Archive for the ‘workinglearning’ Category

What can we learn from pilot activities with MOOCs?

February 24th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

As I told in my previous post, our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project is preparing itself for the Design Conference of the Year 2, which will take place in March in Espoo (next to Helsinki) in Finland. And as I also told, I have looked over the fence and explored, what our colleague Graham Attwell has been writing recently. In my previous post I was looking at the points he has made in debates on VLEs, PLEs and MOOCs.

Now I am trying get an idea, what Graham and his colleagues have been experiencing with the pilot activities of the neighbouring EU-funded project Employ-ID (that focuses on Employment services in Europe). As I understand it, they have started as learners in MOOCs, then to develop a medium-scale pilot arrangement, and now they are harvesting their first results. I am not trying to tell the news myself, but I am fascinated by the way that Graham has worked his way in this pilot (and covered it with his blogs).

 1. Stepping in as a participant of MOOC (Graham’s report May 13th 2014)

“We are planning to run a series of MOCCs as part of this project (Employ-ID) and the project partners have agreed themselves to do a MOOC as part of our own learning project. So why did I choose to do a course of digital curation? I have spent a lot of time working on the development of Open Educational Resources (OERs). Open Educational Resources are resources for learning and teaching that are open to use. But resources means not only content and materials but also tools for content creation and sharing as well as intellectual property licenses for using these resources freely and openly.” (…)

“It strikes me that many of the digital objects being grated by participants in this course could be a very rick source of learning. more than that it also seems that many of the issues in digital curation are very similar to those round OERs – for example

  • how do we classify and structure resources
  • how do we ensure digital resources are discoverable
  • how do we measure the quality of resources
  • how can we encourage people to interact with resources.

And finally I think that the best answers to these questions may come through an interdisciplinary dialogue.”

2. Heading to pilot with adapted MOOC (Graham’s comment April 29th 2014)

“Within the European Employ-ID project, (which is researching employment adaptability and the use of technology for supporting coaching and continuing professional development for Public Employment workers in Europe), we have promised, for better or worse, to organise a MOOC. In fact, I think this was promised for the final year of thee project, which has only just started, but with plenty of enthusiasm from the public employment services and from project partners, we are planning to bring it forward to next year.”

As Graham has reported it several months ago, the idea to organise an adapted MOOC – not necessarily massively open and not yet so open, but based on the same pattern – was well received by their counterparts. As I hear from the echos, it appears that this pilot experience helps us to overcome the EdTech perspective on MOOCs and to turn the concept back on its feet. Instead of putting the design issues into centre, Graham has pushed us to think about the social learning in organisational and professional communities. We are looking forward to hear more on this.

More blogs to come …

What do we learn from debates on VLEs, PLEs and MOOCs for workplace learning?

February 24th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

Currently our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project is preparing itself for the Design Conference of the Year 2, which will take place in March in Espoo (next to Helsinki) in Finland. We will be discussing issues of Co-Design, Evaluation and Exploitation. Surely, our work with the Learning Toolbox will be high on the agenda. But, as the name of the event says, we should consider, what is important regarding design, transfer of innovations and scaling up of innovations.

From this perspective I have looked over the fence and explored, what our colleague Graham Attwell has been writing recently on the debates on Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs), Personal Learning Environments (PLEs), and Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on his blog Wales-Wide-Web. Of course, his blog articles are available on this same Pontydysgu site. But sometimes it is worthwhile to highlight some points that we may pass too quickly when reading his flow of posts. Here some of the highlights that I have picked as lessons from the debates:

1. Graham’s comment on the optimistic prediction on the impact of mobile technologies on workplace learning (July 6th 2014)

Prediction (formulated by Graham): “the workplace becomes part of the Personal Learning Environment and conversely the PLE becomes part of the work process. At the same time, such an approach can bring together both formal and informal learning.”

Comment (by Graham): “It hasn’t happened yet and it is worth thinking about why. One reason maybe that only recently has seen the spread of sufficiently powerful mobile devices and applications. Another is the suspicion of employers about the uses of such devices in the workplace. Most importantly may be the failure to develop pedagogic approaches for mobile learning.”

2. Graham’s comments on trends and fashions in Educational Technology (June 15th /April 29th 2014)

What is floating, what is sustaining: ” Ideas and trends emerge, peak and die away as attention moves to the latest new thing. At the time of writing MOOCs dominate the discourse. Yet the developments around Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) have not gone away.  It could be argued that the development and adoption of PLEs is not so much driven the educational technology (…) but by the way people (…)  are using technology for learning in their everyday lives.”

Managerism/Consumerism/Prosumerism: “Even when Learning Management Systems were in their prime, there was evidence of serious issues in their use. Teachers tended to use such environments as an extended file storage system; forums and discussion spaces were frequently under populated. In other words such systems were used for managing learning, rather than for learning itself.  Learners expropriated and adapted consumer and productivity applications for their learning.”

