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As in sport, so in education - motivation is the key to success

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 12 Dec 2014, 07:20
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Start Writing Fiction FutureLearn MOOC from The OU

I've struggled on two and three week MOOCs but like hundreds, even thousands of others I am entering the penultimate week of eight weeks studying with The OU on the FutureLearn platform. I've said here often that I wished I'd done the Creative Writing BA and if this taster is anything to go by I would certainly have done so ... but money has run out, if not the time I give to these things.

Besides writing fiction this has been the best example of many of how collaborative learning online has a significant future. It makes much else redundant; some courses here at The OU need a shake up now, not in five years time. The 'presentation cycle' of 8 to 12 years will need to be halved in order to keep up. I no longer want the traditional distance learning course of text books and DVD, even if the text and the DVD is put online. It has to be designed and written again onto a blank canvass: migrating books and video, even interactive DVD to the WEB completely misses the most valuable part of being online - interaction with others. Putting content online simply saves someone on distribution costs - not a saving that is passed onto the student.

In 1999 I was expected as a Producer to migrate DVD content to the web. It didn't bandwidth for images, let alone video, made it redundant, let alone the spread and layout of content. Its the kind of transitionary phase all industries go through. Suddenly the old way we learn is looking like the cart and horse, with first e-learning efforts looking like the horseless carriage. In due course hybrids will give way to something wholly new.

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What have I learnt? What do I need to reminding of? The blog review

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014, 07:08

This is the value of a comprehensive blog such as this - for its author at least.

My thoughts went into these posts. By going back through the content I can be reminded of the lessons I was learning or struggling with at the time.

It would help were I more strategic in my approach to learning - but that's not me. I like to dwell and drift. I don't know what matters so like to have it all at my fingertips.

Going through the eight OU modules I have completed is taking between one and three hours clicking through posts here. I can tap into TMAs and EMAs and feedback, much of which I have here too (on the private setting). It is revealing in two respects: how much I have covered and can now say that I know - I can speak 'E-learning' fluently; and how many links and references that I jotted down and have never gone back to - great apps, insightful papers, and moments of clarity.

To cover myself for a decade hence by which time this blog will have been wiped, I am copying, selectively, about 40% of the content of this blog into my external blog My Mind Bursts.  (tagged MMB here)

Having the MAODE is one thing. Calling myself and being a 'Master' of the subject needs to be the next step. Martin Weller believes it will take a person ten years to become a 'digital scholar' - I've got another five years to go then. 

Onwards

 

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Does the OU provide the very best distance learning environment?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 24 Aug 2014, 06:19
From E-Learning IV

 Fig 1. Read a book ... several times, then submit an essay from a list

This is 'learning design' or 'instructional design' written on the back of a fag packet by a loan lecturer. An occassional lecture and student gathering may be meant to add some variety. One sheet of A4 provides the year's curricullum while a second sheet provides a reading list. And all this 'at a distance' - in my case over 200 miles using a Virtual Learning Environment that makes a beginner's guide to DOS written in 1988 look friendly. NOT the OU. Not dissimilar to my undergraduate degree except that it at least had a tutorial most weeks: one to one, or a small group with a 'subject matter expert' is a privileged luxury that works - though yet to be achieved on a massive scale, even if there is a trend this way with massive, open online courses (MOOCs). 

I can compare a variety of institutions as I have studied with so many: Brookes has a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) that is simple and easy to use- it's a Mini Cooper to the OU's Audi Estate. Birmingham's VLE, ironically as I'm studying the First World War with them is like a deep, impenetrable bank of barbed wire. I've given up on their library and so use Amazon ... not always cheap, but I hope to flog off my substantial WW1 library in due course. 

From E-Learning IV

Fig. 2 SimpleMinds (App) mindmap on 'bite and hold' tactics in the First World War

Meanwhile I'm back to the thrilling conclusion as I plod through the mire of a 4,000 word essay that by reading the above at lead three times I will have an answer. Here it adds variety to read it in print, on a Kindle and as an eBook: each reveals something slightly different. I take notes pen on paper, annotate into the eBook and build a mindmap as I go along. But there is no one to share this with, no 21st century 'connectivity', no tutor as online cataylst and guide, no student forum or blog (not for the want of trying).

