MOOCs: Assumptions and Challenges

Are Assumptions part of the MOOC story? I reckon people have been making lots of assumptions about MOOCs since their inception, based on Assumptions Theory.

Photo image: Google

Assumption images (3)

Are people assuming a linear or complex pathways towards privatization or monetization with xMOOCs?  There has been some evidences showing that MOOCs movement is based on Complexity Theory and so its trajectory is non-linear, and is therefore complex, due mainly due to the interaction of the agents and changes in the environment.   At the early stage of MOOCs, the MOOC providers promised to keep MOOCs open and free, thus getting the name of MASSIVE OPEN ONLINE COURSE.

I don’t see many people could have predicted the outcomes of MOOCs nowadays, except a few people, like Clay Christensen, Dave Cormier, Stephen Downes and George Siemens.

What are the Assumptions and challenges of MOOCs?

Assumption 1:  When MOOCs are free of charge, people would love to try in order to experience the often highly appraised elite Higher Education Courses offered by Institutions.  I reckon this is most likely true, especially for those who couldn’t afford paying tuition for Higher Education courses,  especially in developing countries, or those who couldn’t attend Higher Education Institutions in persons, due to geographical reasons.

Are MOOCs freebies? MOOCs are now becoming the favorite off-springs of FREEBIES of elite Institutions.

It would continue to attract non-fees paying students all over the world.  Would these “global” students be looking for more MOOCs which are free?  I think this would likely be true.

What if…

  1. What would happen if MOOCs are not free of charge any more?  What percentage of students are willing to pay, and what percentage of students are not willing to pay, if MOOCs are charged?
  2. What would happen if learners realize that they are now more interested in the qualifications, rather than the education in MOOCs? What percentage of students are just interested in qualifications?  What percentage of students are not interested in qualifications?
  3. What would happen if professors are urging for a better pay or remuneration as a result of hundreds of thousands of students enrolled into their MOOCs?  What percentage of professors are willing to teach extra students “free of charge”?  What percentage of professors are not willing to teach extra students “free of charge”?
  4. What would happen if MOOCs are now closed, and become Massive Online Course only? What percentage of students would stay with a closed course MOC? What percentage of students would leave the closed course MOC?

To what extent would this pattern of free MOOCing be sustainable?

Is this massive version of online education going to invert the tradition of higher education?  There are no precedence relating to such huge education movement.

Assumption 2: MOOCs attract students as the MOOC providers carry the big “brand” together with the “super-professors”.  I reckon this assumption is very true, especially when nearly everyone said that this is true.  Most learners would prefer to learn with the prestigious institutions and famous and super-rock star professors.

Assumption 3: MOOCs’ success is  evaluated based on number of students enrolled into the course, and may be the number of students who successfully completed the course.

Here is a discussion panel on MOOCs.

Sounds like that every one is excited about MOOCs, as there have been huge success in the enrollment of massive students into the courses.  More students mean the possibility of getting a higher market share of the global education market, and likely more revenue generated with the potential students, especially if some of these students could join the mainstream degree or diploma course and pay the tuition fees based on their MOOCs’ completion or transfer.

The present MOOCs are now entering into the era where QUALITY and VALUE seems to be based on the number of student enrollments in the courses.

Assumption 4: MOOC as the last Call Cards in Higher Education

MOOC is now the CENTRAL ECONOMICS OF EDUCATION – DISRUPTING the Higher Education to its fullest extent. Here efficiency and effectiveness of education has finally been drawn based on this CALL CARD – MOOC to revolutionize Higher Education.  You got to love free Higher Education! But there is a price to pay.  MOOC and you’re out of a job: Uni business model in danger.

Assumption 5: MOOCs are successful because they are based on flipped class and an instructivist/behavioral approach in education.

Should Education based on MOOC be Teacher or Learner and Learning Centered?

Tony writes in his wonderful post web-2-0-will-change-everything-in-online-learning:

The need for course re-design The use of these tools need to be driven by the learning objectives. Indeed these tools enable us to achieve different learning objectives from more traditional modes of teaching, with a particular emphasis on intellectual skills development.

Tony outlines the need of advanced course design built around core skill and knowledge management, open content, online project, peer review and discussion and assessment by e-portfolio.

