Sunday, February 24, 2013

EDCMOOC postnote: The RealValue of mooc's

Justin Ferriman of LearnDash has posted a blog titled 5 Reasons Why MOOCs Provide Little Real Value

I took exception to the title and decided I needed to respond, so following Justin's format here are my responses.

1. Free isn't always a good thing

Who says that the free moocs are expected to be `better than' the paid thing? Interestingly people have complained very loudly when one course ran into problems. I have received extraordinary value from the ELearning and Digital Cultures mooc presented on Coursera by Edinburgh University over the past month. I have learnt a vast array of new digital skills, I have communicated with educators from all over the globe, I have had my own thinking challenged, and best of all I've had fun and re-discovered my own passion for learning. `Free' has been a very good thing for me and thousands of others.

2. No one really "gets it" yet.

"wandering aimlessly through a spattering of random courses. Professors are probably more confused, likely thinking: “Oh, I’ll just put up a video from my lecture in 2004 – sure the textbook we were discussing is about 18 versions old, but it’s good stuff…and hey, it’s FREE!” … before you know it, the poor teacher’s assistant is trying to answer 12,000 forum posts from confused participants trying to fully understand the dated content."
Gets what? The fact that course material prepared by university professors is being made available to anyone with internet access for free? I don't think that professors are uploading just any old material. If they are, then I don't think that it's because they are loading it for free. There has always been a problem with educators presenting old material and not updating frequently enough. I remember this from my last Masters course in 1998 face to face with lecturers! Don't blame the medium Justin, blame the system that expects educators to place more value on administration, research and responding to university politics than on preparation and presentation of great materials.

3. Grades and/or feedback carry little to no weight.

".. if you have a passion for the topic, then you probably would take on that five page writing assignment. But would you cancel your plans to get it done? If your peers are reviewing your work and they slam you for it being all wrong – do you think you would try to understand “why”, or would you become defensive? At least in formal institutions, there is an incentive to understand your mistakes on poor grades and feedback. MOOCs lack this, so when does the real learning take place?"
`Real Learning', are you serious Justin? What is it you have forgotten about intrinsic motivation and the questionable practice of teaching only what is to be graded? Real learning is demonstrated in the workplace or in applied situations where the knowledge is put into practice. I have rarely seen anyone's university grades looked at in the job recruitment & selection process, other than to see if they actually passed. 

4. Badges will never replace Diplomas

I haven't yet researched the Mozilla Open Badges, however I do agree that badges and certificates that are not verified / validated by organisations against some sort of standard, are unlikely to be wholly acceptable to employers or to other institutions when seeking credit for courses. I think that the question of validity of certification is going to be the major parameter of how much change open learning brings about. If we are to achieve true change, we need to re-think the separation of learning and assessment. The use of recognition of prior learning in the vocational studies field is now an established practice in Australia. Can it be extended to Higher Education and what sort of model should be adopted? Who should the ultimate arbiter be? Should there be Assessment Centres with standardised assessments - agreed to by cohorts of the providers? How would the financial transactions work? Or are we simply going to accept that some organisations run great courses and their `badges' are acceptable?

5. Support infrastructure isn't mature enough.

"I feel bad for the administrative personnel behind MOOCs. It literally is a monumental task to support hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people asking the same questions. The teams behind MOOCs simply aren’t large enough, and they probably can’t realistically become big enough either. The end result is that some people will inevitably become angry and frustrated – and they’ll likely blame the user experience."

Yes, you're right there, Justin.  However I think you're waving your own flag here for LearnDash.
I think this will largely resolve itself as the Instructional Design product and the facilitators experience of eLearning environments mature. It's the same old story. My peer teachers and I would spend all summer preparing the information for new students so that on orientation they would receive all they needed to know about attendance, assessment process, grading, resources, course outlines, local fast food outlets, buses, trains etc. This would be delivered to them face to face, in writing and with illustrations, maps etc where necessary. There would always be at least one student who came knocking on the door with a questions such as "How many hours of study do we need to do?" or "Where's the local bus stop?" and so on. Part of the mooc experience is about building the virtual resources, student networks, peer groups, traffic direction and so on.