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What are MOOCs going to do for learning?

From E-Learning V

Fig.1.  Web 1.0, Web 2.0, Web 3.0. The way it was, the way it is, the way it will be.  J F Vernon (2013)

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are new and FutureLearn, a wholly owned subsidiary of The OU is itself adapting as traditional institutions embrace e-learning, respond to feedback and to results and improve.

MOOCs will be new for a decade.

E-learning like this is not a lecture series online, TV online, a book or book list online, quiz or a tutorial online. Whilst this is invariably the starting place for ‘ground based’ educators, the academics working with instructional designers, not in isolation, need increasingly to begin with a blank sheet rather than looking at the physical assets of academics, books, lectures and papers around them.

What we are witnessing today is that transition from the Wright Brothers to World War One fighter planes: we are seeing hints of the jets to come: we are a long way from drones. I use the analogy having just completed a wonderful three-week FutureLearn MOOC ‘World War 1: Aviation Comes of Age‘. Innovation takes time, though not necessarily violent conflict.

Innovations go through recognisable phases.

E-learning in the forms of MOOCs is still at the stage of ‘early adoption’ – rest-assured they will become commonplace, though surely with a different name? MOOCs can be a hybrid during a transitional phase so long as this is seen as the first step in many away from traditional approaches, embracing what works online.

Academics need to resist hiding away in their silos and welcome into their midst those of us seeking to understand and to integrate the processes involved – that combination of learning and e-learning: how and why we learn (neuroscience and physcology) and how then scale (massiveness), interactivity (digital) and connectivity (openness) changes things. In time, when the academics themselves have reached their accredited status of ‘doctor’ and ‘professor’ through e-learning and when we can call them all ‘digital scholars’ – then we’ll be able to look down from the clouds and smile at how much things have changed.

Think evolution not revolution

Think how long it will take to see out the current generation of academics – thirty to fifty years? Whilst many embrace change, most do not. They chose academia as a lifestyle and fear closer, open scrutiny and engagement. Learning is now experiencing what retail has gone through over the last decade. They are exhilarating as well as scary times.

Ultimately MOOCs are about a combination of sequential activities and ‘interactivities’, collaboration and connection.

Gilly Salmon coined the term ‘e-tivities’: sadly not in common usage, it nonetheless captures beautifully what is required for students to learn online – doing stuff on your own, with other fellow students and with the academics. Academics who like to observe from their ivory towers are failing in a duty as educators, and are missing the opportunity to have their own thinking challenged and refreshed.

Collaboration is a long held view of a kind of learning in ‘communities of practice’ most associated with the academics Lave and Wenger: how working together is a more effective for of constructed learning.

Connectedness as a way of learning is dependent on a few things: the affordances of the platform to permit this with ease: if you have the opportunity compare current student messaging and blogging platforms at your institution with those at FutureLearn which has stripped back the unnecessary and concentrated on this ‘connectivity’; the number and mix of participants: massive helps as a small percentage of a group will be the front runners and conversationalists with others benefiting from listening in, out of choice not pressure and the ‘quality’ of the participants in that they need to have both basic ‘digital literacy’ skills and reliable access based on their kit and connection. ‘Connectivity’ is often associated with the academic George Siemens and is the new kid on the ‘learning theories’ block.

Embrace the pace of change

A lean and smart organisation will tumble over itself, re-inventing and experimenting with ways things are done until clear methodologies present themselves for specific types of learning experience: ‘head work’ is different to’ handiwork’ – academic study is different from applied practice. Subjects freed from books and formal lectures, like the genii released from the bottle will, in the cloud, form into shapes that are most suited to their learners and what is being taught: blended and ‘traditional’ learning most certainly have their place.

Academic snobbery is a barrier to e-learning. 

