MOOCs and technology-enhanced learning: next steps and challenges

Last week, I gave a presentation at the Westminster Higher Education Forum Keynote Seminar, where I explored the opportunities MOOCs provide for UK universities to develop their brand internationally and to expand their international market through online learning. My slides and transcripts below:

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This diagram illustrates how MOOCs may offer a low-cost, flexible alternative for those ‘glocal‘ students, who choose to study in universities in their home countries but also gain an international experience (something that is highly valued) through studying courses online (MOOCs, the OU’s OpenLeran, etc.) that are integrated into their own university curriculum.

For institutions providing the free content, these courses can help universities to market their higher degree programmes and recruit new students who are better prepared to study on-campus in the UK, or through fully online degrees without leaving their own countries.   Untitled.png1

As an example, we looked at the Web Science MOOC created by the university of Southampton which has been integrated into a computer science course by Beijing Normal University (BNU). 87 first year undergraduate students who are studying an introduction to computer science have signed up for the course on Futurelearn. In addition to attending lessons offered by BNU, they also watch videos online and discuss the learning materials with their peers and the tutor face to face or online. Several online seminars are delivered by academics from the University of Southampton. Online facilitations and assessments are provided by the local tutor on the Wolearn platform in China during the MOOC study. Flipped and blended learning approaches are used to make online and face to face learning more effective and integrated between the BUN course and the Web Science MOOCs.

This experiment showed how we can use MOOCs to explore new paths and models for affordable, flexible and effective international education through online or blended provisions. Furthermore, to help us understand how MOOCs might be developed to enhance UK universities’ reputation internationally and to better market their courses to potential students through partnerships with universities in other countries.

Not surprisingly, one of the challenges mentioned again during the penal discussion session was business models for MOOCs. It is clear that some institutions have seen the new opportunities presented by MOOCs as a useful motivation for re-examining their current provision and think about ways in which they can change and diversify, and consider MOOCs as a part of new strategic direction for future online provision nationally and internationally.

 

Reflection on the “Open Education – a New World Order” session

At the Cetis conference 2014, Stephen and I facilitated a session on “Open Education and MOOCs”. We began with two very interesting presentations from Audrey Watters,  a journalist and author of Hack Education, and Amy Woodgate from The University of Edinburgh. They offered two different perspectives: MOOCs as teaching machines vs MOOCs as teaching experiments.

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Audrey shared some insights on how the ideas and principles developed by the founder of Udacity, Sebastian Thrun, and used to build Google’s self-driving car have been applied to MOOCs to make teaching and learning scalable and standardized. Audrey argued that with AI (artificial intelligence) mind-sets, MOOCs have been developed as teaching machines that use students’ data as the new oil that drives learners to automated education!,

A contrasting view developed in Amy’s presentation discussed how Edinburgh MOOCs have been used for experimenting with new online delivery methods and capability building. In this case, MOOCs can be seen as a vehicle for  exploring new online learning pedagogy, acting as a catalyst for institutional change.

In the second half of the session, participants discussed the opportunities, challenges, motivation and capacities required for developing open online learning in institutions. They worked in groups to develop business models for adopting MOOCs in different types of organisations, namely: a Research Focused University; a Teaching Focused University and a New Market Entrant. Business Model Canvas was used as a tool to facilitate their conversations with each group developing a model canvas:

1. The Research Focused University

Highlights: Although finance and revenues are not big concerns for this type of institution, good will, enthusiasm and spare time of academics will not sustain institutional MOOC provision in the long run.

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2. The Teaching Focused University

Highlights: Great opportunities for blended learning, flipped classrooms and experimenting with unbundling and rebundling. However, the new courses and models need to generate new revenue streams for institutions.

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3. The New Market Entrant

Highlights: new market was identified to meet the unmet needs, such as NEETS. But it is unclear who is going to pay for it.

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Overall, the session gave us lots of food for thought. After two years of MOOC hype, it is interesting to see that Udacity has moved towards corporate training and professional development and Coursera has also has shifted their focus away from impact on learners towards working with institutions.

