Thoughts on my first Massive Open Online Course ever: #OLDSMOOC

MOOCs are all the hype these days on the field of higher education. They ally the convenience and flexibility of asynchronous distance education to communication technologies that have become increasingly common all over the world, generation a new model of education that brings benefits (and disadvantages) to both learners and teachers/institutions.

Among the benefits for learners are the variety of choice (if they are fluent in English, since there English-speaking countries are the main pushers of this new model), the possibility of acquiring knowledge backed by renowned institutions (Stanford, MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley, etc.) and scholars, and even get certificates, the flexibility for time management given by the fact that MOOCs don’t have “classes” in the traditional sense but provide sets of instructions for learner to develop their autonomous work and, finally, the ability to access the course everywhere in the world, which makes them a truly great education opportunity for countryside regions where higher education institutions are usually more distant, and financial benefits, since these courses are mostly free to attend but may require a small sum for the completion certificate. Another benefit for learners is the ability to liaise online with fellow learners from elsewhere, since social networking is at the core of MOOCs.

There are also benefits for scholars and institutions. Scholars can reach a larger audience (+100.000 registered students in some cases), gaining recognition for them and for the institution, these same institution can potentially cut costs by assigning less human resources to a specific course (the ration of teacher/students in traditional models is obviously narrower) and have an offering for life-long learning, the desired paradigm for the present and the future.

Nevertheless, there are disadvantages as well. MOOCs are typically fast-paced, require a lot of willingness and self-motivation from the student to keep going and may be extremely for those not very digitally literate. On average, dropout rates for MOOCs are very high (they are reported to be about 90%), and fundamentally an online course (not only MOOCs, but those in particular) requires a big effort translated in terms of workload, time management and autonomous work.

MOOCs revolve around the concepts of openness (of access, educational resources employed, collaborative work, etc., but recent MOOCs are experimenting with different approaches), personal learning environment (PLE) and connectivism. The later is a pedagogical model first proposed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes in 2005 and postulates the learning process as a continuum of establishing connections to knowledge sources that inform the learner and gain from his/her contribution, in a process where the learner is really at the core of the process and decides what, how and when we wants to learn. That model postulates as well that in our digital society knowledge is no longer static but changes every day, and the capacity of the learner to discriminate and keep updated with the latest knowledge is of the essence. In connection to this, the learner build his/her on personal learning environment, the matrix of relationships he creates with knwoledge sources, be them people, groups, institutions, machines, etc. Hence come the MOOCs, a novel way of institutions delivering courses under the connectivist  banner.

The OLDS (Open Design Learning Studio) MOOC “Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum” is partially funded by JISC, a UK higher education non-governmental association, and was developed by a joint team of Professors, fellows and researchers from several British institutions. It aimed initially for a target audience of around 500-1000 learners, but the figures have been decreasing through the weeks, due to the typical MOOC dropout effect.

A lot of effort has been put on the design of the MOOC’s activities, the weekly and daily introductions are absolutely phenomenal, as well as the team’s members support. OLDS MOOC was designed as a cMOOC where the participants are active and expected to connect in groups not only on the central hub, the CloudWorks platform, but all over the world wide web.

My personal experience on OLDS MOOC was a bit mixed. Although I liked the concept, I felt lost with the pace of the activities. In my opinion they should have given more time for socializing and making groups of interest before asking for people to share their dream project, and allow for groups to present common projects. It is a bit frustrating to idealize your project and then engage in another person’s project. Even if that was the intention it was not explicitly stated, so it made people (I know I wasn’t the only one feeling this) feel uneasy and dismotivated, since those who didn’t ever had a MOOC experience were already feeling lost from the chaos of learning how to use a new tool, multiple environments to keep track of and general confusion. Adding to that, many people didn’t have the English language skills required to successfully develop a productive participation, and I bet those were the main dropout reasons.

Despite all that, I rate my participation as a positive experience. I got some valuable knowledge from the activities I engaged in. Granted, I didn’t complete hem all, but focused on the most important, landmark ones, so I was awarded the 1-week and 3-week completion badges. I wasn’t very lucky with group work, though: a group I had joined and expected to develop activities with dissolved after a while because the founder had to cease participating, and my next effort to join another group was unsuccessful due to the same reason, but in that case I decided to keep the same project going on and developed it myself. That’s why I think they should have allowed more social interaction and group-making at the beginning, even if only by starting one week earlier on the Google foruns for people to meet. Just my 2 cents.

Prototyping in #oldsmooc_w5

In the past few days I had to catch up with the activities on OLDS MOOC. I didn’t do them all, of course, but I watched the videos and skimmed past every single piece of reading available. It’s really an education to be taking this MOOC, and I’m very grateful to the organizers who put so much effort on it.

