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Developing a strategic approach to MOOCs

german-refOur introductory article for the JIME special issue on MOOCs focused on the research work carried out in the area by UK universities who are FutureLearn partners.

‘Developing a strategic approach to MOOCs’ uses the work carried out at these universities to identify nine priority areas for MOOC research and how these can be developed in the future:

  1. Develop a strategic approach to MOOCs.
  2. Expand the benefits of teaching and learning in MOOCs.
  3. Offer well-designed assessment and accreditation.
  4. Widen participation and extend access.
  5. Develop and make effective use of appropriate pedagogies.
  6. Support the development of educators.
  7. Make effective use of learning design.
  8. Develop methods of quality assurance.
  9. Address issues related to privacy and ethics.

Ferguson, Rebecca; Scanlon, Eileen and Harris, Lisa (2016). Developing a strategic approach to MOOCs. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2016(1), article no. 21.

Abstract

During the last eight years, interest in massive open online courses (MOOCs) has grown fast and continuously worldwide. Universities that had never engaged with open or online learning have begun to run courses in these new environments. Millions of learners have joined these courses, many of them new to learning at this level. Amid all this learning and teaching activity, researchers have been busy investigating different aspects of this new phenomenon. In this contribution we look at one substantial body of work, publications on MOOCs that were produced at the 29 UK universities connected to the FutureLearn MOOC platform. Bringing these papers together, and considering them as a body of related work, reveals a set of nine priority areas for MOOC research and development. We suggest that these priority areas could be used to develop a strategic approach to learning at scale. We also show how the papers in this special issue align with these priority areas, forming a basis for future work.

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You teach me, and I’ll teach you – Pokémon

Picture of the OU News story‘You teach me, and I’ll teach you’ goes the Pokémon theme tune, and you can see the tv series as the learning journey that the central character, Ash, makes from complete novice to Pokémon master.

As ed-tech social media fills up with rapid-response pieces on what Pokémon Go could mean for education, I thought it was time to refer back to work with a more solid basis. And what could be a better starting point than our 2014 book on Augmented Education?

Augmented Education explores the implications and challenges of augmented learning – learning at the frontiers of reality – and the ways in which we can understand it, structure it, develop it and employ it. It investigates what we can do now that we could not do before, and asks whether these new possibilities could fundamentally affect how people approach and benefit from learning. For example, can augmented learning create the social, affective and cognitive conditions that will allow individuals and groups of people not only to approach learning in a meaningful way, but also to engage with it more deeply?

To encourage people to read the book, I wrote a piece for the OU News and OpenLearn on Pokémon Go, and how the game aligns with the four approaches to augmented education that we identify in the book.

The book provides a detailed overview of the newest possibilities in education and shows how technological developments can be harnessed to support inclusive and collaborative knowledge building through formal and informal learning.

In order to do this, we employ a broad definition of augmented learning.
“Augmented learning uses electronic devices to extend learners’ interactions with and perception of their current environment to include and bring to life different times, spaces, characters and possibilities. It offers possibilities for the transformation of learners and their learning contexts.”
Using this definition, the book extends beyond the augmentation of teaching, learning and schools to include informal subject-based learning, learning using social media, collaborative informal learning and educating the transhuman.

View a draft of Chapter 1, which introduces augmented learning and considers what augmentation can offer to education. This ScoopIt on Augmented Education pulls together a series of related links.

 

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Ethics and privacy in learning analytics: special issue

JLA coverAlong with other members of the LACE project (Tore Hoel, Maren Scheffel and Hendrik Drachsler), I co-edited a special section of Journal of Learning Analytics Vol 3, No 1, which focused on ethics and privacy in learning analytics.

The section contained eight papers:

The volume also included our guest editorial:

Abstract

The European Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE) project is responsible for an ongoing series of workshops on ethics and privacy in learning analytics (EP4LA), which have been responsible for driving and transforming activity in these areas. Some of this activity has been brought together with other work in the papers that make up this special issue. These papers cover the creation and development of ethical frameworks, as well as tools and approaches that can be used to address issues of ethics and privacy. This editorial suggests that it is worth taking time to consider the often intertangled issues of ethics, data protection and privacy separately. The challenges mentioned within the special issue are summarised in a table of 22 challenges that are used to identify the values that underpin work in this area. Nine ethical goals are suggested as the editors’ interpretation of the unstated values that lie behind the challenges raised in this paper.

Ferguson, Rebecca, Hoel, Tore, Scheffel, Maren, & Drachsler, Hendrik. (2016). Guest editorial: ethics and privacy in learning analytics. Journal of Learning Analytics, 3(1) 5-15.

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Learning analytics don’t just measure students’ progress

Tore TweetMy article ‘Learning analytics don’t just measure students’ progress – they can shape it‘, appeared online in The Guardian education today, in the ‘extreme learning’ section.

In it, I argue that we should not apply learning analytics to the things we can measure easily, but to those that we value, including the development of crucial skills such as reflection, collaboration, linking ideas and writing clearly.

I also link to the #laceproject – Learning Analytics Community Exchange – a European-funded project on learning analytics.

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Pre-teens’ informal learning with ICT and Web 2.0

Finally published online in Technology, Pedagogy and Education is our article on informal learning at primary school level. The research study focused on two groups of self-motivated learners, including one set who had set up their own Scratch programming club, and another group who belonged to a lunchtime robot-building club run by a parent.

