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    So what if I am not connected?

    April 15th, 2013

    First Great Western

    One of the challenges with any MOOC is finding the time to engage with the course, especially if you are doing it in your own time and have no dedicated staff development time slot to fit it in. I am sure that I am not that different to many others undertaking ocTEL in undertaking the course in “spare” time as I like others are generally quite busy.

    However what I have found with this MOOC, and I guess is an issue with many different MOOCs is that you need to be online! Well one of the “O”s in MOOC does stand for online.

    Well in order to be online you need an internet connection, and I am finding that when I have time to engage with the course I am either offline or have a slow 3G phone connection.

    Most of my reading and reflection is being done offline. I am writing this blog post in a word processor and will post it on my blog later when I have some internet.

    As I said though, most of the time I am engaging with this course is when I am commuting by train when I have no internet (well not a stable consistent connection).

    As a result I was unable to view the Diana Laurillard webinar recording, well that when I had a decent internet connection, I couldn’t as the machine I was on was having a problem with the Java required for Blackboard Collaborate (which I have used before on the same machine).

    Of course it is proving a little easier to engage with ocTEL through Social Media, Twitter seems to work just as well on GPRS as it does on 3G and even Google+ isn’t too bandwith hungry.

    Now we are in week one, there are a fair few YouTube videos to watch and in order to watch YouTube videos you need a relatively fast and stable internet connection. When travelling by train, this is something I don’t always have. CrossCountry for example block YouTube on their wifi on their trains, so no chance of watching it when connected on one of their rail services. First Great Western don’t even have wifi! It would have also been useful for me, as someone who listens to podcasts in the car to possible have downloadable mp3 audio versions of the “videos” to listen to. The option to download the video to an iPad or media device, or audio versions would have helped me enormously.

    It would also appear to be crucial to view these videos first before I can progress on the course. As a result I am going to need to set time aside on a computer with a decent internet connection to view the videos.

    What I have learnt from this part of the MOOC is that never assume your learners always have a decent always on internet connection. They may at times, but there may be circumstances which means that they don’t. As a result think about ensuring content is accessible in different media, or provide opportunities to convert formats into accessible formats.

    Okay time to find the time to watch those videos.


    It’s not Napster

    April 12th, 2013

    It’s not Napster

    Interesting Examples of Technology Enhanced Learning – ocTEL

    Probably the most interesting example of TEL for me at the moment is the MOOC, but probably not in the way you would expect.

    What interests me about MOOCs is the hype surrounding them and a belief that they will have a significant impact on the HE sector. Some have been saying that MOOCs are to HE, in the same way that Napster was to the music industry. I am less confident in that view, but I do wonder (as someone who works in formal education) if I am thinking as a record company rather than an innovator.

    The thing is that over the last few years there have been a fair few ideas and technologies that people have talked about as revolutionising education.

    Go back to the 1990s and lots of people back then were talking about how online learning and VLEs were going to revolutionise education. Fast forward to today and VLEs are embedded in a fair few educational organisations (and used intermittently in others) however the VLE is in the main used to enhance and enrich an existing educational experience. You still have traditional classroom and lecture theatre delivery, but there is support, communication tools, extra resources and activities on the VLE that allow for a more personalised and individual learning experience. Rarely will you see a course delivered wholly on the VLE and where you do, it’s usually by an organisation that was doing that kind of remote learning before with paper.

    In 2006 many people were talking about mobile learning (oh and still are) and how mobile devices were going to break apart traditional education delivery allowing learning to happen at a time and place to suit the learner. Fast forward again and what we find is that mobile devices are again in the main used to enhance and enrich an existing educational experience. Learners use mobile devices to access additional information and resources, as well as communicate. Services such as Twitter which work well on mobile devices allows back channel communication and sharing of resources and links. You aren’t seeing in the mainstream whole courses designed to be delivered on a mobile device. Some subject areas have made good use of mobile learning, but as with the VLE, the real strength of mobile has been to add value to a traditional learning experience.

    Go back just a few years and everyone was talking about the PLE (Personal Learning Environment), how every learner could create their own learning environment, how Web 2.0 tools could take learning outside not just the institutional VLE, but also allow learning in communities and add an element of social learning. At a simple level, in a PLE, a learner would use a range of web based tools and services to create their own learning environment, engaging with learning communities across a range of institutions. Though that is happening today, it certainly isn’t mainstream.

    I don’t see mainstream education using the PLE concept, yes individuals are pushing it and encouraging their learners to engage with web tools and services, but the PLE revolution that was talked about, just hasn’t happened and the term is rarely referred to or mentioned today in discussions about learning technologies. Certainly I don’t think I have seen the term PLE in any of the discussions in this MOOC.

    In many ways I do think that MOOC is similar to what we have seen before. A lot of people evangelise how this “concept” will revolutionise education and cause traditional institutions to change. Personally I don’t see that happening.

    In many ways MOOCs for me are an evolution of the PLE. By adding content and structure to the PLE you get a MOOC.

    So will MOOCs revolutionise education in the same way that Napster changed the music industry?

    What needs to be remembered is that there were lots of other services at that time, as well as other technologies, it wasn’t just Napster that had an impact on the music industry. Well maybe we should look whether it was just Napster, in many ways I think mp3 and the iPod (and iTunes) had a bigger impact. Also where is Napster now, the original Napster concept that is? It’s gone.

    MOOCs will change education, the fact we are talking and discussing them implies that this will feed into how we work and support learning. But is it Napster? I don’t think it is.


    What are MOOCs?

    March 20th, 2013

    This Prezi, What are MOOCs? History, pedgagoy, myths and media, explores where we’ve come from, where we are and where we’re going with the MOOC phenomena.

    If you are still confused over what a MOOC actually is and what it could be, then this presentation is well worth a look. I also found the video from Dave Cormier useful that explains the original concept of the MOOC.

    I have no strong opinions on the MOOC as a concept, I do think there is the possibility they are a bit of a fad, and in a few years we might have moved onto something else to talk about at edtech conferences on the Twitter. Think about how no one these days talks about the PLE in the same way they did back in 2009. I think we should also be critiquing the model of MOOCs where the focus is on content and not learning. Retention figures of 4% and 90% male dominated does indicate that this model still has someway to go.

    However I also can see how they may change societal perceptions of what universities and colleges offer prospective learners, and allow a back door for publishers and private educational institutions to start offering, what they would call MOOCs, but in reality would be the privatisation of higher and further education.

    I am hoping that the end result is not closed private universities, but that the open aspect becomes dominant and makes it much easier to share and reuse concepts, materials, structures and resources in ways that we have not done before. If we can create a culture of openness and sharing.

    MOOCs could offer (for FE) an opportunity for FE Colleges to collaborate on building courses, however my experiences of doing that model back in 2000s with the WCC was that people like the concept, but either aren’t willing to share or more importantly have very little original content to share.

    I don’t see MOOCs as particularly revolutionary or transformative, in many ways the concept has been around for a while, the key difference is the connected, participatory and collaborative opportunities that MOOCs offer. Maybe that is the revolutionary aspect.