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Future Learn WW1 Aviation

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 9 Dec 2014, 21:55

 Fig. 1 Flight Cadet John Arthur Minty, RAF Crail late 1918

A fascinating stimulus to further study, though by its title and how grouped in WW1 themes by FutureLearn I would have expected the focus to have been the rise of aviation during the First World War to the exclusuion of all else, with some introduction to aviation coming into the Great War and a period to reflect on the interwar years. There have been criticisms by fellow travellers on the broad and 'open' nature of the learning experience as if kearning should be exclusive and elitist. 'Open' should mean exactly that for a myriad of reasons. Fundamentally this is about the quality of learning through the amazing 'connectedness' of the Internet and the recreation online of a 'community of practice'. It is also about what the former Xerox Head of Learning John Seely Brown calls 'learning from the periphery' where experts at the centre attract and welcome the newcomers on the fringe and finally, it is about 'vicarious' learning, not always knowing what you are going to get - the many insights and surprises that we've had here. I'm sure people aren't making full use of the tools to filter these massive threaded discussions: by recent activity across the topics, by those you follow and where there may be a reply to your own comment. To design, write and manage a MOOC you need to do them. 

Most MOOCS and most online courses, struggle with the quizzes. These deserve as much thought and preparation as a lecture series. They are hard to do well. The very best examples I've found were created on a platform called 'Spaced-Ed' now QStream by a team originating from the Harvard Medical School supporting Junior Doctors. Multiple choice can be a stimulating learning experience in its own right: challenging participants to use what they have learnt, and adding to this knowledge by making them think through responses that are not necessarily obvious. Replies to getting the answer right or wrong need to recognise the choices made and then inform, guide or further the learning experience. For the only example I've seen across six FutureLearn MOOCs where they are getting it right is The OU's module on 'Start Writing Fiction' where the 'quiz' makes you think. They don't need to be light-hearted.

If the BBC are closely involved in the production of video sequences then I'd expect three things: ideas around presentation that work, are relevant and make you think; media training for non-professional presenters and however done to 'broadcast' standards technically and stylistically.

What a truly brilliant discussion. I need to get my head around this and my copious notes from my mechanically minded late grandfather who trained as a fighter pilot in 1918 and was fascinated by the engines and had a few near-fatal scrapes with the things when they failed mid-flight. I'll wake him up, or bring his ashes over to the computer so that he can listen in!

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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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