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Sunday, January 27, 2013

MOOCING on Gas: Early Thoughts on Three Concurrent Offerings

Brief Overview of the MOOC Scene

John Mak a long standing and leading analyst in the field of Moocs identifies five different types of Moocs in this article What are the main differences among these types of Moocs.  For simplicity and for relevance to this post, i shall identify what i consider to be the three main approaches which are i) primarily an instructivist learning approach ii) primarily a free form distributed approach and iii) primarily a project based approach. 

Currently we have a 'perfect' storm whereby all three types are running just about concurrently, we have in order of type as described above i) E-learning and Digital Cultures (#edcmooc) ii) Educational Technology (#etmooc) and iii) Online Learning Design (#oldsmooc). I initially joined up for #etmooc but have since got involved on both of the other courses.

When participating in a MOOC what are you looking for? What are you expecting?

For first timers especially, chances are that you are expecting a pretty structured learning path and this is what you can generally expect from xMooc courses such as those offered by Udacity or Coursera. Both these type of xMooc offerings are geared to a traditional classroom based individual study approach, allowing for the fact that coursera does promote the notions of active learning and peer assessment (see Coursera pedagogy),i'm putting this in the instructivist camp). This on the face of it is the type of offering for the E-learning and Digital Cultures course. 

E-learning and Digital Cultures Course
However if you sign up to a pure distributed cMooc such as #etmooc things may not be so clearcut. Not withstanding some guiding information about how to work in a cMooc environment you are very much expected to build your own learning environment using social media tools such as twitter, facebook and google plus, wikispaces, diigo etc whilst learning about the subject matter (on learning and technology moocs you will possibly be bombarded with all manner of useful applications (you won't remember everything, but you will learn a lot)).
Educational Technology and Media Course
The Online Learning Design (#oldsmooc) cMooc although encouraging the use of distributed social media tools revolves strongly around the in-house socially connective software cloudworks that for the purpose of the course acts in my opinion a bit like a VLE, but does include the ability to connect with all previous registered users ideas and interactions through the vehicle of clouds (individual idea, comments, questions, tasks etc) and cloudscapes (a collection of clouds). Because of the project based nature of the course it does have a community of practice feel to it.

Online Learning Design Course
Looking from a student perspective all these approaches will have a certain amount of structure and you can be sure that the use of social media tools will be encouraged and has been encouraged on all the courses.

Some thoughts on Moocs
The xMoocs have a great role to play in straight forward knowledge transfer and for me the big issue to address is when they may inappropriately be used with a topic that would benefit from more connective, distributive learning type approaches. Effectively they offer a traditional self directed individual study route that may benefit additionally from a cMooc approach but it may not be necessary.

With cMoocs the big question is can you get the connectivity, the distributivity and oxycontinicity ( @angelatowndrow and @trendingteacher inspired language) flowing. Do the learners feel the glow of support, encouragement and eureka moments that will sustain and nourish them in the tough task of being a blogging, connective learner. Are they MOOCing on Gas! Why is this important you ask?

It's important because cMoocs do three main things:

  1. They first and foremost are developing the lifelong learning skills that an independent self directed learner will need in their future learning.
  2. They very importantly act as a catalyst to expand and develop the personal learning network and environments that are crucial if a participant is going to flourish as a connective learner.
  3. It offers the opportunity for an intense period of study of a topic with built in peer support and the consequential vigour and energy that this intensity and support brings.
First Thoughts on ETMooc, EDCMooc and OLDSMooc

I started off by joining ETMooc. Having previously participated in a number of cMoocs namely CCK08, PLENK10 and CritLit10, I thought I knew how this was going to work. But WHAM it seems that there was a change to what i was used to. 

Previously i had known a clear weekly structure and access to initial reading and video resources to get one going with your blogging, this time there appeared to be no material to initially work with and this was a bit disorientating. I suspect this was an experiment to get more people to come to the Blackboard Collaborate live sessions where it seems most of the knowledge and information was being transmitted. Reading lists appeared to be accessible via the course social bookmarking sites diigo and delicious. I don't think I have truly recovered from this blow especially since a vibrant alternative suitor came along in the shape of EDCMooc (more about that later).

What has been a good innovation in ETMooc is giving two weeks per topic. So i think a massive thumbs up for that and a massive thumbs down for the initial lack of resources (a warning for old timers might have helped, however it is something that i will be much better prepared for in the future and has not put me off). ETMooc is still in my thoughts and is indeed the prime instigator for this post.

I initially liked the idea of a project based task and have got myself aligned to a group, but am not officially in a team mainly because i was late joining and it is hard to play catch up. I think the Cloudworks connective software has some potential but it does feel as though the mentality of the course is more inward looking because of the nature of the team tasks. Although oldsmooc is out there in all the right social spaces i don't believe connectivity wise it has really taken off because it is not a strong component of the learning design philosophy (be interested what the designers think about that), despite the best efforts of @penpln. I am behind with this, but hope to hang in there and fully appreciate the cloudworks environment.

