Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology & Associate Professor at Royal Roads University

Category: moocs

The spectrum of MOOCs

Posted on October 15th, by George Veletsianos in moocs, my research, online learning, open, scholarship. 8 comments

“xMOOC vs. cMOOC” is one way that is frequently used to describe the philosophical design of a MOOC. Tony Bates does an excellent job summarizing the philosophies behind the two. While this categorization is helpful in describing the foundations of the types of MOOCS that exist, I’m increasingly becoming more and more uncomfortable with this categorization as used to describe particular courses. I see MOOCs as a phenomenon more than anything, and when the xMOOC and cMOOC terms are used to describe courses, it seems that we are missing what actually happens in these courses, we are missing the details.

While the xMOOC and cMOOC labels are worthwhile to help individuals make sense of two opposing viewpoints, there is a spectrum the lies between the two. Between xMOOCs and cMOOCs, we see:

There is wide variation between MOOCs, and it behooves us to examine how and why particular MOOCs differ, and how the differences impact learner experiences and outcomes.

Networked Scholars course (#scholar14) starting on Monday, October 20th

Posted on October 15th, by George Veletsianos in moocs, my research, online learning, open, scholarship, sharing. 18 comments

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This is just a quick note to  remind you that the Networked Scholars course is starting on Monday October 20th. The #scholar14 hashtag is already collecting relevant resources.

The course is happening at an opportune time, providing ample material for us to examine. Academics are often encouraged to blog and participate online to increase their reach and impact. However, when scholars are online they face tensions, dilemmas, and conundrums. For example, some are concerned about navigating personal-professional boundaries on social media and others are worried about the degree to which online activities may be cause for termination, as revealed by the recent Kansas Board of Regents policy on “Improper Use of Social Media” and the ongoing case of Dr. Steven Salaita. It seems that these stories are never-ending: The Conversation included an article today entitled: To tweet or not to tweet: academic freedom and social media.

What do academics do on social media? What tensions do they face? Why do they continue being on these contentious spaces when a number of their senior colleagues advice them to “get off Twitter and write those papers?” These are questions that I am hoping we will explore together starting on Monday.

I have also finalized our guest experts for the course, and I’m happy to report that we have a wonderful group of colleagues from three countries joining us to discuss issues pertaining to networked scholarship. The live events are scheduled for the times/days listed below, so if you would like to join us, please add them to your calendar, and join our Google Hangout on Air events. If you can’t join us live, we will be recording and archiving the events so that you can watch them later at your convenience.

October 23 at 9am PST: Dr. Laura Czerniewicz from the University of Cape Town (South Africa) – Google Hangout on Air link
October 29 at 4pm PST: Dr. Royce Kimmons from the University of Idaho (USA) - Google Hangout on Air link
November 6, 10:30am at PST: Bonnie Stewart from the University of Price Edward Island (Canada) - Google Hangout on Air link

To convert these times to your local time zone, please use this tool: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html

See you soon!

Image: The Art of Social Media by mkhmarketing

Networked Scholars syndication hub: Live

Posted on October 7th, by George Veletsianos in courses, emerging technologies, moocs, my research, NPS, open, scholarship. 13 comments

STS-131 Discovery Launch

The Networked Scholars course starts in two weeks, on October 20th, with 2 options for participation.

1. Through the Canvas Network.

2. Through personal blogs and twitter accounts, syndicated, via the…. drumroll…. Networked Scholars Syndication hub. With special thanks to Alan Levine who has been helping a number of people implement this design, all readings and activities will be publicly-available, and this site syndicates blog/twitter feeds used as discussion/reflection spaces. The official Twitter hashtag for the course is #scholar14. If you are interested in this option, feel free to head over to the syndication hub, and connect your blog to the site!

Image: STS-131 Discovery Launch

Networked Scholars open course #scholar14

Posted on September 22nd, by George Veletsianos in courses, learner experience, moocs, online learning, open. 14 comments

A few weeks ago, I notified individuals who filled out my Networked Scholars open online course survey, indicating that my open course was open for registration. I’m excited to see that some colleagues have discovered the course, but it’s time to post the news here too, even though some .  I’ve really appreciated the feedback from people regarding the design and content of the course, so if you any thoughts about this, please don’t hesitate to let me know! I am trying to create a  memorable and worthwhile learning experience and hearing from you is a significant way to go about doing that. If you have any other thoughts about the course or about what you think makes open online courses engaging, effective, and memorable, please don’t hesitate to send them my way.

