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    Reflections after UCL’s first Mooc

    By Matt Jenner, on 22 April 2016

    I wrote eight weeks ago, just before UCL’s first foray on FutureLearn went live, to share thoughts on the journey so far. By way of transparency, and [selfishly] having a justification to look back, I wanted to share some reflections after UCL’s first, and second, Moocs have finished.

    Why We Post: The Anthropology of Social Media

    After years of research Danny Miller and the team went Full Avalanche mode to ensure their research was moving into the hearts and minds of the world. After studying the Anthropology of Social Media across the globe, Danny’s idea was simple; he wanted for anyone interested to find out his team’s discoveries. About two years ago Danny explained his concept for how this would happen. What he wanted, in my mind anyway, was a pyramid of dissemination:

    Pyramid of Research Dissemination for Why We Post

    Pyramid of Research Dissemination for Why We Post

    Danny’s an ambitious researcher and he knows how to get his work out to a large and diverse audience. If you’re curious to see these outputs here are the web links to find out more:

    There’s a lot to get through and I hope that the effort spent on these outputs will be enjoyed by many as the months and years go by.

    Location of learners: A global audience

    Why We Post provided an interesting exercise to visualise the location of learners on a global map – they are a truly Earth-wide audience:

    Why We Post: Global Audience

    Why We Post: Global Audience – click the image for the live Zeemap – ~2000 entries as-of 21 April 2016

    Thanks to Zeemaps, who provide this service for free.

    It started with a very Brazilian focus due to some early publicity from a blogger in South America but then as the course started, the pins started appearing all over. It’s so exciting to see all these people, from all across the world, taking part in a simple exercise as ‘pin yourself on the map’. It should become a standard feature for all online courses, especially very international ones. Some people even put full names and addresses – if I had the budget – I’d like to send them all a postcard from Bloomsbury, London!

    Offering multiple languages // translating online courses is hard work

    Each team member in Why We Post, or the original ‘Social Media Impact Study’ research activity, was given a fieldsite where they will spend many months studying the use of social media, and the surrounding anthropological context. There was always the ambition to make the research outputs as multilingual as possible – so we ended up with the brief of making 9 courses as a part of the dissemination package. Making one online course is challenging enough but 9, in 7 languages you don’t know, is an interesting challenge.

    Turkish? Why We Post: Neden Paylaşıyoruz: Sosyal Medya Antropolojisi :)

    Turkish? Why We Post: Neden Paylaşıyoruz: Sosyal Medya Antropolojisi via UCLeXtend :)

    Firstly the plan was to build the course in FutureLearn – this would prove enough lessons-learned to equip us (disclaimer: Laura Haapio-Kirk far more than me) with a working model of the course. Once built (or mostly so) we then made a pathway of converting it into UCLeXtend – still English. Now FutureLearn and Moodle are different beasts – but we found ways through. With a little tinkering, and designing a style-guide, we converted one platform to the other (by hand, btw, and all credit to Perla Rembiszewski who worked super hard to get this done). Once the English UCLeXtend course was ready it became a template, Perla and Laura then converted it into 7 documents, all in English but with empty placeholders for the translation.

    If you imagine breaking a course down into chunks – each of these would be a row in a table. Then it gets tricky, translation is not a process, it’s an art. A translator is not an Input:Output engine, they’re a multilingual human. They have to read, interpret, learn, translate and then piece it back together. Being super organised helps a lot. The process creates mistakes and translation quality is, at best a variable, and at worst, somewhat arguable. Unless you’re paying full whack (which gets super-expensive) you’re also probably relying on good-faith and interest in the project to get to the end. Credit due to Laura who managed the whole process and barely complained about it; that’s the mark of a professional.

    Multi-language versions of Why We Post – now available

    The the course is now available in

    All via UCLeXtend and remain open for study at any time as self-paced courses / open learning resources. This makes me happy.

    Moodle is multilingual, quick reminder

    Lastly, it’s surprisingly easy to enable other languages in Moodle – people say negative things about it (shame, but I get it) but being able to just ‘turn on’ Spanish (or whichever) is quite powerful for a globally ambitious researcher who wants to share back to their hosts who gave them so much. And we’ve yet to have a support request in Spanish from a troubled user – I’m worried we’ll only be able to ask them dos cervezas, por favor if they do! But maybe a fair exchange for a password reset?

