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Manage your money: OU MOOC 5Jan2015

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From E-Learning VI

Manage your money

There are ten tips on how to manage your money over Christmas - Christmas 2015? This would have been handy a week ago. I race around shops as they close on Christmas Eve.

This looks very useful all the same: life skills rather than academic lesrning or accountancy. See you there. I need to save up for 'Creative Writing' from October 2015.

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Trauma and Memory: another brilliwnt MOOC from the OU

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From E-Learning VI

Chaired by the OU's Prof. Annika Mombauer this MOOC complements anything you may read on WW1.

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Happy Christmas my OU blogging lovelies.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 25 Dec 2014, 20:56
From E-Learning VI

Start Writing Fiction

#FLfiction14

@OUFreeLearning

Happy Christmas my OU blogging lovelies. I have chains in the car boot as we head for Northumberland: unnecessary I hope. Looking forward to a year punctuated by further learning with FutureLearn while saving for a creative writing course with the OU late in 2015,

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This is not all! A lot of its is on A 363 Website *

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From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Second hand 'used' book on creative writing

After eight weeks I recently slid from the end of the OU and FutureLearn MOOC 'Start Writing Fiction' and felt bereft. There is a Facebook group, a Linkedin group and a blog ... all set up by us students. The links sadly to the OU are the kind where you a dropped into the centre of a labyrinth with no idea of where to turn, and no one to talk to. 

Anyway. I was particularly delighted that the previous owner of this book has added the note onto the cover 'This is not all! A lot of it is on A 363 website*' which is where I will potentially pick up my OU studies in ten months time. '

Meanwhile I have three more MOOCs with FutureLearn. 

*A363 Advance Creative Writing

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Imagine if these had caught on

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From E-Learning V
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Why I'm selling my books

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 22 Dec 2014, 13:11
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Learn How to Study .... I did!

Buying books can be an obsession. Unnecessary too where I have access to a university library up the road, but I do anyway. Books that are long out of print 100, 75 years old. I like chasing down the obscure reference. When I finally read the passage an author, usually an academic has written, I do that thing politicians say about 'quoting out of context'. It is surprising how one's own interpretation of what someone has said can be very different. 

I understand that having read a book we keep them as an aide memoire, not even to thumb through, but to see them on the shelf and so be reminded of the joy we got from them. Do I ever get from that an academic text? Not often. I take copious notes as I read them. I now have a photo of the cover and that is in my Google+ gallery.

From E-Learning V

 

What more do I need?

Courtesy of a specialist local books shop, AbeBooks, Amazon and eBay I'm selling everything. A box of 30 books went to someone studying the MA in History I've been doing. This morning I dropped off four books at the Post Office. Having never used any online service to sell anything I am delighted at how easy it has been to turn the dining room table into a bookshop! Much to my wife's despair there are ten large 'really useful boxes' stacked around the place. ISBN number, get what its selling for, add a handful of photos, post an honest appraisal of the books condition - mostly pristine, one or two I took ownership of with a highlighter pen - not that that has prevented a sale. The content is sound. I'm honest about the things condition.

From E-Learning V

Fig. 2. Learn How to Study - with books!

The oddest thing is to find that sometimes a ten or twenty year old academic paperback sells for more than it cost all those years ago. For example, which says something for the OU, Derek Rowntree's 'Learn How to Study' from 1990. This may not mention online learning, and adds a very short chapter at the end on wordprocessing, but the lessons and tips he passes on are as relevant and as sound to a student planning distance learning as ever it was.

No value in an eBook on a Kindle then?

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Things I love online

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From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Thesaurus.com 

Need to find the right word? This is the place to look.

 

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What's your favourite remote HD webcam view?

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From Alps

Fig.1 Late yesterday afternoon looking north.

Looking north towards the Aiguille de la Grande Sassiere 3380m from ten miles south at Tovierer, 2700m above Tignes Le Lac, French Alps. 16h40 Friday 19th December 2014

I'm at home in Lewes. I've not been up here for nearly 25 years, though I have watched over the alps for nearly a year courtesy of a set of HD Webcams. Is it like being there to follow the seasons? To witness the first snow. To see the grass turn green? To follow the weather?

Do you have a favourite webcam you watch? Birds nesting for Spring Watch? A beach? Your garden?!