John Seely Brown, working out of the Palo Alto Research Centre, famous for coming up with the WYSIWYG interface between us and computers and a ‘learning guru’ is passionate about the idea of ‘learning from the periphery’ – this is how and when someone new to a subject, or team, hangs around at the edges, learning and absorbing what is going on at the heart. The wonder of open learning is the participation of equally brilliant and curious minds, some who know a good deal on a subject while others are just starting out, eager to listen, willing to ask questions that may be naïve but are usually insightful; in the two-way exchange both the die-hard academic and the newbie change for the better. Learning feeds of this new fluidity. It is evidence of the ‘democratisation’ of learning.

Professor Gilly Salmon talks us through her Five Stages of e-learning

Fig. 1 Prof Gilly Salmon on Scaffolding for her Five Stages of Learning (c) Swinburne University of Technology 2014

Five levels, fifteen components
Keeping students engaged all the way through.

The building blocks or ‘scaffolding’ – perhaps Mecanno would have done the trick?

Stage 1: Familiarisation

1) Green Cube – People must have access to your platform to get in and motivation. May be issues to start with over technical access. Don’t need to know everything about the platform you are using, but they do need to be able to get in time and time again.
2) Blue Cylinder – e-moderator. Human intervention. Welcome. Support. Provide motivation to go on. To facilitate delivery of a successful learning experience. Don’t try to teach them anything yet.
3) Yellow Plank – Learning to take part, learning to log on and learning to come back frequently.

Stage 2: The start of online socialisation

Culture building and building your own little learning set.

4) Green Plank – technology environment part: not all the features, but how to navigate around and respond to others: not all the features, how to take part.
5) Blue Cube – e-moderator. A host at a cocktail party. Introductions. Basic needs satisfied.

Learning in three ways:

6a) Yellow Cube – Forming a team, getting to know others.
6b) Yellow Cube – Familiar with why they are working inline for this course.
6c) Yellow Cube – Some idea of what is coming up that is relevant for the course they are studying – don’t give them anything hard to do.

Stage 3: Information exchange

Get learners working together, exchanging known information they can bring or information that they can find.

7) Yellow Plank – e-tivity design to enable them to take part, navigate around, familiar by now.
really good e-tivities
8) Green Plank – links are working, can navigate around, feel familiar with the environment by now.
9) Blue Cube – really good e-tivities and have a presence.

Stage 4: Knowledge construction

10a/b) Yellow Columns – Constructing new knowledge
11) Green Bridging Piece – Everyone is taking part and everyone has a clear role
12) Blue Plank – e-moderator – do rather less …. gently, gently with feedback extremely important

Stage 5: benefit from looking back before looking forward

A bit of meta-cognition.
The role they have taken, what went on …

15) Green Triangle – a bit of technology (submitting assessments)
14) Red – Assessment or summative assessment
13) Blue Cube – back and forth through the online. course

For online or blended courses.

This video describes the scaffolding stage for the 5 stage model created by Professor Gilly Salmon. This is part of the Carpe Diem video collection via Scaffolding for learning (Carpe Diem MOOC).

16 must bes for an e-learning media component

‘Media Component’ is the term, like e-learning, that I believe will supersede most others to define the activities, or ‘e-tivities’ (not sticking) Salmon (2002) that learning designers put into or developers and builders devise for e-learning modules or courses.

Media components are, if you like, the stepping-stones that take a learner from ignorant to informed, with learning objectives the aim, but increasingly with effectiveness through greater engagement as we move away from the chronology of the stepping stone, itself a derivation of turning to the next page towards something more exploratory, game–like, intuitive and where appropriate – in context for the learning. Where better to learn about health and safety for the nuclear power industry than in a nuclear power plant, where better learn to apply best practice in a retail bank than in the banking hall.

Twelve years ago these media components were described as Lego building blocks (Downes, 2000), though in practice they are more akin to Lego Technics (Pegler, 2002) – they do something. Coming from a background in linear and non-linear (interactive) video-based corporate training, I am trying to think what terms and expressions we used on the paper storyboard pads on which the interactions were devised? Perhaps as they were added to linear video sequences and derived from scripts written in this form they were ‘interactions’ or ‘interactivities’. They were built into the narrative like an action sequence we shot as video. For a while, as we migrated such content to the Web we called it all ‘stuff’ as a catch-all for content, whether it did something or not. (A decade on I am yet to see anything as engaging or rich as the DVDs we produced in the 1990s with broadcast standard drama reconstruction or 3d animations, winners of IVCA Gold for their originality, impact and effectiveness). Today we are still producing the web-page derived equivalent of the leaflet or workbook, not least because it has taken broadband speeds and the devices and infrastructure a decade to catch–up.

