Badges? Certificates? What counts as succeeding in MOOCs?

Oops, I did it again. I’ve now managed to complete another MOOC. Bringing my completion rate of to a grand total of 3 (the non completion number is quite a bit higher but more on that later). And I now have 6 badges from #oldsmooc and a certificate (or “statement of accomplishment”) from Coursera.

My #oldsmooc badges

My #oldsmooc badges

Screenshot of Coursera record of achievement

Screenshot of Coursera record of achievement


But what do they actually mean? How, if ever, will/can I use these newly gained “achievements”?

Success and how it is measured continues to be one of the “known unknowns” for MOOCs. Debate (hype) on success is heightened by the now recognised and recorded high drop out rates. If “only” 3,000 registered users complete a MOOC then it must be failing, mustn’t it? If you don’t get the certificate/badge/whatever then you have failed. Well in one sense that might be true – if you take completion to equate with success. For a movement that is supposed to be revolutionising the (HE) system, the initial metrics some of the big xMOOCs are measuring and being measured by are pretty traditional. Some of the best known success of recent years have been college “drop outs’, so why not embrace that difference and the flexibility that MOOCs offer learners?

Well possibly because doing really new things and introducing new educational metrics is hard and even harder to sell to venture capitalists, who don’t really understand what is “broken” with education. Even for those who supposedly do understand education e.g. governments find any change to educational metrics (and in particular assessments) really hard to implement. In the UK we have recent examples of this with Michael Gove’s proposed changes to GSCEs and in Scotland the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence has been a pretty fraught affair over the last five years.

At the recent #unitemooc seminar at Newcastle, Suzanne Hardy told us how “empowered” she felt by not submitting a final digital artefact for assessment. I suspect she was not alone. Suzanne is confident enough in her own ability not to need a certificate to validate her experience of participating in the course. Again I suspect she is not alone. From my own experience I have found it incredibly liberating to be able to sign up for courses at no risk (cost) and then equally have no guilt about dropping out. It would mark a significant sea change if there was widespread recognition that not completing a course didn’t automatically equate with failure.

I’ve spoken to a number of people in recent weeks about their experiences of #oldsmooc and #edcmooc and many of them have in their own words “given up”. But as discussion has gone on it is apparent that they have all gained something from even cursory participation either in terms of their own thinking about possible involvement in running a MOOC like course, or about realising that although MOOCs are free there is still the same time commitment required as with a paid course.

Of course I am very fortunate that I work and mix with a pretty well educated bunch of people, who are in the main part really interested in education, and are all well educated with all the recognised achievements of a traditional education. They are also digital literate and confident enough to navigate through the massive online social element of MOOCs, and they probably don’t need any more validation of their educational worth.

But what about everyone else? How do you start to make sense of the badges, certificates you may or may not collect? How can you control the way that you show these to potential employers/Universities as part of any application? Will they mean anything to those not familiar with MOOCs – which is actually the vast majority of the population. I know there are some developments in California in terms of trying to get some MOOCs accredited into the formal education system – but it’s very early stages.

Again based on my own experience, I was quite strategic in terms of the #edcmooc, I wrote a reflective blog post for each week which I was then able to incorporate into my final artefact. But actually the blog posts were of much more value to me than the final submission or indeed the certificate (tho I do like the spacemen). I have seem an upward trend in my readership, and more importantly I have had lots of comments, and ping backs. I’ve been able to combine the experience with my own practice.

Again I’m very fortunate in being able to do this. In so many ways my blog is my portfolio. Which brings me a very convoluted way to my point in this post. All this MOOC-ery has really started me thinking about e-portfolios. I don’t want to use the default Coursera profile page (partly because it does show the course I have taken and “not received a certificate” for) but more importantly it doesn’t allow me to incorporate other non Coursera courses, or my newly acquired badges. I want to control how I present myself. This relates quite a lot to some of the thoughts I’ve had about using Cloudworks and my own educational data. Ultimately I think what I’ve been alluding to there is also the development of a user controlled e-portfolio.

So I’m off to think a bit more about that for the #lak13 MOOC. Then Lorna Campbell is going to start my MOOC de-programming schedule. I hope to be MOOC free by Christmas.

