Archive for the ‘MOOCs’ Category

What is the discourse behind the Open Education Challenge

January 23rd, 2014 by Graham Attwell

I don’t know quite what to think about the Open Education Challenge. It is good that the European Commission is working to support start up companies in education and especially interesting to note the impressive list of people available to help mentor new start ups. However, 20 companies hardly represents a critical mass and secondly I am not sure that the trudging successful applicants for twelve weeks around “successive European cities: Barcelona, Paris, London, Berlin and Helsinki| is the best way to do things.

And although the project is running under the new EU Open Education strap line, it is a bit hard to see just what is open about it (apart from anyone can apply). Worrying is the language of the web site: Europe will be the leading education market for years to come. Is this just another step to using technology to privatise and marketise education? True the talk is of transforming education, not disrupting it. But i am not quite sure what they mean by “All projects are welcome; the only condition is that they must contribute to transforming education.”

I am much impressed with Martin Weller’s blog on the The dangerous appeal of the Silicon Valley narrative. He argues that the popular discourse around MOOCs  conforms to the silicon valley narrative, proposing a revolution and disruption. He quotes Clay Shirky as saying  “Higher education is now being disrupted; our MP3 is the massive open online course (or MOOC)”. It also suggests that the commercial, external provider will be the force of change, stating that “and our Napster is Udacity, the education startup”. Martin Weller goes on to say MOOCs “were established as separate companies outside of higher education, thus providing interest around business models and potential profits by disrupting the sector. This heady mix proved too irresistible for many technology or education journalists.”

So where does the EU Open Education initiative fit in terms of different discourses. Is it a project aiming at opening up education and developing new pedagogies or is it a market orientated initiative aiming to develop the Silicon Valley discourse in Europe?

 

Survey on online learning in the UK

January 14th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

The Guardian newspaper has published the headline results of an interesting survey of people in the UK, undertaken in conjunction with the Open University. I’ll comment on a few of the findings.

48% of (presumably those with degrees) stated that they felt their degree has been beneficial in terms of getting a job in today’s economic climate. And that leaves a somewhat surprising 52% who felt their degree had not helped them get a job! Over 50% of 18-24 year olds feel obliged to get additional qualifications – once more possibly casting doubt of the value of an initial degree, especially given how expensive higher education is in the UK.

39% if those who have spent time developing their skills have done so online and one in five people have done or are currently doing an online course. However 45% said they would only consider doing an online course if it led to an official certificate and only 8% had heard of MOOCs.

This leads to a lot of questions. Sadly the original data – including the wording of the questions is not available on the Guardian web site. It would also be important to know more about how the sample was selected. And whilst the form of the presentation is graphically engaging, I am not sure how useful such headlines are for serious research.The Guardian has published the survey to Extreme Learning, “a special series run in association with the Open University, which will examine how online learning is evolving – and what this means for students, lecturers and universities.”

The problem with the launch article is that they appear to be conflating online learning with MOOCs and then using current academic and press scepticism about MOOCs with the future of online learning. I suspect that after the MOOC hype dies down MOOcs will become another a regular part of the online learning scene. But they will be by no means the only part. And once more depending on how the sample was selected, its seems to me more remarkable that 8% of the population has heard about MOOCs rather than the 92 per cent who had not.

The accreditation issue is concerning. Here i have only questions. To what extent is it the case that employers do not recognise learning achievement without certification and to what extent is that a perception by learners. If it is so, is this a cultural peculiarity of the UK, or a wider phenomenon (I know that in Spain everything seems to have a certificate). What chance does this give for initiatives like Mozilla badges to take off and what would they have to do to get badges (socially) recognised.

I hope the Guardian and the Open University will move on to consider other forms of online learning. In particular I would hope they think about informal and self directed learning which is probably more important than all the online university courses put together. And I hope too they look at work based and vocational learning, rather than just focusing on university courses.