Or is learning ultimately always you and your soul working in focussed isolation at Masters level without the distraction of others or the tight parameters of a formal module?

Should you feel inclined to take an interest in Passchendaele then this is the most lucid, objective and reasoned contemporary explanation of how and why the chronology of events turned out as they did.

From E-Learning IV

Fig.3. Sir Douglas Haig, Command in Chief of the British Army

Haig and the politicians of the day can and should be held responsible for the unnecessary slaughter of Third Ypres. What was gained over four months in 1917 was lost in three days in 1918. The depth, detail and objectivity of current scholarship shows absolutely that Haig was profligate with the life of his soldiers, flipped and flopped his policy and would not listen to criticism while Lloyd George having gerrymandered his way into the top job as Prime Minister could not get rid of Haig and so failed in his role to supervise his generals. 

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New blog post

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Fig.1 Buyer beware!

Have you come across this? Every so often a book is priced outrageously. Do some people actually buy at this price?! Is it an error? Is it a deliberate error that improves the ranking of an item or a seller on Amazon?

I've been buying ex-library books for 28p +P&P. 

Like old VHS cassettes there are books being 'dumped' - some are out of print gems that have not been digitised so you get to reference directly a book that has been cited rather than relying simply on what others have thought. 

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Just a distraction?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 3 Aug 2014, 08:00

Fig.1. Tom Dailey winning Commonwealth Gold

Tom Dailey talks about his bid for a medal the the Rio Olympics, about distractions like school and TV work, and also his desire to do a course, such as Spanish. 

"Because I'm not doing any school any more and I haven't got any TV shows, possibly I want to start a course in Spanish, sociology, politics, something like that, just to keep my mind away from it.

"If your mind is constantly on diving, it will melt. It's always good to have a distraction from it."

It sounds like he should be introduced to the Open University; there were a few Olympic competitors on courses a few years ago. What could be more flexible?

Is it a distraction? Is studying complementary to the day job or daily life?

Any other competitive athletes out there?

I'm still with the OU for a couple of reasons:

  • 1) I love learning and the OU method and platform
  • 2) Anything to keep me away from the TV is a good thing
  • 3) In the case of French I've always wanted to, and at one stage needed to crack written French.

 

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Why some e-learning is evil

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 16 Jun 2014, 11:31

 Fig.1 Student marginal notes in a second hand book

A couple of weeks ago it started to dawn on me that in some respects e-learning is evil; I lost the thought a couple of times a) because I was driving my daughter to her last A' Level exam at the time and b) starting to compose the ideas my wife felt the need to share with me some pressing thought and I did her the courtesy of holding everything to listen - not just to look as if I was listening (a man things?), but actually take it in to offer a response (another man thing?) The thought was lost.

Rummaging through boxes of text books in the hope that I will find a plug for an imminent trip to Paris by wife and daughter (a post exams and 18th birthday treat), I stumbled upon a book on 'The Causes of War' by Michael Howard and the thought returned:

E-learning is evil because it negates a student 'learning how to learn'.

This matters as most graduates don't apply WHAT they learn at university, but rather the process of learning itself; that application, thought, time, discovery for yourself, seeking out your own meaning, interpretation, sharing, nervous first attempts at constructing an opinion or stance, building on this through mistakes, correction and further reading, attending lectures, seminars, and tutorials. It is NOT a case of consuming within tight confines content that has been specifically constructed for you to follow, to the letter, without little expectation, or desire for you to wander off on any tangents of your own. This has been my too frequent experience of modules in the Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education as with few exceptions the module is written and presented to you like a huge stack of packed lunches for you to eat your way through, without deviation, pretty much day by day for a period of weeks and months.

This is a convenience that suits the nature of distance learning - to hook you into a diet of these set-meals that can collectively building into a degree. The tough reality and self-evident experience of learning is that few students are ready to be assessed until a year, if not two years into their subject. Otherwise the pattern of grades is surely likely to be a gradual step by step, incremental improvement from the 40s, to 50s, to 60s ... and hopefully 70s and even 80s. 

