How to explain the current xMOOCs in terms of education model and pedagogy?

Daniel in his post of  a criticism of computer science models or modeles says:

The problem is made worse by the fact that researchers working on modèles more easily get the upper hand. They are never wrong. They can endlessly refine their modèles and re-evaluate them. As long as there is no actual problem to be solved, the modèles will tend to displace the models. Cargo cult science wins.

Of course, the reverse phenomenon may exist within industry. People working with modèles are at a disadvantage. They can’t make useful predictions. They can only explain, in retrospect, what is observed. All their sophistication fails to help them when real-world results are what matters.

I agreed with Daniel’s views.  How would this scientific model be applicable to Higher Education?  Or can we really explain the MOOCs phenomena using the scientific modelling?

May I share some ideas below, which I think is relevant to the building of models in education?

What I noted in recent years is that ideas and concepts seem to be more convincing than the empirical data and experimental proof, especially in “social science”. Why?

As Clayton Christensen mentions here, most academics are looking for data for analysis before they would make recommendations for further action in the introduction of innovation.  The first cMOOCs were run based exactly on Theory (Connectivism as a new and emerging learning theory, as proposed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes).  The xMOOCs were again run based on the Theory of Instructivism where Mastery Learning and Video based learning (coupled with flipped classroom) would work.

The current MOOCs proved that is the case, based on the assumptions that Mastery Learning and Instructivism are what drive learning to be achieved, though “peer learning” was added when researchers later found it had happened.  The video lectures were again “augmented” with the flipped classroom model, in order to explain why xMOOCs are so successful as a special pedagogy, where the whole phenomena was explained with a post-mortem basis.

There have been some researches done in explaining the cMOOCs movement from the basis of Complexity Theory and Chaos Theory, Self-organizing Theory and Theory of Emergence.  Not many people seem to have applied that in the case of xMOOCs.

Indeed, when we examine the xMOOCs pattern of education and learning, the whole notion of learning could be explained when individual learners interacted with the content and made use of the LMS as a platform for some of the information sources.  The participation and completion did fall under a similar pattern to the cMOOCs though xMOOCs are normally far “richer” in terms of the information provision and “instruction” via the video lectures.  Indeed the quizzes and examination are merely “transferred” from the typical face-to-face courses, only that they are all based on auto-grading, and thus address some of the challenges that once weren’t fully covered in cMOOCs.

So, my conclusion is that people often tried to explain a phenomena by pre-conceived and well-designed instructions and wonderful pedagogy in order to fulfill the self-fulfilling prophecy, which may unfortunately not always be representing the actual pattern of education and learning that has taken place.  The current xMOOCs can likely be explained much better through the interaction learning theory, with Complexity Theory of Education and Theory of Emergence, and Connectivism as a model of education.  There are obvious conflicts to the mission of education under an institution framework, as the low completion rate of MOOCs don’t align with original goals set off in Higher Education.   There are many major conflicts with institution mission as mentioned by Clayton Christensen in the discussion of MOOCs.

Here is how a cMOOC work, and that could explain partially why xMOOC work too.

The Challenges of MOOCs – Part 1

This post is intended to share my views on the challenges of MOOCs.

Photo credit: Google Image

mooc download (2)

Here is a glimpse of xMOOCs (not all are MOOCs)

Here are some resources on the development of xMOOCs.

What are the major challenges with these xMOOCs?

Challenge 1

A difference in use and expectation of the pedagogy by the professor and learners.  Pedagogy of xMOOC – mooc-pedagogy-the-challenges-of-developing-for-coursera. The recent incident professor-leaves-a-mooc-in-mid-course-in-dispute-over-teaching well illustrates this.

I have shared my views on pedagogy on MOOCs here and here.  On openness rather than scale in MOOC.

Research paper
Making Sense of MOOCs: Musings in a Maze of Myth, Paradox and Possibility
20120925 MOOCs paper

Challenge 2

Problem with the use of technology and social media in the course.  Here  coursera-forced-call-mooc-amid-complaints-about-course.

Challenge 3

Open platform where discussion and discourse escalated into heated arguments and disputes.  This incidence where the professor left the MOOC revealed the nature of the disputes

Challenge 4

Cheating and plagiarism

Challenge 5

Identity of students.

Comment: Identity verification.

Challenge 6

Drop out problem.  MOOC and the funnel of participation.

Challenge 7

Quality of MOOCs

Challenge 8

Business model of MOOC and the revenue. Coursera expansion of their MOOCs -coursera-adds-29-schools-90-courses-and-4-new-languages-to-its-online-learning-platform.  How-EdX-Plans-to-Earn.

Comment: I would reflect on each of the 8 challenges and how to tackle them in coming posts.

#Change11 Education Model

Interesting analogy, Ken. VHS is now superseded by DVD, and Cloud aggregation, curation, and distribution through the media and webs (internet videos, Youtube).

How is the current HE model going to compete with these giant galaxies of formal education and informal learning in the internet – all filled with Udacity, edX, MOOCs, Networks, COPs, webs (a web of blogs), social media (FB, twitter)?

