Wednesday, January 30, 2013

OLDS MOOC Week 3 done!

Wow, this MOOC seems to be going by pretty quickly! We are already at the midpoint!

This week I feel my participation in the MOOC was a bit more muted. I did want to participate more in the in the discussions but I got side-lined with start-of-the-semester things I needed for my day-job ;-)  I did get through my stated activities (1, 2, 3, 4,  10) and I did do one of my optional ones (5); so I guess participation wasn't all that bad, but it was "solitary participation †" not really engaging a ton with others.

Oh well, such is the nature of the beast, I guess ;-)

In any case, I did download a number of templates this week, and added them to my design toolbox, but by far my favorite one was the card activity: Pedagogical Features Card Sort. I printed them out, cut them up, and experimented with them.  I have to say that cards, for me anyway, are much more conducive to thinking about the various aspects of the course. Having a list of items that you can pick from is always nice, but once you make your selection I think it's important to be able to clear the working surface so that your planning isn't cluttered by the items that you didn't pick.  This is one of the reasons I really like card sorting.

As far as sharing these with students, I think it's important to share some aspects of this with learners in your classroom. I think that many learners believe that they come to school to be lectured at, that this is the modus operandi of education.  This isn't the case.  I think that if we explicate to some degree how our course is structured, and why, it gives the learners some background as to why they are doing what they are doing, and perhaps it allows them to better relate. This also allows them to see that we don't have a one-size-fits-all pedagogy, which could motivate them to be active participants in their own education.

OK, now ready for week 4!

† I wonder if "solitary participation" is a better term for "lurker who works on his own" ;-)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Week 3 OLDS MOOC Goals: Dude, where's my path? ;-)

OK, Week 3 of OLDS MOOC is upon us. The topic: Ideate!

I've quickly gone through the overview for the week and it seems like quite interesting stuff! The one thing I see missing this week is a short, and a long path.  I guess I'll be forging my own from scratch ;-). Last week I forged my own, anyway, but the proposed paths were good so that I could see the intentions of the course designers.

In any case, in addition to participating in at least 2 discussions in Week 3, I am thinking that I will be able to take part in:
  • Activity 1: Thursday (20 minutes)
  • Activity 2: Thursday, Friday or Saturday (30 minutes)
  • Activity 3: Saturday or Sunday (30 minutes)
  • Activity 4: Saturday or Sunday (15 minutes)
  • Activity 10: Wednesday (15 minutes)
For activity descriptions, see the link to the topic above.

If I have time, I'd like to tackle:
  • Activity 5: Monday-Tuesday (30 minutes)
  • Activity 8: Monday-Tuesday (15 minutes)

I suppose I already tackled part of activity 4 - here is a narrated slideshare of the 7Cs.  Seems pretty interesting :-)  (reminds me of the 6Cs of motivation that I did with a team when we were in INSDSG 601 - first semester students in Instructional Design!)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

OLDS MOOC Week 2: notes from the field

Week 2 of OLDS MOOC done, six more to go - escaped this week relatively unscathed ;-) For a more complete overview of my comings and goings during week 2 of the MOOC check out my cloud (and scroll down).  Cloudworks isn't bad, I actually like it! But I haven't completely pinned down my workflow yet. I think Cloudworks would make a great electronic portfolio platform because I can see how clouds (specific objects in a portfolio), can be part of cloudscapes (objectives) which can then be part of your profile (your portfolio).

As a collaborative tool it also has potential, but it's very open. I don't necessarily want other people to add to my cloudscape, so how do you prevent this? I also don't want to contribute my stuff to other people's cloudscapes if they aren't relevant, so how do I know where to add things (and more importantly remove) items I've previously added.

That said, from my goals posted for Week 2 I've met everything except finishing the activities posted. I guess the short route was not short enough for me ;-) I did work on the Ecology of Resources framework for the MOOC I've proposed, but I only got through Phase 1. I guess phases 2 and 3 will have to wait for a later time. Even though I did not complete my own two final phases, the reading and Joshua's two examples (phase 2 and phase 3) gave me plenty of food for thought.

