Friday, 20 June 2014

A MOOC focus; How to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of particular TEL approaches

#ocTEL Week 6 'If you only do one thing...' activity

Education offered on a massive scale is available, but it is currently more facilitative, and option-providing, rather than the disruptive all sector changing thing that it was (not long ago) celebrated/feared to be.

I watched both the ocTEL suggested videos listed below. Both videos are promotional in style, and so extol benefits clearly, however, some issues can still be drawn out from the presentations.

The table below identifies a range of elements of the Saylor and xMOOC approaches aligned with that of my academic college (faculty), within a large Melbourne university.

My context:
College of Science, Engineering and Health
Saylor Foundation
xMOOC model
(e.g. Udacity)
Learning mode
Primarily blended learning.
We have a substantial reliance on on-campus laboratories (medical, health, pharmaceutical, computer, engineering, experimental)


Primarily exclusive application via Victorian Tertiary Admission Centre, reliant on proven school academic ability (ATAR score) or equivalent experience

Anyone with internet access can learn

Udacity only partly free now; cheaper than Stanford
Learning design
Value good learning design, but it is not mandated or routinely evaluated on a broad scale; small number of courses each year can apply for learning design projects for their courses
Learning design is critical for all courses, “design [is] the transformative marriage of form and content”
A ‘professor consultant’ designs a course, and it is peer reviewed by other prof., sometimes from various universities.
A simple but clearly structured design based on navigation through OER readings and recorded lectures, doing assignments that have answer guides, sitting a final exam online. All is presented ready for the learner upon commencement.
Intended to equal the quality level of a 15 HE course.
Learning design appears in this presentation to be OK in quality, albeit probably fairly rudimentary and consistent.

Navigation through a xMOOC^ is “linear and based on the absorption and understanding of fixed competencies”, “centre of the course is the instructor-guided lesson”

Learning design features
Extremely varied across the blended modes, from standard, traditional features, through to high-end interactive contemporary models of engagement
Standardised approach.
OER readings and recorded lectures (using (CC) or if required seeking permissions), “vetted, assembled, and found as trustworthy by experts”
If any gaps, original readings or recorded lectures (presentation media with Paint tools to annotate as discussing) by Prof. (CC) BY
xMOOCs typically:
·      concise, targeted video content
·      automated testing to check understanding as working through content
·      discussion forums to “bounce ideas around and discuss learning together”, but has to be loud noise to get tutor input
·      learning is seen as something that can be tested and certified
Educational technology/Learning resources
Wide range of institute SOE for educators to choose from, e.g.: LMS (Blackboard 9.1) and all its features, web conferencing (Bb Collaborate), Google suite, Virtual labs and iLabs, WebLearn (sophisticated purpose-built mathematical enabling quiz and assessment tool); plus a range of ‘non-sanctioned’ technologies.
LMS: Moodle
Anticipated soon:
·      ePortfolio to allow tracking progress and receipt of badges
·      media library for robust searchable repository open to world
·      focus on quizzes
·      solve problem (e.g. coding problem; answer question); if correct: advance, if not go to:
·      video explanations
·      student discussion / collaboration forums (can post anonymously)

·      final exam (online)
Learning support
On-campus and online teacher:student, student:student interaction.
Services, e.g. Study and Learning Centre, physical and online library services, student union support, admin support, etc.
It seems that after design and development, educators are no longer required for a teaching role.
No teaching role mentioned beyond course creation.
Not really. We put © on nearly everything we produce.
From a ‘create-hold-on-tight’ position, we are moving to using OER, and then hopefully contributing back.
Not just a consumer of OER, but contributing back OER as well, using (CC) BY licence.
Limited courseware accessible for free but no reference to sharing back to OER community.

Problems anticipated with a MOOC-like approach

A problem anticipated with both the Saylor and Udacity approaches, is the potential lack of support for students. They are both relying on quite ‘step-wise’ designed learning; not all students can successfully navigate steps with the same efficiency or effectiveness. Some will experience hiccups and require guidance and/or support to get back on track. 

Additionally, I expect the designs talked of in the videos are not engaging enough to connect with a very wide range of students (which might contribute toward low retention rates in xMOOCs..?) While cMOOCs are potentially more engaging (as this ocTEL one is!), each has its drawbacks, as noted in ocTEL listed ref: What is a MOOC? What are the different types of MOOC? xMOOCs and cMOOCs

There has been a lot of discussion about MOOCs not being the answer to everything, including—it would seem—one of the founders of Udacity (see Jason Lodge’s blog post, Nov 2013, ^The failure of Udacity: lessons on quality for future MOOCs). It is also instructional to read the comments to this blog.

Various situations in which to consider efficiencies 

1. Reaching more people or providing a richer experience for the same cost?

  • Reaching out to provide education to a global market.
  • Potential tensions between: providing education effectively for a range of different learners, with different contextual, cultural and learning expectations. Is there time to adequately conduct a full international LNA (learning needs analysis) and adapt the course, or, better still, to properly internationalise the curriculum and train academics how to teach in an international context?

2. Reducing tutor costs by encouraging more elements of the learning experience to be peer-based or self-organised by learners?

  • Computer science students each record a video of their specific learning evidence (programming problem analysis and arrival at potential solutions), via explanation and presentation of coding, and other artefacts, etc. Then, within groups of three or four, they need to each review all other’s videos in their team, against criteria aligned to the course learning outcomes, to collectively contribute to arriving at individual marks. If results vary greatly, the tutor can moderate. Each student also needs to include in their review at least one thing new that they learnt from each video reviewed. 
  • Educators will need to make sure the students clearly understand the benefits of this intervention so that it is not treated lightly; effectiveness might be hampered if the students do not understand the 'why'. Perhaps a visit, or recording of a visit, from an industry representative speaking to the benefits of undertaking such learning activities, e.g. regarding the employability skills it might enhance. 

3. Reducing production and infrastructure costs by using free resources and technology?

  • Using a flipped classroom model where content is provided in the form of OER video lectures or  content explanations, made available online for student viewing prior to on-campus tutorial sessions.
  • The conflict in this is that it is potentially shifting mediocre delivery-styled teaching methods from on-campus to online. Very bright students tend to cope despite whatever is dished up, but most students will require structured learning designs to properly engage them with the video content. Simple things like chunking the videos into smaller bites of content (if (CC) licence allows), interspersed with meaningful reflection and engagement activities to better facilitate adequate preparation before on-campus tutorials.

4. Taking the learners’ perspective in getting a sound, rounded, education with minimum financial outlay?

  • Traditional but often effective on-campus SCCs (student consultative committees), could be replicated with web conferencing tools like Bb Collaborate.
  • Definite conflict! I don’t know how the welcoming gesture of tea, coffee, biscuits, could be replicated through the www! Doh!

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