Integrating MOOC in German HEI strategies for digital teaching
Integrating MOOC in German
HEI strategies for digital teaching
Dissertation Proposal for presentation at GO-GN Research Seminar
Cape Town, 6-13 December 2013
Felix C Seyfarth, Universität St Gallen
MOOC: deﬁnitional space for an emergent form
(> Dunbar number)
openly accessible to all comers
without restriction or cost
openness of learning goals, curriculum
design, participatory forms, content
teaching exclusively online
blended/hybrid learning approaches
might teach online and on-campus
course-like organisation with a
structure of assignment cycles
emphasis on community and
collaboration, ﬂexible structure
MOOC hype & skepticism:
An emergent form of teaching or a one-hit wonder?
John Hennessy, Stanford University:
„There‘s a tsunami coming“"
Tom Friedman, New York Times:
„Revolution hits the universities“"
“Ivy League for the Masses”"
New York Times Higher Education:"
2012 is “Year of the MOOC”"
“Will Video ruin academic teaching?”
MOOC in Germany:
Federal action vs. regional hesitation (“Länder”)
MOOC Production Fellowship (10x25k EUR), May 2013 via iversity
DAAD conference in Bonn, Nov 2013
Stakeholder meeting by CHE/Stifterverband (SV) in Berlin, Nov 2013
White paper of German Rector’s Conference (HRK), May 2014
BMBF, CHE, SV, HRK:
Forum “Digitization of HEI”, Jan 2014 - Dec 2016, 3.5 Mio EUR
MOOC & HEI: roots and antecedents
(or: why I am here)
precursor global HigherEd movements/trends:
e-Learning, Open Software, Open Educational Resources (OER), Open
Courseware (OCW), Open Access (OA), Open Distance Learning (ODL)
Research into pedagogic models for learning under conditions of information
overﬂow and technology-assisted learning: Connectivism
(Siemens 2006, Cormier 2008, Siemens/Tittenberger 2009, McAuley/Stewart/Siemens/Cormier 2010)
necessary condition (Big Bang, 2011):
Silicon Valley/Stanford University: Sebastian Thrun teaches 150.000 students
sufﬁcient conditions (societal, 21st century):
Digital Literacy - Millenials, Network Society/Knowledge Society, Silver Surfers
The puzzle of MOOC in North America & Europe:
a “revolutionary” “avalanche” or “e-Learning 2.0”?
Stanford/Silicon Valley (commercial, not open): Udacity (Thrun), Coursera (Koller)
MIT/Harvard (non-proﬁt, open?): EdX
= solves the dilemma of (growing) demand and (spiraling) cost, broader access
includes promising business model & somewhat progressive ideology"
UK: FutureLearn (co-operation of BBC/Open University)
EU: OpenupEd (co-operation of national and institutional partners)
DE: commercial start-up ventures (iVersity et al.), individual/institutional HE enthusiasts
fairly expensive solution which in the context of freely available public education
appears to be looking for an ideologically suspect problem (modularisation, competition)
(what interests me and what would I like to ﬁnd out?)
How can differing types of German HEI integrate
into their digitalisation strategies
recently emergent forms of virtual teaching
within their politico-regulatory context
to address systemic educational challenges?
Research Sub-Question 1 (landscape):
Ecology and features of German HEI
structures of academic teaching are secularized outgrowth of the medieval feudal system for
religious schooling & citizenship skills (“liberal arts”), retains charismatic features (Clarke
uniformity and normalization of modern academic instruction is a function of the surveillance
and disciplinary needs of industrial capitalism (Foucault 1977)
20th century evolution of European HEI is a process of incrementally superimposing sociopolitical demands onto the post-war “multiversity” (Kerr 1963), culminating in neoliberal
“entrepreneurial universities” (Etzkowitz et al 2000) where students become equivalent to
“customers” in an “educational marketplace”
Hypothesis 1: Current phase of German HEI evolution concerns digitalisation of teaching,
independent of institutional type (University, Technical U, Law School, Business School, U
of Applied Sciences, Open U, etc.), but so far lacks comprehensive empirical data (“map”).
