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?
This note recounts a potted recent history of developments to do with online content and courses and speculates about the future of credentials in respect of the purpose of a university.
When learning management systems (LMS) or virtual learning environments (VLEs) were in their infancy around the turn of the century, faculty opposition to their introduction was sometimes expressed. Two reasons were often given (among others): if I put my lecture notes on the web no one will come to my class; and variations on a personal IPR theme: the students, the university or third party institutions will steal my content. Content was considered “king” and as long as universities and academics “owned” the content, their position was secure
MIT, with the Open Courseware initiative shattered the content-is-king myth. All the content from a leading university was made freely available: curricula, syllabus, reading lists, slide sets and exam papers.
The defensive focus shifted to courses. It wasn’t the content per se that was important. What the faculty and the institution did was select, organise, interpret, analyse and re-present content through curricula presented in courses (or modules, blocks, units, etc): sequenced events of limited duration (often a semester) presented in various modes (face to face and at distance)..
In 2007 groups of academics started to offer open online courses, hosted at universities but not requiring enrolment or a fee. This open online course movement became truly massive (MOOC) in 2011 when Stanford and MIT began to offer open online courses. From these beginnings spin out ventures (Coursera, Udacity, EdX, FutureLearn and others) started offering open online courses to the higher education “market”.
Now academic defensiveness has shifted. It is not the content and it is not the course or the curriculum that are offered uniquely by the university and faculty. It is the credential. Universities can award degrees and the degree, backed up by quality assurance processes is the guarantor of learning quality and the unique proposition which protects the value of the university.
There is a movement towards micro-credentialling, or “badges” which I suggest is more important that many faculty and academics allow. I wrote briefly about badges here. I suggest this movement will continue the trend of opening up the university proposition and further challenge the role of the university in society.
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
On FSLT13 Badges were awarded for completion of each of the four activities. Participants who wanted to collect the FSLT13 badgesl needed to register and enrol on the Moodle – AND needed to sign up for a Mozilla Backpack. Badges do not carry any academic credit but are a fun way to signal engagement with the course. Badges were be awarded using the WP Badger plug-in for WordPress, which implements the Mozilla open badges framework, Mozilla Backpack and Persona.
Why badges? We are doing this course to explore some of the developments on the cutting edge of contemporary learning and teaching practice. Badges for lifelong learning are on this rapidly approaching horizon: see Mozilla Open Badges Blog, HASTAC What’s on your badge list, and James Michie’s excellent and balanced presentation on badges on his Open Online Course #crit101.
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 intro week of #fslt13 has zipped past and things got off to a good start. Will the substance of the course hold up as well as the intro to the process? There is still a lot to do over the next five weeks but it is much better than starting with a raft of problems!
This is a brief reflection on week 0, from my perspective. What made it work. The team, the participants and the platform. And within these there are many subcategories, of course.
I put the people first: team :: participants. But, there is a continuum and that itself is one of the key features of this course. Guest speakers are participants, some “expert participants” are alumni from last year, tutors are engaging in the discussions, no one has a role that is “pure” one thing and not another.
This goes to my exploration of third space theory as an approach to understanding open online courses – and maybe many other educational phenomena.This is a theme I will return to. We are all hybrids; there is no privileged origin to which we return. As much as we may yearn for some ideal academy or celebrate transiting national or social divisions we all bring the echoes and interpretations of all our many cultures. In one sense everything is always new and in another even the newest shiny gadget has within it all the history and ancestory of its making.
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.
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.