Course design models for delivery through open online course or MOOC platforms particularly suit professional development due to the efficiency of knowledge transfer and opportunity for peer discussion and co-learning (Laurillard, 2016). Within the education profession, Louws, et al. (2017) described teachers self-directed learning goals to enhance their subject knowledge and develop classroom practice. This desired learning is readily enabled through open online courses, allowing peer learning from a wide variety of perspectives, whilst remaining situated within an individualised practice context.
However, a contradiction exists in formal learning design between the linear structures of online courses, typically addressing prescribed learning outcomes over a series of weeks, and the empowerment of participants to address varied development goals (De Boer, et al., 2014). Within open online professional development courses, meeting professional needs is a significant motivator for engagement (Watted and Barak, 2016), therefore course design must balance a generally applicable structure and the capacity for tailoring the experience.
This reflective session explores the learning design dilemma of how to structure for learning, in order to support progression and meet expectations of course-based learning experiences, whilst also allowing the flexibility of individual needs to be met. It addresses the theme of learning technology for wider impact, considering the reach of open courses and diverse context of learners. Data from several open online professional development courses for UK teachers will support reflections that the learning experience is in fact not determined by the course designer, but instead by the participant, and the choices they make about their own engagement. A combination of both instructional and social learning experiences may be enacted variably by different learners. Open courses are therefore posited as being characterised by an ill-defined pedagogy (Cornock, 2018), in that how educators and learners interact, their roles and the learning activity, is not prescriptive.
The concern for the learning designer is how participants will be supported in their choices over how, when and what they will learn (Downes, 2016). Whilst personalised learning designs may address self-identified development needs (Gynther, 2016), there is a dependency upon learner self-efficacy in the online learning space, and the ability to navigate, communicate and commit to a designed pedagogical approach. Empowerment of learners over choice of activities and individualised timelines of engagement, are contrasted with the design intentions of genuine social learning.
These contradictions appear typical of open online learning, but need to be embraced. Evidence from the professional development courses explored in this session show that there are clear positive outcomes for participants by allowing individuals to identify their development needs and draw upon a range of design interventions to meet those needs.
The session will conclude with a discussion about whether open course designers should welcome ill-defined pedagogy, and in doing so provide scope for participants to engage with content, peers and educators in ways that go against the intended learning design. Perspectives from delegates involved in professional development, academic course design and workplace learning would be welcomed, specifically their critical reflections on flexible and tailored learning design.
Cornock, M (2018). Engagement in MOOCs by pre-prepared versus just-in-time learners. OER18, 18-19 April 2018, Bristol, UK.
De Boer, J., Ho, A.D., Stump, G.S., Breslow, L. (2014). ‘Reconceptualizing Educational Variables for Massive Open Online Courses’, Educational Researcher, 43(2), 74-84.
Downes, S. (2016). ‘Personal and personalized learning’, European Multiple MOOCs Aggregator Newsletter. Available at http://www.downes.ca/post/65065 [Accessed 13 Mar 2019]
Gynther, K. (2016). ‘Design Framework for an Adaptive MOOC Enhanced by Blended Learning: Supplementary Training and Personalized Learning for Teacher Professional Development’, The Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 14(1), 15-30.
Laurillard, D. (2016). ‘The educational problem that MOOCs could solve: professional development for teachers of disadvantaged students’, Research in Learning Technology, 24(1).
Louws, M.L., Meirink, J.A., Van Veen, K. and Van Driel, J.H. (2017). ‘Teachers’ self-directed learning and teaching experience: What, how, and why teachers want to learn’, Teaching and Teacher Education, 66, 171-183.
Watted, A. and Barak, M. (2018). ‘Motivating factors of MOOC completers: Comparing between university affiliated students and general participants’, The Internet and Higher Education, 37, 11-20.