DCU launch

August 8th, 2014

dcu_launch.jpg

I’ve just returned from a trip to Dublin, where I am visiting professor at Dublin City University (DCU), working with Mark Brown and his team. Mark is the director of the new National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL). Yesterday was the launch of a new digital technologies initiative, called Connected. It is DCU’s new offering in terms of flexible and distance learning. It includes a new digital learning environment, called LOOP. The event was well attended with around 120 registered. The president of DCU, Professor Brian MacCraith opened the event and described how the initiative linked into the institutional mission, in terms of transforming lives and society, as well as national strategy. Mark Brown unveiled Connected and peppered his talk with three very powerful videos from DCU learners, explaining how DCU had literally transformed their lives.  Professor MacCraith said:

Today’s announcement is much more than a brand launch – rather it is a public commitment by DCU to embrace the best of digital technologies to enhance the learner experience of students, both nationally and globally. Whether you live in Sligo, Seville or Shanghai, DCU Connected provides access to world-class online education, with international expertise and locally-relevant courses designed to meet your needs.

Mark Brown stated that:

DCU Connected is the evolution of our commitment to flexible learning but with a more contemporary and clearly international focus.

I began my short talk by stating that these were interesting and challenging time for Higher Education and that digital technologies offered a plethora of ways in which learners could interact with rich multimedia and ways of communicating and collaborating with peers. I stated that there was a need to move beyond knowledge recall, to enabling learners to become critical thinkers and problem solvers. We need to equip learners to face a complex and dynamic future, where they will be doing jobs that do not even exist today. The new NIDL that Mark Brown directs is a vibrant and strong research centre, which will inform the development of the Connected initiative in the coming months. NIDL will be supported by an International Advisory Board of experts in the field.

Connected is an important initiative not just for DCU, but for the whole of Ireland. I concluded with a couple of statistics, that demonstrate the timeliness of Connected. Tony Bates states that to meet the demands of future leaners we would need to build a brick and mortar institution every week. Clearly e-learning is the only solution. Finally, UNESCO state that more than 10 Million learners cannot afford formal education, Open Educational Resources (OER) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), offer a viable alternative for them. 

I am looking forward very much to working with Mark and the NIDL team over the coming months in terms of developing this very exciting initiative. 

The Irish Times reported on the launch yesterday, the link  can be found here. The new DCU Connected website will be available from Monday 11th August.

Day to day

June 26th, 2014

diary.png

Every now and then I think it is useful to reflect on the range of activities I do as part of my day job. Over the last couple of days I have been working on a number of things.  

  • A chapter on the 7Cs of Learning Design, a draft of which I circulated via social media. I have already received a number of useful comments.
  • Reading a thesis that I am examining next week.
  • Reading a PhD upgrade report and writing the pre-via examiner’s report.
  • A meeting with the medical school about their use of iPads.
  • Evaluation of the MOOCs we ran as part of FutureLearn.
  • An online meeting about a review we are doing of open accreditation process for non-formal and informal learning.
  • A presentation to the VC on our research and teaching activities.
  • An online meeting to discuss the EDEN research workshop and associated programme.
  • Participating in social media.
  • A blog post on an evaluation checklist for courses.

So lots of writing and communicating; a mix of research-focused and teaching-related activities. It’s interesting also to reflect on one’s approaches to working on something. So I was dreading writing the 7Cs chapter and kept putting it off, but finally got my teeth into it and it was very satisfying to print out a copy this morning. 

An evaluation checklist for course design

June 25th, 2014

checklist.jpeg

I am currently working on a chapter on the 7Cs of Learning Design, for a book that James Dalziel is editing. Today I have been working on the Consolidate C and in particular I have been writing about rubrics and checklists to evaluate the effectiveness of a design. Below is one example, comments welcome

  • Are learning outcomes indicated?
  • Do the learning outcomes use active verbs?
  • Are there clear signposts for navigation and labelling (i.e. are there clear headings and is it easy for the participants to navigate around?
  • Is the learning time associated with resources and activities indicated?
  • Is the material logically structured and coherent (are terms explained, do sections follow each other??
  • Is there an appropriate mix of multimedia?
  • Are videos kept to below 10 minutes?
  • Is there a clear and logical learning pathway
  • Is the way in which technologies are to be used made clear to the learners?
  • Is the content coherent and logically structured?
  • Are the pedagogical approaches explicit
  • In what ways are communication and collaboration encouraged?
  • Are all the materials accessible (variable fonts, suitable colours)?
  • Do all the links work
  • Are the activities consistent with the platform’s functionality (i.e. discussion forum, feedback mechanism)?
  • Are the materials open (are there any technological access issues)?
  • What pedagogical approaches are used?
  • Are sections given clear timeframes
  • How are activities monitored?
  • Is there is clear minimum to complete and is there a clear learning timescale?
  • What assessment elements are there?

Disruptive education

June 18th, 2014

On Monday I did a talk at a National Forum seminar at Athlone Institute of Technology. The theme was the flipped classroom. I focused on the concept of disruptive education and looked at this from four perspectives: the flipped classroom, opening up education, e-pedagogies, and Learning Design. In terms of the flipped classroom I argued that the concept was about ‘flipping’ from a traditional lecture–centric approach to one that was learner-centric and activity-centric. The idea is that learners watch videos in advance covering the key concepts, this frees the face-to-face classroom up for discussion and activities. I argued that the benefits were that this enabled the learning intervention to be more collaborative and problem-based. The diagram below illustrates the components that are associated with the flipped classroom, most importantly it is learner centric. 

slide1.jpg

Opening up education has gained increasing interest in recent years, partly through the emergence of Open Educational Resources, but also more recently through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These are disruptive in that they are challenging existing business models for traditional educational institutions. In a world where resources and indeed courses are increasingly free, what is the role of a traditional institution, what are the benefits of learners paying for courses? I described the MOOC classification schema and argued that this could be used to describe, design and evaluate MOOCs. For e-pedagogies I described four examples of how technologies could be used to promote different pedagogical approaches. Finally, I argued that design is the key challenge facing education today, teachers need support to make informed design decisions that are pedagogically effective and make appropriate use of digital technologies. I introduced the 7Cs of Learning Design framework as one means of achieving this.

