Using mLearning and MOOCs to understand chaos, emergence, and complexity in education

Inge deWaard,, IRRODL, Nov 28, 2011
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This paper looks at the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) from the perspective of a MobiMOOC, a six-week course focusing on mLearning that ran from April to May 2011. It begins with a quick outline of chaos theory and suggests that "a pedagogical format that embeds and even embraces this complexity, combined with a prevalent emerging technology, can be the means to arrive at a new educational order." It overviews the course and describes some participation statistics (pictured, above). According to the authors, a MOOC is complex and self-organizing, a MOOC is connected and open, MOOCs can transform to adapt to the needs of the course or environment, and MOOCs manifest emergent phenomena, and specifically, internal diversity, internal redundancy, neighbor interactions, and decentralized control. Technologies and transformations also arise as emergent phenomena. Conversation, dialogue, and social meaning are also opbserved. "The MobiMOOC we ran," they conclude, "was an example of an open and adaptive, complex system."
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