Clare Gormley OLDS MOOC Week 1 Reflection: Cloudy with Bright Spells

Summary of my experiences and reflections during Week 1 of OLDS MOOC

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Clare Gormley
15 January 2013

My main learning objectives for week 1 of the OLDS MOOC were as follows:

  • Gain familiarity with Cloudworks & engage with the MOOC (by visiting & participating as much as time allows)
  • Develop deeper understanding of learning design & issues associated with it (by bookmarking and very briefly annotating three key papers)
  • Post details of my own learning design project and browse around/make contact with other potential study groups involved in training/professional development of novice online course developers
Well here I am as Week 1 of OLDS MOOC Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum draws to a close and I’m finally getting some ramblings/reflections down on (digital) paper. This week it’s been all about the Cloud(works) and the temptation to litter this, my first public blog, with Cloud-related metaphors is proving hard to resist: I’m worried there may be storm clouds gathering, I’m hoping there may be blue-sky thinking ahead, but I’m optimistic there will be plenty of clouds with silver linings. You have been warned…
Joking aside (but not too far, now) getting to know the Cloudworks system has been a major theme for many MOOC partipants this week. As eloquently described in Jane Challinor’s blog, the language and workings of Cloudworks are not immediately intuitive and it continues to take some getting used to. However, given that Cloudworks is ultimately a social networking site for those interested in sharing learning designs, and given that my primary objective for participating in this MOOC is to learn more about how to help others develop effective learning designs, I’m going to persevere on the learning curve. With some patience and practice, hopefully its potential will become clearer in time.
Apart from tinkering with Cloudworks, there have been a number of other noteworthy collaborative activities going on this week:
• We’ve been introducing ourselves & participating on the open discussion forum (with some gentle reminders from the OU folk about maintaining threads and adhering to discussion forum best practice)
• We’ve posted our “dream” learning design project to the Dreambazaar (a kind of campsite for virtual learning designs, as discussed on Twitter)
• We’ve started the process of project team formation with the objective of collaborating on a learning design project with like-minded souls from the MOOC. Go team Sheila MacNeill, Santanu Vasant, Helen Walmsley to name just a few of those interested so far!
I say “started the process” because I feel I’m still really just starting with the team formation process at this point. The tiny little description of this activity in the Team Up area of the OLDS Site makes it sound a lot easier than it actually is, in my view.: “Once you have formed a team, you will have to agree on roles, practices and conventions among team members. Then...” 
Would it were that easy! Putting aside my own baggage from previous group learning experiences (some great, some dreadful), I believe that a project manager/team leader role might be needed in order to progress the project. That’s something that’s difficult to get up and running in an environment when there are so many of us on different schedules who don’t know each other working on a project that we might interpret differently using an unfamiliar learning platform. That said, we are planning to have our first Hangout tonight which will hopefully clarify the thinking and point to next steps for the team. At the Converge session today, it was comforting to hear that there is an expectation that the team formation process may well continue for some groups into next week. So it’s early days yet.. 
Apart from collaborative activities, I’ve been engaged in some personal learning activities, reading up (not as much as I should, I feel) on a small number of recommended links & references.  There were some great definitions of learning design contained in the introductory Prezi. For example: 
“Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into desired ones” (Simon, 1969)
I particularly liked the clarity of Grainne Conole’s definition of learning design: “A methodology for enabling teachers/designers to make more informed decisions in how they go about designing learning activities and interventions, which is pedagogically informed and makes effective use of appropriate resources and technologies.” For my money, this is the definition that most clearly puts the focus on the actual design process and differentiates learning design from its sister instructional design. 
Also, although it’s in a different context, I must also admit to rather liking the late Steve Jobs definition of design, as I think it rather interesting that someone who so obviously commanded the aesthetic perspective actually had more pragmatic concerns about what’s important in design.:
“ ‘Design’ is a really loaded word. I don't know what it means. So we don't talk a lot about design around here, we actually just talk about how things work. Most people think it's [about] how they look. But it's not really how they look, it's how they work."
Anyway, looking at my objectives for the week (and I am taking the MOOC on a week-by-week basis depending on other commitments), I’m happy to be able to check off the items on my list. That done, I shall float off on my own little cloud of contentment for now…here’s hoping the feeling lasts!

