Random stuff from Simon Cotterill !

Archive for the ‘e-learning’ Category

Co-Curate project at OER15

Its a bit after the event – but here’s my presentation from this years Open Educational Resources – OER15 conference in Cardiff!

Co-Curate was a fantastic project – great working with colleagues from Arts and Cultures, Education and the Schools and other partners. Check out the Co-Curate Website.

First look at the Jorum API

Thanks to Paul Madley and Anja Le Blanc for their Jorum API workshop at the OER14 conference. Its great to see the Jorum API in action!

Jorum is a free online repository funded by JISC, to collect and share Open Educational Resources (OERs), allowing their reuse and repurposing. The new Jorum API gives you access to a growing repository of over 16,000  OERs to dynamically integrate these into your Website. An experienced developer can get up and running very quickly with the REST based API, which gives the option to return results in either XML or JSON. It is straight forward to send a query to search for resources and the API returns a list of matching resources. Based on these results you can get detailed information about each specific resource or access the files themselves.

So far the focus of the API is to interrogate Jorum but Paul and Anja have future plans to provide the ability to deposit resources via a widget and/or API. For those using JQuery there is also javascript code to accesses the API, which is Bootstrap friendly (layouts that work well across a range of platforms).

Further Jorum API workshops are planned so keep your eyes peeled on the Jorum Blog. I would recommend the workshop.

Starting my first MOOC!

This evening I’m starting my first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). Along with 40,000 others I’ve enrolled in E-learning and Digital Cultures, which has been set-up by Edinburgh University as part of the Coursera consortium, a group of Universities from around the world providing free online courses.

I’m interested in the topic but also want to get some first hand experience of MOOCs, which have been hyped-up a lot over the past year or so. As, nicely put by Zachary Goldman, there are some unexplored effects of moocs in the long term. What impact will MOOCs have on the traditional University? What will it mean for me as a Learning Technologist? Is it just a storm in a tea cup?!

So what are my first impressions?

Having logged on to the Courseara Website, the course looks well structured and achievable outside of work (screaming kids allowing!!). It is spread over 5 weeks with 2 blocks of content  and an assignment – producing a digital artefact (very open-ended) and publishing it online, which will be peer evaluated. Each student is asked to provide feedback and evaluate 3 other students. When you first log on you are asked to sign-up to an “Honour Code”: essentially a mini learning/courtesy agreement.

I’ve had a quick look at the built-in Discussion Board. There is already a large volume of posts on day 1. It looks like some people may have unrealistic expectations. One person has already asked “Where are the professors?”. To be fair the instructors have seeded the discussion board and are involved in some of the conversations – but there are so many people posting, this is slightly drowned out. Personally I provided some feedback and got a reply from Jeremy Knox, one of the instructors, within a minute.

Whist I wasn’t too sure what to expect from a MOOC, as the “massive online” name suggests this is very much going to be driven by the students. By its nature I’m not expecting much (if any) 1-to-1 tutoring or the quality feedback you would expect from a paid-for distance learning course. What is available is a large number of very enthusiastic adult learners and it feels like there is quite a buzz about the course (at the start at least) and some very well considered posts from participants, from a wide range of people from many different cultures.

This particular course is “aimed at teachers, learning technologists, and people with a general interest in education who want to deepen their understanding of what it means to teach and learn in the digital age”. Ok, not necessarily a typical audience – would a less experienced / less confident cohort of students be less engaged? Thats an open question.

As well as the Discussion Board students are encouraged to use Web 2.0 tools, there is lengthy list of tools, not just the usual Twitter, Fb and GooglePlus. Use of these are optional and with this many people you can only read a small fraction of posts. For this particular course, use of these Web 2.0 tools is optional. The Twitter feed is showing new tweets every few minutes, but with this many people enrolled it is had to know many people are “lurkers” or how many are not engaging on the (optional) social learning aspect of the course. There is a LOT of social learning discussion – one participant (a 4th year Medical Student) blogs: There are 40,000 people in my class… My strategy to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

The minimum you need to do is read/watch some of the content and complete your peer evaluated assignment. You get a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructors (a PDF certificate); it is not endorsed by the University…but again it comes down to expectations; its a free course after all. The Statement of Accomplishment is unlikely to land you that dream job – but with this cohort of students at least – the driver for most people is interest rather than getting a qualification. It is more of a community CPD initiative. That makes MOOCs sound very non-challenging to traditional Universities. May be, but it is only a small step for MOOCs to provide free courses, but then to offer paid-for assessment and accreditation.

