If you’ve been away (for a long long time) you may not have heard about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). If you’ve been away for only a short time you’ll know of these things, but you may not have heard of Futurelearn.
In short, Futurelearn is the first UK-led “multi-institutional platform for free, open, online courses” whose aim is to “increase access to higher education for students in the UK and around the world by offering a diverse range of high quality courses through a single website.”
All good stuff so far. With the experience and weight of The Open University behind it, and partners including the British Library, the British Council and other leading UK Universities (Leicester, Bath, Warwick, Cardiff, etc.) it poses a significant investment of time and energy to ‘do it right’. Futurelearn
“believe there is great potential to change the way people access high quality higher education. With our partners, we are seizing the opportunity to create amazing new learning experiences, twinned with a clear pathway to qualifications for those that want them.”
In this article on the Times Higher Education website today – “Futurelearn’s boss on breaking into MOOCs” – Simon Nelson (Futurelearn CEO) claims the course platform “has the potential to become a social networking site for the student community as popular as Facebook”.
After spending considerable time and effort on MOOCs in the past the Coursera / University of Edinburgh eLearning and Digital Culture MOOC (#edcmooc) was the first have been able to complete.
How I did this was quite simple … I knew I’d fade out after a week or so so I set a goal of one blog entry per week’s activity, including a pre-MOOC post and post-MOOC ‘submission feedback’ post. Now I had set myself this public goal I needed to follow and live up to it. It worked. This may not be to everyone’s taste or motivational style, but after 3 other failed MOOCs I wanted to finish one, just one.
- MOOCs were also presented at the 2013 Blackboard Users Conference (#durbbu) by Jeremy Knox: MOOC Pedagogy
Which now brings me to the nature of the different MOOCs available. By now just about everyone knows what a MOOC is – if not there are plenty of excellent resources to help you on your favourite search engine. With more and more MOOCs available, and the organisations offering them increasing all the time, just what types of MOOCs are they, and what do they mean for the student?
Now the course is completed, the comments on my artefact have been made available. Many thanks to the 9 individuals who left such complementary and encouraging comments.
Before I list the comments … I have one question. I wonder what the next cohort of students will make of the MOOC? Considering the volume of discussion on Facebook, Twitter, and other networks, as well as the wealth of information and analysis on individual or team blogs, it’ll be a very different experience than we’ve had. Won’t it?
Anonymous comments and feedback are below (many thanks to the markers), and the “score from your peers” was given as a ‘2‘ indicating the artefact “achieves this fully or almost fully” (based on the marking criteria of the MOOC themes – see here for the marking criteria and submitted artefact).
- Wow this is GREAT. BTW I live in Manhattan about 10 min. walk to Times Square so I super-related to the visual! Love how Prezi was used to work with the “Times Square Crosswords” concept. So much was well embedded and organized the narrative. This is the best artefact I’ve seen. The author seems very comfortable in the digital environment. Thank you!
“Great! Well done. “Draws you in.” Excellent! Thanks.”
- #1 Yes, the artefact addresses a number of themes suggested by the course material #2 Yes, the author has shown understanding of several themes, and offered visual material as metaphors that help deliver these effectively #3 Yes, the artefact touches upon a number of themes involved with traditional and current theories in digital pedagogies #4 Yes, the choice of production tools, methods and media content from the web is appropriate to promote the authors message #5 Yes, the artefact invokes a reaction to the content, and invites a second viewing to reflect on the story.
Here we are, the final week, well done everyone, we made it!
A ‘Digitial Artefact’ you say? What’s that then? I was not sure when the MOOC started what a digital artefact was, but now understand it’s just another term, albeit slightly pompous, for a blog post, a video, an image, a collection of audio/visual elements that make are collected together in one ‘presentation’ mode.
