Friday, January 29, 2016

A way to visualize MOOC students...

Even though this semester is relatively calm, compared to last semester, I still find myself not writing as much as I think I would like.  I've set aside, temporarily, the book I was meant to have finished reviewing last October, on MOOCs, until the semester ends and I can focus on them a little more.

One reason for the refocus of energies is EDDE 804. We are focusing on leadership in education, and I am finding myself spending a lot more time pondering the topic.  I was going to be "ruthlessly pragmatic" and just focus on the assessments, but the cohort members provide for some really interesting discussion and points to ponder.  Another thought that crossed my mind was this: am I over MOOCs?  There was a time when I used to check out coursera, edx, futurelearn, and the other not-so-usual suspects for new courses, however these days going to those sites seems more like a chore than anything else.  I've downloaded a whole bunch of videos from previous courses that I signed up for, and they are on my iPad, but I haven't made a (serious) dent in them yet.  I am looking forward to Rhizo16, which is coming later this year in May.  Perhaps I am looking forward to it, more so than any xMOOC offering, because it will be when the semester ends and I have some brainpower to spare.

I've also been thinking that the xMOOC has really evolved into something that I, at the moment, find completely boring: a self-paced course.  The visual queues and user experience that you get from the new and improved coursera reminds me a lot of how self-paced courses are laid out.  Sure, there is a 'discussions' area, however that - the social presence aspect - seems a little adjunct to the straight up content.  I really liked when I used to be able to just download the content (so much for 'open') and view it on a device of my own choosing, whenever I chose, however the new setup has broken the coursera downloaders that have existed thus far. This, to me, shows how much UX matters.

That said, I've also been pondering the question of who comes into MOOCs.  I know, I know! Lots of analytics and published research from the xMOOC providers and their partners seem to indicate that people who join MOOCs are, generally speaking, educated individuals with at least a BA, but I've been thinking of potential visualizations for this data. Ever since I took part in DALMOOC and played a bit with Tableau, I've been thinking that one of the first hurdles to analyzing MOOCs is to see (1) who is coming and (2) who is engaged.  Especially if we want to consider the potential of MOOCs for employment purposes.    On the way to work today I was scribbling down a way to visualize MOOC participants based on work experience, whether or not they were actively looking for new work, and their educational background.  The visualization that I came up was as follows:

The y-axis on the positive side goes from unemployed (but looking) to 12+ years of work. This comes mostly from HR job descriptions and how desired work experience is generally put on job descriptions.  On the y-axis, "negative", you have unemployed but not looking, all the way to people who are retired.

I generally go to MOOCs because I am curious about the topic and want to learn more.  More often than not it has nothing to do with my dayjob.  It's just me being a lifelong learner.  However, if we are to look at MOOCs for employment purposes we really need  to look skills.  Both skills people bring to the table, which helps somewhat with the instructional design process, and skills that people are looking to attain.  While this is a pretty crude picture of who is a learner in MOOCs, I think that it is an important dimension to examine from our past  7-8 years of MOOCs.  I wonder if people have been keeping data.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

First attempt at recording lectures...

I feel like this took forever to do, but it's finally done!

Last November we had a guest lecturer, Dr. Bessie Dendrinos, from the National and Kapodistrian Univerity of Athens, come speak to us on the subject of "Global Economy and the Urgent Need for Languages: American and European responses to foreign language learning exigency".  I recorded the video on a FlipCam (remember those?) and edited really quickly on Camtasia to add in some clearer slides.  The FlipCam isn't that bad.  I think a lavalier microphone and a tripod would do wonders for any future things I record.  The transcription (big thank you to Kathleen, Liz, and Laura) and the captioning on YouTube took a while since we're all new at this.  Let's see how the next one goes in terms of production

