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Mark N's OLDS MOOC learning journal

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Mark Nichols
10 January 2013

this is where I post my learning bits...

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Mark Nichols
22:26 on 13 January 2013 (Edited 23:44 on 16 January 2013)

Personal objectives for the week:

  1. To have all technological tools in place.
  2. To have completed all learning and collaborative tasks.
  3. To have commented on at least two participants’ contributions (two is a good goal, I’m usually strongly individualistic!)

That this is now posted shows that objective 1 is complete...


Mark Nichols
22:40 on 13 January 2013 (Edited 22:50 on 13 January 2013)

OLDS MOOC reflections – Week One

Whew. Week One so far has been a bit af a whirlwind. My intention for this MOOC is not so much to study instructional design - though it will natually be useful to do! Rather I'm keen to experience a different type of MOOC from a student perspective, and consider points of instructional design I take for granted. Already there's some great reflection points.

Firstly, the technology is rather complex. Cloudworks is not an intuitive system, and the need for moderated creation is a real barrier to progress. At the beginning I was rearing to complete my first day’s tasks but I needed to await the approval of my ‘cloudscape’ and ‘cloud’. Sigh. However the problem of moderation was taken care of quickly, and video clips have been made available to assist with orientation to Cloudworks.

Second, the use of prezi for the initial content presentation is unfortunate. A slideshow does not really provide sufficient context for the message to make sense, as a slideshow is not a narrative but rather a summary of points. Turns out later that there was, in fact, a problem with the initial voiceover - but only a few pertinent points were added by the voiceover (at least the flow of the slides made more sense). I'm more of a reader, so would have preferred some recomemnded readings to be made available (or at least linked to!) as well.

Third, the use of multiple solutions (main Website, Google Groups, Cloudscape) is rather confusing at the moment. It’s not immediately clear what is used for what, which was initially quite frustrating. For the group activity we are empowered to choose whatever solution – Cloudworks, Google groups, Facebook – we want to. While this provides flexibility, having multiple points of contact can also be frustrating.

Fourth, the timeframe is very ‘lock-step’. Days (including weekend days) form part of the pace.

Finally, the use of what has by necessity to be largely unmoderated forums makes for a real hodge-podge of interactivity. It’s simply overwhelming. It's great to see the teaching team active in the fourms bringing threads together. So, all a wee bit chaotic for the moment - hoping things click in place soon.

Again, very grateful to the design and teaching team for making this learning opportunity available. Excellent.

Mark Nichols
22:49 on 13 January 2013 (Edited 23:44 on 16 January 2013)

More OLDS MOOC reflections - Week One

Interesting observation from a summary post (!msg/olds-mooc/bwX2FtG7g7A/zR9mGWYj0MMJ) today:

There's something quite fascinating about running a MOOC. But there's also a challenge: it's massive, it's open, and it's online. Which, when you aim for semi-structured, project-based, collaborative learning - can be a mess.

So here's the rub:

We are posting lots of stuff to lots of places. If we don't post the right stuff to the right place, this MOOC is going to turn into a huge pile of spaghetti.

Indeed! This cMOOC is pushing the boundaries - it's clearly a solid departure from a more content-driven xMOOC - however this format has its challenges. Great to see the teacher-as-moderator providing a renewed focus on the linear expectations for Week One, and working to maintain the alignment of students with tasks. Good to see the teachers working to help students naviagte through the multiple projects proposed by students for group work, too. Clear value-add by the teaching team!

A useful metaphor:

We realise that, as often happens in eLearning, you're confronted with a triple learning challenge: you need to get to grips with new knowledge, through a new pedagogy, supported by new technology. A bit like learning to juggle machetes while riding a unicycle. So no wonder you might find it tricky. But try to stick to the plan above, step by step, and you'll be fine.

I've got a few scars from the machetes, but they're healing well ;o) What is surprising is that this MOOC has drawn together many already actively involved in online learning - yet many seem to have struggled with the technology. I've been a Moodle admin (and, humbly, chaired the development of Mahara, and have previously looked at Cloudworks) and I struggled... but hats off to the MOOC team. It's an ambitious, well-designed and logical design once you're looking at it from the inside!

