What is most important when conversing online?

Jenny Mackness provides an excellent review on what she has learnt from the course OldGlobeMOOC “Update-on-oldglobemooc-and-peer-assessment.”

I would like to share some of her points and responses to my questions here.

She says:

The OldGlobeMOOC is a great experience in terms of the diversity of participants. Unfortunately the younger participants, in their teens, who signed up, seem to have fallen out of the discussion forums. This does not mean that they are no longer participating through observation and reading – it’s difficult to know. But I have wondered how an 11 year old might review the assignment of an academic Professor, or how an academic Professor might respond to a learner with special needs, or a very young participant, or someone whose first language is not English, and so on. The assignment submission is anonymous. Do these differences have implications for the equity of the peer review process?

I ask:

Thanks Jenny for your insightful responses. It is interesting to have peer assessment on such topics. I am wondering if the peer assessment by peers are assessing based on whether the stories are resonating to their personal perceptions. Assessment may also relate to the degree of relatedness to ageing. After reading through those peer reviews, I have a few questions in mind. 1. Since the experience relates to the writer’s story and opinions, would the assessment relate more on how the story and opinions on ageing (emotional response) or the story structure and written expression (clarity and coherence)? 2. How to ensure a fair assessment under such blind assessment arrangement? As you mentioned, it may likely that a novice (11 old teenager) assessing an academic professor, or a veteran or geek. 3. How would one appeal to any “inappropriate assessment or review”? Are there any appeal mechanism or procedures in place? Should there be one, as you mentioned that you have been penalized though you have submitted all five reviews on time. I ask these for the sake of discourse, not as a challenge to the authority, or a “complaint”. I think it is important to ensure any assessment be viewed as open, transparent, and are based on the honest feedback, rather than hasty response. Though there might be good reasons why some people just give others a “2″, I just wonder if this would be “acceptable” in a peer assessment system. What do you think would be a better way to ensure a fairer assessment with xMOOC? John

Jenny elaborates:

Hi John – thanks for all these questions. I don’t think OldGlobe is typical of xMOOCs. In fact Sarah Kagan has called it a cMOOC and it does have a lot of the characteristics of a cMOOC – it is being run mostly on the Coursera platform, but there is also a Facebook group and Twitter, but I’m not aware of other bloggers. It is open in the sense that access is open, the assessment is open and there is very little course content, e.g. there are weekly videos, but no readings, and discussion can follow any path the participants would like. The course has great diversity of participation and discussion, and participants do have a lot of autonomy if they are not bothered about assessment. So a lot more like a cMOOC than an xMOOC. And judging from comments in the forums, the assessment in OldGlobe has been different.

The nature of the assessment questions does lead to storytelling and for me this is a strength because it means that anyone from any background can engage with the assessment – but as I have described it does lead to some difficulties with the peer review system. I think it’s possible for reviewers to take a number of approaches to the peer assessment – but this is how peer reviewers are asked to respond:

Please type your 100-250 word peer assessment below.

What do you think about this participant’s portfolio item choice to answer this question of the week?
How does this participant’s perspective differ from your point of view?
How is your point of view similar?

So in OldGlobe the criteria for peer assessment are quite loose and non-academic. So I don’t think it’s possible to think in terms of fairness, as we normally understand it in academic assessment, but rather in terms of empathy, kindness and respect. Reviewers are told:

An assignment only receives a zero if it is incomplete or did not follow the guidelines set for this week. Don’t be afraid to be generous!

And yes it is possible to appeal, by putting a question in the Help Forum – but participants have to have a genuine cause for appeal. It’s no good saying ‘I didn’t have time to do the peer reviews this week’ – hence the peer review I got which said

peer 2 → I’m headed for an airplane so don’t have time to review, and I won’t be back until after evaluation time ends so I’m just giving everyone a 2.

Based on what Jenny says above, the course does have a lot of characteristics of a cMOOC.  Also the nature of assessment questions does lead to story telling.  Indeed, one of the most attractive nature of online conversation is story telling and sharing, where bloggers share their anecdotes or learning scenarios, and reflect on those experiences that they have learnt.

The assessment criteria of this MOOC thus focuses on the reflection of similarities and differences in views and perceptions, and possibility the resonance or dissonance that one experiences in life upon reading the writings, especially when the author and reader relates to their perception or feelings of old age.  This could also be a powerful lesson for any one to imagine what it means to undergo the various stages of old age, physically, mentally and spiritually.

This sounds quite an interesting way to assessment for the participants too, as it could lead both the learner and the reviewer (who could also be a blogger or another learner) to assess based on his/her affections (feelings, emotions) towards what the learner think about old age, and thus provide a point of view which is distinct from the learner.