Friday, January 22, 2016

On prepping for a dissertation

I must be the only weirdo who inquires about "taking" a seminar before the 'logical' or programmed sequence of the seminar.  That said, for my doctoral program the final seminar (EDDE 806) is actually open to all EdD students (and alumni) so I have been on-and-off in this seminar since I started two years ago.  When I was in 801 it was easier to attend, so I probably attended 3-4 sessions.  The next two semesters, with 802 and 803 were more challenging, so I dropped from weekly sessions.  Now, with 804 on tap (formally) for this semester, it seems easier (and more conducive) to participate in 806 again.  My goal (even though it hasn't formally been approved yet) is to get as many of these reflections done and "out of the way" as possible so that I can focus on more organic community efforts later on.  So, without further ado, the reflection for last  evening's session.

 The main presentation last evening was by Dr. Marguerite Koole of the University of Seskatchewan (who also teaches at AU). The main theme of this presentation was really about getting us to think about (and strategize on) how to survive the dissertation process.  To some extent content-based coursework is easy in that there is an external stimulus. There are specific deadlines, parameters, and content expectations; whereas in dissertation mode we set our own pace, we figure out the content (perhaps with the help of our advisors is we get lost and off the path), and we go from a more structured to a more self-directed environment. This change of gear can be daunting to students.

I think the presentation went well and there was a fair amount of chat in the text-based chat. One the one hand I am not a fan of slides + voice-over, however on the other hand I am not a huge fan of the "talking head" in adobe connect (or other webinar platforms). I guess I don't fully like how synchronous meetings are done in this format as it seems less personal.  However for presentations where you just see slides I am starting to rethinking my (slight) aversion to talking heads.  Marti, in 804, is modeling the use of the web-camera in our live sessions and she is encouraging us to also use our webcam and jump-in. I think I might take her up on it and start thinking about this as a means of presenting when my own time comes for the proposal and dissertation defenses.

In terms of content there were a few things that stood out to me. These aren't necessarily "OMG" moments, but they serve as data points from other people that reinforce a hunch or hypothesis I've had for a while.  The two things are:

  1. Being ruthlessly pragmatic
  2. The value of practice
I've written this elsewhere in my blog when thinking about the dissertation, however I think it's worth writing it again for people in 806 reading this. I don't see the dissertation as some sort of magnum opus.  I am still "young" and hopefully I will earn my EdD before I hit 40. If my magnum opus is done before I am 40 then what do I do with the rest of my career?  Hence, the pragmatic view:  The dissertation is a way for me to show that I know how to conduct and present research that I've done on my own. Research that is sound and done in an ethical way.  Thus, I am being ruthlessly pragmatic.  There is no need to pick a topic that will need many years to collect data (or analyze the data). I need something that demonstrates my capability without keeping me in school for longer than I have to. I can always work with other classmates and cohort-mates down the road on collaborative research projects once the EdD is done.

The other thing that really stood out to me is practice-practice-practive.  I remember, during the first couple of semesters in my first Masters (and MBA) where I was a nervous wreck during my presentations (they were face to face).  My hands were shaking, my voice was crackling, I was fidgeting, and forgetting key points of my presentation (I also ran over time!).  Then, I decided to practice.  I found an empty room with a data projector and I starter practicing days before my presentation was due. I worked on my timings, my body language, and more specifically eye contact (I imagined the audience in the empty room).  After I started doing this I became phenomenally better at presenting.  I think the same principle holds true for both class presentations and for the dissertation defense. 

So, that was with regard to the presentation.  At the end we started talking (briefly) about improving the 806 experience.  Susan (the 806 facilitator) did asks us to brainstorm about how we could go about creating a community without mandating that we respond to x-many posts by fellow peers.  I agree that mandating a certain number of posts (at this level) is a bit counter productive as people would just do it in order to check off a checkbox in their 806 list, and community will not have been created or fostered by this.

