Digital literacies toolkit

Earlier this year I presented at conference at the University of Southampton, and I was really impressed by the presentations, and work, of the students who were there, as I reflected in this blog post. The University is really pushing ahead in terms of providing real engagement opportunities for students with its Digital Champions project, and now the eLanguages Research and Development group have released their Digital Literacies Toolkit.

Primarily aimed at students to:

“*explore the educational uses of Web 2.0 tools and services;
*familiarise themselves with a range of useful applications for study-related purposes;
*highlight good practice in the use of social software and the internet, in general.”

the toolkit consists of a number of sections including video/audio/quizzes and input from real students about their views of what digital literacy means to them and how digital engagement can enhance job prospects. Other topics covered include online identity, collaborating online, personal learning environments and using other people’s online content responsibly – which sounds a lot less scary than copyright :-)

A great open resource for students and staff anywhere. Well done to all the team involved in creating and releasing it.

More resources around digital literacy are also available from the Jisc Design Studio.

Open Scotland, the twitter story

Yesterday Cetis, in collaboration with SQA, ALT-Scotland and the Jisc RSC Scotland hosted the Open Scotland Summit. The event, brought together senior managers, policy makers and key thinkers, will provide an opportunity for critical reflection on the national and global impact of open education (see Lorna’s blog post for more information and background to the event) .

There was a lot of really engaging discussion over the course of the day and we will be following up on that over the next week with some more detailed reflections and other outputs. However, to give a quick flavour of the day and the discussions it inspired, I’ve pulled together a summary of the #openscot twitter back channel.


Preparing for the second wave

Last Friday I was delighted have been invited to the “what are MOOCs?” staff development seminar at Newcastle University

I started the day with a presentation around the the history, pedagogy, myths and media of MOOCs, followed by Sian Bayne who gave a very open presentation about the experiences at Edinburgh and in particular of the #edcmooc. Suzanne Hardy (based at Newcastle) then reflected on her experience as a student on the #edcmooc, and also raised some very pertinent points for fellow staff members on the potential opportunities and pitfalls of developing MOOCs as part of institutional provision.

Suzanne’s storify provides an excellent summary of the day which I won’t try to replicate, and there will be an links to all the presentations as well as more commentary on the UNITE blog very soon.

It was, as ever, really useful to hear the thoughts of “normal” staff members. By that I mean your average lecturer/support person who doesn’t know much about MOOCs, hasn’t been a student on one and who has only heard bits and pieces about the whole phenomenon and isn’t part of the edtech twitterati. Newcastle, unlike Edinburgh, but like many Universities not just in the UK but around the world, hasn’t been part of the “first wave” of activity. So what are the institutional benefits to becoming involved now that the initial splash is over? Is it a case of just having to be seen to do “something” to keep up with your peer institutions? Or can you afford to take some more time to see how things play out? As Sian emphasised throughout the day, there is an awful lot of research that needs to be done to show the actually effectiveness (or not) of MOOCs. (This recently published survey of teachers experiences although mainly US based is a step in that direction) .

As Patrick McAndrew pointed out during his keynote at #cetis13 perhaps what we really need to think about is less of the “m” and more of the “o”. In other words concentrate on developing and sharing open practice and resources and in turn open courses/content which meet specific institutional aims. As we all know there are many variations of open. And again Patrick as pointed out, by using one of the big MOOC providers you could be putting at least one more barrier in front of your “open” course.

I suspect that for a number of the UK institutions in the first wave of MOOC activity, the reputational benefits are the key driver. Many of them can afford to underwrite the costs of developing and running the courses in the short term without having to think too much about the longer term benefits/costs or indeed any potential lock downs/change of service agreements from platform providers.

Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing for those institutions not involved with MOOCS just now, to take a step back to consider the most beneficial aspect of MOOCs for their aims and objectives before trying to become part of the second wave. And in the meantime, like this well know VC, encourage more insight and reflection for both staff and students with a try before you buy (or sell!) attitude.

My presentation (with thanks to #ds106 participants for many of the images)

Utopia, dystopia, technology, education and MOOCs

Stage two of my “adventures in MOOC-land” started this week as the e-Learning and Digital Cultures course started this week. I have signed up for Coursera courses before but for various reasons, I haven’t got very far. However I have a lot more motivation for sticking with this course. For the past couple of years I have toyed with applying for the Masters in Digital Education at Edinburgh so this seems like a good way to get a taster for that course, and also a change to “compare and contrast” what is now being referred to by the Mooc-gnoscenti as a “x-MOOC” (the US big ones!), and the #oldsmooc which is more in the “c-MOOC”(connected/community) or even the p-mooc (project) camp.

