Improve Learning: The Socio-Material Dynamic versus Structure

 Connectivism, ICTs, MOOC  Comments Off on Improve Learning: The Socio-Material Dynamic versus Structure
Sep 302011

My response to The Virtuous Middle Way

The efficiency of the learning process speaks nothing of the effectiveness of it. Might we say, “the machinery of education is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the learning process”? I doubt that many educators would argue against this as an espoused theory, but as a theory in use, perhaps it is a different story (as Jeremy eludes to). Comparing MOOCs to educational institutions (if I must), I find that some MOOCs are actually more structured than some institutional courses I’ve been involved with – at least in terms of laying out a content timeline and delivery. Regardless, to understand the effectiveness and efficiency of any learning process, one needs to analyze how the socio-material dynamic (i.e., how over time people interact with each other together with the necessary artifacts that allow such interaction to take place) emerges within a given structure.

Offering guidance in any structure could be seen as being helpful or a hindrance. What constitutes guidance? A newsletter? Syllabus? Freedom of choosing an ICT? Personal explanation/feedback? Graded exam? Lecture? These all could be seen in both a positive and negative light depending on the circumstances. But it’s precisely the circumstances that we need to understand in order to have a better idea about the effectiveness and efficiency of the learning process at hand.

 Posted by at 3:48 pm

Expressive objectives for #edumooc 2011

 MOOC  Comments Off on Expressive objectives for #edumooc 2011
Aug 072011

The objectives I have for #edumooc 2011 include the following:

  • connect with others that ultimately go beyond #edumooc 2011
  • find the right mix of technologies that enable me to pull information to me (i.e., RSS feeds, GR, twitter hashtags, etc.) in such a way that enables me to interact with content that is most meaningful and relevant to me
  • interact with other participants by posting to Twitter, blogs, and study groups.
  • avoid any participation in Google Groups, forums, and other group-like technologies
  • not to have any behavioral objectives set a priori, but to reflect on what I learned (or didn’t) based on my prior experience; mold objectives as I progress through the experience

What objectives have you set for edumooc and what technologies help you set or achieve those objectives?  Do study groups influence the way in which you set and achieve your objectives?

 Posted by at 10:49 am

MOOCs and Credit-Seeking Students (#edumooc)

 MOOC  Comments Off on MOOCs and Credit-Seeking Students (#edumooc)
Aug 062011

I do make most all of my content openly available, but to get credit at least at my university, they have to take the class. – Ray Schroeder

Credit-seeking students taking a MOOC fascinates me.  Being on the outside of the administrative aspects of a MOOC, it’s hard to know how well university students respond to such a format and to the degree that a course syllabus is publicly shared with others.  I’ll share a few questions I have.

  1. Are universities willing to publish a syllabus online under a Creative Commons (CC) license? And if so, which CC license is most common: CC-BY, CC-BY-NC, etc.?
  2. Are credit-seeking students open-authoring content (under CC or public domain) and if so, what type of preparation, if any, if needed?  For example, do they understand CC and how to respect the license?  Are they given a choice of licenses? Etc.
  3. How do (tenured) teachers feel about open-authoring?  Are universities giving credit to non-refereed, online, and open publications?  Should universities give credit to open authoring?
  4. My assumption is that those credit-seeking students taking #edumooc 2011 were instructed to blend in with the rest of the participants and interact in a way that meets the objectives of the course (whatever they are).  But it would be interesting to know who the students are and/or what their objectives are for the class as well.  In fact, I don’t see anything wrong with explicitly stating expressive objectives for the course (i.e., throughlines, understandings, etc.) and still having each participant chart out their own learning sequence and goals for the course.

I know perhaps this is new for many universities, but if I were to design a MOOC, I would be pushing for open educational processes (OEPs), that is, openly publish every (or nearly every) administrative and academic function (say on a wiki) and just see what kind of response gets generated among other participants.  So far, there seems to be just as much talk about the MOOC itself as there is about the course content.