Again, I should point out that I am the oddball attempting 806 a full year before I am scheduled to take the course, so maybe I am not prototypical.  However, I do think it's worth having 806 as a  under-current of other courses (maybe require attendance in 1 session each year?).  I don't know how 805 works, but perhaps having an 805 and 806 hybrid, or have 806 as a co-requirement for 805?  I know that my own cohort is really active in facebook (a private group) and we often wonder about other cohorts, so I am wondering if there is a way (not on the landing) to be able to engage with people from other cohorts as well in order to foster community. More thoughts on this to come in the future :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Why we collaborate

In a MOOC a long time ago, in an internet far, far, away, a rag-tag team of starry eyed researchers got together to research about MOOCs (hey, I've got to setup an interesting getting together story, otherwise how are we going to get a movie deal? ;-)  ).

All joking aside, back in 2011 the 3rd MOOC I participated in was a MOOC organized by Inge de Waard called mobiMOOC. I participated as a member, probably a 'memorably active participant', based on the categorization of participants we had in mobiMOOC, and near the end something crazy happened - there was a call for collaborative research! This was unsual since my mental model of academics is that they (we?) tend to just keep our toys/research for ourselves so that we can claim all the glory.  This wasn't like that. It was an open call to put together a paper based on the MOOC we had just participated in, which was really cool!  In the end we had a few of us working on this paper, which earned us a prize at the Mobile Learning conference in China that year, and subsequently we went on to publish a few papers together.

I think it was Rebecca that had the idea to do a paper together on why we collaborate, and some initial data was collected on this.  We didn't really get far as a group with this paper since (what we predicted in the data collection aspect) most of us had moved on to other projects and we never really reconstituted to finish this.  I had put together an initial draft, which I had on my hard drive for ages, so I thought I would throw it up on the web just for reference purposes (as a working paper).  I know that since then I've collaborated with others in joint research & publish teams in Rhizo MOOCs over the past few years, so in case we decide to work on a similar paper, I thought it would be worthwhile to have (at least part of) the mobiMOOC experience somewhere as a reference :-)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Assessment in MOOCs

The more I read chapter in Macro-Level Learning through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Strategies and Predictions for the Future, the more I am starting to feel like Anton Ego from the animated movie Ratatouille ;-)  It's not that I am aiming to write harsh reviews of the stuff I read, but I kind of feel like the anticipation I have for reading some published things about MOOCs just aren't met with the appropriate level of satisfaction from reading what I am reading.

This time I am reviewing chapter 7, which is titled Beyond the Phenomenon: Assessment in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).  The abstract is as follows:
MOOC course offerings and enrollments continue to show an upward spiral with an increasing focus on completion rates. The completion rates of below 10 percent in MOOCs pose a serious challenge in designing effective pedagogical techniques and evolving assessment criterion for such a large population of learners. With more institutions jumping on the bandwagon to offer MOOCs, is completion rate the sole criterion to measure performance and learning outcomes in a MOOC? Learner interaction is central to knowledge creation and a key component of measuring learning outcomes in a MOOC. What are the alternate assessment techniques to measure performance and learning outcomes in a MOOC? MOOCs provide tremendous opportunity to explore emerging technologies to achieve learning outcomes. This chapter looks beyond the popularity of MOOCs by focusing on the assessment trends and analyzing their sustainability in the context of the MOOC phenomenon. The chapter continues the discussion on ‘ePedagogy and interactive MOOCs' relating to ‘performance measurement issues.'

When I was a student in Applied Linguistics, for some of my courses I had professors who had us writing essays to practice answering questions in our field, but also staying on-point and not meandering, or including materials that were just not connected to the questions asked.  This was an invaluable exercise as it helped hone my skills as a writer.  Receiving peer review was also important, but I think having that in-class experience was really fundamental.   I think that it is this type of feedback that is missing in several chapters I've read thus far.

