What makes a good online course?

What makes a good online learning experience?

Is it possible to define the qualities of what makes a good online learning experience, or a good MOOC? Is there a check list we could have pinned to the wall which we could use as we design and build our courses?

Here’s a few items I think the list needs, feel free to add your own ideas in the comments field below:

Presentation: Is the student able to relate to the subject and the presenter / educator? This is not always easy as the platform (Blackboard, Moodle, FutureLearn, Udacity, etc.) often controls how the materials are ‘presented’. Even with these constraints you do have options on designing your materials and laying them out in ways which make them easy to navigate or interact with.  Continue reading

How Twitter can be used for informal personal learning?

How Twitter can be used for informal personal learning?

I joined Twitter in January 2008 and in the last 6 years, 4 months, and 7 days since my first tweet I have made or posted nearly 33,000 tweets! As I highlighted in my post from last year I have found Twitter the single most important source of information, events, research, back-channel, inspiration, and motivation I have ever come across.

Of course it’s not actually Twitter that does this; it’s the individuals I have connected with in those 6 year, from all corners of this wonderful world and from all walks of life and cultures. These people, who I’ve built my Personal Learning Network (PLN) around, have made me laugh, cry, think, reflect, criticise, critique, avoid, seek out, and generally strive to know more about myself.

The great thing is that you/they had no idea they were doing it, or even part of it. That’s because that’s what I use Twitter for. You might use Twitter for something else; running buddies, charity auctions, account complaints, celebrity stalking, coffee-shop cake comparisons. We each have our own version of the same system that offers our own unique answers or destinations.  Continue reading

If Facebook is a country ...

If Facebook was a country …

If Facebook was a country … yeah, but it isn’t.

I like infographics and social media statistics, but this is the one that has always annoyed me. Liking Facebook (a global network) to the population of a single country is inaccurate.

However instead of saying “if Facebook was a country (population X) it’d be the largest” you said “if Facebook was a government of a country (with population X) it’d be the largest in the world” sounds far more accurate. It’s not about the position or the size of the population, for me it’s the appropriateness of the comparison to geographic countries or responsibilities to it’s ‘population’.

According to Wikipedia Facebook is marginally ahead of China in population, with China at 1.36 billion, and Facebook reportedly at 1.39 billion.

And this is really what it is – Facebook is not a country, it is a government, of sorts. It has ‘residents’ or ‘citizens’, they are real people (for the most part), they have communities and shared interests, passions, ‘likes’, they poll/vote, etc. and they do all this in the area their government is managing.

I’m sure Facebook probably knows more about it’s citizens than most governments do (it knows when we’re happy, sad, ill, socialising, etc.). What I’m not sure on, however, is how many other governments sell this data to other governments?

This reminds me of the opening track from the 22 year old Billy Idol album ‘Cyberpunk‘ where it says:

The future has imploded into the present.
With no nuclear war, the new battlefields are people’s minds and souls.
Mega corporations are the new government.
The computer generated info-domains are the new frontiers.
Though there is better living through science and chemistry, we are all becoming cyborgs.

The computer is the new cool tool, and though we say “all information should be free”.
It is not.
Information is power and currency in the virtual world we inhabit, so mistrust authority.

Is there a similarity in these words and where we find ourselves today as we freely give our data, our currency, to the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google, SnapChat, Apple, etc.?

Image source: Kārlis Dambrāns (CC BY 2.0)

Private Pyle / Full Metal Jacket

The question I didn’t want Google to help me with

“The need to know the capital of Florida died when my phone learned the answer.” Chiveta

This is so true and, then again, so annoying. I find myself going online to find the answer for too much: imperial to metric conversion, place names, spellings, etc. It’s become too easy to rely on a search engine algorithm to get an answer that ordinarily I’d know, or at least be able to work out with a little time and brain power.

Which is why I am so proud of myself – this weekend I figured out something quite trivial without the help of Google. Yes, I finished the task off by using Google to find the name I didn’t know, but I used my slowly deteriorating grey-matter and did it myself.

Here’s why:  Continue reading

Google search tips and tricks (infographic)

Become a Google power-user

“Search engines are the backbone of everyday Internet use, but are you aware of the hidden tips and tricks available to improve your search? Here are some pointers that’ll save you Googling ‘how to Google’.”

I’ve seen this before, a while ago, and lost it. So here it is, blogged and saved forever!  Continue reading

Time

What I’ve learned from my kids: Time

Time is relative, apparently. Whatever that means. As I get older I find myself with less and less of it, to do more and more. Having children isn’t making it any easier, either, but there is a positive to be taken from watching them … here’s my second post about what I’ve learned from my kids.

Everyday, at work or home, I manage my time, from the moment I wake up (often to the sounds of one or both boys arguing) through to trying to figure out if I want to watch another episode of 3rd Rock From the Sun on Netflix (my latest guilty pleasure) before bed.  Continue reading

How do you measure MOOCs?

How do you measure the ‘success’ of a MOOC?

