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What’s a MOOC from FutureLearn life? It’s as easy as turning the pages of a book

Fig.1 Alice in Wonderland pOp-Up.

FutureLearn MOOCs are as easy and as pleasurable to do as a child turning the pages of pop-up book on Christmas morning surrounded by friends and family.

Engaging. Puts a smile on your face. Teaches you something. Leaves you wanting more. What content is presented and the way it plays out changes things. The interaction with others matters massively.

My interest is e-learning. A decade ago it was web-based learning and before that it was online learning … as compared to ‘offline’ learning on an intranet or in a computer learning centre. Across this period, whether on Laser disc, CD-rom, DVD, or online the key words to describe a successful piece of learning might include: easy to use, intuitive, effective, measurable results, gamified and impressive. ‘Impressive’ for a corporate client has always been important – they want to see how their money is spent. It matters to jazz a thing up, to find a way to deliver exception creative qualities in both the ideas and the execution of these ideas. In H.E. this ‘impressiveness’ has been thin on the ground the experience and view of H.E. that someone talking to camera with a slide show or whiteboard will do the job; it doesn’t, not any more.

At the risk of writing a list I want to think about the ‘enhanced learning’ experiences that have impressed over the last 15 years:

Audi Shop DVD – Gold Award Winner at the IVCA awards. Stunning animated 3D animations of the engine. Like a 3D animated Dorling Kindersley

What are you like? – Gold Award Winner at the IVCA awards. An interactive life and career guide for teenagers done in the style of ‘In Betweeners’ and ‘Some Girls’ – nailed the audience with creative tone and visual effects. This won BAFTAs, the IVCA Grand Prix and NMA Effectiveness Awards.

Ideafisher – first on floppy discs, then a CD. It did in the 1990s what various websites do today by linking vast collections of aggregated ideas and concepts that it filters out and offers up. The closest I’ve felt to AI for creativity.

MMC – online marketing courses. These were, for me, in 2010, an early example of stringing the face to camera lecture together with course notes to create a course. Still more like a self-directed traditional lecture series but the volume of content was admirable and some of the tools to control the viewing and reading experience were innovative.

TED Lectures. Are they learning? Or are they TV? Are they modelled on the BBC’s Annual Reith Lecture series? Top of the Pops for the lecture circuit so tasters and Open Education Resources for grander things.

Rosetta Stone – iPad App

Pure simplicity. I love these. I gave a year to an intermediate course in French, learnt some grammar and fixed several problems with my pronunciation. Like that game ‘Pairs’ you play as a child: a pack of cards with pairs of images on one side that you pair up. With considered, only sometimes over art-directed photography. Repetitive, always in the language you are learning. The next best thing to being dropped in amongst native speakers as an infant. It just works.

iTunesU – The History of English in One Minute.

Not so much a course as a series of stunning and memorable cartoon pieces that galvanise your interest. The next step is to follow through with a free trial course through OpenLearn and perhaps a nudge then towards a formal course with the Open University proper.

FutureLearn – the entire platform.

As easy as reading a book. I’ve done eight of these and have another three on the go (two for review rather than as a participant). Across the myriad of subjects and offerings there are differences, all gems, but some are more outstanding than others. It is no surprise that those MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) produced by the Open University are some of the very best; it’s what you’d expect with their experience. Other university’s shine through for their confidence with the the platform too, for example, ‘How to read a mind’ from the University of Nottingham.

MOOCs I love enough to repeat:

Start Writing Fiction: From the Open University

I may have been through this a couple of times in full and now dip back into it as I get my head into gear. I’ll do this as often as it takes to get the thinking to stick. It’s working. I read as a writer. I will interrupt a story to pick out how a succinct character description works.  I’m also chasing up a myriad of links into further Open University courses and support on creative writing. For example: next steps, creative writing tasters, and audio tasters on iTunes. 

MOOCs I may repeat next year … or follow similar topics from these providers:

Word War 1: Trauma and Memory: From the Open University with the BBC

World War 1: Paris 1919 – A New World: From the University of Glasgow with the BBC

MOOCs I admire that target their academic audiences with precision:

How to Read a Mind: The University of Nottingham

Shakespeare’s Hamlet: From the University of Birmingham

Web Science: How the Web is changing: From the University of Southampton

 

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

The memory is the mind process happening in your brain, it can never be the artefact that plays back footage of an experience.


Fig. 1. Bill Gates featured in a 1985 copy of a regional computer magazine

In the introduction to ‘Total Recall’ Bill Gates wonders when he and Gordon Bell first met.

Was in 1983 or 1982. What was the context? Can they pinpoint the moment with certainty? I ask, does it matter? I ask, who cares? What matters is that they met. A moot point if either one of them claims that at this time one took an idea from the other … and they want to claim bragging rights for a new word or financial rights to a product.

