My top ten research utilities this week

This is Week 1 of my PhD in Higher Education: Research, Evaluation & Enhancement through Lancaster University, and to get us started, Paul Trowler has asked us to share the top ten research utilities we’ve used in the past week. Paul’s list is great – I didn’t know about Research into Higher Education Abstracts, ABBYY TextGrabber which apparently takes photos, scans and converts to editable text (really looking forward to trying that out!) or Fastscanner, which enables you to take photos on your phone and store them as PDFs.  So those three go at the top of my list of new tools to try.

Things I’ve used this week include:

Trello – I use this app every day for all my to-do lists, and also for lists of articles to read or videos to view. I can update it on my laptop or my mobile phone, so it enables me to do a lot of work planning while on buses and trains. I find it very comforting having lots of lists… (I’m just waiting for the app that carries out all the actions on those lists!)

Google Docs (and Spreadsheets) – brilliant for collaborating with colleagues on research and writing projects

Google Hangouts for meeting with people in other places (This morning I met with Brenda Padilla who was in Copenhagen, and colleagues from the Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona. While we were online together, we collaboratively edited a number of Google Docs.)

Google Forms – a useful survey tool which lives in Google Drive, along with Google Docs and spreadsheets

Twitter – for finding and sharing links to interesting articles, blog posts and thoughts (I’m @twitthaus – when I got my twitter name I totally entered into the spirit of it…)

Paul mentions, which I also find hugely useful. In addition, I am also on ResearchGate. These have become essential literature search tools for me, along with Google Scholar and Mendeley (an alternative to Zotero, which enables me to store bibliographic data about everything I find, as well to upload the articles in one place and to highlight and annotate them online – and to share “libraries” with colleagues).

Finally, one more thing I would have used this week if it only existed… is an A4-sized e-book reader for PDFs. It would need to link to Mendeley in order to be really useful. (There are promising signs that Onyx is developing such a device so I’m watching this space…)

That’s it for now. Thanks, Paul, for getting me thinking, and I’m looking forward to hearing from others about their top ten research utilities.

Posted in Research | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Yes, technology can lead pedagogy.

A while back I was issued a #blideo challenge by Terese Bird. (A blideo is described like this by its initiator, Steve Wheeler: “You share a short video clip on your blog and challenge 3 people in your personal learning network to write learning related blog posts about it. When they post their response, they include another short video clip of their choice and challenge 3 other people within their network… and so on.”)

The video clip Terese chose for me was this epic scene from School of Rock:

In it, Jack Black, as the radical, disruptive impostor substitute music teacher in an American school, secretly watches his class playing a classical concert and discovers that they are very capable musicians. Overcome by excitement at the potential he has seen, he bursts into their classroom for the next class and begins by picking on the kids, one by one, to come up to the instrument most closely resembling the one they were playing in the classical concert, and follow his directions to play the first few bars of Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water. The scene is fast-paced and bristling with tension as each child attempts to do something new on an unfamiliar instrument under the urgent and energetic guidance of their teacher, and under the stunned gaze of all their classmates. Of course they end up sounding like they’ve been in a band together playing Deep Purple all their lives within five minutes – there might be some artistic licence in that, but the kids were very quickly getting the hang of their new instruments. Some of them had to make a relatively small leap from a piano to an electric keyboard, or an acoustic to an electric guitar, while others had to go from the cello to the bass guitar, or from a single percussion cymbal to a full set of drums. What made this scene work was that Jack Black didn’t start by trying to get the kids to understand, or even appreciate, the musical intentions of Deep Purple – he went straight for the instruments (the technology) and got the kids actually thumping the keyboard, plucking a string on the bass guitar and so on. And that’s what makes it plausible too – we can see that, by actually experiencing the new technology with a real song, they are truly getting the feel of what it means to play rock music.

