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The delights of research from original sources

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Two days spent in the Liddle Archive, Leeds University reading through bundles of letters sent by, and received by the 20 year old Iris Mary Hotblack. These were written and received between 1914 and 1916 and were to and from her soon to be fiancé then husband, a second male 'pal', a friend from school who had married an American and was in California and her brothers.

They are a fascinating insight into the times, the outbreak of war, the billeting of 10,000 men on the town of Lewes and a developing love story. Iris married the 'boy' she had met on holiday in Norfolk one summer when she was 15 and he had been 18. He was following a military career in the Royal Artillery and was called up straight away in 1914. Alan Morton worked closely with the RAF, qualified as a pilot and was an artillery observer in the air, and on land. They married in June 1916, an ominous time for the war and ahead of the 'big push' that he was aware was coming. He returned.

Contrary to mistaken popular perceptions most men did return, over 83%. Figures for individual battalions could fair far worse or better. The 22nd Division that appeared in Lewes and was billeted on the town and later sent to Salonika saw over 90% of men return, with casualties split between combat and disease.

47% of men of eligible age did not go into combat. Again, despite popular misconceptions and a press obsessions with photographs of women in every kind of role, there were always a substantial proportion of men deliberately pushed out of the shot when these photographs were taken. They were in the mines, shipyards and munitions factories, they were running essential business and in the civil service.

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Learning from mistakes

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I don't know about you but I learn best by doing and making mistakes. I want to get stuck in, be guided, give it a go and try again and keep trying. These is harder to do in academia than in just about every other walk of life. We should be knocking out short essays every week in preparation for the longer, tutor marked assignments.

As an OU student on the MAODE I went 'totally digital': no printing off, books on an iPad, type everything off. No more! It made my brain soft and inclined to lazy ineffective learning practices like highlighting passages or cutting and pasting text instead of taking notes the proper way.

I'm now all paper and pen. Handwritten notes in files like it was 1979. Once I've got a draft written THEN I will go the the computer to type it up, add footnotes, correct, share, fix, correct, adjust and eventually submit.

What works for you?

Permalink 4 comments (latest comment by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 3 Nov 2017, 08:52)
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Knowledge and understanding needs to be earned, not spoon feed

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 7 Aug 2017, 08:08

British World War I Medal Index Card identifying the man, his regiment and the medals he was due. (C) Ancestry, via Fold3

Some people can learn by rote with ease: they are exceptional. We all know someone who has a 'photographic memory'; though of these, some of these you will simply be playing coy over the hours they put in. The 'photographic memory' is exceptional.

For most of us learning doesn't simply require us to feel we have put in an effort - this effort is part of the very process that facilitates knowledge acquisition.

Moving on from a period of essay writing based on a few lectures and crawling through a reading list I now find myself engrossed in the digitised part of The National Archive. I find I am, of necessity, doing the digital equivalent of thumbing through boxes of index cards. Every so often I make a match with information that the system doesn't have that I need in order to 'triangulate' the record with a specific person. What I am after are relatively rare First World War Service Records of specific men, from specific battalions, who enlisted in the first week of September 1914. When I get a result, and of some 2000 records I've so far identified 262, the information embeds itself in my head like metal-burning Alien vomit on my skull.

I've earned it; and feel confident that I will be able to work with it. The insight is mine.

I find I am able to do no more than sniff at information from prescribed texts and lectures. I make catch a whiff of something that makes sense, but usually I lose it. I have to be told what it was, and why it matters. I end up writing in a prescribed way. This can produce results, but not very good ones.

Engagement with others, in discussions (online and face to face) and having the kinds of projects we used to get at school when we were still a year or more off an exam, did more for me.

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Cathy Lewis, Wednesday, 9 Aug 2017, 20:23)
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The happy face of research

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Engaged in several months of research I find myself working my way through around 2000 records relating to some 10000 men who served in the 11th Welsh 'Pals' Cardiff Commercial Battalion and the 9th East Lancashire (Service) Battalion during the First World War. They all enlisted in the first week of September 1914 and all ended up, at first, being billeted on Lewes, in Sussex, where I live. 10,000 men turning up in a town of 10,000 caused quite a commotion. I want to know who they were. Thanks to extensive digitised Soldier Records, Census Returns and the British Newspaper Archive I am starting to build a complex picture.

However, this is like panning for gold. Of the Welsh Pals I am finding that only at best 20% of the Soldier Service Records survived the Blitz (the warehouse caught fire) while the 9th East Lancashires there are less that 10%. Simply listing all the men took time enough. I am sticking to around 2,000 men. Even this might be too many as it can take anything between 10 minutes and an hour to research each name depending on how scrupulous I am feeling and whether the records begin to hint at revealing themselves too many. From time to time, once a week, some magic occurs where I find a photograph and story in a digitised local newspaper, the full Service Record from when they 'attested' in early September all the way through to being discharged in February or March 1919. What matters to me is who they were in civilian life, so the Census return, 'triangulated' with as much as I can uncover, is crucial. I can then be certain that this man was in Lewes. Perhaps he was billeted in a public building, perhaps he stayed in someone's house - perhaps he even camped out with mates in a racehorse owner's stable and was brought breakfast each morning by the owner's butler.

Sometimes the scorch marks, tears and decay on the old paper record is an apt reminder of a man's story: killed in action. Though my 'men' of the New Army '22nd Division' who served in Salonica for some 2 years, for the most part returned. Those who died in any numbers did so on an attack in September 1918. Plenty caught malaria, some died from it, and many were discharged with a disability rating of something between 10 and 50% because of the malaria.

