Personalization of education and learning

What should our future education be aiming for?  Massification of education or personalization of learning?

In this paper on Instructional Theory by Reigeluth C. (2012), he highlights the need of having more personalized approach towards learning, through a post-industralist instructional approach, where learner becomes the centre for learning.

In this Mastery Learning and this paper on Mastery Learning, there are benefits of adopting its philosophy in MOOCs.  That’s also the central pedagogy adopted by most xMOOCs providers.

As I have shared in my previous post, students may master what is expected to be learnt if all teachers are teaching solely to the test.  However, it seems that many people might have mis-understood the initial intention of Mastery Learning, where the intention is NOT to ask the teacher to teach only those concepts for the sake of assessment or testing, but to allow the learners to master their learning at their own pace, in a progressive manner with immediate feedback in order to reinforce their understanding of concepts, and to correct any mis-understood concepts where possible.  Besides, Mastery Learning could be effectively employed in a mentoring and apprenticeship program where the mentor could guide the mentee through the program.

The future of education though would lie with personalization rather than massification of education as Aoki concludes here

This massification of online education appears to go in an opposite direction to personalization that elearning and use of ICT in education should aim for the purpose of providing more effective individualized learning experiences to learners.

How to progress from massification to personalization of online education?  I have shared that here.

Giving  students the correct answers strict away may sound a good instructional approach towards teaching.  However, have the students learnt how to arrive to those calculations?  Have the students mastered the concepts CORRECTLY?  How do we know if the students could apply their skills and transfer them from one area to another, in solving problems?

Aoki elaborates further on how personalization of learning could be achieved:

With the vast amount of data gathered through learners, personalization will become possible eventually with proper learning analytics and data mining. Furthermore, quality of learning outcomes may be further assured with the evidence of learning.

MOOCs: Assumptions and Challenges

Are Assumptions part of the MOOC story? I reckon people have been making lots of assumptions about MOOCs since their inception, based on Assumptions Theory.

Photo image: Google

Assumption images (3)

Are people assuming a linear or complex pathways towards privatization or monetization with xMOOCs?  There has been some evidences showing that MOOCs movement is based on Complexity Theory and so its trajectory is non-linear, and is therefore complex, due mainly due to the interaction of the agents and changes in the environment.   At the early stage of MOOCs, the MOOC providers promised to keep MOOCs open and free, thus getting the name of MASSIVE OPEN ONLINE COURSE.

I don’t see many people could have predicted the outcomes of MOOCs nowadays, except a few people, like Clay Christensen, Dave Cormier, Stephen Downes and George Siemens.

What are the Assumptions and challenges of MOOCs?

Assumption 1:  When MOOCs are free of charge, people would love to try in order to experience the often highly appraised elite Higher Education Courses offered by Institutions.  I reckon this is most likely true, especially for those who couldn’t afford paying tuition for Higher Education courses,  especially in developing countries, or those who couldn’t attend Higher Education Institutions in persons, due to geographical reasons.

Are MOOCs freebies? MOOCs are now becoming the favorite off-springs of FREEBIES of elite Institutions.

It would continue to attract non-fees paying students all over the world.  Would these “global” students be looking for more MOOCs which are free?  I think this would likely be true.

What if…

  1. What would happen if MOOCs are not free of charge any more?  What percentage of students are willing to pay, and what percentage of students are not willing to pay, if MOOCs are charged?
  2. What would happen if learners realize that they are now more interested in the qualifications, rather than the education in MOOCs? What percentage of students are just interested in qualifications?  What percentage of students are not interested in qualifications?
  3. What would happen if professors are urging for a better pay or remuneration as a result of hundreds of thousands of students enrolled into their MOOCs?  What percentage of professors are willing to teach extra students “free of charge”?  What percentage of professors are not willing to teach extra students “free of charge”?
  4. What would happen if MOOCs are now closed, and become Massive Online Course only? What percentage of students would stay with a closed course MOC? What percentage of students would leave the closed course MOC?

