Archive for the ‘MOOCs’ Category

FutureLearn team up with Microsoft for online AI course

November 18th, 2020 by Graham Attwell

As many of you will know, FutureLearn is the UK Open Universities MOOC arm, run in conjunction with an international consortium of universities. But, I guess like everyone else, FutureLearn is under pressure to make some money. Their first go was offering paid for certificates for course completion. Another attempt has been to persuade people to sign up for an annual subscription, keeping courses open for a year if they pay.

The latest is to partner with industries for courses providing micro accreditation, in some cases industry recognised. So in December Future Learning is launching “Artificial Intelligence on Microsoft Azure: Machine Learning and Python Basics‘, created by CloudSwft and inc conjunction with Microsoft. “On this microcredential”, they say ” you’ll address this challenge by developing key AI skills that can serve as the first steps towards becoming an AI engineer, business analyst, or AI professional.” And, “Yes. If you successfully complete this microcredential, you’ll receive a voucher to sit a separate exam to earn the Microsoft Azure AI Fundamentals (AI-900) and Microsoft Azure AI Engineer Associate (AI-100) certification.”

Why would FutureLearn be giving away vouchers for sitting Microsoft exams. It could be because the 15 week course costs 584 Euros to enroll.  Much as I like microcredentially, this seems a long way from FutureLearn’s past MOOCs free for participation. And if as the course information claims, “artificial intelligence skills are frequently listed among the most in-demand workplace skills in the current and future job market, as organisations seek to harness AI to revolutionise their operations” and “employers are faced with a shortfall of qualified candidates” surely this is an area where public education and trainings services should be providing online course, rather than restricting access to those who can afford to pay for learning new skills.

 

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European Union, AI and data strategy

July 9th, 2020 by Graham Attwell
lens, colorful, background

geralt (CC0), Pixabay

is the rapporteur for the industry committe for European Parliament’s own-initiative  on data strategy and  a standing rapporteur on the World Trade Organization e-commerce negotiations in the European Parliament’s international trade committee.

Writing in Social Europe she says:

Building a human-centric data economy and human-centric artificial intelligence starts from the user. First, we need trust. We need to demystify the data economy and AI: people tend to avoid, resist or even fear developments they do not fully understand.

Education plays a crucial role in shaping this understanding and in making digitalisation inclusive. Although better services—such as services used remotely—make life easier also outside cities, the benefits of digitalisation have so far mostly accrued to an educated fragment of citizens in urban metropoles and one of the biggest obstacles to the digital shift is lack of awareness of new possibilities and skills.

Kampula-Natri draws attention to the Finnish-developed, free online course, ‘Elements of AI’. This started as a course for students in the University of Helsinki but has extended  its reach to over 1 per cent of Finnish citizens.

Kampula-Natri points out that in the Nordic countries, the majority of participants on the ‘Elements of AI’ course are female and in the rest of the world the proportion exceeds 40 per cent—more than three times as high as the average ratio of women working in the technology sector. She says that after the course had been running in Finland for a while, the number of women applying to study computer science in the University of Helsinki increased by 80 per cent.

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Microcredentials: a new way of monetarising MOOCs?

June 26th, 2020 by Graham Attwell
block chain, data, records

geralt (CC0), Pixabay

There is a bit of a buzz going on at the moment around micro credentials. At the European Distance Learning Network (EDEN) annual conference this week, not only did Anthony Camilleri from the European MicroHE project deliver a keynote presentation on micro credentials but there was three follow up sessions based on the work of the projects

Anthony Camilleri says that “HEIs are increasingly confronted with requests from learners to recognize outside learning such as MOOCs as credit towards a degree. For those, students look for the most prestigious and up to date learning opportunities, which they often find online.” He believes the “recognition of micro-credentials can enhance student motivation, responsibility and determination, enabling more effective learning.”

However, it is noted that there remain barriers to the widespread development of micro credentials. These include scaling procedures for the recognition of prior learning, the emergence of parallel systems of credentials and open courses offered by universities do not necessarily award recognised forms of credit.