Again this week, the daily newsletters with summaries were quite helpful, and I hope that they continue as the MOOC progresses.  There was an interesting meta-MOOC moment this week when a fellow participant wrote:
“Now I know what's getting me down in this MOOC: it's all the layers. When you think you've found a way through the madness there's more behind yet another link” (OLDS MOOC Participant, January 14, 2013)
This was quite interesting because I had never thought of a MOOC as layers, but I suppose it can be seen as that.  I guess any course is layered, and the point at which most learners stop is the "what do I need to pass the assessment" point, whereas in MOOCs (at least cMOOCs) where there isn't a formal assessment, there is no natural pause point (or "good enough" point) to stop us from spending "too much time" in the MOOC. I suppose, as Clay Shirky puts it, this is filter failure.

Finally, another food for thought item, along with teachers as grand masters, concierges and network admins,  we've got the notion of teacher as Performer, Conductor and Observer. I tend to view conductors as performers, so for me it would be Performer + Observer...but then again, some Performers have to observe their audience, so it's all performing at the end of the day.

One last thing: great post by Jenny Mackness and should we consider MOOCs as sink of swim environments...more on this later!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

OLDS MOOC, Week 2 Convergeance

I missed this today when it was live, but this was an interesting discussion around Week 2. For your viewing (or listening) pleasure:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

OLDS MOOC: Week 2 Goals

Alright! This week I will make some goals for myself for my participation in OLDS MOOC! This week (titled "inquire") focuses on context.  The introductory video for the week is at the end of this post. For those of you familiar with the Dick & Carey model, we are firmly in the "Analysis" Stages.

As far as reading goes, I plan on getting acclimated to the Force Map, and exploring the Ecology of Resources Framework. As far as Personas go (the other big read it seems), I plan on skipping it.  I've worked with personas in my undergraduate work in my UI Design courses, in the MBA, MSIT, and to some extent in the MEd program in Instructional Design. I am keeping the resource handy, but I don't think I will be spending a lot of time on it.

I plan on participating in at least two discussions in the google group.  I don't know which ones yet, but as I participate, I plan on posting them on my cloud.

The element that I like about OLDS MOOC this week are the two alternative paths one can take:
  • Short route 3+ hours (Activities 1, 2, 3, 6 & 7): This involves thinking, reading and discussing about context for learning design. 
  • An alternative short route is to do activities 2 & 4: This involves applying contextual approaches to your design project.
Activities can be seen in the Weekly MOOC Module Page (link above). What it boils down to is: Create a scenario (template here for those who want to use it) for your course (Activity #2), and either apply Personas and Force Maps or apply the Ecology of Resources (EoR) Framework. Of course, you can do your own thing, but I will try my hand at the EoR framework since it's new to me. I will most likely be working on both of these over the weekend.

OK, let's see how this week goes (it promises to be a very busy one)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

OLDS MOOC, week 1 thoughts

So... week 1 of OLDS MOOC is about to be done!

When I signed up, I wasnt' sure what my participation level would be (so I didn't set hard objectives for myself). I did want to work on the MOOC as much as I could, given the constrains of every day life.  Week 1 wasn't bad.  I did create a cloud in CloudWorks to consolidate my own learnings and interactions in the MOOC in one easy to find place. Supposedly this will come in handy, as well, when the organizers are deciding whether someone's participation is badge-worthy :-)

I must say that CloudWorks was a bit confusing in the beginning, but I think I have gotten the hang of it.  The one issue I still have is how to remove a cloud from a cloudscape after you have added it!  For example, my main cloud (the one where I am keeping track of my own participation) is also in the Dreambazaar. This was done by mistake, but I don't see a way of removing my cloud (and this keeping the dreambazaar clean).  Oh well, live and learn.

