What is the mission of Higher Education Institution and MOOCs?

“Can we assume that our education system (including most MOOCs) is primarily built on a behavioral/instructivist model of education? Teachers are expected to motivate students, keep them interested in class & in school, and ensure that they perform to the standards required, through TEACHING.”

Thanks to Doug Holton for the reference:  FROM TEACHING TO LEARNING – A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education (Barr and Tagg, 1995) where Barr and Tagg say:

To say that the purpose of colleges is to provide instruction is like saying that General Motors’ business is to operate assembly lines or that the purpose of medical care is to fill hospital beds. We now see that our mission is not instruction but rather that of producing learning with every student by whatever means work best.

Hasn’t there been any changes from Teaching to Learning? What pedagogy and education paradigm are being adopted by institutions and MOOC? Most of us as educators know “how to teach” through teacher training. How about the production of learning that our institutions should aim for as a mission? Without learners taking responsibility, learning in action (likely through motivation), what teachers could best do is to “transmit knowledge and information” from their heads to the students’ head. How to ensure such knowledge is always kept up to date, if such knowledge is transmitted in our education system?

How do these relate to the mission of MOOCs?

The mission of edX via MOOCs:

“While MOOCs have typically focused on offering a variety of online courses inexpensively or for free, edX’s vision is much larger. EdX is building an open source educational platform and a network of the world’s top universities to improve education both online and on campus while conducting research on how students learn.”

This seems similar to my posting here in opportunistic education:

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 edXUdacityCoursera or the UK Open Learn initiative.

Alternative platforms of MOOCs in forms of opportunities of learning are emerging, and competition is keen, among MOOCs’ providers as more and more institutions joined the bandwagon of MOOCs. As I shared in my post, MOOCs need to be viewed differently in an institutional framework, if a business model is to be adopted.  Developing and adopting a vision and mission that embrace disruptive innovation and take calculated risks is never easy.  It is however the best time to transform education through integrating pockets of changes, where a ground breaking attempt would eventually help the institution in morphing into a totally new world of education, probably with MOOCs.

Teaching and Learning in MOOCs

What sort of teaching and learning experience is most valuable in MOOCs (xMOOCs in particular)?

In this video Peter Norvig reflects on his experience whilst teaching his AI MOOC.

Every student is a teacher, and every teacher is a student. Couldn’t agree more.  Relating to the setting of deadlines as an “innovation”, that sounds like a back to the basic – push to students, using a behavioral approach.  For me, I think it depends on what sort of learning is needed.  For deep and personalized learning, I do think we would need to allow more autonomy for the students, so they could set up the goals, pace their learning with timelines whenever possible, instead of setting the pace for everyone to take, just like that in a traditional classroom.  This would allow slow learners to learn more progressively, and fast learners to speed up their learning too.

Open versus close learning

Scott says in this Close Learning:

I propose that we begin calling it “close learning.” “Close learning” evokes the laborious, time-consuming, and costly but irreplaceable proximity between teacher and student. “Close learning” exposes the stark deficiencies of mass distance learning such as MOOCs, and its haste to reduce dynamism, responsiveness, presence.

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2013/07/11/essay-calls-alternative-massive-online-learning#ixzz2YsrXRYFm
Inside Higher Ed

I see open and close learning the 2-sides of the same coin, just as rote/shallow and deep learning – that are all coined learning, just dependent on the approach of learning and the pedagogy employed. Here is my sharing.

MOOCs are platforms, tools (embedded with technology) and philosophy, where there is no one right set of approach, though one could use instructivism, cognitivism, constructivism and social constructivism, and connectivism.

The present xMOOCs seem to rely heavily on instructivism, and that seems to resonate with the super-professors and xMOOC providers and administrators. All the posts we found seem to relate to connectivism though, where collective wisdom is distilled through conversation, Socratic questioning and responses, and critique with more in-depth understanding of each others’ views.

To what extent are these compatible with the face to face (25 plus) students interactive experience? It depends on what sort of learning that we are referring to, isn’t it? If we are referring to prescriptive knowledge and definitive learning outcomes, surely face to face teaching and learning would be far better way to share the learning experiences, within the 1 hour session.

However, if you want to solicit more ideas, more “words” of wisdom from a diversified source, then the current blogging conversation (as part of PLE) would provide that sort of interesting points of views.

I reckon every learner is different, and that depends on the learning style, background knowledge, skills and experience, when it comes to learning. One size doesn’t suit all, and so are MOOCs. Treat MOOCs as tools, and if we like, an experiment and game to play with. If it doesn’t work, ask why, and how to make it work better. Is that what (we) want?

Transformation of Higher Education – Why is it so hard?