The activities also seem to have filtered out the casuals as well - of (I think) about 1,000 enrolees some 100 have continued thus far. Not fully certain of these stats (can't find the actual numbers as I type) but indicative that what started as a fully hyrated cMOOC may end up as a concentrate... 

Mark Nichols
22:46 on 14 January 2013

OLDS MOOC reflections – Week One: Final reflection and objectives

The end of the week! A few thoughts for this stage of the journey in addition to previous posts:

  1. What day is it? The time zone has been an interesting problem. In New Zealand I'm GMT+12, so live events aren't too convenient and asynchronous communications work best.
  2. Collaborative by design or demonstration? There's been an emphasis on connecting this week, with others' ideas and in discussion threads. I'm caught again with the thought of 'hodge-podge'. I've put in a lot of time this week and to be honest I'm not certain I've had a good return for the effort. I'm wondering how many others might feel the same way I do, having posted and suggested but in the end having gained no real traction in terms of collaboration and connection. The design is excellent, clever design is in place to encourage reflection on key concepts and interaction however I'm just not sure the MOOC format works for this. There's no real 'skin in the game' for students, so no deep motivation to fully participate and engage. I'm not certain that effective teaching and social presences can be gained in this format.  
  3. Will I continue? Actually I'm not certain. I have aPhD to finish and a busy job to do. I've been attempting to do this MOOC in my lunch breaks (New Year's resolution to take those!) and evenings, not sure how much longer I can really justify that. 

Anyways, on to reflection against the week's objectives:

  • Explore a variety of definitions of learning design. Done.
  • Initiate own learning/curriculum design project. Done... ish. Just me, no groupies!
  • Define learning design, as a field of research and a practice. Done, though probably too flowery. 
  • Identify some of the grand challenges of using a learning design approach to the design of learning in the 21st Century. Haven't posted on this, but will add some thoughts here. Grand challenges include: Well-embedded organisational and funding systems aligned with specific approaches; dynamic potential of technology; lack of clear model for 21st Century education; not starting from the perspective of the subject (assuming one model needs to be in place for all).
  • Identify specific topics of interest for further exploration. I'm interested in exploring the over-arching stages of the course (Initiate, Inquire, Ideate, Connect, Prototype, Curate, Evaluate, Reflect). Might be good to stick around.

My objectives for Week One were:

  1. To have all technological tools in place. ACHIEVED.
  2. To have completed all learning and collaborative tasks. ACHIEVED however no next steps... my dream wasn't cloudy enouigh to others, and my applications to others (ONE and TWO) weren't successful! 
  3. To have commented on at least two participants’ contributions (two is a good goal, I’m usually strongly individualistic!) ACHIEVED in these threads: ONE, TWO and THREE.

So, I reckon I've earned a badge.

Mark Nichols
23:42 on 16 January 2013

OLDS MOOC - Week Two

It's late Friday of Week Two as I type, the week having just started. This week looks very different to Week One and has a different facilitator.

The use of different engagement pathways looks like a great technique. Options are clearly signalled. One option is the short route (3+ hours), which does not require two of the seven activities to be completed. The other requires addiitonal tasks related to the learning project (for those who have started one!) There is clear time signposting for each task, which as a busy learner I certainly appreciate.

At last, readings! The one on personas is particularly interesting however it's related to IT, andI'm not sure of how much I ought to read of it... Neither is the source put in any context, so it's not completely clear as to how the reading or the source fits in with the week's objectives (though to be fair neither is really that difficult to discern). I didn't read it all because I think the first few paragraphs really give the point of personas for learning design. The reading on design scenarios was a difficult encounter at first, as its written in a completely different style and again the source lacks any context. The third, on the ecology of resources, is clearer to read but again different in style. I'm reminded here of the study I did for my OU MAODE (ten years ago!), which actually had each block based on a scholarly essay, which helped give a good sense of context and the bringing together of scholarly literature by an expert. Readings (articles) complemented this monograph. I can't help thinking that a scholarly essay would have been more useful to me than a brief video and links to three very different readings and some small diagrams!