My inclination is to engage with and seek out the stories; the formal research I am undertaking will be more an evidence based barrister's paper putting the case that these men enlisted for a multitude of reasons: the weavers out of desperation when the South Lancashire mills closed in August and they found themselves with only a few days work a week, or none at all, while the men of the Cardiff Pals were leaving secure clerical jobs and the businesses they ran. I have found stockbrokers and architects, solicitors and council clerks who enlisted en masse.

And so the evidence reveals itself. And every so often a record makes me smile.

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Whose benefiting from MOOCs?

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This fascinating article in the Harvard Business Review, with Daphne Koller contributing. Anyone on the Master of Arts Open and Distance Education will have followed Daphne Koller from the days of the earliest MOOCs that she created.

Whose benefitting from MOOCs?

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Are you joining in the Big Butterfly Count?

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This kind of crowdsourcing science is something the OU pioneered. Use the power of US to do the research. Where do you spot butterflies where you live? What do you see? Here around Lewes with the South Downs were are spoilt for areas that have butterflies in abundance.

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Study Tips for studying online

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2. Plan weekly study times.
3. Log on to the class at least 3 times a week.
5. Make connections with your fellow students.

Do you agree? How do you plan your week? How often are you online? Have you made friends with fellow students?

I picked up these tips from the emoderation training course I am doing with Coursera through the University of Leiden - the second such MOOC I have done, the last one being with Coursera itself when I became a mentor 18 months ago (on a photography course of all things).  I have degrees in Geography and Open & Distance Education.

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Mentor on Coursera's 'Learning How to Learn'

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Join the biggest ever MOOC 'Lesrning How To Learn' and you might get me as your mentor. I did the course 18 months ago and have wanted to be part of  Barb Oakley's team ever since.

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What learning online can pick up from the gym

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I've been out of the pool and gym for too long. Thinking that walking the dog and ambling about in a sailing dinghy now and again will do. It won't. I'm too heavy to manoeuvre my Streaker and if I fall out or capsize I can't fix it. I aim for a flat walk with the dog.

Last time in the pool or gym? I reckoned two years, in fact it has been five. The closest I have got to exercise has been physio for a back problem (i never did the exercises), and visits to the local dry slope to get fit for a skiing holiday (three years ago)

My local Leisure Centre, all electronic applications and Apps sent me this:

• You will receive personalised, regular advice from the Leisure Centre team based on information you log to your app(s)
• You can communicate with us too - simply reply to our messages
• Your data is safe & very secure - we don’t see non-essential information and only a select few members of the Lewes Leisure Centre team see your data.
• You're in control - can revoke access at any time, by simply revisiting your profile.

All we should expect from distance learning online, or from blending learning is some personalised, regular advice based on our needs. Why do so many institutions fail even to do this?

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Learning with the OU compared to other MA courses

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Had I known and experienced what I have now learnt and put up with as an MA postgraduate student first with one university, and then two years later having transferred, with another, then I would never, ever have considered alternatives to the OU.

The online support, even, or especially where it has been heralded as 'blended learning' has been atrocious, laughable and quite frankly scandalous both for the platform itself and the ignorance the academics who were meant to support it - they were clueless, blundered along, contributed nothing, got in the way and simply refused to learn what is best practise in a student forum.

Added to which, my subject, with slightly different titles depending on the institution, though the First World War, should have been, I now see, studied in the much broader context in which the OU treats the subject.

I don't expect to be studying an MA in History with the OU in a year's time - to add to what would be my fourth MA. The time is long overdue either to find the strength and sense of purpose to undertake a PhD - or to fret about other things in life.

Politics.

Never much bothered me before, but the last year has allowed me to understand exactly where I stand - bang in the middle.

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Why I have ditched the computer for paper and a fountain pen!

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In my second year of the Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education I went all digital and precious about it: no more printing off, no more books, everything on a screen. Armed with an iPad and laptop all bases were covered: notes went online in a blog (private pages) and later into Google Docs, and essays were constructed on the screen too. I did print off my penultimate essay to proof read and correct. The results were never astounding with my averages over three years creeping up from 50/60, to 70/80 with one exceptional and never repeated 92 for a critique of a 'paper' - I do criticism well.

Onwards, a few years later and I take up a more traditional MA first at the University of Birmingham and then at the University of Wolverhampton: 'Britain and the First World War'. My grades sank back to the 50/60 mark. My last effort scraped above the 50 for a pass six weeks ago, so, clear that something had to change I invested in three pads of lined paper, a couple of arch-lever files (I threw my old files out in 2012). I am now taking notes on paper, not an iPad. I will think through, and construct this next essay on paper. I will write several drafts until I am happy with it then turn to the computer to type it up and add references.

No more cut and paste.

Will I be just as confused? Will clarity shine through?

On verra.

What do you do!!!

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Learning online students can switch presentations - the ultimate 'get out' and excuse not to complete?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 25 Jan 2017, 12:17

Completion rates for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) bug their creators because of the massive fall-out. Like the half-life of something in a pond at Sellafield the figures can half in a week, and half again in another couple of weeks and at the end of a 12 week course there are 50 people left out of the original 15,000.

The excuses and reasons for this drop-out are multivarious: many never planned to start the course - it is too easy to sign up to something that is free; an early poor experience puts people off: it is not for them, too hard, too boring, irrelevant or time consuming. They can have a technical melt down too: the learning platform is pants, or their kit and connection isn't up to it. A course can over promise and under deliver; there is a terribly fine balance and on the side of the creators ignorance of their students who can and will be 'anyone' : digitally literate or not, English their first language or not, lect school young with no qualifications or a professor nosing in on something that is their expertise ...

