OU blog

Personal Blogs

Ian Luxford

H817 Week 10 (or 4) Activity 14 Comparing MOOCs

Visible to anyone in the world

Comparing DS106 with Coursera – not quite chalk and cheese


I am pleased I spent time comparing these two MOOC offers before reading Daniel (2012) as he gives a particularly critical perspective on MOOCs that have come from the elite universities and it would have coloured my thinking on Coursera.


An obvious difference between the two is that wherever you look with DS106 you see its key themes – digital story telling and student input/interaction - blasting out at you, whereas Coursera presents an orderly list of courses by subject area – very clearly branded to the institutions where they originate using a catalogue-like structure that tells you whether each course is for you, what you would need to know and what you will have to do.


The use of technology in DS106 is therefore much more obvious and extensive – you are aware of the forums and posts using different kinds of media, also channels like the radio station, immediately.  Coursera does use several technologies (see reference to guitar playing below) but the most obvious medium is video.


An obvious difference in pedagogical styles is that fact that most Coursera material seems to be “presented” to the learner by video, whereas DS106 has a range of different channels and is driven by interaction between students and students, students and materials, students and tutors.


Schuwer et al (2013) describe four categories of MOOC:


cMOOCs – network based

xMOOCs – content based

mMOOCS – intermediate between cMOOCs and xMOOCs, combining networking and content platforms

Task-based MOOCs – learners are assigned tasks to complete and share


They identify Coursera as being in the xMOOC category and DS106 as being in the task-based category.  There is a risk of taking these distinctions too literally – DS106 clearly has a large networking element for example but my understanding of these categories is that they describe the core approach to teaching.


Kop (2011) lists four activities that enhance learning within the self-directed online experience:


·      Aggregation – have lots of resources to work with

·      Relation – reflecting and connecting the content to something

·      Creation – making meaning by building an output such as a blog entry

·      Sharing – giving other learners access to the output


and it is interesting that the MOOCs she researched for this paper showed challenges with the creation activity – large numbers of learners did very little of this.  A task-based MOOC might be expected to require a great deal of creation (other than just completion of assignments) and DS106 is testament to how this can work – it is packed with examples of items created by learners and the creation from the course itself has clearly flowed over into further creativity with learners making and sharing videos of their experiences on the course.


Coursera does not exclude this style.  There is an introductory course on guitar playing which requires learners to record themselves playing and upload the sound files for example – it could be debated how much creation is involved in this activity but I would describe it as a form of meaning making.


On the one hand, McAuley et al’s (2010) description of how a MOOC works could obtains with either of these two models as there are, they say, no hard and fast rules but equally they are stressing that MOOCs bring together three things - connectivity through social networking, expertise in a particular field and lots of free resources.  The xMOOC approach exampled by Coursera is not without connectivity but it appears to emphasise the expertise factor (and the university brand) way over the social networking aspect.




Daniel, J. (2012), ‘Making Sense of MOOCs: Musings in a Maze of Myth, Paradox and Possibility www-jime.open.ac.uk/article/2012-18/html (accessed 4th April 2013)


Kop, R. (2011) The Challenges to Connectivist Learning on Open Online Networks: Learning Experiences during a Massive Open Online Course. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol 12, No 3 (2011): Special Issue - Connectivism: Design and Delivery of Social Networked Learning  http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/882/1823 (accessed 4th April 2013)


McAuley, A.; Stewart, B.; Siemens, G.; Cormier, D. (2010). The MOOC Model for Digital Practice. http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/MOOC_Final.pdf (accessed 4th April 2013)


Schuwer, R., Janssen, B., and van Valkenburg, W. (2013)MOOCs: Trends and Opportunities for

Higher Education in Trend report: open educational Resources 2013 the open educational resources special interest group https://oerknowledgecloud.org/sites/oerknowledgecloud.org/files/Trend%20Report%20OER%202013_EN_DEF%2007032013%20(LR).pdf (accessed 8th April 2013)


Share post
Ian Luxford

H817 Week 10 (or 4) Activity 13 Reading about MOOCs

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Ian Luxford, Tuesday, 9 Apr 2013, 16:35

MOOCs and Connectivisim


Kop (2011) The Challenges to connectivism learning on open online networks: Learning experiences during a Massive Open Online Course


There has always been a triangle of interaction between learner, tutor and content/material; the age of learning has facilitated new ways for interactions to happen and heightened the emphasis on communication in the people-based interactions. Since the 1980s, learning has also been characterised by a greater emphasis on the learning theories that now underpin how we try to understand the phenomenon.


