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Multilitteratus Incognitus

Traversing the path of the doctoral degree

Confessions of a MOOC connoisseur

Well, it's the end of the week (or the beginning if you are following Western conventions with the odd behavior of calling "Sunday" the beginning of the week), grading for my course, for this week, is done, and it's time to see what I missed on Rhizo14 while I was tending to other things. 

One of the things that we are putting together (in addition to the long autoethnography for #rhizo14) is this other research, which I would call Delphi based in its methodology, on why we take MOOCs, why we participate in them, and why we stick, or not stick, to them. I thought that this would be something interesting to participate in since I am not sure I've recorded why I've been participating in MOOCs (as you will note, the MOOC tag is the biggest one on this blog).

The other epithets used online, thus far, for those who keep engaging in MOOCs is MOOCaholic.  I don't know if I like that epithet because it doesn't necessarily describe me right at this moment.  I find myself as an accidental MOOC expert and MOOC thought leader, both nouns that someone else assigned to me and that I am uncomfortable using since there is always more to learn and the bar I set for myself is high.  Nevertheless, when I first started thinking about this, I guess my current status in MOOCdom is either that of the MOOC Connoisseur, or the MOOC Socialite (or someone in between).

Depending on when you has asked me why I've participated in MOOCs my answer will, however, have varied.  Right at the beginning, in 2011 for me, when I started LAK11, followed by CCK11, MobiMOOC and EduMOOC, I saw myself as a continuous learner.  I had just completed my last Masters degree in December of 2010, and I was interested in engaging, at the graduate level and beyond, with topics around my subject of interest. This included Education and Educational Technology, which is why these MOOCs tied in really nicely as an extension of my studies.  The high barrier to entry meant that these MOOCs were other people with pre-requisite backgrounds to engage in this discourse and extend it to new levels.  Of course, back then I didn't know this, but I know now that cMOOCs have a high barrier to entry.  In all honesty I would have been bored if I had to switch gears so radically in those early MOOCs that I may not have continued.  They spoke to me at my level, which was important for motivational purposes.  Not too hard, not too easy - just right.  At this stage I would probably (retrospectively) classify myself as a MOOC Explorer.  I was interested in the subject matter, but I wasn't interested in the form factor until I realized the variety and started collaborating with the MobiMOOC Research team.

Then came Coursera.  This phase I would classify as MOOCing in the Final Frontier, while being a MOOC binge consumer.  Initially I was expecting coursera (and other type of xMOOC platforms) to provide content that engaged me at the same level as the cMOOCs I had previously participated in, and that I kept participating in 2012 in.  When I realized what the format was, and how "easy" it was to get a certificate, but also how useless most of the forums were, I started binging on MOOCs in order to see what was out there.  The topic was important, but it was not as important as as it was in 2011 with the cMOOCs.  Some of 2012 was a bit of an aimless year in xMOOC land because I wasn't particularly interested in STEM courses (so I didn't use Udacity) and the social sciences courses in coursera were cool, but they didn't satisfy the hunger.  Binging on fast food?  There were some courses that were better than others, like the aboriginal views on education from the University of Toronto (this was quite a different worldview that it was a joy to explore) and the Gamification MOOC from the University of Pennsylvania, which was actually well done. Other MOOCs were, I felt, like watching an interesting TED talk, and taking some quizzes.  Not the same intellectual stimulation as the cMOOCs of 2011 and 2012.

In 2013, after I detoxed a bit from the xMOOC binge, I saw myself as a MOOC explorer again. This time taking an opportunity to take courses on things that were interesting to me, but also try to explore new things, such as HarvardX's The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 hours. I had not really studied classics, and as someone who is both Greek and American, and has lived in Greece I thought I ought to know something about the topic.  The presentation also mattered.  There were panel discussions, discussions of the readings in the videos, nice a presentation of what was going on and a free eBook which I actually took on vacation and read.  That's how much I enjoyed this MOOC.  It still had the TED + quiz feel, but I was engaged, so it did not feel like a drag.  This made me wonder what sort of other courses and topics I missed out on by being career focused during my Bachelor degree days.  In 2013 I also tried out some pMOOCs, like OLDSMOOC and the OpenBadgesMOOC and I enjoyed getting my hands dirty again.  2013 was really back to 2011 - learning by doing.  Learn the subject, learn about the MOOC format, and continue to research the MOOC format.  This was the year that I really embraced the MOOC Researcher aspect, going beyond the initial papers that we did with the MobiMOOC research team.

