A response to Revamping a MOOC

Lisa has posted an important one on Revamping a MOOC http://lisahistory.wordpress.com/2008/11/29/course-recommendations-revamping-a-mooc/


I found her post so inspiring that I would like to respond to it here:

Hi Lisa,
This is an interesting debate.  I appreciate your, Bob’s and Jenny’s points on the course on restructuring and other comments. 
My point is: It’s really difficult to have a black or white strategy under connectivism – is it duality or plurality?  Are there any grey areas?
As mentioned by Jenny, a fully learner centered approach could be complex and chaotic.  I have used that in my on-the-job training and assessment in Distribution Centre Training.  Every learner becomes a leader.  They decide what, how, when, where and why they would like to learn them, all on an individual basis.  Every learning experience would be based on their needs, not mine.  I could be the guide on the side…
So, what make sense to the learner may not be what the instructor wants to do. And whether connectivism could really achieve this would depend on the learning paradigm adopted by the learner, not only the teacher.
For me, I take the stance of a learner (while I am a teacher by profession).  But I may not be connected to others, as others may be avoiding me as I am a “teacher”.  These are just my speculation.  With the same token, George and even Stephen took a stand-off role in some ways, to let go of the teacher’s hat.  But, what are the reactions of the participants? It’s a complex and emergent situation.  A structured course like this will suit someone like you, perhaps.  But, again under connectivism, a network or community of practice will suit a bigger “audience”.  Are we having the “right” audience or participants for this course?  Are we having the “learner centred” approach to “teaching and learning”?  This experiment has revealed part of the emergent phenomena.  Does it mean that we have to become “true” learners to appreciate connectivism?  Would you mind me including everyone, you, Jenny and me as true learners?  I am not sure whether Stephen and George would agree.  ??


What is needed for research?

“Connectivism can draw much from research in related fields such as neuroscience for understanding biological basis of learning, AI for how neural networks function, sociology for external connections, psychology for conceptual formations, systems thinking for understanding how the entire system of education relates”


Thanks George for your insights. I agree.  approve

There are both opportunities and challenges:

Opportunities: smile

  1. Reinforce the theory of connectivism – especially a deeper understanding of the concepts and principles governing connectivism.
  2. Inform authorities and stakeholders (i.e. higher education in particular) of the theoretical framework of “emergent” connectivism
  3. Introduction of psychology for conceptual framework and connections would provide a leverage to connections, and a framework in understanding the dynamics of both strong and weak ties (at all three levels – neural, conceptual, external/social).

Challenges:wide eyes

  1. Some critics viewed connectivism as a blend of different theories – including behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism, social constructivism, complex and chaos theories, constructionism,..and are similar in certain ways to Actor Network Theories (ANT).   How would such research be “integrated” given that each theory proponents have their own views on those theories?  Extending those theories into connectivism would need to be considered under specific context.  Will the findings be inconclusive?  And I am not too sure when it comes a “virtual world” whereas some research findings may not be reflective of reality (will provide evidence based on url in coming threads).  How would one overcome that?
  2. Which is more important in research?  Applied connectivism? Empirical research?  Cross discipline research? 
  3. Will any of the researches be funded?
  4. Given that such researches may be based on individual initiatives (such as a PhD thesis), competition (in funding) rather than collaboration may arise.
  5. If the researchers are to form networks, will copy right (or plagiarism) be an issue?  How original will such researches be?
  6. How will peer review be coordinated?  Is it through instititutions or networks?  How will credentials be achieved?
  7. It’s difficult for novice to weave through the different theories, and any research on those other areas create conflicting views in connectivism (which may turn up to be a good idea). 

I think getting research done in those areas is not too difficult, as there are already many PhD candidates doing research in this connectivism area.  Getting coordinated results and colloborations amongst researchers would be the most difficult part of it.  A “network” or “community of practice” approach would likely yield better result.  But would it be easy to coordinate such efforts?  Networking amongst researchers is never an easy task – note the “autonomy of scholars” and “islands of researches” that has happened in the past.thoughtful 

Even by now, only you and Stephen are the main pioneers in this area, would we need more people to join?  But again, this will add complications to the theory, as it is evidenced in this course, towards a learner centred approach, and as an emergent learning theory. 

I am still learning…blush

Your comments please.

What can we learn from Complexity, Chaos and Emergence?

George provided a concise paper on Complexity, Chaos, and Emergence


Thanks to George for such clear definitions and his insights.  It’s an enjoyable read.

