What you test. You get what you inspect not what you expect. That said, tonight I tested my webcam and the podium computer in Brookes Boardroom 1 where we are hosting Tea Lab tomorrow. I was fully expecting it not to work on at least three fronts: the composite USB webcam/microphone, the room audio output to speakers, and the Java version. But, today it worked! So what can I do but hope that the same fates attend tomorrow. Now just to think about how to let it happen.
We (OK, I) made a bold (OK, foolish) assertion that T-Lab meetings would be live broadcast for those who wanted to participate remotely.
This could be achieved with various solutions:
- a Wimba Classroom in a Moodle site as long as the kit in Boardroom 1 can handle it. AND as long as people could get into the Moodle without too much hassle.
- Is there a web cam in BR1 or can one be installed easily?
- Can Wimba work outside Moodle?
- a Google Hangout live streamed to YouTube (which I have seen work once and fail spectacularly once)
- But can we do this with our Google Apps for Education?
- a Bb Collaborate session on Sylvia Currie’s SCOPE community
- LiveStream through my LiveStream account (flakey with the personal free version)
Ideally I would like the G+ Hangout solution. But can we do this in our G Apps for Education set-up?
Fifty or sixty people attended the introduction to the New Lecturers Programme today. Biggest intake in my experience. There was a good buzz throughout the day.
This year we quite significantly revised the way the session is run. Less talk from us. More activity for the participants. And a shorter day, as well. Scanning the one-minute essay with which we finished the day suggests participants “got it”.
From a personal perspective, Reducing the number of presenters definitely helped. No greetings from the great. The team got down to it.
The room was crowded but we were able to break people into groups using a card sort activity. The themes on the card related to the topics of the day’s sessions and to the overall thematic constitution of the course:
- reflective practice (Brookfield)
- experiential learning cycles (Kolb)
- good practice principles (Chickering and Gamson)
From a personal perspective I was pleased that the card-sort activity worked as it did. It provided an example of a category of activity that people could adapt to their purposes as well as doing what it needed to do in our context: generate meaningful discussion among practitioners about what it means to teach in higher education.
I was conscious also of using speaker techniques to manage time and attention. Raising my hand to wait for quiet. Not always simply shouting.
Debbie’s session was perfectly judged. She opened by denigrating theory. I always try to keep off of theory, she said. This got everyone relaxed and non-threatened. She then talked about paradigm shifts in higher education, massification and commodification of learning; i.e. critical theory of education. This was laced with personal experience and anecdotes going back to her mum and dad who were teachers.
I feel I should have given Greg and Frances more explicit roles. Neil and Debbie had slots. Rather, I should have been clearer about how the tutors’ facilitating role could have worked, particularly around the elicitation of feedback from the Card-sort activity. Things to learn for next time.
Further to my previous post, Learning design principles: educational pragmatists, which was an abstraction of our beliefs about teaching, this post is an attempt to set out some practical implications for designing open online courses, following from our key assertion:
Change is brought about through critical, experiential, social learning activity in connected communities where people collaborate to achieve outcomes.
What appears most relevant to us is a “transformation conception” of quality. That is, “enhancing the student in some way” (Gibbs 2010, 11). ”
Gibbs (2010, 5) asserts that as predictors of educational gain, the following are valid process indicators::
Class size, the level of student effort and engagement, who undertakes the teaching, and the quantity and quality of feedback to students on their work…
These process indicators are linked by Gibbs (2010, 18-22) to Chickering and Gamson’s (1987) seven principles. Good practice encourages:
- Student-tutor contact
- Student student contact
- Active learning
- Time on task
- Prompt feedback
- High expectations
- Respect for diverse learning approaches.
Teaching contact has to be understood as human to human interaction, Contact, however contact is achieved, should be focused on:
- Achieving clarity about what students should be studying,
- Providing a conceptual framework within which subsequent study can be framed,
- Engagement with the subject,
- Giving oral feedback on understanding (Gibbs 2010, 22).
According to Gibbs (2010, 32):
students tend to adopt a deep approach,for example, when they experience good feedback on assignments, and when they have a clear sense of the goals of the course and the standards that are intended to be achieved.
The Beyond Distance 7C model elaborates on much of this.
- Consolidate (Conole 2013)
And, Stephen Downes and George Siemens propose a similar approach in their connectivist pedagogy: aggregate, remix, repurpose and feed forward.
