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MOOCs, (e)learning &
Institutional Learning

Norm Friesen, PhD
December 2, 2013
© 2013 Boise State University

1
Outline:
• Quick history of “learning theory:” 100 years old
• Learning theory now: monolithic, biologistic
(genetic), mechanistic
• “Thought experiment” (Gedankenexperiment):
What if learning were fundamentally different?
• Multiple kinds
• Culturally contingent, not a constant species
characteristic, but with a history

• What does this mean for MOOCs & institutional
learning?
“perhaps the greatest learning theorist of
all time” (Hergenhahn & Olson, 2005, p. 54).
• Thorndike mentions
for the first time a
“method of learning”
that humans share
with “many animals
besides man”
• “the brain plays a big
part in making human
nature what
it is”
Education: A First Book (1912)
This method of learning...is the most fundamental method of learning... [and] may be
called the method of trial and error, or of
trial and success, or (from its importance in
animal life), the animal method of learning.
(1901, p. 38; emphasis added)

“Any problem of education may be put in the
form: „Given a certain desired change in a
man, what situation shall we create to
produce it, either directly or by the response
which it provokes from him?‟” (1912, pp. 55-56).
Psychology & Education: 1900-2000
See: http://learningspaces.org/papers/langoflearning.pdf

A succession of “learning theories;” learning = X
• Behaviourism: learning as modification of behaviour through
conditioning
• Cognitivism: learning as information processing, storage in
long-term memory
• Constructivism: learning as the construction and testing of
representations (mental models)
• Eclecticism - “Learning science;” connectivism; embodied/
situated cognition; neuroscience, etc.
Characteristics of learning theories
• Monolithic: There is one paradigm or metaphor for
learning: correct stimulus and response; deep
processing; development of network, etc.
• Mechanistic or biologistic: the self is either a
machine, a computer, a network, a brain, genetic
programming, etc.
• Identify causal underpinnings: environmental conditions
cause learning effects
• This “underlies” other factors; is a kind of underpinning
that can be manipulated
Bransford et al on “learning sciences”
“mature science of learning” will soon “discover its neural underpinnings
and identify the internal mechanisms that govern learning across ages
and settings” (Bransford et al, 2006 pp. 210, 212).
“The learning sciences of the future will embody both neural and
behavioral aspects of learning, and must account for implicit, informal,
and formal learning activities and outcomes. We do not mean that the
research strands will merge into one grand theory that eliminates the
unique perspectives each offers, but we do believe that these strands
can
inform one another and, in the process, create more coherent and
useful theories that better illuminate why, how, when, where, and
what people learn.” (p. 28)
What if we were instead to say…

“We depend for survival on the inheritance
of acquired characteristics from the culture
pool rather than from a gene pool.
“Culture [would] then become the chief
instrument for guaranteeing survival, with
its techniques of transmission being of the
highest order of importance.”
If this were true…
• Learning would be culturally contingent
• Learning ≠ X (processing information; constructing
representations)
• Learning multiple forms changing with cultures

• Techniques of transmission would be of „the
highest order of importance:”
• E.g., for noting, storing, & demonstrating
Bruner (1966) On Cognitive Growth II
Studies in Cognitive Growth
• We depend for survival on the inheritance of acquired characteristics
from the culture pool rather than from a gene pool.
• Culture then becomes the chief instrument for guaranteeing survival, with
its techniques of transmission being of the highest order of importance.
• Culture and its techniques: when a society grows more complex in

