Sustainability and MOOCs in Historical Perspective

Stephen Downes: Thank you everyone. Buenos Dias. It's a genuine pleasure to be able to be back in Bogotá, back in Colombia, and to be able to speak with you today. I have good memories of my time in Colombia, and I'm adding to those memories with this trip.

Today I want to take you through a bit of a historical journey. We're going to talk about the factors that led to the development of the Massive Open Online Course and Connectivism and the new phenomena in learning today. But, a few preliminaries before I start the talk, because it's all about open education. :)

This presentation is available now at that website. The slides are already posted on the website so you can download them at any time. They're pretty close to what I have here. I was making some last minute changes during the introductions.

There will be audio recording as well on this site. And I know that they are recording video back there but I always like to do things myself as well. So I'm recording video off of my own computer and I'm just using Google Hangout so it's free.

And because I can, I'm broadcasting this talk, using a YouTube live video stream, to people around the world. I have no idea how many people are watching this, probably not that many, maybe none. But the idea is that it's possible.

Online learning begins in the 1980s, it begins in the 1990s and it's born out of two major things. And like the strands of DNA we will see these things repeated through the history of online learning. The first basis is in distance learning. Distance learning is the idea of learning that takes place outside the classroom at any time, at any place. Distance learning therefore required the creation and distribution of learning content, of course packages that would support independent study.
The other basis for online learning is the traditional classroom, learning that we all grew up with, where there is a class, a cohort of students, who go through a body of content or a curriculum, who interact with each other when they conduct activities and conduct projects.

We see the two major sides here. We see the content side, and we see the interactivity side. And there are two major pedagogies of online learning when they're born out of these two bases.

There is a transmission model of learning that is born in more transactional distance learning, distance education. It has its origins in communications theory, and it's about the integrity of the message being sent from the professor to the learner and being able to be sure that what was received by the learner was the same message that was sent by the professor.

We also have a more recent theory, constructivism, which has so many varieties I cannot count and won't try, but it's based essentially on the idea of social interaction, negotiation of meeting, finding a common ground, and a model of learning where learners construct their own model. So the content models of distance education with the course packages and the content would follow the transmission models, and the class-based interactive models, which follow the constructivist model.

In the mid-1990s, people began to develop learning management systems. I'm sure you're all familiar with learning management systems.

It's a basis in technology that we all understand and we're all more or less comfortable with. Companies like Blackboard and WebCT and Desire2Learn started companies, commercial enterprises, based on the idea of managing online learning.

They had these two different models. They had the model of the course packages, and they had the model of the classes. WebCT in English stands for "Web Course Tools." It was intended to be a set of tools that a classroom instructor would use, but it was adapted to distance learning.

In addition to this commercial stream, we had the open-source stream and, most especially, learning management systems called Moodle, which I'm sure you may be familiar with, and Sakai, which is less common, but was created by a consortium of American universities.

So we had two models for learning management systems. One model where the company, and Blackboard began this way, would post all of the technology on their site, and you would buy the service from them.

Or the other model, where you would obtain the software and install it and complete the work yourself and host it on your own website. You see what's happening here, underlining these already, we're beginning to get the basic building blocks of technology and pedagogy in models of online learning.

For the rest of this stuff, you'll see more and more of these building blocks being added and interconnected. As my wife likes to say, "It's all a great tapestry."

Early online learning featured conferencing and this, of course, would be the interactivity type of online learning. I remember in the 1990s taking a massive Internet course "Welcome to the Internet" and it was delivered by email. I would sign up for it. It was based on a mailing list. Thousands upon thousands of people would receive emails every few days introducing them to a new aspect of the Internet. It was my first experience with massive online learning.

There were also conferencing systems, early conferencing systems. Early discussion board systems. People would log on and leave messages. Simple to be able to use that technology. We began to see systems like FirstClass developed specifically for online learning. Here are technologies that may not be familiar with you because they're so old. They disappeared almost a decade ago but they were important elements in the development of the Internet we have today.

Of course, we had instant messaging. I remember using ICQ. In English, it stands for "I seek you." ICQ. Get it? Very clever. That was copied by AOL instant messaging and Microsoft messenger. My ICQ number was 1287181. It was one of the earliest. I was so proud of it, a low ICQ number, and then the company went away.

At the time, things began to be more formalized and an idea came out, partially out of the United States, partially out of Canada, mostly out of the military and the aviation industry, to create something called learning objects. The idea of a learning object was to patent some educational content, digital content, in a standardized way. There was something called LOM, Learning Object Metadata, that was used to describe these objects.

The intent here was to create a system whereby educational resources would be discoverable, sharable, and interoperable, where we could have a common pool of learning resources that these technologies could draw upon. This is a very significant development and people today say learning objects were a waste, but they were not a waste because they established the fundamental principles of educational objects, educational resources, and the sharing and distribution of these resources.

Then the IMS, the Instructional Management System consortium, based mostly in the United States but with participation around the world, built a series of standards around learning objects. One of these was content packaging. Content packaging was a technical way to represent the original distance education course packages. Learning design was an attempt to emulate what was called programmed learning in the course packages, a way of leading the student through the materials one step at a time. It was the idea of managed learning or learning management.

Over time, the concept of learning objects and learning object repositories lead to the idea of learning object repository networks. We can picture this really simply in our head. We think of learning objects as objects, maybe like books, maybe like Legos, maybe like flowers, whatever. A repository is just a place where we keep a whole bunch of them. The idea is we create our learning object and we store it in the repository.

Over time, as different institutions developed their own repositories, to encourage the idea of sharing, they created repository networks. I spent a number of years in Canada with people from across the country building a repository network of Edusource. Edusource no longer exists, sadly, but the idea was interesting and we learned a lot during it.

