What are missing in MOOC research?

MOOC is here to stay!

Reference to Peter Sloep’s comments on this post on Google Plus and Scoop.it

Good reflection on MOOCs.  How about research into MOOCs?

There are missing elements – learners’ needs (and motivation), pedagogy (from both teachers and learners’ perspectives) and openness which seems fundamental and universal in most Higher Education system, but not thoroughly addressed, as most posts published in those newspapers have been written from the perspectives of news reporters, senior executives or CEO, professors, administrators and researchers, but not much by teachers and learners.

As I shared in my posts, the learners’ needs may be segmented in accordance to a few categories – (a) those who are in high school, but would like to advance their knowledge or have some remedial knowledge through KA or preliminary courses in university, (b) those who are looking for university or degree education, (c) those who are graduates, and would like to use MOOC to further their professional development, and (d) those who are interested in life-long and continuing education, and (e) those who are retired or just have an interest in the course (MOOC).  Such diverse needs would also require different pedagogies – instructivist approach for those novice of (a), (b), a mix of social constructivist and or connectivist approaches for (c), (d) and (e).  Openness could be difficult to define, though would likely be based on individual’s preference.

Unfortunately, there aren’t much research findings (from xMOOCs) published on these areas, leading to lots of posts basing only on expert’s knowledge and experience, but not much on empirical and statistical findings as evidences to support those assertions and assumptions.

I did researches on cMOOCs and published findings based on empirical data, rather than the mere use of blog posts or basic statistics as reported in blogs.  It seems that without those empirical data, we are just best speculating on the trend, but that these are not yet fully reflective of the “reality”.  Besides, if we are to ask people what serves them best, they would likely tell you what is available now for free (like instructivist approach) where the instructors might have curated all information, taught what is required for the quizzes, assignments, and examination, leaving the learners to consume what is presented.  This would surely satisfy the requirements for the course, from an institutional perspective, and all auditors’ requirements.  However, that would only cover the procedural knowledge and at best declarative knowledge which is known and could be tested and assessed by automated system.

There is not much emphasis on generative and creative knowledge, as they are not tested or assessed (or cannot be assessed), and there aren’t much progress in this area, simply because social constructivism and connectivism may only be given a light touch in those MOOCs, where the professors have no time to interact or connect with each of the participants (i.e. it is impossible with tens of thousands of students).  This is again based on the assumptions that learners would learn better using different pedagogies which may only be valid with empirical findings and validation.

Photo: Google image

research implications images


What do you think?


Does creativity come with a price? Part 2

This is part 2 on creativity.

In this creativity closely entwined with mental illness:

As a group, those in the creative professions were no more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders than other people.

But they were more likely to have a close relative with a disorder, including anorexia and, to some extent, autism, the Journal of Psychiatric Research reports.

There has been studies about creativity and mental illness.  I have copied them here as reference:

Creativity is known to be associated with an increased risk of depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The thalamus channels thoughts

Similarly, people who have mental illness in their family have a higher chance of being creative.

Creative people, like those with psychotic illnesses, tend to see the world differently to most. It’s like looking at a shattered mirror”  Mark MillardUK psychologist

He believes it is this barrage of uncensored information that ignites the creative spark.

This would explain how highly creative people manage to see unusual connections in problem-solving situations that other people miss.

In an earlier review on Creativity and mental illness, however the

Conclusions: There is limited scientific evidence to associate creativity with mental illness. Despite this, many authors promoted a connection. Explanations for this contradiction are explored, and social and research implications are discussed.

I found these findings fascinating.  As I reflected on the significance of developing ourselves and others as more creative educators and learners, we might need to be aware of these research findings.

Would creative sparks for some creative people and geniuses  be associated with some forms of mental illnesses?

Could we be highly creative, but are perfectly healthy mentally?

It seems that we still have a lot of unknowns about creativity and its association with our mental being.

