Brian Mulligan responded to my post on open MOOCs with a link to the Moocs4All web site. the web site includes this promo video for a free course held last year on ‘Making MOOCs on a budget. Brian says “Creating a course with thousands of participants is no longer something that only well-funded universities can do. Even individuals who are experts in their subject matter but not experts in technology and pedagogy are able to create a MOOC, simply by using the right set of tools and techniques.”
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.
Understanding Society has published its fifth annual report highlighting some of the new topical policy-relevant research conducted recently using data from the annual survey which began in 2009 with around 100,000 individuals from 40,000 households.
To support the Insights 2016 launch, the team also published a topic guide on education. This guide explores the content available to analyse in Understanding Society, highlights the types of research questions which could be explored and what research has already been carried out.
Over the last few weeks I seem to have been bombarded with calls for submissions for conferences. Most I have ignored on the grounds that they are just too expensive. And if I can’t afford them, working as a relatively senior researcher with project funding, what hope do emerging researchers have of persuading their universities or companies to pay. But tto be honest I am bored with most of the conferences. Formal papers, formally presented with perhaps ten or twenty people in a session and very limited time for discussion. We know there are better ways of learning!
One conference I have submitted an abstract to is AMEE. – the International Association for Medical Education. Apart from short communications, research papers and PhD presentations AMEE invites posters, Pecha Kucha, workshops, points of view and organises a fringe to the conference. Sounds good to me and as you might guess I have submitted a point of view. Here goes (in 300 words precisely) ……
The future of work is increasingly uncertain and that goes just as much for healthcare as other occupations. An ageing population is resulting in increasing demand for healthcare workers and advances in technology and science are resulting in new healthcare applications. At the same time technology promises a revolution in self-diagnosis, whilst Artificial Intelligence and robots may render many traditional jobs obsolete.
So what can we say about healthcare skills for the future and what does it mean for healthcare education. Whilst machines may take over more unskilled work, there is likely to be increasing demand for high skilled specialist healthcare workers as well as those caring for the elderly. These staff need to be confident and competent in using existing technologies and adapting to technologies of the future.
They will need to be self-motivated lifelong learners, resilient and capable of coping with changing occupational identities. They will need to collaborate in multidisciplinary teams leading to a high premium on communication skills.
Present processes of education and training based predominantly on face-to-face courses cannot cope with the needs of lifelong learning. Learning needs to be embedded in everyday work processes. Technology is critical here; ubiquitous connectivity and mobile devices allow context-based learning. The same technologies can promote informal and social learning, learning from peers and sharing experience and knowledge in personal learning networks. Already there are many MOOCs dedicated to medical education. Healthcare professionals are using social media to build informal learning networks. But these are the exceptions not the norm. In the future machine learning algorithms can support individuals wishing to deepen their knowledge, VR to share experiences. Yet although there is a rich potential, medical educators have to steer the process. We need to know what works, what doesn’t, to evaluate, to share. That needs to start now!
In what by now has become an annual event, we will be presenting Sounds of the Bazaar, the official online radio from Online Educa Berlin, on Thursday 3 and Friday 4 of December this week. The broadcasts will be from 11:00 to 11:45 CET. If you are a regular, we have a new venue this year – in the area of the Internet Café. If you are lucky enough to be at the conference and are willing to come on the programme could you email Graham Attwell – graham10 [at] mac [dot] com – saying which day is most convenient for you and what time in the programme suits you best. In general each slot lasts around 5 minutes.
And if you would like to catch up in person we will be preparing the shows in the Marlene Bar from about 1500 onwards tomorrow afternoon.
If you can’t make to to Online Educa in person, don’t despair. You can listen to all the best of the conference in our live radio shows. Just tune in at 11:00 CET on Thursday and Friday by pointing your internet browser to SoB Online EDUCA 2015 LIVE Radio and the live stream will open up in the MP3 player of your choice. Or go here to our new stream webpage.
