Research into professors’ experience in teaching and learning in x and cMOOCs

Do we need to conduct such researches?

Throughout the past years, there had been researches done on the learning experiences of participants of cMOOCs, and more recently, with the participants of x and cMOOCs.

I don’t see many systematic and inter-disciplinary researches into professors’ or facilitators’ experience in teaching and learning in x or cMOOCs, conducted by independent researchers or participants of MOOCs though.  There might be self-reflective blog posts by the professors of x or cMOOCs, and surveys and research interviews on the professors, by the professors, but not much by the participants or independent researchers.

What MIGHT BE the reasons for such rare research studies on professors?

Most researches are based on participants’ experience where learning could be investigated, with MOOCs. However, when it comes to research into x or cMOOCs, most of the professors might have preconceived what might be best as a pedagogy for their MOOCs, or that such pedagogy (Mastery Learning, an Instructivist – with behavioral/cognitivist approach) has already been pre-determined in the MOOC platform or in their design.  It could also be challenging to request professors to self-reflect fully on their experiences in teaching and learning in x and c MOOCs, as they would need to disclose their impressions, feelings and emotions, and how and what they have taught, facilitated and learnt through the MOOCs.  Besides, such researches might only be possible if they are conducted with independent researchers who have a good mastery of MOOCs, with adequate design of the research, and that researches are done in an ethical manner.  Besides, would MOOC professors be interested in participating in such a research?

Why this sort of research is important?

We have often heard about learners’ experience relating to MOOCs, and the constructive criticism for further improvement and innovation, with the use of technology or networks in MOOCs.  To what extent has such learning and development took place, by the professors and designers of MOOCs?

I would like to consider adopting such approach into the research on x and cMOOCs.  Some of the questions are included here.

Questions for the Designers, Instructors, or Professors of MOOCs:

Decisions to take part in MOOCs

1. Why would you like to create a MOOC?

2. What would you like to achieve with a MOOC?

3. What prior teaching or learning experience do you have with online education or MOOCs?

Design and delivery of MOOC

1. What would you like to include and expect in the design of MOOC? What are the design criteria? Why are they important to you and the participants?

2. What would you like to include and expect in the delivery of your MOOC? What are the delivery factors that you have considered? Why are they important to you and the participants?

3. What are the essential elements of a MOOC that would enhance the learning of the participants? Why do you think they are essential?

4. How would you evaluate the learning of the participants in MOOC?

5. What would you suggest to improve in your MOOC?

Research into MOOC

1. What research areas would be helpful to you in MOOC?

2. How would you conduct such research into MOOC?

3. What have you learnt through the design, delivery and review of MOOC?

4. What would you have done instead if you were to re-create a MOOC or start another MOOC?

More questions for professors and you

What do you think about such researches?

What research topics of MOOCs interest you?

Motivation and Intention in participating and engaging with MOOCs

Is intention an appropriate measure of success of MOOCs?

I reckon each person’s intention in MOOCs is different, though the participation and engagement could likely fall into patterns similar to the four archetypes of MOOCs.

My proposition and assumptions relating to motivation and intention in participating and engaging with MOOCs include:

Psychological factors, Like/dislike of MOOCs (as public/commoditised/monetised goods), credentials achivement, & pedagogy used in MOOC as perceived by people could make a difference.

1. How would people’s perception impact on their intention to learn with MOOCs?

1.1 What factors would determine people’s intention to enroll into MOOCs?

– These students/participants intend to browse and audit the programs.  These participants could include: (a) professors, educators and experts in their field or other fields who would like to have a sense of feel on what MOOCs are, and how they are run; (b) researchers and Master or PhD students who would like to conduct researches on MOOCs, as part their faculties requirements or qualification requirements; (c) participants who are life-long learners, who might have got a degree in the field, or in other fields, but are interested in the field of study.  There might be some people who like the pedagogy, and others who dislike the pedagogy.

