Tag Archives: learning analytics

The Struggle to Define Our Jargon – 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 1, the argument for significance. This excerpt looks at the hype-based MOOC arguments seen in news media, as well as criticisms on the MOOC and its hype.

Disagreement on definitions of education terms. The expert Delphi panel encountered a number of difficulties in finding agreed-upon definitions for education and research terms. Within the three rounds of discussion, terms such as data, open, student, pedagogy, personalization, sufficient and online education were used in divergent ways to describe similar variables or phenomena. Some have argued that such disagreement stems historically from education as a moving profession basing itself within the sociocultural milieu of the time (Harvey, 2005), so definitions outside of an educator’s primary discipline would be more negotiated than those within a field of study. However, in the Delphi study experts had no problems finding agreed-upon definitions for the business and technological terms utilized in the study such as disruptive technology and learning analytics, terms also secondary to primary discipline.

Finding spaces of agreement or disagreement is predicated upon establishing the rules and parameters for a conversation. The Delphi study was designed to create a space for various experts associated with the MOOC phenomenon to freely discuss the social, historical, political and educational impact and future of the MOOC and higher education. This is the traditional method for a Delphi study: experts of a subject have a space to discuss a rising phenomenon amongst other experts, and the panelist design mitigates the levels of expertise so that conversation can begin at a high level (Linstone & Turoff, 2002). The experts chosen for this Delphi study are all influential scholars and practitioners tied to MOOCs, but the varying definitions provided by experts in wrestling with prompts and topics created a space where conversation was dedicated to shoring up vocabulary misconceptions, space that could have been used for further debating the topics. It is possible that the problems with terminology were in fact explorations and negotiations of dominant readings; however, a negotiated view of education as an academic discipline understands the discipline is a field where expertise is often questioned, as evidenced by the prompt #expertise.  Experts debated each other’s interpretations of vocabulary rather than a conception of dominant vocabulary usage.

The success of quasi-educational concepts such as disruptive technology is predicated in part on the widespread understanding and adoption of the term in popular and critical media. The fathers of disruptive technology, Clayton Christensen and Michael Horn, have published numerous books, research articles, blogs, conference proceedings, and media articles on the topic and its impact on a number of societal sectors, most recently education. The result is an economic phenomenon gaining understanding and acceptance within a number of other institutions and societal structures, such as higher education, a space where it is difficult to extrapolate discussion of how the MOOC changes higher education without discussing disruptive technology (Horn & Christensen, 2013). Such baseline definitions of the debate shift the discussion of the future of education from an education-centric perspective to the perspective of agreed-upon terminology, such as the economics of disruptive technology, or the monetization of MOOCs, or the technology of automated learning, terminology favoring a commercial or consumable lens from which to frame higher education. For education to remain a viable lens from which to engage the MOOC debate, the field must agree upon terms as basic as data, open, and student, as well as complex topics such as pedagogy and personalization.

Non-Web Citations:

Harvey, D. (2005).  A brief history of neoliberalism.  New York:  Oxford.
Linstone, H. & Turoff, M. (2002).  The Delphi Method:  Techniques and applications.  Reading, MA:  Addison-Wesley.

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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MOOCs – Sliced Bread, or the Ron Popeil Bread Slicer?

There’s a lot of hype about MOOCs (and when I put hype and MOOC together, I mean xMOOC), and with the hype comes a resistance from ed tech folks.  The arguments go something like this:  hype machine says MOOCs are the next big thing and the best thing to happen in ages, and resistance says MOOCs aren’t great, aren’t new, and aren’t making things better.  A prime example comes from some hype dished up by the MIT Technology Review entitled The Most Important Education Technology in 200 Years, countered by D’Arcy Norman’s terse reply whose tag line involves fertilizer.  What we forget when we enter a point-counterpoint frame of mind is that both points of view come from ideologies and histories that result in the digital artifacts I have linked to.  Studying those artifacts to find the encampment inferences and foundations can help us see the positives and negatives of both sides rather than following one full throttle. Continue reading

Ethiopian Tablet Hoopla – Take a Deep Breath

The OLPC initiative in Ethiopia is getting some traction in ed tech circles, and I came across a blog response by Ben Grey, a tech CIO for a K-12 district, professor, teacher and optimist in the field.  He was thrilled about the potential coming from this initial look at data.  I find his passion inspiring, but was weary of the article’s elements Grey was ignoring while extolling other virtues.  I responded to his blog via comment, and will mirror that below:

I appreciate your enthusiasm in this field…such energy is needed in the edu world. This article came across my computer today as well, and my reaction was slightly different.

I saw the Ethiopian children’s unintended use of the devices in the same light as you, but I don’t see anything new here. People in your comment stream have already talked about “more them, less us” in the student/teacher dynamic, and any constructivist worth their salt would look at these results and say Duh. Kids want to learn, want to explore, and want to create, and they want to take ownership. Jailbreaking the camera and the desktop design is part of a learning process, something folks like Piaget and Papert would have expected in any supportive environment. Continue reading

MOOC Pedagogy – Waiting for Big Data?

I’m in a constant search to find documented discussion of the pedagogy behind the various MOOC iterations. cMOOCs are not so hard; they are borne of distance education and most adhere to connectivism, which is a pedagogical approach in my opinion, a learning theory in the opinions of others. xMOOCs are much more difficult; due to their newness there is little scholarly data on the model, and the creators have not shown as much interest in describing existing pedagogy as in stamping this model as the future of higher education (#cfhe12). Nicholas Carr notes that part of the reason for gathering learning analytics from the courses is to improve pedagogy: (xMOOCs) hope to build large behavioral data bases that can then be mined for pedagogical insights.

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Predicting the Future = Knowing the Past

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

More from Week 1 of #CFHE12 – The Invisible College, Eroding Teachers, etc.

Continuing through my lit review log (which I plan to follow later in the week with some attempt at synthesis) of the first week of Current/Future State of Higher Education cMOOC:

Three Reasons Why India Will Lead EdTech in the 21st Century – Dr. Joshua Kim flags India as the prime sector for educational technology growth in the 21st Century, due to demand, culture and mobility (of devices and use).  Reading his thoughts, I wonder what his definition of educational technology is.  Is it apps?  Software?  Data collection and learning analytics?   Continue reading