The Literacies for MOOCs

Often the debate has been that MOOCs require a fairly advanced/evolved level of maturity for the learner. This is an old debate. But here is a gem from Stephen Downes as he responds to Clark Quinn.

It seems to me indicative of the failure of traditional education that students in university-level courses still have to be motivated and still have to be taught how to learn. Quinn is quite right – most courses still attend to both. What he doesn’t say is that they utterly fail at it which is why it must be done over and over and over again.

By starting out with a presumption of a different set of skills, MOOCs explicitly foster and value these skills. So while students who have grown up with the typical command-mode style of learning, it is not unreasonable to assume that students raised on MOOCs will have mastered the different set of skills. Students are adept at learning to follow orders when they are given a steady diet of orders; it is reasonable to assume they will learn to take responsibility when they are given responsibilities.

Stephen goes on to state that

If we can get past the idea that the purpose of a MOOC is to ‘teach people stuff’ then we can begin to talk about what benefits they bring. But so long as we just think of them as another way of doing the same old thing, we’ll be misunderstanding them.

Now this is one real way to think about the literacies and their evolution for a learner in a MOOC. By being in a MOOC, by imbibing and practicing the techniques of more “experienced” learners and devising your own, you evolve to a higher level of capability in your learning. which is also why the network is so important. “Good” networks will help you evolve faster, while “bad” networks will demotivate and confound you. “Good” practices will help you achieve your personal goals and “bad” practices will affect you. What you and the network do will affect each other in positive and negative ways.

I would define “great” networks as networks that are open, massively interconnected, also massively redundant (in the technical sense to mean many parallel layers of “competencies”), accessible, navigable, flexible, heterogeneous and active. Such networks themselves motivate and fuel the desire to learn. This happened to me with CCK08, with EdFutures and many of the early MOOCs. I went in with the motivation to learn and experiment – and I evolved to a more mature state of my own learning capability through what I was exposed to (without being mandated).

Networks do not become “great” by games of chance alone (though there is important serendipity to be encountered in learning this way), but also by an “invisible hand” which is really the collective consciousness of the network – the conversation and the people, and their shared culture of learning. However, there are ways to build these networks, like Stephen and George epitomize through their work every day.

Stephen, in Learning to Learn, also makes the critical point that “a connectivist course does not consist of a single identifiable group of people stepping through the same activity”, rather connectivist learning is about “interaction, usability and relevance”. One can probably see that such an emergent, chaotic and complex environment that a MOOC is, will generate systemically better outcomes once learners gain more capability.

Apart from some of the progress made in identifying some of the critical literacies for Connectivism, George has a post on what a Connectivist Taxonomy would look like. Not surprisingly, connection-forming, meaning-making, contribution and involvement – are important components of the taxonomy, and literacies such as managing your digital identity, working with online tools, relationship building, self-expression, participation and wayfinding behaviors have also been discussed.

My sincere hope, for any vision for MOOCs anywhere, is that we seriously consider all of this and perhaps decide to convene a strategy that builds capability for us to learn effectively what we want or need to learn. Amen.


MOOC Vision Mission Goals

Vision: No learning without learning outcome guarantees

Mission: Enable every learner to achieve learning outcomes through access to the most appropriate teacher & learning process


In 5 years every Indian higher education student should be able to achieve predictable learning outcomes

In 5 years every Indian higher education student should have access to the most appropriate teacher & learning process

The Great Indian MOOC- Vision, Mission, Goals


By 2025 make the Indian MOOC an institution of choice for Learners locally and globally.


Man: Create a pool of education technologists, evangelists and hobbyists to make available, educate and propagate the Indian MOOC.

Machine: Provision of state of the art infrastructure and services through federated shared service set-ups that support and promote MOOC participants- teachers and students alike.

Material: Quality assured digital content creation with language translations for courses to enhance reach to all regions of the nation.

Money : Provision of committed finances to the upkeep and development of the platform from 2015-2020, with view of becoming self-sustaining entity

Method: Policy that helps provision and recognise MOOC course credits and transfer of credits. An entity/governance structure (NLC?) that brings university- industry closer and creates a brand for Indian MOOC for global recognition.The entity is accountable for delivering the Vision and Mission through a portfolio of programs and projects. 

Vision, Mission and Goals


  • Providing high-quality instruction at very low cost to a multitude of people encompassing atleast 50% of Indian Higher Edu  institutions (34K colleges /645 Universities), 25 % of Vocational Segment as well used as the “tool” for lifelong learning enrichment  by 2020.
  • Essence of Meta University picks up allowing students to take up multiple courses of their interest.  Connects /Touch points created with end beneficiaries via learning hubs for F2F interaction. A financial biz model would emerge for providing these services.


  • While MOOC’s will be popular from a viewing/consumption perspective, concept of learning hubs (could be colleges or prep centres too) catering to small  groups would evolve – where community teachers/subject matter experts/domain specialists would assist in clarifying doubts or conduct a discussion or help in taking an assessment in a proctored environment.
  • Conducive Govt. policy where initiatives like NPTEL and NKN made more robust and augmented with content from top faculty and institutions. Uniform guidelines for conduct of MOOC’s for Level 100 (Base Level) across all technical institutions. Irrespective of language, localization and contextualization of content would be feasible
  • Non-traditional entities may begin to offer MOOC’s for people who want to learn a specific subject – example museums on Indology or a World Bank/UNDP like body on Policy Making, etc.  Specialist firms of learning analytics would crop up who would provide inputs to stakeholders on content, learning, pedagogy and assessment.
  • Cross Collaboration of Industry Association/ Sector Skills Council to endorse skills acquired by graduates of MOOCs. Paid models of certification to assess knowledge would materialize and trend towards global alliances with traditional universities.

MOOC Vision Inputs

Contributed by Rajesh Pankaj, FICCI


By 2030, India’s Massive Open and Online courses ( MOOCs) started by several elite universities should collectively enroll 60% of world’s entire student population (FICCI-E&Y Vision Document on Higher Education 2030)

Mission & Goals

  1. The existing regulatory and policy framework to be extended to accommodate MOOCs as a part of mainstream higher education in India which in due course shall need to branch out into a robust policy framework for MOOCs alone.
  2. Achieving a standardized course curriculum for specific MOOCs courses across institutions which may be further customized depending on the needs, requirements and competency level of the learner.
  3. In the short run, to set up alliances between institutions and industry for at least 5 MOOCs.
  4. Industry in collaboration with institutions / universities to create a system where MOOCs becomes an acceptable toll gate for students aspiring for rewarding jobs in industry.
  5. Engage telecom operators and Mobile app development companies to develop robust and workable apps which shall significantly enhance access and penetration of MOCCs.
  6. Evolve a strong and sustainable business model for MOOCs

MOOCs- Vision & Goals for India


  • By 2020, MOOC shall significantly impact (directly or indirectly) the higher education space , shall penetrate 100% of higher- ed institutions and will touch close to 30 -40% of the higher- ed learners.
  • By 2030, MOOC shall penetrate all learners across schools, higher-ed, vocational, corporate and at home to become the prime learning/education-delivery vehicle.


  • Based on detailed educational data mining and learning analytics build deeper understanding about Indian learners (incl. learning behaviour, learner types etc.) and teaching style (effective pedagogy, engaging delivery)
  • Solve average learners’ learning motivation problem – move learning from current supply based model to completely demand oriented model
  • Translate in depth learner – learning understanding to make education delivery truly personalized
  • Give India a truly quality focused – scalable educational model with active partnership of all stakeholders – learners, parents, teachers, administrators – institutions (private as well as govt.), Industry associations and Govt. (state and central)

No Pay MBA and the Future of Higher Education

An email from Lokesh Mehra started this post really. He referred us to a self learning initiative called the NoPayMBA started by Laurie Pickard. I recall another learner led initiative (Lisa Chamberlin) who started an year ago on getting an Open PhD and has an update for the first year of her efforts. Like Lisa, Laurie too provides some insights on things such as how to design a course like that. Of special interest is an initiative on P2PU called Open & Networked PhD Candidacy.

So this is a new paradigm where the learner clearly is able to do many interesting things:

  1. She is able to take control of what she wants to learn and define a program similar/conformant to (but not so necessarily) university programs (PhD, MBA). These could be a CCNA course or a course in English language as well.
  2. She could be responding to an employer who has advertised (like OnPhD) and wants potential employees to be able to demonstrate their competencies through a short online interaction and network affirmation of competencies
  3. She is able to leverage an entire network of peers, experts and volunteers who will help her accomplish her goals
  4. She is able to leverage an entire body of open resources, communities and tools to accomplish her goals
  5. Potentially (like if she is doing this at P2PU), she may get a formal certification from a third party (who may treat all or part of this as Recognition of Prior Learning; or if an acknowledged expert puts her stamp of approval on the student’s competency for a particular job/task/level)
  6. And by laying a trail (like Lisa does in her annual update), she also helps encourage, demystify and “teach” learners after her to adopt and improve her practices and her networks.

The sheer power of pushing more accountability and responsibility towards the learner is immense. IMHO it is a critical contributor to resolving the problems of scale – decentralized, disaggregated systems of learning.

A lot of discussion needs to emerge around these models. For example, people who can assess competency (experts, employers, peers) are many. If they get empowered (like with Open Badges) to credential, we have a new educational model in place. If we can un-tether (partially) the professor from the institution, for example, how would that help? If we could empower local Guilds to assess competency, how would that work?