Finally we are in 2014.  It's still early in the year, so who knows what this year is going to bring.  I can already see some trends continuing though: (1) I still want to learn more about classics, and that is what attracts me to some edx courses; (2) I want to learn more about other MOOC platforms, which is why I am signed up for Open2Study courses and experimenting with those; (3) I am curious about how Georgia Tech's MOOC MA is going to work, so I might follow along some of their Udacity courses. I think this is the connoisseur part. Of course, I am engaged in cMOOCs because that's where the community is; I guess this is where the socialite comes into the picture.

So, why do I drop or complete MOOCs? For me it comes down to a few things.  First, and most important, is the motivation that is generated by the topic.  If the topic is interesting to me, I will slog through the MOOC, no matter how badly it's done.  If the topic is marginally interesting, or just not that interesting once the first week is compete, my motivation is less to complete it really goes down.

Another reason is assessments.  Now, in most cMOOCs I haven't really had assessments which is fine.  In pMOOCs or xMOOCs you have either projects or quizzes.  If you get some good feedback on your assessments (i.e. why did I get this bloody question wrong?) then I am more likely to stay and continue. If the feedback is poor, I am most likely to abandon the MOOC.  I am there to have fun and learn; not to be told that I failed (and not tell me how to fix it). It's amazing that even though the certificates of completion don't mean much, as soon as you throw up a graded assessment, like Pavlov's dog, we need to do well in them.

For me these two factors have really amplifying effects for one another.  I am willing to sit through a topic of marginal interest, or sometimes no interest, in order to have that serendipitous "aha" moment where I am surprised to learn something cool and unexpected.  However, if assessments are putting me down, then I am more likely to say "eff-this" and drop the MOOC.  Life is too short for this  :)

Finally, I think the community has a big role in keeping people grounded in the MOOC.  If I can connect with one or two people, and sustain a small learning community, I will most likely stick to the MOOC.  Who know, maybe they will be instrumental in getting over the assessment hill ;-).  It also helps to be able to discuss content and concepts, and in the case of xMOOCs heckle when appropriate :). I guess I can't underestimate the community because when I was doing IOE12, I was alone, having come late to the party, and the only reason I completed the MOOC was because I was interested in the content.

To date, since 2011, I've been in over 30 MOOCs.  I've only really dropped out from two.  One was Udacity's Statistics which I dropped a little over half-way through because some of the explanations in the mini-quizzes didn't click with me, and the topic wasn't of immense interest. There was also no community.  The other course was a coursera course called Think Again: How to Reason and Argue, which was all about symbolic logic.  I think I dropped this about half-way too.  I was interested in the topic, however I was only getting marginally passing grades on my assessments.  I wanted to know how to improve, but I wasn't getting that, so since the community wasn't there, and the assessments were annoying the heck out of me, I decided to drop the course. This was also during my MOOC binge of 2012 days, so I was looking to see what to cut out to focus on courses that I was really interested in.

One last note, on certificates of completion.  I haven't received a certificate of completion or achievement or whatever for all the xMOOCs I am considering myself to have completed.  There are MOOCs that I really liked and I stuck the course, but I didn't bother with the assessments necessary to get a certificate. The assessments were beyond what I wanted to invest in the course, and since no subject expert would review and comment on my homework/assignments, why bother?  There is the practice aspect of it, sure, however seeing that we are all busy individuals, I would prefer to practice in an arena of my own making, not someone else's arena.  Someone else's arena is fine if they are also doing the work of assessing you as well.

So there you have it, confessions of a MOOC connoisseur. Why do YOU MOOC? :)

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Analytics, and usage in Higher Education

It's week 4 of #cfhe12 so it must be time for Big Data and Analytics as the topic of discussion. It's interesting coming back to this topic of discussion because it was the topic of the first MOOC I took part in, LAK11, and it's a topic I've been thinking (or at least keeping on the back burner) since I was in business school. On of th things to keep in mind when talking about Analytics is that there are quite a few definitions out there, so, when talking about learning Analytics it is important to define what we aim to get out of our discussion about Analytics and how we wish to employ the potential insight that we get from this data.