One of the things we learned was the tension that exists between open online resources and commercial resources. When you're creating a network of repositories, how do you enable sharing freely while at the same time allowing commercial resources to remain commercial and not shared in the way music was shared? This was early 2000/2001/2002. Content producers looked at things like Napster and music sharing and they were having heart attacks.

One of the reasons why our repository network failed was because of the constraints that commercial publishers wanted to place on it. There's a fundamental dichotomy between open content sharing and commercial markets and that's what we were experiencing in repository networks.

There were also open content repositories developed around this time. The Open Archive Initiative (OAI) created software and a set of specifications for uploading and downloading objects from repositories. That was taken by MIT and turned into something called DSpace. That exists even to this day. It's used mostly for academic publications, not so much for learning objects and learning resources. That's because academic publications is a big industry, learning resources not a big industry. So far so good? Excellent.

It's like this story. We progress through and bit by bit we're adding elements to the mix here. It's important to see this not just as a history but as a cataloging of the elements that are going into contemporary online learning. Here's another major element, and this element was developed around the same time as the learning management systems and around the same time as the learning objects, and that is the idea of learning communities.

I remember doing a talk about Etienne Wenger and mispronouncing his name the whole way through. That was the first talk I recorded on audio so the evidence falls into the saying, "Sometimes there are mistakes you cannot escape." The concept of the community of practice is important. It actually has its origin in the philosopher Thomas Kuhn who talked about networks of researchers who shared a common paradigm.

Kuhn is most famous for the idea of scientific revolutions, but equally important, I think, is his characterization of what he called "normal science." What "normal science" is, and I should probably put it in quotation marks, what "normal science" is is not simply the facts and the data related to a discipline. Physics, the discipline of physics, is not simply about the formulas but it's the vocabulary, it's the interaction, it's the shared assumptions, it's a common understanding of what evidence is important and what evidence is not important. It's the dialogues. It's the feel for what it is to be a physicist.

Kuhn used to say that the knowledge of being a physicist isn't the material at the front of the chapter; it's knowing how to solve the problems at the end of the chapter. It's a way of seeing the world and being able to solve the problems is demonstrating that you see the world in the right way.

This is a kind of learning that is generated not through transmission, not even through knowledge construction, but through something else. The ideas of community and practice are important and the fundamental building blocks to the concept of learning that we have today. Like everything else, there were the, what would we call them, open communities of practice. We've heard so few formal accounts. There's almost no history of them.

Then there were the more commercialized communities. I remember being hired by the University of Alberta to create a commercial community practice called MuniMall and it was modeled on a book called "Net.Gain" by Hagel and Armstrong. The idea of this online community was that it would be like a shopping mall. A shopping mall of physics or, in my case, a shopping mall of municipal governance.

The idea was content providers would share their resources or, more accurately, sell their services and their resources, and participants, people who work in that community, would interact with each other. The interaction part of MuniMall worked really well and, in fact, the community lasted for 10 years from the original design. The commercial part, not so much. Interesting lessons.

As we began to see more of these connections, we began to see learning objects. We began to see online communities that look like shopping malls. We began to see content packaging. There was a stream of thought based on the idea of open source software, based on the idea of open sharing and open content. It came, over time, to be called Open Educational Resources. This name, Open Educational Resources, was formalized by the UNESCO in the early 2000's.

The idea represents educational content that is shared openly. They came up with an early version of open content and an open content license and the idea here is that a person or a company or a university would create an educational resource like a learning object (but maybe not a learning object; we don't need to be that particular) and would attach to it a license that allows it to be shared freely. The resource has two parts, the content of the resource and the license.

A major initiator of that support for open educational resources, I'm sure many of you are familiar with this, is Creative Commons, and, in just the same way, Creative Commons is a way of attaching a license to a piece of content to allow that content to be freely shared. This is really important. It's really important because the default assumption for content is that content is privately owned and cannot be shared. In my mind, that's the single largest barrier to open learning as of today, the default assumption that open learning is illegal, and so we need the licensing to make open learning legal.

If it was up to me, it would the other way around. If it was up to me, content would be free by default but if you attached the license to it then it would be commercial, but people don't agree with me on this. It's interesting, though. I look sometimes at the roots of open content licensing and creative comments and think that open licensing and Creative Commons come out of the same place that open source licensing comes out of, places like Berkley, places like Stanford, places like MIT.

At MIT, I give a talk and saw Richard Stallman's office with a paper handwritten his name on the door (since he's not that permanent). It's interesting that this perspective, that the default is commercial, and the exception is open, has its origin in these major commercial American universities. We will come back to that.

My involvement in open educational resources, aside from producing them, producing photographs, producing reporting, whatever, was in the area of sustainability. I did a study for OECD on models and sustainability of open educational resources. This is where the thread of sustainability enters the picture. Hasn't been in the picture so far. We've had the thread of opening resources versus commercial resources or open source software versus commercial software, but now we have this idea of sustainability, which is almost like the middle ground.

The core idea of sustainability is, if you have or if you want to produce open educational resources,  how do you pay for them? That's a good question. I analyzed a few different models of sustainability that existed at the time. This is a quick summary. That picture looks much nicer on my screen.

One model, and this is a model that's actually in the field of academic publishing, is called the Gold model. It's a model where the author pays a fee in order to publish the resource and then the publisher makes the resource available. There are some journals, academic journals, that operate along this principle. I don't know of any educational resource initiative that operates on this because I haven't seen a big willingness on the part of people who create educational resources to pay for their publication.

