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Certification in Further Education and Training

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It's for real. I am, yet again, and possibly not for the last time, a student. Cool. I matriculated for my first degree 40 years ago. I've done three further undergrad and postgraduate courses since at each of the School of Communication Arts, The Open University and jointly between the Universities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton. I can now add the University of Brighton.

The smirk on my face is realising that I will once again have access to a library and university resources online, in particular journals. I love to explore. Some might call it getting lost down a rabbit hole, but I spend so long scratching about - with purpose, that I always come up with something interesting. It is how I learn. I indulge my curiosity.

Meanwhile, the approaching fear is for nothing more than a 'micro-teach' and some of the first formal assignment elements completed. I don't half make a big meal of these, which is why I so prefer to 'written exam' at the end of the year; I like the build up to the end of year show. It generally is alright on the night. I feel at this stage I don't know much, that I am not fluent.

My OU experience, which will be here in the data somewhere, is that over the five modules of the MAODE and the two further modules I did 'out of interest' and as an MRes looked a possibility with a PhD after that, my grades went from a pass, to a pass, to a pass and the occasional Merit and then a Distinction. An OU pass is anything over 40 and I did get a 42 for a TMA at some stage. My first TMA for the Research module came in with a cool 92 and the feedback from my tutor that I appeared to be in my 'natural environment' stripping apart the work of others, challenging assumptions and the facts and proposing better approaches. So much for not following that up sad 

We know why. I know why. ADHD gets into everything. It does manifest itself as a rogue 'one / off' switch, as procrastination or enthusiasm, and as self-doubt and mild paranoia, the choice that an easier route is better than the best route. 

Meanwhile, I have lessons to line up and classes to give. I will be running a workshop in November, and taking a class online each week imminently. I am also setting out my stall as it were, for a number of 'commercial' blended learning opportunities. 

The greatest pleasure of all of this, despite the challenges, is knowing what will be on my mind for the best part of two years: I will be returning to this blog and its contents and adding to it. I will be mulling it over, and then seeing where all theory and learning aimed at HE can be applied in FE. (Though at GBMET there are both and I am involved with both).

Onwards. 

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Design Museum

'What's new about new media? Not much'

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Two decades ago I wrote a blog with this provocative title. I wasn't being a Luddite, rather I was playing devil's advocat and suggesting that for all that digital offered (in education) the fundamentals were the same: a teacher with knowledge passing it on to their students.

I need to revisit the topic with the same approach.

It is too easy to celebrate the headliners of digital education, not least at the Open Univerity with Open Learn and FutureLearn, and the myriad of learning management platforms and Apps, but when it comes to a student, especially in primary and secondary education, and in FE and vocational courses, how much is still, of necessity, knowledge and skills passed on by a subject matter expert? How can infectious enthusiasm be recreated in a digital experience? It can't? How do you develop loyalty and respect for a teacher and their subject through an App? 

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How do MOOCs compare?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 27 Mar 2019, 16:42
From E-Learning VI

Fig.1 Unexpanded mindmap using 'SimpleMinds' on 'How do MOOCs compare'.

There are tens of thousands of Massive Open Online Courses available. Their proliferation increasingly requires some means to differentiate types, to standards, and by review. Undoubtedly branding will have a role to play: it being easier to choose because the subject is delivered on a known and  trusted platform, such as Coursera, Udemy or FutureLearn.

What are they brands though? Like a well-known publisher such as Dorling-Kindersely? Or a brand of cornflakes? Courses are often the product of a specific university, but does this help when a course will vary also by faculty, and in particular by the role and lead taken by a subject matter expert.

The variables are considerable.

There are a couple of review sites which aggregate MOOC lists, such as MOOC List and CourseTalk. These, like reviews on Amazon, rely upon participants of a course to come in a post. I think of it as the TripAdvisor for e-learning. How reliable are these? It'll take years to bed in and impact on the product.

Meanwhile, as I still do several MOOCs in parallel I am trying to think about the kind of criteria:

  1. The Platform Provider
  2. Funding
  3. The Subject
  4. Audience 
  5. Champions
  6. Objective
  7. Brand
  8. Platform (Technical features)
  9. Cost
  10. Production
  11. Institution
  12. What next?

1. The Platform Provider

There are too many for one person to consider. And ample complexity requiring parameters. Some are not, or are no longer Massive and Open because they are closed, exclusive and paid for. Udemy has many thousands of short courses online, all with a price for participation, self-paced and lacking a sizable cohort to generate valuable 'connectedness' and 'collaboration', both important, identified theories of learning that have a significant part to play in e-learning. Funded by venture capital Udemy needs cash flow. EdX comes from Ivy League US universities Harvard, MIT and Berkeley offering undergraduate and postgraduate level, term long courses at a demanding academic level. They have no UK equivalent: neither Oxford or Cambridge have come on board. Although Edinburgh is on both EdX and FutureLearn. Whereas LSE and a few other top UK players are yet to have a presence. FutureLearn is a new, though rapidly expanding player: a wholly owned subsidiary of the Open University with partner institutions from around the globe, typically the UK and Commonwealth Countries, though with three partners from China too. It is the platform I am most familiar with having complete six MOOCs with another four on the boil. They make it look easy and I love learning in conversation with others. The Khan Academy is aimed at schools, while the likes of TED lectures, iTunesU and podcasts are all lectures online in one form or another, rather than complete courses with clear steps towards achieving specific learning objectives.

I am attempting to compare platforms, approaches and institutions by comparing delivery of MOOCs on Climate Change. There are probably a dozen, all variations on a theme, though the science shouldn't be different, even if the delivery is. They are: Exeter on FutureLearn, Melbourne, San Diego, Penn and British Columbia. I studied geography as an undergraduate so feel better able to form a judgment. 

