OLDsMOOC Week 3: ‘Not waving but drowning’ by Stevie Smith

Still immersed in a sea of information and in mind of the Stevie Smith poem ‘Not waving but drowning

Reflecting on the references to Learning Design omitting the prefix integral to course name i.e. Online Learning Design, has been interesting. Initially I thought this risked diluting the ‘Online’ specific requirements of Learning Design such as attention to the diversity of ways people use computers and access the internet (from mobile devices through to assistive technologies) and the associated need for inclusive practice such as providing alternate formats and ensuring users can customise content to suit their own preferences, but it turns out I may have misunderstood the concept of OLDsMOOC .

The Week 3 focus on tools and toolboxes suggests OLDsMOOC is more about the ways online environments support the development of generic Learning Design than how to customise Learning Design for Online environments. I hadn’t seen it this way. Which demonstrates aptly how learners bring their own ways of seeing and being to the learning experience and potentially affecting interaction. If I’ve misinterpreted the focus of OLDsMOOC I’ve learned experientially about the inevitable space between the production of online learning and the experience of the consumer. this suggests even if I stop waving and disappear totally under the surface of clouds, groups and a mass of other digital tools, it will have been worth while!


Contextualisation: OLDsMOOC Week Two Summary

Learning and isolation are poor partners. Focus on the learner context enhances the process of OLD through revealing motivations as well as potential barriers. Context can reveal attention hot spots e.g. ease of access to materials, availability of support, the loneliness of the long distance online learner, guidance on specific design criteria e.g. the variety of activities, collaboration with peers and tutors, interaction with content, formative and diagnostic assessment opportunities etc. Context assists the designer make appropriate choices, in particular providing mechanisms for customising learning to suit individual preference e.g. providing information in alternative formats. All this runs in parallel to theoretical approaches to LD for example constructive alignment (Biggs and Tang, 2011).

Scenarios, Personas and Force Maps are useful approaches to OLD. Context can be presented in textual formats but also displayed through mind mapping or diagrams where a visual approach can offer an effective overview of key issues. Constructing context encourages sharing practice; drawing on own experiences and incorporating those of colleagues to bring key issues together. Doing this online rather than round a table can in itself reveal areas of online learning design which need attention.

For my own practice inclusion is a key concern. Without attention to access, the application of theory to practice becomes diluted. Effective OLD takes into account the diversity of ways people access learning resources and opportunities, this is particularly important where there are no face to face clues or opportunities for discussion. Identifying potential barriers to access and participation are key to retention and success.

In the future I will be looking to building a collection of contrasting scenarios for future reference and experiment with alternative ways of presenting these e.g. diagrammatically.

Biggs, J. and Tang, C. (2011) Teaching for Quality Learning at University. 4th ed. OUP

OLDsMOOC Week 2; learning but not as we know it

Week 2 has been an exercise in balance. In stretching and being stretched. OLDsMOOC; where experience is all – this is learning but not as we know it. Context is critical to success.

OLDsMOOC operates on multiple levels; the challenges of the technology, the keeping up with comments and discussions, accessing the range of learning materials, making notes, critically reflecting and then – finally – actively engaging with the learning subject. Deconstructed in this way, it doesn’t look so different after all. What exactly is it presenting the challenge?

At the end of Week 2 I’m finding my way around; much the same as being on a new campus or in a new town. The strange is becoming familiar. The challenge has been working through the materials and learning activities. But there’s nothing new about this either. Any learning experience has content and OLDsMOOC is flexible, it’s not as though the assessment is critical so what exactly is my problem? Because there is a problem, and as Week 3 begins, I’m realising it’s more about me than the MOOC. It’s about how I manage my workload and respond to new experiences. In particular it’s about reaching a point where I’m no longer keeping on top of the essentials. I’m not blaming the MOOC; it just happens to be the activity skewing the balance to a point where some reassessment is required.

So why do a MOOC? Firstly, why not? The potential challenge of free open educational opportunities can’t be ignored. Media have hyped up the implications, presenting them as threats as much as opportunities. The MOOC word has embedded at a speed symptomatic of a twitter trend or viral email. Concepts associating worth with monetary value are being challenged by MOOC openness where are experts are seemingly giving away their expertise for free and networks of subject specialisms emerge out of nothingness. ‘Everything solid melts into air’ is reversed. Out of virtual space comes the solidity of connections, working groups, the #oldsmooc hashtag. Far from the self-destruction of modernity, MOOCs are creating realities at a speed and intensity which has to be experienced to be evaluated. No one knows there they’re going and to be part of the journey is exciting.

