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The Power of Stories

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Olympic Skier Lindsay Vonn with her bruised/broken arm in a sling

Ten years ago I started a student blog at the behest of the OU as part of the Masters in Open & Distance Education (MAODE). This was my second go at this having started nine years previously with the MAODL (Distance Learning). 

I came from corporate training. Coming from teaching might have been more appropriate, and teaching in Higher Education in particular. I thought the outcome would be back into industry, whereas it has instead been a route into Education. It might have lead to research. I did prepare a PhD thesis and took this to Southampton.

Events closer to home have me reflecting on the power of story, no matter how or where it is expressed. We are highly tuned in to pay attention to a well told drama.

Our drama lately has been a broken arm (not me) and the unexpected knock on effects and lessons learnt in relation to the medical systems and approach in France and the UK, to being freelance or working fulltime, and a wake up call to what it takes to care for someone. 

The story of this break and its consequences is shared with friends and over a few days it finds its own shape. You learn how to retain attention as one event and its consequences and all the subsequent decissions that are taken, and their consequences too. Let alone the other brickbats that get thrown your way to complicate it all further.

And the conclusion is?

Count your blessings

Smile and get on with it

Remember your friends and family as they remember you

Be prepared for this and worse happening

And in relation to learning?

Holding a students attention

Providing engagement which has a purposeful direction

Letting people draw their own conclusions

Listen to feedback and add this to the lessons being learnt

The vitality that comes from a story with emotional appeal, crisis, pain and laughter, consequences and outcomes. 

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Google Certified Trainer

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 13 Jan 2020, 10:47

Google Certified Trainer Logo

Where I need to be at. 

It should be on the CV of anyone being recruited into the Learning Technologist’s role, someone who in turn needs to be a former PGCE qualified teacher, so will need to be paid a Teacher and Staff Training Consultant levels. Double their salary then!

Ten years after starting (or rebooting) my MA ODE I am earning half what I earned then! Is that progress? It certainly is not the career change I have been trying to make from 'linear and interactive training' 1985-2000 to 'digital and interactive learning'. 

The MA ODE is an add on to an experienced and qualifed educator in HE. It is less applicable to teachers in primary or secondary education. It has little to offer those from Corporate Training either - my background. it is ideal for an academic invovled in reseaching teaching best practice. It is a step towards a PhD in education.

Don't be:

A badge collector. For me it has been another A level, another degree, another course taken. I recall the story of a girl with 5 A grade A Levels not getting into Cambridge to study physics. Easy to see why. They need a specialist at one subject, not a generalist in many. That would have come out in the interview. 

It is what you do with your knowledge that matters most. 

The person who doesn’t finish. Less that 10% of start finish. It requires determination and commitment. 

Wherein lies the problem. I struggle with motivation. I work best with quick reward and feedback. 




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58 today

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I was 39 when I first signed up for an Open University MA in 2000. It was the MA in Open & Distance Learning. Having taken and not completed one module I picked this up again in 2010 and completed an MA in Open & Distance Education in 2013.

A further degree in British History of Britain and the First World War has followed. I am the Digital Editor for The Western Front Association. 

I am a Green Party Town Councillor and the Head Coach at a local swimming club. So a busy life that also includes involvement with the local sailing club and life drawing.

 

 

 

 

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A Third MA

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 9 Jul 2018, 04:54

This is all too OU. Though the days of 'leisure learners' gaining multiple degrees was ended with the change to tuition fees a few years ago. I recall at my graduation the compare would announce from time to time that someone collecting their degree was on number three, or even number five.

I only have one MA, the MAODE from the OU. Although I should by now have a BA in French, and could have studied history with the OU, rather than with the Universities of Birmingham and then Wolverhampton.

I hanker after and expect the OU way of learning - with everything online, or at least considerable, intelligent online support in a blended version. Studying first at Birmingham and then Wolverhampton was no better, and often less well supported than my undergraduate degree of 1981-84. 

Needless to say, 9 July 2018, marks the culmination of my third Masters Degree.

BA/MA: Geography

MA: Open and Distance Education

MA: British History and the First World War

All I have to do is successfully negotiate the WLV 'Turnitin' system.

All I have to do is read it through by 15,000 words just one more time and try for the eighth of ninth time to get the conclusion right. I am writing about the nature of 'war enthusiasm' during the peak recruiting season into Kitchener's volunteer army in 1914. I have used the normal distribution or 'bell curve' to argue in favour of a spectrum of behaviours from antipathy to jingoistic enthusiasm for enlisting, with the majority either side of a line which had them enlist out of necessity for economic reasons, or had them enlist out of a sense of duty, patriotism and a desire to 'get the job done'.

As the Digital Editor of The Western Front Association website, this MA has, over the four years it has taken (including a two year gap between the universities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton) and a six month extension due to illness, filled my head with enough WWI content to help me with my 'job'. It also gives me some credibility in the WWI community. It will see me writing the occasional article and book review too. 

As the void in my academic life opens up I contemplate a PGCE to support my 'blended learning' advocate role, or, as time my be running out, to push for enough further credits through the OU to gain an MEd. I completed two units beyond the MAODE so in theory have 10 to 15 credits (I am unsure how many) towards whatever is required for the MEd. This would spur me to research and write about some of the initiatives I am involved with - not least the use of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in the classroom. 

 

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Positivity and the future of The OU

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 23 Mar 2018, 09:46

This is both a reminder to me, and a suggestion to others. I find that far more is achieved by being positive and 'can do' without being overly enthusiastic to the point of being unreasonable. I am prone to say 'yes' to any request I get from people to do a thing. I was brought up where all request were met with a firm 'no' before I had even finished my sentence ... It's taken a few decades to get over that one.

Meanwhile, as I emerge from a temporary 'blank' where I went off radar with viral bronchitis that turned into bacterial bronchitis I am starting to feel refreshed and even re-invigorated.

The world of e-Learning is my future and at last I have a stake in it as a 'Learning Technologist'.

Many years ago I opted to get into TV from the bottom, not as a trainee producer. I got to make coffee, type up scripts, prepare budgets, organise presenters and actors ... and in time to liase with agents, to edit, to write scripts and direct.

