The MOOC Bandwagon

As others have noted – most recently Bon Stewart in her Inside Higher Ed article  – everyone seems to be jumping on the MOOC bandwagon at an alarming rate.

This week the JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee, UK ) has jumped on it with a webinar entitled

What is a MOOC – JISC Webinar 11-07-12

Four speakers were invited. Here is the programme and here is the recording
12.00 Definitions of MOOCs (Martin Weller)
12.10 Tutor perspective (Jonathan Worth)
12.20 Learner perspective (Lou McGill)
12.30 MOOCs and online learning (David White)
12.40 Q&A

Martin Weller presented a useful overview of the history of MOOCs and some thoughtful ideas about the benefits of MOOCs and the associated concerns in relation to Higher Education.

Jonathan Worth told us about his ‘open’ photography course in which he uses Twitter with his students to reach a wider network of experts. I was not sure that this is a MOOC in my terms, although it was clearly an ‘open’ course. It got me thinking about whether using different technologies necessarily means that the course is distributed across different platforms, which according to Stephen Downes is a necessary condition for a MOOC (at least a connectivist MOOC).

Lou McGill is a staunch advocate of the DS106 MOOC, in which she has been a learner and she shared her experience of authentic learning in this MOOC. She is also working with Strathclyde University to research learner experiences in the Change11 MOOC.  I was a participant in Change 11 and was also interviewed by Lou McGill for the research – an interesting experience in which I realized that my understanding of ‘What is a MOOC?’ stems from CCK08, but many, many people who are discussing MOOCs today were not in that MOOC and appear to be coming from a different place.

Dave White pondered on why the Stanford MOOC attracted such large numbers and thought it must be to do with their credibility and brand name. He raised the question of the role of the teacher/facilitator in MOOCs and suggested that this is important if MOOCs are to be inclusive. This is a topic we have been discussing in our review the FSLT MOOC.

These are my reflections as a result of attending this webinar.

There are still plenty of people who have technical difficulties accessing a site like Blackboard Collaborate. We cannot make assumptions that people have the technical equipment or skills to engage in MOOCs.

Whilst MOOCs might be the new buzzword in Higher Education, there are still plenty of people who have never heard of them, only just heard of them, have no idea what they are, or who completely misunderstand what they are.

The original connectivist principles of MOOCs are getting lost in the plethora of offerings which now bear the name MOOC, e.g.

  • CCK08 (the original MOOC) was an experiment in getting people to think about learning differently;
  • the idea was that learners could be in control of their learning and meet in learning spaces of their own choice  according to the principle of distributed environments (see slide 33 in this presentation by Stephen Downes) and see his LMS vs PLE video
  • learners would experience learning in the massiveness of the network – so they would not be able to rely on the tutor/convener/facilitator – instead they would need to make connections and seek peer support. In the light of this our understanding of the relationship between teacher and learner would need to change
  • the purpose of learning in a MOOC would be to create knowledge and artefacts through exposure to a diverse network, rather than have it centrally provided. This would, through the aggregation, remixing, repurposing and feeding forward of resources shared and created, enrich the learning experience
  • MOOCs were never intended – despite the name – to be ‘courses’ ( see this blog post  and this response from Stephen Downes ); they were intended to be a challenge to the traditional notion of a course – in the form of learning events. If they don’t do this then they are ‘open courses’ (with some of the attributes of MOOCs), but not MOOCs in the terms of how they were originally conceived.

This is my understanding of what is meant by MOOC – now renamed (in the light of different interpretations) a connectivist MOOC. Many of the most recent courses which have been called MOOCs are not MOOCs in these terms, but fall somewhere along the continuum from connectivist MOOCs with these principles, to the Stanford AI type of centrally located MOOC (see Stephen Downes’ LMS vs PLE video for an explanation)

It is evident that there is room for all these different types of MOOCs or ‘open courses’.   But I hope we will not lose the principles of the CCK08 type of connectivist MOOC, as it is the connectivist MOOCs that are really pushing against the boundaries and challenging traditional ways of thinking about teaching and learning, which is of course why many people feel uncomfortable with them and why we are now seeing efforts to somehow tie them down and bring them into line.

Open Educational Resources and Pedagogy

Dave White’s presentation to FSLT12 yesterday included a number of thought-provoking ideas.

In the past I have heard Dave speak a number of times about ‘Visitors and Residents’ in the online environment. You can find out more about this on his TALL blog – Technology Assisted life-long learning – TALL for short  (his joke – not mine :-))

But this week’s talk took a different focus. It centred on the relationship between open educational resources (OERs), open academic practice and changing pedagogy. The title of his talk was even longer than this:

OER: The quality vs credibility vs access vs pedagogy vs legitimacy vs money debate

Click here for the recording of the session.