I agreed with the need to restructure course towards a student-centered approach where students could take an active part in the learning process, like choosing content and working on project either individually or cooperatively with others in order to achieve goals.  Indeed the use of e-portfolios as evidence of learning have been adopted by lots of professional institutions as a basis for certification and admission for professional membership.  e-portfolio is also part of the personal knowledge management strategy where the student develops and reflects on his/her learning.

Assumption 6: MOOCs must be based on prescriptive learning outcomes, and prescriptive knowledge and learning methodology.  Should Learning Objectives be prescriptive or emergent?

In a formal education framework, since most learning objectives are prescriptive in nature, students would likely be guided towards the achievement of those objectives through structured activities as designed in the course.  A traditional approach is for the students to listen to the lectures, follow what have been taught, and complete the assignments to demonstrate competency for the prescribed course. Even the present xMOOCs are following such an approach where students are expected to remember, understand and apply what the professor has explained in the video lectures, and to pass the quizzes, assignments, examinations set up for the course.  Students are not expected to generate multimedia content, as that is not what the course is based upon, and could hardly be assessed if there is a huge crowd of students of tens of thousands.

Assumption 7: MOOCs are still the “ruling master” in education, as standardized goals, curricular, and standardized tests, quizzes and examinations remain supreme in Higher Education.

What are the challenges associated with the educational use of the Web, Social Networking, and Media based on MOOCs (even for xMOOCs)?

“A challenge associated with the educational use of the Web, social networking, and media, based on the MOOC distributed learning model, is that the open, emergent, chaotic nature of online interaction might conflict with the rigidly organized social structure of formal education, which involves prescriptive learning, standardized goals and curricula, fixed schedules, age-based grouping, classroom-based organization, and examinations.” (Kop et al 2010)

Khan makes a convincing case that universities are no longer the only place where legitimate learning takes place; we should put learning from all sources on equal footing and assess it through an independent approach – competency-based assessments. In addition, those options must include affordable, accessible, timely and relevant learning opportunities that will meet the needs of students and employers.

Ray in this post on disrupting-degree-credentialing says:

Indeed, it is the lack of such options that is driving the advent of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and other open and affordable online learning alternatives. One method may be the Mozilla-hosted secure “backpack” to hold badges from universities and other sources.

Assumption 8: Prior Learning Assessment and credit transfer based on MOOCs would be supported by Institution soon. Would prior learning assessment be a solution in lowering the cost in degree education in Higher Education?

The critical questions relate to whether prior learning assessment would become a way to recognize learners’ learning formally, based on the evidences submitted for assessment.  I think there are merits with the use of prior learning assessment as a measure of learning.  How about the emergent knowledge and learning that are now critical success to business and education?  The current move towards MOOCs show exactly why the canonical knowledge is not sufficient to “survive” in the education industry.

Assumption 9: Credit Transfer of MOOC is a challenge and issue for Higher Institutions.  This seems also a critical moment for many institutions as they are still hesitant to introduce credit transfer for MOOC learners, mainly because of the doubts about the “quality” of the courses based on peer assessments, which are still not fully recognized as being fair and reliable, and the possibility of  students “cheating” and “plagiarising” in MOOCS. Besides, if the learners are to exchange their answers to the assignments, questions of the quizzes, examinations of MOOCs, would that be a concern for Education Authority or Institutions?  Students could also enroll into xMOOCs using a variety of identities, so as to attempt the quizzes, examinations, and assignments with multiple try.  To what extent have these happened?  Are there any statistics revealing such phenomena?   If MOOCs unit completion are accepted for credit transfer, would this become an issue?

Assumption 10: xMOOCs could exist mainly as disruptive technology, not sustainable technology. If xMOOCs are to be sustainable, then they would need to change its paradigm towards a connectivist or social constructivist approach in order to overcome the tsunami and turbulence that MOOCs have created to “overturn” or disrupt the traditions of Higher Education.


#CFHE12 #Oped 12 How a theory and technology will change the world? Part 1

Scientific approach to teaching I have been wondering what theories would change the world.   Social Constructivism, Cognitivism, and Behaviorism have both shaped and changed the world to a certain extent.  Connectivism, a new and emergent learning theory has come along the centre stage and significantly influenced the way we educate and learn, using networks and tools.

How about Assumptions Theory that I have postulated?

