Personal Learning Environment and MOOCs

In response to a post here, Peter Sloep comments on Google +

Peer learning makes a lot of sense but as one of the tools in the box only. We’ve done work on this, see the PhD thesis by Peter van Rosmalen, back in 2008 already: See also a paper by me: There are pedagogical issues but the really hard part is developing the supportive technology that works at the level of large networks.

Thanks Peter for the precious sharing.  I have browsed through the papers, and there are many points worthy of deep reflection, especially in the peer learning and PLE/PLN. The development of supportive technology that works at the level of large networks, as Peter said could be a challenge, especially if such technology is overly rigid.

Take MOOCs as examples of technology platform, should one consider distributed platforms/social media, or a hub (VLE/VLM) for MOOCs?

Should MOOC shift its pedagogical to be more adaptive (or more connective and engaging) or should it stay with a prescriptive design (emphasising on one standardised model only – especially in mastery learning and common examination or quizzes)?

Are learners involved in the design of curriculum or instruction?

How would PLE/PLN developed by participants support MOOCs?

My sharing of cMOOCs

More sharing on xMOOCs in part 2.


A summary of xMOOCs

Interesting summary of xMOOCs and a post on xMOOC here on massive open online courses prove popular if not lucrative yet.

MOOCs providers such as Udacity and Coursera have to monetize to run the company and pay back to the investors.

It would be interesting to see how such model of business emerge, as monetization could be the determining factor whether MOOCs could still be free in 2013.

#CFHE12 #Oped12 The emergence of MOOCs part 4 Assessment, Certification and Accreditation

Are MOOCs suitable for all disciplines?  What are some of the disciplines or domains which could be difficult for institutions to adopt an MOOC approach?  What about education and training of doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc.?

In this post Online learning glitch: MOOC flaws will be hard to resolve by Ed Byrne:

The other major problem the MOOCs haven’t solved is assessment. They work very well for subjects like maths, which have objectively right and wrong answers, and can therefore be pretty easily marked by computers. It remains to be seen whether the model can be extended to softer subject areas, like, say, politics, philosophy or the social sciences.

MOOCs covering subject areas of politics, philosophy and social sciences based on a xMOOC approach would be really difficult to be assessed as there is no objectively right and wrong answers.  How about the use of a connectivist approach in these subject areas?

In this post on MOOC, the connectivist approach towards MOOCs is revealed:

MOOCs, after all, were originally intended to provide for engagement and collaboration. The first MOOC made use of participatory-engagement tools now familiar to all liberal arts colleges: a wiki, a learning management system, blogs, Twitter, and videoconferencing. And originally, the MOOC was based on four types of activity, all key to the connectivist model:

1. Aggregate, in which students engage with lectures from experts, daily content links provided through a course newsletter, and reading content on the Web.
2. Remix, with students being encouraged to communicate with peers about content and what they are learning, through blogs, discussion boards, or online chat.
3. Repurposing, as students construct or create knowledge.
4. Feed-forward, with students encouraged to publish (and thus share their knowledge) in blogs or other “open” venues.

When it comes to MOOCs and the liberal arts college, then, everything but size matters. Take the “massive” out of “massive open online course” and you have a course delivery program/support model highly useful to liberal arts colleges for outreach and engagement.

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed

May I quote a few of my previous posts in response to these?

In my post:

“In networked learning, “it is not just what we learn, but how we feel about what we learn, which counts in the long term.” So is dancing as a metaphor. It’s the feeling of learning which makes a difference from the traditional education and learning, where group learning is believed to be based on a scientific approach, and individual feelings need to be constrained to avoid intervening the group’s performance.

So, it is important to encourage a dynamic between thinking and feeling in order to promote learning more effectively, rather than focusing on critical thinking alone, especially in networked learning.

“Learning is an interactive experience best achieved in a climate of relatedness, care and mutual respect. Such care is offered, not imposed, and respects humans’ need for autonomy, self-determination, and challenge as well as security” Rosyln Arnold (2005) (pg 28). This could be crucial to networked learning, especially where humans are interacting with each others in communities of practice. However, there are still paradoxes in between autonomy, diversity, openness and interactivity when educators and learners are immersed in a complex, emergent learning environment (MOOC).

It would be important to reflect on assumptions behind connectivist learning. Some questions include:
1. How could learning be best achieved under a connectivist environment?
2. What are the pre-requisite literacies and skills for educators and learners to consider in networked learning?