Despite the massive number of participants, I’ve actually found #edcmooc a relative oasis of calm and tranquility. Mind you I haven’t explored far in the google and facebook groups/forums. Certainly the design of the course is much more traditional and individually focussed than #oldsmooc. The main content (so far videos and suggested texts which I’ve started to curate here is in the Coursera VLE. There are the usual additional online spaces of a wiki, twitter, Facebook and google groups. #edcmooc is also running alongside the Msc module and the staff are very upfront about their involvement in the MOOC:

“We will be commenting on course organisational issues, and other matters which get voted up in the forums. We won’t be present everywhere, rather we perceive the various discussion spaces as opportunities for you to explore ideas and share interests with each other.”

So unlike #oldsmooc, with that upfront statement some of my strategies for successful MOOC-ing might not work :-)

The final assessment is the creation of a digital artefact which will be peer assessed. Contributing to online discussions is encouraged but not mandatory. There has been a huge amount of blogging activity already and in terms of openness it is great to see that the collated #edcmooc tagged blogs are openly available.

The first block of the course centres on utopian and dystopian perspectives of digital culture and digital education and how these views impact our own practices as learners, students and teachers. Week one has looked to the past in terms of highlighting both sides of the fence. Currently MOOCs themselves are one of the best examples I can think of in relation to utopian and dystopian visions for education and technology.

I’ve collated some of the responses to this tweet in this storify.

Every week in the mainstream, technology and education press there is at least one post claiming that the education system is broken and more often than not MOOCs are being heralded as the “thing” to save the system. Particularly as Coursera, Udacity etc have been able to raise vast sums of capital, and enroll hundreds and thousands of students, which can only be a good thing, right? Looking to the past isn’t this massive engagement (on a global scale) what we need to do to address the education imbalance?

“The major problem in education today is that hundreds of millions of the world’s citizens do not receive it” (Daniel, 2002)

But are MOOCs really a stable and sustainable way of addressing this? There are are various flavours of “openness” in MOOCs. Increasingly as the business side of thing kicks in and investors want to see ROI charges are being brought in for the bit that really counts – assessment. Will as many people who signed up for the courses this year be able and willing to pay in subsequent years? If they don’t what then? I have yet to see any MOOC business model that isn’t predicated on paying for assessment – so where’s the change to the system there? When can/ will MOOCs break even?

In the UK we are still waiting to see exactly what FutureLearn (the OU UK driven MOOC platform) will offer. I’ve seen mentions of it “exciting” “learner focused” etc, but what will that look like? Do we really need another “platform” ? What will distinguish it from other VLEs? I can’t really see why any university needs to sign up to a mooc platform – they already have what they need in their VLE, and other technologies that are out there. Perhaps it more a case of having to be seen to be “playing the game” or being “in with the in-crowd”. Past experience should tell us that isn’t always the best place to be. Tony Hirst wrote a really insightful post on the possible development opportunities for FutureLearn early this week, and I noticed another one last night which brings in some more thinking and links to other possible models. I suspect tho’ the real reason is the dystopian vendor/commercial lock down one. Recognise this?

. . .the lines have already been drawn in the struggle which will ultimately determine its shape. On the one side university administrators and their myriad commercial partners, on the other those who constitute the core relation of education: students and teachers. . . It is no accident, then, that the high–tech transformation of higher education is being initiated and implemented from the top down. (Noble, 1998)

It’s actually about the early days of WebCT but could quit equally be used in the MOOC context. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

I can’t help feeling that the utopian ideals of MOOCs (open, massive, connected, community based) are getting squished by the venture capitalists, the existing ‘systems’ who are just going to repackage what we’ve already got in a slightly different way but if they keep telling us the system is broken we’ll have no option but to buy into their (dystopian) solution, which still equates “quality” with payment.

There’s already been some backlash to the peer assessment being used in some MOOCs. Is there an implicit encouragement of gaming the system ben encouraged in #edcmooc when were told we don’t have to contribute to discussion etc by online activity might help when it comes to the final assessment? The more you engage the more like it is that someone will review your assessment? So are the models being used really scale up to and incorporate some of the more visionary thinking around peer assessment? Some of the new “platforms” are turning to analytics for “excitement” and “insight”, but based on what, the data that is easiest to display – which is usually assessment data. I have a sneaky suspicion that will be monetized sooner rather than later. The more you want to know about your interactions, the more you’ll have to pay for those little nuggets of insight into your own behaviour.

And are the big MOOCs (like #edcmooc) really reaching out to a substantially different student cohort? I’ve already commented about digital literacy (proficiency in English) and overall confidence a learner needs gain meaningful inter-actions in a massive context. Every time I log into Coursera I’m reminded of my foolishness of thinking that I could cope with their natural language processing course. Of course, there was no cost – so not a lot of loss for me in that case. Most of the MOOCs I know about are aimed at pretty well educated people – not the really dis-engaged or disadvantaged and the ones who don’t just need a “nice video” but some real face to face support. Open content initiatives such as OpenLearn can (and are) helping to do that. But MOOCs not so much – yes there are some examples of “flipped classrooms” but most in HE are again with the students who are getting the grades, not the ones struggling to get into college. Wouldn’t it be nice if more of venture capitalist and Universities spent even a third of what they do on “systems” on staff development and enhancing face to face teaching? As John Daniels points out effective education combines people and technology.