 

National Institute for Digital Learning

June 18th, 2014

nidl.jpg

I’ve just got back from Ireland, where I had my first taste of being an adjunct professor with Dublin City University (DCU). I am working with Mark Brown who is heading up the new National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL). On Monday Mark and I talked at a National Forum seminar in Athlone. The theme was the flipped classroom. I focused on the concept of disruptive education and looked at disruption from four perspectives: the flipped classroom, opening up education, e-pedagogies, and Learning Design. The focus of Mark’s talk was on quality, built around a metaphor of ice cream. Our talks were followed by a talk from Brian McCabe from the NUI Galway, where he provided a practical description of his implementation of the flipped classroom. On Tuesday I spent the morning with the NIDL team talking through the 7Cs of Learning Design and discussing how it could be applied at DCU.  I’m really looking forward to working with Mark and the team to take NIDL forward, I think it is a really exciting initiative. Watch this space as they say!

Persona cards

June 10th, 2014

One of the most important design decisions you need to make is considering the nature of the learners who will take your course or module. Students on a first-year undergraduate Mathematics course will be very different from post-graduates undertaking a Continuous Professional Development course or those taking an evening class in Spanish. The Persona cards are a useful way of articulating the nature of typical learners on your module or course.

The persona view enables teachers to create personas for the types of learners that are going to complete the design activity; a class of first year 18-year old Maths undergraduates, will have very difficult needs to an online language course for adults. Hence articulating the persona for the learners will help guide what kind of teaching intervention is appropriate for those learners. Factors to take into account include: age, sex, cultural background, discipline, level of technological competence and motivations for doing the learning.

Personas are a tool for sharing our understanding of the expected nature and types of learners.[1]  Nielsen (Nielsen 2013) states that:

The persona method has developed from being a method for IT system development to being used in many other contexts, including development of products, marketing, planning of communication, and service design. [..] Common understanding is that the persona is a description of a fictitious person, but whether this description is based on assumptions or data is not clear, and opinions also different on what the persona description should cover.

It is important to try and be as detailed as possible when describing a persona. An understanding of the characteristics of potential learners will help inform and shape the design process, to ensure that it is targeted at the right level in terms of learners’ competencies and motivations. Cooper (1999) argues that:

Personas are the single most powerful design tool that we use. They are the foundation for all subsequent Goal-Directed design. Personas allow us to see the scope and nature of the design problem. They make it clear exactly what the user’s goals are, so that we can what the product must do – and can get away with not doing.

Tables 1 and 2 show two personas, for Joe and Marie. The personas illustrate the very different characteristics of the learners, in terms of their background and motivations and goals.

 

 

Name: Joe

Gender: Male

Age: 19

Lives in: Gloucester, UK with his parents

Likes football and music

Education and experience

Joe has had a conventional education completing 9 GSCEs and 3 A levels (in Chemistry, Physics and Maths). He works in a local restaurant as a waiter at the weekend. He has not travelled much outside of the UK. His hobbies include watching football and playing in a local band

Roles and responsibilities

He has worked as a waiter for two years and now supervises new employees. He runs a computer programming club, which has 15 members. They meet every Sunday more for two hours. He publishes a monthly newsletter on their activities.

Technical skills

He is a proficient internet user and has good programming skills, which he has learnt in his spare time. He has a laptop and an iPad. He uses the latter primarily for surfing the Internet and keeping in touch with friends.

Subject domain skills and knowledge

He has good science skills and a reasonable level of general knowledge, although he does not keep up much with current affairs.

Motivation and desires

He wants to get a job in the IT industry as a computer programmer, he is passionate about programming and is very gifted at it.

Goals and expectations

His goal is to complete a computer science course and then get a job in the IT industry.

Obstacles to their success

His one weakness is a lack of concentration. He does not have very good study skills and tends not to put too much effort into his learning.

Unique assets

He is a gifted computer programmer and is very sociable and confident with lots of friends.

Table 1: Joe’s Persona

 

 

Name: Maria

Gender: Female

Age: 45

Lives in: London, UK with her husband and two children

Likes classical music, theatre and reading

Education and experience

Marie left school having completed 5 O’ Levels. She later returned to college to complete a HND in cooking. She has run her own Italian restaurant for 15 years. Her parents were Italian and moved to the UK when Maria was ten years old.

Roles and responsibilities

Her restaurant business is very successful. She employs five people, including a full-time chief. She has overall responsibility for the business, including the finances and deciding on the menus, in conjunction with the chief.

Technical skills

She does not use the Internet very much and has relatively low levels of IT proficiency. She does own a desktop computer but using it mainly for sending and receiving emails.

Subject domain skills and knowledge

She is more practically orientated than academic. Her Italian is rusty, she hasn’t practiced it much since moving to the UK when she was 10.

Motivation and desires

Her husband and her would like to move back to Italy when their children (19 and 19) have left home. They would like to set up a restaurant business there. As a result she wants to improve her Italian skills. She is not interested in getting a qualification per se, she just wants to be proficient in Italian.

Goals and expectations

Her goal is to complete an online intermediate Italian course with the Open University, UK and then to move to Italy and set up a new restaurant business.

Obstacles to their success

The main problem she has is a lack of time, she is kept busy with the restaurant (working very long hours) and her family. The OU course requires 7 hours a week as a minimum, she will need to be very focused and motivated to ensure she meets this commitment. In addition, she will need support to begin with to develop her Internet skills, given that the course is wholly delivered online.

Unique assets

She is very practical and has a good business sense. Once she commits to something she is very driven. She has good general language skills and that fact that she lived in Italy for ten years should give her a good head start.