 

 

 

MOOC Directory

August 14th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Interested in signing up for a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). With new courses and course providers appearing daily it can be hard to find out what is on offer. Here is a short list of directories of MOOCs to make that choice easy:

MOOC List – http://www.mooc-list.com/

Techno Duet – http://www.technoduet.com/a-comprehensive-list-of-mooc-massive-open-online-courses-providers/

MOOC.ca – http://www.mooc.ca/courses.htm

MOOC News and Reviews – http://moocnewsandreviews.com/mooc-around-the-world-our-global-list-open-online-classes-part-3/

 

Connectivist MOOCs – http://www.connectivistmoocs.org/

 

Class Central – http://www.class-central.com

 

Some thoughts about MOOCs

August 14th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

I’ve avoided writing  much about MOOCs lately. Not because I am not interested or because I don’ think MOOCs are important, but mainly because I have been overwhelmed by the deluge of announcements and developments, blog posts, studies and lets face it, just hype.

Some couple of weeks ago, I was invited to join a partnership for a tender application to the EU about MOOCs for web developers. So I have spent soem time looking rather more intensively at the literature and trying to make some sense of it. Here are a few observations.

Firstly are MOOCs really disrupting universities. I guess the answer is yes and no. The great majority of MOOCs are free, and despite emergent business models around for example, selling e books or charging for accreditation, there remains question marks over the business models for MOOCs. Of course if the purpose and structure of universities is to provide free and open higher education then this wouldn’t be so important. But in an era where university funding in many countries is increasingly reliant on fees, this does become a major issue.

However, I am by no means convinced that those signing up for MOOCs – and there are a lot of enrolments – are students who would have previously signed up for a fee bearing course. Instead I think the real phenomenon of MOOCs is that they show the massive pent up demand for education. Some of this is to learn new skills but I suspect many participants are just driven by personal interest. Indeed a study we undertook some six or seven years ago on the use of technology for learning in Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) (download book as PDF here), found that although few employers were aware of the potential, many employees were participating in job related on-line learning, more often through participation in communities, out of personal interest.I suspect that MOOCs should better be compared to community and adult education, rather than to university programmes. In some countries such as Germany face to face provision of community education is continuing to thrive, but in other countries like the UK the economic crisis and subsequent cuts in public expenditure have devastated provision.

We also found out through the SME study that most SME employees were not particularly concerned with accreditation and certification – indeed some told us that if the learning programme was to be assessed that would be a deterrent to their participation. So although it is often said that the lack of accreditation or credentialism other than certificates of participation is a problem for MOOCs I am far from convinced this is so.

A further much commented issue is the very high drop out rates – or non completion – on MOOC courses. Once more, I am unconvinced this is a major issue. I suspect that many MOOC curriculum designers may be underestimating the time it takes to properly participate in a course and that of course is a problem. But I suspect that many people are dropping in and out of courses, following the parts in which they are most interested. I suspect that large MOOC providers like edX and Coursera may change their design to provide shorter or unit based programmes.

There is nothing new in this of course. Curriculum designers have been providing modular or unit based courses for years, and despite the danger of incoherence, these have been largely successful. In our study of the use of technology in SMEs, we were surprised at the ability of learners to structure their own learning and to judge the level of learning resources that they needed.

The lack of feedback and support for learners through a MOOC may be a more serious issue. Of course this varies greatly, with cMOOC providers seeking to develop community peer support.  I think MOOC designers are going to have to rethink how support can best be developed in the future.

Many observers have pointed out that in reality there is nothing new about MOOCs and in a densely cited Wikipedia article on MOOCs traces their precursors back to the correspondence courses of the late 19th Century. And indeed, although there is considerable innovation in the original cMOOC design, many of the ‘mass produced; MOOCs show little different than online courses which have been available for some time. To that extent MOOCs may just mark the final coming of age of Technology Enhanced Education or whatever we choose to call it. Possibly the interest may reflect a younger generation who have grown up with Google and are used to managing their own learning to a greater or lesser extent through the web. Possibly it may also reflect more ubiquitous connectivity, the spread of mobile devises and the ease of producing, distributing and consuming video. Indeed perhaps most worrying is that many MOOCs retain the weakness of previous incarnations of online learning with little interactivity or social learning.

having said this, there are many flavours of MOOcs and I suspect that we will see more and very different models develop over the next year or so. Perhaps calling them all MOOcs is not particularly helpful and there have been many suggestions of different names of different varieties. Yet the term MOOC has seized public attention – or more prperly the attention of teh press. Incidentally, the fact that some of the more right wing news media are using MOOCs to announce the end of public education should not put us off; such pronouncements can be found with the advent of radio and television as well.