Connectivisim fits with the participation metaphor proposed by Sfard (1998) and taking the emphasis away from a body of knowledge and more toward “engagement of people in communication with each other” (p20).  Learning in this paradigm is enhanced by:


·       Aggregation – having lots of resources to work with

·       Relation – reflecting and connecting the content to something

·       Creation – making meaning by building an output such as a blog entry

·       Sharing – giving other learners access to the output.


Connectivism assumes self-directed learning, with the attendant expectations that learners will have the motivation to manage their time and their activities themselves.


An important factor in motivation to learn is the “presence” of the learner’s cognitive involvement with the content at a deep level as well as of other learners and, in formal environments, teachers.  In Personal Learning Environments, the teacher presence may be substituted by other “experts” within whom the learner can interact.

To make this type of learning happen, learners need various kinds of digital literacy.  They need to be able to work with and understand the networks they are in and search for and make value judgements about the resources they are using.


Kop’s study looked at two MOOCs in terms of the digital literacies required, the autonomy of the learner and the level of cognitive, social and teacher presence.


It confirmed the importance of these factors and demonstrated that it takes time for learners to build their confidence and competence to manage their learning and interact within the community they have joined.


Not all learners engaged with all four activities mentioned above – in particular, creation was something that only a minority completed visibly.

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Alan Clarke, Sunday, 14 Apr 2013, 10:54)
Share post
Ian Luxford

H817 Week 10 (or 4) Activity 13 Reading about MOOCs

Visible to anyone in the world

Daniel (2012) Making sense of MOOCs: Musings in a maze of myth, paradox and possibility


MOOC represent a research challenge because they are still a very new phenomena; even newer are the xMOOCs from the US elite universities which are more behaviourist-based than the earlier, connectivist ones (cMOOCs).


The two approaches are very different and the newness of xMOOCs means we have not yet seen much of a reaction to them.  There is a theory that institutions such as Stanford and MIT are using MOOC methodology to try and master online learning as a response to the presumed impact that it will have on their on-campus students – if they do not know how to tame this technology it will represent a major threat to their futures.


The xMOOCs have been claimed to have very high registration levels but also claimed to have equally high attrition rates, instances of plagiarism and suspect results from some who do complete.


There are a number of possible monetization opportunities from MOOCs although it is not certain that the institutions will benefit substantially from them.


A merchant bank-driven initiative called Academic Partnerships has launched a series of MOOCs with other universities which are achieving income and good graduation rates.


Daniel raises a number of criticisms of xMOOCs, among them the fact that the universities behind them are known for their research, not their teaching, which may account for what is seen by some as very poor pedagogy.  The drop out rate is also an interesting paradox – Daniel says that these universities are defined by the numbers of people they exclude, which somehow implies that large numbers of people dropping out along the way is not a bad thing for them.


Daniel states that MOOCs do not represent a solution to the provision of education in the developing world, though online technology probably is. He predicts that the methods used by xMOOCs will change and adapt as assessment of MOOC practice becomes more commonplace (in the same way that teaching quality assessment now is).  He cites Ernie Boyer, who had a vision that universities would one day see to distinguish themselves through their unique qualities rather than by competing on external factors, and suggests that MOOCs could help to make this happen.

Share post
Ian Luxford

H817 Week 10 (or 4) Activity 13 Reading about MOOCs

Visible to anyone in the world

McAuley et al (2010) The MOOC model for digital practice  


MOOCs bring together three things - connectivity through social networking, expertise in a particular field and lots of free resources.


The fact that MOOCs are social media-based means that there is an automatic channel for promoting the existence of new MOOCs.


There are no rules for how MOOC practice needs to be conducted; it will be made available through a central site but learners may share and create through independent social media tools or centrally.


The MOOC model provides an “ecosystem” for exploring the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed in the digital economy and how people might develop them.


The authors identify three benefits from the scale of MOOCs:


·          The long tail or 80:20 aspect means that a learner who has very specific or obscure needs should find someone to work with


·          The expertise within the MOOC is being shared with the maximum number of people who might benefit from it


·          The work of the tutor in facilitating and guiding is shared across a wide body of learners.


They also highlight a number of issues which merit further exploration; including the educational impact of MOOCs, how deep it can be and whether it extends to peripheral participation, the role of interventions that might help to manage quality and the opportunities for revenue generation, if there are any.

