Tag Archives: Learning Theory

One Interesting Thing About MOOCs Among the List of 8

At face value, the Chronicle of Higher Education’s 8 Things You Should Know About MOOCs, a data draw from the recent edX release of data, reads more like 8 Things You Already Know About MOOCs:  MOOCs are populated by highly educated individuals, most registrants do not interact, registration is highly Western.  Such tepid information makes the article feel like click-bait; anyone following MOOCs over the last 2.5 years could point to prior evidence of these facts the Chronicle article presents as novel.

What I found most interesting was the graphic relating to the gender distribution fact:  over 3/4 of edX students are male.  Again, this is not novel information; the Penn survey in 2013 noted this, data further elucidated by New Scientist magazine.  But the Chronicle presents the graphic by first showing gender breakdowns across American college campuses, where 57% of students are female.

screen capture from Chronicle of Higher Education

screen capture from Chronicle of Higher Education

It is a pretty stark difference to see a nearly 3 to 2 female to male majority on campus shift to 3 to 1 male to female in the world of MOOCs.  One could argue that fewer women than men participating in MOOCs is not necessarily shocking; there are many articles on record showing the STEM field to be male-dominated (some sensational, others more tempered), so this data could be read to support a largely accepted happenstance.  However, MOOC research (and EdTech research in general) is almost always instrumental by design, a form of A/B testing that abstracts the system from the environment and fails to account for political, cultural or social elements. Continue reading

NaNoWriMo & the MOOC Relationship

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

Teaching & Teachers – Apocalypse Now?

Just when I finish linking the MOOC movement with societal and cultural movements working against teaching as a profession, I find a weeks-old Wall Street Journal article asking if teachers will be necessary in the future.  The jist, as you could imagine, is that technology allows for lecture to be put online for others to see, so do we need all of these lecturers when we can just get some “star teachers” to record some HD video?  Learning is the accrual of content, so why not get the well-known people to share the content?

My problem with this educational futures is it sits squarely opposed to conventional and contemporary learning theory. Continue reading

Connectivism: Contemporary Learning Theory, Distance Ed Theory, or Pedagogy with Panache?

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

Pedagogy – You Keep Using That Word…I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.

In his reflection on the first week of #cfhe12, Bryan Alexander looks at the continued fervor behind MOOCs, as well as the focus of economics in the initial discussions coming from #cfhe12.  Bryan somewhat laments the lack of discussion on other elements, such as technology.  Looking at his perspective, I came to grips with frustration about several topics so far lacking in the class discussion, specifically learning theory and pedagogy.

And first off, there is a difference between learning theory and pedagogy…as one has to deal specifically with the way in which people learn, and the other is in relation to the methods and manners in which people teach.

cMOOCs are often based on connectivism, a theory in which learning is based on the connective networks of individuals and content rather than held in brains by people (that is a crude definition; I have yet to fully read Siemens’ writing on the topic).  While there is debate to be had on connectivism, one can point directly to connectivism as a learning theory.  As the learning methods from a cMOOC come through the creation of personal learning networks as well as digital artifacts, one could say the pedagogy mirrors the theory, though with no teacher involved in a cMOOC, it would seem to be that no pedagogy exists at all.

xMOOCs, on the other hand, are tough to nail down through either learning theory or pedagogy.  I have found a direct link to distance education methods through xMOOCs, but these institutions and their creators don’t discuss learning theory, and seem to use pedagogy as a buzzword rather than in its intended use.  Lloyd Armstrong looks at the stated pedagogies of Coursera and MITx versus their teaching activities in practice, in part to see what pedagogy means to these MOOC havens.

Coursera courses are designed based on sound pedagogical foundations, to help you master new concepts quickly and effectively.  What are those pedagogical foundations?  They don’t say.  However, my experience with Coursera courses (and the ever-expanding blogosphere of people who have documented their journey through a Coursera course) follow a similar path:  a video lecture exists for students to watch (broken into chapters).  Depending on the subject, the video will embed a quiz for students to take either during or directly after viewing.  There are discussion boards facilitated by TAs, where students can discuss concepts, seek clarification or share new resources.  Depending on the subject, students can turn in a written assignment, which will be peer reviewed by others in the course.  That’s it.

Pedagogy is the art, science and/or act of teaching.  Based on this Coursera roadmap, there is little teaching that happens:  more to the point, content is put out for people to take from, and it is up to the user to utilize resources to sink or swim.  While there is a theoretical and pedagogical rationale for such an approach, to call that sound pedagogical foundation is disingenuous.  If Coursera is following Sal Khan’s idea of the flipped classroom, that should be noted as the pedagogical foundation.  The pedagogical problems with the flipped classroom are, to just name a few 1) The only aspect of “flipping” new to the past 20 years is the HD quality of the video lectures, and 2) it expects an interventionist teacher to assist students with project development and scaffolding once in the classroom, and there is no “classroom” for a MOOC, so students are on their own to mind the logic gaps.

With the video lecture/quiz/flipped method gaining a lot of traction both through MOOCs and the work of Khan Academy, more study of such pedagogical practices and learning theories is necessary. However, I am skeptical of finding much more there; Gary Stager (I will find the Twitter link later) met Sal Khan and asked him about educational research and learning theory in his methods, and Khan no-sold the question, seeing research as something for other people to do.

Making Sense of MOOC Research – Sir John Daniel & the MOOC Tempest

Very recent (read: September 25) research on the MOOC phenomenon by Sir John Daniel, one of the pioneers of open education (#oped12) and distance learning.  A piece that I will return to for my scholarship (as well as pick from for other cited authors), but on first second glance:

  • I appreciate the focus on the xMOOC (still don’t like that term by the way, as it and cMOOC say that these are just two different apples off the same tree, when it’s more like two distinctly different trees ended up in the same forest because two birds delivered seeds from distant lands).  Most published research comes from the cMOOC side of things, making a foray into the MOOC topic difficult, as the Man on the Street would associate MOOC with the sort of thing being done by Harvard, MIT and Stanford. Continue reading

xMOOCs: Labeling the Big Higher Ed MOOC?

Came across an interesting piece from Bonnie Stewart, providing a potential answer to a definition I was grappling with:  she calls the Coursera/EdX/Udacity model of MOOC an xMOOC (perhaps because of MITx and EdX?), delineating it from the cMOOC and providing clarity when discussing the different options in learning.  NOTE:  I have seen xMOOC thrown around, but in a haphazard fashion:  people have utilized it to refer not only to Stanford-model MOOCs, but connectivist MOOCs as well.  

I linked to Stewart earlier discussing the geeking out of media and ed folks over the possibilities of xMOOCs; the post on xMOOCs as Business Model rather than Educational Best Practices is similar in tone.  How this post differs is in a discussion of conviction.   Continue reading