For example, this chapter (according to the abstract) asks what are alternative assessment techniques for MOOCs.  This is a good question! The author writes about the (on average) 10% completion rate in xMOOCs (the author is not that specific that they are xMOOCs, but from the text you can tell), and that other measures of what it means to complete a MOOC are necessary.  I completely agree with this position.  However, the author never really defines how completion is measured in those xMOOC contexts, and it's this that I find problematic. How can one start talking about alternatives (or additions to), when the current state is not really defined in terms of what assessment takes place in MOOCs to derive that magical completion number?  This is particularly important because the author  (in the solutions & recommendations section!) then goes on to describe CPR (Calibrated Peer Review) and AES (automatic essay scoring) which are used in coursera and edx MOOCs. These are tools used now to determine whether someone has (or has not) done what they need to do to be considered as completer. This doesn't really move the peg forward in terms of thinking about alternative (and alternatives to) assessment in MOOCs.

They talk (encyclopedically) about proctoring, MOOCs for credit, verified certificates, different MOOC 'types' (DOCC, BOOC, LOOC, SPOC, MOOR, SMOC), and digital badges (just to name a few things), but all of this is really disconnected from assessment in general.  Proctoring, credit, verified certs, and badges are by-products of assessment (not assessment types), and MOOC types don't really contribute much to the assessment discussion.  The language of MOOCs (i.e. the predominance of English) is discussed, but only really to suggest that existing assessment instruments (which only yield a 10% completion rate) be translated. OK. I don't disagree, but can't there be more substantive discussion here? How can this help more learners complete the MOOC. And, is a higher completion rate what we are looking for? Or is there more of a nuanced understanding of learning and assessment (and completion) in MOOCs?

I did chuckle a bit when I read that "a discussion forum is the main course component for active learner interactions and course participation in an online learning environment including a MOOC." (p. 125).  While xMOOCs tend to have forums, not all MOOCs are traditionally forum driven, and I would say that forums aren't the main course component for course activity.  I think by claiming this you are really framing MOOCs with the same frame as a certain type of online and distance education course for one thing.  It also predisposes one to think of activity (and what is assessable) in specific ways, ways which are defined by existing learning environments that have other underlying factors that influence and impact their design.

I really wanted to like this chapter (I really did :-) ), however between the disconnected information and the failure to deliver what what promised (or at least what I read into the abstract), it's hard to say that it's a must read.  That said.  If you completely ignore the title of the chapter and ignore the abstract, it's not a bad summary of current and potential topics to consider in the credentialing of MOOCs.

Have you read this? Your thoughts?

Chauhan, A. (2015). Beyond the Phenomenon: Assessment in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). In E. McKay, & J. Lenarcic (Eds.) Macro-Level Learning through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Strategies and Predictions for the Future (pp. 119-140). Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference. doi:10.4018/978-1-4666-8324-2.ch007

Saturday, January 16, 2016

eLearning, ePedagogy, MOOC MOOC!

Huzzah!  Half-way through Macro-Level Learning through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Strategies and Predictions for the Future!  This time I am reviewing chapter 6, which is titled Learning Theories: ePedagogical Strategies for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in Higher Education.  The abstract is as follows:

This chapter reviews various learning theories about e-pedagogical strategies for the effective use of massive open online courses (MOOCs) in higher education. E-pedagogical strategies refer to the various teaching methods or approaches used by educators when encouraging students to engage with online learning. An up-to-date broad knowledge of learning theories is required by educators to inform and inspire their teaching approaches. Before developing lesson plans, educators should have a clear idea of the learning outcomes which they hope the learners will achieve by engaging with the lessons, be they delivered on or off line. By knowing the desired learning outcomes in advance of developing the lesson plans, educators have the opportunity to consider various learning theories, teaching methods, and pedagogical strategies to select the most appropriate one(s) to use when creating course content for MOOCs. The chapter continues the discussion on ‘ePedagogy and interactive MOOCs' from the perspective of addressing the topic of ‘ePedagogy and students' use of HCI (integrating interactivity into asynchronous MOOCs).
I should start off by saying that I really wanted this chapter to be good (i.e. teach me something), but I came away a little disappointed.  I don't know if this is because I've been reading research for a little while now and, for lack of better words, I "expect better" when I read something that is billed as research; or if there is a mismatch between my expectations of this book and what it's meant to be.