 

 

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Time to reflect on 'Start Writing Fiction' with the OU and FutureLearn

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 19 Dec 2014, 09:33
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. The writer's path ...

The eight week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) I have just completed 'Start Writing Fiction', with the OU, through FutureLearn merits, like all learning experiences, a period of reflection. How do you look through posts across some 80-100 'threads' with anything from 143 posts (final thread, final week) to over 7,500 posts (fourth thread, first week) ? You have to filter, but these filters are dependent on your participation throughout because the key filters are: 'my comments' and 'following'. These in turn, isolate from a massive thread, the comments you have left, starting a thread to the main discussion or commenting on points made by others. While 'following' picks out those, all of them, whose thoughts and contributions you have enjoyed. You can also pick out 'most liked' - though with likes ranging from 0-4 with 1 like the median, this sift hasn't anything to offer. And you can prioritise 'Activity' i.e. select in reverse order across all posts in an activity those that are most recent.

Thus armed, if you can give it the time, you can work back over the battlefield of minds that has been this last two months; it feels like a 60 degree credits 7-8 month slog packed into a very, very long weekend - it has been that intense (I've let it be so).

Whilst the activities could be done in three hours a week at a fast jog, what takes far longer is a) writing a piece for peer review - 300, 500 and 1000 words were the lengths of submission and b) reading, replying, following and learning from the mass off comments in what are sometimes huge discussion threads with thousands of responses where some of have skipped through the entire 8 weeks course in a few weeks, and others, like climbing onto a moving walkway, are still, just joining. 

I can write 1,500 words in an hour. However, 500 from a day of writing, takes ... all day. And it is generally this 500 which is worthy of keeping and could lead to publication.  I have learnt the value of reviewing the work of others - all standards (I've been at all standards and can migrate with ease between them). I am reading fiction strategically -I did this with efforts to write TV series and Film scripts (I have a writer/director credit for a short film on Channel 4). It is so useful, as you get a feel for the genre you are writing, to read some of the very best in that genre. It makes sense really. How have other authors successfully tackled time-travel, war, fairies ... horror, romance or sex. And then writing itself. Setting time aside, focusing on that for hours uninterrupted to give you creative side a chance to come out. And then, from that, edit ruthless to those ideas, phrases, descriptions and characters that meet a set of criteria. It's tough. If it wasn't everyone would be a published author.

I may forget to take my phone with me, but when I go anywhere I have an A6 size notebook and pen. Like Louis de Bernieres I take a bath and use this time to read fiction! No iPad. Fewer showers. Currently reading 'The Time Traveller's Wife' and 'Never Ending Story'. 

When I get up, very early, I flick over two hourglasses: one is 30 minutes, the other an hour. I like the 'reward' of getting 30 minutes in. I may forget where time is going after an hour or so. 2,000 words a day ought to be about right. Less happens. More happens. Then the rest of the day takes over - often until the early hours of the following morning. I read over a few pages before I go to sleep and sometimes the Muse rewards me in the early hours ... or torments, or deserts me. 

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Learning how to assess - not an AL

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014, 19:35
From E-Learning V

 

I'm doing my learning with The OU, but on another platform. I'm emerging from an extraordinary eight weeks on the 'Start Writing Fiction' MOOC on FutureLearn. This draws upon the 'Start Writing Fiction' OpenLearn content and on the various BA and MA Creative Writing courses from The OU.

What's worth reflecting upon as a person who has taken this journey is the nature of the learning process in a highly charged, collaborative and 'massive' environment, the community self-help spirit that is engendered, partly by its being free and open, but also because scale means that that percentage of people who are contributory and giving is large enough to make an impact. And finally, as a learning experience - have I learnt something? Does it 'change behaviours' ? which is the ultimate test of learning - you come out changed.

The course is about creative writing, with the emphasis in a few hours a week on one thing only: characterisation. 

I've taken the view that even if I finished the course a week ago, that it is still term time so I have a duty to stick around. As well as carefully going back through all seven weeks so far I have now done 16 reviews. The reward is always two way.

