Tag Archives: Distance Learning

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)

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.?

 

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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Customise me

Don’t give it to me unless I can customise it

My first car was a 1993 Rover Mini Cooper 1.3i, in British Racing Green (obviously). I bought it second hand in ’97 from John Cooper Garages (JCG) in West Sussex, and the legendary John Cooper himself handed my the keys (and made my mum a cup of tea while I did the paperwork).

Like so many people who own a Mini it didn’t stay ‘standard’ for very long, as I read through the Mini magazines on the kinds of things I could do to personalise the car. I went to Mini events, like the London-to-Brighton Mini Run and the 40th anniversary party at Silverstone, and looked over the show cars and private cars that were parked up, as well as the stands and auto-jumble traders. I bought the whole set of JCG brushed aluminium door furniture (window winders, door pulls, etc.) and chrome accessories (bling!), as well as doing more mechanical upgrades like vented discs and four-pot calliper for both front and read brakes, and a full-length straight-through (manifold to rear ‘box) DTM-style exhaust system (ooh, that was awesome!).

This was the start of my love affair with tinkering and messing with anything that’s standard to make it personal for what and how I like it.  Continue reading

ALTC 2015

The Interview Process #altc

From this year’s ALT conference I enjoyed (finally) meeting Wayne Barry, EdTechBook contributor, and chatting about his ALTC presentation.

Wayne’s presentation looked at a different way of interviewing candidates for Learning Technologist positions using standard questions and short presentations, but also the inclusion of a short role-play exercise. Each candidate is given advance notice that they will engage with an ‘academic’ who is interested in introducing elements of distance learning to their module. During the short exercise (many people took issue with the use of the term ‘role-play’) candidates will exhibit both knowledge of their discipline as well as the ability to listen, engage, problem solve, and debate with a member of the team taking the role of an academic.

So, how do you find out if someone will fit in to your office and team environment? Can you do this by just questions? Do competency based questions offer enough space for someone to fudge their way through the process, or rather offer the interviewers enough insight to see the tRuth behind the candidate?

This reminds me of this video, from Heineken: Job Interview. Slightly over the top, but you get the idea – by changing the process you find out many different things (hopefully good) about the candidates. Enjoy!

YouTube: Job interview at Heineken

Life's a beach #blimage

Life’s a beach #blimage

So, I’ve been convinced (it didn’t take much) to write a 4th #blimage post, this time from
Kate Graham.

You can read all my #bliamge posts here, and find out more about the challenge and how to get involved (hint: find an image, write about it as part of a learning journey or story or experience).

I’m not a fan of cricket (which is what Kate has written about), but can appreciate how sport and a game like that can capture the passion and loyalty of a nation, especially when it’s going so very well, or so very badly, which is unfortunately how England seem to play. Kate’s challenge image, the beach scene above, is much more in keeping with my wandering soul / spirit and something that brings a lot of very strong emotions to the surface.

It is these emotions, as well as the image itself, that makes me accept the #blimage challenge here. Yes, I lived in Bournemouth for many years, just a 10 minutes walk from the wonderful sandy beaches for the last 12 years, before moving to the part of the country that is the furthest from the sea. We used to walk or cycle along the 7 mile promenade from Hengistbury Head past the two Bournemouth piers to Poole Harbour, sometimes getting the ferry to Studland and along the coast to Swanage. We’d often stop and get our feet wet, sometimes just sitting down and enjoying the sunrise or sunset.   Continue reading

Digging Deeper into Learners’ Experiences in MOOCs:

Reading: Digging Deeper into Learners’ Experiences in MOOCs

One aspect of working on MOOCs is that there is no clear way to measure it’s success. Do you use the stats and logs that indicate clicks and time-on-page, or look at the nature of the conversations and/or comments made?

That’s why this paper loaded to Academia.edu by George Veletsianos piqued my interest – is there something in here that can help me understand the metrics we need to use in order to measure the learning and/or success of a MOOC?

“Digging Deeper into Learners’ Experiences in MOOCs: Participation in social networks outside of MOOCs, Notetaking, and contexts surrounding content consumption.”

Unsurprisingly the authors highlights the lack of literature around MOOCs that look into the metrics of MOOCs that are not captured on the MOOC platform (EdX, Coursera, FutureLearn, etc.), notably the social engagements, note-taking, and content consumption. Something I’d not considered before is the “availability of large-scale data sets appears to have shaped the research questions that are being asked about MOOCs.”  Continue reading

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

Netflix

Learning the Netflix way

I’ve just read the post by Donald Clark called ‘What does ‘learning’ have to learn from Netflix?’ which has resonated with much of my own thinking from recent work and discussions I’ve been having on Twitter.

I signed up for one of the free 1 month trials of Netflix when it was first available in the UK. I enjoyed it, then cancelled it. I’d got what I wanted. Then I realised I wanted access to the binge-watching phenomenons like House of Cards, Breaking Bad, and the one that started them all, 24. But more than this, as Donald mentions in his post, I wanted access to the kind of programmes I like and at my convenience. I am not always available at 9PM every Thursday to watch the latest instalment of my favourite show(s), just like I don’t actually want to wait a full week for the next episode. I first watched 24 on DVD, not Sky, so I did binge-watch the show, usually 4 full episodes a night (or 1 DVD) and went to bed wired for the next marathon 24-fest.

So, if we’re changing our viewing habits, are we changing our learning habits (as pointed out by Donald)?

Yes. Consider Donald’s points:  Continue reading