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Helen Crump - My OLDSMOOC Narrative

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Helen Crump
28 February 2013

Activity 2: Construct a design narrative of your own experience on the course.

S.T.A.R.R outline:

Where are you coming from? What is the context in which you are working and participating in OLDS MOOC?
I was a complete "rookie" at the start. No prior experience or knowledge what so ever of learning design. See my OLDSMOOC intro:
I’m an adult literacy tutor and I live on the West Coast of Ireland (originally from Nottingham). I'm also a very recent graduate of St. Angela's College, Sligo where I completed an M.A. awarded by NUI Galway in Technology, Learning, Innovation and Change.

I’m interested in digital literaciesand social learning, which ideally I'd like to teach online in a Higher Education or professional development context. For that reason I'm developing my skills and knowledge in relation to online pedagogy and instructional design; that's why I’m glad to be here taking part in OLDS MOOC "Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum"

Task: What did you hope to achieve? What were your goals in joining OLDS MOOC?

My goals were nothing grand, simply to find out what learning design was and to see how it might help me to design and deliver learning online. I signed up in the hope that OLDSMOOC would complement another open course that I was undertaking, Pedagogy FIrst, focusing on online pedagogy.

What did you do? What were the main events, interactions, practices and activities in which you participated? What were the obstacles - and how did you tackle them?
Having posted a brief, even vague, outline of my learning project entitled Digital Me - Understanding Digital Literacies, as per my Pedagogy First initiative, I then started to look around for people to collaborate with, either to develop my idea or to work on something closely related. 
There was a lot of activity and alot of confusion (chaos) in the first week as participants went through the process of negotiation. In particular, there was alot of activity around design projects pertaining in some way shape or form to digital literacies. At this point, having noted that I was originally from Nottingham, Jane Challinor struck up a conversation with me  relating that she was a lecturer in Nottingham Trent Uni and that her envisaged design project was similar to mine.
Shortly after, Jane initiated a cloud called Digital Identity and Social Media which generated alot of discussion about different aspects of digital literacy. Now,  negotiation for design groups was getting quite frenzied, but what I did was to  park myself in this cloud and wait and see what transpired. At the end of the day, I was happy to work on my own, if it came down to it. By the end of week 1, it was agreed that Jane and I would form a partnership and work on her project, Let's Get Digital , a design project to incorporate digital literacies into an undergrad study skills module.I liked this idea because Jane's project was real, which would add real context and purpose to me.

What were the outcomes of your participation? Did you meet your goals? What went well, what didn't? What unexpected outcomes did you notice?
I could not have wished for a better project or a better "design partner". Through out, the project both was focused and fun. Each week we managed to achieve the OLDSMOOC goals and, what's more, to have something of real practical value to take away from it too. At first it was difficult to set up channels of communication because things were so hectic, but somehow, and this was truly amazing, with very little discussion we just seemed to do the tasks in tandem, working intutitively to compliment each other. After surviving on snatched tweets and huried DMs, we eventually caught up with each other on Skype over the weekeds. It worked really well. Also, as luck would have it, I was going to be in Nottingham one of the weekends so we were able to meet up over lunch. All very agreable, I must say.
I also enjoyed the Twitter stream for the course. It really helped to breathe some life into the course; I found Cloudworks to be very sterile, indeed stiffling almost.
In terms of the narrative and unexpected outcomes or incidents, the project was very fortunate in Week 3, when the resource Digital Literacy Facilitation Cards were rolled out and Jane was able to incorporate them into the project's learning outcomes.

What did you learn? What advice could you give others?
I learned lots, and not just about learning design. Primarily, I  think I Iearned about  context and ecologies and the design tools that enable you to factor for this. And certainly, I learned the joys of collaborating with like minded, passionate people. If I had any advice to give as a result of this experience, I would say be clear about your purpose for participating and seek out people with similar aims, be prepared to be flexible and adaptable after that because essentially you'll be heading in the right direction :)

Extra content

Embedded Content


Tom Reeves
7:44pm 28 February 2013

Helen, thank you for sharing this lovely story of your experiences thus far in the OLDS MOOC.  As Yishay Mor noted in his message about the beginning of Week 8, it isn’t the end yet, but your narrative shows just how far we have come together. How wonderful that you and your design partner were able to meet in person after collaborating virtually for some time. I would be interested in hearing more about how your experiences in the OLDS MOOC compare with your experiences in the Pedagogy First! open course. The latter is clearly a longer commitment (24 weeks), but what about differences in pedagogical dimensions? Can you share more about this?  Thank you.  – Tom Reeves

Helen Crump
4:29pm 3 March 2013

Hi Tom

Thanks for your interest.