The parallels to helping teachers learn how to teach with online technologies are obvious – I have sat in workshop sessions where lecturers have started out being avowedly anti-technology, but within an hour have become ardent users of blogs, wikis or other tools in their teaching – simply as a result of being asked to suspend their judgment and try it out in the safe space of a workshop setting. There’s plenty of time for discussion about pedagogic possibilities and rationales after folks have got the feel of what they can do with the technology – and they’re having fun with it.

So now it’s my turn to issue a #blideo challenge. Sticking with the musical theme, here is a clip from the London Symphony Orchestra’s Masterclass in conducting:

Sandra Huskinson, Brenda Padilla and Ale Armellini, it’s over to you… and anyone else who wants to take on this challenge!

Posted in learning design | 1 Comment

Students’ views on independent learning: findings from an HEA-NUS study

Today I participated in a workshop run by the Higher Education Academy and National Union of Students in York in which they shared their findings from a study on independent learning. The work is not yet complete – a report will be submitted to the HEA in July, and hopefully disseminated more widely after that.

Some background: the study was concucted by Liz Thomas Associates, and included obtaining diary data from 120 undergraduate students on a week-by-week basis reflecting on their experience of independent learning. ‘Independent learning’ was defined for the students as ‘any course-related study that you undertake when not being taught by lecturers or other academic staff’. To gather more in-depth data, three of the diary-writers were selected to conduct peer interviews with approximately 18 others.

Preliminary findings show that students tend to see independent learning as being one of two kinds of activities:

  1. ‘Homework‘ type activities which are reminiscent of school, such as revision of lecture notes, guided reading, or quiz/task completion (referred to by the researchers as ‘IL1’ for short);
  2. Going beyond what was presented in lectures or prescribed readings to find out more information, solve a problem or generate new insights (referred to as ‘IL2’).

Much discussion was had about these two key findings at the workshop, and some speculation on the implications. In no particular order, here are some of the main points from the discussion:

  • There appeared to be some correlation between students holding the IL1 view and those who wanted more structure and support for their learning (i.e. a more ‘school-like’ environment). These students also tended to believe that the reason why their lecturers asked them to carry out independent study was because there wasn’t enough time in class to ‘cover’ all the content.
  • By contrast, there appeared to be some correlation between students holding the IL2 view and an openness to risk-taking (e.g. putting the time into reading something that might turn out not be relevant), as well as a belief that independent learning was valuable for its own sake. (Whether these correlations were significant or not was not clarified, but as the analysis is ongoing, I expect these issues will be given further attention by the research team.)
  •  Students showed awareness of the fact that programmes are usually designed to focus more on the acquisition of core concepts in first year, with a gradual increase in student responsibility for conducting independent learning through second, third and (where applicable) fourth years. They appreciated this progression, and final year students generally showed much greater confidence in their ability to undertake independent learning than first-year students did.
  •  It was suggested by colleagues at the workshop that a discipline divide might emerge when the data is more finely analysed, in that students in the ‘hard’ sciences will be more closely aligned with IL1 than those in the social sciences. Examples were given from geology, dentistry and computer science to back up the suggestion that, in some disciplines, there is a lot of ‘stuff’ to learn and a generally agreed sequence for learning this stuff before students can be asked to apply their knowledge meaningfully. Requirements from professional bodies were mentioned as a (sometimes unhelpful) contributing factor here.
  • Approximately 25% of the students in the study were international students. National or cultural differences have not yet been correlated with the other findings.
  • Students indicated that they typically form social networks of peers to support their learning – often on Facebook or Whatsapp. The workshop did not discuss whether this social learning was more correlated with IL1 or IL2. (I think this would be an interesting avenue to explore.)
  • Survey and interview results indicate that assessment is a significant driver in motivating students to learn in certain ways. Predictably, multiple-choice type assessements tend to encourage more rote learning, while authentic problem-solving tasks tend to encourage more independent learning.