The MicroHe project is proposing a harmonised European approach to recognizing and transferring open education digital credentials thus enabling virtual student mobility, and “empowering students to adapt their learning portfolio to changing labour market demands and new technological trends.”

A further argument put forward for Microcredentials is that they provide “an alternative approach towards handling the development needs of the modern-day learner, not only helping individual competence development but also offer increased flexibility and personalization.”

Although the COVID crisis has focused attention on the potential (and possibly, the necessity) of digital course provision a major driver which predates the crisis is the speed of development of automation and AI. There are different predictions of the impact on jobs and perhaps more importantly the tasks with jobs. This diagramme is from a forthcoming publication produced for the Taccle AI project.

But, however it plays out, it seems likely that there will be a need for retraining or upskilling for a significant number of people, and also that there will be increasing demand for highly skilled workers. Microcredentials may well be part of the answer to this need and universities could have a key role in providing online education and training.

However, the question of who pays will be critical. It is interesting that FurtureLearn, the MOOC consortium led by the UK Open University, is getting in on the action. Previously attempts to monetarize their MOOCs has been through charging a fee for certification or extended access to content. But in a email circular this week they announced a new MOOC, run in conjunction with Tableau.

In the age of analytics, transforming large datasets into meaningful customer value is essential to effective data-driven business practice” they say.
“On our new microcredential, Data Analytics for Business with Tableau, starting 13 July, you’ll develop the in-demand data analytics skills you need to progress in your field as a business or data analyst.” The course lasts twelve weeks and is certified by the University of Coventry. It is targeted at early-stage or aspiring data or business analyst, business professional and business or arts graduates looking to start their first professional role. And the cost: 584 Euro for a twelve-week online programme. The course looks very good and the model of micro credentialing could well work. But the cost is likely to be prohibitive for many people, unless, of course there is funding for individuals doing such courses.

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Getting ready for the holiday break – Looking forward to next year

December 15th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my recent posts I have summarised the results that have been achieved for the EU-funded project TACCLE 4 CPD from the perspective of vocational education and training (VET). In addition I have provided insights into the work with Open Educational Resources (OER) as support for vocational teaching/learning arrangements. Altogether I have been relatively pleased when wrapping up the achievements by the end of the year. As I see it, I have completed my tasks for the project and thus I can enjoy the holiday break.

Before going on holiday I would like to make one point concerning the contribution of our project to the field of adult education. At the end of October I was invited to visit the kick-off meeting of a new EU-funded project “Artificial intelligence (AI) and vocational education and training (VET)”. In my guest presentation I had the chance to inform the participants of the initiative of the Finnish Government to provide online training for the whole population in matters related to AI. By that time the course “The Elements of AI“ had already reached one fifth of the population and it was gaining wider popularity. The partners of the new project were very interested of this course. In November I wrote a blog post of this working visit.

Later on I was informed that the Finnish government has promoted this course as n initiative of the Finnish EU-presidency. In this context the course will be made available in all EU languages and the goal is to educate 1% of the European citizens in the basics of AI.

I cannot claim that I would be an expert in AI or in organising such online courses. But I would assume that this particular pilot case is interesting for our project and in particular for its contribution to the field of adult education. I leave this idea at this point and let us see if we can get further in the beginning of next year.

I wish all my partners and contributors in the project and all readers of this blog a merry Christmas break and a good slide to the New Year 2020!

More blogs to come (in the new year 2020) …

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Proxies, learning, deschooling society and annotation

May 11th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Ivan_Illich_drawingSipping a glass of wine on the terrace last night, I thought about writing an article about proxies. I’ve become a bit obsessed about proxies, ever since looking at the way Learning Analytics seems to so often equate learning with achievement in examinations.

But then by chance this morning I ended up looking at the text of Ivan Illich’s 1969 publication ‘Deschooling Society‘. And I found in the first chapter Illich talks about about how we “confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new.

He goes on to say pupils’ “imagination is “schooled” to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavour are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question.”

This seems an apposite comment on how the use and analysis of big data is being developed in the present period.