The players in this game of life-blogging or developing the digitally automated photographic memory (total recall) are communicating, sharing ideas, creating or stating an identity, forming allegiances and developing ideas or hedging.

Our memory is  selective

Having some sense of what we put in and what we leave out, then having a way to manage what we retrieve how we use this and then add to the record.

As someone who kept a diary and put a portion of it online it surprises me and now worries me when a person I know says that x, or y found out something about them courtesy of this blog (posted 1999-2004).

 

Fig. 2. A grab from my Year 2001 Diaryland Blog. An evening out with the web hopefuls of Wired Sussex, Brighton.

I thought I’d locked the diary long ago – but of course various digital spiders have always been crawling the Internet snapping pages.

I think there are around 100 pages of some 1500 that I can never get back. It took me a few years to realise that I ought to change names and locations, but this became convoluted.


Fig. 3. Apple have started in an in-house business school, the Apple University, to teach people to be like Steve Jobs.

How might a digital record of a person have assisted with this? And what would be the warnings over diet and over behaviours?

The value of this content would be if I had a life worthy of a biography, but I am no Steve Jobs.

The value might still be for writing, though could have been even then a portfolio for specific subjects of study, such as geography, history, art, filming and writing. In these respects it still is.

Then it becomes an aid to the construction of ideas and the development of knowledge.

Personally, if I wanted to build on my knowledge of meteorology I would start with my Sixth Form classes with Mr Rhodes. I may have some of the newspaper cuttings I kept then of weather systems and may even being able to put some of these to photographs. I have a record of the 1987 Hurricane over Southern England for example.

I might tap into a Physics text book I first opened when I was 14 and recuperating at home from a broken leg.

There are those we know who have stored digitally the product of their illegal behaviour – paedophiles who are hoisted by their own petard when their digital record is recovered or identified. There may always be images that you may never want stored for later retrieval – a scene in a horror film that captures your attention before you flick channels, worse a real car accident … even making the mistake of clicking on footage of the hanging of Saddam Hussian. The image will be even less likely to be wiped from your memory if you have it stored somewhere.

Google, Facebook and other sites and services are not the only ones to capture a digital record of our behaviours – as I know if I write about and publish the activities of others.

Fig. 4. ‘Total capture’, as we ought to call it,  could be the digital equivalent of hoarding

Sensors on and in you will know not only about your body, but your environment: the location, temperature, humidity, sound levels, proximity to wireless devices, amount of light, and air quality. (Bell and Gemmel, 2009 p.217)

Just because we can, does not mean that we should. Bell has a record of such minutiae as when he blew his nose – he has too given the detail of what he captures. I know of someone with an obsessive disorder who keeps the paper tissues he uses to blow his nose.

For what purpose?

A data grab of Ridley Scott or some other director as they plan, develop and create a movie might be a fascinating and rich journey that would serve an apprentice well. A detailed recovery from an illness or accident too. There are problems for which a comprehensive digital capture could be a helpful, valid and possible response. How about wearable underpants that monitor your activity and heat up if you need to exercise – eHot Pants ?! Better still, a junior doctor who has to cram a great deal may extract parts of lessons. However, who or what will have structured these into bite–sized pieces for consumption? Is there a programme that could be written to understand what to grab then offer back? But who would pose the testing question? Or can AI do this? From a set of question types know how to compose one using natural language and create a workable e-tivity such as those produced by Qstream (were SpacedEd).


Fig.5. Watching students of the SCA at work I wonder how life-logging would assist or get in the way.

Reflection in working is a way to think through what they are learning – a grabbed record of kit on their person cannot construct this for them. Without a significant edit it would be cumbersome to review. In a digital format though it could be edited and offered back to aid review. Would the return of the bad or weak idea be disruptive or distracting? It could infect the unconscious. Would there not need to be a guide on how to use this log in the context given the outcomes desired? They can’t be up all night doing it.


Fig. 6 Age 17, for one month, I became a hoarder of a kind, of the pre-digital keep a record of everything kind.

A diarist already, starting a new school, back at home from boarding school and a new life opening up – so I kept bus and theatre tickets, sweet wrappers too. And when I sat down in the late evening to write the day I did so onto sheets of paper I could file. With no parameters I soon found myself writing for two hours. September 1978 is a book. Would a few lines a day, every day, in the tiny patch of a space in an off the shelf Five Year diary do? It would have to.

An exchange trip got the file treatment.

And a gap year job of five months was a photo-journal – one file. And then the diary resorted to one page of A4 in a hardback book. This self selection matters. It makes possible the creation of an artificial record or ‘memory’. The way content is gathered and stored is part of the context and the narrative, and by working within reasonable parameters it leaves the content, in 1980-1990 terms, manageable.