Contrast between VLEs/PLEs: “At a development level, there is little point in trying to develop a new PLE to replace the VLE. Instead we need to provide flexible tools which can enhance existing technologies and learning provision, be it formal courses and curricula or informal learning in the workplace or in the community. It can be argued that whilst most educational technology development has focused on supporting learners already engaged in educational programmes and institutions, the major potential of technology and particularly of Personal Learning Environments is for the majority of people not enrolled on formal educational programmes.”

Open learning/Open Educational Resources/ MOOCs: “Such changes are reflected in the growing movement towards open learning, be it in the form of MOOCs or in the increasing availability of Open Educational Resources. The popularity of MOOCs has revealed a vast pent up demand for learning and at least in the form of the c-MOOCs has speeded the adoption of PLEs. MOOCs are in their infancy and we can expect the rapid emergence of other forms of open learning or open education in the next few years.”

MOOCs – only hype?: “MOOCs are now set on the downside of the hype cycle and it is not difficult to find critics – or even those predicting their immanent end. I can’t see much sign of them going away = if anything there seems to be more and more MOOCs appearing – although that may be just a result of better discoverability. However there does seem to be huge variation in design, duration and above all quality although we do not really have any agreed criteria for measuring quality.”

So what: “Despite the issues of design and quality, the sheer numbers of learners signing up for MOOCs deserves some reflection. I interpret it as a vast pent up demand for opportunities for learning. (…) MOOCs have enabled a massive expansion in the scope of subjects on offer as Open Education. So, even though I sympathise with the critics, particularly as to the quality of pedagogy, I think we should see MOOCs in that light. MOOCs are one iteration in the use of technology to greatly expand Open Education and to make that education available to everyone.”

OK, here I have picked some thoughts that Graham has brought forward in the course of debates and as candidates for ‘lessons from the debates’. However, these are still at the level of educational debates. What we in the Learning Layers are looking for, is something to put into practice and something that sustains in the hard test of practice. I think Graham has something more to say in this respect – I will continue my reading.

More blogs to come …

Inspiring talks on Learning Toolbox and Dual Studies in Ostfalia

February 15th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last Thursday Ludger Deitmer and I visited the Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences in the context of the Learning Layers (LL) project. For us this was a follow-up of the talks we had had during the Brunnenbauertage conference last year and a planning meeting for the forthcoming pilot activities. The representatives of Ostfalia had already at that time expressed their interest to learn more of the Learning Toolbox. Now that we had promising progress reports from the Alpüha Beta Camp in Aachen, it was high time to take further steps.

Our host organisation, the Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences is a merged university colleges with four campuses in the Easten part of the federal state Lower Saxony (near the former border of the two German states). Our hosts from the faculty “Bau-Wasser-Boden”, professor Elfriede Ott (Geo-engineering) and Albrecht Meißner  (Informatics, dean of the faculty) are working in the campus of Suderburg, the most rural campus of the four. As we experienced it in our talks, this university college cannot profile itself with the attractions of urban city life – therefore, it has to profile itself with a strong emphasis on practice-based learning, collaboration with enterprises and creative pedagogy.

Our hosts firstly informed us of their study programs for construction engineers with different areas of specialisation (in particular building the grounds, water supply solutions and tunneling). Here, as well as in other areas of specialisation, Ostfalia was actively developing the model of Dual Stdudies (combination of Higher Education degree with apprentice training that delivered initial vocational qualification). And, due to the regulations of the training in construction sector, the workplace training included several presence periods in the intermediate training centre Bau-ABC. As we understood it, the cooperation between Ostfalia and Bau-ABC had already reached a relatively mature phase – they had learned to combine their strengths and developed a culture of mutual exchanges.

Concerning their pedagogic interests, our hosts told us of their experiences with stimulating collaborative group and self-organised learning. In this context they also noted the need to overcome some resistance and anxieties. Moreover, they informed us of their experiments with gamification – facilitating learning in geo-engineering by playing cards that make transparent the basic facts and the necessary measures – essentials on which you need to have an overview. Finally, they informed of their university-wide pedagogic support services and pilots with pedagogic counseling (Lerncoaching).

From the LL perspective the Ostfalia study programs – in particular the dual studies provide an interesting field for piloting with the Learning Toolbox. As we discussed it, the students are challenged to get awareness of the limits of desk engineering and to take into account the practical reality of construction work on the grounds. Our hosts could give us several examples of possible mismatches and how they are detected when the engineering students get insights into the work processes of skilled workers. From this perspective they were interested in becoming involved in the pilot testing of the Learning Toolbox. Furthermore, given the fact that their students gather experiences in multiple learning venues – college, training centre, enterprise – they were interested in getting the students reflect on their learning experiences and making the connections between theory and practice. This issue was also discussed in the context of a separate funding programme “Erfahrbares Lernen” that seeks to bring new innovation-oriented and experiential insights into studies in higher education.

Altogether, we covered a lot of topics and reached an agreement to continue our cooperation in the next phase when the recent results of the developers are prepared for field workshops. We are looking forward to the next steps.

