Archive for category FutureLearn

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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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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