What are the differences between training and education in MOOCs?

Roy Williams posted this very insightful post on MOOCs.  I would like to quote it below:

how do we achieve a good balance and mix between openness and prescription, and what ‘mixes’ are appropriate for what contexts, people, tasks, etc.  The Stanford AI xMOOC is very different from the CCK MOOCs, or PLENK, or the KPI JAM, or the IBM JAM, but that is how it should be.  And we found the distinction between ‘emergent’ and ‘prescriptive’ to be more useful than ‘openness’ and ‘closed’ – in an attempt to avoid the simplistic, normative equation of open=good, closed=bad, and take the both/and option instead (both emergence and prescription) in which there is a place for the Stanford AI xMOOC, as it happens.

There are two questions which would be critical:

To what extent would emergent and prescriptive be useful when they are placed in juxtaposition?

Is open=good, closed=bad, in which there is a place for the Stanford AI xMOOC, as it happens?

I think we would likely have to sacrifice one for the sake of others (i.e. either emergent or prescriptive) in the case of institutional formal education, though it is totally possible to have mere emergent learning in the case of informal learning (and perhaps education outside the institution framework).

This may impose a series of challenge on institutional learning though.

First, institutional formal education is grounded on the pedagogical framework that only prescribed education and learning outcomes are legitimate and could be assessed and accredited.  This is rational given that institutions are like “education brokers”, acting on behalf of the governance of education authority, to formalize the curriculum and endorse the designed programs.

Second, in the vocational education and training sectors, education and training programs are often designed by the industry, for the industry, and so that is where industries would accredit the training programs.  However, it is often noted that there are not only training components but also educational components which may not have been fully considered and addressed in those training programs, mainly because training focuses on the skill development, whereas education focuses on the holistic development of the person in terms of the learning to learn skills, digital literacy and critical thinking.

Why is it like that?

Education is indeed different from training, in many aspects.

The purpose of education could be different from training too.

The purpose of education is to prepare our youths to have global competence, and engage with the wider community and the world.  See my previous post on The purpose of education.

Training is defined as:

-acquisition of knowledge and skill for present tasks

– a tool to help individuals contribute to the organization and be successful in the current position

– a means to an end

The purpose of training is to equip employees with the skills required for the tasks.

It is more cost effective to lecture to a group than to train people individually. Lecturing is one-way communication and as such may not be the most effective way to train. Also, it is hard to ensure that the entire audience understands a topic on the same level; by targeting the average attendee you may under train some and lose others. Despite these drawbacks, lecturing is the most cost-effective way of reaching large audiences. Role playing and simulation are training techniques that attempt to bring realistic decision making situations to the trainee. Likely problems and alternative solutions are presented for discussion. The adage there is no better trainer than experience is exemplified with this type of training. Experienced employees can describe real world experiences, and can help in and learn from developing the solutions to these simulations. This method is cost effective and is used in marketing and management training.

In retrospect, it seems that the AI MOOC falls into the training of people with skills, and thus could be done on a massive basis, though openness may be viewed as a “by product” only when it comes to the delivery.  Such sort of skills development are premised on the acquisition of skills and knowledge, which could be tangibly evaluated, using automated assessment tools (multiple choice, true or false) and provide the automated grading.  This is also a perfect example where prescriptive learning outcomes are matched with the pedagogy of mastery learning and instructivism, where the professor would likely determine the standard methods of competency, based on the “traditional tools of assessment” and competency standards.

Would the current xMOOCs be equally applicable for training programs?  Yes, I do think you could massively assess students in nearly most disciplines, so far if the prescriptive knowledge and learning of those disciplines have well defined and known solutions, where standardized answers are adopted for assessment.  That is also where “massive” training is possible.  For instance, the knowledge test in driving could be administered to hundreds, thousands or even unlimited number of “learners” using automated training system, and so MOOCs could be modeled on that basis.

How about a MOOC based on education?  Could it be a reality?  The cMOOCs have been modelled based on the education outcomes, and to a great extent, instead of prescriptive learning outcomes, it turned out the emergent learning outcomes would be product of the MOOCs, where education relates back to the achievement of personal goals and the development of personal learning strategies.   I think education would likely be a combination of training and education, which could consist of acquisition of skills and knowledge and the development of literacies which may go behind the skills.  These skills include those which are not easily defined, like the metacognition – thinking how to think, and learning how to learn, and thus not easily achieved within a single course of education.  There could also be a threshold number of students who could be “managed” by the instructors in the facilitation, as Roy has mentioned, if education is considered a “mentoring” or coaching process that relate to development and support of the learner as a person.