I suppose meaning created by each learner (under Constructivism or Social Constructivism) does assume the recognition and interpretation of networks.

I suppose there are overlaps in the Constructivism and Connectivism approaches

In this Beyond constructivism: navigationism in the knowledge era:

Teachers and educators should become the source of how to navigate in the ocean of available information and knowledge. We should become coaches and mentors within the knowledge era. Instructional designers should start to design coaching and navigating activities instead of designing learning facilitation and learning activities; to configure navigation tools instead of the re-configuration of content.”

The differences between the instructivist approaches adopted by xMOOCs with Mastery Learning and connectivist approaches adopted by cMOOCs with Emergent, Constructivist and Connectivist Learning are nuanced, when assessment and certification are based on the actual performance adopted by both EDUCATORS AND LEARNERS, in a collaborative and connective manner.

It is a challenge to distinguish what constitutes purely as the work  and performance of individual learners, as those learners may actually be taking the role of the professors, as curators, wiki-creators, course designers, mentors and coaches, in certain ways, and the typical learners’ role, learning side by side with other learners.  We would be too happy to learn that our co-learners are all over the MOOCs, like Stephen Downes, George Siemens, Dave Cormier, David Wiley, Alec Couros, Grainne Conole, Howard Rheingold, Tony Bates, Terry Anderson,  and many more, as I have shared in my various posts.

I re-posted here for reference:

Open/Online/Distance Education

Terry Anderson

Tony Bates

David Wiley

Alec Couros

Grainne Conole

Kurt Bonk

On Communities of Practice

Etienne Wenger

Jean Lave

On Social Media

Henry Jenkins

Howard Rheingold

Jay Cross

Jane Hart

Harold Jarche

Clark Quinn

Will Richardson

Clive Shepherd

Tony Karrer

Nancy White

In a cMOOC, the learning is derived from being part of a Practitioner, and an Open Scholar and Researcher of the Community to immerse, engage, interact, cooperate and collaborate with each others – the peers, the other professors, the educators, the learners, and all other researchers to co-design, develop and deliver MOOCs in an adaptive, dynamic manner.  This would lead to emergent communal learning, based on Crowd Sourcing of knowledge and information, by leveraging the Wisdom of the Crowds – in creating new and emergent knowledge.  

It doesn’t end with the cMOOC, but continues to lead to new and novel ways of developing further MOOCs.  You could find many MOOCs development by Jenny Mackness etc.  See this reference list on MOOCs resources and research papers.

The Connectivist approach to MOOCs is not about content knowledge that is static, but connectivity to the experts, masters, artifacts, peers, networks, either mediated via tools and networks, or in direct contact if one is having face-to-face facilitation and mentoring.  It is not about knowing something that makes us an expert of a field, but the ability to construct and navigate the networks with the design of coaching and navigating activities, and configuration of navigation tools (PLE/PLN) etc.

In my other post:

At what point could this become connectivist if the actions are on the internet and interaction/development of ideas takes place? We are all connected with our local communities and networks in certain ways, patterns, but with technology as media, and social media as “catalyst” and agents, we are now able to reach different corners of the world, beyond the traditional closed walls (schools, classes) or local groups or communities. The tyranny of space and time could also be overcome with such a connectivist approach. So, whilst constructivist approach addresses the construction of meaning between agents (mainly human, or actor networks), connectivist approach goes beyond that through multiple agents, multiple actor networks, technology and tools, and most important of all, with a basis of openness, autonomy, diversity and connectedness (properties of networks) in order to strengthen the learning.

For an elaboration on the characteristics of early MOOCs, you will find them in George andStephen’s various posts and other papers here and here. You could also find some papers inmy publications on the right hand side of this blog menu, which documented how the MOOCs were designed, delivered and developed. The MOOCs are evolving and emerging and so they are based on adaptive, self-organising and emergent learning principles, rather than the static prescriptive instrumental learning principles.

An ideal MOOC to me would likely be distributed over different learning spaces, which again would align with learners’ different and changing needs and goals. As Stephen mentioned the product of learning is the learner, and so the learning is based on a growth model where learner’s growth of “knowledge” and wisdom with the navigation and construction of networks upon time. This also requires pruning of obsolete network patterns (outdated concepts, information, knowledge etc.), with the growing and nurturing of new and emergent network patterns.