Phew…I’ve spent too much time blogging about it and now I need to watch the short films about utopian and distopian views of technology. Should be interesting…in the long distant past I did a social science degree and one of my self-selected topics was on technological determinism. This course will link up my current work (Learning technologies) with that part of my previous learning.

Association for Learning Technology – ALT-C 2012 Conference

This was my 4th ALT-C conference over the years; as well as participating in the broader conference I was ‘killing 2 birds with one stone’ (that’s great coming from a vegie!) with 2 presentations to disseminate our JISC-funded OER projects and Dynamic Learning Maps projects.

It was a great conference, with about 500 delegates including people from 30 different countries. As usual, there were many parallel sessions I wish I could have attended – but the use of the CroudVine conference social networking (before, during and after) is really useful to find out about the sessions you couldn’t make.

There were too many good sessions to mention each one but here are some selected personal notes from just a few bits of the conference:

Confrontation with Reality

The overarching conference theme was “confrontation with reality” – in part the changed political/funding climate but most emphasis on the rapidly changing technologies/culture, modes and habits of learning. One of the keynotes; Richard Ross from the Technology Enhanced Learning Research programme made an analogy: 80 years after the invention of the printing press use of that technology was more or less limited to printing the bible. In the same way we are only making limited use of technology in education and most of this is focused on doing the same things in the same way in which we have done previously. I thought we had come on a little more than that, but certainly developments in personal devices; sharing/collaboration, gesture recognition, A.I. and semantic Web technologies may all have big impact on learning and teaching for the future. The good news is that Richard saw the ongoing need for face-to-face teaching for at least 2 more generations and the emotional side of learning would increasingly be supported by technology!

Digital Literacies

Not a conference theme but did come-up a lot in many sessions; particularly as HEIs are increasingly pushing their digital provision as part of their distinctive ‘offer’.

Digital Literacies Symposium (input from 4 projects from JISC DL programme)

  • Must go beyond ‘IT skills’ and needs a team approach (academic, library, staff dev, learning technologists, admin and other support staff etc).
  • Embedding/contextualisation important (or risk the usual ‘initiative fatigue’ and lack of engagement having gone beyond saturation point for ‘bolt-ons’).
  • Ideally practice-based (rather than focused on a specific technology/device) & careful use of terminology/emphasis e.g frame in CDP/RDF for researchers.
  • Tie in with other literacies (Cardiff) e.g. information literacies and academic literacies crucial for effective use of technology for T&L.
  • Forward looking institutions are supporting and rewarding staff for innovative use of tech. for T&L.
  • General state of play:
    • BYOD (and bring your own skills) happening – like it or not! Needs increased personal responsibility for both device and skills.
    • Students typically over confident – but only have narrow skill set
    • Staff  under-confident – but can ‘run with it’ with some encouragement
  • Other points of interest:
    • Institutional Audit Tool for DL: http://tinyurl.com/8n2dxjo
    • Online course “professional online presence”
    • WBL – supporting digital literacies of employers
    • Lifting of restrictions on staff use of social media
    • National drivers for DL in  Wales
  • JISC DL Programme: http://tinyurl.com/cn8khrf

Open Education

Open education and sharing was one of the conference themes; lots of presentations on OERs and a stall from Open Nottingham; I briefly caught-up with Simon Wilkinson who leads the open-source ROGO assessment system. On the last day I chaired a workshop “Climbing the stairway to OER nirvana” – it was a fun workshop led by Chris Pegler, Suzanne Hardy, Alannah Fitzgerald, Frank Manista, and Joanna Wild .Different institutions are at different stages, but it feels like OER may be close to the ‘pivot point’ for mainstreaming. Ok the stairway our group drew had some flat landings and a trap door as well as stairs, so there is still a long way to go! However, judging from the number of presenters for this workshop and their combined energy and enthusiasm there is a great OER community to drive things forward.

Our presentations

OER in the context of the curriculum

Dynamic Learning Maps

Next years conference:

ALT-C 2013: 10-12th Sept, Nottingham (20th anniversary)


Call for papers: November 2012

Browne Review Omits Distance Learning

David Kernohan of JISC writes about online distance learning: “To me, one of the enormous surprises regarding the Browne review of Higher Education funding was the complete absence of any mention of online or blended delivery.”

To that I’d add; the experience in the Netherlands when student fees increased was a dramatic increase in applications to their Open University. This was driven by younger applicants, where previously distance learning had been predominantly mature students / work based learners.

It is fairly safe to predict that as UK student fees increase more young people will likewise opt for cheaper distance learning, rather than traditional campus-based HE. Even, the more surprising that distance learning isn’t addressed in the Browne report.

English students might find distance learning cheaper than studying in Scotland or Wales, and definitely England 😉