I would have loved an apprenticeship, even an old fashioned 'Technical College' to my academic training at Oxford, even, to some degree to the mixed academic/hands on experience of the Open University MA in Open and Distance Education. 'Getting Your Hands' dirty as soon as possible matters. 

Think of working online as more like learning to cook or garden. You will never learn to garden or cook simply by reading books, attending lectures and seminars, researching and writing essays: you must do.

I would also hope and encourage people who study part-time to be 'in the business' they are studying - I was too tangential to it and so lacked the insight of a practising teacher (in primary, tertiary, or secondary).

Meanwhile, good luck Open University in a world where every university is rapidly offering distance learning online ala OU.

As I expressed here six years ago, one day every university will be like the OU, but will the OU ever be like other universities and have 10,000 campus based undergraduates and post-graduates on site? 

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Essay Woes

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It's gone. Do I over think them? Is that possible? I end up with multiple mindmaps, Venn Diagrams and Charts which I then try to put into an essay plan.

Have I stuck to the question?

In this instance did I not only identify the correct factors but but did I prioritise them? I have a tendency to get carried away and may put undo focus on the trivial.

Meanwhile, for the umpteenth time in 3 years since graduating with an MA ODE I am trying to get employed in a field that uses the knowledge I gained. This has proved far harder than I had thought as the practitioner working in a university is where I should have begun this journey, rather than where I had hoped to end up. 

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How we learn online keeps me up at night!

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 8 May 2016, 06:39

Ideas that are encouraged to fester mature at the most inconvenient of times

Often I find that I am up in early and keen to put my thinking into practice

Currently I am trying to develop a simple notation to show, share, explain and develop online courses. During the MAODE I completed in 2013 we often used flowcharts, one with an OU software package - these could become a bit tricksy. My answer was to set up plans of MDF shelving in the garden and get out a chess set to try and show the relationships between the required components.

Common thinking is that there are three parts to creating online learning: technical, human support and, of course, us students. Technical means the platform, its ease of access and intuitive use; human support means, in the case of The OU, the course chair, associate lecturer and us student (those who are familiar with the setup and the subject matter are encouraged to, and enable to help newcomers to the ways things are done, and to the subject when you get stuck).

 Professor Gilly Salmon presenting a 'how to' video on YouTube for Swinburne University on the 'Five Stage Model' of e-learning

Prof Gilly Salmon talks us through 'the building blocks' of an online course 

Of note is a short, charming and engaging presentation made by former OU Business School Senior Lecturer, and now Prof Gilly Salmon at Swinburne University in New South Wales. Here, like a Blue Peter presenter, she uses a set of kid's coloured building bricks to talk us through the components required to make an online course (OU style) that works.

How Gilly Salmon uses green, yellow, blue and red building blocks to show how to plan an online course.

Green = Technical

Yellow = The students or 'learners'

Blue = Human support (i.e. in OU Land the 'associate lecturer')

Red = Assessment

As I am trying to develop a shorthand, language or 'notation' to be able to compare and create online course, I invested in my own set of building bricks. Once again I set up a length of MDF in the garden to play around with ways to communicate the nature and order in which these components appear.

The results have been enlightening.

It is extraordinary what happens when you start to get stuff out of your head, and especially valuable not to be confined by the parameters of a piece of software: it is so easy, and so necessary, when thinking things through to be able to play around with the pieces.

Gilly Salmon's 'Five Stage Model' revisited 

A colour photograph of a choice of coloured building bricks used to help explain Gilly Salmon's FIve Stage Model for e-learning prepared by Jonathan Vernon MAODE

Gilly Salmon's 'Five Stage Model' for e-learning using the bricks she used in her seminal video

For simplicity's sake, let's say that this 'Five Stage Model' is for a five week module from the OU.

The bottom row of green bricks represents the Learning Management System (LMS) on which the learning appears. The technical side of things includes accessibility, web usability, reliability and good 'design architecture' i.e. it works well, is clear, intuitive, reliable and follows the most common user behaviours for anyone online in 2016.

The middle row of yellow bricks (and one red one) represents learner activities, from a gentle introduction to the platform to engaging in activities, which typically includes nothing more complex that watching a video, reading text and doing research or doing a multiple choice quiz. The red brick represents formal assessment: at The OU, this would be a Tutor Marked Assignment (TMA) or End of Module Assignment (EMA).

The top row of blue bricks represents the human interface between the students and the education institution, in this case The OU. Here, typically, we are talking about live and as live contact via various platforms, though it can include phonecalls, 'online hangouts' and even a residential component to the course. At The OU there is an assigned Tutor or Associate Lecture who 'handles' a group of 8-12 students. It is this practice that is impossible to scale when it comes to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). You cannot employ 2,000 tutors to manage 16,000 to 24,000 students. Some MOOCs of many more participants than this!

It is this component too that is increasingly blended into, or comes out of the technical side of things, or from the students themselves. Firstly, increasingly detailed and easy to use Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) answer typical enquiries that students have, increasingly the ease of use of a platform is such that little to no support from the 'team' or 'Technical Help Desk' is required. At the same time, students are formally enrolled to conduct 'peer review' and when several do this for each submitted assignment a grade is come to in this way. The degree of student interaction, and the benefits of collaborative knowledge construction through this, is far harder to get going and sustain without the proactive role of the tutor or a moderator. When 'classes' are smaller, MA and PhD students are sometimes given a role to act as a catalyst for engagement and to answer enquiries and deal with some problems.

My own take on the 'lay-out' of a 'typical' MOOC is pedagogically different.

I believe that 'assessment', of the micro-quiz and multiple choice variety, is a crucial component of e-learning. This is engagement that obliges participants to think, even to struggle and repeat parts of the content, until the knowledge that matters begins to stick. Gilly Salmon's model is one for 'distance learning' while today, especially the MOOCs coming from Coursera, test you from the start. This might be as simple as interrupting a six minute video piece with a two question 'quiz'. I liken this to a teacher in class pausing, putting a question then taking an answer from one of the raised hands, or picking someone out. It makes you aware that you need to listen. You want to get these questions right even if they don't count towards anything. It is a form of light gamification, while also preparing you for an 8 or 10 or more part set of questions at the end of a component of the learning where the answers need to be right, and are based on these earlier interjections. It matters that these are a genuine challenge, that the pass mark is 80%. An easy ride isn't one that leaves you with much recollection of what you have been studying. A tough ride, as I find, and applaud, however frustrating, requires you to do a the week (typically a couple of hours) over, and sometimes over again ... until you can pass. 