It happens informally a lot. I pay for my own website. In a way, that's an author pay system. People pay for their own Internet access and that's kind of like an author pay system. There's certainly an element of author contribution here. The size of that element of author contribution tells us how accessible the market to create open educational resources is for people. People don't often think about that.

Another model that's very popular in the United States is the foundation model. You have the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, you have the Wellcome Trust, you have the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. There's the Shuttleworth Foundation and there are many other foundations. What these foundations do is contribute money to develop the development of learning resources.

The thing with the foundation model is, foundations run out of money or foundations stop providing money. So when you're funded by a foundation, you are always faced, at the end of this funding, with the question now of "How do we become sustainable?" About half the time what happens is the open educational resource becomes a commercial resource.

I just spoke of David Wiley. He was involved with a company called Flat World Knowledge. Flat World Knowledge was started with foundation money and it was intending to publish learning resources for free and they would make their money on the printed version. Only recently, Flat World Knowledge announced they would no longer publish learning material for free. There would now be a fee, but they would be competitively priced. This is a pretty common sort of thing.

Here's the public service model, and that's actually mostly my model (where I work). That's where government pays for the cost of the infrastructure and the cost of ongoing support. It'd be very similar to the public broadcasting model. Is there a public broadcasting in Colombia? There is? It's one of these things I should check before I do my talk. In Canada we have the CBC, which is a publicly funded radio, television, and Internet broadcasting.

Just as an aside, it should be available here - if you want to hear great new Canadian music go to CBC Radio 3.. Fabulous. I hope it's available here. I listen to it all the time. It's all independent Canadian music. It's like the open educational resources of the Canadian music industry. I love it. That's an aside.

Finally, there's the community model. The community model is very important because the community model taps into the idea of the community of practice and it taps into the idea of the people who consume, to use a bad word, that consume the resources are also the people who produce the resources.

In the end, this is the model that I recommended to OECD. The pro-commercial organization promptly rejected it, but the model is that people create their own educational resources. People create their own educational communities. One of my major arguments for this is, in the long term it's the only truly financially sustainable model, the community based model of resource production. Any other model, I think, will eventually lead us to a commercial model.

We have, now, this other piece of the puzzle. Around that time, things really became interesting because the idea of consumers producing their own content was found not only in learning but in the Web as a whole. In English there's a term "prosumer." It's a combination of the term producer and consumer. Is there a similar term in Spanish? Sorry? Prosumiero? I'll work on the pronunciation of that after the talk.

This is happening around the middle of 2005, 2006. People were now gaining access to websites and web services that allowed them to create their own content. These are all sites you're familiar with. Blogger.Right?  Blogging exploded. People don't talk about blogging so much now but there's a lot of blogging happening right now. YouTube. Right? Remember when everything was YouTube? YouTube was going to change the world? It actually did change the world in many ways. I'm using YouTube now. Hi, YouTube people. A site I use a lot to store photos, because I take a lot of photos, is Flickr.

It's interesting because these content sharing sites adapted an innovation that was created by the instant messaging services. Remember I talked about ICQ? The way ICQ worked was you have a list of friends. AOL called them buddies (typical AOL casual language). I don't know what MSN network called them because I never used MSN network. The idea is you would have a list of friends. When we started using systems that allowed us to create our own content like blogging systems we imported this idea. The original version of blogging was something called the blogroll. I don't know if there's a Spanish word for that but in English it's the blog roll. It's a list of blogs that you read.

Also in other things, content sharing sites like what came to be called social networks the list of friends almost became more important. What you had was a combination of content creation and a list of friends. Everybody focuses on the social of social networking, but the content creation is equally important. Facebook is the world's largest repository of photographs. People don't realize that. They should because they've been uploading them like crazy.

A content sharing network like Twitter borrowing from SMS, which is why they use 140 characters. With these kind of services comes a bit of an evolution in our understanding of what a website actually is. It used to be all about presenting content. Web 1.0, that was old learning. That was the content based paradigm. Web 2.0 became about interaction and communication and it made us think about content a bit differently.

Content is very important. It became data. Content was something that was stored in a database and then presented in different ways or shared or manipulated around what was called the mash-up.

The mash-up, what you'd do is take content from one database and content from another database and mash it up. You would take Google Maps, for example, and a list of every Starbucks and create a map with all the Starbucks on it (which I never use because I hate Starbucks). In Canada we have Tim Horton's coffee.

What's interesting is these websites became places not only where you shared data, they became places where you manipulated data and created new data. Websites actually became like little programs, like little applications. There was a slogan, "the Web as platform." That phenomenon is still very much at work today. Every website you go to almost is a platform of some sort. Different platforms, different ways of doing things, but what they are all doing is integrating data. All of them, except old websites that were created in 1995 and nobody's done anything with them since.

Here's what I worked on. This is a version of Web 2.0, a version of the whole idea. What I would do is, I would take data from different websites in a data format called RSS and all you need to know about RSS is it's content computers can read. That's all you need to know. I would take that content and I would use my computer programs to join it and use my computer programs to filter it and produce output. That's pretty handy.

I started, for example, and I did create a single feed (which is what the output is called, a 'feed'), a single feed of all the content about a certain subject. I have one you can look at it now, I'll do it right now, listen to the music, on www.mooc. [indecipherable 0:42:21] . It looks like a great site, that I write every day, but I don't. I read it. It's pretty interesting. I don't do a thing to create it. It's just aggregated content on the subject of MOOCs joined together and then output as a newsletter.

This is an incredibly powerful technology. I cannot emphasize how powerful this technology is. It puts into the hands of people the capacity to create qualitative resources, the capacity to bring resources from wherever they may be on the Internet and create a single resource. Or the capacity to create a single web page that is dynamic, that is always current, and draws on data from different places.