    Many Faces of Dementia – high levels of participation

    Step 2.2 from the Many Faces of Dementia - Tim Shakespeare's FutureLearn Mooc

    Step 2.2 from the Many Faces of Dementia – Tim Shakespeare’s FutureLearn Mooc

    Tim Shakespeare’s course, Many Faces of Dementia, covers rare forms of Dementia. It highlighted how powerful the FutureLearn platform can be at engaging learners. Tim has made a great course, covering Dementia in a human and scientific way. The learners must’ve appreciated this because it trumped many (many) FutureLearn courses in the level of engagement recorded. Courses usually achieve around a 20% fully participating learner statistic but the Dementia course had clocked in over 45%. This means of those who started the course 45% of them went on to completing 50%, or more, of all the steps in the course. If we can get in and see why, we’ll do what we can to share the secret – because this is really good.

    Selling certificates // income generation

    I won’t go into much detail – it’s not a large sum – but we’re planning on using the income generated for good causes. Originally I hoped to set up a fund for learners on lower incomes to apply for gifted certificates but this is actually quite tricky within university finances. Instead we’re exploring options of funding student research to enhance or report on our Mooc activity. I want to send any income generated in the right direction.

    Chatty learners & Why We Don’t Post?

    It turns out, people are not all that social on a social learning platform. Yes, there were lots of really valuable discussions and people who were commenting, replying, liking and following others were adding genuine, insightful and meaningful contributions – I have no desire to degrade or downplay this part. What’s so surprising is still how few people actually do this; a huge majority of people are not using the social functions. Many Faces of Dementia has 4 comments per learner and Why We Post had around 6. Some basic URL digging shows FutureLearn has just over 3m learners and 12m comments, so about 4 comments per learner across the site. I know some people don’t start after sign-up, but it seems that even those who do, they still don’t necessarily contribute conversationally throughout the course. Can you imagine weekly seminars where only a handful of people ever speak? (Oh, yeah – humm…)

    The numbers are not perfect and some people post a LOT (I see you ;)) but these averages seem worth scruitinising. I’d like to explore how to make a really social course, or better understand Why We Don’t Post? I don’t think Danny’s up for that one…

    Keeping courses short // Run parts if you like long ones

    Are shorter Moocs better? I don’t know the minimum or maximum length but 4 weeks, 1-2 hours per week seems good. If it’s actually 4 weeks but 3-4 hours per week, people may struggle to fit it in, and you might lose people. Better research is out there. UCL’s next course, Making Babies in the 21st Century, is six weeks – so I’m still mulling this rule over. Any longer than six weeks and I would be tempted to split the course into two parts, so people can space out the learning and fit it into their lives. Time will tell on this one, ha.

    We’re going for more

    The second round of Mooc proposals is open for anyone at UCL to submit an interest in. Initially the call is for expressions of interest in developing a MOOC to run on the FutureLearn platform at some point within the coming 12 months.

    • Briefing meeting at 1-2pm on 27 April in the Logan Hall, UCL Institute of Education.
    • Deadline for expressions of interest is 9 May.
    • Deadline for proposals is 23 May.

    The panel, chaired by the Pro Director for Teaching, Quality, and Learning Innovation will meet to decide which proposals receive central funding, with notification to teams by 6 June 2016. More information is available via the Teaching and Learning Portal.

     

    Reflections before UCL’s first Mooc

    By Matt Jenner, on 26 February 2016

    Why We Post: Anthropology of Social Media

    Why We Post: Anthropology of Social Media

    UCL’s first Mooc – Why We Post: The Anthropology of Social Media launches on Monday on FutureLearn. It’s not actually our first Mooc – it’s not even one Mooc, it’s 9! Eight other versions are simultaneously launching on UCLeXtend in the following languages: Chinese, English, Italian, Hindi, Portuguese, Spanish, Tamil and Turkish. If that’s not enough  we seem to have quite a few under the banner of UCL:

    (quite a few of these deserve title of ‘first’ – but who’s counting…)

    Extended Learning Landscape - UCL 2015

    Extended Learning Landscape – UCL 2015

    UCL is quite unique for some of these – we have multiple platforms which form a part of our Extended Learning Landscape. This maps out areas of activity such as CPD, short courses, Moocs, Public Engagement, Summer Schools (and many more) and tries to understand how we can utilise digital education / e-learning with these (and what happens when we do).