So I’m still MOOCing…

Hanging on in there…

Knowing some critical reflection on work load balance is required, but this insider experience of the digital revolution is too important to be ignored. I’ve might have only cursorily glanced at Personas, Force Maps and Ecology of Resources, missed the Google Hangout and not yet watched the Week Two video but in terms of learning, OLDsMOOC is invaluable. Bring on Week 3…

Putting the ‘online’ into learning design

There’s distinct differences between Learning Design and Online Learning Design (OLD). When designing for virtual delivery, in particular for distance learners, the materials have to work much harder to sustain interest, motivation and retention. Transferring traditional content to an online environment can be flat and miss the potential for providing variety and interaction. Over in OLDsMOOC, there are many traditional theoretical approaches being surfaced but they also need adapting to virtual environments. I wonder if the Online in Learning Design needs to be seen as an additional layer. Theories within this layer would include Laurillard’s ‘conversational framework’ model; this offers a useful example of how OLD can stimulate dialogue and networks of learning. Garrison and Anderson suggest a Community of Inquiry made up of three presences; social, cognitive and teaching. In the past I’ve found enabling communities of shared practice (e.g. following Wenger) can create powerful learning experiences. Online discussion often takes time to set up and encourage (here Salmon’s five step model is worth following) but the directions it can go off into can be exciting.

On the practical side of OLD, chunking content up with formative assessment opportunities and using alternative formats such as audio which can be listened to ‘anytime anywhere’ are always worth building into the course or activity design. Inclusive practice is critical to reaching the widest possible audience; accessible content and alternative formats give students the opportunity to access resources in the way which suits them best. Pilot and evaluate as much as possible; it’s one thing to access course material on an up-to-date networked computer but try a range of old and new browsers and operating systems including mobile platforms. Students will use a far greater variety of hardware than you might expect and remember download times vary greatly across the country. Lastly, taking part in an online course – maybe a MOOC (there’s still time to call in and browse activity in OLDsMOOC) – remains the best way of all to discover how to put the online into learning design.


Example of Salmons 5-step model http://www.atimod.com/e-moderating/5stage.shtml

Example of Laurillard’s Conversational Framework  http://www.med8.info/cpf/laurillard_93/index.htm

Garrison and Anderson Presences http://cde.athabascau.ca/online_book/ch11.html

Theory and Practice of Online Learning by Anderson is available free http://cde.athabascau.ca/online_book/contents.html

Wenger Community of Practice http://www.education.ed.ac.uk/dice/scrolla/resources/Harris_Community_of_practice_Symp3.htm


MOOC Week Two: making sense of strangeness

Last year I suggested doing a MOOC for Christmas. Participation seemed a good way to experience online learning design  but after my first week with OLDsMOOC, I realise how passive my previous MOOCs have been. The challenge of OLDsMOOC is it demands action and integration. OLDsMOOC is too big for lurking. You need the sense of a group with a shared purpose. Otherwise it’s like being in a giant city for the first time; full of iconic landmarks and exciting to be there – but even better with map of the public transport systems and some familiar faces to share it with.

DIY Multimedia at https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!forum/olds-mooc-diy-multimedia  is taking shape and it’s exciting to be sharing everyone’s contributions in this way. Useful commonalities between OLD and the use of multimedia in teaching and learning are emerging. Both areas sit outside subject specialism. Multimedia is part of being digitally literate.  The recognition that digital literacies would benefit from sector wide funding under the JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme was welcome. However, funds tend to go to teams already embedded in digital ways of working with the risk of assumptions made by innovators and early adopters about individual confidence and competence with working in online environments. This also applies to OLD. Experts in face-to-face design and delivery can be left to work out OLD for themselves; this can result in a mass of content posted online with little variety or interaction. A common complaint is ‘I set up a discussion forum but nobody used it!’ Experience of an online course, or MOOC, in particular the loneliness of the long distance learner, or overload of information, is invaluable. OLDsMOOC is experiential learning at its best.