 A colour photograph of a model flowchart of a Massive Open Online Course using a set of coloured building bricks

Jonathan Vernon's take on phases of the ideal 'Massive Open Online Course' where constant assessment is key

Here, drawing on the wide variety of online courses I have done: creative writing, photography, web science, language learning, history, psychology, medicine and the arts, climate change and more, I have tried to envisage an ideal format. Of course, subject matter, subject level and other criteria would immediately causes adjustments to this.

My five phases are:

Technically the platform needs to be solid. This technical side now encroaches on student support, not just from FAQs, but other ways the content and technology can step in to do what a person would have done in the past (and still does in blended courses). There might be video, there might even be some kind of AI to nurture some of the many thousands of students taking a MOOC. There is some kind of testing from the start. This might be nothing more than a check that students have understood some components of the introduction, but it gives them a taste of things to come; they will be doing these 'quizzes' regularly. If interaction between students can be encouraged then here, as early as possible, they need to be online in a 'social' like environment.

The second phase gentle eases students into learning proper. The technology is a solid 'bridge' into the content. Support is done through the platform for the most part rather than needing to call on a person. With many thousands on a course in many times zones around the globe how can a call centre of technical people be expected to be available?

The second phase repeats the second with more learning: the yellow brick. And a touch more testing.

With phase three we are up and running: support for activities, which can be as inventive as the course creators want and the technology and budget permits. Content is delivered in a variety of ways and testing continues in a style and manner that by now, if not a little later, will be formal, requiring an 80% pass rate.

Phase five, which segues into a phase six of sorts, is crunch time: formal assessment with a tough, longer quiz that has built on previous ones and a peer reviewed written assignment too. These need to be constructed with extraordinary skill and care given that students will be marking each other's work, and where many, if not most, will not have English as their first language. As well as testing there should be a chance here to gather one's thoughts, to reflect and even go over some of the learning in the course.This might also be the time for those who have become friends during the course to pick up the conversation on Facebook or in a LinkedIn group. It may also be the moment when you buy 'the book' on which the course was based, or sign up for the next module in the series. 

In future posts I will use this approach to 'strip down' and re-assemble a number of MOOCs. For example, 'Learning How to Learn' from Coursera written and presented by Barb Oakley. I should also look on MOOCs I have done on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), on Photography and a variety of other subjects. 

 

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Coursera Partner Conference 2016

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 22 Mar 2016, 04:19

Gumption and enthusiasm has me attending the Fourth Annual Global Coursera Partner Conference at The World Forum, The Hague, The Netherlands ... The World, I feel like adding. 

Four years ago I will have been in my final modules of the Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education and wowing Daphne Koller's TED lecture on the future of learning. She went on to co-found Coursera.

Well, I've sat behind her in conference, brushed passed her in various meetings, breakouts and hallways and all in all behaved like a shy fan. I'll introduce myself to her: everyone does, I've met so many of her team. I'd be wrong to compare it to being at 'Court' and trying to gravitate towards the 'centre of power' - there's no snobbery at all, just a preponderance of Americans with laid-back California shuffling up against the perceived formalities of Europe.

I'm here, in The Hague, (first time to The Netherlands) because of an online discussion at the conclusion of the Coursera MOOC 'Learning How to Learn' a few days ago. Dr Barbara Oakley invited her online students to come to the Marriot Hotel on Sunday night for a 'meet up'.

I realise now that this was a 'reach out' to some of the 14,000, or was it 140,000 students who did this short online course in January this year. I made it 30 minutes late to the meet-up having flown in on the EasyJet flight from Gatwick. It was like fans at a book signing (books were signed). 

Registered to attend the 4th annual Coursera Partner Conference.

I had convinced the organisers that I was responsible, genuine, interested and willing to contribute, and come out for three days.

And yes, I met Barbara Oakley, the course chair, author and presenter of 'Learning How to Learn'. She spotted me looking sheepish and us Brits are (and do), came over, must have recognised me from a profile photo (the one above that I use everywhere) and made me feel welcome, acknowledging a short email exchange we'd had that morning that had given me the green light with the organisers. 

Two hours of 'networking' with Barb's other students who had come in from within 50 miles of the Marriot Hotel, The Hague and my first moments of the conference are done.

Yesterday the 4th Coursera Partner Conference started at 6.00am.

I was out of the hotel door at 7.00am and making small talk with other delegates ten minutes later. The very first person I met, from California, turned out to have 'gotten' into the Coursera Conference under the same pretext as me: a 'student' of online learning, a 'student' of 'Learning How to Learn' not an official 'partner' ... and soon keen to hear all about the MAODE, which I 'sold' to her.

Just over 12 hours later I was trying to leave the conference, after keynotes, breakouts, workshops, poster pitches, creative brainstorming, and friendly banter and networking at every coffee and meal break. I say 'trying' because I realised that as I left the World Forum (a vast, to my eyes 'Commonwealth' like UN edifice) that I was taking a mental break from it all by 'looking for a picture' and photographing some colourful chairs in the entrance lobby.

The World Forum, The Hague - Lobby Chairs

 

I say 'trying' as a delegate, one of the 550 or the 600 I had not yet met, offered to take my picture thinking I was itching to do a selfie and we soon got talking about the conference, and because she is Dutch, the wonders of The Netherlands and The Hague. She thought I'd have been better off staying in a hotel in the city Centre, a 10 mins tram ride up the road. She recommended which museums I could fit into my 1/2 day I have given myself on Wednesday.

Jonathan Vernon in the lobby of The World Forum, The Hague, The NetherlandsIronically, I was taking photographs as part of another Coursera course I am doing" 'Photography: Basics and Beyond', a hobbyist one.

