What would be the next big theory of learning and education?

Aren’t we all going back to basic – with the xMOOCs based on the instructivism as a basic learning pedagogy?

I suppose lots of educators and researchers are still interested in the behavioral and objectivism approaches to education, through the xMOOCs.

On one hand, we seem to be celebrating the huge success of xMOOCs as millions of students are registered with the courses, on the other hand we still have not fully resolved the Higher Education crisis, as it unfolded.  One of the critical elements in education is pedagogy, which needs to be addressed when technology is used in education and learning.

Having browsed through this learning theory, I won’t be surprised by the missing out of some of the latest learning theories – Connectivism, or even the Learning as a Network Theory (LaaN).


Here are the assumptions and myths:

1. A lack of understanding and recognition of Connectivism as a new emergent learning theory.

Knowledge is co-constructed by humans under constructivism, and this theory suggests that humans construct knowledge and meaning from their experiences.

I quite enjoyed this interview recordings with George Siemens, where George shared his experience with MOOC and the application of Connectivism.

George mentioned about differences between Connectivism and Constructivism (and the various versions of Constructivism – Social Constructivism, and Connectionism) in the interview.

Relating to the difference between Constructivism and Connectivism, George states in his paper on Connectivism:

Chaos is the breakdown of predictability, evidenced in complicated arrangements the initially defy order.  Unlike constructivism, which states that learners attempt to foster understanding by meaning making tasks, chaos states that the meaning exists – the learner’s challenge is to recognize the patterns which appear to be hidden.  Meaning-making and forming connections between specialized communities are important activities.

I see the differences between Constuctivism and Connectivism as shared here, here and here.

Constructivism has been well promoted and educated in various education courses, especially in Higher Education Institutions.  There are significantly less discourse and education on Connectivism, likely because most academics, educators and scholars have been educated in the pre-digital era.  Even then, there has been some dissenting voices and strong critiques of Connectivism as a New Learning Theory as cited here and here.

There seems to be a lack of awareness of Connectivism as Jenny says here:

For me an omission from Liz’s slide and therefore from the interviewees’ thinking and experience of technology enhanced learning in Higher Ed is ‘Connectivism’ or anything to do with networked learning – although communities of practice can be thought of in terms of networked learning.

I could understand that Connectivism sounds too foreign for Higher Education educators, leading to its omission in the minds of educators.  Would this relate to the notion that Connectivism is seldom promoted in Higher Education due to some complex reasons?  These could include EDUPUNK and the Do it yourself (DIY) which are still viewed as too challenging or disruptive to the formal education system.

I have responded to some of the issues and challenges here, and here.

2. A lack of application of the theory of Connectivism in various contexts.

This is especially the case as illustrated in the Learning as a Network Learning (LaaN) Theory where PLE and Connectivism are applied in informal or non-formal learning scenarios outside the formal institutional environment, but not easily assimilated into the formal courses, due to the lack of support or direct encouragement to leverage fully on PLE.

I have shared some of the reasons behind such lack of application here.

It seems that there are still fundamental conflicts in applying some of the principles of Connectivism within an institutional environment, in particular when the technology and curriculum are still based on (a) a learning management system (LMS) and (b) a fixed curriculum with prescriptive learning outcomes, objectives and performance criteria.

This also presents challenges for educators and learners to apply Connectivism in learning, when in theory such constraints as determined by LMS could be overcome by being active learners, creating Personal Learning Networks and Personal Learning Environment for their “collective learning“.

In practice, both educators and learners are expected to comply with the controls often determined within institutional vision and mission, that is governed by quality assurance, in order for the courses and curriculum to be accredited, and the learning to be validated and recognized through qualification awards.

Wouldn’t it become a paradox when education and learning under Connectivism is claimed to be feeding to organization?  What would actually trigger the learning?  Organisation? The Individual?

It should be the individual setting off the learning, under Connectivism, then. Right?  But who sets the learning agenda?  Organization?  Educators?

Peter in this paper highlights that getting to know what makes our students tick will ultimately help education to work towards a Network Society focusing not on bits and bytes but on interpersonal information and communication, with the potential of further development of all young adults in society.

