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MOOCs

MOOCS – “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”

The concept of MOOCS – of opening up higher education and making it available to all, is excellent in theory and, maybe, many people do benefit from it, . . . but . . . it is unlikely to change the wider educational landscape appreciably. It has, or may find, a minor niche market.
The students who are most likely to benefit from it have to be extremely well motivated and esoteric by nature; probably post-graduates in academia.
Successful educational institutions depend on a body of tutors who are experts in their particular field who have been trained to (i) impart their learning to students, (ii) to motivate (inspire) their students, (iii) teach them the skills needed to learn and, (iv) to prepare them for examination success. A continuing success rate develops a reputation for excellence but they also heavily depend on an adequate and continuing income stream.
The MOOCS concept does not appear to recognise these factors.
My granddaughter is a third-year medical student at a UK university . . . she wants to be a medical doctor: But, before she can practice medicine in the UK she must first be registered by the British Medical Council and they demand the qualifications MB BCh gained at suitably accredited Medical School attached to a suitably accredited university. Becoming a qualified medical doctor involves highly intelligent and well motivated student, a lengthy time period, and money.
The same pattern is a basic requirement of most of the professional institutions in the UK, viz Law, Architecture, Civil Engineering, Dentistry, Veterinary Science, etc.
Where do these fit into the MOOCS concept?
My own experience is in teaching the pupils in a UK High School (11 to 16). The role of the Tutor is crucial to the whole learning experience and the tutor’s professionalism should never be under-rated; neither can the tutor/pupil relationship be blurred or replaced with a tutor/content relationship. In this modern world, examination success and the ethos and reputation of the school as an institution are also contributory factors not to be lightly dismissed.

Connestivism ???

Connectivism – George Siemens

In the world of Higher Education and among well-motivated and intelligent students there is probably a case for seeing Connectivism as one theory of learning but not the only one and Siemens conclusion that “The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe” seems almost absurd . . . I doubt whether many oil companies would concur that the oil pipe is more important than the oil that it contains . . . the oil pipe will not per se bring in revenue. The water pipe network in my house will not keep me warm in winter . . . it is, of course, one of the essential elements in my heating system but there are others equally essential, viz. boiler, pump, water, electricity and gas. Take out any of these and I will feel very cold.
“When knowledge, however, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill”. This statement is undoubtedly true, but this “ability” is often a skill learned much earlier in life . . . mostly, the necessary skill has been taught by a skilled tutor, e.g. learning to swim, to play a musical instrument well, etc.
Connectivism cannot be regarded as an all-embracing, universal learning theory; it is more a reminder that we have many more learning tools available to us, living in the Digital Age, and a reminder, too, that technology is changing fast.
Our five-year old children are not likely to pick up an IPad and form a social network so that they can learn to read and write – they are taught to read and write.
Furthermore, Connectivism is mostly, mediated through language and culture, and, in a universal world that is so disparate in many ways, both of these factors can impede successful learning.
Moreover, for a learning process to be successful, students need to be told (or learn) how to discriminate between worthwhile knowledge and that which is worthless or misleading – peer-group networks are not sufficient

Web Science @UoSFLwebsci

Web scientists beware! Your dreams of utopia demand a faith in things technological which do not have feelings, or a conscience. Your faith also ignores great human differences in language, culture and religion and living standards.

How would “The Semantic Web” cope with two British citizens who claim to be “Soldiers of Allah” who kill and mutilate another British citizen on the streets of London?

Faith, to be a faith demands allegiance to something beyond our experience – something infinite (God) who gives us hope.

Connectivism ???

Connectivism – George Siemens

In the world of Higher Education and among well-motivated and intelligent students there is probably a case for seeing Connectivism as one theory of learning but not the only one and Siemens conclusion that “The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe” seems almost absurd . . . I doubt whether many oil companies would concur that the oil pipe is more important than the oil that it contains . . . the oil pipe will not per se bring in revenue. The water pipe network in my house will not keep me warm in winter . . . it is, of course, one of the essential elements in my heating system but there are others equally essential, viz. boiler, pump, water, electricity and gas. Take out any of these and I will feel very cold.
“When knowledge, however, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill”. This statement is undoubtedly true, but this “ability” is often a skill learned much earlier in life . . . mostly, the necessary skill has been taught by a skilled tutor, e.g. learning to swim, to play a musical instrument well, etc.
Connectivism cannot be regarded as an all-embracing, universal learning theory; it is more a reminder that we have many more learning tools available to us, living in the Digital Age, and a reminder, too, that technology is changing fast.
Our five-year old children are not likely to pick up an IPad and form a social network so that they can learn to read and write – they are taught to read and write.
Furthermore, Connectivism is mostly, mediated through language and culture, and, in a universal world that is so disparate in many ways, both of these factors can impede successful learning.
Moreover, for a learning process to be successful, students need to be told (or learn) how to discriminate between worthwhile knowledge and that which is worthless or misleading – peer-group networks are not sufficient

The Role of Abundance

The Role of Abundance
Faced with “The digitisation of content combined with a global network for delivery and an open system for sharing” and its consequence – an abundance of content, Martin Weller poses the question for educators, “…how can they best take advantage of abundance in their own teaching practice”.
It is true that there is an abundance of content out there, but much of it is of little worth – a superfluity of garbage, but searching for the best, or even the most suitable content is far from easy . . . with the best of search engines the task is still daunting . . . a busy High School teacher does not have the time to sort out the good from the bad.
Weller uses the bland description “educators”, and this seems to suggest that he is ignorant of the profession of school teaching . . . maybe it’s time he left his ‘ivory tower’ and experienced the ‘real’ world of education in the schools of today (Higher Education represents such a small proportion of the total education scenario). The role of the “pedagogue” involves much more than ‘filling empty vessels with knowledge’ from a vast worldwide storehouse.
One of the roles of a High School teacher is to prepare pupils for next exam (in UK it will be GCSE) and so the examination syllabus will dictate the subject content and may well prescribe the text book to be used. This is the situation faced by most teachers and so a ‘pedagogy of abundance’ is largely irrelevant.

Equivalency Theorem

Equivalency Theorem – a comment

Terry Anderson: “Getting the Mix Right Again: An updated and theoretical rationale for interaction” (2003)
This theorem developed by Terry Anderson is, in my experience, deeply flawed, or of narrow application, or both
“Deep and meaningful formal learning is supported as long as one of the three forms of interaction (student–teacher; student-student; student-content) is at a high level. The other two may be offered at minimal levels, or even eliminated, without degrading the educational experience.”
“High levels of more than one of these three modes will likely provide a more satisfying educational experience, though these experiences may not be as cost or time effective as less interactive learning sequences.”
What is meant by “deep and meaningful…learning” ? Is the student the judge, or an examination result by an independent body or, could it be left to the professional judgement of the tutor?
The same question arises with the use of the phrase “…at a high level” – who is the judge?; and yet again with the phrase “…a more satisfying educational experience”
Anderson seems to assert ‘parity of value’ between the three forms of interaction, viz. student-teacher; student-student; student-content but this is not my experience both as an OU student (long ago) and as an experienced High School teacher.
In no way could I equate the student-student interaction with that of student-teacher.
The teacher is the professional who has been trained to teach; to impart knowledge and skills to the student; to manage the learning situation itself to best achieve maximum learning; to set educational or skills goals for the individual student; to monitor the learning progress of the student and make adjustments as necessary; and to assess the final result of the educational experience.
I accept that this interaction is costly.
Back 1971 I had some college-based experience of ‘teaching machines’. At that time, it was hoped, by some, that machines could, one day, supplant professional teachers (web-based learning and the internet had not yet been developed) but these machines using different forms of “Programmed Learning” based on B F Skinner’s behaviourist theory of learning were not popular.
Student-student interaction is important and can have value provided that the interaction itself is somehow monitored . . . unless this is done, then the interaction may simply be a time-waste and of little educational value.
Student-contact interaction is also important and has the advantage that students can learn at their own pace and in their own location, but given the volume of open educational resources available on the internet, the problem of selection grows. If I key “educational theory” into Google, I am faced with 62,000,000 results; so “Which result do I choose?” or, “Which result will be of most value to my educational needs?”. On the other hand if my tutor recommends a text book, is this one the best for me? I suppose we’ve all experienced the problem of being alone and struggling to understand a particular though recommended text book. It is hard to imagine the situation where the student-content interaction could ever successfully replace the student-teacher interaction.
It is accepted that there are many situations in the world where student-content interaction is the only one available.
No! Terry Anderson, I cannot agree that “This theorem implies that an instructional designer can substitute one type of interaction for one of the others (at the same level) with little loss in educational effectiveness…”

Neutral Pedagogy – Revisited

Reverting to an earlier activity, I want to look again at the concept of “Neutral Pedagogy” for, despite the very good work done by Brian Smith et. al., it seems to me, that the concept of neutral pedagogy”, has a limited application in the world of education relying, as it does, on a high level of self-motivation by the student.

I guess that my experience teaching the 11 – 16 age group in the State System, would be mirrored by many other such teachers who know from personal experience that learning is enhanced by their active involvement (leadership) in the classroom . . . always there is a perceived difference between teacher and taught . . . the teacher teaches and the pupils learn.

In the 1960s and 70s in the UK, efforts were made to ‘liberalise’ the curriculum in both the 6th Form and Further Education Colleges. Some of the tutors teaching “Liberal” or “General” Studies sought to identify themselves with their students in dress, speech and manner – ‘to become one of them’ and adopt a form of “neutral pedagogy. No matter in what way tutors sought to disguise themselves and their role, there was a perceptual difference between tutor and student. As I understand it, this initiative was eventually abandoned.

On the other hand studies from New Zealand “Effective Pedagogy in Pāngarau/Mathematics: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration (BES)” stresses the importance of a deeply involved and active pedagogical practice; that the “locus of control” remains with the pedagogue whose task is to both generate and foster learning.

Furthermore, pupils/students often need to learn something despite their personal preferences . . . this is certainly true of practised skills, e.g. a pupil learning to play the piano needs to acquire a brain–eye–finger co-ordinated skill through the rehearsing and repeating of scales and arpeggios until these skills become habituated. Usually the teacher needs to be present at least in the initial stages of the learning process. There are many other examples that could be used to illustrate this point.

Whilst it appears from the literature, that there has been a degree of success with open learning involving “neutral pedagogy in some areas of higher education, i.e. post-graduate studies, these areas appear to be a relatively minor when education is viewed as a whole. Student led study seems to need a higher level of self-motivation than is common.
Additionally. there needs to be a perceived level of parity between student and tutor whose role is no longer clearly defined.