More blogs to come …

 

Insights into managed clusters – the Cluster Performance Blog

February 10th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

The Learning Layers (LL) project has been launched to promote and scale up innovations – on work-related learning supported by web tools and mobile technologies – in SME clusters. From the very beginning our project has taken it as a serious challenge to get a good understanding on cluster policies (as instruments for national and European policies) and on managed clusters (as vehicles for promoting and scaling up innovations).

In the beginning the issue ‘clusters’ was perceived mainly a particular area to be explored by few specialists (to get a big pictNowure). The insights and lessons were then supposed to be fed back to the pilot regions (in our case North Germany as the pilot region for construction sector). And – accordingly – our ‘cluster explorers’ gathered information and made contacts. Sometimes it appeared that there might be cases for regional ‘twinnings’ – clusters/networks in our regions appeared to have functional equivalents in other countries.

However, in the Norwegian landscape of managed clusters and in the Norwegian funding of cluster-driven innovation policies our explorers have detected a special laboratory for promoting innovations. The glimpses that I have got from the talks of our colleagues have given an impression of highly dynamic, interactive and sustainable approaches to regional and sectoral innovations. The earlier concepts of networks and groupings do not reveal the richness of the work.

Now I am pleased to note that our colleagues Gilbert Peffer and Tor-Arne Bellika have started blogging on their work. The Cluster Performance Blog informs us of the forthcoming interface event ‘Layers meets Agder’. In this context we can explore, how the services and patterns of networking in the Agder cluster region can support our sectoral pilots and/or pilot regions in scaling up the innovations. Parallel to this, the blog informs us of the ongoing European cooperation  between different cluster initiatives.

I am looking forward to learning more from managed clusters, their evolution, collaboration and expansion. Also, I am interested to find out, how knowledge alliances or strategic partnerships are being shaped in cluster regions.

More blogs to come (both here and in the Cluster Performance Blog) …

 

Alpha Beta Camp and internal dissemination for Learning Layers

February 10th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous posts I have reported on the Year 2 review of the Learning Layers (LL) project and on the Critical Path Analysis (CPA)  that the project has carried out as a follow-up. This has been an internal exercise to set priorities and to concentrate on key activities. However, this (and the work with related project proposals) has tied us to backstage work. Now we are hoping to take further steps in our fieldwork and in stakeholder engagement. For the moment I can at best pass some short messages on current events.

1. The Alpha Beta Camp in Aachen (9.2. – 11.2.2015)

One of the aims of the project (and also a special recommendation of the reviewers) has been to overcome patchwork-like development of separate tools and apps for different users. Now, after some minor integrative efforts, the LL project is organising an Alpha Beta Camp (ABC) in RWTH Aachen. The time has become ripe for the designers and developers working in different teams to come together to a joint sprint session. For us who have been working with the construction sector – and in particular with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) this is an important milestone. As I see it, the colleagues who are working together in Aachen are trying to geththe LL tools (prototypes) and infrastructures work together at a new level. And as I see it, both pilot sectors – construction and health care – are represented by competent messengers of users. So, we can expect something to build upon in our forthcoming field activities.

2. Internal dissemination for the LL project in ITB

Last week I had a pleasant experience when visiting a meeting of one of the thematic research groups (Forschungsgruppe “Lernen in Arbeit” – FoG LiA). These thematic groups have been launched for sharing knowledge and insights across the departments of our institute. Whilst it is easy to agree that such work is useful, it is often hard to find time for such meetings in the middle of busy times in project work. Now I felt happy to present the Learning Layers to some of my colleagues with whom I had rarely had a chance to have in-depth discussions.

The FoG had developed a set of questions concerning the context of work and research approach of projects to be presented. Instead of responding to these with one ppt-presentation I arranged a guided tour across several earlier presentations:

  •  We looked at the construction sector presentation for Year 2 review to get an overview on the project (and on the work in the construction sector pilot).
  • We looked our presentation for the ECER’14 on accompanying research (Begleitforschung) in this pilot to get a picture of our multiple roles and on the evolution of the participative design process.
  • We looked at our presentations on “Work process knowledge” and “Workplace learning” for the Theory Camp session in Aachen (March 2014) to get an impression how we have brought ITB ideas on vocational education and training (VET) and on social shaping (Gestaltung) into European discussion.
  • Finally, we looked at Werner Müller’s ppt presentation on the Learning Toolbox (for craft trade company and for intermediate training centre) to get an idea, how the LL tools are supposed to support vocational and workplace-based learning.

After this guided tour and with the help of several smart questions, the colleagues wrote ‘answer cards’ responding to ‘question cards’ and assembled on overview on the LL project on pin-board.

To me, it was interesting to notice, how quickly the colleagues got an impression of a complex project, of our ( = the German partners’ roles), on the key ideas we have put forward and on the developmental steps we are taking. For me this was a clear evidence that there is a lot of shared understanding and intellectual commonality in ITB.

So, these were my interim messages. I am looking forward to the reports from Aachen and to next steps.

More blogs to come …

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