The creative approaches to informal learning that these pre-teens used when working with new technology at home, contrasted with the approaches that they were able to use within school. Their strategies of using different devices, collaborating with others both face-to-face and electronically, and consulting a range of websites were all constrained in school settings. Other constraints were associated with their age – for example, their lack of access to credit cards made online purchases a complicated procedure, and many of their decisions about use of technology were related to a lack of money to spend. They were also limited by parental constraints and legal constraints to a much greater extent than children only a few years older.

While other studies have focused on differences in use of technology for learning at age 11, when children move from primary to secondary school, this study suggests that a more significant shift in use of technology for learning takes place at age 13.

Ferguson, Rebecca; Faulkner, Dorothy; Whitelock, Denise and Sheehy, Kieron (2014). Pre-teens’ informal learning with ICT and Web 2.0. Technology, Pedagogy and Education http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1475939X.2013.870596#.UtWYzmTuKjE

Abstract

ICT and Web 2.0 have the potential to impact on learning by supporting enquiry, new literacies, collaboration and publication. Restrictions on the use of these tools within schools, primarily due to concerns about discipline and child safety, make it difficult to make full use of this potential in formal educational settings. Studies of children at different stages of schooling have highlighted a wider range of ICT use outside school, where it can be used to support informal learning. The study reported here looks beyond the broad categories of primary and secondary education and investigates the distinctive elements of pre-teens’ use of ICT to support informal learning. Nineteen children aged 10 and 11 participated in focus groups and produced visual representations of ICT and Web 2.0 resources they used to support their informal learning. Thematic analysis of this data showed that pre-teens respond to a range of age-related constraints on their use of ICT. Inside formal education, these constraints appear similar at primary and secondary levels. Out of school, regulation is more age specific, contributing to the development of tensions around use of ICT as children approach their teenage years. These tensions and constraints shape the ways in which children aged 10 to 11 engage in formal and informal learning, particularly their methods of communication and their pressing need to develop evaluation skills.

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Learning analytics: drivers, developments and challenges

International Journal of Technology Enhanced LearningEarlier this year, my literature review of learning analytics was published in the International Journal of Technology-Enhanced Learning.

Ferguson, R. (2012). Learning analytics: drivers, developments and challenges. International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning  (IJTEL), 4(5/6), 304-317.

This is an updated and peer-reviewed version of my earlier technical report, The State Of Learning Analytics in 2012: A Review and Future Challenges.

The latest version is available on request via Open Research Online (ORO) – click the link to ‘request a copy from the OU author’.

Abstract

Learning analytics is a significant area of technology-enhanced learning that has emerged during the last decade. This review of the field begins with an examination of the technological, educational and political factors that have driven the development of analytics in educational settings. It goes on to chart the emergence of learning analytics, including their origins in the 20th century, the development of data-driven analytics, the rise of learning-focused perspectives and the influence of national economic concerns. It next focuses on the relationships between learning analytics, educational data mining and academic analytics. Finally, it examines developing areas of learning analytics research, and identifies a series of future challenges.

You can also read the paper in Italian
Ferguson, Rebecca. (2014). Learning analytics: fattori trainanti, sviluppi e sfide. TD Tecnologie Didattiche, 22(3), 138-147.
In Italian

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Death of an avatar

Funeral for Teen Second Life

I have a new article out in the Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds.

Death of an avatar: Implications of presence for learners and educators in virtual worlds is an ethnography that draws upon work I have carried out over several years in both Second Life and Teen Second Life.

The paper includes several first-person vignettes setting out some of my most memorable experiences of death and mourning in virtual worlds. They include this one from September 2007, the event which inspired this research.

It’s late on a warm summer’s evening. I am sitting in a Japanese-style summerhouse with a group of friends and colleagues, mourning the unexpected death of a member of staff. ‘She was like a mother to us’, reads an artwork created by a group of teenagers earlier in the day. For a while, no one speaks or moves. I stare out to sea, where the moon is rising, casting an eerie glow over the trees nearby – but my thoughts are elsewhere. My neighbour, dressed in black, hands me a lighted candle; soon each of the group has one, and we begin talking softly of our memories and our feelings. The mood of the discussion becomes intense and dark; a couple of the teenagers and I opt out and head for the beach, where we sit long into the night beside a campfire discussing religion, reincarnation and personal beliefs.

Ferguson, Rebecca (2012). Death of an avatar: implications of presence for learners and educators in virtual worlds. Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds, 4(2), 137-152.

Abstract

Virtual worlds such as Second Life® offer learners and educators environments in which they can engage in activities that would be too difficult, dangerous or impossible in the physical world. Increasingly, these settings provide learners with a sense of presence – an impression that their mediated presence is not mediated. Presence includes realistic representations, sophisticated social interaction and immersive experiences. What are the implications for learners when death is introduced into an immersive, but apparently safe and protected, educational environment? To answer this question, this article draws on a virtual ethnographic study carried out over four years in Second Life and Teen Second Life. It finds that there are different types of death within Second Life, some permanent and some transient, some wholly virtual, others reflecting a situation in the physical world. Analysis of the theme of death in different settings and subject categories shows that learners and educators make use of some of these types of death to help with exploration of subjects as diverse as Roman history, military training and classic literature. In order to make use of these types of death, educators vary levels of realism, immersion and social interaction, thus altering the levels of presence available within an environment. Other types of Second Life death are not typically explored in educational settings but nevertheless raise a series of legal, social and ethical issues that will need to be addressed by future curricula.

 

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