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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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Enriching stereotypes: FutureLearn 'Start Writing Fiction' with The OU

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 2 Dec 2014, 17:42
From Writing

Fig.1. No my usual spot for writing - on a retreat in Devon

Invited by the OU moderator for comments on week long series of exercise on 'enriching character; I write:

"Extraordinary. I'm on my second pass. I came through early, and now return not wanting to get ahead of the conversation. Particularly useful as I am actively writing at the moment, so this is the best of all learning because it is applied. Regarding character it about giving them shape, depth and 'points of interest' - more 6D than even the 2D we are asked to get away from. I visualise characters as hedgehogs with many prickles, but only a few of these matter to the story - though all of them matter to the notebook which I'm gradually coming to care about more and more, cursing the times I 'have a thought' and don't get it down somewhere safely. I am hugely pleased to be here and very proud to be an OU graduate already - not, sadly, from this faculty: yet!"

I'm finding the oddest of balances in my life too: writing for myself from 4.00am to 8.00am. Picking up work from 10.00am to 1.00pm. Then a siesta. I live in the wrong country for this, I'd prefer to be in a hammock in the shade by a pool. Dream on. Evenings from 5.00pm to 9.00pm I am usually 'poolside' teaching or coaching swimmers. Delighting yesterday evening to be back with some squad swimmers I last saw four years ago - now in the mid teens, some achieving amazing things in the water, all at that gangly stage of youth development my own children have come through in the last year. 

The issue then is how or where or why I fit in the OU module <<L120 L'Ouverture. Intermediate French >> I committed to. Learning a language is daunting and outside my comfort zone. What I do know now, not surprisingly, is that all learning comes about as a result of concerted and consistent effort over a long period of time. 

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L120: Activité 2.1.8Vous allez laisser une recette de cuisine sur le répondeur d’un(e) ami(e).

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

Faites une liste des ingrédients dont vous avez besoin pour cuisiner un plat associé à une fête que vous célébrez et prenez des notes pour décrire les étapes de la préparation de ce plat.

 Fig.1 Gâteau au chocolat

200g chocolat noir
100g sucre en poudre
120g beurre sans sel
100g d'amandes en poudre
4 œufs , séparés

+ La poudre de cacao ou de sucre glace pour décorer


1. Préchauffez à 180C / Gaz marque 4 .

2. Casser le chocolat en morceaux et le faire fondre , avec le sucre et le beurre dans un bain marie. Retirer du feu et remuer. Laisser refroidir pendant cinq minutes .

3. Mélanger les amandes. Ensuit, battre les jaunes d' œufs , un à la fois .

4. Battre les blancs d'oeufs jusqu'à ce qu'ils soient fermes et crémeux. Incorporer quelques cuillerées dans le mélange de chocolat pour l'alléger, puis incorporer délicatement le reste.

5. Verser dans un moule à gâteau et cuire au pendant 30 minutes. Laisser refroidir avant de retirer doucement. Saupoudrer de poudre de cacao ou de sucre glace et servir.

6. Faire des versions alternatives de ce gâteau en ajoutant 1 cuillère à soupe de café expresso fort et 1 cuillère à soupe de rhum / brandy ou vous pouvez essayer d'ajouter 1 / 2 cuillères à café essence d'amande et amandes effilées pour un peu de croquant

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How to do the French 'R'

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Nov 2014, 09:43
From E-Learning V

Delightfully explained here. 

Offered as an Open Education Resource (OER) easily shared through Twitter and Facebook. Come on, let's speak French like the French  and not Ted Heath smile

And some wonderfully expressed and illustrated that we've made it into a party game at home. My wife is word perfect having gone to a French speaking school for a year age 13 in Canada. She always picks me up on the 'r' - maybe I can finally crack this.

Not easy.

I had elocution lessons as a boy age 7 as I couldn't manage my 'Rs' in English, let alone the ultimate challenge.

Brilliant. Wonderfully put and comprehensive.

Pilates for the British tongue. I still can't quite manage 'Bruno' though - something about the mouth position for the 'B' to the 'R' - currently the equivalent of trying to do a standing backflip.

