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 ūüôā

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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 Рalthough 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 РMoodleDocs. [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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Introduction: First week of videos

The first week hits us with four videos – albeit short, six minutes max, and with easily accessible transcripts (which I’ve chosen to read instead of watch the videos.) They are a basic introduction to the idea that these days children come to school with skills in technology and a teacher’s role is changing from that of purveyor of knowledge to facilitator of independent learning.

We’re then told about Mouza and Lavigne who identify four broad classes of technologies

  1. technologies that support learning to understand and create,
  2. technologies that support learning by collaboration,
  3. technologies that support anytime and anyplace learning,
  4. technologies that support learning by gaming.

A more detailed explanation of the first one gives rise to those well-known words “students are engaged in actively constructing knowledge for themselves.” With the second, ¬†I read that we’ll be going into detail about collaborative, digital participation, about social interaction, the social construction of knowledge. The third talks about the prevalence in schools of laptops, ipads – but that they are underused or inefficiently used. For the fourth, we hear again about the social dimension of learning and how game-based learning can help develop “21st century skills”. There’s a caveat with this one – that teacher professional development must be provided if this is to be implemented successfully.

Assessment takes the form of multiple choice questions about each video, with one point per correct answer. This is simple but effective – because you do actually have to pay attention to the video to find the answers! I am reminded of a frequent question in the Moodle Community help forums, where people ask how can they ensure their students have watched the videos? They ask if they can force a time on the video. You can, but it proves nothing -the student could simply turn on their computer, go off and make a cup of coffee, watch a film in another tab and then come back when the time is up. We always suggest asking a few pertinent questions about the video – from different sections of the video so they cannot just skim from the beginning to the end. This MOOC does similar – having speed read the transcripts, I am now obliged to go back and check more thoroughly in order to answer the questions correctly!

Following the multiple choice assessment questions, we are then given an “assignment” which will be ungraded, but which requires us to post about 200 words on how Technology has changed our learning. I actually already did this the other day, when I was looking through the site to find the Introduce yourself forum via a different link. Never mind. I posted about how learning (and teaching) languages has been much improved by technology. In my early days of learning and teaching languages, authentic source material (audio and visual) was very hard to come by and now, with Youtube etc it is everywhere. While this makes it much easier and more fun to learn a language on your own, I made the point that if you want to learn in depth, there is still a case for structured lessons with an ‘expert’ teacher. I used my own experiences in learning Russian as an example. I survived several months teaching myself but it wasn’t until I took up private lessons that I made significant progress to my own satisfaction. That said – the private lessons are on Skype with an online PDF text book, so technology still wins!

I have been reading some of the others’ postings (We are required to comment on theirs) and I feel some of them are perhaps too complimentary and less critical about the benefits of technology in learning. I very much enjoyed reading and reviewing Is Technology Good for Education (Selwyn 2016) and might make reference to this in my responses.

Selwyn, N. (2016). Is technology good for education?. 1st ed. Great Britain: Politybooks.com.

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I’ve joined a MOOC!

So.. (as many statements seem to start these days).. we are doing the  Curriculum Design and Development for Blended and Online Learning module and as part of this, I have chosen to join a MOOC. I have chosen EdX PennX: VOLT101x Introduction to Online and Blended Teaching which started today. So here literally are my first minutes of impressions:

  • When I signed up last week, although the MOOC is free, as soon as I signed up I was immediately directed to a page telling me the benefits of paying for a certificate. This is ¬†common practice with free MOOCs these days – I’m fine with that, but just noting it. (And no, I won’t be buying a certificate.)
  • I was emailed as soon as the MOOC opened up and first up is a 3 minute video introducing the facilitators. Kudos here on three counts: (1) the shortness of the video! (2) the transcript available to the right (3) the download link. I confess, though, I simply read the transcript because that was quicker than a three minute video.
  • I see now that to move on I have to click an arrow at the bottom of the page. ¬†Neat – makes for clear navigation and easily digestible information. (And note the big green payable certificate reminder too!)