This years The OEB Debate, provides discussion on one of the hottest topics for learners with the motion: ’This House believes 21st Century skills aren’t being taught – and they should be´.
Keynotes this year include Prof Ian Goldin, Chair at Oxford’s Martin Institute and former Vice President of the World Bank; Cory Doctorow, activist, author and journalist; David Price, learning futurist and the author of OPEN: How We’ll Work, Live and Learn In The Future’; Anka Mulder, Vice President for Education of the Delft University of Technology; Toby Walsh, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of New South Wales; John Higgins, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE and Lia Commissar, leader of the ‘Education and Neuroscience Initiative’ at the Wellcome Trust.
Another post on Open Educational Resources. Last week I talked about the early days with the SIGOSEE project, seeking to build awareness of the possibilities of Open Educational Resources and Open Source in education and to start to change policy directions, especially at European Commission level.
In these early projects, we had three main lines of activity. The first was awareness about changing what Open educational Resources were and especially about Creative Commons Licenses. The second was talking with all manner of different stakeholders, including educational organisations and administration, developers and even the more enlightened publishers about the advantage of OERs and pushing for policy changes. But by far the most time consuming work was with practitioners, organising workshops to show them how they could produce Open Educational resources themselves.
And whilst primary school teachers were long used to developing their own learning materials, with the help of sticky back paper, glue, paint and the like, teachers in secondary schools and higher education were much more used to using bought in materials. True, the photocopier had replaced the Banda machines, and data projectors were well on the way to spelling redundancy for overhead projectors. But teachers had little or no experience in producing ICT based learning materials themselves.
With the value of hindsight is was the development of reasonably easy to use content creation applications and even more the advent of Web 2.0 which changed this situation. I can’t quite remember the different work flows we originally created but I think most involved using Open Office to make materials and then using various work arounds to somehow get them into the different VLEs in use at that time (I also seem to remember considerable debates about whether we should allow the use of proprietary software in our workflows).
Interestingly at that time we say standards and metadata as the key answer, especially to allow materials to be played in any Virtual Learning Environment. But it was Web 2.0 and Open APIs allowed not only easy content creation but provided easy means of distribution. Video was expensive and difficult even 10 or so years ago. Even if you had a powerful enough computer to edit and render raw video (I used to leave my computer running overnight to render 30 minutes videos) the issue was how to distribute it. Now with YouTube and a basic WordPress site anyone can make an distribute their own videos (and add a Creative Commons License). Ditto for photos, audio cartoons etc.
Over the last few years the emphasis has shifted from how to create and share Open Educational Resources to how to use them for teaching and learning. And whist there seems to be progress that issue is not yet overcome.
For the second in this mini series on open education we ask ‘How open is open education’? How open is open sounds a bit of a stupid question. But lets just start by looking at some of the definitions of Open Education. According to wikipedia: “Open education is a philosophy about the way people should produce, share, and build on knowledge.”
Proponents of open education believe everyone in the world should have access to high-quality educational experiences and resources, and they work to eliminate barriers to this goal. Such barriers might include high monetary costs, outdated or obsolete materials, and legal mechanisms that prevent collaboration among scholars and educators.”
But the European Union is backing Open Education with their open education europa web site providing a “gateway to open education resources”. However they say they are enacting the Europe policy on ‘Opening up education’. This “proposes actions towards more open learning environments to deliver education of higher quality and efficacy and thus contributing to the Europe 2020 goals of boosting EU competitiveness and growth through better skilled workforce and more employment.”
These seem rather different goals. Is open education about a believe that everyone in the world should have access to high-quality educational experiences and resources of is it about boosting EU competitiveness and growth?
Lets make no mistake. The spread of open education resources, MOOCs, open access journals and of course Open Source Software are big steps forward. But how far have they taken us: how open is open. I am not sure whether by plan or serendipity but three of the keynote speakers at this years EDEN conference, held in Barcelona in June addressed this question, albeit with different accents.