2. Funding

Funding is complex, but it matters because 'he who pays the piper, plays the tune.' Largely funded by VC money the US MOOC providers are pressured to take fees, seek donations and sell certificates and other services. To a Brit used to the BBC anything with advertising in it, especially in relation to learning, smells of hogwash. On the other hand, branding and open sponsorship may be a necessary way forward. Even Wikipedia cannot do it for free. Once again, my knowledge is in the first instance at first hand as a 'participant' who has studied 'at a distance' with the Open University and paid for it, who has taken courses as CPD the traditional way at evening and weekend workshops, though also online by subscription. I have even paid heftily for a formal assessment which gained me a distinction and 10 credits towards a university degree. 

There is no 'free' learning: it is financed somehow. Learning takes time and therefore to plan, produce, put online and support. Even where the cost is carried internally as the learning is seen to have promotional or reputational value, it is coming from someone's budget. The relationship between the OU and the BBC, and the BBC and other British institutions is an interesting one as the assets the BBC creates by definition are owned by the tax payer so should UK citizens pay twice for something they have already paid for? The BBC though, like many others, create and provide content for use in learning under a Creative Commons licence. 

Funding, in tertiary education, comes from many sources, not least government subsidy, grants for research and sponsorship. Creation of Open Learning meets criteria, especially in relation to research, to publicise and share research findings. The dry academic paper is being superseded by, or at least complemented by, online offerings: a podcast at least an Open Educational Resource (OER) at best. 

3.The Subject

Who decides on the subjects to 'publish' as a MOOC? Publishers and broadcasters make choices for commercial reasons, often based on perceptions or demands of the audience. Are MOOCs create in response to student and participant needs and demands, or the product of individuals and faculties simply wishing to 'give it a go' or develop and share their pet subject with others. Is everything suitable for a MOOC? Is the subject, title and delivery considered in the kind of editorial committee that exist in TV, Radio or Print ... or is to more piecemeal and fragmented? Individuals and departments in universities traditionally operate in silos, indeed, many chose to be in academia, especially research, in order to focus on their niche interest without undue disturbance or interaction. I can see MOOCs that are championed by an individual, by a faculty and by a university. Inevitably some will be less well received than others. In all media there are hits and misses. Understanding what works, and what does not, is fascinating. Often it is like wondering why, in a small French town, one restaurant is packed, while the others are quiet. Though they are yet to produce them, I would expect and hope for MOOCs on art from St.Martins, MOOCs on sport from Loughborough. I would expect to see a MOOC on the First World War from Niel Ferguson. Why has a world leader, such as the Oxford School of Geography and the Environment, a no.1. faculty in the no.1. university thus far stayed away from MOOCs? They have podcast. They're on iTunesU. They stream some lectures and seminars. The next step is not so great. Or is it a case of a cautious institution taking careful note of research done on MOOCs. They are no panacea and maybe the step towards something that will have a better fit: exclusive, income generating ... 

4. The Audience

I resist calling those who do MOOCs students because their profile and behaviour of those I have done and studied is not of students, whether from school, at university or postgraduate. They are older, but not 'adult learners', far from needing the education, many have a Masters degree ... it is telling that discussions are anything but deferential towards the 'young' professors and even younger PhD students who present and moderate many of these MOOCs. Often the MOOC participant, who form the kind of TV audience that sits forward and interacts, is an MA student of the subject who may have ten or twenty years applied experience of the subject in business, government or teaching. For example, the MOOCs I am looking at on Climate Change always have vocal participants who have considerable experience 'in the field' for environmental agencies or oil companies. The academics are put on the spot, always rise to the occasion, and will surely learn from the experience as much as we 'students' do. Where therefore diversity and access? As TV producers know how in a digital world to cater for audiences of different ages and interests, so educators creating MOOCs will need increasingly to engage media professionals who know better how to target, appeal to and retain specific audiences. Whilst those creating MOOCs may wish to attract potential students to their undergraduate courses, I suspect that it is at best the teachers of such students, rather than A'level students who are getting involved. 

 5. Champions

Reputations of innovators in e-learning and whose talks go viral in a TED lecture become champions of online learning. Some become a brand that tens of thousands turn to. As free courses proliferate the bluntest and most effective branding is to have a champion, the educator at celebrity. We know that those with a TV profile with a following already will attract the most interest. In TV, even in corporate learning and development, the appeal of the broadcaster or presenter speaking on behalf of the educators is common place. Not all educators are broadcasters. It matters to have someone champion the course. If you want to study, for example 'Climate Change' and can choose between a dozen providers of a MOOC, who do you go with?

6. Objective

In formal learning objectives are the goal on which the learning is designed and assessments are undertaken. You are tested on what you are taught, and if you can prove that you have learnt what the material teachers you gain a grade of some kind. This in turn goes towards a qualification, or transferable credits towards a degree or diploma. This may appear clear, but there are other objectives at play: attracting students, even dissuading them if places are hugely oversubscribed. There are obligations to publish research. There are desires to join the 'e-learning race' and gain insights through doing even if it is not yet fully understood where the movement is headed. What does the course provider want from a MOOC? More students? Establishing or developing the reputation of an educator or department? Competing with others who are 'up there'? Because they have the funding? Vanity? Not to miss out?