Is transformation of Higher Education possible?  My reflections:

Relating to the ideas on transformation of  Higher Education with improved teaching and education reform as discussed in this article, I reckon this is similar to the adoption of a connectivist approach in Higher Education.  There are still long roads to cross, due to the enculturated values of teaching and research that have been embraced by both professors and administrators for decades.  Besides there are demands of stability under an education system in Higher Education, it would be difficult to transform Higher Education without changing the pedagogy.  Transformation of Higher Education through improved teaching requires a review of the pedagogy adopted in HE.  I would reflect on this important aspect in another post relating to MOOCs.

Carl envisions and demands better teaching, with push backs from other academics due to challenge of traditional values and cultures that have been in the education system for decades.  I think many professors do know what could be done to improve & innovate teaching.  Higher Education values research over teaching, and that wouldn’t be changing as research “creates” & generate new knowledge, whilst teaching would at best transmit knowledge, as generally perceived by professors and students.

For those very smart & talented students, wouldn’t they just need minimum guidance and would then excel as Carl has cited in the article, under an apprenticeship model, with graduates?  For under-graduate students, only the top and talented students would learn most effectively with such model, as they are self-motivated and regulated.

For most other students, there are still needs for close support and mentoring, that are obviously absent if the only way to learn is the 50 min mass lecture method.

If I were to ask Carl: Is your Nobel Prize based on research or teaching?  If the answer is teaching, then would professors be considering how to improve teaching in a deeper way?

Besides, all PhD and Doctorate programs are still focusing on research as a principal means to gauge and evaluate a persons’ achievement in scholastic and research in the field.  How would we expect  professors to spend time in “teaching” their students when such PhD students are already good enough to learn with technology and network affordance?

But would this be an over-simplification of what teaching of under-graduate programs are all about?  Teaching concepts or correcting misunderstood or incorrect concepts in science is important.  However, would the use of MC and T/F or short answer questions be good enough to inculcate the values and applications of science in real life?

Some students would still prefer lecture method, and so many professors would continue to do so (and I think I would practice it too), as any negative comments or feedback from students would only lead to professors adopting more teacher-centered approach, when they are reminded that these are what the students want – to know the answers to the examination, tests, quizzes and assignments straight away, instead of spending time exploring themselves.

Some students are uncomfortable with this approach—even if it’s more effective. “I remember getting an evaluation from one
[UCSD] student who had just finished my course,” says Simon, a pioneer in the use of peer instruction within her field. “I loved
it. It read, ‘I just wish she’d have lectured. Instead, I had to learn the material myself.’ ” See above article.

Numerous researches have hinted that students want simple and effective means of learning, not complicated or complex tasks which are both time-consuming and difficult to perform.  That is the reality and challenge that most educators and professors are facing Higher Education.  Isn’t it?

The old motto: “Tell them what you want to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you have told them” have now been “transformed” into various formats of video lectures (both mass video lectures and short video lectures with quizzes – like those on Youtube), teaching posts or artifacts, or a combination of face-to-face lectures with online tutorials/quizzes – MC, T/F, and short answer questions, or peer assessments, or eportfolios.

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.

What should be the relationship between teacher and students?

Very impressive talk here by Rita Pierson.

Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.’” A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.

These sound good to me.  “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.”  This equally applies to adults.  Adults don’t learn from people they don’t like, especially when that is against the will of the adult.

So, isn’t it human nature in socialising, in valuing human relationship?  We all want to build a positive relationship with each other, not only for teacher and student (kids in particular), but throughout our walk of life.

Perhaps, it is difficult to repair a broken relationship, or to say sorry when we have done something wrong to others, whether they are our parents, kids, teachers, relatives, friends, or colleagues.

It’s important to keep a good relationship under all circumstances, as mentioned by Rita: “to understand others before being understood”, a quote from the Seven Habits of Stephen Covey.  But understanding between people is a two way process, and this goes deeper into empathy.

Unfortunately, there are subtle power relationship embedded in any relationship, and such power is never equally distributed between the two parties, especially when there are differences in values and motives in the parties concerned.  So the interests and motives of a teacher and a student is different, and this must be acknowledged.  Do students always try to please the teachers, in order to obtain a higher grade, or marks, or individual attention?

When people have different rights and opinions, conflicts do arise.  And if these conflicts are not resolved constructively, then the relationship goes sour.

Sometimes, one of the biggest hurdles we have is our desire to change others, or influence others, without consideration of the actual needs and feelings or emotional status of others.  We may then need to reflect on how we could make good use of our Emotional and Social Intelligence to manage ourselves and help and support others.

I am often concerned on the “manipulation” that comes out of relationship, in that sometimes, we might be unconsciously manipulating others, or being manipulated, either as a student or a teacher, a boss or a colleague, or a parent or a child.