I have letters from parents, grandparents and boyhood ‘girlfriends’ from the age of 8 to 18 … and a few beyond.

Perhaps science and maths should have been the root to take? If there is value in reflection it is how I might support my children as they have to make subject choices, choices over universities and their careers beyond. Seeing this I am more likely show empathy to any young person’s plight.


Fig. 7. A boy’s letter home from Mowden Hall School. Presumably Sunday 14th July 1974 as we wrote letters home after morning Chapel. I can see it now, in Mr Sullivan’s Room, French. Mr Farrow possibly on duty. His nose and figures yellow from the piper he smoked … looks like I would have been younger. He never did turn up on Saturday … or any school fixture. Ever. See? The pain returns. 

I have letters I wrote too. I feel comfortable about the letters I wrote going online, but understandably shouldn’t ‘publish’ the long lost words of others. I might like to use the affordances of a blog or e-portfolio, but in doing so I would, like Gordon Bell, keep the lock tightly fixed on ‘Private’. Is it immoral to digitise private letters, even those written to you. How will or would people respond to you if they suspected you would scan or photograph everything, load it somewhere and by doing so risk exposing it to the world or having it hacked into.

People do things they regret when relationships fall apart – publishing online all the letters or emails or texts or photos they ever sent you?

Putting online anything and everything you have that you did together? Laws would very quickly put a dent in the act of trying to keep a digital record. In the changing rooms of a public swimming pool? In the urinals of a gents toilets? It isn’t hard to think of other examples of where it is inappropriate to record what is going on. I hit record when my wife was giving birth – when she found out she was upset. I’ve listened once and can understand why the trauma of that moment should be forgotten as the picture of our baby daughter 30 minutes later is the one to ‘peg’ to those days.

Selection will be the interface between events

What is grabbed, how is it tagged, recalled and used? Selection puts the protagonist in a life story back in control, rather than ‘tagging’ a person and automatically and comprehensively recording everything willy-nilly.

We don’t simply externalise an idea to store it, we externalise ideas so that they can be shared and potentially changed. Growing up we learn a variety of skills, such as writing, drawing or making charts not simply to create an analogue record, but as a life skill enabling communications with others. Modern digital skills come into this too.

Just because there is a digital record of much that I have done, does not mean I don’t forget.

If many others have or create such a digital record why should it prevent them from acting in the present? A person’s behaviour is a product of their past whether or not they have a record of it. And a record of your past may either influence you to do more of the same, or to do something different. It depends on who you are.

The memory is the mind process happening in your brain, it can never be the artefact that plays back footage of an experience.

REFERENCES

Bell, G., and Gemmel. J (2009)  Total Recall: How the E-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything

Blackmore, Y (2012) Virtual Health Coach. (accessed 28 Jan 2013 http://mobihealthnews.com/16177/study-virtual-coach-improves-activity-levels-for-overweight-obese/

Isaacson, Walter (2011). Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography (Kindle Locations 3421-3422). Hachette Littlehampton. Kindle Edition.

Ituma, A (2011), ‘An Evaluation of Students’ Perceptions and Engagement with E-Learning Components in a Campus Based University’,Active Learning In Higher Education, 12, 1, pp. 57-68, ERIC, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 December 2012.

Kandel, E. (2006) The Emergence of a New Science of Mind.

Kennedy G., Dalgarno B., Bennett S., Gray K., Waycott J., Judd T., Bishop A., Maton K., Krause K. & Chang R. (2009) Educating the Net Generation – A Handbook of Findings for Practice and Policy. Australian Learning and Teaching Council. Available at: http://www.altc.edu.au/ system/files/resources/CG6-25_Melbourne_Kennedy_ Handbook_July09.pdf (last accessed 19 October 2009).

Mayer-Schönberger, V (2009) Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age

Myhrvold, N Princeton Alumni (accessed 29 Jan 2013 http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pwb/04/1122/ )

Schmandt-Besserat (1992) How Writing Came About.

Vernon, J.F. (2011) Life according to Anais Nin, Henry Miller and Samuel Pepys
(accessed 28 Jan 2013 http://mymindbursts.com/2011/08/13/1162/ )

W. Boyd Rayward Wells, H,G. World Brain.
http://people.lis.illinois.edu/~wrayward/HGWellsideaofWB_JASIS.pdf

Waybackmachine
http://archive.org/web/web.php

Wixted and Carpenter, (2006) “The Wickelgren Power Law and the Ebbinghaus Savings Function,” 133– 34.

 

 

Try putting any letter from the alphabet in front of ‘learning’ and you’ll be able to say something about it.

