Are we at the intersection of an education revolution?

Education revolution, these are buzz words that prompted me to think about what it means, and the implications on Higher Education, K-12, and even corporate education and training.

The recent blossoming of MOOCs have sparked new waves of educational reforms, and most spectacular, education revolution – online education is now up-and-coming with its full frontal launch.  This article on Come on revolution by Thomas Friedman has attracted 370 comments.

These top-quality learning platforms could enable budget-strained community colleges in America to “flip” their classrooms. That is, download the world’s best lecturers on any subject and let their own professors concentrate on working face-to-face with students.

All sounds good. What are the reactions of the commenters?

For any course that can’t be machine tested, and that would include any course that involved critical thinking and advanced problem solving, whether in the sciences or the humanities, who exactly will review the research, the solutions or the papers? Who is present to challenge students, to moderate discussions, to give them considered feedback, to make them think for themselves?

And where is all the informal education that takes place when students live together and share ideas and experiences based upon what they are learning?

These are all good questions and there are divided responses, as to what it means   when classes are flipped when teaching online.

The instructivist approach with intensive short lecture videos and posting of lecture notes, powerpoints, examinations, quizzes  in those MOOCs may be pretty effective in certain information transfer, and thus allowing students to acquire knowledge and skills in technical subjects, or subjects that have known and definite answers.  That’s why true and false, multiple choices or even short answer questions would be effective and useful in checking students’ understanding of concepts.  Such activities are often used in assessment in most traditional courses, from K-12, as they could also be easily marked, and viewed as “objective and valid” tools in assessment, if properly designed.  Does it challenge students to think and reflect on what they learnt?  To what extent are they effective in checking on students’ learning?  What happens if there are no one “right” answers to the questions?  How to ensure that students are not sharing their answers when responding to the questions online?  How to ensure that learning is applied in projects, problems, or at work?

How to teach in courses that involved critical thinking and advanced problem solving?  I don’t think the traditional teaching by “lecturing” over the students would provide the solution to the learning of critical thinking and advanced problem solving.  Why? First, critical thinking requires both educators and learners to re-think about the questions that need to ask, when wearing different but parallel thinking hats.  At times, with the additional hats, this may lead to further thinking which is transformational.

Whether such MOOCs could stimulate critical thinking would be dependent on how the course is designed, how the professors would moderate and provide feedback to learners, and how the learners would reflect on their learning.  I don’t think we have enough information at this stage, though there are a glimpse of insights from the comments:

First, this is not some sort of neocon plot to destroy higher education. In fact, several upcoming courses such as “Health Care Policy and the Affordable Care Act”, taught by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel or “Introduction to Sociology”, taught by Mitchell Duneier, promise to have ample room for progressive ideas and teaching.

Second, Coursera and similar efforts are not meant to replace the traditional classroom. I am currently enrolled in a course on programming language compilers which is being taught simultaneously to Stanford undergraduate students. The instructor is using the ‘flipped’ model, where classroom time is used to dive deeper into the material and explore areas that normally would not be covered. The free online students don’t participate in this, but we are still getting the entire core syllabus as taught at Stanford.

Finally, many people have insinuated that these courses are not rigorous. This is simply not true. In the compilers course that I am currently enrolled in, I have spent well over 100 hours working on the class project so far. (comments by Nic)

That’s interesting, as such learning seems to provide ample rooms for both the instructors and learners to flip the classroom.  Engaging learners in the learning process is critical to online education, and even more so if a flipped model is to be successful.  Flipping increases student interaction.  That surely helps students in learning in a classroom environment. Is flipped classroom the solution to education?

I think assessment is also an important part of active learning, not just the teaching.

In this what the students think on MITx:

Many of those taking 6.002x already have degrees, and are using the course to sharpen skills for personal or professional reasons. Brian Ho, the owner of a software-development company in Honolulu who has a long-running interest in robotics, has an electrical engineering degree and is using the course to “refresh” his knowledge of the subject.

“We are learning to think intuitively when approaching electrical engineering — an intuition I didn’t have before,” Ho explains. As far as the discussion forums go, he adds, “I equally enjoy helping other students … in the process of helping others, you are actually helping yourself because in order to explain a concept perfectly you really need to understand the subject.”

Are these typical in the responses from the Connectivist MOOCs?

There are strong views here on Faculty responses.

“But it’s not education, and it’s not even a reliable means for credentialing people,” Nelson said. Education calls for real interaction with faculty members and a consensus through which faculty members can design, manage and evaluate degree programs, he said. “It’s fine to put lectures online, but this plan only degrades degree programs if it plans to substitute for them.”

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed

Is that education? May be, it depends on the purpose of education, and its content.

Is such online education or learning inferior?  I don’t think so.  See paper by Kop et. al. here that reveals learning experiences and pedagogy when learning in MOOC.

Are we at the intersection of an education revolution?

Do not expect an overnight revolution, as much time is needed for teachers and students to understand how to utilize e-learning capabilities fully.

Identify, target and support key likely benefits of e-learning, such as saving teachers’ time, supporting individual and group student working and opening new ways to reconfigure the geography and timing of class activities.

Netagogy would then be used as a holistic pedagogy, integrating and embracing the different, and overlapping pedagogy – a pedagogy relating to Information and Communication technology,  a pedagogy of abundancedigital pedagogy, and pedagogy in transnational education – transnational pedagogy.