MOOC 2: Teachers Sharing Resources online

As part of this module, I need to check out a second MOOC, and I have chosen the Open Learn’s Teachers Sharing Resources Online.

Here are my impressions, comparing and contrasting with the MOOC I followed for 6 weeks:

  • The course content and aims are clearly set out at the start
  • A progress bar shows you how far you have gone towards completing the course.
  • Sections are clearly defined and navigation is straightforward -although the links are on the left here and with the EdX  MOOC they were along the top of the page.
  • This course requires ten hours of study so is considerably less demanding than the 3-4 hours over six weeks suggested by my MOOC. However, that is not so much a difference as the fact that this MOOC is unfacilitated. You can start and work through it at your own pace, any time. I find this strange – no community – no interaction. It is basically like an online, media rich text book.
  • The course may be downloaded in a number of different formats – including PDF, SCORM – and Moodle (although I couldn’t get Moodle to work.)
  • This course also uses short videos (with transcripts) with tasks afterwards. There are few “mini-tests” . Instead there are reflection tasks with a suggested time and a sample response which can be revealed when you are ready.
  • Even though this MOOC is not facilitated, there is a satisfying amount of reflective participation required on the part of the learner as well as regular ‘true/false’ questions. The skilful use of questions where we are asked to think about something for a certain time and then can “reveal” suggested responses works well I think for the highly motivated. Of course, you can look at the suggested responses at any time but if you want to do the course properly, they are a useful way of getting you to think – taking on the role of absent teacher, prompting you.  Some of the reflective tasks actually require you to read chapters of published research work.
  • The course has a bias towards the  TES resource sharing community (but that’s fine) but does also introduce participants to other communities.  One task involves creating an account on TES and favourite some resources they feel will be useful to them, while another involves investigating other teaching resources websites. A final task is to upload a resource of your own to the TES site. This is similar to the creative tasks in my MOOC and means that you will leave the MOOC having shared something with others – very laudable outcome.
  • While there is no purchasable certificate on offer, you are directed at the end to the Open University’s other offerings, so this MOOC also has a hidden agenda, although much more subtle.

In conclusion – although I was sceptical of the value of an unfacilitated course where I was all alone – the quality of the assessment tasks won me over.

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Intro to Online & Blended Teaching MOOC: my overview

I took this six week long MOOC as part of my studies for the Edinburgh Napier MScBOE. We started on September 12th and the course will officially close on October 31st when all content will be archived. I’ll divide my thoughts into four areas:

  • My observations about my own engagement in the MOOC
  • How the level of activity matched up to my own expectations
  • My views on the design and facilitation of the MOOC
  • What I will take away from the MOOC – and how I will use those takeaways!

My engagement

I was a very good student in that I did everything I was asked to! Although much of the MOOC  (such as working through the videos and doing the mini-tests) I did out of a sense of duty (for my MSc) some elements – the more creative tasks such as trying a new tool, making a screencast and writing  essays- I did with pleasure.

The format of the MOOC was the same each week: a series of short videos, a mini multiple choice test and a longer task, sometimes optional and not graded, and at other times compulsory and peer-assessed. Although I did work through the videos, I chose to read the transcripts instead of actually watching the videos (most of which were of the ‘talking heads’ type) This is because I have little patience watching videos -and because I could both save time and absorb the information simply by reading the transcripts.  I do wonder if the information might have ‘stuck’ more if I had paid attention to the person talking on the video, rather than skimming through the text (I need to see what research there is on that) but I was being expedient.

Likewise, I completed the mini-multiple choice questions in a perfunctory manner but actually – and ironically- got more involved when we were required to do more work. In week 2 we had to explore a new tool (I chose H5P) and present it in some way. In week 4 we had to transmediate an online article – I did this as a screencast. In week 5 we had to do a mini “Introduce yourself” video as a start to an online course. I cheated a bit by offering one I’d done already (for the Learn Moodle MOOC) but I would have been quite happy to do a new one, had it been specified. From my behaviour I deduce that I am most motivated when I have more freedom to present what I have learned, rather than being constrained by tests. And it fits very well with the social constructionist philosopy as outlined by Martin Dougiamas in the Moodle documentation on Pedagogy

We learn particularly well from the act of creating or expressing something for others to see

Another aspect of my engagement was in the discussion forums, but I will cover those in the next section

How the level of activity matched up to my own expectations.

