Will the winner take all in MOOCs?

In this post on MOOCs, Ms Koller says that the winner takes all.

Mr Koller said that, although there were currently many competitors in the MOOC market, she thought it would tend toward being winner take all.

“Right now, we’re four times larger than anybody else in terms of students, 10 times larger than anybody else in terms of courses,” she said.

“So I think we are well positioned to be that platform that will enable everyone to learn.”

I think we are now witnessing a game of competition among MOOC players, where I once commented that

As I have shared, we are now in the Lord of the Ring game, where those who win takes all. Education is now a game, not as much as the once enlightenment or passion sort of education vision, but a pragmatic sort of education of whether one could get a job after taking a course of study, or getting famous through “educating” others in MOOCs. It is the media that would likely determine who is the winner, not the test anymore, as no one could objectively test or examine what is really “competent” or “capable” under those framework, mainly because they are producer driven, not user driven.

Though I am a strong supporter of MOOCs throughout the years, I still have many questions relating to the sustainability when MOOCs are totally free.  I am for free open education, and I have thought about the implication of freebies with education.  This could be a pathway with no return though we keep “promising” education could be delivered free to a global audience.

What I found challenging is education has turned into edutainment on one hand, by trying to keep education interesting and engaging (that is quick fix and learn of certain vocational skills, or mere basic concepts), whilst education has been turned into a commodity for selling the brand, with a teach, tell and assess mentality, without thoroughly thinking about what the learners have actually learnt and thought about their learning, and their relevance to their work or lives.  To what extent have we really prepared our learners to learn and confront the challenges that they are facing in this 21st century?

Yes, we have the best education in the world teaching us.  The question is: Have we got the best learning yet?

I won’t repeat what I said here, and so you could refer to my previous posts relating to the differences between x and c MOOCs.

I hope Coursera would be equally successful in winning in this game of MOOCs, though edX and Udacity would surely like to share that big win in these few years.

Let’s see if there are other cMOOCs contenders who would challenge the winners of this game of MOOCs.

Wasn’t the cMOOCs the first winner after all?   I reckon they were, at least in creating the big name for others to follow suit.

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What is education?

A lot to think about education.  In a democratic society, what is education?

Steve Denning’s post on what does it mean to be educated referred to Kohn’s suggestions and critiqued on them:

  • To develop the intellect, presumably including linguistic, mathematical and analytic capabilities.
  • To produce competent, caring, loving, and lovable people.
  • To create and sustain a democratic society
  • To invest in producing future workers for the workforce and, ultimately, corporate profits.

I agree with points 1 to 3 on the goals of education . For the investment in producing future workers, there are a few imperatives that we need to think about more deeply, as to why and what that involves in such an investment.

What sort of skills and literacy do we want our future workers to develop and possess?  If we don’t even know what future work looks like, would it be too early to come up with a set of skills and literacy that would pre-define what these workers must have?

Steve raises interesting points:

A culture of learning

Like 21st Century management, 21st Century education needs to be different,say Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown in their book, A New Culture of Learning (CreateSpace, 2011). It’s all about collaborative learning, where the teacher is less of a “sage on a stage” who knows all the answers, and more of a “guide on the side”, who encourages the students themselves to ask questions and find the answers from the incredible wealth of resources now instantly available to them on the Web.

Education is also about asking good questions, so as to become a critical thinker with intellectual capability, who could analyse situations, discern fallacies, misguided information, develop options and wisely choose the best option in decision making.  It is about living one’s life in full potential and capacity, based on one’s strengths, and the ability to add values to organisation, work and other people,  developed through both learning and formal education.

My ideals in education would be to prepare people to develop themselves as creative, critical and autonomous learners, who would challenge themselves to overcome obstacles in life, and solve problems that they are confronted with throughout life.  They would make decisions that creates values for themselves and others in the community or society at large.

Here, the purpose of education is to engage with the world, and to prepare ourselves (as learners) to be tenacious and resourceful, imaginative and logical, self disciplined and self-aware, collaborative and inquisitive.  And one of the most important purposes of education is learning how to learn.  Learn globally and act locally, and be connected to the international communities.

If you build it, they will come!

MOOCs is a bad idea, just like books.  It turns out that this bad idea becomes one of the very first ideas to transform higher education, as witnessed in these few years.

If you build it, they will come, that is where internet was built, the itune was built, and now the MOOCs.

People will come, when there are super professors, elite institutions, and venture capital investors building up the MOOCs.  People are yearning for knowledge, higher education, even though if it is costing them something, just that something they could afford.

People will watch the best professors of the elite institutions presenting their lectures, so far if they could access those videos for free, from any where in the world.   They would be especially thankful, if they are from those developing or under-developing countries, who don’t even have access to Higher Education, or that they are too costly for them.

It is a great idea, coming from the freebies, as I have shared in my past post.  Believe in MOOCs, that would be sustainable, if educators and venture capitalists, institutions are going to build it.  Surely, there would be millions or billions of people coming, who are looking for free Higher Education.