Thank you. L120 Team smile

P.S. Also the most charming way to learn how to say 'tongue' with a French accent smile

 

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Tools worth sharing

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Nov 2014, 10:12

Fig.1 Word and Tiki-Toki

Constructing a length piece of writing - over 50,000 words and need to stick to the chronology of events, at least in the first draft, I have found using the timeline creation tool Tiki-Toki invaluable. You can create one of these for FREE.

Over the last few months I've been adding 'episodes' to a timeline that stretches between 1914 and 1919. You get various views, including the traditional timeline of events stretched along an unfurling panorama. However, if you want to work with two screen side by side the 3D view allows you to scroll back and forth through the timeline within the modest confines of its window.

 

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Don't blog, do something more useful instead

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Nov 2014, 13:43
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 A flippant title for the first draft of a novel set in the First World War

The power of social learning? Just come from two hours of an online meet up. On sunday as eight met in a cafe in Brighton to write. The MOOC has 20,000 on sign up. The Write a novel in a month over 200,000 - novels are written at these events and published. We'll have to see what I can do. There'll be a dedication to The OU should it ever come out.

I've prattled on about blogging and its worth for over 14 years. Regularly kindly people have suggested I stop blogging and put my energy into writing. Courtesy of FutureLearn 'Start Writing Fiction' (From The OU) and the Write a Novel in A Month think for November I have duly written close to 60,000 words. This first draft, I understand, could take two or three months to edit - that will be the next step.

Gladly my early morning hour or two has been spent on this, rather than stacking up things to blog about. Instead I have fretted about scenes, characters and plots. The FutureLearn MOOC became apt and timely 'applied' learning as I'd had to write 1,600 words a day - today I topped 4,500. 

From E-Learning V

Fig. 2. Stacking up the numbers

I would have, should have and may yet find a way to do the fully-fledged OU 'Creative Writing' BA - the FutureLearn MOOC has three more weeks to run. More than any MOOC I've ever done I feel certain that this will convert some for doing a freebie to becoming students. It'll be interesting to see what the take up it. I know the percentages from OpenLearn are very modest 0.7% being a good figure. But if there are 200,000 on the MOOC?!

I'll reflect on what this means in due course.

Learning promoted like the Lotto? With badges, prizes, write-ins, writing wars ,,, and more prizes, and tips and incentives. 

What I think it means for e-learning and what personally I have picked up. I shouldn't fret about TMAs anymore. You do a marathon and a short run ought to feel like something I can do in my stride. I always wished I could write first drafts under exam conditions then edit.

Link to the OU

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When 'social learning' works

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Nov 2014, 10:36

Fig.1 What makes for a busy restaurant?

It's the difference between a busy restaurant and an empty one; a party you never want to leave because of the buzz and one that you wish you'd never gone to the trouble of turning up for.

Very rarely, sadly, there's been a bit of that buzz here, and twice in four years for a week or two in a student forum. Otherwise it hasn't or doesn't happen.

This is because 'social, collaborative and connected' learning isn't properly factored into the design of all OU courses - at least not until the last couple of years. 

I'm sure the techniques and platforms used at FutureLearn will find there way over here - but not, I believe until the entire system on which the OU learning operates I believe. I think there is an inherent weakness in Drupal that will never permit the kind of interactivity that is no possible on other platforms.

Fixing this will be like unknitting the Bayeux tapestry and re-stitching it in silk without anyone noticing.

Now there's an IT challenge. 

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Evangelical about FutureLearn

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Nov 2014, 10:40

I've done enough of the FutureLearn MOOCs to be certain of one thing: those produced by The OU are incredible. Somehow, not surprising really, they know how to put on a show. Just the right amount of content, the right number and type of activities, the right amount of moderation and support.

Over the last few years I've see a quest for a format that can be a panacea for challenges to learning. Setting aside the obvious need for a person to have the kit, the line and therefore the budget to use online learning ... and probably a space, or context where they can do so undisturbed for regular parts of the day, there have been various efforts over the last decade to make 'social learning' or 'connected and collaborative' learning work.