Right now as a learner what I really want is a space (not a system) where I can create, connect and share my learning and activities. That’s why I have been really excited by the potential of representation of networked views of Cloudworks. The visualisations created by Tony give me hope that there is hope and that change can be driven from the educator/leaner point of view and not the vendor. My dreams of utopia are still alive.

References:
Daniel, J. (2002). Technology is the Answer: What was the Question? Speech from Higher Education in the Middle East and North Africa, Paris, Institut du Monde Arabe, 27-29 May 2002.

Noble. D. (1998). Digital Diploma Mills: The Automation of Higher Education. First Monday 3/1.

Quick review of the Larnaca Learning Design Declaration

Late last month the Larnaca Declaration on Learning Design was published. Being “that time of year” I didn’t get round to blogging about it at the time. However as it’s the new year and as the OLDS mooc is starting this week, I thought it would be timely to have a quick review of the declaration.

The wordle gives a flavour of the emphasis of the text.

Wordle of Larnaca Declaration on Learning Design

Wordle of Larnaca Declaration on Learning Design

First off, it’s actually more of a descriptive paper on the development of research into learning design, rather than a set of statements declaring intent or a call for action. As such, it is quite a substantial document. Setting the context and sharing the outcomes of over 10 years worth of research is very useful and for anyone interested in this area I would say it is definitely worth taking the time to read it. And even for an “old hand” like me it was useful to recap on some of the background and core concepts. It states:

“This paper describes how ongoing work to develop a descriptive language for teaching and learning activities (often including the use of technology) is changing the way educators think about planning and facilitating educational activities. The ultimate goal of Learning Design is to convey great teaching ideas among educators in order to improve student learning.”

One of my main areas of involvement with learning design has been around interoperability, and the sharing of designs. Although the IMS Learning Design specification offered great promise of technical interoperability, there were a number of barriers to implementation of the full potential of the specification. And indeed expectations of what the spec actually did were somewhat over-inflated. Something I reflected on way back in 2009. However sharing of design practice and designs themselves has developed and this is something at CETIS we’ve tried to promote and move forward through our work in the JISC Design for Learning Programme, in particular with our mapping of designs report, the JISC Curriculum Design and Delivery Programmes and in our Design bashes: 2009, 2010, 2011. I was very pleased to see the Design Bashes included in the timeline of developments in the paper.

James Dalziel and the LAMS team have continually shown how designs can be easily built, run, shared and adapted. However having one language or notation system is a still goal in the field. During the past few years tho, much of the work has been concentrated on understanding the design process and how to help teachers find effective tools (online and offline) to develop new(er) approaches to teaching practice, and share those with the wider community. Viewpoints, LDSE and the OULDI projects are all good examples of this work.

The declaration uses the analogy of the development of musical notation to explain the need and aspirations of a design language which can be used to share and reproduce ideas, or in this case lessons. Whilst still a conceptual idea, this maybe one of the closest analogies with universal understanding. Developing such a notation system, is still a challenge as the paper highlights.

The declaration also introduces a Learning Design Conceptual Map which tries to “capture the broader education landscape and how it relates to the core concepts of Learning Design“.

Learning Design Conceptual Map

Learning Design Conceptual Map

These concepts including pedagogic neutrality, pedagogic approaches/theories and methodologies, teaching lifecycle, granularity of designs, guidance and sharing. The paper puts forward these core concepts as providing the foundations of a framework for learning design which combined with the conceptual map and actual practice provides a “new synthesis for for the field of learning design” and future developments.

Components of the field of Learning Design

Components of the field of Learning Design

So what next? The link between learning analytics and learning design was highlighted at the recent UK SoLAR Flare meeting. Will having more data about interaction/networks be able to help develop design processes and ultimately improving the learning experience for students? What about the link with OERs? Content always needs context and using OERs effectively intrinsically means having effective learning designs, so maybe now is a good time for OER community to engage more with the learning design community.

The Declaration is a very useful summary of where the Learning Design community is to date, but what is always needed is more time for practising teachers to engage with these ideas to allow them to start engaging with the research community and the tools and methodologies which they have been developing. The Declaration alone cannot do this, but it might act as a stimulus for exisiting and future developments. I’d also be up for running another Design Bash if there is enough interest – let me know in the comments if you are interested.

The OLDS MOOC is a another great opportunity for future development too and I’m looking forward to engaging with it over the next few weeks.

Some other useful resources
*Learning Design Network Facebook page
*PDF version of the Declaration
*CETIS resources on curriculum and learning design
*JISC Design Studio

Three kinds of open

Last week, David Kernohan and myself attended three conferences in North America, all with a common underlying theme of open. But, as many of us know, there are many types/flavours/definitions of open in education today. This post tries to make sense of some of the common themes across the week.

