This is a picture of the Commons around Swansea in Wales in the UK, where I used to live. It is open and shared; it is to be used by anybody. That is what I would like us to aim for with our MOOCs: an open and shared space that can be used by all and that we all contribute to.
My engagement with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has been as an adult learner, a researcher, a facilitator, a designer and developer of such learning opportunities. To me the most valuable and interesting aspects of the MOOC developments have been related to the opportunities they offer to open up education, to provide access to knowledge and knowledgeable others that without MOOCs might not be available.
Another important dimension of MOOCs is the push that their emergence has given to change the traditional pedagogical framework in existence in educational institutions and the acceptance that online learning and online education can be scalable and worthwhile. HE institutions have realized the potential for online learning as they could see that it is now scalable, profitable, that it can be made engaging, and that it suits people’s lifestyle. This means that HE online learning has moved from being supported by a group of enthusiasts to being supported by HE leaders.
Finally, research and development in MOOCs has increased research in how data might be used to personalize the learning experience. I don’t want to say too much about data ad how it might be leveraged in online education in this talk; there might be time to talk about it over a glass of wine at some point.
What is interesting is that I work in an online institution and that I am interested in how MOOCs might change education, but even though my institution is fully online, it does not use MOOCs. That suits me fine as in my view the institutionalization of MOOCs has eroded their potential for connectivist informal learning as the pedagogies adopted in institutional MOOCs has invariably meant that the traditional knowledge transfer model that is prevalent in brick and mortar universities, and based on cognitivist theories of learning and knowledge, has been replicated. Subsequently, the full potential of emerging technologies in connecting people and their ideas and thoughts on a worldwide scale has not been achieved as this is not scalable in a traditional pedagogical framework that favours teaching groups over facilitating networks. Technologies used are ones that might replicate traditional pedagogies, such as the lecture in the form of videos that favour a top-down transmission of knowledge model, and group-based discussion boards, rather than a distributed connectivist model that uses social media. So, there is clearly a tension between what is now possible with technologies and what institutions choose to do with them in their MOOC provision.
There is another continuous tension that is related to what we believe Education is for? Does it have a wider mission to serve Society? Might it be to research how we can shape and develop as a society, but at the same time live wisely by maintaining culture, promoting active global citizenship, safeguarding the environment for future generations? Or should its main mission be to support the economic and professional development imperative and support business development?
I like this quote by Darder: In today’s corporatized university, college students have become consumers who can now choose across a variety of educational products, rather than cultural citizens who must grapple to understand themselves and their world, as both individuals and participants in the welfare of the commons. Knowledge has been reduced to a market commodity, to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. Teaching in many classrooms now resembles a market “quality-controlled” operation driven by standardization and a banking pedagogy (Freire, 1971), overwhelmingly obsessed with the use of expensive and ever-changing technology.Politics, economics and journalism have changed under influence of technology, so has education and we should take a stance to what we want our education to be and what we think our education should be for.Darder, 2016, pg. 43.
The importance of MOOCs resting in how they might serve, enhance and expand the commons; how they could foster that multiple voices will be heard so that we can learn from each other. The advantage of MOOCs is that they reside on the margin of the institution and are entities that might be experimented with. Many people are interested in lifelong and lifewide learning; sometimes to better their employment, sometimes to learn very practical things, sometimes to extend their own interest, but they could also play a role in the conscientization as Freire calls it of the oppressed (Freire, 1971) . To me this means that the main power of MOOCs is their openness that makes that learning and knowledge is now accessible to anyone who wants to learn and has access to the Web.
Subsequently, in my view, strategic decisions regarding MOOCs to inform policies should be to develop and offer open, engaging and accessible learning opportunities that inspire potential participants and the lifelong learning needs of potential participants worldwide. Demographic research suggests that currently MOOCs are predominantly taken by people who already have a degree and are already educated. This means a mixture of interest-related, vocational and university courses would be best to attract large numbers of participants. However, if the MOOC mission is to widen access to education it could also be seen as an opportunity to pay attention to the relevance of MOOCs to other areas than the Northern developed hemisphere. This might mean working with a variety of stakeholders and that the introduction of different choices of topics and different recruitment and access strategies would be called for. Also thaT THOUGHT IS BEING GIVEN TO THE DESIGN OF THE COURSES. I would like to suggest that strategic decisions to inform policy with regards to MOOCs should be based on widening access and openness to learning and education.
When thinking about MOOC design Fiona Carroll and I in our recent paper asserted that too much emphasis in learning design has been put on effectiveness, rather than on what makes learning experiences engaging. Applying aesthetic standards during online course development can ultimately improve not only the visual appearance of course content. As learning, and choosing to take part in learning, is also influenced by our cultural, affective and aesthetic senses integrating these aspects can also improve how participants in learning react to and interact with those courses. As Hoffmann (2003, pp.7-10) explains about aesthetics:
Hi. I have spent many years in widening and opening up access to education and learning. That has shaped very much my interests in MOOCs. What I learned during that time is the power of “openness” and of “a negotiated curriculum’’ to engage people, from areas of social and economic deprivation, in learning that is relevant to their needs. That attitude is still with me. It has shaped my views of technology and how emerging technologies and MOOCs might help people in their learning.
