From Best Practice to Creative, Innovative, Emergent and Novel Practice with MOOCs

I have often come across instructional designers and institutions grappling with best practice, in instructional and curriculum design.

A research on instructional design indicates the various “best practices” ranging from teacher-centered approach with LMS, to learner-centered approach with PLE/PLN.

Here in a paper on MOOC-Design-Principles.-A-Pedagogical-Approach-from-the-Learner by Lourdes GuàrdiaMarcelo MainaAlbert Sangrà:

focus on empowering learners in networked environments for fostering critical thinking and collaboration, developing competence based outcomes, encouraging peer assistance and assessment through social appraisal, providing strategies and tools for self-regulation, and finally using a variety of media and ICTs to create and publish learning resources and outputs.

These MOOC Design Principles are well argued and grounded.  In reflection, there are many useful strategies that are applicable both for the c and x MOOCS.  I would argue that these are based on emergent practice rather than best practice experience.

What sounds like best practice often doesn’t deliver to its promise, despite huge efforts in promoting and educating various designers, instructors and assessors.  Why?  The reasons lie mainly with the assumptions behind what makes best practice, especially in MOOCs.

In my previous post relating the differences between x and c MOOCs in attracting number of participants, I discuss on:

4. Degrees of difficulties – xMOOCs are much easier compared to cMOOCs.  This is grounded on that in xMOOCs, the instructors would have done most, if not all of the ground work necessary for teaching and learning for the learners.  What the learners are normally expected to do would be to consume the knowledge transmitted or broadcasted to them, and to confirm their understanding of the concepts through repeated quizzes or assignments.  This requires certain perseverance from the learners, though it is possible to achieve a high or perfect score in test, assignments and examinations through drills, repeated practice, as is common in a rote learning scenario.   The use of standard answers in the case of multiple choices, true/false, or short case scenarios, could all be checked with automated grading or assessment software.  For peer assessment, these are done in a closed manner, with the merits of “protecting” the learners from being “criticised” in public, but the demerits of being critiqued by only a few participants (4-5 other peers) in the whole evaluation.  Nevertheless, this seems to be well accepted as a way to assessment in the xMOOCs, as that might be the only feasible and reliable way to assess students in an institutional environment, without overly involving the professors in the assessment.

On the other hand, cMOOCs are much more difficult in terms of the wide array of skills and capabilities – such as a thorough understanding of the various artifacts posted, an evaluation of the artifacts, an aggregation of information, and the re-mixing, re-purposing or re-creating of posts that are based on knowledge creation and re-creation.  These artifacts or posts are also publicly available for assessment by peers and other educators, leading to further critique and discourse.  The main assessment has still been based on the feedback of the instructors, in the case of for-credit participants, though the assessment for non-credit participants are based on an optional basis, without any particular feedback report from the instructors (as this is not possible for the instructors to deal with massive number of participants).

5. Perceptions of learners – xMOOCs are based on 1,2,3 above, and 4 – learners – cMOOCs would have to curate resources and create blog posts/join forums.  The centralised platform (LMS) typically employed in the xMOOCs may be much simpler than the blogs and Personal Learning Environment/Network (PLE/N) as used in cMOOCs.

6. Pedagogy – xMOOCs employ a familiar pedagogy – mastery learning based on an instructivist approach (behavioral/cognitivist strategy) and peer assessment, whilst cMOOCs employ a relatively demanding pedagogy – social constructivist/connectivist approach which could sound chaotic at first sight.

xMOOCs rely principally on video lectures, resources posted on the LMS/main course website,  followed by questions, quizzes, some forum discussions, assignments, tests and examination.

cMOOCs rely principally on the connectivist principles as proposed by George and Stephen, with networked learning and connectivist knowledge based on aggregating, re-mixing, re-purposing and feed-forwarding of information.  As I have suggested here.

I still think the notion of best practice would be applicable only to simple scenarios of the Cynefin Model as developed by Dave Snowden.  You could have good practice under complicated learning scenario.  In the case of complex learning scenario such as MOOCs (especially in cMOOCs), then it is important to realise the emergent practice which is relevant, rather than good or best practice.  In the case of chaotic learning scenario such as cMOOCs,  novel practice is required in the curriculum and instructional design.

In summary, design of curriculum and instruction for MOOCs could be based on sound design principles as the research into MOOC reveals.  It would be imperative to move from best practice to creative, innovative, emergent and novel practice in the case of MOOCs, based on the needs of the learners, and the learning context, rather than the traditional “best practice”.  One size doesn’t fit all, especially in learning in MOOCs and so it would be necessary to consider emergent design learning principles rather than the “static” instrumental didactic instructivist approach in MOOCs (such as xMOOCs).

