All MOOCed out…

There isn’t a great deal happening over in DIY Multimedia. This is no one’s fault. I feel we’re casualties of a learning design which made assumptions about its participants. The designers may have failed to take into account the diversity inherent in massiveness and assumed what worked for them would work for all. Failure is never easy. I’m sure the OLDsMOOC designers would not want anyone to feel overwhelmed or defeated by their OLDsMOOC experience but I’m equally sure I’m not the only one all MOOCed out. Disengaged but somehow feeling inadequate at not seeing it through.

MOOCs remind me of the complexity of digital divides. These are not just about access to computers and the internet but the ways in which that access is facilitated. MOOCs require you to have access plus the prerequisite knowledge and experience to ensure you swim not sink. There is no one-size-fits-all model for digital inclusion and the same applies to effective participation in a MOOC. One set of learning materials is not going to fit everyone.

OLDsMOOC has been a challenging experience. I thought I was coping with unfamiliar landscapes, self-selection, self-grouping plus all the social media, but ultimately it hasn’t worked for me and I need to understand why. It’s easy to blame the multiple demands of the day job but OLD is my role so this was important to me. However, I think fundamentally I misunderstood the purpose of the course. Whereas I interpreted it as designing for online learning, it increasingly appeared to be about learning design using online tools – two very different things. Consequently the majority of discussions across the MOOC related to classroom/client groups rather than virtual situations. Also the mix of participants from training as well as educational sectors clearly had strengths in terms of sharing practice, but the theoretical nature of the course content raised the question of how OLDsMOOC approached one of the first rules of learning design – know your audience. This comment summed up the feelings of many:

Plus, I’m not a teacher, so some of this stuff starts even going over my head … I need to adapt the course activities to my level of experience and field.

The idea for DIY Multimedia emerged from a lack of central resources in my institution for staff wanting to create short video clips and podcasts. One positive outcome from OLDsMOOC is seeing the benefit of developing a similar DIY approach to Online Learning Design. In cash strapped times, reusable support and guidance are becoming necessities but they have to be flexible for a diverse audience. In the beginning, I had many reasons for engaging with OLDsMOOC, and have taken from it many valuable insights, but as week 6 rolls on, I’m not sure if any of this will be enough to see me though to the end.

Ironic collapse of Coursera’s ‘Fundamentals of Online Education’ MOOC

The collapse of the Coursera MOOC Fundamentals of Online Education (#foemooc) with an alleged 41,000 students, has raised mixed opinions. It’s clear many students were satisfied with their initial learning experience, claiming those without the prerequisite digital knowledge and experience were being disadvantaged.  The design and choice of technology appears not to have suited everyone nor the requirement for students to structure their own learning with peers. This self-direction is similar to OLDsMOOC which is now in week 6. There have been similar difficulties with self grouping and establishing learning projects. Looking at the noticeable decrease in emails to the main OLDsMOOC  list, there has been a significant drop-out suggesting much is still to be learned.

MOOCs are too new to have found their feet. Many of the free courses contain poor quality materials with the standard of discussions not conducive to effective learning. Quantity is often achieved at the expense of quality and the massiveness of open online courses is no exception.  MOOCs also draw attention to the diversity of individual digital literacies. OLDsMOOC has been a challenge through its use of unfamiliar software like Cloudworks and Google Groups as well as its reliance of individual motivation and self-directed learning.  Failure is often the best teacher and from the Coursera collapse will come new knowledge about MOOCing. The blog How Not to Design a MOOC and its follow up post The MOOC Honeymoon is Over: Three Takeaways from the Coursera Calamity are early examples. These offer three key pointers for institutions considering going down the MOOC path.

  • The instructional model is shifting to be student-centric, away from an institution or instructor-focused model
  • Sound instructional design is the; key to supporting self-directed learning experiences.
  • Prepare students for the Learning Experience.

No surprises here but they seem to have been missing from Fundamentals of Online Education; an irony not lost on those who participated and commented on its sudden and unanticipated demise.

Go do a MOOC today!

Today is the start of Flexible, Distance and Online Learning (FDOL). This is an open course designed and delivered by two educational developers; Chrissi Nerantzi from the University of Salford (UK) and Lars Uhlin from the Karolinska Institutet (Sweden). Chrissie was one of the HEA’s critical friends on Embedding OER Practice and it’s good to see so many principles of openness embedded in FDOL.  The course aims to enhance understanding of the benefits and challenges online learners and facilitators are facing and will model the use of freely available social media tools and platforms for enabling connection and engagement.

These are interesting times for openness, in particular the development of online learning. It’s week 5 on the OLDsMOOC  (Online Learning Design with the OU) and week 3 in EDC MOOC (eLearning in Digital Cultures with University of Edinburgh and Coursera). FDOL offers a useful choice between core course involvement or having peripheral status (that’s me on the periphery) and although registration is closed, it’s still possible to join as a peripheral group member and experience how social media can enable and enhance education using a Focus Investigate Share (FISh) model of Problem Based Learning (PBL) design.

