Monday, March 19, 2012

The process of open educational practice, rather than the outcomes. Stuff badges!!.

Dave Wiley posted a piece on why universities will be the biggest awarders of badges.

I can see why he thinks this is the case. Educational Institutions are the ones that have for centuries been awarders of pieces of paper  for successful working with knowledge, but not necessarily for learning outcomes!!! That's the problem with formal education, resources are provided, and interactions between people taken place, but if people actually learn anything is not easy to measure. Who is to say that all these students who were so good at the exam actually learnt anything, they might just have been very good at answering exam questions? As open education practicioners, we should think about this when discussing certification and question if this model is actually the right one for open learning.

Clearly, by awarding badges to open learning episods, for instance, you actually change them  into closed courses. We already have lots and lots of those. So, why are people suddenly so obsessed with accreditation of open courses? It seems to me that at the moment the hype generated by MITx and Stanford around their 'open' courses and the idea by Mozilla to give boy scout awards to learners are at its heart, but in my view they do not only devalue Higher Education, and produce a two-tier system, one for the people who can afford the high fees who receive the 'quality learning experience' with all bells and whistles and human interaction and support, and the other people, who can't afford these and who get an open dehumanised, machine learning experience and apparently receive a token of appreciation in the form of a badge from the institution for their effort! All this as employers might value  this second rate experience from a top-tier university more than a 'quality experience' from a not so top of the range university. The market in higher education at its best (:-( !!

Of course accreditation of prior learning is not new. Over the past twenty years there have been enough challenges in providing some sort of award for open learners' efforts. Learners might use the certification they receive for their open learning episode to show institutions that they have achieved a certain level of competency. Again, its the institutions of higher education that put value (or nonvalue) to these certificates.

How important should this be in the current technology-rich climate? And, is this really, really the direction that we would like  open educational practice to develop into? Would it not be more valuable to use our energy in thinking about the learning process, and not about the external pressures for accreditation of (possible) learning outcomes? One other model would be to developing Open Educational Resources and provide access to them, but to do this in the context of open learning environments that give learners choices and control over their own learning process and learning experiences. Environments where learners will be stimulated to interact with other human beings and be critical of the world in which they live, higher education included, and where they are tempted to be analytical. And yes, technology can be used on these environments to guide learners in this, for instance learners might be able to use analytics visualizations to see where on their learning journey they are, rather than to have an HE institution make all the decisions about the value of their learning.   There are wider benfits to open learning than a certificate by an HE institution!!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Research publications on Massive Open Online Courses and Personal Learning Environments

People interested in Massive Open Online Courses will probably be aware of the research by Helene Fournier and me on Personal Learning Environments and MOOCs. We carried out research in the MOOC PLENK2010 (The MOOC Personal Learning Environments Networks and Knowledge that was held in the fall of 2010). The data collected on this distributed course with 1641 participants has been massive as well. Its analysis has kept us and some fellow researchers busy over the past year. The research has resulted in a number of publications and I thought it might be useful to post links to all of our journal articles, conference papers and presentations that were published  in relation to PLEs and MOOCs in one space. Each publication looks at the data from a different perspective, eg, requirements in a PLE, self-directed learning, learner support, creativity.

Fournier, H., Kop, R., and Durand, G. (2014), Challenges to research in Massive Open Online Courses, Merlot Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, Vol. 10, No.1, March 2014
Fournier, H., and Kop, R. (2014) De nouvelles dimensions à l’auto-apprentisage dans un environment d’apprentisage en réseau, Association canadienne pour l’étude de l’éducation des adultes
Kop, R., Fournier, H., and Durand, G. (2014, In Press), Challenges to research in Massive Open Online Courses, Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Kop, R. & Fournier, H. (2014) Developing a framework for research on Personal Learning Environments, Elearning in Europe Journal, Issue No. 35, special Issue on Personal Learning Environments

Kop, R. (2012) The Unexpected Connection: Serendipity and Human Mediation in Networked Learning. (PDF) Educational Technology & Society, 15 (2), 2–11, p. 2-11

Fournier, H. and Kop, R. (2013) Social and affective presence to achieve quality learning in MOOCs, ELearn 2013 conference, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, October 21-24, 2013

Kop, R. (2011) The Challenges to Connectivist Learning on Open Online Networks: Learning Experiences during a Massive Open Online Course. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol 12, No 3 (2011): Special Issue - Connectivism: Design and Delivery of Social Networked Learning 

Fournier, H., Kop, R. and Sitlia, H. (2011), The Value of Learning Analytics to Networked Learning on a Personal Learning Environment, 1st International Conference on Learning analytics and Knowledge 2011, Banff, February 27-March 1st, 2011. Paper 14  conference presentation

Kop, R. and Fournier, H. (2011) New Dimensions to Self-directed Learning in an Open Networked Learning Environment, International Journal of Self-Directed Learning, Volume 7, Number 2, Fall 2010, page 1-18  - conference presentation

Kop, R. and Fournier, H. (2011) Facilitating Quality Learning in a Personal Learning Environment through Educational Research, online session at the Canadian Institute of Distance Education Research, May 2011. The link gives access the the Elluminate recording, an Mp3 and Powerpoint slide.