It starts to become clear what needs to be done (and not done) in a course, regardless of the mode of delivery: distance or face-to-face, online or off and — crucially — however “massive” it may be.
A uni-directional, didactic, content delivery approach, regardless of the “quality” of the content is of limited utility in securing transformational learning in the student or educational gain more widely. This is not to say there is no place for good content or didactic approaches appropriately deployed. But on their own, content and didactics are insufficient.
Beyond Distance Research Alliance. (undated). The 7Cs of Learning Design Toolkit. University of Leicester. OER Repository. Retrieved September 9, 2013, from http://www2.le.ac.uk/projects/oer/oers/beyond-distance-research-alliance/7Cs-toolkit
Chickering, A., & Gamson, Z. (1987). The Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. American Association for HE Bulletin, (March 1987 (and frequently reprinted)), 3–7.
Conole, G. (2013). The 7 Cs of Learning Dsign. SlideShare. Retrieved September 9, 2013, from http://www.slideshare.net/GrainneConole/7-cs-learningdesignmooc
Gibbs, G. (2010). Dimensions of quality. York: Higher Education Academy. Retrieved from http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/evidence_informed_practice/Dimensions_of_Quality.pdf
I am trying to write a proper academic paper about the principles we used when developing FSLT12&13. But, as I do I find myself getting bogged down. So in the spirit of Digital scholarship (Weller 2011) I am going to exercise some of the ideas here.
We are educational pragmatists. Change is brought about through critical, experiential, social learning activity in connected communities where people collaborate to achieve outcomes. All actors and contexts are hybrids and knowledge is distributed through the network of connections between people, places and things (and ideas are things).
Our principles flow initially from a particular epistemological orientation and a belief that teachers (in all sectors) can use an awareness of their orientation to knowledge as one among several means with which to approach developing and improving practice. We further believe that it can help learners if teachers act with reflective self awareness of their orientations to knowledge, making those orientations as explicit as may be appropriate to the level and topic being addressed. This is to say that, whatever other underpinnings, we are pragmatists, grounded in experience (Dewey 1910/1997) and we are engaged (sometimes participatory) scholars with a purpose to bring about change through activity as much as understanding (Dyrness, 2008)
Our perspective is broadly sociocultural and critical-theoretical. Socioculturalism “…focuses on the link between language and learning, both of which are viewed as fundamentally social phenomena…” (Lillis 2003, p.xv). Neither language, nor learning, exist outside communities of use. Beliefs, dominant and oppositional, shape orientations to action (Herman & Chomsky 1988). Further, all language is suffused with cultural assumptions that makes learning highly context-dependent. (Galison 2007a; Galison 2007b; Kuhn 1962). As Popper would have it, “All observation is theory laden” (Popper 1996 page).
Our epistemology takes a middle road between relativism and realism. There is a reality “out there” but knowledge of that reality is a quality of the knower: one reality; many interpretations. In essence we are critical realists (Collier, 1994). Knowledge is not simply a quality of the individual. Knowledge is distributed and inheres also in the artefacts and abstractions of culture (Pea, 1993; Moll, Tapia, & Whitmore, 1993). We might say that knowledge is in the network (Downes 2009), or simply that knowledge, like language is sociocultural. With respect to learning we would recognise ourselves as social constructivists (Vygotsky, 1962). The learner builds knowledge and understanding of the world through language and activity engaged in with others, some of whom are more knowledgeable and practiced, and others who may be less so. Learning can be expressed as a journey through a zone of proximal development with more experienced and practiced individuals providing “scaffolding” (Wood, Bruner & Ross 1976, Anghileri, 2006; Rourke & Coleman, 2010) to aid that journey.
Anghileri, J. (2006). Scaffolding practices that enhance mathematics learning. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 9 (1), 33–52.
Collier, A. (1994). Critical Realism: An Introduction to Roy Bhaskar’s Philosophy. London: Verso.
Dewey, J. (1910/1997). How we think (unabridged republication of the 1910 edition). Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.
Downes, S. (2009). What Connectivism Is. Retrieved 17 July 2013 from: http://halfanhour.blogspot.co.uk/2007/02/what-connectivism-is.html
Dyrness, A. (2008). Research for Change versus Research as Change: Lessons from a Mujerista Participatory Research Team. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 39 (1), 23–44.