its technology and division of labor, there are two deep
changes that must necessarily occur.
• First, the knowledge and skill within the culture…
exceed[s] the amount that any one individual can know.
• [Next] there develops a sharp disjunction between
the worlds of the child and of the adult.
• “Increasingly, then, there develops a new and
moderately effective technique of instructing the
young based heavily on telling out of context rather
than on showing in context. The school, of
course, becomes the prime instrument of this
new technique but by no means the exclusive one.”
• “the social sphere of adult and child [was earlier]
unitary and undivided. In our own society, the
child's feeling and thinking and acting takes place
largely in relation to a reality – to aims, responsibilities, compulsions, material objects & persons,
and so forth – which differs completely from that
of the adult, though sometimes overlapping it.”
Learning theory and MOOCs
Learning theory and MOOCs
Learning theory and MOOCs
What emerges in the child‟s “way of life”?
“the ground rules according to which reality is constructed for
children are not simply changed; instead, a whole new system
… emerges. Culture is no longer presented to the child as a
seamless whole, but only in part. The part that is … [available]
is offered through a kind of pedagogical rehearsal or
practice, as it would be for someone from a foreign land.”
“These illustrations show how internal cultural barriers
gradually walled off adults‟ „work‟ from children‟s „learning.‟
And
ever since these developments, we do not simply
present other ways of life to children but we
provide them to children in a different manner – we
represent them.”
…the realm of schooling consists of a huge montage of
images and representations which are not “the things
themselves” but that instead “point out” things and
phenomena. Our educational system would descend into
chaos if our schools were suddenly emptied of all
…“visual material” …all “academic subjects” and
textbooks – including forms of representation such as
this book – were to be banished.
This massive arsenal of educational contents,
methods and aims, through which modern
educational practice has evolved, started with
Comenius – or at least began during his lifetime.
Learning theory and MOOCs
Learning theory and MOOCs
Learning theory and MOOCs
Learning theory and MOOCs
Learning theory and MOOCs
Knowledge of Science
& of the Classroom -D. Tröhler
“Pedagogical knowledge is derived from
scientific knowledge through such actions as
selection, condensation, composition,
didactical structuring and streamlining for
classroom instruction. Pedagogical
knowledge is meant to be obvious,
unambiguous, precise, ordered and
interesting, and it is not supposed to take a
lot of time to learn. It assumes a "dogmatic"
character because it is primarily viewed as
an object of teaching.”
Knowledge of Science
“Knowledge is not a given, but is constantly
reconstructed, questioned and examined to
uncover its underlying premises. In contrast
to pedagogical knowledge, advances are not
logically structured, but more dependent on
fundamental convictions as to how objects
are to be handled.”
Knowledge of the Classroom
“Exhibits a number of characteristics distinguishing
it from scientific knowledge. As a rule it ...
• only looks at a part of the whole
• (radically) simplifies this knowledge
• integrates it into a logical-seeming context
• avoids contradictions and exceptions
• makes knowledge appealing by means of
various tools (slides, films, experiments, murals)
• is taught with maximum efficiency.”
MOOCs, Knowledge and Learning
• Massive Open Online Course (x & c)
• A MOOC is a model of educational delivery that
is, to varying
degrees, massive, open, online, and a course.
Most MOOCs are structured similar to
traditional online higher education courses in
which students watch lectures, read assigned
material, participate in online discussions and
forums, and complete quizzes and tests on the
course material.
• “Most MOOCs are structured similar to
traditional online higher education courses. A
MOOC has a syllabus, and course content
typically consists of readings, assignments, and
lectures, which are often short (6–12 minutes)
„microlectures.‟”
(educause)
• Offers possibilities for recognition and
accreditation of “classroom learning”
• Prior Learning Assessment Recognition: PLAR
Connections between MOOCs and PLAR
• Two possibilities:
1) Use PLAR to assess and offer credentials for
open educational activities through the use of
exam banks such as CLEP (College Level
Examination Program);
2) Learning occurring in xMOOCs (MOOCs based
on pre-existing courses) and in other open
contexts resembling “courses” may be assessed
in PLAR through course-based portfolios.
Portfolios typically summarize the learning gained
from a range of non-formal and informal learning
experiences.
Similar to e-portfolios, but with a significant
reflective emphasis.
• A portfolio may be assessed with an interview with
the learner
• the results of an examination may be used together
with other data.
• “PLAR methodologies are presently very labour
intensive and unlikely to scale well for large
numbers of learners” (TEKRI, 2011, p. 9).
OPEN EDUCATION

PLAR Processes
University

OER selfstudy in
AI

Credited Courses
MOOC
6.002x

OER
selfstudy

MOOC
PSY101
“gap training”
OER selfstudy
1st Aid

OER selfstudy

OER selfstudy
Psych 101

Exam
Bank

OER selfstudy

Friesen & Wihak, 2013
Conclusion: MOOCs as adapting a
particular way of learning.
• MOOCs as “knowledge of the classroom;” a form of
institutional learning
• The significance of pedagogical forms and formats
• Is a significant extension of the pedagogical realm
• Involves a new cultural technique of transmission
• The knowledge of the classroom separate from the
other structures of classroom and institutional learning
• Not the first to do this - Comenius‟ pansophism: via
printing and didactic “technologies,” teach everything to
everyone.
Sources
• Bruner, J.S. (1966). On cognitive growth: II. In: JS Bruner, RR
Oliver and PM Greensfield (Eds.), Studies in Cognitive Growth.
Pp. 30-67. New York: Wiley.
• Friesen, N. & Wihak, C. (2013). From OER to PLAR:
Credentialing for Open Education. Open Praxis 5(1), 41-57.
• Mollenhauer, K. (2014). Forgotten Connections: On Culture and
Upbringing. London: Routledge.
• Thorndike , E. (1901). The Human nature club: An introduction
to the study of mental life. New York: Longmans Green and Co.
• Thorndike, E. (1912). Education: A first book. New York:
MacMillan.
• Tröhler, D. (2009). The knowledge of science and the
knowledge of the classroom Using the Heidelberg Catechism.
In E. Campi (Ed.) Scholarly knowledge: Textbooks in early
modern Europe. Geneva: Droz.
Norm Friesen, Boise State University
Email normfriesen@boisestate.edu