Would this assessment be designed to measure certain attitudes, and to a certain degree the emotional awareness, control and responses, and empathy- which are related to emotional and social intelligence?  See my posts here, here, and here.  This seems not to be explicit in the assessment, though I haven’t enrolled into the course, and thus not be aware of how the assessment is related to emotional intelligence.

Another dimension that I reckon such assessment would lead to is clarity and brevity in expressing one’s thoughts in writing (as there is a 250 words limit).  It seems that this is based on writing in English, and that grammar, use and choice of words, and structure of the writing would need to be taken into consideration in the assessment.  Would this be more about assessment on written English, based on the context and content?  How would the length of writing (i.e. 100 -250 words) affect the overall “quality” of the writing?  Are there any penalty if the writing exceeds the limit?  May be not, with such form of assessment.

Finally I could sense that such assessment may help the author and the reviewer to understand and apply the following basic principles in blogging and online conversation, based on writings:

1. Be concise and clear in writing

2. Be empathetic – understand others’ points of view, and empathize

3. Be kind, generous and sincere in comments and feedback – don’t patronize

4. Be open to others’ views and comments, even if we don’t agree with our readers’ points of views

5.  Be patient and listen to the reader’s comments and feedback

6. Be thankful to our commentators and readers

7. Be ourselves – in stating our views

8. Be supportive to each others’ learning, through such sharing of views and experiences

9. Be tolerant even if others are harsh on us, though at times, we need to be assertive

10. Be responsive to others, and be responsible for our own work

Does it also mean that sometimes it is the MacGuffin (as suggested by Stephen Downes) that sets off a good online conversation?  It is the emotional attenuation that would help people relate to our story, so they could also share their stories with us.  

What else have I missed?

Again, I think Jenny has been an master (and exemplary) blogger who role models how to write comprehensive blog posts and how to respond to comments in blogging and assessment.

You would find lots of master pieces in her blog posts.  I would encourage you to read her blog posts, where you would surely find lots of words of wisdom.

Thanks Jenny for her wonderful insights.

An important question in my life: How do I see positive psychology?

Positive psychology.  Sounds good. Feels good. Have a happy life.  Happiness is contagious.

What do I feel about psychology?  I like learning psychology since I was young.  So, I kept reading self-help books on psychology, watching videos, especially on emotional intelligence, and some papers on psychology.

Have a good habit, think and reflect, and improve one’s way of life through understanding positive psychology, and the thoughts and minds of myself and others.  Would you become happier?

Since psychology is a science, it requires an experimental approach to validate its hypothesis and confirmation of findings.

“But” psychology is about experiments.    And I have reservation of using human in experiments, no matter how much the findings would contribute to the knowledge in the world, I just don’t know if the emotions and feelings of people should be studied by psychologists without our consent.

Should all subjects under experimental observation be aware that they are under a psychological experiment?  Why?

What am I trying to share?  Being positive and happy could be proven to be of psychological benefits to ourselves and to others.  I just don’t think it is “right” to use human as experimental object to prove the theory, especially when these people are totally unaware of themselves being studied in the experiments.

Would this be applied to the study of people’s behavior in education too?  I know we are dealing with Learning Analytics and psychology, and the changing learning behavior under a “global” experiment.  I don’t know what it means to me when it comes to the validation of certain education theory.  May be we could assume that every one of us is consenting to be used as experimental objects, in order to learn more about learning.

Does it also relate to our positive psychology?

What do you think?

Cognitive Strategies and Affective dimensions in MOOCs

When I refer to the cognitive strategies and affective dimensions in MOOCs, I would like to relate to the reasons versus emotions in the discourse.

How would reasoning and emotions play a role in MOOCs?

In this paper relating to MOOCs.

“The train has left the station.
We do not know how far and how long it will run and where it will go. We do not even know if it has brakes”.

Photo credit: from Tony Bates post.

MOOC 8028605773_857fcd5548

How to design and not to design a MOOC? hinted the issues, challenges arising out of the recent xMOOCs, leading to its suspension.  There seems to be a lot of love/hate relationships and struggles going on with the MOOC participants.  Do these stem from the design of MOOCs or the perceptions and expectations of participants of MOOCs – on their reasoning and emotions towards learning in MOOCs?

There are many assumptions we have made in the design and delivery of MOOCs, where I once posted here and here.

In formal educational institutions, there are regulations (on teaching, assessment & support) which must be complied with for accreditation and management controls purposes. This may not easily be exercised in open networks where people won’t necessarily comply with, despite consent to join and participate, or being assessed in the course.

The love/hate (individual versus groups versus networks), personal and group autonomy, power exertion and tensions (who make the decisions, who control the group, who lead and who follow etc) emerge in MOOCs. The conflicts arising from engagement with facilitators/agents/peers in groups or community are not easily resolved, especially if people disagree with goals and outcomes set forth by others.

