#ALN13 Presentation – MOOC Cartography (A Literature Review)

I presented my dissertation literature review at the Sloan International Conference for Online Learning on Wednesday at 12:45pm at the Swan & Dolphin Resort at Walt Disney World.  Several technological glitches threw me off-point, and the topic was expansive by design (perhaps too much), but attendees were positive and responsive to the presentation.

Looking back over my literature review (I completed my oral defense in July of this year), I see not only a great deal of change in the field, but also a greater understanding within myself of the field and its tribulations.  There is a lot of news and hullabaloo about MOOC platforms, MOOC economics, MOOC battles on campuses, but there is still a significant lack of writing on MOOCs from the dominant ideology from a theoretical perspective.  The MOOC as we see it in everyday literature was built by computer scientists interested in artificial intelligence and machine learning.  AI and Machine Learning are byproducts of cognitive science, which has a sister learning theory, cognitive theory.  Obviously the 1960s and 1970s sent the psychologists and educators down one road where a human mind handled information and grew into education theories such as constructivism, social learning theory and activity theory…while the computer scientists went down another road with expert systems and intelligent agents.  But both constitute learning from a certain perspective.
The theoretical voice missing in this MOOC debate is the AI voice.  What is the learning theory behind the AI movement that helped usher MOOCs into existence?  Who are the seminal authors in the field?  Why is learning designed for machines considered applicable to humans? Once all sides have an understanding of these issues we can better engage in dialogue about MOOCs and their role in the future of higher education.

6 thoughts on “#ALN13 Presentation – MOOC Cartography (A Literature Review)

  1. Pingback: OnScene: #aln13 keynote @daphnekoller’s Online Revolution | eLearning Landscape

  2. Kellie O'Neill

    Thank you for all your work/research on MOOCs. Before last week I had never even heard of the term MOOC. I was involved in a conversation about MOOCs recently, and the presenter suggested that MOOCs could be used in a middle school setting. Your articles, however, seem to be more focused on the impact and application of MOOCs within a higher education setting. Do you believe that MOOCs have a place in a middle school? Would a MOOC even be effective in a middle school? What are your thoughts?

    1. Rolin Moe Post author

      Hi Kellie,

      I think many would find the notion of a middle school MOOC a frightening proposition. MOOCs, at least the dominant version, are designed to be scaled lectures with interactive assessment and community via discussion board. Such a theory of how learning happens has only been shown foolproof for autodidacts, folks who can learn anything anywhere. K-12 education exists to better scaffold learning for students through cohorts of students who explore and engage topics in a safe environment facilitated by a trained professional. Now, in a world of standardized testing and the seeming erosion of the K-12 teacher as a professional, the MOOC makes sense as an arguable model for education, where economics trump research and affect. I just hope thats not our world.

  3. Amber Bohnet-Geldien

    A question posed in searching for knowledge
    According to most of the research in favor of them, the use of MOOCs have many benefits to current students economically, intellectually, and pace of each course. Do these benefits out weigh the arguments for lose of accountability upon the student/teacher? Do the courses provide for quality of knowledge or are students still “stuck” learning the same material “abridged”? Where would MOOCs fit in the pedagogical viewpoints? Lastly, how much of the power to control for HE is exerted by the state to continually structure (the superstructure) of MOOCs educational components?

    1. Rolin Moe Post author

      A lot of interesting questions! Some of them are value statements (such as whether the economics outweigh the quality), and others are still too soon to tell. But to answer your political control question…as of now the MOOC situation is like most higher education and almost completely removed from state auspices. However, California is one of several states to propose legislation to add a university system that would be an aggregation system for MOOCs, standardized tests, competency trainings and other nodes that could be rolled into a degree. In that world (the legislation was tabled), the state would likely have more control over MOOC content and pedagogy simply because the state would control whether the MOOC was credit-worthy.

      1. Amber Bohnet-Geldien

        Thank you for your quick reply. I look forward to the results (research) for the other issues. That is good to know as I am not a big believer in standardize tests. I hope the state stays out of the MOOC arena as “the best interest” of the learner is not always the main concern.

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