I reckon the current xMOOCs are mostly based on the training mode, where certain skills and knowledge are transferred or transmitted through various means, from the professors and or the artifacts to the learners.  The learners could then assessed on those skills and knowledge using the traditional assessment tools and feedback mechanism.  In this respect, I would think Khan Academy is aligned more with the training of basic skills (or some advanced skills, when feedback is incorporated), but it is not always aligned with education, though one could argue that it is education of massive number of students, though this is afforded and mediated by the technology – via video lectures, and practice and drills.  There are nuances in education and training, when applied in such MOOCs, and in particular xMOOCs.

Have we missed this differentiation of education and training throughout our discourse in MOOCs?

If we treat skills and knowledge as a thing, as in traditional education, then surely the present xMOOCs could be a perfect model for commoditization.

As Roy says:

In practice, the Knowledge in the Public Interest JAM, and the CCK MOOCs (and related ones) worked very well, within reason, at levels of participation of something like 80 and 120, respectively.  The KPI (72-hour) JAM had 12 facilitators, taking 1 hour facilitator slots.  The CCK MOOCs were variable/ light facilitation, but facilitated they were.  Don’t throw the facilitator out with the MOOC-water.  The AI xMOOC was as prescriptive as it comes, and with some really neat instant feedback to 20,000 (?) effective participants, and it achieved what might not have been much more than ‘complex-training’.

Knowledge would not be treated solely as a thing to be transferred from the professor to the students, in the case of cMOOCs, mainly because that those transfer would only mean that such knowledge would fall back to the prescriptive knowledge as pre-determined by the authority – the professor or the institutions etc..  In that case the massive part would not work, mainly because education requires participation and engagement with agents (including human) in such MOOC, and that the more opinions there are in the network, the more confusing would such “knowledge” be if that is from the professor and other students.  That seems to be the limiting factor to any MOOCs when education becomes the main focus.

Such cMOOCs would quickly be re-shaped into the xMOOCs as in its current form, when learners would prefer to get the canonical knowledge from the authority, thus limiting the gaining of further perspectives from other sources, or learners.

Finally, I would argue that cMOOCs would be ideal for education, though there would be clusters and individuals who would learn within the network, with various pedagogy – including Connectivism, Social Constructivism, and it is not easily proved to be superior to the xMOOCs significantly due to the emphasis on education ideology.

xMOOCs would be ideal for training on a massive scale, when skills and knowledge are treated as a thing which could be transferred, and commoditized like a commodity, with commercial value (job skills acquired by the learners), though it may not be the ideal way for education due to the limited prescriptive knowledge and learning that is “acquired”, rather than the emergent knowledge that is relatively important at this digital age.

Would it be possible to have a hybrid of cMOOCs and xMOOCs offered where both prescriptive and emergent knowledge and learning are supported and encouraged?  I don’t seem to see such MOOCs in place, mainly because most learners of xMOOCs (especially those who are seeking higher education) are still looking for the accreditation model of formal education (and thus are more likely to welcome an instructivist approach towards learning), rather than the model of cMOOCs where life-long learning is the goal, and a connectivist approach towards learning.

I am still pondering on this question about difference between education and training in MOOCs.  What about your views?

Emergence category-matrix2 (1)


#Change11 New model for Higher Education created through Organizational Learning Contract

I came across this New Model for Higher Education created through Organizational Learning Contract.

Photo: Google Image

I will need to peruse the book so as to better understand how it works.   It sounds useful for preparing students for careers and organization work.  Does it differ from the e-portfolio learning approach?

However, the use of Learning Contract – that may just be a variation of the Training Plan, has been in use in the Logistics discipline, here in Australia, for more than a decade.   It seems to be a fairly common tool in place in vocational education and training, especially in the on-the-job training and mentoring programs.

We have been practising such a vocational and education training model of “learning contract” for years, especially in the Distribution Centre Training where trainees could learn where, when, how, what and who they would like to have the training be done, and also addressing the why the training too. Here the trainees could exercise full control over their learning, especially relating to the skills required to accomplish the tasks and project required at work.  Normally a learning team is formed, that is between the trainees, the trainee’s supervisor, and the trainer and assessor, in order to provide necessary support.