7. Branding

The digital world is a free for all. It is competitive. Whatever you can imagine, someone is doing it. I was staggered to learn that the MOOC providers couldn't be named on the fingers of one hand. I think there are over 50 if you're counting and include various hybrids and anomalies. Many, many more if you venture into MOOCs that are not massive, or open ... say content created for internal use across a huge multinational. Sometimes these commercial sites and platforms are the most innovative, and of course, the best funded, for example, in supporting training in investment banking for brokers. Virgin produces e-learning for internal use - it is surely a natural step to create something open and online? The OU, with the BBC and at arms length FutureLearn makes a compelling, reputational sound brand. If anyone knows how to create e-learning that is attractive, appealing and of value this is the team. There are cultural differences though with MOOCs out of North America looking more like a multi-media version of Scientific American to the FutureLearn MOOC that is 'Look and Learn' - fun and accessible. 

8. Technical aspects of the platform

My expertise does not lie in picking apart and comparing the underlying technologies that support the different platforms. I can however relate to the discussions that have, for example, explained Facebook's success compared to MySpace ... that there were, or still are, underlying technical problems on MySpace that prevented its becoming as attractive as Facebook. I have taken and followed learning online since 2000 - joining the MA in Open and Distance Learning (MAODL) in 2001 while creating online learning through a web agency for commercial, broadcast and government clients. Our understand and aspirations for what was needed or could be achieved fell short of what bandwidths and the technology then could deliver, even if we spoke about 'stickiness', collaboration, likeminds and fun. 

9.Cost

The OU boasts that a multi-million BBC production such as 'The Blue Planet' is the kind of visual extravaganza it can now incorporate into, or complement with distance and online learning, a far cry from the black and white hippy in sandals presenting in front of a whiteboard as lampooned by Smith and Jones in the 1980s. It isn't as simple as saying costs, like those in the movie business, are divided between creation and distribution, though it is a useful starting point. In this instance the means of distribution is an interactive platform, that has certain affordances because of its underlying architecture and the skills, direction and motivation of the programmers. The content that is made available for, or put into this environment will vary widely based on the experience of the educators, the team they have around them, and how this is structured and led. In TV and print, a producer or publisher is the lead, or chair of such a group ... not the 'creative' whereas in academia the academic invariably feels they are the lead and should instigate decisions, sometimes without acknowledging that they have no expertise in 'external communications' or the platforms and approaches they want to adopt. Money is not set aside to use an external producer or production team, with sometimes, the results being self evident. Fine, perhaps, in a former age, for an internal audience of undergraduate students, but no longer adequate for a far more demanding open audience.

10. Production

Multimedia, which is what this is, draws on expertise that is a combination of skills that in the past would have been more easily denoted as radio, conference, print and TV. Production values and experience in all of these is required when creating online content because decisions should be taken in the context of the learning materials as to what will work best at different times, for different kinds of content. Also recognising the need for varieties of approach and making these appropriate. I have taken, or tried to take, modules that are back to back presenter to camera, as if listening and note taking for many hours is an adequate or doable learning process. On the other hand, I have been engrossed by an entirely 'gamified' Rosetta Stone as an iPad App - rich, complex, repetitive and at times tiresome, but effective as a language learning experience. Not all, or rather few educators, are natural broadcasters. Accepting their strengths in front of a lectern and not taking them out to walk and talk or present on location unless they can clearly do it, requires production skills. There is a language for conducting interviews using a single camera, and for recording multi-camera seminars. If the technician who sets up the kit has no understanding either of framing, or of editing, the result, however good the lighting and sound, will jar. These are all production values that need have to be bought in, or developed to a suitable standard inhouse. Audiences have expectations of certain practices across the media types. Poor practice in use of PowerPoint, for example, is not simply distracting ... people will quit a course on a whim. 

11. Institution

Increasingly leading players in many fields are coming to see that to offer open learning online is a natural progression from things they have already been doing for a decade: putting content online in websites. delivering short courses face to face, even recording podcasts for release as audio or video. There is less mystery behind how to create content and less need for owning and financing the platform. What we are seeing today, is the same transition that occurred as blogs migrated from do-it-yourself coded webpages in 1999/2000 through the first readymade platforms such as Diaryland and LiveJournal, to the 'off the shelf' ease and sophistication of WordPress. Indeed, for MOOCs, the commercial platform Udemy is offering a platform to commercial players.

Institutionally could early adopters trump the laggards? Might the likes of Phoenix and its global reach of associated universities trump traditional hubs of learning like Oxford and Cambridge which are currently proving reticent to engage? Or will inertia, reputation, funding, research and expertise see them grow into e-learning and their substantial foundations? 

Whilst it may appear that the Open University was made for the digital age, can a UK institution be a global player? What happens when an Oxford or a Cambridge can do what the OU does? Or don't they ever want to? Over the last 35 years the percentage of students at Oxford from private schools has shifted from 72/28 to 48/52 .... still not representative of the national split, but moving with determination to being accessible and diverse. Ironic then that staying out of online learning is perceived as necessary to preserve their tradition of tutorial based learning that by its very nature can only be elitist and exclusive. 

