A response to xMOOCs, cMOOCs and Stakeholders

Manish, thanks for your great post. A few comments.

“While cMOOCs are desirable and should be the ultimate goal, xMOOC is surely an important step in that direction.”

Typically, the connectivists have argued that xMOOCs and cMOOCs are like apples and oranges – incomparable and different paradigms. So I would steer clear of any directionality implied to the xMOOCs.

“From non-existent online models to cMOOCs will be a vast jump, xMOOC is a good intermediate step.”

Again, it is not a continuum and I don’t think that it will be  a vast jump either. There is enough evidence since CCK08 for that.

“xMOOC has helped us graduate from traditional Video based monologues on TV/other mediums to a more engaging learning experience. “

This may not be universally true. I will refer you to Zaid Ali Alsagoff’s presentation in which he outlines many different xMOOC providers and their course structures. The elements that you indicate may or may not form the design of an xMOOC and different platforms may offer different capabilities, thereby constraining what elements could be used.

As to your points about cMOOCs needing far more self-initiative, intelligence and control with perhaps lots of issues around learner focus and motivation, there are a few things we must note.

Current online/offline learning (including xMOOCs) are tied down by a systemic view that learning can be designed in a way that students will learn (atleast most of the time). The system is closed loop. We design, we deliver, we certify. However, this world view is responsible for most of the problems we have today in our educational systems – employability of our students, retention of learning, motivation etc. These problems have affected us globally because we have adopted that system globally.

Therefore, we have to look at alternative conceptions of what an educational system would be. Connectivists think that the system should be open, not closed – meaning that it would not be a factory model of education at all and that design, as we know it, would die.

Connectivists also thing that these systems will be emergent, i.e. the learning will emerge. In how predictable a way this learning will evolve, is something under active research (learning analytics, for example, looks at this in great detail).

They think of such systems as chaotic, always away from equilibrium and sensitive to small changes in initial conditions. Chaos researchers found that even very small changes in initial conditions (read design, also “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell points to some instances like this without calling it Chaos) can lead to very divergent outcomes.

They think of these systems as complex (taking from Complexity theory) adaptive systems, adept at self-organization and adaptation. This implies that the design of these systems is radically different from the educational systems that we see today.

However, the point I have tried to make earlier is that in a few areas not enough popular consensus has emerged in the cMOOC area. One, there is no popular technology framework for it yet (although George has been trying a few things). Two, the concept of assessment is nascent in context of large scale (what competency means and what assessment really is also changes in Connectivist thinking). Three, institutions cannot cope with this alternate paradigm just yet because it needs them to reinvent themselves and that is a huge, perhaps not to be expected, shift.

However, there are clearer benefits to adopting a connectivist way of thinking than there are to perpetuate the traditional mode. The foremost benefit is an increased “capability” (in its heutagogical sense) or learning how to learn. The second is the ability to learn from the diversity of open human and material connections in the networks we are part of. Both these benefits will go a long way in solving the problems of employability, lifelong learning and even things such as lack of teacher or teaching resources.

The xMOOC model will, most definitely, IMHO, not.


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