I got back to the hotel and even found the energy to do 30 mins of that: I know from experience never to get behind with studying - a little bit everyday is the only answer. 

Writing up a day that packed in a week's worth of experience

I'd like to think I have a couple of weeks of thinking and writing to sort through it all. I realise now I ought to have recorded the '30 second pitches' of all the 'Posters' I stood beside (these are infographic summaries printed onto A1 sheets of academic papers - in this case on studies into e-learning, and of Coursera MOOCs in particular).

I also have a career to press on with

I am currently 'advising' indirectly a couple of faculties via the backdoor as 'alumni' in geography, history and the creative arts. I am also hoping that the University of Sussex will bring me in for interview (Learning Technologist), and I suppose, writing here because I am with nervous excited about to apply to The OU (again) to take up a role in the Institute of Educational Technology (IET) supporting the design of online learning.

Nothing like catching it at the last minute: the application has to be in Noon Wednesday. I will be heading for Schiphol Airport then so I've got to cut and paste my CV into the OU format, and get my 'Personal Statement' written this evening. (Over at FutureLearn you just link to your LinkedIn profile and that use that as your CV). 

So, I'm still blogging 'here' and perhaps soon to be back at The OU. 

I see I missed my sixth anniversary of starting this blog - that was a month ago. I haven't exactly posted much this last year. 16 or so entries? I posted every day for several years and right through my graduate course 'Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education'. Maybe, at last (about time), that will pay off. 

The content I share from the 4th Coursera Partner Conference will be written with the respect it deserves. Some information is under a press embargo for another week, whilst the detail in some events or content I will only share in any detail in my 'learning blog' 'Mind Bursts' with the OK of the organisers. I met people who use competitive platforms, such as EdEx and Udacity, so it might not be a problem. I haven't met anyone who uses The OU offshoot 'FutureLearn' as a platform. They're not so dissimilar. 

 

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What the OU has taught me

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Whilst I cannot yet see how or where I will use my OU MA I have, over five years, here and when studying, learnt to fill much of my day with reading and writing. In one respect I am back where I was exactly nine years ago: writing all the hours I can. I don't blog. I go to bed early with a story or character on my mind and as soon as I am awake I am looking at notes I received overnight from a reader I befriended on the OU FutureLearn course 'Start Writing Fiction.'

Nine years ago I worked freelance writing and editing copy for websites, training and promotional. Nine years ago I started to take professional swim coaching work. I do both of these again four days a week for a few hours at a time: the wolf is not so much at the door, as sitting at my side but I don't feel I have any choice any more.

Meanwhile I envy my 18 year old daughter who took herself off to Paris, took two jobs, has rented a studio flat and is writing fiction with the kind of enthusiasm she had devouring books when she was little. Good for her.

I am writing at www.startwritingfiction.wordpress.com

This blog I set up initially so that a bunch of us could share work to review. It turned out more practical and very easy for each of us to have our own blogs though.

I no longer blog per se. Rather I write up between 500 and 3000 words of fiction every day, sometimes 5000 words If I am transcribing things I have already written. 

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Five Years blogging here : time to reflect

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Why is Oxford, with the Oxford Internet Institute and a renowned Education Department not joining the e-learning revolution?

700 years of taking things at their own pace? Their research shows that it adds nothing to their successful and 'elite' model of teaching and research? They don't need to attract students. There can be over 100 applying for every available place.

They do however need to diversify.

It's taken 30 years to tip the profile of the Oxford student from 72% privately educated public school boy to around 49% privately educated and a 50/50 male/female split. By not joining in will they perpetuate the 'Ivory Towers' impression?

There are other reasons to develop massive open online courses, not least to appear open and accessible. The University of Southampton, by contrast, home to Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the only PhD programme on WebScience, have produced nearly a dozen 'massive open online courses' (MOOCs) over the last 18 months. I believe all, or most are on the FutureLearn platform; all are also embedded on the Southampton virtual learning environment (VLE) for students to do to supplement their course work. This I see as an important, valuable and better way to blend the learning experience. It would have been my prefered way of learning, offering some flexibility on the traditional course of lectures.

Is the Open University the only one to have entire degree courses online?

Not a book, not a residential, no face-to-face tutorials either.

By the time I had completed the MAODE, five modules over 3 1/2 years I assumed many other entire degrees, let alone individual courses would be offered in this way. They are not. A MOOC delivering two/three hours of crafted, scaffolded learning a week over a few weeks is demanding enough ... but a module that runs for six months, with 12/16 hours, even 22 hours a week? Though a 'prestige' course the OU MBA programme will spend, I believe, around £3m and three years creating a single one of its modules. These are expected to run for eight to ten years.

How much therefore to design, write and produce five of these, let alone the running and administrative costs?

Is it the right thing to do? E-learning is not a feature film. It is more like a garden; it must change and adapt to the seasons and climate change.

There was no e-learning climate two decades ago; it's the ozone of learning.

FutureLearn prides itself on responding to feedback. I've seen many subtle, responsive changes: several ways through discussion threads like this one which often run to several THOUSAND comments, pooling of creation skills amongst those producing the courses and greatly improving the forms of assessment: quizzes that are masterfully written to teach and to test, tasks for peer review that are part of the learning experience and now opportunities to sign up for a written exam - you pay a fee to attend a test centre, take the exam, and submit your paper. Of course, at this stage the idea of 'Open' is greatly weakened because once again their are parameters and barriers caused by geography and cost, probably also of confidence and familiarity with the formal written exam away from the keyboard and screen.

I reflect, today, on FIVE YEARS of formally studying Open and Distance Education. My blog runs to over 2,500 posts. What next? The same again? I've neither found a home in academia, or in corporate learning and development. Have I studied the wrong subject? I hanker forever to be telling stories. I thought I would successfully make the transition from linear-based video learning and development where I'd worked for some  twenty years, but have not and to rub my face in it the demand for video is finally increasing. Though never again the broadcast like budges we had for multiple cameras and live shoots, for a mini-bus of actors and a director from 'The Bill,' and special effects from The Mill.

I have had my eye on the Creative Writing Course for at least four of the last five years, but felt, for a change, I'd finish something. Instead, I find I am back in March 2006 going through two large 'Really Useful Boxes' which contain the printed off manuscripts of two novels, a couple of screenplays, a TV play and assorted short stories. 

