MOOC as the silver bullet

I would like to relate to Alex Kuskis’ comments provided here where he points to:

  1. The unaffordability of the American campus model, based on tuition price increases year after year, with students incurring immense debts, leading to a student loans crisis and financial bubble that will sooner or later burst, just as the housing bubble did. See “A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College”, ; “Universities on the Brink”, ; “College Bubble Set to Burst in 2011”, .
  2. Questioning whether learning happens at all in traditional university education, especially undergrad education. See “Does College Make You Smarter”, .
  3. The traditional university’s crisis of purpose, . 
  4. The university: still dead – Andrew Delbanco’s insightful new book on the history and future of the American college exposes an institution that has no idea what it should be, by Angus Kennedy, .
  5. The fading legitimacy of liberal arts colleges, .
  6. The widespread perception that universities require “fixing”,
  7. The fact that universities are ripe for disruption: .
  8. The ineffectiveness of lectures, still the dominant teaching method in universities: “The College Lecture, Long Derided, May Be Fading”, .

Are MOOCs the silver bullets for education?  Not yet.

There are some positive results here with Udacity, though the experiment has again revealed that MOOCs could be helpful for certain students and learners whilst may not be a panacea for those who need individual learning or support, including mentoring, coaching or tutoring.  Such pedagogy has proven to be effective in traineeship and apprenticeship programs.

However, in an online environment and platform such as MOOCs, one on one mentoring with professors or personal tutors (teaching assistants) could be prohibitively costly and thus not possible.  An alternative is to arrange volunteer or paid tutors and mentors in such MOOCs who could provide the coaching required for novice learners, as I have shared here and here.   There are implications with such approaches, as additional mentoring and coaching may incur fees, and the need of an infrastructure with systems of policy, procedures and protocols as normally present in an institutional framework to assure quality support learning services.

There is also a need to balance between self-organizing nature of networked learning with a focus of autonomous learning embedded with the instructivist mastery learning approach in such MOOCs to ensure optimum learning outcomes.  Many novice learners may overly rely on the “teach, drill and test” sort of mastery learning.  Such instrumental learning is practised in senior high school or entry level college, in preparation of their entrance examination to university.  Though there are merits with mastery learning for prescriptive knowledge and learning on defined curriculum, the mechanistic and instrumental learning associated with the consumption of knowledge would limit their growth and development in critical thinking and metacognitive skills, sensemaking and way finding.

That is where MOOCs providers need to re-vamp their programs with technology as enabler, so as to cater for their learners’ needs. These would further foster new and emerging pedagogy in education, not just a reinforcement of what they are currently offering to their students.

In summary, continuous improvement and innovation in practice in an ever changing world of MOOCs and education.


Learning is about doing, application of skills and reflection, not just theory alone.

How do you find that in MOOCs?  What is the pedagogy adopted in MOOCs (xMOOCs) in particular?

I reckon that MOOCs that I have been involved in were all application based, as I have to practice and reflect on what I have learnt through the practice, using Personal Learning Environment and Personal Learning Network (PLE/PLN), Web 2.0 tools application, collective inquiry and open discourse, and social networking.

Similarly, when it comes to instruction in class (both face-to-face and online), we used to explain basic concepts and principles, together with some case application or scenarios, followed by discussion and application of knowledge concepts and skills or case application, through various activities, projects and assessment.

So, to me instruction is just one part of the learning process, provided by the professor(s) or teacher(s) to the learners.  Instruction should lead to learning, though it is often restricted when there is limited practice following the instruction, especially in a lecture format.

Learning is about doing,  application of skills learnt, and reflection, in order to keep on improving one’s learning.  It is not just about the theory presented to us by the professors or teachers.   Learning is also about organizing ones’ work in a structured way, in order to achieve the goals through certain tasks.   So, it relates to the basic principles of instruction too, where one must demonstrate to others how certain tasks are done in a systematic and orderly manner, through explicit explanation, followed by demonstration.  Learning is then achieved also through teaching oneself, and others, like peer-to-peer teaching, in order to “become” an expert learner, or teacher.

In this connection, would MOOCs be designed and run with these principles in mind?  It is not just about multiple choice, it is not just about providing a “great presentation with wonderful explanation”.  It is about engaging and involving the learners to do something –  it may relate to their thinking, reflection, practice or demonstration and modelling of the skills, through their own actions, activities, assignments and application at home, or at work.  It could be demonstrated through blogging, tweeting, wiki or Google doc creation or collaborative or creative writing, or project and problem assignments, or peer assessment.