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)

Avoiding getting caught in the data slick: thoughts from Analtyics and Institutional Capabilities session, #cetis13

Data, data everywhere data, but what do we actually do with it? Do we need “big” data in education? What is it we are trying to find out? What is our ROI both at institutional and national levels? Just some the questions that were raised at the Analytics and Institutional Capabilities session at #cetis13 last week.

Is data our new oil? asked Martin Hawksey in his introduction to the session. And if, as many seem to think, it is, do we we really have the capabilities to “refine” it properly? How can we ensure that we aren’t putting the equivalent of petrol into a diesel engine? How can we ensure that institutions (and individuals) don’t end getting trapped in a dangerous slick of data? Are we ensuring that everyone (staff and students) are developing the data literacy skills they need to use and ultimately understand the visualisations we can produce from data?

Bird in an oil slick

Bird in an oil slick

Ranjit Sidhu (Statistics into Decisions) gave an equally inspiring and terrifying presentation around the hype of big data. He pointed out that in education “local data” and not “big data” is really where we should be focusing our attention, particularly in relation to our core business of attracting students. In relation to national level data he also questions the ROI on some “quite big” data national data collection activities such as the KIS. From the embarrassingly low figures he showed us of the traffic to the UniStats site, it would appear not. We may have caused a mini spike in the hits for one day in March :-)

However, there are people who are starting to ask the right questions and use their data in ways that are meaningful. A series of lightning talks which highlighted a cross section of approaches to using institutional data. This was followed by three inspiring talks from Jean Mutton (University of Derby), Mark Stubbs (MMU) and Simon Buckingham Shum (OU). Jean outlined the work she and her team have been doing at Derby on enhancing the student experience (more information on this is available through our new case study); Mark then gave a review of the work they have been doing around deeper exploration of NSS returns data and their VLE data. Both Jean and Mark commented that their work started without them actually realising they were “doing analytics”. Marks analytics cycle diagram was really useful in illustrating their approach.

screen shot of analtyics cycle

screen shot of analtyics cycle

Simon, on the other hand, of course very much knew that he was “doing analytics” and gave an overview of some the learning analtyics work currently being undertaken at the OU, including a quick look at some areas FutureLearn could potentially be heading.

Throughout all the presentations the key motivator has, and continues to be, framing and then developing the “right” questions to get the most out of data collection activity and analysis.

More information including links to the slides from the presentations are available on the CETIS website.

Cetis Analytics Series Volume 2: Engaging with Analytics

Our first set of papers around analytics in education has been published, and with nearly 17,000 downloads, it would seem that there is an appetite for resources around this topic. We are now moving onto phase of our exploration of analytics and accompanying this will be a range of outputs including some more briefing papers and case studies. Volume 1 took a high level view of the domain, volume 2 will take a much more user centred view including a number of short case studies sharing experiences of a range of early adopters who are exploring the potential of taking a more analytics based approach.

The first case study features Jean Mutton, Student Experience Project Manager, at the University of Derby. Jean shares with us how her journey into the world of analytics started and how and where she and the colleagues across the university she has been working with, see the potential for analytics to have an impact on improving the student experience.

University of Derby, student engagement factors

University of Derby, student engagement factors

The case study is available to download here.

We have a number of other case studies identified which we’ll be publishing over the coming months, however we are always looking for more examples. So if you are working with analytics have some time to chat with us, we’d love to hear from you and share your experiences in this way too. Just leave a comment or email me (s.macneill@strath.ac.uk).

What can I do with my educational data? (#lak13)

Following on from yesterday’s post, another “thought bomb” that has been running around my brain is something far closer to the core of Audrey’s “who owns your educational data?” presentation. Audrey was advocating the need for student owned personal data lockers (see screen shot below). This idea also chimes with the work of the Tin Can API project, and closer to home in the UK the MiData project. The latter is more concerned with more generic data around utility, mobile phone usage than educational data, but the data locker concept is key there too.

Screen shot of Personal Education Data Locker (Audrey Watters)

Screen shot of Personal Education Data Locker (Audrey Watters)

As you will know dear reader, I have turned into something of a MOOC-aholic of late. I am becoming increasingly interested in how I can make sense of my data, network connections in and across the courses I’m participating in and, of course, how I can access and use the data I’m creating in and across these “open” courses.