Share post
Ian Luxford

H817 Week 9 (or 3) Activity 11 Big and Little OERs

Visible to anyone in the world

Big OER and Little OER


Weller (2011) The Digital Scholar - How technology is transforming scholarly practice


(Chapters 7 & 9)


Big OERs are based on major projects, often HEIs, with explicit aims to achieve specific educational outcomes.  They are of high quality and are delivered in planned, consistent ways, for example through a portal which is designed for this purpose.


Little OERs originate from the activities of individuals or groups who are creating and distributing materials which may not have specific educational aims. There is no consistency in their production and quality may be low.


(page 105)


There may be an 80:20 relationship between these types of OER and their usage bases - traffic to many big OERs is "impressive" (page 109) and they represent a small proportion of OERs in terms of units but provide a very large volume of content to a large number of learners and reusers.  Little OERs will account for a high proportion of units but may serve a smaller part of the market (though it must be hard to tell as there is no definitive record by the nature of what little OERs are).


Some ways in which they differ in terms of value/offer:


Sustainability - Big OERs face major issues over their longevity, with all their attendant issues with the costs of development and distribution.  Little OERs are generated through passion, spare time and the need or desire to do something else (like air ideas or research) and will continue to emerge over time because they just can


Quality - where an OER is being delivered by a well known branded institution, its reputation acts as an incentive to ensure the educational quality and integrity of the product and the resources behind the project enable higher production values to be applied.  Little OERs may be of very high quality; some user-generators have access to very sophisticated equipment and software, have excellent production skills and are committed to the educational quality of their output - but this is never guaranteed. My personal view of low quality web material is that I want to use it less than material with higher production values regardless of the content because the medium, is something I don't want to notice - with good production I see the message and ignore the medium, with poor production I am distracted by things such as sound quality, poor images, bad use of language etc.


Reuse - if reuse is built into the design of an OER in terms of what the licence and the format allow, reuse is more likely to happen.  Weller states that Big OERs aim more for adaptation - large amounts of content are localised in some way, whereas little OERs tend to be aggregated for reuse - disparate items are pulled together and included in some bigger educational package (page 107).


Meeting needs - users may be more inclined to go directly to a Big OER that was designed for the purpose which they are seeking to achieve; little OERs may be more likely to be stumbled across although the searchability of the web might negate this assumption somewhat.  A fundamental difference is in the intent - Big OERs have clear and declared aims behind them which are coherent and which guide the creation of resources to meet these aims and therefore the needs of the users they were designed for.  Little OERs might also be designed for particular purposes but there is no coherence across the broad and diverse base of resources.


Share post
Ian Luxford

H817 Week 9 (or 3) Activity 10 Sustainability models

Visible to anyone in the world

Wiley (2007) On the sustainability of Open Educational Resource initiatives in higher education


At the time of writing there were were over 2,500 OERs in existence, running from over 200 universities.  Primary markets were the USA (1,700 courses), China (451 courses), Japan (350 courses) and France (178 courses).  The non-HE OER market was also growing fast, mainly through free articles (e.g. Wikipedia).


Sustainability is defined here as the ability of the OER to continue meeting its aims and there are two sides to sustainability – being able to keep producing the resources and being able to keep distributing them.


There are costs associated with:


·       Creation – writing, researching etc

·       Storing

·       Distributing – having enough bandwidth, compatibility of systems, localisation etc

·       Licencing – ensuring that licencing principle (e.g. ShareAlike) are adhered to.


Wiley considers three OER models:


·       MIT – there is a commitment to publish all the university’s courses openly and a massive organisation behind this to which MIT has allocated resources and secured funding from donors.  The annual budget is US$4million.


·       USU – similar to MIT but smaller in scale (US$127million p.a.). Also attracts donor support but unlikely to be sustainable.


·       Rice Connexions – courses do not only originate at the university – authors are from all over the world.  Most courses are not financially backed – they are provided voluntarily by authors.


Wiley lists the following types of OE resources and media:


·       Teaching resources – these assume that the teacher is already a subject matter expert and aim merely to support


·       Learning resources – these need to be much more comprehensive


·       Resource formats – e.g. JPG, PDF, HTML, XML Flash.


Different resource types and formats require different levels of input and therefore expenditure; they also may vary in their educational value.


Reuse of the resources also varies – they may be put into alternative formats, translated into another language, adapted for different cultures or teaching styles; making this as easy as possible will contribute to sustainability but can be at odds with the original design and format used.


