Making Moocs social is the next challenge

Finding ways to engage thousands of people in discussion online is set to change the higher education landscape

November 13, 2014

Massive open social learning and “nanodegrees” are among the trends in teaching and learning set to shake up higher education, according to a report.

Innovating Pedagogy 2014, the third annual report about the technological trends that could revolutionise education, produced by The Open University, says that finding ways to effectively engage thousands of people in productive discussions while learning together online is a key challenge for educationalists in the next couple of years.

So-called massive open social learning is the next step in the development of massive open online courses, or Moocs, the report says.

“Recent Moocs have taken an instructivist approach, with course materials created by a university and delivered by video and text…it can be a lonely experience,” it says. “There is more that can be done to engage people as active learners, sharing their ideas and discussing their different perspectives as they learn online.”

The report acknowledges that this approach harks back to “early Mooc experiments”, or C-Moocs, which were based on a pedagogy of connectivist learning – however, it adds that these were “difficult to manage at large scale”.

Mike Sharples, chair in educational technology at The Open University Institute of Educational Technology and co-author of the report, said that finding out “what sort of pedagogies get better as you scale” was the big question that universities were asking.

“If you can manage learning so that people are really connecting with others’ perspectives, then the more people there are, the better the learning gets,” he theorised.

Another development related to Moocs is the emergence of nanodegrees.

“Nanodegrees are at the other end of the scale from the traditional university degree,” Professor Sharples said. “For a degree, you spend three years gaining all the skills you need from a broad area. Nanodegrees are focused on what skills you need to learn for a very specific task.”

See a full rundown of the 10 trends identified in the report

chris.parr@tesglobal.com

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