The most significant contribution yet of MOOCs in higher education is that it has raised awareness of open education and raised the profile of open education resources (OERs) in teaching and learning practices in institutions. However, it emerged from discussions and the BMC exercises during the session that without vital financial support and a viable business model, the new wave of optimism around open online learning generated by MOOCs will gradually fade away.

“Open Higher Education”, a scenario from the TEL-Map UK HE cluster

At the “Emerging Reality: Making sense new models of learning organisation” workshop at the CETIS conference 2012, Bill Olivier from Institute of Educational Cybernetics at the University of Bolton presented a scenario of “ Open Higher Education” which was developed by a group of participants from the UK HE sector. Having been involved in the UK OER programme, looking at the trends and development around OERs and open education in HE, it was really interesting to see this scenario emerging as one of the outcomes of the meeting of a UK HE cluster through the modified Future Search Method adopted by the TEL-Map project.

During a meeting at Nottingham, prior to the CETIS conference, the TEL-Map UK HE cluster identified some 80 trends and drivers impacting on the future of TEL in UK higher education. The group rated them for Impact/Importance and consolidated the high impact, high uncertainty trends and drivers into two overarching but mutually independent axes: ‘Variety of universities’ and ‘Student demands’. This cross-impact analysis resulted in these two axes placed to develop four context scenarios, namely Oxbridge Model, Traditional University Model, De-Campus Model and Open-Ed Model.

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The Open Higher Education scenario was identified from the bottom right quadrant of the scenario diagram above. In this scenario, emerging leaders include the OERu, P2Pu and Udacity. The common features of this scenario’s learning model include low cost content and peer learning support, with expert support when it is needed. Initially, students choose this form of HE because they don’t have to pay for the services provided by universities that they cannot benefit from, such as sports halls, students societies, classrooms and libraries, etc. This model expands as more and more people find online university courses affordable & practical and more students see its benefits, including those who would have attended traditional university.

Along with the Open Higher Education scenario, three other thought-provoking and interesting scenarios were presented and discussed, including, Christian Voigt’s “Technology Supported Learning Design”; Adam Cooper’s “The Network of Society of Scholars” and David Sowden’s (University of Hull) presentation on “New Models of Learning”. During the workshop, the participants were also given an opportunity to vote for drivers identified in each scenario using ideascale to stimulate the discussions and debates. If you are interested to know more about the workshop, a full report will be available soon at the TEL-Map project website.

JISC Observatory Technology Forecast Literature Review

One of the tasks the JISC Observatory has undertaken is to identify trends of emerging technologies and applications from outside the European and N American educational domains that could conceivably be relevant to the UK higher education system. In order to do so my colleague Phil Barker and I carried out a brief literature scan of the major technology forecasting publications from business and other sectors which are available through open access, e.g. PwC Technology Forecast, Gartner’s Top IT Predictions, etc.

Around thirty publications describing emerging technologies predicted to be important to domains other than education, were suggested by members of JISC’s two Innovation Support Centres: Cetis and UKOLN. These are listed on the delicious website. These were read and the technologies they identify summarised in a Google Doc. These technologies were then grouped into themes for discussion. For each theme we provide a brief introductory definition, a short snapshot of relevant technologies and applications in business and the wider world, and its implications for an organisation’s IT and business strategies. The final report is now available for download.

Overall the themes that were identified as being widely discussed in the technology forecast publications came as no surprise, but there were some interesting trends that were picked up by only one or two of the forecast publications that wered new to us, for example, fabric-based computing (a modular approach to computer hardware, Gartner 2010), that might be worth considering further.

#cetis10: Cheaper, flexible, effective institutions

My colleague Simon, John and I will run two sessions on Cheaper, flexible, effective institutions at JISC CETIS conference next week. David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, urged that universities need to find cheaper and more flexible ways to teach in “tough times”. The Browne review sets out a great political imperative for institutions to think about new funding streams and innovative approaches to widening participation. There a growing criticism of inefficiencies in Higher Education, including the costs of teaching and of producing learning materials and resources.