This last point – the extent to which assessment drives (or indeed should drive) independent learning – received a lot of attention in the workshop. Opinion was divided on this: on the one hand, some colleagues argued against a ‘narrow, teaching-to-the-exam’ approach to curriculum design and delivery. On the other hand, the case was made (by me amongst others) for re-evaluating our assessments to ensure that they a) reflect the full richness and depth of the intended learning outcomes for the module; b) are creative, interesting and engaging for students (and markers!); and c) provide choice for learners. A good example of such an assessment is given in a case study in the HEA’s ‘Compendium of Effective Practice in Directed Independent Learning‘ by my colleague at Loughborough University School of Business and Economics, Keith Pond. The case involved students engaging in an assignment for the ‘Corporate Reconstruction and Turnaround’ module, in which a real, currently failing business is analysed based on court records. Students are also given the opportunity to meet with the Administrator for that business, who is dealing with the case at the time of the module delivery. In this assignment students carry out substantial independent learning – from searching for and selecting relevant information, through to analysing the case and predicting the success of the business for survival. This kind of learning is far more like the kind of work that students will do as members of a professional community of practice in their future careers than revising their lecture notes for an exam.

Posted in independent learning | Tagged | 3 Comments

Making massive learning social – the next big challenge for MOOCs?

Yesterday I attended the University of London’s annual RIDE conference. One of the keynote speakers was Mike Sharples, Academic Lead for the OU-owned FutureLearn. He mentioned that the design of the FutureLearn platform was based on principles from Laurillard and Pask’s Conversational Framework. One of the ideas behind the platform is that the interface should seamlessly integrate the content and the conversations around the content, so that learners can interact with one another effortlessly about each piece of content provided.

By way of example, he described the Forensic Science MOOC by the University of Strathclyde, which is based upon a reconstruction of an actual murder case. Each week, learners are given a bit more information about the murder via videos and text, and also another forensic technique to help them solve the mystery. There are no discussion forums; however, next to each video is a rolling comments feed, where learners will see the most recent comments from other learners and can add replies or new comments. In this comments feed, learners share their ideas in order to collaboratively solve the mystery. Because of the large number of learners on the course, it would be impossible for anyone to scroll through and read all of the comments (in one case, in a different MOOC,  17,000 comments were recorded next to one video!) and so there is a certain degree of serendipity at play as to whether the learner happens to see anything that catches their interest in the moment that they look at the comments. FutureLearn helps learners filter comments by means of three tabs at the top of the screen: “Following” (listing comments from other learners whom they have chosen to follow), “Most popular” (comments with the most “Likes” from other learners) and “My comments” (previous comments made by the learner).

My question to Mike in the Q&A session was whether feedback from learners indicated that there was a desire to be able to learn in small groups, and whether that would be technically possible to set up on FutureLearn. This question was predicated on a hypothesis I have that social learning is more effective in small groups where ties between learners are relatively strong, rather than in a massive global pool of learners where they might never interact with the same person twice. A recent study at Oxford University (described in “What are the limitations of learning at scale? Investigating information diffusion and network vulnerability in MOOCs“) addresses the issue from a networked learning perspective, based on an investigation into learner participation in the discussion forums on two Coursera MOOCs, and concludes that:

[…] when it comes to significant communication between learners, there are simply too many discussion topics and too much heterogeneity […] to result in truly global-scale discussion. Instead, most information exchange, and by extension, any knowledge construction in the discussion forums occurs in small, short-lived groups […]

So, when faced with the opportunity to interact with thousands of other learners, the learners in this study tried to interact in small groups. The fact that these small groups were short-lived might have been because the MOOCs did not provide a convenient way for learners to repeatedly interact with others in the same small groups throughout the course.

