I will be visiting my colleagues at the University of Edinburgh in mid-June to give a seminar on MOOCs, automation, artificial intelligence and pedagogical agents. This is a free event organized by the Moray House School of Education at the U of Edinburgh and supported by the Digital Cultures and Education research group and DigitalHSS. Please feel free to join us face-to-face or online (Date: 18 June 2014; Time: 1-3pm) by registering here.
This seminar will bring together some of my current and past research. A lot of my work in the past examined learners’ experiences with conversational and (semi)intelligent agents. In that research, we discovered that the experience of interacting with intelligent technologies was engrossing (pdf). Yet, learners often verbally abused the pedagogical agents (pdf). We also discovered that appearance (pdf) may be a significant mediating factor in learning. Importanly, this research indicated that “learners both humanized the agents and expected them to abide by social norms, but also identified the agents as programmed tools, resisting and rejecting their lifelike behaviors.”
A lot of my current work examines experiences with open online courses and online social networks, but what exactly does pedagogical agents and MOOCs have to do with each other? Ideas associated with Artificial Intelligence are present in both the emergence of xMOOCs (EdX, Udacity, and Coursera emanated from AI labs) and certain practices associated with them – e.g., see Balfour (2013) on automated essay scoring. Audrey Watters highlighted these issues in the past. While I haven’t yet seen discussions on the integration of lifelike characters and pedagogical agents in MOOCs, the use of lifelike robots for education and the role of the faculty member in MOOCs are areas of debate and investigation in both the popular press and the scholarly literature. The quest to automate instruction has a long history, and lives within the sociocultural context of particular time periods. For example, the Second World War found US soldiers and cilvilians unprepared for the war effort, and audiovisual devices were extensively used to efficiently train individuals at a massive scale. Nowadays, similar efforts at achieving scale and efficiencies reflect problems, issues, and cultural beliefs of our time.
I’m working on my presentation, but if you have any questions or thoughts to share, I’d love to hear them!
Image courtesy of NetWork
In the Fall, I will be teaching an open course entitled Networked Scholars. We are having our first design meeting this week, and in preparation for that, I have written up a course description (see below). The course is my response to the fact that Research Methods courses in the social sciences rarely examine scholarly practices in the digital age. Digital, networked, and open scholarship are topics that students and academics discover and examine on their own. These topics are too important to ignore. I believe that we should be teaching them in research methods courses. I am creating this course to help introduce individuals to these topics and to create an open online resource to help those who want to integrate these topics into their research methods courses. If you are interested in integrating aspects of this course with your (on campus or online) research methods course, I’d love to talk to you!
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. Recent reports indicate that social media are at an early stage of adoption in academia, even though mindful participation in digital spaces is a significant skill for today’s academic and knowledge worker.
Participants will study scholarly presence online. They will examine how particular tools and practices may enhance the impact and reach of scholarship, and will explore the challenges and tensions associated with emerging forms of scholarship. By gaining an understanding of modern forms of scholarship, participants will be better equipped to use digital technologies and networked practices in their own work.
This course will be of immediate relevance to doctoral students, academics, and knowledge workers. Faculty members who teach research methods courses and faculty development professionals may also find this course valuable.
June 4, 2014 update
Course hashtag: #scholar14
If you’d like to be informed about the start of course or if you’d like to give feedback on the content and design of the course, please fill in the short survey below (also found here).
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.
You are invited to join us on campus or online for a presentation by Dr. Albert Sangra Morer, Academic Director and UNESCO Chair in Education, Technology and Social Change at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain.
When: Tuesday, May 27, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: Face-to-face (Centre for Dialogue, Learning and Innovation Centre, RRU) or online
This event is hosted by the Faculty of Social and Applied Science Dean’s Office and the RRU School of Education and Technology.
Dr. Albert Sangra will present his research on the informal approaches to professional development teachers are taking and what this means for developing a “learning ecology.” The concept of learning ecology can be a useful tool to help professionals create a personal strategy for professional development and relations, Morer says. Currently, there is a myriad of digital resources teachers use to informally develop themselves professionally such as MOOCs and communities of practice. There is a move towards each individual being responsible for taking his/her own decisions on learning, rather than simply accepting those formally proposed, he says.
A key aspect of the updating of professional development is personalization: adapting policies to the specific needs of each individual, according to their learning style. Morer’s research aims to analyze and understand the ways in which learning ecologies are and will be contributing to the professional development of primary school teachers. In this presentation, the design and the current stage of the research will be introduced, as well as its initial outcomes.