Is MOOC an Opportunistic Education?

Is MOOC becoming an opportunistic education?  Is the learning experience opening windows of opportunities for conversation, sharing and discourse for global educators, researchers, and learners in a wider context and a global community?

Photo credit: Elearning Google image


Here are four opportunities and challenges that I have identified relating to MOOC as a game changer in Higher Education.  There are assumptions behind each of the opportunities, including :

the revolutionary opportunities available in MOOC’s. But, reflecting the magazine’s focus, its cover story is less interested in how the online courses transform learning for students than how they offer investment opportunities for venture capitalists. Higher education of the MOOC variety is touted as the Next Big Profitable Thing, what Forbes calls “The $1-Trillion Opportunity.”

Opportunity 1

(a) to shift the education and business model from the notion that a professor lectures students, to a more collaborative, interactive model where global network of practice and community of practice emerges.

Here in a post relating to MOOCs, Don says:

 From my perspective, we should eliminate all lectures as a method of instruction. Universities must shift their business model from the centuries-old notion that a professor lectures students, to a more collaborative, interactive model.

Any subject where students need to absorb fact-based material – that is, where there is a right or wrong answer – should be taught using computer-based learning. Instead of being the “sage on the stage,” teachers should be the co-pilot for students as they explore and collaborate online to acquire knowledge. Without changing the model of pedagogy, the physical campus will not survive.

One can easily see a day when students treat all the universities as one big à-la-carte menu that can lead to something we could call a “MOOC degree.” Take some law courses at Harvard, economic courses at McGill, some engineering courses at MIT, and round out the degree with courses from Queen’s, Yale and the London School of Economics. The result will be students acquiring a better education by shopping around then they could have acquired at just the one institution. And it won’t take long before employers recognize this.

Should we eliminate all lectures as a model of instruction?  I have shared my views on lectures here and here. There may be certain needs for lectures, for certain categories of learners, under certain context.  It could however be contested as the most effective way of “transmission of knowledge”, given the whole range of choices from the education media such as TED or Education web sites.  Besides, why can’t we re-use and re-mix the educational resources (especially the media, artifacts) that could more effectively be used as a model of instruction?

Opportunity 2

(b) to shift the pedagogy from teacher-centric design in an online education, to a cooperative and collaborative teacher-learners centric design, with an ultimate pedagogy to support human beings and a transformative pedagogy.

Transformative pedagogy (from 3 types of education (McGregor, 2008)):

  • Place the student at the centre of learning
  • Help learners find their own inner voice and power, therefore they feel empowered to effect social change, bring about justice, peace, freedom, and other components of human condition
  • Teachers have to respect and have compassion for co-learners
  • All ways of knowing are interconnected and enriched by each other
  • The desired outcome is to change – to transfer learning into social action outside the classroom

The epistemology: where student needs to create knowledge.

We are now at a stage where MOOC providers are exploring and experimenting with different pedagogies over a range of MOOCs.

There are many good questions raised here on whether MOOC will work for freshman composition:

Even without outside intrusions, we struggle with new challenges, some anticipated, some not. How can we keep students engaged, especially when we do not have traditional contact with them? How can we recreate and encourage extra-classroom support mechanisms like study groups, office hours, or tutoring?  How do we protect students’ privacy and intellectual property without the firewalls of closed learning platforms? How do we address plagiarism? And, of course, the biggest question of all: How do we evaluate writing assignments in a course with potentially thousands of enrolled students? Because this MOOC is being designed for an open audience and will not award course credit, it is impossible to know who might enroll, or how many.

There are no easy answers to these questions, in particular the engagement of students, the openness issues and assessment challenges often associated with open-closed learning platforms.

Opportunity 3

(c) to innovate based on technology and media affordance – The use of different media also allows for more individualization and personalization of the learning, better suiting learners with different learning styles and needs.

Tony addresses this well as he says:

Online learning can incorporate a range of different media: text, graphics, audio, video, animation, simulations. We need to understand better their affordances, and use them differentially so as to develop deeper knowledge, and a wider range of learning outcomes and skills.

The use of different media also allows for more individualization and personalization of the learning, better suiting learners with different learning styles and needs.

Another post here

A report on the study, “Technological Change and Professional Control in the Professoriate,” includes interviews with more than 40 professors at three universities. It suggests that professors often use such technologies for logistical purposes rather than to improve learning.

This further reinforces the need to gain a deeper insights as to how technology could be used to improve learning, and to provide continuous support and development for educators and professors in teaching and learning under a changing technological learning environment.

Opportunity 4

(d) to re-bundle the value propositions from non-credit to credit bearing courses, with degree granting from institutions.  This would also challenge institutions to re-think about their roles in the Higher Education ecology:

In this “How about the institutions goals and vision?”

He sees three roles in the current MOOC ecosystem: course provider, testing service, and credit granter. Any institution looking to experiment with MOOCs needs to decide which role it wants to play, he said, and then determine its goals for the first year and its intentions for growth five years out.

He acknowledges that setting five-year goals might be difficult, given the rapid evolution of MOOCs over the past year. Still, he said, institutions must try to think that far ahead, beyond any immediate benefits.

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed

Here in a paper on MOOCs:

  • A turning point will occur in the higher education model when a MOOC-based program of study leads to a degree from an accredited institution — a trend that has already begun to develop.
  • Addressing the quality of the learning experience that MOOCs provide is therefore of paramount importance to their credibility and acceptance.
  • MOOCs represent a postindustrial model of teaching and learning that has the potential to undermine and replace the business model of institutions that depend on recruiting and retaining students for location-bound, proprietary forms of campus-based learning.

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 edX, Udacity, Coursera or the UK Open Learn initiative.

In summary, MOOC could be an opportunistic education model and platform where the four opportunities are identified – through the shifting into new and emergent education and business model, pedagogy, innovation in media and technology, and the re-bundling of value propositions.  Would this be the visions of the future of education?

What do you envision?