Since the start of the academic year, back in September 2012, I've participated in a number of MOOCs. Originally, I signed up for Pedagogy First because online paedagogy was my main focus. Right off, what appealed to me about it was the clear layout of a syllabus and a course text, as well as the fact that it was underpinned by a volunteer/peer support/pay it forward ethos. Like OLDSMOOC, Pedagogy First is a project based MOOC. I signed up for OLDSMOOC because I was beginning to realise the importance of learning design to my project, and I didn't really know what that was. So far, I can say that I like the format of a project based MOOC, but the real strength it seems comes not from the project but from the support and the collaborations that spring up. Pedagogy First encourages support through assigning a mentor, and I can't tell you how wonderful this was to me as I started out, and also by asking that you visit the blog posts of other participants to offer comments and help build a learning community. There is also a FB group that is very useful for "social glue". The strength of OLDSMOOC has been the structure (even if it has seemed to be a bit hell for leather at times) and the collaboration that transpired for me. The social community aspect needs working on, but that was constrained by the platform used.

The story in relation to the paltform is interesting because I also just completed the eLearning and  Digital Cultures MOOC offered by Edinburgh Uni on the Coursera patform, which was a traditional online course built around a body of content facilitated by a course team in aVLE. However, here again the strength of the MOOC lay not in the course itself but rather in all the network-focused pre course activity that built up outside it and which was instigated by the learners themselves. My blog post(s) might offer a clearer explanation:

Anyway, I hope that this is of some help to you.

Finally, though, I'm thinking about your comment that a commitment to a course of 24 weeks is a long time. Well, I'd like to say that actually I'm coming to think that the commitment goes way beyond 24 weeks, or the duration of any course. For me it seems that the commitment is to a learning community /communities (the people in them) and the development of a lifelong personal learning network. That's what it seems like, now that I come to reflect on it.

Thanks for asking the question, Tom. Made me think out loud. :)



Art Oglesby
9:00pm 3 March 2013 (Edited 9:04pm 3 March 2013)


I used to think mastering search engines was the way to learn. Now I have experienced how networking smarts is so much better.

I agree with your last paragraph to Tom, 

"Self-organised learning networks provide a base for...
a learner-centred and learner controlled model of lifelong learning." (Koper 2004)

I really learned a lot via vicarious learner mode by following you and Jane as you worked through the assignments.

Thanks, too, for sharing resources.


Tom Reeves
3:13am 4 March 2013 (Edited 3:15am 4 March 2013)

Thank you for your thoughtful reply to my question about the differences in your experiences in the Pedagogy First MOOC and the OLDS MOOC. If MOOCs like this one are helping people develop lifelong personal learning networks, that is a wonderful outcome. The first two MOOCs I was a part of were cMOOCs organized by George Siemens, Stephen Downes, and Dave Cormier. (See for example: ). In each of those, I dipped in…facilitated my week…and participated a bit in a few other weeks, but I did not become a part of a new learning community in either of those. This was totally my fault, and I suspect that other people in them did form and have maintained a learning community. I do think that I will remain a member of the learning network that organized the OLDS MOOC (if they’ll have me). There are many extraordinary people on that team and I am honored to be playing a small role in it. Thank you again, Helen.

Itana Gimenes
2:51am 5 March 2013

Great to hear of a project developed in a group.


Sheila MacNeill
1:07pm 7 March 2013

Hi Helen

Great story and I have been really impressed with the work you and Jane have managed to do throughout the course. 

Context has been a key thing for me too as well as flexibility.  Thanks for sharing.


Joshua Underwood
2:52pm 7 March 2013

Like Jane you draw on your experience to offer good advice:

"If I had any advice to give as a result of this experience, I would say be clear about your purpose for participating and seek out people with similar aims, be prepared to be flexible and adaptable after that because essentially you'll be heading in the right direction :)".

I think this also identifes some design challenges. Sounds like you and Jane got lucky finding each other, part of that though will likely be your individual dispositions and the result of following your own advice above. The challenge I see is how to optimise opportunities for that kind of successful partnering and encourage those dispositions through design. Designs and implementations that help people: take ownership of a course; connect it effectively to the larger narrative of their own individual lifelong learning; and effectively regulate their participation in a course.

These were aspirations in design of week 2 but certainly not achieved in many participants' enactments of the week - design flaws, flaws in its implementation, and other constraints on how it was enacted. All important stuff to learn from and work on :-)

Helen Crump
3:16pm 7 March 2013

Hi Joshua

There is a lot of truth in what you say about individual dispositions. I'm reminded here of a phrase I heard recently, "chance favours the connected mind", or words to that effect.

Also, in terms of designing for connection and collaboration, I saw this post by Bernard Bull earlier in the week, "Why and How to Get to Know Your Online Learners" .  The same could easily apply to how learners can get to know each other online. Number 1 of his tips says discover commonalities. In our case, it was the Nottingham connection that started it off. I think this is excellent advice. Often though, you need an icebreaker to start a conversation and see what strikes up from there. I often just ask people if they've ever caught a fish, well it's a start, and it's all good fun.