If you go look at a weather page they operate in the same way. Exactly the same way. There are hundreds of weather stations around the world and they pull these weather stations, the content is in a certain code, they decode the content, and then they present the information. That's how weather sites work. This leads us directly to the concept of connectivism.

You see how easy this is? We've gone from connecting content, connecting content, to connectivism. The idea here now is that we have all of these resources, all of the content produced by all of the people on their blogs, on YouTube and Flickr accounts, wherever, and you can have all of these people with lists of their friends in social networks maybe or as email contact lists or whatever. They create this network. We have the technology now, finally, to join all these things together.

Connectivism is the theory of education that you come up with when you think about how education can work using this connected technology. The term, of course, derives from George Siemens who wrote an important paper called "Connectivism" and he describes connectivism pretty much as a pedagogy.

The phrase, "I store my knowledge in my friends," is one of the slogans from his original characterization and the idea is I do not need to memorize everything I know, in other words I don't need to know everything I know, I simply need to know where to find it. It's a new type of skill. It's the skill of creating networks and traversing networks. It's a new kind of understanding.

My contribution to connectivism is the depiction of knowledge as a network state. What I mean by that very precisely is to know something is to be in a certain connected state. That's kind of a hard concept, in one sense, but it's an easy concept in another sense.

To know something, in my theory, is to be able to recognize it. That's how I know Diego when I see him. He doesn't wear a name tag, although if I did that's how I would recognize, but I look at him, I see his face, I do this. Sorry, I'm just kidding. I recognize him.

That's how a physicist solves the problem at the end of the chapter. The physicist looks at the problem and recognizes "Oh, it's that kind of problem." What is that recognition? What is that capacity? We, as humans, are composed of a network as well. It's a neural network. You have, I don't know, 100 billion neurons. These neurons are all connected to each other.

To learn is to create those pathways between neurons. To know something is to have a certain set of connections. What happens technically and literally? When I recognize Diego certain connections fire in my brain. Those connections are created from previous experiences. That's how I created them. I got out there, I went to Columbia, I saw Diego, I walked around, I talked with him for a while. I'm not very good with faces so it took several visits. I formed the neural network in my mind.

What's interesting about connectivism is that societies learn that way, too. Societies have knowledge that way, too, and this is what George was seeing. George was seeing social knowledge. I see personal knowledge. It's two different kinds of knowledge but it's created the same way.

In society, we connect to people and we connect objects like learning objects, like flowers, like maps, like YouTube videos, like photographs, like pictures of my cat. We connect all of these together. What a society knows is expressed by those connections. Society learns by creating new connections. There is some knowledge that only a society can have. It's knowledge so large, so complex, no individual person can have it.

There are examples all around us of that kind of knowledge. Look at this room. Could any of you or any one person build this room? Not possible. Nobody could know that much, especially if you include the computers and the software on the computer and all your clothing and all the wiring and the lighting systems and the translation booth and the knowledge of two languages to make that work. No one person could do it, but collectively, or maybe more accurately cooperatively, all of us together, through interaction, create the knowledge that is represented by this room.

This phenomenon of creating knowledge in an object is called [indecipherable 0:50:40] in English. I have no idea what that would be in Spanish. It's the same thing for an anthill. An anthill shares knowledge one ant to the other by creating physical artifacts. A scent, a tunnel, an object left behind. That's how ants communicate, using objects.

We have this picture of connectivism. We have this picture of learning as connecting, as knowledge, as a network of connections. We have this idea of learning as immersion into an environment. What we want to do, what we want to happen, is for people to recognize.

We know that we cannot create recognition just by telling people things. You cannot create recognition just by describing. Sometimes people can recognize me by description, but generally it doesn't work very well.

In order to recognize you need to be in the situation, you need to be practicing with the materials that you want to be able to recognize, the type of material. There's a whole complex series of connection through inferences that we make. Jay Cross characterize this as informal learning, and what is informal learning? Informal learning is learning that you conduct for yourself, through your interactions in a community. That's a model that should by now in this talk sound very familiar.

What Jay is adding to the concept of informal learning is that now there's no structure, now there's no organization, now there's no professor. People learn for themselves and they design their own learning. This was demonstrated, and I thought demonstrated very effectively in the EduCamps at the edge of [inaudible 0:53:10] here in Columbia. It's a model that's been replicated elsewhere, where the idea is you bring people together, and you don't have a formal agenda of, "First we'll learn this. Then we'll learn this. Then we'll learn this."

What you have scattered around in a room are different stations. People who have knowledge go to these stations and share that knowledge. People who need knowledge go to these stations and listen to the people who have knowledge.

Except they don't just talk and listen, they actually have whatever it is that they're interested in right in front of them. They can learn to create blogs by creating blogs, learn to record audio by recording audio. The structure is not defined. There is this concept, and this is what EduCamps come out of, this concept of conference that is generally called barter camps.

A barter camp is simply a room, or a series of rooms, and a starting time. You say, "We will have a barter camp at such and such a place at such a time." You might suggest a topic, online learning, audio recording, high definition photography, whatever.

People arrive in the room, and if they have something they would like to share, they write it up on the wall. If people are interested in learning about that, they sign up for it. If you put something up on the wall and nobody signs up for it, that's fine. You go somewhere else, and you learn from someone else.

There is no preset structure there. The idea of running these barter camps is, "Whatever we talked about was the right thing to talk about. Whatever the outcome was, was the right outcome." It's the idea that, when people interact together in this kind of environment, in this learning environment, they are able to self organize.

They are able to prioritize their own learning. It's a very interesting and different educational experience, and it gets you right into the community that you are trying to learn about. The technological equivalent of the barter camp is the personal learning environment.