In this instance I see in every writer ways I'd like to get it right, as well as ways that I too need to stop getting it wrong. An hour spent on a review is typical, though not always possible if either the piece is brilliant and a greater joy each time I read it, or because the piece struggles to reveal that the author has taken part or taken in much at all from the last seven weeks. The reviewer cannot relive the course pointing these things out that have been missed. Perhaps this is the difference between me and a professional tutor or lecture marking an assignment and given constructive feedback. 

Even amongst thousands you get to recognise a hundred or so people who are active in the discussion groups, desperate to put right what they are getting wrong and willing to try anything - I'm in that category and can truthfully say that my writing has been changed for the better, forever. I hope with these reviews that I am able to put back in a fraction of what I have been able to take out. From the learning perspective my behaviour has been changed. I know that writing is 20% of the task, so now I bash on with it as fast as I can ... as the real job, the 80% is the edit. Maybe with experience the balance will shift a bit. More 30% to 70% as I get things right first time. 

There's a discussion about how reviews are shared out. The system has to be automated. I believe the participation at the start of the MOOC was 20,000 and has gone up to 23,000 even 25,000. I know that stats so an exponential decline (is that the right term) sees 50% never even start and another 50% drop out after weeks one or two. Under 10% complete, possibly under 6%.

Reviews of work cannot and are not carried out by ALs. The cost would be astronomic and it would take years. Instead we rely on peer review. Over the eight weeks, beautifully choreographed (learning design) there was been a review of a 250 word piece, then a 500 word piece ... and now the equivalent of our EMA and a 1000 word piece. Without exception people are finally understanding that 1000 words means exactly that. People had the ignorance, arrogance or temerity to post 2,500 word pieces in the firs assignment. Some ignore the course, but wanted people to review their brilliance sad This is what occurs on an open platform. 

Regarding these pieces occasional requests have been made to have all of these on public view so that we could pick and choose the pieces to review. It would be quite wrong though to reveal what can be a sensitive and personal exchange between author and reviewer in a very vulnerable moment. It would, as I've seen in open 'classes' turn into a bit of a bun fight where, in the worst instances, like in the playground, you get people applauding one author and ridiculing another ... or simply join in on the back of what others have said. i.e. the learning experience is thwarted, even abused. It matters that the reviewer knows that their own words matter, without being influenced by what others have written. That said, some reviewers take a cavalier approach saying they don't like a thing, and then saying no more. If that is a student's only review received you can well understand their frustration. Even with the numbers involved somehow these pieces need to be returned and churned through the system, ideally until three to six reviews are received each. More work needs to be done to help students do reviews too so that they feel confident about doing so.

What we all benefit from this process is both learning to review, and learning to receive feedback.

The recommendation I make to everyone is to keep reviewing until you become good at it. If and when you can master reviewing, then you will be in a far better position to fairly review and edit your own work - a lesson that has finally sunk in. Writing is easy, the fun part. Jazz writing I call it. Top of the head stuff. The editing is the pain that crafts a piece so that others can enjoy it too. This pain is reduced the better you get at it.

What's revealing here is, as I've seen in the reviews, is that there are pieces that suggest that the author hasn't learnt anything at all from the course. I cannot make that assumption, so I review on the basis that it is genuine. From a formal assessment point of view, as I've learnt as a student with The OU for four years, is that a tutor looks for repeated indications that the student is using what they should have learnt from the course - if that is not present then alarm bells should ring. How can I give them points?

The problem of course in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is that those who don't do the this task properly are especially taking away from genuine participants who want several considered reviews in return. Only if we get perhaps three or more reviews each will the 1 in 3 'non-review' be cancelled out.

Of 12 pieces I have come to expect 2 excellent and 2 ... how can I put it politely other than to say 'dire'. I'm not to know why this is, I can only judge what I have to review and have in mind the brief and the content of the course over the last seven weeks. Do some people paste in something they wrote months ago that has no bearing at all on the course? It seems that way. Might someone post in a piece that has been published, that is on brief? That is possible too. Of the remaining eight pieces these tend to be where errors and corrections based on the lessons of the course are most easy to make. It takes time. Time and focus. I admire those tutors, here and elsewhere who so clearly have gone to such lengths. Decades after the event I see lengthy comments on pieces for A levels from teachers who were clearly putting in a huge amount of work ... with no word limit on essays too.

