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Posts Tagged ‘Coursera’

Al Filreis’ Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (ModPo) open course/Coursera MOOC has started again today. This is the third iteration of this course. I didn’t catch it first time around, but I did complete the course last year (2013).

I have just listened to the introductory video, which I realize is the same one that was posted in 2013, but it has still had the same motivating effect on me as it did last year, although it is interesting how this time, now knowing the poets that are being talked about, I have heard different messages.

If you have not participated in ModPo before, then I can recommend it. I know very little about poetry, little more than what I learned in this course last year. I have some poetry books on my bookshelf and I like to hear others talk about and read poetry, but I don’t seek it out for myself. So why would I return to ModPo a second time?

My work and real interest is in how people learn. What I find so fascinating about ModPo is how much of what happens in this course resonates with my own personal interest in how people learn. There is so much to learn from the way in which the poets use language for meaning making.

So what is it that makes ModPo (for me) such an effective learning environment?

A lot of my work and research focuses on open and emergent learning. A Coursera MOOC is, by my definition, not 100% open. For example, I can’t research the learning that takes place in the ModPo discussion forums. That data belongs to Coursera. I cannot assume that the resources within ModPo are openly available (although some of them are). I have to check copyright. I cannot take the ModPo syllabus and remix and repurpose it for my own ends – not that I want to. I am just making the point that ModPo does not fulfill some of criteria for openness that from my research need to be present for emergent learning. But it must fulfil enough, as there is plenty of evidence of emergent and even transformational learning in ModPo.

How does ModPo do this? What is it that makes the environment/course special?

I think a number of factors contribute to this. Here are some that have occurred to me, in no particular order of preference and of course, other ModPoers will have different perspectives. That’s what ModPo is all about.

– A very vibrant community has formed around ModPo with a Facebook site that remains active between courses and an active Twitter stream. This community is full of people who are passionate about poetry.

– ModPo has an energetic, charismatic and very well informed (his expertise shines through) leader in Al Filreis, who is also passionate about poetry and about teaching. I don’t think the importance of this can be underestimated. In addition, he has a group of 10 teaching assistants (TAs) who are with him in his videos. These TAs (past students) are also very knowledgeable and add great depth to the discussions about poetry through their alternative perspectives. They also offer office hours on the course, which means that we can contact them directly with specific questions.

– Al has also established a group of ‘alumni’ (community TAs) to help out with moderation in the discussion forums. They are worth their weight in gold, because the forums are overloaded with discussion – so much so, that for me it is too much. Last year one of the community TAs, Carol Stephen, did help me out and interact with me briefly, which I appreciated given the huge number of people in the course (30000+ already this year, on the first day of the course). I didn’t join the forums last year, and I will only be dipping into them this year – but this does mean no certificate, even if you do all the assignments, quizzes and peer reviews – as I did last year. The requirement is a weekly post to the discussion forums. For me, it’s enough to follow along and learn. On reflection I have realised that it is enough for me to connect with the ideas. ‘Noisy’ forums and me just don’t go together – although I might lurk! I’m more of a one to one person.

– The course is also full of resources and content – a huge diversity of resources. PennSound , Jacket 2 magazine and Al Filreis’ website. Resources are also created by participants who share their own poetry and close readings.

– It is a challenging course. To complete it you have to work hard and put in the hours. If you complete it you feel that you have achieved something, not least what it means to do a close reading of a poem. For me a close reading of a poem gives me an insight of what it might mean to close read a book or a journal paper.

– But what really makes this course special for me is the sense of place that it creates. Al Filreis runs his course from a physical location – the Kelly Writer’s House, which last year he took us round by video. We go into the different rooms and meet the students and teaching assistants and see who they are talking to, where they are sitting, what they are eating. When Al does his videoed close reading of the poems we read, all his teaching assistants are around him (Al’s Pals as he calls them), each voicing their own thoughts and modelling what it means to do a close reading. We, as online participants, feel that we get to know these teaching assistants and that we are in the room. I think this aspect of the course must be unique. I haven’t come across it anywhere else. There is also a weekly live streamed meet up in the Kelly Writer’s House, which anyone physically in the area can drop in to and some ModPoers do.

