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A Blog for MOOCs and Other Animals

The Future of MOOCs Revealed !

with 3 comments

Behold, the cow of the future!

Will the MOOC take off?
(Image credit: thewamphyri, on Flickr)

I was telling my old pedagogical friend Dr Boss how I’d been scratching my head over a new post on the future of c and x MOOCs. “Scratch no more!”, he exclaimed pouring himself another drink – “It’s all here on this memory stick!” He insisted that he’d hacked through to his friend, Biffo from the future again and here was the transcript. It was from 2033 last time but now Biffo seems to have fast-forwarded to 2039! Well, I got nowhere with my own post so here’s the transcript for what it’s worth …. (Apologies for the abrupt ending – faulty memory stick I think.)

#dsg^%fg$8xxxxx**35 Sysop validate?????: 184597839055: 4th Sept: 2039 K: Boss for you Sir!
B: Eh? … Boss? Who are you? Why no video Kate? ……
DB: Biffo! We spoke before… Don’t you remember?
B: Well what y’know !! ….. You ol’ lag! ….. It’s been years!
K: No video Sir and I must inform you that …
B: Not now Kate.
DB: Um – well what have you been up to Biffo?
B: It’s been great! I’m a real educat now Boss – got a job with dUcation in their Agents’ department. Hush hush stuff so don’t ask me too much about it.
DB: Agents?
B: Yeah – I’d rather have gotten into Teachers cos I’d done some good stuff with vlizer electronics but the money’s good and Jane and me – we’ve 4 kiddos to support now!
DB: Teachers?

B: What’s up with you Boss? – oh no!! – just out again and not a clue? What did you do this time? – I don’t wanna know! – guess you need an education more than ever now!
DB: Look Biffo, I’ve NOT been in prison. I’m just not too familiar with what you mean by ‘Agents’ and ‘Teachers’ . What do these people do now?
B: No need to be coy Boss – ha! ha! they’re not people!! Y’know, a long time ago a ‘computer’ was a person who calculated stuff – well now, same idea for ‘Teacher’!
DB: That’s amazing – so robot teachers take classes in schools now!
B: Nothing you could call a school these days Boss – just the edu-support centres. As for robots, not if you mean the clunky SF type with their prime directives. Look Boss, you’ve been away far too long – would it help if I gave you a run down on what’s happened to education since – well when from?
DB: Yes please – let’s say from 2012.
B: OK – Kate?
K: Quoting from ‘Wikipaedia’ (2012): “Higher education is an educational level that follows the completion of a school providing a secondary education, such as a high school, secondary school, or gymnasium. Tertiary education is …..”
DB: BIFFO!! That’s no way to talk to a lady!
B: That’s no lady, that’s my Agent! ….. She gets carried away. Look, processing or data storage may not be much of a problem now but it’s still not so easy to emulate human cognition. I ought to try tweaking her a bit.
K: Sorry Sir!
DB: Um – so she’s just software then?
B: Yeah – more or less but with QC add-ons – and her front-end electronics were modified for the new vlizer …..
DB: Now you’re losing me – just tell me about education from 2012. I’m particularly interested to find out what happened to cMOOCs and xMOOCs ?
B: What? Hey Kate – we’re a bit lost here. Let’s have QUICK translations for all these words we don’t get.
K: Certainly Sir. QC is short for Quantum Computing. MOOC is a now obsolete acronym (2008) for ‘Massive Open Online Course’. A MOOC was a primitive type of Online Learning Event (OLE). Definition of cMOOC or xMOOC is problematical for reasons that cannot be discussed briefly.

B: OK – there’s all sorts of OLEs depending on who they’re for – kids, adults, introverts, extraverts, ex-prisoners – hey Boss!! …… or how long they go on for and whatever instruction style you like – there’s a fantastic spectrum of styles from just about none at all with the laid-back Canadian ones right on through to the 3Ns at the other extreme. I’ll tell him about all this Kate! Canadian style OLEs started the ball rolling way before my time – as a sort of cult with gurus and followers and so on! – wish I’d been there! – the very early records seem to have vanished. They’re great fun and tremendous for socialising. Anyone can join in or even start one up themselves and they cost hardly anything to run. You don’t need to do much – walk away if you want – nobody cares a hoot! They’re great for introducing masses of folks to stuff like history or politics when there’s plenty to spout about even if you learn less than RPI. All the same, the Canadians launched more than a few budding geniuses on their way to fame. They’re not so good for math and science – though I heard about one for kids that had them printing out and testing each others’ inventions! One of the mothers said, “Never ……
K: ‘RPI’ stands for ‘Removal of Pig Ignorance’: knowledge only of the very basics of a topic.