There are also many communication problems, as people may not understand each others, via such online postings only (i.e. hard to know about others’ expressions, due to cultural differences in the tone of voice, lack of body language etc.) Besides, the instructors are accountable and responsible for the outcomes, which seem to be a huge challenge for them to “teach” when confronted with huge amount of feedback, with negative ones in particular.

It seems that the auto-grading and machine learning MOOCs have little or not much problems mainly because there are no ways for such feedback be processed or posted, as those would be easily “interpreted” as unkind, not courteous and trolling behavior, if there aren’t any constructive solutions suggested. How could xMOOCs thrive in public educational institutions? What approaches should be adopted? How to resolve those conflicts of power and disagreements?

Learning Theories and the Assumptions behind them

Thanks Peter for a thorough review of General System’s theory.  Here is my post relating to a critique on whether Connectivism is a new learning theory or not https://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/my-reflection-on-connectivism-as-a-new-learning-theory-to-date/ I have been participating in the discourse about Connectivism since 2008, and since then I “believe” that it is a new learning theory.  However, I have raised many critical questions since then, in particular the notion of learning, as you have also mentioned in your comments – the social learning, at the level of learner behavior, and psychological ideas about motivation, rational choice behavior etc.

What I think is important is that connections in network is necessary but not sufficient in learning, and the principles that are postulated under Connectivism could also be emerging and are not prescriptive in nature.

Indeed, even the theory of emergence and the principles of Complexity Theory are very difficult to be applied in education.  We might however, be best to have some principles and a theory that approximates what actually happened, based on empirical research findings, rather than waiting for a complete learning theory that would soon prove to show that whole is greater than the sums of their parts, and that reductionism doesn’t reflect the reality of the truth.

I suppose that there are so many variables and strange attractors in an open system that any significant changes in parts of the system could create a totally different pathway (of learning) that may hardly be explained with conventional learning theories.  Even with the tens of thousands of research papers proving certain points of learning, we could challenge the assumptions behind each of the theory by critically examining the evidences presented, and the conclusions are: it is only valid if the assumed conditions are satisfied, based on certain context, certain people with certain behaviors (rational behaviors in general, and certain motivation patterns etc.) and certain professors and students etc.  That might be some light based on the arguments and evidences presented, using the scientific and empirical approaches towards research into those learning theories.

Nevertheless, I reckon there are still differences in perceptions and interpretations of any theory of learning presented, due to our differences in each of our learning experiences.

In MOOCs, more is less, and less is more (Part 1)

What do I mean by the more is less and less is more in MOOCs?

There are two types of MOOCs,  the cMOOCs and xMOOCs.  We have more x MOOCs than c MOOCs.  We might however have less chance to transform education, if we don’t go beyond the boxes in thinking and designing the learning.  There would be less “learning” if we are  to adhere only to the traditional way of teaching and learning – by mere lecturing, video taking, or just flipping the classroom, without reflecting and learning what they mean to our education and learning.

In this part 1, I would focus on c MOOC.

More is less in Connectivist MOOCs:

The more connections there are in c MOOCs, the less effective it seems to individual learners in learning when information or ” knowledge” is “pushed to the learners”.  Most learners (novices) would find difficulties in filtering information, in online learning such as MOOCs.  There are also associated emotions of confusion, feelings of overwhelming of information, and self-doubt in confidence when using new and emerging technology, or in conversing with others in social and learning networks.

In nearly all cMOOCs, the caveat is:

Adopt a pull approach in filtering information, pattern recognition and knowledge creation or construction.  McMOOC is a knowledge and learning ecology.  May I call it a McMOOC – The Meta Connectivist MOOCs?

As Jenny says:

Maybe a better approach is to focus on the novices, i.e. get the mentors working with them from the word go (my understanding is that the mentors haven’t started yet), make posts which explicitly state what the nature of open courses is, tell them to expect to be confused and find it overwhelming, tell them to pick and choose and so on.

The more novices there are in a MOOC, the more “guidance or direction” there seems to be required in order that the novices won’t get lost in the midst of chaos of information and space.   ‘Safety’ and ‘constraints’ might need to be considered in the design (Mackness, 2012).  However, too much protection and guidance given to the novices would only turn a c MOOC into a traditional or typical online MOOC, which would again deter novice learners from learning how to learn through “experience”.

Besides, advanced learners, veterans, knowledgeable others and experts  in the MOOCs who are there to support novices would find it difficult to help others, if they don’t see clearly what their roles are in the MOOCs.

Jenny again:

Pedagogy First course site, for example, we are urged to keep our posts short, to not use ‘jargon’, to not discuss things that might be ‘jumping ahead’ in the syllabus, to focus only on the tasks required by the syllabus, to not post anything controversial. If we want to do this, then we should not tag our posts with ‘potcert’ even if we think the topic is related to online pedagogy.

With the novices in MOOCs, less “complicated post” is needed, in terms of “less words” in posts, and less number of “expert” advice from different sources, as such advice could be confusing, and conflicting for them.