Reasons that people stick include: they've paid for it, it should enhance their job prospects or working life (it has practical worth), they 'like' the educator(s), they 'like' their fellow students and/or 'enjoy' the platform, its functionality and experience. The intrinsic rather than the extrinsic motivators work best.

A responsive 'platform' by which I mean the educational establishment or organisation (The OU, Coursera, FutureLearn, EDx) will identify and fix sticking points: a flood of people quit after the third multiplechoice assessment - you fix it; the 12th too-long to camera talking head of the same person and you jazz them up, get someonelse or look for alternative approaches; and you acknowledge that everyone studying 'at a distance' and 'online' probably never had the time to set aside to study your course in the first time so will need time to adjust - to make time. And life is fickle, they may have setbacks. Great therefore if on a 3, or 5 or even a 12 week course or module that they can 'elect' at any stage to 'switch' to the next 'presentation' - so they pick it up in a few weeks.

With switching I wonder if there could be a way to discourage multiple switching though. I fear that what can happen is that having switched once out of expediency, then a second time 'because you can' then the third time there is some kind of behavioural pattern established and the person will never complete the course. Were a student physically attending class an aware supervisor would cause the student to think twice on the second 'default' switching and may put 'soft' barriers in the way of the third - after all, the hidden agenda here is about 'completion rates': one indicator of a successful course is the percentage whi make it to the end.

By not having switching, rather like having students paying a fee, you force their hand - gently, and sometimes of necessity. You have to face up to the genuine challenges of learning: you face and overcome obstacles whether they occur in your real home or professional life or because you are struggling 'in class'. Either you have, or develop resilience; you seek help and advice and get it.

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Alessandra Leone, Tuesday, 31 Jan 2017, 20:29)
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Essay Woes

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

Have I stuck to the question?

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

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

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by JoAnn Casey, Wednesday, 25 Jan 2017, 10:58)
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Writing an essay

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It has taken me an entire MA with the OU, and now into the final stretch on a second MA, via 'Learning how to learn' courtesy of Coursera to realise how many steps it takes to reach 'essay perfection'.

It is like growing a seed, from compost, from food you have prepared weeks before: it all takes time to mature. Or rather, it requires time for your mind to make sense of a thing.

I am still uncomfortable with what I feel is wasted ink, digits or effort: I run a learning journal, I read, highlight and take notes. I may have an e-Book or a book in print. Either way I cover the thing in arrows and marks, then sift this through to a blog.

In time I decide I have to have a shot at answering the question.

This invariably goes horribly wrong. I realise I am way off the mark, and that I am leaning on old ideas as props that might through light on the subject, but don't fit.

I keep reading. I keep drilling on through references. I keep making lists. I prioritise. I focus. And then an essay or two, an article or book out of the blue pull it all together and the tangled mess falls away to reveal greater clarity.

I have gone from the man with the drone and a microscope looking at a forest, to a forester. I am on the ground with my fingers and eyes. It is starting to make sense.

Time. Sleeping on it. Getting it wrong. Talking it through. Having a go. Fixing mistakes.

Key for me is 'Talking it through'. I wished it, reluctantly upon my wife for 15 minutes and she, the daughter of an Oxford Don obliged.

What I need right now is a 'tutorial': an expert, and three idiots struggling with the topic. An hour of talking it through and you come away with a set of facts prioritised and a 'narrative' for the argument.

Never leave it to the day before. I am 8 days out from submitting this essay. I am reading for another go at writing it.

I don't care, for now, about the 4,000 word limit. I want to answer the question fully and succinctly, with evidence. I will trim later, or add a growing agent to the roots if it is falling short.

Writing is the last thing I should do. I wish it were an exam. I wish I had to pull in all the facts then turn up for a 3 hour exam. Today I will simply vomit words onto sheets of paper. Prepared for an exam I will have, in my mind, a set of some 32 cards, each with a note or fact or idea on them. I will then sit down, look at the time I have, make a quick plan for my response, then mentally set the 20 or so cards I need into the mix. Then I write. Then I fix. Then the bell goes and I am done.

Maybe I should do it this way? This Wednesday evening I will see what I can write, long hand, in an hour. (A fraction of how much I could type). Sometimes the pen is best - it slows you down.

Permalink 3 comments (latest comment by Jon Hirst, Monday, 23 Jan 2017, 12:44)
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Learning in groups of five with one educator/teacher

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016, 02:02

Is this the perfect 'Set'?

It feels both odd and appropriate to be writing this at 01.00am and to be treating my first thoughts to mu OU blog rather than anywhere else: there's greater continuity here than anywhere else and my musings may find a readership through any current MAODE students (I met be one again in 2017 to take on the new module on research into online learning).

Context: I am once again a student. I am at the University of Wolverhampton, part-time MA. We learn via a lecture or two with other presentations in a group of 22 once a month. We have a 'blended' component in the form of a labyrinthine and ugly platform that looks more 1999 that 21st century. Think long lists of clickable options in to great a variety of colours: a list lifted from print and jazzed up. Nothing smart about it. No surprises that no one uses it; not the blog, not the Facebook group.

I remain embroiled in learning, and learning online. I am a mentor on a course here at The OU, a mentor for Coursera, and even (face to face seeing students), a mentor at The School of Communication Arts, London. And a swimming coach! In a variety of ways a 'role play' a real educator for want of a proper teaching job.

