Home » Uncategorized » The sense of self, how a MOOC can make or undermine you

The sense of self, how a MOOC can make or undermine you

Christoph Hewett

Christoph Hewett

I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattling around my head for a few days.

A quick apology

I’ve been thinking about technovice’s and how they might be coping. About MOOC completion rates and complaints of being lost. In thi spost, I want to talk about problems, and solutions, and pick out some people and practices for praise. It’s complicated, difficult, and layered. For that I apologise in advance. But I think the content may speak to some of the things that are at the heart of the educational experience.

#etmooc ideals

Etmooc a noble, idealistic and hugely positive attempt to connect educators with ideas, and create the skills necessary to network intelligently and generously in an envioronment in which this generosity is the currency of knowledge.

But here’s the catch…

Here's the catch mindmap

Christoph’s tweet captured an idea for me, like a raindrop on a leaf can capture and invert entire world when viewed from exactly the right angle.

Learner centred learning and what we already know.

Learner centred learning takes account of, and speaks to the differeing needs, requirements, and contexts of the students we engage with.

For the moment, I want to look at Prior Knowledge as a part of this individualisation. The variation in knowledge about the content and technology in #etmooc is huge. It’s also a regular complaint, query, and cry for help. It’s also a key, and highly individual characteristic which has a massive impact on learning. Student./learner centred experiences take prior knowledge into account, sometimes as, after motivation, the most important aspect of the learning experience. It’s just one of the characteristics and aspects that we need to taske into account when we are teaching students, but it’s speaks very strongly to student centredness. No matter what our pedagogy, constructivist, instructionist, transmission teachu=ing, unguided discovery learning, hardcore Bahaviourist, Cognitivist, constructionist, we take care with what is learned. We don’t go from multiplication straight to Einstein’s field equations, or from thew ABC to Finnegan’s Wake.

Prior Knowledge

Prior knowledge here is both of the content of the MOOC, and of the methods of connection and delivery. It’s considered by both Cognitivists, and by Constructivists (and Behaviourists, though more implicitly perhaps), to be a key point of learning. It also varies from person to person, and has a massive bearing on the educational experience we need to provide for them. Prior knowledge is considered to have a greater impact than teacher skill, in knowledge acquisition. It is one of the most important facets and determiners of learning.

  • Having a low Prior Knoweldge makes learning more difficult, and demanding.
  •  Less can be remembered, and more needs to be explained.
  • Cognitive Load  (the amount of mental effort required) increases as prior knoeledge decreases.
  • As Cognitive Load increases, the amount of new information we can commit to long term memory decreases.
  • Low Prior Knowledge lowers self efficacy (I’ll get to this later
  • Lack of Prior Knowledge may indicate that the learner has not developed efficient learning strategies.
  • Low Prior knowledge means the student may not benefit from knowledge efficiencies. If I know how to cook an egg, making an omelette is an easy next step. Less so if I have never coooked before.
  • Low Prior knowledge means the student has less existing knowledge with which to merge new knowledge, a hugely determining cognitive characteristic.

Experts and novices (in general – there are of course other characteristics that need to be taken into account) need different learning experiences. Novices tend to benefit from more structuire, access to expertise and feedback, and guided paths thrugh learnin, experts tend to benefit from less structure, less guidance, and more freedom in their learning paths, and networking.

Leanrers with different Prior Knowledges need different leanring environments.

The complaints, calls for help, and senses of drowning are coming from Learners with low Prior Learning.

Albert Bandura and the sense of a capable self.

This is Albert Bandura.

Bandura Portrait

He came up with several good ideas. Observational Learning  and Social Learning are well known. Self Efficacy is the one he’s most remembered for, and what he considered most important in maintaining motivation, persistence, and deploying mental effort in learning.

MOOC’s and self efficacy.

