New Special Issue on MOOCs published today (JOLT)

Today has seen the publication in JOLT  of a paper I worked on with Marion Waite, George Roberts and Elizabeth Lovegrove from Oxford Brookes University, in which we examined learning in the First Steps in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education MOOC (FSLT12).

Waite, M., Mackness, J., Roberts, G., & Lovegrove, E. (2013). Liminal participants & skilled orienteers: A case study of learner participation in a MOOC for new lecturers. JOLT

In a brief overview of ocTEL which Martin Hawksey gives in the video below, he mentions that one thing they would like to address in the next run of ocTEL is learner support.

In FSLT12 we were also concerned about this. We noted in our research into participation in FSLT12, that whilst many of the participants found themselves in that liminal zone of uncertainty about who they are, what they should be doing, how to navigate the environment, how open to be and so on, there were also many experienced MOOCers, who we called ‘skilled orienteers’. These participants voluntarily took on the role of supporting participants new to MOOCs and this way of working in the open. In the following run of the course, FSLT13, alumni from the previous course were invited to act as ‘expert’ participants, with the expectation that they would support those new to MOOCs and also provide feedback on the outcomes of the course activities.

Martin Hawksey is running a session today at ALT-C on Tues 10th Sept, 1.55 -2.55 pm, Horses for Open Courses: Making the Backend of a MOOC with WordPress – experiences from ocTEL .

The main thrust of this session will be, as the title suggests, the design of the course using WordPress. The design of the ALT-C website, which Stephen Downes has decribed as ‘masterwork’  is a development of the design for the ocTEL MOOC.

I’m looking forward to Martin’s session and hearing not only what he has to say about the ocTEL WordPress platform, but also his plans for future developments in relation to participant support.

I’m also looking forward to hearing what Stephen Downes might have to say about learner support in MOOCs. I remember, as a participant of CCK08, being aware that I was very much in a ‘sink or swim’ environment. My perception at the time was that this was an intentional part of the course design, and since I ended up ‘swimming’, but not without difficulty, I didn’t see this as a bad thing. But I do still wonder how much learners should be expected to sink or swim. Is there a conflict between the principles for learning in cMOOCs – autonomy, diversity, openness and interactivity/connectedness – and learner support, i.e. can the principles be constrained by support and if so to what extent?

Theory-informed TEL and Connectivism

This week I met Seb Schmoller  who recommended that I have a look at the ocTEL MOOC , a 10 week open course in technology enhanced learning which is being run by ALT (Association for Learning Technology) here in the UK.

Seb is a former Chief Executive of ALT. I was vaguely aware of this MOOC, but had put it to the back of my mind, because for me there are just too many MOOCs about at the moment – it’s difficult to know where to focus.

But Seb’s prompt made me have another look and ‘Yes’ ocTEL does seem well organized with some interesting discussions and useful resources. However, I don’t think I will be getting fully engaged as I am already committed in part to FSLT13  due to start on May 8th 2013 – and Growing Old Around the Globe   due to start on June 10th 2013.  More of them later in other posts.

So far in the ocTEL MOOC I have checked out the Week 1 resources and listened to the recorded presentations .  One slide from Liz Masterman’s presentation has stuck in my mind.

Liz Masterman

Liz Masterman interviewed academics in Higher Ed and asked them which theories informed their use of technology in their teaching. This Wordle is the result. The two tiny words are ‘constructionism’ and ‘behaviourism’. This slide resonates with me because I was recently asked to create a presentation about learning theories for Lisa Lane’s Pedagogy First Online Teaching course. Whilst I am familiar with everything that is on Liz Masterman’s slide (although there are some models in there as well as theories), I only mentioned a few of these in my own presentation. Maybe I should have tried to take a broader brush, but at the time less seemed more.

For me an omission from Liz’s slide and therefore from the interviewees’ thinking and experience of technology enhanced learning in Higher Ed is ‘Connectivism’ or anything to do with networked learning – although communities of practice can be thought of in terms of networked learning.

In terms of the slide I don’t think it matters whether or not we think of Connectivism as a theory, since some of the other items listed on the slide are not theories – but could its omission be a ‘telling’ statement on where academics are in Higher Education in relation to their understanding of learning in new landscapes of practice?