Last year after I had listened to the introductory video, the poem by John Yau caught my attention and I ended up writing this post.

This year, when the teaching assistants, introduced themselves by talking about their favourite poems, I was able to listen more carefully to what they were saying, because I knew the poets and poems from last year. All the teaching assistants are great and if I could, I would link here to all their introductions to themselves on the Coursera site – but as I mentioned above Coursera is a closed site, so I can’t do that, although I have found this link which lists them all, including the community TAs.

As it is – I’m going to just record here the comments that stood out for me from this video.

Emily Harnett recommended Cid Corman’s poem ‘It isn’t for want’. For her this poem is about the relationship between reader and writer. As a blogger, I can relate to that.

Dave Poplar recommended Jackson Mac Low’s poetry – which he said challenges us to read differently and think differently. I aspire to that.

Kristen Martin recommended Lyn Hejinian’s poem ‘My Life’ and said that this poet shows us that life isn’t lived linearly and you should not have to write about it in a linear fashion. This comment immediately resonated with my recent reading of Deleuze and Guattari’s work (A Thousand Plateaus) and their concept of the rhizome and ideas around starting in the middle.

Finally Al Filreis finishes off with John Yau’s poem, saying

The how of what they [the poets] are doing is the what

How you say what you say is what you say

How you say what you say is more important than what you say

The how of what you say is what you say

Form is content

We are going to read – that is interpret – form

 

In this course we will learn how to undo the way we learn to read

Take this course because you’ve spent too much time thinking of language as a utility and not enough time thinking of language as self-making – the selves you will meet in these poets are languaged selves… it’s time for us to focus on the how of our language.

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This 6 week Coursera MOOC – Growing Old Around the Globe – starts tomorrow – Monday 19th May.

I participated in this MOOC the last time it ran and throughly enjoyed it. I wrote a series of blog posts at the time which are archived here – https://jennymackness.wordpress.com/category/oldglobemooc-2/

The MOOC is convened by Sarah Kagan and Anne Shoemaker from the University of Pennsylvania. They have already said that there will be some changes in the MOOC this second time through – and straight away I notice that it’s now possible to sign up and pay for a verified certificate. Whether or not you want a verified certificate, the assessment tasks are interesting and encourage a personal and creative approach – they are flexible enough for anyone to give them a go.

I think Sarah and Anne have also changed their introductory video. I particularly like their focus on compassion and respect. I remember from the last run of this MOOC that there are many moving stories about people’s experiences with ageing, either their own or their relatives and friends, and many interesting stories about how different cultures deal with this.

And this MOOC is not only for those in declining years. Last time the MOOC attracted some teenagers, as well as people in their 80s and the whole range of ages between. People of all ages can be touched by the issues associated with ageing.

For anyone whose life is being or has been affected by these issues, I can strongly recommend this MOOC.

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OldGlobeMOOC is about to start it’s 4th week (following a week’s break for July 4th celebrations in the US), and the Week 3 assignment peer reviews are in. For me this assessment process is one of the most interesting aspects of this xMOOC. I have thought since the first MOOC in 2008 (CCK08 Connectivism and Connective Knowledge), designed and run by Stephen Downes and George Siemens, that assessment may be the sticking point for MOOCs.

In my last post , I outlined some of the difficulties that OldGlobeMOOC is experiencing with the assessment and peer review process. It seems to me, once again, but this time for an xMOOC, that if MOOCs are going to be sustainable and successful, then the assessment process has to be ‘cracked’ and meaningful.

Some MOOCs have taken the approach of restricting the number of participants who can be assessed. CCK08 did this. I think the number was 25, and FSLT12 and 13 have done this with a similar number – the idea being that  a small number of participants can be assessed by a tutor. FSLT13 offers credit for this:

The course has been recently accredited (10 transferrable academic credits at level 7, postgraduate). FSLT is recognised towards the Oxford Brookes Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education (PCTHE) and Associate Teachers (AT) courses. (http://openbrookes.net/firststeps13/)

But these are cMOOCs.