In a MOOC, self efficacy is a mixture of confidence in yourself, and faith in the programme. Self efficacy is, simply put, your confidence in your own ability, and capacity to succeed at a task, as well as belief that the task is achieveable due to the contexts, tools, constraints and the overall situation. A high self efficacy is a sense of being a capable person, in charge of their own environment and future, withy the tools and ability to be equal to shaping both.

You can have high self confidence, perhaps becasue you have a history of learning well, but low self-efficacy because the task at hand is under resourced, or has impossible scheduling. But they are related.

How self efficacy shapes your world.

Self efficacy is a belief in your capacity and ability to shape your own world and experienec through your own capacity and effort, but also as a function of the tools and the context you are given to learn in.

Student’s with high self efficacy persist, work harder, achieve more, so long as the work is achievable, and conceive of themselves as more capable, powerful and confident, an prosecute further tasks with more and higher self-efficacy.

Student’s with low self-efficacy give u sooner, achieve less, and work less hard, and may, over extended period of self-efficacy, conceive of themselves with less confidence, ability, and power.

In self-efficacy theory, our concept of ourselves as people capable of wielding power, shaping our lives, organising and effecting change and achievement, is key to how we operate in the world.

Part of self-efficacy is knowing what the student needs to achieve, succedd and thrive. And a huge part of that is knowing, and working to, their Prior Knowledge. An educator who makes demands of a student that far outstrip their Prior Knowledge, and doesn;t provide the support, learning path, and tailored teaching that that journey requires is lowering a student’s self-efficacy. Each unachievable task is one ratchet lower.

Quoting Albert

“Successful efficacy builders ….In addition to raising people’s beliefs in their capabilities, they structure situations for them in ways that bring success and avoid placing people in situations prematurely where they are likely to fail often.”

To structure a situation in such a way that maximises opportunities for success, and minimises the likelihood for failure, you ned to know, and adjust for (amongst other things), your student’s Prior Knowledge.

Self-Efficacy is something a cMOOC is all about. It requires it, and it’s aim is to enhance it. But too achieve this, it has to be learner centred, and it has to take account of prior knowledge.

There are several ways to engage meaningfully with issues to do with Prior Knowledge and with self efficacy.

Here’s one suggestion, from Bandura.

Cheerlead people’s ability.

“People who are persuaded verbally that they possess the capabilities to master given activities are likely to mobilize greater effort and sustain it than if they harbor self-doubts and dwell on personal deficiencies when problems arise.”

This is something that Alec, the moderators, and the community are really, really good at. You can temporarily enhance someone’s sense of self-efficacy by cheerleading their ability and capabilities.. You can do it. Good work. This is within your ability. You’ve done things before that are as hard as this before.

That said, this is a patch, and it will only take if the person then succeeds. If they continue to find it difficult, they may begin to lose belief. If they find things impossible, they will.

Gauge, and adapt to prior knowledge.

So, here, you are looking at what someone knows, what they find difficult, and how, and you are tailoring instruction. Alec tweeted that they hoped the mentoring system would grow organically. This is an attempt to provide a safety net for people who need instructionist style learning. Novices. If someone is drowning, an expert is the best person to throw them a lifelinbe. Mentoring is a good start. But here’s some other suggestions.

  • Lower the cognitive load for novices. It makes things seem possible, makes their learning , more efficient, and increases their sense of achievability.
  • Take a leaf from the xMOOC book. Post actual instruction videos. Post and setup linear, guided learning paths for thos who need them. Add in resources for students to self test their own progress. Jargon a problem? Post a jargon busting resource, with a test of some sort afterwards, and give good feedback. Need to get people au fait with Google + (how many people wuit the mooc because of a deluge of notification,s or failing to find info, or not using the channels to publicise posts properly). Set up a series of resources that target likely problems. Set up a series of tasks for the student to achieve which validate their learning. Chunk your teaching, and make it structured. Experts may value freedom, but novices need specificity.
  • Take a leaf from the task based/problem based MOOC book. Have your learning paths, and then provided tasks to validate and extend learning. If you have a mentor network, they can give feedback, and if not, design your tasks and instruction well so that success is self evident.
  • Specify, in advance, and clearly, what the minimum specs of the course are, This would include things like the amount of hours per week, the broadband and computer requirements, but also the minimum knowledge. During this process, proviode access to your designed resources. Do this in advance. The ICARE module
  • Provide suggested learning paths, in advance, for people who need them, to be ignored by those who don’t. Make this explicit.
  • Stress the utility of what’s being learned. Learning X will enable you to do Y.
  • Respond to the difficulties of your user base with flexibility and speed. The #etmooc team have been good here.

