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Blended Learning Essentials has definitely got started!

Eileen Kennedy7 November 2015

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https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/blended-learning-getting-started

Managing the ambitious Ufi-funded MOOC project that is Blended Learning Essentials has required a leap of imagination. Back in May, we had no video, no scripts, no quizzes, no Padlets, no glossary, no crib sheets, no Digital Champions, no flyers, no tweets, no conference keynotes, nothing built on the FutureLearn platform. Diana Laurillard and Neil Morris had expressed a desire for video of actual teaching with actual learners using actual blended learning techniques in actual colleges and actual private training providers. Where were we going to get that from? And to add some extra spice, by the time Suzanne Scott from Borders College had consulted teachers in the Vocational Education and Training sector to establish what we needed, it was the height of summer, and all the colleges were having a break.

Thankfully, we had a supremely talented team combining Evans Woolfe Media, who travelled the country interviewing, shooting and editing video, and University of Leeds Digital Learning Team who put it all together, and as if by magic we started to see a MOOC emerge. Meanwhile, Maren Deepwell from ALT was working tirelessly on planning a marketing campaign to beat all others, and plotting accreditation pathways for our learners to progress from the MOOC. In the background, Richard Nelson from Bradford College was assembling a force of Digital Champions to support the MOOC, and creating a plan for how they could do it.

I was working with further education teachers to make the crib sheets – including the brilliant Wendy Rogers, just retired from a glorious career at Croydon College, Phil Durrant, and my colleagues at UCL Institute of Education – Rebecca Wilson, Tim Neumann and Kit Logan, who also helped to bring them to life in our UCLeXtend Moodle course. Rachel Challen from Loughborough College was thinking about the best way to evaluate the course, and all our other partners in colleges and organisations (AELT, ETF, AOC, Tinder Foundation, NIACE, Sheffield College and Northern College) were contributing to videos and promoting the course to their members. So many people, so much enthusiasm, so much talent! Even so, it was an incredible challenge – six months to launch the first of our two MOOCs to transform the landscape of vocational education and training.

But finally it is a reality, and we have reached the end of week 1. It was a major feat from our end to be sure, but that was only ever half the story. The participants themselves are the main part of the picture. I am seriously impressed by the energy and insight of the contributions that everyone is making on and off the FutureLearn platform. I have never enjoyed a MOOC so much – the discussion is great. Obviously, it is my favourite subject, but even so – I have to stop myself spending all my time reading the comments, and following the links that people have posted. It is making me think that this project could really change things and it is great to have been a part of it.

Blended Learning Essentials: Getting Started

Clive Young9 October 2015

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‘Blended Learning Essentials: Getting Started’ is a free course, run by a partnership between UCL Institute of Education and University of Leeds, along with a range of colleges and organisations, on the FutureLearn platform.

The lead educator is Professor Diana Laurillard from UCL, and, while the course is focused on vocational education, you will find much to connect with your own work. We are looking for interested staff to form a UCL cohort to take the course together.

The course will be in two parts, run over 8 weeks in total. The first part of the course ‘Getting Started’ will ‪start on November 2nd 2015.

We will be putting together a programme of events to support the UCL cohort and make links with teaching at UCL.

If you are interested in joining the UCL cohort add your name and join the course at FutureLearn.

This time it’s personal

Clive Young16 March 2015

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There is no doubt that blended and online learning developments, including Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), are beginning to have an impact on how some universities think about their business model. The Online and Blended Learning Solutions seminar last week was a timely guide through this post-MOOC space.

Rajay Naik, from the Open University reminded us that the MOOC hype is unlikely to dent the ever-growing demand for on-campus study. What it does though is broaden our horizons and encourage thinking beyond traditional student markets and teaching methods. Some – and one could set the OU is an example – see MOOCs partly as a marketing tool to ‘funnel’ students to fee-paying courses. Others scent a lucrative market in offering targeted MOOC-influenced CPD courses to companies and professionals. A few consider the MOOC format as a way – maybe the only way – of addressing the world’s mass-scale education needs in areas such as health and primary teaching.

One challenge is to bring the best of the on-campus experience to these remote audiences. He felt this was about how to provide tutor time, as he put it “access to minds”. We should therefore imagine “not distance learning but personal learning”. The OU has one approach to this, the army of Associate Lecturers (of which I am one) providing those academic “touch points”. Another speaker, described how academic contact could work even in a MOOC environment, by weekly feedback videos and forum intervention but it required strong commitment and motivation.

UCL’s Prof. Diana Laurillard unpacked the implications of these disruptions for university cultures. It was hard for academics just to keep up with rapid developments in their own research areas, not surprisingly time was limited to explore new learning designs. Her message was that we should “treat academics as if they know what they are doing” but they need models, tools and support to help them navigate and contribute to these initiatives. Teachers urgently require environments that will help both skills updating but also sharing and developing ideas in collaboration – indeed not unlike the process of research scholarship!