It is learning whether you prefix with an ‘e’, ‘m’ or ‘b’ as in – electronic, mobile or blended.

Increasingly the opportunities, particularly with learning on a hand-held computer – 20th century terms for the 21st century smart phone or table – are for ‘a’ or ‘s’ learning – standing for applied or ‘action learning’ that is ‘situated’.

For example, I use a combination of an iPad or Kindle when coaching swimmers – not just for registers, but to show images from a swim drills book.

I am waiting for the wrist or lapel badge computer – an iPad the size of a Nano or ring. Will these come to be known as ‘w’ learning or ‘r’ learning or has ‘e-learning’ become generic? The Google display will be one to watch.

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

How do we cope with this inexhaustible choice?

It isn’t for lack of overwhelming, immersive and engaging content online, especially ‘how to’ movies and ‘clips’ in YouTube, its how you as an individual cope with this inexhaustible choice.

Armed with an 3G tablet and sim card will we find we are learning more on the fly, taking it with us, much of it free, some of it guided and paid for?

Taking advantage of participation (John Seely-Brown), learning on the periphery (John Seely-Brown), vicarious learning (Cox) and if you can get your tongue around it ‘serendipitous learning.’ (me I think).

I’m finding that 18 months in, and having really started this gig in 1998 when from the agency end we were migrating interactive DVD based learning to the Web, that I of necessity must balance the tools I can play (musical instrument metaphor), compared to those I play with (sandpit, training pool metaphor) … and I suppose those ones I am obliged to master whether I like it or not (prescriptive tools for work and study – in at the deep end metaphor?!).

Conole (2011) invites us to use ‘metaphors for meaning making’.

I always have, often visualising these metaphors. Just search this diary on ‘Metaphor’ to see what comes up. Also try words or phrases such as ‘traffic light’, ‘nurture’, ‘gardening’, ‘swimming’, ‘spheres of influence’, ‘hub’, ‘serendipity’ as well as ‘water’ and ‘water-cycle’.

I therefore offer the following:

Linkedin (For Forums, like this, in groups and networks)

WordPress (for blogging, sharing, wiki like affordances, training, updates)

iPad (or Tablet) (Whilst PCs and Laptops have considerable power and versatility

Twitter (only for niche/target live discussions or quasi-synchronous conversations.

The rest of it is ‘Twitter Twaddle’

Spam of the worst kind being pumped out by pre-assigned links as CoTweets or random disconnected thoughts. This is killing some forums where RSS feeds of this stuff overwhelms any chance of a conversation).

I’ve seen two Forums killed, temporarily I hope, by this stuff, the largest victim being the Oxford University Alumni group.

I believe it is simply the case of a new moderator niavely permitting Twitter feeds in on a discussion, ie. having the conversations between 30 disrupted by the disconnected chattering of 300.

MBAs: Relevance, rankings and the world’s best

Ten days into needing to understand what matters about an MBA programme from the student and employer perspective this spread from the Australian Financial Review is passed to me.

Various questions are answered by the Deans of the Australian School of Business, Melbourne Business School, University of Western Australia and the Fculty of Business and Economics, Monash University and Macquaries Graduate School of Management.

You wouldn’t expect them to knock the MBA but at this point in the dialogue a potential student has made up their mind and needs reassurance, indeed, if readership figures were available I’d suspect the biggest percentage of readers for an article such as this would be people who have just signed up, or are on a course. It’s like buying a car, you want reassurance that you have taken the correct decission.

Given the car analogy perhaps current MBA students could describe to me what kind of car they consider their MBA course to be. I’m reminded of being interviewed in research for my then employer JWT as a recent graduate employee what kind of ship or vessel I’d come up with to describe the business.

Is the MBA obsolete? The Deans are asked:

Far from it, it should evolve to meet new demands … global demands that make it all the more relevant. It remains valid at a career point where a person is going from specialist to generalist. Opening horizons and leadership comes up again. On the other hand there are a wider range of specialisms being offered … though once again, leadership is the goal. And the relevance of it … students and employers want something that can be applied.

What should we think about MBA rankings?

Rankings are one thing to bare in mind … but not everything. That at a broad brush they may help i.e. you get a picture of top, middle and lower rankings. We humans do this kind of thing! (We make lists, we measure and weigh everything).

(I just conclude that  if someone is of MBA calibre they are going to understand how to consider these rankings, how prepared, and what other rankings have been done and matter to them).

What counts as innovative?

(I would ask how important is innovation to an MBA student? I thought it would give the three Rs of business, clearly I’m wrong.).

