Enhanced Learning Conference – PELeCON 2012

Matt Lingard provides links and highlights from trip reports from some of this year’s conference attendees. There were student showcases with examples in primary and secondary learning ages including use of tablets, apps, Skype, google groups. Other highlights from keynotes and parallel sessions included examples of

  • 70,000 students involved in blogging projects across the world
  • being able to improve writing through a writing challenge involving peer interaction
  • questioning what reform and change mean for education
  • openness and barriers to open learning practices
  • engagement in alternate reality games
  • ‘future building’ education with digital architectures
  • conditions that allow creativity to flourish
  • educators sharing their top 100 tools for learning

There are also contributions from virtual participants via twitter, liveblogging, a crowdsourced wiki

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The Big Idea That Can Revolutionize Higher Education: ‘MOOC’

Laura McKenna in The Atlantic reports on the MOOCness that is starting to sweep across higher education where she reviews Coursera and Edx, noting that they are similar to Khan Academy. They are looking at removing the need for human beings to moderate and grade discussions and assignments.

Multiple choice tests can be easily graded using technology, but essays, the most accepted form of assessment for the humanities and the social sciences, have proven to be trickier. It would be impossible to hire enough people to grade the essays for a class that served 20,000. At Coursera, three engineers worked for two months on creating a system similar to Amazon Mechanical Turk for peer evaluation. This program will launch in about a week. EdX will use essay-grading software.

Discussions are moderated by peers who “vote” good comments up on the discussion board. Bad comments and spam are pushed to the bottom of the discussion threads by voters.

After the videos are created, the assignments are written, and the initial kinks are ironed out, Koller expects that these courses should be self sustaining and run on auto-pilot.

The funding models for Coursera and Edx are both slightly different.

She neglected to mention the history of MOOCs which can be found at http://www.mooc.ca/

MITx and the (Automated) Future of Higher Education

Justin Marquis looks at whether MOOCs are bringing forwards a teacherless classroom by looking at the current MITx initiative. Whilst the course plans seem fairly standard, the analysis is fully automated.

He provides a detailed look at the benefits of large scale implementations of these model but notes that this does not provide universal access:

Simply put, if an individual lacks a computer or compatible portable device, Internet connectivity, or even electricity, they cannot use free online educational resources, regardless of how groundbreaking  and well-designed those assets are. In order to take advantage of innovative educational opportunities such as MITx, people must be able to access and use them. This is still a significant obstacle both globally and in the U.S.

 

 

Students Across Globe Can Take Online Courses at U.S. Universities

Louise Fenner reports on the increasing trend in major US universities to offer MOOCs to students everywhere, noting a previous trend of open courseware that was introduced a decade ago.  A familiar MOOC format is outlined, first introduced in 2008 and a look at the importance of accreditation from a major university – will these have credibility with employers?

“To what extent will people try to use the statements of accomplishment as a credential to show employers, and how do the employers weigh them? I think only time will tell.”

Digital certificates and badges that indicate competency in a subject or skill “are only as good as whoever’s issuing them,” Culatta said. “If it’s an organization or group that carries some weight, then these certificates will really mean something.”

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Can Online Learning Reproduce the Full College Experience?

In a paper for The Heritage Foundation, Karen McKeown compares online education with traditional college education. She looks at different reasons why students choose higher education and which institution, noting that whilst a large percentage of college graduates think it was a worthwhile investment, a large percentage of the public think it is unaffordable.

She looks at the educational, social and extracurricular components of online education, noting that there is an increase in studies which are providing evidence of effectiveness:

There will always be students who are pursuing a higher degree solely or primarily to achieve specific career goals and who have comparatively little interest in achieving a full college experience. Many of these students are older or already working and have been early adopters of online education, which has offered them the flexibility they need in achieving their ultimate goals.

At the other end of the spectrum will always be students who, for various reasons, want only the traditional on-campus college experience. For some of these students, the campus appeal may consist in the opportunities to interact in person with professors and classmates. Others may be pursuing majors, such as science or performing arts, that are less easily adapted to the online environment. Still others may be seeking aspects of the traditional social or extracurricular experience that they do not believe can ever be replicated or replaced by online education.

Between these two ends of the spectrum are students who are increasingly willing to consider online education as it gains wider visibility, acceptance, and sophistication and as traditional institutions of higher learning become less accessible financially.[49] For these students, a key factor in their choice will be the ability of online programs to provide a college experience that not only matches the academic content of a traditional college, but also includes an adequate level of the social and extracurricular components that the students desire.

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MIT’s Online Threat to the Higher Education Cartel

In this article, Bob Adelmann looks at the potential impact of MITx and how with an open learning platform that is free and online including MITx credentials, other educational institutions may follow suit with MIT offering the platform to other universities who offer massive open online courses.

Will it break down barriers?

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MIT launches free online ‘fully automated’ course

by Sean Coughlan, BBC Education Correspondent

In this article, Sean reports on MITx which is a free open online course available with assessment and MIT certification.

“This is not a “watered down” version of the campus course or “any less intense”, says a university spokesman.

