What would you get out of MOOCs?

Do you want to teach in a MOOC? Why teach a MOOC?

For me, teaching a MOOC is an extension of what you teach in an online course, only that you would reach a massive audience. There is more, for learning, than teaching when MOOCs are structured with different pedagogical approaches, as they evolved.  MOOCs are not just about teaching though as they are more related to learning and educational experience that covers the social, teaching and cognitive presence.

MOOC won’t “correct” those teaching with “poor pedagogy”, but surely MOOC provides different avenues for teachers to design online courses with an experimental approach.

The best way to learn from MOOCs may be “mistakes”, not success, as this is captured here:

There is still debate about whether MOOCs can replicate the educational experience of a traditional classroom, but in general the large-scale online courses have managed to avoid being panned outright. Udacity, a competing MOOC provider, was forced to cancel a mathematics course last summer due to concerns over quality—but the incident appears not to have significantly damaged that company’s brand.

Isn’t it true that most of us made mistakes when doing experiments.  This is especially the case when performing social experiments on the web, or networks, where a scientific approach could be in “conflict” with the humanistic approach, facing lots of resistances and challenges, from each side of the schools – “the traditional school”, “the progressive school”, “the venture capitalist school”, “the innovative and disruptive school”.

There are lots of interesting learning we could gain from the MOOC experience, as an observer, researcher, participant, or professor. Some of these experience of MOOC have challenge our views about online education, learning and the role and mission of higher education institutions.

How would people view MOOCs?  Would MOOCs kill research university?

So what happens if undergraduate teaching is something that is magicked away through the technological change of MOOCs? Clearly that river of cash that supports the professoriate disappears. As does the need for quite so many professors of course. Which will in turn lead to there being very many fewer people conducting research as there just won’t be as many people in universities in the future.

When most of the resources are directed towards MOOCs, who would fund and conduct researches in the universities?  May be that is the downside of MOOCs on research universities, as the pendulum is now swinging from research to teaching using MOOCs.

We are further witnessing a crossroad where conservative school of teaching (where lecture reigns best) is challenged by innovative, disruptive, though instructivist school of teaching (where mini-chunked base video lecture coupled with mastery learning reigns supreme).

As we unbundled teaching, MOOCs have become a platform where a complex mix of activities are offered both by MOOC providers, teachers and “consumed” by the participants and students.  These have been elaborated in this Understanding the MOOC Trend.

What would we get out of this MOOC trend?  Why MOOCs?  That is the very basic question for every institution to consider.  To what extent would their MOOCs be differentiated from the other “mainstream MOOCs”?  Are they superior MOOCs?  Why would you teach in MOOCs?  Should teachers curate rather than teach and compete with the super professors of MOOCs?

Why not send our students to the MOOCs so they could learn there, whilst we as educators could enjoy the smart teaching and learning with our students with less efforts.  See George’s video on this.

Am I doing this now?  I have been thinking about this way of teaching for the past few years.

I have used many of the resources available on the Web for free and found great achievements by my students.  So, teaching could be done more effectively by being a curator, facilitator and supporter, rather than a pure “lecturer”.

Do you see it that way?

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What are the differences between cMOOCs and xMOOCs?

Are there significant differences between cMOOCs and xMOOCs?

The MOOC (more accurately should be xMOOCs) is the i-Tune of Academe captures the positivist views with xMOOCs, with promising future.  I still see MOOCs as freebies (with x MOOCs offering more features than cMOOCs including certificates and brokering services). To what extent are these “sustainable”, at least for the coming few years?  

I have shared my views on the differences between c and x MOOCs here, “more is less and less is more with MOOCs” part 1, and part 2 and part 3.

In essence:

1. xMOOCs are branded based on institutions and professors, cMOOCs are branded based on the co-evolvement and peer teaching and learning of both professors and learners.

2. xMOOCs are instructivist based, whilst cMOOCs are learner and learning based.

3. xMOOCs are based on an alternative business model, whilst cMOOCs are based on learner-centered connectivist model.

4. xMOOCs are based on semi-opened teaching resources, whilst cMOOCs are based on Open Educational resources (OER).

5. xMOOCs are based on a marketing approach, whilst cMOOCs are based on learner “word” of mouth and experiential and experimental “moment of truth” approach.

What else have you found?

Personalization of education and learning

What should our future education be aiming for?  Massification of education or personalization of learning?

In this paper on Instructional Theory by Reigeluth C. (2012), he highlights the need of having more personalized approach towards learning, through a post-industralist instructional approach, where learner becomes the centre for learning.

In this Mastery Learning and this paper on Mastery Learning, there are benefits of adopting its philosophy in MOOCs.  That’s also the central pedagogy adopted by most xMOOCs providers.

As I have shared in my previous post, students may master what is expected to be learnt if all teachers are teaching solely to the test.  However, it seems that many people might have mis-understood the initial intention of Mastery Learning, where the intention is NOT to ask the teacher to teach only those concepts for the sake of assessment or testing, but to allow the learners to master their learning at their own pace, in a progressive manner with immediate feedback in order to reinforce their understanding of concepts, and to correct any mis-understood concepts where possible.  Besides, Mastery Learning could be effectively employed in a mentoring and apprenticeship program where the mentor could guide the mentee through the program.

The future of education though would lie with personalization rather than massification of education as Aoki concludes here

This massification of online education appears to go in an opposite direction to personalization that elearning and use of ICT in education should aim for the purpose of providing more effective individualized learning experiences to learners.

How to progress from massification to personalization of online education?  I have shared that here.

Giving  students the correct answers strict away may sound a good instructional approach towards teaching.  However, have the students learnt how to arrive to those calculations?  Have the students mastered the concepts CORRECTLY?  How do we know if the students could apply their skills and transfer them from one area to another, in solving problems?

Aoki elaborates further on how personalization of learning could be achieved:

With the vast amount of data gathered through learners, personalization will become possible eventually with proper learning analytics and data mining. Furthermore, quality of learning outcomes may be further assured with the evidence of learning.

Is teaching an art or a science?

Professor Daniel Willingham suggests that:

Education is about changing the world, while science is about describing the world.  Daniel concludes that teaching is neither an art nor a science, but mid way between them, as it is about creating something, based on the boundary conditions.  He also uses the house construction metaphor for scaffolding of learning.

Is teaching an art? I reckon yes, as teaching cannot be practised without consideration of the context and people (teacher and learners) involved.  As every one of us is different, what works for one person in teaching and learning may not work for others.  The concept of scaffolding of learning is an art:

Scaffolding is the process by which teachers use particular conceptual, material and linguistic tools and technologies to support student learning. Scaffolding can be used at any point of interaction between teachers and students – at the point of providing inputs and explanations, through to modelling, interacting and assessing.

Is teaching a science? May be teaching could be based on certain scientific principles (mainly psychological principles and behavioral science), but again, these principles are all based on assumptions that education on human’s learning could be objectively assessed, and teaching being assessed in association with learning performance.

To what extent would teaching be based on scientific principles?

Here are some suggested Principles of teaching and Principles of learning from Carnegie Mellon University.  In reflection, most of the principles relating to teaching are based on experience and research, and are context and situations driven.  I reckon some of the adult teaching principles are based on science, with psychology as the basis, whilst others are based on art, especially when it comes to teaching using scaffolding of learning and social interaction, and the mediation of learning through technology.

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.

Pedagogy of MOOC

Thanks to Stephen Downes on the referred paper.  The authors conclude:

This review has demonstrated that MOOCs have a sound pedagogical basis for their formats. What we have not addressed however are the larger questions around whether taking a collection of MOOCs could replace obtaining an education on campus at a university in all of its facets of personal development and education.

I tend to agree with Stephen’s comments in that there wasn’t any reference to the cMOOCs.

I shared Peter’s views and concerns:

I have some quarrels with this conclusion. By generalizing over all sorts of contexts, the authors effectively suggest that context only introduces error, never systematic bias. However, context does matter both qualitatively and quantitatively.

That means that the conclusion that MOOCs have built on a solid foundation is premature. All we can conclude is that there is no evidence yet that they have not been built on a solid foundation.

I appreciate the authors consolidating the merits of using different “pedagogical approaches” towards online learning in the review and conducting the research, which is urgently needed.  The evidences presented relating to previous researches were however mostly based on structured “closed” courses offered to limited number of students, without much consideration of the various context or situation under xMOOCs.

How would those previous research findings be matched to the current MOOC?  Are we assuming that what worked in the past formal courses could be repeated in the current xMOOCs?  What are the assumptions behind such “sound pedagogical basis”?

To what extent are those evidences mapped to the xMOOCs?  It seems such a pedagogical framework of xMOOCs  is pre-determined by the MOOC providers rather than being grounded on research.

In summary, the authors have assumed that when all the other previous pedagogy were sound in those courses, then this “demonstrated that MOOCs have a sound pedagogical basis for their formats”.   I think more research findings and evidences are needed to substantiate the claim in the case of an open education and learning platform – on xMOOCs.

There is also an urgent need to compare and contrast the similarities and differences between the cMOOCs and xMOOCs in terms of their pedagogical approaches, and how the learners experienced learning in the respective MOOCs.

I do hope to conduct such research in the near future.

Is Connectivism a New Learning Theory – Part 2

Here is my response to George and others’ comments to my previous post of Is Connectivism a New Learning Theory?

Hi George, Agreed that the theory has to work at an individual level, and it would have to explain and predict how your learning could or do occur. My questions to you include: How do you learn? How has learning occurred to you?

Do you learn through building and or navigation of networks (aggregation, curation of information sources), personal level (neuronal-level connections, thinking and reflection of personal experience (what sort of changes in behavior?), and way of thinking with conceptual connections of various concepts based on those experiences (sense-making)?

In this way Connectivism is based on a thesis that learning is a networking phenomenon and that knowledge is where one could sense and recognise the pattern emerging out of the building and navigation of the networks. Learning is then a dynamic process, with certain adaptive properties associated with the networks, which could happen under a Complex Adaptive System and Knowledge Ecology (Chatti, 2012) (such as a MOOC). This means that when information changes, a person would need to examine the knowledge pattern resulting from those changes. The MOOC movement and the implications are good example illustrating such knowledge pattern. No one single expert (of MOOCs) so far has fully been able to definitely explain the knowledge and learning that are embedded in MOOCs for both the networks and individuals.

However, when individual professors and all associated learners are co-evolving and co-learning with the learners, each would sense the learning emerging out of the interactions or engagement, with some perceiving knowledge and learning with different degrees of meaning – based on sense-making.

Professors and learners (some, if not all) would each define their way-finding (goal setting, learning how to explore their own pathways) resulting from those exploration, connections, engagement or interaction. These sort of learning also result in various interpretations of what constitutes self-determined learning, self-organising learning (both individually and networks and groups) and emergent knowledge and learning, apart from prescriptive knowledge and learning.

There are people who may learn and interact differently from those as defined under the “formalised” and theorised learning approaches, based on legitimate peripheral learning (as peripheral learners) or other reasons (<a href=”http://www.col.org/SiteCollectionDocuments/MOOCsPromisePeril_Anderson.pdf&#8221; rel=”nofollow”>Anderson, 2013</a>).

Such patterns of both individual and social learning are appearing in various forms throughout the cMOOCs in repeated ways, and also re-emerging in xMOOCs despite the “assertion” that the pedagogy is based on Mastery Learning. Indeed, you could associate the learning associated with Connectivism to be an integration of the previous learning theories of behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism and situated learning (and COPs) all based on connections and interactivity (Connectivism).

May I relate to my previous post:”How would a connectivist approach work? Yes, you still require the deconstruction of the student’s existing thinking, but not just based on the teacher’s input. Rather, you would suggest the students to be immersed in networks, based on navigating activities and the using of appropriate tools or media (i.e. media and technology affordance), in exploring about the “right” and “wrong” concepts, and discerning those right from wrong through navigation tools and reflective thinking. This is similar to what I have suggested here:

The concepts that are crystallised through such networked learning may be based on the ability of the learner to recognise and interpret the pattern (i.e. principally on the navigation and exploration, with or without the teachers), rather than the demonstration of the teacher and explanation of the concepts via “Constructivism or Social Constructivism”. This means that the concept development under Connectivism is far more reaching than the typical “classroom” or social networks environment, but would also include technological and media enhancement for its nourishment.”

There are lots of factors which could impact or influence a person’s learning under such a knowledge ecology (MOOCs), including the authority and power exerted through formal authority, professors, peers etc. and the emotional and affective dimensions (likes/dislikes of certain aspects) emerging from the interaction with course, professors, experts, networks, peers, preference of learning based on individual learning styles, autonomy and self-determination or organisation of individuals, and most importantly personal educational and learning experience which would ultimately impact on one’s perception and appreciation or adoption of those properties of networks – openness, diversity, autonomy, and connectivity or interactivity.

Thanks again for your valuable comments and insights.

References:
Anderson, T. (2013). Promise and/or Peril: MOOCs and Open and Distance Education (accessed 3/5/2013)

Chatti, M. (2012). The LaaN Theory