Jim Groom attacked the soulless of corporate-driven ed tech saying “it robs the field of any deep, meaningful interrogation of the issues we need to be struggling with, such as digital identity, digital fluency the new cultures around piracy and privacy, student empowerment, and how we can begin to think like the web.” None of this happens in an LMS (or VLE), he said. “in fact, that systematic design of that system is anathema to all of these crucial elements of educating in the digital era.”
Jim highlighted how the edupunk discourse had been subverted by corporate and political interests. Rather than talking about new cultures they wanted to highlight the failure of public institutions.
Martin Weller’s speech was entitled the battle for openness (the title of his recent book). In an interview prior to the conference he said: “Generally I think the use of new tech has allowed education to be more flexible, and opened it up beyond the traditional notion of what constituted a university student. But there has also been some terrible hype about new developments, and technology can also been seen as a route for commercial interests to undermine the role of the university.”
And in a brainstorming performance Audrey Waters pointed out the contribution of education to the creation of the web. The web and open education is reliant on an open infrastructure but private and corporate interests were fighting to take control. She called this cultural imperialism.
There seems to be a common message here. Whilst there are advances in opening up education corporate interests (including governments) are subverting the discourses for their own purposes. Rather than seeing MOOCs as an opportunity to provide education to those who had no access or could not afford traditional courses (which is the same thing) Silicon Valley investors pumped money into private MOOC providers to the hope of disrupting education and opening upo the market for private capital (and profit). When investors started losing patience with how long this disruption was taking, founder of Udacity, Sebastion Thrun announced MOOCs were a “lousy product” and he saw the future in selling paid for closed inline training courses.
And rather than moving to genuine open publishing through federated online repositories, the UK government has backed the so called Gold Model which guarantees publishers a rick future income stream form authors (an article entitled ‘Open access fees hike universities’ journal bills‘ in this weeks Times Higher says universities are paying more than ever to publishers).
So Martin Weller is right – there is a battle for open. And that battle is getting ever wider. But as well as fighting on a day to day level over actions, we also need to become clear as to what our vision for openness is and how open we think open should be.
Graphic Recording of Keynotes by Maria Calvet. Video editing by Gabriel Gómez.
According to Class Central a quarter of the new MOOC users in 2016 came from regional MOOC providers such as XuetangX (China) and Miríada X (Latin America).
They list the top five MOOC providers by registered users:
Coursera – 23 million
edX – 10 million
XuetangX – 6 million
FutureLearn – 5.3 million
Udacity – 4 million
XuetangX burst onto this list making it the only non-English MOOC platform in top five.
In 2016, 2,600+ new courses (vs. 1800 last year) were announced, taking the total number of courses to 6,850 from over 700 universities.
Jobs in cyber security
In a new fact sheet the Tech Partnership reveals that UK cyber workforce has grown by 160% in the five years to 2016. 58,000 people now work in cyber security, up from 22,000 in 2011, and they command an average salary of over £57,000 a year – 15% higher than tech specialists as a whole, and up 7% on last year. Just under half of the cyber workforce is employed in the digital industries, while banking accounts for one in five, and the public sector for 12%.
Number students outside EU falls in UK
Times Higher Education reports the number of first-year students from outside the European Union enrolling at UK universities fell by 1 per cent from 2014-15 to 2015-16, according to data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
Data from the past five years show which countries are sending fewer students to study in the UK.
Despite a large increase in the number of students enrolling from China, a cohort that has grown by 12,500 since 2011-12, enrolments by students from India fell by 13,150 over the same period.
Other notable changes include an increase in students from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia and a fall in students from Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.
According to the Guardian, research conducted with more than 6,300 authors of journal articles, peer reviewers and journal editors revealed that over two-thirds of researchers who have never peer reviewed a paper would like to. Of that group (drawn from the full range of subject areas) more than 60% said they would like the option to attend a workshop or formal training on peer reviewing. At the same time, over two-thirds of journal editors told the researchers that it is difficult to find reviewers