The main difference is that the MITx version has been designed for online students, with a virtual laboratory, e-textbooks, online discussions and videos that are the equivalent of a lecture. It is expected to take 10 hours per week and will run until June”

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Another Nail in the Lecture Coffin

By Sidneyeve Matrix

As reported in U Connecticut’s Daily Campus newspaper, N. Katherine Hayles, a professor at Duke University, recently gave a lecture on the impact of everyday digital media use on university students. The bottom line: the perpetually connected lifestyles of today’s students means they are coming to the classrooms with significantly shorter attention spans than previous cohorts. Professors can ignore that, stay calm and lecture on — or we can respond by adjusting our teaching styles.

Hayles suggested:

“If the environment is highly technologically engineered, humans become technologically savvy but also dependent. Some cognitive scientists have realized that GPS technology has changed our sense of direction and left us more dependent on getting around, since no one will have to read a map anymore.”

Similarly, back on campus it follows that:

“Students nowadays are increasingly multitasking. No longer do students go to the library to write their papers; they’re watching T.V., surfing the internet, listening to music, and viewing webpages. All of these aspects influence their research and essays.”

In her research Hayles “toured many colleges and heard a lot of professors say that young people nowadays can’t read whole books, so they assign chapters, and students can’t read whole novels, so they assign short stories.”

All things considered, Hayles concluded:

“The challenge for educators is to build bridges between the rapidly changing generations of students with newly integrated learning through other forms of digital media, ending the traditional lecture which is becoming outdated.”

Another nail in the lecture coffin. Interesting.

For a very similar perspective on swapping lectures for more interactive techno-teaching, see Twilight of the Lecture — describing the groundbreaking work that Eric Mazur is doing in the classrooms at Harvard.

All of which leads me to wonder: in the age of TED talks, which we can’t seem to get enough of, why is the university lecture doomed?

Making universities obsolete

By Matt Welsh, an engineer at Google

This post looks at traditional higher education and the recent commercial launches such as Udacity, Khan Education (both Google linked offerings) and looks at how technology can increase access to education but whether ‘online’ education is a substitute for real university as potentially perceived by employers in the current certification system. He looks at videos as an example and the advantage with the opportunity to replay as many times as you need, but questions whether this is deep learning.

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Getting to know you: Introducing Jonas Bäckelin

Introducing Jonas Bäckelin, Contributed by Liz Renshaw:

1.    Can you tell us a bit about yourself Jonas?

photo of JonasMy name is Jonas Bäckelin and I’m living in Balchik by the Black Sea Coast of Bulgaria.  My professional career started with my qualifications in environmental chemistry and marine biology, followed by working as a teacher with specialization in didactics and ‘Information and Communication Technology’ (ICT). I’m now focusing on my thesis for my Master of Arts and Social Science in ‘Adult Learning and Global Change’ (ALGC), with the working title “Navigating Distributed Knowledge with the use of Web Tools”. My commitment to a new level of teacher training curriculum has involved me in the development of coherent strategies to fully integrate the use of computers as pedagogical tools in the classroom.

In 2012 I’ve started eduToolkit a ‘Grassroots Organization’ promoting ‘Teachers Open Online Learning’ (TOOL) for Professional Development. We investigate the concept of ‘The Networked Teacher’ and find out more about ‘Networked Literacy & Fluency’ in education. I’m developing our first course with the help of WikiEducator called “Certified Networked Teacher – The Use of WebTools” and we will use assessment badges through Peer-2-Peer University (P2PU).

2. Why did you decide to participate in Change11?

A: My fellow students from Canada in ALGC introduced me to the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “CCK08-Connectivism and Connective Knowledge”, but it took me until the third offering of  CCK11 facilitated by Stephen Downes, George Siemens and Dave Cormier until I was participating as a for non-credit student.  I got bitten by the MOOC bug, completed the eduMOOC and enrolled as ‘Network Mentor’ in Alec Couros course “EC&I831-Social Media and Open Education”.  Continuing with the MOOC ‘Change – Education, Learning and Technology’ in September was only natural as an ‘early adopter’.

3. What have been a couple of highlights so far in the Mooc?

A:  We are moving several frontiers simultaneously and I’m starting to realize that a single teacher can’t cope with the scope of change in education.  Some of the highlight are Mobile Learning (Zoraini Wati Abas), Collective learning (Allison Littlejohn), Rhizomatic Learning (Dave Cormier), Slow learning (Clark Quinn), Authentic learning (Jan Herrington).  The general trend is that fragmented and distributed knowledge can be managed through teaching, but we need online resources and tools.

4. How do you deal with the abundance of information in the Mooc?

A: I try to pay attention to outlines or key distinctions in order to create my own learning outcomes.  When listening to recordings or reading blog posts and articles I use our traditional tool Pen & Paper to create a concept map.  During CCK11 I created a workflow where I summarized my progress weekly in Insights, Thoughts and Questions.  This model has proven useful for monthly updates in the Change MOOC.  With help of examples and blog posts from other participants I like to make comparisons and find relationships – Remix and Mash-Up.

5. How do you go about building and sustaining your Personal Learning Network?

A: My struggle involves finding the balance between Practice & Reflection (i.e. blogging) and Model & Demonstrate (i.e. facilitating learning) and my main focus is on how I will become a node that creates learning resources for teacher’s open online learning.  The connections with experts in the ‘knowledge domain’ have grown into my ‘Personal Learning Network’, but the self-generating and sustainable networks come from expectations and feedback among peers and friends. NEXT PAGE