I would like to emphasise the need to reflect on what makes us human and how online courses are made into engaging learning experiences, rather than into effective stores of information and knowledge that might be transferred from teacher to learner. Human minds are not cognitive machines, but are affected by many other human dimensions that are triggered while learning. In Social Constructivist, Connectivist and Community of Practice, knowledge is not seen as something that can be transferred, but it is something that can be actively engaged with and created and molded in a particular (local) context and culture. This also means that where and when we differ as human beings, we at the same time enrich each other’s learning spaces, as our views and perspectives on what is valuable, beautiful and interesting will challenge the other’s beliefs. To me, this is at the heart of learning.
One of the main challenges in MOOCs is their scale and the challenge of communication. I would like to reflect for a moment on what Patrick Walters (Walters & Kop, 2009) emphasised when he suggested that in the technological approach to education, which emphasises efficiency, “teaching is seen as communication between senders and receivers; the teacher is seen as a mere noise, that is, subjective and inefficient” (Gur and Wiley, 2007, p.1). In order to counter this “objectification of teaching” they conclude that teaching should involve genuine dialogue. Central to humanistic learning is the teacher-student relationship, based on trust and integrity. . . . Teacher and learner are both required to “invest something of themselves” in learning which results in personal fulfilment and genuine receptivity (Bonnett, 2002, p.241). That is what makes teaching as a profession worthwhile, this genuine interaction with other human beings. It clearly is also one of the main challenges when discussing MOOC design as this personal fulfillment and receptivity is hard to achieve because of the MOOC scale.
, it should involve not only opening markets for them, but a genuine interest in the local people, their lives and their cultures. What I have learnt throughout my time in widening access and participation in Higher Education with some of the most marginalized people in the world, is that as educators we have to invest something of ourselves in others by finding out what education is relevant to their lives and aspirations, rather than to expect to be able to transfer the Western Northern worldview, and cookie-cutted knowledge to the rest of the world. Very interesting things are happening in many countries. I have seen interesting developments for instance in Ecuador, that is making attempts to develop ideas around a sharing economy and a sharing education (Bouchard, 2014). There is a wealth of knowledge owned by indigenous people in medicine for instance that could be harnessed for the good of all if opening up does not only mean opening up markets for the have’s, and patenting indigenous knowledge for the rich, but also opening up opportunities for the have nots and keeping ownership where it belongs with local people. At the heart of the good that MOOCs can bring to the world is openness: open education, open knowledge and the development and maintenance of an open Knowledge Commons for all.
It is probably already clear to you that I value human involvement in learning. I also think it important that MOOCs contribute not only to learners own learning process and that of their peers during an open learning event, but also to the knowledge commons. The Web is a place where information is stored, in addition to a place where people come together and actively do something with this information and the available resources (perhaps to produce multimedia, share, remix, or build on information). It is not only access to information that is at stake but also public access to knowledge. According to Hess and Ostrom, this situation requires “a new way of looking at knowledge as a shared resource, a complex ecosystem that is a commons —a resource shared by a group of people that is subject to social dilemmas” (Hess & Ostrom, 2006, p. 3). For this to occur, MOOCs should be open and make available all resources. Moreover, learners’ active involvement in knowledge production, and in creating and contributing to knowledge, should be fostered. This viewpoint requires a pedagogical model that is not just based on traditional transfer of knowledge, but that involves active participation in the learning process, through which learners produce something of relevance. It involves communication with (knowledgeable) others to advance their learning as well as guidance on how to contribute to the knowledge commons. It is toward such ends that I advocate promoting a sharing across any and all learning environments.
Moocs to support the Commons
MOOCs to support the Commons
Rita Kop, Fredericton, NB,
International MOOC colloquium, The changing
MOOC identity, Capri, September 2016
In today’s corporatized university, college students have
become consumers who can now choose across a
variety of educational products, rather than cultural
citizens who must grapple to understand themselves
and their world, as both individuals and participants in
the welfare of the commons.
Knowledge has been reduced to a market commodity,
to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. Teaching in
many classrooms now resembles a market “quality-
controlled” operation driven by standardization and a
banking pedagogy (Freire, 1971), overwhelmingly
obsessed with the use of expensive and ever-changing
Darder, 2016, pg. 43.
Relevance of MOOCs
• MOOCs reside on the
margin of the institution
• How might MOOCs
serve, enhance and
expand the Commons?
• Could their openness
foster that multiple
voices will be heard?
• How long might they be
used to experiment with?
Strategic decisions to inform policy with
regards to MOOCs should be based on
Widening Access and Openness to Learning
“Beauty does not reside
in simplicity. Nor in
complexity, per se. For a
molecule or a song, for a
ceramic vase or a play,
beauty is created out of
the labor of human
hands and minds. It is to
be found, precarious, at
some tense edge where
and complexity, order
and chaos, contend”.
Hoffmann (2003, p. 7-10)
Human minds are not cognitive
• Level of communication
• Technology used
• Active engagement
• Degree of distance
MOOC design and teaching
Teacher a mere noise?
Teacher and learner are both required to “invest
something of themselves” in learning which results
in personal fulfilment and genuine receptivity
(Bonnett, 2002, p.241). That is what makes
teaching as a profession worthwhile, this genuine
interaction with other human beings.
Making MOOCs meaningful