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MOOC Jam Brief by
Knowledge in the Public Interest
is licensed under a Creative Commons
MOOCs have received unprecedented attention over the last 18–24 months.
Certainly it is hard to cite another educational concept that has gained as much
attention outside of the education sector. As we work to understand the impact
of MOOCs it seems important to take stock of what we have learned through
relevant research on distance learning, technology assisted learning and the like.
This Jam will allow those of us in the online learning field to draw on this collective
knowledge to critique a MOOC framework that encapsulates the kind of choices
that those contemplating developing MOOCs should consider.
The Framework consists of
nine components each existing "
on a continuum."
The purpose of the Jam was to critique a draft MOOC Framework
designed to guide institutions in mounting MOOCs.
The critique has two dimensions to it. One is macro and speaks
to the focus and structure of the Framework itself. The second is
micro and speaks to the definition or explanation of each element of
The Jam 01
The addition of a scope statement—a way to think about and use
the Framework—could help the user. This statement might invite the
institution to examine its motivation in developing a MOOC as the
goal(s) could guide its decisions with respect to the Framework
elements. The Framework could also encourage an institution to
broaden its thinking about its MOOC sponsorship.
MACRO Take 1 —
Add a Scope Statement
I imagine that a key addition to the framework would be some sort of scope
statement to indicate what is included and what is not. If putting some instructional
videos on youtube, or running a learning community such as javaranch.com are
not considered as MOOCs, then this sort of stuff should be clear to readers.
There are many different reasons why an institution might want to run a MOOC.
Freedom to experiment is one of them, but it's not the only one, and I think they're
all valid. You could want a shop-window to attract students, that's fine. Or you
could want to fulfill a social engagement function, and so on. The type of MOOC
you create will depend very much on your aim.
Scope Statement 02
Currently universities hold an important position in cultural definitions of learning,
to the extent that in situations where learners plan their own goals and actions, the
activity is often not recognised as learning . Recognition of what constitutes
learning needs to be broadened to encompass activity outside formal education.
Organisations that support formal learning have to be encouraged to take a wide
view of their place in the learning ecosystem as well and who / how they work with.
Scope Statement 02
The Framework elements do not appear to be naturally sequenced.
In this sense the elements might be thought of as loosely coupled.
However, a truer characterization may be that the Framework can
be entered at any point (design and pedagogy, learner profiles,
knowledge) but that starting point will affect decisions made with
respect to all the other Framework elements and vice versa.
02MACRO Take 2 — Clarify Entry Points
I hope that the framework is used for guidance, not as a tool. Perhaps the
challenge will be in creating something that resonates with people running MOOCs.
And then iterating as people make use of it and revise it for different contexts.
Perhaps it's a bit like MOOCs—start somewhere, share with others, encourage
others to iterate / improve, continue to learn / evolve.
Entry Points 02
The draft Framework is abstract and, with respect to some ele-
ments, vague. Developing a set of questions to be considered
with respect to each element could make the Framework more
useful. There is substantial research on distance learning, online
learning, learning analytics etc. Were this research to be invoked
in the crafting of questions and the articulation of constraints in
MOOC design, this could add clarity and confidence to the value of
MACRO Take 3 — Add Questions 02
I see the concepts outlined in the framework as relevant and applicable, but the
process itself is vague, meaning if I am a designer wanting to apply the framework
there is little structure or guidance of how to apply it by looking at it visually. I realize
that is part of the nature of it, the non-sequential aspect, however it appears almost
too abstract. If it is to be used as a tool, it seems there needs to be an element of
Maybe we need a series of questions that a designer should work through around the
various aspects which experience has shown to matter?
Add Questions 02
Blurring boundaries, yes, but some designed constraints are useful (thinking of
@Jenny's recent blog post on constraints). The best public squares are contained
by well-proportioned buildings and have useful street furniture. A greenfield site
(for free range learning) doesn't support crucial social engagements.
Add Questions 02
It may be unnecessarily constraining to limit the Framework to higher
education. MOOCs seem to have applicability in K–12 and in the
training / professional development arenas and the elements
seem to be equally relevant in these spheres.
02MACRO Take 4 —
Beyond Higher Education
This framework is more aimed at Higher Ed than other MOOC options
(entrepreneurial / corporate / non-profit). The elements are the same even out
of Higher Ed (although) maybe terms differ.
inge de waard
It is also extremely potentially impactful across K–12.
There are several concepts that seem central to MOOCs that are not
yet articulated in the Framework. These are...
MICRO Take 03
If the message of the Framework is that a MOOC, irrespective of
where it fits within the Framework spectrum, is a different teaching
and learning experience, then faculty need support in overall design
and specifically with regard to the adaptation of pedagogy. The
requirement for and nature of this support could be made explicit
in the Framework.