In contrast, though not from The OU, I have had reviews of work that were laughable - one may have muddled me up with another student, while the other might have been written in the pub over a pint. One I made a polite complaint, gained 10 points and a distinction. The other I am about to challenge as this 'pub' idea might be close to the truth. And they are paid to assess a piece. In this instance the criticism over my missing a key point is unfounded as I make the required point a) in the introduction b) in the conclusion and c) developed the idea in the main body of the essay. Their comment, 'looks rushed' - which to my sensibilities is an indication of exactly how the tutor behaved - they are the one who were in a rush. 

Students need to be put on a confidence building exercise as they start university so that they feel, as fee payers, able to 'complain' without being stonewalled. This is another theme, but fee-paying students should and will change the attitude of institutions to their fee paying clients, rather than students on a grant-based 'freebie'.

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An exploration of the MOOC

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014, 19:37
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. My mash-up of a correct answer to a quiz in the FutureLearn course from the University of Nottingham 'How to read a mind' that ties in directly to The OU course on the same platform 'Start Writing Fiction'.

As these MOOCs complete I have a few weeks over Christmas to reflect on a busy year of Moocing about and to catch up with regular coursework on L120, assisted with a necessary business visit to France.

My MOOCing is enjoyed all the more while reading Martin Weller's new book that covers MOOCs, 'The Battle for Open'. These are interesting times indeed.

With friends yesterday I evangelised about MOOCs on FutureLearn and found that what worked was to describe a MOOC in layman's terms as the equivalent of a hefty, hardback, coffee-table book you buy because you have an interest in a thing. Let's say it is architecture. The book is written by an expert with engaging photographs, charts and maps. From time to time you indulge yourself. A good MOOC is similar, different and better. Online you have an expert who leads the course. The introduce themselves, the course and perhaps the team. And then over the weeks they drop in to say something with a pre-recorded video piece or text. They may even appear from time to time to contribute to the discussion: though you may miss them if the thread is running into the hundreds. 

I explained how threaded discussions work: that there can be thousands of comments, but you know everyone is talking about the same thing. That if you don't get a point you can ask and someone offers a response. You may still not get it. So you ask again. Once again, there is a response. You may do this a few times. Even come back to it a day or so later, but you are likely, eventually to see something that says it for you - your fellow students have fulfilled the role of the tutor that a tutor could never manage: they only have one voice and they can't give up the huge number of hours - there is one thread in 'Start Writing Fiction' that runs to 7400 posts.

These are filtered in three useful ways: activity, following and your comments. In this way you either look only at the lates posts, the posts of those you are following: say 10 out of 23,000 or, of course, you look back at your comments.

It works.

As for my graphic? Does obscuring the writing assist with anything? By making an effort to read the question are you any more likely to remember it?

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How to read a mind

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 12 Dec 2014, 15:03

 How to Read a Mind: The University of Nottingham[Two Weeks] Fig.1. The image I've used for a decade to represent my blogging under the pseudonym 'mind bursts'.

79% Complete

Four activities remaining to complete. A touch more academic than some. I guess this is undergraduate English Literature, but third year. Or is it pitched at postgraduate level. I have had to spend more time with the reading than I expected in order to grasp the main thesis relating to ‘Theory of Mind’. It is proving complementary to ‘Start Writing Fiction’ as it shows how we conceive of, and follow imagined and real characters in a world, in our heads, that is always part factual, part fictional.

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Thoughts on the FutureLearn MOOC platform

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The new world order, not so much the 'flipped classroom' as turned inside out then put through the blender - and brings aspects of education back where it always used to be: part of open human experience rather than locked away and institutionalised.

FutureLearn is worth exploring.

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Completed 'Start Writing Fiction' with The Open University on FutureLearn

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 12 Dec 2014, 07:04
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Start Writing Fiction

I've been blown away, shaken up, put back together, slapped on the behind, smacked on the back and learnt a huge amount. All I need to do now is spend less time online, and more time writing ... and reading. My blogging days aren't over, but the time devoted to it will be. 

Back to the delights of L.120 L'Ouveture Intermediate French then

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Assessment

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 11 Dec 2014, 12:09

The MOOC model for assessment is that the students do this.