There are two topics that have recently come up in my neck of the woods: knowing what sort of data one can get from the various campus systems, and knowing what it means (and accurately representing what the data tells us). First, it's important to know what sort of data you can get out of your systems, like the LMS. As I've written elsewhere, systems are designed with certain design parameters and certain underlying assumptions in mind. This, of course, affects pedagogy, but it also affects what sort of data the system keeps track of. If the system doesn't currently keep track of certain data you need, don't dwell on it. Put in a request to your system vendor and see what happens, don't say "we don't have this data? Well that stupid? Why not?" The "why not" does not Matt, what matters is how to move on from here. The other thing to keep in mind is not to make assumptions about what systems track and how they do it. This can get you, and your organization, in a pickle. You should ask your vendors what they track and what they don't so you can plan accordingly.

The second thing that needs really careful consideration of what the data actually means! Over the past 10 years I've worked in a variety of departments on campus and one thing seems clear: data collected is with poorly analyzed and understood; or departments are shedding the light they want to shed on their data they've collected in order to make their department the "hero" of this yeqr's annual report, or to get as many resources as they can for their department. This second part is a direct cause (I think) of th siloization and siloed nature of academia.

With more than 4 years of business intelligence and Analytics in my head I am not sure what to add. What do you all think? What would your elevator pitch be for learning Analytics?

Figure from:


On Learning Analytics & Assessment


Yesterday and the day before, the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) was hosting a spring focus session on learning analytics.  I have to admit that drew me to this talk (in addition to being interested in analytics of course!) was the talk that George Siemens presented at this ELI to kick things off.  The first day was quite productive, but the second day I had too many other commitments to attend to and could not attend for most of it.

One of the back-and-forths that I had on twitter my colleagues was about learning analytics and assessment.  A fellow colleague seemed to be very certain that learning analytics could be used for assessment, and I disagreed.  It's hard to carry on a meaningful debate in 140 characters, so I thought I would write a quick blog post about it. And who knows, perhaps I mis-interpreted what my colleague was saying!

First I think it's good to start off with a few definitions so that we are all on the same page:

Learning Analytics: Learning Analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs. (source)

Assessments: Assessments are activities that learners undertake to demonstrate their competence on a (or a set of) course or module learning objectives.  There are various types of assessments, but two most common ones are:

  • Formative: formative assessments are done throughout the duration of the course
  • Summative: summative assessments are done at the conclusion of the course (think: final exam)
The key thing here is that what is assessed is the learner's ability/knowledge after the course. You are NOT assessing the effectiveness of the course.

Assignments: Assignments are activities, that are ungraded, that are meant to help students learn what they need to learn and/or give students adequate opportunities to practice so that they can acquire and perfect those skills.  Assignments might be readings, ungraded tests, and discussion forums.

So, where there was a bone of contention (or at least it seemed like it) on our twitter interactions was around Assessment.  It seems to me that people wanted Learning Analytics to function as an assessment tool. Even though I talked about grading as being fundamental to Assessment, I got back a response that this type of assessment (graded) was Summative, but they were thinking along the lines of formative.

This confused me a little, because it seemed like they were mixing assignment with assessment, then taking this understanding of assessment = assignment, and applying learning analytics of those assignments to see how students were doing in the course. At this point we weren't talking about two terms, but three (and in 140 characters that's not easy)  Furthermore, a couple of days removed from the discussion, it seems to me that this person was probably wanting to assess the effectiveness of the course by using learning analytics, but that (if we go by the definition above) is not the goal of Learning Analytics.

Taking a step back from this, it seems to me that before we (as individuals, institutions, programs) commit to learning analytics, we need to figure out what we want to do. What sort of information do we need?  How can we get this information?  Is this information Learning Analytics (as defined above) or something else?

At the end of the day, I still feel confident that Learning Analytics  Assessments ≠ Assignments

2011: the year of the MOOC

With 2011 almost gone, I thought I would write a bit about the major educational venture of 2011 (at least for me), the Massive Online Open Course (or MOOC).  Last year, at this time of year, if you told me that I would be spending a lot of time in MOOCs I would call you crazy.  While I had heard of MOOCs in 2009 and 2010, I was too busy with a capstone project (for my Instructional Design degree) and my comprehensive exams (for Applied Linguistics) to pay too much attention to PLENK and CCK09.

