Activities 15 and 16: Let’s connect – but for business or pleasure?

Personal learning networks

A Google search reveals plenty of resources on PLNs. On the webpages and blog posts I came across, a few words and even sentences were spent on defining the concept of a PLN, but most of the space was used to argue why building a PLN is a great thing and to present a multitude of social media tools that could be used for creating a PLN. So activities 15 and 16 are good ways to discuss thoughts and ideas on this particular concept. It’s been very helpful to read the many interesting blog posts that have already been written by my fellow moocers on H817open 🙂  Thanks for the inspiration.

The shortest definition of PLN that I came across is probably this one: “Your Personal Learning Network (PLN) is the group of people who feed your learning head” (P2PU). However, the text continues “In a true network, you’re a contributor, not just a consumer.” I think this is a very important aspect which is also stressed by Bozarth who claims that “you get back what you put in” (Bozarth, 2011). So reciprocity seems to play an important role in a PLN.

From colourbox.com

From colourbox.com

I found a somewhat longer definition on the Educational Technology and Mobile Learning website:

“A Personal Learning Network (PLN) is a way, a process, a network of interrelated connections you make for the purposes of discovering, collaborating and sharing ideas and resources. These connections are created based on your learning needs and can be made with like-minded people from all around the world” (Educational Technology and Mobile Learning website).

I think the definition above captures the reciprocity but also manages to stress that it takes effort to build and maintain a PLN. I was very intrigued by the “based on your learning needs” in the quotation above. The P2PU also stresses the “intentional” aspect and state that “[m]eaningful participation in this network is an integral part of your personal learning plan”. I was a bit surprised at discovering this link to what might be called personal learning objectives. My first impression of PLNs was that these were networks based on mutual interest and that you would more leisurely share ideas, thoughts and resources to explore a certain topic to keep up to date. I hadn’t quite thought of a PLN as such a very targeted getting down to business (learning) approach. But I do see the benefit of more purposefully building a PLN and now consider whether I myself should set more specific learning objectives than “just” finding out what MOOCs are all about, exploring new tools or keeping up to date.

But now I think it’s time to venture into my own attempt at a definition of PLN, so here goes:

A personal learning network consists of peers with whom you connect to explore topics of mutual interest by sharing ideas, thoughts and resources.

Now the question is whether PLN is a useful term or not. As such, it’s not a new phenomenon which has already been stressed in many posts. However, the many social media tools available today certainly expand your range when attempting to build a PLN and the possibilities for connecting, sharing and collaborating online. I’m thinking that PLN becomes a very important element in open education, especially when talking MOOCs. I can see how the formulation of a personal learning plan and the focused effort to build a PLN, can help learners get valuable learning experiences when it comes to informal learning. This is my first MOOC, and I have experienced myself how important it is to reach out and connect to other participants to be able to explore, share and collaborate. It took some effort initially to do the reaching out, but now I’m enjoying every minute of it 🙂

References:

Bozarth, J. (2011). Nuts and Bolts: Building a Personal Learning Network (PLN). http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/659/.

Educational Technology and Mobile Learning website. A Simple Comprehensive Guide on the Use of Personal Learning Networks in Education. http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2012/06/simple-comprehensive-guide-on-use-of.html.

P2PU – The Peer 2 Peer University. Build a Personal Learning Network. https://p2pu.org/en/groups/diy-u/content/build-a-personal-learning-network-2/.

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Activity 14: No such thing as black & white

Comparing MOOCs

For activity 14, I’ve chosen to compare DS106 to two courses offered through Coursera. Course one is called “Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence” offered by Case Western Reserve University. The course description can be found here: https://www.coursera.org/#course/lead-ei. The other course is “Human-Computer Interaction” and is offered by Stanford. Course description: https://www.coursera.org/#course/hci

The analysis below is based on readings, the two course descriptions mentioned above and the DS106 website: http://ds106.us/.

