Using Visualization to Understand Transformations in Learning and Design in MOOCs

Using Visualization to Understand Transformations in Learning and Design in MOOCs

Roy Williams (University of Portsmouth, UK), Jenny Mackness (Independent Education Consultant, UK) and Jutta Pauschenwein (FH Joanneum, Austria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8279-5.ch009
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MOOCs have captured the attention of large numbers of learners (and a few venture capitalists). Clearly something exciting and different is happening which is transforming how people learn, what people learn, as well as how learning events are designed and valued. This chapter attempts to understand these transformations, using a visualization tool (Footprints of Emergence) which enables learners, teachers, designers and researchers to reflect on, articulate, and learn from these reflections. The tool enables all of them to map the emergent and transformational aspects of learning in large groups, such as MOOCs. It requires the person engaging with the learning process to be honest and courageous – because they are engaging not only with their learning, but also with themselves and their own identities – personal, social, cultural and professional. Epistemic and ontological shifts in transformative learning are difficult, even scary and unsettling. We demonstrate how the Footprints of Emergence described here can help people to navigate through the uncertainty and unpredictability with some degree of reassurance.
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MOOCs started off in CCK08 (Connectivism and Connective Knowledge, 2008) as a paradox: a ‘radically open course’ in higher education, open to anyone with an internet connection. This was designed and delivered by Stephen Downes, with George Siemens, through the University of Manitoba. It was open, way beyond current practices in Open Learning, although the rapid growth of social media had already established the groundwork, as they offered exciting, fast-changing, new affordances for communication, interaction and learning (Mackness, Mak & Williams, 2010; Mak, Williams & Mackness, 2010; Kop, 2011), and it gave rise to a new framework for learning, connectivism. “Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual” (Siemens, 2004).

Transformations and emergence (see below) have always been key to learning, in terms of the transformations of knowledge and personal development, individual identity, and membership and participation in a professional community (Wenger, 1998). In a recent paper by Waite, Mackness, Roberts & Lovegrove (2013), the authors provide evidence of learners experiencing transformative shifts, but note that these require quite specific ‘reflection on practice, community support and self-organization’ – i.e. they require quite a bit of work on the part of all the various people involved in the learning event.

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