– These students/participants intend to engage and interact with part of the course content and or other participants with discussion boards.  These participants could include those of the above, but with an intent to complete a few to most of the activities, assessments or examinations,  but have no intention of getting credits or expecting credentials out of the MOOCs

– These students/participants intend to engage and interact fully with the course content and other participants with the LMS.  These participants are more inclined to like the pedagogy adopted, though again there may be a minority of participants who dislike the approach, but not willing to disclose their emotions or feelings in open public.  These sort of feelings towards courses are typical in learners attending most institution based courses.  Feelings of loneliness, lack of interaction with others and professors, and lack of “support” that relate to motivation could be issues and concerns.  Others include the messiness and frustration emerging from the participation in forum and discussion boards, when trolling and “tangential discussions”, negative criticisms are present in the forum postings, and the concerns of moderation.

1.2 What factors would determine people’s intention to like/dislike MOOCs?

1.3 How would such likes/dislikes translate into learning in MOOCs?

1.4 To what extent would learning styles impact on one’s motivation to learn in MOOCs (xMOOCs in particular)?

1.5 How would each of the factors, likes/dislikes and learning styles relate to the four archetypes of MOOCs – lurkers, passive learners, active learners and drop-ins?

2.  Teaching, social and cognitive presence are often cited as the most important factors in successful online presence.  To what extent are these presence contribute to the successful learning in xMOOCs?

3. What are the goals and motivation of xMOOCs participants?

In this article on 6002x-data-offer-insights-into-online-learning (full article here):

It is noteworthy that:

Participation and performance do not follow the rules by which universities have traditionally organized the teaching enterprise:  MOOCs allow free and easy registration, do not require formal withdrawals, and include a large number of students who may not have any interest in completing assignments and assessments.

This finding aligns with what have been found in previous research:

As our research on PLENK (cMOOCs) revealed, many participants of cMOOCs are putting assessment as (lowest) in priority. This is different from the xMOOCs where assessment is given a high priority by the instructors (professors), and may be some students, especially the undergraduate students who would like to use that to improve their performance with their own courses. Besides, there are lots of graduates and adult learners and educators in cMOOCs who are more interested in learning about the pedagogy, the different learning theories, and the emergent tools and technology. They may already have got their qualifications, or that they aren’t keen in being assessed, or being “instructed” under a “mastery learning approach”. There are also professors, experts, professionals who wish to know how MOOCs are designed and run, and how they might be used in their own fields. These all “contradict” to the initial design of xMOOCs, though could be easily accommodated in cMOOCs, as that is exactly what cMOOCs are designed for.

It should be stressed that over 90% of the activity on the discussion forum resulted from students who simply viewed preexisting discussion threads, without posting questions, answers, or comments.

This is not surprising at all, as such pattern of involvement in discussion forum has repeatedly appeared in previous cMOOCs (see Rita and her colleagues’ research publications on MOOCs).  It is typical to note a highly active participation or posting on the discussion forum at the start of a MOOC followed by an exponential drop in the later part of the course.  Such pattern of engagement may vary from cMOOCs to xMOOCs though as the xMOOCs have numerous assessment components (like homework, examinations) which may lead students to post questions in the discussion forum.

Discussions were the most frequently used resource while doing homework problems and lecture videos consumed the most time.

There are also differences in the cohort of students, with xMOOCs more likely consisting of younger students compared to that of those in cMOOCs.  A more in-depth analysis of the student populations would be needed to compare the xMOOCs and cMOOCs students’ populations.

In xMOOCs, success has been defined by the research authors as the grades students earned.  Measure of success as “achievement”.

In cMOOCs, success has yet to be defined, though many researchers and educators have proposed it to be defined as the achievement of personal goals as set forth whilst participating and engaging with cMOOCs.

“This is also noteworthy that majority of students (75.7%) did not work offline with anyone on the MITx material.”  and that those who did work offline with others have achieved 3 points higher than those who didn’t.  This again illustrates that many students of xMOOCs would likely learn on their own, without resorting to the “help” or “support” from others, especially with a technical course such as MITx- 6002x.