More important is the learner experience and here more work is needed on design rubrics and evaluation tools: data mining cannot provide sufficient feedback alone.

My own interest is in the potential of MOOCs for vocational and occupational learning, both initial training and perhaps more importantly continuing education and training. Here I think their are some significant challenges which I will write more of tomorrow.

 

Conferences, Digital Champions, and MOOCs

May 26th, 2013 by Cristina Costa

The last few weeks have been really enriching at a personal level in the sense I have participated in several different events. Some as a speaker/trainer; others simply as a delegate. These days, it is hard for someone to go to an event and not have an active role. Usually we go to present our work; and not solely to absorb the experiences others have to share. In a way, this is unfortunate because I think sometimes I spend more time stressing  over  my presentation  than I do concentrating on other people’s contributions. Yet, sharing our work is also important as it enables us to establish new contacts, talk to people who might have similar experiences, etc. In short I can’t decide which one is better, the stress of presenting or the comfort of being a delegate. I think both are important.

A couple weeks ago I went to Southampton to attend the Digital Literacies conference organised by CITE (Hugh Davis, Lisa Harris, and Fiona Harvey). It was a magnificent event. I loved the fact that they are developing really innovative initiatives that really put the learners at the centre. It’s nice to see this happening in Higher Education and having the support of the people above (the management team). The Digital Champions initiative is a proof of that. I wish (or better, I hope) that in the future we are able to develop a similar approach in my own institution.

 

As part of the event students enrolled on to another really impressive initiative – the multi-disciplinary module on Living and Working on the Web – presented their experiences in developing digital literacies and what it means to their present and future careers.

To know how to use the web smartly is becoming more and more important. And this not only applies to young generations, but to people from all ages, different sectors and backgrounds. The problem here is to convince not only such target audiences, but also those who are managing lifelong learning programmes for their communities. There is still a lot of prejudice about offering such opportunities to older, more experienced generations under the pretext they aren’t really into it. Yet, if this is the way forward aren’t we letting down those who want to up skill or re-skill in a market that is increasingly digital? I still don’t have a lot of answers, but recent talks with peers in and outside my own institution tells me this is becoming an issue as our own perception of who should be using social media is the first real obstacle. :-(

 

I started a MOOC this week… well I started a week late because I was reliant on a notification from the course leader that either never arrived or landed in my spam box. Anyway, after experiencing the pre-MOOCs via the Webheads in Action (to whom I owe all my enthusiasm for social forms of learning and the media that can support it) I did have a go at the first MOOCs in 2008 and 2009… but I was never really convinced by them simply because they were rather overwhelming, not only in terms of the number of people they attracted but  also, and mostly, because of the cliques it managed to generate. Learning technologist learning about learning technologies is a bit of a biased practice. It can become a vicious cycle of reporting about the same experiences all over again, without much of a challenge.

When Coursera and other similar initiates came along, I resisted it! Or better put, I signed up to some of the course simply to observe how they were being conducted… I did not engage.
A couple of weeks ago I made the conscious decision of enrolling to a course I know very little about. I chose the History of Rock – Part I because it is a topic that appeals to me (not that I can play or sing any kind of music. I can hardly dance too, but I like a good gig!). As I mentioned before I arrived late to the course… in week 2! But I have now started using the resources. I like the videos. They are short and concise in the message they aim to convey, and Professor John Covach is an eloquent speaker. [The teacher as a performer is content for another post though ...] The quizzes are also OK as a mini challenge… as a form of testing myself. But that is just for me.  There are also discussion fora but I haven’t yet had any patience for those. The threads either don’t interest me or have grown too long for me to plough trough. My fault, I know. …

As far as this MOOC goes, I like it. I like it for its subject area. Yet, I don’t think there is anything there that is new or radically different from other forms of enabling learning in the classroom. And maybe that is not the purpose. Yet, I’d  like to see more of the idea of “students as creators” in MOOCs …but then we would have a problem of support! [having said that, I do like watching the videos. It's like watching youtube videos, something I have grown quite fond of as part of my learning strategy...]