     

    Justification for Moocs

    We’ve not launched our first Mooc (apparently) but we also need to develop a mid term plan too – so we can do more. Can we justify the ones we’ve done so far? Well a strong evaluation will certainly help but we also need an answer to the most pertinent pending question:

    How much did all this cost and was it worth it? 

    It’s a really good question, one we started asking a while ago, and still the answer feels no better than educated guesswork. Internally we’re working on merging a Costing and Pricing tool (not published, sorry) and the IoE / UCL Knowledge Lab Course Resource Appraisal Modeller (CRAM) tool. The goal is to have a tool which takes the design of a Mooc and outputs a realistic cost. It’s pretty close already – but we need to feed in some localisations from our internal Costing and Pricing tool such as Estates cost, staff wages, Full Economic Costings, digital infrastructure, support etc. The real cost of all this is important. But the value? Well…

    Evaluation

    We’ve had a lot of ideas and thoughts about evaluation; what is the value of running Moocs for the university? It feels right to mention public engagement, the spirit of giving back and developing really good resources that people can enjoy. There’s the golden carrot being dangled of student recruitment but I can’t see that balancing any Profit/Loss sheets. I do not think it’s about pedagogical innovation, let’s get real here: most Moocs are still a bulk of organised expert videos and text. I don’t think this does a disservice to our Moocs, or those of others, I’d wager that people really like organised expert videos and text (YouTube and Wikipedia being stable Top 10 Global Websites hints at this). But there are other reasons – building Moocs is an new way to engage a lot of people with your topic of interest. Dilution of the common corpus of subjects is a good thing; they are open to anyone who can access them. The next logical step is subjects of fascination, niche, specialist, bespoke – all apply to the future of Moocs.

    For evaluation, some obvious things to measure are:

    • Time from people spend on developing the Mooc – we’ve got a breakdown document which tries to list each part of making / running a Mooc so we can estimate time spent.
    • Money spent on media production – this one tends to be easy
    • Registration, survey, quiz, platform usage and associated learner data
    • Feedback from course teams on their experience
    • Outcomes from running a Mooc (book chapters, conference talks, awards won, research instigated)
    • Teaching and learning augmentation (i.e. using the Mooc in a course/module/programme)
    • Developing digital learning objects which can be shared / re-used
    • Student recruitment from the Mooc
    • Pathways to impact – for research-informed Moocs (and we’re working on refining what this means)
    • How much we enjoyed the process – this does matter!

    Developing a Mooc – lessons learned

    Communication

    Designing a course for FutureLearn involves a lot of communication; both internally and to external Partners, mostly our partner manager at FutureLearn but there are others too. This is mostly a serious number of emails – 1503 (so far) to be exact. How? If I knew I’d be rich or loaded with oodles of time. It’s another new years resolution: Stop: Think: Do you really need to send / read / keep that email? Likely not! I tried to get us on Trello early, as to avoid this but I didn’t do so well and as the number of people involved grew adding all these people to a humungous Trello board just seemed, well, unlikely. Email; I shall understand you one day, but for now, I surrender.

    Making videos

    From a bystander’s viewpoint I think the course teams all enjoyed making their videos (see final evaluation point). The Why We Post team had years to make their videos in-situ from their research across the world. This is a great opportunity to capture real people in the own context; I don’t think video gets much better than this. They had permission from the outset to use the video for educational purposes (good call) and wove them right into the fabric of the course – and you can tell. Making Babies in the 21st Century has captured some of the best minds in the field of reproduction; Dan Reisel (lead educator) knows the people he wants, he’s well connected and has captured and collated experts in the field – a unique and challenging achievement. Tim Shakespeare, The Many Faces of Dementia, was keener to capture three core groups for his course: people with Dementia, their carers / family and the experts who are working to improve the lives for people with Dementia. This triangle of people makes it a rounded experience for any learner, you’ll connect with at least one of these groups. Genius.

