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Posts Tagged ‘coursera’

I came across an article by the progenitors of #EDCMOOC on their initial thinking around MOOC pedagogy (MOOC pedagogy: the challenges of developing for Coursera). Riding on the Coursera engagement with the University of Edinburgh, the team designing the eLearning and Digital Cultures MOOC on the Coursera platform (that I missed enrolling for, though) was seeking to engage with the medium and pedagogy, planning and development and the wider implications for the practice of and research in eLearning and Higher Education.

The article makes a promising start by articulating the “digital mimicry” of the xMOOC platforms by calling out the fact that their models are digital extensions of the conservative education system. The authors also demonstrate their understanding that the MOOC innovation as one that questions and loosens the traditional notions such as institutional control, learning outcomes and assessment criteria.

They do acknowledge the precedents set by the cMOOCs, but dismiss them as being “populated by committed e-learning enthusiasts and remain untested as vehicles for delivering alternative, less ‘reflexive’ subject matter”, “pedagogically interesting, may not fit so well across other disciplines…radical fringes of what the Higher Education sector might be prepared to more fully endorse”.

Their focus is to preserve the “construction of the teacher that has an immediacy that can succeed at scale”, with the belief that the teacher’s role is somewhere in between “over-celebratory fetishizing of the teacher” and “(writing) the teacher out of the equation altogether”. They don’t subscribe to the hype that MOOCs (and the Open Education movement) will achieve grand visions of democratizing education or freeing of the world’s knowledge, but do believe that the MOOCs have some merit in terms of scale, diversity, experimentation & research, and augmentation to physical offerings of higher education institutions.

There intent is to see how the MOOC can operate in conjunction with traditional practices. Essentially, they base their interest on:

Online education is a trend-ridden field, and MOOCs might be seen as just another – rather high-profile – piece of ed-tech du jour. However, in their sheer scale, in the rapidity of their rise and in the profound issues they appear to be raising regarding the purposes of higher education and the future of the university, they are clearly something genuinely new, something more than simply modish. For this reason, they are surely worth serious engagement on the part of anyone interested in the digital futures of educational change.

IMHO, this is a very cavalier approach to think about MOOC pedagogy and I am sure the authors will want to defend their approach based on the learning they have had from actually putting this into practice.

Why do I say this? At the outset, you cannot think of cMOOCs and Connectivism from within the system – they are a disruption – xMOOCs being the (rather limited) innovation. cMOOCs questioned the existing paradigm, demonstrated an alternative (raised many questions that are still unsolved like, for example, assessments in a cMOOC environment) and laid a strong foundation for thinking about the disruption through the theory of Connectivism.

It is not enough to state they cannot fulfill grand visions of democratizing education or cannot work in less-reflexive settings. There must be an effort to quantify the “why” behind these assertions. There must be an awareness that networks that are democratic do not exhibit power laws, rather they are horizontal line graphs that require certain critical literacies (not only those found in “elearning enthusiasts” – dislike being called that).

There must also be a concerted effort to understand that the alternative to instructor-mediated “contact and dialogue” at small scale, towards preserving the quality of these interactions at a much larger scale, must have necessarily to leverage the power of the network (witness Alec Couros’s experiment to call for external mentors online for his physical class) and does not exist in the spectrum between “no-teacher” and “over-fetished teacher”, but rather in different conceptions of what a teacher can be (Atelier, Weaver and so many others that were discussed in CCK08).

It is also important not to bypass the role of technology in unearthing the progress, direction and quality of learning and acting as tools for the network itself to evolve and progress. Therefore, discussions around Learning Analytics, Complexity, Network evolution & collaboration, design of emergent environments for learning and new ways of implicit and explicit assessments must foreground any new design of a MOOC or any conversation around MOOC Pedagogy (if that is the right term – heutagogy was considered as more appropriate in some conversations).

What would count is if the authors directed their design efforts towards exploring the new paradigm from a new paradigm perspective, rather than force-fitting it to existing notions of what they think works and what does not. Their kind of MOOCThink confuses and perplexes me.

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I had an occassion to present a session on MOOCs to some really bright people a few days ago. My thesis was that MOOCs (cMOOCs) represent an invention (they add vocabulary), while other models (xMOOCs, Flipped Classroom etc.) represent innovation that is more inside the box than outside it.

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Carlos Salerno over at Inside HigherEd wrote a piece on the Bitter Reality of MOOConomics. The major point he makes is that because students need to acquire credentials from top universities/colleges for better employment prospects whereas colleges are loath to provide these credentials through MOOCs because they have no barriers to entry (in terms of student proficiency or past credentials), what incentive does the student have to participate in MOOCs?

Inaccurately suggesting that the MOOCs were born at “two of the nation’s most elite colleges” and suspecting that the MOOCs, rather than being “evolutionary equivalents of modern-day humans”, are more equivalent to Neanderthals, Carlos makes the following conclusion:

Still, what our elite higher education institutions have produced in the MOOC looks and feels like one of Ford Motor Company’s futuristic concept cars – something that provides a vision for how tomorrow might look, or which includes niche features that may be built into near-term models, but in its current form is simply not road-ready.

I don’t quite understand the parallel and I sincerely hope that no MOOC be ever considered a product that can be “road-ready” and sold/operated like that. It is a testimony to our current trying times that we are looking at these college MOOCs as being representative of the Connectivist philosophy, as a recipe that solves the problems of employability or of student choice and as an evolutionary development in educational systems (rather than a transformative one).

Jeffrey Young has a great article over at The Chronicle where he analyzes the Coursera contract and possible business models around MOOCs. Essentially Coursera and other private companies are following the model of getting to market quickly and then adapting to “consumer” demand quickly, rather than a deeply thought model for solving our current challenges.

My belief is that there are operative (business and non-commercial) models here. However, we need to recognize the potential for transformation. This potential cannot be realized unless we leverage the power of connective learning.

At the heart of such a MOOC model are a few things.

  1. A Connectivist way of being (learning as a process of making connections, knowledge as the network, changing roles of teachers and students, critical literacies, learning analytics)
  2. Learning As a Platform rather than a preset configuration of pedagogy, content and technology (the primacy of the interaction)
  3. The learning network itself
  4. Acceptable methods for measurement of proficiency (this is as yet largely unsolved at scale; and there may be instances where that measurement is totally unnecessary)
  5. An emergent operational system that is driven and designed keeping in mind that learning is a complex adaptive system (as experimented with in CCKxx)

If we are able to keep these principles in mind, business and operative models will follow. The challenge is now more to understand that the college MOOCs are not representative of these principles. Rather, they perpetuate (riding on the brand equity of these colleges), an existing system – which is also why companies like Coursera will benefit.

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