Table 2: Maria’s Persona



 

[1] The following is taken from http://www.ld-grid.org/resources/representations-and-languages/personas

 

[2] https://openclipart.org/people/jonata/jonata_Boy_with_headphone.svg

 

[3] https://openclipart.org/detail/173498/retro-woman-2-by-tikigiki-173498

Good practice in the design and delivery of MOOCs

May 14th, 2014

We are currently evaluating the two MOOCs were are delivering on the FutureLearn platform. In addition, we are currently finalising material for a Technology-Enhanced Learning MOOC as part of the EMMA project. From the findings we have been able to derive the following good practice guides for the design and delivery of MOOCs.

  • Keep the MOOC relatively short; evaluation suggests that longer MOOCs result in high dropout rates and low learner satisfaction. Four to eight weeks is the recommended length of a MOOC.
  • Clearly articulate the number of anticipated learning hours per week; again keep these to a minimum; around 3 – 4 hours is recommended.
  • Have a clear and logical learning pathway.
  • Consider having core and extension activities.
  • Indicate the amount of learning time associated with each learning activity,
  • Make clear why participants are expected to use digital technologies (such as forums, wikis, blogs, etc.) and in particular clarify what are the perceived benefits. For example, wikis as a good means of collaborative working, blogs for reflection, or e-portfolios as a means of participants evidencing and collating how they have achieved the intended learning outcomes.
  • Keep video under 10 minutes, audio can be longer
  • Ensure that learning outcomes are indicated at the beginning of each week, use active verbs that are measurable.
  • Ensure content is coherent and logically structured, with a clear beginning, middle and end.
  • Indicate what, if any, tutor support is provided.
  • Articulate the pedagogical approach used, for example is reflective learning encouraged, or dialogic learning.
  • During design try and focus on activities rather than content.
  • Consider carefully what collaborative elements are included and how these are organised.
  • Try and ensure that each week is organized in the same way so that it is easy for the participants to orientate themselves.
  • Keep participants motivated and on track by providing a weekly email update, summarizing the key points covered and signposting to the following week’s activities.
  • Include mini quizzes at the end of each week, to enable participants to assess their learning.
  • Provide extension activities, which are both remedial and advanced in nature, to cater for a diversity of participants.  
  • Consider having a short (5 minutes) video introducing the week’s content and activities, this provides a more personal touch.
  • Have a number of synchronous hour-long sessions, perhaps one at the beginning of the MOOC to provide an overview and enable participants to outline what they hope to get out of the MOOC, one in the middle providing a space for Q&A and any points for clarification, and one at the end to provide a space to reflect on their experience.
  • Try and ensure that all the resources are open and CC licenced.
  • Provide a discussion thread on the forum to enable participants to introduce themselves, their experience of the subject to date and what they hope to get out of the participation in the MOOC.
  • Consider having a particular structure, for example:
  •  
  • Connect, Activate/Demonstrate, Consolidate
  • Connect – an introductory section to orient the participant to the week’s content and activities.
  • Activate/Demonstrate – the main focus of content and activities for the week.
  • Consolidate – the reflective element of the week, where participants reflect on what they have learnt and consider the relevance to their own practice.
  • Present, Apply, Review
  • Present:  Methods to present new material to students, or to encourage them to think it out for themselves.  This might involve facts, theories, concepts, stories or any other content.
  • Apply: Methods requiring students to apply the new material just presented to them.  This is the only way to ensure that students conceptualise the new material so that they can understand it, recall it, and use it appropriately in the future.
  • Review:  Methods to encourage students to recall former learning so as to clarify and focus on key points, ensure understanding, and to practice and check recall.
  • Use an appropriate mix of multimedia, ensure that images add something to the text, and consider the benefits of audio versus video. Audio is good as participants can listen to whilst doing other things, video is good if it shows or demonstrates something.
  • Try and ensure active participation as much as possible, for example: get participants to find and collate relevant resources, comment on the resource that others have uploaded, get them to write reflective blog posts and to comment on the blog posts written by peers, get them to participate in a discussion forum on a particular topic, or get them to work collaboratively in a group.
  • Enable participants to monitor their learning progress, by providing them with the ability to tick once activities are completed.
  • Consider personalising the learning experience, by providing audio feedback.
  • Ensure that there are clear signposts for navigation and labelling (i.e. have clear headings, make it easy for the participants to navigate around, etc. ).
  • Ensure that all the materials are accessible (variable fonts, suitable colours).
  • Ensure that all links work.
  • Ensure that all the activities are consistent with the platform’s functionality (i.e., discussion forum, feedback mechanisms).
  • Keep text simple and to a minimum.

Tips for designing MOOCs and useful teaching strategies

May 6th, 2014

As part of the EMMA project we are developing a series of MOOCs which will be delivered through the MOOC aggregator platform. Tomorrow we at Leicester are leading a webinar with partners to share best practice in MOOC design. In advance I have created a document sharing tips and hints for good design of MOOCs and a list of suggestions for teaching strategies which might be used. Here is the version to date comments and suggestions for things to add very much welcome!

Best practice guidelines

  1. Keep the MOOC relatively short; evaluation suggests that longer MOOCs result in high dropout rates and low learner satisfaction. Four to eight weeks is the recommended length of a MOOC.

  2. Clearly articulate the number of anticipated learning hours per week; again keep these to a minimum; around 3 – 4 hours is recommended.

  3. Have a clear and logical learning pathway.

  4. Consider having core and extension activities.

  5. Indicate the amount of learning time associated with each learning activity,

  6. Make clear why participants are expected to use digital technologies (such as forums, wikis, blogs, etc.) and in particular clarify what are the perceived benefits. For example, wikis as a good means of collaborative working, blogs for reflection, or e-portfolios as a means of participants evidencing and collating how they have achieved the intended learning outcomes.

  7. Ensure that learning outcomes are indicated at the beginning of each week, use active verbs that are measurable.

  8. Ensure content is coherent and logically structured, with a clear beginning, middle and end.

  9. Indicate what, if any, tutor support is provided.

  10. Articulate the pedagogical approach used, for example is reflective learning encouraged, or dialogic learning.

  11. During design try and focus on activities rather than content.

  12. Consider carefully what collaborative elements are included and how these are organised.

  13. Try and ensure that each week is organized in the same way so that it is easy for the participants to orientate themselves.