FutureLearn is now achieving this. 

I've done, or tried to do some FutureLearn MOOCs that are either make false promises and are rather hollow in content, failing to exploit the value of the platform, and others that are so intense that I feel you need to be a postgraduate with a niche interest. In both these cases I could simply say that very different target audiences were addressed: school leavers and those applying to university in some instances, those seeking to go on to PhD research at the other. In which case, no wonder I struggle to relate to either one. 

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Perhaps I'll return each year to repeat this module. World War 1: Trauma and Memory

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Nov 2014, 10:42

The pleasures of the FutureLearn MOOC: World War 1 Trauma and Memory

Should I return, each time I'll be happier to stand back and let others find their way. I will have read more, seen more, thought more and written more. If I can help nudge others towards finding their own 'truth' I will have done something useful.

Inevitably over the next five years many of us will become imbued with a unique sensibility on the subject. I think my perceptions shift on walks, or in the middle of the night.

TV is a mixed bag, and I'm reluctant to recommend much of it, however I am currently watching ad watching again the brilliantly smart, moving, visualised, engaging 'War of Word' Soldier Poets of the Somme which is far broader than the title may suggest - this goes well beyond the obvious to paint a vivid sense of how impressions of violent conflict alter and sicken.

Several of these poets are now forgotten, but celebrated here, as we come to understand how they transitioned from glorification and patriotism on joining up to the ghastly reality. War of Words: Soldier-Poets of the Somme must have been shown on BBC2 in the last week or so - available for a month I think. Very worth while. Expertly done. A variety of approaches. Never dull. Often surprising and some stunning sequences of animations to support readings of short extracts from the poems. And it even tells the story of British Military advances during the period running up to, through and after the Battle of the Somme. 

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Forever gobsmacked by the quality and speed of research using the OU Library

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Nov 2014, 10:48
From First World War

From time to time I am faced with finding the most obscure of articles.

I came across something about the Ambulance Service using motorbikes during the First World War. I then saw a photograph of a motorbike with a sidecar with a set of platforms that would carry two stretchers. The arguments for the use of a motorcycle are made: lighter, quicker, tighter turning circle, use less fuel ...

A article is cited. The British Medical Journal, January 1915. A few minutes later via the Open University Online Library I locate and download the article.

It is the speed at which quality research can be fulfilled that thrills me. This article is satisfying in its own right, but glancing at the dozen or more articles on medical practices and lessons from the Front Line are remarkable. We are constantly saved from the detail of that conflict, the stories and issues regurgitated and revisited as historians read what previous historians said without going back to the original source.

This is how a new generation can come up with a fresh perspective on the First World War - instead of a handful of specialist academics burrowing in the paper archives now thousands, even tens of thousands can drill right down to the most pertinent, untampered with content. 

From First World War

Amazed. 

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Each November: grieving the dead and our unchanged world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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War breeds hate; hate festers and breeds war.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What are MOOCs doing for learning?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 17 Nov 2014, 08:24

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are new and FutureLearn, a wholly owned subsidiary of The OU is itself adapting as traditional institutions embrace e-learning, respond to feedback and results and improve.

MOOCs will be new for a decade.

E-learning like this is not a lecture series online, TV online, a book online, quiz or a tutorial online. Whilst this is invariably the starting place for 'ground based' educators, the academics working with instructional designers, not in isolation, need increasingly to begin with a blank sheet rather than looking at the physical assets of academics, books, lectures and papers around them.

What we are witnessing today is that transition from the Wright Brothers to the World War One fighter planes. We are seeing hints of the jets to come. We are a long way from drones. I use the analogy having just completed a wonderful three-week MOOC 'World War 1: Aviation Comes of Age'.

Innovations go through recognisable phases.

E-learning in the forms of MOOCs is still at the stage of 'early adoption' - rest-assured they will become commonplace, though surely with a different name. MOOCs can be a hybrid during a transitional phase so long as this is seen as the first step in many away from traditional approaches, embracing what works online.