12. What next?

This is the hardest question and the one everyone wants an answer to. My guess is better than many another's because I've been riding this wave for several decades through linear video-based learning, to interactive and then online. Thanks to the OU over the last five years I now have the language to explain what has gone on and so make a reasonable stab at what comes next. There are several learning theories that can explain the way we learn, but only a few that describe learning approaches that are suited to the online experience: connected and collaborative learning are what makes MOOCs work. Although there are platforms too, such as QStream and Rosetta Stone that are in effect old-fashioned learning by rote or immersion with repetition constructing meaning. There are subjects, such as medicine and languages, which are suited to this approach. There will be increased fragmentation. We are, if you like, where the printed book was five hundred years ago. The book had yet to develop into multiple printed forms from the novel to the pop-up book (!) or diversify across every subject. Though change is far swifter, the variety of forms, by audience, by subject, by approach and duration is yet to flourish into the thousands of types I can envisage until there is a plethora of MOOCs as there are, or have been, magazines in the past. Some affordances are yet to be realised: feedback into FutureLearn, by way of example, is one way to measure and act upon ideas offered 'by the crowd'. Reasoned responsiveness will see the platform they have now move in regular steps into a different, and different forms. Logic suggests, to suggest an extreme example, that the tools, approaches and affordances of a platform catering to primary school children will be different to one aimed at PhD students. On the other hand, both of these groups find something on TV. With the exception of Ragdoll's 'In the night garden' which is loved by infants and PhD students in equal measure smile 

There will be unforeseen consequences. Will 'leasure learners', a stalwart of the OU migrate to MOOCs where there are no fees, just as much learning and a far greater sense of community engagement? Will MOOCs, as the OU does with an MAODE module, be something that runs in parallel with a formal module. In this instance students in the closed learning MAODE being joined by an open MOOC audience for a period of months. I can envisage an enlightened educator using his/her MOOC to support self-directed learning online, while also acting as the backbone for a formally taught series of classes where they use the readily package content of the MOOC to support their delivery. 

Those who want and need the kind of learning the MOOCs offered do not make up the bulk of the audience. How will those young people coming out of higher education who crave a university degree learn at this level when they don't have the funds to attend in person? How, when it comes to assessment, can they afford what remains an expensive process - sitting an exam or submitting a paper for formal scrutiny and grading under stringent criteria relating to potential plagiarism and to sustain standards?

For all their openness and credentials to support access and diversity do MOOCs simply 'preach to the converted' - refreshing an interest for those with a degree, or two, already? Where might a degree taught online be achieved instead of a set of A'Levels. Will it become normal to have more than one degree so raising the bar even higher for those who simply wish to get to first base? 

Is there, as was in the earliest stage of the Internet, a language bias with most MOOCs invariably delivered in English?

What else? 

Restricted access. Poor broadband. Lack of resources to run the MOOC. Lack of means, either time or money to do them. 

 Looking at it another, perhaps more subjective way, I'd like to know about:

  • The Wow factor
  • Usability
  • Changed Behaviours
  • Whether people act upon the learning experience
  • Learning Objectives achieved or not
  • Stickiness: Are people suitably engaged to stay with it and beyond?
  • Reputational
  • Mandate
  • Fun
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Learning how to learn online with FutureLearn and The OU

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 12 Dec 2014, 07:18
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 My progress on The OU MOOC on FutureLearn 'Start Writing Fiction' (c) FutureLearn 2014

More than any module or exercise I have done over my four years with The OU, it is a MOOC in FutureLearn that is giving me the most thorough experience of where the future or learning lies. I'm in week seven of eight weeks of 'Start Writing Fiction' from The OU, on the FutureLearn platform. Just in these few weeks I've seen the site change to solve problems or to enhance the experience. Subtle lifts and adjustments that make a positive out of constant adjustment. Those tabs along the top: activity, replies where under a tab. I think 'to do' is new while 'progress' was elsewhere. This is a responsive platform that listens to its students.

In the final week we submit our third piece of work.

As assessments go these are far less nerve racking than a TMA. The first piece was 300, the second 500 and the last will be 1000. These are assessed by fellow students. In my case I had one, then two reviews. Most people seem to get at least two sometimes three. The system is designed, I'm sure, to try and ensure that everyone's work is reviewed at least once. Tens of thousands, certainly thousands of people are on the course.

We're here to the 19th of December or so ... if you follow the tracks as laid.  

I hazard a guess that between 20-100 have posted there final piece already. Some, I know, got to the end of the entire course a few weeks ago; I looked ahead to see out of curiosity. There have always been 20 who post comments one, two even three weeks ahead. If 20 are posting I hazard a guess knowing my stats on these things that another couple of hundred could be clicking through the pages to read and observe. They may, like me, be coming back later. They may only be following the course, but not participating. Often, it is like standing on a stage looking into the gloom of the auditorium. Someone probably out there. One or two let you know. The rest don't.

I hope those that race ahead come back ...

I find that if I get ahead then I slow down and retrace my steps. To learn in this connected and collaborative way you are far better off in the pack ... it is not a race to get to the end first. In fact, those who do this have already lost. They've missed the point. I'd suggest to people that if they have the time to do the week over. That's been my approach anyway - the beauty of these things is everyone can come and go as they please, at a pace that suits them. Skip a bit. Go back. Follow it week by week, day by day ... or not. Whatever works works?

There's another very good reason to stay with the 'pack' or to come back and do a week over - the platform depends not on tutors and moderators commenting and assessing work, but us students doing a kind of amateur, though smart, peer review. This is what make a MOOC particularly vibrant, memorable and effective. Not listening to an educator telling us what's what, but the contributors sharing, figuring it out, answering each other's problems in multiple ways. We all learn in different ways and at a pace that shifts too. I find that often a point I don't get first time round, on the second, or third, or even the fourth visit to an activity someone, somewhere puts it in a way that suddenly brings complete clarity - their way of seeing a thing, or expressing it, makes more sense than the writes of the course could manage. Because they can only write one version, not the 'tartan' that comes from an intelligent, threaded online conversation.

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New blog post

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 29 Sep 2013, 07:02
I love to travel, not just on holiday with friends and family, but alone. Maybe this happens to you too, but I always find travel, especially new trips and destinations, is a catalyst to reflection.
 
