Some critical reflections on MOOCs
Quinn, C. (2012) MOOC reflections, Learnlets, February 29
Clark Quinn has some interesting comments about MOOCs in this post. He compares the Siemens/Downes Change 2011 MOOC with the Stanford AI MOOC, and discusses the differences in approach. He and I both participated in the Change 11 MOOC, but neither of us in the Stanford AI one.
The main point I would take away from Clark Quinn’s comparison is that a MOOC is a very wide framework which can be designed or implemented in a wide variety of ways. The only common threads are that they are open/free, online, and have very large numbers of learners, as their name accurately suggests. The rest is up for grabs.
Clark Quinn though makes the excellent point that as with all online teaching, there should be some way to integrate both cognitive and social learning theory within the design of MOOCs.
The issue is to what extent are instructors or course designers responsible for facilitating learning, other than providing content. My problem with both connectivism and the Stanford AI MOOCs is that they basically throw the learners to the wolves (in this case Clark and I were some of the wolves). Only the fittest or the most determined survive – or at least reach the end of the MOOC. Although every learner has to take responsibility for their own learning, surely we should be doing what we can to make that learning (and hence the use of their time) as effective as possible through good design based on empirical evidence of how best students learn.
Again, as Clark Quinn himself points out, this is not to criticize MOOCs as such. Both the Siemens/Downes and the Stanford AI initiatives are really important developments, and as with all important innovations, they provide a prototype on which later improvements can be made.
But also most successful innovation builds on the work of those who have gone before, so the question is:
To what extent do MOOCs really change the nature of the game, and to what extent are they more an extension and development of what has gone before – and hence should aim to incorporate previous best practices? Or will that destroy them?
I leave these question to readers to think about, and if you are kind enough to share your thoughts on this, it will be much appreciated, as always.
Stephen Downes response can be seen here.