I do understand a course’s value in transforming a person, that coming out empowered, informed and invigorated, matters if you are then to take, or already have and wish to develop a leadership role. Names like Yale come up for offering what I’d describe as a smorgasbord of modules. It must depend and rely on the ‘maturity’ of candidate to feel this is for them, both for whom they work, and for whom they’d like to work (or start-up their own business). On the other hand, Yale distinguishes itself from other MBA courses by taking this apparently risky step.

What are the trends?

A community feel (on the one hand) … with a global dimension (on the other); social impact and responsibility; being competitive, and developing/exploiting ‘web-based and technology-facilitated education’. Older, more experienced candidates – not three years after graduation, but more like ten. Each Dean I feel offered an answer that gave them a chance to play to their course’s strengths (understandable).

It’s constantly in my mind to wonder if I should I do an MBA.

The only advice I took for a friend who had made it to the board of directors of an International Bank without one who naturally thought it irrelevant; I guess he had tested himself by building his own successful PR firm so didn’t need the letters after his name.

REFERENCE

POSTGRAD/MBA
The Australian Financial Review

From a web 2.0 vs. old media point of view this spread in newsprint highlights some interesting points. Online we’d link to the schools, and the people, the rankings cited and any schools of faculties that interested us. We’d no doubt search for peer reviews too. Then what kind of a picture would we have?

Monday 4th April 2011

On reading, dated reports and participation online (three humble pies happily consumed)

Eating humble pie

At various times over the last 12 months I have knocked the MAODE because of the amount of reading required, particularly in H808 ‘Innovations in e-learning’, where it rankled to read reports that felt out of date or books of the last century, and across the modules for the lack of examples of ‘innovations in e-learning,’, as if the MAODE should exploit the students by sending through the online hoops the equivalent of a performance in a Cirque du Soleil show.

I take it back

I eat humble pie for and offer three reasons:

1. Reading works

2. The earliest investigations on things we now consider common place and highly revealing

3. Bells and whistles may have no tune Reading works, though it is unnecessary to have the books in your hand, or to print of the reports.

I’ve done both, starting the MAODE or ODL as it was called in 2001, I had a box of books delivered to the door (I have many of these still).

Picking it up again in 2010 with H807 ‘Innovations in e-learning’ for want of an e-reader or adequate computer I found myself printing everything off – it unnecessarily fills eight large arch-level files (where if kept for a decade, they may remain).

There is value in printing things off

Whilst some links and too many follow up references from books and reports read in H807 were broken, I have the links and reports I downloaded and printed off in 2001.

One of these, exactly the kind of document I would have rejected in 2010 as dated, was written in 1992.

What is more, this paper addresses something that one would imagine would need a modern perspective to be of interest, the subject is the value of networking – what we’d call online collaboration or participation today.

The earliest investigations reveal the inspiration at a time when there were few options.

One the one hand I can go to the OU Library and type in ‘participation’ and ‘e-learning’ and be invited to read as PDFs a number of reports published in the last few months, on the other, I can go and see some of the earliest efforts to understand the possibilities and overcome the technical issues in order to try and recreate for distance learners what campus based students had all the time – the opportunity to meet and share ideas, the tutor group online, as it were.

See below

Computer Networking for Development of Distance Education Courses (1).

In my teens and helping out on video-based corporate training films I recall some advice from the Training Director of FIH PLC, Ron Ellis. It’s one of those irritating corporate communications acronyms:

‘Keep it Simple, Stupid’

(as it was, though as some now prefer)

‘Keep it short and simple’.

It’s a fascinating story and remarkably for Wikipedia were entries are often anything but, it is short and straightforward.

 

The points I am making are straight forward too.

1. Reading

2. Research and References

3. Simplicity

 

An e-reader is simple

The process is enhanced and highly tailored once the content you need to consume is in a device that is slimmer than a slim novella. The affordances of the e-reader mean you can do away with pen and paper (though not a power or USB cable).

My passion for reading, where the ‘Content is King’, which perhaps unnecessarily brings me back to Wikipedia.

What you read, and the fact that you read, matters more than its being in paper form, whether chained to a shelf in the Duke Humphrey’s Library, Oxford (Bodleian), or bubble-wrapped from Amazon, let alone printed off on reams of 80sgm from WHSmith, holes punched and the thing filed for delayed consumption.

 

Reading too, I realise, is the purest form of self-directed learning

Vygostky would approve.

You are offered a list of suggested titles and off you go.

 

Parameters help

It is too easy to read the irrelevant if your only guide is Google and it is just as easy to purchase or download a book that has the title, but whose author could at best be described as ‘popular’.

It may fell archaic and arcane to be presented with a reading list, but I recognise their value, if only as the maelstrom of digital information spins across your eyes you can focus.

