The MOOC becomes a Networked Textbook

Once again we are treated to ground-breaking ideas by Dave Cormier in his post entitled ‘MOOC as Networked Textbook and a look back at the feedbook’. He suggests the feedbook, a collection of feeds from experts in a field that create a ‘living textbook’, replace the traditional textbook that contains knowledge trapped in time.

My favourite quote:

Choosing and choosing well has always been a valuable literacy, but in the context of a world of knowledge abundance, choice is [has] slowly become the most important literacy.

In the end, and this is my bias showing, the community becomes the curriculum.

A full read of the post is strongly recommended.


The First OU Report on Innovating in Pedagogy, a Must-read

2012-07-25 SNAG-00The OU UK have adopted the methodology of the NMC Horizon Project to produce a forward-looking report called Innovating Pedagogy. The report covers 10 technology innovations that are having, or are likely to have, significant impact on teaching, learning and assessment. What’s more the report is presented in digestible fragments online with the ability to submit comments – a great leap forward from the bulky PDFs of the Horizon Reports that of late have concentrated too much on the technology and less on the pedagogy. If you prefer Innovating Pedagogy is also available as a PDF.

The 10 innovations are:

  1. Assessment for learning
  2. Badges to accredit learning
  3. Learning analytics
  4. MOOCs
  5. New pedagogy for e-books
  6. Personal inquiry learning
  7. Publisher led mini-courses
  8. Rebirth of academic publishing
  9. Rhizomatic learning
  10. Seamless learning
    All the hot topics are here so happy reading and commenting.

The fight to replace that piece of paper millidegrees at a time

Even USA Today is reporting the rise of the free massive open online course (MOOC) in their news article ‘Start-ups want to give you a college education for free’. I now hold two MOOC certificates, one each from Udacity and Coursera. There is undoubted educational value present. The question remains how much value and how will employers respect that value, if at all.

Some of the typical arguments put forward by the MOOC practitioners are reflected in these quote:

Thrun of Udacity:  ‘Less than 1% of U.S. college students attend Ivy League schools and these students don’t necessarily reflect the world’s brightest and most capable thought leaders, but rather the people who’ve been afforded the most opportunities to succeed’.

Bali of Udemy: ‘It’s the dying companies that value college degrees. You have to think beyond that piece of paper’.

We await the reaction of the employers. My guess is it will take a bold employer to dismiss MOOCs out of hand. The worth of a MOOC certificate in terms of a unit of one thousandth of a bachelors degree (millidegrees). My initial estimate from the two MOOC certificates I earned is that:

1 MOOC certificate equates to a range of 20-40 millidegrees

Reader, what is your estimate?

Some Major Issues of Future U

There are many key points raised by Curt Hopkins in his post ‘Future U: Fear and Loathing in Academia‘, both his own observations and those he quotes. I just picked out a few and added my own commentary.

"Technology has given us opportunities the people who taught me didn’t have." From Jonathan Rees (prize for worst home page, but raises his profile) A very key point for all current university teachers. The traditional ways of ‘quality’ interaction with students are being disrupted. Don’t fight change but transform your practice with the better parts of the new technology.

"Quantity has a quality all its own" Judging quality in the explosion of information is ever more difficult and becoming one of the most important skills students can be taught. Beware the ‘if we read/see it so often it must be true’ mentality of the popular media, ie the common wisdom should always be challenged.

“Things online are going to shape research going forward. If one archive is online and another is not, odds are most of the people working in that subject will favor the one online". Moral: you must be online to have your voice heard – hiding your thoughts on paper publications makes you invisible.

"It is easier to ask a question than type it” Yes, but it requires huge investment in time and money to be in a position to ask face-to-face in modern higher education. Technological alternatives must win out from an economic standpoint. In my experience typing a question and providing some context often leads the typers to answer for themselves. The extra time allows a second look and some reflection.

The effects of the the ‘flipped classrooms” seem promising but the data is not yet in.

On MOOCs: “Those who could otherwise never afford to attend a high-end university, or perhaps any university at all, can use companies like Coursera to garner an education they would otherwise have to do without.” This is hard argument to counter. As a Coursera student myself over the last few weeks, I have certainly augmented my education already.

"What happens if the tech doesn’t work?" This has the same answer to the question “what happens if the power fails?”.

I agree with Jeff McClurken:

"We can and should challenge the notion of the university as an isolated place," he said, "by reaching out and sharing the life of the mind."