I’m currently not very active member of the current LAK13 learning analytics MOOC, but the first activity for the course is, I hope, going to help me frame some of the issues I’ve been thinking about in relation to my educational data and in turn my personal learning analytics.

Using the framework for the first assignment/task for LAK13, this is what I am going to try and do.

1. What do you want to do/understand better/solve?

I want to compare what data about my learning activity I can access across 3 different MOOC courses and the online spaces I have interacted in on each and see if I can identify any potentially meaningful patterns, networks which would help me reflective and understand better, my learning experiences. I also want to explore see how/if learning analytics approaches could help me in terms of contributing to my personal learning environment (PLE) in relation to MOOCs, and if it is possible to illustrate the different “success” measures from each course provider in a coherent way.

2. Defining the context: what is it that you want to solve or do? Who are the people that are involved? What are social implications? Cultural?

I want to see how/if I can aggregate my data from several MOOCs in a coherent open space and see what learning analytics approaches can be of help to a learner in terms of contextualising their educational experiences across a range of platforms.

This is mainly an experiment using myself and my data. I’m hoping that it might start to raise issues from the learner’s perspective which could have implications for course design, access to data, and thoughts around student created and owned eportfolios/and or data lockers.

3. Brainstorm ideas/challenges around your problem/opportunity. How could you solve it? What are the most important variables?

I’ve already done some initial brain storming around using SNA techniques to visualise networks and connections in the Cloudworks site which the OLDS MOOC uses. Tony Hirst has (as ever) pointed the way to some further exploration. And I’ll be following up on Martin Hawksey’s recent post about discussion group data collection .

I’m not entirely sure about the most important variables just now, but one challenge I see is actually finding myself/my data in a potentially huge data set and finding useful ways to contextualise me using those data sets.

4. Explore potential data sources. Will you have problems accessing the data? What is the shape of the data (reasonably clean? or a mess of log files that span different systems and will require time and effort to clean/integrate?) Will the data be sufficient in scope to address the problem/opportunity that you are investigating?

The main issue I see just now is going to be collecting data but I believe there some data that I can access about each MOOC. The MOOCs I have in mind are primarily #edc (coursera) and #oldsmooc (OU). One seems to be far more open in terms of potential data access points than the other.

There will be some cleaning of data required but I’m hoping I can “stand on the shoulders of giants” and re-use some google spreadsheet goodness from Martin.

I’m fairly confident that there will be enough data for me to at least understand the problems around the challenges for letting learners try and make sense of their data more.

5. Consider the aspects of the problem/opportunity that are beyond the scope of analytics. How will your analytics model respond to these analytics blind spots?

This project is far wider than just analytics as it will hopefully help me to make some more sense of the potential for analytics to help me as a learner make sense and share my learning experiences in one place that I chose. Already I see Coursera for example trying to model my interactions on their courses into a space they have designed – and I don’t really like that.

I’m thinking much more about personal aggregation points/ sources than the creation of actual data locker. However it maybe that some existing eportfolio systems could provide the basis for that.

As ever I’d welcome any feedback/suggestions.

Whose data is it anyway?

I’ve just caught up with the recent #etmooc webinar featuring Audrey Watters titled ‘who owns your education data?’. At the start of her talk Audrey said she wanted to plant some “thought bombs” for participants. I’m not sure this post is particularly explosive, but her talk has prompted me to try and share some thoughts which have been mulling around my brain for a while now.

Audrey’s talk centred around the personal data, and asked some very pertinent questions in relation to educational data; as well as the more general “data giveaway” we are all a part of when we all too quickly sign terms and conditions for various services. Like most people I’ve never actually read all the terms and conditions of anything I’ve signed up for online.

Over the last year or so, I’ve been increasingly thinking about data and analtyics (not just learning analytics) in education in general. And I keep coming back to the fundamental questions Audrey raises in the presentation around the who, what, why, where, when and how of data collection, access and (re)use. Audrey focuses on the issue from the individual point of view, and I won’t try and repeat her presentation, I would recommend you take half an hour to listen to it. One thought bomb that is ticking in my head is about data collection and use at the institutional level.