This is a diagram by Scott Wilson who works in Great Britain. The idea of the personal learning environment is that you treat the entire word as your learning environment. Then you connect to different kinds of resources. You can connect to blogging sites, photo sites, learning management systems, to-do lists, videos, your own website, Facebook, Twitter, whatever you want. The actual technology is RSS or other standards similar to RSS.

The same sort of bringing together of content, that I described earlier, happens in a personal learning environment. Learning as a whole in this model, becomes a network created by hundreds, thousands, millions of individual personal learning environments.

Our learning network is, each one of us connected to our list of friends, our list of learning resources, our list of activities. Connecting to them, making new connections, interacting, creating this new [indecipherable 0:57:30] . By this interaction, by a creating these connections.

Into that mix now, comes the idea of open courses. If you think about it. Here's our personal learning environment. Here's a learner, a student, a person who wants to learn. All of these around the student, are open educational resources. If you organize them a little bit, or even just create an environment for them here, and called it a course, now we have an open online course.

The idea here is, that an open online course is composed of. Well, I'll come back to that, whatever a course is composed of, but the important thing is that it is open. That anybody in the world can access that course. Without paying money, without filling in a form, giving your email address, and your telephone number, and your dog's birthday.


Stephen: Open courses have a long history. Open courses began to exist in the idea of "OpenCourseWare" created by MIT. Yes, the same place that we got creative contemplacency from.

We get a number of initiatives. MIT OpenCourseWare, and then there's the OpenCourseWare Consortium of various universities producing the same thing.

What this is is all materials that you would need in a course, the readings, the curriculum, the problem sets, maybe some videos, etc.

Connections is the same thing. It was created at Rice University. What they did is they created an environment that course authors could enter and use to create their open courses. Pretty innovative. A lot like Blogger, only for courses.

OpenLearn is an initiative of the Open University of Great Britain -- still exists, very important, very widely used -- that has complete course packages.

You remember at the start of this topic, talking about the two models of distance education? One model was the content model. This is the twenty-first century version of that model.

Edith, a self-standing course package, is programmed learning. It takes you step-by-step through the material.

We have the commercial models, we have the publicly supported models. We also have the sharing or open-source models. I mentioned three here, WikiEducator, Curriki, and Wikiversity.

They are all initiative that use a wiki, which is simply a website that anybody can read and anybody can edit. They use these websites to create courses or to create curriculum.

The model they follow is Wikipedia, only they use the Wikipedia model, instead of creating an encyclopedia, they create coursework. Good idea.

David Wylie -- remember him? -- created a wiki for his course in open educations, the course that he taught at Utah State University and, later on, at Brigham Young University. The idea that he had was to make the course materials that he was offering his class not just readable, but editable by anybody.

Reinhard Weiner wrote up a whole bunch of his classes for him. Well, I didn't write the whole class, but I wrote bits and pieces and added stuff and gave myself all kinds of credit.

Man 1: Good tip.

Stephen: Alec Couros, who's an instructor in Saskatchewan, Canada, launched open courses and what he did is he opened up his online communications environment. He was using, and still uses, I think, a product called Illuminate. Today it's called Blackbird Collaborate.

What he did is he said, "I'm having my course in Illuminate at such-and-such a time. My class, from here in Saskatchewan, will join me, and anyone else in the world who wants to join me can do so as well.

Now, that was pretty cool. His [indecipherable 1:03:09] and there's people from around the world were sitting in on Alec's classes and interacting and discussing the topic of the day.

If you think about it, it was a way of giving the students in his class a way to become a part of a wider community. They wanted to learn of it, because now, instead of just talking to each other, they started talking to experts around the world.

That also happened in David Wylie's class. Now, instead of just getting content from the professor, they were getting content from anywhere around the world.

What's really cool here, I think, is by opening the content and opening the interaction, we're almost able enough to blend these two major threads of distance learning, the content and the interaction. Opening them both, we can make them both work together just in the same way we did with e-learning, just in the same way we did in things like [indecipherable 1:04:27] and informal learning. Now we're doing this in an institutional environment.

The very first Nice chain to be called massive open online courses. When you first look at them, they're a horrible mess. What they are really is a combination of all of the things that I've been talking about so far in this talk. All of the different pieces of the puzzle come together to form these massive open online courses.

The very first MOOC was hosted by George Simmons and myself. It was called "Connectivism and Connected Knowledge" and we launched it in 2008. This picture is a representation created by one of the students in the class. It was a representation of a class. We didn't do this. We couldn't do this.

The idea here of MOOCs is to take the concept of open content, the concept of open interaction and open community, and the concept of open classes and bring them all together. That's exactly what we did.

We offered it out of the University of Manitoba. It was a credit course and the students who were enrolled in the University of Manitoba needed to do some assignments and we opened it up to anyone in the world and we had nearly 300 people join us and that was a real surprise to us. That's when open online courses became massive open online courses.

How did we design this? Remember, we are creating a network and remember that to learn is to create a network, knowledge is the state of the network. I asked what constitutes successful knowledge, successful networks? That's a good question. We all know about networks that can fail. The power grid is a network. When we have a blackout it fails. A community of people is a network, but if a disease comes through and wipes out half of the population that's a failure.

These things are called cascade phenomenon. What it is is the network is effected by a force that attacks every entity all at once and it leads to segmentation and network fail. A viral idea or a piece of propaganda is a cascade phenomenon. You have an idea. It can be something simple like a tune, like a [indecipherable 1:07:55] tune maybe. They were pretty viral. One person says it and then two people and four people and eight people and eventually everybody's singing a hit song.

