Tag Archives: instructional design

The Power(ful Perception) of Learning Analytics – Excerpts from MOOC Research

Note: I will use this space over the next month to share excerpts from my dissertation The Evolution & Impact of the Massive Open Online Course. The research was a Delphi study bringing together 20 MOOC experts to discuss the MOOC in educational, political, and sociocultural terms (slides from the oral presentation can be seen here). Upon library clearance, the entire document will be available through a Creative Commons license. The following is from Chapter 4, the results of the research study. This excerpt tackles the only prompt of 12 to gain consensus in Round 1 of the study, an agreement with the following:  The data we gather from students utilizing MOOCs will help us solve student struggles in learning through redesigning the learning system and content modules.

Round 1: Consensus. Only one prompt in Round 1 reached the consensus level of 75%, Prompt #3 data, experts agreeing with the contention that back-end data gathered from MOOCs would help solve learning struggles.

The positive view of data from a consensus majority of the expert panel potentially comes due to the panel’s make-up. Although panelists were chosen from five distinct disciplines, it was the congruence to MOOCs and educational technology that forecast expertise within the phenomenon. Panelists were bullish on back-end data in part because panelists were bullish on the overall confluence of education and technology.  Participant E8 stated, “Computer based learning generally, and the whole innovation mindset as brought to teaching and learning, will transform the possibilities for learning research and teaching practice.” Participant E12 added, “The analytics provided by MOOCs (and other online learning) can provide a window into actual student performance – missing in most F2F and online learning today.”

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The MOOCademy Awards

This tweet, from the co-founder of Coursera, highlights several troublesome aspects of the MOOC phenomenon and the manner in which we envision online education in an age of technological solutionism (see Morozov).

Education as fun

No one wants education to be void of fun.  Practitioners and scholars alike work tirelessly to remove boredom, dullness, lifelessness and listlessness from practice of the discipline, because learning happens best if we avoid boredom, dullness, lifelessness and listlessness and replace them with engagement, activity, critical thinking and debate.  And educators hope that, in the end, students find the experience enriching; ergo, enjoyable…and if they wish to call that  amalgam fun, that’s okay.  But fun is not the immediate emotional correlation educators hope to establish between the learner and the learning.

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Last week Coursera announced an educational partnership with Discovery Communications  to offer Coursera MOOCs via their new web portal Curiosity.com.  As noted in the press release, Discovery Communications is the parent company for both The Discovery Channel and Animal Planet:

We’re excited at the potential of Curiosity.com to expand our reach and give students an additional channel for exploring their professional and personal interests among Coursera’s offerings, as well as among those of other available educational resources.

The Curiosity.com platform looks like many of the video-based Internet education offerings of this modern day:  Upworthy, TED, even MOOC provider Canvas.  They really look the same.  It’s  as if WordPress has but one education design option and everyone is required to use it.  From a design standpoint, learning in 2014 equates to a three-column desktop publishing layout, one click promising an equivalent to Neo’s kung fu lesson in The Matrix.


An amalgam of screenshots from education-centric websites — January 14, 2014.

There is certainly space for research and discussion of the digital layout of education in 2014; Curiosity.com is just one of many start-ups to follow the dominant paradigm that seems beholden to building freedom of choice through content boxes.  Stuart Hall would have a field day with why education is delivered in such a fashion.  That is for another time, however.

Neither the design of Curiousity.com nor its vision are unique in todays saturated marketplace of content branded as education.  What is unique about Curiosity.com is more its holding company, Discovery Communications, and their history in education.   Continue reading