Academics need to come out of their cupboard, come away of their studies and welcome into their midst those of us seeking to understand and to integrate the processes involved - that combination of learning and e-learning: how and why we learn and how then scale (massiveness), interactivity (digital) and connectivity (openness) changes things. In time, when the academics themselves have reached their status of 'doctor' and 'professor' through e-learning, when we can call all them 'digital scholars' rather than simply 'scholars', then we'll be able to look down from the clouds and smile at how much things have changed.

Think evolution not revolution.

Think how long it will take to see out the current generation of academics - thirty to fifty years?

Ultimately MOOCs are about a combination of sequential activities and 'interactivities', collaboration and connection.

Gilly Salmon coined the term 'e-tivities': sadly not in common usage, it nonetheless captures beautifully what is required for students to learn online - doing stuff, alone, with other students and with the academics.

Collaboration is a long held view of a kind of learning in 'communities of practice' most associated with the academics Lave and Wenger: how working together is a more effective for of constructed learning.

While 'connectivity', often associated with the academic George Siemens, is the new kid on the 'learning theories' block. Connectedness as a way of learning is dependent on a few things: the affordances of the platform to permit this with ease: if you have the opportunity compare current student messaging and blogging platforms at your institution with those at FutureLearn which has stripped back the unnecessary and concentrated on this 'connectivity'; the number and mix of participants: massive helps as a small percentage of a group will be the front runners and conversationalists with others benefiting from listening in, out of choice not pressure and the 'quality' of the participants in that they need to have both basic 'digital literacy' skills and reliable access based on their kit and connection.

Embrace the pace of change

A lean and smart organisation will tumble over itself, re-inventing and experimenting with ways things are done until clear methodologies present themselves for specific types of learning experience: 'head work' is different to' handiwork' - academic study is different from applied practice. Subjects freed from books and formal lectures, like the genii released from the bottle will, in the cloud, form into shapes that are most suited to their learners and what is being taught: blended and 'traditional' learning most certainly have their place.

Academic snobbery is a barrier to e-learning

John Seely Brown, working out of the Palo Alto Research Centre, famous for coming up with the WYSIWYG interface between us and computers and a 'learning guru' is passionate about the idea of 'learning from the periphery' - this is how and when someone new to a subject, or team, hangs around at the edges, learning and absorbing what is going on at the heart. The wonder of open learning is the participation of equally brilliant and curious minds, some who know a good deal on a subject while others are just starting out, eager to listen, willing to ask questions that may be naïve but are usually insightful; in the two-way exchange both the die-hard academic and the newbie change for the better. Learning feeds of this new fluidity.

It is evidence of the 'democratisation' of learning.

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How to pronounce anything!? Even 'Bruno' with a French accent

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 12 Nov 2014, 08:34
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Pronunciations around the globe

Learning French with The OU I am finding the toughest task is to kill my British accent. I've been using Rosetta Stone too. There are certain words with combinations of letters that fox the English tongue.

You know you're mastering French, for example, when you can differentiate between the subtleties of 'de' and 'deux'. Do you want some croissants or two? 'Trois' and 'quatre' may flumox you too, so perhaps go in wanting two of the things, ask for five, as 'cinq' is easy on the English tongue, then hide or eat the spare three on the way back to the campsite?

Anyway, as I'm working with the written and the spoken word and I'm used to Googling everything I was delighted to come across a website that purports to help you correctly pronounce anything. 

I was toying with words such as 'Victoire' and who wouldn't get their tongue tied with 'Hesdigneul.'

The 'grin from ear to ear' fun came when I looked up 'Bruno'. 

I had a French friend in my teens called 'Bruno' and I could not, for the life of me get his name right. It always sounded like Bruno, as in 'Frank Bruno'.

What this site does is it gives you sixty versions of how 'Bruno' is pronounced all over the world. Click on the UK, then somewhere in France and you'll see what I mean.

I laughed even more when I put my own name in, to hear 'Jonathan' said in a Swedish, Taiwanese, American, French and German accent.

Go on, give it a go smile

 

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Charting Progress to 'Write a Novel in a Month'

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

Fig.1. Write a novel in a month

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

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

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

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