Set of Tools for a Personal Learning Network

In a recent post Steve Wheeler, @stevewheeler, was rightly impressed by the model for a Personal Learning Network proposed by Joyce Seitzinger, @catspyjamasnz. Her PLN model decomposes into the four faces of Staff Room, Filing Cabinet, Portfolio and Newspaper. She then suggests a range of tools that can be used in each face. The diagram is taken from her Slideshare slides for her #converge10 talk in Melbourne last year.

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Massive Open Online Courses

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course which becoming increasingly popular. I am currently ‘participating’ in two MOOCs in order to get a flavour of the educational technologies in use as well as to learn something new.

2011-10-23 SNAG-06The first MOOC is Introduction to Artificial Intelligence a course offered by Stanford University that is in its 5th week. At the cut-off for enrolments over 160,000 students had enrolled. After a general introduction the groundwork is being laid for algorithm design, probability and Bayesian networks. What I find interesting is the simple and effective use of videos both for presenting information in a whiteboard-style and for conducting and the giving the answers to quizzes.

2011-10-23 SNAG-02Rather than actual whiteboards the videos are constructed with the two lecturers, Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig, writing out information on paper with coloured pens as they narrate the content. The otherwise lengthy time taken to write and draw all the content is compressed by editing the video to match the narration – a very effective technique. If only this were possible in a live class in a lecture theatre.

2011-10-23 SNAG-04The quizzes in these classes are also impressive. After the lecturer has written/drawn a case study or problem, the video ends with a quiz form overlaid on the last video frame. This contains radio buttons, check boxes and text boxes for answers as required, and a Done button for the student to check their answers. If correct, the student clicks Next and moves to the next video. If incorrect, there is usually an option for the student to watch a video explaining the correct answer before moving on – again an impressive facility.

Homework is available approximately every two weeks and consists of the actual continuous assessment done by the Stanford-enrolled students. The guest students can attempt the homework but are not graded. Solutions are made available after the appropriate deadlines have passed to enable self-assessment of progress.

2011-10-24 SNAG-00The second MOOC I am following is Change: Education, Learning, and Technology being facilitated by a trio of education technology experts Stephen Downes, George Siemens, and Dave Cormier. This MOOC runs for 36 weeks with a 2-week holiday break from 12 Sept 2011 to 20 May 2012 with a different invited guest facilitator each week, all well-known in the edtech community. We are just starting week 7. The number of participants is varying as you can register at any time, and like me, duck in and out as the topics takes your interest. From last year’s experience the number exceeds 1,000 and this year activity seems to be much higher.

Again the tools used to support this course are interesting. The purpose built course wiki site directly supports tools like discussion threads, email/online daily newsletters and a blog, as well the content pages for each weekly topic. Each week includes a live webinar meeting of which recordings are available, although some technical difficulties are still being ironed out. The wiki is just the base template and all ‘students’ are encouraged to create other shared tool spaces for collaboration which can be linked from the wiki. Short communications use Twitter with the #change11 hashtag. Other tools the participants have so far created include Facebook groups, Diigo groups and a host of other blogs.

As I predicted the highlight for so far has been week 3 with Martin Weller talking about digital scholarship based around his new book, The Digital Scholar: How Technology Is Transforming Scholarly Practice, which is free to read in HTML format.

So the AI MOOC is highly structured and requires a few hours each week to keep up. The Change11 MOOC allows you to duck in an out on the topics that are attractive. Both have immense value and advance the state of the art in MOOC development.

Importance of Real-time Education Analytics

Following a tip from Carolyn, @camcd, I watched the talk from Mark Milliron, @markmilliron, at the EDUCAUSE 2011 online conference. Mark spoke on Analytics Today: Getting Smarter About Emerging Technology, Diverse Students, and the Completion Challenge.

Mark spoke on 7 major topics:

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and by Getting Ready he means:

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For me the main takeaways are:

Can you use information about me to help me?
How to make the human moments precious?
Tuned blended learning per student   
OER repositories – the junk draw
Be a rookie every year
Student pathways – from entry to endowment, find haemorrhage points
Courageous learning – the ability to continue to learn new things
Learners inherit the future, the learned are equipped to live in a world that no longer exists
CAVE people, colleagues against virtually everything – if you don’t know one, you may be …

This is highly recommended viewing, follow the talk link above then click on Resources to see the video link.