There’s only so many MOOCs you can fit into the week but so far the experience has been well worth the stretched days and weekends. The concept of elearning has been around for some time but is all too often still understood as putting lectures online when it’s most effective through active engagement and shared practice. The best elearning experiences emerge from online inter-activities and related discussions. Learning online is not easy; it requires motivation, stamina and perseverance – fortunately this has become something anyone with access can experience for free with a MOOC. For anyone interested in online learning design I recommend it. Go do a MOOC today!


Down – but not defeated…OLDsMOOC Week 4 summary

In Week 4 we’ve been sharing pedagogical patterns, engaging with the BOTWOO concept (Building On The Work Of Others), been patronised (‘This is what we all do as researchers, but do much less as teachers. Teachers don’t find it that easy’) and partially ignored (many in the DIY Multimedia group and in Cloudworld are learning designers external to education; I’m in HE but not a ‘teacher’. The diversity of participants seems unrecognised yet we’ve agreed on the importance of designing for your audience and learner context in week 3. It’s been a good week – honestly – but maybe not in terms of MOOCing.  I don’t mean to be grumpy – but OLDsMOOC is reinforcing some of my attributions and I never like it when that happens. In Week 4 I investigated the PPC Pedagogical Patterns Collector using the Pedagogical Patterns Collector guide  but didn’t get very far – other than finding myself here in Week 5 and looking at making prototypes of my learning activities. Now we have moved into the realms of fantasy. I don’t know how to access to a programmer but I know I want one!!!

As if this were not enough cause for frustration, then the Wk 5 video transcript simply depressed me. I wanted to capture the part of the Week 5 video where DL compares ‘...something you can do yourself like a PowerPoint or sequence in Moodle‘ to how you communicate your idea for a digital design to a programmer. I thought this was a useful reminder of the digital divide between technologists and the day to day experience of most academic staff, but got sidetracked on finding the transcript is an image and this defeats the objective of providing one. Week 4 transcript was pdf. Not ideal but it could be copied into Word albeit with inconvenient line breaks. Text as an image is useless and misunderstands the potential of digitally inclusive practice.  

In DIY Multimedia we’ve stressed the importance of alternative formats from the beginning and it’s been reassuring to share awareness of the importance of this element of learning design.  Providing digital content in a single fixed format assumes the MEE Model of computer access where users work via a Mouse for navigation and their eyes and ears for images and sound. This fails to reflect the diversity of ways people use computers and access the internet but the MEE Model underpins 99% of digital content.  Learning designers have a critical role to play in challenging the limitations of single formats while championing the inherent flexibility of digital data to be customised to suit individual requirements.

One of my many problems with MOOCs is the divide between their potential and the reality. I blogged last week on the EPIC 2020 and Turning Point 2012 videos which present the threat posed through mass education by MOOCs. Back in the late 1980’s, the founders of the internet heralded the internet’s potential for democratic access. This isn’t happening and some days trying to keep inclusive practice high on the agenda feels like hard work.

More wrong than right with MOOCing so far…

At first it’s difficult to tell if EPIC 2020 is a promotion of MOOCs or a warning. Ultimately it may be both.  The message is represent a one way direction with irreversible impact on higher education as we know it.  EPIC (Evolving Personal Information Construct) 2020 offers a vision of a future where academia is no longer the gatekeeper of knowledge, tuition obsolete and degrees irrelevant. The reason is the MOOC.  The shift has already begun with MOOC giants Udacity, Khan Academy, Coursera, MITX and TedEd supported by Mozilla Open Badges as alternatives to accreditation.

Like conspiracy theories the video offers a powerful argument but via a limited view of educational transformation, one which only sells a single side of the story. Bill Sams is behind EPIC 2020 and Tipping Point 2012 its partner video. Sams is a Commissioner on the eTech Ohio Commission and an Executive in Residence at Ohio University. He operates a locked down Twitter account but has publicly commented on the online universities blog saying ‘My objective in producing EPIC was to create a piece that would cause people to consider and discuss that there are dramatic alternatives to the traditional education system’

‘Traditional’ education is continually facing alternatives; not least digital technologies and affordances. The move to Open Educational Resources (OER) through the open education movement is one such inevitable product of the internet. The rationale for OER is strong; in particular enabling students to make appropriate choices of HEI as well as supporting the widening participation and life long learning agendas.  MOOCs have been tried but are less tested.

I’ve been engaging in MOOC behaviours for a few months; initially thinking it was a bubble ready to burst but also watching the increase in MOOC collaborations become media headlines. Currently on Week 4 of OLDsMOOC, I’m confident (at the present time) there is more wrong with MOOCs than right. They are massive, open and online but with no ‘one size fits all model’ they can only suit some types of learning and student preferences better than others.

What MOOCs are good at is stimulating debate around the wider issues of learning design and the role of higher education in the 21st century. It’s time to be more critical about MOOCs, and some of the possible drivers behind the MOOCing phenomena. EPIC 2020 and Tipping Point 2012 offer useful places for these debates to begin.


digital design, doodling and divides

Condensing the complexity of digital literacies is always a challenge. At the recent Student Staff Conference on Future Learning, I reduced them to professional practice with social media and how SM might best support teaching and learning. SM and the use of mobile technology has relevance for learning design. It can be disconcerting when an audience appears engrossed in their digital devices but banning them is not the answer. Finding ways to maintain engagement with the subject matter while constructing an agreed code of conduct is more realistic.