MOOCintro

  • On the next page, we introduce ourselves. Great – except – wait -it gives a Page not Found… (I’ve reported it.) Looking around, I realise that there are links at the top which also form part of the course – I must currently just be in their equivalent of a Moodle “Book”. I also notice the page isn’t responsive (though I haven’t tried it on my smartphone yet.)

reponsive

  • So I move on to the pre-course survey. That went fine. I owned up to my reasons for joining. We had to state our profession, why we were joining the course and what our level of experience was.
  • Next up come two videos about technologies, students and the classroom. I’ll report on these next time, when I have read the transcripts watched them.
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SBOSE: Comfortably uncomfortable

As we approach the end of this module Supporting the Blended and Online Student Experience, I’m reflecting on my ¬†own experiences and new understandings during this time.

I chose the blog option for my individual assignment because blogging is something I do naturally. From keeping a diary for over 30 years in pre-internet days to blogging about Moodle since 2007, I enjoy putting thoughts into words. The challenge with this blog, however, was not finding the words or topics to cover, but backing up what I say with relevant readings, evidence, references. This meant that I put much more time and thought into each post (which dampened my enthusiasm somewhat) but it also offered a broader, richer perspective on my other blogging. I’d begun a personal blog about learning Russian -just for my own benefit really – and soon found that I actually wanted to reference my experiences learning a new language against research I had read about how we learn. I would never have conceived of that a year ago. I realise the option of a reflective blog well meets the ‘Introspection’ aspect of Olcott’s five I’s of effective teaching ¬†which I read about in (Paloff 2013)

Introspection is the interpretation, revision and demonstrated understanding of concepts.

Elsewhere the authors state that we should be:

encouraged to reflect on [our] own learning process, how learning with the use of technology has affected that process either positively or negatively…

I struggle with the level and quality of writing and referencing needed for this individual assignment, particularly when comparing my offerings with those of other course participants, so I started gently with some summaries of books  I had been reading. I blogged about Essentials of Course design (link to post) and also about Lessons from the Virtual classroom (link to post) Later I also summarised Is Technology Good for Education? (link to post), not an actual set text but one related to Neil Selwyn whose views questioning ed tech we were asked to consider early in the module. Doing these summaries definitely helped me clarify and  embed the thinkings into my brain, and using a blog for this process was something I was very comfortable with.

What I was less comfortable with, along with having to develop the habit of backing up my opinions with meaningful research, was the imposition of a Group Task. In fact, when I heard in module 1 that in ¬†module 2 we would be working in groups, I almost quit. I am glad I didn’t – although I remain unconvinced about the merits of group work. I expressed my fears in¬†All for One and One for All (link to post)¬†.

A while later while listening to the weekly podcast, this time on Online Team Teaching, it struck me that while I am uncomfortable working in groups, I work very well ¬†in a pair – if the two of us are on the same wavelength. In the post Online Team Teaching¬†I outlined how my colleague Helen and I collaborate when facilitating online. Perhaps for me, the clich√© ‘Two’s company, Three’s a crowd’ really works.

Another example of my discomfort was in the most recent module on Learning Analytics. We had a task which required us to analyse an Excel spreadsheet. In the post Feeling the Fear (and Do it Anyway)¬†I reflected upon my spreadsheet-a-phobia and how, actually, if we are to progress, we do need to do things we find difficult. It’s the ‘Troublesome’ aspect of Threshold concepts, which I read about via (Didau, 2015)

Conclusions?

While I chose the blog option because I felt comfortable with it, I have learned in this last module that actually it was the uncomfortable elements that move me forwards. Stepping out of my comfort zone, for example in drafting blog posts with supporting evidence, engaging in group work, delving into analytics and statistics as a numerophobe- these ¬†have all given me a sense of satisfaction and progression that I wouldn’t have felt if I had stuck to the comfortable stuff.

No coincidence that I have experienced this in parallel while learning Russian – practising language that is a little harder than I can cope with – and even in my Day Job! I was at the London Moodle Moot two weeks ago. I like to be very organised, have everything planned out – and I was faced with a situation where I had to significantly improvise. This would never have been my choice, but, having tackled it and completed the task, I feel more competent.

So – what have I learned that I would pass onto my students in blended and online situations?

  • Self reflection is essential -whether you do it in a private diary, just between you and your teacher, or to the world at large. Think critically about yourself
  • If you struggle with writing, just write anything at first until you get into the right frame of mind.
  • Choose the harder option, not the easier one if you’re brave enough, because in challenging yourself you will transform yourself.

References:

Palloff, R. (2013). Lessons from the virtual classroom : the realities of online teaching. 1st ed.

Didau, D. (2015). What if everything you knew about education was wrong?. Crown House Publishing.

 

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