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Each November: grieving the dead and our unchanged world

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 17 Nov 2014, 08:22
From First World War

Fig.1 Grieving the dead and our unchanged world a century on - despair at the unending violence

We are still grieving, we grandchildren and great-children. The world notices this.

What is this loss that the British and Commonwealth countries of the former British Empire feel so tangibly and personally? I see a different commemoration in France. I wonder how the First World War is remembered in Serbia? And Russia? And the US?

Ours was a pyrrhic victory in 1919. And the job wasn't finished. How else could there have been a second world war after the first?

Britain ceased to be the pre-eminent world power it had come to be and has been leaking influence in fits and starts ever since.

Cameron to Putin is not Churchill to Stalin, which is why this country needs Europe - better united than alone.

And how does this play out in grief and art then, since and now? The distribution of wealth began - a bit. Domestic service as a career or layer of society very quickly washed away - people didn't want to do it while the landed gentry were feeling increasingly vulnerable and broke. When we grieve every November do we grieve for a golden age, as well as for those whose life chances were destroyed?

Listening to Metallica 'One' inspired by the anti-war movie 'Johnny Get Your Gun' transcends 90+ years of this sickening grief we feel concerning the First World War 

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War breeds hate; hate festers and breeds war.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 17 Nov 2014, 08:18

Fig.1 At the war memorial to the Machine Gun Corps on Hyde Park Corner, 1991. I'm with my late grandfather - dark suit and beige shoes, fourth in from the right. That's me on the far left of the line in the glasses holding the standard. (Volunteered about five minutes previously) Marking the 75th Anniversary of the formation of the MCG in 1916.

I've just completed fascinating couple of weeks, often gruelling on The OU's World War 1: Trauma and Memory on the FutureLearn MOOC platform.

My love for The OU is restored. Everyone should pick a course from FutureLearn to understand where learning is being taken. You cannot go wrong with an OU lead and designed one of these - some of the others are re-versioned books, leaflets, extra curricular workshops and lecture series, not embracing the affordances of the platform at all.

An eye opener for anyone studying learning - go over there anyone studying education.

At the end of each week, which officially run for the five working days of the week, we are invited to reflect on the lessons learnt. A very significant part of this are the 'massive' conversations that follow each 'activity'. 

A week of looking at and contemplating the dead from violent conflict I conclude that 'war breeds hate; hate festers and breeds war.' Unless the population is wiped out, or dived between the conquerors. Or unless the conquerors stay put - the Normans eventually subjugated England and Scotland and 1000 years on some of them still rule and own the land.

Responses to hatred are diametrically opposed: forgiveness and peace, blame and violent conflict. Has humankind moved on that far from the tribalism of one or two millennia ago?  If young men, the typical combat soldier truly understood what could happen to them would they still go? It applies to every kind of risk, and testosterone fuelled it is more of a male thing? This willingness to take outrageous risks believing that it 'won't happen to them'. And of course, commemorating 'our glorious dead' and 'returning heroes' risks celebrating war rather than being a period of reflection and commemoration. A veteran of WW1 my grandfather never used the term 'heroic'. Do young people joining up think that if nothing else, wounded, or dead in a coffin, they will at least come back 'a hero' - making it OK? And yet, however frightful, violent conflict remains a way that peoples, people, cultures attempt to resolve their differences.

It'll continue until the world's resources and 'life chances' - are fairly distributed. I feel the awakening of a burgeoning political sensibility that may wobble towards republicanism and socialism. 

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Charting Progress to 'Write a Novel in a Month'

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 12 Dec 2014, 07:26
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Write a novel in a month

Not blogging, not on Facebook, but first thing I write, or plan writing. Then get down anything between 500 and 3000 words. 500 words can be a better day, these are good words.

As an OU student we are guided through our learning on our Student Homepage. These are like railway tracks, or climbing down a ladder. Whilst you can tick off your progress, it is not being measured.  I wonder if a tool such as the above would be handy for preparing a lengthy assignment, say from 4000 words up? Something that you need to build up over a few weeks?

It is 'Start Writing Fiction', an OU FutureLearn MOOC that sees me using 'Write a novel in a month' to complement the course. This makes the MOOC more closely applied to the current task (amongst several). Of all the FutureLearn MOOCs I have done, this, I am sure, must bring students to The OU to do the degree course in 'Creative Writing'. It has weight, there is gravitas and a clear expertise in distance and online learning that is lacking in many others. 

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There's a word for everything

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 12 Dec 2014, 07:28
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Adventures in describing teeth types

'Start Writing Fiction' on FutureLearn courtesy of The OU is brilliant: I have no doubt thousands will sign up for a BA. Meanwhile I've taken the hint about the value of 'peripheral detail' to offer in a line what no paragraphs of description can do.