  14. Keep participants motivated and on track by providing a weekly email update, summarizing the key points covered and signposting to the following week’s activities.

  15. Include mini quizzes at the end of each week, to enable participants to assess their learning.

  16. Provide extensive activities, which are both remedial and advanced in nature, to cater for a diversity of participants.  

  17. Consider having a short (5 minutes) video introducing the week’s content and activities, this provides a more personal touch.

  18. Have a number of synchronous hour-long sessions, perhaps one at the beginning of the MOOC to provide an overview and enable participants to outline what they hope to get out of the MOOC, one in the middle providing a space for Q&A and any points for clarification, and one at the end to provide a space to reflect on their experience.

  19. Try and ensure that all the resources are open and CC licenced.

  20. Provide a discussion thread on the forum to enable participants to introduce themselves, their experience of the subject to date and what they hope to get out of the participation in the MOOC.

  21. Consider having a particular structure, for example:

  • Connect, Activate/Demonstrate, Consolidate

    • Connect – an introductory section to orient the participant to the week’s content and activities.

    • Activate/Demonstrate – the main focus of content and activities for the week.

    • Consolidate – the reflective element of the week, where participants reflect on what they have learnt and consider the relevance to their own practice.

  • Present, Apply, Review

    • Present:  Methods to present new material to students, or to encourage them to think it out for themselves.  This might involve facts, theories, concepts, stories or any other content.

    • Apply: Methods requiring students to apply the new material just presented to them.  This is the only way to ensure that students conceptualise the new material so that they can understand it, recall it, and use it appropriately in the future.

    • Review:  Methods to encourage students to recall former learning so as to clarify and focus on key points, ensure understanding, and to practice and check recall.

  1. Use an appropriate mix of multimedia, ensure that images add something to the text, and consider the benefits of audio versus video. Audio is good as participants can listen to whilst doing other things, video is good if it shows or demonstrates something.

  2. Try and ensure active participation as much as possible, for example: get participants to find and collate relevant resources, comment on the resource that others have uploaded, get them to write reflective blog posts and to comment on the blog posts written by peers, get them to participate in a discussion forum on a particular topic, or get them to work collaboratively in a group.

  3. Enable participants to monitor their learning progress, by providing them with the ability to tick once activities are completed.

  4. Consider personalising the learning experience, by providing audio feedback.

  5. Ensure that there are clear signposts for navigation and labelling (i.e. have clear headings, make it easy for the participants to navigate around, etc. ).

  6. Ensure that all the materials accessible (variable fonts, suitable colours).

  7. Ensure that all links work.

  8. Ensure that all the activities are consistent with the platform’s functionality (i.e., discussion forum, feedback mechanisms).

  9. Keep text simple and to a minimum.

Teaching techniques

The following are useful teaching techniques:

  1. Annotation – get participants to annotate a resource and then summarise the key points

  2. Articulate reasoning - participants articulate their reasoning on a particular topic, this can be done as a reflective blog post or as part of a discussion forum thread.

  3. Brainstorming - the tutor invites participants to brainstorm as many ideas as possible about a particular topic, these can be collated in an online tool such as linoit.com.

  4. Collective aggregation – get the participants to collectively aggregate a set of resources around a particular topic.

  5. Flash debate – where a current hot topic of relevance is put up as a discussion thread.

  6. Crossword puzzle - have a series of clues around a set of concepts and get participants to complete a crossword. So for example the clue ‘A type of pedagogical approach’ with 14 letters is ‘constructivism’.

  7. Fish bowl - where participants are organised in two circles, in the inner circle there are about four or five chairs, all the remaining participants are arranged in the outer circle. In an open fish bowl one chair in the inner circle is empty, in a closed fishbowl all are occupied. A moderator introduces a topic and those in the inner circle begin discussing it. In the open fish bowl anyone from the outer circle can then move to occupy the empty chair in the inner circle, when this happens someone must voluntarily leave. In the closed fish bowl those in the inner circle talk for a while and then choose to vacate their seat.  

  8. Flash cards - participants work through a series of flahscards or can create and share their own flash cards. Can be useful for example in language learning in terms of drill and practice for learning vocabulary.

  9. Flash debate – where a current hot topic of relevance is put up as a discussion thread.

  10. For and against debate - where participants are divided into two teams of three, one team argues the case for a particular issue, the other team argues against it, then the wider cohort discuss and finally vote.

  11. Icebreakers - activities which help participants relax and become used to a group context, they are useful at the beginning of a course. Here is a link to some useful examples (http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/04/10-techy-icebreakers-for-21st-century.html).

  12. Jigsaw pedagogical pattern where a problem is broken down into four parts, each participant researches a part of the problem, then they get together with others who have researched the same problem, and then they return to their home team to combine knowledge.

  13. Mini quizzes – help participants assess their understanding of the week’s content and activities through a formative mini quiz, providing instant feedback.

  14. Mindmapping – get the participants to create a mindmap of a particular topic and associated ideas, either individually or in groups.

  15. Peer critique – get the participants to peer critique other participants’ writings.

  16. Q&A forum – a space for participants to asked questions, which can be answered by other participants and/or the tutors. Turn the final forum output into a FAQ list.

  17. Reflective blog – get the participants to keep a reflective blog, where they consider what they have learnt and the relevance to their practice.

  18. Reciprocal teaching - this entails the tuor and/or participants taking turns to lead a dialogue. There are four key activities: predicting, questioning, summarising and clarifying.

  19. Pair dialogues - participants work in pairs to develop a shared understanding of a particular set of concepts.

  20. Panel discussion - five or six participants form a panel and discuss a set of issues, this might include questions from the remainder of the cohort who form the audience for the debate.