It may require effort to skim read the abstracts and contents of 33 books and papers in order to extract three or four to read over a two week period (as required to do in May 2001 on the then ODL), but the method works:you get an overview of the topic, a sense of who the authors and institutions your ‘school’ considers of interest, and then motivated by making some choices yourself, you read.

 

This in itself is one reason to avoid Wikipedia

if everyone reads the same content, everyone is likely to draw the same conclusions.

In any case, my issue with Wikipedia is three-fold, entries are either too short, or too long and there is no sense of the reader, the audience, for whom they are written; at times it is childish, at others like reading a doctoral thesis.

 

Or am I missing the point?

it isn’t a book, not a set of encyclopedias, but a library, communal built, an organic thing where those motivated to contribute and who believe they have something to say, do so; though all the corporate PR pap should be firewalled out.

Either way, my ambition is for WikiTVia, in which the entire content of Wikipedia is put in front of the camera and shot as chunkable video clips.

 

Anyone fancy giving it a go?

I digress, which is apt.

 

If you have a reading list you are less likely to get lost

What is more, you will have something to say in common with your fellow pupils when you’re online.

It matters for a niche conversation to be ‘singing from the same hymn’ sheet which is NOT the same as singing the same tune.

(Aren’t I the one full of cliché and aphorisms this morning).

 

Which brings us to point three, and a theme for Week 2 of H800 ‘Technology-enhanced learning: practice and debates.’

A title I have just typed out for the first time and I initially read as ‘Technology-enhanced debates’ which could be the right way to think of it given an initial taste of Elluminate.

 

It doesn’t work and there seems to be little desire or interest to fix it.

Google take over please.

I’d liken my first Elluminate session to my first attempt (indeed all my attempts) to learn to row.

Think of the Isis, early November morning, eight Balliol Men kicked out of bed by 3rd year student Miss Cressida Dick to cycle down to the boathouse.

 

We varied in shape and size like the cast of a James Bond movie:

Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton, Jaws and Odd-Job, Scaramanger and Ros Klebb, Goldfinger and Dr. No.

Despite our coach Dick’s best intentions everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

Later that term on in our only race we were promptly ‘bumped’ and were out.

I wonder if the joint experience of Elluminate will find us bumping along discontentedly for the next few months?

My suggestion would to disembark to something simple, that works (as we did in H808)

Elluminate to Skype with Sync.in or Google.docs is the difference between crossing the English Channel on Pedalos, or sharing a compartment on the Eurostar.

Had this been a business meeting I may have said let’s email then pick up the phone and do a conference call that way.

If it had mattered and the journey was a matter of hours I may have said, hold it, let’s meet in a couple of hours.

What matters is achieving the outcome rather than trying to clamber on board a beach-side round-about on which the bells and whistles are falling off.

 

Reading, referencing and simplicity brings me to a paper we were expected to read in 2001.

Computer Networking for Development of Distance Education Courses (1) Tony Kaye.

Institute of Educational Technology

Downloaded 15/05/2001 http://www.icdl.open.ac.uk/mindewave/kaye.html

(Link broken and my searches thus far have not located a copy of this paper)


It was written in 1992.

(Until this week I baulked at reading anything pre Google, Facebook or Twitter. What, frankly is the point if none of these highly versatile, immediate forms of collaboration and communication online are not covered?)

This report is as relevant to synchronous and asynchronous collaborative online learning in 2011 as the earliest books coaching rowing.

The basic issues remain the same: the problem to solve, the goal and outcomes.

 

It’s relevance is like starting any conversation about the Internet with Tim Berners-Lee and CEARN.

In the paper, expert discuss the potential for computer support through local and wide-area networks for ‘work groups engaged in collaborative authoring tasks.’

You see, this, to keep it simple, is all we were trying to achieve on Elluminate, a ‘work group engaged in collaborative authoring tasks.’

Today we can hear and see each other, though the voice will do – and despite being so anachronistic, we can, presumable, all type on a QWERTY keyboard.

Courtesy of Cloud computing any other shared tool, from word, to spreadsheets, presentations, art pads and photo manipulation, we could choose to use from a plethora of readily available free choices.

‘it takes as a basic premise the need for a progressive co-evolution of roles, organisational structures, and technologies (Englebart and Lehtman, 1988), if technology is to be successfully used for group work.’

‘A summary of some of the main findings from studies of traditional (i.e. non technology-supported) course team activities is presented’.

This I consider important as it re-roots us in the very process we are trying to recreate online, a meeting between people, like or not-alike minds, with a common theme and goal.

This report was written for and about teams planning and writing distance teaching materials, however, as it points out,

‘many of the issues raised are relevant to other group collaboration and authoring tasks, such as planning and writing reports, research studies and books.’ Kaye (1992:01)

It makes fascinating reading, not least the comprehensive list of items that would have to be co-ordinate to create a distance learning ‘package,’ resplendent with diskette and C90 audio cassettes, 16 hours of TV and a 300 page course Reader.

