If open courses close minds, what will come next to MOOCs?

Would open courses close minds?  Thanks to Nellie for posting the link. Here is my response to the post as shared on FB:

Would this depend on which types of MOOCs that we are referring to? As Nellie said: “I’ve been taking and giving my own MOOCs since 2007. Informal education seems to scare a lot of universities so much so that they started a new kind of MOOC to ensure that they stay in control. Well, let them keep trying, but informal education and open courses is the future.”

Even the communities and networks here are all open, adaptive & dynamic in opening up conversation, Socratic dialogues, open sharing & creative collaboration or cooperation. There are now seamless connections which would help in cultivating a multicultural awareness and appreciation, far beyond the “knowledge” or information transmission model of online education.

Such tapestry of knowledge networks (cMOOCs – which intertwined to some extent with other xMOOCs and university courses) could be one of the most “disruptive” innovation ever “revolution” both top down and bottom up.  I don’t know how scary it could be for any educators, but haven’t we learnt about the precedence – through the lens of the past two decades? We have all witnessed the impact of those technologies on nearly all “businesses” – like printing, news & journalism, music and entertainment, videos and DVDs, photography,  etc. where they have all been disrupted to some extent by emerging technology – internet, new ICT etc.

Education is just the next on the list, and it happens that MOOCs have since then become the next “invention” since the printing press and mass lecture etc. to again disrupt the whole business.  What is the next big surprise?  Super MOOCs over MOOCs (c & x & ??? MOOCs) where they all inter-mingle to become the next breed of MMOOC – MEGA MASSIVE OPEN ONLINE COURSE.

Traditions, cultures and MOOCs.

Thanks Stephen for such an insightful post on MOOC – Resurgence of Community in Online Learning. He says:

The recent MOOCs offered by companies like Coursera and Udacity have commercialized course brokering. They take a course offered by one university and make it available to other institutions to host in on-campus peer communities.
Of course, this is a model that the K-12 community has employed for any number of years. It is common to see a single course taught from one location and delivered to other locations by means such as video conferencing and interactive environments.

That’s basically a community model of education, under a MOOC banner, though quite distinct from the traditional single institution basis of formal higher education.

MOOC relates to community and community of practice, and more than ever, people have already realized the importance of sourcing education and learning from different institutions, networks (social networks), and  communities.

I have been thinking long about those three criteria that you mentioned: mutual engagement, a joint enterprise, and a shared repertoire. Based on what I have experienced in MOOC, the COPs evolved over virtual space during and after MOOC do exhibit those criteria within small clusters of COPs where some of the participants were situated. Relating to the learning, meaning, and identity of the members of COP, this is where the landscape of practice – a digital and virtual space where the members visited or resided upon. That’s why I would suggest to reformulate the criteria that are typically used in COP. This would reflect more fully the new and emerging structure of MOOC (as a conglomeration of COPs and Networks) that is evolving, emerging and morphing along the digital landscape, not being bounded by the conventional structures. In other words, the unstructure becomes the structure, and uncourse becomes the course, and finally the unCOPs become the COPs. This is happening in lots of COPs too, where the lifespan of physical COPs are transforming into a blend of COPs, all re-defining the meaning of learning, meaning and identity in new and emerging ways. I would need to restudy the research findings (our CCKs, PLENK2010, and other study) to substantiate such claims. The latest study by Wenger et al could also be used to study such patterns.

In this Network as a Learning Theory by Chatti, he says:

Within LaaN, the notion of legitimate peripheral participation (LPP) – which is very close to Vygotsky’s ZPD – is absent. In LaaN, role models are not strictly defined. There is no distinction between “newcomers, novices, or peripheral participants” and “old-timers or masters”. Every
participant is equally treated as a knowledge networker. Unlike CoPs, which are characterized by a single movement from the periphery to the center, in a knowledge ecology, the center does not hold and the movements occur in unpredictable directions.

In LaaN, by contrast, the primary focus is on the individual learner and her PKN. Knowledge development in LaaN is driven by the learning demands of the learner, rather than the community in which she belongs. In contrast to Wenger’s learning theory, where learning for an individual is “an issue of engaging in and contributing to the practices of their communities” (p. 7), LaaN views learning for an individual as an issue of continuously building, maintaining, extending, and restructuring her PKN.

