Author Archives: David Hopkins

About David Hopkins

Learning Technologist: eLearning, mLearning, Blackboard, Social Media, eBooks, Open Badges, CMALT. Author: 'QR Codes in Education' http://bit.ly/15uQEOf

what happened to all the MOOCs?

What happened to the MOOCs?

MOOC = Massive Open Online Course

You knew that already, yes? Here are my thoughts for a Friday afternoon.

Massive – Yes, these courses are usually large. But anything that isn’t constrained by the number of chairs in a room has this potential. A course that has 200 people on it from a provider that has rooms that can cope with no more than 150 people would call this ‘massive’. We know that FutureLearn has had the largest ever online course (I’m not calling them MOOCs anymore) with 440,000 registered for one course, but we’ve yet to see the stats about how many who signed up actually started it, completed more than one week, even completed the course? I wonder if the larger numbers are reflected in the percentages of these ‘completors’ and whether they’re better/worse than those with (much) lower numbers (e.g. 5-15k sign-ups) or figures from other providers?

It’s a little strange that the Guinness World Record website has no mention of FutureLearn or online course, does that still make it a valid record?

Open – Yes, they’re open, but it’s increasingly difficult to find the ‘open’ version (especially on Coursera), you’ve really got to hunt for the link in amongst all the ‘specialization’ and ‘pricing’ links. If you didn’t know what to look for you’d be forgiven for thinking these MOOCs are not free. Open is also about the lack of requirement/prerequisites to already be educated to a particular level. Open, in this way means we can all try something we’d otherwise have to complete an application for (and pass).

Online – Yes, they’re online. Well, they are available to everyone, so long as everyone has access to a computing device and an internet connection. I would like to say personal access to a device and access to a reliable internet connection, but I appreciate this isn’t always the case.

Course – Yes, they’re a course; a collection of articles, videos and activities, maybe with discussion points dotted here or there (for social learning), and probably a test or end ‘assignment’ to prove you’ve learned something to qualify you for a certificate.

My point here is that I am seeing less and less, on the courses or platforms I see, that resemble MOOCs I saw two years ago. MOOC providers have to make money, yes, so there needs to be a way for them to make it, and statements and certificates and the like is a good way to do this. I’m just not sure we’re creating MOOCs for the reason we started – are we trying to force the learning into a model that is, essentially, for-profit now? What about courses that are really just about learning something new, not for CPD or to further a career, those that don’t have something that can be tested? Do you force a test or assignment just so an arbitrary mark can be assigned, therefore completing the numbers & stats in order for a mark/grade or completion rate for a certificate to be awarded?

Are MOOCs (and what we used to refer to as MOOCs) about learning or, as it seems now with exams, tests, assignments, certificates, etc. about the testing and payment options?

I’ll hang my hat firmly on the peg and say that, in the original and purest ‘ideal’ of a MOOC, MOOCs should be about expanding your knowledge, in any subject, for your own reasons and in your own time. Whether there is a paid-for option at the end (provided it’s still free for all at the start and everything inside the course is the same) shouldn’t matter. But it feels like it does. It feels like the commercial aspect is taking over. I hope not.

Image source: ms.akr (CC BY 2.0)

MOOCopoly

MOOCopoly

While searching for something else, I found this fantastic image/resources from Alan Levine – MOOCopoly:

“MOOCOPOLY is the game of teaching massively, openly online and includes the range of players from DS106, CCK08 to the Stanford trio, MITx, and more. Take your chance and many you will have community or not. See more about the making of this monster cogdogblog.com/2014/05/03/moocopoly-the-game/

Fantastic. While it’s based in the DS106 and other specific courses, there is much here for everyone who uses or is involved in MOOCs to take away and adapt. I can see a conference poster coming from this … ;-)

MOOCopoly

Click for original Flickr image: Alan Levine (CC BY 2.0)

Hashtag #4WordPedagogy

Hashtag #4WordPedagogy

Another fantastic hashtag ‘battle’.

