A massive open online course (MOOC) is a type of online university course that is not constrained by what would be considered a traditional learning approach.  The course would be open to anyone from throughout the world, have limited prerequisites to take it, all the resources needed are online and most are offered free of charge.  The two articles on MOOCs provide somewhat opposing views on the success of learning in such a realm as opposed to a more traditional approach, especially in regard to someone who is a new or novice learner.  A connectivist approach to education would support this type of learning where individuals are required to make connections with others, are totally responsible for their learning with limited involvement by a “teacher” and must be able to access and use technology.  Connectivism is a learning theory that explains how Internet technologies have created new opportunities for people to learn and share information across the World Wide Web and among themselves. These technologies include Web browsers, email, wikis, online discussion forums, social networks, YouTube, and any other tool which enables the users to learn and share information with other people. (Siemens, G. 2005)

New knowledge and technology can be hard to keep up with and out of reach for many people.  Individuals trying to learn in this atmosphere without proper guidance can be easily lost in a sea of information.   Based on my own experience I find the connectivist pedagogy to be flawed.  In  taking an online course after being out of school for many years and not familiar with much of the technology that exists today, I would likely be unsuccessful in the connectivist philosophy of learning.  Courses, like the current one I’m in, have a set curriculum, an instructor who is available for assistance and continuous feedback, weekly scheduled assignments with required and optional readings.  I’ve never taken A MOOC or seen how they are set up, but I’m gathering from the readings that they may not be ideal for someone who is new to this type of learning.  Brennan says that good mastery experiences, for novices, are characterised by corrective feedback, achievability, and a cognitive load that presents both a degree of challenge, but also leaves enough space for complex learning. They don’t bore, they engage, they are challenging and attainable, and they track the moving target that is the developing learner as their needs and abilities change. (Brennan, K. 2013)

In Downes rebuttal, he states that not the job of the online course to meed the needs of the novice learner but for the novice learner to be able to set their own terms based on their own personal level and  find a way to take the initiative to do things for themselves.  At a certain point in a complex world a learner has to be able to set the bar for him or herself, to set the challenges appropriately, and find the relevant resources. The more an instructional designer does it for you, the less able you are to do it for yourself, and ultimately, the less useful the resource would be. (Downes, S. 2013).  I can see how ones sense of self-efficacy can be hindered in a MOOC by the very nature of the complex structure at their very core.  Self-efficacy is our belief that a task is achievable by us, and that the environment in which we are working will allow us to achieve that task. (Bandura, A.  1997) . If connectivist philosophy was the norm in middle school education there would be many confused and defeated students who would be wandering around in an abyss of online material.  For the teenage learners that I deal with on a daily basis, their sense of self being and self worth is critical and the approach to teaching them must take this into account.  Cognitive load has a relationship to feelings of fear and anxiety, and to mastery experiences. It’s also a critical mechanism for explaining how and why novice learners particularly may have difficulty in unstructured environments. (Brennan, K. 2013)   I like to keep my lessons and approach to teaching well structured with this in mind for most of the learners I a responsible for.  There, however, are always exceptions.  There are many students who I have taught over the years who would excel in MOOC’s, they are mature confident and capable learners who are well adept at using technology.  These students would be an exception rather than an rule and for the majority a more “traditional” course approach would work best.



Brennan, K. (2013).  In Connectivism, No One Can Hear You Scream: A guide to understanding the MOOC novice. Hybrid Pedagogy. 24 July 2013.

Downes, S. (2013). Connectivism and the Primal Scream. Half an Hour. 25 July 2013.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy. The exercise of control. New York:
W.H.Freeman and Company.Emory University, Division of Educational Studies, Information on Self-Efficacy: A Community of Scholars.

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