Anyway, what I was expecting to read when I read this chapter was something much more in-depth about how learning theories inform, or can inform, MOOC development.  Considering that we've had a variety of cMOOCs around since 2011, and a whole boatload of xMOOCs, pMOOCs, and other __MOOCs around, it seemed like a good opportunity to do an analysis.  What I ended up getting was (mostly) a review of learning theories and their historical context and how they might be applied to MOOCs.  The application part was really small, so it seemed mostly a historical overview of some learner theories with a little bit of MOOC thrown in.

Even when considering the learning theories, no justification was given for the theories chosen to be examined and some things seemed to be thrown in that weren't really learning theories (example: Computer-supported collaborative learning).  Some learning theories seemed to be  described ad nauseum, while others got short shrift.   The disappointing part was that one could replace "MOOC" with "Online course" and the applications of learning theory would be just as valid.  There wasn't really something here that was MOOC specific.

I think that the paper can be good however, just not as a chapter in this book.  This paper looks like a great paper written for a graduate course. It provides a researched view of learning theories and how they might apply to MOOCs. As a student research paper I wouldn't expect learners to go out there and try every single type of MOOC.  It's taken me 5 years, and I am still experimenting with MOOCs, so I don't expect someone new to know all this stuff from the start. However, as a chapter in a "premier reference source" published in 2015, I'd expect much more.

Maybe I am way to cranky about this.  What do you think?

O'Donnell, E., Lawless, S., Sharp, M., & O'Donnell, L. (2015). Learning Theories: ePedagogical Strategies for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in Higher Education. In E. McKay, & J. Lenarcic (Eds.) Macro-Level Learning through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Strategies and Predictions for the Future (pp. 92-118). Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference. doi:10.4018/978-1-4666-8324-2.ch006

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Internationalizing social work via MOOCs

First week of the new semester!  Last semester, with everything going on I decided to put off reviewing a book I told people I'd review, but for this semester I think I'll just forget ahead and get this done.  So, back for another review of a chapter in the book titled Macro-Level Learning through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Strategies and Predictions for the Future (an IGI global title).  This time I am reviewing chapter 5, which is titled Internationalising social world education using Massive Open Online Courses.   The abstract is as follows:

Internationalising the curriculum is a priority of universities worldwide and increasingly a focus of social work education. Social workers espouse principles of global justice and community development yet social work in Australia remains locally focused. A review of international and local trends in the literature on ePedagogy and social work education within the context of internationalising the social work curriculum highlights current trends and practices in blended delivery and future opportunities provided by massive open online courses (MOOCs). Consideration of a case study of educational practices in the design and delivery of a community work course in blended delivery mode in Australia and India and via MOOC offering reveals that contemporary educational technologies can facilitate quality learning and teaching experiences. It is argued that increased flexibility in course offerings provides students with greater choice to engage in a range of quality educational experiences that are locally and globally contextualized. This chapter is well placed for the discussion on social networking and collaborative learning MOOCs – building MOOCs communities.

Initially I thought that this chapter was going to discuss an actual implementation of MOOCs in social work, however the chapter spent most of the time framing social work education in the Australian context, and framing the discussion around MOOCs.  The actual case study is more of a proposal of how such an internationalized MOOC would work rather than the actual results from such an implementation.

Still, I did enjoy reading more about Australia's distance education past, and learning more about how they approached distance education and fleximode courses.  I think one thing we are missing today in the education of our learning designers and educational technologists are topics and trends that came before the last few years.  We keep being forward looking, but we forget that our past can inform our decision, and some things from years past come be useful in the present and potentially in the future.