With formal schooling done (at least for now) and with no courses to take at the university I decided to experiment with MOOCs.   In January a friend and colleague, @cdetorres, recommended LAK11 - Learning Analytics. This was to be my first MOOC. It was quite interesting, I did learn quite a lot, and it just highlighted that I was interested in a topic, learning analytics, that I hadn't spent a lot of time pondering. The course was quite fast paced; a lot of things to do, in what seemed like a little time.

Then came CCK11 (connectivism and connected knowledge). I came into CCK not so much convinced of the first "C", connectivism, but I was all for "CK."  CCK11 felt more like a traditional course in that it was 13 weeks long (like a regular semester), and it contained mostly topics that I didn't know much about. It was also a natural extension of my psycholinguistics course that I had taken the previous semester. I am still not convinced of connectivism as a learning theory by itself, but  in conjunction with other things (like social constructionism) I think it works.

Then came MobiMOOC. MobiMOOC was a six week spring course. It was a great course, lead by experts in the field of mobile learning. This MOOC was not only informational but also introduced me to a lot of interesting people, some of them in the MobiMOOC Research Team with which I've worked on a couple of papers.  I think out of all the MOOCs this one was "just about right" both in terms of duration and in terms of content.  CCK was great but near the end I felt a bit of "senioritis" setting in and I didn't feel like going along with the course as much as I did in the beginning.

In the summer we had EduMOOC.  This one had the greatest promise but it ended up being a disappointment.  I had heard a lot of positive things about Ray Schroeder, the topic was interesting (education today and tomorrow) and I had three positive experiences in MOOCs coming into it...but this particular MOOC was all over the place, it lacked focus, and it just seemed like it wasn't designed (at all).  Oh well. Perhaps EduMOOC12 will be better :-)

Finally, there is Change MOOC (dubbed the mother of all MOOCs), which is still going on. I think that Change is what EduMOOC tried to be (at least from the eduMOOC descriptions available).  Change isn't bad, but it also isn't that well designed it seems.  Change seems more like a conference, and less like a "course", something that a number of bloggers have written about in the past four months. In the initial weeks there seemed to be a lot of "new" topics, but as time has gone on, it seems like things are being repeated.  The dip-in, jump-out also isn't helping since I see topics from the 3rd week of the MOOC come up again as new people join.  It's great, but for those that are keeping up it feels a but like clutter in the daily mail.  Oh well :-)  Something to be worked out in the form-factor of the MOOC, it's still young!

This year has been full of educational experiences, many new and interesting people on the internet (including but not limited to: Inge, Rebecca, Osvaldo, Sean, Michael, Nilgun, Serena, Jaap, John, Rita and brainysmurf) and a renewed potential for future open educational experiences.  Looking forward to 2012!

On selfish blogging and form & function

Yesterday while taking the train back home from work I was catching up with Change11 related blogs.  Two of them caught my eye and sparked my imagination (or perhaps cognitive process is a better any case it got me thinking). First I read Tony Bates' initial summary of the week he facilitated, and then Jenny's response to him on selfish blogging.

Tony writes (and this is not the only thing he writes so read his entire post):

There could be all kinds of reasons for the shortage of comments on this week’s topic, but I was more struck by the form in which they occurred. Participants did not comment directly to my post for this week, but within their own blogs. I call this the syndrome of the selfish blogger. We all do this. If we have something interesting to say, we’d rather say it on our own web site than someone else’s (it would be nice though if the post was also copied to the site that originated the topic). I had to go and cull all the comments from the #Change 11 newsletter and from pingbacks to get them into one place, so I could comment on them as a whole.
I have to say in MOOCs where an LMS (example: LAK11) or a Google Group (example: MobiMOOC, eduMOOC) were used and there were discussion forums, I really did find it obnoxious when people created (or responded to) a discussion post with something like this:
Oh, I wrote something about this very thing in my blog the yesterday day with regard to insert-MOOC-name. Check it out here:
As a matter of practice I did not bother going to those people's blogs. There was enough content in the discussion forums to keep me occupied without having to sidetrack.  What I did find very considerate was when people copied and pasted their blog content into the discussion forum with an attribution link.  I think this is the best of both worlds, because as Jenny states, she post on her blogs because those are her reflections on a topic (and reading between the lines here:) not something that is necessarily a response to some discussion somewhere. If we have something that is our reflection on something BUT at the same time fits into a discussion, then the considerate thing to do, as far as I am concerned, is to copy and paste the entire post in the discussion IF it fits in.