Started by Jesse Stommel at the weekend, it’s a simple premise used before: use a hashtag and get the learning community to share their thoughts. Jesse asked us to write some pedagogic statements. In four words. Only four words.

Jesse has summarised his favourites in this Storify list, but here are some of mine, and some of my favourites:


What about you, what would/did you tweet?

Image source: Holly Hayes (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Heuristic Learning & Shakespeare

Heuristic Learning & Shakespeare

I used to write about apps I used or liked as part of my work, or at least I recognised could aid me in my work, but have been remiss on this front for a while. So, with the urging of a few peeps on Twitter (thank you) I’ll start it up again.

This new app I’ve installed actually covers two loves – learning/reading and technology. In my role as eLearning Consultant at Warwick Business School I am responsible for the University of Warwick’s Shakespeare and His World MOOC. My involvement with this course and Professor Jonathan Bate has kick started my love of reading – I studied English Literature A-level. So here we have an app that’ll help me understand the use of technology (and see a fantastic new approach to tech that can aid learning) as well as the understand the Bard’s language.

Back in 2011 I wrote this post about how ebooks, even apps, could be used to greatly enhance the learning experience beyond just the basic text-and-note features the early e-readers offered. It seems it’s coming true (I wish the images in that post had survived a server & hosting service migration)?

Heuristic Shakespeare - The TempestHeuristic Shakespeare – The Tempest (iPad): Like many I find Shakespeare difficult to understand, sometimes just plain obscure. Through the MOOC mentioned above I have learned a lot more about Shakespeare’s influences in the time he wrote the plays (literary, cultural, personal, etc.) as well as the subtleties of his jokes and digs(and careful similarities) to the establishment. This app, therefore brings everything together and makes this one play, The Tempest, so much easier to understand, read, watch, and like.

“The Tempest from Heuristic Shakespeare is the first in a collection of thirty-seven separate apps. Each app is a tool for demystifying one of Shakespeare’s plays and making it more accessible to a modern audience. Sir Ian McKellen and Professor Sir Jonathan Bate take us on journey of discovery using the world-famous Arden Shakespeare texts and their extensive essays and notes. The apps function is to provide an essential aid to understanding and enjoying the plays in the theatre or on the screen.”

Heuristic Shakespeare – The Tempest $5.99 / £4.49
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/heuristic-shakespeare-tempest/id1099176816

From the outset it is clear this app brings the very best of the internet (small ‘i’ these days) and learning. Not least the range of names and successful Shakespearean actors and scholars like Sir Ian McKellen and Prof Sir Jonathan Bate (both of who I worked with on another MOOC), but the way in which multimedia has been used to enhance the text, not replace it.

For those studying Shakespeare for any level of exam or are just an avid reader or Shakespeare lover this App is as good as any book or cheat-sheet note … if not better! If you ignore the videos where the actors read/act the play for you (a massive boost to my understanding – let the actors handle the difficulty of getting the pace, language and emphasis right, I can concentrate on the words and their meanings) the rest of the features are worth getting the app on their own – Shakespeare’s timeline, productions of the play, a copy of the First Folio pages, etc.

Note: I wont review each of the subsequent 36 apps, if indeed they do get round to them all, but suffice to say this approach is a quality one, offering everything I could ever have wanted when I was 16-18 and studying Shakespeare myself.

Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 1  Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 4

Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 5

Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 2  Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 3

Now on to the actually purpose of the App .. and it being called ‘heuristic’. For me a ‘heuristic’ learning experience is all about having the freedom or opportunity to use my experiences to discover or solve something myself. I may be led to the subject, question, or the problem, but the process of learning and solving or answering the question is for me to work out. I wont use, or even know, the best or most efficient process to use to do this, I’ll no doubt flounder around while i figure out what I need to be doing, but it’ll be my decision, my design process, and my skills that’ll take me through this and towards a solution.

And this is exactly what this App offers … the ability to use/choose what version of the play I want: either the text of the play, the pages from the First Folio, actors performing the words, understanding where the play. This is amazing and there should be more opportunities for people to learn like this, Shakespeare or not.