An idea like racism. Again, one of these viruses that starts in one place and they can spread through society as a cascade phenomenon. It's an example of network failure. You need to design networks so that they can grow, so that they can adapt, so that they can change, so that they can learn. Just the same way as humans. You need to design humans in the same way except you don't get to design humans. It's hard. You don't really get to design societies, either. They're too large for one person to design.

What you do is you can design the pieces that go together. You can design the properties that, when combined, will lead to more effective network. This is what I call the semantic principle. Sorry about the name. What these are, are my idea of principles of successful networking. I don't pertain that they're necessarily true or that all of these can only lead to work but they are what I see at this point in time from my vantage point.

Autonomy, diversity, openness, and interactivity. Diversity. You think about a network, you think about a successful network. A successful network is made of pieces that are different from each other, not the same. Imagine you had a conversation where everybody said the same thing. Imagine you had a debate where everybody had the same idea. These would not be productive. They would not lead to anything interesting. Networks need diversity.

Networks need individuals with different points of view. One of the things that we really tried to promote when we designed our MOOCs was to promote the idea that people would read different things and not the same things. We did not have a single assigned text. We had 100. Nobody can read 100 texts but you would pick and choose from those texts and then everybody would have a different perspective and that's how we had interesting conversations.

Openness. We need to be open to new information. Closed systems become stagnant. Closed systems literally choke on their own waste. The system has to have input, has to have output. Raw materials that come in, finished product that goes out. The idea here is for any communication to happen there needs to be an open flow from one entity to the next entity. This is why so often we find openness in conflict with commercialization, because commercialization very often, not always, but very often is based on a model of closing what was previously open.

Autonomy. This is a hard principle for many people to accept, but it's the idea that each individual manages his or her own learning. As John Stuart Mill said, "Each person in a society perceives his own good in his own way." This is essential to produce diversity. This is essential to produce communication and interaction. It is essential to support learning.

If you do not have autonomy then the knowledge of one becomes the knowledge of everyone. If the one is corrupt then everyone is corrupt. Autonomy is what protects the system from cascade phenomena that damage the network as a whole.

Finally, interactivity. This is the idea that I was talking about earlier that knowledge is created by the interaction between the members. It's really important to think of this because in traditional learning, remember the transactional theory of learning where the knowledge is in the head of the professor and then will be put into the head of the student. This model isn't like that. In this model, the knowledge is created by the interactions.

When we interact with each other, we as a group, or maybe not a group, but we as a network will create knowledge that only the networks could create because it's too large for any one individual. Then each individual in the network will look at that knowledge that we created and learn their own thing from it. All of us together form a society. That society is greater than any one of us. Then each of us individually draws an individual meaning, individual knowledge, from that society.

That gives us a story about MOOC pedagogy. That gives us a story about self-directed, informal learning where the process is informal rather than the content, where the emphasis is on selecting these resources, finding these resources, creating them, mashing them up, mixing them, using them to communicate with each other.

The pedagogy of MOOCs is the pedagogy of immersion into a community, of interaction with that community. The technology supporting the MOOC is the technology that has been used to support these learning object repositories, these social networks and social networking sites, these individual places where you can create content, these RSSs that join content together.

Think about the sort of content repositories you have now. One famous content repository that, all at once, was called the Khan Academy. All the Khan Academy was, originally, was a bunch of individuals. Very badly done, but well enough done that they worked. They weren't produced by a professional corporation. They were produced by some guy who knew a little math and physics and wanted to share. That was our learning object repository.

It's not a horrible institution that created objects anymore. It's a community based model. When it began, Khan Academy was a community based model. Then the Gates Foundation got a hold of him and it's not community anymore. It moved into a different model which will eventually lead, in my mind, to commercialization.

There are different technologies. There are a huge, huge range of technologies today for creating, updating, polling, and sampling these repositories. I mentioned Sword, which is a deposit for polling contributed content to a repository, Core, which is a way to connect repositories, and Saw. This top is too short to allow me to even begin to list these, but, trust me, there is a lot of technology for creating and linking repositories.

Interesting work that is about to begin, that is beginning, is our ability to build personal learning environments and MOOCs that tap into repositories. This is software I built in order to do this task. It's called Grasshopper. The model is really very simple. You get input from community, input from content. You put it into a database. You turn your content into data. You mix it and mash it up and then you send it forward as email letters, as web pages, or as RSS or other feeds that will feed into somebody else's Grasshopper.

This is also a model of the activity that individuals are expected to perform when they take a MOOC. Aggregate, re-mix, re-purpose, feed forward. That is the pedagogical design of a MOOC, at least the MOOCs the way they should be. In this environment, we are working with open content and it works best with open content. As soon as we put a barrier then your aggregation and re-mixing begins to fail.

We also opened not just the content, we opened the instruction itself. We opened the way we organize our courses. We combine our courses in a wiki. We opened up the course sections. The year 2008 we did two sessions a week. We had several hundred people at first join these. It got kind of chaotic but that was fun. Different degrees of openness lead to different types of open educational resources and different kinds of open courses.

James Taylor or Jim Taylor from the University of Southern [indecipherable 1:19:47] has come up with what he calls a logic model, which is neither logical or a model but I digress. I'm kidding. Talking about different aspects of openness. Accessing open educational resources. Accessing open support via volunteers. This is what I would call accessing the community, interacting with the community.

Open assessment. This is the next stage of these open online courses is open assessment. Then finally, open credentials, open degrees. There are degrees of openness here beyond what we have experienced thus far. We've begun to explore them in the MOOCs that we've begun following up.