Have things moved on?

Where’s our TV in MAODE?

I actually believed in 2001 I’d be getting up in the middle of the night to view lectures.

We don’t have lectures in the MAODE, why not?

It should not be a dying form.

 

The detail of designing, developing and producing a distance education package, though interesting in itself, is not what I’m looking for in this report, so much as how the teams used the then available technology in order to work together collaboratively online.

They had a task to undertake, a goal.

There were clear, agreed stages.

 

The emphasis on this report (or book chapter as it is sometimes referred to) are the ‘human factors’.

A wry smile crosses my face as I read about some of the problems that can arise (it sounds familiar):

  • Lack of consensus
  • Differing expectations Nature of roles and tasks‘differences in the perceived trustworthiness of different colleagues’ [sic]
  • Different working patterns “Varying preferences in use of technology (which in this case include academics who use word-processors and who ‘draft in manuscript prior to word-processing by secretary” [sic]

Then some apt quotes regarding the process from this disparate group of individuals:

‘working by mutual adjustment rather than unitary consensus, bending and battering the system until it more or less fits’ (Martin, 1979)

‘If some course teams work smoothly, some collapse completely; if some deliver the goods on time, some are hopelessly late. Course teams can be likened to families/ Happy families do exist, but others fall apart when rebellious children leave home or when parents separate; most survive, but not without varying elements of antagonism and resentment.’ (Crick, 1980)

 

There is more

In microcosm it’s just the same on the MAODE.

I come to this conclusion after four or five ‘collaborative’ efforts with fellow students.

 

We’re human

We work together best of all face-to-face, with a real task, tight deadlines and defined roles, preferably after a meal together, and by way of example, putting on a university play would be an example of this.

Recreating much or any of this online, with a collections of heterogeneous strangers, with highly varied lives not just beyond the ’campus’ but possibly on the other side of the planet, is not unexpectedly therefore primed to fail.

This said, in H808, one collaborative experience I was involved with, between six, with one in New Zealand, was a text book success.

 

Why?

As I put it then, ‘we kept the ball rolling,’ in this case the time zones may have helped (and my own insomnia that suggests I am based in Hong Kong not Lewes, East Sussex).

It also helped to have a Training Manager from the Navy, and a Training Manager (or two) from Medicine.

There was professional discipline that students and academics seem to lack.

 

Indeed, as academics often say themselves, they don’t have proper jobs.

Isn’t it about time that they behaved like the professional world, indeed, took lessons from corporate communications instead of getting things wrong all the time?

 

I read this from the 1992 report and wonder if when it comes to the people involved much has changed inside academic institutions.

‘There is evidence to suggest that course team processes can become pathological if the factors listed by Riley(1983) (particularly, it could be argued, the ‘private’ factors) are not properly addressed.’ Kaye, (1992:08).

‘One experienced course team chairman (Drake, 1979)goes so far as to say that …

“the course team is a menace to the academic output and reputation of the Open University,”[sic/ibid]

‘because it provides a framework for protracted (and exciting) academic discussions about possible options for course content and structure, but that when the real deadlines are imminent, many academic are unable to come to define decisions and produce satisfactory material.’

!!!

Our maturity and NOT being academics probably

‘problems can arise in the relationship between academic staff and radio or television producers’ Nicodemus (1984) points out that the resultant anxieties can cause “ … a lot of flight behaviour which simply delays and dramatises the eventual confrontations.’

I have an idea for a soap-opera set on the campus of the OU; this report provides the material

I’m not going to quote it all, but there is some social science behind it. Hopefully this paper or chapter is traceable.

Brooks (1982) has observed that when complex tasks are shared amongst individuals or small working groups, the extra burdens of coordination and communication often counteract the productivity gains expected from division of labour.

Problems arise from social psychological processes:

for example, pressures to confirm in a group might cause people to behave less effectively than if they were working alone, and diffusion of responsibility and lack of ownership of a group product can lead to group members contributing less effort to a group task tan they would to a personal, individual, project.

However, we are left on a positive note by this report

“ … the cycle of integration-disintegration is, after all, also known to be important in creativity.” (Nicodemus, 1984)

In the case of distributed course teams (eg those working on interdisciplinary, or co-produced courses) where, a priori, a strong case might be made for networked computer support for collaboration, it would seem important to pay even more attention to the underlying dynamics within a team.

Enough, enough, enough … I am only half way through this report.

Let’s skip to a conclusion, which is as pertinent today as it was in 1992.