I was disappointed to see very little interaction in the discussion forums – to such an extent that, when someone posted a question about how to do a particular task, I was in there immediately (in Moodle forum facilitator mode) with some support for them.

Perhaps I should have started some discussions myself? I think I was a bit shy of being the first, but had the facilitators or other participants started discussions, I would definitely have jumped in very quickly.

The MOOC had three main facilitators who put their names to the course and faces to the videos. However, forum interaction seemed to be managed by a “teaching assistant” , James who was, as far as I could tell, the only person who responded in the MOOC. That’s fine, as long as we are aware, and we were, but it was a very different experience from my own experience in the Learn Moodle MOOC and my experience in the only other MOOC I have taken part in – an Accessiblity MOOC run by MoodleRooms. In both my own MOOC and the Accessibiliy MOOC, conversations were much freer and the main facilitators were very active. However, perhaps this MOOC wasn’t intended to include free-ranging conversations, but instead to guide newbie online teachers through the basics without the distractions of supplementary discussions?

I was also uncertain as to how many people actually participated actually, compared with those who initially signed up. There didn’t seem to be a way of seeing a “participants’ list” as with Moodle. Again, though, did this matter? It wasn’t what I was used to, but it is good to experience things differently.

My views on the design and facilitation of the MOOC.

I would give the MOOC a good rating for doing what it set out to do: introduce teachers to online and blended teaching. Each week was presented in a consistent format as I outlined in section one. While it might have got a little repetitive by the end, it did take the participants through the basics of the subject in a progressive and well-explained way. The optional, ungraded tasks, gave those (such as myself) who were looking for a little more than videos and MCQs an opportunity to express ourselves.

Downloadable transcripts of the videos were very helpful and good for accessibility. I did briefly check the MOOC on my smartphone to see how it worked – and it did work! So I ticked that box.

The final graded assignment, an essay of 500 words with prompts, was a fitting summing up of the MOOC. It was peer assessed – such tasks have to be, in large MOOCS, – but we were given clear instructions as to what to look for when grading AND – I liked this- once we had been peer-assessed, we could read over our reviews and send a message to the facilitator if we were not happy with the grades. That is a useful way of covering the difficulties with peer assessment in MOOCS and is something perhaps I should think about in our Learn Moodle MOOC with our final peer assessed workshop?

Regarding the facilitation of the MOOC, as mentioned before, only one member of the team, James, the TA, seemed to respond to (the few) queries which arose. He occasionally commented on the weekly tasks, I guess, to show his presence. I can’t criticise him for this because I’ve done the same myself, commenting in a somewhat perfunctory manner when you have hundreds of course participants, in the hope that it makes you look active in the course.  I’ve already discussed the fact that there wasn’t much extra dialogue beyond the set tasks.

As with many MOOCs, this MOOC was free but offered a paid for verified certificate. I didn’t take up this offer, but I think for those who did, it would have been a fairly worthwhile certificate since the course content was of a good quality, albeit basic. But then it was an introductory MOOC 🙂

What will I take away from the MOOC? And how will I use those takeaways?

My takeaways come in two areas: my learnings from the content of the MOOC, and my learnings from how the MOOC was run. Much of the content I already knew, either from life or from last year in the MSc BOE, but I appreciated having educational research “chunked” into short videos with transcripts I could download! rather than having to plough through long and tedious tomes.

My main takeaways are in terms of MOOC design and facilitation. I discovered that:

  • Short mini-tests after videos are effective for recapping learning quickly. Also, a good technique is to ask for multiple answers  (“select all that apply”) and for all the answers to be correct. (I noticed this technique in the accessiblity MOOC I did too. I used to think this simply let people cheat by guessing but now I think in fact, you have to think about each answer carefully, since you don’t expect all responses to be correct! It made me read through the possible options several times before deciding.
  • The content of each week should be the same, ideally. This six week MOOC had a similar number of videos, tests and tasks each week, whereas in our Learn Moodle MOOC, although we try to keep the workload similar, we are aware that some weeks are fuller than others – because of the topics studied.
  • My personal preference is for a greater variety of content and more facilitator interaction with more open-ended discussions, but I do accept that (a) this takes a lot of facilitator time and (b) for some, less confident and less experienced participants, these can be considered a distraction and blur the pathway.

And finally…  it has encouraged me to seek out and join more MOOCs!

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MOOC week 6: Desiging online learning environments

It’s been the final week of my MOOC this past week, although we have until October 31st to complete it.

This week is about the design of online learning environments and, as with the other weeks, the contents is videos with short questions and then a final, longer task. (As usual, I really appreciate the transcripts which save me watching the videos.) The first video looked at theories of learning and four perspectives on learning  environments as illustrated by Bransford, Brown and Cocking. They are:

  • the knowledge centred environment
  • the learner centred environment
  • the community centred environment
  • the assessment centred environment

Knowledge centred environments aim to develop connected knowledge structures, support effective reasoning and problem-solving

Learner centred environments pay close attention to learners’ cultures, backgrounds and prior understandings. It is like “diagnostic” teaching – gauge where they are and help them progress from there,

Assessment centred environments give students chances to give feedback, revise, be tested. Feedback should be provided continuously but not intrusively. There is a lot of monitoring of work.

Community centred environments encourage learners to engage with each other, not to be afraid to discuss and debate. They move out from traditional classroom settings into broader spaces, social networking.

The second video deals with scaffolding, referencing Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal development and (Wood, Bruner and Ross, 1976) who discuss how scaffolding can help children perform complex tasks. This all makes sense to me as a former languages teacher and as someone having set out staged Moodle training

The third video on assessments mentions pre-assessment tailoring the subsequent learning for the students. You can do this easily in Moodle with a Choice activity or feedback activity, for example. It also talks about digital portfolios (I’ve got to do one for my Russian classes!) and makes the disctinction between summative and formative assessment.

The fourth video deals with games. Not gamification – which is actually different from games, and which the MOOC designers could have covered. Perhaps I should raise that in the (rather quiet) forums? Gamification involves adding competitive elements to your course such as leader boards for quizzes, badges and/or ‘XP’ points for completing activities, and works for adults who might not want to play actual games.

The final video is about additional considerations and challenges – bridging the gap between academic knowledge and the broader community – trying to overcome the drawbacks of “teaching to the test” It talks about communities of practice helping teachers keep up to date with developments in digital technology and concludes that for a school really to make progress with online learning, the leadership team really needs to be supportive.

The final peer graded assignment is to write a 500-600 word reflection on how the materials and activities presented in this course have impacted our understanding of education and learning in the 21st century. I guess I will do that before the deadline and then will write a final post summing up my experience of the past six weeks.

References:

Wood, D., Bruner, J. and Ross, G. (1976). THE ROLE OF TUTORING IN PROBLEM SOLVING. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 17(2), pp.89-100.

Bransford, J., Brown, A. and Cocking, R. (1999). How people learn. [online] Available at: https://www.colorado.edu/MCDB/LearningBiology/readings/How-people-learn.pdf [Accessed 22 Oct. 2017].

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MOOC week 5: About Me

Week 5 has been about online communities (!) and Blended learning.

I’ve learned about four types of participatory networks and cultures:

  • Consensus
  • Creative
  • Remix
  • Discussion

I’ve learned about about building a productive learning community (the community of inquiry model):

  • Instructor presence
  • Social presence
  • Cognitive presence

Our ungraded assignment this week was to make a video of ourselves as if we were introducing ourselves as online facilitators, giving a bit of bio etc. I decided to cheat a bit by offering an intro I had already done for the Learn Moodle MOOC and I then saw that other more experienced participants also posted previously made videos. Of the participants completely new to the exercise it was interested to critique (to myself) the videos. For example, I was very distracted by what was going on in the background of one participant’s video, to the detriment of the actual content. In another video, the participant spent several minutes giving us the whole history of their education… and we really don’t need such a detailed bio! However, I chose not to post these critiques. I’m not the facilitator and I think in an introductory MOOC it is too soon, too early to point out specific issues: it should be more important to give support and encouragement. And then I had a moment of insight:

I realised that the facilitator tends to respond by asking questions rather than pointing things out… I like that. I guess one could ask of the first participant: How important do you feel a quiet background to an introductory video  is? How well suited do you think your background is?

And for the second participant, perhaps something like: Thanks for giving such a detailed insight into your professional qualifications. Do you feel it’s an essential part of the video that participants should be aware of the facilitator’s education history? How much information should be given, do you think?

So, rather than highlighting areas which could be improved, you are actually making the learner work them out for themselves by asking the questions. Noted 🙂

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MOOC week 4: Tweaking and Transmediation

Week 4 is part 2 of the Digital Literacies focus and we’ve been learning about  remixing and how writing and reading online differs from writing and reading paper offline. I haven’t learned much new although I have learned a new term: Transmediation (more about that later.) But first…

Tweaking

As I opened the site ready for Week 4, I read a notice by the facilitators. (Sadly I can’t find this notice again to quote it – it seems to have disappeared. Was it a one-off message?)

Apparently there had been some confusion in navigating the forums and they had modified them to make it easier for people to see where to post. There had also been issues with facilitators and participants receiving notification of posts, limiting feedback. This had also been rectified. I was interested to read this notice because it ties in with good practice I have read about regarding MOOCs and other online courses constantly adapting to issues that arise. Describing the pedagogy of Moodle, Martin Dougiamas outlines social constructionism in a number of ‘referents’ one of which is

A learning environment needs to be flexible and adaptable, so that it can quickly respond to the needs of the participants within it (Docs.moodle.org, 2017)

In other words, an online course should be no different from a well taught face to face course: if something isn’t working as it should, you adapt it. When I was a high school teacher I had three parallel classes  in the same year, learning the same subject -one on Monday, one on Wednesday and one on Friday. This was useful as I needed only to prepare one lesson which I could recycle. However, what I noticed was that after Monday’s lesson I would change it somewhat based on its reception, deliver the improved version to Wednesday’s class, tweak it again and by the time Friday’s class had the lesson, I had got the optimised version! Lucky Friday, less fortunate Monday.

And even within a class, as it is happening, modifications can be made based on participants’ experiences and feedback. This is obviously what has happened in  the MOOC I am attending. And again, as a class teacher, you would go off topic slightly to elaborate on an issue if you saw the glazed eyes of your students and picked up on their lack of comprehension.

The Learn Moodle MOOC I facilitate for Moodle was significantly altered during its first run in September 2013 when it was very much an experiment. Since then, while we have adapted it slightly during each run, the main changes now happen between runs following feedback from participants and a review by my colleague Helen and me.  It seems to run more smoothly each time – although that may well change in January! We are planning a significant alteration to the management of the MOOC and will need to pay close attention during the four weeks, to be alert to potential problems.

Transmediation

This is basically translating but instead of from one language to another it is from one medium to another. It’s taking an online item such as a text and presenting/reimagining it in a new way.  (Belshaw, 2011) talks about the eight elements of Digital Literacy and calls this ‘Constructive’:

CONSTRUCTIVE
To develop the Constructive element I need to understand and demonstrate how to take existing resources and content and re-use/remix it to create something new that benefits my learning. I also need to show awareness of the different ways I can license resources so that others can benefit from the content that I create.

So our ungraded assignment for this week in the MOOC was to take the text from a particular site: https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/8-things-you-should-know-before-using-social-media-in-your-course/

and present it in a new way. Some participants (and so far there have been barely ten -I wonder how many are in this MOOC?) used Wordle; others Storyboard, others Prezi and a couple, myself included, made a video.

When I first saw the task, my heart sank because I simply didn’t want to make the effort to do this on top of all my other work and studies. Even though it is ungraded, I did want to produce something to keep with the spirit both of the MOOC itself and of My MBOE module requirements. Then I suddenly had a revelation: hold on! You actually love making videos! Why not make one, not as a chore,  but as a pleasant distraction from your day job. So I did. It only took me half an hour – very very quickly put together but was indeed a relaxing thirty minutes, and it avoided any guilt feelings. I am including it here not because it is very good (it isn’t) but because – at least I did it – and am keeping up with the MOOC tasks.

References:

Docs.moodle.org. (2016). Pedagogy – MoodleDocs. [online] Available at: https://docs.moodle.org/en/Pedagogy [Accessed 7 Oct. 2017].

Belshaw, D. (2011). What is digital literacy? A pragmatic investigation. [online] Available at: http://dmlcentral.net/wp-content/uploads/files/doug-belshaw-edd-thesis-final.pdf [Accessed 07 Oct. 2017].

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MOOC week 3: Peer assessment

Another week of videos, with quick mini-tests. Although I was a bit dismissive about the habit of simply giving us videos with short tests, I have realised that not only is it a reasonable way of disseminating information asynchronously to an indeterminate number of people, but also that we do exactly that in our Learn Moodle MOOC! In fact, we have a total of 34 videos over 4 weeks, so I can hardly complain about a maximum of five per week here. I’ve noticed now that last week and this week include longer videos (20 minutes or so) of an interview with an “expert”. I am not so sure of the benefit of this, other than to add a bit of variety to the the videos. I for one continue to read the transcripts instead of watching the films.

