Wednesday, January 16, 2013

MOOCs: Why Do We Need Instructional Design?

Hierarchy of Instructional Design
Note: The following is an extended abstract for a paper. I was in the process of sending this out to journals when I realized that this needs to be an open document. I have always found the publishing process in education to be somewhat ironic: scholars publish papers on open education in journals that colleges can no longer afford to buy. What is wrong with this picture? If you are interested in MOOCs and Instructional Design, please email me or leave a comment if you would like to collaborate. I will be submitting it to open journals or we may turn it in to an openly licensed book or modular OER.  This feels like it belongs on a wiki. Maybe we should create a MOOC to develop these ideas?

Just as we need a new learning theory to account for new modalities in learning, we also need a new framework for instructional design, a rubric for MOOC development. New modalities of learning, content delivery, and engagement in online, hybrid courses and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have required new learning theory: Connectivism. Given this new theory, this paper suggests that a new instructional design model is needed as well. According to my reading of Connnectivism, instructional design for MOOCs should:
● Provide for a diversity of opinions
● Allow students to create connections between specialized nodes and learning sources
● Foster their capacity to learn (teach metacognitive learning skills)
● Increase their ability see connections between fields, concepts, and ideas
● Teach students to build networks that will allow students to keep current in their field
● Allow students to choose what to learn and how
Additionally, in a presentation that George Siemens gave on instructional design for the MOOC "Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 2008" he said that learning should be designed for adaptability, for "patterning, wayfinding, and sensemaking" and focus on "content, context, and connections." Siemens says that it is difficult to take all of this and try to build some mechanistic formula for creating learning experiences. This paper will introduce a new rubric of connectivist learning theory as applied to instructional design in order to examine and explain how successful learning takes place in MOOCs.

There are many definitions for “instructional design.” Some definitions are particularly narrow and limit the role as relating learning to technology. For the purposes of this paper, I will use Sheninger’s (2010) which is fairly broad: 
“Instructional Design (ID) is part creative arts and part science which utilizes theoretical as well as practical research in the areas of cognition, educational psychology, information technology, graphic and Web design, and problem solving. ID aims to create the best instructional environment and learning materials to bring a learner from the state of not knowing, not feeling or not being able to accomplish certain tasks to the state of knowing, feeling and being able to accomplish those tasks in a given subject area through carefully organized interactions with information, activities and assessments.” 
MOOCs are a relatively new modality of online learning and the basic research is still in its infancy, but this paper will develop its thesis and argument from research into Connectivist pedagogy, an analysis of the author’s experiences in MOOCs, and interviews with instructors and participants.

The kinds of problems that we can solve with instructional design include student success and retention. Just as some students need help in understanding how online education works (motivation, time management, study skills, etc.), students will also need help in understanding how to successfully take a MOOC. The skills students need to be successful can be built into curriculum. Many of the more successful MOOCs are based in colleges where the students are already successful learners, but this doesn't mean that MOOCs are only appropriate for those colleges.

Another problem is teacher preparation. Just as teachers need to learn how to be successful online teachers, the facilitation skills needed in a MOOC are different. It is a very different, certainly non-hierarchical model. There are ways to structure assignments and activities in a MOOC that will model the skills needed to be successful in a MOOC.

I would like to include a review of the literature of connectivism that compares Connectivism with previous models shows that as the teaching and learning modalities change, so do the theories. Theories such as Constructivism do not fully account for full online courses, hybrid online courses, personal learning networks, or MOOCs. Applying Connectivism to instructional design requires a redefinition of instructional design along the same lines as the changing role of the teacher (Siemens, 2010). The principles of instructional design, which includes a systematic approach to designing course content and learning events, will inform the creation of MOOC development rubric that will be included with this paper.

This project will include definitions of the skills, student success, and include a guide to the connectivist pedagogy for successful online learning and successful participation in a MOOC.

Consider this posting as a preamble. I am especially interested in hearing back from teachers with experience in online education and MOOCs, instructional designers, and other practitioners. 
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  1. Geoff - excited for your research. I'm just starting a course in Instructional Design and, as a constructivist-minded, MOOC-taking educator, I'm already feeling a disconnect between what I'm learning about ID and what I am experiencing / practicing myself. To be sure, systematic design is essential to a successful program, but, like you, I'm sure that traditional ID models have to evolve to accommodate emerging technologies and practices.