Is this my life? Dominated by a history of making the wrong choices?

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Why everyone should have a look at 'Exploring Filmmaking'

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 5 Feb 2015, 05:56
From E-Learning VI

Fig.1 Once I directed film ... I once directed a film. It was short, like my career.

I'm pointing you in the direction of this wonderful example of a free course from FutureLearn (a wholly owned subsidiary of the Open University) that has just started because I believe you, a friend, your kids, or a colleague may love it ... and even transformed by it.

Explore Filmmaking

This is 'e-learning' of the highest calibre: so easy to do it's like watching TV while using Twitter.

With a little guidance.

I've lived and studied online learning for five years with the OU. I've been so hooked I've kept doing MAODE courses after I completed the MA.

From FutureLearn, my platform of choice having tried and studied all the ones that matter, I can share examples of courses for PhD WebScience candidates, History of the First World War MA students, first year Geography undergraduates of Climate Change and even those in their A' Level year. There are plenty of general ones too: 'How to succeed at: applications' and 'How to succeed at: interviews' from the University of Sheffield give you what you need, right when you need it.

This one, well, go see.

I think it's one for everyone with an interest in storytelling and the magic of putting it on the screen. We've all seen a movie, right? Enjoy as a viewer, a lover of storytelling, a drama hopeful in any role, or someone who knows such a person.

I wish I was 16 again with a parent who cared about the arts as a career looking over my shoulder saying 'that's for you.' Instead, like so many of us I don't doubt, I was told 'get a proper degree, get a proper job'. Sometimes the best advice is also the worst. The 'proper' degree has never worked, it's not me. Not my first degree, not my second from the Open University. I'm not work shy. I'll work 20 hours a day if I'm fed, clothed and watered. I just lack the ability to conform, however hard I try, however much my edges are scraped off, however old and ignorant I become. 

Go see.

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How online courses are starting to make a change to how we learn

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 4 Feb 2015, 18:15

Fig.1 A publicity still from my own short film 'Listening In.' Did you catch it on Channel 4? I know seven people who did smile

Marshall McLuhan had a lot to say about the medium being the message when TV came along in the 1960s.

I always put the message first and with online courses (MOOCs by another name?) I would liken them to books or TV programmes ... there are many as you can imagine for every kind of audience, by educational attainment, and subject. I agree that learning is inherently social.

Having got kids who could touch type before they could handwrite and use the Internet before they could use the telephone I have witnessed them learn, collectively, online in various 'online' activities - almost always with the very same people they are seeing during the day in class.

Platforms, such as FutureLearn are tailored for this - EdX, by way of contrast is not.

Learning outcomes must be an important raison d'etre for MOOCs, but I don't see this at all as being the only reason institutions are producing them. They are seeking to attract students to courses that are either taught on campus or online at a distance. If a MOOC on Aviation Comes of Age in the First World War attracts 5000 and 500 finish the course 50 buy certificates and 5 sign up for the MA then they have doubled their student intake to a niche subject. I'm making a wild stab at the numbers: I don't know what they were. I can hazard a guess by the activity in the discussions. They are producing them to learn from the experience, gain the in-house knowledge and support their educators and producing online content for their regular courses too. 

The numbers I do know are for the FutureLearn course 'Start Writing Fiction' which had 23,000 students to start with and bucked the trend by having 25,000 in week two. I can only guess at the numbers who made it through to the end based on the crude stats we have for 'MOOCs' to date. A new outcome for this course is that nearly two months after it officially ended people are still starting and still completing the course: I know this as I set up both LinkedIn and WordPress groups to support them and actively return to the course myself to refresh ideas and contribute to reviews of work submitted and discussions with those there.

By way of comparison, the University of Southampton WebScience MOOC is aimed at PhD candidates: I should now as I was one of those candidates and interview to study a PhD. I had no answer for my not having a medical degree or having done a randomised control trial before.

The 'Oxbridge Tutorial' is commonly used in the UK and is a tutorial system used at Oxford Cambridge, Bristol, Durham and LSE I believe. Is it also the Socratic Method?

The method of knowledge transfer may be the same but numbers are lower 1:1, or 1:3 max. A MOOC experience that works, at this level includes both Socratic and Madras approaches, for better or worse. Worse according to Oxford's Internet Institute (Rebecca Eynon) where cliques form around the leading student educators that appear to block out others.

PhD students may have to study on their own, but do they want to? MA students don't.

The Educators I know at university want to teach too.

Digital literacy, like any kind of literacy matters. I engage those who have been online for a decade and those that are newcomers. They pick it up pretty fasts if helped by others.

Other MOOCs I've looked at are aimed at those at school (High School in England) to help them with university entrance and preparation, I've mentioned an MA even PhD level MOOC while the Exploring Filmmaking would have been on TV in the past.

EdX won't let you in without paying.

Udemy is getting a dreadful reputation.

Lumesse is a corporate platform a bit like FutureLearn.

A gem of a Free Course from FutureLearn that has just started is 'Exploring Filmmaking' with the National Film and Television School. As you'd expect the value are top notch. A great mix. Bitesize learning. Great discussions. 90 mins to 2 hours a week - a lot more if you get deeply engaged. 

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Recollections and connections with Chinese Management Students

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 31 Dec 2014, 10:26

Fig.1 A lumpsucker fish

My fellow student Sian Lovegrove on the MAODE is an educator at a Chinese Management School.

Last year we did on a module on networking and connectivity related to e-learning - how collaboration and ‘connectedness’ is such a good thing. Some 30 of her students have since started blog. It was with trepidation that I have started to read these and what I find is a wonderfully eclectic mix of Chinese voices, always quirky in their use of English and as varied in what they write about as you’d expect from any group: food, western ways, movies and musicians, immigration, recently local ways, on being a student … often familiar, always insightful.