This week Professor Martin Weller wrote a very thought provoking post about the role of MOOCs if education is/were free. I think that is a very good point. I don’t see MOOCs as replacing Higher Education. They are not inclusive at all. And in most cases, they are used as a marketing tool, thus, in my opinion, defeating that philanthropic purpose of “openness” . The way I see it, the value of Universities offering open courses is in providing opportunities for people to learn subjects they would probably not formally enroll to or pay for … as in my case with the “history of the Rock”!!  I’m simply curious. I have no potential of becoming an artist or even a music historian. I like the fact that I can do it without the pressure of formal assessment. So I see MOOCs as a way of HEIs, as publicly funded institution, proving a service to the wider community. Yet, I fear that MOOCs are mainly serving those who are already highly educated and see this as an opportunity to enhance their skills. Moreover, what I miss in MOOCs is the familiarity of smaller networked learning initiatives where people really develop learning interrelationships based on the affinities they share. I am sorry to say this, but nothing tops the Webheads in Action on this matter. Yet, I recognise that things have moved on. The “web population” has increased dramatically since their first course in 2002… but I feel we need more human touch in the way we deploy these technologies for learning. As  Ursula Franklin so rightly puts it, Technology is not only an artifact, but a system of social practices!

 

*Apologies for the ramblings. It has been extremely difficult for me to write in the last few weeks. I’m going through yet another “writer’s block”, I guess.

MOOCs to take off in Germany?

May 21st, 2013 by Graham Attwell

The German educations ystem can be slow to change. But when initiatives are taken they are taken seriously! And Germany is now moving into the world of MOOCs.

The Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft and iversity, has launched a “MOOC Production Fellowship” contest.

Their web site explains:

The contest seeks to identify ten innovative concepts for massive open online courses (MOOCs). Fellows will receive funding as well as assistance with course production. Stifterverband and iversity hope to raise awareness for the tremendous potential of digital technology in education and seek to activate a process of creative adaptation within the academic community.

Up to ten instructors or teams of instructors will be awarded a fellowship for their innovative Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) concepts. Fellows will receive a 25,000 Euro stipend to pay for the production of their courses. The aim is to have at least five courses online in the fall of 2013. Up to five courses may go online in the spring of 2014. The courses will run on the iversity platform and will be available to the public free of charge.

Fellows will receive 25,000 Euros to implement their MOOC concepts. There will be a public award ceremony, and fellows with receive ongoing support during both the production and marketing phases of the project.

The grant will enable the fellows to manifest their course concept vision. ….

Ulitmately, fellows are free how they want to produce the course: whether all by themselves, alongside other fellows, with outside service providers, or in collaboration with development partners we recommend. The fellowship funds can be used for production costs, research and/or student assistants, equipment or a teaching buyout.

The winners of the competition will be decided based on votes on a public web site and on the considerations of a jury.

In best German fashion the web site provides guidance on the ‘didactic’ design of a MOOC including:

  • Course structure
  • Video
  • Feedback and assessment
  • Peer to Peer learning

And in best German fashion there are strict entry requirements: only assistant, associate or full professors are eligible.

The section on peer to peer learning is somewhat curious. It starts off by explaining “A third element of open course instruction is peer-to-peer learning. Students can post, browse and respond to other students’ questions in the context of a course forum. They can vote for questions, bringing the most pressing queries to the instructor’s attention.” Not so much peer to peer learning but a forum for asking the ;instructor questions. And it ends even more curiously by insisting “These online courses are supposed to be xMOOCs rather than cMOOCs.”