Kop, R., Fournier, H. and Mak, S.F.J. (2011) A Pedagogy of Abundance or a Pedagogy to Support Human Beings? Participant support on Massive Open Online Courses, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Special Issue - Emergent Learning, Connections, Design for Learning, Vol. 12, No. 7, pg. 74-93

Fournier, H. and Kop, R. (2011) Factors affecting the design and development of a Personal Learning Environment: Research on super-users, in the International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments, Volume 2, Issue 4, 12-22, October –December 2011.  conference presentation conference paper

Kop, R. and Carroll, F. (2011) Cloud Computing and Creativity: Learning on a Massive Open Online Course, European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, Special Issue on Creativity and OER

Kop, R. (2010) The Design and Development of a Personal Learning Environment: Researching the Learning Experience, European Distance and E-learning Network Annual Conference 2010, June 2010, Valencia, Spain, Paper H4 32 conference presentation

Some of the background data of participants and the course cause a little overlap in the papers, but we think the diversity of subjects covered in the papers will shed light on the learning experiences on MOOCs and make for a varied tapestry of information on MOOCs. PLENK2010 provided us with rich in data and we are still working on the analysis of the dataset as a whole for a paper on motivation and one on research methods, in collaboration with Guillaume Durand, using some challenging research methods. We will let you know when these papers will be published.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Call for Chapters - Open Online Learning and Teaching

This call for chapters for a text on open online courses (.doc), edited by Rita Kop, Stephen Downes, George Siemens, might be of interest to readers. The two-page abstract of prospective chapters is due Oct 31, 2011.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The balancing act between relevance and serendipity in the information stream

Boring! Yehh,yehh, no surprises. Have you had that feeling when looking at the results of your information searches? It is something I have been thinking about a lot the past months.

If the role of the educator used to be to challenge learners by providing different points of view and coming up with, to the learner, unexpected ideas and points of view to stimulate the thought processes, how might this be facilitated in a networked environment? Algorithm-driven search engines recommend relevant information to our search query, and are not (yet) up to recommending us serendipitous information; information that also contains unexpected gems of information that ensures new angles to feed our thought processes. I believe that currently the best way to achieve serendipity in our information steam is through human intervention.

Web users can now be in control of their information stream and pull information in from human sources. These sources might be information brokers, knowledgeable nodes on the network, or be aggregated through feeds written and produced by a multitude of interesting authors, or news sources and distributed through micro-blogging tools such as Twitter or Tumlr, or through curation sites such as . What all these sites have in common is the 'human touch'. They ensure that users get recommendations from people in their area of interest, and quite often also recommendations 'one step removed' from these people, such as through #tag communities on Twitter, which should result, as described by Jarvis, in 'unexpected relevance' in the information received.

When I look at my own information stream, I am still not quite happy with the level of serendipity, even though I use all these tools and have automated their use and made them more appetizing, for instance through the use of the 'flipboard app'. There is a lot of 'dross' that I have to sift through to find these really interesting bits. I find that I invest an increasing amount of my time at sharing, curating and producing information, which is not a bad thing as the activity in itself helps my thought processes and might also provide an aha moments for someone else.

Monday, May 9, 2011

PLE Presentation Canadian Institute for Distance Education Research

Last Wednesday Helene Fournier and I gave a presentation to CIDER, the Canadian Institute for Distance Education Research in which we elaborated on our research related to Personal Learning Environments. You will be able to find the Elluminate recording and files here. As the sound quality was not super, I tidied up the file and you will be able to find the slidecast here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Problems with commercial enterprises dominating the 'cloud'

Did you notice the last couple of weeks that things are changing with those nifty cool Web2.0 and social media applications that not so long ago were a novelty and made lots of waves in the learning technology field? Yes, exactly, first Delicious was not interesting anymore to Yahoo, then last week Google decided to stop their Google video service, now this week Friendster tells us to save our files.

 In the case of Delicious, after a public outcry, they have reversed their decision. Google is after widespread protests looking into moving the videos to YouTube, while they re-instated the position of their RSS reader, Google Reader, in their navigation to its original position after protests by RSS aggregators when they moved it.

What can we conclude from this? Clearly, the web-surfers and users are not the customers of these commercial enterprises; their advertisers and share-holders are, the behavior of users are merely the by-product of the money-making enterprise, required to produce the 'social graph' needed for advertisers to sell their stuff. Any application that is not profitable will be disconnected, how successful it might be in supporting people's lives and learning.