Pictures: From Google image

Cynefin model images

Cynefin model 2 images


#Change11 #CCK12 Horizon Report – Higher Education Edition

Want to know about the future trend of emergent technology?

Here is the link to Horizon report 2012 Higher Education Edition.

See this Horizon Report Wiki.

A summary of the trends here:

The areas of emerging technology cited for 2012 are:

Time to adoption: One Year or Less

  • Mobile Apps
  • Tablet Computing

Time to adoption: Two to Three Years

  • Game-based Learning
  • Learning Analytics

Time to adoption: Four to Five Years

  • Gesture-based Computing
  • Internet of Things

#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.

Collaborative Communities and emergent learning

Social networking, cooperation and collaboration within communities and amongst schools, and application of technology has become pillars of success in online education and learning.  Dean Groom elaborated on the use, benefits here with from content cult to a collaborative communities and Technology in Higher Education Classroom

Here are some of my take-away and reflection:

– Collaborative learning is harnessed by technology and social networking.

– People need to work hard to achieve their dreams and goals.  However, technology could be leveraged to assist us in improving our learning and connecting us with others both locally and globally.

– We need to provide a learning environment and space where students could enjoy learning, with things that they can do, not what they can’t do.

– Challenging ourselves to learn in a complex space and ecology would help in role-modelling to our teachers, colleagues, peers and students that they are not alone in their learning journeys, so we could feel what they feel, and learn what they learn, together without the tyranny and boundaries of authorities, power, age, race,  space, and time over us.

– Swapping and sharing learning all around the world is not only a vision of learning for the future, it is a vision of building a sustainable learning environment within a global ecology.  It is the building of social capital, that would benefit us and our next generation.

There are however, both opportunities and challenges that I envisage that we will be facing, especially in an online or immersive learning environment.

Let me share this story.

When I drove with my car this morning, I was suddenly aware of a serious problem – the glare.  There was a glare on the front window pane of my car, due to the morning sun shining over the window.  I couldn’t see what was in front, and so I was totally shocked.  I drove very slowly and carefully and reminded myself that safety comes first.   When I was about to reach M5 (a highway with a tunnel here in Sydney), I realised that my vision of what was in front of me when driving was totally limited, to about 5 metres, due to the strong glare on the front window of my car. My intuition was: this could be dangerous to drive on the road!  Then what I have conceived actually happened – an accident.  The car in front of mine smashed the other car, and both cars were seriously damaged.  I was safe and I changed lane to continue my journey.

Photo credit: Flickr

What was the problem?

Strong glare on window pane that caused the limited vision.

The car in front of mine probably drove too close to the one in front of it and when there was a “stop” (due to the traffic light which controlled the cars traffic flow) the driver didn’t brake in time and caused the smash.

How could this be prevented?

If the driver has driven more slowly and safely, then he could have stopped in time, and this would have prevented the smash from happening.  But this is an assumption that I have made, in that the glare has caused the problem, and the driver wasn’t driving cautiously enough.

What might be the long term solutions?

1. Improve the design of the road, by posting variable speed limit and warning signs (though hardly visible if there are glares), when such glares are likely to occur at the morning time.  Alternatively, cover the part of the road with a cover (tunnel) to ensure sunshine will not be a problem in driving.  Re-orient the direction of the drive to ensure vehicles wouldn’t be exposed to such problems

2. Educate the drivers (and the public) on the importance of safety when driving with glares shown up on window panes during certain times (morning and late afternoon) etc.

3. Improve the design of car windows, for instance with anti-glare panes, or adequate tinting.  Research into ways to eliminate glare on window panes.

4. Conduct research on accidents due to glare on window panes of cars, and investigate how and why such accidents occurred, and ways to reduce and eliminate such problems.

5. Not driving along the particular route, which would reduce the chance of glares,  at that particular time slot, if ever possible.

The above options also have many implications.

1. Cost

(a) Improving the design of the road could cost a lot, and unless this problem of glare has been identified as the main cause of the problem, and that the cost is justified, then it is unlikely there will be any change in the design of the road.

(b) Educating drivers and public on the importance of safety when driving with glare won’t be costing that much, as this could be included in a safe driving campaign.

(c) Improving the design of car windows would cost a lot for the car designer and manufacturer.  However, this could ensure safety when driving with glares, and so the value and benefits of redesign might far outweigh the cost.  This may involve a total redesign of car windows though, which may involve a huge cost to the car designer.

(d) Conducting research to study the cause and effect of glares on traffic accidents may be costly, though it could lead to improved safety.

(e) The cost of alternative routes would depend on the situation, and so it’s difficult to evaluate such driving option.

2. Safety in driving

The most important aspect of driving on the road is safety.  Speed and convenience are important for drivers, but safety is critical for drivers and the general public.  So, driving safely reduces accidents,  saves lives, and property.