I started out by looking at the course objectives of all three courses in order to have these objectives as a point of reference for the comparison. This proved to be quite interesting. Inspiring Leadership aims at developing understanding and Human-Computer Interaction aims at developing skills. DS106 has by far the most ambitious course objectives. The aim for participants is to develop skills, frame a digital identity and critically examine the digital landscape. See full version of course objectives below.courseobjectives

Let’s take a look at the technology and tools used in the three different courses:

Inspiring leadership makes use of video lectures, quizzes, discussion forums, personal journals and peer assessment tools. I presume that these tools and resources are available on the Coursera platform – a closed environment only for participants. I’m enrolled in the course which starts on May 1, but haven’t yet got access to the platform. You Tube videos are also included.

Human-Computer Interaction also includes video lectures, quizzes, peer assessment tools and a Q & A forum with ranking of questions.

Unlike the two courses offered by Coursera , the DS106 course encourages participants to use a wide range of services on the web: Gravatar, Twitter, Flickr, Google, SoundCloud, personal blog etc. The DS106 website includes a toolbox with links and tips with regards to useful software and services. DS106 provides a blog aggregator and you can sign up for daily notifications on “Today’s daily create assignment”. There’s a radio, a live streaming station where participants can share their work. An assignment bank is also available. You can search for, choose, create and remix assignments. Google Hangout is used for the DS106 show (http://ds106.us/category/the-site/the-show/).

The two Coursera courses thus seem to use the technology and tools associated with formal education: closed platform and “traditional” tools that have been selected and made available by staff. DS106, on the other hand, makes recommendations concerning useful software and services and encourages participants to explore and be creative. This is in full alignment with the DS106 course objectives listed above.

Now it’s time to study the pedagogy used in the three courses:

In Inspiring Leadership and Human-Computer Interaction there is a clear emphasis on knowledge transfer which becomes visible in the emphasis on video lectures and quizzes. Learning is seen as “acquisition, where learners acquire knowledge, pre-packaged by educators” (Kop, 2011). The courses are thus based on cognitive-behaviourist pedagogy, described by Rodriques (2012) as a first generation distance education pedagogy and by Kop (2011) as “the norm in formal education settings” (Kop, 2011: 20). This type of courses has been labelled xMOOCs by Daniel (2012) who also stresses that “The Coursera model emphasises a more traditional learning approach through video presentations and short quizzes and testing” (Daniel, 2012: 7).

Things are not all black & white, though; the Inspiring Leadership course also includes learning activities that move beyond knowledge transfer, namely a personal journal for participants’ observations and experiences, and both Coursera courses employ peer assessment. While the latter is most likely employed to save costs, peer assessment is also a valuable learning activity. When a learner becomes an assessor, learning objectives and criteria are scrutinized more carefully and the learner engages with these to construct his/her own understanding of the bad, the good and the excellent assignment. Both the personal journal and the peer assessment methods fall into the category of constructivist pedagogy. My impression is that there is more of an individual than a social twist to these learning activities.

It is also worth mentioning that the Inspiring Leadership course has two tracks: the core track which is made up of the video lectures, readings, You Tube videos, discussion forums, personal journal and personal learning assignments. Then there is the practicum track, which includes the core track plus three action learning assignments where participants must coach a colleague, reflect and write about the experience and engage in peer assessment. This is a far more participatory approach to learning (Kop, 2011).

Participation is certainly the keyword when it comes to the pedagogy employed in the DS106 course. Creativity and assignments are at the heart of the course together with sharing and commenting. “Give some comment love” is one of the phrases that you meet on the DS106 website (http://ds106.us/tag/openonline/). Thus DS106 resemble the original MOOC concept from 2008 now labelled cMOOC which “emphasises creation, creativity, autonomy and social networking learning” (Daniel, 2012: 7). It is also easy to see the similarities compared to the pedagogical model of MOOCs outlined by George Siemens in McAuley et al. (2010: 23). I would like to draw particular attention to the “high levels of learner control over modes and places of interaction”, the “emphasis on learner autonomy in selecting learning resources and level of participation in activities” the “emphasis of social systems” for self-organising, and “the criticality of ‘creation’” (McAuley et al., 2010: 23). The DS106 course fully supports this pedagogical model and the website contains a lot of advice for participants on “how to be an open participant” (http://ds106.us/handbook/success-the-ds106-way/open-participant/).