Here is a 3 part video on Teaching teaching and learning learning:

In summary, instruction is one part of the learning process, provided by the professor or teacher to the learners. Learning should be motivating, engaging, and interactive, where the activities and assessment should also be relevant, value added to the learners.  These learning could be demonstrated through blogging, tweeting, wiki or Google doc creation or collaborative or creative writing, or project and problem assignments, or peer assessment.

I hope my fellow colleagues and students would also provide some comments and feedback as to how they have learnt.

Measurement of effectiveness of cMOOCs

Here is my response to Christina’s post on difficulties researching cmoocs.

How to measure the effectiveness of a cMOOC?

There are 4 semantic conditions of networks that Stephen Downes has proposed. As Stephen has commented, those properties – openness, diversity, autonomy and connectedness & interactivity is not perfect in cMOOCs. Besides Connectivism as applied in cMOOCs could likely best be based on an informal learning, rather than a traditional institutional model.

I have reiterated that the constraints typically imposed with an institutional model would be huge challenge for administrators and educators to adapt, as is witnessed even in xMOOCs, where a totally new approach (such as flipping the class or flipped learning) as perceived by professors would be at odds with the mass lecture approach typical in mass-education, with a broadcasting model. How to overcome those challenges, and ensure learning is more effective, when cMOOCs are embedded in an institutional model?

Here is my response  that I perceive as a way to measure the effectiveness of cMOOCs – in its

1. awareness of Networked Learning and Connectivism as an “informal learning paradigm”,

2. an adoption and leveraging of the 4 properties- openness, diversity, autonomy and connectedness & interactivity when networking,

3. an achievement of personal goals with immersion in the network and community (and community of practice) on personal basis,

4. adoption of Personal Learning Environment and Network PLE/PLN in pursuit of life-long learning, and

5. a shift of frame of reference and paradigm from knowledge transmission to knowledge sharing and creation model under a knowledge ecology.

John Mak

Should education be seen as a free good? How about MOOCs?

I have been pondering on this important question since the inception of OERs in the early 2000s.

In this post, Andre Dua says:

it’s equally important that education not be seen as a free good, because it will always take big investments to attract and retain the talent needed to develop world-class courses and materials. Unless new online platforms are associated with meaningful revenue streams—from textbooks, tutoring, proctored exams, per-degree fees, or creative alternatives not yet imagined—the model will prove self-defeating.

MOOCs have been viewed as freebies to a certain extent.  Here I am posting part of it for sharing:

I am in favor of open, free education.  The reality is: education has become a business.  For a business to survive and thrive, it must be profitable.

Does education need to be “profitable” if it is run on a business model?

We need to have a sustainable education. Where will the finance needed to run education be coming from?  Would it be from the government, venture capitalists, businesses, charitable organization, or philanthropists?

The Story

Here is a fictitious story that I learnt through a very old movie, back in the 60s.

There once lived a group of kind-hearted and loving people in a Chinese village.   These “good” people were so kind to each others that they ran their “small business” and offered their service to other people in the village at a very low price and low profit margin.  These good people provided all sorts of services including the provision of hair cuts and selling of buns often with little to low charges for those old people, young kids, and those who were poor.

Soon, news were spread about such great acts of love and serving others, with a spirit of altruism to the neighbours.    This also  attracted a lot of jealousy from other people in the village who had lost their profits because of these good people’s wonderful business and acts.

Some people in the village decided to compete with these good people by offering their services of hair- cutting and selling of buns at a cut-throat price.

Here, the competition began.

The good people decided that they would offer their hair cut and their buns for near to a zero cost.  And they attracted hundreds of customers from their village.

The other group responded by offering their hair cuts and buns for free.   And the customers immediately flocked to their free service.

Here, the good people decided to offer “free buns” for every hair cuts offered to their customers.  That seemed to be the perfect way of running business and serving the society.

In a modern world, isn’t that the perfect model of socialism where everyone enjoys the freedom of choice and wonderful free services and social equity?  May be free service and products for everyone is the best way to serve a society, based on the concept and principles of “free, open education”.

Is that what a Utopian society should look like?

So do you want to know what happens next?  Both groups of people were competing so fiercely that they ended up not getting any profits from the customers, their fellow villagers.

That wasn’t the end of story.  That was only the beginning of the story, where learning started.   Those good people realized that they had to re-think and reflect on what it means to offer free services for all in the community.