In CCK09, our second MOOC, much to our surprise, the students from CCK08 came back and then, even more to our surprise, they started teaching the course. We had competing teachers of the same course. It was all very interesting. Jim Grim's course, DS106, and I can do a whole talk on that, several talks, had an emphasis on projects and creativity. DS stands for digital storytime. It's about how you use different media to tell stories. They explore different types of media in different ways of telling stories.

He opened that up and what he opened up was the list of assignments that he gives students. He said, "I don't want to be the one to decide on the assignments. You," to the world, "you come up with assignments and then the students will do them." people from all around the world suggested different assignments and it became creative channels. It was amazing. It was wonderful.

Another course we did was critical literacies. That focused on the underlying skills because one of the common comments we have is people need to have certain literacies, certain basic abilities, in order to be able to learn for themselves. I gave a talk and asked could we use a MOOC to teach how best to use a MOOC? We use a MOOC to help people learn basic skills.

It still is inclusive, I think, although we learned a lot. I started in 1995 with something called "Stephen's Guide to the Logical Fallacies" as my first open content. This whole idea of critical thinking and critical reasoning has been something interesting over the years. This is the latest phase of that. I think, personally, that we can indeed use distributed, open, online learning in order to foster the skills needed.

You need to think of this as a process where people learn through immersion and they learn good argumentation through immersion. They can learn how to spot good resources through immersion. It's exactly how somebody learns how to make a salad or cook a steak. You put them in a kitchen, you tell them to do things, they begin to do things, they watch the master, and eventually they become it. It's the same with critical thinking. It's the same with critical limits.

After we had been doing MOOCs for three years, commercial MOOCs came on the scene. The first one that was launched was the Stanford AI course last year. It attracted, I don't even know what the real numbers were, but something like 160,000 registrations. I think something like 40,000 people finished the course, I think. I don't know.

Different sources have different numbers. The main message here is the numbers are huge. Then there were commercial spin-offs from this based on models like Khan Academy, based on the traditional elements model. The idea is they would be MOOC companies. They would offer courses that were very similar to the Stanford AI course.

The Stanford AI course was not a MOOC the way we did it.

The Stanford AI course was the course materials and the course sessions open and accessible online. Then assignments were given. What they added, which I thought was really interesting, was automated evaluations of submitted assignments. I find it very interesting that this model of content-focused MOOCs, which is what they are, they're content-focused MOOCs, there is no element of community in them, these models came out of the same places as creative comments, as MIT open source.

They come out of MIT, Stanford, Harvard, the large commercial US universities. There's a certain way, a certain approach, that they have.

Now, we're in a world of MOOCs and certainly in my world, and maybe in your world, when I read about educational technology today everyone is talking about MOOCs. MOOC this, MOOC that. We offered a MOOC on the future of higher education. I was at a website. Here it is again. If you go to that you will find links to hundreds, maybe thousands, of MOOCs.

MOOCs of the connectivist model that we use, we call them CMOOCs, MOOCs of the MIT, Stanford nexus or XMOOCs, MOOCs that are network based like the ones that George and I built, MOOCs that are task based like Jim Grune's DS106 with all the projects and assignments, MOOCs that are content based like Stanford AI. Of course there are other [indecipherable 1:27:17] .

The future of MOOCs...I'm really sorry about this diagram. That's me drawing by hand inside the Illuminate environment, but it's a visual representation of the future of MOOCs. At the center, because there is a historical origin of this, are the content based XMOOCs. Around that center is the network, the community of practice, the interaction and participation. All of the elements that went into making the C, the individual creations, the sharing, the aggregation, re-mixing, re-purposing, forwarding. None of that is in the center. All of that happens outside of the center.

In a university context, none of that is in the university. All of that happens outside the university. Outside of the CMOOC are the web services that people use. Twitter, Facebook, RSS, Google Plus. Hi, Google Plus people. Delicious. Outside all of that is open assessment. Open assessment may be priority assessment, it may be open assessment as in Indiragandhi national open university. It may be testing. There's a site called Brain Bench that does online testing. It may be [indecipherable 1:29:03] badges. This is the least well defined, but you can see this ecosystem being formed.

This ecosystem is the future of online learning. So where are we going? I'm almost done with this talk. This is the good part so hang up your phones. What's coming very soon, maybe even tomorrow, who knows, I don't know, but soon, open educational apps. Of course. They're based on the app store model. What is the app store? The app store is an object repository. That's all it is, filled with products because it's commercial.

We're moving to an environment, especially looking at Android, where there are open apps already available. There are a lot of commercial applications. If you're wondering about the future of books, the book becomes the e-book becomes the app. Instead of buying a physics text book you will buy a physics app. That's the content. You still need the community around that.

MOOCs, with access to app repositories, people will use different apps, they're already beginning to use them, to create other apps and to share. That's why you need open apps, so everybody can use them. These, in turn, as they get more and more interesting, educational content will be supported by things like IMSs, learning technology integration. All that is is language that allows one app to launch another app.

Remember back in the 1990s we used to have launchers. Now we have learning technology interaction. The idea is if you have a learning resource and you have access to online MOOCs and that learning resource wants to start a chat you use LTI and starts the chat. If you use the same resource on a different MOOC you use LTI to launch a different chat. It's a bit complicated, well, it's a lot complicated. In essence, it is a way one thing can launch another thing the same way even though it's not the same as the first one. That wasn't clear at all. It's an app launcher. With the app launcher in MOOCs, an open app market will emerge.

Here's the same concept represented visually. You see how bad the text based engine is. You have all these different kinds of systems, your learning management systems that I talked about at the start, MOOCs, and they use something like a launcher, LTI, so launch, eliminate, or big blue button or a PhD application or perhaps a spreadsheet or widget. The idea of LTI is that it is connecting distributed applications to educational worlds.