  21. Posters - participants create a poster on a particular topic, peers provide comments and feedback.

  22. Presentations - participants give a presentation on a particular topic, either individually or in groups.

  23. Rounds - This is a simple technique that encourages participation. The tutor states a question and then goes around inviting everyone to answer briefly. This is not an open discussion. This is an opportunity to individually respond to specific questions, not to comment on each other’s responses or make unrelated remarks.

  24. Scavenger hunt - participants are divided into teams, they are given a list of resources to find (for example they might be asked to find a resource on ‘constructivist learning’, or a resource describing how a wiki can be used to promote collaborative learning or a resource on the implications for learning). The team that collates all the items on the list first wins.

  25. Snowball - enables participants to organise groups of ideas on a concept and assign them to themes. Patterns and relationships in the groups can also be observed. One slip of paper (or ‘post-its’) is used per idea generated or possible solution offered. A meeting is set up of up to 5 people. The slips of paper are viewed and then grouped ‘like with like’. Duplicates can be created if the idea/solution is relevant to more than one group. Patterns and relationships in the groups are observed.

  26. Structured debate - the tutor poses an issue for participants to debate. Each participant then articulates their position. These are posted in the same document. Then to each position, each participant  attaches pro or con arguments. They then critique the arguments by attaching (linking) various comments, two to four participants engage with each other on provocative or divisive issues with an eye to challenging themselves and the audience to examine their assumptions and unconscious beliefs.

  27. Summarising - students work either individually or in teams to summarise the key points associated with a particular text.

  28. Teaching by asking - begin the session by asking participants a set of questions related to the topic being covered.

  29. Think – Pair – Share pedagogical pattern - where participants think about a problem or question, then discuss it with another participant and then discuss collectively with the rest of the group.

  30. Thought experiment - participants are asked to imagine themselves in a particular situation and are asked questions about that situation.

  31. Vicarious learning – where one participant provides an explanation of a particular topic.

Useful links

 

A 12-Dimensional Classification Schema for MOOCs

April 29th, 2014

Introduction

Every few years a new disruptive technology emerges, i.e. something that fundamentally changes the way we do things (Christensen 1997). The Internet, mobile devices and even Virtual Learning Environments are all examples. With the Internet, institutions moved from communication through paper memos to ubiquitous use of email, similarly all departments have a web presence, both to promote the department’s activities generally and to have at least some presence in terms of course offerings. Mobile phones have made landlines virtually redundant; and the functionality of today’s smart phones means that they are used for far, far more things than simply making a phone call. Virtual Learning Environments made institutions realise that technologies were an essential part of the service they offered students. They enabled teachers to upload content and provide mechanisms for students to communicate and collaborate via tools such as forums, blogs and wikis.

The latest in the line of disruptive technologies is Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Initiated by the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge course created by Siemen’s et al. in 2008 (Wikipedia 2012), the number of MOOCs have proliferated in recent years. Indeed there isn’t a Vice Chancellor or Rector in the world who isn’t considering what the impact of these free online courses might have on traditional educational offerings. Martin Bean (Vice Chancellor of the Open University UK), talking about the announcement of FutureLearn,[1] stated:

In 2012 that wave of disruption hit higher education. By the end of the year, 18 of the top 20 universities in North America were offering MOOCs – so that’s the “great brands” box ticked (Bean 2013).

However, MOOCs have generated heated debate; opinions are divided about their value and importance. Some argue that they open up access to education and hence foster social inclusion, others cynically suggest that they are merely a marketing exercise – more about ‘learning income than learning outcomes’ and point to the phenomenally high drop out rates (typically between 95-98%).[2]

This blog post summarises some of the key discourses around MOOCs. It will describe the way in which they are being characterised as either xMOOCs or cMOOCs, but will suggest that this distinction is too limiting. It will put forward a categorisation that can better describe the nuances of different types of MOOCs and will demonstrate how this framework can be use to create more pedagogically effective MOOCs, which will enhance the learning experience and lead to quality enhancement of these types of courses (Conole 2012; Conole 2013).

 

A brief history of MOOCs

MOOCs have been defined as:

A massive open online course (MOOC) is an online course aimed at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for the students, professors, and TAs (Teaching Assistants) (Wikipedia 2012).

The acronym highlights the key components; i.e. that they are online courses which harness the potential for learning in a large-scale, distributed community of peers, through open practices.

Much has been written about the emergence of MOOCs as a phenomenon, these are not listed here, but for an up to date account of MOOC research, there are two recent special issues which point to much of the literature in the field,[3] and at the time of writing there is a call out for a special issue of Distance Education.[4] Siemens et al. created the first MOOC in 2008, called ‘Connectivism and Connective Knowledge’. The course was based on a connectivist pedagogy, which aimed to foster the affordances of social and participatory media. It relied on the benefits of scale though significant interaction with a distributed network of peers. Participants were encouraged to use a variety of technologies; to reflect on their learning and to interact with others. There was no ‘right way’ through the course; the emphasis was on personalised learning through a personal learning environment. Variants on this course emerged, collectively known as cMOOCs, examples included: David Wiley’s course on ‘Open Education’,[5]Personal Learning Environments and Networks (CCK11)’,[6] and ‘Learning Analytics (LAK12)’.[7]

A second type of MOOC emerged in 2011, namely xMOOCs. These were primarily based on interactive media, such as lectures, videos and text. xMOOCs adopted a more behaviourist pedagogical approach, with the emphasis on individual learning, rather than learning through peers. As a result a number of companies emerged, such as: Udacity,[8] EdX,[9] and Coursera.[10] These courses tend to be offered by prestigious institutions, such as Harvard and Stanford, the emphasis is on delivery of content via professors from these institutions.

Nkuyubwatsi provides a useful overview of MOOCs, including a review of some of the key courses from 2008 to the present day (Nkuyubwatsi 2013).  He discusses the key controversy around MOOCs, stating that MOOCs are hailed for their fit within a knowledge society, providing each learner with opportunities to engage with material via formative assessments and the ability to personalise their learning environment. However, he goes on to state that they are criticised for the lack of constructive feedback and the lack of creative and original thinking, citing Bates (2012) and low completion rates, citing Daniel (2012).