As more and more systems offer analytics packages, and in particular learning analytics solutions, are we sure that at an institutional we can get the data from the systems, when we want it and in a format we want it and not just be given data reports/and or dashboards? At these relatively early stages for learning analtyics, are institutions in danger of unwittingly giving away their data to companies who have solutions which suit today’s needs without thinking about future requirements for access to/and use of data? There is a recognised skills shortage of data scientists (not just in education) so at the moment it is often easier to buy an off the shelf solution. As we all become more data aware and (hopefully) data literate, our demands for access to data and our abilities to do something useful with it should develop too.

This is an issue John Campbell (Purdue University) raised at his presentation at the Surfnet Conference last November. We had several conversations about the potential for turning some of the terms and conditions for data on its head by having having some (community created and shared) clause which system vendors would have to agree to. Something along the lines of “if we use your tool, we have the right to right to request all data being collected for return to the institution on a timely basis in a format of our choice”. I can see a clause like that being useful at at personal level too.

Wherever we sit we need to continually use the fundamental questions around who, what, why, where, when and how of our data collection systems, policies and strategies to negotiate appropriate access.

Bye bye #edcmooc

So #edcmooc is now over, our digital artefacts have been submitted and reviewed and we all now move on.

I thought it would be useful to reflect on the final submission and peer review process as I have questioned how that would actually work in a couple of earlier posts. The final submission for the course was to create a digital artefact which would be peer reviewed.

The main criteria for creating the artefact were:

* it will contain a mixture of two or more of: text, image, sound, video, links.
* it will be easy to access and view online.
* it will be stable enough to be assessed for at least two weeks.

We had to submit a url via the Coursera LMS and then we were each assigned 3 other artefacts to assess. You had the option to assess more if you wished. The assessment criteria were as follows:

1. The artefact addresses one or more themes for the course
2. The artefact suggests that the author understands at least one key concept from the course
3. The artefact has something to say about digital education
4. The choice of media is appropriate for the message
5. The artefact stimulates a reaction in you, as its audience, e.g. emotion, thinking, action

You will assign a score to each digital artefact

0 = does not achieve this, or achieves it only minimally
1 = achieves this in part
2 = achieves this fully or almost fully

This is the first time I’ve done peer review and it was a very interesting process. In terms of the electronic process, the system made things very straightforward, and there was time to review draft submissions before submitting. I’m presuming that artefacts were allocated on a random basis too. On reflection the peer process was maybe on the “lite” side, but given the scope and scale of this course I think that is entirely appropriate.

My three allocated artefacts were really diverse both in style, content and substance. Whilst reviewing I did indeed reflect back on what I had done and wished I had the imagination and time of some of my peers, and I could have spent hours going through more but I had to stop myself. Overall I am still satisfied with my submission which you can explore below or follow this link.

2/2 all round for me and some very positive comments from my peers, so thank you – although as one of my reviewers did point out I maybe did push the time limits a bit far:

“The choice of the media is also apt but I guess the only little drawback is that the artifact far exceeds the guidelines on how big the artifact should be (actually it’s a gist of the entire course and not a little five-minute artifact!). “

Overall I really enjoyed #edcmooc, it made me think about things from different perspectives as well as confirming some of my personal stances on technology in education. It was well paced and I liked that it used openly available content where possible. Now I’m bit more experienced at MOOC-ing didn’t take up too much of my time. The course team made some subtle adjustments to the content and instruction over the duration which again was entirely appropriate and showed they were listening if not talking to everyone. I didn’t feel a lack of tutor contact, but then again I didn’t interact in the discussion spaces as much as I could have, and this is also an topic area where I was relatively comfortable exploring at my own pace.

It’s also been quite a counter balance to the #oldsmooc course I’m also doing (which started before #edcmooc and finishes next week), but I’ll share more about that in another post.

Also feel free to assess my artefact and share your comments here too using the criteria above.

**Update, I’ve just received an email from the course team. Apparently the process didn’t work as smoothly for some as it did for me. They are investigating and encouraging people who couldn’t share their artefacts to use the course forums. Hopefully this will get sorted soon.

More steps towards wysiwyg widget authoring

One of the problems with being part of an innovation centre like CETIS is that we suffer a bit from the Dory complex. For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, it is based on the character Dory in the movie Finding Nemo who is rather easily distracted by new things. Sometimes we find that “stuff” drops off our radar as we have moved on to the next shiny thing. So it is always great when we get a chance to be involved in development for a sustained period of time. An example of this for me is the WIDGaT widget authoring tool and its development team at the University of Teesside.