And what is this artefact to do: The artefact will be critically peer-assessed on elements and themes of the course:
- The artefact addresses one or more themes for the course
- The artefact suggests that the author understands at least one key concept from the course
- The artefact has something to say about digital education
- The choice of media is appropriate for the message
- The artefact stimulates a reaction in you, as its audience, e.g. emotion, thinking, action
I decided to bring together some thoughts around the MOOCs theme in a Prezi, see below: Continue reading
Week four and we are so nearly at the end of the five week Coursera / University of Edinburgh MOOC: ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’. From ‘being human’ (last week) to ‘redefining the human’ we will be introduced to the perspective that the “notion that the human’ is a social category which is made, not a biological or philosophical matter-of-fact”, apparently!
Videos are again the staple of the weekly resources, and the discussion boards are full of analysis, sympathy, and criticism with the themes and characters within. However, there is far more criticism than in previous weeks – have we now arrived at a stage where we, the students, are either more confident in opinion or we are just more comfortable with the subject?
- Robbie is not human, but can demonstrate human-esque experiences (loneliness, happiness, faith, etc.). The big question here is why we continue to treat ‘Robbie’ as non-human when he has all the traits and characteristics of an entity that is human – he has a life-span, he is self-aware, he understands the importance of his existence, he ‘dreamed’, and the importance of his impending demise, he knows what is is to be lonely. Are these not human characteristics? While you may argue that he was made not grown … aren’t we all made, at conception? He became “self-aware” .. well, children become more and more aware of themselves at different ages. Is this not what happened to Robbie, albeit in a different way. Yes, he is not organic, but is that the only condition to being classed as ‘human’ that Robbie does not fulfill?Robbie clearly has human characteristics, but how many were programmed and how many were developed, learned, or ‘evolved’? Is that the true definition of human, the ability to evolve, is it more than just organic material?
Robbie – A Short Film from Neil Harvey on Vimeo.
Week three and into ‘block 2′ of the five week Coursera / University of Edinburgh MOOC: ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’. Are we leaving the bliss of utopia behind, or will be building on the fear of a controlling and dystopian ‘master’ as we become ‘human’?
“What does it mean to be human within a digital culture, and what does that mean for education?”
This week is introduced from the perspective that “we tend not to question, in our everyday lives, where the boundaries of ‘the human’ lie”. As with previous weeks we have a few videos to watch and
criticise analyse as well as a few papers and web resources to read in order to define or answer what it means to be human in the future.
- The advert from Toyota has had a lot of discussion in the Coursera forum but I have a more cynical approach to it – stop trying to intellectualise something that is pure marketing. Do you really think Toyota is trying to make some kind of moral message on the future of technology, or just trying to replicate other successful advertising or cinematic sequences? The end of the advert is very reminiscent of the end of The Truman Show, where Truman (aka Jim Carrey) has a choice to stay in the world he now knows is fake, yet safe, or leave to an unknown but world that allows freedom of choice and experience. Isn’t this also what education is becoming … isn’t this why we’re also doing this MOOC, for the freedom of choice?
- The second advert, this time one of the adverts in the series from BT (UK) which is supposed to represent “authentic” human contact, taking a cheap shot at the Instant Messaging and Facebook generation in an effort to show how a simple phone call is the real thing. No, a conversation in person is the real thing, a phone call is the next best thing. If we take this scenario into the real world, into my day to day work, then I would rather walk along the corridor to someone’s office and talk to them properly than a phone call or email. In an online learning environment this is obviously not possible, and neither is a phone call (one tutor to ‘x’ number of students, that could be a lot of calls) – this is why Instant Messaging or discussion boards and/or conference calls (Skype?) are popular, and will remain so.
On to the second of the five weeks Coursera / University of Edinburgh MOOC: ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’. This week is centred around looking to the future, the “future-focused visions of technology and education” whilst building on the previous utopian/dystopian ‘discourse’.
Having to watch, and comment/analyse, films introduced as “evocative and sometimes disturbing visions of what the future of information technology might hold” is always going to get your attention.
“Who is set to benefit from the personal, constant attentions of information technology, and who might lose out?”