An interesting debate then arose from this about how universities should organise themselves to meet these disruptive changes. Should we set up specialist units or attempt mainstream cultural transformation? Neither model was considered ideal, but the feeling was that integration should be the priority; any innovations needed to be diffused into mainstream teaching (maybe via a funded process) “pull-through” from mainstream teaching should also enrich innovation. My own feeling is that while pioneers will always require additional support, developing a two-tier model may delay important mainstream transitions, for example technical upgrading, and risk student (and maybe staff) dissatisfaction by privileging a small group of off-campus participants.

Prof. Helen O’Suillvan described how online medical programme had been successfully developed at the University of Liverpool with partners Laureate who provide student, marketing and outreach support. Another potentially disruptive aspect in the post-MOOC world therefore is clearly the arrival of new players and potential partners. MOOCs themselves were enabled (and driven) by partnership with external platform providers such as Coursera. For much the same reasons of global impact mentioned above, commercial companies, accrediting bodies, professional organisations, government initiatives, broadcasters, charities, NGOs and publishers are all likely to begin to crowd into this area, either working with or competing against traditional universities.

The challenge of embodying and replicating (at least partly) the “traditional strengths” of the campus-based student experience was seen as a huge challenge as this very experience – although sometimes hazily defined- was integral to the student, staff and institutional identity.

However we also discussed how online learning could progress well beyond “replicating” the campus experience and encourage a move from “content-based learning to process-involved learning”. We were reminded that our traditional campus-based students already operated in the electronic world. Online environments can support encourage deeper and reflective “double loop learning”, socially constructed knowledge creation and digital fluency for our campus-based learners, too.

Image: via www.haikudeck.com

Online learning at research-intensive universities Part 2

Clive Young9 February 2015

The LERU paper published last year has clearly had some impact. At the LERU seminar last week Adam Tyson, Head of the Unit for Higher Education at the European Commission’s DG Education and Culture noted that EU universities did not have a clear public presence or strategy in online learning, especially in comparison where the US where much high-profile activity is based on just two platforms. Although Futurelearn has emerged as the front-runner in the UK, Spain, France and Germany all run incompatible systems and overall activity remains quite low. Universities should take advantage of funding such as Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 and emerging notions such as the ‘digital single market’ to engage and form strategic partnerships – but no more platforms!

Prof Sally Mapstone and some of the LERU recommendations.

Prof Sally Mapstone – some LERU recommendations!

Prof Sally Mapstone, PVC Education at the University of Oxford and one of the report authors emphasised that universities should develop proactive and strategic leadership in the form of mainstream policies for online learning, based on global horizon scanning and local experimentation. Online learning is both here to stay and changing rapidly – a challenge for even the most agile university.

She noted however an increasingly mature and reflective approach to online learning across the sector. Prof Mapstone cited Kristin Ingolfsdottir’s Nov 2014 IEEE report Impact of MOOCs and Other Forms of Online Education, Philip Hunter’s Jan 15 EMBO report The virtual university and with a focus on quality and brand Chris Parr’s July 14 THE article ‘Reputations at risk as platforms fail to screen Moocs’ about quality (a recurring theme of the debate) and Stephen Jackson’s (Director of quality assurance, QAA) follow up letter. Other key discussion papers were the Oct 14 EU report New modes of learning and teaching in HE, and the OU Innovating Pedagogy 2014 report. Some really interesting questions are arising, such as who ‘owns’ the data in data analytics.

Oxford has launched a digital strategy and established working group including representatives from its museums and hospitals to promote high quality and encourage an evidence-based approach (i.e. comparing different modes). As she said “the technology tail should not wag the educational dog”; quality is essential but likewise we must not stifle creativity.

Prof Dirk Van Damme, Head of the Innovation and Measuring Progress Division (IMEP) at the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills approached online learning from the perspective of productivity. He discussed a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article The MOOC Hype Fades, in 3 Charts and pointed out that rising costs – a major worry – could be addressed by the very approaches said to be ‘fading’. He raised lot of fascinating issues that I may return to in a later post.

As if to counter the ‘fading interest’ narrative, the morning session was completed by Prof Simone Buitendijk, Vice Rector-Magnificus of Leiden University. Leiden has run five Coursera MOOCs, with others in preparation. She was very positive, for her MOOCs had changed the perception of what Leiden can do with online learning. Some of these issues reflected a post MOOCs as metaphors I wrote nearly two years ago.  Leiden had targeted research and teaching areas where the university wanted global impact. The experience had encouraged evidence-based innovation, internationalisation of the classroom, impact and outreach but had also improved the experience, motivation and retention of on-campus students. They recently produced a report on this activity. The university has also established a Teachers Academy enabling teachers and practitioners to research their own work.

The afternoon session was dedicated to a fascinating set of case studies and again they may have to wait for another posting.

Online learning at research-intensive universities Part 1

Clive Young9 February 2015

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LERU report

One conspicuous aspect of the advance of online learning in higher education has been the leading role of research-intensive universities (RIUs).