The ICARE answer.

I’d suggest designing the extra supports for novices with the ICARE model in mind

But that’s another post.

Making or undermining your user.

#etmooc needs to know it’s users. It needs to be aware of the differentiation of it’s learners. It needs to support those who need support, and set free those who need to be set free. It needs to be student centred.

Wisdom may be in the crowd, but education is a function of the individual. And ignoring that risks undermining our sense of ourselves as capable people. When we reach out to teach we take on board the responsibility that it entails, we ask people to risk something of themselves on faith that we will respect their leap, that we will take care with it, facilitate it, and ask of them what is reasonable to achieve, with the tools and conbtexts we provide.

A MOOC like this can make you. It can give you confidence, belief, ability, utility, and new power to share and shape your world. It can introduce you to a new and virtual world of efficacy. There is no reason for this not to be the case. But failing to provide the space your learners need to achieve is to fail those learners who need you most to succeed.

There’s a lot more waiting to be said here, but, well, it’s  a start.

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43 Comments

  1. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  2. Reblogged this on #etmooc and me and commented:
    After discussing the tweet with @chrstophHewett and @wilthatman in the #etmchat last night – I have been thinking about it all day. this post articulates much better than I ever could some of the thoughts that have been running through my mind. Thank you! This quote: “failing to provide the space your learners need to achieve is to fail those learners who need you most to succeed”…. will be posted in my office tomorrow.

    • wiltwhatman says:

      Thanks Valerie,

      the tweetchat conversation was key for this post.

      That said, I think I only caught a part of what we were talking about… there’s a lot more in Christophe’s comment to think about and unpick.

  3. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  4. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl… (RT @ActivateLearn: MT>Self efficacy and MOOCs, good read!  [...]

  5. [...] Jan: ‘The sense of self, how a MOOC can make or undermine you’ by wiltwhatman I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the [...]

  6. Great reflections! As a historically self-initiated, goal-oriented learner, I have been able to stay afloat in #etmooc but your post has helped me to pause and consider the experience from the novice viewpoint. I can only imagine how foreign and overwhelming it might feel if a participant is new to ed tech, web 2.0 tools, collaborating through social networks and many other ideas that are being called into practice in this MOOC. I wonder if one MOOC can really contain enough paths to meet every learner or if there needs to be progressions of a single MOOC offered for varied levels (e.g., #etmooc 1.0, #etmooc 2.0)? I’m sure even leveled, they would still included numerous paths and people who feel lost/overwhelmed but maybe it would be more manageable and there would be clearer expectations for new participants about what they were getting into depending on the level they joined?

  7. wiltwhatman says:

    Hi Margaret,

    and thanks for the comment.

    I think your ideas, and points, especially about the limitations of one MOOC to cater for all, are interesting, and need thinking about. It’s interesting for me hearing a perspective that comes from a place of digital comfort and expertise

    I hope (but I don’t know) that you could prepare most tech challenged students for the MOOC and 2.0 experience to a large degree, if they have the resources to personalise learning sufficiently, and enough advance work. I think the possibiloity of bringing someone from relative, though not complete, tech illiteracy to a position where they are contributing and benefitting from a digital community could be a powerful journey to facilitate.

    The suggestions I made are resource consuming. It takes time (even if you follow the working professional’s ID guide of linking and embedding where you can to lower the amount of material you need to create), person hours, effort and expertise to create the learning paths, and the materials, tasks, and evaluation loops (even if they are automated and require no human intervention) as well as planning, and a whole design cycle.