The WIDE project was part of the Jisc DVLE programme which I supported, and developed a number of fully accessible widgets. The team then got further funding and were able to develop their methodology and practice into an authoring tool for widgets.

Earlier this week I joined the team and about 25 others for a “WIDGaT in Practice” workshop. We had a chance to see some examples of widget from both the HE and FE sectors and were able to get hands on and create our own widgets. Having taken part in their design bash day about 18months ago to help the team scope the design for the authoring tool, it was great to see and have a play with a useable tool which pretty much covered all the design elements the “expert” group came up with.

There are a number of pre-built templates to chose from or you can start with a blank canvas. One of the common designs for widgets from practitioners has time/task management widgets to help students be more independent in their studies/life. We were shown a number of examples including a really nice simple visual reminder of key steps for each day for a student with autism and another with key stages for final year projects. The editor also includes a number of components such as embedding youtube videos and images, and social network components such as Facebook likes and comments. Examples of using these features included a widget which embedded a number of videos with a Facebook comment link so that students could share comments on content directly into their course Facebook group. There is also a simple quiz component which is proving also proving popular.

WIDGaT authoring stage

WIDGaT authoring stage

The interface is pretty straightforward but I did find manipulation things a bit tricky and the team are working at improving layout options. However as a quick and easy way to develop and share resources online it does have a lot going for it. It also has a lot of design support functionality built in to help users think about what they are creating and who they are creating it for.

WIDGaT Personna description function

WIDGaT Personna description function

At #cetis13 next month the team are also running a workshop at the end of day 1 where they will be actively looking for new components to add to the tool as well as any other ideas for enhancements. As the tool is open source, it is a great example for the Open Innovation and Open Development session on day 2 .

Alone and together, thoughts on #edcmooc week 4

Week 4 of #edcmooc is drawing to a close and I find myself in a similar position to last week re articulation.  We are again grappling with what it means to be human but the readings and resources have pointed us in the direction of post humanism.  I think I may have made a small break through in that I have a suspicion that the course team are just teasing us and actually want us to sign up for the MSc so we have the space to reflect and write in proper “academese” about all of this :-)

So I’m just going to pull out a few random thoughts which have been running around my head this week.  Post humanisim – my very basic response is “it’s all a bit scary” but I am as they say a bear with little brain.  Having had a few days to mull things over a bit, I’m not sure we can ever actually know what it is to be post human as we are always evolving.  What the course has illustrated of course is that now, more than any point in our history, technology is becoming closer to being an integral part of our human evolution. Science fiction is increasingly becoming science fact.  The launch of testing of google glasses with “ordinary” people this week highlighted how virtual/enhanced reality is another step closer to our everyday reality. We are increasingly creating, curating our digital trails. We are recording and sharing our activities (memories?) more than ever before. As an aside  I got access to my twitter archive this week and spent a half hour or so laughing at my first tweets from 2007. My 2013 self was slightly distrubed by the “open-ness” of my 2007 self. Back then I only thought I was “tweeting” to four or so others. But back to #edcmooc.

True Skin one of the recommeded videos for this week illustrated potential of technology to track, share, destroy and rebuild. Going back to science fiction/fact, it, and the other recommended videos, highlighted how visual effects technology is allowing us to depict increasingly realistic future scenarios.  True Skin is a world where you can pay to store  your memories and then download them into a new body when your (often technology enhanced) body has worn out. A sort of techo enabled re-incarnation, except you don’t have the random element of maybe coming back as a tree.

Thinking of reincarnation got me thinking about religion and wider (non digital) culture.  I have a nagging worry that the resources in this course have been very western (and in particular North American centric). Is this really where the next evolution of humanity will be driven from?  Are we just consuming a homogenised version of our potential cultural evolutionary path? What about views from the BRIC countries? I can’t make an informed comment because I honestly don’t know. Could our western dystopian fears be reduced by some input from other cultures with different views on what it means to be human, the role of reincarnation, views of the soul etc? 

One of the other recommended readings this week was an well known article from 20008 by Nicolas Carr called “Is google making us stupid?”  