Serendipity has me at the home of my 91 year old father-in-law. Considerably less active than he once was, he still spends his day either reading from an iPad, or, with considerable difficulty, writing and reading emails. (He is blind in one eye with severely limited peripheral vision in the other). Reading only from a screen about 7 or 8 words fill the screen. A young granddaughter is researching a piece about being a 'war child'. Zbigniew Pelczynski was 13 1/2 when the Germans invaded Poland. He revealed something about learning that I had not heard before.

You'll soon understand the relevance to learning and the relevance of posting it here: I interviewed Dr Pelczynski on the Oxbridge Tutorial system in relation to learning and the MAODE. He is a former Oxford Philosophy Tutor (Hegel) ...  and East European Politics, and the founder of 'The Schools for Leaders' in Poland and other East European countries. Has he retired? Probably. He published his last book four or five years ago and made his last trip to Poland about three years ago.

One of his grandchildren, just started secondary school, had the following questions for him.

1). How old were you and your brother at the beginning of the war?

The war began 1st September 1939. I was then 13 1/2, and my brother was 12.

2). How did the war change everyday life e.g. did shops close?

Shops did not close and in many way life went on as before, however, with time food became more and more scarce and expensive. People who were poor had a very hard time.

3). What did you do for family entertainment?

(I have read that in Poland things like cinema and football clubs were banned)

Well, entertainment was very much limited to the family and especially to birthday, christmas and Easters which in Poland are celebrated in a very big way. Cinemas were open, but the films were controlled so that one was only able to see that the occupiers, the Germans, wanted us to see. There were some interesting German films, but most of them were propaganda. I remember Jude Ze. about a a cruel Jew in the middle ages who caught children who cheated everybody and murdered children for blood. There was a tail that the Jews used the blood of Christian children for Jewish feasts. This was meant to make us feel very hostile to the Jews who were being greatly persecuted by the Germans at the time, put into Ghettos and later sent to extermination camps.

(The film he refers to is 'The Eternal Jew' =  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eternal_Jew_(1940_film))

There was no theatre, just light music entertainment, but only for the German soldiers who were stationed there and German officials. There were however some concerts in cafés, specially on Sunday at lunchtime which were very popular.

Sport. The Germans didn’t allow any sport. All football pitches, running tracks and swimming pools were taken over by the Germans and used by their own soldiers or recovering soldiers.

You were allowed to play handball or netball at home in your yard. Not allowed to play at school. Not allowed to kick a football about a schoolyard. So the only thing we did was play pingpong at school. In the school there were long corridors in there were several tables and you’d sign up to be allowed to play and there would be competitions. There was the Vistula in Warsaw, where we went swimming or canoeing or in a small sailing boat.

4. Did you have rationing coupons for food & clothes?

There were no clothes coupons, but there were certainly rationing coupons for food. They would change from year to year, even month to mont and they kept being cut again and gain. Each family was registered in a particular greengrocers shop and you went to buy your rations once a week. However illegally food was imported from the countryside and sold under the counter in the same shops or others shops or in open market, but the price was very high compared to the official regulated price of the rations.

Things were particularly during holidays when it was very difficult to get the various delicacies, for example ham for easter, or chicken or goose for Christmas.

5. How did things change for children in primary school?

There was virtually no change. Some of the text books were banned as they were thought to be too patriotic of ante-German.

6. How did things change for children in secondary school?

This was changed. The Germans did not allow any education whatsoever after the age of 16. And only if the secondary education was combined with ‘Fachschulen’ - that is trades school. I for example went to a school that was supposed to train electricians, one of my friends went to carpentry school and another went to gardening school. But very little time was spent on these trades, say a day a week, the other days were much similar to what we had before the war. The exceptions, no foreign language was allowed except German, Latin was banned, Polish history was banned. However, very early in the war, the teachers started organising secret courses called ‘sets’ where five children and one teacher taught Latin, French and Polish history. After age 16, moving to the equivalent of A’Levels there was no school education at all in the ordinary way. Those who continued with these sets of 5+1, would say meet on a Tuesday, and have 3 hours being taught Polish language and Geography, then another teacher would come and teach say Physics … so in this way, instead of studying in large classes, we had what you might call seminars. It was possible, the atmosphere was very informal, made it possible to ask question and disagree. This education was illegal. If the Germans had discovered these the teacher would have been arrested and sent to prison.

I went on like this until 1943 when I was 17 1/2. The Polish Secondary education was modelled on the French and German with four or more subject examination, I did Polish Language, German Language, Latin and Trigonometry. I passed this examination.

7. What age did you start going to school in secret, tell me about what it was like.

See above

8. How did children help in the war effort?

It very much depended on your age. Children who were very young did not participate at all, expect  perhaps taking secret newspapers from one family to another. The Polish Secret army told their story of what was happening in the world, otherwise we were limited to German propaganda. Later on you could join a secret scout movement. You were trained in what was known as ‘little sabotage’ for example, painting slogans on public places, ‘Hitler Kaput’ meaning ‘Hitler is finished’. On one occasion we went to church on Easter morning very early, and the whole of Warsaw was covered in these ante-German slogans and symbols of the Polish Resistance (a symbol of hope).

Most Poles are Catholic. During the war people went to church for services and holidays and the Germans didn’t interfere with that. Some of the priests when they preached sermons put in some references to Poland was not free, but the time would come when it would be free again. If caught as there could be spies in the congregation they would be arrested and sent to a concentration camp.