Blended learning; lecture capture and media use; online and peer marking; exercises, online discussion and quizzes in the VLE. Once the preserve only of e-learning enthusiasts such approaches have become unexpectedly mainstream. Many RIUs continue to be active in the MOOC phenomenon, due in part to the purposefully ‘elitist’ recruitment of partners by the main platform providers. Others focus more on SPOCs (small private online courses) for CPD and distance learning. Online learning seems to have been an opportunity for RUIs to publicly refocus or restate a commitment to innovation in teaching as well as research.

Last summer the League of European Research Universities (LERU) published an excellent hype-free report Online learning at research-intensive universities and the group met last week to discuss its finding and impact. LERU is an invitation-only members association of 21 RIUs of which UCL is an active member.

The paper had recognised that the technology associated with online learning, its “capacity to communicate knowledge widely and quickly and its capacity for innovation and creativity” often resonated with a RUIs’ research mission, increasingly measured by dissemination and impact. The global outreach potential of MOOCs, open resources and approaches, and SPOCs they considered irrefutable for both teaching and research.

The paper recommended that universities assess strategically (e.g. by scenario planning) the extent to which they wish their existing on-campus learning experiences to involve online delivery and digital materials and how much to extend their online learning opportunities to learners or co-enquirers outside their university.

Such an approach would have to consider the extent to which universities wish to work collaboratively with other institutions, or with commercial partners, how to sustain investments in financial and human capital and of course identify the reputational advantages and risks for their institution’s brand.

The follow-up LERU seminar last will be discussed further in my next post.

UCLeXtend update – November 2014

Matt Jenner24 November 2014

UCL’s new public-facing e-learning environment; UCLeXtend is ready and waiting for your ideas. Live since May 2013 it has attracted over 5000 learners and 23 courses. We revamped it in August 2014 and now it’s sitting pretty. But there’s a lot more to come, this is where you get involved. 

Note: this post is largely written for an internal audience, apologies to external readers – do contact us (details below) if you have an enquiry.

About UCLeXtend

For those who don’t already know, it’s a Moodle-based online platform which can cater for a wide range of courses. Its core capability is to advertise courses, attract/process registrations and provide an online space for learning and teaching. Do take a look for yourself – http://extend.ucl.ac.uk 

UCLeXtend homepage - November 2014

UCLeXtend homepage in November 2014

It can be used to support a range of ideas and activities and so far has been used for: 

  • CPD
  • Executive education
  • Conferences
  • Taster modules
  • Research dissemination
  • Mini-MOOCs
  • Self-paced study. 

Some are free, others charge; some are open, others are closed/private. A few are fully online, and the majority support face to face activities. Around half are brand new – but others have been running for some time in other guises. Some are not even courses at all, and that’s OK too.  

In brief; UCLeXtend is/offers:

  • Moodle based – get on the ground running;
  • Open registration – you do not need a UCL computer account to be a UCLeXtend learner / delegate / participant / etc. Anyone can register with their own email / password combination.
  • Payment processor – not everything in life is free, so UCLeXtend accepts most credit and debit cards (or the slower, pay-by-invoice option)
  • Free course provider – some things in life are free, you don’t have to charge for your course
  • Discounts and ‘bulk seats’ options – more information in the UCLeXtend 101 wiki

Note: income derived from your UCLeXtend course goes directly to your department finance codes.

Get involved & find out more

Online guidance

There’s a few more things to cover; but much of it is procedural or too bloaty for email. So instead; we’ve compiled online content that outlines a lot of the questions you may have, processes, a handful of forms and a few other things. Do take a look, it should cover a lot (but it’s still in development):

https://wiki.ucl.ac.uk/display/UCLeXtend

(UCL login required – top left of the wiki, sorry external folk)

UCLeXtend drop-in session

If you’re interested in exploring UCLeXtend  or have questions you want to ask please do get in touch. We’re also running a trial (one-off for now) session where you can come and ask questions, share your ideas and hear about what do next. We’ll do a demo of UCLeXtend and be on hand to talk with you. Feel free to come for the whole hour, or drop-in whenever you like. 

Details

2nd December 2014, 13:00 to 14:00 in Foster Court 233 

If you can’t attend this we will look to put on more dates in the future (January onwards) or would rather do it via an online meeting or for us to come along to a departmental / faculty / teaching group session then just ask. 

Getting started? Why not try a ‘CPD Wrapper’

With so many options opening up; we felt it important to highlight one which is slightly easier to grasp and works well with existing provision. The concept is CPD Wrappers which we covered at the last Forum event in November. Here’s a presentation we made in E-Learning Environments which broadly outlines the ideas:

Full URL: https://www.haikudeck.com/cpd-wrappers-uncategorized-presentation-AmK4CAMI4E

If you’re interested in developing a ‘CPD wrapper’ (or anything else for UCLeXtend) get in touch with us, email is best – extend@ucl.ac.uk

Contact us

I don’t mind you contacting me directly, but you may find a faster (and more organised) response from the email above which goes to a shared inbox. Or come along to the session next Tuesday and we’ll go from there. 

Hope to hear of your ideas soon!