Objectives for the week:

  • Review & revise your understanding of learner context and it's relevance to learning design.
  • Increase your awareness of approaches to context for learning design.
  • Evaluate the relevance of contextual approaches to your own learning design practice.
  • Plan further learning about contextual approaches.

Actually these are the course objectives... I'm not sure of how to really apply them to me personally. My learning path this week will involve following my nose from exercise to exercise and doing what comes next. The objectives look worthy and useful, so onward I go! At the end of the week I'll be in a better position to determine whether the course has been successful in aligning my learning to the objectives it's proposing.

Mark Nichols
10:06 on 18 January 2013

Nah, I'm out.

Just considered the second exercise for the week (Start to contextualise your project) and got completely discouraged. My project? What project? I did suggest something but had no comment from anyone nor feedback as to its possible suitability, and it doesn't look too relevant to the task. I also attempted to join two other project groups however got no response from the authors - and I don't even know if either of them are still active.

So, I'm feeling a little demoralised. I already lack traction for the exercise. I looked ahead at two links for further content, one was a slideshow (points on a slide, no real idea of what they are getting at or how they fit) and a whole series of links with no sense of what's important or where to start.

So, I'm out. It almost feels as though the MOOC this week has been designed to be a weeding exercise. My roots are out! So, final reflections before signing off.

  1. Can you really 'c' in a cMOOC? For a start, the high attrition rate means it's difficult to get any real collaborative work going as your collaborator is highly likely to not be there next day. Second, high student numbers make it really difficult for facilitators to provide any real cohesion or support to individuals. Third, the sheer mass of contributions makes any form of class discussion impossible. So, how collaborative can a 'c' MOOC really be in a meaningful sense?
  2. Content needs to be contextualised, not just available. I am actually quite amazed at the lack of contextualised information and substantial reading or reference material provided in this course to date. I have mentioned the power of monographs in my precious message... simply a two to four-page essay from a facilitator each week, providing a baseline of ideas, theorists, concepts, and definitions would have made a HUGE difference for me. A brief three minute video introduction followed by different links using different terminology is really quite inadequate.
  3. Tabs, tools and transferring. I can't speak for anyone else here however I found it impossible to make any progress in this course without having multiple browser tabs open across multiple tools including the main MOOC page, readings, Google groups (sometimes multiple threads) and Coudworks (again multiple clouds, often including an active one for the post I'm drafting). There's something to be said for a linear approach! Swapping across these things is rather confusing.
  4. Where's the expert's view? It's great to be a 'guide on the side', but given the obvious qualifications and experience of the teaching team I'd far rather learn more about what they think and know, not just what other MOOCers think. The expert's view provides a crucial perspective, related to my point 2 above. A monograph from each expert start of the week would have greatly enhanced my learning and, I believe, would also have added more guidance and helpfulness to the Google Group discussions.

So, I'm out... and I was genuinely seeking to continue and finish. The course simply hasn't convinced me that I will really learn anything coherent, and I must confess that the hours I've spent wrestling with the course would have been far better spent reading a good book about learning design. At least that way I will gain a coherent, contextualised overview that provides me with easy reference and a definition of key terms!

I think this MOOC has emphasised process over content. I see the value of the former because it can lead to deep learning however process needs a springboard. Some chewy, thought-provoking content would have been useful to give learners a common vocabulary and starting point for collaboration and dialogue. For me, that content was far too lacking.

No offence here to any of the MOOC team. It's just not working for me given the points above - and learning this doesn't work for me and reflecting as I have done here is valuable learning. If this was a course I had paid for I would be insisting on a refund!


Mark Nichols
10:47 on 18 January 2013 (Edited 22:09 on 18 January 2013)

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Mark Nichols
10:35pm 13 January 2013 (Edited 10:41pm 13 January 2013)


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