Archive for category FutureLearn

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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MOOCs: what the research tells us

screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-15-27-21MOOCs: What the Open University research tells us recommends priority areas for activity in relation to massive open online courses (MOOCs). It does this by bringing together all The Open University’s published research work in this area from the launch of the first MOOC in 2008 until February 2016.

The report provides brief summaries of, and links to, all publications stored in the university’s Open Research Online (ORO) repository that use the word ‘MOOC’ in their title or abstract. Full references for all studies are provided in the bibliography.

Studies are divided thematically, and the report contains sections on the pedagogy of MOOCs, MOOCs and open education, MOOC retention and motivation, working together in MOOCs, MOOC assessment, accessibility, privacy and ethics, quality and other areas of MOOC research.

The report identifies ten priority areas for future work:

  1. Influence the direction of open education globally 
  2. Develop and accredit learning journeys 
  3. Extend the relationship between learners and the university
  4. Make effective use of learning design
  5. Make use of effective distance learning pedagogies
  6. Widen participation
  7. Offer well-designed assessment 
  8. Pay attention to quality assurance 
  9. Pay attention to privacy and ethics
  10. Expand the benefits of learning from MOOCs

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Patterns of engagement across time in MOOCs

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 10.23.26New paper out in the Journal of Learning Analytics Research, building on our previous papers dealing with how learners engage with MOOCs.

Abstract

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are being used across the world to provide millions of learners with access to education. Many who begin these courses complete them successfully, or to their own satisfaction, but the high numbers who do not finish remain a subject of concern. In 2013, a team from Stanford University analysed engagement patterns on three MOOCs run on the Coursera platform. They found four distinct patterns of engagement that emerged from MOOCs based on videos and assessments. Subsequent studies on the FutureLearn platform, which is underpinned by social-constructivist pedagogy, indicate that patterns of engagement in these massive learning environments are influenced by decisions about pedagogy and learning design. This paper reports on two of these studies of learner engagement with FutureLearn courses. Study One first tries, not wholly successfully, to replicate the findings of the Coursera study in a new context. It then uses the same methodological approach to identify patterns of learner engagement on the FutureLearn platform, and indicates how these patterns are influenced by pedagogy and elements of learning design. Study Two investigates whether these patterns of engagement are stable on subsequent presentations of the same courses. Two patterns are found consistently in this and other work: samplers who visit briefly, and completers who fully engage with the course. The paper concludes by exploring the implications for both research and practice.

Ferguson, Rebecca, & Clow, Doug. (2016). Consistent commitment: patterns of engagement across time in massive open online courses (MOOCs). Journal of Learning Analytics, 2(3), 63-88.

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The ethics of MOOC research

Tweet from FLANI spent 2 December at a FutureLearn Academic Network meeting at the University of Southampton.

The morning was taken up with short pecha kucha sessions on MOOC research, and the afternoon included three talks on the ethics of MOOCs, from Mike Sharples (FutureLearn and The open University), Jocelyn Wishart (University of Bristol) and me. Although we hadn’t coordinated our talks in advance, we managed to focus on different areas. Mike talked about the current FutureLearn approach, Jocelyn drew parallels with the ethics of mobile learning, and I drew on the work on learning analytics that is being carried out by the community (most notably by Sharon Slade and Paul Prinsloo).

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Learning design and learning analytics workshop

 

Workshop TweetOn 28 October I ran a pre-conference workshop at the 14th European Conference on e-Learning (held at the University of Hertfordshire) on ‘Learning design and learning analytics: building the links with MOOCs’.

To give a focus to the workshop, I aimed to choose a FutureLearn MOOC on a subject that everyone would know a little about and no one would know a lot about. As it was three days after the 600th anniversary of Agincourt (a famous battle in English history that fans of Shakespeare may know of through his play, Henry V) I picked the University of Southampton’s MOOC on the subject, ‘Agincourt 1415: Myth and Reality’.

I had reckoned without the international scope of the ECEL conference – I had picked on a subject that most of my audience knew nothing about, and that held little interest for them. Nevertheless, they bravely grappled with issues of learning design related to medieval muster rolls, ancient armour and the issue of whether war crimes existed before they were defined in law.

Abstract

This hands-on workshop will work with learning design tools and with massive open online courses (MOOCs) on the FutureLearn platform to explore how learning design can be used to influence the choice and design of learning analytics. This workshop will be of interest to people who are involved in the design or presentation of online courses, and to those who want to find out more about learning design, learning analytics or MOOCs.

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Moving through MOOCs at ECTEL 2015

ECTEL TweetDoug Clow and I took a new approach to presenting at ECTEL 2015. Our paper Moving through MOOCS: pedagogy, learning design and patterns of engagement was jointly authored with researchers from Edinburgh, Leeds and Birmingham. It combined a number of studies, involving cluster analysis of different MOOCs. An enormous amount of information to cram into a 20-minute talk.

So we produced two sets of slides. The first, available on my Slideshare account, takes viewers through the paper in detail. The MOOCs, the methods, the clusters. The second, available on Doug’s account, focuses on a simpler message – that massive open online courses vary enormously in pedagogy and in learning design. Before making grandiose claims for generalisability, we need to check whether our findings really apply widely – or if they actually only apply to MOOCs on our platform or in our subject area, or within our university. While almost all the people in our audience had visited at least one MOOC, the majority had not visited more than one MOOC platform.

You can investigate our research further, taking  the detailed route via one presentation, or the route with a simpler message and better pictures via the other, or the complex but clearly mapped route by reading the paper. Or, if you have the energy, you can explore a combination of routes and find out which works best for you.

Of course, this isn’t a fair test. The presentations aren’t offered in the same way and in the same place. Nevertheless, Doug and I will be looking at the stats for each of them, and making anecdotal use of those figures for some time – so choose your route wisely.

As I type, one of the Slideshares has 636 views, 5 likes, 5 downloads, 5 LinkedIn shares, 1 Facebook share and 24 Tweets.

The other has 571 views, 3 likes, 0 downloads, 0 shares on LinkedIn or Facebook and 25 Tweets.

The paper, following the link above, has 99 downloads and 2 Tweets

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CALRG conference and FLAN

FLAN participants at CALRG 2015

FLAN participants at CALRG 2015

The 36th annual CALRG conference took place from 15 to 17 June 2015 at The Open University. This year, we began the programme with a day for doctoral student work associated with the FutureLearn Academic Network (FLAN). The keynote address, An Ecology for eLearning: MOOCs, Minnows and Monsters, was given by long-time CALRG member Professor Sir Tim O’Shea, Principal, University of Edinburgh.

Presentations included:

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