    Also:

    • Audio matters the most – bad audio = not watching
    • Explain and show concepts – use the visual element of video to show what you mean, not a chin waggling around
    • Keep it short – it’s not an attention span issue, it’s an ideal course structuring exercise.
    • Show your face – people still want to see who’s talking at some point
    • Do not record what can be read – it’s slower to listen than it is to read, if your video cam be replaced with an article, you may want to.
    • Captions and transcripts are important – do as many as you can. Bonus: videos can then be translated.

    Using third party works

    Remains as tricky as it ever has been. Moocs are murky (commercial? educational? for-profit?) but you’ll need to ask permission for every single third-party piece of work you want to use. Best advice: try not to or be prepared to have no response! Images are the worst, it’s a challenge to find lots of great images that you’re allowed to use, and a course without images isn’t very visually compelling. Set aside some time for this.

    Designing social courses that can also be skim-read

    FutureLearn, in particular, is a socially-oriented learning platform – you’ll need to design a course around peer-to-peer discussion. Some is breaking thresholds – you’re trying to teach them something important, enabling rich discussion will help. You’re also trying to keep them engaged – so you can’t ask for a deep, thoughtful, intervention every 2 minutes. Find the balance between asking important questions – raising provocative points – and enjoying the fruits of the discussion with the reality of ‘respond if you want’ type discussion prompts.

    Connect course teams together

    While they might not hold one another’s hair when things get rough – the course teams will benefit from sharing their experiences with one another. We’ve held monthly meetings since the beginning, encouraging each team to attend and share their updates, challenges, show content, see examples from other courses and generally make it a more social experience. Some did share their dropboxes with one another – which I hadn’t expected but am enjoying the level of transparency. I am guilty of thinking at scale at the moment, so while I was guiding and pseudo ‘project-managing’ the courses, I was keen to promote independence and agency within the course teams. It’s their course, they’ll be the ones working into the night on it, I can’t have them relying on me and my dreaded inbox. The outcome is they build their own ideas and shape them in their own style; maybe we’re lucky but this is important. We do intervene at critical stages, recommending approaches and methods as appropriate.

    Plan, design and then build

    Few online learning environments make good drafting tools. We encouraged a three-stage development process:

    1. Proposals, expanded into Excel-based documents. Outlines each week, the headline for each step/component and critical elements like discussion starters.
    2. Design in documents – Word/Google Docs (whatever) – expand each week; what’s in each step. Great for editorial and refinement.
    3. Build in the platform.

    The reason for this is the outlines are usually quick to fix when there’s a glaring structural omission or error. The document-based design then means content can be written, refined and steps planned out in a loose, familiar tool. Finally the platform needs to be played with, understood and then the documents translated into real courses. It’s not a solid process and some courses had an ABC (Arena Blended Connected) Curriculum Design stage, just to be sure a storyboard of the course made sense.

    Overall

    • It’s hard work – for the course teams – you can just see they’ll underestimate the amount of time needed.
    • The value shows once you go live and people start registering, sharing early comments on the Week 0 discussion areas.
    • These courses look good and work well as examples for others, Mooc or credit-bearing blended/online courses
    • Courses don’t need to be big – 1/2 hours a week, 2-4 weeks is enough. I’d like to see more smaller Moocs
    • Integrating your Moocs into taught programmes, modules, CPD courses makes a lot of sense

    As a final observation before we go live with the first course: Why We Post: The Anthropology of Social Media, on Monday there was one thing that caught my eye early:

    Every course team leader for our Moocs is primarily a researcher and their Moocs are produced, largely, from their research activity. UCL is research intensive, so this isn’t too crazy, but we’re also running an institutional initiative the Connected Curriculum which is designed to fully integrate research and teaching. The Digital Education team is keen to see how we build e-learning into research from the outset. This leads us to a new project in UCL entitled: Pathways to Impact: Research Outputs as Digital Education (ROADE) where we’re exploring research dissemination and e-learning objects and courses origins and value. More soon on that one – but our Mooc activity has really initiated this activity.

    Coming soon – I hope – Reflections after UCL’s first Mooc 🙂 

     

    UCLeXtend update – November 2014

    By Matt Jenner, on 24 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!

