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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
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’?
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.
Lonely Little Clouds
There are all kinds of ways to share your learning online.
Have you tried Cloudworks?
The group I’ve been working in have dubbed them ‘lonely little clouds’.
I takes me a while to spot my own, let alone find anyone else or specific group activity. Navigation is a nightmare. Instead of being tethered to the ground like a kit, every time you enter Cloudworks it is like trying to get a helium filled party balloon to go in a specific direction by blowing on it.
Serendipity built in.
There’s no sign in page. To login in I click through pages until something I want to do requires a sign in.
Blog posts can be the same.
Finding the place, space, time and group where there will be some co-ordinated as well as vicarious engagement is not so easy. Getting it to work is a science not an art.
I had experience of listServ in 2001 on the original Masters in Open and Distance Learning.
I rather think it was a bit like this platform. It worked because you could respond in turn.
I also find the right forums in Linkedin work where there are enough people contributing to the degree that an asynchronous conversation becomes quasi synchronous.
There are ways and habits and even an acquired culture of behaviours with all of these.
The most valuable insights I have gained comes from being part of this Open University Student Blogging Platform.
You have a basic blog, but every post from all students is posted in a strict chronology just like the old, threaded ListServ. One hand on top of the other.
Like cards being dealt from a pack.
Your voice gets its chance. Never mind if it isn’t picked up. It has its life in your blog too.
It’s as if it is getting two chances of being spotted. A third would be to ‘stack’ an entry in a subject-specifc platform too. i.e. common categories creating another distinct list.
This means that anyone who is active has a chance of being read.
There’s no obligation. But it implies when you post publicly that you are part of a collective enterprise rather than a diarist writing on your space, strictly on your terms.
And it doesn’t offer bells and whistles.
Nor should it. This platform offers a way in for the novice. In fact, I recall how I struggled three years ago when I first joined in. Why couldn’t it be like WordPress or Blogger or LiveJournal? I’m glad that it isn’t, glad that there is a sense of continuity with bulletin boards and the ListServe.
Both from my own modules and especially the eclectic mix of everyone else here, I have been introduced to a wonderful myriad of possibilities, ideas and perspectives.
There’s a very tricky balance that decides if one means of communicating catches on, or even works with a particular group.
I am going to throw myself at the OLDs MOOC this afternoon and see if I can see where my head should be.
|From E-Learning V|
Fig.1. Grainne Conole’s 7s of Learning Design
7Cs is an OU with OU Learning Design Initiative with JISC through the Curriculum Design Programme. Activity Profile and Course Map. Trialed thoroughly.
Gráinne Conole continued this work with the JISC funded CARPE Dium learning design workshops at Leicester whiuch provides a ‘ rich storyboard of learning design’.
Overarching conceptual framework a lot of Cs here:
- Course features – the essence of it.
- Creative activity
- Combine – into course map and activity profile
- Consolidate – running it as face to face, or VLE, or more specialised learning design tool
or …. From Gráinne‘s blog:
|From E-Learning V|
With current thinking on 7Cs Various systems offered and can be tried.
Listening to OLDs MOOCers it appears that the 7Cs framework has been received well
- It articulates what teachers already do.
- There are 7 aspects in a whole design process.
- What level are you teaching, what level of support do they need etc:
- Teachers (all of us I would say, educators, learning designers, L&D managers) are bewildered by the range of tools, the range of approaches so fall back on their own content. So use the tools to think about the activities, the core essence of hte course.
- Indigenous Culture on locality.
- Introducing elements of serendipity.
- Activity profile
- Is it the right mix of learning for what you want the students to do.
- Correlation of time mapped out to what students are achieving … so she is poor at communication in Spanish … and there is little communication in the course she is doing.
Is this the right tool set?
- Covers all the aspects of design.
- Getting a taster for these in the course.
‘A huge amount in the MOOC is mix and pick, so take your time, come back to the resources. Six months down the line, you discover which ones you like’.
- Some love the activity profiles some don’t, so find the mix that works for you.
- Some with learning outcomes.
- Some with the content.
- Some with the characteristics of the context of the learners.
- Different tools will mean different things to different people.
‘We’re offering a Smörgåsbord of offerings that you can develop and use over time. Pick the ones that are relevant to you, don’t feel that you have to use all of them’.
(More coming up in WK 8 to act as a springboard to reflect)
- What is learning design?
- How has it come about?
- Why is it different to structural design?
2011 ALTC National Teaching Fellow
- Driven by people in Europe and colleagues in Australia.
- What is learning design? How has it come about?
- How is it distinct from instructional design?
- Major Epiphany moment Sept 2012
- Two days in Cyprus
- Timeline of key moments since 199 learning design
REF: Key books on design science (Dianna Laurillard) Teaching Design as a Science It’s aimed to be pedagogically neutral so that it can be used across a range of methodologies and pedagogies.
- Tools for guidance and support
- Tools for visualisation
- Tools for sharing like Cloudworks
What works for you
- It depends on the nature of how people want to go about things
- Connect and be sociable
- Open, unstructured … to form some kind of navigatable way through, as well as enjoying the serendipity. Having the options of the long and short routes.
- Is something more needed in the middle ground. B MOOCs.
‘Teachers want support and guidance to help them rethink their design practice, to think beyond content to and activities to make pedagogically informed design decisions that make good use of technologies’. Grainne Conole.