Another interesting aspect of this article is the brief discussion of the three levels of the Briggs and Tang model for internationalizing education.  I had not come across these before, so these are worth going into a little deeper in subsequent reading.

In any case, the  case study described in this chapter's final section is about undertaking a jointly offered course on social work between Australian universities and a university in India.  While it is interesting to consider, it seems to me that what the authors were describing in this chapter was more like a jointly offered course that takes the blended approach.  Some online aspects, some local aspects, and the course, by virtue of being jointly designed, would have local subject experts to explain and direct students to the conditions local to them.  This does not seem so radical to me considering that my own College of Management had setup something very similar with a university in Hungary back when our LMS was WebCT (so, six or so years ago).  Now, this is despite the fact that my college of Management at the time didn't see the value of online learning, and they couldn't conceive of how learning could happen when you're not in a physical classroom.  If they could do this, with that mindset, I think that the concept is a bit old hat, and MOOCs and open learning are really an adjunct to this enterprise.

One of the things that stood out to me was a quote by Wiseman (1997) who asked "Why would you internationalize courses which are grounded in our local cultural practices?"  I should say that the notion of internationalization means (at least according to Biggs & Tang) that there is a demonstration of awareness by the educator of different learning behaviors among different groups,  there is an encouragement of different cultural expressions incorporated into the curriculum, and the curriculum focuses on similarities rather than differences. When you think of that last part, then Wiserman's question makes sense.

However, I would argue that there is a place for both courses altered to focus on a grander level, one that is international in nature that looks at things that are similar amongst the various groups, and there is room for unaltered courses that only keep in mind the local context.  Local context allows for a level of authenticity in the materials in a way that, perhaps, an internationalized course does not.  With all local flavor removed to focus on what's similar, there is (in my mind) a potential lack for making everything "vanilla".

I obviously need to read more about internationalizing education and where the field stands today to have a more informed opinion.  As far as this article is concerned, however, I think that it would be interesting to see if they went ahead with this experiment, and what the outcomes were for open participants (i.e. those not registered for credit).

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Assessing the process or the product?

The other day I came across a post on ProfHacker written by Maha B. where she talked a bit about her own teaching experiences and whether one assesses the process of learning or the product of learning.  I was thinking about this question in light of my own experiences as a learner, as a designer, and as an instructor who now has had experiences in introductory courses, capstone courses, and intermediate courses.

Obviously there isn't a hard and fast rule about this.  In some courses, or parts of courses the final product matters enough so that it outweighs the grading component of the process.  My gut tells (and the educator) me that the process is really more important than the final product. However, my own acculturation into the field of instructional design snaps me back to SMART outcomes (you know, specific, measurable, accurate, realistic, and time-bound) wherein these goals are really about the product and not the process.  I suppose if you have the freedom to tweak the learning objectives of the course so that you can value the process more than the outcome then that is fine.  However, if you can't tweak the objectives you have a bit of an issue.

Another thing I was considering is the specific outcome of the class.  For example, in an introductory course I taught last summer I often leaned more toward process than overall quality of deliverable. This made sense since the learners were new to instructional design and, like artists, they needed to have several tries, attempts, and feedback attempts in order to become better at design.  The final product that they produced was pretty good, but it could be better given knowledge from subsequent classes. So, the final product was good for the amount of information and experience they had on hand.

On the other hand, this past fall I supervised the capstone project for my instructional design MEd program, along with friend and colleague Jeffrey K.  Even though this was a 3-credit course there wasn't really anything being taught.  It was more of an independent study where each learner worked on their own capstone project, and received feedback on each iteration submitted. While there is a deliberate process behind this capstone project, the final product is meant to be a showcase of their capabilities as instructional designers, given that they have completed at least 10 courses before they enter they sign-up for the capstone.  In cases like these, while process is important (feedback and improvement cycles), the final product is, in my mind, really what's being assessed.