HE needs to leverage on those “affordances” to “resurrect”, as we have already witnessed the resurgence of higher education using different strategies like “flipping the classroom, class, education, or even the system – gamification in education” by some of the universities and FE colleges. This requires both courage in taking risks and leadership in steering education in the “right direction” and vision. But it also creates winners and failures, especially when the experiments didn’t work.

The use of more charismatic leaders to boost the morale and improve quality of education in individual institutions has been well known strategies for decades, but would that alone solve the problems?

Disruption due to technology, alternative “smarter” and “intelligent & pragmatic” education and learning cannot be solved alone by even the greatest leaders in the world, IMHO.

This is now a “system” and ecology problem, where supply and demand in education have gone imbalanced, especially when more learners are looking for better education, at a lower cost, and better teachers, resources, and learning environment.

Such challenges in current education model (HE in particular) is like the climate change, where we are feeling the heat, and the overall impact on each of us. It is not about money only, it is about how people could re-think the best uses of the abundant (not limited) resources available on the internet and webs. It requires sourcing the information, curating and feeding them to the audiences just like the newspapers that have been used for decades. It is where OER could be aggregated, reused, re-purposed, re-distributed and re-created to yield new and emergent education models, that would be relevant, based on just-in-time learning principles (without wastes, ideally, at the right time, right space, right cost, and right quality) that provides “best or optimum” values to each education system, educational institution, stakeholder, educator, learner.

This requires a total re-conceptualization of the education paradigm and the associated system, where the sole reliance of teacher – student interaction may need to be shifted to a wholesome enriching the engagement, interaction and experience for educators and learners. Terry Anderson’s latest session on engagement model well illustrates those points, as posted by George Hobson.

Image: From George’s post and Terry’s slide

Does it ring a bell?


#Change11 #CCK12 Student Owned Learning Engagement Model

This Student Owned Learning Engagement Model sounds useful.

Simon Atkinson elaborates in his paper:

“Expectations of systematized pedagogical planners and embedded templates of learning within the institutional virtual learning environments (VLEs) have, so far, failed to deliver the institutional efficiencies anticipated. In response, a new model of learning design is proposed with a practical, accessible, and freely available “toolkit” that embodies and embeds pedagogical theories and practices. The student-owned learning-engagement (SOLE) model aims to support professional development within practice, constructive alignment, and holistic visualisations, as well as enable the sharing of learning design processes with the learners themselves.”

The SOLE model’s (Atkinson, 2010) original development goals were threefold:

  1. to embed pedagogical guidance regarding constructive alignment (Biggs & Tang, 2007) inside a learning design tool easily accessible to staff;
  2. to produce a practical model that captured the lessons to be learnt from Laurillard’s representations of conversational learning processes (Laurillard, 2002);
  3. to enable the development of a practical toolkit which would make patterns of learning design shareable and transparent to students and colleagues (Conole & Fill, 2005).

I have been thinking about how learning engagement could be supported and evaluated under MOOC.  As the current MOOC (based on connectivist model) has a focus on individual learning goals (and outcomes), rather than course learning outcomes, this learning engagement model would need to be adapted to provide a flexible framework for participants to work on.

How to use the toolkit for evaluating and assessing the learning in MOOC?  The breakdown of elements of “learning” might be useful if the individual learning and development plans, the personal learning process and connections are linked to the toolkit.

#Change11 #CCK12 What about the business model of MOOC?

Thinking about business model, I found this interesting, about creating learning community not courses.

May be MOOC suffers from the term course itself, as it really sends a message that it intends to achieve a set of learning outcomes, as traditionally set in a course. It is NOT. It is more than what the course intends to achieve, and much broader than just learning about the “content” of the course. As some of “us” has experienced, it is centered around conversation (not only among entities, but within one’s weak and strong ties, and with ourselves), and use of various media and tools to help us to engage, or to reflect more deeply into what those sizzle (badges, accreditation, certification) means, for the educators, and the learners (educatee?). Such misnomer could send the “wrong message” that MOOC is just a social club too, as there is in fact no one single club owner to direct what others should or shouldn’t do. Those belong to the “kingdom” of business, with centralised vision and mission. MOOC does provide value proposition, just like any business, though these values are based on what each of the “stakeholders” and participants would like to define. And that is what (E)ducation in a new and emergent community (or networks) would likely re-define, its vision, mission, and thus value proposition. Does increasing engagement, attention merely act to add sugar to the river, in order to ease the consumption of it?

May I share the video Why Mobile Learning?

For some people (especially the case examples as shown in the video), they would be looking for access to “quality” information, to help them to think, to reflect upon, to raise a voice, or to learn some basic skills, or to help in solving a problem or making a decision. So, MOOC for the “disadvantaged”, for the “less than abled, not just disabled” and for the less than fortunate (due to lack of access, or their lack of academic or intellectual abilities) could be equally valuable. Have we forgotten these important values for the people in the society? Give them fishes, and they would live for another day, but teach them how to fish, and they could feed for their lives. I don’t know if that could convince the “rich” to bestow more “care” to the poor, but I do think as a Catholic, that is the value that I aspire to, even when I was young. It could be about leveraging technology, to get a certificate (recognition), to make a living (as an educator, or an entrepreneur), and each profession could add values to others or society on a different scale, in a different way.