All I did was take the first train out of Lewes to spend the day at the University of Birmingham. Two things that shook my brain: St. Pancras International ... and, sounding like a commercial, Virgin Trains. Although the train was quiet two people came through the train to collect rubbish ... as bubbly as buttons. Four times. The toilets were spotless. All in very sharp contrast to Southern Trains out of London where everything was overflowing ... 
 
I last studied 'lecture style' 31 years ago, yet I have signed up for one of these while I continue my learning journey here through all the MA ODE modules.
 
Learning is learning - it neither takes place online or off. It is in your head. It is what the brain is given a chance to do with it that counts.
 
I can now weigh up the two as I study in two very different ways in parallel.
 
There is of course 'blended learning' too that in a planned way mixes up both use of e-learning and face to face.
 
I met someone who, like me, has just completed a degree with the OU and we immediately began to share notes.
 
The OU is of ourse 'open' to anyone - online learning makes formal learning possible for any of us who either need to stay in one place, or are always on the move. People who need significant flexibility in how they manage their time ... and don't want the cost in time and money to get to a place for a tutorial, seminar, lecture conference. And people who 'don't get on with people' - not just agrophobia, you know what I mean. I switch constantly, sometimes very keen to be on my own ... 
 
Nothing beats getting to know your fellow students than spending a day with them, during coffee and comfort breaks, at lunch, walking through the campus, in seminar rooms before a talk begins ... and on the way home when you find part of your journey is shared.
 
Relationships formed here are akin to a long distance phone call, or letters to a stranger, even, oddly, having a chat with the postman or a builder ... you let them into your house.
 
And your head?
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H800 EMA Mobile

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 6 Sep 2011, 04:34

 

 

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H800 wk25 Anderson's equivalency of interaction theory

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 2 Aug 2011, 20:09
Is the 'trade off' really only between:

Student and tutor Student and student Student and content

Should the tutor not also be engaged with the content?

If not they are a facilitator, not a tutor, not a thinker, equally able to challenge the content as the student must.

My interest is in a tutor who questions the script, not all do. I've had a tutor read the script as if it were Latin, locked in history and imovable.

It is, we are, living in highly fluid times.

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ELizabeth 1st to e-learning - four centuries on are we trying to treat everyone like a little princess?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 29 Aug 2011, 09:04

The view I have formed during the course of MAODE and now that I am immersed in the perfect pool for e-learning I find that the vastness, and the complexity of the issues, from learning design, to the technology, from course materials to access, the whole gamut of what should or could be done, has been done, rightly or wrongly, and how we respond to current changes (student funding, Internet, global demand for higher education/life-long learning to the highest level) boils down to understanding people.

How and why do people learn?

How is this best achieved?

Always see it, whatever the scale (and there are student cohorts in their thousands on some OU modules), from the perspective of one person and their unique and shifting circumstances, abilities, weaknesses, desires, hopes, technical ability, financial and family situation, geographical location, employment status, mental and health well-being.

It still strikes me that the basic student profile is so limiting in what we are asked to provide, and yet I suspect a few clicks on a drop-down box does influence where we are placed. I know that being on my third and final module is a key reason to allocate me to one group over another, that the desire for this mix of those new to the course and those with more experience is deliberate.

It may suite the OU to have in a group of 16 a split three ways between those on their first, second or third module. Selfishly, it would suit me to be in a tutor group of 'module threes'. We are more alike because of our shared experienced; as like minds we would achieve more. Indeed, I wonder if the needs especially of those on their first module would be better catered for?

A crude marker that assumes mistakenly something about this individuals character and disposition.

I appreciate too, on the other hand, that it could be invasive to go through a heftier profiling process, however, I think such effort would be rewarded and probably show up as improved retention as people's individual circumstances, whether trivial or massive, would be, to some degree at least, accommodated.

An idealist?

Princesses Elizabeth had, in the 16th century, one-to-one tuition, specialists, the best in their field. What she'd learnt dicated by others, preparing her from an early age for what might be expected of her. Four centuries later can something like this not be made possible for many more? All it takes is for someone who knows stuff to spend time with someone who does not.

Above I suggest we need to think harder about the student, as a person, in all their glorious uniqueness.

Perhaps I am saying there are two people in this relationship and it is this failure to respect the importance of them both that is often not met when technology is put between them, not to make this ideal learning relationship possible, but to make any learning at all possible.

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H800 Reflection on e-learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 21 May 2011, 14:29

A rare moment to stop and take stock.

Does learning something new enter a phase of such frenzy that the formal aspect of the process is irrelevant.

To say I live, breathe and eat e-learning would be an exaggeration, but the mix of social media (my professional responsibility) and e-learning (my passion as an educator) on top of a foundation of 32 years of 'educational inclinations' means that I find myself in a self-constructed maelstrom of activity.

32 years ago, a 17 year old, we lived 'above the shop,' as it were, a training centre for a PLC in Cumbria. I listened eagerly to the Training Director and I was allowed to use first 1 inch reel to reel black and white Sony kit used for interview training ... and then a hefty VHS camera. I created my first 'training film' - ironically titled 'How to give a slide presentation.

A desire to taken in, and then share, what I think and understand, with others has informed my career.

Meanwhile, whilst reliving and reinventing and/or returning to my video production roots, my current interest is mobile learning - not that it is should be called 'm-learning,' just that it is 'stuff' with a learning twist, that you can have with you, connect with and use, wherever, whenever and whatever you are.

With a bit of skiing, sailing and swimming

Each in various ways as an educator, and participant: guided skiing, but never the BASI qualification, Offshore Sailing RYA qualification while instructing at RYA Level II and swimming a few weeks of effort of the most senior ASA Certification that is current (Senior Club Coach).

