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Tag: MOOCs

a new mooc development but not as you know it jim!

I have to admit I didn’t notice. I knew nothing about it. Well, that is, not until the Times Higher Education (THE)31 October – 6 November p.8, brought it to my attention.

The THE has almost on a weekly basis this year written about MOOCs, the greatly over-rated offerings of “massive open on-line courses” that have emerged as universities across the world put their lecturers who stand up and talk in lecture theatres up in front of cameras and clip the ticket on a wider market.  The freebies are there to whet your appetite for this. The higher education sector can’t decide whether or not they are spooked by the MOOC or not. Better inside the tent than outside seems to be the call.

Well , the THE prints a small story headlined “Mooc rival puts accreditation “beef” on the menu.” Interesting I thought. Then I came across “the New Zealand-based organisation” and my heart beat quickened – I had to know more.

What appears to be happening is this. An organisation called Open Educational Resources Foundation, “domiciled” (Scoop, 25 October 2013) at the Otago Polytechnic is developing the “Open Educational Resources university” (note the lower case “u” in university, it is not in error, that is the correct name) which is bringing together a number of tertiary providers who will offer short web-based courses which will be taught on-line (so far sounds like a MOOC to me) and in a process that I am quite unclear about, the payment of a fee will enable students to have that learning assessed for crediting into a qualification.

The OERu (for that is their abbreviated brand) brings together a range of providers so I am guessing that it works something like this: I study for a number of short courses and then on successful completion I take them to a member provider who will assess whether they can be credited and whether I have enough credits for a qualification. Certainly that seems ahead of the Mooc movement. The cost to have this done for each unit might be about $NZ220 if the indication of a University of Southern Queensland estimate reported in the THE is correct.

But it is early days and no doubt the processes will become clearer over time.

In addition to the short web-based courses, the OERu will also offer mOOCs  which are very small courses for those who simply want to learn and extend. Now all this playing around with upper case and lower case letters probably has a purpose. Using OERu seemingly avoids issues around the use of the word “University” which is protected. But is the notion of protecting the word “University” now under threat in this open world of the internet?

While the promoters of the OERu are punctilious to a letter, others find it less easy to be so. The Scoop report of the launch noted that an event was held recently in Canada  “to formally launch the university to the world.” And the THE quite boldly and without subtlety calls it the “Open Education Resources University.” This raises an interesting question which no doubt the promoters of the idea are well aware of and have taken good advice on. Is it the start of questioning the protection of a small number of words in education?

This development needs I think to be placed alongside the MOOC movement. Trying to get qualifications through MOOCs is expensive and takes some time. Does this approach speed things up? Will it be more or less expensive. The OERu providers do not charge for their “MOOCs” and so the accrediting  institution’s charges for that process are all that will be required so it might end up a little cheaper.

That certainly is both the claim and the aspiration of the OERu and good on them. Is New Zealand once again leading the way?


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There’s no “moocing” about here!

I have become a student again. Yes, I am now a student of the University of Edinburgh. This would have brought great pleasure to my Scots grandmother I am sure.

Yes, I have started my first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). It is called “Philosophy for Everybody”, lasts for seven weeks, will require me to study for 1-2 hours a week and has a book that goes with the course.

How did this come about? Well I had, some time ago, wandered through the various web sites of the major providers – Coursera, NovoEd and so on – and must have left my email address somewhere that indicated I would be interested. They got in touch recently with a range of courses that I might be interested in. Easy, minimum fuss from my point of view, getting back to me impressed me – all behaviours that face-to-face providers might strive to copy.

I needed something that would not have time demands that were too heavy, that was focussed, had good, helpful resources and related to my interests and past learning. This fitted the bill nicely.

At 1-2 hours a week I could see myself managing this. The trouble with so much conventional learning is that it is dolloped out in such large chunks, like the ladles of mashed potato thrown onto your plate in the army mess-hall. I wanted finger food.

The focus was clear and the explanations of it attractive – a short introduction to some of the current approaches to philosophy, thinking and ideas. The resources were clear – seven staff members at the University of Edinburgh each wrote a chapter related to their unit in the course, they were put together into a book and that was it. I got mine from Amazon and put it into my Kindle – I have the resources for the course with me in convenient form.

I am interested in philosophy having undertaken Philosophy 1 in my BA degree many years ago. That course was strong on logic (Students sit in lecture halls. This is a lecture hall. Therefore I must be a student) and some selected philosophers – Bergson and Plato I think.

But the impressive thing to this point has been the total ease with which I have been enrolled -not only the ease, but also the style and approach. I was on first name terms with the University of Edinburgh and the philosophy team instantly. “Hello Stuart, Welcome to the University of Edinburgh.” I was enrolled, welcomed and knew what I needed to know in the space of the time it takes to search and make the thirteen clicks required by conventional tertiary websites.

Of course the course despite attracting the description “massive”, is very small and narrow. What is massive became apparent on Monday when the course started. I signed the “Honor Code” which was a simple set of requirements related to ethical and sensible behaviour in my conduct – these people trusted me! I didn’t have to show my passport, three invoices with my address on them, proof that I had the entry requirements, no standing in a queue, no being interviewed by strangers who would decide whether or not they wanted me in the course. I received detailed advice and guidance about how the course would be conducted, a detailed “syllabus” and invitations to join the discussion group,

The course had actually been open for 12 hours when I got to it on Tuesday morning and already there were several hundred people logged on to the discussion room and they came from all over the world. It was like walking into a common room full of the buzz of friendly conversation with no-one staring. Immediately I was taken by the massive reach of this course geographically, across ages and experience. Being shy by nature I didn’t sign in – I shall do that this weekend.

Now I know that it is easy to be enthusiastic at the beginning. A whopping 93% of those who start a MOOC are not there at the end. I am determined to be there. At that point, if I have “completed” the course (I know exactly what that entails and will require), I shall receive my “Certificate”. This will not be one that produces credit (you need to have your credit card handy when enrolling in those ones) but rather a simple acknowledgement of course participation and completion. That’s all I need at my stage. That might be all that a huge number of people are looking for. I suspect that MOOCs have wide appeal as a kind of Online University of the Third Age.

I promise not to bore you with a blow-by-blow account of my toe-dipping experience with this course and style of learning but will report back to you later in the year when I have completed the course (or, perhaps, have dropped out, or perhaps have failed to pass!).


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