Back to the Q&A: Mike replied that the idea of enabling group work on FutureLearn is under active consideration. The barrier seems to be technical. I can see why FutureLearn abandoned threaded discussion forums – traditional forums might not be the best way to enable group interaction at scale. (I have previously commented on Gilly Salmon’s successful use of group-based discussion forums in the Carpe Diem MOOC, but I’m not sure how scalable that would be in a MOOC running into the tens or hundreds of thousands.) So, within the framework of FutureLearn’s approach, I’m wondering whether the solution would be to add another tab at the top of the rolling comments section, which might be called something like “Study Group”. This tab would show comments made by a relatively small group of learners, which would be generated by an algorithm based on information provided by learners in their profiles (a bit like the algorithms used in online dating sites, where members are matched with others who have ticked the same boxes as them) plus a randomly generated code. Codes would only be given to those participants who had taken the trouble to complete their profiles, as this is a sign of commitment to at least starting the MOOC, and each code would be allocated to a maximum of say, 40 participants, thus effectively creating a group of 40 learners. By clicking on the “Study group” tab, every learner would then be able to tap into the comments of only those 40 learners with the same code as them. Assuming that 25-50% of those learners who created their profile actually completed the course, we could predict that between 10 and 20 people of the initial 40 in each group would complete the course together. The actual maximum number of learners per group and predicted number of completers would need to be derived from participation statistics from previous iterations of the course.

Speaking personally as a learner who dropped out of a FutureLearn course last year because of the lack of a sense of coherent community, this would be a strong motivator for me to complete the next FutureLearn MOOC!

Posted in mooc | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Storyboarding OOC Week 3: learning outcomes and assessment

Week 3 of the Storyboarding OOC just ended. It was an interesting one, with an initial debate around the question as to whether learning outcomes are really necessary. There was general agreement that statements of intended learning outcomes are necessary and important for guiding the course design process, and that they also help in managing learners’ expectations. The discussion then focused on writing clear outcome statements, and describing the assessments that were being planned. Several participants shared the links to their storyboards (in Linoit, Popplet and Google Sheets), showing how the learning outcomes are distributed across the timeline of the course, and how they are aligned with any assessment tasks.

Meanwhile, a number of people who joined the OOC late have been catching up on the earlier activities, introducing themselves to everyone (Week 1) and selecting their storyboarding tools (Week 2).

What I am really enjoying about the OOC is the fact that the storyboard provides a visual point of reference for all the activities, as participants focus on a different element of their storyboard each week, gradually building it up in layers. This represents a more realistic use of storyboards, in my view, than when they are simply inserted into a course on learning design as one component of many. In real life, course designers will spend many hours on a storyboard, often spread over many days or weeks, especially if they are creating a new course from scratch. Also, working through the storyboard one layer at a time in the OOC enables course designers to focus on every aspect of course design, from the high-level design with overarching outcomes, and rough outlines of assessment tasks, learning activities and supporting resources, down to more granular descriptions of each of these elements. Course designers can keep returning to the storyboard and adding more detail, until they get to the point where they feel it has served its purpose. It will be interesting to see whether different participants on the OOC have different criteria for considering their storyboards to be complete.

This week we’re focusing on adding in the learning activities to the storyboard – in the first instance, just titles and purpose statements of the learning activities (using Salmon’s five-stage model to guide sequencing decisions), and later adding more detail, such as description of the task, response to other learners and timing. I’ll be back with the next update in a week’s time.

Posted in learning design, open education | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Storyboarding OOC Week 2: tools and processes for storyboarding learning design

It’s the end of Week 2 of the Storyboarding OOC, so it’s time for another update.

New participants

We now have 137 participants registered (23 more than this time last week). New participants include a handful of students on an Instructional Design course at the University of Mauritius and their teacher, who have said they are participating in the OOC as part of an international “benchmarking” process. We’re happy to have them on the course and will try to get some feedback from them about how the OOC has contributed to their learning when the OOC is over.

Question of the week: “When do you do storyboarding?”