In the article he laments the loss of his own and others concentration to read for prolonged periods of time. We are all so used to hyperlinks and multi-tasking and bite sized consumption. It’s a view which still worries many, particularly those involved in education.  I freely admit that I am becoming increasingly adept at skimming and scanning, and quite often don’t read things ‘properly’. But I do love the fact that I am able to read reports, books etc on my ipad and don’t have to damage my shoulder even more by carring heavy books/reports around.  Conversely I relish reading ”real books’ now and do make a conscious effort to take time away from the screen to do that.

Checking up on what Nicolas is writing about just now it is quite intersting that his latest blog post is about how students actually prefer real books to e-text books.  We like the convenience of ebooks/readers which techology has brought us, but we still like good old bounded paper.  

As I was reading this and thinking about increased connectivity, switching off etc I was reminded of Shelly Turkle’s Alone Together Ted Talk where she highlights the paradox of our “culture of distraction” and how being increasingly connected with the ability to “mult-life” gives us the “illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.”

The alone together concept is particularly relevant for MOOCs.  As a student, you are (in the the #edcmooc instance ) with over 40,000 others, sharing, debating, tweeting, facebook-ing, google+-ing, google-hangout-ing, (or to use the proper terminology, students are increasingly becoming transliterate). Despite the frenzy of activity there are, imho, only a few real touch points of engagement. I would argue that this is a good thing.  

Despite the normal drop off in activity after the first week, there are still over 7,000 people contributing. I’ve been quite up-front in a number of posts about various MOOCs I’ve been involved in about being, to put it bluntly selfish, about  my input.  I can’t work on a 1:7,000 ratio, so I engage as and when it suits me.  I have made some really useful new connections and strengthed some exisiting ones.  I work within my digital literacy comfort zones in a way that suits me. I can wander away from the set curriculum and work within my context. I don’t really like online forums, so I don’t use them. I have made a couple of posts to #edcmooc but I find them a bit scary and potentially confrontational. I’m probably missing out on some great stuff – but I am comfortably with that.

I like to think that what MOOCs have actually done is allowed me the space to be alone AND together with my fellow students. Just now in my personal evolution, that’s a place I’m very happy to be in.
  

#edcmooc week 3 – computer says no

It’s been a very reflective week for me in #edcmooc as we move to the “being human” element of the course. In week three we’re being specifically asked:

“what does it mean to be human within a digital culture, and what does that mean for education?”

and more specifically:

“Who or what, in your view, will define what it means to be human in the future? Who or what defines it now? These are crucial questions for those of us engaged in education in all its forms, because how we define ‘desirable humanity’ will inform at the deepest level our understanding of how and why education might be conducted and why it matters. Paying attention to online education foregrounds these issues in a new way, helping us look at them afresh.”

Fantastically chin stroking stuff :-) As usual there are a good range of readings and videos. David Hopkins has written an excellent critique.

I’ve had quite a surprisingly emotional response to all of this and I’ve been finding it difficult to articulate my thoughts. Maybe it’s because the resources and questions are making me question my own humanity. As educational technology is central to my job and takes up a huge amount of my life, and I am a fairly optimistic wee soul perhaps what’s been nagging away at me is a fear that I am contributing, without thinking of the consequences, towards a horribly dystopian future where we those that can afford it are bio-engineered up to the max, controlled by technology which allows us to think humans are still in control whilst it plots humanity’s demise.

On the other hand, my other reaction is that this is all a load of academic nonsense, which allows people to have never ending circular discussions; whilst in the ‘real world’ the rest of humanity just get on with it. We’re all going to die anyway and our species is just a blip in the history of our planet. For some reason this phrase from Little Britain keeps running through my head, it seems to sum up the wonderful way that humans can subvert technology.

As I’ve been reflecting on my experiences with technology in an educational context. I have to say that overall it has been the human element which has, and continues to be, the most rewarding and most innovative. I’ve seen online education offer alternative access to education at all levels from the most under-privileged to the most privileged. Technology has allowed me to connect with a range of wonderfully intelligent people in ways I would never imagined even less than 10 years ago. It has in many ways strengthened my sense of being human, which I think is fundamentally about communication. I still get very frustrated that there isn’t equal investment in human development every time a new system/technology is bought by a school/college/university, but I’m heartened by the fact that almost every project I know of emphasises the need for time to develop human relationships for technology to be a success and bring about change.