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 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 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/

Activity 7. OER: Sharing YES. Using, reusing, adapting?

oerbadgeWas awareded the OER Understanding badge this morning for this Activity 7 blogpost. Great!

3 key issues in OER and how these are being addressed:

From a focus in the early years of the OER movement on sharing, open access, and open standards (Downes, 2001), there is now a growing concern with regards to sustainability and the use, reuse and adaptation of the OER available. Already in 2003, Friesen objected to what he labelled “systems thinking […] uniformity and standardization” and called for an increased focus on educational practice (Friesen, 2003). This is where my blog post takes its starting point.

1. Use of OER in formal education

When the OER movement began, there was a “build it and they will come approach” (Harley et al., 2006:1-1). Many universities started up projects to build OER platforms and make learning objects available online. However, it proved more difficult than anticipated to engage teachers in the use, reuse and adaptation of OER. Wilson and McAndrew state that “the reuse of OER by academics within their teaching remains a challenge (Wilson and McAndrew, 2009:004810). One of the ways in which this challenge has been addressed is through research and surveys, the goals of which have been “to investigate the gap that is apparent between the OER available and the repurposing of such resources” (Wilson and McAndrew, 2009:004811) and to understand the use and users of OER in particular contexts such as e.g. undergraduate education in the humanities and social sciences (Harley et al., 2006). Lack of time has been identified as an obstacle to the use of OER. Other obstacles concern how to locate and manage relevant OER and how to use these in new contexts.

Ideas for overcoming the challenges include faculty support, institutional strategy to use OER and adding community software to OER platforms to facilitate the creation of self-educating communities in which teachers can share ideas on how to use, reuse and adapt OER (Attwell & Pumilia, 2007: Burbules, 2006; Harley et al., 2006). Such self-educating communities could help innovate teaching methods and open up curriculum development. I believe that this is very much needed in order to drive the use, reuse and adaptation of OER forward.

2. The reusability paradox

What does the perfect OER look like? According to Wiley, “[t]he more context a learning object has, the more (and the more easily) a learner can learn from it” (Wiley, 2004). However, the presence of context in a learning object also makes it more difficult to reuse it in a different setting. So we see a paradox between usability and context. I find it quite useful to address this paradox by taking a broader look at OER to both include resources on the formal education portals and resources produced and shared by individuals on sites outside the formal portals. We can then distinguish between ‘big’ and ‘little’ OER (Weller, 2012). Big OER can be found on the formal education portals; they are high on quality, adhere to a certain standard and contain learning objectives. They are thus more ‘context-intensive’. Little OER are created and shared by individuals. They are low cost and may not have any explicit learning objectives. Little OER are shared through e.g. open social networking sites. Weller reports that big OER with their “high quality content encourages a somewhat passive acceptance, and maybe discourages creativity in the adopters of that content”, whereas little OER invites the consumer to become producer (Weller, 2012:8). 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). So there is no single recipe to creating a perfect OER. It is seen as increasingly important to accommodate heterogeneity both with respects to granularity but also format (Atkins et al., 2007).

3. Learner support – supporting the learning processStones path with flowers for zen spa background, vertical. selec

When asked, teachers often suggest that OER be used as supplementary material (Wilson and McAndrew, 2009). However, my experience is that learners don’t always get to the supplementary material, so how can OER be more fully integrated into courses to support the learning process of students? One way to address this issue is by looking at the challenges that teachers face today in the classroom and then explore how OER can help overcome these challenges. In Denmark, there is an increasing pressure on young people to enrol in higher education. This means that some students are somewhat below level and have difficulties performing on coursework and exams. A teacher at the University of Southern Denmark, where I work as an e-learning consultant, decided to use the open resources at Khan Academy (http://www.khanacademy.org/) to bring students up to speed and up to level with the course. The teacher singled out the relevant OER at Khan Academy and followed the progress of his students. He could thus monitor their level but did not have to spend extra time teaching the skills that were a prerequisite for taking the course. Instead, he could focus on the actual course content and learning objectives and keep teaching and learning activities on the required academic level. Students on their part got a chance to practice the skills needed and catch up with their fellow students.

In this way, OER can act as additional stepping stones that will get learners across the river and achieve their learning goals. Instead of being supplementary material, the OER of Khan Academy was presented as personal learning paths to students.

References:

Atkins, D.E., Brown-Seely, J. & Hammond, A.L., (2007). A review of the open educational resources (OER) movement: Achievements, challenges, and new opportunities. Report to The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Attwell, G. & Pumilia, P.M. (2007) The New Pedagogy of Open Content: Bringing Together Production, Knowledge, Development, and Learning. Data Science Journal, 6, 211- 219.The New Pedagogy of Open Content: Bringing Together Production, Knowledge, Development, and Learning. Data Science Journal, 6, 211- 219.

Burbules, N. C. (2006) “Self-Educating Communities: Collaboration and Learning Throughout the Internet,” in Learning in Places: The Informal Education Reader, Zvi Bekerman, Nicholas C. Burbules, and Diana Silberman-Keller, eds. (New York: Peter Lang, 2006), pp. 273–284.

Downes, S. (2001) ‘Learning objects: resources for distance education worldwide’, IRRODL, vol. 2, no. 1 [online], http://www.irrodl.org/ index.php/ irrodl/ article/ view/ 32/ 378  (accessed 20 March 2013).

Friesen, N. (2003) ‘Three objections to learning objects and e-learning standards’ in McGreal, R. (ed.) (2004) Online Education Using Learning Objects, London, Routledge, pp. 59–70. Draft available online at http://www.learningspaces.org/ papers/ objections.html (accessed 25 March 2013).

Harley, D., Henke, J., Lawrence, S., Miller, I., Perciali, I. and Nasatir, D. (2006) Use and Users of Digital Resources: A Focus on Undergraduate Education in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Berkeley, CA, Center for Studies in Higher Education, UC Berkeley, Available at: http://cshe.berkeley.edu/research/digitalresourcestudy/report/digitalresourcestudy_final_report _text.pdf

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 (accessed 20 March 2013).

Wiley, D. (2004) The Reusability Paradox, Connexions [online], http://cnx.org/ content/ m11898/ 1.18/ (accessed 25 March 2013).

Wilson, Tina and McAndrew, Patrick (2009). Evaluating how five Higher Education Institutions world- wide plan to use and adapt Open Educational Resources. In: International Technology, Education and Development Conference (INTED 2009), 9-11 March 2009, Valencia, Spain.