Several hours ago I had in mind a person as a character and began to describe their face. It all came down to their teeth. This is drawing on a teenage crush of mine and I find images and drawings to back up my idea then plunge through some weighty papers, not least, courtesy of The OU Library, a research paper on the incidence of something called 'dental agenesis' or 'retention of baby teeth' (which might be just one or two), to 'oligontontia' which means the rare retention of many baby teeth (0.14%) due probably to inheritance, reduction in the size and form of teeth, or reduction in the size and shape of the 'alveolar process' (the thickness of the bon retaining the teeth). 

This will do for me, though coming away with one word, 'retruded' which may describe the teeth, but still fails to capture what I want to say. Teeth are either smaller, retained baby teeth, or because of the retrusion they appear smaller. Kirsten Dunst shows a touch of this prior to orthodentic treatment. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.2 Post orthodentics for retruded teeth

Orthodentists prefer to adjust the way baby teeth appear in an adult mouth rather than removing them. It depends on how many there are. One is not rare (36%).

The look on the person is of a smaller jaw, the teeth like a row of pegs, the smile of a 9 year old ... though, as I have found, you wouldn't know it.

It is genetic, clusters have be found in Sweden. It can be caused by trauma and illness in childhood.

I am left wondering why one character is studying the mouth of another which such precision. 

REFERENCE

Polder B J, van’t H of M A, Van der Linden F P, Kuijpers-Jagtman A M. A meta analysis of the prevalence of dental agenesis of permanent teeth. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol 2004; 32: 217–226.

 

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Turn on the radio and take note of the first thing that is mentioned

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 12 Dec 2014, 07:31
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Week 2, 'Start Writing Fiction' with The OU on FutureLearn

As exercises in 'getting the writing juices going' for an OU FutureLearn MOOC on 'Start Writing Fiction' I felt that this exercise was immediately doomed to fail. I'd put on the radio and have a familar presenter, talking about familar topic in a familiar way and feel about as inspired as realising that I've always used white Abdrex toilet paper. It didn't work out that way at all.

From E-Learning V

Fig. 2. Alex Salmond coming up Lewes High Street - Putin was coming the over way on a tank

On an iPad I went to BBC iPlayer which was fatal; I'd followed national news on our local town exploding effigies as part of our celebrations of 5th November (Lewes) and listened to Alex Salmond making gross false assumptions on the people of this town who he erroneously cobbled in with all of East Sussex, not even that, but that percentage of the population and subsequent councillors who are Conservatives forgetting as he always does that in any population there is a spread of views - anyway, this just makes me feel that they have his character spot in so this Spitting Image caricature deserves the infamy. I then watched Film 2014 on the latest movie releases before finally clicking to the radio and realising what a cheat this was because I could select the programme.

FiveLive Extra caught my eye, because I never listen to it, but there is a lot of talking. So I opened that, only to curse because sports news has just started and that bores me even more than politics but I decided I had to trust The OU tutors and go along with this exercise anyway : that was nearly 90 minutes ago. A player in ... was it tennis or rugby or football, does it matter? The player was described as 'menacing'.  At first I couldn't see how a current or new character would ever be 'menacing' so I tried the antonym: 'remote', 'unthreatening' - which describes one of my lead characters perfectly.

From E-Learning V

Fig.3. Wonderous word tools - thesaurus.com

What would make him 'menacing' though?

This cracked open his mind and early life experiences like magic and I have been tapping away on my iPad ever since as if my left hand is doing an impersonation of Michael Flately across the glassy QWERTY keyboard. Is that someone who has been a Lewes Bonfire Society effigy? 

P.S. If the radio is on, then turn it off and count to TEN, or switch to another channel. Then jot down the first thing that is said. I'm running with the results for the rest of the evening so its achieved beautifully at what it aimed to do.

A really magic course, so yes, if I hadn't so much other OU baggage I'd be signing up to the creative writing BA programme. One for the wish list if I can ever save up enough. 

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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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The power of Open Learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 21 Dec 2020, 11:30

Over the last few weeks I've followed a number of FutureLearn Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS). These have been and are:

  1. World War One: Trauma and Memory. Anika Mombauer. The OU. Just Started.
  2. Start Writing Fiction. Derek Neal. The OU. Week one of eight 1/8
  3. World War One: Aviation Comes of Age. Peter Gray. The University of Birmingham. Completed. 3/3
  4. World War One: Paris 1919: A New World ... Christian Tams. The University of Glasgow. Completed. 3/3
  5. How to Succeed At: Writing Applications: The University of Sheffield. Completed. 3/3

By now a pattern is emerging.

All these creators will learn from the experience. Learners tool will become used to this kind of massive, collaborative experience as well. Quite often learners so that it isn't pitched right - most often in some of the above that it is too 'lite', though I have found some here and elsewhere daunting. None of the above are aimed at postgraduate research students, though that is what some in the audience had hoped for. The writing applications split between Sixth Formers applying to uni and 50 year olds looking for a career change. 

