Tag Archives: e-learning

MOOCs & flipping higher education

A quick few comments on a post from Donald Clark (via Scoop it):

Donald Clark has given ten reasons why MOOCs flip higher education. While he makes some valid points, the post itself is overly influenced by the hype surrounding MOOCs and does not really provide a justification for how MOOCs address the problems he identifies in HE (deficiencies in pedagogy, some poor teaching and high costs). I particular: flip 2 suggests almost that MOOCs have been imposed on HE from outside rather than developed by HE; flip 4 from teaching to learning has been going on for a long time and certainly is embedded in the higher quality online (and face-to-face) programmes; flip 5 on assessments is pure conjecture as there are no actual MOOCs I’m aware of that provide for recognised credits (as in part of a national qualifications framework); flip 8 on criticism, yes some criticism is ridiculous but the credibility of MOOCs as learning has yet to be established, but the main criticism of monetisation is important (at least for the platform providers and VCs) and its hard to see how ROI can be established. Its the same for HEs but HEs may be involved for reasons other than as money-making opportunities (reputation enhancement, experimentation and innovation)
Fundamentally, the assumption that MOOCs have succeeded (and succeeded in what?) is not clear to me. Having said that, there are lots of good points here on online learning being as good or better than face-to-face, on the potential to drive greater responsiveness to demand for HE; being more learner-centric (and that’s before looking at a feudal timetable of HE and the balance of teaching vs research in reward and recognition in the sector. All good and interesting stuff but lets engage with what we know about MOOCs rather than what we’d which about them.

Satisfaction with digital education

I came across this survey from Gallup on student satisfaction with digital higher education. The findings make interesting reading from a number of perspectives. While the value-for-money and breadth of curriculum of online learning is clearly acknowledged as key strengths by students. More important are the perceived weaknesses in terms of the quality of teaching, rigour of assessment and credibility with employers.

Also worth noting is that while both four-year degree universities and community colleges are seen to provide good or excellent education:

Americans’ overall assessment of Internet-based college programs is tepid at best. One-third of Americans, 34%, rate such online programs as “excellent” or “good.” The majority calls them “only fair” or “poor.” In contrast, two-thirds of Americans (68%) rate four-year colleges and universities as excellent or good, and nearly as many (64%) rate community colleges this highly.

Also interesting in terms of MOOCs and badging of skills and learning was the finding that…:

half of Americans currently believe that obtaining the knowledge and skills needed to perform a specific job are more important for young people today than earning a college degree from a well-respected university. This broadly suggests that online programs offering more targeted curriculum — distinct from a traditional bachelor’s degree — or even certification in specific skills, could ultimately transform how students approach postsecondary education.

The survey indicates that from a market perspective, online learning has a way to go to have the authority to disrupt higher education but perhaps has more potential for professional learning and development.


What was done last week:

  • developed the Moodle site for the E-Learning Strategy & Policy course on the MSc Digital Education and I’m really looking forward to delivering the course over the next 12 weeks or so
  • started reading lots of personal learning environments (PLEs) in terms of their implications for learning and development in organisations given that PLEs permeate organisational boundaries. People work in networks of relations that ignore institutional boundaries so why don’t we think about management and organising also in terms of networks?
  • continuing to read and think about actor network theory and online learning
  • marking lots of dissertations – with some, its a joy, with others… not so much
  • I also learnt how to clean my dogs teeth – strangely enjoyable activity for both of us (chicken flavoured toothpaste in case you were wondering).

Sketchboarding an online course

I’m in the process of reviewing and redesigning an online course. So to get a full visual view of the course, I’ve been experimenting with sketchboarding. The slideshow shows the board as it is the basic design goes up, currently using a temporal frame for the 10 or so weeks course duration. Its clearly far from finished but is proving a valuable way of think through and collaborating on the design. It is also still to fully develop as a sketchboard rather than an ideas board. Once completed, I’ll be building this is Moodle and (possibly) buddypress.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Twitter and micro-blogging notes – part 4 – 10 April

Sociotechnical mediation in learning communities by Xavier Inghilterra

Research supported by a French agency supporting technology development.

The study is focused on corporate training and to address key challenges in distance training:

  • high drop out rates
  • attendance at lecture courses declining
  • active engagement in training also declining

Problem is on how to retain student interest through social network and “play-based” [gamification]. So postulate Twitter key tool for students to actively take part in courses. Twitter better enable social, informal and group learning – plastcity of the Twittersphere. [But, oh dear, has just used digital natives tag!! But latter refers to  low level of mastery of digital skills]

Twitter enables asynchronous learning in a personal space that is integrated with the learning platform (Moodle). So Twitter is part of the digital ecosystem of the online course that includes other synchronous and formal “academic” components. [talks about a clear division between the academic and the ‘private’ sphere, but I’m not clear that these stand up].

Used a participative ethnographic study of three groups of bachelor students.

Found that without their knowledge, students developed skills in interacting with peers and tutor “outside the institutional conventions”.

This approach could be used to identify actors in learning communities for emulation [partly identified through SNA]

Found that Twitter was mainly used to foster/ develop a dynamic community of learners (synchronous learning platform stated as audio only so Twitter augments those synchronous events through link sharing etc.)



