Tuesday, April 16, 2013

MOOCs: taxonomy of 8 types of MOOC

We're not payin' because this guy...
...this guy's a fuckin' mooc.
  But I didn't say nothin'.
And we don't pay moocs.
  A mook? I'm a mooc?
  What's a mooc?
  What's a mooc?
  I don't know.
  What's a mooc?
  You can't call me a mooc.
I can't?
Scorcese's Mean Streets (1973)
What are MOOCs?
The future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed” said William Gibson, that is certainly true of MOOCs. We have MOOC mania but ‘all MOOCs are not created equal’ and there’s lots of species of MOOC. This is good and we must learn from these experiments to move forward and not get bogged down in old traditionalist v modernist arguments. MOOCs will inform and shape what we do within and without institutions. What is important is to focus on the real needs of real learners.
Taxonomy based on pedagogy
To this end, it is important to define a taxonomy of MOOCs not from the institutional but the pedagogic perspective, by their learning functionality, not by their origins. So here's a starting list of eight:
1. transferMOOCs
Transfer MOOCs literally take existing courses and decant them into a MOOC platform, on the pedagogic assumption that they are teacher-led and many rely on a ‘name’ of the institution or academic to attract learners. The pedagogic assumption is that of transfer from teacher and course content to learner. Many mimic the traditional academic course with lectures, short quizzes, set texts and assessments. You could describe them as being on the cutting edge of tradition. Coursera courses largely fall into this category.
2. madeMOOCs
Made MOOCs tend to more innovative in their use of video, avoiding talking heads in favour of Khan Academy or Udacity hand on board sequences. They also tend to have more of a formal, quality driven approach to the creation of material and more crafted and challenging assignments, problem solving and various levels of sophisticated software-driven interactive experiences. Peer work and peer-assessment, used to cope with the high teacher-student ratios. These tend to be more vocational in nature, VOOCs (Vocational Open ONine Courses), where the aim is to acquire a skill or skills. Udacity take this approach. Remember that Thrun and Norvig were not academics but corporate researchers working for Google.
3. synchMOOCs
Synchronous MOOCs have a fixed start date, tend to have fixed deadlines for assignments and assessments and a clear end date. They often around the agricultural, academic calendar. For example, Coursera offer courses on strict startand end dates with clear deadlines for assignment. Udacity started with their ‘hexamester’ 7 week courses with fixed start dates. Many argue that this helps motivation and aligns teacher availability and student cohort work.
4. asynchMOOCs
Asynchronous MOOCs have no or frequent start dates, tend to have no or looser deadlines for assignments and assessments and no final end date. The pedagogic advantages of asynchronous MOOCs is that they can literally be taken anytime, anywhere and clearly work better over different time zones. Interestingly, Udacity have relaxed their courses to enrol and proceed at user’s own pace. Some sceptics point towards this as being a tactic to reduce drop-out rates due to missed assignment deadlines. Note that Coursera offers a completely open self-study option but this does not warrant a certificate of completion.
5. adaptiveMOOCs
Adaptive MOOCs use adaptive algorithms to present personalised learning experiences, based on dynamic assessment and data gathering on the course and courses. They rely on networks of pre-requisites and take learners on different, personalised paths through the content. This has been identified by the Gates Foundation as an important new area for large scale productivity in online courses. These MOOCs tend not to deliver flat, linear structured knowledge but leaning experiences driven by back-end algorithms. Analytics are also used to change and improve the course in the future. Cogbooks is a leading example of this type of MOOC.
6. groupMOOCs
Group MOOCs start with small, collaborative groups of students. The aim is to increase student retention. Stanford, the MOOC manufacturing factory, has spun out NovoEd (formerly Venture Lab) which offers both MOOCs and closed, limited number, internal courses. They argue that some subjects and courses, such as entrepreneurship and business courses, lose a lot in looses, open MOOC structures and need a more focussed approach to groupwork. The groups are software selected by geography, ability and type. They have mentors and rate each others commitment and progress. Groups are also dissolved and reformed during the course.
7. connectivistMOOCS
Pioneered by Geperge Siemens and Stephen Downes, these connectivist MOOCs rely on the connections across a network rather than pre-defined content. Siemen’s famously  said “cMOOCs focus on knowledge creation and generation whereas xMOOCs focus on knowledge duplication”. More simply, Smith says “in an xMOOC you watch videos, in a cMOOC you make videos”. The whole point is to harvest and share knowledge that is contributed by the participants and not see the ‘course’ as a diet of fairly, fixed knowledge. These course tend to create their own trajectory, rather than follow a linear path.
8. miniMOOCSs
So far, MOOCs tend to be associated with Universities, whose courses last many weeks and often fit the semester structure and timetable of traditional institutions. We have also seem=n the emergence of shorter MOOCs for content and skills that do not require such long timescales. This is mpore typical of commercial e-learning courses, which tend to be more intense experiences that last for hours and days, not weeks. They are more suitable for precise domains and tasks with clear learning objectives. The Open Badges movement tends to be more aligned with this type of MOOC.
Note that these are not mutually exclusive categories, as one can have a transfer MOOC that is synchronous or asynchronous. What’s important here is that we see MOOCs as informing the debate around learning to get over the obvious problems of relevance, access and cost. This is by no means a definitive taxonomy but it’s a start. I’d really appreciate any comments, critiques or new categories. 