This short video on the potential of digital technologies for education is a useful introduction to the concept of digital natives and immigrants. First outlined by Prensky in 2001, the digital dichotomy is now acknowledged as more complex than division by age and more related to use e.g. the CIBER report on the research skills of young people and Carr’s polemic Is Google Making us Stupid.

Digital Baby Digital child

A decade after Prensky, learning design has shifted from constructivism to connectivism, with both support and critique, but also some consensus. When it comes to technologies, education is less about the tools and more how they’re used. With regard to social media the debate includes appropriate and inappropriate behaviours, in particular in lectures and seminars. Wherever learning design incorporates ‘real-time’ collaboration and/or interaction via social media it raises issues like shopping on eBay or personal tweeting irrelevant to the subject. This is part of the wider digital debate around personal versus public online identities, which in itself is only one component of digital literacies. An agreed code of conduct may be one way forward. Most discussion forums now include guidelines for appropriate use and behaviour and finding consensus on the use of mobile technology in teaching and learning is no different to agreeing capital letters equate to shouting and personal abuse will not be tolerated.

Digitally literacies are embedded in individual personalities making it hard to pull out a one size fits all model of use. New technologies amplify the affordances of traditional tones like pen and paper. We all doodle in learning situations. Doodling in itself can be a form of reflective practice. Today there are more choices on the formats that doodling can take and learning design learning needs to take the ever changing nature of ways of being, seeing and doing into account.

The design of learning is a continually evolving science, not least because space between users and non-users still exists.  Replication and reinforcement of digital divides is less visible, but in the push to use social media to empower student voices and flip the classroom, technology remains exclusive. In an increasingly digital society enabling/disabling binaries are more relevant than ever. The potential for digital exclusion should not be forgotten.

Wobble at the end of OLDsMOOC Week 3

Looking ahead is not always recommended. Comparing Week 3 tasks to do with available time to do them brings the word withdraw to mind. Stop now. Reclaim my time. With another five weeks to go, how much longer can I run to stand still while getting further behind the activities?

Time for some realistic appraisal.

In the eclectic world of academia, it’s a given that scholarship has no walls. It’s difficult to measure thought or reflective practice, keep track of those light bulb moments when solutions arrive in the bath or 3.00 in the morning. We commute ever further, looking for efficient ways to use travelling time, and regardless of the views of health health minister Anna Soubry, eating over the keyboard is common practice.

Virtual learning tools and technologies have intensified academic life and perceived efficiencies can be outweighed by the lived reality of learning curves and frustrations. Things are not always what they seem.  So why MOOC – in particular why OLDsMOOC? If the resources are openly available what’s the advantage when to complete and collaborate is being squeezed into an already stretched week. Why do it?

For me, ultimately, it’s about the experience. The displacement in unfamiliar technology; a reminder what it feels like outside my comfort zone, how designing virtual learning has to take into account the diversity of digital confidence and competencies. OLDsMOOC usefully brings digital literacies centre stage. Designed and delivered by technology experts, it’s being received by people with an eclectic mix of digital skills. Like most people I’ve picked up digital literacies as I’ve gone along. Being around when it all began gives me a grasp of the basics but I’m a DIY’er, not an expert. This immersion in ed tech  offers powerful learning and the mix of people external to HE is proving invaluable in broadening my understanding of DIY Multimedia production.

The Features Cards activity at OU Learning Design Initiative was timely. I hadn’t come across OULDI in my digital travels and this is also what MOOCing is about; signposts through the massiveness of the internet, like a scattergram of key stopping off points for content on learning design. If I left now, the learning would be worth it – but I won’t because what can’t be measured is on-going struggle to maintain participation in online distance learning, alongside everything else in my life, and when it comes to learning design it’s having this student experience which is the best tutor of all.

One mooc at a time…

eLearning and Digital Cultures is a collaboration between the University aof Edinburgh and Coursera.  OLDsMOOC  is three weeks old (five more to go!) and taking up more time than anticipated. Maybe one mooc is enough. However, the value of MOOCing remains the experience. In terms being thrown out of your comfort zone in a sea of digital information and communication it’s an invaluable reminder of how other people can feel when pushed into online environments out of necessity rather than choice.

The initial strangeness of Cloud Works and Google Groups over on OLDsMOOC was a barrier to overcome right from the beginning. EDCMOOC integrates with tools I already use. I’ll follow eLearning and Digital Cultures from a distance as a Lurker but already see how the trio of WordPress Facebook  and Twitter #edcmooc show familiar tools have the potential to enhance engagement. I’m looking forward to some ‘compare and contrasting’ between them.

P.S. A tweet from Sian Bayne @sbayne at Edinburgh says there are over 40,000 participants; now that’s massive!

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