    #etmooc is run by volunteers, competent, passionate, dedicated, resource generous, and inspiring educator volunteers – something I need to recognise, and speak to more than I have – and if a project that we think needs doing requires resources is in a voluntary context, then we need to be prepared to become that resource.

    A split level MOOC is interesting too. Maybe a skills based, and a practice based, where you can graduate, as it were, from one to the other…

    I don’t yet have the expertise to implement and design in the way I’m suggesting, but I’m beginning to think I need to work towards stepping up to the plate in some form.

    Thanks again for taking the time to read, think and reply. It’s given me food for thought.

  8. Jodie R says:

    Thanks for your post. It is particularly relevant to me at this time as I have been working on some course design in Moodle in our district. You have articulated so well all the parts that I want to have in place to create a course that provides all of the resources you discuss. Mostly this is off the side of my desk and you are so right that this type of design is very time consuming. I have been searching for a Moodle course out there that is an example of what you speak but haven’t come across anything close.

    • wiltwhatman says:

      Hi Jodie,

      it is very time consuming. I did a little course design (a project teaching teachers to use Google Hangout) and we decided to implement the ideas I talked about for technovices.

      It was a heck of a lot of work.

      Are you looking for a course to introduce you to Moodle? Or a course in Moodle that demonstrates the ideas /strategies you want to implement?

      For my own part, I’m looking to install Moodle at home and play around with it. I’ve never used it, and there’s an interesting internship coming up, so if you have any Moodle intro resources, please feel free to share them.

      • Jodie Reeder says:

        I am quite familiar with Moodle and have done some what I guess you would call upgrading of existing courses. I currently have students in 8 different courses + paper versions and work part-time so I usually on get to really work on them in the summer. What I’m looking for is an existing Moodle course that incorporates many aspects of what we have been discussing. The holy grail of online learning. I am self-taught really and the best way to learn about Moodle is to first join a course and be a student. In B.C. we have some great courses available to anyone. I think you can see past ones here: http://ceet.ca/events.html. Let me know if and when you need specific resources or help.

      • wiltwhatman says:

        Thanks Jodie,

        I’ll have a look at the past examples. Have you read any of Clark and Mayer’s work on Instructional Design?

  9. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  10. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  11. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  12. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  13. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  14. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  15. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  16. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  17. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  18. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  19. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  20. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  21. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  22. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  23. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  24. [...] Brennan wrote a nice post on this issue, replying to Christoph’s tweet, called The sense of self, how a MOOC can make or undermine you. Christoph’s tweet, and Keith’s reply, have got me thinking. Here are some results of [...]

  25. Hi Keith:

    Just wrote a blog post in which I responded to some of what you say here…curious what you think!

    http://blogs.ubc.ca/chendricks/2013/01/27/etmooc-are-moocs-learner-centred/

  26. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  27. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  28. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  29. [...] I’ve been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett’s tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattl…  [...]

  30. [...] sketch challenges to learner’s experiences, and learning in connectivist environments – an idea, and experience in #etmooc that exercised me, and, I felt, might have had a significant impact on participation and [...]

  31. […] The sense of self, how a MOOC can make or undermine you […]

  32. […] sketch challenges to learner’s experiences, and learning in connectivist environments – an idea, and experience in #etmooc that exercised me, and, I felt, might have had a significant impact on participation and […]

  33. […] Alec’s response to post criting the MOOC from a novices persepective, The Sense of self, how a MOOC can make or undermine you (and by criticism I mean reflection, and constructive […]

  34. […] I've been blogging about the difficulties of Connectivist MOOCing, and about the pluses, and Christoph Hewett's tweet helped synthesise a clatter of complex thoughts that had been rattling around m…  […]

  35. […] I really want to think about, the topics and trends I think are really important. #moocie began as a blog post, that became an article, and then something that consumed a large part of my life. Something I love […]

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