#Design 4 Learning 2014

Semi live , late blogging from the Design for Learning Conference, 27 November 2014, The Open University, Milton Keynes.

Dr Tessa Eysink, University of Twente, Keynote “Learner performance in inquiry learning environments”

Work in progress comparing Inquiry learning with expository instruction. The research was focused on the design and use of small Learning Objects in Psychology: 60 of them. The topic “Classical conditioning”, “used world-wide” was chosen for the trial. The underlying issue to be addressed was that learners find it hard to generate hypotheses interpret data, collect data, and so on. Therefore, learning must be supported.

What other processes are there? Tessa outlined four approaches all of which were purported to improve learning. (Some do. Some don’t.) All appeared very cognitivist in their underlying epistemology.

  • Inquiry Learning
  • Hypermedia Learning
  • Observational Learning
  • Exploratory Learning

The trial models were all implemented in the same VLE and “Only the instructional method differed.” This, to me is questionable. The implementations all looked the same at arm’s length, though each was described as a separate environment. Learners were described as of high, middle and low ability. This categorisation was presented as unproblematic. The “High ability” learner was the norm. The other two differed in degree to which they resiled from the norm.

“Inquiry Learning” was “Problem-based Learning” “Hypermedia Learning” was expository or didactic, content-led learning: read all about it, where “reading” may be replaced by consume hypermedia. “Observational learning” was, in essence, apprenticeship or knowledge engineering. Learning comes from observing (or watching a video of…) an expert and emulating or decoding the practice. “Exploratory learning” appeared little different from Inquiry learning. PBL without the problem; self-directed hypermedia learning (?).

A few lessons were presented.

  • In the trials Inquiry learning was the most effective and efficient. No surprises, there. While I agree with the lesson, nevertheless it was annoying to see the exposition of a foregone conclusion.
  • Generating the subject matter by the students (Learner-led curriculum) leads to learning gain. This was interesting, but if supported by evidence, I did not notice it.
  • It appeared that the trials were focussed on providing tailored instruction for high ability learners: opens the way to complex, abstract assignments. But questions inclusivity?
  • Modelling practice is a helpful adjunct to PBL. But this session modelled expository practice, not inquiry learning.

At the end of the conference, key contributors were asked for three things: a hunch, a wish, and a prediction. My hunch, wish and prediction:

  • Hunch: what is needed to design instruction is not so much research (leading to the formulation of a grand narrative)  but sensitive observation in the the learning context (petits receipts): in the classroom, action learning, etc
  • Wish: educators would learn that everyone is equally remarkable, wonderful and wise to the ways  of their world.
  • Prediction: Performance monitoring dashboards will not improve learning.

Blogging the iPad Study

Just read Andy Saul’s excellent post on blogging the iPad project.

Using blogs for peer mentoring is a very good idea. It is the way the “blogosphere” works. Bloggers carry on conversations on their blogs. I am slightly less certain about the need to make the readership a closed group. Maybe I am just being conservative, but I have established blogging patterns and platforms and do not really want yet another.

If the readership is open, then through the mechanisms of trackbacks, pingbacks, categories, tags and blog rolls we can have the conversation using the native language of the Web and not be confined to a single platform.

I guess if the blogs are being used for commenting on academic work there is some case for privacy. But for private one-to-ones doesn’t e-mail do the trick?

x v c: falsifiability or hybrid learning in, through and about MOOCs

[This is my abstract for OER13]

Two thousand and twelve was the year of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) (Creelman 2012). The MOOC has become a complex phenomenon leaving aspiring designers and conveners with many questions and decisions to make. Speaking loosely, observers notice two broad categories of MOOC. cMOOCs are the earlier form, based on connectivist learning principles (Siemens 2005). xMOOCs are the more recent phenomenon described by some as monstrous (Siemens 2012) and attracting upwards of 150,000 participants. As Peter Sloep (2012) has commented, the key difference between the different types of MOOC is one of underlying beliefs, which will inevitably affect the learning experience and learning itself.

Here, we explore the beliefs underlying one of the UK’s early MOOCs: First Steps in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (FSLT).

We do this not to assert predominance but because one of these beliefs is that teachers should make their perspectives explicit. Theoretical underpinnings must be able to be tested: to be falsifiable (Popper 1996). Continue reading “x v c: falsifiability or hybrid learning in, through and about MOOCs”

The limits of navigation: how far does the online go?

Lechlade by Bhopix

Reflections on New Lecturers Courses at Oxford Brookes

Among the practices, which have emerged through the New Lecturers Programme in 2011-12, there are three that challenge the limits to online learning: massive open on-line courses (moocs), virtual conferences as a means of assessment, and distributed collaboration as a means of working in learning sets. While each of these topics deserves a full paper, together they allow us to examine, briefly, the role of the university and to re-imagine a place for institutions in a world where openness, access and community have come to underpin academic knowledge. Massive open online courses work for some, not all. A feeling of being lost can affect participants. The development of autonomy benefits from scaffolding. The literal and metaphorical walled garden of the university, where openness is limited and access is controlled, even if only with the lightest of touches, provides a sense of security. Virtual conferences challenge our understandings of academic literacy: we do not yet know how to “write the internet” in a way that makes us comfortable in the security of our knowledge. Text and citation in text reasserts itself vigorously through all the fissures opened up by multimedia discourse. And, learning sets are powerful motivators. They might well be supported through distributed collaborative approaches (FXPAL 2012). But unless the extrinsic drivers are very powerful, the centripetal force of physical presence and trust engendered through face to face meetings overcomes the benefits of distributed collaboration. All three practices, massive openness, multimedia academic discourse and distributed collaboration will and should, I suggest, be part of academic practice. But, if implemented uncritically in pursuit of openness, access and community, these practices may undermine very laudible aims.