I just finished prototyping the course (ok, a module of the course,  Management 101). I think I didn’t made a bad of outlining the module with its different activities, although it may be incomplete in some ways. This is obviously a draft, no expectations of ever really doing it in the current form, so I’d be happy to have some comments. Now there’ll be only 4 more weeks till the end of the mooc, and I hope I can keep it going now that I’ve caught up :).

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Still OLDs MOOCing…

MOOCs are the hype nowadays, but I think you need to be prepared to what you’re going to find and have a grasp on the subject. I think OLDs should have had a longer time for socializing before really entering into business: I was not prepared (and I feel a lot of people more wasn’t as well) to think of a project and make / join a team in the 2 first days. In my opinion that spoiled it a bit, since people immediately started feeling lost.

I finally finished week 2’s activities. I’m late, have to go faster and catch up quickly, since we’re already at the middle of week 4. Darn.

I don’t want to give it up, it’d be awful. I need to keep up with what I’m doing but do it faster and with more focus. I did the context, personas, factors and objections part, but I’m not going to do the force map. Let’s see if I can get the badge…

I’m (OLDs) MOOCing in the rain… #oldsmooc_w2

raining_cats_and_dogs

Amid the nice winter weather we’re having here in Europe (rainstorm in Portugal, snow all over Europe, fyi), this was not a good (OLDs) MOOCing week for my. My time management was far from adequate, and I had to find time between the classes I give, the ones I take (or whatever you want to call them) and the deadlines for several assignments for the master’s (if you speak Portuguese, check out my Digital Storytelling video ). So, I didn’t start on Thursday, hoping to catch up in the weekend, and when it arrived some other things suddenly crashed on my lap (including the aforementioned deadlines), so I had to focus on that. Then week started and I was a bit frustrated and dispirited by the lack of communication in the project I had joined, so I didn’t have the nerve to do anything in the MOOC… I had to get some word of encouragement, and it came, but at the same time I just checked the status of the project, and the original promoter says she’ll be unable to actively support it due to work schedule. Oh well, at least she seems to have a stable job, which is better that not having one… Alas, I’m going to try to join another team, that’s how life is, keep banging your head and in the end… you get a concussion! 😀

Oh, wait, if I get to catch up with week 2 activities, can I still apply for the badge? If any reader knows, please comment J Thanks!

Cheerio!

OLDs MOOC end of first week thoughts #oldsmooc

Well, it’s Wednesday, so let’s do a balance of the week. I must say I tried hard, but I was unable to do all the activities proposed for the week. I have a project but I integrated a team that’s doing a related project, I integrated a study circle that formed on google+, and now I must say something for my fellows at Universidade Aberta: I hope they don’t mind my absense, but at this time I prefer to mingle with people from other places, since networking can be seen as one of the objectives of a MOOC. That said, I took a lot of time to solve my teaming up issue, because I had a lot to do in the weekend and couldn’t do a lot, and couldn’t take part in the convergence and brainstorming. At this precise moment I’m watching the convergence video. Oh, I just noticed my group ,mate Ronald took part on it, nice.

I like the MOOC and it’s very innovative and creative spirit going on. The dreambazaar has lots of amazing ideas for projects, and I feel really motivated to be part of all of this. However, I have to say the Cloudworks platform is not the most friendly or usable I’ve worked with, and I consider myself technology-savvy. I’m sure some people are having trouble figuring out what to make of it.

All in all, I think it has been a very promising experience and I’m really excited about this first experience in MOOCland. I think MOOCs have a very big role to play in education, and I hope this one in particular has a great success.

Team set up, let’s get down to business! #oldsmooc_w1

Things seem to be improving, but I have a feeling this MOOC is causing a lot of confusion for some people, including myself. It may be just the beginning, but I spend A LOT of time just trying to find my way on the Cloudworks website. Not good, especially when I have more things to do besides MOOCing. Including assignments that whose deadlines approach fast. But alas…

So, I have entered on a team to develop a project proposed by Arosha Bandana from The Open University, which will be focused on digital literacy (that is, related to the topic of my own [second] project). The link is here: http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloudscape/view/2783. I thought her project was interesting, and even if it has some programming, I’m kinda confortable with that J. Tomorrow I’ll post my weekly thoughts on the MOOC, since that is the day’s activity. And aim for the first weekly badge, of course!

Flying through the Cloud(work)s

And at day 5… I’m behind the schedule. The planets seem to have aligned in such a way that the deadline for two assignments of the Master’s were this past weekend, and I was caught in the middle of some situations which prevented me from doing them earlier, so I didn’t have a lot of time during the weekend for browsing through other people’s clouds on the dreambazaar. Because of that I didn’t put a lot of thought when writing my dream project, so I wasn’t really confident on that either.

So, today I took the time to remake my project from scratch, this time on the field of digital literacy and using the internet in a more responsible and effective way. I pinpointed some people’s projects as well, which I’d like to join if I’m not able to get help for mine. I think things are slowly moving to their proper places.