In other words, teachers and students may fall into the trap of pleasing each others, just for the sake of getting praises and positive feedback in order to survive in the respective role.  The question is: What would I (we) like to get out of this relationship?  And why?

Is relationship building strong in a world where entrepreneurship and excellence comes and counts first?  I don’t know.

Here is my previous post relating to good to great teachers.

Do you make a difference as a teacher?  See this profound answer from an educator.

Are there failures in Connectivist approach towards learning? I would say NO!

Ignatia’s post got me thinking about the significance of MOOC disasters.  Debbie’s post with the three take aways helped in formulating the following questions and assumptions:

I have one question: What takes precedence in instructional design? Design of performance outcome first from an instructional perspective or a learning perspective (i.e. from the learners’ point of view)?

Most of traditional course design assumes a linear instructional/learning pathway, a mastery learning by drills and practice, to acquire all the knowledge that is decided by the instructor.  To what extent is this effective and efficient in an online course such as MOOC?

course design screen-shot-2012-02-12-at-9-39-01-pm

May be for prescriptive knowledge, yes, and duplication of knowledge by the learners, sure! But when we want to explore why these types of MOOC fail, the problem seems to lie with the interface between what the instructor want and design and what the learners actually want or design.

If I were the learner of the course, I would have designed it for me to learn, straight away, though this assumes that I have the experience and network or mentors/professors that I could work with.  Do you wait for the course or instructional designers to design your learning, or should you design your learning? Is that the question, under a connectivist learning paradigm?  There is no failure in connectivist learning, only if we fail to connect altogether, or we don’t want to connect. Isn’t it right?

Learning in an online environment is ubiquitous and is no longer bounded by the traditional four walls,  MOOCs, or single network or community.  It is far more reaching, when one is adopting a connectivist approach towards learning.  Unfortunately, it seems that many of us are still struggling with the pedagogy, the pros and cons with all the different approaches, models of learning – in trying to convince each others that one model is better than the other, or that the online is as good as the other offline learning.

Children nowadays are learning with mobiles, likely everyday, without worrying about whether they have used the right design, technology or pedagogy.  It may be true that sometimes the learning may be too disruptive to their formal education, and so this does not fit into educator’s model of linear learning, and thus follow instructions by the instructors.  Are adults following similar approaches, especially when there are so many ways of learning, via technology and social networks that they could learn with and learn from?

What we may be trying to do with formal courses is to direct learners back to formal models of education and learning.  On one hand, there may be a desire to organise education in a linear pathway, so they may be able to achieve all the learning outcomes that we desire them to learn.  It seems this sort of paradigm is adopted by the xMOOCs, and the educational philosophy is: learn through me, with me, and you would become competent.  Whether this is similar to our traditional lecture format of mass education is still moot, especially when these sort of education is immersed in an open online education and learning environment.

On the other hand, if we are to really transform our education, and make it really customised and adaptive, then we need to strip off the industrialist model of education, where massification of education with lectures, on a didactic mode with “drill, test, drill, test and test”  are replaced by adaptive facilitation of learning via networks and COPs, and personal learning networks, coupled with professional learning communities which are open and democratic in nature.

Test and examinations may still be good ways for learning, and accreditation, that is undeniable.  However, it is important to realise that testing without real understanding of the subject matters could be an illusion about real learning, and the higher order or deep learning that we wish and aspire to.  This has been highlighted by so many professors and educators that we need to keep reminding ourselves on the importance of deep learning, not just rote learning, shallow learning, and testing.

It is not just about learning certain learning outcomes that make learning effective at this digital age, it is about resilience, and preparing ourselves, our professors and learners for the world of the future.

Would computers be replacing teachers soon?

Do you think online education would replace part or most of the face-to-face education?

If you don’t think this would happen, see this and this computers can and have successfully replaced teachers:

Cash-strapped school districts, from Florida to Washington, have discovered that minimally supervised students hunched over laptops can outperform their lectured counterparts for a fraction of the cost.

As long as schools measure performance simply by rote memorization on multiple-choice tests, no teacher can compete with instant access to the world’s information. Unless schools change, more and more teachers will find themselves replaced by computers.

Photo image: Google

online education images

Tony Bates remarks in his post and I responded here.

Educating the world, with more automation seems to be the trend that wouldn’t be turned back.  Productivity is the key to mass education, and the wheel would move on.  So, we might be better off in checking the pulse of such changes, and adapt to them, in response.  Education is a great business for every one to get into, in order to lead us to a great future.

Refer to my part 2 on 

Do we really need teachers in post-secondary education? Photo image: Google

See this AI.

mass lecture images (5)