This is also one of the most difficult and challenging part of education and learning, as it challenges the values of traditional canonical knowledge often prescribed in books and are determined by authorities, and are confined to be “delivered” in a closed wall settings. With the rapid changes in information and knowledge landscape, such ways of “transmitting” information and knowledge limited the discourse and inquiry, reducing knowledge to a set of memorable known facts, information, or procedures which, if understood would constitute learning.

Answers to questions, if shared would provoke further thinking and reflection, in a connectivist learning ecology. As each of us may look at the answers from our own lens, experience, we could then share our understanding, and critique on the “strengths” and “weaknesses” of those answers, and thus be able to improve or innovate through deeper inquiry and critical thinking. This is also based on a social scientific approach where “truths” are revealed in light of evidences and arguments, rather than the mere showing of facts and figures in experimentation.

I think it would be necessary to write a paper elaborating on the changes in MOOCs since their inception.

Image: from Google & Dave Cormier

Postscript: Stephen Downes has posted this Video that relates to Connectivist Learning.

On assessment in MOOCs, here is my post:

” Online education through MOOC could be feeding us with knowledge like steroids”  Is such claim a hyperbole?  May be, may be not.

I found this post and the comments pretty fascinating, and I would like to respond below. Stephen summarises and evaluates it, and comments:

  • it’s too easy to cheat
  • star students can’t shine
  • employers avoid weird people (he writes: “Getting an unconventional degree suggests you’re probably one of the usurpers who are more trouble than they are worth. MOOCs are the nose rings of higher education.”)
  • computers can’t grade everything
  • money can’t substitute for ability

In fact, none of these are genuine issues, as they are rooted in perception rather than any fact. If you get past a vision of the world where students compete with each other through grades then you see a world in which a MOOC is normal and acceptable, as students participate in online projectys that reflect their true abilities, creating portfolios than can be judged with much more fine-graded nuance than opaque grading systems.

1. Cheating

I agree with Stephen’s views on “these rooted in perception rather than fact”.  We don’t seem to have enough evidences: facts and researches to support those claims.

When students are immersed in the learning environment, focusing on learning and practising what has been learnt, through the creation of portfolios and collaboratively or cooperatively working with others in the networks, then assessment is merely the collection of such evidences of the learner’s own work, and “cheating” is not that important.  In fact, that is how most people (both educators and learners) would “reblog” or aggregate and curate blog posts and artifacts through RSS, Delicious, Google, wikis, and add their comments and evaluations based on those parts of the original posts.

Cheating would however become a critical issue if grading in assessment comes into play, where a candidate or student is judged based on the performance on assignments, tests and examinations.  It could also be a concern to educators and education authority, or even businesses on how such practices are allowed to take place in education.  So, when it comes to assessment, it depends on the level of “copying” of contents that are in the artifacts, blog posts or  videos, podcasts, slides, etc.  In summary, some of those perceptions would still be a concern for institutions, when accreditation and validation of  course work of assignments or examinations of MOOC are concerned.

2. Star students cant’ shine

I am not sure if there are significant number of star students who can’t shine in MOOCs.  What makes a star student?

This is how Tom Peters perceives an A student, or a star student.

May be there are some truths, though we need more evidences on this.

3. Employers avoid weird people

I don’t think that is true.  Employers want people who are productive, creative, and hardworking.  Employers want results.  So, how would we equate those who took MOOC to be weird people that employers don’t want?  May be too many assumptions behind here.

4. Computers can’t grade everything

Yes.  There are certain learning that computers can’t grade, especially when it comes to humanity studies, or ontology.  However, there are many mundane tasks or examinations (with MC, T/F) which could be easily graded by computers.  So, it depends on what you are assessing in MOOCs.

5. Money can’t substitute for ability

I think money can “buy” the ability of a person, and that is where people are employed to do the work and get paid.  Can money substitute for ability?

The creation and development of more MOOCs

There is an interesting trend in MOOCs. Wonder if this has caught institutions by surprise!  I think this is what most opportunistic learners would do.

So, aren’t these star students?  They even organised their own MOOCs.  Are they the ones who are creating their own learning platforms, spaces, based on their own choices?  Aren’t Sal Khan doing similar things?