If you’re an English Literature teacher, or a student who’s used the App please let me know what you think of it? Did it help? What aspect of the App you found most useful, interesting, distracting, good for comprehension, good for revision, etc.?

 

Learning

It’s just ‘learning’ now. OK?

So, we’ve had eLearning, e-learning, elearning, and ‘e learning’.

We’ve had mobile learning, mLearning, mlearning. But not ‘m learning’.

(We’ve also got the VLE, LMS, CMS, and many more besides, but that’s for another post).

I believe we are now at a place with web development where we should drop able all these different ways of saying ‘learning’. We should not need to be talking about the different platforms or devices students use to access their ‘learning’; they should all be scalable and accessible to accommodate students using a smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop (or any other device I can’t think of now). Access to learning resources should be across the board, easy, and not determined by the device. Pretty much everything the students need is now online – books, resources, notes, assignments – so the moniker of ‘e’Learning (for ‘electronic’) is void. Students have devices now which do not tether them to either a physical location or a specific IT network that I’m pretty sure we can drop the mLearning (for ‘mobile’) too.

So, where are you taking your LEARNING now?

Image source: Alan Levine (CC BY 2.0)

Webinar Master

Book Review: Webinar Master from Donald Taylor

I downloaded Don’s Webinar Master eBook the day it came out and ready pretty much all of it straight away. It came at a time when I am becoming more and more involved in webinars, both at work at WBS, my involvement with ALT and Learn Appeal, and as an observer/participant in learning-related online seminars.

“There is no real difference between the intimacy and informality of a conversation with friends and what you say online. You still need to be engaging, and to know your audience. If you are also fully prepared, you will do an excellent job.” Donald H Taylor, 2015

Don writes from nine nine years experience of developing and delivering online seminars for the Learning and Skills Group (LSG), so it’s pretty clear to say that Don has seen many changes to the technology and features available in the systems on offer. What strikes me about the book and what Don has written here is that the basic skills needed to plan and run an effective webinar haven’t changed – you still need to carefully plan for an audience who will have many more distractions  that usual, that will be quick to leave unless they are engaged, that will be slow to react or reluctant to ‘chat’ unless they are displeased, and that you will never know how you’re doing until it’s too late.

“I strongly believe that an effective webinar relies on live contributions from attendees. If your platform does not offer a chat area which everyone can contribute to, and read, then I would change platform.” Donald H Taylor, 2015

It isn’t easy, however, to be a ‘webinar master’, I don’t claim to be any good presenting, whether in person or online, but Don’s book covers enough for me, and indeed anyone, to learn a few more skills and to be aware of what will help take a simple presentation and make it an experience.

Sir Ken Robinson

Teachers are like gardeners …

Another wonderful sound-bite from Sir Ken Robinson:

” A great gardener, a great farmer, depends upon plants growing under their care, otherwise they’re out of business. But the irony is that every farmer and gardener knows you cannot make a plant grow. You cannot do that – you don’t stick the roots on, paint the petals, attach the leaves, you know. The plant grows itself. What you do is provide the conditions for growth. Great farmers know what the conditions are and bad ones don’t. Great teachers know what the conditions of growth are, and bad ones don’t. With bad teaching all this potential of students shrivels in the face of it. With great teaching all this stuff starts to flourish and flower. And that, to me, is the great gift of teaching: to recognise that growth is possible, at any time.”

Sir Ken Robinson – Teachers are like gardeners

Image source: Sebastiaan ter Burg (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Video Filming David Hopkins

How ‘long’ is too ‘long’?

For a few years now I’ve been spouting the same lines when it comes to planning a video for an distance learning course or MOOC: “preferably no more than 4 minutes, definitely no more than 6.” Anything more than 6 and we’d consider splitting it at a natural point in the subject, or working with the individual and their content and seeing where a natural break can be made, or other ways to shorten the video.

This has been supported by experience (from distance learning courses I’ve supported at both Bournemouth and Leicester University’s) and the MOOCs I’ve supported and developed while at Warwick, as well as articles like this.