Phenomenal and the course has not even started. This Mooc is cooking with Gas. Here is the funny thing, the connective cMooc mentality is massively strong on this xMOOC type course and it has nothing to do with the course leaders. So why, what are the lessons. I might be wrong but:

1. Massive lead in time to prepare the social distributive structures to support this informal connective network (2-3 months before course actually started).
2. Attitude of initial leading participants who fortunately had a connectivist mindset. The giving warmhearted attitude has rubbed off. (They have shined a light on the attitude and mindset required to foster cMOOC learning)
3. Clever, not to difficult, not to rigid events and tasks. For example i) Twitter Chat ii) Quad Blogging iii) Draw your thoughts e.g draw a picture of what to expect in this MOOC.

Love it that an xMOOC got cMOOCed - This will obviously bode well for the xMooc which starts officially today.

Final Thoughts 
I believe all cMoocs organisers can learn from the EDCMooc to make cMoocs better. Initial Instigators of EDCMooc you deserve a big hats off. I believe that EDCMooc will spawn a bank of cMOOCers that with the long lead in time can and will support other non technology MOOCs and we should try and encourage this emotional expertise that EDCMoocers, ETMoocers and OLDSMoocers have to offer.

to ETMoocers and OLDSMoocers i know that there are many of you with the same emotional expertise, i have highlighted EDCMooc because I believe that there are some very good practices (some by design, some by chance maybe) that could enhance the way Moocs are run in the future.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Wordpress LMS LearnDash - The greatest LMS in the World?

Well that is what I am betting on for the soon to be released WordPress LMS - LearnDash! Why would I bet on it or make a claim of such largesse when I have not even seen or used it.

First off we know that this LMS is built on the strongest of foundations - The brilliantly devised WordPress blogging platform. This platform is very mature with nearly 10 years of worldwide development and support. The open software architecture has been cleverly devised to allow for useful applications to be added to WordPress through the use of plugins making it very easy to extend the functionality either by installing ready made applications or by developing plugins yourself. In a nutshell we have an easy to use platform for developers, visitors and non-technical editors.

Secondly we have had nearly 14 years to observe the growing pains of modern day web based learning management systems. The LearnDash designers have had all this time to learn from the mistakes and design faults that these systems may have. Although the various current products on offer have varying strengths and weaknesses I cannot believe that many will be as tightly and efficiently coded as a product that is going to fit into the ultra sleek WordPress blogging platform.

As long ago as December 2006 I shared my dismay at mainstream LMS/VLE systems (see Embrace Web 2.0 technology or Die - that's an order!) and advocated the use of web 2.0 technology for ease of communication and thus ease of learning. More recently I really have started to appreciate the power and beauty of WordPress and thus with the launch of a Wordpress LMS - LearnDash this Monday 28th Jan I do believe this could be the launch of the greatest LMS yet.

Photo Courtesy of Ben Sheldon  under the CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

I don't profess to know the full repertoire of features and how they fully work yet but building on the core features of student management, unlimited course creation and the 'Tin Can API' (which captures activities that happen as part of learning experiences),I am particularly looking forward to the easy certificate creation when students pass tests and quizzes, the powerful report generating module and the easy integration with any other WordPress themes and plugin applications.
Tin Can API
It lifts many of the older restrictions. Mobile learning, simulations, virtual worlds, serious games, real-world activities, experiential learning, social learning, offline learning, and collaborative learning are just some of the things that can now be recognized and communicated well with the Tin Can API.
It all sounds promising, looking forward to trying it out soon and keeping my fingers crossed that it truly is going to knock spots off all competitors. If it sounds interesting to you, take a look here for more information WordPress LMS - LearnDash.

Once I start working with it I'll let you know if it lives up to the Hype :-)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

ETMooc - Stevie Italiano

I am using this and my first ETMOOC posting to briefly introduce myself, but more importantly in this blog post introducing the notion of closed captions on videos (easily achieved using Camtasia) and previously i introduced a photo that was made available for use under the creative commons license.

If anyone wants to discuss anything relating to these tool educational tools then please leave a comment. Grazie :-)

Friday, January 18, 2013

ETMooc - Moocing old style

As a participant of the first truly massive mooc CCK08, I am looking forward to participating in an old style :-) Mooc (cMooc) as opposed to the newer brand of xMoocs.

After participating in other cMoocs such as PLENK10 and CCK11 I have maintained loose connections with a number of early Moocers but in the last year or so have adopted a more passive (lets say less active) than active approach but I have still made a few spasmodic contributions on the topics of educational technology and connectivist learning and i know that long term i have the mentality of a contributor and so my time to serve will :-) come again.

Photo Courtesy of ryan2point0 under the CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

My participation in this mooc i am hoping will re-awaken the more active connectivist in me.

Let me say that a big hats off to the course creators. I think the two week per topic over 12 weeks is a master stroke in enabling participants the opportunity to keep up with the programme and I think will help enormously with the problem of participants getting disheartened when they cannot keep up with the schedule.

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