That said, the case of the capstone is quite specific, and perhaps an outlier in this discussion.  In classes that I design I prefer to give more weight to the process and less weight on the perfection of the final product.  It's one of the reasons I have largely moved to pass/not pass grading in new courses I design.  Instead of having students feel like they've gotten a ton of points off for one thing or another (despite the passing grade), I think it's better for them to know that they passed the assignment and really look at the feedback that I gave them.  If in subsequent assignments they don't put that feedback to use, they may not pass subsequent assignments (and they can rework and resubmit), but what is important is that feedback-revision cycle.  I think that it really mirrors how instructional design works anyway :-)

What do you think?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

MOOCs, facilitation, and sustainability

Just before my Athabasca semester starts I am trying to make headway in my Pocket 'to read' collection :-).  I had bookmarked this post by David Hopkins a while back where he asks for information about facilitation in MOOCs, and to some extent this runs into sustainability - something we briefly talked about in 2012 at UMass Boston when we hosted the MOOC sustainability symposium.

In any case, the questions that David asks are interesting and important to consider, and I've been thinking about them on-and-off since I read his post, so here are some rudimentary, preliminary, working-thoughts. I should say that I am speaking more as an instructional designer and long-time MOOC follower, and not as someone who has developed and ran their own MOOCs.

What are your thoughts on how we manage the course, the comments and discussion during the run, and the subsequent comments and discussion during re-runs?
I think that the answer to this really depends on your philosophical stand when it comes to MOOCs.  I think if you are running a content-based MOOC, commonly known as xMOOCs, then the answer is simple: you treat your MOOC like you treat any sort of introductory online course. There is a felt teacher presence for the formal duration of the MOOC, and then the course either disappears at the end of the sponsored course duration (not my favorite option by the way), or the course content remains in perpetuity however the comments sections get closed off.  In cases like these it's up to the institution to figure out ways to manage the flow of comments and provide tutoring. This can get costly for courses that have a lot of participation.

If your philosophical learn is not on content, but rather on the discussion and community that emerges from learning, then the instructor and/or facilitator becomes just a node in the network. That node may have some privilege over other nodes by virtue of being the administrator of the platform or the initiator of the course, however the network structure can work around that node.  In cases like these I think that there really isn't a need to put in more resources to manager (or police) the discussion.  The philosophical standing of these MOOCs is that the discussion will find a way to exist and happen, even if the MOOC originator isn't there to share his wisdom and answer all questions. I think that some learners will be annoyed that the instructor isn't paying attention to them (whether consciously or unconsciously since there are only so many hours in the day), but  I think that getting annoyed that the MOOC originator is not paying as much attention to you as you'd like is like being annoyed that the chocolate store down the street ran out of free chocolates when they were running their promotion.

The one area I am still on the fence about is what to do about trolling behavior.  I haven't witnessed this in the MOOCs I've participated in, but it is something that might come up.  Should there be a mechanism to report posts for inappropriate content?  Who should address those? Can people be banned from courses due to inappropriate posts?  And, who decides what is inappropriate and what isn't?

In terms of what to do about previous comments on MOOC reruns...well...this is an interesting discussion we've started to have in the Rhizo15 group as we discuss Rhizo16.  Should we all be anonymous and start a new group, in essence putting behind us  all the previous discussions?  Should we have one group and move forward adding to it? Each Rhizo course has had different themes these past couple of years, so it's not like we're repeating ourselves - which might be the case with some xMOOCs, but even then, should you clear the slate, or continue building on that corpus?  To some extent I think that people don't bother reading  the told comments before they arrive. Even in forums where there is a search function, a common comment towards newbies is to use the search button to find the answer to their question because it's been discussed umpteen times.   From where I sit, at the moment, I see no problem on keeping one course and building on it.

Do you have support, from technical and/or academic backgrounds monitoring the course to keep comments on track and answer pertinent questions? Are these paid positions or part of their role? Do you actively check the comments? If so, what for, why, and what do you do?