To what extent would this pattern of free MOOCing be sustainable?

Is this massive version of online education going to invert the tradition of higher education?  There are no precedence relating to such huge education movement.

Assumption 2: MOOCs attract students as the MOOC providers carry the big “brand” together with the “super-professors”.  I reckon this assumption is very true, especially when nearly everyone said that this is true.  Most learners would prefer to learn with the prestigious institutions and famous and super-rock star professors.

Assumption 3: MOOCs’ success is  evaluated based on number of students enrolled into the course, and may be the number of students who successfully completed the course.

Here is a discussion panel on MOOCs.

Sounds like that every one is excited about MOOCs, as there have been huge success in the enrollment of massive students into the courses.  More students mean the possibility of getting a higher market share of the global education market, and likely more revenue generated with the potential students, especially if some of these students could join the mainstream degree or diploma course and pay the tuition fees based on their MOOCs’ completion or transfer.

The present MOOCs are now entering into the era where QUALITY and VALUE seems to be based on the number of student enrollments in the courses.

Assumption 4: MOOC as the last Call Cards in Higher Education

MOOC is now the CENTRAL ECONOMICS OF EDUCATION – DISRUPTING the Higher Education to its fullest extent. Here efficiency and effectiveness of education has finally been drawn based on this CALL CARD – MOOC to revolutionize Higher Education.  You got to love free Higher Education! But there is a price to pay.  MOOC and you’re out of a job: Uni business model in danger.

Assumption 5: MOOCs are successful because they are based on flipped class and an instructivist/behavioral approach in education.

Should Education based on MOOC be Teacher or Learner and Learning Centered?

Tony writes in his wonderful post web-2-0-will-change-everything-in-online-learning:

The need for course re-design The use of these tools need to be driven by the learning objectives. Indeed these tools enable us to achieve different learning objectives from more traditional modes of teaching, with a particular emphasis on intellectual skills development.

Tony outlines the need of advanced course design built around core skill and knowledge management, open content, online project, peer review and discussion and assessment by e-portfolio.

I agreed with the need to restructure course towards a student-centered approach where students could take an active part in the learning process, like choosing content and working on project either individually or cooperatively with others in order to achieve goals.  Indeed the use of e-portfolios as evidence of learning have been adopted by lots of professional institutions as a basis for certification and admission for professional membership.  e-portfolio is also part of the personal knowledge management strategy where the student develops and reflects on his/her learning.

Assumption 6: MOOCs must be based on prescriptive learning outcomes, and prescriptive knowledge and learning methodology.  Should Learning Objectives be prescriptive or emergent?

In a formal education framework, since most learning objectives are prescriptive in nature, students would likely be guided towards the achievement of those objectives through structured activities as designed in the course.  A traditional approach is for the students to listen to the lectures, follow what have been taught, and complete the assignments to demonstrate competency for the prescribed course. Even the present xMOOCs are following such an approach where students are expected to remember, understand and apply what the professor has explained in the video lectures, and to pass the quizzes, assignments, examinations set up for the course.  Students are not expected to generate multimedia content, as that is not what the course is based upon, and could hardly be assessed if there is a huge crowd of students of tens of thousands.

Assumption 7: MOOCs are still the “ruling master” in education, as standardized goals, curricular, and standardized tests, quizzes and examinations remain supreme in Higher Education.

What are the challenges associated with the educational use of the Web, Social Networking, and Media based on MOOCs (even for xMOOCs)?

“A challenge associated with the educational use of the Web, social networking, and media, based on the MOOC distributed learning model, is that the open, emergent, chaotic nature of online interaction might conflict with the rigidly organized social structure of formal education, which involves prescriptive learning, standardized goals and curricula, fixed schedules, age-based grouping, classroom-based organization, and examinations.” (Kop et al 2010)

Khan makes a convincing case that universities are no longer the only place where legitimate learning takes place; we should put learning from all sources on equal footing and assess it through an independent approach – competency-based assessments. In addition, those options must include affordable, accessible, timely and relevant learning opportunities that will meet the needs of students and employers.