This fits perfectly well when it comes to changes necessary in education.  Tony Bates highlights in this coming week’s topic: Managing Technology to Transform Teaching:

New technologies will transform and are transforming post-secondary education in many different ways. Some argue that they will lead to the dismantling of universities and colleges as we know them.

However, it is my view that universities and colleges will be with us for some time into the future. There is always likely to be a need for guidance, structure and assessment of learning, and many learners will look to established institutions for such support, and for ways to validate what they have learned.

At the same time, it is also my view that universities and colleges need to change dramatically if they are to meet the future needs of learners, and in particular if they are to fully reap the benefits of technology for teaching and learning.

The issue

The issue then becomes: what changes are needed and why? And how best can these changes be facilitated and by whom? This is the topic I wish to facilitate in this MOOC.”

Many university and college leaders recognize the growing importance of learning technologies, yet institutions are still extremely conservative in their actual use.

So, when I re-visit the learning which feeds organization, under Connectivism, this sounds like a bottom-up feeding mechanism, where the “grass-roots” level educators and learners would create and share the learning with those in the organization, in order to initiate changes in teaching and learning practice.

However, as Tony mentioned in his post, it is more likely that changes are needed from the top for systemic changes, rather than the bottom, in order to be sustainable, and economically viable.

Such changes in learning must also come from leadership, from the institutions, instead of merely from the educators and learners, in order to embrace a fully Network Society spirit shared in  Peter’ paper and be sustainable.

3. Most students prefer to learn in a more simpler ways, even in a complex learning environment.

As shared in my previous post:

What the learners are normally expected to do would be to consume the knowledge transmitted or broadcasted to them, and to confirm their understanding of the concepts through repeated quizzes or assignments.  This requires certain perseverance from the learners, though it is possible to achieve a high or perfect score in test, assignments and examinations through drills, repeated practice, as is common in a rote learning scenario.   The use of standard answers in the case of multiple choices, true/false, or short case scenarios, could all be checked with automated grading or assessment software.  For peer assessment, these are done in a closed manner, with the merits of “protecting” the learners from being “criticised” in public, but the demerits of being critiqued by only a few participants (5 other peers) in the whole evaluation.  Nevertheless, this seems to be well accepted as a way to assessment in the xMOOCs, as that might be the only feasible and reliable way to assess students in an institutional environment, without overly involving the professors in the assessment.

What would be the next big theory of learning and education?  I think we would likely end up with a Theory of Learning based on a combination of Learning Theories, like a hybrid form of Social Constructivism and Connectivism together with LaaN in a few years time, though it is unlikely that educators would agree on a common education and learning theory which addresses all learning scenarios or situations.

Engagement with and participation in online discussion forum

Do people learn through engagement and participation in online discussion forum?  To what extent is such learning more enriching than other forms of learning (i.e. learning through blogging or twittering)?

In this Participation in and engagement with online discussion forum, Mokoena concludes that

“… that the discussion forum offers an excellent way in which lecturers can engage effectively with students studying through distance education. However, lecturers should not assume that if they post a task on a forum students will automatically engage with it. Lecturers need to be proactive, recognise the students’ work and provide feedback. While this might be perceived as additional work, it should be noted that synthesising students’ comments and adding commentary could provide a valuable resource for students to use in the same module in future.”

Participants of discussion forum would likely be looking for interaction in forum, with a focus on ideas sharing and exchange, and critique on concepts and applications as in the case of MOOCs (CCK08).

What motivates people to engage and participate in online discussion forum?

In an online learning environment, it is imperative to note that the “How to, Chance to, and Want to” engage and participate in online discussion forum is addressed through the design, creation and delivery of an online platform for discussion and learning.  This is important as in the case of MOOCs.

As Professor Gilly Salman suggests in her 5 stage model, each stage requires participants to master certain skills.  Unless participants have mastered those skills required at a certain stage, it would be difficult to expect participants to engage and participate in the forum with meaningful and thorough discussion.