#CFHE12 #Oped12 Research into MOOCs Part 1

Why are there so few researches done on MOOCs?

What are the challenges in conducting researches into MOOCs?

Here oped12-need-for-more-research-related, Osvaldo concludes:

These are just 4 illustrations that exemplify some important issues in online education today.

  • Academic papers whose references are based on blogs and newspaper articles.
  • Numbers quoted by newspapers and blogs that can be totally misleading.
  • More precise information from learning analytics and more published research are needed.
  • Since the average time it takes for a research paper to get published in a peer reviewed journal is around 4 months, when they do appear they are most probably obsolete.Research in online education needs to change its publishing methodology to a more dynamic format. (If interested in this particular point I have discussed it in more detail in a previous blog post (Rodriguez 2012)).

There are 5 challenges of researching into MOOCs:

1. Difficulty in coming to generalization, with views and perspectives of learners posted on forum or discussion boards and blog posts

Sounds like a sandwich approach in comments. Start with praises, followed by criticisms, then supportive reinforcement  http://coursetalk.org/machine-learning-stanford …

If you were to write a research paper based on such postings, isn’t it perfect to say xMOOCs provide great learning experience for the learners?  To what extent are such claims applicable to all participants?  Most MOOC participants to a survey research would likely do the same, by providing valuable and honest feedback about the course design and delivery.  However, what are the presumptions here?  Those who like the MOOCs would post their comments on the discussion board.  Those who don’t wouldn’t even bother to comment.  May be, or may be not?

How about the views and experiences of other educators, professors of these MOOCs?  You would find a lot in the blog posts, where praises and criticisms are all nuanced or mixed, using the sandwich approach, in order to show an “appreciation” of MOOCs.

2. Difficulty in evaluation of MOOCs (both x and c MOOCs), due to differences in the lenses of pedagogy adopted by the researchers

If we were to evaluate MOOCs for xMOOCs based on Mastery Learning as a pedagogy, then we would likely come up with the conclusion that Mastery Learning is a perfect way to teach and learn, as the assumptions behind such pedagogy are “proven” based on “facts” and “praises” by the learners, likely those who successfully achieved mastery through learning with the course.

What about those participants (or researchers) who prefer to learn with other pedagogy, likely due to their different “schools” of thoughts?  For instance, those who learn through a connectivist or constructivist approaches towards learning, where learning is based on Connectivism, or Constructivism, and Social Constructivism.  Would these participants come up with the same or similar evaluation of the course and the presenter(s)?  There are many assumptions behind such nuances and differences in views of the MOOCs.  The strong criticisms on both sides of the MOOCs are evident, from both educators and participants.

3. Who are conducting the researches on MOOCs?  Would that make a difference in the research findings and conclusion?

Would the research studies be coming out from researchers, academics, scholars, or students?  It’s likely that each groups of researchers would look at MOOCs from different angles, perspectives, even with the findings pretty much similar, through research studies.  This has been revealed through many researches, where participants continued to praise the MOOCs.  The challenge is: would researchers be able to disclose any “negative” or “not so positive comments” about the courses?  These are sensitive issues that are bound by research ethics and confidentiality protocols, that none of these comments would be named, and so they remained anonymous.  To what extent would researchers disclose such remarks in their research papers?  How would that type of research findings add value to the research, and respond to the research questions?

4. How would research into MOOCs be funded and supported?

Who would fund such researches in MOOCs?  I have worked with Jenny Mackness, Roy Williams, Rita Kop, and Helene Fournier in research into MOOCs, and none of them were funded by institutions.  I found such researches both interesting and challenging, mainly because research done on a “personal basis” would only be “recognised” by oneself, and organisation so far if it adds value to them.

5. Challenges in collaborative research in MOOCs

As Jenny has posted in her blog here:

For me collaborative research also works best when partners are equally enthusiastic about the research topic and have a genuine desire to dig deep, i.e. it’s more than a jumping through hoops exercise to meet an externally imposed target. The rewarding bit of the research for me is in the discussions that can take place, possibly over many months or even years about the ideas being researched. The actual publication is simply the icing on the cake.