    Rationale for UCLeXtend; opening up UCL Moodle

    By Matt Jenner, on 1 October 2014

    For around 18 months UCL has been piloting something new called UCLeXtend. This is a platform for courses that are available to the public. The rationale was simple; getting a computer account for UCL was too heavy-going and cost-prohibitive BUT there were many circumstances where just access to Moodle was the only requirement. We sought to address that with UCLeXtend.

    UCLeXtend homepage - https://extend.ucl.ac.uk

    UCLeXtend homepage  – https://extend.ucl.ac.uk

    I am sure many of you out there would appreciate the challenge; you have an online university environment that’s slowly filling with loads of great things and you want to prise it open, just a bit, so other people can come in too. We were inundated with reasons to do this but generally speaking it was so short course participants can have access to something that resembles a course hub.

    Alternatives

    Sure there are many ways to achieve this. Any creative type person can build a webpage somewhere and host a load of content. But that’s not a course hub; it’s a webpage full of content. How can users interact? Social media might provide one way forward, but not completely; there are gaps. While many tools exist out there there remained the need for something more ‘UCL’. Luckily putting branding aside, there are be other reasons to run an externally-facing course hub on internally-facing environments.

    Moodle

    moodle We’ve been using Moodle for about 8 years at UCL and it’s firmly embedded. For UCLeXtend we checked (with some help) a selection of 160 e-learning environments available on the market; and we still settled for another Moodle. Some platforms came close, but with hindsight, they were not appropriate for all use-cases.

    The original goal was to open Moodle to external audiences, and we have now done this. Additionally; UCLeXtend offers the opportunity to run a variety of courses, and what might seem like a small step-change in technical capability it has changed the landscape in which we can play in.

    Public/private

    A public course means anyone can sign-up and become a part. It might be limited in terms of ‘seats’ (places available) but it generally means you attract a wide audience and have a variety of people in the cohort. We built a course catalogue so you can promote a course and direct anyone to UCLeXtend for registration. Private courses are the opposite; they are not listed, they are advertised to a selective group and they hold up barriers to stop just anyone getting in. There’s really valid reasons for both.

    Free/premium

    Free courses come with the glamour and appeal of Moocs but do not always have to be on such a scale. A free course may be just trying to reduce the payment barrier to entry, and have no interest in attracting thousands of people. For serious, niche subjects, this is an asset worth bearing in mind. Premium courses are probably on the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s OK to make money and offer a good quality course. They cost money to make and are worth spending money to take. UCLeXtend takes credit cards and payment by invoices.

    Open/closedlocked

    Open may be in terms of beer (see above) or as in speech. If an academic wants a completely open course, they can make this in UCLeXtend. Open comes in many flavours, and as long as it’s legal, we can try to support any wild idea that may exist in this space. On a lighter note; it means working with members of the public in an academic space can be supported by a UCLeXtend course. We think this is important. Closed courses are similar to private, they are not designed for everyone; professional CPD is one example, as would a project involving a vulnerable or specialist group. We don’t always want to open the doors to everyone when it’s not appropriate to do so.

    Not courses!?

    Not everyone is building a course, we have resources, workshops and ‘spaces’ already. I am sure we’ll see more variety in the future. Sometimes we have to refer to each use-case as something (course is default) but we welcome the challenge of supporting the ideas of the UCL community, so watch this space.

    Lessons learned

    We’ve got a modest growth happening in this public-facing e-learning environment aka UCLeXtend. It’s being used for a range of things from CPD and Executive Education to public-engagement and open Moocs. We’re looking at using it for disseminating research output (and building this into grant proposals from the outset) and supporting events and groups, UCL and beyond. We are also increasingly aware of the benefits of working in this space; they are proportional to the indirect benefits of being active in this area. We have identified 36 benefits of Moocs from observing and researching the scene and trying to get our heads around it all. We see UCLeXtend as an integral component to UCL’s Life Learning offering, where courses can be offered to people in a range of physical and virtual environments.

    So, where next?