The greatest shift has been to put the learning in our hands on Smartphones and Tablets and with this the desire for greater game–like tactility.

I wonder if another metaphor might be a sequence in music, a number of bars, a phrase that has a certain effect. This might be another way to design the actions. An architect works on 2D blueprints to create buildings in three dimensions; composers use a score to lay–out music that surrounds us and touches us, film–makers have scripts and storyboards. If we use PowerPoint to express a sequence or selection of interactivities, of ‘media components’ or ‘learning activities’ no wonder they are linear rather than exploratory. We need to design onto maps and navigate as our heads do – independently. I am drawn to the image of a 17th century triptych, the Great Picture that expresses the life story of Lady Anne Clifford. There is logic to the left and right panels, Lady Anne age 15 and 76 respectively, while the borders, like going around a game–board give ancestors, relatives, and artefacts any of which, in the 21st century could be brought to life with a link at least or an interaction at best, even in Web 2.0 terms the opportunity to share with others synchronously or asynchronously.

I’ve heard the phrase ‘sand-pit’ used too, the thought that you do these things in a playful, perhaps even in an incomplete way, measuring effectiveness will be the driver – media components that work or sequences that have a ressonance for a topic or audience will be used again.

This should not however be at the cost of accessibility. Anyone can play in a sandpit, but not everyone can play in an orchestra or all the instruments in it.

Various metaphors have been applied and can be applied, like building with Lego blocks Downes (2000) though Pegler’s preferences is to make a comparison with Technic ‘Lego’ (Pegler, 2004:Loc4282) where each piece has a set of actions. Wiley imagined them to be more like atoms (2001). The reality is more mundane, your e-learning module can be like a marathon or the 400m hurdles, with some imagination it can be a triathlon or heptathlon even the modern pentathlon.

The conclusion is that when construction e-learning we need to look for and create digital resources that are:

1. Easily sourced
2. Durable
3. Easily Maintained
4. Accessible
5. Free from legal limitations
6. Quality assured
7. Appropriate cost
8. Resizable
9. Easily repurposed
10. Meaningful
11. Engages the learner
12. Intelligible

To this list of qualities I would add a thirteenth: desirable – is it a media component or activity (e-tivity, Salmon 2002) that your colleagues want to use when building the module, let alone something users take to when faced with it. And then can it be used too often or inappropriately?

And a fourteenth – they should be reusable too, readily combined, reskinned and rebranded like type in a printing press that can be reused, or a component in a game from picking a card, rolling the dice or answering a question correctly. Is this media component transportable?

In an e-learning module these are multichoice, complete a phrase, connect or put into order.

And a fifteenth – and surely at the top of the list: effective.

Which probably means a sixteenth – measurable, or accountable. We want to know how it behaves and derive meaningful analytics from it.

Even a seventeenth – fashionable, or at least of the age, suited to the user group, appropriate for the identified personas doing the learning.

Even ‘intuitive’.

Let’s try that again:

Easily source

Durable

  1. Easily Maintained
  2. Accessible
  3. Free from legal limitations
  4. Quality assured
  5. Appropriate cost
  6. Resizable
  7. Easily repurposed
  8. Meaningful
  9. Engages the learner
  10. Intelligible
  11. Desirable
  12. Reusable
  13. Effective
  14. Fashionable
  15. Appropriate
  16. Intuitive

Downes, S (2000) Learning Objects. Available from http://www.newstrolls.com/news/dev/downes/col;umn000523_1.htm

Littlejohn, Falconer, Mcgill (2008) Characterising effective eLearning (sic) resources

Pegler, C and Littlejohn, A (2004) Preparing for Blended e-Learning, Routledge.