The one thing I realized, as I have been looking at subsequent weeks, is that this MOOC might require more time than what I have to give it these next two months. There are things, that the facilitators do, however, that make it easier such as daily wrap-up announcements, and showcasing interesting questions or ponderings from participants.  I don't subscribe to every thread in the MOOC (that would be nuts), but if I see something that the organizers highlight, and I find it interesting or provoking enough to respond, I do take the time to respond :-)

One thing that could be done better, if OLDS MOOC runs again, is the dreambazaar.  I would gladly join another team. My project is not time sensitive, and honestly I am in no rush to complete it given everything else I need to do, but I would gladly sign up on another team and contribute some work to it by way of peer review, resource gathering and so on.  This facilitation and negotiation in terms of which projects go forward would be helpful. In a small class (20 students) it's easier to negotiate which projects move forward.  Teams usually form BEFORE the projects are announced, and then decide on a project.  In the OLDS MOOC case it was the opposite, projects were announced and people are supposed to rally onto them, but I am not seeing how this will be done :)  Just to make things easier: If there are fewer than 10 people on my proposed project, I am happy to take it off the table ;-)

Considering I didn't set any goals (other than "do as much as I can") I think I passed this objective ;-)

Your thoughts of OLDS MOOC week 1?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Scaffolding Learners in MOOCs

We've had our first reported casualty in #oldsmooc this weekend :-) I have copied and pasted the discussion board posting from our Google Group, without identifying the author, but I do think that it's important to think, and talk, about this/

Here is the posting (commentary follows):
Dear All
I sincerely hope that you all find what you need.  I don't think that this is the right choice for me - I'm a first time MOOC user. 

This MOOC feels more like a Massive Open Online Collaboration space - not a Course.  Whilst I have some time for the constructionist approach, 'authentic enquiry' if you prefer that way of thinking, there is a need for some level of common ground between those who are learning and those who are providing guidance (I hesitate to say 'teaching').  The image below is what I suspect would happen to me........

Not painted into a corner exactly, but certainly guilty of doing something very stupid - something that an experienced person would have the wisdom to avoid. 

I believe it was Yishay who said in an early post 'the best way to learn about MOOCs is to build one'.  I'm sorry but I don't agree.  That is little different from building a house from a pile of bricks with nothing more than enthusiasm - i.e. without skill or experience.  The result can't possibly be anything other than a disaster - otherwise there would be no need for people to learn how to be a builder and the term 'craftsman' would have neither validity nor meaning.

What I need is a something that is more instructional - something more like a regular course that I might recognise.  Perhaps this is expressly forbidden by an agreement of which I am ignorant; and agreement on what is regarded to be the essential essence of a MOOC.  I had naively thought that the key was numbers - that given the low proportion of students in any class I've ever had who are brave enough to speak openly without fear of being wrong, naive or ignorant, the solution was to have a couple of extra 00's on the course so that rather than 2 or 3 such students, one has between 20 and 300.  With that number there would be a living conversation, a dialogue that everyone can benefit from and which has the critical mass necessary to spot errors of logic etc. 

So, that's all from me. 
I will not remove myself from the course unless I hear from Yishay or Simon that this would be helpful. 

Best wishes and good luck

I think that there are a few strands here that are worth picking out:

1. Learner Expectations in MOOCs.
A course, any course, can take a lot of different forms.  One of them is the didactic lecture form where there is someone who lectures for the entire period, and students take notes. Another form is the form where the entire classroom session is devoted to group work, collaboration, and discussion.  I tend to think of seminars being like this.  Regardless of the form you pick for the course, learners need to be prepared for this type of learning. Learners need to know what to expect from a course, and in the MOOC sense, since coursera et al have shown us the didactic model in their xMOOCs, it seems as though cMOOC organizers  need to really prepare learners for this hands-on, minds-on approach to learning.

