How would MOOCs be designed and structured differently?

Thanks to Doug Holton for opinion The case for learning designers.

What should be the role of instructors in learning design in MOOCs?  How should MOOCs be designed and delivered?

My early learning experience with CCK08 and subsequent learning experiences with CCKs and Change11 was that over-design of a course would not be able to cater for the needs of massive number of participants.  Successful MOOCs (cMOOCs) need to factor emergence (emergent knowledge and learning) in the design and delivery of the “course” and “event”.  It is based on a continuous feedback loop with distributed learning networks, just in time learning- with participants’ active contribution of content, and co-design of the conversation and engagement of instructors, facilitators and clusters of self-organised participants.

Image on Comment Ecosystem: From CCKs course postings.


Most xMOOCs are not built with that in mind, and so those courses are highly structured, often planned in a linear fashion, and thus only afford the prescriptive knowledge to be consumed by the participants, governed by the video lectures, some quizzes, and posted readings.

I reckon learning designers have often pre-conceived with a one size “suits” all sort of tool box online learning with learning object, that may be highly suitable for closed LMS with specific learning outcomes sort of courses.  Would such a design meet the needs of huge cohorts of learners?  I reckon a certain level of customization is needed as participants are coming from a diverse background.

Despite the large number of successful completion (though a relatively 5 – 15% completion rate) in the xMOOCs, I still think the original course design and pedagogy would impact on the course delivery and completion.

Would this explain why more than 80% participants are not completing the course, as they don’t see much need for their contribution or engagement in the course?  Even if they want to do so, there is simply no means for them to be involved except by joining the study group or posting on the discussion boards, where their voices would seldom be heard as these postings would only attract attention if they are voted up (for attention to be given).  Besides, as revealed in the various studies about xMOOCs, many of the participants (could be as much as 40-50%) are degree holders.  This may imply that many of the participants would be following their own set learning goals, learning pathway, and methodologies in their learning, rather than the “linear” progressive Mastery Learning.

Indeed, I have tried watching some of the videos of the xMOOCs and have often skipped the various portions of the videos where I don’t find relevance to my needs or learning.  I would also be browsing through, pausing, or rewinding certain parts of the video when I am just interested in certain part of the section for my learning.  This is similar to the learning via Youtube educational videos, or the TED talks.   Wouldn’t it be true that many participants of xMOOCs would likely do the same, in order to optimize and customize their own education and learning in a MOOC?

Would some of these participants be designing their own learning pathway (i.e. within MOOC) sub-consciously throughout their MOOC engagement?

It is interesting to note that the DS106 and the EDUMOOCs (an xMOOC) are structured as Connectivist and Cognitivist/Connectivist courses (as perceived by this participant), and analysed here.  As I have shared in the past posts, it appears more xMOOCs would be designed with some of the social constructivist and connectivist principles, even though they are conceptually designed with a linear learning pathway with structured content.

Why?  Massive participants have a diverse experience, skills level and background, and thus they would seldom participate with the same entry or exit points, except for the assessment or examination.

Isn’t it time for the MOOC providers to review the learning design so as to ensure the course is built on a flexible emergent design, rather than a rigid, one size suits all online course principle?   Otherwise, there would be a “constant” drop-out or low completion rate, as participants don’t feel their involvement or engagement in the learning community and course design, especially in the xMOOCs.  There are also power and autonomy factors, which would continue to influence the way participants would engage or not engage in the course, especially when participants don’t find any power or autonomy over their learning over the course.

