Role of professor and learners in MOOCs

Is professor still at the centre stage of MOOCs?

Yes, six years on since 2008, and it seems that the professors of courses have been brought back to the spotlight in cMOOC.

Who initiated the learning revolution?  I have shared them in my previous posts here and here.

In my post what are teachers for?

The present xMOOCs have all focus on education on a massive scale, leading to automated teaching (short videos with the instructors exposition of the essential concepts, procedures) with quizzes, followed by assignments, tests and examinations etc. Flipping the classroom has merely changed the procedures in teaching – by asking the learners to view teaching by teachers (or animated videos, or documentary etc.) first, and discuss that after. This is similar to the video based distance learning in the past decade, except that now we could incorporate forum, discussion boards to allow peer-to-peer discussion, and teachers to explain on more advanced concepts or applications, or respond to some of the questions raised. The use of synchronous session may be used in both x and c MOOCs as a way to further discuss the ideas or questions relating to assigned readings, or videos. That’s basically a replica of what are typical in classroom teaching, in most cases, except that these are now all digital, with artifacts readily available for rewind, recap, and re-view. The teachers are needed to have the first recording, after then they might only be needed in future courses for responding to students.

Photo: Google image

Teaching (3)

Here are the forum posts on MOODLE in CCK08:

Role of teachers – Teaching the Teachers

Can a network of learners serve the same role as a teacher or professor?

Have there been much changes in the role of professor and learners in MOOCs (x and c MOOCs) since 2008?

Are these changes based on learner-center or teacher-center or both?

#Change11 A Pedagogy to Support Human Beings

What is a pedagogy that could support human beings?

That is the research topic that Rita, Hélène and I have been working on this year.

My sincere thanks to RitaHélène for their great research efforts and  support.

Rita Kop and Hélène Fournier
National Research Council of Canada

Here is the paper published in IRRODL: A Pedagogy of Abundance or a Pedagogy to Support Human Beings? Participant Support on Massive Open Online Courses.

Looking forward to your comments and discussion to our paper.  Everyone is welcome.

You will find all other papers published in this special issue – Emergent Learning, Connections, Design for Learning of IRRODL.

#CCK11 Problem based learning and Socratic Dialogue

Thanks to Irmeli in referring to this Socratic Dialogue

Kristof elaborates:

What is the role of the facilitator?

I personally hold to three rules in Socratic dialogue :

1. Say what you want to say, also about the conversation as such, at any moment you think

it is suitable

2. Be concrete

3.Try to establish a common enterprise

The interventions of the facilitator can be legitimised according to these three rules.

While the possibility and necessity of dialogue is increasingly called upon today, actually engaging in dialogue with one another is very difficult and often unpleasant.

What are the difficulties?

Why are dialogues unpleasant?

He explains that Dialogue differs from a discussion in that it is:

– dialectic (means knowing through)

– aimed at insight in the value of judgements

– suspending judgements

– investigating and checking

– wanting to know the truth

– investigation

– listening to yourself and others

– attitude of taking the others point of view

– questioning

– slowness

– community orientated

Photo: From Flickr

I came across this paper on problem based learning (PBL), Wood says:

“The role of the tutor is to facilitate the proceedings (helping the chair to maintain group dynamics and moving the group through the task) and to ensure that the group achieves appropriate learning objectives in line with those set by the curriculum design team.”  “The tutor should encourage students to check their understanding of the material. He or she can do this by encouraging the students to ask open questions and ask each other to explain topics in their own words or by the use of drawings and diagrams.” Problem based learning could be very effective in the training of medical students, as that would expose them to “real life problems” with the use of case scenarios.  It requires a “group” approach to tackle the problems.

Wood concludes that PBL also generates a more stimulating and challenging educational environment, and the beneficial effects from the generic attributes acquired through PBL should not be underestimated

I found this paper on Using the Case Method to Teach Online Classes: Promoting Socratic Dialogue and Critical Thinking particularly helpful.  I then reflected on the learning from these critical points:

– Tone is conveyed through word choice in the virtual classroom

– Sarcasm in particular comes across poorly in Internet communication

– Teaching students how to create substantial discussion responses to the cases is the critical task of the instructor.

In summary, the case approach promotes social change in that students reflectively and critically examine their own thoughts in relation to the course material and other students’ response.

Problem-based learning, as mentioned by Brooke is not novel, and has been used for decades.  The use of conversation, debates, and Socratic dialogue is also common in classroom environment, together with case studies, especially in more advanced courses in higher education or vocational education.  So the challenge is: how could these be adequately applied in virtual classroom?

The questions remain:

(1) How effectively will problem based learning be when used in virtual classroom in courses such as OOC or an MOOC?

(2) Do participants need to be directed or guided by the instructors in those problem based learning? Could participants be guided by knowledgeable others? How? Why?

(3) How to motivate students, learners, or participants to form into groups in tackling problem-based learning, especially in an online networked environment?

(4) How to improve learning online using problem based learning?

In the case of MOOC, like PLENK and CCK08, 09, 11, I think there were many problems brought out by the participants.  But then, most cases were discussed based on diversified perspectives of participants and so it was hard to come up with any conclusions, or even summary of “verdicts” or learning.

In future MOOC, could we make use of some of the past case scenarios, or those issues and problems people encountered in their online or virtual classes as learning cases?  I reckon this would be an interesting and challenging activity for both experienced and novice educators and learners to share their experience and views together.  Would there be volunteers who would develop those cases or problems?  How and what would help in achieving this?

How about a blog, aggregated blog, a gRSShopper, a wiki or Google document for such problems or cases development, discussion, and debate?