Unknown said...

Have you been drinking?

Curt Bonk said...

Great movie clip Donald. This looks very familiar.

How in the world did you find it? It is so perfect. A MOOC is a freeloader. Indeed.

I appreciate the types of MOOC list--8 types of MOOCs. I learned a few things. My MOOC list is now at 22 I think. Your list should prove helpful to those new to the MOOC scene...bar or not bar.

Dick Moore said...

Having a taxonomy is useful, and I think that yours is much improved on the rather simplistic X and C MOOC which while based on an underlying pedagogy appear to be agnostic on delivery methods.

Having a taxonomy is a GREAT thing to do, it provides us with a short hand to model and understand but I think we are a way off knowing the lay of the land.

The great thing about MOOC's is that they are the Terra Nova, a new place to experiment, they axiomatically intended to be delivered at scale and as such need to invent new delivery methods.

Techniques such as BIG data combined with statistical methods that enable a more adaptive content combined with the monitoring of learner behaviors that deliver tailored communications all need to be part of the mix.

A solution to Blooms 2 sigma challenge at a low cost. That's a prize worth having.

Thanks for the prompt.

Anonymous said...

excellent work - would like the permission to reblog your thoughts - thorough analysis of education's next big thing

DavidP said...

I was hoping that the growth in MOOCs in higher education might provide access to some of the worlds leading academic institutions - in a way that my parents and grandparents would never been able to imagine - And offer a model that might offer an alternative to the debt laden choices around higher Ed that currently exist.

It seems that rather than practically working to that pluralist goal - there is a movement to push MOOC's into a navel gazing educationalists back water, which is more interested in classifying - rather than doing.

Whether things are xMOOCs, CMOOC, zMOOCs or f'nMOOCs seems a rather academic nonsense, rather than exploring how we make them more impactful, more sustainable and more accessible. And ultimately more inspirational for life long learning...

Donald Clark said...

I'm with you on this but there needs to be some reflection on what these things are and how they work if we are to make progress. I am not an academic and have done this because I think it matters. I'm currently involved in a major MOOC project that attempts to do exactly what you say. I am a practitioner but theory informs practice.

Mike Sadler said...

Er, what is a mooc?

I'm still not sure what this acronym stands for?

geoff said...

Mike - it may be better to keep it like that :-)

Unknown said...

Tried hacking this blog post: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/12838403/20130505/Remix2.htm

Donald Clark said...

Hi John - no problem with 'hacked post' but you (and Stepehen Downes) seem to have got the wrong end of the stick re 'unnecessary obscenities. Said 'obscenities' are the transcript of the video posted on the site, a snippet from the film Mean Streets (1973). The script was written by Martin Scorsese and words spoken by Robert de Niro and Harvey Keitel. I assume your feed just picks up the text, hence the confusion?

Sherry Jones said...

Hi Donald:

gMOOC is a new category of MOOCs about to be released to the MOOC Universe (The term gMOOC refers to both Game-Based + Game-Based Learning MOOC). The term is co-founded by Sherry Jones (myself) and Jack Park (founder of Knowledge Garden theory). I will be presenting a paper on gMOOCs at the CCCC 2014 conference. Here is the paper abstract: http://www.academia.edu/3526813/CCCC_2014_-_Composition_on_a_New_Scale_Game_Studies_and_Massive_Open_Online_Composition_by_Sherry_Jones_and_Daniel_Singer

We are making the argument that gMOOC, which in its very nature celebrates experimentalism and encourages the creation of emergent knowledge and platforms, could serve as a possible solution to the subversion of MOOCs; what I mean by the "subversion of MOOCs" is that the free and open spirit of the original MOOCs (aka cMOOCs) are becoming corrupted by the financial incentives of elite universities and educational companies. Openness and innovation are being passed over in favor of MOOC uniformity, where the same factory model of lectures and quizzes are being replicated in the forms of online video lectures and quizzes, and resold via MOOC containers.

On May 28, 2013, I will be launching my own rgMOOC - "Rhetoric and Composition - The Persuasive Power of Video Games as Paratexts" (runs May 28 - August 1, 2013).

rgMOOC (May 28 - August 1, 2013)

rgMOOC is a type of gMOOC that is designed based on connectivism and game-based learning. This MOOC is currently listed at the top of the Class Central website - http://www.Class-Central.com, as well as on Connectivist MOOCs website - http://www.ConnectivistMoocs.org

(yes, I realize that it is ironic that rgMOOC is listed in both xMOOC and cMOOC class aggregator list sites, but rgMOOC also represents quite a new category of MOOCs after all).

I find your MOOC taxonomy quite insightful. I think there may be more MOOC categories available that I can recommend, but I will first leave gMOOC with you, and later contribute to your future posts. Thanks.

Mª Ascensión Villalba Varona said...

I would like to add a new Mooc which is not included in your list. It is sMooc. This model is applied to a course I am doing at the moment which is Smooc: Step by Step. Basically it focuses on team and self work. It is back up by different pedagogical materials presented in different formats (video audio and text). The Eco platform (http://ecolearning.eu/es/) uses different online resources such as forums, microblogging groups, P2P assessment, as well as social networks (Facebook and twitter).

As far as I see it, all types of Moocs represent a sea change in the way superior education is settled at the moment.