Sunday, 24 February 2013

David Quin - TEL Online Article Critique Assessment

David Quin - Technology Enhanched Learning - Online Article Critique Assessment

‘MOOCs and the AI-Stanford like Courses: Two Successful and Distinct Course Formats for Massive Open Online Courses’ (2012) by C. Osvaldo Rodriguez

February 21st 2013

Rodriguez, C. (2012) MOOCs and the AI-Stanford like Courses: Two Successful and Distinct Course Formats for Massive Open Online Courses. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning [Online]. Available at: . [Accessed 20th February 2013].


I decided to review ‘MOOCs and the AI-Stanford like Courses: Two Successful and Distinct Course Formats for Massive Open Online Courses’ (2012) by C. Osvaldo Rodriguez. The article was published on the site by The European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning. The article compares two types of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), concluding that the pedagogical models on the selected online courses differ greatly.


The first MOOC model described is what Rodriguez refers to as ‘Stanford AI’ (referring to a 2011 Stanford University course on Artificial Intelligence, CS221). The AI course operated on a ‘one to many’ model, using online video to convey the course content, and regular online exams to check student understanding.

The other MOOC model is what Rodriquez characterises as cMOOC, or connectivist MOOC. For the purposes of his study, Rodriguez examines four cMOOCs: Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (CCK08),  Personal Learning Environments, Networks, and Knowledge (PLENK2010), MobiMOOC and EduMOOC.

Rodriguez’s article clearly describes connectivism and does link to some excellent literature on MOOCs , the MOOC experience and on online learning. Rodriguez also makes some contentious observations about online learners. He makes clear distinctions between the two pedagogical models for online courses, concluding that one model is predominantly cognitive-behaviourist, whilst the other is connectivist.


The writing in Rodriguez’s article is rather cumbersome. I suspect it was originated in Spanish and the translation to English hasn't been kind. The article spellcheck has been unkind to Rodriguez too, leading to occasionally entertaining references...  'both types shear some common features' whilst 'tutors and facilitators bare very different roles' .

Rodriguez takes until page 11 (of 13) to describe the teaching and learning model for the Stanford AI MOOC.

“…the teacher or tutor played a very similar role close to that in conventional classes. In these cases tutors would give the lectures via video format, explain hints for the exercises, comment on the evolvement of the course, prepare the exams and using video read the questions and related hints. During what were called office hours, the tutor would answer selected question from a pool proposed and voted by participants. There was never a direct interaction of the tutors with the students.”

In contrast, Rodriguez defines the PLENK2010 model (page 4, para 7) as connectivist…

“materials and course content were defined by participants as the course progressed, rather than prior to the course by instructors. Though the course outline defined a set of selected topics, they only served as indications for an iterative process of search, practice and reflection.”

- Rodriguez's conclusion (page 1 para 6) is “…although they share the use of distributed networks the format associated with c-MOOCs, which are defined by a participative pedagogical model, are unique and different from AI. We further assign to the AI to a cognitive-behaviourist (with some small contribution of social constructivist) and MOOCs to connectivist pedagogy.”
Once again, I think it's important to frame the potenitals of DE models within what Rodriguez calls (page 1 para 5) 'a well-rounded educational experience'. The open models permit students to participate at many stages in their lifelong studentship, testing their reaction to pedagogy or to subject matter, bringing skills up to scratch or supplementing more 'conventional' learning.
Rodriguez offers some very useful descriptions (page 1 para 3) of the “explicit principles of connectivism (autonomy, diversity, openness and interactivity) and on the activities of aggregation, remixing, repurposing and feeding forward the resources and learning”. On page 4 para 2, Rodriguez quotes Kop & Hill (2008) “In connectivism, the starting point for learning occurs when knowledge is actuated through the process of a learner connecting to and feeding information into a learning community. Connectivism stresses that two important skills that contribute to learning are the ability to seek out current information and the ability to filter secondary and extraneous information”.
Rodriguez is perhaps at his weakest in his discussion (page 2 para 8) of 'dropouts and lurkers'. I'm not sure that Rodriguez understands the deeply pejorative nature of both words, but especially of the word 'lurker'. The inference is that lurkers are socially dysfunctional, that they linger in the learning spaces, observing other students in a most questionable and unhealthy manner. In fact, the only true 'lurker' in this instance was Rodriguez himself, because he was participating in the online courses but was simultaneously observing the behaviour of other students for his research purposes. On page 8 (bottom paras) Rodriguez trots out his lurker definition. “Lurker is a term used to define a participant that just follows the course, looks at the recordings, and browses the available course resources. He is mostly behind the scenes waiting for some interesting event.”
He cites 'dropout rate' as one of the most puzzling issues for educators, pointing out that up to 85% of registered cMOOC participants and 40% of the AI course students fail to complete the online courses.
Curiously, all four of the cMOOCs studied by Rodriguez had online education or mobile education as their subject. One observation was telling (page 8 para 7) “Participants in c-MOOCs were mainly employed professionals in education, research and design, and development of learning opportunities and environments. They were teachers, researchers, managers, mentors, engineers, facilitators, trainers, and university professors.” This is borne out by my current experience on Edinburgh University’s (2013) Coursera edcmooc, where 50% of the participants are professional educators.
In contrast to Rodriguez's persistence with the pejorative 'lurker', I prefer Clark Quinn's (2012) ideas about 'solo' learning which are paraphrased on page 12 (para 2) “he clearly finds a distinction between the solo approach and the social approach to learning. He defined the Stanford AI course as a set of videos, some online interactive exercises, and tests, as being predominately solo. The learner works by himself with the material.”

Quinn continues “The connectivist MOOCs, on the other hand, are highly social. The learning comes from content presented by a lecturer, and then dialog via social media, where the contributions of the participants are shared. Assessment comes from participation and reflection, without explicit contextualized practice. The downside of the latter is just that, with little direction, the courses really require effective self-learners. These courses assume that through the process, learners will develop learning skills, and the philosophical underpinning is that learning is about making the connections oneself.”
This brings us back again to Anya Kamanetz's EduPunk ideas about online learners. ‘Being self-motivated and having good time management skills are absolutely essential for success along a DIY educational path.' As Clark Quinn says “As of yet, I don’t think that effective self-learning skills is a safe assumption (and we do need to remedy).”

Though his article is often cumbersome and makes some debatable observations about student lurkers and dropouts, Rodriguez must be commended on gathering a useful body of relevant research together. His descriptions of connectivist learning are very valid and he clearly defines the pedagogical differences between Stanford AI-style MOOCs and the more social and connectivist cMOOCs.

This is a useful article.


Kamanetz, A., (2011) The Edupunks’ Guide To a DIY Credential. Accessed on 200213.
McAuley, A.; Stewart, B.; Siemens, G.; Cormier, D. (2010). The MOOC Model for Digital Practice. Retrieved from

Quinn, C. (2012). Blog Learnlets – Mooc Reflections. ). Accessed 200213.
Rodriguez, C. (2012) MOOCs and the AI-Stanford like Courses: Two Successful and Distinct Course Formats for Massive Open Online Courses. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning [Online]. Available at: . [Accessed 20th February 2013].
Siemens, G. (2012a). Blog Elearnspace - Massive open online courses as new educative practice. Accessed 200213.

Siemens, G. (2002 onwards) Accessed 210213.
Siemens, G. (2012b). Blog Elearnspace - What is the theory that underpins our moocs?


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