So how can we respond to these issues, in the light of political and economic reality, and in terms of the contribution from learning technology? In the first session, we will look at “technology, politics and economics”. Different political and economic assumptions, attitudes or views are likely to give different solutions to our question. In this session, we proposed five models of higher education in order stimulate the debate and discussions.

  • State funded – HE could be a service provided free by governments funded from tax revenue to enable all citizens to develop their talents and interests to a higher level, and to benefit the national economy
  • Free-market – HE could be a business where HEIs charge full economic fees to students in return for giving them knowledge, skills, professional training and qualifications, networks of contacts, and prestige to use later in working life
  • Business-run – Higher-level education and training could be provided by businesses for their employees, as part of a process of managing their talent pool, and as a way to attract and retain the best employees
  • Charity funded – HEIs could be charities dedicated to spreading learning and its benefits to as many people as possible, including the poor and disadvantaged across the world, using volunteer staff where possible
  • DIY U – HE could be a self-organised system through which individuals decide on their higher learning needs and collaborate with other learners to achieve them using freely available resources where possible.

The participants will be asked to form groups around these positions or suggest other positions for group discussion. We expect that a rich picture for the vision from each position will be presented and some bullet points to cover the practical aspects of learning technology developments that could help to get there, and the role of JISC / CETIS.

In the second session, we will focus on “community and learner support” to explore how technology can help in the processes of learner support at different stages, either directly or through facilitating communities which can support the processes. In each case, who would be the members of the relevant community, and how can technology work for them?

Social software and e-portfolio tools are prime candidates to help with community and learner support, but how can this be done effectively? Can other learning technologies help as well, towards the goal of cheaper and more flexible HE provision that is still effective?

We would like to invite anyone who is interested in the future of Higher Education to share your ideas and thoughts in those sessions. We would like you to think about how cheaper, flexible, effective institutions could function, in terms of technology, politics and economics, and how low-cost, flexible and effective community and support for learners could be provided, how could we practically get there, and how could JISC and CETIS contribute?

Institution strand of UKOER programme meeting

Last week, seven OER projects from the institution strand of UKOER pilot programme gathered together at Nottingham University to share the outcomes of the projects and common issues they are trying to address which I found very useful and stimulating. The meeting started with OER showcases in which each project presented two resources they have made available through their project. Some of the examples are available on the project websites and JorumOpen. Here is the list of the projects and the features of the resources that were presented:

  1. BERLiN (University of Nottingham) – a 6 credits PGCE international course and resources created in the Second Life;
  2. Unicycle (Leeds Metropolitan University) – virtual maths, a 6 credits course;
  3. Open Exeter (University of Exeter) – a complete modular for self-paced learning;
  4. OpenStaffs (Staffordshire University) – Individual images for reuse and repurposing;
  5. OTTER (University of Leicester) – a framework for transforming teaching materials into OERS;
  6. OpenSpires (University of Oxford) – Oxford seminars and public lectures-based resources;
  7. OCEP (Coventry University) – diverse content types, such as Second Life machinima, looking into how one set of resources could be used in different ways.

The meeting also provided an opportunity for projects to share experiences and discuss issues on reward and recognition for producing OERs, developing sustainable OER models, resources discovery and copyright clearance, etc. There were several themes raised during the presentations and discussions:

  • Quality control: how should institutions control the quality of OERs provided by lecturers? On the one hand, quality is very critical from the marketing perspective since these resources are showcases of universities’ courses. On the other hand, if the goal of OERs is to promote sharing, reusing and repurposing, then the quality of the resources should be judged by the end users rather than institutions.
  • Centralised and distributed models: it has been reported that some projects have adopted a centralised model which means that staff have been employed by the project to provide technical and other supports for procuring and releasing OERs. However, there are concerns about whether universities would continue fund this support when the project finished. One of the projects adopted a distributed model for which no additional staff has been recruited and the responsibilities for producing OERs have been located to representatives from different faculties. It is hoped that these people would continue to do so after the OER programme ends.
  • Shrinking credits: there have been concerns about producing 360 credits equivalent teaching and learning resources at the end of the programme. Some projects found they are struggling to meet this requirement. One of the reasons mentioned was “shrinking credits”. For example, a lecturer may promise to provide 30 credits course materials, however, when the course materials turn to OERs, it might turn out to be much less than 30 credits. This is understandable, when we talk about credits which involve content, teaching and learning process and assessment. In this sense, if it is content alone, credits may be not the most appropriate way to measure the OER projects. However, it is agreed that the UK OER programme does expect to make significant amounts of teaching and learning resources freely available.