General approach and philosophy

The Inspiring Leadership course aims to develop participants’ understanding and the Human-Computer Interaction course aims to develop participants’ skills. However, the understanding and the skills have been predefined by experts and are ready to be transferred to the participants in a rather traditional setting that resemble formal education. As such, these courses move within the existing knowledge structures. The philosophy is to enable participants to find answers as mentioned by George Siemens (Weller, 2012).

The DS106 course also aims to develop participants’ skills, but have added the aspect of digital identity and critical examination, thus a knowledge transfer paradigm would not do to create alignment between course objectives and pedagogical approach. Rather the philosophy in the DS106 course is that different people have different pieces of the puzzle, so by connecting, people can inspire each other and learn. Courses like DS106 strive to enable people to choose solutions and answers to the complex problems that we are facing today (George Siemens in Weller, 2012).

It’s been quite an adventure to study different MOOCs, and I’m happy to be able to conclude that it’s not all that black & white. There are examples of cMOOCs and xMOOCs and then there is a range of MOOCs in between experimenting with constructivist and participatory learning activities. “[C]ognitive-behaviourist, social constructivist, and connectivist […] pedagogy [all] have an important place in a well-rounded educational experience (Rodriques, 2012: 2).

References:

Daniel, J. (2012). Making sense of MOOCs: musings in a maze of myth, paradox and possibility. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, no. 18. http://jime.open.ac.uk/jime/article/view/2012-18

Kop, R. (2011). The challenges to connectivist learning on open online networks: learning experiences during a massive open online course. In International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, vol. 12, no. 3. http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/882

McAuley, A., Stewart, B., Siemens, G. and Cormier, D. (2010). Massive open online courses – Digital ways of knowing and learning. The MOOC model for digital practice: http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/MOOC_Final.pdf

Rodriques, C. O. (2012). MOOCs and the AI-Stanford like Courses: Two Successful and Distinct Course Formats for Massive Open Online Courses. http://www.eurodl.org/?article=156

Weller, M. (2012). Interview with George Siemens and Dave Cormier on a range of issues concerning MOOCs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=l1G4SUblnbo

Activity 12: MOOCs and faculty development

Background to MOOCs

Adapted from colourbox.com

Adapted from colourbox.com

In activity 12, we are asked to briefly consider if the MOOC approach could be adopted in our own area of education or training. My area of education/training is faculty development within the field of e-learning. I do courses and also provide help and guidance to teachers in relation to the design and delivery of blended learning and distance learning. How does each of the elements in the MOOC acronym relate to my context?

The COURSE element

Today, I deliver courses face-2-face. It’s a great way to inspire faculty and give them insight into e-learning. But it’s not quite enough. Teachers need to experiment with e-learning themselves, so right now the most important part of my job is to support teachers in the design and delivery of e-learning activities. The course element is necessary, though, to showcase different approaches to e-learning.

The ONLINE element

I don’t do any online courses yet. But it’s certainly an area that I would like to explore. It would make a lot of sense to start offering online courses since the activities at my university are distributed on 6 campus cities across the southern part of Denmark. I know that teachers struggle to get the time to attend courses. With online courses, they wouldn’t have to worry about time spent on travelling. And if a major part of activities are asynchronous, participation would be as flexible as possible. Being an online student themselves would give a lot of added value to the learning experience of teachers. They would get practical knowledge of both online learning processes and tools to support these.

The OPEN and MASSIVE elements

I think the open element would appeal to the teachers at my university and to university teachers in general. They would benefit from networking with teachers from other parts of the world and may find connections with similar interests. I find that the most rewarding learning comes from the exchange of ideas and experiences between teachers. Specific examples help illustrate important points.

