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Theoretical links to MOOCs

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Saved by Xuan Nguyen
on October 29, 2012 at 6:25:23 pm


Emerging from OER movement wherein educational resources, “enabled by information and communication technologies”, are openly provided for “consultation, use and adaptation by a community of users for non-commercial purposes” (D’Antoni, 2008, p. 7), MOOCs incorporating OER share the philosophy of widening participation and the assumption that education is a right that should be freely accessible for all (Conole, 2011, 2012b).This principle is also highlighted as the New York Times acclaims MOOCs as a tool for democratizing education (Lewin, 2012). On approval, Mak (2012c) points out that in MOOCs, it’s learners who decide to join or leave the offered open, distributed and diverse networks, based on their interests and goals.  He also adds that MOOCs encourage people to raise their voices, share their ideas, provoke others’ thoughts, and hence, enable them to further enrich their learning experience through interaction and conversation (Mak, 2012c).


In addition, Mak (2012c) also suggests two sets of assumptions about and behind cMOOCs and xMOOCs as follows:

Noticeably, there are certainly some blurring boundaries and overlapping between the two sets of assumptions and they are not necessarily true to all MOOCs (Mak, 2012c). And yet, the theoretical principles underpinning these two genres of MOOCs are distinctly different, which is pinpointed by Siemens (2012d) with an 8-pack of MOOCy distinctions.


Obviously, cMOOCs value ontology first and epistemology second, as Siemens (2012b) argues whereas, on the other hand, xMOOCs with primary innovation related to scale and economics, focus more on knowledge development than ontological development. In the same light, Morris (2012b) asserts that cMOOCs fundamental goal is knowledge production rather than knowledge consumption, and that this automatically shifts the pedagogy from teachers or facilitators to learners or participants. In this sense, cMOOCs demonstrate a more personalized learning and learner-centred approach (Mak, 2012a). 


In essence, cMOOCs embrace connectivist learning whereas xMOOCs follow the more formal pedagogical structure of traditional (online) learning approach wherein mastery learning is central.  In other words, connectivism is the key theory underlying cMOOCs whilst xMOOCs tend to base more on behaviourism, cognition, and constructivism, which is illustrated in the following figure:



     MOOCs, Walled Gardens, Analytics and Network: Multi-generation pedagogical innovations by Forsythe (2012b)


Nonetheless, all of these theories, to some extent, are evident in both cMOOCs and xMOOCs. In both types of MOOCs, participants need to do some given tasks (behaviourism), reflect on the suggested materials (cognition), build their own understanding of a topic based on their prior knowledge and experience (constructivism), collaborate with others by engaging in network of communities and learning together (social networked learning or connectivism). 


Drexler (2008) offers a comprehensive explanation of networked learning in MOOCs in the video below:




Another great video about how knowledge in a MOOC is formed, shared, distributed, and developed is produced by Cormier (2010a):



Apart from the above-mentioned theoretical links, MOOCs seem to adopt other associated approaches such as collaborative learning, experiential learning, collective learning, self-directed and lifelong learning. 


N.B.: The following two videos are interesting interviews with Siemens on MOOCs including their underlying philosophy and value. 


     Interview with Siemens by LE@D (2011)


     Interview with Siemens by Rheingold (2011)


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