Blog conversation on FSLT12

Lakhovsky, Conversation (public domain)

The feeds are starting to come in to the FSLT12 blog aggregator. And it is already a rich source of information and potential conversation. Questions are being asked about what makes a good teacher, and what makes a bad one! Jenny Mackness addresses the issue of blog aggregation generally in a MOOC. We are struggling with this and will be making changes to the template so that syndicated feeds only show the first 100 words or so.

But my question is more about the nature of conversation in this context. I will need to locate references, or ask if anyone has any to support my assertion, here. I wonder if this new epistolary form may be going a bit Baroque or even Rococo.

Continue reading “Blog conversation on FSLT12”

Open is as open does – what do you want in an #fslt #oer #mooc

As planning gets underway to run a mooc based in the first instance on OCSLD’s First steps into learning and teaching (#fslt) in higher education I have been struck by a couple of questions. First is when does a mooc start? Second is how open should the mooc planning process be? The questions are related. We have been committed to openness from the start (with a caveat). As soon as it was written the bid was posted to a public blog. The caveat is that unlike Joss Winn, we didn’t write the bid in public. Five years ago I and others in the Emerge project tried to get the community to shape one big bid to the JISC. So, openness is still imperfect. But, now, there will be an event running the last 2 weeks of May and first 3 weeks of June. This event will be an intro to learning and teaching in higher education (note to Steve Wheeler referenced here not a mooc about moocs). But for some of us: Jenny, Marion and me, the thing has started. In a separate and unrelated – may the zeitgeist be with you – development I have been following, at a distance, the development of #mededmooc, a mooc for health care professionals [see here and here and here]. There it appears that it is all in a wide open planning phase. Everything is up for discussion and negotiation. I like this, but with some more caveats. The openness has to be bounded. It is not about everything. There are themes for the mooc we are planning: learning and teaching in HE, OER, the HEA UK PSF; there is a base curriculum. But, within these parameters, I would like to widen the discussion as much as possible. Call it a needs analysis. What do you want to see in a short 50 hour/5 week open online course about learning and teaching in higher edication?

Humanising the Real Wide Web – the mesh, widely distributed data and “Sensor-driven collective intelligence”

I wouldn’t want to presume to have thought of something before Tim O’Reilly (cf. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/mar/15/sxsw-2011-internet-online# ; http://radar.oreilly.com/2009/03/radar-roundup-sensors.html ; http://www.web2summit.com/web2009/public/schedule/detail/10194), but in 2007 I wrote about Web3. I called it mesh networks and widely distributed databases (http://my-world.typepad.com/rworld/2007/09/global-justice-.html http://my-world.typepad.com/rworld/2007/10/more-on-the-mes.html) and cited Dust Network’s (http://www.dustnetworks.com/) sensors as part of the puzzle. Semantic language technologies are part of it, of course, but the ubiquitous mesh, and widely distributed data is what, now, is transforming the world.
For me the challenge is how to humanise this phase of Internet technology development.

Enquiry based, experiential and situated learning – Cloudworks

We are starting to collect resources, but it is not exactly clear how we are going to collect and hold such resources. For the moment, I have started this “Cloud” as one means of collecting resources together. I will be offering these to the Brookes institutional repository, also.

Zotero Everywhere makes me happy

Zotero Everywhere will have two main components: a standalone desktop version of Zotero with full integration into a variety of web browsers and a radically expanded application programming interface (API) to provide web and mobile access to Zotero libraries.

This is one of the best pieces of news I have had in a little while. I love Zotero. As a citation manager it is hands down better than EndNote or Mendeley. The ability to form groups, share libraries, and tag and publish libraries is just what a research group should do. The parsing of citations from databases (Academic Search complete, etc) is slick and pretty much fool proof. As for citation and bibliographic formats, it has more than any other tool I know of. (OK, they still haven’t cracked Oxford, but no one has.) Web clipping, annotation, cross referencing all just work. It has been developed by researchers for researchers funded by a major research funding body (Mellon Foundation). Zotero is open source and free to use. If you want an open tool for cataloguing OERs, this is the one. They provide a generous amount cloud storage space free and reasonably priced additional storage if you want to keep all your pdfs on line for access anywhere. The only drawback (in some eyes) has been that the client is integrated into the Firefox browser. This has not been a problem for me but has been a problem for colleagues who for various reasons are not as fond of Ffx as I am. As long as Zotero was close-coupled to Ffx I couldn’t really sell it to others. But, now, the best just announced the intention to get seriously useful.

From community folksonomy to epistemology in a few clicks via @psychemedia http://bit.ly/a9aETq #altc2010

Possibly the most useful post (ever?), showing how using Twitter can delineate communities of interest and lead from ephemeral and transitory utterances to more stable representations of (still dynamic) useful knowledge http://bit.ly/a9aETqIt does, of course depend on people using conventions (Twitter hashtags) consistently. The rebels at ALT-C who resented the waste of three characters and insisted on tagging #alt10 instead of #altc2010 won’t be picked up in these algorithms. No matter how otherwise influential, their influence in these searches would only be felt through their reflection in the interests of those they connect to.

I think there may be some limitations on the depth of search for new hashtags, or the pipe needs to be rewired. I would have expected the tag #falt10 to have appeared several times.