Ray in this post on disrupting-degree-credentialing says:

Indeed, it is the lack of such options that is driving the advent of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and other open and affordable online learning alternatives. One method may be the Mozilla-hosted secure “backpack” to hold badges from universities and other sources.

Assumption 8: Prior Learning Assessment and credit transfer based on MOOCs would be supported by Institution soon. Would prior learning assessment be a solution in lowering the cost in degree education in Higher Education?

The critical questions relate to whether prior learning assessment would become a way to recognize learners’ learning formally, based on the evidences submitted for assessment.  I think there are merits with the use of prior learning assessment as a measure of learning.  How about the emergent knowledge and learning that are now critical success to business and education?  The current move towards MOOCs show exactly why the canonical knowledge is not sufficient to “survive” in the education industry.

Assumption 9: Credit Transfer of MOOC is a challenge and issue for Higher Institutions.  This seems also a critical moment for many institutions as they are still hesitant to introduce credit transfer for MOOC learners, mainly because of the doubts about the “quality” of the courses based on peer assessments, which are still not fully recognized as being fair and reliable, and the possibility of  students “cheating” and “plagiarising” in MOOCS. Besides, if the learners are to exchange their answers to the assignments, questions of the quizzes, examinations of MOOCs, would that be a concern for Education Authority or Institutions?  Students could also enroll into xMOOCs using a variety of identities, so as to attempt the quizzes, examinations, and assignments with multiple try.  To what extent have these happened?  Are there any statistics revealing such phenomena?   If MOOCs unit completion are accepted for credit transfer, would this become an issue?

Assumption 10: xMOOCs could exist mainly as disruptive technology, not sustainable technology. If xMOOCs are to be sustainable, then they would need to change its paradigm towards a connectivist or social constructivist approach in order to overcome the tsunami and turbulence that MOOCs have created to “overturn” or disrupt the traditions of Higher Education.

Complex Learning Theories

Here is my first post in 2013.  Happy New Year.

There is an interesting post followed with a conversation on the Guide to 4 complex learning theories on FB, referred by Grainne Conole.

My comments:

Interesting guide. I have difficulties in interpreting some of the content of the infographic though:

1. Is the learning theorists for George Siemens with a basis include Vygotsky, Papert Clark and Social Constructivism? I found some similarities and differences between Connectivism and Social Constructivism, as I shared in my blog posts here and here.

2. On How learning occurs -distributed within a network, social, technologically enhanced, recognizing and interpreting patterns. My interpretation is: Network formations and connections – neural, conceptual, and external (people, information sources). This actually embraces all of the behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, and social constructivism, situated learning, and COP as the levels of networks is not only socially situated and appropriated, but also conceptually (cognitively) recognised, interpreted, but also neurologically connected (formed, and reformed). I have summarised it here

3. Influencing factors – diversity of network. How about the strengths, types (openness), technological impact, and uniqueness (autonomy) of networks?

4. How transfer occurs – connecting to (adding nodes). There are many ways of connecting, and disconnecting (including filtering unwanted noise or distractions), and re-connecting, and the concept of connection could be at a micro and macro level.

5. Type of learning best explained – complex learning, rapid changing core, diverse knowledge sources. Upon closer examination, the type of learning would be based on the assumptions of learning. What is “best” explained? What sort of assumptions are made in classifying certain scenarios as complex learning? Here we might have to note whether we are referring to open or closed learning environment. Even in the case of closed learning environment, there could be complex learning when learners and agents interact and form connections in complex manners.


Hi Martyn Cooper, I think the Laurillard Conversational model is very useful in the case of “formal learning scenario”, especially under a “closed educational learning environment” where a teacher-student transactional model is defined. I have quoted that in my blog post too.