The strange becomes familiar: Facebook has arrived on OLDsMOOC!

Facebook and OLDsMOOC

Facebook has arrived! After the strangeness of Cloudworks and initiation into Google Groups, the OLDs Facebook site offers a welcome familiar face. Facebook for me has become a useful mechanism for keeping up to date with community groups and organisations as well as family and friends. To see OLDsMOOC appear here was almost a relief; at last, an environment I can integrate into my daily online routine.  The link between familiar online environments and retention might be worth further investigatinon.

The OLDs calendar of w/b on Thursdays is another anomaly I’m finding difficult to adjust to. I can’t shift from feeling Mondays is the start of the week. Does OLD work best when operating on a traditional time scale? Another question to reflect on for future practice.


Still MOOCing on towards the weekend

I’ve blogged about the ‘end of week one’ and earned a badge (:-)) but there is no end. Convergence is integral to this MOOC experience where boundaries are blurred and massiveness makes it impossible to follow everything. I’m having to get used to the idea I might be missing something interesting and relevant simply because I can’t get through the emails or browse all the clouds. It’s a lesson in setting and managing priorities;  a useful reminder of the vastness of the internet in particular for people new to working online. I’ve MOOC’ed before but only, I now realise, as a passive participant, absorbing the content without getting into conversations. This is different; it’s overwhelming, frustrating and exciting! I can see the potential for collaborative group work, establishing communities of shared practice and real value in terms of feeding the experience into my practice supporting online learning – but eight weeks may be too long. OLDSMOOC is getting dominant. It’s overtaking my other work and non-work time. I’m having to turn off the clouds, the groups and even my email so I can focus on non-MOOC subjects. Then I realise even now, with it all turned off, I’m blogging about it!


End of MOOC week 1; reflection

At the end of week 1 I’ve tried to follow the activities http://www.olds.ac.uk/the-course/week-1 It hasn’t been easy to find a way through the different technologies. This in itself has been an interesting experience. It’s good to step outside your comfort zone and one way to engage with new ways of working is to have a definite task in mind. My proposal is the development of DIY approach to Multimedia. This aligns with an on going project, so OLD with audio and video is relevant to me. My work role is to find ways to support people to use technology for education and I worry that here on OLDsMOOC  I’ve been unable to translate the initial interest in my proposal into a working team. Cloudworks seems unnecessarily complex with too many ways of doing things resulting in information being scattered with no obvious mechanism for pulling it all together and establishing a single communication channel. I’ve tried to understand Cloudworks. My cloud profile and links to my clouds and cloudscape is here http://cloudworks.ac.uk/user/view/4427 

I set up an alternative area for DIY Multimedia on Google Groups, this is here https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!forum/olds-mooc-diy-multimedia 

Open education is part of my role at Lincoln. Having just completed a 12 month JISC/HEA OER Change Academy programme, I’d suggest engagement with the philosophy and practice of OER comes before MOOCS.  With OER you can have a more gentle and less public introduction but OER practice requires a sophisticated use of the internet and attention to specific digital literacies and MOOCs even more so. A key issue for me after this first week of OLDsMOOC is how many people may have tried and been defeated by the barrier of the technology. Rather than celebrating the affordances of online learning, this MOOC may have confirmed individual techno-fears and widened existing digital divides rather than helped bridge them. The spectrum of engagement with digital practices is wide. Many late adopters on the far side benefit from scaffolded approaches to increasing their digital confidence. Too often the technology is presented and users left to get on with it; reminiscent of early days of the VLE when attention was paid to the embedding of the technology and systems rather than the changes in practice necessary to shift from face to face to digital ways of working. OLDsMOOC has been a bit like these.

This is my OLDsMOOC story so far. I’ve been trying out MOOCs for some time and blogging about it herehttps://suewatling.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk where there are also OLDsMOOC musings and reflections. I’m looking forward to Week2 and to working with colleagues who have found there way onto the DIY Multimedia Google Group. Those who made initial contact and are still out there – I hope our paths cross again in one way or another.