As Dave pointed out, OERs come in all shapes and sizes and Creative Commons  licensing of these is very important in determining our use of them.  But despite being in all shapes and sizes, we can take the iceberg metaphor and categorise them as

  • those above the water-line, visible, above board, properly licensed – the kind of resources produced by an institution to market itself
  • or those below the water line – where licensing is not so important.

These below the water line resources are easy access , free and easy to remix and repurpose, without much attribution.  This happens a lot below the water line.

Slide 6 - Dave White presentation

(Slide 6 from Dave White’s presentation)

But perhaps the most important point/question raised by Dave is 

What effect has access to OERs, above or below the water line, had on the way we teach and learn?

I remember when MIT first opened access to their educational resources, this was accompanied by a statement to the effect that it was not an issue for them to open their content to the world – because the educational value and quality they provide is not so much in their content, but in their teaching and learning. To get this we have to pay to go to MIT.

So as Dave said, when thinking about OERs we cannot neglect ‘contact’. It is not all about ‘content’. So how do OERs ‘drive pedagogy back into what it’s meant to be’? (quoting Dave from the presentation). For me they do this in a number of ways:

  • Now that we have more clarity around what we are allowed to do with OERs (through Creative Commons Licences), we can remix, repurpose and feed-forward OERs (to quote Stephen Downes). We can be more creative.
  • Perhaps OERs also enable us to challenge the ‘status quo’ – in the sense that ‘credible, quality’ content might no longer always be in peer reviewed journals, articles and academic sites, but might instead be on ‘John or Jane Doe’s blog’ or deep below the water line (iceberg metaphor).
  • They do tend to force more critical thinking and the framing of critically relevant questions, e.g. what is a credible, quality resource? How do we recognize it?  And this in turn raises the whole question of whether learners have the skills to navigate the web to find the quality resources.
  • And from the teacher’s perspective, as Dave pointed out, we will have to come up with assessment tasks that don’t allow the student to simply find the answer through an easy access easy to find OER. This has always been a challenge for teachers, but even more so now.

Dave’s final slide quotes Harouni (2009).

“I must value not answers but instead questions that represent the continued renewal of the search. I must value uncertainty and admit complexity in the study of all things”

For me living with uncertainty is the big paradigm shift we might need in today’s digital world. Roy Williams, Regina Karousou, Simone Gumtau and I have been exploring this in our papers about emergent learning  – and Dave Cormier raised this as a key point in his presentation to the in the ‘New Places to Learn’  – NewPlacesEvent HEA event held at the Said Business School in Oxford in April of this year.

Hopefully discussion about how OERs affect pedagogy will continue in the FSLT12 Week 4 Moodle discussion forum  There is still lots to talk about.

#fslt12 Week 4 with Dave White

This week we welcome Dave White to the FSLT12 MOOC. Dave will be speaking to the title

The Impact on Teachers of Open Educational Resources and Open Academic Practice in the Digital University

Date and time: Wed 13 June 3.00 – 5.00 pm BST

Link to the session here

Check your time zone

Link to Resources to prepare for Dave’s session

Dave tweeted some time ago that he was preparing for this session. I have heard Dave speak a few time before and blogged about him, so I know I can look forward to this session.

(Click on the image to enlarge it)

Lecturing

The curriculum thread this week focuses on ‘lecturing’. Rhona Sharpe has provided an excellent and thought-provoking video

The ideas raised by this video are being discussed in the Week 4 Moodle forum

Activity 3 Microteaching

The first two activities, reflective writing and collaborative bibliography, have both been very successful with excellent contributions to both. Many, but by no means all of the reflective writing examples have been on people’s blogs and the collaborative bibliography activity took place in the Week 2 Moodle wiki 

The third and final activity is ‘Microteaching’. The idea is that we share examples of our teaching practice

I think Rhona provides us with an excellent example of good practice. Within her video presentation she employs many of the strategies of good teaching.

One or two people have already submitted their microteaching activity. I am looking forward to seeing more and hopefully to having plenty of people present their work in the live sessions in Week 5.

So on to another set of stimulating discussion in Week 4.

#fslt12 MOOC – Registration

Although the development of the First Steps into Learning and Teaching in Higher Education MOOC is still a work in progress, the course is now open for Registration – http://openbrookes.net/firststeps12/registration/

‘First Steps into Learning and Teaching in Higher Education’ is a free online course, which will run from 21 May to 22 June 2012, and will introduce new and aspiring lecturers to teaching and professional development in higher education. We also welcome experienced lecturers who wish to update and share their knowledge and expertise.

Why Register?

