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Feedback from ocTEL session at ALT-C

18/09/2013 in About this course, Course information

Our evaluator, Rachel Harris, has posted a short report on last week’s session at ALT-C. James Little also did a great job of providing a Twitter commentary with photos, which you can read back via the #octel tag until more tweets knock it down the timeline. Here are the slides that Rachel, Martin Hawksey and I presented in the second session. (We linked previously to Martin’s account of his own separate session on the ocTEL technology.)

The final slide was intended to provoke comment from the participants in the session in the event that they had little to say. As it happened, there was plenty of feedback and we didn’t need it!

There was quite a bit of feedback from ocTEL participants who classified themselves as “dropped-out”, saying that the beginning of the course was too overwhelming. (This was even after factoring out the effect of a fiasco we had in the first 36 hours or so with an email list that got out of hand with volume of messages.) We found that ocTEL participants retained the sense that not completing amounted to failure, despite our repeated counsel that that was not the case. In response, Roy Williams asked “Why do people talk about being overwhelmed?”. If you go to a conference, you accept the fact that I can’t go to all the sessions and have meaningful conversations with everyone. It is not particularly overwhelming. If people looked at MOOCs in the same way as conferences, then they might feel less overawed. In jest, we floated the idea changing our name to ofTEL, the open festival of Technology Enhanced Learning, the world’s first MOOF.

Some people did the course just out of interest to experience a MOOC, but that is not likely to be ocTEL’s audience in long-term.

If we’re serious about extending the reach of learning technology in HE and of ALT, then do we have to accept that a full-blooded “MOOC baptism”, as I called it, might not be the best way of doing that?  One person was glad that they had decided not to persuade the mainstream academic staff to do ocTEL, because they could have been very disorientated by it.

The advice we gave at the start, (for example, “This is a professional development course, and its designers trust you, as a professional, to make your own judgements about what learning activities are useful to you and which you can skip. The reason there are so many options and alternative ways of spending your time is precisely to give you choice and control over selecting a path that feels right for you.”) was not sufficiently well communicated to learners.

What can we do to address this, short of repositioning the whole course and making it completely un-MOOCy? One option that occurred to me is to get people to go through a pre-course classification (n.b. not qualification — the course would still be open) whereby we describe different behaviour profiles (they might be called “gentle explorer” “occasional sampler” and “in at the deep end”, for example) and ask participants to say which profile they think they will most closely follow. Of course this would be non-binding, but it would force them to reflect on what would be a realistic ‘commitment’ for them to make, as well as underlying the legitimacy of the “occasional sampler’ route. We might even have different badges for them?

I should stress that these thoughts are all personal reflections, intended to encourage further comment, rather than any official ALT policy. As it stands, we remain hopeful, but not yet certain, of an opportunity to run ocTEL again early in 2014. To keep up with developments, please watch this space.

ocTEL at ALT-C 2013

06/09/2013 in About this course, Course information

If you took part in ocTEL, you probably couldn’t help noticing that the Association for Learning Technology, which runs the course, also runs an annual conference — known as ALT-C. Video clips of  talks at previous ALT-Cs are liberally sprinkled through the course materials.

Next week ALT-C 2013 takes place in Nottingham. ocTEL will feature in a couple of the formal sessions, as well, I hope, as in informal conversations in the bars and corridors around the conference. If you’re at the conference, please come along, ask questions, give feedback and generally get involved.

First up, Martin Hawksey, ocTEL’s technical architect/engineer/everything, will present his thoughts on creating the backend of the horse course in his session, Horses for Open Courses. If you’re not sure what to expect, Martin has provided some notes and also linked to his presentation slides.

Towards the end of the conference, I’ll be chairing a session — with Martin and hopefully other members of the team — that situates ocTEL in the context of ALT’s objectives as a charity and the role it might have enriching the broader learning technology community of practice. ALT now has a quite considerable array of open resources — via its (not a comprehensive list and in no particular order) Open Access repository, YouTube channel, wiki, Open Access journal, What Research Has to Say About Practice series — but the challenges that come with a back catalogue like this include (a) maintaining awareness of it and getting it used and, relatedly, (b) keeping it fresh and current. I’ll be asking how an open course like ocTEL can best meet these challenges. I’ll also be showing this video, produced by Joseph Gliddon as part of his participation in ocTEL.