Salmon, G (2002) E-tivities

Wiley, D.A. (2000) Connecting Learning Objects to instructional design theory: a definition, a metaphor, and a taxonomy. In D.A. Wiley (ed), The instructional use of Learning Objects. Available from http://reusability.org/read/chapters/wiley.doc

Where’s technology in education taking us? MAs like A’ Levels? MBAs and PhDs for all?

As you watch the video consider and make notes on how it relates to the more general findings from the broader research literature discussed earlier.

Also consider the following questions:

  1. Is the message being presented in this visual way any different from the primarily text-based presentation of findings used so far this week?
  2. How important is the medium and the technologies themselves in terms of conveying messages about this research area?
  3. What are the implications for your own practice?

Catchy music. Well exectued. Memorable. Viral.4.5 million views to date.

The execution is persuasive; this is how advertisers do it. You have a message, you find a director who knows how to put it over in way that works.

I’ve done this myself a few times.

The music is crucial and often not considered in the budget.

Library music might, but rarely works.

Far better to pay for a peice to be composed; I have worked with plenty of student composers who’ve created a terrifc mood, what I wanted, cued to a click track and the images on the screen. I’ve also used copyright music and begged persmission from composers, such as some Michael Nyman music I wanted to use.

As a teaser or catalyst at the start of a week (or module,or course) this kind of thing is fantastic, but it is a trailer … it is not an objective report. The music dictates how the director wants us to think.

These underviewed clips could do with a bit of TLC.

I also need to afford to have them transferred to a higher defintion.

Here’s a simply exercise to demonstrate who the music skews the mood, impact and desire outcome; turn off the sound and play the video to ‘Anarchy in the UK’ the Sex Pistols, or ‘She’s Like a Rainbow’ Rolling Stones. Do you feel so sympathetic now?

Is not this the kind of music played to claw at our heart strings when our charity is being requested to house the homeless and feed the poor?

If you think you can turn a report or piece of research into an objective and compelling piece of TV you are wrong

a) There must be a narrative

b) There is a need for conflict

c) Controversy helps

A polite debate to a live audience that gets out of hand does the trick, but this is hardly the Jeremy Kyle show.

Increasingly, though my background is the spin of advertising and stakeholder communications, I want to learn how to research and present sound, objective facts – the kind of evidence upon which people can act on the basis that the thoroughness and professionalism of the approach has isolated the problems which others can then address.

The nonsense spoken about ‘The Net Generation’ et al. implies that arming one cohort with laptops (a 1999s thing), now with tablets (preferably an iPad) will deliver.

This ain’t how it happens. Never has with technology and never will.

Were I the Headmaster of a school I’d want to see technology used to play to the strengths of the subject being taught.

In art classes and music they are going to get a pad of A3 cartridge paper, some soft pencils, putty rubber and a knife; in music they’re going to get an ‘unplugged’ music instrument to master.

In Chemistry they can have a white board that shows interactive animations of chemical processes taking place in what would otherwise be dangerous experiments.

In H807 I bemoaned the fact that I wasn’t being hit with the kind of gizmo-worlds I’d been brought up to create for corporate clients – they want to see their money on the screen. We ‘read’ for the Masters in Open and Distance Education. When faced with a video, if a transcript isn’t provided, I have to take notes verbatim ditto podcasts.

Reading and the technical demands of typing and word-processing might be as far as it needs to go.

Where any technology is less intuitive or easy that word-processing then don’t bother. Nor assume people have the ‘right’ skills – having had a Mac since the early 90s I find some Microsoft software like being presented with a unicycle with a square wheel.

I like the phrases ‘disruptive technologies’, ‘catalysts for change’ and ‘pedagogical innovation’.

The thing to remember is that one size does not fit all, indeed the technology ought to offer additional variety, not replace what has gone before.