The Ithaka Sustainable Scholarly Research Conference and OpenEd 2012 were in some ways at opposite sides of the open spectrum. The former being research and (research) publisher orientated, with Open Access featuring prominently, and OpenEd being very much focused on the use and development of open content and open educational practice. We also attended a half day Open Forum hosted by BCcampus which was designed to initiate discussions and action around developing a province wide approach to open education in general which again had a different flavour (visually noted by Guilia Forsythe )

Why is Open Education Important, Roundtable discussions

As I’ve been trying to focus and write up coherent account of the week, a couple of posts have come to mind. Firstly, Amber Thomas’s diagram of openness;

A Diagram of Opens, Amber Thomas, 2012

A Diagram of Opens, Amber Thomas, 2012


http://infteam.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2012/01/17/storyo/

which is really useful it setting out the areas covered last week, with an emphasis on the open content and open practices areas.

There were lots of cross over points, which is how it should be. As Amber points out in her original post “There is not ever going to be a total transformation to open. The reality is a mixed economy.” And I was really heartened to see how a number of presentations at OpenEd are embracing this point of view. I’ve always had a niggling concern that the OER movement might be guilty of a form of self ghettoisation, by just talking to itself about what it is doing and not embracing the wider community. In particular the presentation by Emily Puckett Rodgers and Dave Malicke from Open Michigan outlined the more inclusive approach they have developed in engaging practitioners with open practice, sharing and OERs was a great example of wider community engagement.

Their approach is now far more about understanding motivations for sharing and then working with staff and students to build confidence, understanding and sharing of content in appropriately open ways rather than trying to ensure content is in the “right” format.

Open Access was also a linking theme. The Ithaka conference was situated squarely within the research and publishing sphere. I am very much on the periphery of this area (please read the rest of this section with that in mind), but it was quite fascinating to sit in on some of the discussions, particularly those around new models of publishing and peer review. As this is Open Access Week, I found it timely to read far more informed comment on the OA debate from both Peter Murray Rest and Martin Weller yesterday.

I rather naively anticipated general support and consensus about OA. During the conference I got an insight into another side of the debate. A round table session featuring a university press, and two subject associations highlighted their pressures around OA. Whilst recognising the need to evolve and change, it was pointed out many smaller associations and publishers exist for their publication, not to make profit. Many of them don’t receive any other funding so rely on their sales just to survive. But there was general recognition that a journal alone was no longer a sustainable model. There needs to be more exploration of new models including moving from print to wholly online publishing, looking at extending value through increased and improved access to scholarly databases and/or bibliographies, exploring the potential of producing more case studies with teaching notes and industry reports and surveys. Journals need to change from just being text based to including other types of content (video, data etc).

The need for hybrid OA approaches with more community/crowdsourced approaches to peer review was also a common theme. This was followed up in in a session called “Next Generation Peer Review”, where a number of OA platforms such as PLOS One, F1000 Research, Rubriq and a new addition to the market PeerJ were highlighted. PeerJ is launching next month, and is being designed to take have a very community driven approach. Initial membership is $99 per year, and they are hoping to reduce that to zero by selling other data. Exactly what/how that would work is as yet unclear. But that certainly seemed to chime with what the smaller publishers were saying the day before. This approach also seemed to be drawing on ideals of scholarly societies where membership and reviews are trusted and more importantly open processes.

Obviously there needs to be more experimentation around open review processes which was discussed but there are certainly opportunities to expand OA approaches and perhaps open peer review could be a disruptive force in this area. I’ve pulled my twitter notes from these sessions together in a storify as they capture the essence of the discussions.

The need for more open access, particularly for publicly funded research was the starting point for John Willinsky’s keynote at OpenEd, where he made a rallying cry for the extended right to and power of open access, open data and open education. Again more merging and mixing of the elements of Amber’s diagram.

One other thing that really stuck out for me (and a couple of other delegates) at OpenEd was the omnipresence of the e-book. Whilst I fully appreciate that bringing down the cost of text books, and of course making as many texts as possible available under open licences such as CC, is a great thing (not least for the amount of money it can save students and institutions); it did seem that e-books were the only concern of some presentations. I did feel slightly uneasy about the tyranny of text book particularly as theme of the conference was “beyond content”. But, given the cost of some text books and the fact that you don’t seem to be able to pass any college courses in North America without access to set texts I can see why many sessions were centered around this. Maybe it’s just a British thing, and I should feel fortunate that, as yet, we don’t have similar pressures. I think (hope!) the presentation David and I did on the history of OER from a UK perspective highlighted a non-content centric view of development.

The BC Openforum also had a strong element of the absurdity of some book costs – particularly in the K-12 sector. Both David Wiley and Cable Green (Creative Commons) highlighted how taking open approaches to the creation and extension of text books can save money and so allow for more time and money to be spent on staff development and in turn more creative approaches to teaching and learning. Moving to more open practices, Brian Lamb also shared a number open approaches, including DS106 – couldn’t do a post on OpenEd without mentioning it somewhere :-) It was good to hear an embracing of the “proudly borrowed from here” spirit advocated by Cable in the delegate discussion sessions. In the spirit of openness, collated notes from the discussion sessions are available online.