Also the innovative pedagogical approaches associated with the “original” type of MOOCs would, I hope, inspire teachers to rethink their own teaching. I have been especially intrigued and drawn to the creative activities of MOOCs in which one has to visualise thoughts and ideas. Quite a challenging but also very rewarding type of learning activity that I would like to promote.

Finally, there’s the open as in use and reuse of OER. Introducing MOOCs in the context of faculty development would also mean exposing teachers to OER which again might inspire teachers to explore the use of OER themselves.

I’m a bit worried about the massive element. Teachers often tell me that any course or training that they engage in must be very specific and on target with respects to their particular context, otherwise they will not spend the time needed. However, in a MOOC, it’s very much up to the learner to set personal learning goals and pursue these by engaging in the proposed learning activities and by cultivating a personal learning network. So I think, there would have to be a lot of initial scaffolding and support of teachers, so that they can participate comfortably and meaningfully.

Activity 11: David and Goliath – little and big OER

In activity 11, we’re asked to write a blog post on the benefits and drawbacks of big and little OER approaches. This has reminded me of a Danish saying which goes “Hellere lille og vågen end stor og doven”, which can be translated into “It’s better to be little and alert than big and lazy”. This seems not only to apply to people but also to OER.

littleoerThe alertness of little OER refers to the often low production time and costs and the easy publication and sharing via social media services. Furthermore, little OER are alert in the sense that they can often be used and reused across a wide variety of contexts since they do not contain any, or very few, contextual cues themselves. So little OER get out and about and can fit into many different settings. At the same time, it can be a lot easier to get started producing little OER because you can often handle the planning, production and sharing yourself. One of the drawbacks of little OER, however, is that you may have doubts about their origin and feel insecure about whether it is ok to reuse and perhaps remix a little OER that you have come across. There might also be quality issues. Little OER may be good entertainment, but will they do for serious teaching and learning activities?

largeroer2Big OER are “lazy” in the sense that it takes time to plan, produce and publicise these. There are standards that you need to familiarise yourself with and abide by. Perhaps you need technical and other types of support to produce and publicise the OER. Costs are high. Furthermore, big OER are often very context-intensive, carrying a lot of cues that make them fit perfectly into some settings. This is also one of the worst drawbacks, however. The many contextual cues make it difficult to reuse big OER, so therefore they don’t get out and about so much as little OER. However, the advantages are often that big OER are clearly labelled, so you know whether you can reuse, remix etc. The quality of big OER are often very high.

It’s not a battle between the Davids and Goliaths of OER, however. Weller suggests that learners make use of both types of OER to “feel the reassurance of the quality brand material for core content” and to get “a mixture of the more social, participatory media that encourages them to contribute as well” (Weller, 2012:8).

Weller, M. (2011a) Academic Output as Collateral Damage [online], slidecast. Available at http://www.slideshare.net/mweller/academic-output-as-collateral-damage

Weller, M. (2011b) ‘Public engagement as collateral damage’ in The Digital Scholar, London, Bloomsbury Academic. Available at http://www.bloomsburyacademic.com/view/DigitalScholar_9781849666275/chapter-ba-9781849666275-chapter-007.xml

Weller, M. (2012) ‘The openness–creativity cycle in education’, Special issue on Open Educational Resources, JIME, Spring 2012 [online]. Available at http://jime.open.ac.uk/jime/article/view/2012-02

Activity 10: A model is a model is a model

In activity 10, we were asked to look at four open education initiatives and determine which of Wiley’s three models of sustainability they are operating. Wiley defines sustainability as “an open educational resource project’s ongoing ability to meet its goals” (Wiley, 2007: 5), so I decided to find out what the specific goals of the four open education initiatives are and then take it from there:

Change MOOC

Goal: Quite interestingly, I didn’t find any mention of a goal on the Change MOOC website. I only found this brief statement on the “About” page: “This course will introduce participants to the major contributions being made to the field of instructional technology by researchers today. Each week, a new professor or researcher will introduce his or her central contribution to the field” (http://change.mooc.ca/about.htm). I interpret this as being in the true spirit of a c-MOOC (connectivist MOOC) the purpose of which is to bring people together to study a certain topic in an autonomous and self-organising way. Forming networks to explore the different aspects of the topic and to benefit from each other’s knowledge and experiences.