Another important point to draw from this is that we as users can collectively influence the behavior of the new Web monopolies to ensure that the services important to us are not cut just like that. These companies have to understand that we can walk with our feet and that they will have to perhaps provide some services that are vital to the lives of users at a loss to on the other hand make lots of money in other ones, very much like commercial bus or postal service operators are required by governements to run not such profitable routes in order to provide a balanced service. Of course there is no global government to take on these companies, bar perhaps the European Union who is not afraid to fine the Microsoft, Apple or Google of this world if they breach monopoly laws.

The final point I would like to make is that it might be time for new public services to safeguard what is vital for education and tp people's learning. We have public libraries, why not public search engines, as was suggested by White. These would not be guided by commercial interests, but would be available to safeguard our social and cultural heritage.  It is clear that the way the Cloud is ruled does nothing to ensure that what is important to its users is maintained, rather it is like everywhere else in the world, it is greed that makes the Cloud go round.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The value of analytics in an educational and learning context

I had some time to reflect on the presentations and conversations at the 1st International Learning Analytics and Knowledge Conference in Banff. There were many thought provoking presentations that gave an inkling as to the direction people interested in education, or interested in educational technology, might take analytics in the coming years. One of the figures I found most interesting, came from Abelardo Pardo, who worked with Carlos Delgado Kloos on a 'virtual machine' that they used in their research. They asked their students to install the file on their regular computer and use it for their course work, while Abelardo and Carlos could track student activity. When they looked at the browsing behavior, only 28.51% of students accessed LMS-related pages for their learning activities, while all other pages accessed were outside this institutionally controlled environment. Now of course it is quite likely that there are contextual factors that influenced this behavior, but still, it clearly points towards a finding that students only make a limited use of the institutional LMS for their learning and that if analytics are to be meaningful, they will have to include student learning activities outside the LMS. Quite some analytics presented at the conference were related to the institutional LMS. Of course this begs the question: if students only use the LMS for such a limited amount of their learning, and data on the other learning is not collected, what will be the relevance and value of carrying out analytics on this LMS environment?

Some presentations showed that analytics might be used to enhance the effectiveness and streamlining of the processes taking place in educational institutions in four ways:
1. To support the administration
2. To adapt the learning support services to make up for deficiencies in student performance.
3. To show learners their analytics in order for them to reflect on their performance and perhaps adapt their learning and learning behavior in certain ways.
4. To adapt teaching to analytics findings about student learning and learning behavior

What do I think of these four?
1. Analytics to support the bureaucracy must always be a bad thing, as analysis of data always means inputting of data, from which follows that learners and educators will have to engage in this added burden. There is enough evidence to support that the bureaucratization of university is a negative, rather than a positive development (Foucault, Reading, Delanty).
2.I like the idea that analytics might make it possible for student support services to be better matched to student needs, but coming from a background in adult education and widening access to Higher Education, I have seen my fair share of problems with using the deficiency model to support learners. I feel more comfortable with
3. the analytics model promoted by Erik Duval who runs analytics on student activities and shows the students the results. This seems more empowering to learners as it involves a need for reflection on their learning.
4. Analytics can also be run as a research tool, so teaching staff might get a better understanding of the learner experience and the problems learners might come across in order to better match their teaching. Caroline Haythornthwaite showed us some of her visualizations of communication and group forming, which highlighted insights that analytics might provide in the ties between learners in learning settings.

If the analytics are solely run on the LMS related activity and the 28.51% figure is in any way generalizable to other institutions, of course all these analytics will only tell roughly a quarter of the story. It means that people will have to start using analytics outside the institution, on the network, as Helene Fournier and I have done here at NRC in Moncton. Of course carrying out analytics on networks is not easy as people access services in a distributed environment and the analytics would be most meaningful if these could somehow be linked, perhaps by using the same identification for all of them. It would be cool, though, and could enhance the learning experience of self-directed learners, if they would be able to quickly check if they would meet their learning goals through visualizations of their activity. As that is one thing I have learned engaging in analytics: visualisation does clarify activity pretty well.

Some other developments related to linked data are the research and design of recommender systems for learning. Currently there are problems with the testing of these as large data-sets are required to ensure reliability and consistency of results as Katrien Verbert highlighted in her talk. Some other analytics-related systems are currently under development at the Open University in the UK, such as Cohere, a discourse argumentation tool that aims for depth in discussion, and iSpot, related to BBC nature programmes, that uses a novel ranking system.

A theme running throughout the conference in several of the presentations, was the ethical dimension. analytics is about human behavior and of course there are some important ethical considerations to the collection of human data. This will be another post before long.

Learning Analytics is clearly a developing field and there is still a lot to learn for all involved! Thanks again George for bringing us all together in such a wonderful location.