MOOC is a great idea, not a bad one.  Huh!  It motivates people to get the best education in the world!

If you build MOOC, people will come.  Just a matter of time, and how much you could invest into it.

The emergence of x and c MOOCs and pedagogy

Ray in this post on MOOCs are maturing says:

What will this adolescent, MOOC, become when it grows up?  Some key traits are apparent even at this early point in the development of this movement.  MOOCs, by definition, reach massive audiences.  Where there are massive audiences, there are efficiencies that may be had, and there is money to be made through advertising.  MOOCs are pioneering new modes of assessment that may be applicable across all of education.

Adaptive learning has been given a boost by open online initiatives.  The hundreds of millions of venture capital dollars attracted by the potential of MOOCs are a significant incentive to make some version of massive open online learning work.  If there is one thing that MOOCs have shown us, it is that there is a huge international appetite for learning.

Based on my observation and research, I think there are vast differences in terms of needs and experiences in MOOCs (especially the c and x MOOCs) for various types and cohorts of learners – high school students, college and university undergraduate students, graduate students, graduates and working learners, scholars, researchers, professors etc.

It is hard to pin down a particular pedagogy for each type or cohort of learners, but generally, those undergraduate students tend to need more guidance than graduate students and graduates, and that life-long learners (those who have work experience and degrees, or those who are veterans in MOOCs – cMOOCs etc.) tend to prefer more autonomous and independent or self-directed and organised learning. These sort of findings are revealed in various forms in “our past researches” though we need more concrete statistics and learning analytics to verify those claims.

There are many assumptions behind the learning for xMOOCs which seem to be revealed in decades of research – that these learners tend to be more entrusted in learning with their elite institutions and professors, and so an instructivist approach with mastery learning matches and aligns with their learning style. Besides, working and learning with professors would also lead to a closer and positive relationship between learners and institutions, which is highly desirable when these graduates need recommendation from the professors when applying for work (or through the xMOOCs). You would easily find lots of professionals working with Coursera and Udacity now are those “graduates” from those xMOOCs or those who graduated from the elite institutions. Surely, the pedagogy they would prefer is the instructivist approach and mastery learning, when they are asked about their preferred learning/teaching methodology, as that is what they are employed for.

To what extent would learners learn with other pedagogy, like a networked learning approach or Connectivism? My (our) research did indicate that these would likely be adopted by those who are well experienced and motivated learners, with mature and advanced learning skills. These could include graduates and some experienced life long learners, some professors who would like to adopt emerging technology and new and innovative pedagogical approach, and those who are pioneers in COPs, though many of these educators and professionals would prefer to use “social constructivist” or “cognitivist” approaches in describing their preferred pedagogy, rather than Connectivism. John

Here is my post relating to c and x MOOCs:

What would emerge out of the MOOCs?

I suppose there are 3 types of MOOCs that are emerging in Higher Education:

The x MOOCs

Those MOOCs which could leverage technologies, automate the whole educational process of teaching, assessment and certification, and those which are operating under a sustainable business model – with a continuous stream of revenues and profits to support the design and running of the MOOC.  The focus would likely still be on the business, with technology enhanced learning as the way to educate and learn, supported by the super professors, with videos-based teaching, and flipped classroom.   This seems to fall in line with the current x MOOCs where huge enrollments –  million with Coursera, and hundreds of thousands with Udacity and edX.

The c MOOCs

The second type of MOOC are those which focus principally on the learners’ preferences and thus be based on learner-centred model of teaching and learning.  Here the professors would negotiate the teaching with learners with networked based learning.  The focus would likely be on the education and learning process, with distributed learning and technology as an enabler, with a connectivist approach towards learning and crowd sourcing as a means to aggregate the distributed learning.  This could be the current model of c MOOC, based on emergent learning.

The x and c MOOCs

The third type of MOOCs are those which would re-brand themselves, attract and sustain more educators and learners to be on board of the bandwagon of MOOCs, where an educational model is blended into the business model.  Here the super professors and educators would re-reconfigure the teaching to “teach the world”, and support learners in grouped or networked based learning.  The focus would likely be on the education process, with technology and social media/networks as an enabler.  This could be a hybrid structure of x MOOC and c MOOC.

Finally, what would be the model that emerge?

Here the models are represented by:

What would be the future of MOOCs?

As discussed, the three sorts of MOOCs would serve different types of learners differently based on what the institutions would offer and what the learners might need and expect.

There are no clear crystal balls in accurately predicting what would emerge out of these winners, though it is for sure that the ultimate model of Higher Education would likely go with xMOOCs within the coming decade, as the demand for qualifications, formal teacher-based education is still the norm.

There is a possibility of having institutions adopting a hybrid approach in blending educational model with a strong business model in order to sustain in the long run.  This means that more emerging technologies would be adopted to replace the current teacher-based model of teaching, where the core business of education is more widely adopted not only in higher education, but also being adopted in the wider community and networks.  Here the c and x MOOCs would likely be the ones who could embrace both entrepreneurial and educational models in their MOOCs, in the delivery of pragmatic results and tangible outcomes.  This may however, mean that they could have the most disruptive effect on the current Higher Education, as they might transform the nature of business of education.