Model of sustainability: I find that the Change MOOC resembles the Rice model with its focus on the collaborative development of courses and modules. Authors from around the world engage and contribute. In the case of the Change MOOC, we see how experts from different parts of the world “host” each their week of the course. There is a high degree of decentralisation. The course and the learning of participants unfold in multiple spaces across the web.

The Change MOOC appears to be initiated and run by volunteers, pioneers, enthusiasts (no mention of any funding). Wiley’s way of describing the Rice model certainly applies to the Change MOOC initative: “passion plays a large part in the success of the project” (Wiley, 2007: 9).

Coursera

Goal: “We are a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students” (https://www.coursera.org/about). Note the stress on TOP universities here.

Coursera seems to be operating a mix of sustainability models:

The Rice model: Coursera offers courses from different universities around the world. These universities have been carefully selected though – only elite universities have been invited and admitted (Rivard, 2013).

The MIT model: Coursera is a very large and highly structured initiative. Furthermore, there is a high degree of control over courses offered. Courses must adhere to a certain standard specified in the contract between Coursera and the university offering the course (Rivard, 2013).

Like MIT OCW, Coursera has received a lot of funding but is also exploring different ways of generating a revenue, e.g. certification fees, introducing students to potential employers and recruiters, tutoring, sponsorships and tuition fees (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coursera).

Jorum

Goal: Up until July 2011, Jorum was a platform for sharing resources but with somewhat restricted access. Jorum is now dedicated to the sharing of OER under creative commons license (http://www.jorum.ac.uk/about-us/Developing%20Jorum/changes-august-2011).

Jorum emphasizes working collaboratively with international OER projects “in order to better understand the impact of use and reuse of learning and teaching resources and to improve discoverability” (http://www.jorum.ac.uk/about-us/Developing%20Jorum/changes-august-2011). There is also a focus on “adopting new approaches to community and end-user engagement focused on realising benefits and measuring impact” (http://mimas.ac.uk/news/2011/05/jorum-listens/).

Model of Sustainability: “The word ‘Jorum’ is of Biblical origin and means a collecting (or drinking) bowl” (http://www.jorum.ac.uk/about-us) and on the Jorum web site, users are presented with the options of “Find”, “Share” and/or “Connect”.jorum

Image from http://www.jorum.ac.uk/

So you can choose to drink from the bowl and use/reuse existing OER or you can add to the bowl by sharing your own material. In this way, Jorum resembles the collaborative Rice model. Jorum is funded by JISC and my impression is that it is a somewhat large organisation with a number of employees who coordinate, administrate and innovative. Also there seems to be some control with respects to reaching out to and collaborating with communities and international OER projects.

OpenLearn

Goal: OpenLearn was launched in 2006, funded by a grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The vision is to offer “free online education, open to anyone, anywhere in the world” (http://www.open.edu/openlearn/about-openlearn/frequently-asked-questions-on-openlearn).

OpenLearn contains learning materials from Open University courses (more than 8000 hours) and new course materials are continuously being published in what’s called the OpenLearn ‘Try’ section (http://www.open.edu/openlearn/about-openlearn/frequently-asked-questions-on-openlearn).

Model of Sustainability: OpenLearn seems to have a medium sized organisation with the OpenLearn team that supports academics in publishing open content (http://www.open.edu/openlearn/profiles/ld3623). So in this it resembles the USU model. All courses offered are from the Open University, I can’t tell, though, how large a proportion these make up compared to the full course catalogue of the OU. However, this approach to publication falls in somewhere between MIT and USU.

Having evaluated the four open education initiatives, we were asked to consider:

1. Was the sustainability model for each OER initiative apparent?

Not quite. Had a feeling that I was comparing apples to bananas to oranges. So it was all about open initiatives, but the flavours and textures were different. It wasn’t all that transparent either what the goals were, how the initiatives were organized and funded.