According to The New Media Consortium the Horizon Report 2010, open content is expected to reach mainstream teaching and learning within one year or less. In this case, what these institution projects have learned from the UK OER pilot programme would be really valuable to this movement.

CETIS visits China for conferences and seminars


xuzhou-conference2Two weeks ago, I joined my colleagues, Oleg Liber, Director of JISC CETIS and Sarah Holyfield, Communications Director of JISC CETIS to present at the 8th International Educational Technology Forum in Xuzhou, JiangSu province, China. The conference is organised by the National Colleges and Universities of Educational Technology Direction Committeoleg2e and it provides a platform for experts and scholars in China and abroad to discuss the latest issues on the use of technology in education, and to learn from practice, exchange ideas and share mutual interests. About 500 experts, researchers, teachers and students frome China, UK, US and Japan attended the conference. Professor Liber was invited to give a keynote lecture on “Cybernetics and Education: Insights from the Viable System Model” with a focus on Cybernetic Modelling as an approach to designing educational technology intervention. I gave a presentation on Open Educational Resources initiatives and the UK JISC-funded OER Programme at the conference.

I also attended the Chinese Government Funded Educational Technology Programmes & Innovative Use of Technology in Education conference which higher-education-press1was organised by the Higher Education Press in Beijing on 24th August. The speakers from different Chinese universities reported findings from their projects and research on use of technology to enhance teaching and learning. I was invited to give a presentation on the UK OER Programme and Innovation in HE and this provided an opportunity to discuss some mutually interesting issues with Chinese colleagues, such as copyright, interoperability and standards, etc. Not surprisingly, some other presentations at the conference also looked into models for sharing educational resources and the various barriers that prevent sharing and using teaching and learning resources, etc.

After the conference, we visited East China Normal University, Shaanxi Normal University and Beijing Normal University, all of these asarah1re universities which specialise in teacher training, and we ran seminars with staff and students from the Institute of Educational Technology in each of them. In these seminars, Sarah gave an overview of JISC and CETIS’s missions and aims, along with their programmes and activities to the audience of Chinese colleagues and students. Oleg talked about the major projects and development work that CETIS and the Institute for Educational Cybernetics (IEC) are working on, and the Inter-disciplinary, Inquiry–based learning programme (IDIBL)based at the IEC at Bolton; I tbeijing-discussion-21hen followed up with an input about the UK JISC-funded OER programme and the main challenges this is addressing. These seminars also initiated very interesting discussions with Chinese colleagues and students on various topics, and there is clearly a great deal of interest among colleagues in China in the whole question of Open Educational Resources and what these imply.

It was very impressive to learn that universities in China have developed a comprehensive degree system for teaching, learning and research on education technology in order to service the needs of using technology to extend access to education and improve the quality of teaching and learning in China. In the field, there are 224 universities with bachelor degree programmes, 83 universities offer master level programmes and 8 universities are qualified for PhD programme, whilst 6 universities provide research fellowships. It is clear that the rapid development of education technology as a subject in Chinese universities also poses big challenges on curriculum design and student recruitment. For example, how to keep up with changing technology; how to meet students’ expectations and the needs of the job market in the field.

During the visit, we discussed a wide range of issues with the Chinese colleagues, learnt from different perspectives, shared mutual research interests, and explored opportunities for developing collaborative research projects and partnerships. Sarah and I will write more about our visit to China and what we have learned.

powerpoint1Finally and most interestingly, we found a street storyteller using an old fashion technology –“Magic Lantern” to present Chinese history stories which attracted many people (different age, gender and culture) who came to visit the modern Shanghai.