What would happen if the student becomes a teacher, and interacts with different sources (i.e. agents, information sources, and networks) and posts and shares his/her knowledge with others in the public and open space. He or she may be playing the role of both a teacher and student (a dual role), and could be internalizing the knowledge (the tacit knowledge) in particular, when reflecting on certain experiences.

So, the Conversational model could be both socially oriented (with an external agent, a teacher or peer), and also internally initiated (with oneself, or with an artifact, such as writings or pictures, etc.).

There are again certain assumptions here on learning, where I have briefly summarised under the Assumptions Theory. In summary, I am not sure if Laurillard Conversational model could be extended to include the internal conversation, as it seems to relate mainly to the social constructivist model of learning. What do you think Grainne Conole and Martyn Cooper?

Reflection on Learning under Connectivism

What is learning?  Peter Sloep posted here in response to a post by Steve Wheeler.

One of the characteristics of learning through digital media is the ability to crowd source content, ideas and artefacts, and to promote and participate in global discussions. That’s why I want to ask the questions: What is learning? Does it differ from learning prior to the advent of global communications technology? Does learning now require new explanatory frameworks?

Peter continues:

When theories get more accurate, the concepts that feature in them become defined more precisely but they also become more specific, ignoring parts of the original concept. This suggests that the term ‘learning’ has different meanings in the different learning theories we have. Indeed, this is what Knud Illeris suggests. Learning qua mental activity belongs to the realm of psychological theorising, with such theories as behaviourism, instructionism, cognitivism, constructivism. Learning qua  interaction process is much less easy to pinpoint in terms of an overarching discipline. But such fields as sociology, social psychology, game theory, network theory, artificial intelligence, computer science seem relevant.

Stephen recently wrote: Knowledge is, on this theory [of Connectivism], literally the set of connections formed by actions and experience”. This seems to touch upon learning qua mental process. Indeed, he seems to want to ignore mental processing entirely, suggesting they are not relevant, epiphenomena of networking at best.

My response:

When it comes to theorizing learning, I think there are few assumptions we have all made across all theories. 1. Learning is definable and context based – personal and or social, 2. Human learning is an action and experience, that may be conceptualized by sensing the pattern (knowledge embedded), and its associated changes (in behavior, one’s way of thinking, or minds etc.), 3. Human and machine learning could be understood based on heuristics and algorithms, which in turn could be proven on scientific grounds – with logic and reasoning as the proven forms of learning – in critical thinking, 4. Human learn best under certain conditions – in an authentic learning environment, with technology and tools as enablers, and social and teachers’ support in the case of classroom environment etc., 5. Social and emotional aspects of learning could determine how human would learn based on the interaction between the agents- human and non-human, especially in a technology-mediated environment.  These relate to the socio-technological dimensions of learning, which could only be studied at a macro-level of learning.

In summary, I think we are talking about learning at a micro level – psychological/neuronal/conceptual (i.e. behaviorist, instructivist, cognitivist, and connectionist) to a macro level (i.e. constructivist (project and problem based), social constructivist, sociological and community  basis).

Here Connectivism could consist of connectivism (as Stephen has mentioned of both knowledge as pattern, and knowing as pattern recognition, and learning as the navigation and construction of networks in our minds (the neural networks) and Connectivism- that of action and experience we gained through navigation and construction of those networks on the web or social interaction.

Here the three levels of network formation – at neural, conceptual and social level with external sources (social webs, networks, communities; artifacts, information etc.) would form the basis of all design – under Connectivism model (with a network learning – learning on networks and NETWORKED LEARNING – where learning is the network).

The metaphors of networks as the basis of learning would come into play, as fundamental assumptions of all human learning.

Refer to this post by George where he explains:

1. Connectivism is the application of network principles to define both knowledge and the process of learning. Knowledge is defined as a particular pattern of relationships and learning is defined as the creation of new connections and patterns as well as the ability to maneuver around existing networks/patterns.