In this Theory, we are making assumptions about learning from different perspectives.  From an educator’s perspective, we have made assumptions about the needs and readiness of learners, and assumed that there are best teaching and learning strategies for particular learners under particular learning context.  Experiments and research have been conducted to validate the findings.  From a learner’s perspective, the learners have assumed that they would be able to achieve the learning goals based on certain learning strategies, that suit their particular learning styles, and under certain learning context or ecology.

Here there are 7 assumptions about the future of HE and University in Education Stormfront:

“7 assumptions I think have to remain true for the university model to continue as it currently is.

  1. The perception of most people will still be that it is worth it to get into huge debt in order to get a university degree.
  2. The perception of most people will still be that the best way to get a university degree is by physically attending a college.
  3. The perception of most people will still be that if you want to learn something, you must go to a school.
  4. The students raised in the Internet age will still accept that the best way to learn is still mass lecturing.
  5. Businesses will continue to rely on a university degree as a signaling mechanism for employment.
  6. Despite many people’s effort and millions of dollars of investment, not a single person or organization will come up with an online system of learning that is a) as effective or more so than traditional college and b) cheap
  7. Opportunities for learning will remain scarce and expensive.”

Assumptions and challenges of Open Scholarship (George Veletsianos and Royce Kimmons, 2012), where they highlight:

The intention of this paper is (a) to identify the assumptions of the open scholarship movement and (b) to highlight challenges associated with the movement’s aspirations of broadening access to education and knowledge. The goal of this paper is not to frame open scholarship as a problematic alternative to the status quo. Instead, as we see individuals, institutions, and organizations embrace openness, we have observed a parallel lack of critique of open educational practices. We find that such critiques are largely absent from the educational technology field, as members of the field tend to focus on the promises of educational technologies, rarely pausing to critique its assumptions.

To me, the assumptions behind open scholarship movement have hinted the move made by professors, scholars and researchers, institutions and organizations in charting out their own directions of developing and practising open scholarship.  These open educational practice is now manifested either under an institutional framework, or merely on individual created framework.  This set the precedence of exploring with experimentation and entrepreneurship at the extraordinary scale with technology affordance –  MOOCs and/or social network platforms and tools.  Though no one has rightly predicted the outcome of such movement, it seems these complex and evolving “strange attractors” would always interact and generate another set of disruptions that cause the education to change its direction.

Will technology change the world? Definitely, as we have seen how computers, internet and world wide webs have actually transformed the world.

How about MOOCs?

There are lots of metaphors on MOOCs – the MOOC R Us

For in under a year, the rise of the MOOCs (massively open online courses) has fundamentally reshaped how we think and talk about teaching and learning in higher education. MOOCs have become the darlings of the educational policy world: they have been cited as the solution to the college debt crisis, as the future of higher education, as the best way to make higher education more productive, and at the center of the recent intrigues at the University of Virginia that almost toppled its president.

What have we assumed here? MOOC could revolutionise conventional higher education (by the universities and tertiary institutions), through the introduction of massive education, as these courses are open, free for all to join and participate, and most importantly more cost effective in providing high quality higher education.

Another set of assumptions relate to their extensive use of professors and technology to build up the “just in case education scenarios” as there are more demands than the supply currently available for higher education – degrees and diplomas offered by the universities.

Other assumptions are based on the premises that mass lecturing is no longer that effective.  Lecturing (mass lecturing in particular) has been hailed as the effective way to transmit information, based on the assumption of scarcity of information and professors and educators.

Half of all faculty do nothing but lecture in all or most of their classes; and what they lecture about is usually at the very bottom of Bloom’s Taxonomy, focusing on factual recall rather than critical analysis, synthesis or application; and that knowledge is itself barely absorbed by students for more than a semester. Sometimes I half-wonder, in those long moments of the night, whether it might be better if we were indeed replaced.

What about the reality?  Most, if not all of the educators and professors that I have once met or learnt with like lecturing.  In my previous post on lecturing – Is lecturing, the cream of teaching, at the mercy of learning, I reflected that:

Relating to the use of videos in higher education, certain trends are clear, where video production and consumption rate are exploding.  Every minute, approximately 13 hours of video are uploaded to Youtube.  University lectures on Youtube are exploding at an exponential rate too, though it is still not yet fully known on their use as an OER among students, except  by checking on the number of hits on those lecture videos.

Besides, there are education videos on TED.COM that is competing for the attention of general public, educators and learners.