Here’s a question I’ve been battling for some time .. how do you measure the ‘success’ of a MOOC? The problem is that I haven’t been able to define what the ‘success’ is supposed to be, so to try and measure it seems, well, a pointless exercise.

So, here’s a few thoughts I’ve had based on my experiences as a learner on MOOCs (yes, plural), and as part of a team developing and delivering 4 FutureLearn MOOCs now (with a few more in the pipeline too!).

  • Do you look for the headline figures of number of registered learners, or the number of registered learners that became learners (visited the course)?
  • Do you look for the number at the number of learners who did something, that engaged on the course in some way .. as either a number (e.g. 4,000) or as a percentage of the learners who visited the course (e.g. 40%)?
  • If you plan your MOOC to link to a paid-for course (degree, training, etc.) do you measure the success by the number of MOOC learners who enquire, or sign-up, to the linked course?
  • Do you look to the quiz or test responses, to see who’s retained and regurgitated the information based on a ‘score’?
  • Is it the final number of learners who make it through the length of the course to the end?
  • Is the number of comments a worthy of a measurement of success? Do courses that have more comments (either in volume or as a percentage of active learners) indicate a greater success than those with fewer?
  • Can you measure the success based on interactions on social media, through a defined hashtag? In which case do you measure the number of mentions on the hashtag or dig deeper and quantify the different sorts of engagements, ranging from “I’m on #such-and-such course” to enquiries or the detailed thought process involved in critical thinking along the lines of the MOOC subject?
  • Is a successful course one that takes learners from the MOOC environment into a related course, be it a MOOC or other paid-for course? If so, are you capturing that data?

Continue reading

Sketchnotes

Preparing your #Sketchnotes

Note taking has taken on a whole new meaning for me since I started making Sketchnotes. For the uninitiated sketchnotes are all about.

If you haven’t already, I recommend you check out Mike Rohde’s Sketchnote Handbook.

If, like me, you want to sketch your notes at a conference or event, and worry about missing important details or not being ready, here’s a cheat-sheet for you.

  • Pens: Get your pens (including back-up pens if you think you’ll run out of ink) ready and somewhere you can easily get at them. Also worth keeping an eye on is where you can store them for easy access whilst you’re sketching – pocket, bag, table, etc. There’s nothing worse than dropping your pens, book, phone, etc. when you’re trying to pay attention. Try and use at least two colours, and be consistent in how you use them (shading, highlighting, etc.) across all your sketches.
  • Page-per-note: Prepare each page of your notebook with the details of the speaker and/or presentation. Include name, Twitter name, presentation title, etc. in your own design. This way you know what space you’re working with for the presentation, and who it is for. Be careful to make sure you check if titles change!

Continue reading

Learning (Re)Imagined | Graham Brown-Martin

Learning {Re}Imagined

One book I’ve added to my wish-list bookshelf, but not had the funds to get yet, is Learning {Re}Imagined from Graham Brown-Martin.

Both professionally and personally the future of education interests me: my work at Warwick and my two primary school-aged boys. I know from my experiences in both these areas that schooling and teaching does not work, certainly not for everyone. So, what are we to do?

Do we, as Graham did, encourage children to drop out and explore other avenues? Whilst it worked for him, and other successful people like Sir Richard Branson, it could quite easily have gone the other way. It’s not enough to add more technology on to old teaching methods … as Graham says, “since when did teaching become a delivery system? … but to engage in all aspects of education from the support staff and students are given, resources availability and appropriateness, to the spaces we have to work in and with.

Far too many questions, far too few answers. But, so long as we’re asking the questions, we’ve raised awareness and, hopefully, we can begin to bridge the gap between what we want (or need) and what we have. Yes?

For the moment I’ll have to settle for Graham’s tweets and engaging with him on Twitter, and now this TEDx Talk:

Learning (Re)Imagined | Graham
Brown-Martin | TEDxAmsterdamED

Sunni Brown Doodlers Unite #Sketchnote

Doodlers Unite! #Sketchnote

You know I like sketching and sketchnotes, yes? If you do too, whether you realise the full benefit of doodling for pleasure instead of doodling out of boredom, then you’ll love this TED talk from Sunni Brown – Doodlers, unite!

Sunni Brown: Doodlers Unite! TED Talk

As usual, here are some choice extracts from the talk, ones I like.

I spend a lot of time teaching adults how to use visual language and doodling in the workplace. And naturally, I encounter a lot of resistance, because it’s considered to be anti-intellectual and counter to serious learning. But I have a problem with that belief, because I know that doodling has a profound impact on the way that we can process information and the way that we can solve problems.

Here’s what I believe. I think that our culture is so intensely focused on verbal information that we’re almost blinded to the value of doodling. And I’m not comfortable with that. And so because of that belief that I think needs to be burst, I’m here to send us all hurtling back to the truth. And here’s the truth: doodling is an incredibly powerful tool, and it is a tool that we need to remember and to re-learn.” – Sunni Brown