Galison, P. (2007a). Using Linguistic Anthropology to See How Scientific Disciplines Talk | Berkman Center. Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, Harvard University. Retrieved 22 July 2013, from http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/events/luncheon/2007/09/galison
Galison, P. (2007b, July 10). De-localized Production of Scientific Knowledge. Presented at the Berkman seminar series, Berkman Centre, Harvard University. Retrieved 22 July 2013 from http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/mediaberkman/2007/09/21/de-localized-production-of-scientific-knowledge-2/
Kuhn, T. (1962). The Structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lillis. (2003). Introduction: mapping the traditions of a social perspective on language and literacy. In S. Goodman, T. Lillis, J. Maybin, & N. Mercer (Eds.), Language, literacy and education: a reader (pp. xiii–xxii). Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books.
Moll, L. C., Tapia, J., & Whitmore, K. F. (1993). Living knowledge: the social distribution of cultural resources for thinking. In G. Salomon (Ed.), Distributed cognitions: Psychological and educational considerations (pp. 139–163). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pea, R. (1993). Practices of distributed intelligence and designs for education. In G. Salomon (Ed.), Distributed cognitions: psychological and educational considerations (pp. 47–87). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Popper, K. (1996). The myth of the framework: In defence of Science and Rationality. London: Routledge.
Rourke, A. J., & Coleman, K. S. (2010). A Learner Support System: Scaffolding to Enhance Digital Learning. International Journal of Technology, Knowledge & Society, 6(1), 55–70.
Vygotsky, L. (1962). Thinking and Speaking (first published as Thought and Language). (E. Hanfmann & G. Vakar, Eds.) (Lev Vygotsky Archive transcribed by Andy Blunden.). Cambridge MA: MIT Press. Retrieved 17 July 2013 from http://www.marxists.org/archive/vygotsky/works/words/index.htm
Weller, M. (2011). The digital scholar: how technology is transforming scholarly practice (Kindle.). London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic.
Wood, D., Bruner, J. & Ross, G. (1976). The role of tutoring in problem solving. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 17, 89–100
The #fslt team sat down today and thrashed out the mid-level detail of how the four activities that are at the heart of this course will work this time and how badges will be awarded for completion of activities.
We had some principles to work with. Learning is dialogic. Everyone has the opportunity for peer feedback. Assessed and non-assessed participants will mix as equals. Peer feedback works best in small groups, therefore feedback groups should have a max size of 5. Peer feedback has to be opt-in. It is an open course. You can make your own way through. We struggled over persistence of peer feedback groups. Benefits and detriments both ways, but we decided that we had to allow for all sorts of variable participation. If people want to self-organise a persistent group that could be done but the course default will treat each activity grouping independently. We wanted consistency in the interface We didn’t want to use a different subset of tools for each task. We know MOOCs are daunting and want to keep it as easy as possible for participants.
Stephen Downes is unfairly hard on teachers and teaching in this post (The Great Rebranding), or may have fallen into a (rare) category error. Yes, given the way the world is organised the 25:1 or 50:1 ratio of students to teachers can be seen as a luxury that few can afford. Downes says, “Having one instructor for 20-50 people is expensive, and most of the world cannot afford that cost.”
MOOCs (x or c) provide some remediation. The cMOOC model is a radical challenge to institutionalised education. But, I do not think it is the elitist preciousness of “instructors” – or not JUST their preciousness – that seeks to preserve a 25:1 kind of interaction. I do not really even need to preserve the 1. But, I care a lot to preserve the 25, or some number between maybe 7 and 35 people as an optimum size for a culture circle, a seminar, a class… or a tutor group.
And, I do think there is something useful about having skills to help the 25 or so to learn. I do think teachers are – or can be – important. If this is a luxury, that is a problem with the world of money and power, not the form. I have made suggestions in this direction in recent posts about stadium rock and my big question. Teaching does not have to be done by institutionalised academics. Groups can self-organise. Freire struggled with the problem of educators who were not from the social milieu of those in education. There is a fine line between liberation and neo-colonialism.
We, as human beings, need to have meaningful relations with other human beings in order to learn meaningful things. I do not suggest we can’t learn stuff on our own from books or other forms of resource-based learning. I do not mean that this stuff is not (or cannot be) meaningful. But to put whatever we have learned into practice we need to do it with (or for or even to) other people. As far as I can see the purpose of learning is to be able to have some kind of influence, some autonomy, some self and community realisation. Media of all forms can be a surrogate or a simulation for some of this. We can practice with a tape in front of a mirror. But at some point we are going to have to inter-act (I hyphenate deliberately) with other people.