In summary, I could see the challenge of the “course”, in this MOOC, but I reckon it’s the values that MOOC could bring along that is more important, as that might be the catalyst for awareness, in education, and in its transformation, within us, for us.


#Change11 #CCK12 The significance and impact of MOOC on learning and education

Whilst the drumming has never stopped ever since it started on MOOC’s – its history and future, and more analysis were made in distinguishing the 2 course formats of MOOC, it is about time to reflect on the significance and impact of MOOC on learning and education.

MOOC’s significance and impact

Here Tamar writes:

The current, more technically focused MOOCs are highly automated, with computer-graded assignment and exams. But there is still plenty of room for social interaction. The Stanford MOOCs, for example, included virtual office hours and online discussion forums where students could ask and answer questions — and vote on which were important enough to filter up the professor.

Whilst this model of Stanford MOOC did provide an interesting model for students to have access to the course for free, its highly automated assessment has rendered it unique in an open educational environment open up at a massive scale – to the public, without “any” pre-requisites knowledge or fees.

As shared by George in this recent post:

The Stanford MOOCs are more traditional as they emphasize knowledge development not ontological development. The primary innovation of these MOOCs relates to scale and economics: the numbers of learners that can take a course (currently for no fee, but I think that will be short-lived).

I think that is the crucial point: for MOOC to be sustainable, it must focus on learning, rather than treating it as another business, and be an ontological development, rather than the mere knowledge development.

Bonnie succinctly highlights that MOOC:

But that market lens on massive open coursework misses one of the central elements of the great disruption: education is not solely a business, or a credential-machine. It’s also about learning.

Tony reiterates in his comments:

No learning is easy and some people have tremendous self-discipline, but most in my experience do need structure and deadlines and scaffolding. There is also another meaning of ‘discipline’ and that is an organised body of knowledge with certain requirements for ‘success’. This may appear old-fashioned now, but I still think there is merit in the idea. That’s what makes formal learning different from MOOCs as at present but I don’t see why they couldn’t be adapted for this purpose.

The notion of organised body of knowledge with certain requirements for success may be one of the debatable elements in a Connectivist Learning Model. Success on an individual level would likely mean the achievement of personal goals and accomplishment of tasks or projects by the learners.  However, this may not necessarily be achieved through the completion of the MOOCs and so there are differences in the achievement of personal goals, and the achievement of “learning outcomes” of the course MOOC one is taking.  Besides, many of those lurkers or participants (active or inactive ones) on a MOOC could be learning through different networks and communities and so MOOC is just one of the platforms for them to “integrate” their learning, between the learning through MOOC and the formal learning in formal institutions.

Here Bonnie writes:

It is this participatory element – the learning of being part of a large, distributed network of people from varied backgrounds, focusing on the same topic – that enables open online experiences to offer value, even to those of us already studying in conventional institutions. That, and the speed and flexibility inherent in networked learning.

Tony continues: The real barrier is what I call the business model – how can MOOCs be financially sustaining in the long run? The Udacity model is not good one for me.

I think the financial implications in working out a business model with MOOCs would be imperative, especially for institutions or business enterprises to consider.

Our past 2 decades on online learning basing solely on a business model reveals that if we treat education solely as a business, a credential or money making machine, then the disruptive innovation pattern model as researched by Clayton Christensen would emerge:

Because companies tend to innovate faster than their customers’ lives change, most organizations eventually end up producing products or services that are too good, too expensive, and too inconvenient for many customers.  By only pursuing “sustaining innovations” that perpetuate what has historically helped them succeed, companies unwittingly open the door to “disruptive innovations”.

Some examples of disruptive innovation include:

Cellular phones
Community colleges
Discount retailers
Retail medical clinics
Fixed line telephony
Four-year colleges
Full-service department stores
Traditional doctor’s offices

Clayton’s prediction of disruptive innovation could rightly provide us with the crystal  ball: that innovative disruption would likely be repeated for any businesses – including education, and HE in particular, especially in highly developed countries, or a global market.  These seem to have been demonstrated in the current MOOCs phenomena too.  Are we ready for these sorts of “disruptions” in education?  Time will tell.

In summary, the MOOC is significant in that it povides an environment upon which learning with complex learning ecology is experimented and explored, so as to inform learners, technologists, educators and administrators (k-12, HE) and managers, engineers and learners from various businesses on the pros and cons of learning using various platforms or spaces in a complex digital landscape.  The impact of MOOC includes the changes that would be accompanied with its adoption, with a possibility of exploiting it as an education business model, whilst at the same time pushing HE to the boundary with more innovative models of education and learning in order to be sustainable.