OldGlobeMOOC has taken a different approach as I described in my last post and I understand from other participants that this is similar to a number of other Coursera MOOCs.  For me this my first xMOOC, but it is not for quite a few OldGlobeMOOC participants, who have taken numerous Coursera courses and in the forums have shared their experience of the peer review process.

I will add my experience to the mix, and just so you know what we are talking about here are links to my assignments with their peer reviews.

Assignment 1 with peer review

Assignment 2 with peer review

Assignment 3 with peer review

If you read these, you will see that the assignments are not very different in their style and level to my blog posts, i.e. they are not academic pieces of work  – rather discussion pieces or personal reflection. And judging by the assignments I have reviewed, other participants’ assignments are of a similar level.

Which brings me to the review process, which I reflected on in my last post, but will add a few things here.

  • The idea is that each participant submits an assignment and peer reviews five assignments for each week, which I have done. If this is not done, i.e. the peer review, then a 20% penalty is incurred.

All students wishing to obtain a Statement of Accomplishment must achieve 7 out of 12 points and submit 5 peer reviews each week. If a student fails to complete the 5 peer reviews, that week’s assignment will incur a 20% penalty.

Despite the fact that I definitely submitted five peer reviews for Assignment 3, I received a 20% penalty and therefore scored 1.6 instead of 2. It’s very easy to know that you have completed the 5 peer reviews, by the way the Coursera system takes you through the 5 assignments allocated for review; and the system confirms for you at the end of the process that you have submitted 5 – so I know that I did. So there’s been a blip in the system somewhere. It’s not a big deal for me, as I’m only doing this to experience the process and because I like the assignments and find the discussions interesting. I am not doing the course for the Certificate – but I do wonder how a blip in the system affects people who are really keen to receive a Statement of Accomplishment.

  • There is no guarantee that you will receive 5 peer reviews. I received five in Week 1, three in Week 2 and four in Week 3. There has been some discussion in the forums about how this might affect the overall system and whether or not you have to review more than 5 assignments to receive 5 reviews.
  • I have no complaints about the quality of most of the peer reviews and so far no one has given me a score of less than 2 – but this peer review for Assignment 3 is indicative of how the game can be played to ensure that you get a Certificate. It made me smile 🙂

peer 2 I’m headed for an airplane so don’t have time to review, and I won’t be back until after evaluation time ends so I’m just giving everyone a 2. 

Aside from this here are some further reflections. The OldGlobeMOOC is a great experience in terms of the diversity of participants. Unfortunately the younger participants, in their teens, who signed up, seem to have fallen out of the discussion forums. This does not mean that they are no longer participating through observation and reading – it’s difficult to know. But I have wondered how an 11 year old might review the assignment of an academic Professor, or how an academic Professor might respond to a learner with special needs, or a very young participant, or someone whose first language is not English, and so on. The assignment submission is anonymous. Do these differences have implications for the equity of the peer review process?

Despite all this I am finding OldGlobeMOOC a fascinating and enjoyable experience and am looking forward to the start of Week 4.

 

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Biological, social and psychological ageing is the focus for discussion in Week 1 of the University of Pennsylvania’s  Coursera MOOC – Growing Old Around the Globe.

5944 people from all over the world have signed up for the MOOC and 1500+ people are actively participating.

The MOOC has a truly international feel. Every continent except Antarctica is represented.

The age range also adds to the huge diversity, ranging from 11 to 80+ years. It is very encouraging to see both ends of the age spectrum represented.

The range of expertise is also very apparent. No specific level of expertise is required for the course, but there are many who appear to have a lot. I am not one of them. My level of expertise comes from personal experience of caring for an elderly relative.

