” learning outcomes, especially at a vocational education and training or high school level, what would the learners expect?

Would the learners have expected quizzes, standard assignments, examinations?  Most of the students have been accustomed to this form of assessments, and might even be comfortable to taking tests and examinations, where they could respond to challenging questions set forth.

Would students like to accept authentic assessment tasks instead of taking examination?  Yes, and no. Yes, when students realise that those tasks or projects would add significant values to their learning, or in preparation of the vocation or career that they are going to take up.  No, since many students prefer to sit in a class, and listen to the “expert” teachers’ expositions, in the “transfer” of knowledge and skills, and then giving a “high satisfaction” rating to the teachers, because that is where they love the teachers, and how they have been taught, with their teachers “singing” the same song, because they are coming from similar or same cultural and ethnic background, entertaining them in the same way that they have been brought up, and engaging them in the learning process in the classroom.  Teaching becomes the norm, rather than the exception in these sort of classroom learning situation, and is the expectation of most institutions. Isn’t it the perfect learning scenario?

If both the teachers and students are highly satisfied with the “spoon fed” approach towards teaching in a classroom, where the learners could sit back and relax, why change?  I wonder! You might have the answer to this!

The above scenarios carried a lot of assumptions, and a lot of provocative special circumstances for me to reflect upon.  Surely, not every student or teacher are like that, I suppose.  However, the reality is, not every student is ready for changes, or willing to accept changes in the teaching or learning methods, unless they understand the values and benefits of those changes.  Besides, there are many constraints on how teachers could go beyond the typical standard approach of using quizzes, assignments and examination and academic tasks.  Unless there are sufficient proven research that authentic learning and assessment is far more superior to those standardized teaching and lecturing, or mastery learning approach, it is still challenging for both the teachers and students to experiment with the new and emergent approaches towards learning, as our research on Pedagogy of Abundance or Pedagogy to Support Human Beings reveals.  Or we might have to resort to Learning Analytics to understand how learners connect and learn throughout the course, and apply intervention in an emergent manner to ensure the authenticity of learning.

Postscript: George just posted this wonderful post with great insights.

I would also like to respond to Clive’s post relating to massive scalable training here.  I think it could work, and to some extent, it is already happening, in MOOCs.

An interesting post on digital literacy.

#Change11 New model for Higher Education created through Organizational Learning Contract

I came across this New Model for Higher Education created through Organizational Learning Contract.

Photo: Google Image

I will need to peruse the book so as to better understand how it works.   It sounds useful for preparing students for careers and organization work.  Does it differ from the e-portfolio learning approach?

However, the use of Learning Contract – that may just be a variation of the Training Plan, has been in use in the Logistics discipline, here in Australia, for more than a decade.   It seems to be a fairly common tool in place in vocational education and training, especially in the on-the-job training and mentoring programs.

We have been practising such a vocational and education training model of “learning contract” for years, especially in the Distribution Centre Training where trainees could learn where, when, how, what and who they would like to have the training be done, and also addressing the why the training too. Here the trainees could exercise full control over their learning, especially relating to the skills required to accomplish the tasks and project required at work.  Normally a learning team is formed, that is between the trainees, the trainee’s supervisor, and the trainer and assessor, in order to provide necessary support.

Could this be used in the Face-to-face teaching and training environment?  Yes, but so far, learning contract could not be easily adapted as there are constraints as to how training is to be conducted in a classroom or workshop environment. For part-time trainees attending face-to-face classroom based sessions, the trainees could develop learning contracts at work, which would then form the basis of assessment evidence of competency.

Could this be used in the distance and online education environment?  Yes, for sure.  This would surely be useful in developing a structured, though flexible learning program based on the learner’s needs, especially when such program is supported by Mentoring support with facilitator and peer learners.

How about learning contract in MOOC?  I think I have addressed this in my previous post here and here, relating to my views on the design and delivery of MOOC, and how learning could be achieved and assessed.  Organisational Learning contract may only work if it relates back to the learning at work, within an organisational setting.

Photo: Google Image

As week 4th topic is on Connective Knowledge, Collective Learning, would organisational learning contract be a viable means to structure the learning?

Have you used organisational learning contract in your education, training and learning?  How effective is such a tool?  How does it compare to e-portfolio and PLE/PLN in the development of learning plan?