Here is a video about what happened when a driver suddenly stopped on the road.  The one who drove too close to that car ahead caused the problem.  Though this was caused by “careless driving” and different from the “glare” problem, we could learn something similar in both cases.  Safe driving is the key.

What are the learning that I could derive from the above and apply them in social networking and online education and learning?

I have referred learning online similar to virtual driving here in embracing technology in higher education.  Learning with safety in mind is important.

There are significant barriers and risks involved in social networking and learning online, where as a learner, I need to be aware of and overcome, in order to have a successful, enjoyable learning experience and effective learning outcome.

Photo credit: from Michael Kirkham

1. Do I as a driver (learner) have the capacity in dealing with those situations (glares)?  These “glares” may take the forms of virus (Trojans), spammers, hackers, trolls, and sites with fake information or directions etc. Here is an example on the problem relating to virtual identity.

2. Do I as a driver (learner) know how, what, where, when, who and the why to connect to ensure safe learning?  How do I know that the information and direction contained in the artifact, post or site  is accurate and reliable? Do I know and apply the netiquette for connection and networking?

3. What are some of the strategies and tactics that I could employ when learning online (safe driving), in order to connect, communicate and collaborate with others, and to ensure my routes of driving (learning) are safe, effective and efficient?

Leahgrrl in her MOOC support inefficient learning and that’s the point highlights her feelings about MOOC, where overwhelming information and connections could be perplexing, though fascinating at times.

I have however got a different experience in that after a few MOOCs, what I reckon is important is a capacity to adapt to a changing learning and working environment, apply the sensemaking and wayfinding skills together with critical thinking and reflection on what I have learnt through life experiences,  (like a deep reflection and review the action on the above accidents) and sharing and conversation with others.

At the end, if I could create a learning environment together with others which allows me to think, reflect, learn, connect, collaborate and communicate with others, then I think such sharing and conversation could be one of the best pedagogical approach in online education and learning, in action.

I am still waiting for the emergent learning, which could result from further sharing and interaction with others….

#CCK11 Connective Knowledge and Emergent Learning

I am reflecting on my understanding of knowledge based on this post

Knowledge today is complex, ever changing, and information is overabundant. Knowledge no longer resides in a single place, in a brain, in one person or a cadre of experts – it is in the connections we make, our networks of learning (Siemens, 2006). Technology is evolving and affords us the opportunity to connect and share. As our network grows it impacts upon our assumptions regarding learning infrastructures, authority, and certainty of “knowing”. We need to recognize that a textbook, a professor is a node not a touchstone. Textbooks and professors can guide learners, can provide trusted nodes, a framework, a foundation and skill set that enables and maximizes the learner’s journey. Today’s learners have so much opportunity and so many resources available to them. It is truly an exciting and rewarding time for them. Encouraging learners to contribute their own viewpoints in a clear and thoughtful way is so much a part of the learning journey. We need to develop attitudes and skills to be able to balance technological and cognitive agility, and capacity in defining and achieving our goals (OCC2007, 2007b).

I would like to ask a few questions based on the above:

Knowledge no longer resides in a single place, in a brain, in one person or a cadre of experts – it is in the connections we make, our networks of learning (Siemens, 2006).  Here we assume that knowledge does reside in a single place, in a brain, in one person or a cadre of experts in the past.  Who made this assumption? Does knowledge reside in a brain (for human knowledge, in one’s brain)?  What does it mean when knowledge resides in a brain? When we said knowledge is pattern recognition, does it refer to recognition by the brain of a person or by the brain of a number of persons? So, can we say a person’s capacity to recognize pattern does mean that such “knowledge” is associated with one’s brain, and could also be associated with a number of persons’ brains? So, I reckon we need to distinguish such knowledge that is recognized by the human brain from other knowledge (the emergent knowledge, the social knowledge, the connective knowledge, or the collective knowledge).

As our network grows it impacts upon our assumptions regarding learning infrastructures, authority, and certainty of “knowing”.  What are the assumptions that we have made regarding learning infrastructures, authority, and certainty of “knowing”?  Who made those assumptions?

How about my suggested Assumption Theory?  Are we assuming that knowing is certain all the time?  At least, when we make a decision, aren’t we assuming our decision is “right”? Otherwise, we won’t make such a decision?  Are we really certain about the knowledge we “have”, even with the pattern recognition? This relates back to our experience and learning capacity, in that we can’t be always certain about the “knowledge” and information we “have”, but we just need to assume that such “knowledge” is at least “good enough” at this stage of time based on our limited knowledge.