So all in all a mixed mode week of open-ness, but it was great to see more and more interconnectedness of the jigsaw of open education.

Analytics and #moocmooc

This is my final post on my experiences of the #moocmooc course that ran last week, and I want to share a few of my reflections on the role of analytics (and in this case learning analytics), primarily from my experiences as a learner on the course. I should point out that I have no idea about the role of analytics from the course teams point of view, but I am presuming that they have the baseline basics of enrollment numbers and login stats from the Canvas LMS. But in this instance there were no obvious learner analytics available from the system. So, as a learner, in such an open course where you interact in a number of online spaces, how do you get a sense of your own engagement and participation?

There are some obvious measures, like monitoring your own contributions to discussion forums. But to be honest do we really have the time to do that? I for one am quite good at ignoring any little nagging voices saying in my head saying “you haven’t posted to the discussion forum today” :-) A little automation would probably go a long way there. However, a lot of actual course activity didn’t take place within the “formal” learning environment, instead it happened in other spaces such as twitter, storify, google docs, YouTube, blogs etc. Apart from being constantly online, my phone bleeping every now again notifying me of retweets, how did I know what was happening and how did that help with engagement and motivation?

I am fortunate, mainly due to my colleague Martin Hawskey that I have a few analytics tricks that I was able to utilise which gave me a bit of an insight into my, and the whole class activity.

One of Martins’ most useful items in his bag of tricks is his hashtag twitter archive. By using his template, you can create an archive in google docs which stores tweets and through a bit of social network analysis magic also gives an overview of activity – top tweeters, time analysis etc. It’s hard to get the whole sheet into a screen grab hopefully the one below gives you and idea. Follow the link and click on the “dashboard” tab to see more details.

Dashboard from #moocmooc twitter archive

From this archive you can also use another one of Martin’s templates to create a vizualisation of the interactions of this #hashtag network.

Which always looks impressive, and does give you a sense of the “massive” part of a MOOC, but it is quite hard to actually make real any sense of;-)

However Martin is not one to rest on his SNA/data science laurels and his latest addition, a searchable twitter archive, I feel was much more useful from a learner’s (and actually instructors) perspective.

Again it has time/level of tweets information, this time clearly presented at the top of the sheet. You can search by key word and/or twitter handle. A really useful way to find those tweets you forgot to favourite! Again here is a screenshot just as a taster, but try it out to get the full sense of it.

#moocmooc searchable twitter arcive

#moocmooc searchable twitter arcive

Also from an instructor/course design point of view you, from both of these templates you can see time patterns emerging which could be very useful for a number of reasons – not least managing your own time and knowing when to interact to connect with the most number of learners.

Another related point about timing relates to the use of free services such as storify. Despite us all being “self directed, and motivated” it’s highly likely that if an assignment is due in at 6pm – then at 5.50 the service is going to be pretty overloaded. Now this might not be a problem, but it could be and so it worth bearing in mind when designing courses and suggesting submission times and guidance for students.

I also made a concerted effort to blog each day about my experiences, and once I was able to use another one of Martin’s templates – social sharing, to track the sharing of my blogs on various sites. I don’t have a huge blog readership but I was pleased to see that I was getting a few more people reading my posts. But what was really encouraging (as any blogger knows) was the fact that I was getting comments. I know I don’t need any software to let me know that, and in terms of engagement and participation, getting comments is really motivating. What is nice about this template is that it stores the comments and the number other shares (and where they are), allowing you get more of an idea of where and how your community are sharing resources. I could see my new #moocmooc community were engaging with my engagement – warm, cosy feelings all round!

So through some easy to set up and share templates I’ve been able to get a bit more of an insight into my activity, engagement and participation. MOOCs can be overwhelming, chaotic, disconcerting, and give learners many anxieties about being unconnected in the vast swirl of connectedness. A few analtyics can help ease some of these anxieties, or at least give another set of tools to help make sense, catch up, reflect on what is happening.

For more thoughts on my experiences of the week you can read my other posts.

*Day 1 To MOOC or not to MOOC?
*Day 2 Places where learning takes place
*Day 3 Massive Participation but no-one to talk to
*Day 4 Moocmooc day 4
*Day 5 Designing a MOOC – moocmooc day 5

Designing a MOOC #moocmooc day 5

It’s coming to the end of the week long #moocmooc course and today’s activity is to design our own MOOC. Once again the course team have encouraged collaboration have used a google doc as collaborative space to share ideas and form ad hoc teams this Google Doc.

I’ve had a fascinating morning exploring ideas, designs, existing courses that people have shared. I really liked this existing wiki “Preparing your online self”,not least because had been thinking along those lines myself. In yesterday’s activity reflecting on what we have learned so far I did say that some kind of check list for both learners and teachers who don’t use social networking, web 2 “stuff” (in particular twitter) would be useful. From my existing network I knew that Grainne Conole had shared an outline for her upcoming Learning Design MOOC, so it was useful to have another look at that too.