Pedagogical approaches

Participation in MOOCs can range from informal non-accredited participation through to engagement as part of a formal course offering. In some instances, tuition-paying students taking courses for credit join the same class as non-tuition paying, non-credit learners.

Many xMOOCs are primarily based on interactive material and videos plus multiple-choice quizzes. Udacity, Coursera and EdX courses consist mainly of lecture videos, course materials, quizzes and assignments. Some do contain wikis and discussion forums, although these are not extensively promoted or used. In some cases forum posts can be up- or down-voted by other participants; if a post is up-voted that participant receives a ‘karma point’. For some Udacity courses, participants have organized their own meet-ups with others who are Geographically co-located. Udacity has set up a meet-up site to facilitate this.

Cormier, in a video describing the nature of Connectivist MOOCs,[11] defines five steps to success: orient, declare, network, cluster and focus. He also argues that knowledge in a MOOC is emergent and dependent on the interaction with others. In his PLENK2010 course he defines four types of activities: aggregate, remix, repurpose and feed forward. Therefore the intention of cMOOCs is to harness the power of social and participatory media to enable participants to communicate and collaborate through a variety of channels; for example Twitter, blogs, wikis, etc. and the use hashtags and curation tools (such as Pinterist or Scoop.it) to filter and aggregate. The focus is on personalisation, but also collective intelligence (Lévy 1997). Each participate forges their own learning path through the materials; picking and mixing which content, activities and communications are meaningful for them. These types of course align well with Cormier’s notion of Rhizomatic learning (Cormier 2008; Cormier 2011), i.e. networks are horizontal, dynamic and emergent, developing in different directions for different individuals. Barry provides a nice comparison of three different MOOCs in terms of workload, technology, content, pedagogy, assessment, etc. (Barry 2013).

Assessment models for MOOCs vary, from simple Multiple Choice responses, through to peer-reviewed feedback and more formal, traditional modes of assessment. DS106,[12] adopted an interesting approach to assessment, whereby course assignments were collectively created by participants and then posted to an assessment bank (EDUCAUSE 2013). Participants could then choose which assignment they wanted to do which were rated on a difficulty of 1 – 5. In this model the assessment bank expanded for use by further participants. An interesting recent innovation in terms of assessment is the use of open badges. The concept is simple; learners can apply for badges demonstrating their completion of aspects of a MOOC. This may be as simple as completion of part of the course or evidence of particular aspects of learning. Badges have criteria associated with them; learners are expected to demonstrate how they have achieved these criteria and this is validated either by peers or tutors. The Mozilla’s Open Badges,[13] are perhaps the best known examples of badges. Their slogan is ‘Get recognition for skills you learn anywhere’. There are three parts to the process: earn (earn badges for skills you learn online and off), issue (get recognition for things you teach) and display (show your badges on the places that matter).

Therefore there are a variety of different pedagogical approaches being adopted in different MOOCs, some emphisising individual learning through interactive materials, others focusing more on social learning.

Stakeholders

The stakeholders for MOOCs are essentially learners (in terms of participating in the MOOCs, tutors (if there are any – in terms of facilitating the MOOCs), teachers (in terms of designing and assessing the MOOCs), institutional managers (in terms of considering their place alongside traditional educational offerings), policy makers (in terms of thinking of the longer term implications for the educational landscape) and venture capitalists (looking to get a return on investment).

Arguably the origin of MOOCs was bottom up; developed by individuals with a vision for promoting open educational practices[14] and fostering connectivist learning approaches through use of social and participatory media. However the recent emergence of start-ups, like Audacity, and initiatives like FutureLearn suggest a shift to a more top down structured approach. Coupled with this, there is evidence of an increase in the notion of open education at policy debate. For example, in December 2012, the Opening up Education through Technologies conference was held in Oslo. The conference was aimed at ministers of education across Europe, to inform them of current thinking on openness and the implications for policy. UNESCO has long being a promoted of Open Educational Resources, stating that:

UNESCO believes that universal access to high quality education is key to the building of peace, sustainable social and economic development, and intercultural dialogue. Open Educational Resources (OER) provide a strategic opportunity to improve the quality of education as well as facilitate policy dialogue, knowledge sharing and capacity building.[15] Whether there is a tension between the grass roots initiatives and the more structured approaches remains to be seen.

The plethora of MOOCs now available, in a variety of languages (although the majority are still in English), is staggering. Recent examples include: the announcement in the UK of FutureLearn (with 21 UK institutions), Open2Study from the Open University of Australia and the EU-based OpenUpEd.

Classifying MOOCs

Terminology is always tricky when trying to describe a new disruptive technology. Even the term for the use of technology to support learning is contested and various terms have been used over the years: educational technology, learning technology, networked learning, Technology-Enhanced Learning, etc. (Conole and Oliver 2007). MOOCs can be seen along a spectrum of adopting more open education practices; from the concept of Learning Objects (Littlejohn 2003) and more recently Open Educational Resources (Glennie, Harley et al. 2012).

As mentioned earlier, to date, MOOCs have been classified as either xMOOCs or cMOOcs. I want to argue that such a classification is too simplistic and in this section put forward an alternative mechanism for describing the nature of MOOCs. Downes suggest four criteria: autonomy, diversity, openness, and interactivity (Downes 2010). Clark (2013) recently provided the follow taxonomy of types of MOOCs:

·      transferMOOCs – where existing courses are transferred to a MOOC

·      madeMOOCs – which are more innovative, making effective use of video and interactive material and are more quality driven

·      synchMOOCs – with a fixed start and end date

·      asynchMOOCs – which don’t have fixed start and end dates and have more flexible assignment deadlines

·      adaptiveMOOCs – which provide personalised learning experiences, based on dynamic assessment and data gathering on the course 

·      groupMOOCs –where the focus is on collaboration in small groups

·      connectivistMOOCS – emphasis on connection across a network of peers

·      miniMOOCSs  - which are much smaller than the traditional massive MOOC

Reich asked the question is a MOOC a textbook or a course (Reich 2013)? He suggests that even the notion of a course is contentious, with parameters such as: start/end dates, self-paced or directed learning, skills or content based, the nature of interactions and whether or not certification is included. He suggests there are two analogies for MOOCs; as books or courses. I think these analogies are flawed. Learning occurs along a spectrum from informal to formal; from loosely based resource-based learning to a structured, time-defined course, which is accredited. MOOCs, in my view, can fit along any point of this spectrum; i.e. they can be used by individuals to support informal learning, where learners might not complete all of the MOOC, but instead dip into different aspects - through to receiving full accreditation and being part of an institutional provided formal course.