How do these relate to tradition, culture and cultural awareness and intelligence?

People change and learn for their own reasons, not any one else.  Some people would shape education when they have the power to do so, whilst others would change their learning habits to adapt to a certain culture, especially at work.  These are all based on certain principles on culture and change.

Involvement of the learner. When you want culture to change you have to put yourself into the shoes of the person who needs to change. You can do this by involving them as much as possible. Change brought about in a clumsy or unthoughtful way will rebound, in the end, on management. As everyone learns slightly differently, as a leader and manager it is essential that you involve your learners in deciding their own optimal learning process.

Same principles could be applied to cultural identities and their roots to education. When people of different cultures intersect, these could lead to sparks of “conflicting views” and people naturally might be rubbing against each others, when there are differences in the cultural values. This is apparent in the different perceptions and beliefs about certain traditions, cultures in education.

The latest advances in online education and learning as manifested through MOOCs challenged the status quo of HE, though at the same time has awaken the giants to respond to the grass-roots quests for changes and innovation. The MOOC phenomenon seems to have uprooted the long-held belief of one size suits all best sort of economic mass education, though it has replaced it with even stronger behaviorist-one to few winners take all sort of over-arching education model.

Would this cultural belief align with the beliefs of different cultures? As Ana said, when people are too accustomed to spoon feeding, with reactive learning rather than proactive learning, and knowledge as consumption mode of education, xMOOCs would likely be viewed as the favorite of the month and year, and cMOOCs would be viewed as education of the past, rather than the future. Even the hybrid mode would still be viewed as a mere re-configuration of the present MASSIVE EDUCATION.

As shared, there are still long held beliefs and cultures on education where the gatekeepers would take hold of the keys, and doors would only be opened with those keys. cMOOCs are however based on the philosophy that people would connect and share the secret keys in opening the doors, by sharing their cultures and beliefs, rather than asking for the known keys that are kept only by the gatekeepers.

I have used keys as metaphor of MOOCs though we could easily relate that to the Lord of the Ring, where the Ring is the MOOCs.  May be the community would take the role of the ring, when time ripens.

I think one of the areas of opportunities that cMOOCs could tap into is the cultural awareness and intelligence. That seems to be neglected in a world of MOOCs where people are meeting each others who are coming from different cultures, languages, and educational and social backgrounds. Another possibility is to use “Total Intelligence TQ” or “Integrated Intelligence” (like an integration and synthesis of Multiple Intelligence + CQ +Social and Emotional Intelligence) to reflect on the multiple talents and intelligence each of us have, potentially and inherently.

This is a huge topic, and there is where diversity of opinions would lead to a Collective Wisdom of the Crowds, though some would argue that these would dilute the role of experts. In a Chinese saying: “The ideas of three guys could be better than the best strategist (a person named Chu Got Hung Ming in Ancient China who was one of the wisest military strategists).

If we could better understand each other’s culture, then that would promote cultural identity, multi-cultural understanding and appreciation, and thus leading to a more harmonious global community. Would this lead a resolution of many education, cultural and social conflicts which seem apparent in MOOCs, institutions, webs, communities and internet? Education shouldn’t be staying with knowledge only, it should embrace human values and cultural identities, in order for human to prosper.

In summary, MOOC relates to community and community of practice, and more than ever, people have already realized the importance of sourcing education and learning from different institutions, networks (social networks), and  communities.  MOOCs have become a community based sort of online education and learning, and this has evolved into a cluster of institutions providing Higher Education courses, with MOOC providers as brokering agents.

When people are too accustomed to spoon feeding, with reactive learning rather than proactive learning, and knowledge as consumption mode of education, xMOOCs would likely be viewed as the favorite of the month and year, and cMOOCs would be viewed as education of the past, rather than the future.  People are “buying” in with the xMOOCs for reasons as simple as: branding and easier to learn (as all information are already curated for them), and that a strong belief still with the instructivist approach reigns best, at least, that is what institutions want to see – a complete control under an institutional framework of education. Is that xMOOC sustainable? From a historical perspective, this fate would be like cMOOCs being “decimated” and “replaced” by xMOOCs (to some extent) (Mak, 2013).