I’ve also been thinking more about what I would want as a learner from a MOOC. This week has been pretty intense, and deliberately so. There have been many mentions of the sense of being overwhelmed, and I think there is a natural tendency to want to scaffold and be scaffolded that is really hard to let go of for both a teachers and learners.

In today’s introductory essay “Inventing Learning” Sean Michaal Morris (@slamteacher) wrote:

“I like to imagine that MOOCs are a creative act, almost a sort of composition in and of themselves. They’re a composition that begins with one person or a team of people who design the course; but no MOOC is truly finished until the participants have had their say. To be creative in course design is to be both author and audience. We are the author of the themes and ideas behind the course, and the audience to how students / participants interpret, mold, revise — and what they fashion from — those themes and ideas. This is true in a classroom. This is true in a MOOC. . . Perhaps what frightens us most about MOOCs is the loss of control. In the new model of online pedagogy, the classroom has exploded; or rather, theories of classroom practice . . .”

So I revised my earlier thoughts of producing a pre MOOC MOOC instead I would use the wiki guide highlighted earlier as a suggested pre course activity and came up with this

Mainly because Twitter has proved invaluable this week. I’d maybe expand this slightly by adding: choose a topic, ask some questions, start following people and follow back and instructions that when things started to get a bit overwhelming:

Don't panic button

Don't panic button

If you want to go down the cMOOC route like #moocmooc, then you have to be willing to let go, embrace chaos and interaction, diversions – all the things Dave Cormier talks about in his rhizomatic approaches. If however you want to be a bit more traditional, then the xMOOC model is probably a safer approach. That’s why the big guns have taken that approach. It’s controllable, scalable, doesn’t take staff away from their comfort zone, and isn’t (from the courses I’ve seen so far) really providing any challenging pedagogical approaches.

This may change and I’m looking forward to what the eLearning and digital cultures Coursera MOOC from colleagues at the University of Edinburgh will look like. An outline of their approaches is available here.

But for now, for me it’s back to twitter.

To MOOC or not to MOOC?

Is the one of the underlying questions of the week long MOOC being run this week by Hybrid Pedagogy. Like many others working education I am interested in MOOCs, and there has been a flurry of activity over recent months with a number of big guns joining, or perhaps taking over, the party.

The #moocmooc course is running over a week, and today’s themes centre around “What are MOOCs? What do we think they are? What do we fear they may be? What potential lies under their surface?”. There’s a group task to complete – a 1,000 word essay on “What is a MOOC? What does it do, and what does it not do?”, and a twitter conversation tonight to share experiences.

However, I think that these questions need to be underpinned by a couple of “whys”? Why are you interested in MOOCs? Why are you thinking about taking the MOOC route? Sian Bayne and her colleagues in the MSc E-Learning course at the University Edinburgh have done exactly this in their recent ALT Article “MOOC pedagogy: the challenges of developing for Coursera“.

And by way of not answering the assignment question, I’m trying to reflect on my experiences of MOOCs to date. So far it looks like the majority of participants seem to be from North America, although there are a few UK faces in there too. I’m particularly interested seeing if there are any major differences in implementation/drivers between North America and the UK. Not everyone is going to be able to go down a full blown MOOC route, but what are the key elements that are really practical for the majority of institutions? The open-ness, experimenting and extending notions of connected learning? Potential to get big enrollment numbers? It’s probably far too early to tell, and as most of the participants probably fall into the early adopters category their motivations may not reflect general practice or readiness.

Although I have a professional interest in MOOCs, it’s probably their potential for me as a learner that really excites me. I’m not particularly motivated to do any more “formal” education – for a number of reasons, but time is probably the main one. I’m also very fortunate to have a job where I really do learn something new everyday, and I feel that my peers do keep my brain more than stimulated.

Being able to participate in open courses around topics that interest me, without financial risk to me personally or my employer (which adds pressure for me) is very appealing. I’ve tried MOOCs before (LAK11) which I enjoyed – particularly the synchronous elements such as the live presentations and chat. But if I’m being honest, I didn’t spend as much time on the course as I probably should have. On the plus side, I did get a feel for being a student on a MOOC and some useful insights to learning analytics.

Although I probably tick the right boxes to be a self motivated, engaged and directed learner, sometimes life just gets in the way and it turns out that I’m a bit rubbish at maintaining engagement, direction and motivation. But that hasn’t put me off MOOCs. Like tens of thousands of others I signed up for the Stanford NPL course, and very quickly realised that I was being a tad optimistic about my coding capabilities and that I just didn’t have the time I would need to get anything out of the course, so like tens of thousands of others I silently dropped out. I did think the traditional design of that course worked well for that subject matter.

But #moocmooc is only a week, no programme required, and also a week in August when things at work are a bit quieter than normal. Surely despite the twitter conversations talking place from 11pm my time I’ll be able to cope with that? Well we’ll see. Already it has got me thinking, given me the opportunity to try the Canvas VLE and back into blogging after a brief holiday lull.