Having posted this on yet another cloud http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloud/view/7459 and added it to the Refelction Cloudscape http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloudscape/view/2787, I’ve applied for my first ever MOOC badge – and am waiting for approval…

Working with teams of staff developing OER for the past year http://oer.lincoln.ac.uk) I find engagement with openess demands a sophisticated understanding of the internet so is useful for developing digital literacies, but also making work freely available under a creative commons licence encourages the revisiting of learning design principles and practices. The smaller scale of OER reduces the massiveness of the MOOC so can be a useful starting point with online design..  


Working with teams of staff developing OER for the past year http://oer.lincoln.ac.uk) I find engagement with openess demands a sophisticated understanding of the internet so is useful for developing digital literacies, but also making work freely available under a creative commons licence encourages the revisiting of learning design principles and practices. The smaller scale of OER reduces the massiveness of the MOOC so can be a useful starting point with online design..
Learning design with multimedia must include attention to accessibility and inclusion. Making sure content is provided in alternative formats is something to be considered at the beginning of the process, e.g. transcripts, captions, subtitles etc, and not bolted on as an after thought at the end (see TechDis for advice and guidance). This process needs to be meaningful otherwise the result becomes tokenistic. See https://suewatling.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2013/01/16/tokenistic-captions-on-nss-official-video-2013/ for an example of careless attention to these things!
When designing online learning environments  build in time for induction, finding your way around and making sure everyone in familiar with the channels of communication. This can help people disappearing before the fun begins 🙂
Oh and the ethics of using multimedia – permissions, consent, copyright, health and safety etc…. more on this to follow

Tokenistic captions on NSS Official Video 2013

Dire captions on NSS Official video


More and more people are using the YouTube caption tool in the belief it offers information in an alternative format but it doesn’t. If it wasn’t so serious, you could say it offers a laugh – like the example above which shows the caption for all Student’s Unions, Associations and Guilds – and there are many other examples in this video alone which demonstrate just how much the caption tool is tokenism.

Multimedia has great potential for teaching and learning. It suits a range of learning preferences and offers variety and interaction with content. However, to be inclusive it needs to be provided in alternative formats and this is the step most people miss.  If you use YouTube captions take the time to check them out; the chances are they’ll be to poor to be of any real value.

Guide to Getting started with YouTube captions and transcripts  YouTube http://support.google.com/youtube/bin/static.py?hl=en&topic=2734696&guide=2734661&page=guide.cs 

MOOC the MOOC – day 6

Today I set up a DIY Multimedia Google Group at https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups=#!forum/olds-mooc-diy-multimedia  My challenge has been bringing together everyone who has expressed interest in my proposal.  The cloud profile template has space for name, homepage, department, institution and twitter hashtag but no email address. Contacts came through google groups, various clouds, email and blog comments with no obvious simple way of getting back in touch. I could post comments on some clouds but not others; some had discussion threads but no comment options and some users had a profile but not cloud! In the end I posted information on those clouds I could, on the OLDSMOOC Google Groups and on #OLDSMOOC Twitter. I’m finding the organisational functionality of the technology frustrating. Those familiar with the tools are at a distinct advantage and I wonder how many who have not used Cloudworks or Google Groups/Hangups are struggling. I appreciate the opportunity to explore their affordances but it’s at the expense of valuable opportunities for OLD collaborative working.

I don’t want to sound negative and am genuinely interested in the experience of being lost in new ways of working. It’s empowering to have this range of tools to choose from and make personal choices about forging a structure in which to work – very much an example of a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) in action. I’m hoping everyone who expressed interest in my proposal to support staff engaging with audio and video will find their way into the Google Group or maybe someone will suggest an alternative more workable option. This is flexible learning after all.

My main concern is how technology overload creates potential barriers. OLD is important but so is encouraging and supporting staff to come online in the first place. I’ve worked with VLEs for over a decade but there have been occasions these past few days where I’ve wanted to run screaming from my laptop and mooc the mooc once and for all. It would be easy to stick with what I know and do something different – like put the laptop to one side and go and do something different instead – but I’m genuinely excited by the networking and opportunities to share expertise. Digital literacies are so important and the best way to develop them is to get in there. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, posting in the wrong place, or posting the same thing too many times, all of which I’ve done in the past few days! We’re all in this together and for all it might not sound like it – I’m having a lot of fun.