Could this be used in the Face-to-face teaching and training environment?  Yes, but so far, learning contract could not be easily adapted as there are constraints as to how training is to be conducted in a classroom or workshop environment. For part-time trainees attending face-to-face classroom based sessions, the trainees could develop learning contracts at work, which would then form the basis of assessment evidence of competency.

Could this be used in the distance and online education environment?  Yes, for sure.  This would surely be useful in developing a structured, though flexible learning program based on the learner’s needs, especially when such program is supported by Mentoring support with facilitator and peer learners.

How about learning contract in MOOC?  I think I have addressed this in my previous post here and here, relating to my views on the design and delivery of MOOC, and how learning could be achieved and assessed.  Organisational Learning contract may only work if it relates back to the learning at work, within an organisational setting.

Photo: Google Image

As week 4th topic is on Connective Knowledge, Collective Learning, would organisational learning contract be a viable means to structure the learning?

Have you used organisational learning contract in your education, training and learning?  How effective is such a tool?  How does it compare to e-portfolio and PLE/PLN in the development of learning plan?

Teacher training and classroom teaching

I have written a post on To be or not to be in a quest for changes that relates to Tony’s post of my thoughts on managing technology in universities

Should all faculty have compulsory training in teaching as well as research before they can get tenure? I think this is the most sensitive question in any Higher Education Institutions.  Most institutions would have expected some relevant research qualifications and experience in teaching on top of the specialist PhD, but when it comes to teacher training, it could be challenging for both the administrators and the professors involved.

What sort of training would be most appropriate for such instructors or professors? 

Tony writes about What do instructors need to know about teaching with technology 

Any training program is a balance between the minimum that a learner needs to know to operate effectively and the time available for training. A full one year master’s program will obviously cover much more ground than an eight week part-time program. Initial training does not have to be perfect and satisfy all requirements, because I see professional development as a continuous process throughout one’s career. I will concentrate here on what I consider the minimum that an instructor needs to know to teach effectively in post-secondary education (assuming that they already have a good knowledge base in the subject area):

  • epistemology
  • the biological basis of learning
  • learning theories (linked to epistemology)
  • the design of teaching 
  • learning technologies 
  • project work

All programs would be available online, or face-to-face, or in a blended mode. There would be at least one institution in every state or province licensed to offer the program, and the program would be nationally recognised and a condition of employment as an instructor in post-secondary education.

So, would teacher training help instructors and professors in teaching?

If we watch some of the above videos on Youtube or University sites, you would find that videos lectures are still the sole means of “delivering the content”, the traditional “transmission of content knowledge”, the production line approach towards dissemination of knowledge.  Most of such lectures would not require any interaction with or amongst the students, though there might be some questions and discussions happening in other tutorials sessions.  May be that is the limitations of having Open Course Ware that has been designed with the classroom teaching as the teaching media, this time happening over a virtual space or video platform.

“For instance, what was the main goal (in general) for technology in teaching in our 11 case studies? To enhance the quality of classroom teaching. What data do we have that (a) classroom teaching is meeting the learning outcomes desired (b) that the introduction of technology will – or has – improved learning outcomes? We have no data – yet we continue to pour millions of dollars into lecture capture, clickers, multiple screens, projectors, lecture consoles, whiteboards, you name it, without any data whatsoever as to its likely impact on learning outcomes. In fact, we don’t even know what we are spending on technology for teaching as it’s all buried in other budgets.”

There has been many student surveys conducted based on the classroom teaching, and the results always indicated that, yes some teachers are great in explaining concepts with plenty of live examples, but the problems all could relate to a “boring content”, irrelevant topics or a lack of interaction with such traditional “lecturing method”.

What may be an alternative approach to teaching?

So, as a teacher, one could be a filter, a curator, a mentor and a node in the networks (of learners and other instructors or teachers), apart from the role of an expert in the subject discipline. 

It’s not the content that would add value to the teaching process, as one could always find better contents available in some of best university OPEN COURSE WARE sites – filled with videos, podcasts, and artifacts (articles, research papers and slides etc.) 

To teach or not to teach? That may be a crucial question for any teachers in Higher Education.

It is the “teaching and learning” or facilitation process that would enhance teaching, which would in turn inspire the learners in their way finding and sense-making, with self-directed learning as part of their learning goals in their quest for life-long learning.

  1. What do you think would be the important ingredients in teacher training in Higher Education?
  2. What is your view on online classroom teaching?
  3. How would technology enhance teaching and learning in Higher Education?

Thanks Tony for his insights into teaching and technology