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