O que é um MOOC? Três recursos para compreender o fenómeno.

Decidi escolher três tipos diferentes de recursos porque, à sua maneira, todos eles se me afiguram de grande importância e utilizade para a discussão da questão “O que é um MOOC”.

O primeiro é a entrevista de George Siemens, e serve como uma introdução ao tema, em que este aborda a sua experiência e elabora a partir dela, oferencendo conselhos de grande valia para quem pensa iniciar-se na organização de MOOCs.

O segundo é um caso prático da organização de um MOOC de humanidades, e considero que é tanto mais relevante quanto a importância que se atribua ao estudo de casos práticos. Na minha opinião esse estudo é importante e valioso, pois a análise de casos pode ajudar a ter consciência de alguns desafios que não são previstos ou são menorizados em termos teóricos, ajudando a melhorar a experiência tanto de quem organiza como de quem participa no MOOC.

Por último, e numa abordagem diferente das anteriores, proponho o relatório “Changing Course” de 2012 que, pela sua periodicidade anual, permite analisar numa perspetiva temporal, a evolução da educação à distância (neste caso trata-se do sistema educativo dos EUA), obtendo-se daí um quadro válido para compreender o real impacto não só dos MOOC mas do ensino superior em geral.

 

 

George Siemens’ Interview on OOCs and Open Education

Não poderia deixar de incluir esta entrevista com George Siemens, visto que o académico organizou em conjunto com Stephen Downes o primeiro MOOC, e tem sem dúvida uma palavra autoritária a dizer sobre o assunto. Nesta entrevista Siemens fala sobre a sua experiência, sobre as lições que aprendeu com os MOOCS que organizou ao longo dos últimos anos, e fornece conselhos valiosos para os professores que pretendem iniciar-se na organização deste tipo de atividades. Considero também que é um recurso bastante acessível para o público em geral, porque Siemens utiliza linguagem muito pouco técnica e expressa-se de modo muito claro, pelo que pode facilmente introduzir o tema a pessoas sem formação científica na área da educação.

 

 

How to Create a Humanities MOOC

Este recurso em vídeo oferece-nos o testemunho em primeira pessoa de um caso concreto que, se é certo que não responde à pergunta “O que é um MOOC?” de uma forma direta mas teórica, proporciona um conhecimento mais aprofundado dos desafios que este tipo de evento educacional pode originar na prática.

Considero que se trata de um recurso que, em conjunto com o suporte teórico que é fornecido nos outos dois recursos que escolhi, é de grande valia para a compreensão desta evolução no campo do ensino à distância.

 

Estudo “Changing Course” 2012

http://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/changingcourse.pdf

Em linha com as minhas duas escolhas anteriores, decidi atribuir a terceira escolha a este relatório anual sobre a educação online nos EUA porque, além de responder no plano teório à questão em análise, fornece uma visão detalhada sobre vários aspectos que a ela estão ligadas na realidade do ensino superior daquele país, ao mesmo tempo que fornece uma perspetiva fiável sobre a evolução temporal do ensino à distância através da comparação dos resultados obtivos com os de anos anteriores. Assim, podemos ter uma ideia mais aproximada sobre o modo como os MOOCs são encarados pelo mundo académico, sobre o nível de aceitação por parte dos corpos docentes, etc.

Na minha opioião, é um excelente recurso para enquadrar os MOOCs numa perspectiva mais alargada do sistema educativo dos EUA, onde o ensino à distância tem tido já desde o início do século XX uma expressão incomparável à da nossa realidade.

 

So… Let’s (OLDs) MOOC!

OLDs MOOC

Yesterday, 10th January, I had the chance to take part, for the first time in my life, on one of the biggest innovations in learning technology of recent years: a MOOC.

MOOC is an acronym of Massive Open Online Course, a development in distance education where a single institution is able to, aided by technological resources, provide a learninng environment for a huge number of participants at the same time, promoting interaction and sharing between them to maximize the learning experience in an innovative ways.

This MOOC in particular is a course on Learning Design (it’s name is Open Learning Design studio MOOC) and is promoted by the Open University of the UK.

A great thing with this (and other) MOOC(s) is that they take advantage of the different social tools spread on the web for educational resource, rather than using only a closed environment controlled by themselves. While that is good because it allows for a greater openness, better flexibility and a lot of interaction with people and information around the world, it can be a bit confusing and not so good for the less savvy on the information technology.

So, in this first day we got acquainted to the different tools we’re going to use, like Google Groups, Cloudworks, Twitter, Google+ and others (granted, some of them are of regular use by a lot of the participants and Cloudworks is the one requiring a deeper attention since few outside the UK Open University had used it before). We did introductions (the social interaction is of the utmost importance) and defined learning goals for the week.

Today (11th) we have to propose learning design projects. I’m going to start by searching what that means and try to come up with something. Wish me luck J