2. Did Wiley’s models cover all approaches or did you think a different model was operating for one or more of them?

I find that Wiley’s three models of sustainability are just that: “models”. The four initiatives, I studied do not seem to be that clear cut, rather they are mixes.

References:

Rivard, R. (2013). Coursera’s Contractual Elitism. In Inside Higher Ed. March 22, 2012. Available at: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/03/22/coursera-commits-admitting-only-elite-universities

Wiley, D. (2007) On the Sustainability of Open Educational Resource Initiatives in Higher Education, Paris, OECD. http://www.oecd.org/edu/ceri/38645447.pdf

Activity 9: Choosing a license

Open Source

Image from colorbox.com

I’m very happy to see that licensing is also covered in this open course on open education.
I find that teachers are often insecure about what they can and cannot do with regards to our e-learning platform and also with regards to presentations that they make for internal or external use. This insecurity is an obstacle that prevents teachers from using resources that they find on the internet. At my university we have a person employed at the library who is dedicated to copy right issues. Faculty can then contact him whenever they are in doubt.  Only problem is that many people aren’t aware that he exists, so he has been doing a marketing campaign that included a very nice poster on “Copyright rules and teaching at SDU [University of Southern Denmark] – Brief guide”. It’s a bit ridiculous, but I’m not actually sure whether I can share this poster with you, so I think it’s safer just to insert the link to this webpage, where you can download it and have a look if you are curious: http://www.sdu.dk/copyright.

The use of images in presentations seems to be a specific focus area at my university. Fortunately, many people like to use images to visualize ideas and concepts, and there’s an abundance of very nice images to be found on the internet. However, people are often in doubt about, whether they can actually use the images. At my university, we have an unlimited license to Colorbox (http://www.colourbox.com/about) which is a repository of more than 5 million images that can be used free of charge offline and online. This is extremely helpful, and it makes a world of difference to know that you can use the images, you find on Colorbox. I use images from Colorbox for my PowerPoint presentations, Prezis, blog posts etc. I have just become aware of Wikimedia Commons (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page), though, in connection with this module. 16,000,000 free photos, illustrations, sounds and videos – sound like it’s time to go exploring.

From Wikimedia Commons. Created by Supermac1961

From Wikimedia Commons. Created by Supermac1961

My choice of license

I was quite sure about the “by” and the “share alike” before I embarked on this activity. I find it quite helpful myself to be able to trace the origins of relevant and interesting resources that I find. Being able to see who the creator is makes it easier to find other works by that same creator and thus you can explore the topic in more detail. The “share alike” attribute is a prerequisite for the continued sharing, networking and collaboration online, so that was a given, too.

I was very unsure about the “non-commercial” issue. My first thought was that I didn’t want anybody to make money off my works, at least not without me getting a share of it. But then I read the arguments for and against NC and actually got even more confused. How can it be that “sale and other commercial uses must be allowed for a license to be considered free (http://freedomdefined.org/Licenses/NC – Incompatibility). I was thinking that if everybody used the NC then we would get to a point where all resources would be free, and that seems to be the ideal. But total freedom apparently means allowing people to use your works for commercial purposes. So don’t use the NC license if you want your works to get out and about.

I finally settled on:

Creative Commons License
Activity 9: Choosing a license by Inger-Marie Christensen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Activity 8: Where art thou, OER?

Reflections on designing an OER course on digital skills

Having recuperated from activity 7, I got around to activity 8 and quickly put together topics for the 5-week course on digital skills. And then the work started. I had the funny experience initially, though, that as I was trying to find contents for week 1, fairly ok resources for week 3 dropped into my lap. I was happy to see that the problem, I experienced, wasn’t really one of finding resources on the topics, I had selected. Rather the problem centered on finding the most suitable one in the list of resources that came up in my searches.

Here’s my course plan. The target group is new teachers at university:

digitalskills02

What’s your angle?