I and my younger brother joined the Resistance Movement in 1943. Even before that he decided to help some friends in the resistance: the people who formed little units in the forests and attacked the Germans, and stole their weapons, and blew up their cars. Kazik had a friend who was very active, and this friend wanted to store submachine guns somewhere so Kazik agreed and would store them in our grand piano which was never used because neither he nor I played. I got suspicious because this friend would come and visit with a violin case. One day, this friend came, and Kazik locked himself in the sitting room, and I listen and realised they were putting something in the piano. I looked and there was a brand new Sten-gun in the grand piano.

When I was older, 18 1/2 I joined the Resistance Movement and trained as a soldier. We were often asked to store hand-grenades and rifles. We would attach a rifle to a small fruit tree and put straw around it.

9. What age did children join the Home Army?

There was some military training in the Scout Movement, at 14 or so, maybe 12. Then first of all they were involved in ‘small sabotages’; and then given military training so in 1944 they were involved.

You joined the underground, the secret Military movement, when you were 16. When the uprising broke, out and the young people were the bravest of all. One friend of mine, who was 16, was awarded two medals.

Distributing leaflets and illegal leaflets.

Training in the home army, we must in five + one, Meet in someone’s house, once a week, and a military instructor would come and tell us how to use a gun, or blew up houses.

Once a month there was a trip to the nearest forest. It was easy to go for the weekend. Military training was much more serious here, you played at setting an ambush, or crawling under barbed wire or attacking a position. Amazing that the Germans never discovered what was going on.

The point that had me wake in the dead of night having mulled this over was the importance to him of 'the set', or seminar, what in fact became for him the lifelong love for an commitment to the 'tutorial' : not a seminar, a class of students, but a small group, relaxed with tea, coffee (or sherry), reading over each other's essays for the week, being able to falter, make mistakes, received praise and correction.

This works. I believe it works online too. I have had plenty of experiences of it on OU modules where from my tutor group a small 'break-out' group forms. These are never exclusive, but rathe a handful of people usually three or four, who form an affinity and begin to confer, converse and meet regularly online to discuss the course and its progres.

I recommend it. Blog, Use Facebook or LinkedIn or Google HangOuts. Make use of platforms offered by The OU. Be part of a group. Form a group, or what I will now call a 'Set' or perhaps, in Polish 'Zestaw'.

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Jon Hirst, Thursday, 5 Jan 2017, 15:37)
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The Learning Journey Continues

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Whilst finding it hard to justify keeping a blog again, I do value, as I found here, keeping a 'learning journal'. It helps to have a record of what I am studying, where I struggle and succeed.

This should be interesting as it is the first time I think where work that I do closely relates to the subject being studied. There can be much call for knowledge of the First World War, but it is something I do for an hour or so day.

The next 9 months will see me complete an MA in British History and the First World War. Not with The OU as they wouldn't take the transfer of credits. A shame as I have huge respect for the historians of WW1 at The OU.

I will attend approximately 9 days of lectures (all day Saturday once a month each team with lectures and seminars/tutorials). I will write as three essays, give a presentation or two, all building towards a dissertation. So, nothing much different to an OU module: a few TMAs and an EMA.

I could get the subject choice for the dissertation so wrong: I'll take advice on it of course, but I have a tendency to over complicate things.

On verra.

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The Learning Vernon

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 24 Sep 2016, 22:56

MA no.3 will be completed with the University of Wolverhampton: British Military History of WW1. I asked to do this with The OU but they wanted a BA first. There's logic and appeal to this 1835-1945 is a proper spread of history while 1914-18 is simply a load of battles on numerous fronts, on land, and sea, and in the air.

Fine Art works painfully slowly towards a credible portfolio course of Sussex Arts Club (life drawing 6 days a week) and Charleston. Had my late mother had her way I would have completed an MA in art 15 years ago.

I write and edit First World War 'news', and am a 'mentor' on the Coursera course on Photography?! This, sports coaching and writing a fictionalised history of HRH Prince of Wales' WW1 adventures, turning vegan 6 months ago, seeing kids out of the nest (their mum isn't around much either) and sailing.

l am mentally predisposed to learning online: being back in the lecture hall, regular seminars and reading out essays fills me with quiet dread.

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Things I am learning this week

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Fig. 1. Prepped for canvas: Self-portrait

Some new, some from scratch, I am on a learning frenzy:

• Race Sailing a 'Streaker' (Wednesday evenings and Sunday)
• Life Drawing (choices of classes in Brighton 6 days a week)
• Life Painting (choices of classes in Brighton 3 daysa week)
• How to put in a raised bed in the garden using sleepers (if it stops raining)
• iMovies (painfully!)
• Converting a VOB file to an MP4 file (Grrrr)
• Fixing my long lost AOL account. (It has taken me years to get around to this. In 1996 I got JFVernon@Compuserve which was converted to aol. I had Jonathan@aol.com for a while)
• How to be a 'Mentor' on Coursera's 'Learning How to Learn' MOOC
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Coursera Mentor

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Little by little I'm gaining credentials as someone who understands how we learn online and can help others to do the same. With several Coursera courses completed I am now a mentor on 'Learning How To Learn'.

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How we learn online

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 16 May 2016, 22:29

In my last post I featured Gilly Salmon: great video isn't it? But is it still current. I rather think three things have caused a major shift in the kind of 'learning design' that Gilly Salmon suggests:

1) There is next to now need to have human interaction from the course team, or moderators in the form of PhD or MA students making a contribution to discussions.

2) Her 'Five Stage Model' works for an Open University 'distance learning course' where a group of 12-16 students are assigned an 'associate lecturer' to watch over things, mark assignments, answer questions and act as a catalyst to discussion. However, this no longer works where there are 10,000 students (or a lot more) on the course.