I often sign up for open online courses, often forgetting that I did. So, in case you are like me and are thinking “What course is this, again?!” here’s a short description of the course: In this course we will examine the tools and practices associated with networked, open, and digital scholarship. In particular we will investigate the emergent practice of scholars’ use of social media and online social networks for sharing, critiquing, improving, furthering, and reflecting upon their scholarship.
The course is 4 weeks long. It will start on October 20, 2014 and will end on November 16, 2014.
You can participate in this course in one of two ways:
1. Through the Canvas Network. You can use this space to access readings, activities, discussions, and so on. If you choose this route you can self-enroll to thecourse via this URL: https://learn.canvas.net/enroll/K46NDH. You can also sign up at https://learn.canvas.net/register and use the following join code: K46NDH

2. Through your blog and twitter accounts. The readings and activities will be publicly-available, and you could use your blog/twitter as a discussion/reflection space, so you don’t necessarily need to sign up to Canvas to access this course if you don’t want to.

I hereby confirm the rumour. We will be using an approach similar to Connected Courses and the distributed syndication model. The official Twitter hashtag for the course is #scholar14. If you choose this route, you can indicate your desire to participate through Canvas (see #1 above) or you can just wait and start participating via your social media accounts when the syndication platform is ready (I’ll write another blog post when we are ready to launch).

There are two parts to this course that I want to highlight:

First, I want this course to be about learners and their needs, and not just what I think are significant areas to understand. Therefore, I will be asking you to articulate participants to articulate their needs and  evaluate their own progress towards their accomplishments. For example, you might already know some of the challenges that academics face when they participate on social media (e.g., see Kansas Board of Regents policy regarding social media use) so you might want to spend more time investigating the relationship between academic freedom and social media. That’s absolutely fine! Or, you might be interested in investigating how you can be more effective in using social media to engage with practitioners. That’s great too!  I wrote a little bit about this here.

Second, even though I have experience with and  do research on networked scholarship, there are a number of other people who have experience with these topics. Diversity is important, and for this reason, each week I will be hosting a live Q&A panel on Google Hangouts on Air with other individuals discussing the topic of the week. Even though this panel will be live and you will be able to view it in real-time and ask questions, it will also be recorded for those of you who can’t make it.

That’s all for now. I am looking forward to the course.

Success, personal learning plans, and multiple pathways in open courses

Posted on August 17th, by George Veletsianos in courses, learner experience, moocs, sharing. 30 comments

While designing my open course focusing on networked scholars, I’ll be posting updates here pertaining to pedagogical and design decisions that I’m making. [Aug 20, 2014 update: Course registration is open]

The course is intended to help doctoral students, academics, and other knowledge workers on how social media and networked technologies may support/extend/question their scholarship. The course will also be “wrapped” by a colleague in real-time and colleagues who teach research methods courses will be sharing it with their students. In short, the audience is diverse, their background knowledge varies, and their needs/desires will vary. So, the question becomes, how do you support all learners to achieve what they aspire to achieve?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about success in open courses. I’m intrigued by discussions of multiple pathways (or dual layer) through open courses and I’ve been reflecting on how to support the different groups of people that might visit (and use) my course. In the GoNorth projects, we had thousands of teachers annually use our digital learning environment and curriculum. To accommodate their needs the curriculum consisted of 3 levels: (experience, explore, expand). This design encompassed varying levels of difficulty and involvement and allowed teachers to adjust the curriculum to local needs. In the edX course Data, Analytics, and Learning that George, Carolyn, Dragan, and Ryan are teaching in the Fall, the learner is given more of that control. The instructors write: ”This course will experiment with multiple learning pathways. It has been structured to allow learners to take various pathways through learning content – either in the existing edX format or in a social competency-based and self-directed format. Learners will have access to pathways that support both beginners, and more advanced students, with pointers to additional advanced resources. In addition to interactions within the edX platform, learners will be encouraged to engage in distributed conversations on social media such as blogs and Twitter.” I like this because of the recognition that learners come to courses with varying needs/wants and that recognition influenced the design of the course.

In thinking about the different needs that students in my course will have, a group of instructional designers and I at Royal Roads have created a scaffold to help individuals define what they want to achieve in the course. This tool will be helpful for self-directed learners and those with enough background knowledge on the topic, but, depending on how it is implemented, it can help novices as well. The scaffold is a Personal Learning Plan (.rtf). I think this might be helpful to others, so I’m tagging it with an open license so that others can use it as they see fit in their own courses. Here’s how it works:

I assume that individuals will enrol in this course to pursue a personal need/ambition (e.g., “I want to learn how education researchers use social media for research and I am at a loss as to where to start”). To support learners in this, I will be asking them to develop a personal learning plan (PLP) as a way to define, verbalize, and be mindful about their goals. A PLP will allow learners to define what they want to achieve by enrolling in the course and reflect on their successes and accomplishments. 

