Participation and engagement patterns, and Social Network Analysis in MOOCs

Fabian posted on FB:

Can you imagine a population of around 3 million students in one centralized LMS? It would be like MOOCs inside the firewall… pros and con

My response:

That could be interesting to explore. MOOCs inside a firewall is like those typical institution LMS. You could “force” lots of discussion and debates by incorporating assessment which are based on the posting of comments, number of research papers quoted, the “likes” and voting one gets from others, and the quantity and quality of responses by each students (traced through LA). If these form part or whole of the assessments, then there could be tens and hundred thousands of posts and responses. Whether the professors and TAs would be able to cope with such huge number of posts and comments are another matter. Such challenge may be overcome with the 1-9-90 rule based on the votes, so the post and comments having highest votes would be elected to be given attention, or debated upon. This has been reported in many of the xMOOCs posts and you could Google to explore them.
Is this also applicable to cMOOCs? May be. You would need lots of TAs and knowledgeable others who have expertise in studying the LA, and report on the patterns of interaction. Relating to the course nature of MOOCS, you might find that some of the MOOCs are of an advanced nature, more likely suitable for sophomore undergraduates or graduate students pursuing a Master or PhD. It is no wonder that these MOOCs have a low completion rate, as they require a strong background knowledge in a number of fields, including Statistics and Mathematical tools.
Refer to this post It is likely that these few million students in MOOC or centralized LMS would likely behave in a hub and spokes with 10 or less in the population and 80 or 90% + falling outside the core of the MOOCs. These are typically similar to most MOOCs we have studied in the past. You could even analyse those patterns of study or learning using highly sophisticated mathematical modelling – as theoretical construct to explain those behavioral patterns – on interactions, connections and the emergence, though this requires also careful and sophisticated SNA and interpretation. There may be some PhD or Postdoc studies working on this, as many PhD candidates and TAs are using XMOOC to carry out LA( Learning Analytics) and relevant theorization to support their PhDs. I learnt this through the study of those xMOOCs blog comments, but I have not seen one such research paper released.
See this post It is typical to have 10% or less MOOC participants active in the course. It is relatively difficult to precisely determine the exact percentage of very active, active, not so active, and no participation, but likely 1-9-90 is what happened in most MOOCs, unless you close the MOOCs and force everyone to be onboard, and count their interaction and assessment as part or full for completion requirements. It could be risky to coerce participation, though not impossible to develop a course like that. In fact there has been reports of course with blogs participation where everyone’s postings and commenting is part of the assessment for the course unit.
Treating MOOCs as experiments surely is interesting, as these lessen the accountability and responsibilities of “failures” by students (especially when they are not paying any fees to the institutions or providers) and there aren’t substantial duty of care required, mainly because drop-out is ethically acceptable, and there is no loss in finance to the providers or institutions. Would this be a critical difference between MOOCs and the formal open online courses offered in formal institutions?
Refer to this slideshare by Stephen Downes
Some other studies here:
Social Network Analysis
Photo: Credit (Anonymous) (Google)

Are open online courses substitution for classroom learning?

Open online education – can it replace face-to-face classroom education and learning, in HE?

Here in a post on open-online-courses-are-not-subsitutes-for-classroom-learning  by Joshua Kim, he says

Efforts such as the Harvard/MIT edX project are wonderful developments, but massively open online courses are not substitutes for the learning that takes place in traditional courses (whether delivered as face-to-face, online, or in a blended method). Authentic learning requires a two-way dialogue between student and instructor. College teaching at its best is much more than the delivery of content: It’s about the co-construction of knowledge with students and faculty. If you believe that one of the most important attributes of post-secondary education is the development of relationships between faculty and students, experts and learners, then the advent of massively open online courses does not represent a substitute for the traditional course.

Are massively open online courses substitutes for the learning that takes place in traditional courses?

Yes, and no. No, there are certain sort of learning that are still only possible in traditional courses, such as face-to-face interaction, with immediate questions and answers, and feedback with the instructors or fellow students.  This depends on the type of interaction and engagement that both the instructors and students want, and need in the course, based on the course content and context.  There are however, not that much difference in terms of assessment, if there are assignments, tests, examinations held to check the achievement of outcomes or demonstration of performance.

Yes.  Authentic learning requires a two-way dialogue between student and instructor.  But, is that enough?  Our researches from past MOOCs (connectivist MOOCs in particular) reveal the importance of social, teaching and cognitive presence for the meaningful learning.  So, the mere dialogue between student and instructor, whether it is traditional or online education does not always provide or guarantee the “authentic learning”.  Rather it is the “multi-dialogue” among student and instructor(s) and other students, especially in the case of MOOC that would contribute to a deep, meaningful, and valued educational and learning experience.