B: OK now, ‘3Ns’ stand for the ‘No Nonsense Nanny’ style – get your fingers rapped if you don’t follow instructions! Lotsa structure so they can be expensive to run. They started in cahoots with some of the classroom courses running in real colleges and universities. Employers had some funny ideas about recruiting people in those days but they were cosy with what the colleges did so if you paid your money and jumped through all the hoops you got a paper certificate that could help with a job. The nannys kept things strictly on the straight and narrow, employers were happy and the funds kept rolling in – for a while anyway! I guess the instructional styles of most accredited OLEs fall somewhere between the Canadian and 3N extremes now. You might have an OLE for a few thousand, on something like economics say, with a strong Canadian flavour and then up the human resources by drafting in scores of nannys to help with answering questions, marking essays and generally jolly things along to get some serious learning actually done! But then you probably have to reward the nannys somehow – somebody has to pay the piper! Hey! – that reminds me – the last PRP stuff I saw had a real knockout 3N-style module on ethics – maybe I could put you down for that?
K: ‘PRP’ stands for Prisoner Rehabilitation Program.

DB: Um … very interesting but tell me more about how Open Courseware came to be used.
B: I think I told you last time that scores of set piece lectures and other courseware was recorded early on by the old time professors and just dumped for anyone to play around with. And then all these companies, charities, philanthropists came along too and did just that, all doing their own thing – creating and dumping even more stuff!
DB: I see, so eventually only the best survived.
B: Noo! It ALL survived – that was the problem. You had all sorts of learning stuff in all different shapes and sizes – you name it: interactive quizzes, gameware, OLE’s tailored for 10s, 100s or 1000s in every conceivable language, media type, synchronous or not and every level right through from kindergarten to research – a real mess!
DB: Ah! – Information Overload!
B: You gottit Boss! Some was excellent, some indifferent and some truly awful including reams of half-finished stuff that was very good until you couldn’t find a middle or an end. Then there was the closed stuff for sale and the certification promise scams where you spend a fortune failing the AGIs with more than one college – and THEIR backs were so hard up against the wall they’d still happily take your money!
K: AGI means, ‘Assessment with Guaranteed Identity’
B: And then EduCop stepped in.
K: Educop is the Community of Practice for Education: a community of ……
B: He knows that Kate. And they really sorted out courseware curation.
DB: By deleting all the rubbish?
B: No Way! It’s still all there – the old educats argued a lot over this or that way of learning. Well, making decent courseware then was far more expensive than now and hard choices had to be made but even then recording and storing was cheap. They didn’t catch on so quick that once a chunk of courseware was done it was there for reuse or remixing for some purpose or other for EVER. So most of their investment paid off whatever screwed-up instructional styles they used – if only they could see what we’ve made of their stuff now! It’s still all there, either outside EduNet or properly indexed by EduCop so the Agents can really do their stuff.
DB: I see, myself I prefer the Decimal Dewey system for indexing. I’ve always found it superior to ……
K: Dewey Decimal System, was a proprietary library classification system created by Melvil Dewey in 1876.
B: Eh? Boss, indexing’s moved on since 1876! Metacontent’s one of our biggest departments – we work a lot with them. Suppose you’ve got a chunk of courseware – to make it easy for you, suppose it’s a video on Quadratic Equations with nothing more than a couple of optional Q and As and an open link to folks who use them for something.
K: Q and As means embedded Question and Answers with or without scoring, often with monitoring, sometimes with ……
B: OK Kate – keep it simple. Hey! Now, I remember last time we talked I was with QE! NO KATE! – he knows what that means!
DB: Yes indeed! Don’t you help with Quadratic Equations any more?
B: Nah! – didn’t have the time when I joined dUcation so Winnie took over – now she’s stuck with the new Teachers!
K: ‘Teachers’ are software packages that facilitate instructional processes. Examples are quizzes of all types, simulation with and without ……
B: OK, OK Kate – Yeah – tagging courseware with the simple stuff like ‘author’ or ‘creation date’ was never much of a problem but procurement Agents need a lot more metacontent depending on what their users want – or think they want!