A short MOOC: You are invited

I have posted below on ConnectivismEducationLearning FB Community:
Dear colleagues, Would you be interested in presenting a short video, slideshow, a blog post of interest? You might like to nominate the topic. There are many topics – the x and cMOOC, learning experiences with MOOCs, pedagogy with MOOCs, role of educators and learners in an online environment, OER, digital citizenship, digital scholarship, critical literacy, mobile technology and learning, social media experience – blogging, twitter, Google +, etc. This could be a few minutes (3-5 min) presentation with video on Youtube, slideshare, or chatting over FB, Twitter, or Google Hangout etc. What I would suggest is: any of our members could facilitate the session, so far if we could keep it interesting, informal, engaging and interactive, that would be wonderful. We are all busy people, but if you would like to share something that really interest you and others, then would it be nice if we could have a short MOOC within our Community?
In Summary:
1. A short “unevent” – where we could organise to be held in a day or two.
2. A list of topics of choice – say on 4-5 topics.
3. No particular format – any format that would suit your needs, even a common chat could do (twitter, or this FB, or Google Hangout, or Google chat) or asynchronous posting of blogs, or this FB postings.
4. Time: what suits you most, taken time zone into consideration.
5. Links to the different MOOCs – edMOOCs, mobiMOOCs or an adhoc MOOC that you would like to organise.

Finally, we would surely have great success, as it is designed by you (us), and for you (and us). Please share your thoughts on this.


Design of a logo and a badge

If you like, please help in designing a logo and a badge for this short MOOC event.   We would ask our Community to decide which ones to use.

We would post the logo and badge as part of the brand to this MOOC event.  So, it is a connective and collective design of the Community. The wisdom of the CROWD.  That’s YOU.

Here is the Google Plus ConnectivismEducationLearning (CEL) Community.

Image: A Map of the Internet (Google)

Map of internet AK38c

The 3 Ms, quality and instructional design of MOOCs

The 3 Ms of MOOCs are Mission, MOOCs and Money.

The fundamental questions boards should be asking include:

  • Why are we online? Is the movement to or expansion of online education consistent with the institutional mission? Does and will it serve and advance the institutional mission? Or is the key issue in the discussion about online education—including any conversations about MOOCs—money?
  • How do we assess quality—that of our own online offerings and those of others, including the MOOCs?
  • What will it take to achieve our objectives in terms of online learning—including human and financial capital, content expertise, the political will to change, and many other concerns?

Quality in online education, in particular MOOCs might be defined differently from those quality in classroom education, with a face-to-face teaching environment. What is quality of MOOC from the perspective of educators, learners, and employers?

Quality is defined as conformance to requirements (Philip B. Crosby) (slide on Cost of Quality as Driver of Quality Improvement).  Have the cost of conformance and non-conformance been examined and analysed in MOOCs?  What are the “true cost” of MOOCs in the quality equation?

The questions relating to quality in a MOOC are:

1. Whose requirements are most important to be met?  If MOOCs are for the learners, then the conformance to requirements would likely be decided by the learners.  This is quite challenging, in case of institutions, where quality is defined in terms of the institutional requirements.  From a historical perspective, there are always differing requirements from institutions, employers, educators and learners, and so what is best in quality is seldom agreed upon, especially under an open education and learning environment.

2. How is quality determined in MOOCs? What may be viewed as quality may need to be re-examined in light of changing circumstances, as those requirements, purpose (if quality is defined also as fitness of purpose) are changing rapidly in a complex educational landscape. In Tony’s post where he posts:

some questions that someone should be asking:

  1. Where is the quality control? Surely Coursera should accept some responsibility for this. They are getting paid by the institutions to host these courses. Shouldn’t they at least be asking some questions about what tools people are planning to use, and whether or not they will work with very large numbers? Are they doing due diligence before accepting and advertising their MOOCs? Apparently not. Nor did Georgia Institute of Technology. What has this done to its reputation?
  2. Are questions being asked about the qualifications or experience of the people who are offering MOOCs? Just a brief glance at this particular course suggests that the instructor had little experience herself in planning and managing online courses. Georgia Institute of Technology is not at the top of my list of institutions with experience in online learning. But then, anyone can teach an online course about online learning, can’t they?

The questions that may be most important in MOOCs are those relating to the institution’s overall mission and responsibility (duty of care), if it is viewed from an education authority’s perspective.  Why?  This fundamentally impacts on institution’s reputation and credibility in HE, and so risk management and control would likely be considered far more important than any other questions relating to instructors’ credibility and course administration, though these questions do impact on the success of MOOCs. It seems unfortunate that some of these failures relate to the design and delivery of MOOCs – when MOOCs melt down:

 just how much thought is given to instructional design issues when MOOCs are drawn up? How much peer review is given to MOOCs, and their professors, before they go public?