The cohort of 'writers' on the Start Writing Fiction MOOC in its 7th week is probably around the 1400 mark. Of these, let's say 1000 submit their 1000 word piece for assessment. Each of these takes between 1/2 and 1 hour to read, re-read and assess across three criteria. I find a well-written piece with some flaws takes half an hour, an excellent pieces takes ten minutes while a piece that is a difficult read, misses most points taught over the last 7 weeks or simply fails to answer the brief can take an hour. Am i getting that wrong? Am I trying too hard to make up for a student's failure to grasp much or anything at all over the preceding weeks? Perhaps the answer is to seek out some positives: getting this far, the idea behind the writing, a line or phrase ... and leave off either picking through all the problems or offering a summary of all the points they have clearly not got, or simply skipped over the previous weeks.

Not a tutor or AL, though I've had a dozen, this is quite an eye-opener. Good feedback takes time to think through and then to deliver.

The tips on how to give feedback on FutureLearn are succinct. I learnt a technique in sports coaching: sandwiching praise with constructive feedback. This is all well and good. The problem is where it is a huge struggle to find something to praise. Not possible on the FutureLearn platform, my preference I see now, with a couple of the 36+ reviews I've now done of fellow students, is to leave the toughest ones for 24 even for 48 hours. At least then you may get a sense of where the person was coming from and how you speak to them if you had them over for a coffee rather than writing in the quasi-anonymous tone of randomly selected fellow reviewer.

Not easy, but from a student's point of view you have to learn how to take feedback. Occasionally you have have to stand you ground. A couple of times, not ever with The OU, I have taken issue with feedback and a grade and on review it is found that the reader/tutor could not have taken adequate care: posting a set of generic responses on a point missed or references, or saying the essay needed X and Y when, in my case X and Y were introduced in the introduction, covered in the main body of the assignment and mentioned in the conclusion - something I had to do when I was a point off a distinction. 

It will be a new skill for students to become assessor, and a new world for academics to allow students to so boldly enter their domain, but a necessary one if we are to 'educate the world'.

 

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Open Warfare and 'The Battle for Open' - E-learning gets connected

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 11 Dec 2014, 06:52
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 The Battle for Open - Martin Weller. Available free to download

Full of the latest thinking and facts on open learning with special attention paid to MOOCs. Of most interest will be the work of Katy Jordan on retention rates. Here various papers are easy to find.

Enrich your knowledge on where learning is going. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.2. From The Battle for Open. p102 Attrition rates at a glance

Here are the figures to have at your fingertips:

  • The average (median) sign up is 43,000 of whom 6.5% complete - the range is from 4,500 to 226,652.
  • Completion rates correlate to course length, the shorter the more complete. Though the variance is from 0.9% to 36.1% with a median of 6.5%. Completion rates of 5% are typical.
  • 50% of those who enroll become active students. This is vital to recognise. All sign-up figures should be halved to give a working student population.
  • Completion rates as a percentage of those who are active range from 1.4% to 50.1% with a median of 9.8%.
  • The caveat I would give is that completion rates are too generous, you only have to do 50% of the course to qualify, so these figure could possibly be halved again. For me, completion means someone who takes part from beginning to end.
  • 45% of those who sign up never turn up or do anything. By the end of week two we are down to 35%. And by the end of week 3 or 4 it is plateauing near 10%.

REFERENCE

Jordan, K 2013, Hill 2013 MOOC completion rates. Initial trends in enrolment and completion of massive open online courses. http://oro.open.ac.uk/39592/

Weller, M. 2014. The Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn't feel like victory. London: Ubiquity Press. DOI: http://dx/doi.org//10.5334/bam

 

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What role does the protagonist play?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 10 Dec 2014, 06:28
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Maka Paka from 'In the Night Garden'. How would Maka Paka cope in the real world? An idea for a short story. 

From 'How to Read a Mind' a FutureLearn MOOC from the University of Nottingham

I expect a protagonist to instigate and respond to people and their world and changing circumstances in a way that is in character - even if I don't know fully what this character is until the end of the book ... or a series of books in which they might appear.

What makes them believable can be a tiny thing: a turn of phrase that sounds familiar and right for them, the detail of something they are wearing, how they eat or write, the choice of music or radio station, very particular things: if eating but engrossed in chat between friends do they keep chewing, swallow, speak with their mouthful, spit it out, choke?