Some ‘services’ I am so familiar with, as well all, that I wouldn’t have thought to suggest they had a role in education; mobile phones, laptops are put of the landscape in work, school and the home. Not all, but many. We must remember the notable exceptions to owning or becoming familiar with these tools.

As for PDAs and memory sticks are these not history? PDAs replaced by SmartPhones and memory sticks replaced by portable hard-drives and the ‘cloud’. And thus the demise of Pagers, floppy discs and zip drives.

I still crave a Psion.

Will an iPad fill that gap? Or a Nokia E7? I’m looking for a keyboard and screen that I can treat like a spec case with the power to put people on Mars.

Any suggestions?

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Meanwhile, but to the activity at my fingertips:

(We mustn’t call them tasks I’m told, sets the wrong tone. So why not e-tivities? Do I need to ask?! I came across someone referring to e-quality and wanted to report them to the abuse of the English Language through the prefixing of ‘e.’)

The dichotomy between students and staff is slowly disappearing – perhaps it has gone.

There never was a Net Generation in my book, often if is (as we would expect) the teacher who is the master of the technology … they should be. This is the role we adults have before our children. We teach and nurture them, not the other way around. They generally learn from us, we have to crack it, add and embellish.

Were the students of the ‘Pill’ Generation in the 1960s not more rebellious then this lot?

Taught by teachers born between two World Wars, the differences must have been extreme. There are of course some biological reasons why until the students are adults, there will be significant barriers and differences. And whose to say, person by person, when intellectually maturity sets in. I’d say that I’ve only got there in my 50th year – I’ve enjoyed being a boy too much, until recently I could only be taught like a first year A’ Level Student (spoon fed).

Sharpe et al (2005) is a must read for the Masters in Open and Distance Education.

I don’t know why it and a couple of other books are boxed up and sent out to anyone who registers early. It is reassuring to return to authors whose voices you come to trust over the 18 or so months.

We learn that students have:

  • A mixed view about technologies
  • Feel pressured to do more (there’s little faster or more efficient that simply reading a paper)
  • Have mixed experiences and expectations of their tutor (someone remind us, we are POSTGRADUATES)

Pedagogy (does it work?)

Learner differences (which can be extraordinarily diverse compared to a cohort of undergraduates terming up on campus with the same accent, same outlook, same educational background … and not that long ago in some Oxford Colleges, the same gender too).

Beetham et al (2005) should be another set book.

By reading MAODE blogs I’ve spotted in advance the books that are most often refereed to and bought them. I have around a dozen now and had I a hand in reinventing the MAODE far from spending £100k with some of the top video production companies and web agencies in the land to ‘pimp it up,’ I’d been handing out these books and e-books.

‘Distributed collaboration’ here we come.

I’ve often likened the experience of MAODE, or is it just postgraduate learning with the OU, as my head being like the chocolate shaker at Cafe Nero. I’ve had chocolate pixie dust tipped into my head and someone keeps lifting me up by the ankles like a new born baby and giving me a good shake. My ideas have been turned on their head, not least the desire and interest in sharing whatever I think. It serves a purpose not to be previous about what you think. Not quite like getting it wrong on National Radio and being correctly by a few thousand emails, but you are often set right, or put on the right path, by hearing what your fellow students think.

Find me on Linkedin. I’m forever joining groups and discussions and find the feeds from the busiest groups

Oblinger and Oblinger (2005) Educating the Net Generation sounds like a must read. What are the reviews? I couldn’t find it. Or is it a paper? There are plenty of texts written on the theme – most I’d give a wide birth.

Their points are:

  • weaving in the technology to current practice
  • kids who’ve grown up with it
  • its becoming ubiquitous
  • they use the web for homework (so what, we use it for work and pleasure too don’t we … and did from the start. The kids are copying Mum and Dad when they learn to touch type by the age of 6, NOT the other way round. They crave to get online because their parents do; it was ever thus.)
  • there is more surface level learning (right through to university … and at the BA level too often, students learn what they are told to learn, from the surface, whether from the web, a text book or print out … whatever it takes to pass the exam. Why I am told the Oxbridge BA sees itself as an MA programmer for undergraduates.
  • More visual. I would love papers to be illustrated, just a photo or apt cartoon above the abstract. Why shouldn’t academic writers hook their readers too. Randy Pausch did in a paper he wrote while at Disney working and researching the skills of an ‘imagineer’.
  • they want ‘just in time’ answers and it needs to be experiential (Conole & Dyke 2004; Gibson, 1979). We should celebrate this achievement … its what managers in business have been trying to incorporate into business practice for decades.