LinkPool [14112012]

A few links that have recently caught my eye:

Modernising Universities: a report on a House of Lords debate on HE in the UK. What struck me here was a sense that the UK was isolating itself from opportunities to respond to emerging trends in the wider economy as well as in education – notably in terms of internationalisation through UK student studying abroad (as opposed to international students studying in the UK) and from exploiting existing frameworks, especially credit awarding schemes, to enhance the flexibility in the delivery of and access to higher qualifications.

Linked is this post on the “liquid economy” which states:

Instead of organizing our work, communications, and social ties around slow-forming, slow-changing, and inflexible crystalline work matrices, the liquid economy is based on an increasingly quick-forming, quick-changing, and flexible liquid medium for work, based on streaming social communication models, and a hybrid sociality where an increasing proportion of connections are short-term and reliant on swift trust.

Now the House of Lords report on HE suggests the Universities are just not set-up and managed to operate effectively in such a ‘liquid’ economy. In part, this issue underpins some of the recent critique of current higher education provision including a recent article discussing  what recent developments in digital education might mean for universities. Steve Wheeler discusses self-regulated learning as emphasised in social and digital learning along with self-determined learning – heutagogy – in this post. Self-determined learning tends towards treating learning as an inherent human trait which I agree with at one level but also think that learning to learn is an important focus of what education can and should deliver – that is, may be what HE should be focused on is less on subject knowledge but more on the meta-skills of critical judgement, information and digital literacies – the ‘how’ of learning. But that would signal a major change for many (not all) universities and mark the end of “crap” lectures – to quote a student from The Guardian article.




Weekend LinkPool [13082012]

The following are a series of links on education and technology that caught my eye:

The Future of Online Education (1) discuses three competing perspectives on higher education and the potential impact of online education on these: (1) an employability perspective where higher education is all about imparting market-desired skills. E-Learning can provide the same at a much cheaper rate disrupting or destroying existing education business models; (2) social benefit model where attending higher education confers a certain capital. This is where the ‘traditional’ university market continues and (3) “signaling model” where e-learning is still seen as ‘suspicious’, less valued by both employers, students and parents. 2 & 3 is not far from some of my previous comments and 1 is possibly closer to the rhetoric of some politicians and newspapers. While the post discusses the three perspectives as “polar extremes” and reality will fall somewhere in between,  I think the argument is better framed in terms of different strategic groups of education providers, operating across different (competing and noncompeting) market segments using different channels.  So any fragmentation of the higher education sector will be more fragmented than some of the (technological determinist) commentators are suggesting. This fragmentation is illustrated by New Charter University featured in The Future of Online Education (2) which appears to be extending the models such as Open Learn or MIT’s open courseware. Edinburgh University is experimenting with Coursera. The MSc in E-Learning is specifically seeking to explore the possibilities of alternative pedagogical models through the MOOC format – there’s also a nice article on MOOCs and higher education here.

But … as this post on the Future of Technology in Education emphasises, universities can have a long way to go on getting the basics right:

Time and time again we heard examples of poor communication (between university and students, teaching staff and students, IT and staff/students…etc)

We don’t know enough about what students want and how students live – it was agreed we should try *asking them*more often.

The importance of digital literacy – plenty of staff and students just don’t have it. Thankfully, there seemed to be general agreement that the ‘digital native’ is simply a myth. @suebecks gave a great presentation with many fascinating examples of the importance of digital skills to employability.

So existing institutions may simply lack the capabilities to deliver outside their existing strategic groups but lack anything that differentiates them in that group as wella s lacking the capabilities to change into the emerging strategic groups. So the shake out of higher education *could* be extensive and terminal for many but …. are we *yet* seeing the demand for the alternative models to drive that sort of disruption?

LinkPool [020312]

A brief round up of a few thinks I’ve found of interest recently:

Why Is the Research on Learning Styles Still Being Dismissed by Some Learning Leaders and Practitioners? in elearn magazine. A good article summarising the research on learning styles (of which there is no evidence) and discusses why the myth of learning styles persists

Thinking About Design Thinking. An interesting discussion of the application of design thinking in the context of experiential learning. The role of design thinking for the learning & development practitioner is something I’d like to explore further in a future post (promises, promises …)

Foresight. Just a large resource on foresight and futures thinking techniques and methods. Very useful in the context of organisational development, organisational learning and effectiveness. I do think that these techniques – and that underpinning sense of curiosity – should be used by every L&D professional.

Keeping the futures theme, here is a great presentation on digital learning futures from Steve Wheeler.

Confused or Strong Beliefs? is a interesting and practical discussion on sense-making processes in organisations. Its good to see the acknowledgement of power in the organisations and how to work within, through and round power relations and transform those relations is key to any change initiative. Power relations, of course, can never be eliminated but can be challenged and changed to better align with the desired outcomes.

mid week round up

A few things found (mainly) via Twitter:

An interesting article on the life-span of a shared link (its effectively over in the first 2000 seconds unless the link is on YouTube)
A presentation from Kineo on e-learning trends. Interesting mainly for the contrdictions – LMS’s are important but informal learning is the trend to watch and no mention of the integration of work and learning (I’m sure this is the basis of knowledge work isn’t it).
An interesting post on eportfolios. I’ve always struggled to engage with a formal eportfolio tool as a meaningful tool for learning as opposed to presentation. Partly, its the thought of being locked-in to a single product/ institution etc. when so many good open tools are available – may (still) favourites are here. So what is the benefit of a single eportfolio application?


A great video here from Dave Cormier explaining Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) – lots there for any online learning design. See also his research project in MOOCS, knowledge and digital economy