What sort of spaces would be helpful in learning?

Lisa in her post higher-ed-and-the-monastic-space says:

Our exciting “new models” for higher education are models that counter industrialized and standardized education, which is great. They emphasize collaborative work, social learning, and the affordances of the web in achieving greater learning through guided exploration and community, all fabulous things. But in promoting them as a substitute for “old style” learning, they also risk eliminating a place that may have become the last monastic space in which to work with the mind.

There are different spaces for learning. I think the old style learning has its genesis rooted in which learning existed in closed spaces, and often learning in solitude.

I found solitary learning quite enjoyable, though it is also challenging, as that requires lots of self-organised, disciplined and paced learning in order to succeed, when there aren’t lots of people learning with you.

For me, the physical spaces and virtual spaces could serve different learning purposes.  c MOOC is resorted to the virtual space, but offer spaces that are distinctly less confronting than the physical spaces, with face-to-face teaching and learning.

More connections, more experience with less dependence on “teaching”

When I first joined CCK08, I realized the importance of striking a balance between connections and expert advice at an early stage of the course.

Most people might get confused when they think a c MOOC is like a traditional online course where the teacher teaches, and the students learn and consume the knowledge from the course, like reading a book, an artifact, or watching and listening to a video lecture, and be assessed on what has been taught or covered in the texts and references.  That was the instructivist approach – based on behavioral/cognitivist learning theory, where the learners master the content, probably with the transfer of knowledge from one person/information source to that of the learner.

What actually happens in a cMOOC, and is expected is: the learners would learn best through participating in the various discourse, engaging with the learning activities, projects, interacting with each others (instructors, participants, peers, guest speakers or experts etc.), and connecting through a diverse space and learning platforms.  The focus of learning has shifted from learning as acquisition of skills and knowledge to learning as conversation, participation, and a peer-cooperative and collaborative process, and a knowledge as network formation and re-creation, and learning as knowledge creation (emergent knowledge in particular), growth and development, centered around the learner, and the community of learners or network of learners.

More connectivity, less structure

The more connectivity there are, the less formal structure of learning is required.  The more knowledge developed and grown, the less the dependence would be on the instructors and experts.  In other words, the learning cycle could ensure that the learners are transformed into experts within such a learning-growth-development-maturity cycle, through continuous planning, learning in action, reflection, adjustment of learning, re-action of learning and re-planning of the learning in action.

Motivation and Access First

As pointed out by Gilly Salmon: Access and motivation is essential for novices in any online course.

Without motivation, participants would either lurk or drop out from the course.

So, the more motivated the learners are, the less chance they would withdraw from the course, and the less constraints we should impose on the learners.

If our ultimate goal is to support the learners to achieve their goals, then we all need to help the learners in searching and “defining” their goals if possible, at the early stage of the course.

Mark highlights in his post on education and motivation

We establish our identity and reputation online to the extent that we contribute. We can’t be heard (or seen) unless we speak. We do this by uploading, commenting, and registering our presence through our interactions with others. This has important implications for how we approach education (offline as well as online).

Passion is important

The learners also need to find their passions in their search for “knowledge” and wisdom.  This may be part of the pathways in the MOOC.

Refer to Sir Ken Robinson’s” The element: How finding your passion changes everything”.  I think MOOC is about finding your passion through the engagement and conversation with others, leading you to more readily understand your identity and relationship with others and the society at large.

MOOC as learning and research platform

MOOC provides a platform for both novices, veterans and experts to share, learn and co-operate together, and so they could be connected to those like-mindedness networkers, different dissenters and knowledgeable others on a global basis.  That is where more exposure to the platforms would give rise to less “group think”.

MOOC is a GAME we all could play

Besides, there needs to be certain elements of fun, curiosity to learning and moments of excitement, or the AHA moments, in any introduction in MOOCs.  I have summarised them here in my previous post.  Let’s hedge the golden eggs with more fun, and less anxiety – of failure in MOOCs!

Isn’t it interesting to incorporate the pedagogy of gamification in education in MOOC?

#Change11 A moving story – the learning starts

Watching and listening this moving story, full of emotions, passion, led me to think about my childhood…

Everyone has a story to tell, and you are making your own story known to yourself, to the world, through your journey of life.  Only you could tell the whole story, and share.

“You are remarkable, and your footprint will leave a legacy for the world to hear, to watch and to learn” Isn’t that what story is all about?

I know not about poetry. I haven’t got the words that I want to use. I only know how to feel and sense the emotions through my heart felt words and share those using the limited words that I could spell, on this page of life.  Isn’t that enough? No, I want to describe them visually, but better still I would let the world know who I am, where I came from.  So, that is where the story begins…

The above is what I made up, so hope that my audition is adding up the emotions to her mind.