2. Need for a save environment
It seems to me that another strand here is the need for a safe environment.  In a traditional didactic sense, you do your work in private, then give it to the instructor in private for grading, where you get private feedback.  Even in xMOOCs your work, even the peer reviewed work, isn't seen by a ton of people.  However, cMOOCs are more open in philosophy and everything is out there to see, even learning mistakes.  I tell my learners that learning is a hard-hat activity. You need to be prepared for things to fall on your head, but you learn from the experience.  It's OK to fail, so long as you learn from it; however I don't think everyone is as comfortable as some might be in public experimentation. The general question here is how to prepare learners to be OK with open failure, and subsequently helping their coursemates get it right.

3. What is the Modus Operandi of MOOCs? 
The author thought that it was the Massive component.  I see MOOCs as having Massiveness only because of their openness. Because they are open, they have the capability of being massive.  However, massive is not a objective measure, when it comes to courses anyway.  For instance, one course might be massive if it has 500 students. This course could be an advanced course in molecular physics for example where the barrier to entry (previous knowledge and practice requirements) is so high that massive is not as massive as an introductory level college algebra course.

4. The best way to learn about MOOCs...
I think Yishay is correct in saying that the best way to learn about MOOCs is to design and run one.  However, it's important here to specify who the target audience is!  I think that learning designers and instructors learn a lot about MOOCs when they design and run one.  The learners/participants in the MOOC can certainly learn something about MOOC operations and dynamics by participating, but they aren't necessarily getting the full image of what a MOOC is about.

What do you think?
How can we better scaffold learners to be successful in MOOCs?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

All MOOCs are online courses, but not all online courses are MOOCs...

Seems to me, that even though I dropped the Logic Course on coursera (loved those two professors by the way!), Logic is back to haunt me ;-)

I came across a blog post the other day through my RSS reader, which stated the following:

As massive open online courses (MOOCS) have exploded in popularity educators are coming under increasing pressure to make an effective use of the new technology. To help instructors realize the potential of the new content delivery platforms Georgia Tech is unveiling a MOOC about creating a MOOC.
To be honest, the first thing that came to mind was the following question: What does Georgia Tech know about MOOCs and MOOC pedagogy? I didn't recall anyone off the top of my head that was from Georgia Tech that has been involved with MOOCs a lot over the past couple of years.  In any case, I followed the link and the link of this quick news blurb links to the "Fundamentals of Online Education".  The course isn't about MOOCs but, it seems, about "traditional" online course design and pedagogy (similar to the one I am teaching as a matter of fact ;-)  ).

Last year, I noticed a number of blog posts and opinion pieces essentially equating MOOCs with "online education." I essentially discounted these posts because they were few and far between and I didn't think that there was an endemic perception that MOOCs = Online Course.  But now, it seems like the problem is more wide spread.

I am not saying that MOOCs aren't online courses (the OC in MOOC stands for Online Course).  I just believe that it is a fallacy to equate ALL online courses with MOOC.  We don't do this with on-campus courses, do we?  After all, a 10 person seminar isn't taught the same way as a 500 person auditorium lecture course. I think that by equating MOOCs as THE online course we are simultaneously doing harm to both MOOCs and online courses.  By equating the two, we are transposing one's failures to the other, and one's pedagogical assumptions to the other.  You can't design a MOOC like you design a "regular" "traditional" online course, and you can't take the same success measures from a MOOC and apply them back to the traditional online course (and, of course, the reverse applies in both stipulations).  So, next time you hear someone confusing a MOOC with an online course, do them a favor and correct them ;-)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Failing a MOOC, learning analytics, and changing gears

In my most recent blog post I wrote about the lecture and how it's not the most important part of the xMOOC. I have to say, that as far as I am concerned, I failed the Think Again course.  My 2 quiz score average was 65%.  OK, this may not be failing, after all there were 2 more quizzes left, where presumably I could have done better and raised my average to something I liked, and I did have another opportunity to raise my second quiz score for Quiz 2; so I guess, if I were my own professor I would say to myself "not all is lost," but I decided to drop the course anyway.  The next couple of months will be really crazy for me, between work (day job), teaching a course online (my adjunct job), and preparing a couple of papers for publication; so I know I don't have time to spend on this course :-)