Finally, for me the most rewarding research collaborations have been those where the discussion doesn’t end simply because the paper has been submitted for publication – the discussion has been rich enough to generate too much to say in one publication and ideas for further research immediately spring to mind.

We need partners who would be willing to collaborate with each others, and more importantly willing to open up each other’s minds, in the design and development of research tools and methods which work.  Research into MOOCs is an emerging and evolving practice, and so the publication of paper is just one part of the whole story.   Research into MOOCs also needs to take into considerations the protocols of academic research, where researchers need to understand their roles and responsibility to each others, and to the community that they are associated with, in this case the MOOCs.

mooc download 101

Picture Credit: From Lisa Lane’s post


Exploration with MOOCs

I have just watched Jenny and her team’s slideshow here.   It is fantastic.  I would like to congratulate her and her team on such fabulous work and outcome.
She has shared her reflection here and I found them very useful in the research into MOOCs.
Jenny’s team focuses on the development of formal facilitation and the associated digital literacy and skills, and so that is really aligned with the institution’s course objectives.
Here are my questions to Jenny and her team:
1. What are the differences in approach for you (and your team) to work on this MOOC as compared to the conventional delivery (i.e. the closed online delivery)?
2. What are the success factors in the design and delivery of this MOOCs?   How are they perceived by the participants?
3. What does it cost for you and others and your institution to design, deliver, assess, and research in such MOOC?   How does it compare to the conventional design, delivery, assessment and research?
4. What are the areas that you and your team are satisfied with?  What are the areas that your participants are satisfied with?
5. Would you and your team have done differently if you were to design and deliver and MARKET the MOOC?  What would you like to change if that is the case?
In summary: What are your team’s and your learning from this MOOC?
Jenny responded that they are still writing the papers 🙂
I am not conducting research on your MOOC as I haven’t been involved in it.
I hope some of the above questions might help in revealing the effectiveness and efficiency of MOOC in an online education and learning environment, especially under the auspice of institution(s), or partnering with other institutions.
I am also interested in knowing the effectiveness and efficiency of MOOCs in driving the change within institutions.
Thanks to Jenny Mackness who kindly shared her research progress through her posts and responded to my questions to her in email.

Research analytics at your finger tips….

Isn’t research analytics readily available when you need it? By studying the downloads from academic publishing site, researches could reveal the patterns of downloads, what, when and who are downloading from the sites, and thus gain a better understanding of the research life patterns of researchers.  Isn’t that a smart way to research?

If this way of analysis is applied throughout different websites, networks, communities, then it wouldn’t be surprise to have the “internet of things” offered as real-time analytics, showing you what educational sites, courses etc. are most appealing (like the x MOOCs) to people, and what those study patterns (relating to the forum postings) are like.

This could also reveal how students are interacting with each others (when real-time social network analytics are depicted), and what topics and conversations are held (with Twitter, blog posts, forum posts and comments and FB etc.).   These could all be done using  Social network analysis software.  I would however, like to see the emergence of integrated software – with videos, text, graphics, audio, all in one.

Hopefully, this would provide the key to unlock the interaction, research and learning patterns.

That is my imagined future.

MOOCs Movement

In the past, university and professors focused more on research than teaching, especially in those research universities. Now, it seems to be a swing in pendulum with more focus on teaching than research, in HE and universities.  That may be good news to learners (and the MOOCers of edX, MITx, Udacity, Coursera, and Connectivist MOOCs – CCKs, PLENK, CritLit, Change11, FutEdu etc. who are getting HE for free). But would those MOOCs extend to research education at a postgraduate level?  I think this could be a huge market too, at Master and Doctorate level on an international scale.  Who would be the pioneer in this area?  Would it be Stanford, MIT, CIT and Harvard Universities?  What would be the implications with such postgraduate education?