There are however, certain institutions who would embrace the learners as center of education model, which in fact mimic the adoption of internet and web-based learning, with a Constructivist and Connectivist approaches towards education, where teachers, social and personal learning networks, artifacts and internet based open-resources and open learning are used in the MOOCs’ platforms, as a basis to truly transform both the institutions, and the nature of education and learning.  These require a systemic change in the way learning is considered, that is in keeping pace with the rapid changes in society and needs of learners, with an emergence model of education.

MOOCs experience

Here is a “typical xMOOC experience“. No surprise, that is exactly what I have also shared relating to xMOOC experience.

The pedagogy of xMOOCs all falls into the same pattern as revealed through this paper:

“the fact that the format concentrates on short form videos, automated or peer/self–assessment, forums and ultimately open content from a representation of the world’s leading higher educational institutions.”

I kept wonder why xMOOCs are structured in such a way.

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.

It’s not just the learners’ experience that makes MOOCs special in Higher Education, it is the professors’ experiences and responses that shock the world – and here it is where Jonathan:

predicts that the teaching profession could be divided in the future between a small number of star professors earning hefty MOOC royalties and an army of lower-paid teaching assistants without job security who will do the grunt work.

“From an administrative point of view, the beauty of MOOCs is that they provide an easy opportunity to drastically cut labour costs by firing existing faculty members or simply hiring poorly trained ones – whom they won’t have to pay well – to help administer the class,” Prof. Rees wrote in a recent Slate article. “Why should I hire a new PhD when I can get the best professors in the world piped into my university’s classrooms?”

Does it sound quite a pessimistic outlook into the future of Higher Education, especially for the faculties and professors?

I don’t know what the implications are, when many teachers and professors may need to re-adjust or change the way of “teaching” or engaging through the MOOC partnership, in order to “embrace” MOOCs, and to survive or thrive through those challenges that they are facing.

For me, I have taken quite a number of cMOOCs and tasted a few xMOOCs, so I could only empathize those who feel shocked with the emergence with xMOOCs, as both an opportunity and threat to education and learning.

It’s time for me to slow down and reflect further on these MOOCs experience.

How about you?  Your experience with xMOOCs.

Change and MOOCs

What sort of values and pedagogy are reflected in the c and X MOOCs?  What changes have occurred as a result of the introduction of MOOCs into institutions (higher education institutions in particular)?

In an 1838 address to graduates of the Harvard Divinity School, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Truly speaking, it is not instruction, but provocation, that I can receive from another soul.”

“I don’t think we can emphasize too much this distinction between instruction and provocation, facts versus knowledge, discipline versus inspiration, information versus insight,” Delbanco said.

It seems that our traditions are based more on instruction, facts, discipline and information, which have all been revealed in the latest MOOCs.

Why would institutions want to introduce xMOOCs?  These relate back to the questions raised about changes in culture and the necessary school reforms here by Michael Fuller:

“Does the change address an unmet need? Is it a priority in relation to other unmet needs? Is it informed by some desirable sense of vision? Are there adequate resources committed to support implementation?”
These questions help guide our information-gathering process to determine if we have developed enough meaning to implement the change effectively or whether to reject it.

I have shared here:

1. Adopting MOOCs as a disruptive innovation to combat the disruptive impact due to numerous MOOCs and to drive down the cost of higher education delivery in their institutions.

In emergence of MOOCs, I reflected:

A paradox that underlies MOOC is its value proposition to lower costs due to its Massive Open Online nature.  Whilst the buzz about MOOCs is not due to the technology’s intrinsic educational value, but due to the seductive possibilities of lower costs (Vardi, 2012).  This could also reach a massive number of potential learners, on a global basis, as a result of technology, yet it may not add substantive costs to the MOOCs, once they are created.

Another paradox lies with the degree of participation – the drop-in and drop-out in MOOCs, and how success in completing the course or learning is defined.

Most elite institutions are interested in embracing MOOCs mainly because that would help them in maintaining leadership in Higher Education, by the adoption of online education, and to experiment with “best practice” that they have in mind.  This will further ensure their continuing world leadership position in the provision of Higher Education.

Besides, most institutions realize that power of disruption against disruption may be the best strategy that they could employ, to avoid being “defeated” when waking up,  when everybody else is playing the game of MOOCs.

2. Adopting MOOCs to promote particular pedagogy, and in the case of xMOOCs, the effectiveness of Instructivism and Mastery Learning.

These are rational strategies, especially for elite institutions, as that is where best professors are employed to teach the best courses in the world.

Have we shared a common understanding on all these?  Isn’t it true that professors still have different views about MOOCs?  There seem to be some resistance from the professors as revealed in various incidences.

There are however differing views on how these pedagogy are used effectively in MOOCs, especially when the outcomes are often interpreted differently by different authorities and educators.

I have shared here What does a world class MOOC look like?