Cooperation and collaboration in MOOCs

As the MOOCs move on, I would like to reflect on this cooperation and collaboration in MOOCs based on

1. Stephen’s posts on collaboration and cooperation here.

2. My previous post here.

3. Benjamin’s referred article here.

I have been thinking about learning based on a network versus group approach and here is my summary:

1. Cooperation is best achieved in a network learning environment where each learner shares ideas and learning.  Here each individual’s learning would be more important than the performance.

2. Collaboration is best achieved in a group learning environment where each learner is agreeing to achieve goals together.  Here group performance would be more important than individual learning or performance.

Here in an example on the production of a video using a group’s efforts. Collaboration leads to better outcomes at work.

3. Where individuals don’t find cooperation or collaboration to be useful, they could still work and learn by themselves, though such learning and performance would be based on individual’s efforts.  This could still be achieved in both x and c MOOCs, I reckon.

In  summary, each of the three approaches outlined here – connectivist, facilitative and instructivist approach would impact on how cooperation, collaboration and competition is achieved.  The learner centered approaches would likely lead to more cooperation and collaboration, whilst the teacher centered approaches would likely lead to collaboration and competition among the learners and the educators.

What does it mean to learn in a cooperative manner in online courses? Part 1 Authority and Pedagogy

Cooperation is the key to learning with others under networked learning, especially if one is to acquire the social learning skills.

Here in her post Towards a Literacy of Cooperation, Jenny shared her learning relating to her participation in a course facilitated by Howard Rheingold.

There are three points that I would like to reflect on:

Linked to this recognition of needing a balance between large loose learning environments and more intimate communities, is a consideration of the balance between cooperation, collaboration and competition.

The intention is that through the use of a variety of media tools and by taking on specific roles (my role is live session note-taker) we will by the end of the course see the world in a different way through having new frameworks and lenses for looking at cooperative behaviours.

Cooperation and competition are two sides of the same coin and seem to be co-drivers of evolution.

1. How to balance between cooperation, collaboration and competition in an open learning environment?

There are research evidences that could reveal its relationship to the following factors: (a) Authority and Pedagogy, (b) Power and Relationship, (c) Autonomy and motivation, and (d) Openness and Connectivity.

I would like to reflect on my experiences below on authority and pedagogy in this post – Part 1.

(a) Authority of the course and course organisers, facilitators etc – To what extent are the organisers and facilitators experts or authority figures of the courses?  If the facilitators are leading figures or experts in the field or in the global business, would the delivery and presentation be more aligned to the connectivist, facilitative, or  instructivist approach?

This is important as each approach would likely allow and enable different degrees of cooperation, collaboration and competition in online education and learning.  This would also be a decision that the course organiser, facilitators, participants and learners would consider in the design and delivery of the course.

Connectivist approach (Connectivism)

For instance, in most of the connectivist courses (CCK08, 09, 11, 12, PLENK2010, CritLiteracy, Change 11, etc.) that I attended, I realised more cooperation, with some collaboration, but not much of competition from the peers or others emerged from the courses.  Here the authority might likely be decentralised, with a loose structure and membership developed throughout the course, where each networker might take up certain tasks or roles that would be expected in an network-group course, based on individual learners’ needs.

I have participated in these forms of networks for years, and found them pretty adaptive and agile in nature.  A learner-centred learning typically emerged from such online courses, as the feedback from participants would likely inform the course organisers how the course could be improved. This seems to be inherent in the design and delivery of most cMOOCs.  Since innovation, creativity and connectivity is encouraged in the course design and delivery, the focus would tend to be cooperation of all parties concerned, when diversity of opinion and openness is practised.  The vision may be to satisfy the learners’ achievement of goals, through the MOOCs.

Photo credit: PLENK2010 course


Facilitative approach (social constructivism)

However, when it comes to online courses where the facilitators are holding high authority, or are expecting a high respect on authority, then the group learning may be the expectation, either by influence, or to a certain degree of persuasion or coercion to conform to the rules and protocols set up by the group, and its associated group members.

Such way of forming groups are often common in Communities and Community of Practices, where small clusters or groups of educators or learners are focused to work on a particular project – like a wiki, an ebook, or an e-project required for completion in a course.

The authority may be vested from the course organiser or facilitator, but then each of the members may be required to take up certain roles and responsibilities in order to ensure the running of the course.  This seems to be inherent in the design and delivery of a hybrid of c and x MOOCs and a lot of communities of practitioners (education and learning).  The focus would likely be a balance between cooperation and collaboration, though a process based on group work is used for the evaluation of the need to re-design the course, rather than an immediate adaptive response.  The vision may be to satisfy a balance between the learners, educators and course/institution’s achievement of their goals, through the MOOCs.

Instructivist approach (behaviorism/cognitivism)

At the other end of the spectrum is where facilitators are adopting an instructivist approach, then most likely the learning strategies like mastery learning are already pre-determined and presented to learners, so all participants are expected to comply with the course requirements and the way the course is presented.

The authority figures of these courses would likely be holding the central accountability and responsibility and so they are expected to exercise certain levels of controls in the design, delivery and evaluation of the course (xMOOCs in particular).

Due to the requirements to comply with accreditation, assessment and validation of learning, authority figures are required and expected to ensure a high degree of quality in the course design, delivery and review, in order to ensure conformance to the granting of awards.  Standardisation of course structure and content is again based on the authority, where only canonical knowledge with known and reliable authoritative resources are recommended for the study.

This is why cooperation is more likely required in terms of compliance to the course requirements by the participants, rather than the creativity and innovation as is expected in a connectivist approach.  To what extent would creativity and innovation is valued in an xMOOCs is yet unknown, as there aren’t much explicit requirements of such approaches be adopted by the learners or students?

With an instructivist approach, collaboration is highly focused, with a view that the groups should and must contribute to the overall vision and design as set out by the course organiser and the institutions, with priorities set off for learners, stakeholders, community and institutions to follow.  This also explains why most institutions would like to exercise appropriate authority and controls to ensure the courses are aligned to the standards and quality requirements set out under an institutional framework.

In  summary, each of the three approaches outlined here – connectivist, facilitative and instructivist approach would impact on how cooperation, collaboration and competition is achieved.  The learner centered approaches would likely lead to more cooperation and collaboration, whilst the teacher centered approaches would likely lead to collaboration and competition among the learners and the educators.

I will continue to explore power and relationship in Part 2.

#Change11 Purpose of Higher Education, Creativity and Collaboration

What is the purpose of Higher Education? Here in this post of top-ed-tech-trends-of-2011-the-higher-education-bubble by Audrey Watters:

“What about the promise of opportunity and advancement that comes with a college degree?  What about the intellectual demands of university life?  What are students learning?  What should they learn?  What degree programs should schools keep or ax when there are fiscal (and perceptual) constraints?”

I have posted here some views about the purpose and tasks of Higher Education.

University (and Higher Education) is about the creation and dissemination of knowledge.

How to achieve such a vision?

Through creativity and collaboration in the academy.

A wonderful summary.

Your views….