At the start of my search for OER, I kept on track with the topics in my course plan, but I found that the OER I located would take a different approach to the topic than I would. Ragan, e.g. has produced an OER collection called ‘Best Practices in Online Teaching’ (Ragan, 2007). This collection covers a wide range of aspects from preparation to delivery to evaluation. Ragan has a very practical approach and includes lots of examples. His OER also contain a feature called ‘Voice of experience’ which are interviews with experienced teachers. This will carry a lot of weight with faculty (it is only audio files, though). I find this very valuable and exactly what teachers ask for according to my experience. However, Ragan also has an instructional approach, posing questions and giving ‘fixed’ answers to these. I had to pause here to consider whether this approach could be combined with my own approach which is based on constructivism and situated learning. I came to the conclusion that Ragan’s OER collection is a very good start and that it can be combined with blogging and other network activities where teachers will have a chance to reflect on their learning and relate to their own, specific context. Most teachers are very new to the idea of e-learning both the pedagogies and the tools, so a more ‘rigid’ scaffolding will be helpful initially.

I did experience a bit of a problem trying to select the most suitable of Ragan’s OER and fitting these into weeks 1 and 2 respectively. I was tempted to rewrite the topics of these two weeks slightly to better fit the topics dealt with by Ragan.

I was surprised to find OER on the specific subject of week 3 ‘Blackboard, the e-learning platform: how do you design an inviting and easy to navigate virtual learning environment?’ The OER by Bartoletti (2008) are very useful, but contain context-specific links to ‘resources found in TWU ID, a set of resources for TWU distance educators’. This detracts from the value. Apart from the context-related links, Bartoletti also includes other ‘context-neutral’ links to additional resources. Can’t quite figure out if this is good or bad. It might be more helpful if all resources were collected in one place, instead of the user being redirected to other websites. However, I also like the idea of providing a first overview in a learning object and then pointing to additional resources that can be employed by those users who have the time and interest to dig deeper into the topic.

I spent some time browsing Connexions (http://cnx.org/) and found their ‘reuse’ feature very helpful. The feature provides you with a list of differently formatted references to the particular source, so referencing becomes very easy.reuse02

For week 4, I turned to MIT OpenCourseWare (http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm) and located some introductory slides on both blogs and wikis. The slides were only text though and therefore somewhat dull. However, they did contain helpful explanations, examples and tips concerning how to get started. Ideas for use were also presented, but the target group of these were clearly students, so this is off the mark. I was quite tempted to include a couple of Youtube videos that in a very simple but catchy way explain blogs and wikis:

I turned to Jorum (http://www.jorum.ac.uk/) to locate OER for week 5 and was quite amazed to find a very specific OER ‘Blackboard 6 – tests and surveys’ (Florczak, 2004). This OER is really helpful in that it thoroughly explains all the different types of questions, you can work with in the test tool in Blackboard. I never, myself, found the time to produce something like this. Unfortunately, the learning object is somewhat outdated already, since it is from 2004 and several changes have been made to the test tool. However, the basics remain the same, so it gives a great overview.

Time saving

If you do your course planning in an open and iterative way, the integration will not mean an extra workload for you as a teacher. The main benefit would be that learners can study topics online independently before any live online or face-to-face sessions. The teacher would then have time available to engage students in discussion and dialogue and active learning in different shapes. Be it case or project work etc. I feel that OER cannot stand alone, but should be combined with forms of active learning that also require teacher participation. However, it will be worthwhile to further explore what role peer assessment can play. It is sometimes difficult in formal education to get both teaches and students to ‘trust’ and give credit to peer assessment. But today, faculty spend too much time preparing and giving lectures that don’t promote active and in-dept learning, so let’s try new approaches!

References

Bartoletti, R. (2008, July 25). Using text and layout to enhance the readability of your content. Retrieved from the Connexions Web site: http://cnx.org/content/m17297/1.5/

Florczak, K. (2004). Blackboard 6 – tests and surveys. Jorum. http://resources.jorum.ac.uk:80/xmlui/handle/123456789/13062

Ragan, L. (2007, August 28). Best Practices in Online Teaching. Retrieved from the Connexions Web site: http://cnx.org/content/col10453/1.2/