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Small group reflection for educators on PG Cert staff development programmes

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    I would be interested in discussing these 3 questions with those of you that work on, or support TEL within HEA accredited type PG Cert type staff development programmes. We are looking at the integration of MOOC’s into our programme at The University of Liverpool – possibly using this MOOC, or requiring staff to take and critically evaluate MOOC’s  in their disciplines to get them to explore possible new emerging forms of blended learning etc.
    3 questions:
    1.     What can we tell about the range of experiences and preferences among ocTEL participants?
    2.     What challenges does this present for the course?
    3.     In what ways is a MOOC well or poorly suited to these challenges?


    One issue is that MOOCS like this one aren’t necessarily courses in the traditional sense and can end up being more like online conferences… (From experience of other “connectivist” style MOOCs). Just my 2 cents…



    Hi there

    I am involved with an equivalent programme here at the University of Bristol and the use of TEL, including MOOCs, within such staff development activities is also of interest to me.  Although we are not actively looking at integrating MOOCs at present, with the arrival of Futurelearn I am sure it will be on the agenda soon, so I will be interested in exploring your questions, Nick, as ocTEL progresses.

    best wishes



    I wonder why we keep on insisting on using the term MOOCs when actually they are ‘just’ online courses provided in a slightly different VLE than usual. When I think about providers like Canvas, coursera, EdX most MOOCs aren’t all too original in their activities. Even more connectivistic MOOCs pale in comparison to what has been possible in Moodle for many years. We just didn’t know how to exploit these features. To me, that is the main issues. We should not see MOOCs as something new but as a second try at features that have been around for quite a while. To analyze this well, we have to look at present VLE’s and explore why they aren’t used to their potential. So, in short:

    1. I would see a MOOC as a VLE 2.0 but not really that different.
    2. The same challenges as with VLE’s so let’s build on research that’s already been done in that field and try to prevent making the same ‘mistakes’.3. It’s not in the tool, it’s in the users so CPD for teachers and students is needed.

    My 50 cents 🙂


    I would agree with Christian and add the issues that faces the team at WSC  – is not the choice of delivery such as Moodle, Blackboard, VLE or MOOC it’s the skills to get colleagues comfortable to try – keen to explore and focused on skills and knowledge needed to use the resources that needs to be addressed.  Resources can be developed or created using I-Pads, Moodle and other options (to many to list) but colleagues need to feel supported to try. We have issued a number of I-Pads and asked for reports back from colleagues using them in the classroom and each month we get together as a group and discuss apps we can use in teaching and learning – a show and tell type set up. Interesting that the group seem too respond best to practical hands on sessions. We have arranged a 12- 2.00 lunch to get staff talking and looking at stuff like xtlearn.  I have started some research to reviewing this inner feeling that it may not all be about skills it may be about not making the connection from usage of technology at home transferring to the work place. I use SKYPE for tutorials and have colleagues that SKYPE family and friends all the time at home but don’t seem to view this as a tool to support individuals in the teaching and learning environment – it may be rubbish but I think it’s worth looking at in more detail – what do you guys think?  


    Hi Andrew,

    Yes, I agree – I have tended to ‘mine’ MOOC’s for their content and not been to bothered about the assessments and interactions.

    Depends on your purpose for engaging with them.




    Currently we have an optional module in our PG Cert that we are intending to phase out and replace it with something about ’emerging forms of learning design’ part of which will get staff to take and critically engage with new forms of learning such as MOOC’s. This new module will still have a significant TEL component, but more consciously focused on learning design than the technology.

    How do you currently support TEL within your PG Cert at Bristol?



    I think the interesting thing about MOOC’s is not in the technology – the Coursera platform is basically a very simple VLE with nothing much new in it – its the open free (at the moment) access, ‘unbundelling’ of the traditional course structure, and opening up some diversity in subject areas etc. that makes this initiative interesting. Its a new addition to the learning ecosystem.

    Surely the important issue is how we can improve learning, and improve access to learning for all types of learners – and how technology can be utilised to support this?