This pattern of online learning seems to coincide with the current mode of learning in an online learning environment, where most students are still learning on their own, with or without the use of PLE/PLN.

Would this pattern of engagement be typical for xMOOCs humanities courses?

These questions posted in the article are interesting for further exploration.

What are students’ goals when they enroll in a MOOC? How do those goals relate to the interaction with various modes of instruction or course components? What facilitates or impedes their motivation to learn during a course? How can course content and its delivery support students’ self-efficacy for learning? Similarly, how can online environments support students’ metacognition and self-regulated learning? Do interventions such as metacognitive prompts and guided reflection improve student achievement or increase retention?

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.

What is the most important lesson in MOOCs (cMOOCs)?

I think we are learning one of the most important lessons in the history of mankind: Openness in education, learning and research.

What do I mean by openness?

I would refer to:

  • Openness in education.
  • Open in free education.
  • Open in sharing and learning on vision, mission, ideas, values, ideals etc. with each others, each other institutions, communities, nations.
  • Openness in terms of re-aggregate, re-curate, re-use, re-mix, re-purpose, re-cycle, re-create, re-understand, re-educate, and re-learn everything that are once closed behind four walls, or closed doors.

To learn more about openness, see this paper (p40 – 52) on Open Research and Open Learning by Roy Williams and Jenny Mackness.  Thanks to Roy and Jenny for sharing their researches.  I think openness is one of the most important lessons that we could learn from MOOCs (both x and c MOOCs).

My share on openness in a previous post:

Openness in dialogue and conversation is the heart of “open education” where I conceived:

Finally, education and learning is not merely giving out the content, testing the students to see if they have got the right answers in assignments or examinations, though they may be important for course validation and institution accreditation.  It is about engaging people (both professors, educators, learners) to interact with each others, in the form of conversation, discourse, and to dialogue about the content, information, and learn about the implications and applications in study, at work, or in life.

Technology could be a powerful tool in the course of education and learning, in particular in MOOC, especially in the mediation of communication, or the facilitation of cooperation and collaboration, through wiki, Google Doc, or social media.

The current affordance of media and tools that are tailored to the learners need to be more effectively applied in the x MOOC, together with the “teaching, cognitive and social presence” for a transformation of education and learning.  Tools and media alone won’t change the world.  It’s the people, the leaders, the learners who work and learn, and converse together, that would change the world.

Helping each others – that’s MOOC!

Interesting introduction to MOOCs.  MOOCs are about helping each others, learning through socialization and active engagement and interaction with networks and artifacts, and completing assignments and examinations (especially with xMOOCs).

There seems to be a huge difference in the take-in of assessment. Previous researches in cMOOCs indicate that assessment were ranked last in terms of importance.  xMOOCs stress on assessment, mainly because they have to comply with the requirements for formal certification and accreditation.

Interesting to learn about formalising peer assessment based on grading and rubrics.  Auto-grading with quizzes and MC or T/F might be viewed as an objective method of assessment, though peer assessment could be a challenge for both the professors and most students of MOOCs, mainly because of the difference in perceptions and how each others’ work are evaluated, based on personal skills and experience.  Would this be applicable to graduate and PhD’s assessment?  Why/why not?


Emergent Research MOOCs – the golden minefield of Higher Education

Here is my response to a post on MOOC forum referred by Peter Sloep on Google Plus.

Hi Peter and Sandra,

Wouldn’t it be interesting to be the leader of the field before these MOOCs Forum?  Most informal learning actually leads the formal learning and authority, as witnessed in the MOOCs.  This is evidenced with the networked leadership of cMOOC (where we are all practising and theorizing, though we never need to agree on the pedagogy), then xMOOC, and then post-MOOCs are now emerging.

I  could be pretty confident in predicting that these MOOCs are now under the minefield of Complexity, where best practice might be sought from  expert advice, but emergent practice would likely be coming from the Cloud and Crowds (Wisdom of the Crowd), and Connective and Collective Intelligence of the Networks and Communities, not from single experts or gurus only, though they might still play an important role.

