MOOC Metacognition

Today I embarked on a new MOOC.

No big deal. I’ve registered for over 20 MOOC’s to date. But this one is different. Why? Because it is of the same species as my first MOOC. Same university. Same platform. Same subject. Same format. Same crowd.

Well, there are some differences… New instructor. New assignments. New cohort. But the parallelism is stark, and the number of people from my first MOOC who have collectively, or individually, decided to register for this new MOOC, is quite spellbinding. The new MOOC launched today, but the buzz in the G+ discussion threads have been going strong for a few days now.

In the past 6-7 months, there has been a steady staple of discussions in G+ which revolve around the observation, analysis, evaluation and reimagination of MOOCs. I use the term “re-imagine”, rather than “re-design”, as most of the discussion participants involved do not have access to actual deployment of MOOCs, although almost all are established educators in their various disciplines, many of whom are online instructors and believers of “OOCs”, albeit the “non-massive” kind.

I too have been part of this circle of steady MOOCies, active in my newly established online presence, diligently contributing to G+ discussions, as well as to my own blog site. My learning curve the past 6 months, IMHO, has been steeper than what I had experienced during my virgin MOOC the year before, and the enlightenment that I perceived to have gained during that virgin MOOC, was in comparison, by far, more illuminating than the education that I obtained during my Ivy League college years.

In simple English, the progression of “learning” that I have experienced, through my recent informal online escapades, is surprisingly superior to any of my past formal experiences, and that this “progression” seems to continue in an upward trajectory in terms of perceptive satisfaction on a daily basis.

I just re-read the paragraph above. That was not “simple English”. So, let me try one more time… In simple English, I am learning more now, through chatting online with people whom I’ve never met, than I ever have, in my whole life.

Strange? Yes? …well, maybe not.

If the concept called “strange” is defined as a manifestation of “uniqueness”, then, my observations are not “strange”. I have read so many testimonials in G+ regarding the “amazing learning” that takes place daily through these informal peer-to-peer dialogs, that it is hard to deny the ubiquity of this claim.

What I find even more interesting, is the fact that I am not alone in my observations. It turns out that there are many others who also share positive opinions about their online enlightenment. And we all signed up for this same new MOOC, because we all are curious at what it might offer us in comparison to the earlier MOOC…

I am currently working on the first assignment in this new MOOC. Participants are required to fill out a Qualtrics survey form (part 1), and then, post a refection through the MOOC assignment tool (part 2). I am using this blog as my part 2 assignment. I am also concluding this blog by copy pasting what I had submitted in part 1. The assignment asked us to reflect on our current state of mind as we begin our journey in this MOOC. I decided to be wholly-sincerely-honest. Now, after having clicked SUBMIT, I wonder what the MOOC instructor and instructional designers will say when they read my answers?

This is what I submitted:

Question: What aspects of this online course are you currently looking forward to or excited about?

Answer:

  • (1) I am interested in seeing how this course compares to the previous Stanford MOOC that I took through VLab.
  • (2) I am curious to see the improvements that Vlab / NovoEd has developed on their platform since last year.
  • (3) I am eager to see how the “individual assignments + team advising” method works better/worse than the “team projects” method (which was deployed during the previous MOOC that I took in VLab).
  • (4) I am excited to experiment in the effectiveness of open G+ discussions “outside” of the MOOC platform (which I did not do during the previous MOOC that I took in VLab).
  • (5) I am looking forward to working with some of my previous classmates from the former MOOC that I took in VLab (as many of us decided to sign up together for the same reasons as (1)-(4) above.
  • (6) I am also happy to meet new people from all over the world who have similar interests (to add to the cohort of online collaborators whom I developed from the last MOOC that I took in VLab).

Question: What reservations or concerns do you have about taking this online course?

Answer:

  • (1) I am skeptical that the peer grading calibration tool will work effectively for the assignments that require peer reviews (as that tool malfunctioned in the previous MOOC that I took in VLab).
  • (2) I am hoping that the VLab rubrics design has improved since last year and is structured sufficiently to be able to scaffold novice learners who are doing peer reviews for the first time (this is important to ensure a “fair” playing field when expecting peer-to-peer evaluations from both novice and expert level “students” in the same cohort).
  • (3) I am hopeful that the instructors for this MOOC will hold live video conferencing Q&A sessions during the course of this MOOC to gain formative feedback from participants for the purposes of ongoing progressive design development of this MOOC (as some other MOOCs by other universities have done, such as UK Open University which held G+ Hangout On Air sessions every 2-3 weeks, plus a post mortem open feedback session at the end of the course, in which student representatives were invited to speak)

Question: Can you suggest any success criteria that would help us determine how useful this online course has been for you and/or to others?