A protagonist becomes believable when I recognise their traits in others, real or fictional, but in a way that gives them an original slant and so a new take on the world.

I have personal conceptions of mother, brother, father, grandfather, friend, as well as conceptions were I to be in someone else's shoes, or reading a novel. I fear that a set of criteria could be as stultifying as any of a myriad of books I've looked at or read on 'how to write fiction', whether in a novel, movie, radio or stage play. My tack will always be to take interest in one remarkable detail.

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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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As in sport, so in education - motivation is the key to success

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 12 Dec 2014, 07:20
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Start Writing Fiction FutureLearn MOOC from The OU

I've struggled on two and three week MOOCs but like hundreds, even thousands of others I am entering the penultimate week of eight weeks studying with The OU on the FutureLearn platform. I've said here often that I wished I'd done the Creative Writing BA and if this taster is anything to go by I would certainly have done so ... but money has run out, if not the time I give to these things.

Besides writing fiction this has been the best example of many of how collaborative learning online has a significant future. It makes much else redundant; some courses here at The OU need a shake up now, not in five years time. The 'presentation cycle' of 8 to 12 years will need to be halved in order to keep up. I no longer want the traditional distance learning course of text books and DVD, even if the text and the DVD is put online. It has to be designed and written again onto a blank canvass: migrating books and video, even interactive DVD to the WEB completely misses the most valuable part of being online - interaction with others. Putting content online simply saves someone on distribution costs - not a saving that is passed onto the student.

In 1999 I was expected as a Producer to migrate DVD content to the web. It didn't bandwidth for images, let alone video, made it redundant, let alone the spread and layout of content. Its the kind of transitionary phase all industries go through. Suddenly the old way we learn is looking like the cart and horse, with first e-learning efforts looking like the horseless carriage. In due course hybrids will give way to something wholly new.

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Week 7 'Start Writing Fiction' The OU @ FutureLearn

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

Fig.1. My mashup from the FutureLearn App using Studio

I continue to wonder what impact FutureLearn will have on future models for e-learning platforms. I turn screengrabs into aide memoires like the one above. 

Comments on the 'Start Writing Fiction' threads are now down from 3000 per thread to a few hundred ... a fall out of 95% is usual for a myriad of reasons. It'll be interesting to find out how many make it to the end ... and in due course who ends up a published author, and most especially how many migrate from a FREE MOOC to a paid-for course with The OU. I have a sense that most on the module are over 60 and broke.

We've just listened to a handful of authors talking about the importance of reading.

I found this insightful and helpful across the board. I relate to Louis de Bernieres in terms of reading habits - different authors, same approach entering and re-entering writing/reading modes in months ... something I need to change i.e. write, edit and read a daily pattern. Patricia Duncker says she read and views everything - a philosophy of Francois Truffaut who I was a fan of, especially trashy novels in his case. And from Alex Garner I see the value of seeing a novel as a screenplay, even as a director setting scenes, something incidentally Hilary Mantel talks about in an OU / BBC interview - write in scenes. Succinct. No messing. It relates to her understanding of how we reader in the 21st century - that we are used to and know the snappiness of the movie and TV. She says that the lengthy descriptions of Victorian novels are no longer palatable. I take from this that we have far too great a vivid view of the world. We know what slums, jungles and places globally look like. We see through time in documentaries, and film and now online. You mention the mud of Passchendaele and most people can picture it from commonly shared photographs and documentaries. An editing exercise reduced 500 words to 50. Most novice writers grossly overwrite. This OU MOOC favours pithy craft. 

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MOOCs are a must to create sticky fingers

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 8 Dec 2014, 14:03
From E-Learning V

Fig.1  'Stickiness' and vibrancy

Staying power in a MOOC means keeping fingers on the keyboard

The subject matter and how it is delivered matters a great deal. I did the OLDS MOOC mentioned in the paper: it was long, demanding and complex. No wonder only 30 active contributors were left by the end - I'd got out a few weeks earlier. The starting numbers were low for a MOOC, 2300. You can generally add a zero or two at the start.  The OLDS MOOC was like a postgraduate course. The first I completed, First Steps into Teaching in Higher Education from Oxford Brookes I paid a hefty fee to submit an end of module assessment and have this marked - it is that that got me through to the end, a distinction and 10 credits towards a degree. Also the intimacy of small groups, the interest in fellow students from around the world, and close, constant contact from a team of educators and moderators.