Once participants create a PLP they can either keep it private, share it with the instructor, or share it on a discussion board. Sharing it on a discussion board might allow them to be more accountable to the goals they have set and to connect with colleagues that have similar goals. There is one problem here: Let’s assume that the course will be of interest to a couple of hundred people and a hundred of them post their PLPs on a discussion board. That will quickly become overwhelming for everyone. How do we reduce the information available to help learners find each other based on common interests? If learners could tag their post, and the tags became available at the top of the discussion thread, that could help, but alas, that’s not an option available on the platform that I am using. If any of you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them!

Below are two fictitious learning plans as examples. These only have 1 row each, but learners could include as many rows as they need.

The first one is relevant to PhD students

Goal Action(s) to achieve goal Measure of success (i.e. How will I know that I was successful?) How much time do I anticipate spending to achieve this goal?
Decide whether of not to start blogging about my dissertation - Read assigned material- Participate in discussions - Make a decision by the end of the course 2 hours per week for the next 4 weeks

The second one applies to an early-career academic (e.g., a lecturer, a professor, a researcher, etc).

Goal Action(s) to achieve goal Measure of success (i.e. How will I know that I was successful?) How much time do I anticipate spending to achieve this goal?
My social media activity is gaining global following. I want to understand the tensions that I might face. - Read everything associated with week 2.- Participate in as many relevant discussions as possible in week 2.- Join the live panel discussion during week 2. - I will write a 200-word journal entry describing potential tensions and challenges that I might face. 7 hours during week 2

Of course, it is entirely possible, and research has shown, that learners don’t know what they don’t know. A personal learning plan isn’t a panacea, which is why every course needs to include a diverse range of scaffolds and supports. But this is turning out to be a long post, so I’ll save those thoughts for a future update.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. How does this sound? What might be some problems with it? How could it be improved?

 

MITx and HarvardX make some of their MOOC data publicly available

Posted on May 28th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, moocs, online learning, open, scholarship. 23 comments

MITx and HarvardX deserve huge congratulations for making data associated with a number of their MOOCs publicly available. Four months ago, I wrote that the “community would benefit from access to the data that HarvardX and MITx have, as other individuals/groups could run additional analyses. Granted, I imagine this might require quite a lot of effort, not least in the development of procedures for data sharing.” It seems that the researchers at MITx and HarvardX have tackled the issues involved to make the data available, and have developed thoughtful procedures to ensure de-identification. While some of the steps taken may limit analyses (e.g., the de-identification process document notes that “rows with 60 or more forum posts were deleted,” thus eliminating highly active users), this is a big step in the right direction and it should be celebrated.

Now… can we have some qualitative data? If any institutions are interested in making those available, I’d love talk to you, give you input, and work with you toward that goal.

 

ELI 2014, learner experiences, MOOC research, and the MOOC phenomenon

I was at the Educause Learning Initiative conference last week (#ELI2014), where I had some interesting conversations and discussions around online learning, MOOCs, research methods, and the future of higher education.

Amy Collier and I presented early results from our qualitative studies looking at learners’ MOOC experiences (if you have not yet responded to our call to share your lived experiences with us, please consider this invitation). Our talk was entitled “Messy Realities: Investigating Learners’ Experiences in MOOCs.” Our thinking is guided by the notion that even though surveys and big data yield insights into general behavioral patterns,  these  methods are detached and can distance us rather than help us understand the human condition. As a result, the phenomenon of “learning in a MOOC” is understudied and undiscovered. During the session, we shared what we have been finding in our studies, highlighting the messiness of learning and teaching in the open.

Karen Vignare and Amy Collier were also very kind to extend an invitation to a number of us to share our work with individuals participating in the leadership seminar they organized. It was fantastic to hear  Katie Vale (Harvard), Matt Meyer (The Pennsylvania State University), Rebecca Petersen (edX, MIT), and D. Christopher Brooks (EDUCAUSE) discuss their work, and once again, I felt grateful that we are having these conversations more openly, more frequently, and with greater intent.

Below are my rough notes from my 5-7 minute presentation. I appreciate parsimony (who doesn’t?), and in the words of D. Christopher Brooks, this is the litany of things I think:

I am a designer and researcher of education and learning. I study emerging technologies and emerging learning environments. I’m also a faculty member , and I have been teaching in higher education settings both face-to-face and online since 2005.