Answer:

  • In addition to just collecting quantitative data on student “completion rates”, the instructors, instructional designers, and platform providers for this course should invite the “experienced” participants in this course to engage in a two-way open dialog on the design of this course, with the instructors, instructional designers, and platform providers for this course.
  • FYI, there are a large number of us who are from DNLE, who are ourselves academic and professional educators, instructional designers, and online course providers, who have collectively and/or individually decided  to invest our time in taking this Design Thinking MOOC, in order to do a “grassroots-crowdsourcing” comparative research study on MOOC course design, for the purposes of studying, experiencing, and documenting (ie. “action-research on MOOC Metacognition“). Incidentally, these “research” efforts are not sanctioned by the MOOC providers. These are independent efforts. To quote one of the active participants, “Anyone with intelligence, inclination and the skills to follow their curiosity and investigate their interests is a researcher”….

NOTE: This blog sparked subsequent dialog in G+. Link to post.

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Connectivist Learning – Searching Yourself

I have “experimented on myself” all my life, and I have been consciously documenting my actions, for over 20 years now…

Now, before this blog goes south on wild misinterpretations, let me explain. It has always been my personal passion to conduct self-immersion action-research. My first encounter in immersion-self-experimentation was probably at the age of 4, or somewhere around that. I remember clearly, my father – an engineer, professor, researcher, experimenter, and joker – had asked me to read aloud from a children’s nursery book.

New Picture (3)

While reading, he asked me to stand straight, and periodically adjust the focus of my eyes to the edge of the book and beyond, so that I could simultaneously focus on him, as he sat at the opposite side of the table. My father would then pick up a flash card that was sitting on the table, and show it to me, as I was reading the children’s nursery book.

These were math flash cards, the kind which had a formula on one side in red, and the answer on the other side in blue. The objective of this “game” was to have me read the poems in the children’s nursery book, while simultaneously answering math questions. My father was experimenting on me – seeing if he could train me to multitask with both my artistic right brain (poetry and language), as well as my scientific left brain (math and logic).

Now remember, I was only about 4 years old at the time. At that age, I didn’t think about what was asked of me. I just did whatever my father told me to do. So, in response, I would (in one single breath), verbalize something in the lines of the following:

“I saw a ship a sailing…. 2+2=4… a sailing on the sea… 1+3= is also 4…. And, oh! it was all laden… 5+3=8… With pretty things for thee!”

To me, all this was just a “game”.

To my father, the “game” was an experiment.

Later as I grew up, through the years, my father continued to “train” me in a variety of other cognitive methods. At the time, I had no clue about “cognition” or “training” or “learning” or anything. It was just all in a days work – a first born child’s active relationship with an intellectual parent.The realization that these activities were in fact “experiments” on cognition development, only came much, much later in life, when I had become a parent myself, and after having had returned to grad school to pursue a change in career. I had practiced as a professional architect for 15 years, while dabbling part time as an adjunct faculty for 5 years, when I finally took the plunge, to shift focus and change religions from industry practice, to full time academia. My choice of major was Instructional Design and Technology. From there, I learned all about cognition, pedagogy, action-research, and a whole lot more – much of which I had already “experienced” live, hands-on, through my father’s “experiments”.

FYI, no, the career change was not due to any failure in the field of architecture. In fact, I was doing quite well in the industry at the time. The fact of the matter was, I was, and still am, innately and incessantly, entrenched in “immersion-self-experiments” a.k.a. “immersion action research”.

I do what I do, not because I have to, but because I have to…

My father has since passed away, but the lessons learned have stayed crystal clear in my memory. The most sharp and apparent realization from all these memories, is that all these “learning activities” were executed as “experiments”. I am now into my second half of my 40’s and my own first born child is entering young adulthood. I too, through the years, have “trained” my two children via “experiments”, and I also continued to “teach-myself” using my father’s methods. I know first hand, from the hard earned cognitive callouses in my long term memory schemata, that self-immersion is indeed a powerful and effective method for learning.

I have written about, and through, this method in various posts in G+ and here in this blog website. Topics range from “Discovery Learning”, to “Binge Learning”, to “Mobile Learning”, “Connectivist Learning”, “Metacognitive Learning”, and a variety of other eclectic “learning” topics. My writing style is purposely informal, as I write primarily to document my own observations. However, my intent is also to communicate to others like me – people who are not involved in “formal” higher education research circles, but who, in their own personal lives, practice the  fundamental raw essence of “action-research”, which is to experience, observe, analyze, synthesize and then reiterate with intervention for the purposes of improvement.

And thus, my blog today is to share a technology tool that I recently just learned – the Google search-command that allows you to search for your own comments in any G+ post, including posts that are not your own. I use this method to search, revisit, reflect on, and analyze my own learning online (metacognition).

Link to post by Ronnie Bincer: How to Easily Find Your Google+ Comments.

Link to my G+ post re-sharing Ronnie Bincer’s original post.

Search-command to find my G+ presence in other people’s posts: “roz hussin” -inurl:117219403239374562288

Link to relevant article on how Google Search focuses on aggregating information about people rather than just keywords. This resonates with my research hypothesis, that the value of online learning is not in the information content per se, but in the Connectivist Culture that exists in this environment.