A number of funding models have been proposed by:


·       Downes:


·  Endowment – interest earned from a capital sum invested


·  Membership – organisations buy in and are allowed to influence the direction of the OER


·  Donations


·  Conversion – “consumers” are attracted by the free offer and eventually start paying


·  Contributor-pay – authors pay to have their work “looked after”


·  Sponsorship – from commercial organisations


·  Institutional – sponsorship but from HEIs


·  Governmental – the taxpayer pays


·       Dholakai:


·  Replacement – the OER takes over from existing resources and their budget is allocated to the OER


·  Foundation – ongoing funding from various interest groups on the basis of the size and significance of the OER


·  Segmentation – the OER can provide value-added services as a bolt-on and can charge for these services


·  Voluntary support – fund raising.


If OERs are to be sustainable, there need to be incentives in place for authors to contribute and for institutions to participate.


OER projects need to take into account:


·       What type of organisation/structure is needed to make the OER work

·       What type and format of resources it needs and what can be done cost effectively as well as being pedagogically effective

·       What kind of user resue is helpful and practical

·       What funding it can attract and how it attracts it

·       How it can contain costs generally

·       Which funding model is most suitable.

Share post
Ian Luxford

H817 Week 9 (or 3) Activity 9 Choosing a licence

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Ian Luxford, Thursday, 4 Apr 2013, 20:49

Creative Commons Licences



-          Very open and flexible – anyone can do anything with your work as long as they credit you – makes wide dissemination very easy


-          As Attribution but others have to licence the derived work under the same terms


-          Work can be copied but not changed


-          Like Attribution but work cannot be used for commercial purposes




-          Like Attribution-ShareAlike but work cannot be used for commercial purposes


-          Work can be shared, must be credited, no other uses allowed

I would have thought that the choice of licence would have to depend on what the author wanted to do with the work. 

I find the idea of CC BY very appealing for my independent work in the learning field because it enables the full benefits of web distribution in getting ideas out and enabling others to use them.

This would change if I have undertaken a unique and highly original piece of research and I had concerns about it losing its meaning but still wanted wide dissemination - this might take me to CC BY-ND.

Share post
Ian Luxford

H817 Week 8 (or 2) OER Course

Visible to anyone in the world
This is still work in progress...
Share post
Ian Luxford

H817 Week 8 (or 2) Activity 7 OER issues

Visible to anyone in the world

OERs are major undertakings; they require a considerable amount of development and careful planning in order to get them established.  Once they are established they need continual participation and resourcing to keep going.

I think the biggest overall challenge for OERs therefore is whether they have a future and if they do, what this looks like.  A number of other students identified sustainability as one of the priorities for institutions looking at OERs; I would argue that it is the number one challenge and that there are a number of specific issues to consider when making sense of OER futures.

I looked at some articles which considered sustainability of OERs and found (unsurprisingly) that there are many common issues highlighted.

Downes (2007) considers methods of funding, models for distributing, using and reusing content, and ways of resourcing with staff as factors which impact the sustainability of OERs.

Albright (2005) lists a number of issues that will impact the future success of OERs including economic models, scalability, appropriateness of technologies and educational suitability

Caswell et al (2008) see the future of OERs as being based on a return to the original notion of community – they will need to acquire a life of their own and be driven by continual collaboration, contribution and use. They highlight funding and copyright/ownership issues as challenges faced by institutions running OERs.

My three big issues are economics, learner support and suitability of resources, all of which underpin many of the other issues.

Without the right economic model, OERs cannot exist.  Atkins et al (2007) state that a course from MIT’s OpenCourseware initiative costs £25,000 p.a. to run, all inclusive and that the future has to be in institutions being able to treat OERs as a small component of their business as usual activities.

I was at a seminar at Learning Technologies this year where it was suggested that commercial learning providers might get into OERs as a way of displaying their wares (some do things a bit like this already) and given the credibility benefits that OERs offer institutions (for example Caswell et al 2008 describe how new students are often aware of an institution’s OER and it can affect their choice of institution), it could be that they treat them as a marketing channel.  However they approach it, the economic question needs answering.

Assuming economic viability, the OER is still only sustainable if people make use of it and contribute to it.  It needs to be decided what the learner experience will be and this could range from merely being able to access, read and reuse educational resources (where minimal learner support is needed) to a fully moderated and supported course event (like the OpenLearn Open Education MOOC).  This model will determine how fit for purpose the OER is for the community at which it is aimed; if it is intended to allow people to derive educational benefit from it, it could be argued that provision of some level of tutor interaction is essential.

The educational suitability of its resources is the second element which will determine how fit for purpose the OER is and therefore how sustainable. This impacts the design of the resources in the first place (MIT OCW contains some materials which appear to be no more than the sharing of notes and slides designed for a face to face course – these may be interesting for someone trying to design their own course but may have reduced utility for an independent learner).  It also impacts the way they are kept up to date, incorporate learner feedback, new research etc. Again, the purpose for which it needs to be fit must be what drives the model for ensuring suitability.  And both of these are dependent on the OER being econmically viable.  


