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Week 1: Initiate (Lindsay Jordan)

A Cloud for the first week's activities

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Lindsay Jordan
11 January 2013

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Introducing myself!

My name's Lindsay and I'm a Senior Lecturer in Learning & Teaching at the University of the Arts London. I have a fledgling research profile in online, collaborative learning, so MOOCs are very much up my street. I'm more accustomed to the Blog-plus-RSS model than a portfolio model, but I can already see how this style is more appropriate for a project-based course.

I am: open, conscientious, extrovert, agreeable and a little neurotic. According to Tschofen & Mackness (2012) I should therefore find this a breeze...

Lindsay Jordan
10:39 on 11 January 2013 (Edited 10:46 on 11 January 2013)

Objectives for the week:


Objectives for the week:
Add some thoughts in response to the Learning Design presentation
Summarise my learning design project and upload the course documents in their current state (I may use a sepearate Cloud for this).
Try to find a couple of similar projects and connect with them
Do the Learning Design brainstorm activity (although I haven't checked this out yet)
Attend Tuesday's Google Hangout
Post reflections on the first weekObjectives for the week:Add some thoughts in response to the Learning Design presentation
  • Post a response to the Learning Design presentation (see below)
  • Summarise my learning design project and upload the course documents in their current state (I may use a separate Cloud for this).
  • Try to find a couple of similar projects and connect with them
  • Do the Learning Design brainstorm activity (although I haven't checked this out yet)
  • Attend Tuesday's Google Hangout
  • Post reflections on the first week

Lindsay Jordan
10:46 on 11 January 2013 (Edited 13:05 on 11 January 2013)

Initial thoughts in response to the Learning Design presentation:

We all know by now that, in a world flooded with information, the role of the University is not to simply feed people content. But maybe it never was. Perhaps it was for the correspondence courses that were so fashionable from 1970-2000, and maybe on some face-to-face courses during the 'massification' period, but before then - when university was reserved for the intellectual elite - university was about discussing what you'd read in the library. Yes, you got the books from the university library, but it wasn't the university's content; you could walk into the British Library and access any of it if you were so inclined. The point of university was to teach students how to find, select and criticise information in the pursuit of knowledge. So, no change there then.

Any move away from 'traditional', face to face education and online distance education depends largely on the market; on what learners want. And while undergraduates still desire the boarding school type experience - and are willing to get into massive amounts of debt in order to get it - online distance education will remain at the margins; only desired by those who can't afford the time and expense of going to 'proper' university; often mid-career adults in full-time employment. 

A different set of skills are needed to succeed with this cheaper product; to learn without someone holding your hand, without sitting in a room having someone ask you the right questions and tell you exactly what to do. Having to motivate yourself, find your way through new materials, information and environments, and make the 'right' decisions with no external input is incredibly difficult. Things were easier in some ways with the old correspondence courses because there were fewer options and distractions; just a linear path through a book, or a series of webpages. The learning environment - although solitary and lacking in stimulation - was familiar. Distance learning was far simpler with the old content-based model. In contrast, distance learning today is getting incredibly complex, and in this sense it could be argued that it is getting less accessible. If curricula are built on connecting with people and collaborating with them on projects, there are massive technical challenges to overcome for both designers and learners. How do learners find each other, choose who to connect with, and work together? These, I think, are the key challenges for online and blended learning designers today.

NB In my experience, designing for online collaborative learning is actually a situation where too many cooks can spoil the broth. The best online collaboration experience I have had is on the cMOOCs initied by George Siemens, which utilised Stephen Downes' gRSShopper programme. This produced a daily newsletter of participants' tagged blog posts. It was incredibly simple, allowed participants to use whatever platform they were comfortable with, and effectively aggregated all the dispersed activity on the course. So it will be interesting to see how the discussion around collaborative learning design (as opposed to designing for collaborative learning!) progresses.

Lindsay Jordan
11:54 on 11 January 2013 (Edited 11:55 on 11 January 2013)

Embedded Content


Will Stewart
9:36am 13 January 2013

Lindsay Your comment about distance learning being much simpler when it was based around content was an interesting one. I suppose you could say the same about face-to-face learning. For both, the content- based model was of its time. In the case of distance learning, we have been moving away from that model for some time, perhaps because it was a solitary activity and you didn't need to be online to learn content. You could stick with the old correspondence model and get your content sent to you by post. So, in the online environment, a different model was required built around interaction and dialogue in order to make sense of the content. You didn't need this evolution in the case of face-to-face learning. As long as learners came together in groups to have content delivered to them, there was no need to change. The business model suited the universities and the consequences of changing it really could not be contemplated. This is one reason why I am interested in the question "Can 21st century curricula exist in 20th century institutions?" Will

Lindsay Jordan
11:14am 14 January 2013

Thanks for that, Will. I think I'm probably coming from another direction in terms of my own questions - but I suppose it depends on what you mean by the 'institution'. I think the main challenge is really for learners; how they can succeed with new forms of blended and distance learning, and what the institution needs to do to help them to succeed. Bearing in mind, of course, that enrolling on a cheap or free course requires very little commitment, so participants on these courses are less likely to complete anyway. My own course has a similar funding stucture to a face-to-face Masters, and the participants are also obliged to complete it as part of their continuing employment as teachers, but it has still been a difficult road getting attrition rates down to that of the old face-to-face version since going online/blended.

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