Words, words, words; but not in that order!

‘To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script and the script.’ Said Alfred Hitchcock.

If I’ve written below about the demise of the written word, then I take it back.

OK, love letters have had their day. I don’t even suppose that boarding Prep School Boys are writing home religiously every Sunday either; though we did.

My mother’s collection of letters written by my brother and I from aqe eight years make quixotic reading.

Avatar started with a script.

The three CD edition is worth it for the documentary on the creation of the film. It started with an idea expressed as a ‘scriptment’ (sic) i.e. not even a script, but words on sheets of paper nonetheless.

A Learning Designer starts with a script, as does an Account Manager.

A client wants to see it in writing. You can edit words. You can share words. You can hold, copy and digest them in written form.

An idea (or problem), a brief, a synopsis and treatment … that leads to a script. And once this is nailed down the costly business of production begins. Why should e-learning be any different to the production of a mega million Hollywood movie, or the Christmas Pantomime in Ambridge Village Hall.

I get paid to write because I’m able to fill a blank space with bright ideas in a sequence that makes sense (linear) or does not (non-linear).

But ultimately says something.

E-words. Try ‘e-tivitate’ or ‘e-tivical’ or ‘e-type.’

‘The language has a strange power of alchemy, the capacity to transform whatever it touches.’ Hitchings (2008:4)

Is ‘e-tivity’ – a ‘loan word’ or invention? And what about ‘e-lapsed’ time. The proof of a word brought into the English language could be how it performs as a verb or adjective. Try this then, ‘e-tivitate’ or ‘e-tivical’ or ‘e-type.’ Problematic, or a form of the language that defies what has gone before, yet follows the pattern of invention.

KEY

A new word is a solution to a problem.

‘It answers a need – intellectual, experiential. Often the need is obvious, but sometimes it is unseen and badly felt, and then it is only in finding something to plug the gap that we actually realise the gap was there in the first place.’ Hitchings (2008:5)

‘Very few words are fresh coinages.’ Hitchings (2008:5)

KEY

‘We relish playing with words: making them up, acquiring them, tending them to new purposes.’ Hitchings (2008:6)

  • Pandemonium
  • Diplomacy
  • Shchekotik ‘half-tingle, half-tickle.’

‘One culture chaffing against another.’ Hitchings (2008:7)

Why?

“As an ‘analytic’ language – that is, one in which meaning is mainly shaped by word order and the use of particles such as prepositions and conjunctions – it has been able to absorb words without any concern for how to fit them into its grammar.’ Hitchings (2008:9)

KEY

‘A newly adopted noun can easily be turned into an adjective.’

e.g.
chimera
chimerical

KEY

And just about anything can be made into a verb

e.g. ‘Let’s sashimi the tuna.’

So e-tivity to e-tivical? E-learning to e-learnable?

‘There’s a way to e-learn everything?’

‘I e-learnt French through Open Learn.’

I feel not.

Wherein lies the unlikely longevity of these ‘e-terms.’

WORDS

“Words – or lexemes, as linguists call them – are ‘the means by which we make direct reference to extralinguistic reality, converting our basic perception of the world around us into language.’

and

they ‘serve as labels for segments of … reality which a speech community finds name worthy.’ Katsovsky (2006)

REF

Katsovsky, D (2006) ‘Vocabulary’, in Richard Hogg and David Denison eds) ‘A History of the English Language. Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 2006, 199.

  • new ideas and products are names
  • we can talk about something before it exists
  • the limits of our language mark the limits of our world (paraphrasing Wittgenstein).
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