Some of this ties in to my previous comments.  I think some of the answers depend on your philosophical stand.  In an xMOOC environment, especially if an institution's name is plastered all over the course, then I think there is greater pressure to have more technical and academic support (for free) since the institution's reputation is potentially on the line.  In a MOOC that is more community based (cMOOCs, rMOOCs, etc.) I think that support is just a node or two away, and that node may or may not be someone who officially designer the course.  In my own experience with these community based MOOCs I think that the originators aren't too far away, but other members/nodes are more empowered to help out and support.

In a community MOOC these would not be paid positions.  In an xMOOC I think that they would be, if your institution puts that kind of pressure on your MOOC design team.  I think, however, that there are other options as well, even for xMOOCs.  I think that there are small perks that users can have even if they aren't paid to support the community.  Some learners will do it because that's their nature.  They should be encouraged to help out if they can.  Some learners do it for the perk of a limited edition badge or title. I know that when I was moderating forums it was cool to have "moderator" in my title.  I didn't moderate because I wanted the title, I was interested in being a member of the community, but that title, which was held by few, was a really big ego boost. It was pretty cool when I didn't even have to apply to become a moderator. I got a nice note from the forum owner who recognized my interest in the community and asked if I wanted to moderate. I think that acknowledgement of my involvement in the community was a nice touch, and it's something that could work in xMOOCs. It costs nothing, and it is potentially helpful to both learner and organization.

Do you design-in an element of real-time collaboration on the course (facilitation of discussion, round-up videos, Google Hangouts, etc.), and if so are these sustainable over multiple runs of the course? If you’ve done these before, but then designed them out of the course for re-runs, why?

Real-time (synchronous) communications are potentially problematic.  Just like my friend and colleague, Maha B., I have an affinity for asynchronous.  I do make it to Virtually Connected sessions, and on occasion I even host them for the team.  That doesn't mean that everyone has the privilege of attending.  The synchronous sessions become like a 'call in' radio show where the producer keeps an eye on the twitter/facebook/Google+ streams for questions and they get relayed to the delphi panel discussing this week's (or this day's) topics.  I think that it's an interesting exercise, and it does have its values, but I don't think that it's the panacea for getting a more human-feeling MOOC.  Instructor presence is just as felt and valid through text and brief spurts of audio as it is in synchronous video or audio sessions. What makes one learner feel warm and fuzzy and connected is not the same as other learners.

That said, even if you run a google hangout, I would treat it as an ephemeral thing.  While they may be recorded for future viewing, I wouldn't necessarily use them in future MOOC runs.  If a special guest came to do a presentation and you couldn't get them again, I would consider re-using that segment again, but the point (that I see) for synchronous sessions is more to increase the sense of community than to relay information.  In a 24x7 online open courses where many people are dispersed geographically there are better ways to deliver information than a synchronous session that privileges those in the same timezone as the instructor.

That's all for now.

What do you think? :-)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Rhizo16 (planning) has begun...

...and along with it the usual cast of characters and their zany antics (picture a 90s cartoon here).

The debate and brainstorming currently happening is how to welcome new members in a new MOOC when we've all started developing connections, bonds, and rhizomes together over the past couple of years.  Will anonymity work? New Groups? Delete old groups? Tea & Biscuits to welcome new members? Hmmmm...

Simon Ensor's Anonymous Rhizo

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Guilt free break?

I saw this on PhD Comics the other day...

Right before New Year's, on Moodle, EDDE 804 opened up and was available to learners...there goes my guild-free break.  Now it's time to get a preview of what I need to do for class... The first two assignments are pretty straight forward (it seems).  The portfolio assignment is a little more nebulous.  A quick google search gives me some ideas of what previous cohorts have done, but I guess I need to start a scrap-book early in the semester to get ready for this last assignment...