Most participants would like to learn through the discussion forum on the professor’s and other learners’ views and perspectives on certain issues or problems, and how such problems (or questions) are tackled or resolved, based on their experience.  There are participants coming to forum for reasons other than learning about a particular subject or topic, like socialising, chit-chatting to exchange their learning experiences on their areas of interests, which may be tangent to the discussion.

In a formal online discussion, this could often be viewed as irrelevant or shallow in learning, but could be significant for learners to start having a conversation.  The concept of building fun in the learning conversation is relevant especially when the discourse relates to difficult and complicated subject matters.

How would people decide  which discussion forum to join and participate?

Though it is important for the facilitator to provide the lead in the discussion in the first place, it would be important that participants are allowed to enter the discussion with autonomy, deciding which discussion topic to initiate, and threads they would like to engage in, or respond to.

Why wouldn’t people continue with the discussion in online discussion forum?

There are many reasons.  Discussion fatigue syndrome are common in discussion forum, especially when one has to read lengthy discussions, or threads which may take time to understand.  People read topics or threads based principally on their interests, and so could be choosy in the participation.  The perception of talking with phantom strangers is common in open forums, which could easily deter new comers to join the conversation, especially in MOOCs.  The problem with trolls and the lack of moderation could lead to participants avoiding discussion forum. This is still an issue with MOOC as reported here on 10 reasons why people didn’t complete their MOOC.

To what extent are people satisfied with the learning in online discussion forums?

Do students achieve learning outcomes with asynchronous online discussion?

Refer to this:

In summary, unless postings are excessive and interfere with other forms of learning (Johnson, 2005), recent research establishes that student achievement is facilitated by asynchronous online discussion (Johnson et al., 2005; Koory, 2003; Wang, 2004). Asynchronous discussion reflects high-level cognitive processing (Järvelä & Häkkinen, 2002; Meyer, 2003). When compared with unstructured discussion, structured discussion has been associated with the highest levels of complex and critical thinking (Aviv et al., 2003). Required postings are more effective than optional postings (Johnson & Howell, 2005; Kear, 2004).

How to engage students in online discussion?

Some elements of best practices identified by Rose and Smith (2007) and Roper (2007) within this organising framework, such as giving clear directions, providing instructors’ feedback, promoting motivation, setting expectations, organising discussions and determining the types of questions (Mokoena, 2013).

Creative Classroom, Creative Learning, Digital Pedagogy and Netagogy

Innovating Learning: Key Elements for Developing Creative Classrooms in Europe (Bocconi, Kampylis and Punie, 2012) provides a comprehensive framework on Creative Classrooms and the applications of ICT in formal and informal learning.  There are rich examples supporting the parameters (building blocks) highlighted in the Creative Classroom Model.

Creative Classrooms are innovative learning environments that fully embed the potential of ICT to innovate and modernise learning and teaching practices.

The key dimensions of Creative Classrooms:

– Content and curricula

– Assessment

– Learning practices

– Teaching practices

– Organization

– Leadership and values

– Connectedness

– Infrastructure

This relates closely to my suggested Netagogy:

Netagogy is the study of netwok and internet-based learning.

The notion is an expansion and interpretation of Connectivismheutagogy and andragogy.  It is the process of engaging learners with the structure of learning experience in personal, social, international networks, and internet.

Netagogy places emphasis on learning how to learn, with multiple loop learning, personal, social, global and nebulous learning opportunities, a multi-purpose and non-linear complex and emergent process.  A multi-learner interaction coupled with self-directed Netagogy requires that educational and learning initiatives include the innovative and improvement practice of network and internet-based learning and technological skills, as well as learning experience on the multi-faceted perspectives and interpretations on various subject domains in the networks and internet.  These could include ConnectivismNetworked LearningSocial Media LearningPLE/N(PLENK), Virtual Learning Environment, LMS, Web 2.0, Information and Communication Technology, Mobile Learning and Digital/Online Learning based on a Pedagogy of Abundance.

This Netagogy helps to develop the capability and capacity of both individuals and networks in personal and social learning with affordances: communicating, engaging, interacting, cooperating and collaborating with others, leading changes necessary for transformational learning under a network and internet based learning ecology.