These xMOOCs might have laid the golden eggs, ready for the hackers and opportunistic learners to hatch.  What would be the implications?  Aren’t these Entrepreneurship Movements of MOOCs on steroids?

What is actually learnt in a MOOC, and MOOC MOOC in particular?

What makes these MOOCs attractive?  Here are some of my points of learning about MOOC:

1. Connections – to ideas, concepts and thinking of others, yours, and mine. As I shared in my main post about Connectivism, MOOC is a platform where different ideas are entered into our minds, with some forms of aggregation, followed by curation if you like.  The remixing and repurposing of those ideas would come naturally, once you allow for the “flow” to guide you.  The feedforward part is where you share with others through the media, tools. The connected learning elaborated here provides a summary of what it means to be connected.

2. Conversation – this is the most important of all in a connectivist learning, where conversation with oneself and others form the basis of learning, turning tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge with thinking out loud.

3. Critical thinking and literacy – here is my previous post on critical thinking in MOOC.

Will further elaborate on how certification and accreditation be achieved using a Connectivist approach in the coming posts.

Postscript: My comments on the post
What MOOCs, and cMOOCs could offer are not just “knowledge” and “skills” but the extension of those knowledge and skills and apply them in a variety of context, through engagement, conversation, and interaction, as practiced in various media, platform and tools. The traditional practice of one teacher, many students are then substituted by many “experts”, “teachers”, “professors” and practitioners which would act as mentors, facilitators, curators etc. They are the open scholars and MOOCs professors (both xMOOCs, and cMOOCs) who are devoted to education and research. These practitioners are not just looking for recognition, or monetary rewards, but an interest to co-create community of knowledge and learning, and new knowledge in their fields and domains. So, if we take education as a much broader vision, it is not difficult to envision an education that take into consideration of all of those who take an active role in both education and learning, like you, and many others who contribute in many ways in the provision of constructive comments and feedback. Such conversation would be the back-bone, the infra-structure where institutions could build upon, by partnering and embracing the communities, other partner institutions, in building a better future society and community, rather than merely competing for more budgets, money for their own growth and survival. My 20c offer here. John

In MOOCs, more is less, and less is more (Part 2)

In this part 2, I would focus on x MOOC.

More is less in Instructivist x MOOCs:

The more courses that are offered through the x MOOCs, the less difference there are between the formal courses offered by the universities and those by the x MOOCS.  However, there are then more paradoxes surfacing from such x MOOCs, in terms of the measurement and assessment of mastery used by the universities.  In this post on contradiction-facing-moocs-and-their-university-sponsors:

Subject mastery in a MOOC environment may be a necessary but not yet sufficient condition for “mastery,” at least in certain galaxies of higher education. In fact, perhaps the mastery we are ultimately hoping for from the range of galaxies in the higher education universe is more than the ability to answer 50 questions correctly. Instead, our ultimate goal is to develop a capacity to convert the implications of those answers to new questions, new ideas, and new inventions — dynamic sources of impact. Developing and supporting this dynamic capacity may not scale in the same way that MOOC education can. Read more: Inside Higher Ed

This prompted me to ask: Are subject mastery in a x MOOC not yet sufficient condition for mastery?  If that is the case, more mastery in x MOOC may not be equivalent to a degree obtained from a University as mentioned above. Indeed, as mentioned here on what-moocs-are-missing-truly-transform-higher-education:

A college education is much more than mere knowledge transfer. It is a rite of passage and an important part of personal development and the maturation process. As universities work to assure that result, online courses will no doubt be part of the mix. Read more: Inside Higher Ed

In nearly all xMOOCs, the caveat is: Adopt a push approach in education, as education is based on institutions’ provision.  “Sounds true.” In this interview with Anant Agarwal:

I think that online learning can really transform education in quality, scale and efficiency. Learning can be much better. Students have told us they’ve been much more engaged, they could learn at their own pace, and overall they felt the experience was much higher quality than a regular bricks-and-mortar class. In scale, we were able to support 154,000 students from around the world with online technologies. Finally, in efficiency, we were able to have the same staff support a large number of students, so learning can become very efficient.

x MOOC is about learning efficiency, with more output (number of students who enrolled into the course), and less or same input (with same or reduced number of staff or resources).  So, education could also be delivered to any one in the world if they could access it, or any corner in the world, for those who need it.