Air Pollution in Shanghai

I have often  thought how much I'd like to live and work in China for a few years, unfortunately my breathing is very sensitive to poor air. I have asthma. I am fit. I sail, I swim, but I also take medication all the time so that I don't have an asthma attack which can easily be set off by car fumes, smoke from fires, even cigarette smoke, some perfumes ... and very odd, the smell and chemicals that comes from autumn leaves. This is why I like to live by the sea facing the wind. I am fascinated to read about life in different country, especially one as fascinating as China. Reading this blog I am reminded also how much we have in common - people who love life and love our planet too. 

There were several posts on:

Christmas seen for Chinese eyes, on Chinese compared to Western Food and on student life.

I was inspired to settled down to an hour of writing thanks to a delightful post on 'Maternal Love' where a student's Mom sends a 'nanny' - aunt or family friend, to live with her student daughter and cook meals and clean for her. 

I found myself reflecting on our own few days in Northumberland and remembering how I once pulled a lumpsucker fish out of a tidal pool: I was seven or eight and didn't know better to leave these things where they were. I pulled out a large eating crab another time, even a lobster. 

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Open Warfare and 'The Battle for Open' - E-learning gets connected

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 11 Dec 2014, 06:52
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 The Battle for Open - Martin Weller. Available free to download

Full of the latest thinking and facts on open learning with special attention paid to MOOCs. Of most interest will be the work of Katy Jordan on retention rates. Here various papers are easy to find.

Enrich your knowledge on where learning is going. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.2. From The Battle for Open. p102 Attrition rates at a glance

Here are the figures to have at your fingertips:

  • The average (median) sign up is 43,000 of whom 6.5% complete - the range is from 4,500 to 226,652.
  • Completion rates correlate to course length, the shorter the more complete. Though the variance is from 0.9% to 36.1% with a median of 6.5%. Completion rates of 5% are typical.
  • 50% of those who enroll become active students. This is vital to recognise. All sign-up figures should be halved to give a working student population.
  • Completion rates as a percentage of those who are active range from 1.4% to 50.1% with a median of 9.8%.
  • The caveat I would give is that completion rates are too generous, you only have to do 50% of the course to qualify, so these figure could possibly be halved again. For me, completion means someone who takes part from beginning to end.
  • 45% of those who sign up never turn up or do anything. By the end of week two we are down to 35%. And by the end of week 3 or 4 it is plateauing near 10%.

REFERENCE

Jordan, K 2013, Hill 2013 MOOC completion rates. Initial trends in enrolment and completion of massive open online courses. http://oro.open.ac.uk/39592/

Weller, M. 2014. The Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn't feel like victory. London: Ubiquity Press. DOI: http://dx/doi.org//10.5334/bam

 

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FutureLearn

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 2 Nov 2014, 09:17
From Jack Wilson MM

Fig.1. Lieutenant Munday and Flight Cadet Green - Killed 23rd November 1918 during training, RAF Crail - photograph taken by my late grandfather, flight cadet J A Wilson MM

Especially if you are on an MAODE module you need to take a course on FutureLearn to experience for yourself how 'connected' and 'collaborative' learning works. The specialist MOOC I am doing on the development of aviation during the First World War has over 9,000 participants, the 'Start Writing Fiction' course has over 20,000. Things happen when the number of this high.

Looking at these it is some trick to find the middle path between 'lite' TV style for people sitting back on the sofa expecting some kind of introductory 'edutainment' from Channel 5, to full-on academic sitting forward activity at your desk and keyboard.

For the first time I see how this is like no other platform or medium that has gone before, so everyone, The OU and FutureLearn included, is having an enthusiastic stab at it and learning massively as a result: how to do it better, how to fix weaknesses in the pedagogy and content and where to go next - repeat, fragment, enhance ... 

Keeping it simply is key, a fabulously intuitive and well designed interface is vital, and, unlike US equivalents, not shoving the begging bowl and adverts in your face at every opportunity.

The quizzes need to become smart multiple-choice activities - though these are exceedingly hard to write well as other FutureLearn courses are finding. It is was of the areas that receives most feedback from those who hate them, those who get irritated at getting an answer wrong and wanting to blame someone and those offering ways to do it better.

And tougher 'assignments' could be offered, but this requires close scrutiny and marking by those who are academically qualified to do so and has to come with a proper fee. These produced issues of their own. If 1% of those on the First World War Aviation course decided to submit an assignment and pay a fee of £400 where would the university find the academics to do the marking of 900 essays, however good the money. I did complete an assignment for a MOOC provided by Oxford Brookes because I wanted postgraduate credits and a certificate - so that's 10 credits towards something. 

A fascinating time to be taking part in a way of learning that is in its fledgling stages ...

As it is an 'open' platform there's no stopping those of us with an interest from coming back as we do the extra reading and sharing what we find. 

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L120: Reflection - Four Weeks in

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 31 Oct 2014, 07:30
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Where to find resources and tasks for L120 L'Ouverture - Intermediate French from Livre 1

The above suggests a simplicity that isn't apparent when you have to do it, rather as if the module has been constructed by deconstructing and uploading an interactive DVD and trying to re-assemble its many fragmented parts. For example, to reach the interactive activities these are the required steps. Of course, although wasn't quit to figure that out, I can and now do save the link either to the Unit (step 6 of 9) or the Session.

The SIX trajectories given above (fig.1) are slightly disingenuous as all but the physical books (livres) split several, even many more times: there are many tutors to pick through, not just your own; the OU and the OU communities sound like two things but are each split many ways while both the AV materials and Assessment materials are offered as a clickable list. We go from these branches to multiple twigs in one, potentially confusing step. I'm going to do an more complete mindmap to get my head around this and then share it here for others on L120. I'll be unpicking the 'design architecture' as it were.

I'm slowly getting my head around this 'landscape' though <<ce n'est pas toujours evident en mon avis>>>.