I’ll link to the presentation slides after the session, but for now I’m holding them back to build up the… drama.

Living and learning in the open

09/08/2013 in About this course, Course information

Now that ocTEL has been over for a few weeks, we in the team are at leisure to look back on it with rose-tinted glasses. The sky didn’t fall, no animals were harmed, and a few participants even had some complimentary things to say about the course. But for now I’m fighting off the urge to copy and paste those things into this post.

Rather than giving you positive spin about the course, we’ve published all the data we have about participation in the course under an open licence. This follows our original publication of our market research data last year. We hope this will be useful to people doing research on patterns of participation in MOOCs and similar online courses. It also gives you the chance to dig around behind the scenes of what went on in ocTEL’s first run and tell us it what respects it was a success and what areas we ought to be paying attention to in any future runs. Please do.

Being transparent about our data is part of ocTEL’s (and ALT’s) commitment to openness. We’ve also updated the licensing details for all ocTEL materials for clarity of attribution, which is a challenge for work with so many contributing authors — a challenge that we’ve had to meet with the slightly-less-than-ideal solution of attributing everything to ALT as the single, persistent denominator. This screencast about ocTEL by Martin Hawksey provides some broader context related to this commitment.

This was prepared as part of ocTEL’s submission to the Reclaim Open Learning innovation contest. They set a limit of two minutes for the screencast, so that’s why you hear Martin talking so fast. (As for the dark fringes of the images, reminiscent of Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Killing, the explanation may lie with the struggles Martin tells me he had with Windows Movie Maker.)

We are still planning to publish an evaluation of ocTEL, by Rachel Harris, in a month or two.

ocTEL accreditation and mapping to CMALT

25/06/2013 in Course information

We appreciate that many people doing ocTEL want to get some credentials to evidence their learning. If we develop a revised ocTEL 2.0, then we aim to include some form of lightweight accreditation (Open Badges is favourite). In the meantime we’ve promised an electronic certificate of participation and ocTEL badge for use online.

ALT also administers the CMALT accreditation scheme (Certified Member of the Association for Learning Technology), and we have mapped each week of ocTEL against the “core areas of work” in CMALT (thanks to Tom Franklin for doing this). The four main areas, elaborated in full in this Prospectus (PDF), are:

  1. Operational issues
  2. Teaching, learning and/or assessment processes
  3. The wider context
  4. Communication

If you’re interested in registering for CMALT, then this mapping should help you use the activities you’ve done on ocTEL as evidence of achievement in the relevant areas of work. A simple mapping follows, but for preparing your CMALT portfolio you may find the expanded version in this Google Doc more easy to use. Read the rest of this entry →

ocTEL is over, long live ocTEL

24/06/2013 in Course information

Please forgive the slightly self-important title, but what we wanted to let everyone know is that, while the first run of the course is over, ocTEL will continue to be available for a variety of purposes:

  • participate — existing participants can keep doing the course activities, posting on their blogs or the course forums until further notice (we stopped taking new registrations a couple of weeks ago);
  • access — the course materials will remain available on this site until such time as we want to repurpose the site for another run of the course (then they will be archived in another accessible location);
  • remix — all the materials we’ve originated are available for re-use under a CC-BY licence, and we’re interested to hear how they can be made more useful for re-uses.

To take each specific component of the course, here are our current plans, which are subject to change in the light of feedback and experience.

  • Forums — these will continue to operate, and you can post and reply to new topics as you have throughout the course, until further notice — into the summer until such time are they are no new posts or we get a spam problem, at which point they may be frozen.
  • Email list — this has been quiet for some time, so we’re likely to retire it in a week, at which point we’ll clear the list of subscribers, but the archive of messages will remain available.
  • Course reader and daily newsletter — we will keep these going while they are still serving a purpose: that is, while there are still a meaningful number of new posts to bring to participants’ attention, however long that proves to be. Read the rest of this entry →

Action plan and case study activities: your feedback please

11/06/2013 in Course information

When we designed ocTEL we reasoned that anyone who was still with us in the three to four weeks at the back end of the course would, by definition, be fairly earnest and committed to Technology Enhanced Learning. Therefore we created activities that would give you the opportunity to relate the areas of study to your own circumstances and embed them in your practice. Hence the practical activitiesaction plans, case studies.