What do those blended models look like?  As Professor Anant Agarwal says:

In a blended model, you do what is called flipping the classroom. Flipping involves having students do video [lecture] sequences and some concept exercises at home before they come to class. Then, you can ask the students to come into the class for interactive sessions where they can sit down and have discussions, ask questions, do interactive laboratories, solve problems. It kind of reverses what is done today and it can be very effective.

x MOOCs are based on the flipping the classroom model:

xMOOC is based on the teaching model where the teacher teaches, and the students learn and consume the knowledge from the course, like watching the videos, or reading a book, an artifact, and be assessed on what has been taught or covered in the videos.  The main differences between off-line and online approaches seem to lie with the machine grading and feedback, in the responses to computer generated quizzes or test, and that the students would respond and repeat the learning until they have achieved content mastery.   That is STILL based on the instructivist approach – which is based on behavioral/cognitivist learning theory, where the learners master the content, probably with the transfer of knowledge from one person or a number of persons (the professor(s)) or the machines (robot or virtual teacher), or information source to that of the learner.

If there are more x MOOCs, would less teachers be needed?

It seems that we could reduce the number of teachers required when more x MOOCs are offered, as these courses would become a duplication of the mainstream courses in lots of universities.  Why not asking students to enroll into the x MOOCs, and so we would not need so many teachers to run the SAME courses in local universities or institutions?

Instead, the local universities could focus their efforts to run more “assessment based tests or examinations” to validate the students who have passed the x MOOCs.  Is it a more economical, effective and efficient way to offer education? The more connectivity there are with the x MOOCs, the less formal teaching is required for local institutions, as such teaching could be done by the professors in x MOOCs. Is that a paradox or ideology?

If there are  more MOOCs as alternative education and learning platform, would there be less number of institutions needed to run the courses?

x MOOCs provide more platforms for any one who would like to learn in particular courses, so far if they could master the content of the course.  Does it mean less institutions would be needed for the running of the SAME courses?

Would x MOOCs take down branch campus?

In this “Will MOOCs take down branch campus – we don’t think so here. Designing New Learning Environment is another course from Stanford University.  Here the questions look familiar, and I think could be interesting to explore.  Into the future with MOOC gives you more choices, though you have to think about what it means to be educated.

Is MOOC massive-open-online-course-a-threat-or-opportunity-to-universities? Let’s see (my comments in italics):

  1. Extend:  The MOOCs are “disruptive extensions” rather than threats to traditional universities.  MOOCs will not replace the existing campus-based education model, but represent a huge opportunity to create a completely new, and much larger market that universities couldn’t serve previously due to the physical limitations of the campus.  Yes, that is the reality now, but would that become a threat to other universities?  It’s too early to know.
  2. Capture Value:  Different business models will emerge for MOOCs in the future. The unbundling of learning, credentials, social interaction, facility access, and assessment will make it possible for institutions to establish new business models.  This would also challenge the ‘traditional model of education’, and so not every institution would “survive” or cope with the “revolutionary” business model.  Those who have difficulties in embracing the new models would likely “fail”.
  3. Continue:   Professional education will become even more critical in the future, and MOOCs provide a great means.   Knowledge and even some skills have a shorter shelf life these days.  I think this depends on what sort of education that we are looking for.  See my previous post relating to c MOOCs.
  4. Customize:  MOOCs enable you to optimize the mix various educational offerings irrespective of location, time, age, and provider.  For example, it makes more sense to combine a German language program (delivered by a teacher in Germany) and American history program (delivered by an expert in the USA). Sounds good to have such varieties of education programs.  More customization would lead to better learning, in theory.
  5. Be There:  openHPI is planning to turn their virtual community into a real-world interaction experience.  Learners will pair up locally in coffee shops or conference rooms, study the online courses together and have face-to-face discussions. Hopefully, that is what MOOC is all about, opening doors to different learners, and to different parts of the world.

Now, even the small OOC is emerging, as posted here, and a start up of A Revolution University here tyler-cowen-does-a-mooc.

Is MOOC inside or outside the box?

Finally, is xMOOC one of the most discussed topics so far in 2012? I reckon yes, as evidenced in post like this.  Such conversations and opinions are the heart of MOOCs.   I will continue to explore the more is less and less is more in Part 3.

Postscript: Refer to this post moocs-could-hurt-smaller-and-for-profit-colleges-moodys-report-says