2. Connectivism addresses the principles of learning at numerous levels – biological/neural, conceptual, and social/external. This is a key concept that I’ll be writing about more during the online course. What I’m saying with connectivism (and I think Stephen would share this) is that the same structure of learning that creates neural connections can be found in how we link ideas and in how we connect to people and information sources. One scepter to rule them all.

Postscript: The questions of “Does it differ from learning prior to the advent of global communications technology? Does learning now require new explanatory frameworks?” would depend on (a) assumptions one has made, (b) the lens and the corresponding metaphors that one would use to describe and explain the learning phenomena, and (c) the degree of matching of those principles of learning between what one theorizes and one observes and senses, based on a collection of views, personal perception, and reasoning, with empirical evidences.

Here I have shared my views on authentic learning.

Photo credit: Google?

Social Learning Theories

A well presented video on Social Learning Theories – Constructivism and Connectivism.

I have compared the similarities and differences of Constructivism and Connectivism here.

Here George discusses his views on Rhizomes and Networks, where he writes:

While rhizomes are diverse in shape and structure – growing, adapting, sprouting, replicating – they are not diverse in substance – i.e. rhizomes do not morph into new organic entities.

In his edtechweekly podcast, Cormier criticizes networks as being “duplicatable”. If someone has a successful network, she is tempted to say “this is how you create your own network”. Suddenly, the network becomes mechanistic. Cormier doesn’t like that. Neither do I. However, networks need not be designed in order to duplicate structure. Networks are organic – consider food webs, ecosystems, and the architecture of the brain. I don’t accept the argument that rhizomes are organic and that networks are not.

The central arguments about rhizomes and networks would be essential, as they could lead us to better understanding on how networks are situated.

I found networks could both be mechanically or artificially constructed and organically grown.

Ecosystems are often complex networks. “Ecosystems are made up of abiotic (non-living, environmental) and biotic components, and these basic components are important to nearly all types of ecosystems.”

The network structure of neurons connections in our brain is organic.

Image: Google.

Networks could be artificially constructed, like the networks and communities that are “built” and constructed, by each of the human agents, together with non-human agents which include the media, tools etc.  Networks could also be internally grown and developed, such as those in our human brain, or those inside our body, with blood streams, artery and veins, though these are likely under the control of the individuals.  The influence or changes due to the external networks on our brain network would account for the emotional responses, a change in the memory (of remembering facts, events and experience), or a change in the cognitive abilities in recognition of pattern, connections of concepts, thus re-wiring the connections and circuits.

What are the educational implications of social learning theories?

That will take another post for the exploration and reflection.

#Change11 #CCK12 A summary of reflection on Theory of Learning – Connectivism

Here is my response to Jaap in my previous post.

A learning theory is a modelling of the learning, and in the case of Connectivism – Networked learning which focuses on learning as making connections.  This is based on the epistemology of Connectionism, Complexity Theory, Self-Organising Theory, and the Theory of Emergence. “Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories” (Siemens, 2004).  As George has once mentioned, thinking and looking at the networks as a whole may not be helpful, but thinking of individual connections in order to explain why and how learning has occurred may be easier for us to understand – and that learning starts and develops with connections – where knowledge grows, with different sorts of learning such as connective, emergent learning. To this end, sense-making and way finding would be the valuable tools while constructing and navigating networks. Stephen’s emphasis on pattern recognition, with growth of knowledge based on connections of entities does provide a holistic model that embodies every scenarios in learning, with diversity, autonomy, openness and connectivity being the properties of such networks. Learning to me could both be natural and artificially constructed and conceived, depending on what sort of frame of reference (model) or framework, system you use.
A shift of reference framework could reveal a different model. In the past, we might have fixated on one model, and not aware of the existence of different models which are equally valuable in mapping into the reality. Following a wise man or woman could be wise. Everyone has however our wisdom – that maps our model of the world, based on experience and knowledge. As a Catholic, I still believe the wisdom comes from our God, Jesus Christ our Lord, who is the wisest.