The other thing I realized was that I was a mildly hungry man at a free all you can eat buffet.  I came to coursera, and xMOOCs in general, with personal curiosity (and there were quire a few courses I was curious in, in related disciplines) but I wasn't hungry. i.e. these courses weren't immediately  or even closely related to my own disciplines.With limited time on my hands, it was rather silly to pile onto my plate so many courses! Of course, as anyone who's experiences gluttony knows, you feel the pain later, so did I!  Therefore, in addition to dropping the Think Again course I dropped all courses that were about coding and programming (I've got no time to really devote to development right now), and all courses that were longer than 8 weeks.  I've determined that, for me at least, the sweet spot for xMOOCs is 8 weeks or fewer. cMOOCs I can probably go longer, but that's only because of interesting content and ideas supplied by fellow MOOC participants via blogs.  Massive discussion boards put me off (as a learner).  Finally, I've also dropped all courses that started between January 1 and February 25, or that ran through then, given all the other work I have :)  Now I am only left with 2 courses LOL ;-)

In any case, in changing gears a bit, and going with the other option, I've decided to spend my learning focus on OLDS MOOC, or for me it's really going back to MOOC basics. I am curious to see how Cloudworks works, I am interested in the topic, and the badges work better for me, as an assessment anyway, because they are tiered, hey aren't all or nothing. I think it will still be a bit of a challenge to keep up with all the things I need to do this spring, but OLDS MOOC should be fun.

One last thing - back to xMOOCs for a moment: Learning Analytics! Personally I wouldn't have predicted that 2012 would come out to be the Year of the MOOC. I will, however, come out and state that I believe that 2013 will be the year of Learning Analytics, as fueled by MOOCs. Some of my colleagues from xMOOCs refer to a funnel effect of xMOOCs (paraphrasing here) where x-may start (let's assume x = 15,000), 5,000 make it through assessment #1 and then drop, 800 through assessment #2 and then drop, and about 300 complete the MOOC with a passing grade.

In years past, with on-campus courses at least, no one bothered to keep track of how many students originally registered, how many students were still there past the add/drop period, and how this correlated with assessments that they took! I think that with xMOOCs we will see a renewed interest in analytics, and we will see some interesting (and some invalid ones, too) comparison between on-campus learner behaviors and MOOCs.  I can't wait to see what people come up with :)

As a parting question, I wonder how performance like mine in Think Again might be interpreted thought a learning analytics lens :-)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

It's not about the lecturer, stupid!

Up until yesterday I was in the course "Think Again: How to Reason and Argue" on coursera. I decided to drop the course (more on this in a subsequent post), but my decision to drop the course was partly based on my free time to devote to this course, and the assessment factors currently available for math and science (and logic is a Math course for me ;-)  ). I was conversing with one of my colleagues the other day, about this very topic, after a workshop, and it dawned on me that I probably haven't written about it yet :-)

One of the things that one hears, often, from the xMOOC crowd (especially from those xMOOCs in elite universities) is about the opportunity to learn from "the best." What they mean is "the best physicist, chemist, programmer..." and so on.  For them, the best would be someone like Albert Einstein for example (at least that's what I get from what they are saying in their presentations".  Don't get me wrong, Albert may have been one of the best at producing, but maybe not the best in helping others learn.  These two concepts (best physicist and best physics professor) are not mutually inclusive.  I think this is something that is left out of the discussion when discussing "learning from the best," and that is teaching.

Let me take a stand here and state that for me lecturing is not teaching. Lecturing may certainly be a part of teaching, but it is not everything that is entailed in teaching.  Teaching is, in large part, scaffolding learners to reach places where they haven't been before.  Your lectures, no matter how brilliant (even for those people who fall into the best professor category, not just the best-insert profession category) don't mean that the material will click for the learner in that appropriate way.