*Day 2 Places where learning takes place
*Day 3 Massive Participation but no-one to talk to
*Day 4 Moocmooc day 4
*Day 5 Designing a MOOC – moocmooc day 5
* Analytics and #moocmooc

Curriculum Design Technical Journeys – part 3

Continuing from my last post, the next part of the programme technical journey focuses on the Cluster B projects: Co-educate, SRC, P3 who had similar objectives in terms of organisational change.

SRC
*Project Prod entry

In terms of organisational change, SRC (Supporting Responsive Curricula) is part of larger set of project EQAL which is radically changing the way the MMU provides learning services (in the broadest sense) to its students. Other JISC funded initiatives e.g. the W2C project are connected to this major organisational change, of which SOA approaches is key. Professor Mark Stubbs’ keynote presentation at this years CETIS conference gives an overview of their overall technical approach.

MMU is in the processes “introducing a new curriculum framework, new administrative systems and processes, revised quality assurance processes and new learning systems to transform the student experience” and the SRC project has been at heart of the complete revision of all undergraduate courses, through developing a processes and workflows for a common curriculum database which feeds into a range of other learning services a part of their “corePlus” learning environment provision.

All course module and assessment structures have been completely revised (starting with first year and now extending to 2nd and 3rd). A new course database is now being populated using a common set of forms which provide a common set of tags (including competencies) and unique identifiers for courses which can be used a part of a wider set of “mash up” activities for students to access. When redesigning the course database, extensive stakeholder engagement and mapping was undertaking (using Archimate) in relation to QA processes which formed a key part of the project’s baseline report. A case study details this work and this blog post provides a summary of the new course documentation and QA processes including a map of the new peer review process.

A key part of the project has been to explore effective ways for students to showcase their experience and abilities to employers. A number of systems have been explored and an institutional e-porfolio strategy produced. A decision has now been taken to provide institutional support for Mahara, beginning in September 2013.

In terms of standards/specifications, this being MMU, XCRI is integral to their systems but hasn’t been a core part of the project. Like other projects, the institutional demand for xcri is still not widespread. However members of the team are key to developments around the integration (and thereby extension) of XCRI into other specifications such as MLO and various competency related initiatives.

Now the major technical implementations have been implemented, the team are now focussing on the wider cultural changes, engagement with staff e.g. the development of the Accrediation! Board game which I’ve written about before, and evaluation.

Coeducate
*Project Prod entry

“Coeducate is a cross institutional project that will focus our staff on a re-engineering of the professional curriculum. It will develop new processes and technical systems to support curriculum development and design that start with the needs of the learner and their organisation. This will be negotiated and delivered in partnership and with full recognition of in-work and experiential learning.”

Coeducate, has taken an the almost opposite approach to MMU in terms of a top down approach to creating and managing new courses. They have connected their SITS database with their new Moodle installation see this blog post for an overview, but unlike MMU do not have a set of course templates, or the same level of automatic course population. Instead, staff now have more flexibility in terms of creating courses suited to their specific needs, as this post and linked documentation describes. The IDIBL framework has also been developing as template for course creation, however the institution has developed an alternative undergraduate curriculum framework. The team have also produced a report on approaches to developing open courses, which again should provide a useful staff development resources.

Following this more bottom up approach, the team have also instigated an series of innovation support network seminars and produced a set of online resources (housed in Moodle) to support staff as new institution validation process are being introduced. Like so many of the projects being caught up in a sea of other institutional change initiatives that aren’t as tightly coupled as MMU, the project has focused effort on providing support to staff to guide them (and in turn the institution) through changes such as course revalidation. The project has been able to to influence and inform institutional strategy to initiatives such as course revalidation through some light weight data analysis of the VLE in terms of course structure, numbers and types of assessment etc.

Over the past year, the team have also been exploring the Business Model Canvas tool in terms of its suitability for learning design planning and/or conceptual modelling. The flexibility of the tool has been identified as a key strength. The team have found other more specific learning design tools such as the LDSE too prescriptive. This post outlines the approach of integrating this tool within Archi (which is being developed by colleagues at the University of Bolton). The tool is currently being trialled with PGCHE students, and again will hopefully provide another design tool for the University and the rest of the community. The team have been using the tool to support staff in course revalidation process, and are lobbying for its adoption into the formal revalidation process.

The team had hoped to do more work on integrating widgets into Moodle for course authoring. However staff issues and a refocus of project priorites has meant that not as much progress on this has been made as originally intended. However, over the last few months the team have been able to build a customisable 8LEM widget (more information and a link to a beta version is available here). The principles outlined in the 8LEM methodology are also the basis for the work of the Viewpoints project, and by the end of this June, it is hoped that there will be at least two versions of the widget available based on the approaches of the Viewpoints project as well as the “vanilla” version.

Bolton has also been successful in gaining funding for one of the JISC Course Data projects and this project will extend work started in Co-educate. The work done through the CoEducate project has help to articulate some of the key requirements for data reporting and practical uses of data collection, including key indicators for retention and drop out.