Penny Bentley
8:10pm 7 March 2013

Hi Helen, 

You see, it's the social glue that gets things going :) It also keeps things going as often I found myself reaching out on twitter to oldsmooc ers for advice, company and at times...a bit of silliness. Thanks for being there during this journey, I hope our conversations continue into the future via #oldsmoocalumni and, if you have time, in the Australia e-Series Webinars on Thurs nights.

Thank's also for your portfolio and narrative...I've learnt much from your summaries and the information you have been willing to share. Bookmarked in Diigo for eternity. 

Your advice is well recieved, "be clear about your purpose for participating and seek out people with similar aims, be prepared to be flexible and adaptable after that because essentially you'll be heading in the right direction :)"...I couldn't agree more. 

Joshua Underwood
9:42pm 7 March 2013

Hi Helen,

Absolutely, I use "ice-breaker' activities regularly in face-to-face workshops and training activities and in MOOC like courses ice-breaker activities of the 'find some who...' or 'speed-dating' type activities at the begining might be very useful and possibly also ways of introducing tools/environments that better support the 'social glue' (such as Penny's facebook group :-).



Gráinne Conole
12:05pm 8 March 2013

Hi Helen 

Thanks for your story, good to hear how you have progressed over the lifespan of the project. There are A LOT of materials so well done for staying the course! Interested to hear more about why you found Cloudworks a sterile environment. We tried to incorporate a range of web 2.0 functionalities so that it could be a place for people to share and discuss learning and teaching ideas and designs.

Penny Bentley
12:31pm 8 March 2013

Helen can you elaborate on your experience of "working intuitively to complement each other"? I've experienced this kind of seamless teamwork in the workplace before, but it's difficult to describe to others. As educators what makes it work....personality, common subject matter, gender, etc?

Helen Crump
12:57pm 8 March 2013

Hi Penny

Good question. In this case, if I really think about it, I think it might have been down to the similarity of our over all aims for the MOOC and the shared topic, but more than that, because we struggled at first to communicate synchronously, I think the tasks got done to compliment each other because instinctively I did tasks from a  hyperthetical angle whereas Jane was able to do the tasks in relation to her own practice. It seemed to be work and it served to produce a more thorough result at the end of each week than if one person had just worked on their own. Initiative and moment also came into it.

Helen Crump
12:44pm 10 March 2013

This is to say thanks to Grainne for dropping by and thanks for the great resources and facilittioon throughout the course. In order to address her question, asking why I found Cloudworks to be a "sterile" environment, I have composed this review

Patrick McAndrew
10:35pm 10 March 2013

Hi Helen

It was really interesting the way that your story led to me following the linkis and comments to other places and so experiencing my own serendipity moments. Having visited bits of your world I now wonder if there is such a thing as a MOOC junkie :-). As well as the edcmooc from Coursera I ended up looking at the Programme for Online Teaching, then off into discussions about Hangouts and Collaborations.

[This is a modified version of a note I first left on the google group OLDS MOOC open discussion - but it seemed lonely there.]


Kelly Edmonds
10:43pm 10 March 2013

Helen and all, thanks for sharing. I wonder if we expect too much of informal learners and consider any kind of interaction and use of a free online course as perfect for that person. There were many activities outlined in this course and some did more than others, for various reasons.

For instance, I am taking structured credit courses on audio and graphiic design at a local college (f2f). It is a continuing education certificate. Not only do they take attendance (good grief) but we have to explain when we don't attend. This goes against the freedom of learning and adult learning theory.

So, I wouldn't say anyone did well or didn't do well; engaged a lot or didn't. It is a matter of their experience, and one they chose. Does that make sense?

Ida Brandão
8:38am 11 March 2013

Hi Helen, 

I enjoyed reading your final reflection and the highlight you gave to Sheila's screencast on your blog-, which presents good suggestions to improve it. I suppose that many people that came across this platform for the first time didn't adhere to it easily. In fact, it's not very intuitive and I didn't feel very curious to explore it though I've created more clouds along the course than I'd expected. 

It's important that a tool has an attractive design and is intuitive, not requiring much time to understand how it works, so that people may embrace it. I see no great need to develop new tools when there are other ones in the public domain that fulfill the needs. 

You focused your reflection on the social dimension of this MOOC that might gain other dynamics, and you refer the difficulty to generate groups to work together. I think that groupwork is really important, but MOOCs are short in time and the amount of stuff that is addressed every week doesn't facilitate people to get organized. We all know that it takes a lot more time to create or work out in a collective way, there's much negotiation among members of a team, people have to arrange time for communicating and discuss decisions and distribuition of tasks. 

I decided to work on my project on my own because it would be very difficult to find someone interested in what I was doing considering the context of my project and it would be time consuming to articulate with others. 

The problem with the extension of MOOCs is that we all know that only a small percentage of those that initiate keep participating effectively till the end. 

Yishay Mor
11:07pm 22 May 2014

Hi Helen,

We're collecting MOOC design narratives - our workshop on Tuesday -

Would you be willing to add yours to our collection? And maybe join us online?



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