I would far prefer to master my subject first and then be assessed and in so doing get 70s and 80s across the board, once the cumulative effect of sustained learning over many months has had the opportunity to mature. 

There is probably therefore a lesson to be learnt here for the reasons why Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) fail - they fail because they promise a trick that in learning never works - there is no short cut, the brain doesn't allow it, thoughts and ideas take time to mature. Which brings me to the fallacy of so much e-learning that tries to suggest that a revolution in learning is occurring, that there is a quick fix through gamification, having Google and Wikipedia at your fingertips and worst of all by reading condensed books, or courses that hand you all the answers on a plate in a ready-meal, or drive-in take-away manner that may satisfy at the time, but fails to deliver in the long term. 

Six of sixteen MA students doing a Master's degree with the Open University have recently completed degrees with the Open University; we often compare thoughts. We're universally derogatory of both approaches! Learning is a pain in whatever form it comes, but the answer would be a developed blend of both worlds and approaches.

Books, the printed form, certainly have a place. It is a pain to read a book, to identify salient points with notes into a book, or with PostIt notes, and to filter these into a format where they can be preserved and then later applied in an essay or presentation. It is this pain, and the time and effort it takes to condense books, to gather your own thoughts on the ideas of others, and then to construct your individual take, with support from your faculty (tutor, chair, fellow students) that builds your confidence so that you write what you think, not what the you are required to express, in a format that can be marked by an autonomon. 

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Why learning with the OU, indeed distance and e-learning, will always be constrained by the lack of 'bonding' between pupil and tutor.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 25 Feb 2014, 12:33

I am asthmatic. I recently attended an 'asthma clinic' - a one to one with a specialist nurse. We are able to get on the same wavelength because she recently completed her training on asthma and I have been preparing a PhD proposal that uses an e-learning platform to support people with a chronic illness - indeed a massive randomized controlled trial has just begun in the States. Its limitations are simple - in many instances we do a thing well in order to please another person. In tertiary education this means your tutor - in the MAODE we never meet, there are no tutorials. One tutorial a month in other courses, undergraduate and graduate at a residential, isn't enough, IMHO, to establish adequate rapport. Where universities have a tutor system a life long friendship forms, especially where hard work is rewarded with a smile. I comply to my asthma and rhinitis drugs to please another human being - it happens to keep me healthy too. Personally, and of course it differs between people, I would do better in my studies for a smile. This makes learning French using Rosetta Stone, very limiting. As a teenager I did one of those exchanges - people smiled because I was an idiot who tried hard, my reward was lifelong friendship.

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Learning or e-learning?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 2 May 2013, 05:29

If you could study full time at a college where there are only 30 students - all the same year group, and you work in teams of two or three - would you?

This 'college' has 500 mentors - people 'from industry' who come in as volunteers so that several times a week, if not most afternoons, the students have experienced people to listen and learn from how does this benefit the learning process? Is it 'learning from the periphery' when the 'centre' comes to you? It is socially-constructed, and cognitive?

How does this contrast and compare with 'learning at a distance' 'old school' with a box of books and DVDs or here on the MA ODE with everything online?

As a mentor at the School of Communication Arts, London I go in to sit with pairs of students for anything between 15 minutes and an hour. I listen. I try to be a sounding board and catalyst. I try to motivate. I refuse to judge or infect/impose myself, rather helping them to draw their own conclusions.

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Distance Learning 80 years ago

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 26 Jun 2012, 17:55

DSC04797.JPG

I am reading a 52 piece part work 'World War' edited by Sir John Hammerton and published between 1936 and 1937 with occasional contributions from H G Wells, this alongside various staple and new reads on World War One.

As a piece of learning design what could be simpler? A magazine delivered each week, chapters deliberately left unfinished between parts, photos offering points of interest explained and developed in later issues.

Tommy%2520SNIP.JPG

Perspectives shift of course, just as they had a view on the Napoleonic Wars. However, in many cases 1914 was not dissimilar to a battle of 1814, or 1870.

'Read in a period until you hear its people speak' E H Carr.

I play this trick of falling asleep with an event in mind and courtesy of the painkillers I am currently taking I enter a vivid dream world much of which I can recall.