Discussion has been very lively and very wide-ranging. 85 different discussion threads have been started. Most of these are of the ‘introductory’, ‘floating ideas and questions’ type as you would expect in the first week of the course. I expect it will take a while for people to find their level and know where, how and with whom they want to interact. For me some of the interesting topics this week have been:

  • Whether 50 can be considered a biological marker of being old
  • People’s perceptions of what is old
  • Whether people of post-retirement age should continue to work
  • The distinction between ageing and death
  • Cross-cultural experience
  • Social death
  • The consequences of increased longevity and declining fertility
  • How the elderly are depicted in literature and poetry

…. and there are lots more.

Some of these topics could be courses in their own right, such as the topic of death, – so it will be important, as in all MOOCs, to filter, select and focus on the threads of personal interest and use.

This is my first xMOOC and I am very much an advocate of cMOOCs (of the Stephen Downes, George Siemens and Dave Cormier type), so this will be an interesting experience on a number of levels.

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ageing

 

 

 

 

 

This 6 week Coursera MOOC starts next week June 10th – see https://www.coursera.org/course/oldglobe  The syllabus looks fascinating exploring many aspects of ageing, from biological to social.

The assessment also looks motivating. Participants are required to submit a portfolio  as follows:

Portfolio items can take any form that figuratively or substantively analyzes the question of the week. Each item submitted must include some critical analysis or interpretation. There is no minimum length for any portfolio item. Forms that the portfolio items may take include:
  • Local field video on being old and living in ageing communities and societies with written commentary from participant
  • Reflective essays on being old and living in ageing communities and societies
  • Participant generated poetry or literature on ageing and being old
  • Cited poetry or literature on ageing and being old with in the public domain submitted with written commentary from participant
  • Participant generated visual art on ageing and being old
  • Cited visual art on ageing and being old with permission to post from the artist and with written commentary from participant
  • Self generated scholarly papers on being old and living in ageing communities and societies
The MOOC format will be similar to the one taken by Prof Al Filreis for his Modern and Contemporary American Poetry MOOC (ModPo), which although I did not take, I have heard such positive feedback about from quite a few sources, including this guest post by Ian Chowcat on Seb Schmoller’s Fortnightly Mailing.
If my understanding is correct, a key to the ModPo MOOC’s success was the building of a sense of place and community, through weekly live discussions. This weekend there was a great blog post about the positive effect that the ModPo MOOC has had on a 17 year old boy with severe autism.

 

Growing Old Around the Globe will follow a similar format to the ModPo MOOC and it will be interesting to see what stories are generated as a result of the MOOC. More than 4000 have signed up for the MOOC. It promises to be an engaging 6 weeks.

 

Key Links are:

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Granny dumping

I came across this appalling phenomenon for the first time yesterday. I was discussing the care of the elderly with a friend who told me that ‘granny dumping’ is becoming increasingly common in India. My friend is Indian.  On returning home I searched for this on the internet and am even more shocked to find that this is a world-wide phenomenon that has been happening for years. Elderly people are abandoned by their relatives who then make themselves uncontactable; they are left outside a hospital, bus station, or in any public place unknown to them. In India they are taken to festivals at a distance from their villages and left there.

It is because of situations like this, because my own mother has dementia, because I am ageing myself (aren’t we all!) and because the number of people over 65 in the population is increasing dramatically (see Older America for US figures), that I have signed up for Sarah Kagan and Anne Shoemaker’s Growing Old Around the Globe MOOC.

ageing

 

Image from the course Facebook site https://www.facebook.com/oldglobecoursera

In their introduction to the MOOC Sarah and Anne write

The world is ageing – people are older and societies are facing hard realities. What are we to make our lives in this time of global ageing?

Growing old is discussed today in ominous terms – concerns about disease, dysfunction, and destitution are daily discussed by media and policy makers. What are individuals, families, communities and societies to make of an ageing world? We analyze contemporary topics in psychological and social ageing from a global perspective. Each week, we pose a question to be explored and discussed online. Participants are encouraged to contribute their experiences and perspectives as we create a global community to discuss age, ageing, and the science of gerontology in action.

Thank you to Sarah and Anne for inviting me to be a Teaching Assistant on this course. I am very much looking forward to it.

The Twitter stream for this course is @OldGlobeMOOC where Sarah is already posting some resources and I have posted the link to the Facebook site above.

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