OLDS MOOC Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum

OLDS MOOC   is due to start in January 2013.

The course has been funded by JISC as part of a benefits realisation programme and is intended to build on the success of the Open University Learning Design Initiative (OULDI) and other JISC funded curriculum design and delivery projects.

I am struck by how very prescriptive this MOOC seems to be – a far cry from CCK08, for example.

On the page about how OLDS MOOC works and where it is described as ‘semi-structured’  even ‘Your Space’ appears to be prescribed and on this page where Week 1 is described , we are told that…

During this week, committed participants will also initiate their own learning or curriculum design project in their domain of practice.

…. and then given activities  for each day.


You can complete this MOOC on your own, but we believe your experience will be much more fruitful if you have some friends for the journey. We strongly encourage you to form a local study circle. This could be based on your project team, a group of participants in your institution, or participants you identify as having similar interests or living nearby. You can use services such as http://www.meetup.com/ to set up your local study circle. Please list your circle at: http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloudscape/view/2456 (or join an existing one).

The course  is structured to reflect a proposed process for design, and combines a number of design thinking methodologies (see http://www.ld-grid.org/resources/methods-and-methodologies/ideo-toolkit and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design_thinking), inquiry learning (see http://www.pi-project.ac.uk/) and educational design research (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design-based_research).

My interest in Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum is from the perspective of ‘open’ learning environments and emergent learning (see Publications on Emergent Learning).

The question for me in relation to what I have read so far about OLDS MOOC is just how much prescription is needed to facilitate emergent learning, or indeed, any learning.

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.

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/


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

JISC Netskills – The Rhetoric of Openness

The first JISC Netskills online seminar, ‘The Rhetoric of Openness’ by David White was delivered on Tuesday 21st June; if you couldn’t join the session – you can still watch & listen to a recording of the session here: http://t.co/8LlU95O – you can also comment on the recording, or if you’re tweeting use #nstalks.

Dave discussed openness from the perspective of the institution and the student. These are some of the notes I made during his talk, from my perspective and interpretation.

Institutions can misunderstand the open culture of the web. They tend to think more about opening access to their teaching and learning resources (such as MIT  and the Open University  have done) rather than think about how the resources are appropriated. In addition the institution’s marketing department is often behind the drive for openness leading to a tension between marketing aims and altruism. Dave reminded us that MIT have pointed out that their open resources do not provide the authentic teaching and learning experience, which can only be realized by signing up for a course at MIT.

When the marketing department gets involved there will also be a tension between professional production and the content of the resources. In some cases it is questionable whether the effort put into media production is worth it. Dave was enthusiastic about Nottingham University’s Periodic Table videos, which he described as friendly. But it is difficult to evaluate open content. There is little more to go on than the number of hits on the website.

There are many aspects of openness – open research, open content, open data, open practice, open software, open courseware (as in the case of MIT and the OU) and so on. But what does openness mean? Roy Williams, Sui Fai John Mak and I discussed this in our 2008 paper, The Ideals and Reality of participating in a MOOC, where we discussed the possible meanings of openness as being openness as ‘free’, as in beer; ‘free’ as in liberty, or speech; and there is an additional sense of ‘free’ as in transparent, and therefore shared. Dave discounts ‘free’ as in beer saying that open source resources are not necessarily free of charge – they incur costs – but he seems more in favour of ‘free as in liberty’, saying that the Creative Commons license can mean that you are free to do what you like with the open source materials. However, he points out that re-use in this way has been going on for years, but mostly below the institutional water line – students and tutors have been engaged in this re-use.

For students, openness means that they have access to vast sources of information – Wikipedia, Youtube, blogs etc., but the problem is that institutions often don’t allow them to cite these sources of information in their work. In this sense institutions are a little behind what is happening on the internet. This open access to online resources has led to changes in learning and study behaviours in students. They complain that they do not want to have to evaluate these resources but want to be guided to the ‘right stuff’ straight away, i.e. they don’t want to research and if they have to, then see this as a failure of search engines. As has been commented on before, Dave noted that students lack critical thinking skills and the desire to develop them. They are more interested in contact than content. For them contact is the more valuable resource. This highlights the differences between the institutions’ and the students’ perceptions of the meaning and value of openness. It is one thing to be open in the ‘broadcast’ sense and another to be open in the ‘conversational’ sense. For Dave the latter is the authentic bit of teaching and learning, but it is also the bit that institutions don’t want to let go of.

Dave concluded his talk with a call for ingenuity rather than innovation. We need to look at the use of technologies in new ways.

It seems that the topic of openness is quite ‘topical’. Frances Bell and colleagues Cristina da Costa, Josie Fraser, Richard Hall and Helen Keegan will be presenting a Symposium on the subject of The Paradox of Openness: The High Costs of Giving Online  at the ALT-C conference in September. It will be interesting to hear more about what they mean by ‘giving’ in this context.

The second Netskills online seminar, “Supporting Researcher Engagement With Social Tools” presented by  Alan Cann will be on Monday 27th June, 1-2pm in Elluminate.  To find out more about this session, and how to join, visit: http://bit.ly/m61leW

JISC Netskills is also on the lookout for future seminar presenters, so if you would like to deliver a lunchtime seminar (or know someone who does) – get in touch at 0191 222 5000 or enquiries@netskills.ac.uk