As with everything, there is enough evidence to be found to support and to disprove it.

Yes, I agree that if you have a ‘teaching’ resource, where the academic/teacher is speaking to camera then there is an optimum length that someone will sit and be ‘talked at’, and this is where I see the 6 minute limit coming into play. These kinds of resources are often loaded to a VLE or a MOOC and as part of a set of resources for the topic or week’s subject area.

But there are other approaches to video content where I don’t see this working. What about case studies or mini-documentaries? What about a conversation, when a short 4 minute clip just isn’t enough to get in to the details? Do you still stick to the short-is-best message? In order for these to work you will often need to make it longer so the content and ‘message’ of the case study can be put across.

Let’s not forget, the video is nothing on it’s own. It must always be put into context for the student – why are you presenting the video for them to watch, what do you expect them to think about when they watch it, is there something they need to question as a result of the video (and/or linking it to other resources to build their wider knowledge about the subject area), can they critique the resource and present their findings back to the group, etc.?
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Digital story of … Rock n’ Roll

Back in June 2012 we were all sharing this great video – Digital story of the Nativity. Using the different forms of social media and social sharing the story of the nativity was brought (amusingly) up to date with things like online purchasing, messenger systems, etc.

Now someone has used the same approach and premise of social media activity and Facebook share/likes on the history of Rock n’ Roll. Using soundbites from 64 songs, 84 guitarists, 44 drummers, and 348 rockstars, this is a wonderful video. Checkout the link below for the full track listing (as if you couldn’t list them all anyway!)

What this so brilliantly brings together is the relationship(s) between bands, their music, and what they listen to/like in a world of connection. Enjoy!

History of Rock from Ithaca Audio on Vimeo.

Open Badges in Higher Education

Open Badges in HE

An unfortunate clash in my calendar meant I wasn’t able to attend this wonderful event today, but it hasn’t stopped me joining in and being a Twitter-pest with my comments.

You’ll be needing Doug Belshaw’s excellent slide deck for this:

Open Badges in Higher Education from Doug Belshaw

I know some are against badges, I know some are in favour. I prefer to think of them as the extra-curricular ‘award’ for students to be able to showcase more than just subject knowledge they’ve been able to regurgitate in an exam (something I was always really bad at).

I don’t believe there is merit in a two to three hour stressful exam scenario. Some students do well here, others do not. I would liked to have had the opportunity to produce more appropriate projects, like I do for work, where I had a role to play, sometimes many roles, in order to organise myself and others, collect and collate resources and knowledge, prioritise these resources and manage outcomes. Not to mention the presentation of the project, either digitally or in-person, and the ability to discuss the project and how I/we worked to get this end result. Here I see where badges can showcase individual achievement, aligned to the formal assessment criteria maybe, but giving the ability to showcase my skills, not just knowledge.

Also present and presenting is Anne Hole from University of Sussex, highlighting more experiences in implementing open badges for both CPD (100 Days of Twitter and TEL). I especially like the badges offered to staff for their engagement in the ‘Take 5’ short courses.

Exploring Open Badges in HE from Anne Hole

Also shared during the day was this excellent post from Carla Casilli: Open Badge Opticks : The prismatic value of badges. Go read it.

Many of the tweets I engaged with during the event centred around the same questions we’ve been asking/answering for a few years now:

  • Where is the value in open badges?
  • Who gets to decide the value of the badge, and who gets to issue them?
  • How many badges are too many (either in badges issued or badges collected)?
  • Do employers recognise/value badges?
  • Can/should formal assessment be badged?

and many more. Many questions (still), many different answers (still), all depending on the perspective you’re coming from, and why. I’ll leave you with this great graphic from Doug’s slidedeck – open badges give the recipient (note: not just students!) the opportunity to demonstrate and display proof of the acquisition :

We really do need a new name for 'soft skills' - these are what *really* matter in the workplace! #OpenBadgesHE

image source: Alan Levine (CC BY 2.0)