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|From E-Learning V|
In my decade+ using these platforms (I first attempted a module of the Open & Distance Learning MA in 2000/2001)we’ve gone from ‘computer-based learning’ and ‘web-based learning’ to ‘online learning’ and ‘e-learning’ or ‘eLearning’. ‘MOOC’ (Massive Open Online Course’ is a dreadful term so ‘Free Online Course’ must surely be better?
It’ll pan out over the years.
I have come to like ‘hang-outs’ (a term coined by Google) as an informal online gathering. A lecture online, is by default something akin to a ‘TED lecture’ surely? Webinars are a reasonable catch-all and perhaps what becomes of an OU Live moderated sessions?
Regarding tutorials, though traditionally small groups, a tutor and one or two, maybe three students for an hour – it is these asynchronous conversations that match this where the role of ‘tutor’ is taken by the educators, but also by well-informed contributors – this can happen here. The learning effect is, I would say the same, or very similar. You offer thoughts, these are challenged, or people agree and add or amend them and in this way you ‘construct’ meaning. Constructivism is one of the older ‘learning theories’, whereas ‘connectivism’ is very much a product of learning like this.
These is called a blog platform, yet it has affordanced of what used to be called a ‘Bulletin Board’ (I did one of these with the OU in 2001. Think text messages strung together in a kind of Excel spreadsheet). A blog, for my money, has a modicum of independence of design, tools and sharing. Go see WordPress. I wouldn’t change much here though. I cherish the new things I learn from people on totally different courses, the company and support that I know is here too.
Reading a history of the Armistice after the First World War – I’m a few years ahead of the centenary of 1914, I learn the Lloyd George preferred the former: picking the brains of experts was preferable to reading widely.
Studying with the Open University can be both: you read and discuss at length – it depends so much on the course you are taking and serendipity. If you are goash you ought to be able to approach anyone at all in your faculty – not that you have much sense of what this is. You have an immediate student tutor group of 12 or so and a wider module cohort of say 60. You can read widely simply by extending your reach through references courtesy of the OU library, though I think what is meant here is a more general and broad intellect, that you take an interest, liberally, in the arts and sciences, in history and politics …
Increadingly this ‘widely read’ person can have multiple degrees – learning online may be more expensive than a shelf of books but you emerge at the other end a wiser person?
Being online affords a thousand opportunities to both read widely and to pick the brains of experts; what this requires is Web 2.0 literacy – the nous to drill deep when you read in a way that has never before been possible, unless, perhaps you have been privileged enough to have ready access to and the time to use one of the world’s elite libraries and your father or mother is a senior academic, government minister or captain of industry who loves to hold ‘house parties’ at the weekend. For the rest of us, there is now this new landscape – if not a level playing field (there are privileges based on cost and inclusion) – it is one where, with skill, guile, knowledge and experience you can gravitate towards and rope in the people and the books.
Studying with the Open University ‘at a distance’ can be neither: if reading is tightly focused by the content provided and you are penalised rather than admired for reading widely: you are supposed to stick to the text as it is on this that your tutor will assess you. And the participation of experts is random: my seven modules with the OU has had some of the more prominent names of distance and open education as the chair and as tutors, some are present and make themselves readily available though some appear only in the byline or tangentially not taking part in any discussion or debate – it is their loss and ours. I sound as if I am denegrating the tutors as my expectation has come to see in them an ‘educator’ – not necessarily a subject matter expert, but a facilitator and an enabler, someone who knows there way around the digital corridors of the Open University Virtual Learning Environment.
You get to know where to look: Amazon for books and the student forum that is the eclectic thread of reviews, then discussions in a specialist Linkedin group rounded off by webinars and hangouts. You may prefer one or the other but I suspect a balance of both is the most effective: you put in the information from books and you form your own opinions in discussions.
I’ll add notes here as the differences between the online and ‘traditional’ learning experience dawn on me as I do the two in parallel. Actually there’s a third comparison I can make – that of L&D which the other week included something neither of the above formats offer – ‘learning over a good lunch!’
The ‘traditional’ seminar or lecture forces your hand somewhat – you have to be there. Many these days are recorded, though mine will not be. I’m inclined therefore to take either a digital or audio recorder along to record these things. I have, just a couple of times over three years, got behind with the online course as I kept putting it off.
Travel … and the associated cost
It’ll be around four hours door to door once a month. This means getting up at 4.30 am. Not of course something someone in full time tertiary education needs to do. Off peak, unless booked well in advance it’ll cost £74 return … £24 if I stick to exact trains. The last train home was heaving. I could and did ‘work’ the entire journey whereas home is a constant distraction.
Eating on campus
Lunch I may have to take with me as the campus only had premade Spar sandwiches at every outlet. A jacket potato or pasta would have been better.
After lunch I did something I last did in double Geography on a Friday afternoon. I sat at the back, cupped my hands over my eyes as if in deep thought … and fell asleep.
When to put in the hours
Something, however common to many people on any part-time distance learning course is ‘the early morning shift’ – putting in 90 minutes or so before breakfast.
While this and other support services are offered to us on our VLE it was invaluable to to have a person run through it as a presentation in person. This kind of stuff should be given a linear expression … a mini-module for newcomers and as a refresher. All I’ve done, two years after the event, was a webinar.