To contextualize my comments on MOOCs, first I want to describe my experiences with them:

- I have facilitated one week of the #change11 MOOC was organized by George Siemens and Stephen Downes in 2011. This MOOC had a distinctively connectivist flavor with each week being facilitated by 1 person.
- I have enrolled in a number of MOOCs, and have even completed a small number of them.
- I have repurposed MOOCs in my own courses. For example, I have asked students to enroll in MOOCs and write about them.
- I have published an e-book with my students, sharing stories of student experiences with MOOCs.
- Finally, I am actively involved in studying learners’ experiences in MOOCs in order to understand the human element in these emerging learning environments.

I have recently come to the realization that I have an ambivalent relationship with MOOCs. My relationship with MOOCs is one of the most ambivalent relationships I have had with anyone or anything. This relationship is more ambivalent than the love-ignore-hate relationship that my cat has with me!

On the one hand, I appreciate the opportunities for open learning that MOOCs provide. I also appreciate how MOOCs have brought us together to discuss issues around technology, teaching, and learning. At the same time, I cringe at the narratives around big data, I cringe at the hype, at the ignorance around what education is and should be about.

I want to talk about two topics today: MOOC research and the MOOC phenomenon.

On MOOC Research

- We don’t know much about MOOCs
- The things that we know about MOOCs are mostly the result of surveys, learning analytics, and big data research
- The existing research and the existing methods that we use are informative, BUT they simply paint an incomplete picture of MOOCs. We should be asking more in-depth questions about learner and instructor experiences in MOOCs
- Qualitative and interpretive research methods can and will help us better understand MOOCs, open learning, and open scholarship
- Descriptions of learner behaviors are helpful, but these descriptions only provide a glimpse and superficial summary of what students experience and what they do in digital learning environments. To give you an example, emerging research suggests that students may be “sampling” courses; a behavior that we don’t frequently see in traditional online courses or traditional face-to-face courses. Nonetheless, “sampling” is not how participants would describe their experiences or the ways they participate MOOCs. To illustrate, consider family-style Mediterranean meals that consist of numerous dishes, where participants sample a wide array of food. If you ask a person to describe this meal, to explain it to someone else, or to simply tell you about the meal, they will likely describe the meal as a feast, they might describe the tahini as lemony, the variety of flavors as intriguing, the whole meal as satisfying. Different people will also describe the meal differently: Tourists might describe the meal as fulfilling, heavy, or even extravagant; locals might describe the same meal as appropriate, or better than or worst than meals that they have had at other restaurants. “Sampling” may be an appropriate descriptor of the act of eating a family-style meal, or exploring a MOOC, but the descriptor does not fully capture the experience of sampling.

 

On the MOOC as a Phenomenon

MOOCs. The acronym stands for massive, open, online courses. That is not what MOOCs are though. MOOCs are a phenomenon. They represent something larger than a course and should be seen in conjunction to the rebirth and revival of educational technology. They represent symptoms, responses, and failures facing Higher Education. For instance,  MOOCs are a response to the increasing costs of Higher Education; represent the belief that the purpose of education is to prepare students for the workforce; represent the belief that technology is the solution to the problems that education is facing; are indicative of scholarly failures; seem to represent the belief that education is a product that can be packaged, automated, and delivered; and, are a response to failures by researchers, designers, administrators, and institutions to develop effective and inspiring solutions to the problems of education (alternatively, they might also represent the failure of existing systems to support creative individuals in enacting change)*.

The  MOOC is an acronym that elicits strong feelings: excitement, fear, defiance, uncertainty, hope, contempt…. To address these feelings we have to address the failures of higher education and the underlying causes that have given rise to MOOCs. For this reason, instead of talking about MOOCs at my own institution, I discuss innovations and approaches that I value, including networked scholarship, openness, flexibility, social learning, and the design and development of new technologies.

 

* NOTE: Rolin Moe and I are working on a paper refining and delineating these. If you have thoughts, concerns, or input on any of these issues, we’d love to hear form you!

HarvardX and MITx open course reports

Posted on January 22nd, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, moocs, online learning, open. 8 comments

HarvardX and MITx released a number of reports describing their open courses. The overarching paper describing these initiatives, entitled HarvardX and MITx: The first year of open online courses is really helpful in gaining a holistic understanding of HarvardX and MITx learned about their initiatives.

My (preliminary) thoughts:

  • It’s exciting to see more data
  • It’s exciting to see education researchers involved in the analysis of the data
  • The researchers should be congratulated for making these reports available in an expeditious manner via SSRN
  • We need more interpretive/qualitative research to understand participants’ and practitioners’ experiences on the ground
  • I am wondering whether the community would benefit from access to the data that HarvardX and MITx have, as other individuals/groups could run additional analyses. Granted, I imagine this might require quite a lot of effort, not least in the development of procedures for data sharing.

The course reports appear below, and these are quite helpful in helping the community understand the particulars of each course: