Sunday 20 September 2015

#MOOC: no disruption, no real assessment and adults aren't dropouts! #grumpyWoman

Okay, this is a mail written on the aeroplane after returning from EC-tel conference. A wonderful conference (I will share the positive vibes and connections soon). But first I have to get some of the reoccurring assumptions uttered by some (yet too many) off my chest.

Briefly: there is NO disruption happening as those building the disruption are those being part of classic education, we are ADULTs so please stop using drop-outs – we are adults CHOOSING what we learn, and please STOP thinking in terms of classic assignments as that is NOT the only way to assess knowledge – our personal learning network can do that! And OH YEAH, that means assessment can take place contextualized and outside MOOC platforms.

Real disruption: not there yet: attract people from outside of classic education to look at the future of education
“How can we ensure that future professors will be able to teach with new technology”: well, first of all, let us all learn to cope with change and new technologies. Digital literacy in terms of cultural awareness, critical analysis (quality, selection…), and attract people that were NOT educated through the existing classic system of primary, high school, university… Interdisciplinary might not be enough to really capture or draw up a roadmap for future education. Inevitably the best scoring/performing people within a system are those who can replicate the system. As such, I often wonder how much disruption can take place if we build the so-called disruptive systems with those that come out of those systems… there won’t be too much change happening. Only marginal differences that are called ‘disruptive changes’ because it sounds nice at this moment in history.

MOOCs are disruptive? Do not make me laugh!
While discussions are multiple on the disruptive effect of MOOCs, I keep wonder how little it takes for the ‘disruption’ label to appear. At the end of the day, I still see/hear the majority of academics/professors talk about teaching, not learning. The MOOCs are in many cases simply a digitized form of earlier, existing content. So not much disruption there.
And one of the – for me questionable – outcomes of the MOOCification, are the multiple mentions of how now less teachers will be needed, less professorships, as more less well paid people can pick up certain aspects of MOOCs. So, if I understand correctly education is again cut due to (false) arguments. This also does not feel disruptive at all, in fact it feels very familiar. In this case I think the word ‘disruptive’ is only used to do more of the same (cuts) but using the word ‘disruptive’ as a false argument that simply sounds good and that people take for granted.
Real disruption would happen if a new model of education would come up that makes people be citizens and rulers of their own life. A new societal model, that would (just imagine) lead to more satisfied lives where basic (= not surviving but living) needs can be secured for all and where learning is seen as a truly important, life enabling and satisfying activity. For me, gaining knowledge and sharing it so we can all benefit is the way to go. Technology as support, living life as sense-making, following personal goals that are based on personal strengths and connected improvement for all (which does not imply a linear move towards improved living necessarily).

Drop-outs? Adult, autonomous thinking and choices you mean!
On drop-outs in MOOCs: okay, I am willing to see how graduate students might be in need of following a full MOOC (especially for those MOOCs embedded in the degree curriculum of a university, but even then… *sigh*), but most MOOC’ers are ADULTS. And adults (at least a good portion of them) can really think by themselves! So, please, can we drop the drop-out! Do any MOOC-teachers/professors really still think that the way they provide content and assessment is the only way to grasp content? As an adult, I think we can all choose what is of importance to us, and we do not need to be assessed in classic ways, we can figure it out by ourselves (at least some of us, not all, and voluntary choice is good for everyone of course).

Assessment by feedback from personal learning network
If we cannot figure it out - as adults - what we need, and how to master it, it proofs that we did not learn to find it out by ourselves. Sometimes we need classic assessment, sometimes we need to explore the unknown, and sometimes we just roam the premises in order to learn serendipitously. If small children are able to master new content, we as adults surely can too. I am not pushing assessment aside, I just feel that some of us are able to assess what we need, and whether we learned it ourselves, not necessarily by externally designed tests. Another options would be to always include contextual assignments, that way adults can embed new information in their professional/personal context and think about it. Of course the question comes up: “yes, but how will it be graded?”. Simple enough. If we really belief in a networked world, where people have their own personal learning network, you can rest assured that when sharing our drafts of these personally written assignments with each of our own network community, they will give ample feedback. And much more contextualized feedback, coming from real life, authentic experience. It cannot be called a disruptive action, if we still restrict peer review feedback to the other people taking a course. That is too simple AND it assumes that those people are the only ones being able to provide the right feedback. For me, the best feedback I get is from those in my personal learning network, not necessarily from other MOOC participants.

And I refrain myself from the tiresome discussion on using the term ‘teaching’ much more then ‘learning’. How many times must we agree on the importance of learning and learner autonomy, and then simply stick with teaching as the core concept. We learn by doing, we learn by learning. 

Okay, should probably sleep. Grumpy woman here.