Stages:

  1. StudentHome
  2. L120 Ouverture
  3. Audio-visual resources
  4. Audio-visual interactive materials
  5. L120 Ouverture
  6. Unité 1
  7. Session 5; Révision
  8. Activité 8
  9. Activité 1.5.2

Learning entirely online as I have done for the best part of three years 2010-2013, as well as two subsequent MAODE modules can lead you to expect that any module will be a simple case of going to the schedule, then clicking through the eight or none or more activities, ticking the boxes as you go along and wracking up the tally to complete the week. This 'pure' online learning has its strengths and weaknesses; it is wholly apt for the study of e-learning. This OU Language module is 'blended' - there are a few face-to-face gatherings, and, I think, once a month we gather online for an hour, as we did last night. Otherwise, the 'activities' are both 'online' and as we used to say 'off-line'. The online content here is not set out as a series of steps, but as the above graphic indicates, offered in a variety of locales. This makes it akin to entering a faculty and having to find your way between the library, lecture hall and tutor rooms, and the computer lab. 

I'm playing a little catch-up as I was right to be worried that I should be doing, I think six to eight hours a week, rather than three or four. A brilliant innovation (I think) is the human contact with a 'Buddy' some helpful lad, a former student, who is more readily available than the tutors/associate lectures to point us in the right direction. Just as one has at university to keep freshers from going adrift.

See how these two environments are learning from each other, the best of each world being adopted by the other?

About time. Traditional universities will have to become as good as this as the OU. One day what differentiates the OU will be lost. Oxford Brookes is catching up. Some schools have excellent VLEs - this is what students will come to expect. The VLE at the University of Birmingham, where I've been a student for the last year, is worse then dreadful. FutureLearn shows the way to go.

One day the OU ought to have more residential courses, halls of residences or colleges, faculties that can be readily entered by students ... and even satellite centres globally.

On Verra. Martha Lane Fox is an inspired choice of new chancellor for the Open University.

I'm waiting for 'Lastminute revision dotcom'

p.s. is the spellchecker really identifying both poor spelling in English and in French? Cool!

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Proud and happy to call myself a 'Master of Arts'

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:13
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Mr Kung Fu - was he the master or the pupil?

When I completed enough modules early last year to graduate as a 'Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education' I felt like a fraud; I'd scraped through, more importantly I didn't feel I was 'fluent' enough in the subject. One module, H817 had been replaced and had felt a little dated at the time. This is why I've ended up doing a couple more MA modules from the MAODE - I have only one missing from the full set (H817 Open) which I may do in due course. I could even put it towards an M.Ed (Masters degree in Education) for which I also need the compulsory 60 point module Educational Enquiry which next registers a year from now. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.2 The forgetting curve

Confidence to call myself a 'Master' and belief by others that I know my subject led me to being asked to join the Open University advisory panel on the MAODE and in the same week to join the board of advisors for a national educational body that recently met. Now I feel I have enough of 'the knowledge' at my fingertips. I prepared for this first meeting my searching through this blog: it shouldn't surprise me to know how much I'd forgotten, studying why and how we forget is very much a part of education - it is summed up in the Forgetting Curve (fig.2) that Hermann Ebbinghaus thought up over a hundred years ago. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.3. SatNav (not me)

It intrigues me that no gadget we own can circumvent this: that in fact, take a SatNav for example, let's assume that it takes you on a journey in the correct direction. Let's say you keep using the SatNav regardless. You could probably turn it off after two or three of these trips as your brain lays down the landmarks in your longterm memory. Thinking of which, I think the SatNav makes an excellent model for e-learning; just image you need to learn 120 absolute facts as a junior doctor - you could have your SatNav 'peg' the facts to specific points of a familiar journey. When you sit the exam it's then as easy as driving this route in your mind's eye visualisation everyone of the facts along the way.

I wander, cloud like.

I'm writing up my notes from this national advisory panel and over the next four years can hopefully nod at the courses that appear on which I've had some influence. Still not there yet, but I'm one heck of a long way further on since February 2010 when I re-booted this malarkey.

The answer has to be a P.hD. And I guess the only place to do that would be with the Open University. I went off the boil on that one a year ago, though I did secure a couple of interviews but came away suitably crushed.

It will have taken by then, at least ten years, more like 12 or 13, to call myself a 'Digital Scholar'.

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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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Facts in an essays are like pepper in soup

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:23
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Facts in an essays are like pepper in soup

How do you compare and mark a variety of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)?

We need to treat them like one of those challenges they do on Top Gear, where Jeremy Clarkson - ‎Richard Hammond - ‎James May set off to Lapland in a Reliant Robin or some such and then get marks across six or so criteria. Hardly scientific, but it splits the pack.

So, let's say we take THREE MOOCs, what criteria should there be? 

  • Commitment. What percentage of participants signing up complete the course?
  • Comments. I use the word 'vibrancy' to judge the amount and nature of activity in the MOOC, so this is crudely reduced to the number of comments left. 
  • Likes. Another form of vibrancy where comments left by the team and by participants are 'liked'. It has to be a measure of participation, engagement and even enjoyment
  • Correct answers. Assuming, without any means to verify this, that participants don't cheat, when tested are they getting the answers right. This is tricky as there ought to be a before and after test. Tricky to as how one is tested should relate directly to how one is taught. However, few MOOCs if any are designed as rote learning. 

You could still end up, potentially, comparing a leaflet with an Encyclopaedia. Or as the Senior Tutor on something I have been on, a rhinoceros with a giraffe.

It helps to know your audience and play to a niche.

It helps to concentrate on the quality of content too, rather than more obviously pushing your faculty and university. Enthusiasm, desire to impart and share knowledge, wit, intelligence ... And followers with many points of view, ideally from around the globe I've found as this will 'keep the kettle bowling'. There is never a quiet moment, is there?

I did badly on a quiz in a FutureLearn Free Online Course (FOC). World War 1. Paris 1919. A new world order ... 

I think I got half right. I chose not to cheat, not to go back or to do a Google search; what's the point in that. I haven't taken notes. I wanted to get a handle on how much is going in ... or not. Actually, in this context, the quiz isn't surely a test of what has been learnt, but a bit of fun. Learning facts and dates is, or used to be, what you did in formal education at 15 or 16. This course is about issues and ideas. A 'test' therefore, would be to respond to an essay title. And the only way to grade that, which I've seen successfully achieved in MOOCs, is for us lot to mark each others' work. Just thinking out loud. In this instance the course team, understandably could not, nor did they try, to respond to some 7,000 comments. They could never read, assess, grade and give feedback to a thousand 4,000 word essays. Unless, as I have experienced, you pay a fee. I did a MOOC with Oxford Brookes and paid a fee, achieved a distinction and have a certificate on 'First Steps in Teaching in Higher Education'.