In the paper, Brooke concludes:

Using the case method to teach online classes promotes a learning-centered cultural milieu (Brooke, 2004; Brooke 2005). By learning-centered, I am
referring to students developing responsibility for their own learning. The instructor is the facilitator and further refines critical thinking skills and analysis.

What could you conclude?  Is problem based learning useful and effective in learning online? How about your experience?

#CCK11 Educator’s Role in an online-learning course or network

Here is a post by Michelle Everson on instructor’s role in online discussion, she says:

I can clarify subjects that are confusing for students or provide them with other examples to ponder. I can share some of my own thoughts and experiences as a way to help the students get to know me better and feel more comfortable communicating with me.

Sounds good to me.

I started to review some of the roles mentioned here.

Stephen provides a unique perspective on Role of Educators where he elaborates:

The Facilitator — such a person makes the learning space comfortable. Their role is to cove the process or the conversation forward, but within a broad range of parameters that will stress clarity, order, inclusiveness, and good judgment.

Here I would like to reflect on my previous post on Role of Teacher in an online course.  I think this is also time for a thorough research into the role of educators in online course or network.

refer to this [PDF] Leading the band: The role of the instructor in online learning for educators

[PDF] from

This article focuses on what educators/participants consider to be the roles and responsibilities of the online instructor. They see the online instructor as facilitator, model, planner, coach, and communicator. They describe how these roles are uniquely tuned in the online environment.

I think it could be interesting to compare the suggested roles of educators developed by different educators and researchers and see if there are any emergent roles common across different educators in a MOOC and PLENK, and how such roles are fulfilled.

Are participants of MOOC also fulfilling part of the roles of educators here?

#PLENK2010 Reflection on Roles and Competencies of Educators and CoLearners

Here is the posting of roles and educator and colearners in an online course on FB, a previous post on the research into the roles of educators, and role of teachers here.

Stephen shares his perspective here

This  Fifty-One Competencies for Online Instruction by Theodore C. Smith provides some ideas on competencies for online instruction, especially for new online instructors.

What are the competencies or capabilities relating to educators and colearners in an online course such as PLENK?

A profound answer from an Educator

This is an email that I got from my Brother-in-Law.

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.

One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued,  “What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?”

To stress his point he said to another guest; “You’re a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?”

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, “You want to know what I make? (She paused for a second, then began…)

“Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.

I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor winner.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can’t make them sit for 5 without an I Pod, Game Cube or movie rental.

You want to know what I make? (She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table)

I make kids wonder.

I make them question.

I make them apologize and mean it.

I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.

I teach them to write and then I make them write.. Keyboarding isn’t everything.

I make them read, read, read.

I make them show all their work in math. They use their God given brain, not the man-made calculator.

I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know about English while preserving their unique cultural identity.

I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.

Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.   (Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.)

Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn’t everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant. You want to know what I make? I MAKE A DIFFERENCE.  What do you make Mr. CEO?

His jaw dropped, he went silent.


Even all your personal teachers like mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, coaches and your spiritual leaders/teachers.

A truly profound answer!!!

Teaching is…the profession that makes all other professions possible!

Photo: From Flickr
Postscript: Here is a more dramatic video

Role of teacher

Here is an article that may be of interest to you. 

by Prof. Terence J. Lovat

With the assistance of

Dr. Christopher Mackenzie

Prof. Terence J. Lovat concluded that: 

Recent developments in teaching and education have been timely in contributing positively towards enhancing the status of the teaching profession, improving the quality of teaching and learning and providing opportunities for individuals to reach their full potential. Thus, it may well be that moves towards fortifying the teaching profession and the role of the teacher through registration and the establishment of standards represents a coming of age. The registration of teachers and the development of standards for the profession will improve the status of the profession and make it mature, confident, unified and respected. Teachers will be accomplished professionals in the same vein as doctors, engineers and other professionals.

Having spent much of its recent history being perceived as a more-or-less respected apprenticeship-into-trade, the accumulation of educational research, and especially teaching research (the ‘new pedagogies’), has finally confirmed what teachers themselves always knew; that teaching is a highly skilled and complex art and science that requires a rare grasp of content knowledge conjoined with an even rarer skill of disseminating that knowledge within the limitations and constraints of bulk learning in the average, not overly-conducive classroom.

Despite a number of advances, a range of challenges also face the profession, education authorities, teacher education institutions, parents and other stakeholders. Meeting these challenges will require vast reserves of creativity, innovation, determination, political will and political leadership. There is, for instance, the issue of teacher supply and the related matter of teachers’ salaries as well as ensuring that the development and implementation of professional standards is genuinely informed by teachers and that teachers themselves maintain ownership. There are issues associated directly with teacher education which, if they are to be resolved, will require increased levels of collaboration between stakeholders and a willingness to innovate and experiment. The support of education authorities will be of particular importance. Similarly, a new approach to professional development will need to be adopted to ensure teachers are involved in continual education. Further educational research will be necessary to ensure effective teaching and learning and relevant curricula. Training for university academics will have to be considered if indeed, as the research shows, teacher quality is the main determinant of educational achievement. Preschool education will also need to be examined to ensure that preschool teachers are adequately remunerated and working conditions improved. Furthermore, there are complex issues associated with school, TAFE and the higher education sectors, all of which will require not only greater public investment but cooperation between the State and Commonwealth governments as well as the application of considerable creativity and innovation. It is advancement in these areas that will help to transform teaching into a true profession, one that complies with the highest standards of teaching and learning and aid the development of a world-class education system.

What sort of professional development do you think will be necessary in helping teachers to become “world class” professionals? 

What will be the role of a “global” teacher under connectivism?