If we could better understand each other’s culture, then that would promote cultural identity, multi-cultural understanding and appreciation, and thus leading to a more harmonious global community.

Professional Learning Communities versus Personal Learning Networks

Interesting post here on Professional Learning Communities versus Personal Learning Networks by Lorraine.

Choice and options are important in networked learning as shared in my post https://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/change11-autonomy-in-networked-learning-and-connectivism/

There are differences between Professional Learning Communities and Personal Learning Networks. Professional Learning Communities are more aligned with the FORMAL COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE, and there may be mandates as to how it would be sponsored, organised, and coordinated, with definite role definitions for community managers (principal, head teachers, counselors etc.) and other community members.  Those are rules based COP with definite outcomes, and sometimes could be running under a committee structure.

The PLN are more aligned with the Social Network approach where learning is emergent and thus would allow for more personal autonomy.  Previous researches (from our CCK researches) have revealed those observations by Timothy and many other networkers, in their various manifestations of blog postings and forum discussions.

These tensions always relate back to the choice, power and decisions, often associated with communities and networks.  The group versus networks discussion throughout the CCKs http://wwwapps.cc.umanitoba.ca/moodle/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=956 would be relevant here.

Learning Design and Complexity Science

My response to Jenny’s post on OLDSMOOC Design:

Hi Jenny and Roy,
I agreed with what Roy said, that you are a learning designer if you do all those things in a course, in an adaptive manner. What might typically happened is that instructional designers plan and design the curriculum, with multi-media and gamification in mind, trying to incorporate all the “essential” learning objects and artifacts to achieve the desired education outcomes (the learning outcomes, in the case of a course). The input management – or compliance with lesson plans are typically judged to be excellent when “all elements” of good instruction – like Gagne’s 9 steps of instruction are followed in a classroom environment, or that of mastery learning is followed, with sensory feedback and repeated drills and practice on the learners.

I wonder if we need to separate instruction design from learning design, as the former relates more on instruction (demonstration and modelling), whilst the latter relates more on (practice and reflection) (based on Stephen Downes’ proposed connectivist model), especially when learning is structured under MOOC.

I have been thinking about having learning design based on complexity science where:

“Complexity science, with its focus on emergence, self organization, inter-dependencies, unpredictability and non-linearity provides a useful alternative to the machine metaphor.
Complexity science suggests that the whole is not the sum of the parts. Emergent properties of the whole are inexplicable by the parts.” to study learning design, so each learning scenario needs to be re-modelled based on “grounded research” rather than a prescribed approach to the design of learning.

This might have a lot of similarities to your research on the footprint of emergence, though I think it really makes more sense when the teacher and learner shared their assumptions and frame of reference upon each learning task and experience, and thus making learning design a collaborative reflective experience, rather than a pre-determined learning pathway and learning outcomes.”

This sort of emergent learning could be based on narratives that are exchanged through blog postings and sharing, or project-based learning, between peer-to-peer and student-to-instructor.

Would that account for the differences between curriculum-led MOOC (typical for xMOOC) and community-led MOOC (typical for cMOOC)?

Such MOOC would be similar to the model in the AST1000 Course though I have been thinking of having a community led MOOC, rather than a curriculum led MOOC.


#CFHE12 #Oped12 The Yin and Yang of MOOCs : Part 4 Digital Identity and Openness

In my last post of The Yin and Yang of MOOCs, I shared what I believe to be the Yang (bright) side of MOOCs.

This post is devoted to the Yin (dark) side of MOOCs.  I would close it with the Yang (bright) side as the Yin is always embraced under the Yang (bright side) too.

This post exposes the dark side of MOOCs.  Doug says:

Coursera and its devotees simply have it wrong. The Coursera model doesn’t create a learning community; it creates a crowd. In most cases, the crowd lacks the loyalty, initiative, and interest to advance a learning relationship beyond an informal, intermittent connection.

Why should we be impressed that an online course can reach 100,000 students at once? By celebrating massification, advocates of Coursera elevate volume as the chief objective of online learning. Is that truly our goal in academe?