I stumbled on the Illich quote from a Twitter link to an exercise on the CLMOOC lets be creative together website. They ask “What would Ivan Illich think about CLMOOC?” and go on to suggest “we find activities like this all the more enjoyable and enriching when a variety of voices join the conversation. So this is an open invitation to the internet to join us as we use Hypothes.is to annotate an online copy of Deschooling Society together.”

I have not seen Hypothes.is before but it looks pretty nifty. I have never understood just why collective annotation has never quite taken off. It seems to me a great format for sharing and developing knowledge together. And I think Illich would have liked it.

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Conversational learning and evidence based education

September 12th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

I have missed out on this autumn’s conference circuit. I just DJg4lLdXUAAiqw8don’t have the money to pay for fees and travel (let alone beer) in attending these events. I am not sure that I actually miss the conferences themselves, but I do miss meeting friends and catching up with what is going on.

And of course, it is increasingly possible to at least dip in to conferences online these days. What with mobile phones and twitter you can almost watch the slides progressing in real time. This morning I noticed one presentation seemed to be getting a lot of my twitter feed. It was Mike Sharples speaking at the ALTALC tagged conference – it took me some time to suss out the ALC stood for the Active Learning Conference taking place at Anglia Ruskin University.

A couple of slides interested me.The slide above is based on the Open University FutureLearn platform. This sums up perfectly how we have used the platform in the EmployID project for running (sadly not open) courses on the Future of Work for employees from the UK Department for Works and Pensions (the UK Public Employment Service. The evaluation showed the courses to be a great success (more on this tomorrow). But I am not so convinced to what degree the FutureLearn platform helped our pedagogic approach – at best I would say it hindered us less than other MOOC platforms we have used.DJg2tuIXcAA5A_X

The second slide also rings true – at least to my experience in using technology for professional development. It is not always easy to link online professional development to practice. But I am ever more sure this is critical to effective learning. Learning spaced over time is an interesting idea in an age of quick bite learning. Of course it depends learning over how much time. Ideally the learning should evolve in line with the practice – but that is not easy to achieve.

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MOOC providers in 2016

March 16th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

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:

  1. Coursera – 23 million
  2. edX – 10 million
  3. XuetangX – 6 million
  4. FutureLearn – 5.3 million
  5. 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.

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March 15th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

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.”

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The open in MOOC must include the ability to create courses

March 14th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

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.

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Making Multimedia for MOOCs

February 22nd, 2017 by Graham Attwell


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.

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    Racial bias in algorithms

    From the UK Open Data Institute’s Week in Data newsletter

    This week, Twitter apologised for racial bias within its image-cropping algorithm. The feature is designed to automatically crop images to highlight focal points – including faces. But, Twitter users discovered that, in practice, white faces were focused on, and black faces were cropped out. And, Twitter isn’t the only platform struggling with its algorithm – YouTube has also announced plans to bring back higher levels of human moderation for removing content, after its AI-centred approach resulted in over-censorship, with videos being removed at far higher rates than with human moderators.

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    Gap between rich and poor university students widest for 12 years

    Via The Canary.

    The gap between poor students and their more affluent peers attending university has widened to its largest point for 12 years, according to data published by the Department for Education (DfE).

    Better-off pupils are significantly more likely to go to university than their more disadvantaged peers. And the gap between the two groups – 18.8 percentage points – is the widest it’s been since 2006/07.

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    Quality Training

    From Raconteur. A recent report by global learning consultancy Kineo examined the learning intentions of 8,000 employees across 13 different industries. It found a huge gap between the quality of training offered and the needs of employees. Of those surveyed, 85 per cent said they , with only 16 per cent of employees finding the learning programmes offered by their employers effective.

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    News from 1994

    This is from a Tweet. In 1994 Stephen Heppell wrote in something called SCET” “Teachers are fundamental to this. They are professionals of considerable calibre. They are skilled at observing their students’ capability and progressing it. They are creative and imaginative but the curriculum must give them space and opportunity to explore the new potential for learning that technology offers.” Nothing changes!

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