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Enrol on ocTEL – Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning – start date 28th April

16/04/2014 in About this course, Course information

The Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning (ocTEL) is back! Starting on the 28th April 2014 you will be able to participate in this free online course designed to help you better understand ways to use Learning Technology for teaching, learning and assessment. The course has undergone a revision and now is shorter (six weeks plus induction week) and we are working on incorporating new features including Open Badges for accreditation. Register now at

Below is an outline of the course to give you a sense of the timings and content. ocTEL doesn’t follow a traditional format and whilst we’d love everyone to complete ‘the course’ you can drop-in for the material and events most useful to you. Ultimately our aim is to help you make connections between people and knowledge to aid your personal development. ocTEL is also an ideal opportunity to consider the connection with your existing skills and experience and Certified Membership of ALT (CMALT).

  • Week 0: TEL & the future (induction) – 28 Apr 2014

  • Week 1: Concepts and approaches – 5 May 2014

  • Week 2: Learners and learning – 12 May 2014

  • Week 3: Materials, platforms and technologies – 19 May 2014

  • Week 4: Support, feedback and assessment – 2 Jun 2014

  • Week 5: Leadership, management and keeping on track – 9 Jun 2014

  • Week 6: Enhancement, review and evaluation – 16 Jun 2014

The course is designed, written and supported by members of ALT on a pro bono basis. All its content depends on our community and your expertise, experience and know-how. You can contribute resources,become a tutor or help run one of the live sessions. You can also contribute to discussions, use the #ocTEL tag to share your own content across the web.

All content of the course is published under a creative commons licence (CC-BY), which means that you can re-use it, share it and re-mix it.

More information

See the ocTEL platform:

Register for the course:

Watch a short film about the 2013 course:

Promoting the course

If you’d like to help promoting the course to make sure there are plenty of participants to share and learn with then click here to tweet the text below:

Registration is open for the Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning (#ocTEL). 28 April 2014 #altc

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 →

Week 10 webinar recording now available

24/06/2013 in Course information

Thanks to everyone who took part in ocTEL’s webinar last week.

If you missed all or part of the week 10 webinar, the materials from the session are now available on the Course Materials page, which also has links to materials from each of the previous live webinars.

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 →

ocTEL Week 10 Webinar

14/06/2013 in Course information

Join our weekly webinar at 12.30 on Thursday 20 June, via Blackboard Collaborate 11.

You can access the Week 10 webinar via this link.

This week’s webinar

PLEASE NOTE this week’s webinar is on THURSDAY at 12.30pm rather than the usual Wednesday lunchtime.

To mark the final session of ocTEL, this week’s webinar comes in two parts, reflecting the double roles of our guest, Dr Rachel Harris. In the first part, Rachel will give an account of her experience of evaluating a large number of Technology Enhanced Learning projects in higher education. Rachel is also the official evaluator of ocTEL, and in the second part she will lead a live evaluation and feedback session about ocTEL.

We hope the webinar will bring together many of the authors and tutors who have developed and supported ocTEL. We will be holding a virtual end of term get together for all involved to discuss our experiences of the course, get some feedback and share memories. The session will end at a look at the future development of ocTEL and provide inspiration of how participants can continue their involvement in the course and the Association for Learning Technology.

About the presenter

Rachel Harris directs Inspire Research Ltd, an independent consultancy specialising in evaluation and research into learning. Rachel has over 20 years experience in evaluation, research and development, much of which has focused on technology enhanced learning. This has included leading a team to establish an international online collaborative environment; supporting small practitioner-led e-learning initiatives and a university-wide virtual campus; acting as an evaluation critical-friend on Jisc-funded programmes; and independently evaluating various learning related projects. Rachel is a long-standing member of ALT, the BPS, the HE Academy, and serves on ALT’s Research Committee.

We will make the recording of this session available via the Course Materials page.

Webinar help and FAQ’s

For help prior to the webinar and some frequently asked questions please visit our help page.

If you have any questions contact

Week 9 webinar recording now available

12/06/2013 in Course information

Thanks to everyone who took part in ocTEL’s webinar this week.

If you missed all or part of the week 9 webinar, the materials from the session are now available on the Course Materials page, which is updated weekly with materials from each live webinar.

Join us next Thursday at 12:30 BST for the week 10 webinar. Check the Course Materials page for more information.

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 →

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