Perhaps this is something to do with the organisations behind the competition. According to TechCrunch, Iversity is a Berlin-based startup, founded in 2011 to offer online collaboration tools for learning management, which has relaunched itself as a platform for massive open online courses. Iversity’s existing investors, says TechCrunch,  include BFB Frühphasenfonds Brandenburg, bmp media investors AG and the Business Angel Masoud Kamali.

Course content will be provided by universities and individual professors. It remains open as to what business model is seen as appropriate for the still publicly funded German education system, but it seems it may include certification fees for students.

MOOCs and beyond

May 14th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

A special issue of the online journal eLearning Papers has been released entitled MOOCs and beyond. Editors Yishay Mor and Tapio Koshkinen say the issue brings together in-depth research and examples from the field to generate debate within this emerging research area.

They continue: “Many of us seem to believe that MOOCs are finally delivering some of the technology-enabled change in education that we have been waiting nearly two decades for.

This issue aims to shed light on the way MOOCs affect education institutions and learners. Which teaching and learning strategies can be used to improve the MOOC learning experience? How do MOOCs fit into today’s pedagogical landscape; and could they provide a viable model for developing countries?

We must also look closely at their potential impact on education structures. With the expansion of xMOOC platforms connected to different university networks—like Coursera, Udacity, edX, or the newly launched European Futurelearn—a central question is: what is their role in the education system and especially in higher education?”

European MOOCs

April 23rd, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Partners in 11 countries have joined forces to launch the first pan-European ‘MOOCs’ (Massive Open Online Courses) initiative, with the support of the European Commission. MOOCs are online university courses which enable people to access quality education without having to leave their homes. Around 40 courses, covering a wide variety of subjects, will be available free of charge and in 12 different languages. The initiative is led by the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU) and mostly involves open universities. The partners are based in the following countries: France, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, UK, Russia, Turkey and Israel. Detailed information about the initiative and the courses on offer is available on the portal www.OpenupEd.eu.

Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, welcomes the new initiative: “This is an exciting development and I hope it will open up education to tens of thousands of students and trigger our schools and universities to adopt more innovative and flexible teaching methods. The MOOCs movement has already proved popular, especially in the US, but this pan-European launch takes the scheme to a new level. It reflects European values such as equity, quality and diversity and the partners involved are a guarantee for high-quality learning. We see this as a key part of the Opening up Education strategy which the Commission will launch this summer.”

Personal Learning Environments (in Spanish)

April 22nd, 2013 by Graham Attwell

My Spanish is (very) poor. But I am proud to have a chapter, ¿Dónde vamos con los entornos personales de aprendizaje? ,  in the newly published and free Spanish language book on Perosnal Learning Environments, ” Entornos personales de aprendizaje: claves para el ecosistema educativo en red“edited by Linda Castañeda and Jordi Adell. The book which can be downloaded in PDF format as chapters or as a whole from the book website is 192 pages long and contains contributions from such august authors as Jesús Salinas, Ricardo Torres Kompen, Cristina Costa, Ismael Peña-López, Carlos Santos, Luis Pedro, Alec Couros and Gráinne Conole, amongst others.

In their introduction (according to Google translate) Linda Castañeda and Jose Adell say:

The interest of Personal Learning Environments (PLE, for its acronym in English) is not so much in its conceptual or technological innovation, as in the assumption of a perspective on education that seeks to respond to massive technological and cultural change that has taken place in the last two decades in our society.

From our perspective, the issue of PLE is a node, and hopefully a turning point, at the crossroads of thought, discussion and practice on what to learn and how to learn-and teach-in early XXI century. A magnificent opportunity to reflect on how to alleviate poverty didactic supposedly disruptive initiatives (such as xMOOCs) or how to integrate technology in formal learning beyond providing digital study materials to students. If the PLE are “learning to learn with technology,” PLEs integrate in education is to help develop skills essential in a complex and changing world like ours.

However, reflection and debate on this topic has developed far more informal areas of the blogosphere that the traditional channels of research dissemination (journals and conferences) and, occasionally, with an orientation so excessively so overly technological or philosophical offered with few ideas applicable to everyday educational practice.