That is the story.

The modern Story of MOOCs

Those were the days of the MOOCers in the 60s.  Is it significantly different from that of the MOOCers of the 2012s?  May be not.

How would our story of MOOCs end?  We might have to re-think about how we could offer our services to the world for free.  Internet has opened up the opportunities of free, open education for everyone.  Providers of MOOCs are trying to leverage the “power” and value of internet and webs  to achieve their visions.

But would anyone be able to beat the disruptive technology and its associated free open education offered through internet and social networks?

Here is a nice update on MOOCs.  MOOCs are now charged for institutions to use, though most users could still register for free for some of those MOOCs.

What happen to the university?

In The End of University as we know it, Nathan writes:

The future looks like this: Access to college-level education will be free for everyone; the residential college campus will become largely obsolete; tens of thousands of professors will lose their jobs; the bachelor’s degree will become increasingly irrelevant; and ten years from now Harvard will enroll ten million students.

Will that be overly pessimistic?

If tens of thousands of professors are losing their jobs, would that be the serious consequence?  Are the bachelor’s degree still relevant?  What sort of courses and curriculum should be offered by the institutions instead?

Good to have a conversation about this trend.

What happen to the university of the future?  Let’s explore with more conversation.

#CFHE12 #Oped12 The emergence of MOOCs part 3 the future of education and learning

Here is a very insightful post critiquing on the MOOC Fantasy.   Would online courses spell the end of traditional universities?

Who says online courses will cause the death of universities?  That sounds quite optimistic about the role of universities in society.  To what extent would those ‘predictions’ be true?

What would be the future of education?  What would be the future of MOOCs?

But in terms of the learning experience itself, it cannot be said that MOOCs are a significant step forward.  Most MOOCs are more interactive with frequent quizzes and some have incorporated basic elements of gamification.  Probably the most significant advance is in the area of peer grading.  But accounts of plagiarism accompanied by sub-10% course completion rates signal that MOOCs aren’t matching their revolutionary price with revolutionary product.

Massification of online courses are only rendered possible by technology, and would rely heavily on Learning Management Systems.  This has been ‘proven’ to be the case for MITx, edX, Udacity and Coursera (in xMOOCs).  Why are MOOCs structured like that?  It is based on the premises that learners learn best through those institution education system, where resources (vidoes by professors) and professors are the key valued agents in an education system.  Indeed professors could benefit much from such an approach in reaching a wider spectrum of audience, learners and readers, and a better way to educate the world, through the MOOC platform.  So more and more professors would join the MOOCs in order to stay ahead of the technology trend, and there would definitely be more competition among educators, professors and consultants.  Professors would then realise that they would have a challenging task to take on, as MOOCs could be both complex and unpredictable, as the participants of MOOCs could have a wide spectrum of expectations.  Huge drop-out has been a natural by-product of MOOCs.  This also brings up the question of credibility and accreditation challenges that are still yet to resolve, under an institution framework.

Is technology trend (such as MOOC) based on Moore’s Law?  I would predict that the current MOOC movement would follow Moore’s Law where the education processes (xMOOCs) double in complexity every two years.

If we were to draw up a picture on how the MOOCs grew up, then MOOC has actually grown exponentially throughout the last 12 months.  This growth would accelerate likely in the next two years, before they saturate the “education space”.

Would mass education based on MOOC be determining the future of education?  I am convinced that this is the case, though you might find that this would likely lead to a drop in enrollment in formal higher education, as the MOOCs take up the education pie.

Finally, “MOOCs might actually educate adults for zero cost as well as the expensive for-profit colleges”, then why not giving MOOCs a thumbs up, even if the pedagogy is basically all about business and instructivism?

May be we need that side of education (both xMOOCs and cMOOC) that could add flavor to the digital world.

#Change11 #CCK12 MOOCs on the SPOTLIGHT

Here is another video on MOOCs.  I am somewhat disappointed that there wasn’t any mention on CCKs (CCK8,9, 11, & 12), PLENK MOOC, Change11 MOOC, LAK12 or DS106.  As I have shared in my previous posts here and here, may be MOOCs have been perceived as knowledge acquisition, and that accreditation would attract more people to “gain” a qualification at low cost.

To what extent is that democratization of education?

What impacts will MOOC has on Higher Education and Universities, apart from the notion of “disrupting HE”?

What will be the role of educators (professors and instructors) in MOOCs?

What do you see will be the future of MOOCs?