One of the purposes of research is to establish a foundation of prior knowledge for future experiments to engage and extrapolate before proposing a new design that will further the field. This is important; without an understanding of what came before, research runs the risk of reinventing the wheel, or even (worse yet) coming up with something more rudimentary than the wheel.
In my days of teaching creative writing, it used to be quite the stressor to get smart, motivated teenagers to take notes of their plots and characters. These were students used to doing everything right and being able to beat the system just with what was stored in their heads. I explained that creative writing was not about beating a system, and the more complex a story and a group of characters became, the more important it was to create a system where you could record those complexities so you could return to it as the story developed. Some listened right away and got to work. Some needed trial and error before coming to me so we could devise strategies. Some never listened and became increasingly frustrated. In the end, it was more likely for someone from the first or second group to have a coherent, rich story than someone from the third group.
I think about this as I read more literature on the history of MOOCs as described by the MOOC creators. Continue reading