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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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Design Museum

H818 The networked practitioner

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014, 08:00
From Jack Wilson MM

Fig.1. My late grandfather featured in the Consett Gazette in 1917 on receiving the Military Medal.

A few months 'out of the loop' and I feel my knowledge on e-learning draining away - it is such a vibrant and fast moving area that I feel I need to refresh and update at every opportunity, so here I am again with H818 The Networked Practitioner.

There's a practice based element to this which I'll apply to an longheld interest in the First World War.

There'll be a lot of interest, reflection and soul searching over the 100th anniversary from 2014 to 2018. That war is relevant to the Europe and wider Europe we live in today, from Northern Ireland to Syria, via the Balkans and the EU.

I've just read 'The Sleepwalkers. Why Europe went to war in 1914'. By Christopher Clark.

More than any book I have read before on the subject this blows away any myths or propoganda - not least the fact that Germany did not start the war, that award goes to Russia with France's support. I'd have liked to study this period with the OU but the History modules simply don't accommodate this. I'll therefore be going up to the University of Birmingham, in person, once a month for a mamoth day-long series of tutorials and lectures. That's as 'distant' as it gets with very little online support.

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