I’m still trying to wrap my head around connectivism, the learning theory developed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes that in a lot of ways led to the growth of distance education and the development of MOOCs. At its heart, connectivism is about where content/knowledge/learned stuff exists, and posits that in an interconnected, technologically-robust world, it is as much about how to access the learning opportunity as anything, but inherent to such a model is the notion that technology has systemically changed not only the way knowledge operates, but also the brain itself. Continue reading
George Siemens starts a June 2012 blog post by celebrating the advancement of massively open online courses via platforms such as Coursera and EdX (noticeably absent from his praise is Udacity) as methods of providing excellence in education on a global level (an effort that is written about in great detail throughout popular lit, but not so much in research). The purpose of the blog, however, is to note the theoretical and pedagogical differences between MOOCs and Coursera/EdX MOOCs (and he notes that he has chosen to signify the larger model as the “other”). What about similarities?
There are many points of overlap, obviously, as both our MOOCs and the Coursera/EDx MOOCs taken (sic) advantage of distributed networks to reflect changing educational practice.
As I have noted in previous review of research, the assumption that MOOCs share ancestry is likely faulty. Continue reading
The best MOOC primer I have read throughout my research comes from Ken Masters, a medical education professor at Sultan Qaboos University in Oman, who in 2011 provided a three-page synopsis of MOOCs for an audience of medical education professors. It incorporates theory, educational practices, the history of the movement, questions about pedagogy and practices, and considers future outcomes. The problem is, the MOOCs described here follow the urMOOC learning theories, drawing quotes from George Siemens, Stephen Downes, and Dave Cormier. In this model, learning is negotiated, the instructor is not the God of Content, and the objectives of the course may look remarkably different at the end due to the organic growth of the semester. Certainly that was the design of the urMOOC, but are the MOOCs of Coursera and Udacity willing to let objectives change and willing to negotiate knowledge? The reliance on quizzes and grading would point otherwise, but more research is needed.
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.
From 2010, a TED talk from George Siemens, a theorist and author on digital learning. Siemens is credited with creating the first Massively Open Online Course, though this 2008 creation is rather different in educational pedagogy from the MOOCs of Udacity and Coursera.