3) Who is paying for it? There are two key considerations regarding students paying for the course they do: a) by paying a fee (always relative to their ability to pay) they are more likely to complete the course b) a model that is designed to be 'free', and free of other long term funding or cash flow is doomed for a myriad of business reasons.

This is how the model works. Self-explanatory? This student blog platform is a piece of the 'Green' - it is a technical response to allowing students to share and discuss stuff. Yellow is anything you are asked to do as part of your course: watch a video, read some text, answer some questions. collaborate on a paper. Blue is your associate lecturer. In truth it also includes your fellow students. I found back in 2010 that those on their last module of the MAODE were, with a couple of exceptions, happy to engage, point things out and explain a concept. You get to play this role when three years later you are on your last module.

Here's how I've re-interpretted Gilly Salmon's five stage model;

My version of this, based on the many MOOCs I have done, not least through FutureLearn, but especially through Coursera, is that the model in 2016 needs to look more like this:

This is what I feel works:

Testing almost from the start. This could be just TWO questions in a so called 'multi-plechoice quiz' but it is a start and it established a precedence. This builds to maybe 8-12 questions at the end of a week of learning (say 2 hours) where participants are expect to get 80% right before they continue. Why not? Where's the value and what is the point in continuing with a course where you already don't understand 60% of what has just been taught. A 40% pass mark is far too low.

In reality, in a MOOC, there is no, or next to no 'blue row or column'. It is quite impossible, for not impossible, for a member of the course team to be engage in the learning experience. There are exceptions. If you happen to be online at the same time then it is cool when the author of the learning drops in: there words are hung upon, as happened with Barb Oakley in her 'Learning How to Learn' from Coursera.

A vital row, or column I am missing - perhaps I should replace that blue row, is, of necessity the moments when the course creators need to be persuading those who can pay to purchase the course and a certificate, say £35 ... especially where a course has another five weeks to run. In part, it is this payment that engenders some greater commitment to see it through to the end.

There are always options to complete the MOOC for free: typically by offering your skills as a voice spotting errors or suggesting improvements.

There are other ways to 'monetise' a MOOC: the author having 'the book of the course' and the platform having some percentrage rights to the sales. A MOOC that gets 140,000+ participants will get a lot of books sales. Barb Oakley's books went to the top of the New York Factual Books charts.

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How we learn online keeps me up at night!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green = Technical

Yellow = The students or 'learners'

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

Red = Assessment

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

The results have been enlightening.

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

Gilly Salmon's 'Five Stage Model' revisited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My five phases are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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98.8% For an online course

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 3 May 2016, 17:46

Six years ago when I started this malarkey I could scrape through with 43 or so. Each year I bumped this up by 10% so by the end of it mid80s and even a 92/100 were achieved. It wasn't so much mastery of the subject matter, but more my finally understanding how to learn.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 3 May 2016, 17:45

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Still reflecting on two days of intensive listening, discussing and brainstorming the future of education at the Coursera Partners' Conference at The Hague, The Netherlands I conclude that education is becoming a branch of medicine: there is a science to education through neuroscience and psychology.

Digital learning, which draws a mass attendance and participation through 'Massive Open Online Courses' can be analysed, duplicated, shared, repeated, improved and gradually made universal. Might 'fixing math' or even reading across millions be akin to a Polio vaccination?

Ways are being found to educate 'on mass' and to deliver to millions a common level of achievement. Coursera, and organisations like it, are educating the world: anyone, any time, any where.

Only access is getting in the way: a broadband link or opportunity to stream or download content, take part in discussions and submit assignments; money to purchase the gadget - increasingly as smartphone over a tablet or laptop; time away from the daily task of staying alive: fetching water, gathering and preparing food, raising a family, working and completing chores; cultural objection to some receiving an education ... freedom from oppression in the home, community and the politics of the region or country. Otherwise 'the world' can join in; hundreds of thousands take part in MOOCs.

Coursera has over 18 million learners. FutureLearn, starting a year later, is catching up with 3 million.

Coursera thinks of itself as a movement; some of its educators, such as Barb Oakley, are becoming its prophets.

She has a readership, a following and fans.

There are early and late adopters: those who jump at innovation and others who shy away from it.

A study of 'The Diffusion of Innovations' would be of value. Why do some academics embrace learning online, the opportunity of sharing knowledge, ideas and thinking with hundreds of thousands rather than a handful of students at a time? Are they the ones who stuck with the horse and carriage when the motorcar came along? Are they the ones who use a fountain pen on lined paper rather than a wordpressor?

Should be picture them as medieval knights with armoured helmets designed not to protect the head from blows from outside, but to keep the contents of their brain contained? Will they join the party?

What are the barriers to MOOCS from the most traditional educational establishments and their educational practices?

Can, for example, the 'Oxbridge Tutorial' be taught online? I put this question to a gathering of Coursera staff and Coursera Partners at the 5th Coursera Partners' Conference.

The question I posed became the focus of the brainstorming session: in groups we scribbled as many reasons for resistance on Post Its which were duly adhered to a conference room wall, pondered over, grouped and categorised. Looking at some of the reasons it was felt that some institutions, faculties and individual academics simply feared the new and its disruptive force: Learning Online, or 'e-learning' despite its universal presence on campus through networks and WiFi is a practice or behaviour that may appear interesting in theory, and is used vicariously by all in practice where content and research online blurs the boundary between library and online resources, but it 'isn't for them'; they 'don't do online' - something they say with sorrow in their eyes, not unlike when people say they 'don't do Facebook' or 'don't have a TV' - some people prefer to avoid change, or leave it to others. Is it an age thing? Are younger academics more in tune with the new ways? The connectedness of social media dilutes the tutor-student relationship.