There are a few reasons

  1. We will know you are interested and have your email address, should we need to contact you or you us.
  2. You will be able to tell us whether you are interested in being assessed. We only have 25 assessment places, so do register early if you are interested.
  3. Some aspects of the course are only accessible through registration, e.g. the Moodle discussion forums

The Assessment Activities

The three activities we have designed, which you can find details of on the Moodle site, are for everyone – not only those who choose to be assessed. We hope that many participants will complete these activities, openly share them and that there will be lots of peer assessment. For us, this would exemplify open academic practice and also engagement with some of the principles of learning and teaching in HE.

Other activities in this MOOC might include, blogging, participating in Moodle discussion forums, interacting in distributed spaces of your choice on the web (but don’t forget to tag your posts with #fslt12), and attending the live sessions to hear our guest speakers

  • Frances Bell, “The Role of Openness by Academics in the Transformation of their Teaching and Learning Practices”, Wednesday 30 May 2012, 1500 BST
  • Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner, “Theory, Pedagogy, and Identity in Higher-Education Teaching.” Wednesday 06 June, 2012, 1500 BST,
  • Dave White,  ”The Impact on Teachers of Open Educational Resources and Open Academic Practice in the Digital University.” Wednesday 13 June, 2012, 1500 BST

Assessment

By registering and opting for assessment, you will be agreeing to complete the 3 activities and will receive feedback on these activities from George, Marion or me. At the end of the course you will receive an Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development (OCSLD) Certificate. Details of the activities can be found on the Moodle site. Once you have registered, click on each of the tabs for each week to access these, but please remember that the site is still being developed so there could be changes to the content before the course opens on May 21st.

This is a ‘massive open online course’ (MOOC), and offers you the freedom to decide whether you wish to be assessed (and receive a completion certificate), how you want to engage with the course and how much you want to interact with the content and other participants.

My Reflections at this Point

This is an exciting but rather daunting process. We have had lots of interest, with people from all over the world expressing interest in different aspects of learning and teaching in Higher Education.

I am beginning to realize the amount of work that must go on behind the scenes in the other MOOCs I have attended 🙂

We have deliberately chosen to distribute the course across different platforms – WordPress (for the Home site), Moodle (for the course), Blackboard Collaborate (for the live synchronous sessions) and we are still discussing whether or not to have a separate wiki site, or to go with the wiki in Moodle.  The reason for this decision (i.e. the different platforms) is that we hope to introduce participants new to teaching in HE to the idea that learning can take place in a variety of online spaces.

Access to our WordPress site has been open pretty much from the word go, and now access to the Moodle site has been opened, despite the fact that neither of these is yet ready. For me, this is a new way of working and takes a bit of getting used to (heart in your mouth stuff!).

Finally, we are conscious that the course has been designed to attract people for whom this way of working and the technology involved might be completely new –so we have to achieve the right balance between providing enough structure and support and encouraging open academic practice and independent learning – one of the many tensions involved in designing a MOOC.

That’s it for now.

We hope lots of people will register and find the course useful, and that you won’t hesitate to comment or ask questions as we continue to get ready for this MOOC.

Online Residency

Yesterday (April 19th) I dipped into an HEA workshop (face-to-face in Oxford with open virtual access – I was in the latter group) and enjoyed it so much that I stayed the entire day.

The Process

There were a few things that made this event enjoyable.

1. I knew, at least by name, quite a few of the people attending – both face-to-face and online. It felt like a comfortable space.

2. At first I thought that online participants would simply be an ‘add on’. The chat was not being streamed to the room, so unless people were on their computers and logged into Elluminate – we, the virtual participants would not be visible.

3. But having made this point, the wonderful Simon Ball put everything right! Simon amazingly had never used Elluminate before, and thought he was attending as a f2f delegate, but was co-opted at the last minute to look after the online group. He did a fantastic job of acting as a mediator between us and the room and made sure that the mics were working OK, the video panned the room and that our questions were put to the room.

4. In the morning when the f2f participants broke out into working groups, Lawrie Phipps –  made sure we were included by coming and speaking to us, which was great. This didn’t happen in the afternoon, when I suspect the effort of including the online group in the workshop activities just proved too much – and we couldn’t begrudge Simon his time with the F2F group or the others for paying us little attention.

5. So the mix of experimentation, working it out as we were going along, seeing if we could project ourselves into the f2f space, was fun and interesting. It reminded me of Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner’s Betreat –  that I attended last year in California – but they are ahead of the game in integrating online with f2f. They try to project the online people into the f2f group through the use of video and multiple screens.