Everything can be taught

My turn around moment on this was a presentation I was linked to when Max Clifford, self-taught PR guru, spoke lucidly and with enthusiasm for students studying PR.

Why?

If nothing else, it showed they were passionate about the subject to study it for three years.

(Note to Max, the passionate ones might be 20% of the cohort).

And cooking?

Greek Fish Soup.

I'm yet to reach the position that I can call myself a professional academic, but is it the case the some academics (or is it just mathematicians and philosophers) are also very good cooks?.

My theory is, that they use the period of cooking, to be engaged with one activity ... while thinking of something else entirely???

 

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H800 53 Block 2 Approaches to learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 29 Aug 2011, 12:14

Richardson (2005), ‘Students’ approaches to learning and teachers’ approaches to teaching in higher education’.

This short, clear, bulleted article is the most straightforward and possibly most valuable text I've come across in the 14 months of the Masters in Open and Distance Education that I have thus far done.

No doubt its clarity is in part a product of my improved understanding and more extensive experience gained during this period; it slots into place.

Learning a foreign language (French)  I described fluency being akin to a fog lifting; it became clearer and intuitive. I wonder if I am approaching that point with online learning? Not that certainty is possible,

I'll return to Richardson often.

REFERENCE

Richardson, John T. E. (2005). Students’ approaches to learning and teachers’ approaches to teaching in higher education. Educational Psychology, 25(6), pp. 673–680.

http://oro.open.ac.uk.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/11509/

(50907)

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H800: 26 Guest lists and where you sit at the tutor's table (even if they're not there)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 1 Mar 2011, 07:09

How do you study if you are both a tutor and a student?

I guess if you are a chemistry tutor and you’re studying e-learning the two are complementary but you cannot, be both tutor and student of the same course (though interestingly this has/is occurring in our module with a tutor absent the OU failing to accommodate).

It’s rather making me think that student as tutor is absolutely possible.

Why not? All it requires is leadership and initiative. I don’t see tutors as subject matter experts. Can you cater for everyone? In communications you need to know your audience. Writers are meant to think of their reader as one person, not millions. How should teachers/tutors think? Of student, or students? Does it matter anymore?

Can we, knowing or indulging ourselves, choose from a plethora of ways into a subject?

I have to wonder, thinking in extremes, why we don’t have tutor groups by gender, by generation, even by profession … let alone our current professional status. Would for example all those working for the armed services benefited from being in a group of their own?

And how do we make such a choice?

Too late if you buy a book, even read a sample, only to find the rest of the content doesn’t deliver.

What about a course?

You pay the fees for a module only to feel or realise a week or so on that it is going to disappoint all the way to the end?

Do you choose by Brand?

Do you choose by awarding body?

And what say do we have?

Can we play-act the model online student?

Would it help to have such an image and then be this person?

Can we assume ourselves into a level of comprehension what we haven’t yet reached and as a result of such aspirations and performance become this more informed and ‘educated’ person?

With an interest and some training in sport and developing young elite athletes I’ve studied Long Term Athlete Development. With a sport, let alone studying, we can group children by gender and biological age. When or where do such groupings or any groupings become difficult to create, or politically incorrect to create? Should not institutions go to greater lengths to group people scientifically?

And to mix these groups up as we go along, if only to change and balanced the learning opportunities?

This is the OU’s show, their party. They are hosting an event, or series of events or have we simply taken a few steps beyond getting a box of books and CDs on the doorstep at the start of a module … to the set of railway tracks that is the like a cartoon, are laid before our eyes as each new week approaches? Who ‘owns’ this course? I get know sense of that, or someone leading. The tutors/authors of the course left years ago. Perhaps this is obvious and given the topic and the speed of change in e-learning is detrimental. I wonder, if given time, more ‘natural’ tutor groupings would form in the national forums of ‘General Discussions’ and the Café from which break-out tutor groups could be constructed (or they do?) I wonder if the solution is in the ways resources are presented, that there need to be multiple ways into a topic. That once size never did fit all.

That ideally we would each have a personal tutor, that all learning would be one to one and tailor to our needs, as they are and as they change … and as we are changed by the process and anything else that is going on around us.

Do we all want a take-away, or a pot-lunch?

The set menu and if so as a school dinner, or from a top restaurant? Home cooking or our own cooking?

Might I say with H800 are getting the ‘set menu,’ i.e. the choice is limited. All I’m discussing here is choice; the next point would be the size of helpings. How do we respond to either being hungry as a wolf (read everything) or not hungry at all (graze nonchalantly doing the bare minimum?) The answer, as I found in H808, was to have plenty of moderated activities in the General Discussion, Café and Supplementary Activity Forums … where like minds could meet, where if you found you had time or wanted to make time, you could get involved in a different group and therefore benefit from an alternative dynamic. I have found that with groups, even more so away from the OU, that are global in scope, that you find groupings that are topic specific and where you can, whenever you like, find a conversation to engage with that adds to your knowledge.

It is a vital part of the learning process I believe, where you form opinions and develop ideas as a result of your engagement, the only issue being that your voice comes out of the tips of your fingers rather than your mouth, which rather suggests we’d all have been better off communicating to our parents and siblings at home via a QWERTY keyboard from an early age so we had these surprisingly necessary skills in place.

Perhaps, as there appears to be so much inclination, whether desire or otherwise, to shift towards the Oxbridge tutorial system as a model, (small tutor groups), might not we also have junior, middle and senior common rooms?

Might we not also have a variety of virtual colleges? And taking just one idea from this … ought we not to have more than one tutor, even within a module, perhaps a different module for each TMA?