‘The social, psychological, and institutional factors influencing the processes and outcomes of academic teamwork were stressed in the first part of this chapter (see above, this is as far as I got), because these factors are probably of greater overall importance in determining successes than is the nature of any technology support which might be made available to a course team’. Kaye (1992:17)

 

 

REFERENCES

Brooks, F 91982) The mythical man-month: Essays on software engineering. Reading. MA.: Addison-Wesley.

Crick, M (1980) ‘Course teams: myth and actuality’, Distance Education engineering, Reading, MA.: Addison-Wesley.

Drake, M. (1979) ‘The curse of the course team’, Teaching at a distance, 16, 50-53.

Kaye, A.R. (1992) ‘Computer Conferencing and Mass Distance Education’, in Waggoner, M (ed) Empowering Networks: Computer Conferencing in Education, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Educational Technology Publications.

Martin, J. (1979) ‘Out of this world – is this the real OU?” Open Line, 21, 8.

Nicodemus, R (1984) ‘Lessons from a course team’, Teaching at a distance, 25, pp 33-39

Riley, J (1983) The Preparation of Teaching in Higher Education: a study of the preparation of teaching materials at the Open University, PhD Thesis, University of Sussex.

Post script

In the course of writing this I discovered (courtesy of Wikipedia) that Leonardo da Vinci may have coined the phrase, or a version of ‘Keep it simple, stupid’ and also invented the pedalo. The mind boggles, or is Leonardo still alive and contributing ? (his fans certainly are).

Once was web-based training, then became cyberlearning – currently it’s e-learning (not eLearning, certainly not e.learning and can’t be elearning) Should be just learning?

Web-Based Training (WBT) (2000)

Margaret Driscoll

I bought this book in 2001. Nearly a decade on I am delighted how apt it remains, even if the term may now have been superseded by e-learning – while cyberlearning had currency for a few years too and before this we had ‘interactive learning’.

Even a decade on I recommend the book.

Training and learning are in different camps, one supposing a component of applied engagement (health and safety, fixing photocopiers, burying uranium trioxide, driving a delivery van, making cars, selling phones, employee induction) while the other is essentially cognitive (though with its physicality in this kind of prestidigitization).

Yet we made ‘training programmes’ on things like cognitive behavioural therapy. Corporate and government clients had the money to do these things.

Driscoll’s definition of WBT is somewhat longer than Weller’s definition (2007) of e-learning (electronically enhanced learning with a large component of engagement on the Internet). A bit ‘wishy-washy’ my exacting Geography A’ Level teacher would have said.

Hardly a clear definition if it has a let out clause. But when was anything clear about what e-learning is or is not, or should be? The term remains a pig in a poke; its most redeeming factor being that it is a word, not a sentence, and fits that cluster of words that includes e-mail.

Web-based training Driscoll (2000) says should be:

  • Interactive
  • Non-linear
  • Easy to use graphic interface
  • Structured lessons
  • Effective use of multimedia
  • Attention to educational details
  • Attention to technical details
  • Learner control

I like that. I can apply it in 2011. I did.

I was reading ‘Web-Based Training’ (and using the accompanying CD-rom) in 2001 and then active in the development of learning, or knowledge distribution and communication websites for the NHS, FT Knowledge … and best of all, Ragdoll, the home of Pob, Rosie and Jim, Teletubbies and the addictive pleasures of ‘The Night Garden.’

We may call ourselves students, mature students even, or simply post-graduates, but would we call ourselves ‘Adult Learners.’

It’s never a way I would have defined my clients, or rather their audiences/colleagues, when developing learning materials for them in the 1980s and 1990s. Too often they were defined as ‘stakeholders,’ just as well I saw them as people and wrote scripts per-the-script, as if for only one person.

That worked, producing for an umbrella term does not.

Adult Learning doesn’t conjure up innovative e-learning, perhaps because of the connotations Adult Learning has in relation to the catalogue of F.E. courses then comes through the door every July or August.

This definition of an ‘adult learner’ would apply to everyone doing an OU course surely?

The special characteristics of adult learners Driscoll (2000:14)

  • Have real-life experience
  • Prefer problem-centred learning
  • Are continuous learners
  • Have varied learning styles
  • Have responsibilities beyond the training situation
  • Expect learning to be meaningful
  • Prefer to manage their own learning

With some of these definitions baring more weight than others, don’t you think?

REFERENCE

And additional references used by Driscoll but not cited above:

References (Adult Learning)

  • Knowles (1994) Andragogy in action. Applying modern principles of adult learning.
  • Brookfield (1991) Understanding and facilitating adult learning
  • Cross (1992) Adults as learns: increasing participation and facilitating learning.
  • Freire (1970) A cultural action for freedom
  • Merriam and Caffarella (1991) Learning in adulthood
  • Kidd (1973) How adults learn

 

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