As with other projects, the challenge for the team is to ensure that the resources and approaches explored and advocated through the project continue to be embedded within institutional frameworks.

Enable
*Project Prod entry

“As a ‘hub’ initiative, the project aims to enable the University to join together its various change initiatives around curriculum development into a coherent and radical overall change process, which will ensure all stakeholder needs are understood, identify overlooked problems areas, and provide a sustainable solution . . .”

The Enable project started out with the vision of connecting and enhancing institutional processes. As with all the other projects, senior management buy-in was always a critical part of the project and a Senior Management Working Group was set up to ensure this buy-in. Part of the wider institutional story has been the relatively high number of changes at senior executive level which have impacted the project. The team have shared their experiences around managing change and information processes.

In terms of technologies, as well as being part of the Design Programme, the project has engaged with a number of other JISC funed initiatives. The team have been an early champion of EA approaches and have been involved with the JISC FSD EA practice group initiative. They have piloted TOGAF approaches in an Archimate pilot. Their experiences of using Archi in for their work in external examiners pilot are summarised in this blog post and embedded slides. Phil Beavouir, the developer of the Archi tool has also posted a thoughtful response to this post. If you are interested in EA approaches , I would recommend both these posts.

The team have also been experimenting with a number of different ways to automate their code build, acceptance, testing and deployment processes. These tools and techniques are being adopted and used in other areas now too. Again the team have promised to share more via the blog, in the meantime a summary of the technologies they are using are detailed in the project Project prod entry.

The team have been looking at Sharepoint and, another example of cross JISC programme fertilisation, were able to gain some of the benefits realisation funding for the Pineapple project to experiment with its software. An overview presentation is available here. The pilot was successful, but, at this point in time, no institutional decision on an institutional wide document management system has been made, so no further developments are being introduced in respect of this work.

The team feel that the EA approaches have “enabled” them to define with stakeholders the key areas to be addressed in terms of developing effective processes. And, have found that having “just enough backing” for developments has been effective. Particularly in gaining senior management buy-in whilst Executive decisions are not possible. The project has been able to illustrate potential working solutions to recognised problem areas. They have also been sharing their experiences of EA extensively with the rest of the sector, through presentations at various institutions.

PC3
*Project Prod entry

“The Personalised Curriculum Creation through Coaching (PC3) project is developing a framework that places coaching at the heart of the personalised curriculum design. Learners will be able to select provision suitable to their needs, construct an award (or module set), access resources and learning support, and negotiate assessment, with structured support from a personal coach. The PC3 Framework will facilitate this process by developing the necessary processes, documentation, training and technological support, within the context of Leeds Met’s flexible learning regulations and systems.”

Again the PC3 project has been on quite a journey over the past three and and a half years. Changes at senior management level have meant that, whilst not changing the underlying principles of the project of using coaching (as explained in its curriculum model ), the project team have had to adapt some of their anticipated approaches and have experienced delays in decisions around key institutional wide provision of technologies.

A major milestone for the project has been decision to adopt PebblePad as the institutional portfolio system. The team acknowledge that there is still work to be done around the integration of resources in the VLE and in Pepplepad, in terms of the user experience of switching between systems. Perhaps Pepplepad’s planned LTI adoption will help mitigate some of these issues.

The project is now reaping the rewards of their early work in staff development and are now working increasingly to support students, and their use of technology whilst implementing the PC3 coaching methodology. The approach is now embedded into the Sport Business Management Degree programme (see this post for more information) and students are playing an increasingly important role as coaching ambassadors.

Earlier in the project the team had created a number of video based resources around coaching. Now they are supporting students in the creation and sharing of videos as part of their course work and as coaching ambassadors. The team are working with institutional AV staff around developing approaches to creating video resources with students. The project is also planning a conference, where students will be key contributers, and plan to video sessions and make the recordings available as a set of resources.

The team are also seeing increasing use of social media sites such as Facebook for communication and even for running coaching sessions. This has very much been student driven and developments are being monitored with interest.

The team have also been using a number of google products (forms and documents) for sharing of project information and for part of their evaluation by using google forms to collect session feedback.

Where possible, the project are releasing resources as OER. To this end have they have benefited from the experiences of the Streamline project which was funded through the JISC/HEA Academy OER programme. Institutionally there has been a significant development around workflow of OERs with the institutional repository and the JORUM national repository that the project has benefited from. Again another example of cross programme sharing of experience.

So, another set of projects with common aims but very different approaches to organisational change. In many ways, a top down approach as exemplified by MMU may well be the most effective way to gain widespread adoption. However, MMU have benefited from a more stable senior management perspective and have not had to re-articulate their vision to a different set (or sets) of stakeholders during the project lifecycle as some of the other projects have. Engaging staff and students at different levels, as Bolton and Leeds, have done may well be just as effective in terms of seeing real pedagogical change in the longer term. But whatever approach, the importance of modelling and being able to visualise, and develop conversations and engagement has been central.