Well here I am as Week 1 of OLDS MOOC Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum draws to a close and I’m finally getting some ramblings/reflections down on (digital) paper. This week it’s been all about the Cloudworks and the temptation to litter this, my first public reflection, with Cloud-related metaphors is proving hard to resist: I’m worried there may be storm clouds gathering, I’m hoping there may be blue-sky thinking ahead, but I’m optimistic there will be plenty of clouds with silver linings. You have been warned…

Joking aside, getting to know the Cloudworks system has been a major theme for many MOOC participants this week. As eloquently described in Jane Challinor’s blog, the language and workings of Cloudworks are not immediately intuitive and it continues to take some getting used to. However, given that Cloudworks is ultimately a social networking site for those interested in sharing learning designs, and given that my primary objective for participating in this MOOC is to learn more about how to help others develop effective learning designs, I’m going to persevere on the learning curve. With some patience and practice, hopefully its potential and value will become clearer in time.

Apart from tinkering with Cloudworks, there have been a number of other noteworthy collaborative activities going on this week:

• We’ve been introducing ourselves & participating on the open discussion forum (with some gentle reminders from the OU folk about maintaining threads and adhering to discussion forum best practice)

• We’ve posted our “dream” learning design project to the Dreambazaar (a kind of campsite for virtual learning designs, as described on Twitter)

• We’ve started the process of project team formation with the objective of collaborating on a learning design project with like-minded souls from the MOOC. Go team Sheila MacNeill, , Helen Walmsley and Santanu Vasant to name just a few of those interested so far!

I say “started the process” because I feel I’m still really just starting with the team formation process at this point. The tiny little description of this activity in the Team Up area of the OLDS Site makes it sound a lot easier than it actually is, in my view: “Once you have formed a team, you will have to agree on roles, practices and conventions among team members. Then...” 

Would it were that easy! As I'm undoubtedly bringing some baggage from previous group learning experiences (some great, some dreadful), I'm very curious to see how the team formation will happen and the project will evolve in a MOOC. For example,my initial thoughts wondered whether a project manager or team leader type of role might be needed in order to progress the project and ensure the tasks get done. Getting the team approach working  in this environment might be challenging when there are so many of us on different schedules who don’t know each other, working on a project that we might interpret differently using an unfamiliar learning platform. Or  maybe there's no need for a PM in this context - will it be the case that getting highly motivated & interested people together is the key and once that's done the team members take responsibility and share tasks naturally as things progress? It will be fascinating to see how this works in the weeks ahead.

I was delighted to meet fellow teammates Helen and Sheila on our very first Team Hangout last night and bounce around some initial project ideas - this felt like a very promising first start as we are all on the same page regarding keeping the project realistic and achievable. At the Converge session on Tuesday, it was also comforting to hear that there is an expectation that the team formation process may well continue for some groups into next week so I still feel on track regarding team set up. However, because I still can't quite get my head around the concept of a Study Circle, I'm going to let that rest over the next while and see what happens.

Apart from collaborative activities, I’ve been engaged in some personal learning activities, reading up (not as much as I should, I feel) on a small number of the recommended links & references.  There were some interesting definitions of learning design contained in the introductory Prezi. For example: “Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into desired ones” (Simon, 1969)

I particularly liked the clarity of Grainne Conole’s definition of learning design: “A methodology for enabling teachers/designers to make more informed decisions in how they go about designing learning activities and interventions, which is pedagogically informed and makes effective use of appropriate resources and technologies.” For my money, this is the definition that most clearly puts the focus on the actual design process and differentiates learning design from its learner-centric sister instructional design. 

Also, although it’s in a different (non educational) context, I must also admit to rather liking the late Steve Jobs definition of design, as I think it rather interesting that someone who so obviously commanded the aesthetic perspective actually had more pragmatic concerns about what’s important: “ ‘Design’ is a really loaded word. I don't know what it means. So we don't talk a lot about design around here, we actually just talk about how things work. Most people think it's [about] how they look. But it's not really how they look, it's how they work." Getting something to "work" for the learner, in other words creating a design that genuinely leads to students learning, should be the fundamental goal of any learning design project, in my view. Approaches and techniques that can help educators with that messy process of design in a modern context (roll on week 3) are therefore pivotal.

Anyway, looking at my personal objectives for the week (and I am taking the MOOC on a week-by-week basis depending on other commitments), I’m happy to be able to check off the items on my list. That done, I shall float off on my own little cloud of contentment for now…here’s hoping the feeling lasts!

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Helen Crump
12:09pm 18 January 2013


I enjoyed reading your " first public reflection" and discovering that the clouds are indeed lifting. All the best for week 2.

Helen

Clare Gormley
12:35pm 18 January 2013


Ah, thanks Helen - I finally made that "public" leap!  All the best for Week 2 to you too (it will have to be a pretty short one for me) but hopefully see you somewhere around the Clouds:)

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