THANK YOU

© 2013 Boise State University

32

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Learning theory and MOOCs

  • 1. MOOCs, (e)learning & Institutional Learning Norm Friesen, PhD December 2, 2013 © 2013 Boise State University 1
  • 2. Outline: • Quick history of “learning theory:” 100 years old • Learning theory now: monolithic, biologistic (genetic), mechanistic • “Thought experiment” (Gedankenexperiment): What if learning were fundamentally different? • Multiple kinds • Culturally contingent, not a constant species characteristic, but with a history • What does this mean for MOOCs & institutional learning?
  • 3. “perhaps the greatest learning theorist of all time” (Hergenhahn & Olson, 2005, p. 54). • Thorndike mentions for the first time a “method of learning” that humans share with “many animals besides man” • “the brain plays a big part in making human nature what it is”
  • 4. Education: A First Book (1912) This method of learning...is the most fundamental method of learning... [and] may be called the method of trial and error, or of trial and success, or (from its importance in animal life), the animal method of learning. (1901, p. 38; emphasis added) “Any problem of education may be put in the form: „Given a certain desired change in a man, what situation shall we create to produce it, either directly or by the response which it provokes from him?‟” (1912, pp. 55-56).
  • 5. Psychology & Education: 1900-2000 See: http://learningspaces.org/papers/langoflearning.pdf A succession of “learning theories;” learning = X • Behaviourism: learning as modification of behaviour through conditioning • Cognitivism: learning as information processing, storage in long-term memory • Constructivism: learning as the construction and testing of representations (mental models) • Eclecticism - “Learning science;” connectivism; embodied/ situated cognition; neuroscience, etc.
  • 6. Characteristics of learning theories • Monolithic: There is one paradigm or metaphor for learning: correct stimulus and response; deep processing; development of network, etc. • Mechanistic or biologistic: the self is either a machine, a computer, a network, a brain, genetic programming, etc. • Identify causal underpinnings: environmental conditions cause learning effects • This “underlies” other factors; is a kind of underpinning that can be manipulated
  • 7. Bransford et al on “learning sciences” “mature science of learning” will soon “discover its neural underpinnings and identify the internal mechanisms that govern learning across ages and settings” (Bransford et al, 2006 pp. 210, 212). “The learning sciences of the future will embody both neural and behavioral aspects of learning, and must account for implicit, informal, and formal learning activities and outcomes. We do not mean that the research strands will merge into one grand theory that eliminates the unique perspectives each offers, but we do believe that these strands can inform one another and, in the process, create more coherent and useful theories that better illuminate why, how, when, where, and what people learn.” (p. 28)
  • 8. What if we were instead to say… “We depend for survival on the inheritance of acquired characteristics from the culture pool rather than from a gene pool. “Culture [would] then become the chief instrument for guaranteeing survival, with its techniques of transmission being of the highest order of importance.”
  • 9. If this were true… • Learning would be culturally contingent • Learning ≠ X (processing information; constructing representations) • Learning multiple forms changing with cultures • Techniques of transmission would be of „the highest order of importance:” • E.g., for noting, storing, & demonstrating
  • 10. Bruner (1966) On Cognitive Growth II Studies in Cognitive Growth • We depend for survival on the inheritance of acquired characteristics from the culture pool rather than from a gene pool. • Culture then becomes the chief instrument for guaranteeing survival, with its techniques of transmission being of the highest order of importance. • Culture and its techniques: when a society grows more complex in its technology and division of labor, there are two deep changes that must necessarily occur. • First, the knowledge and skill within the culture… exceed[s] the amount that any one individual can know. • [Next] there develops a sharp disjunction between the worlds of the child and of the adult.
  • 11. • “Increasingly, then, there develops a new and moderately effective technique of instructing the young based heavily on telling out of context rather than on showing in context. The school, of course, becomes the prime instrument of this new technique but by no means the exclusive one.” • “the social sphere of adult and child [was earlier] unitary and undivided. In our own society, the child's feeling and thinking and acting takes place largely in relation to a reality – to aims, responsibilities, compulsions, material objects & persons, and so forth – which differs completely from that of the adult, though sometimes overlapping it.”
  • 15. What emerges in the child‟s “way of life”? “the ground rules according to which reality is constructed for children are not simply changed; instead, a whole new system … emerges. Culture is no longer presented to the child as a seamless whole, but only in part. The part that is … [available] is offered through a kind of pedagogical rehearsal or practice, as it would be for someone from a foreign land.” “These illustrations show how internal cultural barriers gradually walled off adults‟ „work‟ from children‟s „learning.‟ And ever since these developments, we do not simply present other ways of life to children but we provide them to children in a different manner – we represent them.”