The topic this week is digital literacy, and we are asked to reflect on our own participation in online communities and our own online persona. There is a word for the phenomenon I am experiencing here, as someone doing this MOOC as part of a reflection on my participation in online communities .. I wish I could remember it!

The discussion forums remain simply a place where people “tick the box” of making a post to the forum and commenting on a couple of others. There is no real discussion of topics in any depth – unless that comes later? I need to bear in mind too that this is an introductory course and as such, analysis is not very deep, if present at all.

The assignment this week is graded. By us! It is a peer assessment task – just like our Workshop in the Learn Moodle MOOC. I can see this is the only sensible way of getting grading done in a large MOOC, where it is unrealistic to have the facilitators grade. However, peer assessment is rife with pitfalls, as we discovered in our MOOC:

  1. You must ensure the instructions for the task and for the assessment are crystal clear, otherwise participants will be confused and complain. This is particularly important when participants do not have English as their first language. I have peer-assessed two participants on this MOOC and I feel one of them misunderstood the task slightly because of language issues.
  2. You must either make it clear that the grade obtained won’t jeopardise the final grade for the certificate, or you must ensure that the facilitators will be proactive in checking or adjusting grades deemed unsatisfactory by the participants. I became acutely aware of this when I had completed my submission and I began assessing other people: what if they give me a grade lower than I feel I deserve? What if they don’t understand what I mean? Is there any redress? Does the grade not matter? In our Learn Moodle MOOC we tell people again and again that the actual grade is not important – it is the taking part, and yet participants still get anxious if the feel they have been marked down.

POSTSCRIPT (Saturday 30 Sept)

When I had graded all three of my allocated peer submissions I was then shown my own grades- and I got full marks! That was great although it then made me feel guilty that I had not simply given full marks to everyone else – one non-native speaker lost marks through lack of understanding.

Answering my own question above: is there any redress? What happens if you don’t agree with the grades given? Once my task was complete, I had to feed back on the feedback I had received. (Now THAT is not something we have in our MOOC!) Here was an opportunity to raise with the facilitators any dissatisfaction we might feel about our received grades. It appears the facilitators look at the comments to check them. I wonder how they can do this if there are hundreds and hundreds? Is this just a sop to placate us, or do they really read through every one’s comments?

That said, I have not seen many people actively participating in the MOOC, judging by the number of forum assignments done. I’d say no more than 50 if that, so it would be quite feasible for the three facilitators to read through participants’s feedback.

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MOOC week 2: I tried a new tool!

This week is similar to last week in that we are presented with videos we need to watch (or, as I do, read the script instead) and then short mini-quizzes to check our understanding. Our ungraded assignment this week was to find, explore and describe in the forum (a forum assignment as last week) a teaching tool we’d found online. Others have already started on this, describing for example Skype, Socrative, Schoology.

I confess I almost didn’t bother with this assignment since it is “ungraded” and therefore to me, has no effect on my final result. I realised I had been going through the activities simply to “tick the boxes”, something we discussed in our VOH yesterday. I thought that was unfair. The MOOC seems well organised so far. The videos are short – well – apart from a 17 minute interview with some Dr Curt Bonk who seemed very keen on self promotion – and explain issues clearly. Another video went through the history of remote learning, reminding us that it didn’t start with the internet – correspondance courses have been around for a couple of hundred years. So I decided to be more positive and proactive and found a tool I haven’t yet explored: H5P:

Many Moodlers rave about it, but you can also use it on WordPress sites, so I installed it, played with it and dutifully submitted my forum post on it just now.

H5P

Again, as discussed in the VOH yesterday (Tuesday 19th) the forums here appear to be used in a rather perfunctory way: participants are doing the set tasks but nothing more. It is hugely different from our Moodle MOOC when people are interacting every hour. I think this might partly be due to the fact that the MOOC, at least so far, is just videos, so there is not much “hands-on”. I would still have expected some discussion of the topics of the videos however, although perhaps I am expecting too high a level? This is after all an introduction to the subject and as such, many participants are inexperienced in online learning and MOOCs. (And there are, as usual, the Instructional Designer Crowd, keen to see how others do it!)

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