Archive for category Open online learning

Enhancing Learning and Teaching with Technology

Book coverEnhancing Learning and Teaching with Technology: What the Research Says was published by Institute of Education Press on 24 January 2018. The book was inspired by a seminar series run at the Institute that focused on research findings about educational technology. It was officially launched at the BETT Show in London.

Our chapter focuses on MOOCs and was based on the research-based publications of UK-based partners of the FutureLearn platform.

Introduction to the chapter

Free online courses that provide learning at scale have the potential to open up education around the world. MOOCs now engage millions of learners.  For example, FutureLearn, the UK’s largest MOOC provider passed 6m registered learners in 2017, 75% of these outside the UK.  Coursera, the world’s largest platform, claimed 24m learners worldwide in March 2017, of which over half a million were UK learners.

In this section, we explore what the research tells us about how MOOCs need to be developed in order to help provide education for all. This research was carried out at UK universities partnered with the FutureLearn MOOC platform. When it was carried out, FutureLearn had 64 university partners, including 29 within the UK, all linked by the FutureLearn Academic Network (FLAN).

Reference

Ferguson, Rebecca; Herodotou, Christothea; Coughlan, Tim; Scanlon, Eileen and Sharples, Mike (2018). MOOC development: priority areas. In: Luckin, Rosemary ed. Enhancing Learning and Teaching with Technology: What the Research Says. London: UCL IOE Press.

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BBC: Go the Distance

I joined a team of experts from across The Open University to contribute to the BBC Learning English co-production, Go The Distance: ‘a 10-week taste of what distance learning is really like – with real students, real tutors, key study and digital literacy skills and lots of help with your English.’

My contribution was to Academic Insights ‘the series where we meet real distance learning tutors and get their top tips for successful studying.’

You can watch the video via the BBC site or via OpenLearn.

Transcript

  • My name’s Rebecca Ferguson. I work as a lecturer in distance learning. My field is educational technology.
  • There are several reasons for working together. One of them is because it’s a way of learning in itself. You share perspectives and you discuss things. The second reason is it’s a very effective way of learning. And the third reason is employability. You need to be able to work with your team.
  • Student collaborative tasks depend on the level of study. They might be contributing to a forum; they might be responding to somebody else in a forum. But when you get to final years you’d be working on a project with others. You might be carrying out research with others.
  • Shyness and confidence can be a problem for some students especially when they’re in video conferences but in forums it’s a very good way of communicating if you’re shy.
  • Something that a tutor can do is to encourage people to introduce themselves and to talk on a safe subject that they don’t feel stressed about, just introduce themselves and deal with something relatively impersonal.
  • A solution for that is to share information about when you can work and for how long you can work. Another solution is to timetable how you’re going to work together.
  • Learners feel that it’s very beneficial because it reflects what they’re going to be doing in a working environment. It’s something they felt unconfident about before and they now know how to do it.

 

 

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Academic coordinator: FLAN

Following the retirement of Mike Sharples (who will return to The Open University as an Emeritus Professor in March). I have taken on the role of Academic Coordinator for the FutureLearn Academic Network (FLAN).

The network was established in 2013 by a group of academics in order to connect academics and research students based at FutureLearn partner institutions, share research, and explore shared research opportunities. These include: joint research bids and publications, comparative studies using shared FutureLearn data, course designs, and methods to analyse and evaluate courses.

The Network is open to staff and research students based at FutureLearn partner institutions with an interest in research related to the FutureLearn platform.

On 7 November, we held one of our quarterly meetings – this time at the British Council in Central London. Among the many interesting talks:

  • Josh Underwood gave a detailed and considered account of the role of a mentor or facilitator within FutureLearn courses.
  • Matthew Nicholls and Bunny Waring talked about their use of a virtual reality simulation of Rome in the 4th century CE.
  • Phil Tubman introduced a tool for visualising discussion, which is now being used on a course from Lancaster University.
  • Eileen Scanlon and I talked about research ethics on the platform and initiated discussion on changes to the terms and conditions.