A student may have their feet on campus, but their head 'in the cloud'. Why shouldn't they take a free online course from another institution while they attend lectures, seminars and tutorials at yours. Already they will draw papers and publications onto their laptop from digitised libraries rather than needing to wait in line to call something up from the stacks. I fear that some educational institutions, those with a history of 750 years to hold them back, will suffer the way EMI has in the music industry. Perhaps one day neither academics, nor the students who follow them, will need these institutions. They'll become museums; after all, they are already a tourist honeypot. Colleges at best will reinvent themselves and through the likes of AirBnB rooms will be let out on a rolling basis to a vast, shifting body of students at different stages of their education pass through all year around. Instead of the annual crush to fill examination halls, these rooms too will be used the year round as no other close scrutiny of student learning than the written examination can be found or relied upon.

Knowing academics, more so in research than teaching, they can operate in silos and cliques.

Some cherish the privacy of their study and doing everything alone. The problem for them with this new way of learning is the feeling that only they could instigate and produce what they see as an exchange of knowledge that needs to pass from their heads to those of their select few students. Not having worked 'in the real world' of collaborative corporate teams they don't understand the need for partners and facilitators to get their content into a consumable online, digital form. Perhaps they don't know how easy it can be. Perhaps, it wouldn't be surprising, they are perfectionists. They look at what is online and find it flawed or trivial.

Often they don't understand it. They know their subject, but beyond the paper, lecture or tutorial they haven't used a mutable,  interactive, connected, mass medium of knowledge transfer such as the MOOC.

At best they confess that it is 'not for them' but invite you to talk to their younger colleagues. Or the American in the faculty. Where lies the answer: they should and could turn to their colleagues, the PhD students and undergraduates.

The idea that bureaucracy gets in the way is not unusual for any institution or organisation facing change.

No matter the size some organisations find change easier than others. There has often been good reason why in the past change has taken time. Better to get it right and take a few years over it, that rush in early and get it wrong. There have been casualties in the race to put educational content online. A blended learning environment of sorts exists whether institutions and academics want it or not; students will communicate and share online, important collections, papers and books have been digitised. It may be a tough call to expect an outsider to instigate change. Some educational establishments are like the Vatican, a walled city of ceremony, hierarchy and procedure.

If we think of Oxford, my alma mater was Balliol College, and Cambridge by default, the examples of 'traditional' institutions that on a global scale hold top ranking faculties across many subjects still are these collegiate, federal institutions encumbered by the buildings from which they operate?

Colleges, quads, studies and staircases, common rooms and dining halls, libraries and chapel? Are they encumbered by the times they keep: short, intense terms with a pattern that sees written examinations taken annually? Or does the digital ocean wash through them regardless? It is ironic that the Oxford Internet Institution, founded in 2001 encourages and even embraces multi-disciplinary, cross-faculty collaboration and learning, yet there are no MOOCs of its own that it can study. Education has become part of the science of the Web. Or can Oxford bide its time? Watch others succeed or fail then in good time leap frog the early adopters? It has the resources: the manpower and financial backing.

Why then did Harvard not produce its own learning platform?

Some learning online gives it a bad name. In time institutions such as Oxford will have the evidence to make up their minds. What works and what does not. What will find a fit with Oxford, and what will not.

Academics will work with learning designers and programmers, they will have analysts picking through performance and results, stars will be born and great minds discovered.

In the context of this brainstorming sessions 'replication' came to mean the transferability or otherwise of current education practices to the online environment.

In particular the discussions was around assessment and grading. Institutions have different models and practices of course, with attendance mattering to many, and course work the way, whilst at Oxford and Cambridge the end of year and final exams remain the focus of academic effort and probity. Replication of what we do offline and putting it online doesn't always work. Our 'desktop' on our computers does not have to look like a desk - though for a while in the 1990s some did. Some tests can be conducted online and identity proved. It isn't so hard, The Open University has found, to identify someone who has been a student of theirs. Coursera, in the various courses, quizzes and assessments I have submitted want a screengrab of your face - cheats could overcome this for now, but the level of ID match, as passport control services in international airports are showing, can be hugely improved. Recreating the 'Oxford Tutorial' will be the subject of another post.

While the intimacy of a tutor to student one to one each week is hard to scale up to cater for hundreds of thousands at a time, there are qualities to forums and online discussions that are akin to this. FutureLearn has found a way to manage threaded discussions that run into a thousand posts or more: you can pick out a handful of commentators to follow, and therefore create your own bespoke 'study group' for example. A senior academic may 'drop by' in person, though more likely PhD and MA students will take part for the learning benefits to them to have a surrogate teaching and support role.

Time is money. Intimacy is costly.

The tutorial system, where a senior academic for several hours a week sits with a small group of undergraduates, say two or three at most, requires time, space and place. Often these tutorials are one to one. The student isn't charged £100 or £200 an hour, but if a figure were to be put on it, accounts might want to add an hour. They may not be lawyers, but the advice and support they give to an individual student could be charged in six minute increments. How do you scale it up? Artificial Intelligence? If anyone could or will do it, might a virtual Stephen Hawking one day take multiple physics tutorials where you the student interact with an avatar?

It all comes down to money.