03MICRO Take 1 —
Prepare and Support Instructors
Instructor Support /
Assisting people (faculty) in how to facilitate (a MOOC) effectively is a key
area and one that is often missed in the rapid leap on the bandwagon. Many
universities have downsized or marginalized their learning and teaching support
areas, and yet we know that instructor / facilitator behavior has an impact on student
If we start thinking of integrating reflective practice (on the learner's own terms, not the
course's terms) into the process, professional development / growth as a practitioner
—becomes a core element of learning and of design—not a marginalized add-on.
The Framework recognizes the need to design for and support
learners of varied backgrounds. It also cites in pedagogy the
continuum from teacher-led to participatory approaches and relates
these to individual, networked and community learning. Nonetheless
a stronger learner voice in the Framework could convey the
possibility and value of the learner feeling in control of the
experience. This would be reinforced if informally garnered learning
were also acknowledged.
03MICRO Take 2 —
Acknowledge the Learner
It requires a mature and skilled learner to know how to exercise their autonomy.
Many learners need to be given permission / taught / guided to own their
If we offer a single entry, but on entry you get some opportunity to guided 'self-
assessment' to define your own needs on this particular topic, then select what
support you want as learner.
Learner as Actor 03
Pace seems a significant omission from the framework—choosing not just what
and when and where but how fast you learn matters. Pace is hugely significant in
control (fast reduces control, for example).
DE literature tells us that interaction is one of the most critical components of
effective online learning (the COI model, Equivalency Theorem etc.) so that is why
I was wondering if it should be a separate aspect of the framework.
I would enable some kind of accreditation (badges for now) for informal learning.
I feel this would help less experienced learners or learners with less self-esteem.
Inge de Waard
Learner as Actor 03
The Framework speaks to assessment in terms of opining on or
characterizing the learner s learning. MOOCs by their digital nature
accumulate data on learning that could be of value to leaders and
participants during a MOOC and equally of value to institutions and
researchers on an aggregated basis.
03MICRO Take 3 —
Call for Learning Analytics
One component I feel is missing from the Framework is an evaluation component,
both from a learner and stakeholder perspective. Aside from student assessment
activities, what mechanisms are in place that let both learners and facilitators /
professors, gauge the effectiveness of the course?
I want to get to a point where learners have a better understanding of where they
are and how they are progressing, better feedback loops etc, I use the trite
example of Angry Birds, mastering the 3 stars for levels, progressing through the
game where some levels you ace and some you don't, system helps you go back
and focus on the low level attainment—no waiting for exams to see how you have
done. It's about getting "flow" right in how you design the environment.
Learning Analytics 03
Design can be turned around, to integrate with learner reflection. We use a
different framework (footprints-of-emergence) which enables designers to map out
and visualize how they think the learner will respond, and enables the learner to
map out they way they actually respond—with dynamic changes over the course—
then designer and learner(s) can get together and work on aligning design and
actual experience (cognitive, affective, ontological, professional) and adapting it
on an ongoing basis.
Learning Analytics 03
Student support is explained in terms of tutors and peer learning
strategies. To this could be added the digital skills necessary to fully
engage in a MOOC. The same can be said of the digital skill needs of
MOOC leaders—all those engaged in a MOOC learning experience
need to be supported in developing the knowledge and skills that are
foundational to an online learning experience.
03MICRO Take 4 —
Support Digital Skill-building
Addition for the framework: digital skills including tech skills, as well as social-
media skills, even digital communication skills to the learner profile part.
inge de waard
A MOOC leader needs to understand the similarities and differences from the
teaching situations they have experienced before. Blundering ahead based on
internalized models and simplistic metaphors is not the best way forward.
Learner / Leader Digital Skills 03
I see a big problem in UK for having enough teachers with digital pedagogic
experience or knowledge, but we should work on that as there are so many great
teachers with the right transferable skills. I'd like to see some competency / skills
framework for leading and teaching within a MOOC or online learning. There is
a big skills gap. Maybe a MOOC that allows people to move through these com-
petency levels (badged and accredited to a recognized standard?) a MOOC
driving test so to speak.
03Learner / Leader Digital Skills
Two factors (distinguish a MOOC from other online educationally oriented
experiences): massive (i.e. large number of learners that enable different ped-
agogies than a class of 30 or 40) and openness (generative, recreation, newness,
mixing, etc.). If we have a class of 30 learners, we can all learn together and cover
each other s knowledge gaps. But we have limits because it is too small. Once
we hit scale, something like Dunbar's number, new learning options emerge. We
can't process things only cognitively and we look for technical approaches for
sense-making and way-finding. That's where the experience qualitatively changes
from a regular course. (Having said this, if something's designed to be open and
networked it has the potential to be massive. It doesn't need to actually garner a
particular critical mass to count.
Coda — What is a MOOC? 04