- How is education being visualised in “A Day Made of Glass”? You could argue that most of these ‘tools’ are already available in one form or another in society and that schools already do most of what is shown here – maybe not exactly as shown, but some of it: smart boards, NearPod App (teacher presents to student device), tablets, etc. What is shown isn’t as far fetched as you may think, it’s just the way in which it is presented rather than what is presented that is different. How the technology is used outside of the classroom is more ‘futuristic’ and is where you could argue its worth – should children be given space (in or outside) that is free from technology, free for them to experience the world as it is and not through some sanitised technology that reveals the real world through a camera lens?
- Continue reading
Here are some notes, links, conversations, thoughts, and reflections on the first week of the University of Edinburgh / Cousera ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’ MOOC. This reflection will form part of the work required by the MOOC as well as reflections on the processes and Coursera system itself.
Initial thoughts on the course and/or platform (supplemental to my earlier post):
- Agree to abide by an ‘honour code’ – much like a learning contract that some places use with students, does anyone have any indication that this works (or not)?
- There is so much hype around this MOOC, why? Is it because it’s the first in the UK by Coursera AND a UK HEI?
- There is so much going on, on all the platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Coursera discuss boards, etc.) that, even day after the official start, it’s very overwhelming and I am thinking “what have I let myself in for?” Is this why so many people don’t finish (or even start)?
- So far I’ve done the whole MOOC on the iPad, including this post using the WordPress app. It’s not easy as the formatting in the post needs fine tuning and this can really only be done (still on the iPad: links, image alignment, etc.) through the admin web interface.
- One discussion board per week/topic … for up to 40,000 students? I think this needs further management to make it something that can work with and for the students. Even after the first day the number of posts was intimidating, who knows what it’ll be like in a week or so.
- Don’t confuse the learners with inappropriate or unnecessary language or jargon. This will only make them feel even more alienated and removed from the objectives of the course and cause unnecessary worry and stress. If you want us to produce a blog post, video, presentation, etc. then ask us to do this .. I have never used the term ‘digital artifact’ and probably wont start now either.
Now for my reflection on week one of the course itself:
- Thankfully the terms ‘utopian’ and ‘dystopian’ are explained – this was causing me concern as I had no idea what I supposed to understand by this until now, in relation to education and technology: ‘utopian’ (creating highly desirable social, educational, or cultural effects) or ‘dystopian’ (creating extremely negative effects for society, education or culture).
- Continue reading
We’re off … not quite! The Coursera and University of Edinburgh MOOC on “E-learning and Digital Cultures” starts next week, although with all the chatter surrounding it you’d think it’s well under way already (good publicity?).
The contact we’ve had from the organisers in the run up to the start of the MOOC (and I was able to speak to Jeremy Knox briefly at the Durham Blackbord Users’ Conference) has been really good, via emails and Twitter (my main two channels of contact) and I’ve had the ability to interact with the organisers and fellow students on the various social network platforms that have had areas set up (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Google Maps) – to be honest I’d prefer to choose just one to concentrate on, I already feel like I’m being pulled in different directions.
I will not be joining the Facebook group as I use Facebook purely for family & friends – I keep work and Ed Tech passion to Google+, Twitter, and here on my blog.
Considering the fact I hear that the MOOC has upwards of 36,000 people signed up for it I think it’s be prudent and very sensible to concentrate on your preferred platform (Twitter, Google+, etc) as well as the Coursera platform, and stick there otherwise it’ll be too difficult to keep up to date with what is going on.
Day two of the Durham Blackboard started with an extremely useful insight into the roadmap Blackboard is taking with their product(s), as well as Blackboard’s own opinion on the conference theme: “Make Do or Spend?”. However, the Conference’s second keynote is from Jeremy Knox from the University of Edinburgh and was on “MOOC pedagogy: the challenges of developing for Coursera”.
What challenges, dilemmas, and opportunities do MOOCs offer:
- cMOOC (connectivist) and xMOOC (Udacity / Coursera / edX – Institutional led): what is the value to the distinction between each?
- MOOC tutoring & support is ‘light touch’ approach with low study hours per week, with certificates for completion and not credit.
- Udacity is more corporate association developing MOOCs (for-profit, independent of institutions). Continue reading