The teacher bandwidth problem: MOOCs, connectivism and collaborative knowledge


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have, in recent years, become increasingly popular. An important challenge facing MOOCs is the ‘teacher bandwidth problem’: In the MOOC environment, where there are potentially hundreds of thousands of students, it is impossible for a few teachers to interact with individual students—there is not enough ‘teacher bandwidth’. According to Siemens and Downes’s theory of ‘connectivism’ (Siemens, 2004) one can make up for the lack of teacher bandwidth by relying on collaboration between students; philosophically speaking, however, this theory is underdeveloped. In this paper, we consider the question of learner collaboration in online courses, and the theory of connectivism, from the perspective of social epistemology. We note the similarities between Siemens and Downes’s theory and virtue reliabilist theories of epistemic collaboration more broadly. Our paper has two main aims. First, we offer an illustration of how it is possible to conceptualise learner collaboration in online settings as analogous to collaboration between scientists. Second, we attempt to expand on and clarify what Siemens and Downes had in mind when they proposed the theory of connectivism.



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Author Profiles

Ben Kotzee
University of Birmingham
S. Orestis Palermos
Cardiff University

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Knowledge and social imagery.David Bloor - 1976 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Experience and education.John Dewey - 1938 - West Lafayette, Ind.: Kappa Delta Pi.

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