One participant posted in the discussion forum:

One thing I found tricky to understand from the video was that the small flip chart/post-its prevented too much information and deliberation about the substance of the course – it seemed to me like you’d have to have done a lot of pre-planning and preparation to make the storyboarding effective. So one question – when is the best time to do the storyboarding in the course design process? After you got a really clear idea of learning outcomes, aligned activities/assessment, technologies etc. So the storyboard is really just to visualise and sort of organise all the prior work? Or can it be used as part of this deeper thinking about the course?

In my answer, I said that I think the demo videos (by Gilly Salmon and team and also the ones I’ve created about using Linoit and Popplet) are a bit misleading in terms of when to use storyboarding, because we have tried to encapsulate a process that is usually spread out over many days or weeks in a 10-minute video. Storyboarding is useful right from the start of the process, and ideally the storyboard should be built up in layers, with the course team adding more detail in a fairly structured way over time. You need to make sure you can keep adding more layers of detail, so if you’re using a flipchart, this may mean you end up with a series of sticky notes stuck on top of one another in parts of the storyboard. Storyboards often spill over onto several flipchart sheets as they develop and become more detailed.

The video I created on using Popplet for storyboarding shows a fairly early stage in the process. I had probably spent about 2 hours developing the storyboard for the coures on ‘Online Academic Identity’ before making the video, so you can see my ideas were still at a very formative stage. I did all my thinking on Popplet and did not make any handwritten or other notes. On the other hand, my Linoit demo is really a summary of a process that Brenda and I have been going through since October 2014. The storyboard on Google Docs reflects this longer-term process the best. You’ll see there is a ‘Brief version’ and a ‘Detailed version’. We worked on the brief version first. The detailed version is still changing as we finalise preparations for activities and resources for the remaining weeks of the course – and you might see this version changing before your eyes if you happen to go in while we are working on it.

Tips for brainstorming when creating a storyboard collaboratively: 

There were many great tips given by participants who had experience in creating storyboards, mainly using flipcharts and coloured sticky notes or similar paper and pen tools. Here are some of them:

  • visibility: not only size of the chart and liability of the writing; but mobility  and access to the chart; people can get turned if they can’t really see or follow the build up;  (as an alternative, “bricks” on a wall with sheets of A4 and blu-tak worked really well once with a group of 15 designing a large departmental programme)
  • trying to get (at least some) sticky notes on display before they go up on the chart  can sometimes be helpful:  it will get people engaged and get the sharing started more quickly
  • try to be open, and encourage everyone else to be open to ideas that come up; but at the same time ask people to clarify, check with people are saying the same things in different ways ;
  • see it as an organic process of review and re-shaping on the go, ,  let it flow
  • as a group look for places where ideas merge and overlap and come to a common agreement about re-shaping if its needed;
  • ensure you get some sticky notes up on display before the group activity starts, to encourage sharing.
  • try and model what you need on the flip notes – it might be better to have “Students practise w BP cuff”‘ than “Blood pressure” (i.e. being clear and descriptive)
  • make sure everyone’s voice is heard; take time to consider each contribution and see how it fits with the whole plan
  • we begin from learning objectives rather than from topics and units of time – although we get there eventually
  • use large post-its and, if you can, have one or two people with neat printing who actually write down what each person wants to contribute
  • start with loose groupings as you don’t want to shut down new ideas – I always have a “sidepen” for ideas that don’t really fit but may fit later
  • take pictures of the wall or whiteboard at significant points in the development of your course

Storyboarding tools

While many people had used flipcharts and sticky notes, most felt it was time to try online brainstorming tools for greater ease of use with distributed teams, and for greater ease of storage and version control. About six people said they liked Linoit, and we had the same number of positive comments on Popplet. Two people said they planned to use Google Sheets for their storyboard. A few are experimenting with Gliffy. There was some interest in Scrumblr, but this seems to have less functionality than the others. There was some frustration from someone who struggled to get access to Linoit (password not recognised and no immediate solution offered by Linoit), and several who noted that Popplet was erratic, often not functioning on a particular browser or being unavailable at a particular time.