Fragmentation will occur if too many courses are offered at different levels on the same subject.

The appeal of Open learning is that it attracts all types. Those new to the subject should be given enough in the daily pieces of content something to get them started, while references and links give those who know the subject something fresh to look at. The audience diversity creates a stimulating conversation that is never overwhelming once you are used to it. There can be 5,000, 10,000 even 20,000 registered on the course and threads can run to 1000 posts and be updated by the minute. You don't have to read everything. I say 'all comers' but this precludes some levels of accessibility, different languages and most broadly of all those who don't have the kit or network to get online. They have more pressing concerns. 

The content is as usable on a large screen or a small one: on your Smart TV or a Smart phone.

FutureLearn give you three ways to filter the content that most people miss:

Activity

In a unit, or topic you can see the latest from:

  • Everyone - speaks for itself
  • Following - those you have chosen to follow on this course
  • Replies - responses to things you have posted.

Once you get a sense of who is there and whether you want to follow all or some of it you can make these choices. I find I follow a couple of people who are incredibly knowledgeable and on the ball, a couple who have some knowledge like me, and then a few newbie enthusiasts who I gravitate towards to encourage - embolden some of the most observant and insightful questions come from them because they haven't been cocooned in the 'commonly held view'.

From a learning perspectives I'd call upon:

  • 'Communities of Practice' (Lave & Wenger)
  • 'Learning from the periphery' from John Seely Brown
  • ideas of 'Learning vicariously' from Cox.

There are possibly 30 or 40 posts on each of these in my blog here.

I am on a national panel advising universities and institutions in the creative arts on how to develop MOOCs. FutureLearn is certainly a platform for some of them. The challenge, which I have seen attempted here at The OU is to create a platform where students can collaborate using visualizations and visuals: stills, graphics and photos will do for now, but in due course sharing sound files and video clips will be needed as well. I like the idea of a motion capture system recording how a student draws or paints, as you would with an elite athlete - there is a way to do these things that can be taught and corrected so long as it is obsered. 

What these MOOCs create, when they get it right, is a hub, or bazaar like buzz of human interaction between the 'elders and the wise' and others in a broad community. It is not always or necessarily the 'expert', the Professor that knows the most. In these platforms it works best when they set the scene, offer some content and ideas, then let the conversations do the rest. I find that myths and half-figured out ideas are debunked and shaped as first one person, then another adds this piece of evidence or that idea, or explains something in a slightly different way that suddenly makes sense.

There a pattern in here for me: the First World War, writing fiction ... and here with the OU - French. I have, on and off, researched and written a couple of stories set in this era: one a woman who flies over the Western Front which I might have spent over two years on, another involving the antics of the young Edward, Prince of Wales which I only started five weeks ago. Immersing myself in the place and the language helps.

 

 

 

 

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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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Who gets my things after I've taken my life?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:06
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. FutureLearn Start Writing Fiction

As a Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education I will give all kinds of things a go. I've done a few FutureLearn MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). This eight week course on writing fiction from the OU looks like being one of the biggest; the OU pedigree also shows - the thinking and 'broadcast quality' of the video pieces shows compared to material put up by some universities.

Activities, activities, activities I remember someone saying from the OU when it came to designing learning online. This course is a little bit of telling, a bit of doing, that a lot of sharing. You can be thinking up a comment and before you post there can be five or six posts 'land' ahead of you. There are 1000+ responses to a thread. To some this is daunting. To those not used to these environments it may be off-putting. When you get used to it its fine, like going to a huge nightclub in London that's on several floors rather than a mate's part in their front lounge.

In this exercise we watched a clip of a dozen folk going about the daily business; all had feature in the opening piece about writing, so most are 'at it' pen on paper, into the laptop or onto an iPad. We are invited to take a person or moment and invent a story from it. I had never consciously done this before and was delighted with the effect, not trying to figure out what people really are doing, but rather inventing something for them.

From E-Learning V

Fig. 2. From an activity in 'Start Writing Fiction' from FutureLearn

I have a young woman innocently keeping a 'writer's journal' who I decide is writing suicide notes to five or six people; she puts a key from the bunch in each envelope, posts off the letters then kills herself. A bit morbid. I suppose I should now figure out why, and reveal what is behind each key.

Go see.

FutureLearn Start Writing Fiction

See also how a shared, threaded forum such as this can be used to create a vibrant asynchronous conversation with several hundred, even thousands of people. Several things FutureLearn do which would work well here: word count limited to 1200 characters, 16 minutes timed out having posted to edit - then its done. A 'like' button and an easy way to keep abreast of comments left in a discussion you have started or joined without having to try to find it.

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The value to you of keeping a diary or learning journal

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:32
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. March 1975 ....