I want to suggest that a better classification of MOOCs is in terms of a set of twelve dimensions: the degree of openness, the scale of participation (massification), the amount of use of multimedia, the amount of communication, the extent to which collaboration is included, the type of learner pathway (from learner centred to teacher-centred and highly structured), the level of quality assurance, the extent to which reflection is encouraged, the level of assessment, how informal or formal it is, autonomy, and diversity. MOOCs can then be measured against these twelve dimensions (Table 1). The first three dimensions are related to the context of the MOOC; i.e. how open it is, how large and how diverse the participants are. The remaining nine dimensions are associated with the pedagogical approach adopted, i.e: how much multimedia is use, the nature of communication and collaboration involved, the degree to which reflection is encourage, the nature of the learning pathway provided, what quality assurance process are in place, whether there is any accreditation possible, the link to any formal learning, and the degree of learner autonomy.

Table 1: The 12 dimensional schema

Dimension

Low

Context

Open

How open the MOOC is

Massive

The scale of the MOOC/Number of participants

Diversity

The diversity of the participants

Learning

Use of multimedia

The amount and variety of multimedia

Degree of communication

The forms of communication

Degree of collaboration

The forms of collaboration

Amount of reflection

The extent to which reflection is encouraged

Learning pathway

The nature of the learning pathway

Quality Assurance

The form of quality assurance

Certification

Whether any form of accreditation is possible

Formal learning

Link into formal educational offerings

Autonomy

The degree of learner autonomy

 

Table 2 classifies five MOOCs against these twelve dimensions:

1.     Connectivism and Connective Learning 2011 (CCK).[16] The course took part over twelve weeks. The course uses a variety of technologies, for example, blogs, Second Life, RSS Readers, UStream, etc. Course resources were provided using gRSShopper and online seminars delivered using Elluminate. Participants were encouraged to use a variety of social media and to connect with peer learners, creating their own Personal Learning Environment and network of co-learners.

2.     Introduction to Artificial Intelligence (AI) 2011 (CS221).[17] The course ran over three months and included feedback and a statement of accomplishment. A small percentage of participants enrolled registered for the campus-based Stanford course. The course was primarily based around interactive multimedia resources. The course is now based on the Audacity platform.

3.     OLDS (Learning Design) (OLDS) 2013.[18] The course ran over eight weeks, with a ninth reflection week. It was delivered using Google Apps, the main course site being built in Google Drive, Google forums and Hangouts were also used. Cloudworks[19] was used as a space for participants to share and discuss their course artefacts and to claim credit for badges against course achievements.

4.     Openness and innovation in elearning (H817).[20] The course is part of the Masters in Open and Distance Education offered by the Open University UK. H817 runs between February and October 2013 months, however the MOOC component of the course consists of 100 learning hours spread over seven weeks from March 2013 and is open to a wider audience than those registered on the OU course. The course adopts an ‘activity-based’ pedagogy. There is an emphasis on communication through blog postings and the forum.  Participants have the opportunity to acquire badges for accomplishments.

5.     Introduction to Openness in Education (OE).[21] The course tutor advocates that “learning occurs through construction, annotation and maintenance of learning artifacts,” which is the philosophy that underpins the design of the course. Participant could acquire badges for various accomplishments.

Table 2: Mapping 5 course to the 10 dimensions of MOOCs

Dimension

Low

Medium

High

Context

Open

 

H817, OE, AI

CCK, OLDS

Massive

OLDS, H817, OE

CCK

AI         

Diversity

 

H817, AI, OLDS

CCK, OE

Learning

Use of multimedia

 

CCK, OLDS, H817, OE

AI

Degree of communication

AI

OLDS, H817, OE

CCK

Degree of collaboration

AI

CCK, OLDS, OE

H817          

Amount of reflection

AI

OLDS, OE

CCK

Learning pathway

CCK

OLDS, H817, OE

AI

Quality Assurance

CCK

AI, OLDS, OE

H817

Certification

CCK[22]

OLDS, AI

OE

Formal learning

AI, CCK

OLDS

H817, OE

Autonomy

 

H817, OE

CCK, OLDS, AI

The table demonstrates that, in terms of the twelve dimensions, the five MOOCs illustrate examples of low, medium and high degrees of each. I would argue that at a glance this classification framework gives a far better indication of the nature of each MOOC than the simple classification as xMOOCs and cMOOCs.

Use of the classification schema

The classification schema can be used to describe MOOCs, but can also be used as a checklist to guide the design process and a means of evaluating a MOOC. Table 3 provides an example of this.

Table 3: Example of using the MOOC criteria in the design of a course

Dimension

Degree of evidence

Open

High - The course is built using open source tools and participants are encouraged to share their learning outputs using the creative commons license.

Massive

Low – The course is designed for Continuing Professional Development for Medics in a local authority.

Use of multimedia

High – The course uses a range of multimedia and interactive media, along with an extensive range of medical OER.

Degree of communication

Medium – The participants are encourage to contribute to a number of key debates on the discussion forum, as well as keeping a reflective blog of how the course relates to their professional practice.

Degree of collaboration

Low – The course is designed for busy working professionals, collaboration is kept to a minimum.

Learning pathway

Medium – There are two structured routes through the course – an advanced and a lite version.

Quality Assurance

Medium – The course is peer-reviewed prior to delivery.