There were also some questions about the terms and conditions of the various online tools for storyboarding, as well as whether these tools would work on mobile devices. These are obviously important issues, and I’ll report more on them in a later post.

What’s next

In Week 3 (starting tomorrow) we will focus on developing the learning outcomes and assessment for the courses being storyboarded. Watch this space for further updates 🙂

Posted in learning design | 1 Comment

Storyboarding OOC progress report: week 1

We’ve just started Week 2 of the Storyboarding OOC, so it’s time for the first progress report.

What we did in Week 1

Around 114 people signed up as registered participants, of whom over 30 have been participating actively. The discussion forums for Week 1 included conversation around many very real and challenging problems to be avoided in the activity called ‘Ruining a course’; some in-depth reflection on the concepts of ‘learning design’ vs ‘instructional design’, Salmon’s five-stage model and Anderson’s interaction equivalency theorem; and some very interesting descriptions of the courses that participants are planning to storyboard.

A diverse group

People on the OOC are participating from six continents (just missing that elusive participant from Antarctica to complete the map!) Many participants have a long history of designing courses in higher education or professional development contexts, while some are taking on this role for the first time. Some are old hands at online learning and teaching, while for others this is their first experience of an online course of any description. This wide range of backgrounds, skills and experiences is to be expected on an open course. I’m aware that it could make the experience of the course difficult for some participants, but I have been heartened to see the way participants are reaching out to one another across all the different kinds of boundaries that might create barriers, asking questions to better understand each other’s contexts and challenges, and providing encouraging feedback on each other’s posts.

The decision to create ‘groups’ for discussion forum activities

At the start of the OOC I mentioned that we were planning to divide participants into two groups for the discussion forum activities – learners were asked to join either the A-M group or the N-Z group, according to their user names. All forums were open to all participants, and anyone was free to switch groups or to participate in both if they wanted to. The rationale for this approach was to avoid having overwhelming discussion forums, while also giving participants choice and flexibility in how they participated. As it turned out, the approach worked very well, but the A-M forums had about twice to three times as many participants as the N-Z forums. This seemed a bit unfair on the people in the smaller group, and so we have decided to merge the discussion forum groups into one for Week 2. Watch this space for an update on how this new strategy goes…

What’s on the menu for Week 2

This week we are experimenting with storyboarding tools/platforms:

  • Traditional flipcharts, sticky notes and marker pens
  • Google Sheets
  • Other tools selected by participants (e.g. Prezi, Gliffy, Freemind etc.)

By the end of the week the aim is that everyone should have selected their preferred tool, and shared the rationale for that choice with others on the OOC – or on the Web for those participants who blog and/or tweet. (Watch out for #sldooc on Twitter.)

New resources available

For Week 2 we have created a few new resources (all available as OERs):

If you’re interested in joining in, it’s not too late – you can still enrol or view the course on CourseSites!

Posted in learning design, mooc, open education | Tagged | 2 Comments

Storyboarding for learning design OOC is launched!

Today is the start of the Storyboarding for Learning Design open online course (OOC). Brenda Padilla, Jeff Stanford and I will be co-facilitating it.

I promised in an earlier post that I would talk about how we are grouping participants on the OOC. Based on my experience on the Carpe Diem MOOC, I think it helps to group the learners in a highly interactive open course, with the proviso that learners can also see what is happening in other groups and can switch groups if they want to, without having to ask an administrator. Of course it all depends on the numbers enrolled – and the numbers that participate actively. As of now, we have 96 participants signed up. We have experimentally set up two groups in the discussion forums (divided into user names starting A-M, and N-Z). Participants in both groups can view the discussions in the other group, and can join in if they want to. We’ll see how this goes in Week 1 and I’ll report back here for anyone who is interested.

The course materials for the first week are now available under a CC-BY-SA licence in a Google Doc – Week 1: Introduction.