There hasn’t been much take-up of these activities so far (kudos to James Kerr for being the exception). Fair enough. We’d like to understand, if we can, a little more about why that is. A first hypothesis — with the benefit of hindsight, and a little of our own experience — is that anyone who is still with us in the three to four weeks at the back end of the course is, almost by definition, fairly tired and short on spare time…

Is that right? Are there other reasons? We’d really like feedback, especially from those stalwarts of you who have stayed the course, so that we can adapt the design of the activities if necessary. For example, is it the case that the action plans and case studies are interesting-but-not-urgent, so you might make a note to come back to them at a time when they’re directly relevant to a phase of your work? Or are these activities simply asking too much, so we should consider something simpler instead?

At this stage it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to make changes to this run of the course, but we’d love to know what you think so we can amend our approach in ocTEL 2.0, if there is such a thing (we are reasonably optimistic that there will be). Read the rest of this entry →

Wrapping up Week 8: the E in TEL

10/06/2013 in Course information

Last week’s theme on ocTEL focused on a fundamental question in Technology Enhanced Learning: why are we doing this? In what ways is TEL better than other forms of learning? Many remain suspicious that it isn’t better, so we need good, robust answers to this challenge. If we’re saying learning is enhanced, what kinds of enhancement could we, and should we, be aiming for?

Contributions are still coming in on these question, so perhaps it’s premature to declare a ‘wrap-up’ — I certainly don’t want to discourage further thoughts — but Week 9 on managing TEL projects and risks is now under way, so a little clearing of the ground is in order.

The first activity kicked off with by encouraging you to review some recent examples of new TEL models that purport to make learning cheaper and/or more accessible, with a view to identifying implications for your own teaching and learning practice. Much of the debate tended to start from an assessment of whether these models are either inspiring or irrelevant.

Joseph Gliddon has a natty technique with his to-camera video blogs, demonstrated to good effect in his slightly dystopian extrapolation from Open Educational Resources to widespread job losses in higher education (do check the comments as well, presenting a few different sides of the argument, including a startup business: “We question the added value of a university and think that there’s more to e-learning than watching one-way video. We can do better and we will do better.” Hmmm, well at least there’s one bit of that we can all agree on.) Read the rest of this entry →

Week 8 webinar details and minor changes

31/05/2013 in Course information

Timing and practicalities

Please note that next week’s webinar will be on Tuesday 4 June at 12:30pm British Summer Time. As always, we’ll be using Blackboard Collaborate. For help prior to the webinar and some frequently asked questions please visit our help page.

To join the webinar please follow this link after 12 noon on Tuesday.

Maximising learning for minimum cost, but who’s the online learner? iTunes U as an example

We have looked at iTunes U a couple of times already (in Weeks 4 and 5, occasionally arousing some controversy) as a repository of digital educational material provided by universities and other institutions. iTunes U has delivered over 1 billion downloads, providing unprecedented free public access to educational content for learners and teachers worldwide.

Tuesday’s webinar will present the potential of iTunes U to deliver free educational content and how this content is being used, offering the first full profile of the iTunes U learner and their practices and opinions of the materials they download. The data was gathered through a large survey (over 2000 responses) carried out over two years using the iTunes U site from The Open University, the UK’s most successful iTunes U provider in terms of numbers of downloads (over 60 million) as well as amount of collections uploaded (over 400). The session will conclude with ideas about how to introduce the use of free iTunes U materials to teaching, either in the classroom or as self-access resources.