The Content
The content was also very interesting. The overall theme was based on Dave White’s ideas about visitors and residents in online spaces. The questions for the day were around how we can encourage those learning and teaching, in HE in particular, to become residents in the online environment and whether we should. Dave was at pains to point out that the idea of visitors and residents is only a metaphor, but despite this it is clear that there is a tendency to classify people as either visitors or residents, just as people were classified as digital natives or digital immigrants from Prensky’s work. Perhaps the metaphor has served its purpose and we need to move on. For me it’s not so much whether you are a visitor or resident, – we will all be more or less of both at different times, in different contexts and for different purposes; it’s more that on and offline we are now offered a multitude of learning spaces which we can inhabit and maybe we need (if we are teachers) to help our learners to recognize the choices and to make appropriate decisions about which to inhabit. Mary Ann Reilly has written a very interesting blog post about learning spaces – how they fold over each other, their different dimensions and so on.

Quotes from the day
There were some memorable statements.

Martin Weller‘Openness is a state of mind’.

I couldn’t agree more. Residency in the online environment is likely to require openness – but openness can be really ‘scary’ to ‘novices’. As an academic, it’s easier to be ‘open’ when you have a recognized reputation to fall back on. Martin admitted that openness is a problem for early career researchers and I concur.

Lindsay Jordan  – ‘Teaching should be done with your mouth shut’.

Wonderful. I don’t need to say more!

Simon Ball – questioned whether residency is necessarily better than being a visitor. He wrote on Twitter  #heanpl Discussions still tending towards the assumption that Residency is the ideal state Visitors should aspire towards. Disagree! – really getting to the heart of the topic.

What was key but largely by-passed?
The person with the most thought provoking message was Dave Cormier –  who talked about preparing students for an uncertain and unpredictable world. His mention of Dave Snowden’s Cynefin framework seemed to fall on deaf ears. His thoughts about complexity in relation to learning also seemed to fall on deaf ears. I thought it a shame that they didn’t give Dave more time to talk about where he is coming from and whether or not the visitor/residency metaphor is helpful to his teaching.

But all in all a surprisingly enjoyable and thought-provoking event – and special thanks to Simon Ball. Without him we, the online group, would only have been observers, rather than participants.

First Steps in Learning and Teaching MOOC – Update

This is a new MOOC due to run from 21st May to 22nd June 2012.  It is aimed at new lecturers, people entering higher education teaching from other sectors, postgraduate students who teach and experienced lecturers who would like to update and share their knowledge and expertise.

George Roberts , Marion Waite   and I have been planning this MOOC since February and things are moving on nicely, not least because we now have three more people on our team.

Joe Rosa , from Oxford University  and

Liz Lovegrove   from Oxford Brookes University…..

….are both helping us with all matters technical.

Sylvia Currie , from BCcampus has very kindly offered us the use of her Blackboard Collaborate platform  for our synchronous sessions. We can’t thank Sylvia enough for her very generous offer.

Last week we had a full day F2F planning meeting in Oxford. The outcomes of our decisions are being captured on the development of this WordPress site which will serve as the ‘Homepage’ for the course.  The site is still a work in progress, but if you are interested in this MOOC, you might like to visit it to find out more.

We will also be using a Moodle site for discussions and structuring the course, and a wiki for collaborative work. These will be linked to from the WordPress site, and of course, in true MOOC spirit, we are expecting activity and engagement to be distributed across the web according to individual participant preferences.

Course schedule, dates and events of note for your diary

Here is the schedule http://openbrookes.net/firststeps12/schedule/ with dates of the live synchronous sessions

And we are delighted to confirm three guest speakers:

Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner,  “Theory, pedagogy, and identity in higher-ed teaching.” Wednesday 06 June, 2012, 1500 BST

Dave White,   ”The impact on teachers of open educational resources and open academic practice in the digital university.” Wednesday 13 June, 2012, 1500 BST

We will continue to post updates – but if you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact us.

Dave White: Visitors and Residents project feedback

Following the event – the link to a recording was posted – http://elearningprogs.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2011/12/13/digital-visitors-and-residents-project-feedback/

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As part of the JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme, Dave White (University of Oxford) and Lynn Connaway (OCLC) will be presenting findings from their Visitors and Residents project. Please see link to register below (and do pass on to interested colleagues):

JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme: Visitors and Residents project feedback

Dave White and Lynn Connaway

Friday 9th December 2011, 14:00-15:00

Online via Blackboard Collaborate

Session description: Students and staff have been developing their own digital literacies for years and successfully integrating them into their social and professional activities. The Visitors and Residents project has been capturing these literacies by interviewing participants within four educational stages from secondary school to experienced scholars. Using the Visitors and Residents idea as a framework the project has been mapping what motivates individuals and groups to engage with the web for learning. We have been exploring the information-seeking and learning strategies that are evolving in both personal and professional contexts. In this presentation we will discuss these emerging ‘user owned’ literacies and how they might integrate with institutional approaches to developing digital literacies. We also will discuss the Visitors and Residents mapping process and how this could be utilised by projects as a tool for reflecting on existing and potential literacies and the development of services and systems.

To register (free but limited spaces), please go to: http://visitorsandresidents.eventbrite.com