Wales Wide Web is Graham Attwell’s main blog. Graham Attwell is Director of the Wales based research organisation, Pontydysgu. The blog covers issues like open-source, open-content, open-standards, e-learning and Werder Bremen football team.
However you view MOOCs, they have been a success in moving towards open education and in allowing thousands of people not enrolled in formal education programmes to take part in courses.
But in all the talk about open and MOOCs one issue worries me: access to platforms. Yes the best MOOCs and the better platforms encourage conversation between learners and even promote the idea of learners being facilitators. Yet the ability to create a MOOC is largely confined those in a commercial company or those in mainly Higher Education establishments. Increasingly MOOC platforms are only accessible to those who are part of one or another of the consortia which have emerged between different education institutions or those with money to pay into a private MOOC provider. OK, it is possible to hack a MOOC platform together with WordPress or to install Open edX. But it isn’t simple. The Emma project and platform have opened up possibilities to host MOOCs in Europe but I am not sure that this will continue to be supported after their EU funding runs out.
If we want truly open education, then we need to open up opportunities for creating and facilitating learning as well as participating in a programme. I still like Ivan Illich’s 1971 dream in Deschooling Society of a big computer which could send postcards to match those wanting to learn something with those willing to support them. And I see an open MOOC infrastructure as the way we might achieve this. Of course there are concerns over quality. but surely we can find ways of peer reviewing proposed courses and supporting course creators to achieve not only high quality but truly imaginative pedagogy approaches to learning through a MOOC. Quality is not just predicated on the cost of the video production.
I wonder if rather than the formation of big consortia, more democratic federation could be the way to go. It is disappointing to see that FutureLearn has announced that those students who fail to pay a fee (or as they put it, an ‘upgrade’ will no longer be able to access content following the end of a course. This is just one more reason why we need an open MOOC infrastructure or ecology if MOOCs are to be truly open.
Just a quick addendum to my earlier article on competency based education. Things go round and much of my experience was from providing professional development to teachers and trainers for the UK around the introduction of the competency based National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs)in the early 1990s. At the same time the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, charged with the development of the NVQs established a development group which I was a member of and which held lengthy discussions over issues which arose in trialling and evaluation of the new qualifications. Some of the issues I talked about in the last article including the particularly contentious discussions around knowledge.
Another issue which caused much debate was that of level. In the past longer courses tended to have a higher level, but since competence based qualifications were supposed to replace the updated time serving involved in earning, this was a non-starter. Some argued that it was illogical to even try to prescribe level to a competence – either someone was competent or they were not. But political pressures meant there must be levels so the pressure then was to find any consistent way of doing it. It is some time since I last looked ta UK vocational qualifications and I do not know how the levels are presently being determined. But back in the 1990s it was essentially determined by the degree of autonomy or responsibility that someone held in a job. If they mostly followed instructions then their competence was at a low level, if they were responsible for managing others their level of competence was much higher. Of course, this led to all kinds of strange anomalies which were in the best traditions of UK pragmatism juggled with until the level of the qualification felt about right.
I will try and find some of the longer papers I wrote at the time which may still have some relevance for current debates over competency based education.
I got this diagram from a report by Katherine Hockey on the Accelerating Digital Transformation in Higher Education conference, I’ll write more about some of the topics Katherine raises, but for the moment just want to focus on Competency Based Learning.
Katherine says “Higher education learning may be open to change regarding teaching methods. Competency-based learning is being implemented at UEL, whereby the structure of a course is not linear in the traditional sense: the learner chooses modules at an order and pace that suits them. This aims at increasing employability, and was met initially with reservations but soon became popular with academics.”
Lets take the first sentence first. It seems to me that there is no doubt that Higher Education in general is open to new teaching methods. There may have been in the past resistance to using technology in education – partly based on a lack f competence and confidence in using technology as part of teaching and learning – but there have always been islands of exciting experimentation and innovation. The question has been how to move out from the islands.
But it is a big jump to equate openness to change with competency based education. Competency based education itself is hardly new – in the early 1990s the UK reformed its Vocational Education and Training provision to move to competency based qualifications under the National Council for Vocational Qualifications (NCVQ). It was not an unqualified success. And there are disturbing parallels between what NCVQ said at the time and the University of East London’s diagram.