Albright, P. (2005) UNESCO (IIEP): Final forum report. 2008-09-01 http://learn.creativecommons.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/oerforumfinalreport.pdf

Atkins, D.E., Brown-Seely, J. & Hammond, A.L., (2007). A review of the open educational resources (OER) movement: Achievements, challenges, and new opportunities. Report to The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Caswell, T., Henson, S., Jenson, M., & Wiley, D. (2008). ‘Open Educational Resources: Enabling Universal Education’. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9/1http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/469/1001


Downes, S. (2007), 'Models for sustainable open educational resources', Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects, vol. 3. Available from: http://ijklo.org/Volume3/IJKLOv3p029-044Downes.pdf

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by John Kuti, Thursday, 28 Mar 2013, 10:11)
Share post
Ian Luxford

H817 Week 8 (or 2) Activity 6 Objections to learning objects

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Ian Luxford, Tuesday, 26 Mar 2013, 09:23

I have always found the SCORM standards to be unhelpful when it comes to good pedagogy; what they have helped me with is being able to guarantee that others will be able to run my courseware on their systems and use their full functionality.  I have tended to ignore the reusability rules and tried to create objects that were based on sound learning principles but there is a wider limitation which is the inability of SCORM to interact in a wider environment and thereby bring in other relevant inputs that allow good evaluation etc.

Tincan api attempts to provide an antidote to this in a more learning friendly way.

Potential for reuse

The inverse relationship ©Wiley 2004


Friesen (2004): Three objections to learning objects and e-learning standards


Friesen sees the use of learning standards as contrary to good pedagogy; they are based on an “engineering” view of the world and not an educational one.


They assume the learning is designed to be worked on in isolation in a self-paced style, which originates from the American military and doesn’t fit with the higher education model.


His three objections appear to be:


·      The need to be able to handle the ambiguities that arise in real learning

·      The need to avoid the assumption that you can contain and commoditise knowledge in this way and to prevent this thinking from driving developments in education

·      The fact that “neutrality” (isolation from context, style, involvement, interpretation etc) is in diametric opposition to good pedagogy.


Wiley (2004): The reusability paradox


This could be the reason why reusability hasn’t quite taken off in the way that interoperability has and there is a temptation for some instructional designers to make a whole course a single object.


Wiley identifies the importance of context in learning – we make meaning by adding new information to the information we already have.


The principles of reusability deny context – to keep an object pure it has to exclude reference to anything else – this means it can appear within a course at any point without appearing to be out of place and it can be updated without affecting other items within the course.



This flies in the face of good pedagogy. A good learning experience builds on previous experience and develops meaning through context.

Share post
Ian Luxford

H817 Week 8 (or 2) Activity 5 Learning Objects

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Ian Luxford, Tuesday, 26 Mar 2013, 09:09

Learning objects


Downes (2001) – Learning Objects: Resources for distance education


This article was written at a time when learning objects and associated concepts such as the SCORM standards were relatively new. 


Downes uses a basic economic argument to demonstrate that rather than creating identical tools to teach identical content within every institution, content should be produced once and able to be shared and reused.


He describes the now well-known standards of IMS and SCORM and how they sought to tackle reusability and interoperability.  For object data, he identifies HTML as a common authoring language but predicts (rightly) that specific tools will become more widely-used for particular course authoring purposes such as setting up quizzes.


He also covers the challenges faced at the time with multimedia – storage capacity and access to the right software were larger constraints then than now.


His vision is of vast repositories of objects which are open to educational instututions to teach core material in a way which is economically viable.


Elements of his vision have come true but learning objects did not materialise in exactly the way he predicts and this may be because they were driven more by technological expedience than pedagogical excellence.

Share post
Ian Luxford

H817 Week 7 (or 1) Representing open education

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Ian Luxford, Tuesday, 26 Mar 2013, 09:09



I think of openness and the benefits that go with it as being entirely intangible, therefore I find it necessary to use (rather worn out) visual metaphors for some of them.

I think the most critical element of openness is the oil - removal of barriers through agreement to be open and removal of physical barriers through technology make the process more seamless, allowing greater creativity to flow, leading to richer learning.

Share post

This blog might contain posts that are only visible to logged-in users, or where only logged-in users can comment. If you have an account on the system, please log in for full access.

Total visits to this blog: 18859