Mass lecturing or classroom based lecturing is still the holy grail that would last for another decade.

What are the views of educators and learners in lecturing as a means to achieve the educational learning goals?  Here in a post:

Easy! Easy! Easy!

Is it any wonder students want Powerpoint slides of their lectures? They know that there is a world of knowledge available to them on any given subject. They also know that they will be tested on some of this information. Why not demand that the lecturer condense, organise, and present the information that is considered most important – saves the student from having to do it themselves.

Not a surprise, aha! Lecturers teaching in accordance to what is required in the course curriculum, and ensure the learning outcomes are met, through exposition of the deep-down-to earth content, case-by-case, point-by-point, and checking whether the students comprehend what has been taught through quizzes, tests, and examinations.  Isn’t it what the administrators want to achieve, in terms of making sure the lecturers are satisfying the students’ needs and expectations, in providing a summary of learning, the cream of knowledge and wisdom.  This would make sure that the students would conform with the requirements set by the potential employers in future work, as these students are accredited with a degree of excellence in achievement and are ready for employment.

What about the lecturers?

 Lecturing is easy to do. In one hour (or 90 minutes or whatever) you can deal with 40, 50 100, 200 or 1000 students. In and out with minimal effort (plus the accompanying buzz). In addition, lectures are sustainable – easily recycled and reused. They are an easy way to teach.

In MOOCs, there are now so many professors coming forth to the centre stage that it seems to become the next grand “show business” where educators and professors are all “educating” the tens of thousands of MOOCs participants through their video performance.  Every single MOOC professor has to present herself or himself in front of the “camera”, or the web cams, in order to get the attention from their potential “students”.   TED talks have become the test beds for more and more speakers (educators, entertainers, designers, professors etc.) to both practise and showcase their expertise to the world.

This is again unprecedented as the presenters, professors, educators and even students are competing against both time and space in order to “teach” the world.  Youtube,, provide ample spaces for such creators to post their videos.

Our assumption here is: videos are ubiquitous, and there are abundant videos for use in open education.  The reality is: The quality and value of those “education videos” are yet to be evaluated, as many videos might just be memes, or entertainment videos.

Is Gangnam style one of that type of entertainment video/meme?  It may be just a fad, though an important one in 2012 that has broken all records in Youtube, in terms of number of hits.  Massive number of hits is what advertisement counts, and what education with the media wants.

If one could achieve fame and get all the attention from the media, could education based on a remix, repurpose, and recreate also achieve that same purpose – of educating the mass population through such a means?  Or may be the current xMOOCs are doing exactly what it is trying to achieve.

What theory would likely be able to describe the current MOOCs movement?  How about the Just in case versus Just in time learning scenario?

To me, xMOOCs relate more to just in case education and learning, whilst cMOOCs relate more to just in time education and learning scenarios, though there could also be a hybrid of the just in case & just in time all blended in x or c MOOCs.

If you want to unpack more myths about lecturing (in MOOCs, or physical face-to-face) see this:

Scientific approach to teaching

What are the assumptions behind teaching based on a scientific approach?

Are we racing with time and space and competing with the education and learning chains in this education mania?  MOOC mania in particular!

I will continue to reflect in the Part 2 of this series.  We have more assumptions to make, to chart out the future of higher education.

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Photo credit: Google Image

Do you question Assumptions?

I quite enjoyed this video presentation by Professor Goldberg

My main take away are:





I will focus on assumptions in this first reflective post.

This is resonating as I have been reflecting on the assumptions of all Learning and Education Theories based on Assumptions Theory, and some related posts reflecting on the assumptions behind.

Such assumptions are best illustrated through an examination of the rhetoric and reality.

Siemens et. al. in his Handbook of emerging technologies for learning discusses the growing points of tension along:

1. Education/business

2. Accreditation/reputation

3. Transformation/utility

4. Research/responding

5. Formal/informal

6. Open/closed

7. Expert/Amateur

8. Hierarchy/Network and Command/Foster

9. Pace/Depth

10. Epistemology/Ontology

That is a very useful critique on what the challenges we are facing.  The questions that could emerge from such critique are the assumptions behind each of the tension points.

What questions would we need to raise to unfold the dichotomy of each of these assumptions or findings?

What assumptions have we made relating to the learning from technology?