Archive for category FutureLearn

Funded studentship opportunity – researching MOOCs at the OU

MOOC educator poster

The Open University is advertising six Leverhulme doctoral scholarships in open world learning with a closing date for applications of Monday 9 March 2015. These are full-time, fully funded studentships, leading to a PhD.

One of the named topics is ‘Educator roles in open online courses‘ and the description is:

“What roles do educators play in massive open online courses (MOOCs)? How can they be most effective in supporting learners to achieve their learning goals? In these open online settings, teaching is carried out by a team of educators, including academic lead, course presenter, moderator, facilitator and the learners themselves. These roles are still being developed, and there is a pressing need to identify evidence-based good practice. The successful candidate will use data from a range of MOOCs to answer the questions above, and will have opportunities to work with the FutureLearn Academic Network, an international team of MOOC researchers.”

If you are interested in applying, you need to provide a short research proposal explaining how this area fits the overall theme of Open World Learning and how you intend to conduct research on the topic selected. See the website for more specific details about applying.

When putting together an application, you may find it useful to take a look at these two papers: Taking on different roles: how educators position themselves in MOOCs and Innovative pedagogy at massive scale: teaching and learning in MOOCs.

 

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Learning design & learning analytics – building the links

After presenting at the SoLAR Flare learning analytics event last month, I was invited to the London Knowledge Lab to present at one of their regular What The Research Says seminars. This month, the subject was on ‘Designing a MOOC’, and I talked about building the links between learning design and learning analytics. This included a look at patterns of engagement in MOOCs, and how they vary according to pedagogy and learning design.

Other speakers at the event:

  • Diana Laurillard: Introduction to designing MOOCs: Theory, practice and evidence
  • Russell Beale: Social Learning the FutureLearn way
  • Matt Jenner: The research says very little: Designing a MOOC Platform
  • Natasha Bonnelame: Tate / Khan Project: Learning in an Altermodern World
  • Tim Powell-Jones: Encouraging learning through social dynamics in a MOOC

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Teaching in MOOCs: Unbundling the roles of the educator

Tweets about presentationLast week I gave a talk at the Design4Learning conference at The Open University, Milton Keynes, on the roles of educators in MOOCs. The paper was based on analysis of materials relating to six FutureLearn MOOCs, and was co-authored with Denise Whitelock.

Abstract

Educators in massive open online courses (MOOCs) face the challenge of interacting with tens of thousands of students, many of whom are new to online learning. This study investigates some of the different ways in which lead educators position themselves within MOOCs, and the various roles that they adopt in their messages to learners. Email messages from educators were collected from six courses on the FutureLearn platform, a UK-based MOOC platform with 36 university partners. Educator stance in these emails was coded thematically, sentence by sentence. The resulting typology draws attention to the different ways in which educators align themselves in these settings, including outlining the trajectory of the course, acting as both host and instructor, sometimes as fellow learner, and often as an emotionally engaged enthusiast. This typology can be used, in future, to explore relationships between educator stance and variables such as learner engagement, learner test results and learner retention.

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EC-TEL

Presenting at EC TEL

Mike Sharples and I presented at EC-TEL 2014 in Graz on Innovative Pedagogy at Massive Scale: Teaching and Learning in MOOCs.

We examined the implications for pedagogy of education at a massive scale. Educational approaches designed or adapted to be effective for large numbers of learners include direct instruction, networked learning, connectivism, supported open learning, and conversational learning at scale.

We used a grounded approach to analyse data from 18 MOOCs run on the UK-based FutureLearn platform. This enabled us to identify benefits and challenges for learners, for educators and for society as a whole of learning at massive scale. These need to be addressed in two ways, through learning design and through platform design.

After our presentation, Yishay Mor interviewed us about it for the Open Learning Europa website.

EC-TEL posterAlso at the conference, I presented a poster co-authored with Denise Whitelock, ‘Taking on different roles: how educators position themselves in MOOCs’.

Abstract:

Educators in massive open online courses (MOOCs) face the challenge of interacting with tens of thousands of students, many of whom are new to online learning. This study investigates the different ways in which lead educators position themselves within MOOCs, and the various roles that they adopt in their messages to learners. Email messages from educators were collected from six courses on FutureLearn, a UK-based MOOC platform that had 26 university partners at the time. Educator stance in these emails was coded thematically, sentence by sentence. The resulting typology draws attention to the different ways in which educators align themselves in these settings, including outlining the trajectory of the course, acting as both host and instructor,  sometimes as fellow learner, and often as an emotionally engaged enthusiast. This typology can be used to explore relationships between educator stance and variables such as learner engagement, learner test results and learner retention.

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FutureLearn Academic Network, Southampton

On 10 September, I was at the University of Southampton, talking about the evaluation of MOOCs to the FutureLearn Academic Network (FLAN). This group is open to members of FutureLearn partner institutions who have an interest in researching MOOCs. If you fall into that category, and you’d be interested in joining, search for the group on Facebook. It’s a closed group, but straightforward to join, if you send a message introducing yourself.

The video shows the second half of the morning – start around 40 minutes in if you are interested in viewing my talk. There’s also an account of it on Sheila Webber’s blog.

http://new.livestream.com/accounts/5200181/events/3373306/videos/61656496/player?autoPlay=false&height=360&mute=false&width=640

 

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Rethinking Education

I was recently invited to Stockholm, to speak at the ‘Rethinking Education‘ conference run by the Ratio Institute. The conference objective was ‘to focus on the need to design for the future education and skills systems that enable young people and adults to develop the knowledge and skills needed in the labour market, as well as for personal development and important societal goals.’

My focus was on the benefits and challenges offered by MOOCs, with particular reference to FutureLearn.

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FutureLearn opens

FutureLearn imagesWednesday 18 September saw the course catalogue launched for FutureLearn, a project I have been working on since the beginning of the year.

The go-live event included a speech by Martin Bean (vice chancellor of The Open University); a demonstration of the website by Simon Nelson (chief executive officer of FutureLearn), and a speech by David Willetts (Minister for Universities and Science), who said: “This is a high quality educational offering online and it’s right that we should be celebrating it today.”

Simon Nelson pointed to the opportunities that FutureLearn will provide for people to learn for free with experts and with each other. The social learning platform harnesses the power of social experience, delight and effective learning design to allow people to learn anytime, anywhere.

David Willetts made a connection with the recent launch of Europe’s largest telecommunications satellite. The satellite opens the possibility for universal broadband access across Africa. Put this together with a social learning platform that is designed for use on mobile devices, and opportunities for access to good quality higher education begin to open up to millions of people across the world.

The FutureLearn initiative brings together universities from across Britain, as well as Ireland and Australia, and  is led by The Open University. Vice chancellor, Martin Bean, commented that

“if there was an Ivy League of distance universities in the world, The Open University would be Number One.’

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