About the presenter

Fernando Rosell-Aguilar is Lecturer in Spanish at the Open University, United Kingdom, where he writes teaching materials and chairs the presentation of courses with 800+ students. He also coordinates the provision of materials from the OU department of languages on iTunes U. In 2004 he received the Open University teaching award for his online learning materials. His research focuses on online language learning, mainly podcasting as a teaching and learning tool, CMC learning environments (such as audio and video conferencing) and digital literacy. He has published his research in international journals such as Computers and Education, Language Learning and Technology, ReCALL, CALL, JaltCALL and Reading Matrix, and regularly presents at international conferences.

Enhancement strategies

On the original Course Materials page, we billed Week 8 as “Maximum learning for minimum cost”. Reflecting the fact that enhancing learning has more dimensions than just getting more bang for your buck, we’ve changed the title to “Enhancement strategies”. There is a still a strong focus on efficiencies of scale, widening access, extending the reach of learning opportunities and reducing costs — but also a recognition that enriching and deepening learning and the learners’ experience is an important aspect of Technology Enhanced Learning.

Some (late) notes on platforms and technologies

21/05/2013 in Course information

With apologies that this is late, which is entirely my fault, here’s Phil Tubman’s take on some of the discussions that took place last week on Platforms and Technologies.

Last week there was a lot to do. Participants were advised to dip into the activities that have most resonance with their practice or thinking.

Activity 5.0 is a chance to think about platforms and technologies in relation to Kolb’s experiential learning cycle. James Kerr did an analysis of Social Media tools, and concluded that SM tools can support activities in any quadrant of the experiential learning cycle. For example YouTube videos can be consumed, reflected on and created, so this fits into all areas. Stephen Brown also made a similar observation, but extended the idea to all technology, and did an analysis on use of clickers in classrooms:

clickers could be used by learners to record their emotions (click every time you feel angry/sad/amused/etc. while listening to/watching/reading/doing XYZ), so they are seemingly compatible with the diverger style, but if the results were collected together and displayed and the class were asked to reflect on them then wouldn’t that support the assimilator style?

commented that this is only available if the clicker providers allow this functionality, as most clicker systems are very closed in terms of the interactions that are possible – you can only answer a question when it is ‘sent’ to you, which limits the experiential learning potential.

The emergent theme is that it is usually not the tool that ‘places’ it in a quadrant, but the learning activity. Sancha talked about this in his reflection of the design process.

I do wonder if Kolb realised what impact online social interactions would have on his cycle, as the ‘thinking’ quadrants (reflect and do) seem to happen more in these social spaces.

Activity 5.1 asks participants to think about what ‘drives’ their takeup of technology, and how platforms and technologies support or detract from this. Alice Shepherd’s blog post took the templates provided from Hill et al, added a few more logistical dimensions, and noted that ad hoc arrangements sometimes drive technology choices:

During the ash cloud a few years ago, I was prompted by circumstance to learn about how to do screencasting because so many of my students were stranded overseas close to exam time and needed to attend a virtual class, asynchronously as they were in multiple time zones.  This emergency meant I started to use this technology and have returned to it many times since!  So, there is serendipity as well.

If you have further stories to share regarding virtual classroom technology or open source pedagogy, the forums are ready and waiting…


Getting the right level of challenge

14/05/2013 in Course information

Continuing our series of featured contributions by ocTEL participants, here Nicola Whitton draws out some points from blogs and forums in the Week 3 activities (which she led). It’s good to see that several of the discussions from ‘past’ weeks are still drawing interest and interaction. 

I was struck by an interesting conversation in the ocTEL forums discussing the game NotPron. This is a particularly hard game, with a steep learning curve, that also requires high levels of technical expertise (or the ability and confidence to pick up technical skills very quickly). I think that NotPron is an interesting example of how technologically-simple games can stimulate learning; but it is a very bad example of how to make a game accessible for a wide audience.

Sue Folley blogged about the game, discussing the difficulties she had getting started and being able to play the game. In her analysis, the lessons learned from her experience for students:

… the hints provided were not sufficient scaffolding for me to guess what to even try to do to get to the next level. I suppose this is a lesson learned in making sure that that enough scaffolding is provided for all level of student, and it provided me with the insight of what it felt like to feel way out of my comfort zone.

Read the rest of this entry →

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