I’ve just been listening over the OLDs MOOC hangout for Week 3 and particularly enjoyed the Q&A with
The sentence above stood out from the 60 minutes, as well as how this was put into context for the MOOC in Week 3 and coming up in Week 8.
Personally I wish that we’d had something like this to begin the week. I got in early, did a couple of activities then followed the noise from the active design group I’ve joined. Give others a turn. Let things roll over. This works. Leave gaps and sometimes others will come along and think, OK, he’s done that so I can see how it works, or might work for me. I won’t bother with that tool, I’ll try something else and see what people make of it.
I cherry picked and as this hangout suggests and recommends; I’ll go back and pick out more as required.
I enjoyed downloading, colouring in, cutting out then using the Activity Cards. This is more my thing than the EXCEL spreadsheet – which I planned on a sheet of paper then transferred over. I might use an APP to generate such a thing. I find EXCEL somewhat heavy handed, or I’d want to design it in a way that I like. We learnt about the background to 7Cs. The background and context was invaluable. Credibility ought not be taken for granted. Work like this needs to be put on a pedestal and people told of its credentials and worth – i.e sell it to me!
I would encourage people to think what happens next?
What happens beyond this episode and setting?
How does this experience extend and connect with characters lives further into the future (and how can we as designers support the making of these connections and their sustenance)?
Overly complicating ideas as only academics can do …
Fig. 1. The interactions and resources of the Zone of Available Assistance ZAA (Luckin, 2010 p92).
“The ZAA describes the variety of resources within a learner’s world that could provide different qualities and quantities of assistance and that may be available to a learner at a particular time”. (Luckin 2010 p 28)
What is the difference between “Ecology of Resources” and Lave and Wenger’s “Situated Learning”?
The Ecology of Resources (EoR) is a design framework that supports us in designing learning experiences that take into account the learner’s context (it provides a method for modelling the learner’s context in terms of people. tools, environment, knowledge and skills to be constructed, and the learner’s knowledge, motivation, etc). The EoR does not specify that we design for learning in authentic contexts (i.e. contexts where the knowledge would be applied – as situated learning discusses). We might be designing a classroom experience. But modelling the learner’s context through the EoR helps us design that classroom experience so that it is not an isolated, abstract one, but an experience that is connected to other resources (people, tools, etc) in the learner’s context. For example, the learner might come across relevant knowledge/skills/learning outside of the classroom, and with careful design we could create connections to those experiences.
Katerina Avramides (OLDS MOOC 2013 18 Jan 2013)
Uncovering the potentially helpful resources learners and designers can draw requires investigation of context.
Cloudworks forces an asynchronous conversation while other platforms permit something that can be close to synchronous. My experience of three years as a post graduate on the OU MAODE … and before that a decade in e-learning, that messaging, and Twitter and any platform where you can express thoughts in your own time, but have a response soon after is far better than emptying the contents of your head onto the bird table and waiting for others to come and pick at it … or not. I found in Cloudworks, using it a year ago, that I might place all kinds of ‘gems’ about the place and get no response. Looking at the views and comments on e-learning gurus such as Grainne Conole I concluded that far from being clouds (wishful thinking) we were in a desert bereft of precipitation.
Give me a jungle, as a metaphor for a learning ecosystem any day.
Luckin, R. (2010) Re-designing Learning Contexts Technology-rich, learner-centred ecologies. Routledge.
Fig. 1. Study of Clouds, John Constable. Inscribed 31 Sept.r 10-11 O’Clock.
Constable did little else but paint the weather from July through to October 1822, which is why curators can accurately say that the artist did this painting on the 1st October.
I’ve shared my frustrations with Cloudworks from the start of the OLDS MOOC 2013 … and had some experience a year ago on H807 Innovations in E-learning … so entered the cloud with a sense of dread.
I stuck at it and found some odd ways in.
What mattered was the contact with people I got to know – as they gave up it became inevitable that I would do so too, not least because I had more pressing matters. H809 a postgraduate module, partially produced by the same team as it comes from the Open University stable, but a very different beast.
More like getting on a bus with four to five stops a week.
A weekend for an assignment every five weeks and a longer sojourn to produce a short dissertation at the end. Four tutors groups each with less than sixteen people in each.
I liken my Cloudworks experience to Freshers’ Fair … every day of the week.
Every time I came in I wondered around getting interested in what other people were doing, sometimes landing their by mistake. So a Fresher’s Fair with some 12 entry doors on several floors with the people behind each stall mostly changing too. Your brain gets tired of the overload, the lack of landscape and in this sense ‘Cloudscape’ is the right term, for the wrong reasons. A ‘Freshers’ Fair’ is when students invite the entire new intake at a university to come and see what societies are on offer – imagine the equivalent of several village halls, with stalls manned by students, offering everything from ballroom dancing to neuroscience, Pooh Sticks Society to the Conservative Association, Bikers to Chess.
I took some pictures of this Constable painting ‘Study of Clouds’ in the Ashmolean Museum when I was in Oxford on Friday.
What was I doing in Oxford. Hankering after ‘the real thing’ – a chance to meet and talk with some people in the flesh, this at a talk on Virtual Worlds in Japanese at the Centre of Social and Cultural Anthropology hosted by the Oxford Internet Institute.
After a while, all this online stuff has you eager to meet like-minds in person.