In the case of cMOOCs, the instructional design is framed differently.  Here Jenny says:

A cMOOC (or the original intention of cMOOCs) is about a personal learning journey – not about a required/intended/desired outcome – and in that sense I am interested to see the extent to which this highly structured MOOC, with a clear requirement for an intended outcome (a project design), supports personal learning journeys. 2. Which leads, community or curriculum – in this MOOC? For me at the moment it feels like the curriculum is leading, in the sense that the ‘course’ is highly structured and this structure is very much in the control of the MOOC designers.

This is a fundamental question relating to MOOCs where a difference in community approach or curriculum approach in MOOCs would likely determine the overall quality as perceived by the institutions, community and learners. How do these relate to mission of MOOC providers? The mission of edX via MOOCs:

“While MOOCs have typically focused on offering a variety of online courses inexpensively or for free, edX’s vision is much larger. EdX is building an open source educational platform and a network of the world’s top universities to improve education both online and on campus while conducting research on how students learn.”

This seems similar to my posting here in opportunistic education:

There are further opportunities in building education models where quality of education and learning experience are co-constructed and co-created by multiple networks of institutions and communities and networks, with a consortium of MOOCs like edXUdacityCoursera or the UK Open Learn initiative.

Alternative platforms of MOOCs in forms of opportunities of learning are emerging, and competition is keen, among MOOCs’ providers as more and more institutions joined the bandwagon of MOOCs. As I shared in my post, MOOCs need to be viewed differently in an institutional framework, if a business model is to be adopted.  Developing and adopting a vision and mission that embrace disruptive innovation and take calculated risks is never easy.  It is however the best time to transform education through integrating pockets of changes, where a ground breaking attempt would eventually help the institution in morphing into a totally new world of education, probably with MOOCs.

3. Where there are more and more problems emerging out of MOOC design, delivery and development, that is good, because this would give a chance for scholars, researchers, administrators, educators, and learners to change and adapt their teaching and learning, based on a shift in the pedagogy, paradigms.

This would challenge each of them to re-think about the importance, significance and implications of online participation (with a participatory culture), collaboration and cooperation, as a network, as a cluster of educators, researchers, and learners throughout the global networks, as an institution, or a partnership of institutional networks.

This would stimulate and promote stakeholders to research, to learn and to improve and innovate altogether,  in order to tackle the challenges ahead of us and that of our next generation.  That is the change and transformation needed to keep abreast of knowledge and learning in an ever changing world.

4. Are we living in an era of disruptive digital media based ecology? The challenge is huge, but the reward is even bigger.  The more we know, the more we know that we don’t know.  And that is learning as growth and development, both individually and as connective and collective wisdom.

This is the time to celebrate the successes and failures, through experimentation, and possible failures of MOOCs, where educators and learners could learn together.  Without trials, we never learn.

Will MOOC revolutionize Higher Education?

The most important question in MOOCs for any business enterprise or education institution could be: where is the money?  This is critical, if MOOCs are to be sustainable in decades to come.

We haven’t forgotten the era where the volatile education business ventures could easily turn into bubbles.

In the era, and perhaps again now, the expectation among some observers is that going online has the potential to be highly profitable and “only” requires a syllabus, servers, and students willing to sit in front of screens (“eyeballs” in the lexicon of the era).

In summary, mission and money are now blended together when considering MOOCs under an institutional framework.  This seems to be a time where a critical mass of institutions and learners have justified the promotion and adoption of MOOCs in a global arena of Higher Education. We have noted that quality of design and delivery of MOOCs would impact on how MOOCs are valued by different stakeholders: the institutions, the educators, the instructional designers, and most importantly, the learners.

Where are MOOCs going?  Are they really disrupting Higher Education?  They could be changing the education ecology in a totally surprising way that not too many people have predicted.

Photo: Google image

Higher Education Bubble 1 images

Personal Learning Environment and MOOCs

In response to a post here, Peter Sloep comments on Google +

Peer learning makes a lot of sense but as one of the tools in the box only. We’ve done work on this, see the PhD thesis by Peter van Rosmalen, back in 2008 already: See also a paper by me: There are pedagogical issues but the really hard part is developing the supportive technology that works at the level of large networks.