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New blog post

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 26 Jan 2011, 07:35

Who are you?

DSC00379.JPG From Drop Box

As a student my head's in the pot, as a coach and trainer, teacher or instructor, I'm the guy with the water-can. I like the sentiment, the idea of nurturing talent.

I wonder if e-learning would be a 'cloud' of digital rain that does away with the guy?

See you at the Learning Technologies, Olympia? I'll be attending both days. I don't suppose I'm supposed to give my mobile number out here so look out for this chap (sans tan, san teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything).

JV%20TED%201.JPG
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Mind, metaphor and mirror neurons - and the impact on blogging

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 11 Nov 2014, 06:56

1. Are we hard-wired to how we conceptualise ideas?

2. Does this help or hinder the way we use eLearning tools?

3. Will children, say, 50 years from now, look at paper and pen in the same way as a person does now when they take a first look at computer?

4. Are we at some 'transition' point, and if we are, what does this mean?

My tutor in H808 asked me this on 12th September.

I feel far better able to reply now after four months of H808 and some fortuitous reading, though I did respond at the time. My forum thread exchange then and reflection on it today will form part of my ECA.

It surprises me that I have subscribed to a magazine at all, but I find the New Scientist offers plenty on our e-world upon which to reflect and insights to all kinds of other things that tickle my brain.

It matters that you read broadly.

The French Film Director Francois Truffaut was a firm believer of reading everything and anything that caught your attention. He’d have loved the web. It matters that you follow what the web offers, then browse the shelves for magazines at the newsagent on the forecourt of your station.

My favourite button that has been crucial to the longevity of my blog (elsewhere) for the last seven years is ‘Enter@Random.’

We don’t think in chronological order.

thinking is a mess, it selects ideas and makes things up sing different sides and corners and crooks and crannies of our brains. I unplugged the calendar on my diary in year one and replaced it with 12 themes that have now grown to 37. For a period there were 37 blogs, but try managing that, to say you end up with a split personality is an understatement.

My tutor put it to me (and us) the H808 Tutor Group:

1. Are we hard-wired to how we conceptualise ideas?

Dr Vilayanur S Ramachandran thinks so. We have a unique capacity to think in metaphors. This matters. It is this ability that makes us creative, allows us to be inventive, it is what makes us human beings.

Read all about in the New Scientist.

Quoted here within the 200 word count permission for a student quote.

Added as for student reading in a non-commercial academic context having read the copyright permissions.

Ramachandran is particularly interested in metaphor because it ties in neatly with his previous work on synaesthesia - a kind of sensory hijack, where, for example, people see numbers as colours or taste words. "Metaphor is our ability to link seemingly unrelated ideas, just like synaesthesia links the senses," he says.

After spending years working with people who have synaesthesia, he believes "pruning genes" are responsible. In the fetal brain, all parts of the brain are interconnected, but as we age, the connections are pruned. If the pruning genes get it wrong, the connections are off. "If you think of ideas as being enshrined in neural populations in the brain, if you get greater cross-connectivity you're going to create a propensity towards metaphorical thinking," he says.

I don't have synaesthesia, neither does Ramachandran, but he points out to me the strangeness of asking why, say, the cheddar cheese in your sandwich is "sharp". It's true, cheese isn't sharp, it's soft, so why do I use a tactile adjective to describe a gustatory sensation? "It means our brains are already replete with synaesthetic metaphors," he says. "Your loud shirt isn't making any noise, it's because the same genes that can predispose you to synaesthesia also predispose you to make links between seemingly unrelated ideas, which is the basis of creativity."

www.NewScientist.com.

Thomson (2010)

Of the 12 photographs in this issue as many as 8, I think, are from the Getty Image bank. I wonder if one day, especially if I’m reading this on an iPad the images will move, rather as the paints are alive in the background of a Harry Potter movie. It wouldn’t take much for a photography to video as well as, or instead of taking a photograph. Indeed, the BBC now permit directors to generate HD TV footage using digital SLR cameras … the lenses are better, the creative choices wider.

Interesting.

2. Does this help or hinder the way we use eLearning tools?

How we use the web, let alone e-learning tools is in its infancy. We are still putting old ways online, still making web-pages into slide shows and calling them immersive learning. Gaming may change this, with the budget. Better, faster tools will enabled more. Collaboration on world wide wikis with like minds, and great minds, contributing will speed up the rate of change.

We’ll think in the same metaphors though, share and reinforce new metaphors and then some Leonardo da Vinci of the 21st century will come along and break it apart. Though we may not appreciate their insights at all.

Mobile learning, smart-phone learning on the move, or whatever you want to call it should shake things up. At first this will be, and is, the same old stuff sent to your phone, basic card to card Q&A even if it includes a bit if video or an animated graph.

I want learning projected onto the back of my scull, I want it in my head, not online or in a device. I want interactions with specific parts of my brain. I want my brain duplicated so that I can take more lessons at the same time, to learn multiple languages and to take several degrees simultaneously.

3. Will children, say, 50 years from now, look at paper and pen in the same way as a person does now when they take a first look at computer?

It is extraordinary the relationship between our minds and out limbs, or arms and finger tips. With training we can sight read a score and play complex musical pieces, we can scroll, cut, edit, fly and colourise images into a piece of drama that has us crying, or heads in our hands and we can type, like the clappers.

We can draw too, and sculpt, and swim and dance and do gymnastics.

Our relationship with the nerves in our body is a complex one. As for handwriting, our relationship with fountain pens, marker pens and pencils? It ought to be a skill still taught at school, there need to be handwriting competitions as there once were … even if they are tied into art classes and design.