Amount of reflection

High – Participants are asked to reflect continually during the course, their personal blogs are particularly important in this respect.

Certification

Medium – Participants can obtain a number of badges on completion of different aspects of the course and receive a certificate of attendance.

Formal learning

Low – The course is informal and optional.

Autonomy

High – Participants are expected to work individually and take control of their learning, there is little in the way of tutor support.

Diversity

Low – The course is specialised for UK medics in one local authority.

 

Conclusion

Conclusion

It is evident that there are a number of drivers impacting on education. Firstly, universities are increasingly looking to expand their online offerings and make more effective use of technologies. Secondly, there is increasing demand from higher student numbers and greater diversity. Thirdly, there is a need to shift from knowledge recall to development of skills to find and use information effectively. In this respect, there is a need to enable learners to develop 21st Century digital literacy skills (Jenkins 2009) to equip them for an increasingly complex and changing societal context. Finally, given the proliferation of new competitors, there is a need for traditional institutions to tackle new competitive niches and business models.[23] MOOCs represent a sign of the times; they instantiate an example of how technologies can disrupt the status quo of education and are a forewarning of further changes to come. Whether or not MOOCs will reach the potential hype currently being discussed is a mote point, what is clear is that we need to take them seriously. More importantly, for both MOOCs and traditional educational offerings we need to make more informed design decisions that are pedagogically effective, leading to an enhanced learner experience and ensuring quality assurance.

Finally, the key value of MOOCs for me is that they are challenging traditional educational institutions and having to make them think about what they are offering, how it is distinctive and what the unique learner experience will be at their institution. As Cormier states:

When we use the MOOC as a lense to examine Higher Education, some interesting things come to light. The question of the ‘reason’ for education comes into focus (Cormier 2013)Furthermore, UNESCO estimate that more than 100 million children can’t afford formal education,[24] MOOCs provide them with a real lifeline to get above the poverty line. This, and the fact that MOOCs provide access to millions. As Creelman notes:

Whatever you think of them they are opening up new learning opportunities for millions of people and that is really the main point of it all (Creelman 2013)So for me the value of MOOCs to promote social inclusion, coupled with them making traditional institutions look harder at what they are providing their students, signifies their importance as a disruptive technology. For me therefore, whether they survive or not, if they result in an opening up of education and a better quality of the learner experience that has got to be for the good.

References

Barry, W. (2013). Comparing the MOOC dot com. The accidental technologist.

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Borgeman, C., H. Abelson, et al. (2008). Fostering learning in the networked world: the cyberlearning opportunity and challenge, Report of the NSF task force on cyberlearning.

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Childs, M. and A. Peachey (2011). Reinventing ourselves: contemporary concepts of indentity in Virtual Worlds. New York, Springer.

Christensen, C. (1997). The innovator’s dilemma: When new technologies cause great firms to fail. Harvard, Harvard University Press.

Clark, D. (2013). MOOCs: taxonomy of 8 types of MOOC. Donald Clark Paln B.

Conole, G. (2010) Review of pedagogical frameworks and models and their use in e-learning.

Conole, G. (2012). The 7Cs of design and delivery. e4innovation.com.

Conole, G. (2013). Current thinking on the 7Cs of Learning Design. e4innovation.com.

Conole, G. (2013). Designing for learning in an open world. New York, Springer.

Conole, G. (2013). What is innovative teaching? Invited talk. Royal Holloway, London.

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Cormier, D. (2011). Rhizomatic learning - why we teach? Dave’s education blog: education, post-structuralism and the rise of the machines. http://davecormier.com/edblog/2011/11/05/rhizomatic-learning-why-learn/.

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[1] http://futurelearn.com/

 

[2] For a debate on the pros and cons see the video of ASCILITE’s ‘The great MOOC debate’ http://alternative-educate.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/audio-ascilite-2012-great-debate-moocs.html

 

[3] http://elearningyork.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/elearning-papers-special-moocs-and-beyond/ and http://ispr.info/2012/10/26/call-massive-open-online-courses-moocs-special-issue-of-journal-of-online-learning-and-teaching-jolt/ (due out late 2013).

 

[4] http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/cfp/cdiecfp.pdf

 

[5] https://learn.canvas.net/courses/4

 

[6] http://cck11.mooc.ca/

 

[7] http://lak12.mooc.ca/

 

[8] https://www.udacity.com/

 

[9] https://www.edx.org/

 

[10] https://www.coursera.org/

 

[11] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eW3gMGqcZQc

 

[12] http://ds106.us/

 

[13] dougbelshaw.com/blog/2012/07/19/informal-learning-gaming-and-openbadges-design/#.UAviyURJH40

 

[14] Open Educational Practices (OEP) were first defined in relation to the creation, management and repurposes of Open Educational Resources (OER) as part of the OPAL initiative (http://www.oer-quality.org/), i.e. a focus on how OER are being used rather than their production per se. The notion has seen been expanded to cover other facets of Open Education, including MOOCs. Therefore I would argue OEP relate to adopting more open practices in educational contexts.

 

[15] http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/access-to-knowledge/open-educational-resources/

 

[16] http://cck11.mooc.ca/

 

[17] https://www.udacity.com/course/cs271

 

[18] http://www.olds.ac.uk/

 

[19] http://cloudworks.ac.uk

 

[20] http://www.open.edu/openlearn/education/open-education/content-section-0

 

[21] https://learn.canvas.net/courses/4

 

[22] Although it was possible to obtain certification from the University of Manitoba for completion of the course

 

[23] As a recent article states MOOCs are challenging traditional institutional business models  http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20120831103842302

 

[24] http://enikki.mitsubishi.or.jp/e/event/index6.html

The Create Learning Design C

March 12th, 2014

I am currently writing a book on Learning Design, which is intended to provide a practical hands on guide to designs, built around the 7Cs of Learning Design framework. This post is a draft of what I have written so far on Chapter Three - The Create C (formally the Capture C). The current version of the chapter is available from SlideshareComments welcome!