The next meeting of FLAN is likely to be in Exeter at the end of February 2018. If you are eligible to be part of FLAN and would like to be involved either in person or remotely, do get in touch.

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Educators’ perspectives on MOOCs

Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 11.46.07We have just published an internal report for The Open University. It covers ‘Staff Perspectives on the Value of Involvement with FutureLearn MOOCs’. The report – authored by Tom Coughlan, Thea Herodotou, Alice Peasgood and myself  – continues our series of reports on different aspects of engagement and research with MOOCs.

We carried out interviews with educators, production staff and facilitators who work on both MOOCs and Open University courses. Analysis of these data identified six forms of value that these MOOCs offer to the university.

  1. Innovating course production
  2. Staff development
  3. Visibility and engagement
  4. Improved learning journeys
  5. Research and evaluation
  6. Income generation

In each case, the report identifies both benefits and challenges.

Open University staff can access the full report.

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Lea’s Box and Eco

Images from the two projectsJust back from a couple of trips to Luxembourg, where I was one of the team carrying out final reviews for the Lea’s Box and Eco projects. This was my third year reviewing Lea’s Box, but I only joined the Eco team for their final review.

Lea’s Box was ‘a 3-year research and development project (running from March 2014 to [January] 2016) funded by the European Commission. The project focussed on (a) making educational assessment and appraisal more goal-oriented, proactive, and beneficial for students, and (b) on enabling formative support of teachers and other educational stakeholders on a solid basis of a wide range of information about learners.’

Eco was ‘a European project based on Open Educational Resources (OER) that gives free access to a list of MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) in 6 languages […] The main goal of this project is to broaden access to education and to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of teaching and learning in Europe.’

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Barcelona: FutureLearn Academic Network

Tweet about the eventOn 27 January, I travelled to Pompeu Fabra university in Barcelona for a meeting of the FutureLearn Academic Network (FLAN) on The Educator Experience. This was the first FLAN meeting to take place outside the UK and it was held at UPF’s Poblenou Campus. The event was organised by CLIK (Center for Learning, Innovation and Knowledge) and the members of the Educational Technologies section within the Interactive Technologies Research Group of UPF.

During the meeting, FutureLearn partners reflected on the impact and research possibilities of MOOC in the field of education. Sir Timothy O’Shea, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, gave the keynote speech, describing Edinburgh’s developing MOOC strategy, including the production of 64 online master’s courses.

I talked about our recent report MOOCs; What the Research of FutureLearn’s UK Partners Tells Us

If you have access to the FutureLearn Partners’ blog, a video of the meeting and summary notes of the sessions are available.

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MOOCs: What the UK research tells us

report coverOur latest quality enhancement report, MOOCs; What the Research of FutureLearn’s UK Partners Tells Us came out in late January 2017. The rport was co-authored with Tim Coughlan, Christothea Herodotou and Eileen Scanlon. It follows an earlier report on what MOOC research from The Open University tells us.

The report provides brief summaries of, and links to, all accessible publications stored in the repositories of  FutureLearn’s UK academic partners that deal with research on MOOCs. Where these publications made recommendations that could be taken up, these recommendations are highlighted within the report. Full references for all studies are provided in the bibliography.

Studies are divided thematically, and the report contains sections on MOOCs as a field, pedagogy and teaching, accessibility, retention, motivation and engagement, assessment and accreditation, study skills, MOOCs around the world, and sustainability.

The report contains 59 recommendations that have emerged from the publications and each of these is linked to the research study that generated it.

MOOC priority areas

1. Develop a strategic approach to learning at scale.

2. Develop appropriate pedagogy for learning at scale.

3. Identify and share effective learning designs.

4. Support discussion more effectively.

5. Clarify learner expectations.

6. Develop educator teams.

7. Widen access.

8. Develop new approaches to assessment and accreditation.

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