For most of the seven centuries of its existence the students resident in Balliol College where there through privilege: they had the time and money to indulge a higher education. For a few decades it was free. In England a grant took you through your first degree, and if you wanted to take a second you often could. This indulgence, in England at least, is over. Oxbridge, like other universities in England (it differs in Wales and Scotland) can charge £9,000 per academic year - a fraction of the real cost, and nothing like the $45,000 a year in might cost for a student in the US. In much of 'continental' Europe higher education is still state, or department funded. There is understandable resistance to put online and in theory give away for free, what others are paying for - whether that is the individual, or the government or region through grants or subsidised loans. However, where we are citing Oxford and Cambridge, compared to many educational establishments they are both wealthy and able to call for donations from wealthy individuals and organisations. Cost should not be a barrier to an Oxbridge MOOC. Though, looking at MOOCs from Harvard, one has to wonder if money, and the perception it brings in production values, is off putting? If you ask 200,000 wannabe engineering students from around the world if they'd like to study at Oxford, Harvard or Cambridge how many might say 'no' ? It is interesting that the MOOC 'Learning How To Learn' by Barb Oakley of the University of Michigan, 'shot' in her basement and produced for around$5,000 could have more students enrol than ALL Harvard's MOOCs combined. With simplicity and authenticity comes psychological accessibility. Barb Oakley is approachable, perhaps these 'elite' institutions are not? It has taken Oxford, for example, nearly 40 years to address the gender imbalance and imbalance of 'private' to 'state' educated students. For too many, the perception of the 'dreaming spires' of Oxford is one of exclusion, academic snobbery and inaccessibility.

So does it all come down to 'the brand'.

Ironic that in a discussion on concerns that elite educational institutions have over change that such a modern, marketing term should be used. If Oxford can be brand savvy, then surely it is savvy enough about all other corproate practices and can, or is embracing change? But will it, or a faculty, or a professor with one strand be the first on the Coursera platform? Or will they use Edx or FutureLearn? Will they mix it up ... or will they, or are they, creating their very own, exclusive, platform for 'massive, open online courses'?

Finally, when is a MOOC not a MOOC?

For all this talk on the MOOC as some kind of immutable way forward for learning, while the 'masssive' cannot be denied with hundreds of thousands enrolling and tens of thousands completing such courses, how do you define 'open' when parts of MOOCs being closed to those who can pay a few to be assessed, or pay a fee for access to certain parts of a course? And is it 'online' if it can be downloaded? As soon as you have it on your device it is potentially as unconnected to the outside world as a book.

We are all learning how to learn online.

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You read it here first ....

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 23 Mar 2016, 22:05

I'm dreaming up how to take the tutorial, in my thinking 1 to 3 max to keep it intimate, and scaling it up for a MOOC - a 'Massive Open Online Course' that might have upwards of 10,000 even 100,000 studentd.

I've had the extraordinary privilege to recently meet two people in person under whom I have only studied in this virtual environment: Barb Oakley of 'Learning How to Learn' 'fame' and Gilly Salmon who coined the terms 'e-tivities' and 'e-mentors'. Things they both said, or revealed has me wondering if this challenge I have set is counterproductive or even irrelevant: that these 'elites' such as Harvard, Cambridge and Oxford are by their nature exclusive and therefore too daunting and off putting to ever be 'massive'. Barb Oakley's MOOC has had more students than ALL the students who have ever done all of the Harvard MOOCs combined! Gilly Salmon using a model that suggests a matrix that is or could shift from Education 1.0 (one point zero) to 3.0 considered how much Coursera has achieved so far - I think the prompt from her interviewer was meant to have her waving the orange, blue and white flag of educational revolution, but she didn't, in fact she felt that as far as e way we learn she felt that 'Coursera' we're so far only getting 1 or 2 things right.

She's right to be cautious. She knows her history when it comes to innovation and change and may well have studied it and taught it during her tenure at the Open University Business School.

The truth is these MOOCs still look, sound and feel like traditional learning. While the platform will be a 'Coursera' and others in the market for MOOCs, and others that are yet to be created - or exist already (don't forget the power of YouTube), I put my 'money' on the 'little guy' - the modest, authentic, DIYer who has a skill or putting ideas across in a way that is memorable, makes sense and is academically 'sound'. I think of Barb Oakley, rather incongruously as a kind of 'Joan of Arc' too: followers and gatherers turn their heads when they hear the 'truth' spoken from the more unlikely candidate. She's an engineer, not from education. Let's have an artist teach anatomy, a business Prof teach poetry, a mathematician teach sports science, a data scientist teach graphic design, a geographer teach Spanish.

Gilly Salmon wants those of us who hanker about teaching online to be 'e-minators' (read her books, she loves putting e- in front of things). By this she is trying to get away from anything that has the teacher as the 'font of all knowledge' trying to unzip their head and pour the content into your head, the old paradigm of 'knowledge transfer'. Rather educators should be enablers or catalysts. Let students do and find out more for themselves in their own way.

Returning therefore to this concept of the 'Oxbridge Tutorial' - the 5,000 'elite' educators in the world, if there are so many, cannot go 1 to 1, or even 1 to 3 with the 80m or more hankering after a university education. We have to compromise and expand to include 'associate lecturers' or 'teaching assistants' as well as 'mentors' even 'learning buddies'. Creating an Artificial Intelligence 'AI' professor is surely not the solution either: it won't turn out like that just as we don't see robot mechanics looking like men assembling cars in automated factories. Maybe they'll be a voice and then thought activated implant in our brains? Or might a tutor try to run a huge 'stable' of students by using data capture, grading metrics and the like from a hub, like a Grand Master in chess playing 27 simultaneous games our 'blog-jockey prof' running as many tutorials simultaneously around the world as their students wake up, go online and share a thought. Might typed text in these interactions be 'data mined' and analysed automatically to some degree?

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