One of the most important attributes of post-secondary education is the development of relationships between faculty and students, experts and learners.  Yes.  But there is something more in and behind MOOCs.  There are also development of relationships between students and students, and other “learners” and experts that are within, or lying in the edge of MOOCs.  The presence of knowledgeable others and participants in providing feedback or comments about what they think and learn about MOOCs are also relevant to the learning within community or network environment. I am particularly impressed with some of the comments posted in the blog:

In many MOOCs, there are many opportunities to engage the instructors and other students in two-way communication. Discussion forums and IRC chats moderated by community TAs and professors provide opportunities to ask and answer questions. Online student-led study discussion groups and local student meet-ups create further opportunities for students to form friendships, collaborate, and further engage the course content. In terms of interactivity, online platforms are often superior to those in traditional institutions, allowing students to participate in the discussion at any time of day with a self-motivated group of peers. Recently, MOOCs have utilized live discussion sessions lead by the course instructor using video chat as well as peer-reviewed assignments, further blurring the line between online courses and a real classroom experience. (Feynman Liang)

Traditional forms of education might be considered preferable, but really, wake up – traditional education is irrelevant if you cannot enrol in the first place, due to monetary, geological or other restrictions. MOOCs are not discriminatory in these respects.
The reality is, online learning really is teaching bigger numbers of people, at a faster rate and a lower cost. It is also cutting away some of the unnecessary ‘fat’ that comes with traditional learning.
If the knowledge is imparted, and the learning is effected, no matter the method, what is really important is what the student does with their new knowledge. (Darren McWilliams)

MOOCs as viewed from an educator’s perspective could be different from learners’ perspectives, though there are lots of commonalities too, such as concerns on design, delivery and assessment.

Here are some student responses on some proto-type courses on MITx.  There are many discussion forums relating to the merits and limitations of e or online learning, as a substitute to classroom learning.

I think there are both pros and cons with each type of learning – traditional and online learning (and the MOOCs).

Even with the MOOCs , there are different approaches (i.e. instructivist MOOCs, connectivist MOOCs).

It is never easy to compare and contrast between the two, though there has been many attempts in critically examining the pedagogy (of connectivist MOOCs), in conducting researches, and the experiences and backing here on the super MOOCs.

What MOOCs could offer is the Community that would be “sustainable” even after the completion of the course as I shared here.

The importance of discourse in MOOC is not about what is right or wrong about MOOCs, but what values MOOCs could bring to the world of education, and how the ideologies could be identified and understood, and be evaluated accordingly.

Disclosure: As an educator, I am commenting on MOOCs both from a learner and an educator point of views.

Photo credit: From Google
I will leave it to you to continue your exploration and sharing of opinions on this.

Impact of internet on our brains

What is the Internet Doing to our Brains?

Dr. Paul Howard Jones shared his views and findings in the video.

Is Google rewiring our brains?

Is it true that the more time we spend on internet, the less time we spend in real life socialising?

In the highlights of Recent Social Network Site Research

– SNS’s generally stimulate teenage social connectedness and psychological well-being

– It is about how the technology is used: Benefits if supporting existing friendships

Is the internet bad for us?

Paul compares technology of fire-making

– GOOD for warmth and toasting muffins

– BAD: if used carelessly – No panic headlines: “Fire may destroy us”

– we understand dangers and precautions.

It’s about how we use technology – when, how much, what for…

So, it is the affordance of technology that makes the difference, based on what and how technology is used in situations.

Would the use of internet lead people to do more or less physical exercise?  Research findings on this were divided – with some indicating that people exercised more whilst others indicating that people exercised less with the use of internet.

Are games (and internet games in particular) good teachers?

In Paul’s views games could be good teacher.

Action video games improve:

– Performance on many visuomotor tasks

– Switching of visual attention

– Suppression of distracting visual influences

– Inference of an action’s probable outcome

– Contrast sensitivity (primary factor limiting sight)

What are people doing on internet?

– Adults – pornography & illicit relationship

– Young people – gaming

This is an interesting finding.  I think it depends on what sort of games people are involved in.  There are World of Warcraft, educational games etc.

In the virtual World such as SecondLife, there are lots of people immersed in it, for socialising, communicating and sharing, education, or dating etc.  There are huge potential of the use SecondLife in Medical and Health Education, SecondLife in distance education.

Another reason why games could simulate learning is based on the premises that : We love uncertain rewards.  This is especially true for those of us who like to overcome the obstacles, and to achieve certain outcomes, like advancement of achievement levels and engagement and interaction with others to accomplish team, network, or community (or COPs) goals – that’s the reward that most of us like.  These may relate to the use of gamification to engage people (students in particular), so they would interact with the games, people and those involved in the system.

What else have you found, with internet and games in particular, on our brain?

To explore further:

How about the impact of internet on teaching and learning?  Your views….