Our goal should be to design a customized program that matches technology with a student’s day-to-day objectives, not just course objectives or weekly learning objectives. We need to operate on a small scale where the online course or program is calibrated to meet the need of the individual student.

There are certain assumptions that we often made that relate just to the “good” and the “bad” sides of the tools or technology, and the use of MOOCs as platforms.  This also depends on what lens we might have used in judging the appropriateness of a tool (mooc) for particular learning context, from educational, administrative or learning perspective.

We might tend to struggle with the duality of many dimensions, facets of education and learning.  These include:

  1. pedagogy – the instructivism (teaching as an emphasis) versus connectivism (learning – PLE/PLN as an emphasis, and learning as practice and reflection, teaching as demonstration and modelling (Stephen Downes), or flipped classroom versus peer-to-peer learning (peeragogy and heutagogy)
  2. teaching style versus learning style
  3. the face-to-face versus online (or blended learning)
  4. the community of practice versus the networks of practice
  5. the group (classroom) learning versus individual learners personalised learning, or social learning versus personalised and self-paced & organised learning
  6. openness versus closeness, unity versus diversity
  7. governance versus autonomy
  8. education (provided by others) versus learning (do it yourself or independent learning)
  9. prescriptive versus emergent curriculum
  10. canonical versus emergent knowledge

These different “dualities” are indeed all interwoven with each others and could most likely be illustrated as evolving Yin and Yang cycle, with the social, cognitive, and teaching presence both evolving and significantly embedded in between each others during the education and learning process.  They are the yin and yang part of the MOOCs.

Community of Inquiry framework 755-4502-1-PB

We might have to un-pack each of these “themes” and re-bundle them to see which would lead to the extreme yins and yangs as perceived by administrators, educators and learners.

I also think one of the most important “themes” that most MOOCs haven’t addressed to the full extent is digital identity, and openness.

Digital Identity

Here in a post on enacting digital identity by Catherine, she says:

“In research on social networking within education, for example, Keri Facer and Neil Selwyn (2010) found that students saw a clear divide between “social interaction” and “educational interaction” on social networking sites, based on existing educational assumptions that “learning is organised around the individual and… oriented around content rather than process”. However, this may be changing. In their review of the research, Facer and Selwyn concluded that educators might need to “pay attention to social networking sites as important for the social construction of identity, including personal, social and learner identity”.”

As I have shared above, social construction of identity would be embedded as yin and yang of personal, social and learner identity.  I have also shared my views on digital identity here.

(Slides taken from – http://www.slideshare.net/Downes/the-meaning-is-the-message)


In this post on Openness, Eric highlights the pros and cons of Open Standards, Open Content and Open to the World.  Stephen commented that “there is a sense in the new world of ‘open’ that ‘open to the world’ means broadcasting rather than interaction, hence the focus on initiatives like TED and Khan academy rather that open discussion networks and wikis.”

I found this point on openness by Stephen especially resonating, and that is why I still think there are lots of lost opportunity for connectivist and emergent knowledge and learning that could have occurred in MOOCs (especially in the instructivist xMOOCs).

To me, what distinguishes x from c MOOCs is that xMOOCs focus mainly on individual’s performance and individual professor’s teaching excellence, whereas c MOOCs focus mainly on the growth and development of learners and instructors through the co-construction of community and networks, with openness and autonomy as fundamental pillars to individual and social learning.

As conceptualised by Stephen, what is most important is the decentralized nature of distributed learning, that is both a healthy and natural growth of the MOOC, with a landscape of community of learners (including those MOOC facilitators, guest speakers, and experts) continuing to interact and explore in the emerging fields of education and learning alongside the webs and internet.

In this connection, we could all sense the continuing engagement, support and stewardship of various pioneers like Stephen Downes, George Siemens, Dave Cormier, David Wiley, Alec Couros, etc. throughout the MOOCs development and community building in the past few years.  To me, these are based on open scholarship practice, and the establishment of both individual and community identity where values are shared and exchanged through conversation, in and beyond MOOCs.