How different is a stylus on a tablet to a piece of chalk on a slate?

I implore my children to write and draw. An illegible Christmas list is no list at all. They’d type, they do type. Yet how backwards is a QWERTY keyboard?

4. Are we at some 'transition' point, and if we are, what does this mean?

Yes. And I mean to be part of it.

We have reached the Tipping Point.

A book a read if I recall in 2001 when we thought we were approaching a tipping point, actually we were reaching the point at which the first e-bubble would burst. First and last? These things go in cycles, whatever the politicians do to stymie human nature. Greed and regret, progress, reflection, reinvention … then we do it all over.

We’re not even less violent than we were at the times of the Viking raids.

Meandering? A stream of consciousness? Reflection? Regurgitation?

All of this, and it all matters. You don’t have to read it, and you probably haven’t. This is here for me to find when I need it in seven months or seven years time.

It is remarkable how your views change; so it matters to have what you originally thought in front of you. There are memories I have that haven’t just been reworked over the decades, but have become different events. This isn’t simply age, though that has much to do with it, I view what I did as a child or teenager as I observe my own children today, the difference is, I can’t influence the behaviour and actions of my younger self, though I can, I hope listen to and guide my own children to actions and decisions they will feel comfortable with in the years to come

REFERENCE

Thomson, H (2010) V. S. Ramachandran: Mind, metaphor and mirror neurons 10 January 2011 by Helen Thomson Magazine issue 2794.

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E-portfolios from the student p.o.v. H808.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 29 Aug 2011, 16:19

E-portfolios from the student point of view.

 

Bubbl.us learner-centred e-portfolios

 

 

 

I like what bubbl.us can do. Without fuss and with a sense of fun a few ideas on the back of the proverbial fag-packet (in my case in an A5 drawing pad) becomes something semi-permanent and easy to share. Commpendium takes this one step further, allowing each 'node' to contain layers of details as documents or attachments.

Here, after some weeks of this, I try to cover every corner, literally, on the topic of 'e-portfolios for learners.'

I read somewhere a hint of why students baulk at this - their perspective, for the most part, is short-lived. Several years working in the communication of graduate opportunities it was surprising how few could look beyond 'Day One' at their place of work, to their completing their first year ... unless, as in accountancy, law and some industries there was a longer-term career training period.

It isn't just as matter of context, it's a matter of perspective.

Anything 'sticky' can as easily become unstuck.

Remember how stuck we were on FriendsReunited, before MySpace and then Facebook came along?

On the one hand a software developer makes their platform 'interoperable,' but then you open the door to users switching platforms.

What is the commercial value of free software? What is the cost? Pop-up adverts inside your' virtual head.'

If someone can exploit it, they will.

Aalderink and Veugelers.

 

 

· Focus on competence-oriented education

· Emphasis on student development

· Fostering academic maturity

·Net generation oriented


REFERENCE

Aalderinck, W. and Veugelers, M. (2005) ‘E-portfolio’s [sic] in The Netherlands: stimulus for educational change and life long learning’ (online), paper presented at the EDEN 2005 conference in Helsinki, Finland, Portfolio Themasite. Available from http://www.icto.ic.uva.nl/surf/nl_portfolio/Publicaties/Downloads/aalderink_veugelers_2005.pdf- FOR ANALYSIS

 

 

 

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Dusty Rhodes

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 1 May 2010, 17:37

Our Geography teacher had most of us (all ?) achieve A Grades at A Level. When it came to writing essays his advice was simple and he drew a flower on the board with six petals.

The stem was both the introduction and conclusion, the centre of flower was the essay title. Six petals, perhaps eight would do it. Each would be a point, well made, with quotes/references.

Often he'd summarise his thoughts on a boy's essay by drawing a dishevelled weed ... or more simply a three petalled plant with one huge, deformed petal ... and so on.

I was never one for the perfect plant. Often I'd be the one with twelve petals, some tiny some so massive they took on the entire board. One essay I remember submitting filled an entire exercise book (I still have it, sad, I know. It was Geography, meteorology, he taught as to undergraduate level). I regress (and digress).

After two years we sat exams. By then by editing down and picking out what I felt mattered I went into the exam well prepared, armed to the teeth. I could easily give up ten minutes of the 45 mins to write on a topic to planning, the six or so main points, the pulling from my head a mnemonic that would deliver a dozen or twenty or more facts. And then I wrote. This worked.

Course work would have suffocated me. I lack that consistency and self-discipline, or more likely, I drain so much energy intermittently that I just have to 'chill' from time to time. I'm not one for drawing early conclusions, nor am I one for regurgitating what is wanted from me because of what specifically I have been asked to read - I will always look beyond the references.

In particular, I would prefer to sit down to write naked ... jsut me and the keyboard, no notes. For the information to have gathered in the rigth spot in my head I need to have worked with the material, to have discussed and debated it, to got it wrong and been corrected, to have asked questions, and to have figured it out. I have to believe it.

Working in a Web Agency when first doing an OU course on distance learning the topics were of interest every day to colleagues so it was like being on a campus, or certainly in a faculty. And as we believed or thought that the aim of a university degree or studying was to get a job there was a degree of arrogance - we had jobs. We were in it, doing it. We had to know best, or certainly quite well, otherwise why would companies & government pays us to do our thing?

I ramble. Or reflect. Whether I can reflect my way into some higher level of sublime understanding though is quite another matter. A decade ago blogging obsessively there were a group of us who read and responded to everything we wrote. Doing this I feel I am writing with a fountain pen on the ceiling of a catacomb.

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