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Learning how to learn online with FutureLearn and The OU

From E-Learning V

Fig.1 My progress on The OU MOOC on FutureLearn ‘Start Writing Fiction’ (c) FutureLearn 2014

More than any module or exercise I have done over my four years with The OU, it is a MOOC in FutureLearn that is giving me the most thorough experience of where the future or learning lies. I’m in week seven of eight weeks of ‘Start Writing Fiction’ from The OU, on the FutureLearn platform. Just in these few weeks I’ve seen the site change to solve problems or to enhance the experience. Subtle lifts and adjustments that make a positive out of constant adjustment. Those tabs along the top: activity, replies where under a tab. I think ‘to do’ is new while ‘progress’ was elsewhere. This is a responsive platform that listens to its students.

In the final week we submit our third piece of work.

As assessments go these are far less nerve racking than a TMA. The first piece was 300, the second 500 and the last will be 1000. These are assessed by fellow students. In my case I had one, then two reviews. Most people seem to get at least two sometimes three. The system is designed, I’m sure, to try and ensure that everyone’s work is reviewed at least once. Tens of thousands, certainly thousands of people are on the course.

We’re here to the 19th of December or so … if you follow the tracks as laid.  

I hazard a guess that between 20-100 have posted there final piece already. Some, I know, got to the end of the entire course a few weeks ago; I looked ahead to see out of curiosity. There have always been 20 who post comments one, two even three weeks ahead. If 20 are posting I hazard a guess knowing my stats on these things that another couple of hundred could be clicking through the pages to read and observe. They may, like me, be coming back later. They may only be following the course, but not participating. Often, it is like standing on a stage looking into the gloom of the auditorium. Someone probably out there. One or two let you know. The rest don’t.

I hope those that race ahead come back …

I find that if I get ahead then I slow down and retrace my steps. To learn in this connected and collaborative way you are far better off in the pack … it is not a race to get to the end first. In fact, those who do this have already lost. They’ve missed the point. I’d suggest to people that if they have the time to do the week over. That’s been my approach anyway – the beauty of these things is everyone can come and go as they please, at a pace that suits them. Skip a bit. Go back. Follow it week by week, day by day … or not. Whatever works works?

There’s another very good reason to stay with the ‘pack’ or to come back and do a week over – the platform depends not on tutors and moderators commenting and assessing work, but us students doing a kind of amateur, though smart, peer review. This is what make a MOOC particularly vibrant, memorable and effective. Not listening to an educator telling us what’s what, but the contributors sharing, figuring it out, answering each other’s problems in multiple ways. We all learn in different ways and at a pace that shifts too. I find that often a point I don’t get first time round, on the second, or third, or even the fourth visit to an activity someone, somewhere puts it in a way that suddenly brings complete clarity – their way of seeing a thing, or expressing it, makes more sense than the writes of the course could manage. Because they can only write one version, not the ‘tartan’ that comes from an intelligent, threaded online conversation.

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What is curation in our Web 2.0 world?



Fig.1. Apples from the Barton Orchard

First of all understand the derivation of curation from the Italian and pick not ‘caring’ for, as in caring in the medical sense for a person, but ‘curato’ – the cared for. Curation used to require a critical process – a curator in the critical sense, would decide at an intellectual level what a theme or a journey should be. Curation is also a process, a collection of choices and acts.

How does curation of art, or of artefacts in a museum compare to the way we have hijacked the term to describe what is done online where someone (are they ever a team?) make choices regarding the aggregation of content on a theme, with an audience or users in mind. At what point does this curation become marketing, or editing or re-blogging rather than this intellectual act where the value you add are the choices you make about what to put in and what to leave out?

And surely curation is diluted even further if a clever piece of software, because of feeds you suggest, words you put in or boxes you tick comes up with the content for you?

Wikipedia Definition : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curator

Digital Curation : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_curation

What makes an e-learning practitioner professional? Qualification? Codes of Practice? Track Record?

A crude way to determine whether something is a Profession or not; in the Western, 21st century work context, could we do without any of the following?

  • Lawyer
  • General Practitioner
  • Accountant
  • E-Learning Practitioner
  • Estate Agent
  • School Teacher
  • Veterinary Nurse
  • Pharmacist
  • Civil Engineer
  • Architect
  • Soldier
  • Priest
  • MP
  • PM
  • Royal
  • Land Argent
  • Surveyor
  • TV presenter
  • Moderator
  • Facilitator
  • Sports Coach
  • Actor

… and if we could do without them, might this be a reason to exclude them from any ‘professional’ status?

I repeatedly feel that the skills expected of an ‘e-learning professional’ are readily available through a web where learning design and programming, let alone copywriting, art direction, video production and production management skills are each a separate role. The ‘e-learning practioner’ in this sense is a one-man band and my suffer from skill dilution as a result, you cannot be a master of all these ‘trades.’

And why do we assume that being a ‘professional’ is a good thing? Some say we need professional MPs, some say not. Is a career MP ala William Hague who’ve known little else and desired nothing more since they were 14 a good or bad thing?

The very nature of working using the latest technologies requires the freedom to chase whatever comes along, rather than being confined to a set or potentially limiting parameters set by others – that could exclude perfectly able peope.

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