These relate to the report:


The challenging custom design and pedagogical zones have created a space for differentiated learning and digitalised didactic where students’ laptops are their most important learning tool.


ICT offers new tools for exploratory learning, such as online access to remote laboratories.

Creative classrooms actively engage learners in producing and generating their own contents (artefacts) in order to nurture creative imagination, innovation attitude and authentic learning.

Creative classrooms could also be based on Creatagogy, where I have elaborated here.

MOOC as disruptive technology

Is MOOC disruptive technology?

“Jonathan Schaeffer, the dean of Alberta’s Faculty of Science and a professor of computing science, “It’s easy to build courses that cost lots of money but at the end somehow you’re going to have to recoup those costs either in the short or the long term. It is a gamble, but to me, universities are all about change, and I see MOOCs as being a very important, disruptive technology.”

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/01/22/foreign-universities-consider-how-best-enter-mooc-market#ixzz2MvoHSJsO
Inside Higher Ed

MOOCs is now conceived as opportunistic education:

(1) to shift the education and business model from the notion that a professor lectures students, to a more collaborative, interactive model where global network of practice and community of practice emerges.

(2) to shift the pedagogy from teacher-centric design in an online education, to a cooperative and collaborative teacher-learners centric design, with an ultimate pedagogy to support human beings and a transformative pedagogy.

(3) to innovate based on technology and media affordance – The use of different media also allows for more individualization and personalization of the learning, better suiting learners with different learning styles and needs.

(4) to re-bundle the value propositions from non-credit to credit bearing courses, with degree granting from institutions.  This would also challenge institutions to re-think about their roles in the Higher Education ecology

In this Who participate in MOOCs and who are the drop-outs? Ry Rivard says:

Phil Hill, an education technology consultant, has come up with four categories of MOOC users: lurkers, drop-ins, passive participants and active participants.

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/03/08/researchers-explore-who-taking-moocs-and-why-so-many-drop-out#ixzz2N0T2NjcY
Inside Higher Ed

The MOOC phenomena clearly illustrates a pattern of participation typical with the MOOCs with the 1-10% active, 10-20% passive and 70% lurking or inactive participants throughout the course.

What would MOOC organisers do about it, in boosting engagement and interactivity?  There is now a possibility of using MOOC as a way for credit transfer to a degree – on your first degree course is mooc.  Would such option help in attracting more participants to complete MOOCs?

There have been many guides to the design of MOOCs, some of them based on surveys, like here 40-tips-for-running-an-open-online-course-or-mooc-from-those-who-have-experienced-them, and the MOOC Design guide.

There are some general principles that we may come up with the following questions:

1. What sort of pedagogy should be used to guide and support the technology and tools used?  Should the MOOC be based on Instructivism – behaviorism/cognitivism, social constructivism or connectivism?  Which sort of pedagogy are meeting the students needs and expectations?

2. What sort of platforms – LMS, or Social media, or a combination of personal learning environment/networks are to be incorporated into the design and delivery of the courses?

3. What would be the principal vision and mission of Higher Education Institutions where x or c MOOCs could align with?

There are different views relating to the prior life experience and a degree-based education.

We devalue the formal, degree-based education we offer when we give credit for prior life experience, obscuring the difference between skills that are acquired through practice and education that requires reflective conversation, critical exploration of complex problems, and pursuit of sophisticated knowledge.

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/alma-mater/%E2%80%98we-have-met-enemy-and-he-us%E2%80%99#ixzz2N0QrFG7h
Inside Higher Ed

There are MOOCs providers – especially the leaders who hail the peer-to-peer assessment and support that have occurred in the xMOOCs.

The real impact of MOOCs may be in pioneering new instructional techniques that will find their way back on campus, as well as expanding the limits of what’s possible with online education.

Is disruptive technologies the way to go for Higher Education?

What would be the impact of MOOCs on traditional universities (that fail to adapt quickly enough)? See this “wholesale bankruptcies” by Clayton Christensen.

What are the assumptions behind MOOC, in particular peer assessment and grading?

