[IAEP] Fwd: The Importance of Context and Human Factor in MOOC Education

Thomas Gilliard satellit at bendbroadband.com
Tue Apr 16 09:36:11 EDT 2013

Interesting post

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: 	The Importance of Context and Human Factor in MOOC Education
Date: 	Tue, 16 Apr 2013 13:09:19 +0000
From: 	Educational Technology Debate <editors at edutechdebate.org>
To: 	satellit at bendbroadband.com

Educational Technology Debate

  The Importance of Context and Human Factor in MOOC Education



The Importance of Context and Human Factor in MOOC Education 

Posted: 16 Apr 2013 01:37 AM PDT

Óscar Becerra has just written The One Laptop Per Child Correlation With 
Massive Open Online Courses 
where he compares the OLPC project with MOOC initiatives.

In a nutshell, the Becerra argues that MOOC should not be compared to 
other higher education initiatives or institutions, but to what MOOCs 
can bring to “non-users” of education, as the OLPC should be judged not 
in comparison to schools, but in comparison to “non-schools”, that is, 
no educational institutions at all.

I mostly agree with the author, but there are some omissions that are 
very worth being mentioned… as they may place us, at least, in a more 
skeptic point of view. Or, in other words, nor may MOOCs might be 
compared with a comprehensive and affordable educational system and 
neither should the OLPC be compared with the total lack of alternatives.

First of all, it just happens that education is not about the 
apprehension of content, but about transforming information into 
knowledge. Or, in other words, *education is about empowerment*.

Quite often forgotten, there are two kinds of MOOCs: connectivist MOOCs 
(cMOOCs) and non-connectivist MOOCs (xMOOCs). While I find the former 
empowering, the latter I find them not: just an interesting but mere 
channel of content distribution. Unfortunately, cMOOCs are rarely dealt 
with and only xMOOCs are the ones being discussed. Like the article in 
question. Thus, comparing a non-empowering tool like xMOOCs to a 
supposedly empowering tool, like the OLPC, is a difficult exercise to do.

Education, empowerment, or development, on the other hand, do not happen 
in the void, but in a given context. A personal context. A personal 
starting point. And there is increasing evidence that one’s starting 
point will tell whether one will improve or /worsen/ one’s situation 
with a given tool, e.g. laptops or MOOCs. We call this the *knowledge 
gap hypothesis* 
and there are many examples on how public libraries, access to 
newspapers and information, or laptops in the classroom have a 
multiplier effect: if you’re in a good position, you’ll do better; if 
you’re in a bad position, you’re very likely to do worse. So, what is 
the position of these “non-users” that have now access to the OLPC 
device or to a (c)MOOC?

Last — and very related with the previous point —, development or 
empowerment is not only about the existence of individual resources and 
the possibility to use them, but the personal will or emancipative value 
to want to use them. Welzel, Inglehart & Klingemann called this the 
having the *objective and the subjective choice of development* 
(to which we have to add effective choice, of course).

Indeed, our last point summarizes the first point (access to MOOCs seen 
as objective choice) and the second one (the knowledge gap hypothesis as 
subjective choice).

And there are two common issues in our three points: context and the 
human factor. Context of the user, both the exogenous context (the 
socio-economic status, their community, etc.) and the endogenous context 
(level of education, mental and physical health, etc.), both of them 
determining what will happen with the objective choice. And the human 
factor as the facilitator or enabler, which will guide the objective 
choice through subjective choice into effective choice — again 
determined by the context provided by legal and cultural framework.

So, MOOCs can be compared to the OLPC in the sense that they both 
provide good tools to “non-users” of education, but I would refrain 
myself to say that they both, by themselves, provide rough 
/alternatives/ to the educational system. Not by themselves.

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