This post covers the two keynotes I attended at the recent Blackboard users group in Durham. They covered networked learning and the pros and cons of Massively Online Open Courses (MOOCs).
What is a MOOC? George Siemens explains, in the context of the original Connectivism MOOC
Two keynotes this year covered the highly topical subject of MOOCs. Professor Allison Littlejohn from Glasgow Caledonian University covered three primary paradigms for the increased need for collective learning by citing her own research papers. She then recounted results of her research into knowledge based networks by Shell Oil employees during 2004. This research illustrated the effect of professionals using networks to demonstrate how the single person builds upon their knowledge and contributes to the mass of knowledge via networked connections. Her presentation illustrated the moves towards collaborative learning and knowledge building using [social] networks. She also covered research into the motivational drivers for students to learn using structured xMOOCs, i,e Coursera courses and unstructured cMOOCs i.e. phonar. That research covered the understanding of learning and learner defined pathways within HE. Her recent research covers the use of shared goals as a learning approach, and her (Open Source) Charting tool – which uses learning goals as a social object. She also mentioned that they had also implemented some research on learners who had engaged in a MOOC during 2011. Finally she mentioned an impact study on the UKOER programme on behalf of HEFCE. This looked at various areas of impact. Promising results of witnessing more use of openness in all aspects of education, therefore indicating [some] change in academic attitudes to openness. A slight shift in (open) ideals of working and sharing.
Jeremy Knox of Edinburgh University covered the MOOC Pedagogy, developing for Coursera in his keynote on day 2. He gave a much more detailed account of the current state of play for the cMOOCs Vs xMOOCs modes of design and engagement, i.e. George Siemens Connectivism MOOC Vs the more high profile Coursera/Udacity/edX/KhanAcademy type designs. In summary xMOOC type courses are designed more towards automation, whereas cMOOCs offer far more learner defined pathway – with the knowledge of the network being the focus – not a suite of learning objects. The xMooc type is how they were instructed to design their new Coursera course (beginning next Monday 28th) – which unsurprisingly took much longer (and cost more) than they anticipated! If you think about it, xMOOCs mimic established distance learning design without the close facilitation of the learners or the validation! Most Coursera courses consist of chunks of head and shoulder video lectures with self checking quizzes to follow. The grading is automated (que howls of unfair play across the MOOC community) with supposed communities of practice forming spontaneously. I attended part of a Coursera course last year, and was impressed at the quality, and depth of subject covered – but you need to be 100% motivated to cover the sessions in full! Certificates of completion are issued rather than credit, but…. edX are developing credits for theirs! This summary of funding models also proved to be useful to remind us how they’ve got off the ground; Udacity = for profit, edX = not for profit, Coursera = venture capital funded for profit and a dedicated platform.
Jeremy stated that their Coursera course (‘E-Learning and Digital Cultures) is being viewed as a complement to on campus learning – not a disruptive area. It is being blended with their distance MSC . He will researching how their fee paying masters students will engage with the course alongside people like me who are dipping in to keep our knowledge fresh – for free!
He finished off with stating that both open (MOOCs) and closed (degrees) learning experiences can coexist happily together – it just relies on the institution to carefully pitch it alongside their traditional offerings. He stressed, that it’s not a question of MOOCs or not for HEI’s, its a matter of getting the blend right with traditional offerings. Just like distance learning then? His talk also echoed aspects of Alison Littlejohn’s theories of the importance to understand self directed learning in HE and the motivational forces and facilitative aspects of [guided] learning. So the stampede to join the MOOC bandwagon is just beginning – keep your eyes on OU FutureLearn, and book onto the session next Monday where Professor Curtis Bonk is talking at Aston on his very subject.