I read Jonathan Rees’ post on the flaws of peer grading in MOOCs with interests.

Jonathan says:

Because of the size of the course I think I can safely assume that many of my fellow MOOC students inevitably had no history background at all, yet the peer grading structure forced them to evaluate whether other students were actually doing history right.

The implicit assumption of any peer grading arrangement is that students with minimal direction can do what humanities professors get paid to do and I think that’s the fatal flaw of these arrangements. This assumption not only undermines the authority of professors everywhere; it suggests that the only important part of college instruction is the content that professors transmit to their students.

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2013/03/05/essays-flaws-peer-grading-moocs#ixzz2MiKxNP7b
Inside Higher Ed

What are the assumptions behind the background of MOOC students? Do we know enough if one’s fellow MOOC students had any (history) background at all?

What are the assumptions behind peer grading? I could see the values, merits and limitations of peer grading in certain fields, such as evaluations of group projects, individual assignments, but in the case of MOOCs, would there be huge variations in the grading, when subject to the assessment of different peers or professors? The use of 0, 1, 2, 3 etc. as a grading scale is appropriate when those performance criteria is clearly understood, with a concise marking guide. However, given the “unknown” abilities of the peers in assessment of the work, such as this “professor”, how would one be able to judge professionally, except from the report from this student professor?
Professional judgment in assessment requires one to comprehend the significance and application of validity, reliability, authenticity and sufficiency in evaluation and assessment of a piece of work (essay, report, project or artifact).  That’s why we need quality assessment (control over variation in “standards”, which could be measured based on concrete and reliable performance standards). Could super professors do this for hundreds, or tens of thousands of students in MOOCs? That is mission impossible. May be one could develop a course in “training” the students in how to assess in a professional manner first (based on what professors would normally do). Even then, one would realize that there are always variation in the assessment tools, methodology when students are requested to do the assessment, as an “experiment” in MOOCs.
There are many assumptions made here, and I just can’t help but to quote the Assumptions Theory that I suggested. The xMOOCs are based on assumptions that people could learn from the best professors in the world, with these peer assessment and grading rendered possible due to the advances in technology. We have also assumed that participants (students in particular) have got the skills to peer assess, and provide valued comments to other students. I just like to continue with stating the assumptions, but would think it better for you to share your assumptions on this interesting topic.

Discourse on MOOCs: where should it be heading?

Here is my response to Cathy’s insightful post on MOOCs – if moocs are the answer, what is the question?

Is MOOC the problem or solution to Higher Education, especially to the Future of Higher Education?

What is the question? What are the issues that MOOCs are trying to address? Whose perspectives would be educationally, socially, politically, and economically sound? What are the value propositions of each of the MOOCs offer?  How have they been responded by those in needs, or those in favor of or against MOOCs?

I have shared some of those voices, merits and demerits of MOOCs in series of posts.

Neoliberals, real liberals, DIY pundits, pro and against MOOCs, educators and learners have all got their perspectives, their open or hidden agendas, though now they are putting them openly (and sometimes semi-openly) on the virtual tables, via their formal channels, or social media platforms, blog or twitter posts.

The rapidly changing educational landscape has turned the discourse into a teaching as important to a learning as a more important topic, BUT not always the MOST IMPORTANT one as the business models of MOOCs have not yet fully emerged.

How could learning be fully exploited if it is not centred around learners?  May be we are still searching, experimenting and exploring some of the tips of the icebergs relating to Higher Education, especially with the WICKED problems in Higher Education.

The wicked problems and social complexity provides some clues – the forces of fragmentation could be the forces that challenge collective intelligence, not only in groups in organisation, but also in networks.  Compare this with the typical problem solving approach as outlined here.

“Fragmentation suggests a condition in which the people involved see themselves as more separate than united, and in which information and knowledge are chaotic and scattered.  The fragmented pieces are, in essence, the perspectives, understandings, and intentions of the collaborators. Fragmentation, for example, is when the stakeholders in a project are all convinced that their version of the problem is correct.  Fragmentation can be hidden, as when stakeholders don’t even realize that there are incompatible tacit assumptions about the problem, and each believes that his or her understandings are complete and shared by all.”

