MOOC Teaching Philosophy and the Conflict with Learner Control #wweopen13

MOOC Teaching Philosophy and the Conflict with Learner Control #wweopen13

This week I began another MOOC – this one is called Online Instruction for Open Educators and is presented by Wide World Ed ( and it officially started today.

The first week talked about teaching philosophy in online education. The article we read presented useful principles to consider when designing/facilitating online courses (see, but I'd like to take these ideas in another direction.

In an open online course, especially one in which is free and not for credit, learners have complete control. They can pick and choose which activities they wish to participate in, and decide for themselves what they want to accomplish in the course. The challenge I have with this is the assumption that the learner knows best about what they need. In an interesting article by Kirschner and van Merrienboer, they say "learners often choose what they prefer, but what they prefer is not always what is best for them" (p.9). So, that makes me wonder, how do we motivate learners in an open educational setting to do what is best for them, especially when that "what is best" is not necessarily what the learner is likely to prefer?


Kirschner, P. A., & van Merriënboer, J. J. G. (2013). Do Learners Really Know Best? Urban Legends in Education. Educational Psychologist, 48(3), 169-183. doi:10.1080/00461520.2013.804395

One Reply to “MOOC Teaching Philosophy and the Conflict with Learner Control #wweopen13”

  1. Kirschner, Van Merrienboer, Paas and lots of the Cognitive Load types do suggest a few solutions.

    Most of them are fans of clear and transparent utility. How is the material/course useful to your students. Tell them what they are doing, why, and how it facilitates them achieving their goals.

    You can also engage utility in another way, that ties in to teaching to learn. Feedback is key. Again, something the cognitivists in general appreciate. You can leverage utility during fedback, by assessing your students needs, goals, and the path they need to take, and then involve them in constructing that path.

    This can yield several positives. It oulines the what and the why – who they are, and where they are going are the key informers of this kind of conversation, and being transparent about that will yield a stromng sense of utility.

    It enables them to add value. Instructor access is one of the key drivers of online student motivation. Giving them access and feedback helps foster that value, whcu will boost motivation, effort and engagement.

    In addition, if the porocess is consultative, your students get to see how you construct their learning, and you get them to construct their own under your guidance. You model your process, through transparency, you get their take, and modify, and you get to feedback on their metacognitive strageies, a key focus in developing learners who can be self guided.

    It;s not that self guidance is not possiuble for learners. It appears to be that the techniues may not be well established. And we can teach the, And probably should.

    VanM, Paas, et al also suggest allowing freedom of choice, but within restricted choices. They argue this lowers confusion, and cognitive load, but also that it gets around some of the freedom of choice issues with people who are not eauippped to make the best learning choices, while deilvering a degree of freedom that is desireable, beneficial, and useful to all.

    Easier said than done thiugh, especially in an open course, and especially if instructor time is limited….

    Struggling with just these qquestions myself at the moment, while designing my own course – #moocie

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