To log in or browse the course on CourseSites, click here. (You can also enrol from this link.)

Twitter hashtag #sldooc.

Posted in Storyboarding OOC | Tagged , | 3 Comments

2014 in review – a summary of activity on my blog by WordPress

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 40 trips to carry that many people…

The busiest day of the year was November 20th with 247 views. The most popular post that day was Good-bye Institute of Learning Innovation, University of Leicester

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Running a-MOC with false MOOC pollution – a reply to Stephen Downes

Just when I thought I could take a break for Christmas, Stephen Downes threw me a curved ball, saying that he doesn’t think the Storyboarding OOC that Brenda Padilla and I are planning to run in the new year is actually open. Here is my reply to Stephen.

Hi Stephen. It seems I gave you the idea that the Storyboarding OOC is closed. It’s not – or at least it’s not intended to be. There are three aspects of my blog post that could have created this wrong impression: firstly I noted that the OOC will be offered via the CourseSites platform, which requires participants to sign in with a password and enrol on the course. I agree with you that the fact that the course activities take place in a logged-in environment limits openness for the duration of this iteration of the course; however, as I explained to Wayne in a different post, we are going to great lengths to ensure that *all* the content of the OOC, plus as much content generated by participants as they want to share, will be available openly in all senses of the word. In fact, the content is currently being developed in the open via a series of Google Docs, which can be accessed via the storyboard for the OOC itself. (Warning – in the spirit of what Wayne calls radical transparency, the storyboard and related resources are work in progress and are changing/evolving daily.) I think this point probably deals with the heart of your criticism, and hopefully you are reassured now that at least the course content and the navigational pathway through the OOC are totally open.

Secondly, I said that the OOC is not intended to be massive. The reason for this is not because it is not open, but because as two academics acting in our individual capacities without institutional backing and without certificate-awarding powers, we don’t expect to attract masses of participants (although we would not mind if we did). We are doing this on an experimental basis, and we hope that after the first iteration, all the course resources, including the design of the course in the form of the OOC storyboard, will be reused by other open educators – including those with real MOOC-capacity. One way of looking at the OOC would be to see it as a pilot for future MOOCs. Of course there is a contradiction in trying to run a small pilot for a massive course, since a great many challenges arise when one has thousands of participants that would not arise in a smaller cohort, but by leaving that ‘M’ off the front of the OOC we are attempting to be honest about that.

Thirdly, the question about whether setting up groups is compatible with the spirit of open courses is an interesting one. Gilly Salmon and the Swinburne team experimented with the idea in the Carpe Diem MOOC. As a participant on that MOOC earlier this year, I can say that the structured group experience was helpful and motivating for me, although I was aware that there were issues for some people whose allocated groups did not work out, for a range of reasons. Brenda and I have had some lengthy discussions in the last few weeks about how to create groups that are clearly enough defined that participants to know that they have a “home base” to go to, but also flexible enough for participants to move between groups if they want to, or completely opt out of if they prefer. As it’s quite a big topic, I’ll make it the subject of my next blog post. For now, I’d just like to say that in the Carpe Diem experience, I did not feel that the course was in any way less of a MOOC because of being asked to join a group. This is an aspect of the OOC that we will be asking participants about as part of our research, and we’ll report back on our findings at a later date.

In conclusion, I very much appreciate the feedback and I do accept that there are degrees of openness. However, I hope for now that I have gone some way towards persuading you that by using the term OOC we are not “polluting” the concept of MOOCs. By using the term OOC we were simply trying to say that we are aiming for openness, and equally that we’re not aiming for massiveness. The first of these aims is an absolute principle, but the second is more of a prediction. If by some fluke we get thousands of participants on the OOC, we will be happy to rename it a MOOC, but I don’t believe it would be appropriate to rename it an OC or a MOC (without the ‘O’ for open) as you’ve suggested!

Posted in Storyboarding OOC | Tagged , , | 3 Comments