A personal example would be this Logic course that I decided to drop: I really liked both lecturers :-) I found their lectures interesting and engaging, and they both had an interesting personality which made me want to watch more of their lectures.  The exercises I passed, but when it came time for quizzes though...I didn't get a score that was in the same range as the exercises. It was a bit perplexing, watched the lectures again, went over the exercises again, took the quiz again (different questions in he same category), and I did slightly better. But still, not where I wanted to be grade-wise anyway (I was under the threshold for a statement of accomplishment if that gives you an idea, even though I had a passing grade).

For me good teaching is about mentorship. I understand that this may (well, definitely is) hard in a massive environment, but if someone is going to invest time in a course (time is money, as they say ;-)  ) wouldn't it make sense to have someone explain what you may be missing?  I think with appropriate feedback on assessments this may be minimized, however if in your assessments you get something wrong, and the prompt says "this is wrong..."with no indication of what was the right answer and why (especially when you can't take the same assessment again), then there is something missing :-)

Speaking of assessments, well designed assessments (i.e. showing that you know your stuff, not showing you know how to take a test) is important in any learning context, but especially important in massive environments where the instructor does not have access to correct things on the fly. Here are two examples of assessment that made me have a double take

In the first one, the answer was probably None of the Above, since all the options were the same :-)  The second one, if you got wrong,  you got wrong in 2 questions because both those questions are the same. So from a scoring perspective, even if everything else was flawless in your assessment, you still got a 93%.

So, looking at learning and teaching in MOOCs, it's not about the lecturer, stupid! Like any other type of course (online, blended, on-campus lectures, seminars, laboratories and so on) it's about  the confluence of sound instructional design, sound assessments sound feedback, sound material and so on. The lecture is only one small part of what goes into teaching an learning.

PS: Please note that I am not calling anyone stupid here, but rather making reference to the popular expression "It's the _______, Stupid!"

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Slow down, smell the roses

Happy New Year to all!

2012 was, as most people might argue, the year of the MOOC.  While the xMOOC (coursera, udaciy, edX, and Canvas Network) enjoyed most of the limelight, some traditional MOOCs (cMOOC) have also gotten some notice with the publication of research articles. One of the things that really took me by surprise was the massive amount of coverage that MOOCs got from everywhere! It went from me being able to keep track of MOOC comings and goings; through the research literature coming in in drips and drabs, and some blog posts, to me having to save articles for later mulling over! Truly amazing! That said, I have not read all of those articles, and I do want to write a year-end-review position paper on MOOCs and Higher Education based on that primary material.  If someone is interested in co-researching and co-authoring let me know :-)

This past year is also when I tried my first few xMOOCs (through coursera).  Before the year ended I also created accounts on edX, Udacity and Canvas Network and signed up for some courses so I can explore those platforms as well.  These platforms are pretty interesting when comparing them to the traditional LMS. One thing I noticed, in the current course I am following on Logic, titled Think Again, is that there is no facility in coursera to give students a quiz, but have the system randomly pick from a variety of candidates for that quiz.  So, if I wanted to teach a course, and have a Quiz, and if I wanted to give my learners opportunities to be assessed on that material multiple times (if they did badly on the quiz the first go around) but not allow them to do the same quiz twice, that facility does not exist. The creators of think again got around this by creating many visible quizzes for each week, and you only need to satisfactorily pass one of them.

The other thing I personally learned, was that I need to stop and smell the roses every now and again ;-)  I was taking a quiz for Week 2 in this course, but I didn't have time to finish it. My previous schema for online quizzes is that of the timed quiz, and if you don't finish in a specific time frame, your attempt is an automatic fail for unanswered questions. That said I started a quiz, but feeling tired, I elected to randomly choose answers to complete it - despite the fact that I could easily save my answers and come back to it later.  Needless to say, I didn't do quit so well in this quiz ;-)  I did slightly better on the second attempt, but I need improvement.  The one thing I observed is that when you have robograding for assessments (and that's your exclusive method of assessment), you need to  provide really good explanations as to why the answer was incorrect, and, if you can't take that quiz again, reveal the answer, and explain why it's correct.

That said, this course is quite enjoyable, and the instructors are quite the character.

Now...back to working on my course!