Therefore the challenge for me in working with a team to design a MOOC about learning how to teach in higher education (#fslt) is how to make sure that this MOOC is about enabling people to communicate with other people.
In a very positive move, Oxford Brookes University has accredited two open online courses to our Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education (PCTHE). The two courses are:
- First steps into learning and teaching in higher education (FSLT)
- Teaching Online (TO)
Both courses are offered as open online courses and the accreditation commences in semester 2 of academic year 2013-14 (February-May 2014). The courses are rated at 10 credits at level 7 (postgraduate level: see Credit in Higher Education and Higher education credit framework for England and The frameworks for higher education qualifications and credit: how they relate to academic standards). This will make FSLT one of the first accredited open online courses in the UK. Formal accreditation begins in Academic Year 2013-14.
The pricing model is a little complicated. We are currently testing the “freemium” model of free participation/pay for credit.
Anyone can participate in the courses for free. We call this “Open participation”. Open participants have access to all the course facilities, content, discussion forums, virtual classroom. We are developing an informal badging system for completion of the activities. Open participants get everything except: personal tutor feedback, summative assessment, a certificate and the transferrable credits.
Transferrable credits are recognised throughout the UK higher education sector (credit accumulation and transfer scheme CATS). They can be applied to Postgraduate Certificates, Diplomas and MAs in Education.
Enrolled participants may be required to pay a fee as follows:
- Staff at Oxford Brookes University, no charge
- External participants pay a fee for summative assessment, tutor feedback and accreditation, currently GBP £345.
- Staff at affiliated colleges currently can enrol at 50% of the external participant fee.
That is correct at this writing. But watch this space for developments.
As an undergraduate in the US in the early 1970s, it was not uncommon for there to be people in our classes “auditing” the course. (Auditing in the sense, “listening”, i.e. attending but not enrolled.) While auditing was supposed to be governed by regulations there were a range of practices from entirely informal dropping in, to what amounted to full participation in all but the exam. There were supposed to be fees payable for auditing but as far as I could tell actual practice was to go under the radar and simply ask the prof (lecturer) if she or he minded. Mostly they didn’t. This practice was so wide spread there was even a national network TV comedy drama about it: “Hank”; “He’ll get his degree/ His Phi Beta key/ And get ‘em all for free!/ That’s Hank!”. Being an American comedy drama, Hank also ends up marrying the Dean’s daughter, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hank_(1965_TV_series) . The point is that a college degree was expensive, but access to the knowledge was free to those with the gumption to drop in. I audited Latin at the local state university before coming to Oxford to study historical and comparative linguistics. As far as I could tell the Classics Department was delighted to have someone interested come to classes.
MOOCs remind me of this practice of dropping in under the radar.
But times have changed a lot. Everyone teaching in higher education has a much less certain tenure, and that tenure depends to some extent on bums on seats in your class. If there are uncounted heads that doesn’t help your job security. But, on the other hand, the Internet makes learning so much more accessible.
MOOCs invert the ratios of enrolled participants to drop-ins. In FSLT12 this was the cause of some tension. Were the enrolled participants the “real” participants?
We will have to work this year to make sure that on the one hand, people who have paid for an accredited course feel that they have got their money’s worth, but equally on the other not to devalue the drop-in seekers after open knowledge.
Choose your metaphor. The discourse around MOOCs is congealing around a set of qualities. Bigger better; inherited authority; transmitted knowledge; cognitivist construction; solitary interaction with content. To some extent it is a matter of taste. Or learning preference. Or community. I saw the Police play Twickenham once. It was OK. Entertaining. But nothing was challenged. Nothing was changed. A few childhoods were relived. 50,000 people left with all they knew reaffirmed and comforted. I have never been to the Reading festival or Glastonbury. I love little local bluegrass festivals, folk clubs, jazz bars. Even in strange towns. I don’t just hang out with my friends. Though I do seek a level of homophily: people who share some interests. Sessions. Lock ins. Dad rock in pubs challenges my categories but I would rather enthusiastic semi – competence over slick synthetic commercialism any day. It saddens me that the values of slick synthetic commercialism seem to be driving higher education. And it saddens me that moocs are being conflated with stadium rock learning. It seems unlikely to me that transformative learning will arise in massive settings. Yes, for some, content will be transmitted, things will be learned and many will have their world view affirmed. But for challenging conventions give me seminars, reading groups, learning sets – most of the time.