Personally, I didn't take offense to Tony's selfish blogger  comment. I think the key theme posed by Tony "Can change come from within, or do we need to re-invent new forms of higher education that are de-institutionalized?" is what drove me, and others this week.  I did post twice on the subject, once in English and once in Greek, with different content in each. Of course I don't expect Tony, or others, to speak Greek, but at least something was there.

Now, as far as forums, blogs and comments go - for me at least, these are three different cognitive processes.  If a MOOC has all three (like MobiMOOC, eduMOOC and LAK11) I tend to stick to the forums for most things, and to blogs for personal reflections.  If a MOOC has gRSShopper, like CCK11 and Change11, where all your content is harvested into a daily newsletter, then longer pieces (like this one) where more time and thought go into it and/or I am referencing more than one source go into a blog.  If I see something interesting on a blog, and I want to add a quick reply, thought or comment then I do indeed post to that blog and comment.  I don't see comments as a venue for discussion, even though threaded comments have become the norm these days, the form is still limiting for longer posts like this one. Mini-discussions are achievable if you keep it to 2 paragraphs or fewer per comment.

Why not use the gRSShopper system for blog comments?  I did try that with CCK11, but I found that
  1. I wanted to maintain "authorship" of my comments, and many blogs have disqus, which allows me to do that
  2. comments on gRSShopper, for me, are disconnected a bit from the blog content.
I don't have any suggestions on how to fix the system. Perhaps a way to harvest and collate comments automatically from blogs?  I don't know how technically difficult that is :-)

Finally Tony asks:

  1. Could I have done something that would have resulted in more comments, more discussion and more integration of the discussion in this MOOC?
  2. Or is the topic itself the problem – just not of interest to most people in this MOOC?
  3. Or are people just too busy to go beyond the webinar and a short response?

OK, to answer these in sequence 
  1.  I don't think so. I think you are limited by the distributed nature of this MOOC. It's neither space bound not time bound. Much of the content is all over the net AND the MOOC-fathers have already setup an expectation that there aren't forums on here, so it's hard to break apart (I think) from an distributed expectation and try to corale people into a forum for a week. It's also a fact that some people are a week, or two behind, or some people skip a week in MOOCs. This type of freedom makes it a bit difficult for facilitators.
  2. For me the topic wasn't a problem, but then again I work in academia, in IT, so I know the issues. Perhaps other participants may have had a harder time getting started with this theme because they didn't have the required social capital to tackle it right from the gate.
  3. Some people will be too busy, for sure.  I am pretty sure that most people are not. I think a lot of MOOC participants take time to read many (if not all?) the facilitator provided materials and do respond via their blogs with their thoughts on the subjects...and then comment back to others via comments (for short comments) or longer expository blog posts (for longer "comments"). I know that there are many people who are on here whose native language is not English. I really like reading blogs from people like this (like Serena for example in Italian and Jaap when he posts in Dutch) because it adds another dimension to the MOOC. If English isn't your native language this takes time, and if a MOOC has been established to not be as strictly time bound as traditional courses, then it will take people more than the "allotted time" to get their thoughts and comments out :-)

For what it's worth, I enjoyed the topic, and thought that Tony did a good job, but he was limited by the existing MOOC setup. I think that the "weekly guest" is really a misnomer because people only get "revved up" that week for that topic, but the topic tends to persist for a week or so after the official "end" of the topic.

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MOOC participation - open door policy and analytics

The other day I was reading ZML Didaktik on the topic of MOOC participants. In MOOCs, one of the big questions is why are people lurking and not participating? If more than 500 people join a MOOC, why are only 10% contributing with any amount of regularity?  On the same blog, in a previous blog post, I had commented (it was an open stream of thought really) that perhaps there should be an open enrollment period, and then if the system sees that certain participants are bellow a threshold of activity, the system may give them the option to self-identify as a lurker, or un-register from the class.

