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Kim Aling

ocTEL MOOC Week 0 reflection on Diana Laurillard's talk

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The big questions being asked by ocTEL participants were mainly on pedagogy and strategy.  They surrounded ideas about how we can use TEL more effectively, how can we encourage use and how can we tell that it’s making a difference. 

Diana’s view was that one driver of technology is the growing worldwide demand for HE which she calculated required a 1:25 teacher:learner ratio. The argument is that technology will help to make this possible.  MOOCs for example can cater for 1000s of learners with few teachers.  However, the question is do are they effective for learners.  Though many may register the evidence is that retention and achievement are low.  More guided courses are needed to ensure greater levels of achievement which need more tutors, thus the 1:25. 

My view is that technology can provide a means to widen all education globally, including HE. The costs of technology are falling and projects in the developing world mean that computers getting into classrooms resulting in better education of children and adults where previously ancient text books and poorly trained teachers were the only resource. 

I’m still unsure of the value of MOOCs to improving education.  They seem to cater for the highly independent learner and for people with a good educational background.  I’m not sure they will widen participation or support the increasing demand for HE. The OU model of distance learning, for me, provides a better model: small groups, structured courses, a high standard of module materials, good use of a range of online tools. The model can be adapted for larger groups, but there needs to be recognition that there is a limit to group size before a feeling of being part of a group and of being supported is lost. As an independent learner and one who is very used to online courses and working with technology I have found the ocTEL MOOC relatively easy to get involved with, but there are a lot of participants who are immediately finding the experience of being in a group of over a 1000 quite difficult.  My advice is make it easy for yourself – join a small group or two and stick with them.  You can still discuss the week’s activities but you will feel part of a group, get to know a few people and it will be less daunting.

One question that was raised was the issue of assessment in MOOCs or large group courses.  Obviously assessment is important to the student so that they know they are learning something and they can get feedback to help them improve.  For me this is the most important aspect of education.  Not only does feedback have to be timely but it has to be effective and a key skill of any tutor is the ability to give good feedback that guides the student to improve. How is this achieved on a MOOC?  Diana suggested peer marking and electronic marking.  Both are fine for a straightforward grade, but neither can give the quality of feedback necessary to help learners improve.  

I think eventually the MOOC will disappear, it will need to be smaller – perhaps a LOOC (Large Online Open Course).

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