I kept a diary for twenty years: age 13 1/2 to my forties ... with a few months off from decade to decade. It is self-indulgent navel gazing to look back at its contents which I do extremely rarely. An indulgent scrapbook thing covering a teen exchange to France is fun; did a Mars Bar really once cost 3p !! And a photo journal of a five month gap year job working my arse off in a hotel in France too. And have a vibrant record of children from birth to walking and talking too. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.2. A reading list from 1978

It always amazes me should I stumble upon an old school text book or any of the above as my mind is instantly taken back and I am flooded with boyish ideas.

This blog is something else.

This is a Learning Journal and Portfolio and I've kept it since February 2010. Just about all a module's activities go in here (40% hidden). I know where to find stuff because I've tagged it all. Needing to assess how far I have come, and what themes I can see, what I know and can apply from the seven MAODE modules I have completed - five completed the MAODE, the following two could go towards a M.Ed or MSc.

It is fulfilling in itself as an aide memoire to be reminded of how much I have covered, what therefore I should know, how I learn this and in the context of the changing technology how rapidly things are moving. Learning is evolving fast and in due course we'll look back at what has happened and compare it to how we no buy books online, how we book holidays online, and how we communicate with each other. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.3. The wonders of FutureLearn

At the minute e-learning is like a firework that has just exploded; we are watching it in awe. At some moment a thousand fireballs will light up the clouds and we'll take in the whole picture and conclude that things have changed forever.

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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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MOOCs R OK

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'If you're not lost and confused in a MOOC you are probably doing something wrong.' Wrote Martin Weller 18 months ago (25th March 2013)

A MOOC is a 'Massive Open Online Course'.

Rubbish name I know. Free Online Learning for the masses might sound better. 

It's no longer the case. The FutureLearn MOOCs couldn't be more straightforward. If 'you' the student are lost then the course team and instructional designer in particular haven't done their job.

It's all about communication: clarity, consistency and simplicity. It's about being connected, engaged and inspired. It's about your curiosity being satisfied.

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My thoughts on a FutureLearn MOOC on the Treaty of Versailles that tried to conclude the First World War

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014, 09:24
From E-Learning V

 Fig.1. World War One: Paris 1991. A New World ...

The content here, how produced, presented and managed by FutureLearn is the perfect catalyst for a diversity of contributors. As interested in the strengths and weaknesses of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) as a platform, this from FutureLearn is showing the value of many connected minds coming together and feeding of each other. It strikes me that as people group around a line of thought, with the educators and contributors, the kernel of a tutorial forms: ideas are offered, shared, adjusted, politely corrected, fed, developed and consolidated.

From E-Learning V

Fig.2. The clean design style of Dorling-Kindersley

It intrigues me to understand what the formula for success is here: the simplicity and intuitive nature of the FutureLearn platform; a clarity that in multi-media terms reminds me of those Dorling-Kindersley books; the quality of the ideas professionally, creatively and unpretentiously presented ... and a topic that has caught the Zeitgeist of the centenary commemorations of the First World War and its consequences rather than the chronology of the battles and the minutiae of military tactics.

For someone who has studied seven of the eight or nine Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education (MA ODE) modules my continued interest in e-learning is diverse; it includes however not the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) per se, but rather ways to escape the technology in order to recreate or enable the qualities that come from the 'Oxbridge Tutorial'.

From Drop Box

Fig.3. An Oxbridge Tutorial (1960s)

I am specific here because these tutorials are not seminars, webinars or lectures, an 'Oxbridge Tutorial' is typically either one-to-one, the 'great mind', the 'subject matter expert' and his or her student or 'acolyte' or one to two or three. The standard pattern of these is for the students deliver a short essay, around 2000 words, on a single topic from a reading list. In theory all the participants write an essay but only one reads his or her essay out that everyone then discusses. The tutorial lasts an hour. You have one a week ... per topic. Some tutors, the natural and committed educators extend these tutorials into informal settings, picking up the conversation at meals and in other settings.

From E-Learning V

Fig.4. Learning from others: an exchange of ideas

You cannot simply transpose this kind of 'tutorial' to the Internet in the commercial sense as the educator hasn't the time to give, repeatedly, an hour of time to just one, or two or three students. This is not the model that can support the educational desires of the 5 million in the world who crave a university place. Certainly, these students need peace, a roof over their heads, food and political stability and of course the infrastructure and means to own and operate a device that can get them online ... a tall enough order, but smart phones could be as cheap as £10 within ten years ... but then, it will be through the kind of connectedness between students, moderated and catalysed by the experts that this 'tutor-like' learning experience can be created.

I see it in this MOOC. I have seen it with a variety of activities in OU modules. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.5. My takes on 'Connectivism' as a burgeoning theory of learning 

'Connectedness' is a learning theory developed and espoused by George Siemens.

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