Thanks Peter for the precious sharing.  I have browsed through the papers, and there are many points worthy of deep reflection, especially in the peer learning and PLE/PLN. The development of supportive technology that works at the level of large networks, as Peter said could be a challenge, especially if such technology is overly rigid.

Take MOOCs as examples of technology platform, should one consider distributed platforms/social media, or a hub (VLE/VLM) for MOOCs?

Should MOOC shift its pedagogical to be more adaptive (or more connective and engaging) or should it stay with a prescriptive design (emphasising on one standardised model only – especially in mastery learning and common examination or quizzes)?

Are learners involved in the design of curriculum or instruction?

How would PLE/PLN developed by participants support MOOCs?

My sharing of cMOOCs

More sharing on xMOOCs in part 2.

Learning Design and Complexity Science

My response to Jenny’s post on OLDSMOOC Design:

Hi Jenny and Roy,
I agreed with what Roy said, that you are a learning designer if you do all those things in a course, in an adaptive manner. What might typically happened is that instructional designers plan and design the curriculum, with multi-media and gamification in mind, trying to incorporate all the “essential” learning objects and artifacts to achieve the desired education outcomes (the learning outcomes, in the case of a course). The input management – or compliance with lesson plans are typically judged to be excellent when “all elements” of good instruction – like Gagne’s 9 steps of instruction are followed in a classroom environment, or that of mastery learning is followed, with sensory feedback and repeated drills and practice on the learners.

I wonder if we need to separate instruction design from learning design, as the former relates more on instruction (demonstration and modelling), whilst the latter relates more on (practice and reflection) (based on Stephen Downes’ proposed connectivist model), especially when learning is structured under MOOC.

I have been thinking about having learning design based on complexity science where:

“Complexity science, with its focus on emergence, self organization, inter-dependencies, unpredictability and non-linearity provides a useful alternative to the machine metaphor.
Complexity science suggests that the whole is not the sum of the parts. Emergent properties of the whole are inexplicable by the parts.” to study learning design, so each learning scenario needs to be re-modelled based on “grounded research” rather than a prescribed approach to the design of learning.

This might have a lot of similarities to your research on the footprint of emergence, though I think it really makes more sense when the teacher and learner shared their assumptions and frame of reference upon each learning task and experience, and thus making learning design a collaborative reflective experience, rather than a pre-determined learning pathway and learning outcomes.”

This sort of emergent learning could be based on narratives that are exchanged through blog postings and sharing, or project-based learning, between peer-to-peer and student-to-instructor.

Would that account for the differences between curriculum-led MOOC (typical for xMOOC) and community-led MOOC (typical for cMOOC)?

Such MOOC would be similar to the model in the AST1000 Course though I have been thinking of having a community led MOOC, rather than a curriculum led MOOC.


Learning Design

See this (referred by Giogio Bertini) “The New Sciences of Complexity fundamentally challenge the underlying epistemologies of modern science and disrupt the quest for certainty, truth, and objective knowledge. Reducing processes fundamentally destroys complex relationships and emergent properties of dynamical systems.”

This seems to be the case, when we try to treat design as a science, and apply learning design in formal course design, where the outcomes turn out to be emergent, especially when it is applied in open and dynamical system like MOOC.

Here is systematic learning design model.  You need to check on the details there as the work is copy-righted.

Do you think the learning design model here be applicable to MOOCs?

It seems that many elements mentioned in the videos are missing when it comes to xMOOCs.  These included the background, the prior knowledge and experience of participants, their preferred learning styles, and their actual needs or expectations, etc.  Besides, the learning tasks have been set by the professors well in advance of the MOOCs and there aren’t any considerations on the suitability of the tasks to the learners.

If we are to assume a linear learning design model of teaching, learning and assessment in a typical xMOOC, then I think we have made a lot of assumptions relating to the type of learners that are interested in the MOOCs, and thus unable to predict in advance the sort of “learning experience” and assessment outcome for the course.

How would it be possible to evaluate the learning design of MOOCs if that is the case?

See this OLDS MOOC introduction presentation.