    Hi Nick

    We currently also have an option TEL unit, as well as trying to embed TEL in the core units, so far focussing on the teaching and learning, and assessment units.  I’d say that it is a work in progress, and there is scope for a more radical re-design.

    Sue Barnes

    I agree that the openness is key. We have some pretty cool online learning going on through our Moodle installation but it is all hidden behind password access and very much thought of as belonging to the university and those who have been accepted to study there.

    What I welcome most with the MOOC movement is the idea that knowledge belongs to everyone and the sharing of knowledge is what nurtures it and allows it to grow.

    However, many MOOCs are not really open. Yes, anyone can sign up but if you don’t sign up you are then shut out. There is a thin line to tread between facilitating truly open and flexible learning and facilitating learning in a social constructivist manner which takes some organisation, coordination and synchronicity.

    I am currently doing an online painting course – not open – I paid lots of money for it – but it is very flexible as there is no expectation for participants to start or progress together. There is a lot of good content but the lack of any real social activity makes the learning experience very lonely and lacking.

    Sorry – I have rambled – but needed to to get going! Please can I join your group, Nick? I am currently a learning technology advisor at the University of Strathclyde. However, our job has grown and we are increasingly involved in the PG cert modules amongst other things. In particular we run a module – Teaching and learning online – which begins with a 6 weeks of online learning and ends with participants presenting a project in TEL.


    Craig Hanks

    would agree with Mandy on her point that it is more about getting people – such as traditionalist academics – comfortable and confident in using TEL. Many are sin their their ways and it has been a struggle over the past few years simply to get some to manage their own Moodle sites. By the time we are able to convince someone of been practical benefits of one technology, another will appear and the struggle will begin again



    Hi Nick,

    Including MOOCs in the PGCert is an interesting option. I guess the key question is what you want to get out of the experience (for your learners that is)…

    If it’s the experience of (not entirely revolutionary) online learning and participating in online fora/communities of practice, etc, then MOOCs can be good.

    If it’s openness in education, then I’d possibly look elsewhere. MOOCs appear to be only open in access, and not in the other aspects required (as per Schaffert & Geser’s suggestions) e.g. Licensing, Software and Format. One of my favourite quotes is from Hilton et al. (2010) suggesting, ‘‘openness is not like a light switch that is either ‘on’ or ‘off’. Rather, it is like a dimmer switch, with varying degrees of openness’’.

    I’d suggest MOOCs would be a fairly dimmed light 🙂

    I’ve blogged more about this and tried to visualise it a bit more here –

    So having a clear reason as to why you want learners to access MOOCs would be the first thing to figure out. I suspect the answers would flow from there. Happy to discuss and contribute further off list if you want.




    Hi Peter!

    Number of reasons for getting staff to experience MOOC’s as part of a PG Cert. We are developing a new module for the programme that is essentially looking at a wide range of innovative (including local innovation) & emerging forms of blended and online leaning so that staff are exposed to a bigger ‘ecology’ of ways to learn beyond the usual use of VLE module to support campus-based learning etc.

    MOOC’s just as one example of an emerging form of ODL, plus other forms such as our Laureate partnership, online CPD etc. Just to get them looking a little more fundamentally at how changes in the future might (or might not!)  impact on ‘traditional’ forms of learning.

    Using the MOOC really as something to experience, to develop critical faculties rather than a perfect form of learning!

    There is an interesting question for mid-ranking research-led institutions like Liverpool – possibly caught between low cost providers and the research supers stars. We seem to be taking an interesting strategy with a partnership with a for-profit ODL provider, alongside an international branch campus & overseas physical campus strategy.





    What do you find is the reticence with your staff in getting them to use their Moodle sites?


    Craig Hanks

    Hi Nick,

    Sorry for the slow reply. Some academics in my area are quite stuck in their ways and it seems can’t be bothered with the extra effort required to adapt to new approaches and tools. Some have been teaching this way for decades and it seems are quite proud of their acheivements as they are. They see no need to take on new methods. The courses they teach rely heavily on depate and q&a sessions on international events.


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