Posts Tagged FutureLearn

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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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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Examining engagement in MOOCs

My main paper at LAK15 analysed engagement patterns in FutureLearn MOOCs. In it, Doug Clow and I began by carrying out a replication study, building on an earlier study of Coursera MOOCs by Kizilcec and his colleagues. Although our cluster analysis found two clusters that were very similar to those found in the earlier study, our other clusters did not match theirs. The different clusters of learners on the two platforms appeared to relate to the pedagogy (approach to learning and teaching) underlying the courses.

Ferguson, Rebecca, & Clow, Doug. (2015). Examining engagement: analysing learner subpopulations in massive open online courses (MOOCs). Paper presented at LAK 15 (March 16-20), Poughkeepsie, USA.

Abstract

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are now being used across the world to provide millions of learners with access to education. Many learners complete these courses successfully, or to their own satisfaction, but the high numbers who do not finish remain a subject of concern for platform providers and educators. 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. However, not all platforms take this approach to learning design. Courses on the FutureLearn platform are underpinned by a social-constructivist pedagogy, which includes discussion as an important element. In this paper, we analyse engagement patterns on four FutureLearn MOOCs and find that only two clusters identified previously apply in this case. Instead, we see seven distinct patterns of engagement: Samplers, Strong Starters, Returners, Mid-way Dropouts, Nearly There, Late Completers and Keen Completers. This suggests that patterns of engagement in these massive learning environments are influenced by decisions about pedagogy. We also make some observations about approaches to clustering in this context.

 

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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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