The problem with WW1 is the clammer of voices, not just what you can read, but the voices you can listen to on DVD or podcasts, indeed I have several hours of my own grandfather in a County Durham accent that those not familiar with the North East would call Geordie and find, at times, incomprehensible.

How does an historian deal with history when the record is everything? Had a soldier gone into battle in 1914 with a video headset what would we do today with years of material? My grandfather, for example, had no leave from the day he left England in early 1916 to his transfer to the Royal Flying Corps at the very end of 1917.

Would the reality be a huge amount of sitting around dealing with the boredom, discomfort and fear?

DSC05047.JPG

This is a map I drew with my grandfather in his 97th year. This and his visit to the trenches the previous year would allow me to retrace his steps, almost by the day between September and end of December 1917.

But why?

A researcher from UCL quizzed me on this some years ago and I had to conclude that for me it was less an obsession with WW1, but rather reminding me of a dearly loved grandparent. I can't see drawing up maps of my grandmother's trips into Newcastle on the tram having the same appeal (or historical record or value).

Gradually online I am connecting with grandchildren of veterans and others interested in WW1 so that there is a component of 'Social Learn' between blogs and Facebook. All the books I read I share on Twitter, which may help promote the book, but is also attracting many like-minds.

At what point do I become so well informed that I could sit an exam without sitting for the qualification?

Can I short-circuit the steps to an MA in History? There are two parts to the degree, but it is the second part, the ellective, that takes me into WW1 territory.

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Special Relationships and the formative years of The OU

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 23 May 2012, 07:34

ASA%2520BRIGGS%2520SNIP.JPG

Special Relationships

Lord Asa Briggs

@Amazon

Not available as an e-Book (ironically)

Then again, Lord Briggs lives 5 minutes away here in Lewes. I should enquire about a signed hard back copy?

'In 1976 he was created a life peer as Baron Briggs, of Lewes in the County of East Sussex'.

Essential reading for all students of distance learning (and e-learning) to understand the manner in which the OU developed its remit.

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Serendipity, Creativity, Innovation and Change (B822)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 17 Apr 2012, 07:12

With another 60 credits to achieve the MA in Open & Distance Learning I learnt I could 'stretch my legs' and pull in some points from other fields of study.

B822 is a Faculty of Business and Law School module; its fans, I have learnt are many and vocal.

My fear is the return to books and studying after a too brief interlude; it doesn't half muck up your weekends, what is more it has taken me entirely away from something else that I do (or did): writing fiction.

My fear too is that I am at the Faculty where the module was written and from where it is taught so there is little distance for me with this piece of distance learning.

However, that Muse 'Serendipity' just came to my rescue (during an interlude from sleep where I was busily asking myself 'should I' or 'shouldn't' I?

I stumbled upon the blog of Barbara Wilson, which happens to be my late grandmother's name, she happens to be an OU Lecturer in Creativity and Leadership (living in France) and her latest blog is about a paper from one of the authors of B822 which I promptly download and put into iBooks.

Being playful and smart?

The relations of adult playfulness with psychometric and self-estimated intellegicne and academic performance.

It doesn't take much for me to feel the familiar comfort of reading, contemplating the application of ideas and taking notes. In one respect I spent a year, full-time, studying this at the 'School of Communication Arts'. Let's see.

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Which is where I trip myself up.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 15 Aug 2011, 14:29

Every time I read about the course materials others have received I become more jealous. Studying Masters in Open and Distance Education everything is online. We get nothing .... and everything. Actually, in 2001 I made at start on this and I too got a box of goodies: hard back and softback books, CDs too. I felt I had arrived, that my money had be well spent.

Which is where I trip myself up.

Learning entirely online I am staggered, overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of course materials and the links to materials now readily available online. In the early days I bought myself a few books and printed stuff out.

I now have the skills and confidence to have it all 'up there' in a cloud, readily available, my stuff and the OU's whenever and whenever I want it.

Whilst in the past I printed off out of habit, I now stick it into a blog (Private) or into dropbox. This means I know I can get to it wherever I may be. This has been from a laptop until recently, though now it goes to an iPad. I am gobsmacked the way I can read documents as PDF files and hold these in my iPad library.