This book aims to give the reader an introduction to the concept of ecosystem PLE and pedagogical ideas underpinning it, plus some relevant experiences that exemplify how it can be used in practice in all levels of education and how research is approached from different PLEs perspectives.

There is not a book for experts or, at least, that was not our intention, but we believe that the expert will find it inspiring things. We intend to be an introductory book with a close but rigorous style that offers a modern perspective of the subject without forgetting that pedagogy takes some time exploring these roads.

Horizon Report – 2013

February 4th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

The New Media Consortium (NMC) and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) have released the NMC Horizon Report0> 2013 Higher Education Edition. This tenth edition describes annual findings from the NMC Horizon Project, a decade-long research project designed to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have an impact on learning, teaching, and creative inquiry in education. Six emerging technologies are identified across three adoption horizons over the next one to five years, as well as key trends and challenges expected to continue over the same period, giving campus leaders and practitioners a valuable guide for strategic technology planning.

This year’s NMC Horizon Report identifies massively open online courses (MOOCs) and tablet computing as technologies expected to enter mainstream use in the first horizon of one year or less. Games and gamification and learning analytics are seen in the second horizon of two to three years; 3D printing and wearable technology are seen emerging in the third horizon of four to five years.

Download the report at go.nmc.org/2013-hied.

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    We will broadcast from Berlin on the 5th and the 6th of December. Both times it will start at 11.00 CET and will go on for about 40 minutes.

    Go here to listen to the radio stream: SoB Online EDUCA 2013 LIVE Radio.

    The podcast of the first show on the 5th is here: SoB Online EDUCA 2013 Podcast 5th Dec.

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    News Bites

    Open online STEM conference

    The Global 2013 STEMx Education Conference claims to be the world’s first massively open online conference for educators focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and more. The conference is being held over the course of three days, September 19-21, 2013, and is free to attend!
    STEMxCon is a highly inclusive event designed to engage students and educators around the globe and we encourage primary, secondary, and tertiary (K-16) educators around the world to share and learn about innovative approaches to STEMx learning and teaching.

    To find out about different sessions and to login to events go to http://bit.ly/1enFDFB


    Open Badges

    A new nationwide Open Badges initiative has been launched by DigitalMe in the UK. Badge the UK has been developed to help organisations and businesses recognise young people’s skills and achievements online.

    Supported by the Nominet Trust, the Badge the UK initiative is designed to support young people in successfully making the transition between schools and employment using Mozilla Open Badges as a new way to capture and share skills across the web.

    At the recent launch event at Mozilla’s London HQ Lord Knight emphasised the “disruptive potential” of Open Badges within the current Education system. At a time of record levels of skills shortages and unemployment amongst young people all speakers stressed need for a new way to encourage and recognise learning which lead to further training and ultimately employment opportunities. Badge the UK is designed to help organisations and businesses see the value in using Mozilla Open Badges as a new way to recognise skills and achievement and and connect them to real world training and employment opportunities.

    You can find more information on the DigitalMe web site.


    Twitter feed

    Apologies for the broken Twitter feeds on this page. It seems Twitter have once more changed their APi, breaking our WordPress plug-in. It isn’t the first time and we will have to find another work around. Super tech, Dirk is on the case and we hope normal service will be resumed soon.


    MOOCs and beyond

    A special issue of the online journal eLearning Papers has been released entitled MOOCs and beyond. Editors Yishay Mor and Tapio Koshkinen say the issue brings together in-depth research and examples from the field to generate debate within this emerging research area.

    They continue: “Many of us seem to believe that MOOCs are finally delivering some of the technology-enabled change in education that we have been waiting nearly two decades for.

    This issue aims to shed light on the way MOOCs affect education institutions and learners. Which teaching and learning strategies can be used to improve the MOOC learning experience? How do MOOCs fit into today’s pedagogical landscape; and could they provide a viable model for developing countries?

    We must also look closely at their potential impact on education structures. With the expansion of xMOOC platforms connected to different university networks—like Coursera, Udacity, edX, or the newly launched European Futurelearn—a central question is: what is their role in the education system and especially in higher education?”


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