DB: So search engines became much more sophisticated?
B: I’ve been reading about them! ‘Goggle’ was popular in the 10s before Agents or Mediators came along.
K: ‘Google’ is correct, Sir. ‘Mediators’ are software packages that attempt to match an Agent’s requirements with source metacontent.
B: So let’s say somebody needs to solve some quadratic equations without too much of a clue about what they are but with enough gumption to plug away at them without games or stories and so on like for a young kid. Now their Agent knows all about that and passes it onto the Mediator along with what’s worked out best for that learner in the past – got from Learner Analytics. The Mediator tries to square all this with the Metacontent – knowledge mining’s no mean feat! – by computing the minimum distance in a weighted Hilbert space between a vector quantised version of the…….
DB: Stop it Biffo! I can’t keep up with this! Let’s just say it tries to find best fit courseware for user requirements commensurate with their past learning experience?
K: Learner Analytics is a repository containing learner profiles and online data trails. Hilbert space is ……
B: Shush Kate! Hey that’s very good Boss! You could go places if only you turned over a new leaf! Yeah, that’s right – it TRIES and maybe gets matched to just the QE courseware chunk by itself since not much is being asked for but if it was, the mediator tries to carve out a personal learning path through even more courseware by looking at even more metacontent. That can get tricky without human cognition but mediators do a decent job these days. There’s been some hilarious mistakes! – but the idea is that the learner talks in their own way to EduNet through their own dashboard and vlizer, at their own pace and they can often deal with problems by themselves.

DB: So what learning theories are now prevalent?
B: Hey Boss, I’m not up with the neurology! That’s where the sharp end is. Some of us in Agents are pushing for big changes but it’s all very hush hush.
K: ‘Hush hush’ means he is not at liberty to talk about it.
B: That’s right Kate but I will say this.
K: Inconsistent Sir! You are not at liberty to ……
B: Hmm – the next generation of Agents can’t come out too fast for me!
DB: Artificial Intelligence in an advanced form I suppose?
B: Artificial!! You don’t know what’s going on in dUcation! Ethics is holding up things again and the politicians have the wrong end of the stick as usual ……. but yeah, learning theory? – only a few years ago there was little more than armchair philosophy – now you need to be right in there with MediCop even for the RPI, let alone grappling with nets that get too big for their boots – and as for Godagents!
K: MediCop is the Community of Practice for the medical profession. I already defined RPI.
DB: Godagents?
K: I’m not at liberty to define ‘Godagents’!
DB: Just as well Kate – you’ll never be the same again after the last time EduNet took off by itself – Heh!
K: I’m not at liberty …….

DB: I’m also curious about how learners can be prevented from cheating?
B: Good question Boss. Well it’s just about impossible to cheat on everything that goes into a learner’s portfolio and I think I told you last time that AGI was …. Now why do you want to know about cheating Boss ????
K: Sir! Jane says to get home at once and help her with the X cooking. X stands for an expletive that may not be appropriate in the context of the current conversation. It means ….
B: Wow! I clean forgot – got the in-laws for dinner !! Kate, tell Boss anything he wants to know – unless it’s about illegal stuff! Catch you sometime again Boss – and keep your nose clean!
K: Yes Sir.
DB: Well, thanks Biffo for such an interesting conversation. I hope we meet again – sometime.
K: Boss, you may ask me about anything you like except criminal activities.
DB: OK Kate, I’d like to know what a ‘vlizer’ is?
K:‘Vlizer’ is the common shortened form for ‘visualizer’. The first vlizers were small hand-held devices with simple touch-screens but had reliable speech recognition and synthesis for all 2-way communication thereby eliminating the need for real or virtual keyboards. The development of inexpensive holographic projection systems then led to the elimination of the physical screen itself and with advances in clothware the vlizer has now become effortless in use for nearly all networked functions. Clothware means ……
DB: Thank you Kate – that was very helpful and now, well – um …… who won the Grand National in 2011?
K: The starting price was 14/1 and Ballabriggs won by 2¼ lengths.
DB: Thank you so much! And – er …… in 2013?

Written by Gordon Lockhart

September 27, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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3 Responses

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  1. what great fun! can’t wait to scare the traditionalist doomsayers with this one (and share with others just for fun)


    September 27, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    • Thanks Vanessa – was partly motivated by a comment you made during Change11 re SF!


      September 27, 2012 at 9:13 pm

  2. […] The Future of MOOCs Revealed ! I was telling my old pedagogical friend Dr Boss how I’d been scratching my head over a new post on the future of c and x MOOCs. “Scratch … Share […]

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