These Forums would again prove that having individual experts collaborating and cooperating in exploring and researching MOOCs is critically important.  There could also be commoditization of research, publications, where monetization and “PhD”s massifization, and entrepreneurship research are rendered possible, through MOOC platforms and researches.

My prediction is: MOOC would soon change its direction and focus on research, when the current undergraduate MOOCs are saturated, and when learners, graduates and professors would like to conduct  researches on more advanced topics in their field or cross domain collaborative researches with other researchers and institutions.  This is where future research could be done in global networks, and expanded to include researchers from different fields.

This could be similar to the cMOOCs, where graduate education is based on, though such MOOCs have matured to become not only learning MOOCs, but learning and research MOOCs. I reckon that could be a hybrid of c and x MOOCs where new pedagogy would emerge.

Would that be the vision and mission of research universities too?

Research is still the golden minefield of all prestigious universities.  I reckon all professors would value greatly in conducting continuing research, as this would lead to the creation of new knowledge and the production of budding scientists, scholars and researchers, and entrepreneurs.

What is the possible out of the impossible? Would it be the iMOOC? Part 2

The iMOOCs movement – Part 2

The current xMOOCs have swung the pendulum to teaching, not research.  This has its merits and demerits.  The current suspension of an xMOOC has led to some debates as shared by George here:

The message that closing forums or shutting courses when they’ve already started is that it negates the value and role of the learner. MOOCs need learners. Even if the decision to close the forum was the instructors in the incident above, it is still a reputation concern for Coursera. Learners aren’t saying “instructor X killed the course”. They are saying “wow, this Coursera course was killed”. I’d like to know more about how course closing decisions are made and how quality is vetted early in course planning.

In this post relating to a forum on MOOCs

On what an online education world means for hiring and talent for educators:

Rafael Reif

[On the question of how to hire professors in the MOOC era] “Can you hire MIT professors who know that they need to teach 150,000 people and not 150? We have spectacular researchers who are lousy teachers. That’s sad. A teacher in the future will become more like a mentor. The model of on campus education will be more about mentorship and guidance with research as an important factor.”

To what extent is it true that there are spectacular researchers, but lousy teachers hired in institutions?   Issac Newton was the greatest scholar, but really not a great teacher (at least in his classes), as no one attended his class, as we were told.  Time has changed, and we seem to need teachers who could teach, be a mentor, and not only that, but those who would be like Steve Jobs, who could market, sell and promote their products and services to the world.  And they would be a world changer!

Are most PhDs or Doctor of education trained in research, rather than mere teaching?  If research PhDs are majoring their specialization in research, rather than teaching, would it be a challenge for them to teach 150,000 people?  I reckon many research professors would prefer research, not teaching, but this time, they either have to adapt and change, or else they have to work as consultants, or join industry.

Is that a concern for those research professors?  There are also concerns about the “oversupply of PhDs and researchers/academics”, leading to disposable academics.

Besides, I think an emphasis of teaching over research could undermine the importance of research, where research could inform teaching practice and vice versa.  I don’t see much discourse on this important area, though open and digital scholarship is still focusing on research, as that is where researchers would thrive at this tough time.

The current trend of pushing those professors to be on the front line – posting short videos, selling themselves also may lead to a total misunderstanding of what great education is all about.

The emphasis of great education (and future education) to me is about personalised learning, cooperation and collaboration where one is called into, in contributing to the networks and community, and in connecting with the networks and agents (experts, business partners, customers, students etc.) so as to be well-informed and updated in information and the use and application of technology – as an affordance.

May be we are still at a transitional period in finding out what works, and what doesn’t in the midst of MOOCs, and this huge wave of technology disruption, not only due to MOOCs, but the technology, mobile and internet based learning movement – which is bigger than any of its parts.

What do you see will be the impact of MOOCs on the education business?