Firstly is the myth that employers always know best. Just why a qualification developed with employers should be valid, and one developed without employers not is beyond me. The problem with employers is that they tend to look to the present or the short term future in defining skills requirements. Nd there is a difference between the skills that individual employers may require – or even groups of employers – and the wider knowledge and skills required to be flexible and forward looking in employment today. But even then would this be con
Another problem that beset NVQs was the relationship between ‘competence’ and knowledge and how to define performance to meet such competence. The NVQ system evolved, starting out with bald functional competence statements (yes, developed with employers), but later including ‘performance’ criteria and ‘underpinning knowledge.’ But even then was achievement of these standards considered as ‘mastery’? Some argued that it would be necessary to define the context in which the skills should be evidenced, others that there should be frequent (although how many and how often was never agreed) demonstrations of performance. And then of course there was the question of who is qualified to recognise the University of East London student’s mastery? How is there competence to act as assessors to be defined and assessed?
One of the big arguments for National Vocational Qualifications was the need to move away from time serving and have personalised and flexible routes whereby individuals could choose what they wanted to learn. In fact, some at NCVQ went further arguing that learning as an activity should be separated from qualifications. Once more few went down this route. Courses continued to be the way to qualifications, although there were a number of (quite expensive) experiments with recognising prior competences.
I would be deeply suspicious of just what they mean by “tuition model is subscription based”? This seems like just another attempt to package up education for sale in nice chunks: a step forward in the privatisation of education. But if past experiences of competency evangelism are anything to go by, this one will fail.
“Blended learning (the merging of technology and face-to-face) involves learners in the construction of their own learning. But a recent survey by Sheffield Hallam University showed that there’s inconsistency in learners’ experiences of this – a concern likely shared across the country.
Students also said that they expected the majority of their learning to be supported by an online platform. As a result, Sheffield Hallam University has created a set of “minimum expectations” for their teaching staff to encourage them to publish learning resources online, give online assessment feedback and use social media for student-staff collaboration.”
Without having read the full report from Sheffield, I wonder how much learners on blended learning programmes really are involved in the construction of their own learning and how they are supported in that process. It is also interesting to see the university turning to social media for student staff collaboration. Guess I need to read the report!
I have been working on the contents for week 4 of the free #EmployID MOOC on The Changing World of Work, taking place on the European EMMA platform and starting in late March. Week 4 is all about Labour Market Information – or as I prefer to call it, Labour Market Intelligence – and how we can use labour market data both for job seekers and young people choosing careers and by advisers and other professionals working in the careers and labour market domain.
One of the major challenges is how to represent data. This presentation, Data is beautiful: Techniques, tools and apps for sharing your results by Laura Ennis, provides some good practical advice on how to present data. It come from a talk she did at Leap Into Research 2017.
I’ve been bogged down for the past two weeks writing reports and trying to catch up on a dreadful backlog of work. But that’s another story.
Amongst other things, this week I am producing content for the European EmployID MOOC on the ‘Changing World of Work.‘ As the blurb says:
Do you want to be prepared for the challenges of the changing labour market?
Do you want to better understand and apply skills related to emotional awareness, active listening, reflection, coaching skills, peer coaching and powerful questioning?
Do you want to explore tools for handling Labour Market Information (LMI) and the digital agenda?
This course has been devised as part of the European EmployID project, for Public Employment Services (PES) practitioners and careers professionals. Our 5 lessons will run over a period of 6 weeks with an estimated workload of 3.5 hours per week; the total workload is expected to be 17.5 hours.
I am producing the content for week 5, on Labour Market Information. Its not by any means the first content I have written for on-line courses, but I still feel I am learning.
I find it quite hard to gauge how much content to produce and how long it will take to work through it. I also find it hard switching from writing academic stuff and reports to writing course material and getting the language register right.
One thing I am trying to do, is add more multi media content. The big issue here is work flow and production. I am pretty happy with the video above. OK it only lasts one and a half minutes but I managed to make it from scratch in about two hours.
I made it using the Apple keynote presentation software. All the images come from the brilliant Pixabay website and are in the public domain. And then it was just a question of adding the audio which can now be done inside Keynote, exporting to video and uploading to YouTube. I am planning to make two or three more videos as part of the course. It is much faster than editing video and still produces a reasonabel result I think.