    1. More ‘courses’, users and ideas coming to life
    2. Enhance the platform
    3. Sustainable course development
    4. Share pedagogical experiments (and results)
    5. Evaluate and speculate

    Take a look

    UCLeXtend is available and you’re very welcome to look around, register for courses and see what it’s all about.

    UCLeXtend

    Internal members of staff may want to look at the UCLeXtend 101 space, which will uncover a lot about what’s needed to get started:

    UCLeXtend 101

    Get in touch

    Best contact is extend@ucl.ac.uk for all types of enquiries.

    HEA Senior Fellowship Case Study Series: 1 – Creating a public-facing e-learning environment

    By Matt Jenner, on 12 August 2014

    As a four-part series I am openly publishing my case studies previously submitted for my Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. I submitted my application in February 2014. If you’re interested in this professional recognition programme, please visit their webpages and look through the Professional Standards Framework (PSF). UCL runs an institutional model for fellowships called ARENA, your institution may run one too – speak to people!

    Case Study 1 – Creating a public facing e-learning environment

    With 10 years’ experience, I joined UCL’s central e-learning team in 2008. My role requires me to advise a diverse academic community traversing a diverse technological landscape. I build strong relationships with colleagues and contribute to technical developments and institutional strategies. My specialisation is distance education, an area experiencing accelerated growth across the sector due to demand for flexible learning, increasing technological grasp and the questionable future of Massive Online Open Courses.

    My activity focuses around UCLeXtend – a new public-facing online learning environment offering free and premium courses. I advocate open education and am passionate about the opportunities universities have for social enterprise, global impact and widening participation. A core component of our institutional e-learning strategy is to “raise UCL’s profile as a global education leader”[1]; by opening the rich and varied corpus of UCL to a wider audience I am enabling this reality.

    UCLeXtend is built on familiar and established e-learning software which eases the transition for staff (K4). Staff leave their comfort zones when developing distance learning so I mentor them throughout the process. Course development approaches are less familiar; so I encourage course teams to follow a customised course development framework based on an existing model named ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation)[2] (K5). I facilitate open discussion of ideas and assimilate their subject material from the outset, advising on suitable development approaches (K1).

    I struggle with the demand for ‘rapid’ (i.e. quick and cheap) course development, some colleagues need convincing that high quality interactive and engaging learning is not guaranteed by nice fonts and shiny graphics. I adapted the ADDIE course development framework to focus on the needs and approaches of individuals’ learning, tailored for the appropriate market and teaching style (K2). I encourage good practice and make recommendations for course design and structure, especially factoring in learner’s who are going to “consider the potential educational benefits”[3] of each resource or activity (K3).

    Creating courses open to the public exposes UCL, so to protect our brand and standards I developed and lead on integrating quality assurance processes. All courses are scrutinised via an academic and rigorous review process (K6). Initially this was too much like a ‘course approval’ system, creating unnecessary pressure on both sides. I therefore matured it into a critical friend review. One academic commented they were “really pleased by the positive reactions and by the very useful suggestions we got from the panel” and another noted it was “a very constructive meeting”.

    In eight months UCLeXtend has nine live courses and over 2000 learners from 68 countries. Although the evaluation phase has yet to commence, one learner commented “how fantastic the better conversations tool for aphasia is […] and has so many benefits”. In the longer term, UCLeXtend will become positively disruptive to UCL. I have senior level support and interest across the university; my challenge now is to lead UCLeXtend into a sustainable model and integral to future institutional priorities. For me, the strong start was critical to success; my on-going leadership in this area will ensure the initial quality sets the baseline for future growth.

    (516 words)

    HEA Professional Standards Framework links referenced in this case study:

    Core Knowledge

    • K1 The subject material
    • K2 Appropriate methods for teaching, learning and assessing in the subject area and at the level of the academic programme
    • K3 How students learn, both generally and within their subject/disciplinary area(s)
    • K4 The use and value of appropriate learning technologies
    • K5 Methods for evaluating the effectiveness of teaching
    • K6 The implications of quality assurance and quality enhancement for academic and professional practice with a particular focus on teaching

     


    [1] http://www.ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning/strategic_priorities/e-learning-strategy

    [2] http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/history_isd/addie.html

    [3] http://oro.open.ac.uk/10072/1/Assessment_and_student_learning-HO.pdf