 Posted by at 10:49 am

Theoretical Threshold for MOOCs (#edumooc)

 MOOC  Comments Off on Theoretical Threshold for MOOCs (#edumooc)
Aug 032011

What is the theoretical minimum for a successful MOOC learning experience — 100, 500, 1000, or 2000 registered participants?

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One answer: If 10 registered participants actively participated in a open online course, it might not be massive, but it still could be a meaningful and relevant learning experience under the right context.  Let’s assume that only 4% of the registered learners finish the MOOC, we would need 250 registered learners (if my figures are correct).  But there are so many variables to this scenario that it raises more uncertainty than anything else.

In my view, MOOCs need sustainable discourse to survive – I agree that those on the peripheral “need something to read.”  But I would consider the following questions in determining whether a MOOC will offer a meaningful and relevant learning experience:

1. How will registered participants who are actively participating in the MOOC present different perspectives around each topic, theme, or subtheme?
2. How many turns (i.e., back-and-forth discussions) around different topics, themes, or subthemes will registered participants who are actively participating in the MOOC produce?
3. How are topics, themes, and sub-themes being applied to different contexts or disciplines?

I feel that the operationalization of a MOOC will ultimately depend on the university or context of each learner.  It will depend on the types of assessments and the particular goals of the MOOC, the university, and/or the learner.  A MOOC becomes operationalized by the particular educational context that evolves around the MOOC experience, and that could vary from MOOC to MOOC, university to university, and learner to learner.  And as we get more universities giving credit to students who are taking a MOOC, I think threshold numbers will become less of an issue.  Currently, few universities are offering credit (to my knowledge), but the individuals and universities who are offering MOOCs have the following to sustain continued discourse.

So I would say that what drives a MOOC to be operational is for the most part dependent on how the individuals interact within a given educational context and not the number of registered participants.  If we need a threshold number that leads to the likelihood that lurkers will have something to read, then I would refer to it as leaving evidence that a MOOC existed or audit trail with no assumption that it has anything to do with learning.

 Posted by at 10:49 am

You say “Ground Rules”, I say “Netiquette Rules” (#edumooc)

 MOOC  Comments Off on You say “Ground Rules”, I say “Netiquette Rules” (#edumooc)
Aug 032011

I appreciate Michelle Pacansky-Brock from Mt. San Jacinto College for sharing her Community Ground Rules -direct link – (under a CC-BY license) for a still photography history class she’s involved with.  The document will certainly be of some use as is while others may tweak it to their liking.  But upon reading it, I immediately felt compelled to share my thoughts on how the term network is being used within a formal educational context.  A notion that all stakeholders should consider when participating in a MOOC or any blended course.

At the top, left-hand corner of the document is a picture of Alexander Rodchenko who claimed,

One has to take several different shots of a subject, from different points of view and in different situations, as if one examined it in the round rather than looked through the same key-hole again and again.

The first eight points of the community ground rules document are what I would consider basic netiquette terms or simply ways in which individuals should act when interacting with others.  The list is fairly straightforward and I certainly think is applicable regardless to whether we are discussing groups or networks.

However, there are two other sections of the document that made me question whether the objective was to create a group or network.  For example, it reads “…to ensure we maintain a safe, trustworthy discussion environment”, students must be enrolled in the course in order to be an eligible community member.  This sounds more like a group than a network to me.  And I would argue that in some educational contexts, learners would benefit from discourse that is less than safe, or more diverse than what they are accustomed to since this is what they will likely face as members of a global society.

In another instance the term network was used in reference to more group-like behavior:  What happens to this network after our class is over?  The question is in relation to content and how all the content is to be deleted once the course has be completed.  This seems to indicate almost a pruning of one’s network back to what it was at the beginning of the course, perhaps shifting back the spaces as they once were.