As facts are like pins that secure larger chunks of knowledge I ought to study such a FutureLearn FOC with a notepad; just a few notes on salient facts would help so that's what I'll do next week and see how I get on. Not slavishly. I'll use a pack of old envelopes or some such smile For facts to stick, rather than ideas to develop, the platform would have needed to have had a lot of repetition built into it. Facts in an essays are like pepper in soup.

Armed with an entire module on research techniques for studying e-learning - H809: Practice-based research in educational technology - I ought to be able to go about this in a more academic, and less flippant fashion. 

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Visualising Instructional Design for e-learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 3 Jul 2014, 06:28

Fig. 1. 'Swimming Lanes' design for e-learning course on 'Starting a Business'. (C) 2014 Future Learn and the University of Leeds.

I keeping doing e-learning modules for a variety of reasons:

for the intrinsic value of the course (I have started companies a couple of times before, modest affairs, always profitable and want and even need to do so again. Simple, low turnover, service-based, a unique idea or product).

for the lessons I learn from the experience given my interest in e-learning. This is my third FutureLearn module, only two weeks duration. A wee piece of perfection. Informative. Clear. Applied. Enjoyable. Connected. Varied. If you study for the Master in Arts: Open and Distance Education (MAODE) you will come across and even create your own planning charts like the one above. This is a gem. It is so easy to see how the thinking has been realised. It is a pattern that is instantly transferable.

Clarity is crucial. Good design is simple. It is also a pleasure to look at.

Future Learn has some gems. E-learning is coming of age. 

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The power of seven

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 6 Jul 2014, 08:23

Fig.1 The way I learn with the OU

Rare is the person, my late father and daughter are this rare beast, where you can read or listen to something and 'get it' first time. I'm the opposite. I have to listen once, listen again and take notes.

That's three.

Read the transcript and notes. Then listen again and realise what is being said is very different to my first perception.

That's five.

And then share what I think is being said in a forum such as this - often to be told that I still haven't got the main point.

Which makes six.

I know that 'understanding' feels like, which is the goal.

If at this point there is a marked assignment to do then I'll be OK.

The assignment makes seven.

For some of us this takes repetition and variety. I like to think that having to do it this way the learning is deeper, though I have my doubts. We all have our own ways of doing these things

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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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E-learning is at best clinical, at worst sterile

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 8 Jun 2014, 05:51

'Sterile' is apt; I'd be more forgiving ... 'clinical'.

I'm reaching these conclusions courtesy of a comment and discussion below. Thanks Cathy. 

I am very aware of wonderful of examples of e-learning used in the education of Junior Doctors (search Spaced-ed and QStream below) where understandably we expect them to know, to perfection, the bits and bobs of the human body.

Learn, repeat, test, and achieve higher grades as a result of using the QStream platform. 

'Sterile' is apt in any of the humanities where interpretation negates any kind of 'tick box' approach that might suit the costings of the assessment process but utterly fails the need for considerable discussion and interpretation.

To challenge my beliefs and expectations of learning I am already half way through a more traditional Masters Degree. I am 'reading' for this degree in every sense of the word. As I inch ever closer to a distinction ... three, then two marks off ... I put this down to my curiosity and personal pursuit through references and footnotes that are of interest to me.

I'm being disingenuous here of course. E-learning is fast becoming a mirror to 'learning', its scope suitably vast and varied to accommodate the good, bad and ugly of the genre. In particular, how learning objective are met will indicate the appropriateness of certain approaches; a learning by rote platform such as QStream is of great value ensuring that Junior Doctors know their stuff, but would be the wrong approach to teach philosophy. Often, history is a prime example, course context and prescribed texts are easily complimented with your own further reading. TED-like lectures work as an inspirational starting point. I swear by the game-like affordances of Rosetta Stone. 

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Where to begin

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 28 May 2014, 15:59

With no plans for further e-learning modules the aim now is to go back through four years of blogging in order to consolidate my thinking and experience. I feel like an ant being asked to draw a map.

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The right way and wrong way to assess

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 09:46

Looking back over four years can be revealing. In 2010 I was struggling with my third Tutor Marked Assignment (TMA03)  in the Master of Arts Open and Distance Education (MAODE). I queried the assignment process. In particular I felt as if it was akin to making a tapestry. Three years on I feel my last couple of TMAs and EMAs weren't simply making a tapestry - but doing so wearing roller-skates on a ship in a heavy sea.

Nothing would stitch together. I had far too much wool. 

The criteria, meant to be helpful, detailing paragraph, by paragraph if not sentence by sentence what the examiner is looking for ties my head in knots. 

I contrast this, favourably, with the MA I am doing with the University of Birmingham. Clunky but effective. I have a reading list. We attend lectures and take part in seminars and I write a 4000 word essay drawn from a list of 12 to 16 titles.

This allows me to be fluid, rather than the ground beneath my feet.

Throughout the MAODE I think the only module the regularly had this 'essay writing' approach was H809: Research practices in educational technology. 

I can be accused of over thinking and over preparing a TMA or EMA - yet this, too often, is how the things have been designed. Less would be more. Simpler would not be easier, writing is hard enough without having to second guess what a third party will be thinking as they read while running down a check list to give you a tick and therefore a mark and ultimately a grade.

Reflecting on four years I can see marks in TMAs, and EMAs especially, improve. I think TMAs in 60s, and 70s and the odd EMA in the 40s, then 50s give rise to TMAs of 80s, even in the 90s, though my best EMA was a 76. Of course, in their wisdom, my student grades for each module simply reads 'PASS'. I feel this rather diminishes the effort and evidence. There is certainly a different between a candidate scoring in the 40s and 50s between one scoring in the 60s and 70s and 80s. 

I met an MBA student who had achieved a distinction in every module. I was in awe. Not your usual OU student (are any from the Business School). She had a first in her first degree from Oxford: Classics. Some people have a mind for these things. Perhaps it is my head that sloshes around like the proverbial storm, rather than the system I have been part of?

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