Missed this a few weeks back, but at Inside Higher Ed author Ry Rivand covered a summit hosted by Harvard and MIT entitled Online Learning and the Future of Residential Education. While the proceedings were not quotable to the press, Rivand and other journalists had full access to presenters, professors and other dignitaries invited to discuss this future.
My focus as a researcher is on how massive learning technologies affect instruction and the instructor; contemporary learning theory puts a great deal of importance on creating a learning environment (that could turn into a community), experiencing learning through authentic hands-on projects, and contextualizing information. xMOOCs, as they have been sold, herald pedagogy but present a learning system of short videos and interactive quizzes, which original MOOC visionary George Siemens labels a return to 1960s educational theory and pedagogy*.
*If you didn’t click that link, do it. Siemens has a fantastic idea on how MOOCs could utilize gaming theory from World of Warcraft or Call of Duty in establishing grouping for projects, the sort of thing that education professor and community learning researcher Linda Polin sees as an authentic use of gamification in learning.
Anyone thinking Siemens’ quote is overly critical or cynical should view Rivand’s direct quote of Anant Agarwal, the director of MOOC provider EdX:
In doing some MOOC reading I again got into the comments section to find a difference of opinion, this time on Khan Academy, a content delivery system many xMOOCs herald as inspiration for their wares. I evoked Seymour Papert’s 1991 book The Children’s Machine, specifically his kitchen math discussion, in an attempt to look at why a lecture-based mathematics instruction often doesn’t translate into understanding math for application in life. Another commenter provided this Papert quote in saying that Khan and Papert would agree on the benefit of Khan Academy:
“There won’t be schools in the future…. I think the computer will blow up the school. That is, the school defined as something where there are classes, teachers running exams, people structured in groups by age, following a curriculum-all of that. The whole system is based on a set of structural concepts that are incompatible with the presence of the computer. …But this will happen only in communities of children who have access to computers on a sufficient scale.
I came across a piece from Smithsonian Magazine profiling Sebastian Thrun, the man behind the xMOOC prototype via Stanford’s Intro to AI course (the research community needs a shorthand for this) as well as Udacity. Thrun won the Smithsonian’s American Ingenuity Award for Education based off his work in the MOOC world, and the magazine’s piece about him starts off as most smartly written puff pieces do: a description of the location, the unique idiosynchracies of Thrun as he and the writer meet, a tangential topic that will show its relevance later…boilerplate journalism. The article was passed along via Cathy Davidson of HASTAC, whose work I admire and appreciate, so I didn’t want to cast the article out as more meaningless hype about how the world of education is undergoing immense change and these MOOC things are going to save everyone and everything. So I kept reading.
If you are a follower of this blog, you know my interest is on finding the theoretical underpinnings of the xMOOC movement. If you were to look at the media narrative, the xMOOC just showed up one day and was the way to save education…that is disingenuous to learning theory, teaching pedagogy and the history of education, online/distance or otherwise. I have had a great deal of difficulty finding theoretical ground on which the xMOOC developers stand…the discussion usually focuses on economics, global access, disruptive technology, parallels to the dot.com era, or heartwarming student anecdotes. This article goes in a different direction, as Thrun opens up a bit on his education views. Continue reading →
A sadness fell over the Ed Tech circles of Twitter yesterday. Maybe not a sadness, but a resignation. The fervor that often accompanies information or artifacts from dichotomal points of view (which I love to call PsOV) was replaced with a more subdued conversation, one indicative of licking wounds, falling back, and regrouping.
A lot of MOOC related information entered into the conversation yesterday, and I’ll dedicate specific blogs to each. But most important, from my perspective, was technology and new media maven Clay Shirky weighing in on the MOOC debate (oddly enough, I linked to a 2009 article of his just the other day when discussing my journey of putting MOOC and disruptive technology together). The article is powerful to say the least, and makes a compelling argument…so compelling that if you haven’t read it and are interested enough in MOOCs to be at a blog all about MOOCs, you should go to it now.
National Novel Writing Month, known colloquially as NaNoWriMo, starts today and runs through the month of November, encouraging participants to write 50,000 words toward a novel. This is the 14th year of NaNoWriMo, and the number of registered participants has grown from 21 “overcaffeinated yahoos” to more than a quarter of a million in 2011. And while media buzz for NaNoWriMo continues to grow, its press popularity dwarfs that of other massive online learning environments, specifically MOOCs. Continue reading →
Recently I posted about my current research into connectivism and my belief that it is more pedagogial than theoretical. I noted that my understanding of connectivism (something I consider integral to the discussions in #cfhe12) remains limited, and continued field use of the term would help me gain a broader understanding and perhaps come to different conclusions. I didn’t realize such an opportunity would arise so soon as today while caring for my toddler. Continue reading →
I made a comment during the first week of reading in the Current/Future State of Higher Education (#cfhe12), lamenting the lack of readings that withstood academic rigor, most notably through the journal process. Academic journals are a source of contention and fight in open access circles (#oped12), and there are a number of journals that have already gone open access, continuing to vet and peer-review rigorous research while opening its books to anyone interested.
The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning is such an open journal, and readings from it have helped guide my understanding of the history of distance and online education. Within its electronic pages I have found history, perspective, dissent, and most importantly theoretical and research rationale for posits and claims. So I wonder why, at this point in my cMOOC readings for cfhe12 and oped12, I have not found any articles from this journal, considering the ones I have encountered so far paint a great road map leading us from the dawn of industrial education to the massification precipice we are at today. Continue reading →
My dissertation chair pointed out a problem with doing a dissertation on MOOCs…unless the scope is specific enough, the venture becomes an attempt to define a moving target. This is evident in the manner in which we define MOOCs…in this blog I have begun looking at the MOOCs of Siemens and Downes as urMOOCs (coined by Bryan Alexander among others), although there are many who refer to them as cMOOCs (for Connectivist MOOCs). That leaves the Udacity/EdX/Coursera model as MOOC, and any good sociologist or cultural theorist will tell you that by defining one as standard and another as derivative, we have already set false assumptions and beliefs.
C.O. Rodriguez wrote a paper for the European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning on the differences between the cMOOC and what we refer to as only MOOC, and even he had difficulty defining the terms, using “AI-Stanford Like Model” to delineate. The paper is an ideal start for scholarly research on the topic, and as I read through his citations and continue to look over the work I will share those outcomes. A few initial points I found noteworthy: Continue reading →
Stephen Downes, who co-created the Connectivism course in 2008 that is widely considered the first MOOC, is a prolific writer. There are numerous blogs where he shares information and discusses his thoughts on emerging trends, often through a connectivist lens (according to Wikipedia, there is debate as to whether Connectivism is a learning theory; two+ years into my doctoral program, this is the first I heard of connectivism, so I am interested to see its merits!). The writing gets a lot of attention, and brings spirited debate.
So far, with just a brief introduction into his work, my favorite is a recent response to Tony Bates’ fears of computers replacing teachers. MOOCs are not the primary focus of Bates’ work, but the larger implications of computed education (which appears here as a spectre of behaviorism) are evident, and Downes provides a passionate response to not only the issues Bates addresses, but the problems with several of Bates’ postulates.