Activity and interaction in #fslt13 open online course

The #fslt team sat down today and thrashed out the mid-level detail of how the four activities that are at the heart of this course will work this time and how badges will be awarded for completion of activities.

We had some principles to work with. Learning is dialogic. Everyone has the opportunity for peer feedback. Assessed and non-assessed participants will mix as equals. Peer feedback works best in small groups,  therefore feedback groups should have a max size of 5. Peer feedback has to be opt-in. It is an open course. You can make your own way through. We struggled over persistence of peer feedback groups. Benefits and detriments both ways, but we decided that we had to allow for all sorts of variable participation. If people want to self-organise a persistent group that could be done but the course default will treat each activity grouping independently. We wanted consistency in the interface We didn’t want to use a different subset of tools for each task. We know MOOCs are daunting and want to keep it as easy as possible for participants.

Peer feedback groups will be monitored. We have been fostering a group of expert participants. These are people who did the course last year, colleagues with teaching experience who are moving into line teaching, and experienced moocers. There are about 25 expert participants who will be helping us facilitate the process

We don’t know how many people will participate. Last year there were 200 of whom about 60 could be characterised as active. We may get half that. We may get 10 times that. We think it unlikely that more than 500 will participate. We expect the platform to be able to handle 5000. But we are not judging success by the numbers, except to the extent that the numbers we do have need to be accommodated well.

So: what will we do?

Activities 1 and 2: the initial reflective statement and the collaborative bibliography task will make use of the Moodle Workshop tool. Those who submit an item for the activity (document, blog post, forum post, etc) will have it assigned to up to four others, who have also submitted an item for the activity. We set the workshop tool to allocate 3 or 4 reflective statements to each person to provide peer feedback on. Completion of the Activity is signaled by submitting a reflection and providing comment on at least one other.

Activities 3 and four are more complex (Bloom’s taxonomy and all that). We will use the Group Choice tool in Moodle. The tasks will largely be undertaken synchronously in Collaborate. Asynchronous discussion will be available. We will set up nn slots in Collablorate at specific times between Monday 27 May and Wednesday 12 June. Each slot will be moderated by a tutor or Expert Participant. Each slot is 90 minutes. Each slot can accommodate 4 people. Participants sign up for a group that has a particular time slot. At the allocated time participants sign in and have 20 minutes each (10 minutes presentation, 10 minutes discussion). Participants “bring” their showcase item with them, share them and discuss them. At the end of the process each participant writes a 120 word summary reflection on the feedback they have received. Submission of this reflection triggers completion.

Badges will be awarded using the WP Badger plug-in for WordPress, which implements the Mozilla open badges framework, Mozilla Backpack and Persona. The trigger event in Moodle can be reported on. All people who complete the task such that the event is triggered can be exported as a CSV. There is a manual step. The emails from the report have to be pasted into the admin back-end of the WP Badger plug in. Then WP Badger mails the successful participants with a link for them to click on to collect their badge. The first time they do this they will need to create a Persona identity and a Backpack account.


  • Mackness, J., Waite, M., Roberts, G. & Lovegrove, E. (to be submitted 2013). Learning in a Small, Task-Oriented, Connectivist MOOC: Implications for Higher Education.  eLearning Papers
  • Lovegrove et al. (in progress) Moving online, becoming ‘massive’: turning the face-to-face ‘First Steps in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education’ into a MOOC. BeJLT
  • Roberts, G et al. (2013). x v c: Hybridity in through and about MOOCs. In Proceedings of OER13: Creating a Virtuous Circle. Nottingham, England (PDF 176k, x v c: Hybrid learning in MOOCs)
  • Waite, M., Mackness, J., Roberts, G., & Lovegrove, E. (under review 2013). Liminal participants & skilled orienteers: A case study of learner participation in a MOOC for new lecturers. JOLT

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