MOOC as the silver bullet

I would like to relate to Alex Kuskis’ comments provided here where he points to:

  1. The unaffordability of the American campus model, based on tuition price increases year after year, with students incurring immense debts, leading to a student loans crisis and financial bubble that will sooner or later burst, just as the housing bubble did. See “A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College”, ; “Universities on the Brink”, ; “College Bubble Set to Burst in 2011”, .
  2. Questioning whether learning happens at all in traditional university education, especially undergrad education. See “Does College Make You Smarter”, .
  3. The traditional university’s crisis of purpose, . 
  4. The university: still dead – Andrew Delbanco’s insightful new book on the history and future of the American college exposes an institution that has no idea what it should be, by Angus Kennedy, .
  5. The fading legitimacy of liberal arts colleges, .
  6. The widespread perception that universities require “fixing”,
  7. The fact that universities are ripe for disruption: .
  8. The ineffectiveness of lectures, still the dominant teaching method in universities: “The College Lecture, Long Derided, May Be Fading”, .

Are MOOCs the silver bullets for education?  Not yet.

There are some positive results here with Udacity, though the experiment has again revealed that MOOCs could be helpful for certain students and learners whilst may not be a panacea for those who need individual learning or support, including mentoring, coaching or tutoring.  Such pedagogy has proven to be effective in traineeship and apprenticeship programs.

However, in an online environment and platform such as MOOCs, one on one mentoring with professors or personal tutors (teaching assistants) could be prohibitively costly and thus not possible.  An alternative is to arrange volunteer or paid tutors and mentors in such MOOCs who could provide the coaching required for novice learners, as I have shared here and here.   There are implications with such approaches, as additional mentoring and coaching may incur fees, and the need of an infrastructure with systems of policy, procedures and protocols as normally present in an institutional framework to assure quality support learning services.

There is also a need to balance between self-organizing nature of networked learning with a focus of autonomous learning embedded with the instructivist mastery learning approach in such MOOCs to ensure optimum learning outcomes.  Many novice learners may overly rely on the “teach, drill and test” sort of mastery learning.  Such instrumental learning is practised in senior high school or entry level college, in preparation of their entrance examination to university.  Though there are merits with mastery learning for prescriptive knowledge and learning on defined curriculum, the mechanistic and instrumental learning associated with the consumption of knowledge would limit their growth and development in critical thinking and metacognitive skills, sensemaking and way finding.

That is where MOOCs providers need to re-vamp their programs with technology as enabler, so as to cater for their learners’ needs. These would further foster new and emerging pedagogy in education, not just a reinforcement of what they are currently offering to their students.

In summary, continuous improvement and innovation in practice in an ever changing world of MOOCs and education.

A white paper on MOOC

Nice paper on MOOC:

As the text is copyrighted,  I would refer part of it here:

1. What new pedagogies and organisational mechanisms might be required if MOOC are to deliver a high quality learning experience?

xMOOCs have been criticised for adopting a knowledge transmission model; in essence, they are considered to be technology-enriched traditional teacher-centred instruction (Larry, 2012).

By contrast, cMOOCs provide great opportunities for non-traditional forms of teaching approaches and learner-centred pedagogy where students learn from one another.  Online communities ‘crowd-source’ answers to problems, creating networks that distribute learning in ways that seldom occur in traditional classrooms in universities.

Here I have elaborated on cMOOCs:

The c MOOCs

The second type of MOOC are those which focus principally on the learners’ preferences and thus be based on learner-centred model of teaching and learning.  Here the professors would negotiate the teaching with learners with networked based learning.  The focus would likely be on the education and learning process, with distributed learning and technology as an enabler, with a connectivist approach towards learning and crowd sourcing as a means to aggregate the distributed learning.  This could be the current model of c MOOC, based on emergent learning.

The new pedagogies and organisational mechanisms that might be required include a hybrid model of MOOCs where content and process are mixed and matched to suit different cohorts of educators, professors and learners.

My observation and comments about the paper:

1. It is great to have a summary on MOOCs, providing an overall view about the current trend of MOOCs and their implications on Higher Education.  This is surely welcomed by many MOOC providers, Higher Education Institutions and their decision makers and administrators.

2. The paper used a number of sources as references, including wikipedia, blog posts and media posts, rather than the formal peer-reviewed papers.  This seems a radical approach towards referencing, in white paper.  What criteria should be used in the selection of such sources as references in white and research papers?  It could be interesting to learn from the authors how decisions are made on this matter.

3. This paper is unique in that most of the findings are drawn from blog posts and discussion papers, which is pretty useful.  I think more research findings with empirical data (big data and learning analytics) would help in revealing the SWOTS of MOOCs.

The paper is a must read for any policy makers, administrators, professors and educators who are interested in the design and development of online/distance education and MOOCs.

Application of Game Theory in the design, delivery and assessment in MOOCs

This Lifelong education on Steroids provides an excellent and insightful overview about MOOCs.  What I would add is that MOOCs could be one the game changers in Higher Education, not just online education.  Why?  Higher Education has been a game in business, where each of the game players are playing a fair, though competitive game in a global arena for decades.  

The strategic alliance and partnership is one of the macro approaches in game playing where institutions are working with various other education providers or services in order to enhance the overall education and learning experiences of the learners, or consumers and customers.

How would Game Theory help in the design, delivery and assessment in MOOCs?

There are two main approaches that we could consider – a macro and a micro approach.

Macro approach:

First, to design MOOCs based on Game Theory, on a macro scale. What this involves is to compare and contrast the various design of x and c MOOCs, based on a set of principles where networked learning and mastery learning is leveraged, especially when an institutional education model is based.  This could be demonstrated and applied by taking into consideration the payoff and expected return with each probability (i.e. un-bundling of each of the present services of typical MOOCs services as described here) and re-bundling them with values and benefits for each cohort of learners and educators.

Second, to deliver MOOCs based on Game Theory principles which include those elaborated in this Understanding the MOOC Trend.

Third, to assess MOOCs based on a combination of automation and human intervention, where learning analytics and big data are used to provide feedback to both educators and learners on a continuous basis.  This paper on assessment on MOOCs provides an insightful approach to incorporate

Micro approach

This involves strategically designing MOOCs based more on the games with various multimedia and interactive game story, where assessment and learning are built in to engage both professors and learners to co-explore and learn through the education process.  Games could also be used for assessing learners in a personal and adaptive way, though this would involve a total different design from the instructivist approach.  This includes peer-teaching and learning as proposed by Eric Mazur and other educators.  Indeed peer teaching and learning is one of the pedagogy adopted in a connectivist approaches towards learning.

It should be noted that the majority of peer-tutoring programs for students are intended to complement, not substitute for, regular classroom instruction. Tutoring should never be a substitute for professional teaching. An ideal learning atmosphere is as a rich blend of peer and adult instructional strategies.

Cited From:

In summary, game theory could be used in the design, delivery and assessment in MOOCs, with an overall improvement in the learning and education experiences of learners.

What would you get out of MOOCs?

Do you want to teach in a MOOC? Why teach a MOOC?

For me, teaching a MOOC is an extension of what you teach in an online course, only that you would reach a massive audience. There is more, for learning, than teaching when MOOCs are structured with different pedagogical approaches, as they evolved.  MOOCs are not just about teaching though as they are more related to learning and educational experience that covers the social, teaching and cognitive presence.

MOOC won’t “correct” those teaching with “poor pedagogy”, but surely MOOC provides different avenues for teachers to design online courses with an experimental approach.

The best way to learn from MOOCs may be “mistakes”, not success, as this is captured here:

There is still debate about whether MOOCs can replicate the educational experience of a traditional classroom, but in general the large-scale online courses have managed to avoid being panned outright. Udacity, a competing MOOC provider, was forced to cancel a mathematics course last summer due to concerns over quality—but the incident appears not to have significantly damaged that company’s brand.

Isn’t it true that most of us made mistakes when doing experiments.  This is especially the case when performing social experiments on the web, or networks, where a scientific approach could be in “conflict” with the humanistic approach, facing lots of resistances and challenges, from each side of the schools – “the traditional school”, “the progressive school”, “the venture capitalist school”, “the innovative and disruptive school”.

There are lots of interesting learning we could gain from the MOOC experience, as an observer, researcher, participant, or professor. Some of these experience of MOOC have challenge our views about online education, learning and the role and mission of higher education institutions.

How would people view MOOCs?  Would MOOCs kill research university?

So what happens if undergraduate teaching is something that is magicked away through the technological change of MOOCs? Clearly that river of cash that supports the professoriate disappears. As does the need for quite so many professors of course. Which will in turn lead to there being very many fewer people conducting research as there just won’t be as many people in universities in the future.

When most of the resources are directed towards MOOCs, who would fund and conduct researches in the universities?  May be that is the downside of MOOCs on research universities, as the pendulum is now swinging from research to teaching using MOOCs.

We are further witnessing a crossroad where conservative school of teaching (where lecture reigns best) is challenged by innovative, disruptive, though instructivist school of teaching (where mini-chunked base video lecture coupled with mastery learning reigns supreme).

As we unbundled teaching, MOOCs have become a platform where a complex mix of activities are offered both by MOOC providers, teachers and “consumed” by the participants and students.  These have been elaborated in this Understanding the MOOC Trend.

What would we get out of this MOOC trend?  Why MOOCs?  That is the very basic question for every institution to consider.  To what extent would their MOOCs be differentiated from the other “mainstream MOOCs”?  Are they superior MOOCs?  Why would you teach in MOOCs?  Should teachers curate rather than teach and compete with the super professors of MOOCs?

Why not send our students to the MOOCs so they could learn there, whilst we as educators could enjoy the smart teaching and learning with our students with less efforts.  See George’s video on this.

Am I doing this now?  I have been thinking about this way of teaching for the past few years.

I have used many of the resources available on the Web for free and found great achievements by my students.  So, teaching could be done more effectively by being a curator, facilitator and supporter, rather than a pure “lecturer”.

Do you see it that way?

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.