Growing a network among learners within a class requires taking several different shots of a subject, from different points of view and in different situations, as if one examined it in the round.  Forming a group among learners within a class means looking through the same key-hole again and again.  As educators, I think it is to our advantage to take an honest look at how our students are learning collectively (as in a group) and connectively (as in a network) in order to find the right mix based on particular educational contexts.  We can meet course objectives while still forming long-lasting networks that will continue transforming well after the course has been completed.

 Posted by at 10:49 am

My Favorite Things (#edumooc)

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Aug 032011

Here are a few of My Favorite Things:

  • I use my Galaxy Tab to manage tweets, email, facebook, Google+, and other web-surfing tasks.  And my favorite Galaxy app right now is live365!
  • I use my website and Moodle to organize my thoughts and my classes that I teach to pre-service English language teachers.
  • I also like VoiceThread, WizIQ as a virtual classroom, Internet Archive, YouTube, BlipTV, Google Docs, Google Reader, and NetVibes as I use all of these both as a teacher and learner.
  • Wikieducator is a great website.  Producing OERs and OEPs is something I wish I could dedicate more time to.
  • Skype is great for language exchanges and communicating with colleagues.
  • Overall, I love Linux Mint 11 as it allows me to work more efficiently and effectively at the computer while feeling good that an OS of this caliber is possible as a result of people working together in an open and caring way (open source).
 Posted by at 10:46 am

Massive or Meaningful and Relevant? (#edumooc)

 e-learning, MOOC  Comments Off on Massive or Meaningful and Relevant? (#edumooc)
Jul 142011

As can be seen, it is often pointed out that [size] is a necessary characteristic, but I’ve been experimenting with what I call Miniscule Open Online Courses, which is where I think that the principles on which MOOCs are based apply to courses run on a much smaller scale e.g. – VANCE STEVENS

Adding to this point, I would be content simply calling a MOOC an OOC.

It’s difficult enough interpreting the concept of openness given the different opinions on the most appropriate Creative Commons license to use for example, namely whether content should be under a commercial or noncommercial license. For some, openness is all or nothing, for others it’s a matter of degree.

The notion of online delivery is another issue for (especially) those new to this type of learning environment. Which technologies should be used? How to engage yet not feel overwhelmed?

The idea of a “course” then leads to issues of start and end dates, identifying explicit or implicit desired results (intentional/unintentional learning), implementing different types and the distribution of assessment, taking the course for credit or no credit, etc.

Notions of openness, delivery, and course attributes are more important than how many participants there are in an OOC – subscribing to the notion that says, “more is better”. One might argue that having large amounts of participants will lead to continued discourse or peer-to-peer learning after the MOOC has completed; that learners will be more engaged if a MOOC has large numbers. But it has more to do with the type of communication that flows between each learner and theirneighboring nodes (i.e., those individuals or communities that remain within one degree of separation and any artifacts the learner has direct contact with) than it does simply knowing how many neighboring nodes (NNs) exist in the first place. And who’s to say it’s better if those NNs are exclusively MOOC participants? And even if all NNs are exclusively MOOC participants, what’s the ratio of NNs/MOOC participants, and does that even matter. A more engaging and effective learning experience is possible if we focus on what it means for this type of learning environment to be open, online, and how it’s presented as a course.

I believe it’s quite possible to have an engaging and effective learning experience when five OOC participants have 30 NNs that include the other four OOC participants and 26 individuals or communities that have nothing to do with the OOC itself. It’s also possible that these same five OOC participants can have a fruitful learning experience being part of a 1000 other OOC participants but still choose to interact with the same NNs; that is, to remain on the peripheral of the (“M”)OOC.  If we must stick to the acronym, I’d leave it as a Meaningful (and relevant), Open, Online, Course.  Then have a discussion around what is meaningful and relevant around particular educational contexts.

What any OOC needs is sustainability – at least between the start and end dates, otherwise there is no course. Creating a discourse around openness, delivery, and the course in terms of curriculum, assessment, and instruction (in terms of meaningful and relevant learning given particular educational contexts) will go much further in bringing about OOC sustainability than talking how many numbers lead to “massiveness”.

 Posted by at 3:55 pm