  2. I've been taking, following, doing ~ whatever (still not sure what verb fits) MOOCs since PLENK2010, which I started 2 weeks late, knowing absolutely nothing about them. It was very confusing, to say the least, but I have a determined streak and kept getting back on the mooc. The connectivist approach on distributed networks spoiled me for LMS.

    Retired from active, full time teaching now, I work on assorted online projects (including studying and taking moocs), blogging and managing social media content for several non-profit groups, I have taught English (composition, comp lit, ESL) online as well as hybrid and f2f. Although not an Instructional Designer, I am very interested in your project.

  3. Hi Geoff,
    I really like your preamble, and I am interested in this project. I have been teaching OL for ten years, and I am currently a graduate student at the Woodring College of Education. My research is on adult education and faculty professional development, and I'm learning to tie this all together with educational technology. At the heart of it all, is instructional design. I found you through the etmooc bloghub. This is my first MOOC experience, and I have to say, I'm learning a ton. I'm also teaching a class where my students are enrolled in my F2F and a Coursera MOOC. Count me in as interested in ID and PLNs (all of it really). Nice to connect with you!

  4. Geoff - Great post i am also interested in in your project. Have participated in Moocs from the first Cck08.

    Devised a model of online learning when doing a masters in e-learning and education (2008) which embraced connectivism, although was not MOOCish.

    interested in teacher training, digital skills and pln development - the whole kaboddle.

    Vanessa not sure if you directly sent me here, but i get here through you - cheers :-)

  5. Hi Steve,

    Good to see you here. You have really hit the center of my concern. There are folks who are using guidelines for online classes to address their concerns around MOOCs. My take is that we need to develop a whole new set of questions around this. What skills make students successful in MOOCs? Can we build that into the curriculum? Are there assignments that any instructor can include in their class to help students navigate MOOCs? I think there are some great research questions here that are not addressed by the old paradigm.


  6. Hi Geoff, yes, i agree about building into the curriculum. The development of the transferable lifelong skills of PLN development to permeate all modules. The sort of thing that is/ has been done with other skills.

    The more i participate in the moocs i find myself more interested in the process and how its working - i.e how can it be improved.

    PLN development is a great gift to give to students. MOOCS to me are a catalytic component of that :-)

    Let me know when you want to move things on - Happy to explore things further.

    interested to hear more about 'using guidelines for online classes to address their concerns around MOOCs'

    did you see my initial mooc post

  7. Hi Geoff, please count me in for your project. Right now, I am the person in charge at George Mason University creating the MOOCs. I believe an Instructional Design model and also a rubric like QualityMatters particularly designed for MOOCs will be most helpful. I like the research paper idea as well.

  8. Definitely interested. I've been in elearning long enough to remember a very similar discussion about instructional design for online course. It will be interesting to consider the evolution from there.

  9. Devrim's comment about the QM rubric really got me thinking. The QM model promotes feedback and interaction between the learner and the teacher. Learner engagement is directly connected to the feedback from the teacher with the QM rubric. How do you that in a MOOC? Perhaps there needs to be a connectivist-style QM influenced rubric. What that looks like for a MOOC, I don't know. Identifying the skills that students need to be successful in a MOOC is much needed research, and this brainstorm seems like a start!

  10. Great points, Alyson. I also wonder if we need to redefine some of the concepts in the context of MOOCs. For instance, the definition of a course. Is it a course of activities that each student is obligated to go through to become successful. What if students already have some prior knowledge and do not need everything we present in MOOCs (which seems to be the case for many courses)? Is it reasonable to tie the success of the student / course to the course completion rates? If I were to enroll in a computer science course and I just need to refresh my memory and at the end I learned a lot but not interested in completing everything. Please see Do all students need instructors enrollment or self-directed/self-regulated learning is what happens in MOOCs. I think my point is we may need a completely different approach for MOOCs which will be different from traditional definition of higher education related concepts.