This line of thought went along a view that compared to the traditional classroom; in a traditional classroom students register for the course, they can attend classes for a week and then decide whether or not they want to stay with the course or not. If they do stay with the course they know that there is a certain amount of "lurking" that they can get away with, but they do have to participate a certain amount.  This is what makes traditional classroom analytics easier. You know exactly how many people registered, how many people dropped the course (early in the semester) or withdrew (late in the semester), and you know how often people participated and the quality of their participation. There is also some artifact involved with their participation that indicates their mastery of the topic.

In contrast, most MOOCs (that I've been a part of), have open enrollment, the dip in-jump out aspect seems to be a big thing, there are many lurkers and many people who've signed up but don't come back (not even as lurkers), and for most registered users there is no artifact that shows their mastery. I am not saying that the that I want to eject people from any MOOC I create (like jupidu I want to give people an opportunity to participate), but the question is - how does one collect meaningful learner and learning analytics when there are so many no-shows in a MOOC? Perhaps a "snooze" button would be a good idea for measuring lurkers.

If people don't participate for X period of time, they get a notification by email. They can choose to "snooze" by saying that they are a lurker (and X weeks later they get notified again), or they can cancel the alarm by saying that they decided to opt-out of the course.  If they decide to opt-out we can find out why.  If they decide to lurk, we can find out how often they lurk, what topics they come out lurking for, and we can figure out if there is a lurking-to-participant or lurking-to-drop-out rate (and why).

Some questions I will leave you with:

  • Should MOOCs continue with this come-and-go as you please policy? What are the implication of either approach?
  • Should MOOCs actively interrogate/poll lurkers and drop-outs to figure out why the MOOC isn't to their liking? After all, a MOOC cannot be all things to all people.
  • What are ways to conduct a learner analysis in MOOCs? After all, you can't design a course if you don't know your audience.
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EduMOOC is almost over

Another MOOC is almost in the can (to borrow terminology from TWiT).  I have to say that even though I was really interested in this MOOC, eduMOOC that is, I really have a hard time finding something that really made it stand out. This was my fourth MOOC this year and I can easily say that MobiMOOC and CCK11 were the two top MOOCs.  LAK11 was good, but it was way, way, too compressed for my liking, not enough time to take stock in what was talked about, and what was read.

eduMOOC, in contrast to the other MOOCs this year, was almost like an informal social. There was a google site with information, and a weekly breakdown, but it really didn't feel like a "course," it felt like it was lacking direction. I think that it was a worthwhile experiment, considering that the MOOC format is relatively new and a lot of research is left to be done on this format, but I really didn't consider it much of a course. I wonder if it fails the MOOC litmus test since the C stands for "course" and this didn't feel like a course - lol :-)

There is an eduMOOC survey on the google group out there now. If you participated in the MOOC, even if you just lurked, please take the survey. It will give us a lot of good information about this MOOC from the participant perspective.  The OER university was supposed to develop a survey, but I haven't heard anything yet (maybe people are on vacation?). If you happen to see two separate surveys on google groups take both :-)

This eduMOOC experience actually has me questioning my ChangeMOOC participation which is supposed to start next month. Initially I was really psyched, but now I really need to see how much time I want to spend on it.  I don't like the "dipping in and out" of the MOOC because I feel that I don't have a chance to build a community and expand my PLN.  Perhaps I will lurk and participate every now and again.  Let's see how this one works out.

CT2011 Sessions attended part II

Here's the final word, at least from me, on sessions that I attended at CT2011 this past week

The first was the Google talk. You know, for all the hype about the limited audience and such, the talk was really about where Google is going; no specifics, and no marketing talk either, so it was all a bunch of ether as far as I am concerned. Google doesn't confirm or deny that they are working on an LMS, and they want to digitize more of the world's knowledge. Cool! Next!

An interesting session on the last day of CT2011 was Learner Analytics via the Cloud: Sophisticated Statistics Made Easy (by the same person who presented Academic Progress Portal: Catching Students Before They Fail)  The idea was that different data provides around campus pooled their data into one central place (data including grades from the LMS) that instructors could run and statistics and see if there is correlation between class attendance and grades, between entrance exams and exit exams, between first years seminars and job placement and so on.  Quite interesting from an analytics perspective, but it was also at the 10,000 foot level.  I'd be interested in seeing some more analytics at the classroom level :-)

Finally, the low light of the conference, at least for me, was the session titled Leading Change: Course Redesign . Reading the description I thought it would be pretty cool! As an instructional designer, our team at work has talked about helping faculty redesign their courses, so this session naturally interested me. The problem wasn't the concept however, it was the delivery. This session was boring, boring beyond tears. I felt like I was at a lecture where I was being talked to. The powerpoint deck was over-crowded, the speaker was monotonous and behind a podium. It was pretty bad.  I wish for these speakers to present this information again, as I think that it is important and useful, but I really want them to rethink (redesign!) their presentation approach.