There is every variable imaginable.

They will be and are as different as books, as TV shows, or traditional university courses governed by resources, platforms, financing, the educators and production team. And they are still in an experimental phase ... like television in the 1950s. 

Some completion rates are as low as 7% ... but if 100,000 started, as happened with an engineering course Stanford put up a few years ago, the figures are 'massive'. From this 7,000 they found that all of the top scorers outperformed the students who were on campus. They could then invite the top 'scholars' to apply for scholarships. They could also improve the course where they as educators were failing. The problem is if it fuels a hunger for higher education that cannot be satisfied ... over 200m students chasing 5 million university places globally.

How do we address that?

This paper covers the ground well.

Dropout rates of Massive Open Online Course: Behavioural Patterns

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Girls are of significant importance

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 2 Dec 2014, 17:43

Age 14 1/2 having kept a diary for a year this heading to a daily entry just caught my eye - that was rather the theme for the next 14 1/2 years until I was suitably swept off my feet, she said yes and we've lived hoppily ever after. 

You keep a diary and there can be only one thing of lasting interest - relationships. 

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Oh cripes! 'Our' blog goes social

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 2 Dec 2014, 17:38
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Great North Road, Melton Park. 45/49 to Newcastle

As I reach towards FIVE years on this OU Student Blog platform I have seen a number of tweaks and 'improvements'. This addition of social tabs: Facebook, Google and Twitter will add fuel to rich content that has bubbled away here for a long time. The massive public voice this brings will add a dynamism that is latent. A link to WordPress would save me cutting and pasting over there.

It has to be a case of one careful step after another, though if FutureLearn is anything to go by there are a few more tabs and tools to add in due course to help those in this environment, rather than beyond it, to filter and follow the conversations that have most relevance and resonance to them.

For the last five years I felt that this blog platform at best was like hanging around in a bus stop chatting to a few other travellers, some in passing as they got off or made a run for it, a few of us hanging about like teenagers, others simply arriving at the same spot on a regular basis between classes.

Makes me think of going to school. There was a social side to getting the bus that I lost when I got a moped smile 

How this translates into a connected and collaborative sharing and learning experience should be interesting.

The Open University was made for the Internet; though it is yet to show its deserved dominance globally. Nothing I've seen from potential interlopers get close. It is like comparing other broadcasters to the BBC: none get close. Many universities do different things than The OU, but none yet have the opportunity to dominate global e-learning.

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Jobs in France

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 2 Dec 2014, 16:24
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Train Announcer in France

To expand my learning of French and to immerse myself in the language I am now reading, speculatively, job ads in France. It amuses me that the job site 'Indeed' came up with the above gem in Bourg St. Maurice, which is the end of the rail line into the French Tarentaise: direct from London St Pancras overnight on Fridays during the winter season, overnight from Paris on Fri, Sat, Sun and Mon.

They want an announcer who can help point the mass of English speakers in the right direction.

I've worked down here twice: age 19, and age 29, the first in a gap year working 13 hours a day in a hotel the second researching content for Oxford Scientific Films and Collins. It used to snow thirty years ago. These days the season starts a month late and can deteriorate from the end of February. The ski year used to begin in Val d'Isere with the first races of the Grand Prix in Mid-November. These days resorts pray for snow for the biggest ski period of the year over Christmas and the New Year. 

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L120 Activité 2.2.8A La nouvelle année

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 2 Dec 2014, 16:20

Q: Vous racontez à un(e) ami(e) comment vous avez fêté la nouvelle année. Prenez des notes pour préparer ce que vous allez dire, par exemple où vous êtes allé(e) et avec qui, ce que vous avez fait et mangé et à quelle heure vous vous êtes couché(e).

From E-Learning V

R: Il y a longtemps , quand je travaillais en France et j'ai 19 ans, pour la nouvelle année a été célébré après notre travail à l'hôtel avec un repas au restaurant, puis on a danser et a boire dans une discothèque . Nous avons bu trop et nous avons rentrée chez nous autour de trois heures du matin - neanmoins quand nous commençons notre travail à six heures et demi le matin .

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