There is a Chinese motto (from Zhuangzi, one of the wisest Thinker and Philosopher in Chinese history): I have a limited life, but I know there is unlimited boundary (knowledge, learning etc.) in my life.  To use my limited life (I can only live up to a certain age) to chase after unlimited boundary, that is like chasing after “death” (a tragic journey).   If I still insist on chasing after such unlimited boundary even with my limited knowledge, that is quite a tragedy.

Here is the translated version of Zhuangzi

Human life is limited, but knowledge is limitless. To drive the limited in pursuit of the limitless is fatal; and to presume that one really knows is fatal indeed!

I think it brings out the limitations when one is learning in solitude, especially in ancient Chinese learning environment, where knowledge was based principally on “books”, personal experiences and narratives, and that even a wise person would hardly be able to grapple with the knowledge available at the time.  Is this still true at this digital age?

I reckon there are still some “truths” and lights shed with such concepts, based on my perception, since even with the use of technology, where information and knowledge (pattern recognition) are abundant, may be even at our finger tips, by connecting with others, with networks, and interaction with the aids of various tools and technology, or attending formal education through institutions, etc. our individual “knowledge” capacity is still limited.

The SARS case illustrates the importance of connecting with people, having accurate and  up-to-date and information, and a reach to the information sources or artefacts, experts and professionals of the field, relevant knowledgeable others,  and the community in order to prevent, control and minimize the risks associated with SARS.  Also, this global outbreak alert and response network highlights the importance of using a network approach towards the prevention, identification and control of such disease.  It is through such collaborative and cooperative efforts that the networks, community and individuals could learn and solve problems together.

The Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) is a technical collaboration of existing institutions and networks who pool human and technical resources for the rapid identification, confirmation and response to outbreaks of international importance. The Network provides an operational framework to link this expertise and skill to keep the international community constantly alert to the threat of outbreaks and ready to respond.

How about the current devastation in Japan?  Aren’t we getting these updates as a result of technology (internet, news broadcast)?  Would networks help in minimizing the casualties or injuries as a result of such natural disasters?

Here is my interpretation of connectivism, where I posted here.

Connectivism is new in that it is:

about the distribution of knowledge in the network and oneself (including our brain – your and my brain), and the solution lies in one’s brain. All problems and solutions are there in the brain – your brain if you want to solve the problem, and my brain if it is my problem and solution.  And what connectivism differs from other learning theories is that we could connect one’s brain to others’ “brains” that will lead to continuously improved and innovative solutions for me and the network in this digital age – networks including yourself with collective wisdom with emergent knowledge.

This relates back to what connectivism is: Knowledge distributed, learning as networked process (i.e. forming connections), principles form base of all design.  And the three levels: Neural, Conceptual and External (people, information sources etc. (Siemens, 2008)

Here Roy, Jenny and Regina shared their learning, and Jenny says:

“The power point we used is here Emergent Learning presentation (PPT) You will see that there is not a lot in it. We tried to plan the session to allow for emergent learning :-)

The chat room transcript is here Emergent Learning Webinar Chat Transcript

This is The recording of the Elluminate session

So my understanding of emergent learning is that

Emergent Learning is: Self-organised learning within a network.

and connective knowledge (refer to Stephen Downes, What connectivism is)

Stephen mentions about networks power and ethics here:

In groups, the properties of autonomy, diversity, etc. tend to be thought of as inhibiting the function of the group. Notice how the person who has a different point of view, or who has different objectives (“their own agenda”) are depicted as obstacles to be overcome.

Nothing inherently in a network fosters autonomy, etc. and, depending on its make-up, a network can be used equally to promote or to eliminate autonomy. That is why it is possible for a network to effectively collapse into a group.

A reworking of this question would be, why are autonomy, etc., important? And I have tried to answer this in An Introduction to Connective Knowledge and elsewhere. Networks in which these values are promoted are robust, dynamic, stable, reliable – they are good knowledge engines. We can rely on them (the way we rely on scientific explanation and induction, as methodological paradigms, tweaked and adjusted over time).

Another way of stating the same thing is that networks in which autonomy, etc., are abridged are effectively dying. The resonation of connections from entity to entity will gradually cease.

If I reflect on Stephen’s assertion here, then there is a possibility of network – group – network – group cycle in order to survive and thrive amongst networks, as networks which limit autonomy (of individuals) would soon “suffocate” and degenerate into inactive networks, and thus “death”.  But how would re-vitalization happen with those networks?  Would the catalyst be through the emergence of crisis like the current one happening in Japan?

This catastrophe has become a wake-up call to institutions and governments on the need to develop closer “knowledge” and “rescue” networks and teams, and connective intelligence and global aids in response to disasters.  Through such “life” lesson, we could experience the power and importance of connective knowledge.  Would emergent learning add value to our human learning on a global scale?

What are those lessons we could learn from these disasters?

How could these relate to individual’s learning?

Postscript: This on social media crisis responsibility comes at the right time.