  • 16. …the realm of schooling consists of a huge montage of images and representations which are not “the things themselves” but that instead “point out” things and phenomena. Our educational system would descend into chaos if our schools were suddenly emptied of all …“visual material” …all “academic subjects” and textbooks – including forms of representation such as this book – were to be banished. This massive arsenal of educational contents, methods and aims, through which modern educational practice has evolved, started with Comenius – or at least began during his lifetime.
  • 22. Knowledge of Science & of the Classroom -D. Tröhler “Pedagogical knowledge is derived from scientific knowledge through such actions as selection, condensation, composition, didactical structuring and streamlining for classroom instruction. Pedagogical knowledge is meant to be obvious, unambiguous, precise, ordered and interesting, and it is not supposed to take a lot of time to learn. It assumes a "dogmatic" character because it is primarily viewed as an object of teaching.”
  • 23. Knowledge of Science “Knowledge is not a given, but is constantly reconstructed, questioned and examined to uncover its underlying premises. In contrast to pedagogical knowledge, advances are not logically structured, but more dependent on fundamental convictions as to how objects are to be handled.”
  • 24. Knowledge of the Classroom “Exhibits a number of characteristics distinguishing it from scientific knowledge. As a rule it ... • only looks at a part of the whole • (radically) simplifies this knowledge • integrates it into a logical-seeming context • avoids contradictions and exceptions • makes knowledge appealing by means of various tools (slides, films, experiments, murals) • is taught with maximum efficiency.”
  • 25. MOOCs, Knowledge and Learning • Massive Open Online Course (x & c) • A MOOC is a model of educational delivery that is, to varying degrees, massive, open, online, and a course. Most MOOCs are structured similar to traditional online higher education courses in which students watch lectures, read assigned material, participate in online discussions and forums, and complete quizzes and tests on the course material.
  • 26. • “Most MOOCs are structured similar to traditional online higher education courses. A MOOC has a syllabus, and course content typically consists of readings, assignments, and lectures, which are often short (6–12 minutes) „microlectures.‟” (educause) • Offers possibilities for recognition and accreditation of “classroom learning” • Prior Learning Assessment Recognition: PLAR
  • 27. Connections between MOOCs and PLAR • Two possibilities: 1) Use PLAR to assess and offer credentials for open educational activities through the use of exam banks such as CLEP (College Level Examination Program); 2) Learning occurring in xMOOCs (MOOCs based on pre-existing courses) and in other open contexts resembling “courses” may be assessed in PLAR through course-based portfolios.
  • 28. Portfolios typically summarize the learning gained from a range of non-formal and informal learning experiences. Similar to e-portfolios, but with a significant reflective emphasis. • A portfolio may be assessed with an interview with the learner • the results of an examination may be used together with other data. • “PLAR methodologies are presently very labour intensive and unlikely to scale well for large numbers of learners” (TEKRI, 2011, p. 9).
  • 29. OPEN EDUCATION PLAR Processes University OER selfstudy in AI Credited Courses MOOC 6.002x OER selfstudy MOOC PSY101 “gap training” OER selfstudy 1st Aid OER selfstudy OER selfstudy Psych 101 Exam Bank OER selfstudy Friesen & Wihak, 2013
  • 30. Conclusion: MOOCs as adapting a particular way of learning. • MOOCs as “knowledge of the classroom;” a form of institutional learning • The significance of pedagogical forms and formats • Is a significant extension of the pedagogical realm • Involves a new cultural technique of transmission • The knowledge of the classroom separate from the other structures of classroom and institutional learning • Not the first to do this - Comenius‟ pansophism: via printing and didactic “technologies,” teach everything to everyone.
  • 31. Sources • Bruner, J.S. (1966). On cognitive growth: II. In: JS Bruner, RR Oliver and PM Greensfield (Eds.), Studies in Cognitive Growth. Pp. 30-67. New York: Wiley. • Friesen, N. & Wihak, C. (2013). From OER to PLAR: Credentialing for Open Education. Open Praxis 5(1), 41-57. • Mollenhauer, K. (2014). Forgotten Connections: On Culture and Upbringing. London: Routledge. • Thorndike , E. (1901). The Human nature club: An introduction to the study of mental life. New York: Longmans Green and Co. • Thorndike, E. (1912). Education: A first book. New York: MacMillan. • Tröhler, D. (2009). The knowledge of science and the knowledge of the classroom Using the Heidelberg Catechism. In E. Campi (Ed.) Scholarly knowledge: Textbooks in early modern Europe. Geneva: Droz.
  • 32. Norm Friesen, Boise State University Email normfriesen@boisestate.edu THANK YOU © 2013 Boise State University 32