One change I'd make: a smartphone is too small and an iPad is too big for the kind of mobility I am after. On the other hand, I also want an iPad the size of a Clipboard, with another, literally, a touchscreen desktop. Basically iPad versions A5, A3, A2 and A1.

And lighter.

With a longer battery.

And with the screen of a Kindle (glare is a killer).

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H800 WK17

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I interviewed our Dean, Prof. James Fleck a couple of weeks ago (soon to appear on the Association of MBAs website as it was featured at their 2011 Conference).

Here he tells a story of what he calls 'distance' learning (used negatively); it is exactly what we saw in this Kansas University video; they were 'distant' said Prof. Fleck, because he couldn't make out the colour of the person's top in the back row. He compared this to what he said the Faculty of Business and Law achieves through 'nearness' or 'closeness' learning, using platforms such as this, web-conferences too, to support learning. The 'd' word has been banned because of its negative connotations, which include the idea that students have little contact with tutors or fellow students, which in most cases is never the situation as there are regular tutor meetings and other get-togethers. I had to be put right on this score (there are 330 regional centres globally).

In its blended form using a laptop or ipad during a lecture, to Twitter on topic to colleagues, or to see fullscreen or closeups of what the lecturer is delivering live, may enhance the experience, even bring people closer? JISC 2011 this year was attended by nearly 400 on Twitter watching and listening online with under 150 in the lecture hall.

The technology should enable, enhance and support, never to the exclusion of people how don't have the kit or reliable access. Talking of which, I interviewed an Visiting International Fellow from Ghana for the Faculty and couldn't help but ask a question relating to our MAODE; he gave permission to use this so I ought to offer it somewhere. This was on technolgy and the way mobile phones have 70% penetration in Ghana and are therefore crucial to overcome a list of other problems offering a real way forward to be able to exploit learning content, in this case Open Resources for training Civil Servants to MBA level.

And what I take from this?

The best lessons I ever had were from my grandfather; sitting with him learning about his experiences as a machine-gunner and then a fighter pilot in the RFC then taking him to the Imperial War Museum where they welcomed him like Royalty and even had a machine gun out for him! In a moment this 95 year old was crouched behind the thing ... anyway, the point it, one-to-one and face-to-face, an expert passing on knowledge to someone who is motivated is the ideal; how technology can facilitate a component of this is what appeals to me, playing on what we do best as humans in the anthropological sense.

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H800: 45 Week 8 Activity 2 (Part 4) Tools for Learning Design

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 27 Aug 2011, 16:14

Is this a model or an expression of what took place?

At what point, by adding Tutor engagement, and then picking out individuals in relation to their tutor group forum participation do you make assumptions?

A questionnaire would elicit the facts.

At some point the complexity of the activity shown diminishes the ease at which the chart is interpreted.

33pysds_H800-WK8-Act3.jpg

 

I'd replaced the imploring 'HAVE FUN!' with the more germane 'ENGAGE!' i.e. take part, I say this because debate and discussion may not be fund with a smile.

Often I liken a session that spins out of control as a Catherine-Wheel nailed to a post that fizzles and falls ... or winds down. Some activities can be like this, 'full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.'

They tend to be the most fulfilling, where everyone in the group takes part. Or at least SIX on a regular basis to give the thing some spin.

Failure to participate is the killer; with it an activity can be a wild success, drawing people in, urging them to take part. Without them you are on your own 'with your books and your thoughts.'

The reality of distance learning online is a bit of both, the trick is to be able to engage and disengage with reasonable flexibility, not feeling guilty whether you are quiet for a period or when you are ever-present.

The role of the tutor is a tricky one

Mentor and coach, or subject matter expert? Institutional insider to guide? Overseer? Absent landlord? Marker? Assessor? Animateur?

The role is changing. It will be as different as it is in the 'real' world from the one-to-one private tutor, or the 'gang master' running 60 students via pre-recorded video lecture. Customers, as students can call themselves with greater validity if they are paying significant sums, will be demanding.

'Change is all around us'.

(Sung to the tune of Wet, Wet, Wet's 'love is all around us').

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