Research Sub-Question 2 (digitization strategies):
organised networks and network effects on HEI
MOOC participation rates show that there is a large pent-up societal demand, which historically has been the
biggest driver for institutional change in education; the discussion of quality is moot if MOOC bring a
disruptive force to the established system (Christensen 2007, 2008, 2011)
market forces increasingly impact a globalised educational landscape, and the history of digitalisation
suggests that disintermediation (Katz 1988) and unbundling (Barber et al 2013) have rapid clustering,
winner-take-all effects in Western learning societies (Lam/Lundvall 2007)
German HEI have are no (longer) technological engines of innovation: capacities and infrastructure are
behind the innovation cycle and often outdated, error-prone or outright ailing; so instead they are reacting to
the superior technological skills/tools of their members and of the private sector (Schulmeister 2013)
HEI are network organizations (Pettigrew/Whittington 2001, Butera 2002) and are therefore very susceptible
to external transformative pressure of “organized networks” (Lovink/Rossiter 2006, Rossiter 2008)
Hypothesis 2: German HEI need to (re)act strategically to the digitalisation of knowledge and learning of
knowledge within a systemic framework addressing different organisational levels of the educational
system and a differentiated institutional landscape.
Research Sub-Question 3 (MOOC):
Emergent digital forms of academic teaching
various deﬁnitions/acronyms (xMOOC, cMOOC, sMOOC, …) fail to capture the structural features of MOOC
that incentivize/threaten conventional HEI; at the early stages of technological innovation long-term sociological
implications are difﬁcult to gauge (cf. Haggard et al. 2013) "
openness (in the OER sense: content, access) is a requirement, but additional dimension is openness and
transparency in the processes of interaction between learner and instructor/moderator that builds on a dua
lcritique of established learning models, i.e. Skinner et al: behaviouristic learning; Piaget: cognitivist learning;
Vygotsky: social constructivist learning (Siemens 2006, Anderson 2008)
1. methodical individualism: how to model interpersonal, organizational or technologically mediated learning?
2. condition of knowledge society and informational overﬂow: how to model the meta-competencies for self-managed learning?
Connectivism (Downes 2012): state of knowledge and process of learning are no longer situated in the
subjectivity of the individual, but include latent knowledge stored in personal knowledge/learning networks:
how knowledge is acquired, learned, stored is implied in the number and quality of the individual’s connections
(to other individuals, to organisations, to databases, to social media, etc.)
Hypothesis 3: The multitude of massively scalable, open online course offerings deﬁes conceptual
deﬁnition or taxonomies. To capture the landscape of emergent teaching formats a morphological box is
suitable to capture past, current and planned (?) formats.
Research Sub-Question 4 (context):
What potential do MOOC bring to the German use case?
Conversational Framework (Laurillard 2001): basic understanding of the interaction between teacher/mentor
and learner as a conversation for transfer and validation/credentialing of knowledge; offers solution to the “2Sigma problem” (Bloom 1984) with explicit reliance on technologically mediated learning - elements of the
conversation may be systematically mediated by technology without impacting quality of learning outcomes
MOOC innovation is pedagogical (not technological): decentralized, learner-focused, technologicallymediated model of “legitimate peripheral participation” (Lave/Wenger 1990) that emphasizes self-motivated,
self-reliant peer-learning instead of explicit teacher instruction and institutional identity formation while
maintaining course-like “eventedness” (Anderson 2008, White/Cornu 2010)
Situated Learning: (Lave/Wenger 1990): Learning theorized as participation in a community of practice,
resembling mastery/apprenticeship learning; learning processes are embedded in multiple levels of a sociohistoric context (here: individual - course - institution - educational system).
Hypothesis 4: Connectivist MOOC pedagogy is better suited than conventional formats of academic
teaching (i.e. ex-cathedra lectures) to instill self-reliance, motivation, creativity and responsibility (for
their education, for citizenship) in students if basic digital literacy can be presupposed.
Research Sub-Question 5 (implementation):
How can MOOC address systemic challenges to German HEI?
demographic change/internationalization: MOOC can help German HEI to reach the politically mandated
20% of international students by 2020
student success rates/throughput: on-campus drop-out rates can be reduced if students can be reached
before starting a program and while taking voluntary or forced time off
life-long learning/intergenerational learning/language learning: MOOC offer potential for intensive,
course-like, distance and part-time learning reducing obstacles (gender, ethnicity, creed, geographic
distance, family constellation, income, work…) to access quality higher education especially for more
interdisciplinary learning: connectivist MOOC are uniquely suitable to topic-driven learning informed by
marketing/brand management/fund-raising: connectivist MOOC result in social media/network artefacts
that remain active over the entire learning biography of participants; MOOC make (on-campus) teaching
transparent and allow institutional reputation to be based on quality and conditions of instruction instead of
Hypothesis 5: An empirically grounded MOOC model (institutional and systemic needs, production
costs and teaching capacity) for the German use case is a valuable contribution for decision-makers.
technology strategies located on institutional/system level (OT),
learning strategies located on the individual/curricular level (LT);
Systemic & Institutions: Survey of 267 German HEI, supplemented
by 6 institutional stakeholder and 6 expert interviews
[Individual & Curriculum: Case Study of iversity MOOC]