It’s also time for my personal reflection on what it means to us in our daily life, and education and learning in particular.

 I think most of us agreed that education and learning is complex and chaotic.  At the moment, we have established institutions which provide an infrastructure in education and training.  This ensures that education and training is streamlined and learning is structured.  This is important to ensure the outcomes of learning and the mode of education is aligned with the best interests of the stakeholders and society at large.  This is also important from a social, economical and political or religious point of view, since education is the foundation of a society.  Without proper education, its citizens would easily loose their identities.  And the citizens may fail to communicate or connect effectively.  This would ultimately cause conflicts between communities and instability to society. 

In order to survive and sustain identity in a community, the citizens would therefore seek out avenues towards better education, so as to make a living, to acquire a job, or vocation, and to live a meaningful life.  That partly explained the migration of people of under-developed countries or developing countries to developed countries.  These people may need to seek “refuge” or look for a better living due to different reasons.  Such reasons could include a deprivation of their “basic human needs and rights” , especially if they haven’t been given the opportunities of education that most developed countries enjoy.

So, are we looking at these issues from a “developed country” point of view? 

Would we be biased in suggesting solutions?  That we are trying to solve issues that are complex and chaotic, without a clear understanding of the basic needs of these “global citizens”, “the net-users” and “non net-users”?   Or do we need to think about what civilization means for our fellow “global – digital and non-digital citizens”?

How do these impact on those who are under-priviledged, those who have not been able to connect to the society due to poverty or disability, or those who are trying to connect but are suppressed to do so due to pressure from their groups, communities, religious or political parties? 

How do these impact on those who are limited in isolated communities or who haven’t even got electricity or basic facilities to support their connection?http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/moodle/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=995

Are there complex and chaos solutions to these clear, everyday phenomena?  What are you going to do about it?

Given that we are living in a complex and chaotic society, how are we going to

(a) ensure that learners see things in simple, yet comprehensible term, though the learning process is in itself complex?

(b) ensure that learning is enjoyable for the learners, and that life-long learning is sustainable?

(c) ensure that society could achieve harmony given that there are conflicts of interests and power issues amongst individuals, networks and groups and society at large?

(d) ensure individual values and priviledges are not sacrificed at the expense of collective pressures to conform – Individual voices vs the voice of the crowd?

(e) ensure that people realise the importance of science and art of connection?  That is it is not just about connection but who you are connected to as cited by Geoge and Stephen throughout the course.

(f) ensure that a conceptual framework is built into the infrastructure that is sustainable as pointed by George in the forum? http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/moodle/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=924

And finally how can we leverage the power of networks and technology that could promote individual rights, inclusiveness, collective wisdom and tolerance?  At the end, is education a means to a purpose?

So what do we mean by complexity, chaos in learning?  Are we learning individually or in groups or in networks? Do our network learning add value to individuals? How and to what extent to the “global digital and non-digital” citizens?


Without a good understanding of learning from a complexity and chaotic perspective, we may go down the pathway of thinking that learning is linear and so could be “spoon fed” or “structured” for our learners.  And so should curriculum be at the hands of educator or learner or a joint product of educators and learners?  And should curriculum be negotiated between “educators” and “learners”, especially if it is for adult learners?  What does it mean for open education?

But what is the purpose of re-structuring the education infrastruture.

Without purpose, does education mean anything?

And without education, does learning mean anything? 

Education should be the means

And Learning should be the process

If both the means and processes are confusing, unnecessarily complex, chaotic, what will a novice learner think?  Confusion? Frustration? Upset?

But if the means and processes are clear, simple and easy to follow, what will be the reaction of the learner? Enjoyable.  Satisfying. Happy. May be a belief and practice of sustainable life-long learning.

How about the learning for expert learners/teachers?  What are the reactions to these notions of education and learning?  Formal vs informal education, On-line vs Institution,  Blended vs traditional.  Adhoc vs structured learning, Emergent vs specific outcomes etc….

So which pathway do you choose?  It’s your choice.  Is it?  No, it’s too complex and chaotic, back to basic….. for me??

To this end: I would like to quote Stephen’s vision, which I also share:


This to me is a society where knowledge and learning are public goods, freely created and shared, not hoarded or withheld in order to extract wealth or influence. This is what I aspire toward, this is what I work toward.

And my belief that each of us has our potential that is still not yet released…as so

Learning is sharing…the greatest gift to mankind