The antidote to fragmentation is shared understanding and commitment. In the case of networked and collective learning, it also requires forms of curation and aggregation – both on the fragmented resources collected and conversation held all over the places, in order to make sense, and to form a more coherent response to the problem statement.  This would then be shared through further conversation, by redefining the problem, analyzing the data, developing alternative options and solutions, followed by implementation of solutions.  The use of wikis and google documents are typical examples to illustrate the crowdsourcing solutions to such problems.

“Social complexity makes wicked problems even more wicked, raising the bar of collaborative success higher than ever.

Because of social complexity, solving a wicked problem is fundamentally a social process.  Having a few brilliant people or the latest project management technology is no longer sufficient.”

I have reflected on the problems and some possible options and solutions relating to the design and implementation of MOOC here and here.

The current scenario indicates that we are at a state of fragmentation in the midst of Higher Education, where MOOCs, OERs, privatization, partnerships, alliances, and co-operation and collaboration are just part of these fragmentation and disruption movement.  The actual tsunami may not even be the MOOCs, but the technological, economic and social “revolution” uprising for fundamental human rights to Higher Education at a free or affordable cost and a quest for innovative and improved Higher Education.

George Siemens in his response to the fragmentation of Higher Education highlights the current trend of MOOCs and the possible future scenarios of Higher Education.

There are both complicated and complex  “problems” that have emerged throughout the last decade, especially in HE, that may necessitate a global conversation, and the social media just release all the voices that sounded to be polarised, when both reasons and emotions are nuanced in those postings.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many research papers on MOOCs (especially the xMOOCs) which are based on concrete statistics and evidences that reveal the actual learnings associated with the MOOCs.  Here are some of the orthodoxes and hypothesis relating to MOOCs.

The challenges ahead go deeper than what MOOCs are addressing, when viewed from a global perspective, unveiled by the various professors  in these global stories.

How to achieve a balance among all stakeholders, when learning is at the heart and mind of venture capitalists, philanthropic opportunists,  education idealists, progressive educationists, transformative educationists?  Are people either pushing or pulling their wishlists in this opportunistic education transformation and innovative disruption to the limit?

What is the possible out of the impossible? Would it be the iMOOC? Part 1

I have been fascinated in the hype, revolution hitting the universities movement, and the irrational exuberance of the current xMOOCs.

The phrase, then, “irrational exuberance,” came back to me when I listened a few days ago to four enthusiastic Stanford University professors talk about their experiences teaching online courses including MOOCs. These professors in mechanical engineering, computer science, management science, and human biology told a filled auditorium of faculty and graduate students of their excitement, hard work, and surprises in re-engineering their courses to teach  MOOCs that included Stanford students in face-to-face classrooms.

The professors’ enthusiasm was infectious. They were animated in their remarks and energized by the experience. I was delighted to see professors so engaged in figuring out how best to teach a particular topic, how to get their students across the globe to work as teams on projects, and how they creatively went beyond pre-recorded lectures.

How about learning?  Larry asks: Does it work? Is it effective? Have students learned?

MOOCs are more about business models, from institutional point of view, though learning would be the “business” of teaching by the professors.

If we were to look into the future of education, say now it is 2025 and look back at what had happened in  2013, would we be seeing something like this?

Would we be seeing the trend of technology in the eyes of computers, then the Apple, Macintosh, ipod, iphone, ipad, and then iMOOCs (post c and x MOOCs)?

What is iMOOCs? i could stand for internet, innovative, integrated and international.

Such future iMOOCs would then be internet based, having innovative, integrated and international features designed to fit into everyone’s needs.

I would coin it as internet based MOOCs for the moment, and that may be the future of cMOOCs and xMOOCs.  That is why innovation and technology would both create and disrupt the future of education, and iMOOC is going to be a global phenomena.

I would however be much reserved to use the Messiah image as shown in the video.  Why?  MOOC is the catalyst and game driver for more democratic and enriching education, but not a panacea in itself.

To be continued in Part 2.