MOOCing away for college credit?


Note: I had originally written this for the UMassOnline blog, but since it's not posted yet, I am cross posting here :-)

This past December I graduated from the Masters in Applied Linguistics program and I am no longer a formal student [i.e. someone in a degree or certificate granting program]. This doesn't mean that I haven't been busy.  A relatively new phenomenon in learning has cropped up in recent years - that of the Massive Online Open Course (or MOOC for short). These past few months I've been taking part in several different MOOCs, dealing with topics such as Learning Analytics [LAK11], Connected Knowledge [CCK11], and more recently mLearning [mobiMOOC]. There are other MOOCs that I decided to skip this time around (Digital Story Telling and PLENK).  Some MOOCs use traditional Learning Management Systems like Moodle, while others use a more distributed architecture, using freely available Web 2.0 tools to create content, comment on this content, and aggregate this content to learners. It's an interesting idea, albeit kind of chaotic at times, and there is definitely a lot of content out there and a lot of interactions. As a participant you can't really expect to read every message and every comment because you just don't have the amount of time that you would need to do so.

Now these MOOCs are free, you can come and go as you please; you are not obligated to participate in each of the week's discussions, and of course there is no college credit. One of the things that has come to mind is how can one utilize this vast resource for college credit.  Students who are self-motivated and can keep up with the workload imposed by a MOOC could use it as an independent study. Most independent studies are one-to-one affair with a student and a faculty mentor.  The benefit that I see of MOOC used as an independent study is that you are tapping into not just a few experts and interested parties that are organizing the MOOC, but you are also tapping into one vast community of motivated learners, like you, who want to learn more about the subject.   

MOOCs are quite diverse, some of them have projects (even though you don't get a final grade from an instructor), and some do not; most however do have homework in the form of readings and participation, and many learners in such MOOCs actually provide additional sources and readings that enrich the original "assignment." So my open question is this: What if more students wanted to be part of a MOOC? How does a faculty mentor reconcile the lack of control he or she has over the direction of an independent study? Does the faculty member have any control over an independent study anyway?  As people in institutions of learning should it be part of our missions to organize some MOOCs in our areas of interest?

Note: Since I wrote this post there are two more MOOCs planned eduMOOC (summer 2011) and ChangeMOOC (Fall 2011 and continuing Spring 2012) 


mobiMOOC: lots of academic sources!

I just had quite an interesting realization - it's only the end of Week 2 on mobiMOOC (1/3 done with the course) and there are already a ton of resources that have been contributed by participants; a lot of these resources are scholarly resources in the form of studies and published research articles on mLearning.  This is pretty cool!  There is also a delicious mobiMOOC repository available which is pretty cool.  I've been thinking of starting a Zotero share so we can put all of these academic articles, with proper citations and bibliographic information, somewhere where people can have access to them in one place (instead of being inside many separate google group email postings).  Perhaps this is something that I might start undertaking over the weekend, or next week.  Truthfully I haven't had much chance to go through the citations already provided, so I want to create this bibliography for myself, for future use, but I think it would be worthwhile for everyone to have access to it.  After all six weeks is a tiny amount of time to go through all these resources :-)

The other thing that came to mind, as far as academic sources go, is that this MOOC has many many more user generated scholarly article recommendations compared to LAK11 and CCK11.  Both in LAK and CCK George and Stephen provided weekly readings that we reacted to (in addition to reacting to fellow participant's blog posts), but I don't really recall seeing that many academic articles contributed by participants. It seemed like George and Stephen were the contributors of academic knowledge in the other MOOCs.  This MOOC seems to me more democratic, or rather more like a puzzle.  We have all come together with different pieces of a puzzle and we are filling each other's gaps in knowledge, while at the same time having a discussion and refining our own understanding of mLearning (technology and pedagogy).

It just goes to show, not two MOOCs are the same!
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