The next step is we move beyond the idea of stand alone courses at all. This is already beginning to happen. When it hits it's going to be this huge wave. Right now, the model is a course belongs to a university or a course belongs to a college or a course belongs to a school. What if it didn't? What if the course was just out there? Then the university accessed the course as an external resource?

That's what's happening. That's what the course server model is. They have a very narrow definition of a course, but basically you have a course and then all of these university partners access this course. If you have one course being accessed by a university, why not by two universities? Why not by three universities?

Even better, why not have the people of one university communicate with the people in the other university? Why not have these people communicate with the wider community? You have this idea of the course at the center, it's that same picture we had earlier, the badly drawn picture, the course at the center shared by different universities. It becomes the nexus for a community, the nexus for a community practice, around that particular course.

In the far future, courses will be out there on their own. They'll have their own management, their own structure. Or maybe not. They might just be a self-organizing community that a university taps into. You sign up for physics at MIT and your professor say good, sign up to the global physics community network. That's your course. Interesting. Makes you wonder why you're paying MIT $35,000 a year. Assessment models are going to change dramatically.

Now already, today, there is commercialized assessment that stands apart from courses. Here is the model. Again, this is part of the courses and part of the university's plan. You sign up for your course at MIT. The professor says, "Here is the worldwide physics community. Go there, learn something, come back to me."

You go there. Now you're in the worldwide physics community. You're interacting with all the people and you're learning from learning objects and watching videos and then you go back to the MIT professor and the MIT professor says, "OK. Now we have an assessment for you." He sends you to the Washington Post Kaplan assessment service. You do your assessment and then Kaplan sends back your assessment results to MIT and MIT gives you a degree and you've just received an MIT education. Only $34,000.

In the far future, this model would be subverted because people will realize that it is ridiculous. In the far future, the idea of an assessment service will make less and less sense because you have been participating in MOOCs. You have been participating in your community. You have shared your content, your communication with other people. You have made connections. They know you. They know your ideas. You begin to develop a reputation in that community.

That reputation in the community is your assessment. Right now it's very simplistic. We have clouts that counts the number of Twitter followers and says if you have a large number of Twitter followers you must be very intelligent. Pretty stupid. Pretty simplistic. That's what killed my clout. Imagine if you're using big data network analytics so that if you write a post or you create some content a system can track the ripple effect of that content through the network. It can see the influence that you have, can see the push back that is created, which is also good.

You want people not just to agree with you but to disagree with you. The worst thing that can happen is if you are ignored. Seeing who is listening to you, seeing who is arguing with you, seeing where you place in that network. Where you place is a set of coordinates. That set of coordinates is a grade. That's assessment of the future. Almost done.

Sustainability. How on Earth are we going to pay for this? $34,000 MIT degrees is not going to work. There are many, many people now attempting to defend traditional education with traditional classes and traditional universities and at the top you have MIT and Stanford and all the same people who take these ideas and commercialize them. Then you have your mid-level universities like University of Alberta, University of Toronto, and then you have Frank's Garage College or whatever.

This model won't work. This model will be replaced, must be replaced, by a community based model and the reason for that is in the long term it's the only sustainable model. It's the only way to pay for a system that enables everybody to be educated.

What you're going to see developing over time, what we are already seeing develop over time, is this community infrastructure. This is very often the part that is going to be provided by a social service or a government entity.

Some entity with the resources to create a communications infrastructure and the interest to see it happen. Governments understand the need for communications infrastructure and the need for a certain level of education that is provided for everybody. That's why your government has invested so much in education. That is why my government has invested so much in education.

There is a dramatic relation between education in society and the level of achievement and the standard of living in that society. This is why governments find this so important and why, in my mind, they should find it even more important than they do.

You will have a commercial layer. It would be foolish to think there would not be specialist commercial services and there will always be competition between these services and the government infrastructure. That's just a little bit at the center.

The vast bulk of learning will be these communities that are created. It doesn't show up well on that slide. I should rewrite that slide. The vast bulk of education will be content communities where learning content is created by the learners themselves and then shared with each other.

It's an iterative process. It's a process that actually feeds into the professional domain of activity. I'll give you an example of what I mean. Climate monitoring will be something that is very important to people in the future. What is the air temperature, what is the rainfall, what is the wind? You need to get very good, very precise data from a wide number of locations. It's not just at the airport.

People that are experts in climatology would design this system. Professors will be involved. Designers, instrument designers, will be involved. The guy who goes out and installs the weather station will be involved. Students, as well, will be involved. Individual students will play individual roles.

The way to think of climate monitoring as a profession is to think of it as this large network with the experts very tightly connected and interacting at the center and then loosely connected to professionals and then more loosely connected to technicians and then even more loosely connected to students. But everybody playing a role in the actual work of measuring the climate.

You don't have the artificial climate student center and then the real climate. Everybody's involved in actual climate measuring, actual climate modeling, actual climate predictions. Learning becomes a member of the profession. Being a member of the profession means being a learner in that profession. Everybody learns, everybody teaches, everybody creates, everybody consumes. As a whole, you create an educational system out of this.

At the edges, the very edges, you have commercial media, you have commercial support, you have products that people buy, Internet access, computers, things like that that have to be paid for. At the center you have the government infrastructure, the core that makes the entire system possible. The bulk of learning in this model is the big middle, the donut that is composed of all of society. That isn't an actual model. I just made it up. I just made up that analogy, but that is the model. That is my talk.

Those are flowers. I don't know what they're called, but I thought they were interesting. They were just on the road. Thank you so much for your kind attention and your patience. I know we'll have interesting discussions about these concepts through the day. Thank you very much.


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