Going back all the way to the early days of MOOCs (less than a decade, of course), the Open part of Massive Open Online Courses was a very important part of the equation. OPEN meant a number of things, including:
Access - open to all, regardless of age, location or previous experience and education
Free - without cost
Open Tools - using free and open tools like Moodle, blogs etc.
Reuse – the right to reuse the content in its unaltered / verbatim form
Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself
Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other content to create something new
Redistribute – the right to make and share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others
That is not true for many of the big MOOC providers. Another blow against the Open Everything Empire comes with the announcement that Udacity will no longer give learners the opportunity to earn free, “non-identity-verified” certificates. People will still be able to view Udacity’s online course materials without paying, but those who want a credential will have to pay. Udacity feels their courses are worth something and plans to charge students accordingly. Udacity had earlier pulled back on believing that MOOCs are best-suited for academic pursuits and better applied to traing and lifelong learning. That is what many universities consider to be "non-credit" courses.
How long before the courses are not even open to those who aren't willing to pay to learn?
The big MOOC providers already tend not to use open source platforms and most don't allow the courses to be remixed, reused or redistributed.
The openness is eroding.
|Perceval and the quest for the Grail|
Quest-based learning (QBL) is an instructional theory that uses elements of game design and learning communities to support student choice while still operating within the context of a standards-based curriculum.
Many educators and many schools at all levels are uncomfortable moving away from a top-down approach to information acquisition. So, QBL may bee seen as moving out of many comfort zones.
Some game-based feedback tools - not games - like experience points, progress bars, badges, and achievements are motivating and meaningful to students.
Rather than design courses via textbook learning and lectures, QBL classes require students to select quests and progress at their own pace through a series of educational activities. This may remind educators of project-based learning or problem-based learning, but the unique element is the self-selection part of the design.
Quests are often online learning activities that address the core of the subject matter. These might be an audio podcast, a short video or collaborating online with classmates in discussion or composing.
For me, the most important thing is not putting the quest-based learning label on the pedagogy, but the inclusion of the QBL elements in course design.
In a white paper by Chris Haskell (Boise State University), he explains that QBL lesson design "focuses on an individualized and flexible curricular experience. In QBL, students can select activities, called quests, rather than assignments in a fixed linear order. Students leverage choice to promote engagement rather than waiting for a due date.”
Hands might be raised immediately to question how autonomy over what and when to learn would have any effect on academic achievement. Haskell and a colleague implemented an experimental QBL curriculum with pre-service teacher candidates in 2010 and they found “93% of students using this approach reached the winning condition, described as receiving a course grade of ‘A’ . . . the average completion time was reduced from 16 weeks to 12 ½ weeks with one student completing [the course] in just four.”
It's interesting that this experiment started in higher ed and is being moved down to K-12, since much innovation in teaching and pedagogy moves up from the lower grade levels.
Will this quest lead to a holy grail for teaching? No. There is no grail. It's all in the journey.
This post also appears at Ronkowitz LLC
TESC is a "virtual" college and one of the first schools in the country designed specifically for adult learners. TESC offers degree programs and certificates in more than 100 areas of study. The interview focuses on the Associate in Science in Business Administration (ASBA) degree.
The school partners with Saylor Academy and allows students to take free online courses from Saylor and submit their work for credit evaluation by TESC. This results in a fully-online degree for about $5,000 for fees to the college.
I have written before about how competency-based degrees and credits require a rethinking of the credit hour model that higher ed has used for a very long time. This is also true for assessing prior learning and learning from other sources (including MOOCs) because the answer is not to just look at how long you spend in a classroom or online, but on showing what you learned.
Singer is vice provost of the Center for the Assessment of Learning at TESC. The degree they are offering comes after students take a selection of pre-selected MOOCs and then having their knowledge assessed by TESC. This was a big topic for MOOCs a few years ago, but has been somewhat lost in the the boom (and bust?) of MOOC hype the past year.
What is not new is the idea of prior learning assessment - sometimes called "experiential learning." There is some adaptation needed here, as assessing learning from a MOOC is not "prior" learning, but it is learning from another source being evaluated by an outside party.
Something that I don't feel should be the number one factor in using and accepting MOOCs is a financial model. But it is high on the list for many colleges. Marc Singer says in the interview: "The first thing people perceive is [granting credit for prior learning is] costing us money. That was an important obstacle for us to address. As it turns out, that’s not the case; I think that particularly as a state institution, where our state (New Jersey) subsidizes some of what we do, we’re not really losing money from this in the way people would expect. I’d also point people through the studies that have been done of students who come to a college, any college, whose credits they’ve acquired through prior learning. Those students tend to be more motivated, more focused on their goals, more self-directed. Because of that, we’ve seen measurable differences in the number of credits they take at an institution like this — they actually take more credits in college, not fewer, because they’re more invested in the process and we’ve validated what they’re bringing to us from outside. Not only that [but] their rates of completion … are much higher than students who don’t bring anything from the outside."