Ripples

I remember seeing this tool a few months back, but at the time, it never dawned upon me to take notice of it. I didn’t understand the significance because I did not yet fully understand Connectivism (Cormier, 2005), Serendipity (Ito, 2012), and “complex AI Algorithms” (Koller, 2013). Today, it finally dawned upon me, and so I took the trouble to check out the “Ripples” of two G+ posts that I had analyzed in a previous blog.

The diagrammatic Ripples depictions in G+ are quite interesting (note: click on the individual graphs below to access the respective interactive Venn Diagrams)

I find this interesting because the Ripples diagram for Michael’s post is much more complex than Ripples diagram for Demian’s post, even though Demian’s post has (at the time of this blog) 226 comments, and Michael’s only has 138 comments.

This shows that the Ripples tool is ineffective in depicting actual human interaction. Google admits this, by having a disclaimer in red text on their About Google+ Ripples webpage:

While Ripples displays a lot of cool information, you’re not actually seeing all the action that’s taken place.

Around the same time as the two referred posts, Demian started another G+ post which discussed the phenomena of massive posts and the significance of such discussions. Many other discussions ensued in G+ surrounding this topic, so much so that it prompted me to write a blog on Rhizomatic Learning. Subsequently, I continued to research, explore, and snoop around a bit in a variety of websites, and discovered that, at the current time, there really is no tool that can effectively quantify actual human interactions in any online open discussion threadswell, at least, none that are accessible to the public. This triggered me to think about a few current issues:

The cMOOC debates – Academics, administrators, and platform providers are currently in heated debate about the issue of MOOC assessments, quality of learning, lack of human interaction, and validity of platform tracking. The fact that Connectivist MOOCs rely on discussions inside and outside of MOOC platforms (for example in G+), reinforces this debate. IMHO, the limitations of this G+ Ripples tool, and the lack of other public accessible tools, simply adds more fuel to this debate.

The LMS handicap – Education institutions utilize both proprietary and open source Learning Management Systems (LMS) to deliver instruction. One of the more common popular tools in any LMS is the capacity to host discussions online, through Discussion Boards (DB’s), Wikis, Journals, and Blogs. My institution uses Blackboard (BB). Despite the latest updates and improvements, I still find the available analytics tools in BB quite primitive, as BB only provides word counts for main posts, but not for comment boxes -ie. exactly the same limitation as what G+ Ripples has!

The NSA controversy – In contrast to the demand for tracking in education for the purposes of assessing learning, it seems that we humans actually do not like being tracked. The current controversy is a hot topic in the media, where personal privacy is confirmed to be a thing of the past. Big bro is watching, and so are social networking sites such as G+ and FB.

However, now that we know G+’s Ripples does NOT actually measure “real” interaction, my question would be – is that a good thing? or a bad thing??

Rhizomatic Learning

When David Cormier first published Rhizomatic education: Community as curriculum“, in Innovate (2008), in which he used the Rhizome as an analogy to describe Connectivist culture (Siemens and Downes, 2008), not many academics paid attention. It was only after Sebastian Thrun’s legendary Introduction to Artificial Intelligence which spawned over 160,000 online learners, and after the NY Times labeled 2012 as The Year of the MOOC , when the humble root analogy truly came into vogue. I have a personal interest in this Rhizome analogy, as I had myself adopted parallelisms from the plant world / natural sciences field into my own past research:

Osmosis– “When immersed in a saturated context, absorption naturally occurs”. (Detrochet, 1847)

“Osmosis Learning”“When immersed in a context which is saturated with learning opportunities, learners instinctively ‘absorb’ to equalize their level of ‘lacking knowledge’ to that of a ‘higher knowledge’.” (Hussin, 2004).

Fast forward to present day (2013) , in one of the (many) G+ discussions that I rhizomatically engage in on a daily basis, the topic of Rhizomes, Rhizomatic Learning, and the analogy of Rhizomes spontaneously cropped up a few days ago, and started to develop in multiple directions (hence, living up to the concept in itself). I find this epitomization quite fascinating. And since I am a Visual Learner (in addition to being a Rhizomatic Learner), I thought I would post a pictorial blog on this topic:

Simple diagram of the most commonly known Rhizome – the ubiquitous plant called “grass” – showing the omnidirectional and “node” nature of growth:

Amazing series of computer generated images depicting the growth of Rhizomes:





Link to original source of the above – Rhizome: a clonal growth simulator (September 05, 2006)

Link to my earlier blog on the same topic – Rhizomatic Learning (March 31, 2013)

Link to my original blog that spawned this blog – HIP HeLPers REALLy CONNECT (June 30, 2013) – and to my earlier G+ post that triggered the discussion beforehand

Links to a few other G+ discussions and blog posts that are relevant to this topic: