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Open Learning with the Open University – a modus operandi in the 21st century?

Fig.1 Posing for a scamp at the School of Communication Arts, 1987

H818 Activity 2.1

I will only publish in open access journals.

I’m not a professional academic. Should I publish then I imagine the calibre of the journal will count for something. As a professional writer (copy, scripts, speeches), with exception of blogging I am used to being paid for my words.

I will share all learning material that I create and own openly online.

From the moment I started to blog I have been part of self-help groups ‘publishing’ openly on everything from blogging to creative writing, swimming teaching and coaching, social media, the First World War and e-learning. My goal over the next year or so is to produce under a Creative Commons module a series of 30 to 1500+ micro- OERs, one minute pieces with Q&A attached, as what Chris Pegler terms ‘Lego Techno Bricks’.

I maintain an online social media identity as a core part of my professional identity.

It lacks professionalism as I don’t edit it or write to a definable audience but I have a substantial e-learning blog that largely, though not exclusively, draws on my MA ODE experiences (in fact I started on the MA ODL in 2001 and blogged on that too). I use Google+, Linkedin and Twitter haphazardly by pushing blog content to actual and potential commentators, participants and followers.

I take a pragmatic approach and release some resources openly if it’s not too much extra work.

I come from corporate communications where created content is closed to employees.

I have concerns about intellectual property and releasing my content openly.

Actual words of fiction I write is my copyright, Factual I care less about. Whilst a blog is largely like a recorded conversation, a formal paper would need to be recognised in the appropriate way.

I will share all material that I create and own openly online, as soon as I create it.

No. I cannot hope to earn a living or sustain my interests if I cannot both charge for my time and my output.

Are we at the Napster moment in Higher Education?

Martin Bean Key Note – notes from the 2012 HEA conference.

If there is a transcript please let me know!

Martin Bean, the Vice Chancellor of the Open University (OU) makes the point that technology in education has everything to do with brain-ware, not software, that ‘we thought our job was done when we got people plugged in’ – (he comes from a commercial technology background).

Martin Bean calls for educators in tertiary education to ‘do the right thing by our student’

Technology is the enabler – it still requires great teaching.

He is at pains to point out that our approach to education is stuck in the past, that it is NOT about rote learning to regurgitate in an exam, but helping students make sense of the information available to them.

Martin Bean is HIGHLY critical of research students who rely on the top 15 hits in Google Search and Wikipedia.

His handle on the current student is insightful.

He makes the point that ‘they want to blend their digital lifestyles with their learning – rather they would say it is ‘just the way they live’.

‘We need to create a trusting environment where the student can challenge the information’. Martin Bean

There needs to be deconstruction and reconstruction of the pedagogy to make it more relevant

Martin Bean calls for the ‘sage on the stage to coach on the side’.

He makes the point that the OU’s National Surveys say that our students want to spend time with us.

This human component is crucial for success and retention.

Martin Bean asks, ‘what would Steve Jobs do?’

  • People and process remain more important than the technology
  • What the OU does: relevant, personalised, engaging learning.

How do we inspire people in those informal moments?

The OU are lucky and unique to be able to work with the BBC on productions like the Frozen Planet …

  • YouTube as an open education repository
  • iTunes – 1:33 come in to find out more
  • Apple authoring tools

The value and opportunity of mobile

  • Akash – a tablet from India running on Android for under £50, so cheaper to give students one of these and access to the Internet than buy academic books.
  • 400 eBooks. e.g. Schubert’s poems, listening to music, seeing the manuscript, reading annotations then looking at the original handwritten manuscript …

How do we as educators do what we do so well?

  • MOOCs – engagement of hundreds of thousands, if not millions in meaningful ways.
  • More than anything esle technology creates access

We are at the Napster moment in Higher Education

See the Hewlett Foundation website for the scale of OERs. 12,000 hours of OU Open Learn for example.
Nurturing powerful communities of learning

In his final remarks Martin Beans suggests

  • Breaking the content down into shorter milestones
  • And the need for qualifications with market currency

Martin Bean, OU Vice Chancellor: We are at the Napster moment in Higher Education

Martin Bean Key Note – notes from the 2012 HEA conference.

If there is a transcript please let me know!

I took a couple of hours as part of H818:The networked practitioner to follow this presentation closely. It makes you proud to be an OU student, or in my case now, an OU Graduate. Our Vice Chancellor, better perhaps than any other, has an inspired and informed, and often witty outlook on the future of education.

He makes the point that technology in education has everything to do with brain-ware, not software,. that ‘we thought our job was done when we got people plugged in’.

He calls for educators in tertiary education to ‘do the right thing by our student’

Technology is the enabler – it still requires great teaching.

He is at pains to point out that our approach to education is stuck in the past, that it is NOT about rote learning to regurgitate in an exam, but helping students make sense of the information available to them.

He is HIGHLY critical of research students who rely on the top 15 hits in Google Search and Wikipedia.

His handle on the current student is insightful. He makes the point that ‘they want to blend their digital lifestyles with their learning – rather they would say it is ‘just the way they live’.

We need to create a trusting environment where the student can challenge the information.

There needs to be deconstruction and reconstruction of the pedagogy to make it more relevant

He calls for the ‘sage on the stage to coach on the side’.

Our National Surveys say that our students want to spend time with us.

This human component is crucial for success and retention.

Martin Bean asks, ‘what would Steve Jobs do?’

  • People and process remain more important than the technology
  • What the OU does: relevant, personalised, engaging learning.

How do we inspire people in those informal moments?

The OU are lucky and unique to be able to work with the BBC on productions like the Frozen Planet …

  • YouTube as an open education repository
  • iTunes – 1:33 come in to find out more
  • Apple authoring tools

The value and opportunity of mobile

  • Akash – a tablet in India running on Android for under £50, so cheaper to give students one of these and access to the Internet than buy academic books.
  • 400 eBooks. e.g. Schubert’s poems, listening to music, seeing the manuscript, reading annotations then looking at the original handwritten manuscript …

How do we as educators do what we do so well?

  • MOOCs – engagement of hundreds of thousands, if not millions in meaningful ways.
  • More than anything esle technology creates access

We are at the Napster moment in Higher Education

See the Hewlett Foundation website for the scale of OERs. 12,000 hours of OU Open Learn for example.
Nurturing powerful communities of learning

  • Break the content down into shorter milestones
  • Qualifications with market currency

MOOCs are a relatively new phenomenon. There’s been a lot of hype about them. What does the research say? 

A ‘MOOC’ is a ‘Massive Open Online Course’, perhaps better called on ‘Free Online Course’.

The ‘Massive’ comes from online video games where there can be huge numbers of participants. An early online module on engineering from Stanford had some 10,000 initial participants. A couple of years later and niche, less popular courses from far less prestigious establishments may have only a few hundred participants which takes the ‘massive’ out of the MOOC, and can in turn diminish the learning experience as only a fraction of students participate and only a fraction stay to the end. Well meaning MOOCs I have done, one for example on e-learning design for MOOCs, could well have been down to a dozen active participants by the end as the drop-out rate was so high, largely, in my view, in that instance, because the demands on and expectations of participating students was far too high.

Where to search

In addition to investigating ISI Web of Knowledge and Google Scholar, see also the bibliographic databases ERIC and PsycINFO and the full-text databases SwetsWise and ScienceDirect.

My OU Student Blog has 55 entries on MOOCs, this begins with very early forays, lurking, in the 2010/2011 before committing as a participant twice this year, in the Open University’s Online Learning Design MOOC (OLDS MOOC) and the OU’s Martin Weller chaired H817 Open MOOC. I was able to give five then three weeks full-time to each before EMAs and life made me reduce the time I could give to them.

Particularly the OLDS MOOC that I would describe as a standard OU Module with as many, if not more activities and even more potentially to read … as well as the now obligatory interaction in a Google Hang-out and forums which, unlike in a standard OU Module, had the active participation of some of the heavy hitters of online learning.  A blind alley though, other than a reminder of what it is like to take part in a MOOC.

Questions to ask

  • Is anything known about the educational impact of MOOCs, as distinct from their news impact?

  • What research methods were used?

  • What could be known about MOOCs?

  • Are research methods being developed ‘new’?

Warnings

  • You may go up many blind alleys, but persist.

  • You might not find a huge number of high quality research studies. As mentioned above good research often takes time to set up, analyse and write up; and the most highly rated journals typically have detailed peer review and editing processes, followed by long lead times for publication.

  • You may well find yourself in the so-called ‘grey literature’ – conference papers, technical reports, reports to funders, web pages, blogs, and so on. Such grey literature was once more difficult to search than journals, but now dominates online search results. It has traditionally had a lower academic status than peer-reviewed journals. However, this situation might change because of the growth of web-based publishing and the need for studies about fast-changing technologies to be published quickly.

As previously, keep notes on what you find, and on your reflections.

Three key issues relating to the development of Open Education Resources (OER)

The following is an activity carried out as part of the Open MOOC #H817open in which participants are asked to based on a selection of three readings to proposed three key issues regarding the developing use of Open Education Resources (OERs).

THE THREE PAPERS

1) John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Open Course Ware (2009) Kanchanaraksa, Gooding, Klass and Yager.

2) Open education resources: education for the world? (2012) Richter and McPherson

3) Disruptive Pedagogies and Technologies in Universities (2012) Anderson and McGreal

The issues I perceive as key to Open Education Resources (OER) are

  1. having a clear project brief i.e. an identified problem with a goal in mind,
  2. financing
  3. and content that is personalised to the context of potential students anywhere on the globe – not just in the ‘West’.

Other equally important issues include scale, assessment and accreditation.

ISSUE ONE – Having a clear project brief.

The most important issue, that is rarely explicit, is to ask, or rather to know ‘what is the brief? And therefore to answer two simple questions:

  • What is the problem?

  • What is the opportunity?

My concern is where any technology or change is shoehorned in from the top as the ‘solution’. The briefing process requires a good understanding of where the problem lies and what it is. Using if techniques from best business that aim to resolve ‘messy’ problems (Rittel & Weber, 1973; Ackoff, 1979; Ritchey, 2011). The danger is that a platform, tool, package or approach is adopted as a panacea.

Coming through this process institutions need to ask: ‘Is Open Educational Resource (OER) the indicated way forward?’ If not consider the alternatives or incorporate OER as part of a blended approach.

In each of the papers a variety of problems were identified:

  • Only a small portion of the individuals seeking public health knowledge and training can attend appropriate schools each year. i.e disparities of opportunity

  • High cost of HE

  • Inaccessible to millions

and a variety of opportunities:

  • Overcoming challenges to those who want to study at graduate level due to distance, lack of funds, scheduling and a host of other personal and professional hindrances. (Kanchanaraksa et al 2009:40)

  • Creation of a worldwide knowledge society.

  • Disaggregation

  • Discount model

ISSUE TWO – Cost

There are many costs involved from inception (planning, software, copyright clearance, learning design etc:), through delivery and analysis of and dealing with the outcomes. Initial funding is necessary, however the goal should be for OER to be self-financing. Anderson and McGreal (2012) suggest that OER can also be a way to reduce costs of the student-teacher interaction through increasing the quality and frequency of student-student interaction. The first universities were funded by students who hired appropriate professors. (McNeely & Wolverton, 2008). This suggests a shift back to the classical format where students rest control. The OER model, with micro-payments and ‘non frills’ beginnings might be the future to enable millions to have the graduate and postgraduate education they desire. This plays into the view that idea of ‘disruptive technologies’ that are delivered at low cost and functionality compared to traditional offerings that improve over time while maintaining low cost or other competitive advantage. (Christensen, 1997). Experience at Stanford University indicates that through Udacity by providing a letter to successful learners, student skills might be monetized (Lolowich, 2012; Whittaker, 2012)

ISSUE THREE – Is the content appropriate for the cultural context where it is taken up?

Clearly OER on networked devices is not a solution to extreme poverty, or where the infrastructure is deficient or political systems would prevent it. Richter & Thomas (2012:202) talk of the ‘Win-win’ in the West for OERs which may not be the result in a fundamentally different context. Historically textbooks and school materials that have little relevant to the user are parachuted in from ‘the West’ and so geographically, and sociopolitically suspect and diminished. I personally recall as geography undergraduate working in Kenya one summer , a country I had never visited before, and falling into a conversation with a secondary school student who was using the same textbook I had used for A’ Levels on the glaciation of the Lake District. It struck me that with the glories of the Rift Valley would have been far more pertinent.

I could continue in this vein for several more issues which may trump those above depending on the planned use for the OER, with assessment of major importance too, having the means to cope with hundreds of thousands of students, managing change, having institutional and external support and so on.

REFERENCE

Ackoff, R.L. (1979) The Art of Problem-Solving, New York: Wiley

Anderson, T, & McGreal, R (2012), ‘Disruptive Pedagogies and Technologies in Universities’, Journal Of Educational Technology & Society, 15, 4, pp. 380-389, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 26 March 2013.

Christensen, C. (1997). The innovator’s dilemma – When new technologies cause great firms to fail. Cambridge: Harvard University Press

Kanchanaraksa, S, Gooding, I, Klaas, B, & Yager, J (2009), ‘Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health OpenCourseWare‘, Open Learning, 24, 1, pp. 39-46, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 March 2013.

Lolowich, S. (2012, January 24). Massive courses, sans Stanford. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/25/opinion/the-justice-of-occupation.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

McNeely, I. F., & Wolverton, L. (2008). Reinventing knowledge: from Alexandria to the Internet. New York: WW Norton & Company

Richter, T, & McPherson, M (2012), ‘Open educational resources: education for the world?’, Distance Education, 33, 2, pp. 201-219, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 March 2013.

Ritchey, T. (2011) Wicked Problems – Social Messes: Decision support Modelling with Morphological Analysis.Springer.

Rittel.W.J., Webber.M.M. (1973) Dilemmas in a general theory of planning Policy Sciences, June 1973, Volume 4, Issue 1

Whittaker, M. (2012, March 4). Instruction for masses knocks down campus walls. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/05/education/moocs-large-courses-open-to-all-topple-campus-walls.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all

Life is not a game and we are more than merely players

The act of playing chess, and the process of thinking it through is the joy and the learning.

What will be the point as or once all the answers are online?

Where we let algorithms and the Web provide the answers?

Does this mean that anyone can be a doctor so long as they have a smartphone in their pocket and a good connection?

Knowledge acquired is how learning occurs.

The learning process is necessary in order for the brain to make sense of it (or to make nonsense of it)

The key is in the memory making.

We learn, each of us, in a unique way.

Less so because of when or where we were born,

But because we were made this way.

‘Je suis comme je suis, je suis faite comme ca’.

Our DNA is unique and the brain it constructs also.

Not hard considering ….

  • There are some 98 billion neurons in there.
  • And every neuron has some 10,000 connections.

It is this mass of interconnections that makes us both ridiculous and smart,

Able to think in metaphors, provide insight, solve problems, conform, deform and inform.

And fall in and out of love.

Enthusiasms bubble up like farts in the wind.

Is life  like a game of chess?

Are we  its players and pieces whether we like it or not?

It is surely the sense of participation and control that makes life worth living?

Which suggests that absolute machine power – Google-eyed algorithms – could be no better than prison.

Life is not a game,

And we are more than merely players.

There is no need to strut and fret our hour upon the stage.

Unless …

It is a story we tell, defined by our actions and responses,

A rollercoaster of our own making.

There is no need for noise and tension, where we can be cool in war and love.

 

What is the point in playing chess if you let a computer give you the answers and all you do is move the pieces?

The act of playing chess, and the process of thinking it through is the joy and the learning.

  • What will be the point as or once all the answers are online?
  • Where we let algorithms and the Web provide the answers?

Does this mean that anyone can be a doctor so long as they have a smartphone in their pocket and a good connection?

Knowledge acquired is how learning occurs.

  • The learning process is necessary in order for the brain to make sense of it (or not)
  • And we do so, each of us, in an utterly unique way.
  • Less so because of when or where we were born,
  • But because we were made this way.

‘Je suis comme je suis, je suis faite comme ca’.

Our DNA is unique and the brain it constructs also.

Not hard considering considering:

  • There are some 98 billion neurons in there.
  • And every neuron has some 10,000 connections.

It is this mass of interconnections that makes us both ridiculous and smart,

Able to think in metaphors, provide insight, solve problems, conform, deform and inform.

And fall in and out of love.

Enthusiasms bubble up like farts in the wind.

Life is like a game of chess

We are its players and pieces whether we like it or not.

It is the sense of participation and control that makes life worth living.

Which suggests that absolute machine power – Google-eyed algorithms could be no better than prison.

Life is not a game though

And we are more than merely players.

There is no need to strut and fret our hour upon the stage.

Unless …

It is a story we tell, defined by our actions and responses

A rollercoaster of our own making.

There is no need for noise and tension,

where we can be cool in war and love.

 

‘If you’re not lost and confused in a MOOC you are probably doing something wrong’


Photo credit: Robin Good

 

‘MOOCs indicate that we are seeing a complexification of wishes and needs’ – so we need a multispectrum view of what universities do in society. George Siemens, (18:51 25th March 2013).

 

A terrific webinar hosted by Martin Weller with George Siemens speaking. Link to the recorded event and my notes to follow.

I took away some key reasons why OER has a future:

 

  1. Hype between terrifying and absurd.
  2. State reduction in funding will see a private sector rise.
  3. Increase in rest of world’s desire for HE OER
  4. Certificates growing.
  5. The Gap
  6. Accelerating time to completion
  7. Credit and recognition for students who go to the trouble to gain the competencies.
  8. Granular learning competencies and the gradual learning and badging to stitch together competencies.

 

And a final thought from the host:

‘If you’re not lost and confused in a MOOC  you are probably doing something wrong’.  Martin Weller (18:45 25th March 2013)

Which rather means I may be doing something wrong!

I posted to Linkedin, I am neither confused, nor lost. Indeed I have a great sense of where I am and what is going on, have met old online friends and am making new contacts and enjoy using two of my favourite platforms: Google+ and WordPress.  (All the fun’s at H817open)

 

A selection of papers are proving enlightening too:

 

1) John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health OpenCourseWare (2009) Kanchanaraksa, Gooding, Klass and Yager.

 

2) The role of CSCL pedagogical patterns as mediating artefacts for repurposing Open Educational Resources (2010) Conole, McAndrew & Dimitriadis

 

3) A review of the open educational resources (OER) movement: Achievements, challenges, and new opportunities. Report to The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

 

I’ll post a 500 word review of the above shortly as per H817open Activity 7.

The value is both expanding the reasons for OER as well as having a handful of objections, negatives and concerns. Like all things regarding e-learning, they is no panacea for putting in the time and effort.

And a couple of others that look interesting:

 

Disruptive Pedagogies and Technologies in Universities (2012)  Anderson and McGreal

 

Open education resources: education for the world? (2012) Richter and McPherson

 

Traditional Learning vs. the Web

 

Fig.1. Lewes Castle in the snow

Another conception of Open Learning

The traditional, institutionalised, top down, dictatorial behaviorist learning of the past.

The trees representing the organic, overwhelming, irresistible drive of the the Web.

 

Martin Weller and the MOOCers

I love learning. I can’t get enough of it. E-learning and e-books are my favourite mix. I blog between once and six times a day – perhaps more, sometimes less. A year every day became boring after three so I tried 1,000 words an hour for 24 hours. A photo a day. A drawing a day. Perhaps lifelogging with a sensecam … but to do that I’d want the lifestyle to match, to have something worth capturing. i.e. 20 and fancy free rather than an old foggie with teenage kids.

Learning about learning has been my fix for the last three years and may remain so for another 4+ years through a PhD.

Most things take me a while. I failed my driving test the first time. My first time skiing I broke my leg. And the first time I tried to ask someone if they would marry me the request was so convoluted she thought I should try writing it down. So I guess that was a written contract rather than simply a verbal one. We’ve been married forever apparently.

Why MOOC with Open Learn?

This will be my third MOOC. The first three years ago, PLENK, or was it PLANK? I just took the feeds and read a good deal at a distance. The second has just ended – the OLDS MOOC. I was ‘full on’ for five weeks then got caught up in other things, not least OU Module H809 ‘Practice-based research in e-learning’ though initially I had signed up for H817 having done its earlier incarnation H807 three years ago. I reckoned this Open learn MOOC would give me a taste of H817. I follow a few H817 bloggers already.

All this and last week I learnt that I have successfully completed the Masters in Open & Distance Education. Though I have no idea what that makes me academically – M od&Ed? M.Ed?

For now at least I just can’t get enough as I orientated myself towards a subject area – medical and memory is the current thinking.

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