There are however also another side of openness, when it comes to the establishment of MOOCs under formal institutional environment.  Here openness would be constrained by the various legislation laid out by governments.

Most institutions are expected to uphold the key of excellence and quality in higher education, as bound by the governance of education authorities, or their own constitutions.  This would ensure their status of awarding qualifications and the accreditation of courses.   From an institutional point of view, MOOCs must be established with the grounds of reinforcing the quality of online or distance education, so as to be aligned with the institution’s vision and mission.  Otherwise, it would diminish the role of formal institutions in Higher Education.  This is perhaps the critical point in deciding whether MOOCs are sustainable in the implementation of online education.

To be continued.

#CFHE12 #Oped12 What would be the future of virtual or online communities?

Benjamin Stewart remarks on Google plus: As I see the tons of Google+ Communities emerge, many related to similar subjects, I wonder which ones will remain and which ones will fade away…

This scenario seems to be a repetition of what happened before: with Ning, Facebook, and Google Groups. A typical life-cycle of introduction, growth and development, maturity and obsolescence is a typical pattern with such emergent group-network mix.

Which communities would remain? Wouldn’t that be an interesting subject to explore?

For some people who have experience in MOOCs, they would likely be the “early innovators” creating their own MOOCs or SOOCs, or communities in their space.  As I shared in my posts, people are morphing along in their own trajectory of learning and exploration, and so those communities which are “most accommodating” to their changing needs and expectations would flourish.  Such communities would also need to attract novices in order to thrive.  Would the pattern of 1-9-90 (where 1% would become vibrant communities, and 9 % very active – active communities, with 90% having inactive communities) emerge?

Image: from GoogleProduct Life Cycle R0505E_A


#CFHE12 #Oped12 MOOC Emerging as Landscape of Change and Learning Platform Part 6- A Network Ecology

Stephen Downes relates to this post on MOOCs as networks.

Stephen says:

What gets me is that he apparently has *no idea* that we’ve been doing MOOCs as networks for 4 years, and indeed that MOOCs *originated* as networks

Hi Stephen Downes

You have mentioned it in 2007 as I had cited in my post here  in that MOOCs as networks, and YES, indeed that MOOCs originated as networks, and “we” continued as networks with networked learning.

What surprised me is many educators are still looking for MOOC as a “group” and “team” with a shared and agreed common goal, which is where xMOOCs are situated and appropriated. Ideally, a team approach towards learning would likely achieve the vision and mission as set forth, based on the strategies set, and strategic actions development and action.

What might be overlooked in such way of group learning is they are addressing the simple and complicated scenarios of learning, and not the complex and chaos scenarios of learning (and education). I would like to attribute you in pointing out those important properties of networks (in MOOCs), and George Siemens for experimenting with the MOOCs that helps in revealing and validating those principles of network, and Dave Snowden on the framework on Complexity.

I think it may take years, or even decades before x MOOC educators and researchers would fully appreciate that group based learning will scale to a certain level, and that when it comes to huge networks, complexity and chaos principles must be applied in order to make it work. I don’t have all the empirical data to support my argument, as I haven’t got those data from x MOOCs.

However, the evidence collected from cMOOCs supported the networking approach towards learning, and group approach towards learning may be more appropriate under an institutional based, constrained and standardized curriculum, like the current xMOOCs.

The challenges with such xMOOCs are many.

How would an institution communicate its vision, mission and goals and strategies across participants of xMOOC – with hundreds of thousands of them? That is simply not possible. The participants would join xMOOCs as “networks”, form into groups or clusters (some may do it themselves, whilst others may be organised by the professors, TA, or other peers in the areas etc.). Such groups may then continue if there is sufficient bonding among them. Then it would be network-group-network etc. cycle, especially if group members have completed their assignments or discussion. Such pattern would be repeated which would likely be similar to that of learning post CCK08, provided that there are some enthusiastic learners and educators who would continue in practising their Network “leadership”. Is that the fate of xMOOCers and x MOOCs?

Finally, I have also shared in my previous post that such network approach towards learning with MOOCs would develop into a Community-Network-Cluster ecology, where participants would engage and morph along multiple networks, communities and clusters of networks or groups (within and outside institutions).