Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Substance not popularity, reflection and boredom, not pace

I read with interest Frances Bell's post on Binaries, Polarization and Privacy in which she highlighted the divisive and binary nature of voting and such systems online that favors popularity over complexity and substance in online environments. Of course network theorists, such as Barabasi, have more than ten year ago shown that this development is inherent in online network forming: preferential attachment is one of the main characteristics in network forming: it is the person who gets most votes, the person who has been on the network the longest, the person who is most popular, who gets the attention, not necessarily the person who has something profound to say.

In an educational sense, this is problematic as it would be more important for people who have something valuable to say, and this might be something that is critical of the view point of the majority on the network, or a different point of view altogether, who would stimulate thought processes and debate on the network. In a learning environment where the voice of instructors is heard less and less, for instance in MOOCs, the emphasis should be on collecting the serendipitous, the slightly different to ensure a critical engagement with resources.

I would also like the incorporate here some thoughts on pace. It seems to become more and more valued to do everything fast, presumably as we have less time to give attention to each happening and piece of writing or video, but I wholeheartedly enjoyed this piece by Popova that harks back to reflections from some of the great minds of the past on 'boredom' and its importance in 'getting your act together' and being creative and making connections between information by taking the time for reflection. If there ever was a time in which boredom and reflection is important, it is today!


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What MOOCs might have been...................

Well, I have not used my blog for a long time. A new job and sitting back to see how the commercialization storm that took MOOCs by surprise would unfold were my excuses. I have decided that I would not be true to my own principles and ideas of education and learning that involve active participation and human interaction if I would not do exactly that, participate and interact.

How did my change of heart come about? This morning a final draft student thesis landed in my inbox. It was a total surprise, it included many of my own thoughts, advanced on some of those thoughts, spun my own data around and it made me realize that what is at the heart of the original MOOC  development, connecting and sharing with other human beings, is as valid today as it was when I took part in one of the first MOOCs as a student on 2008. That experience blew my mind away as it lifted my educational experience to a global level and involved sharing with people who I considered experts and forward thinkers in the field. It flattened the hierarchy of power in educational institutions with the click of the button.  That is for me the essence of the MOOC!

I can no longer be quiet and sit back. It is clear that the highjack of the MOOC concept by some has opened up access to learning for some (especially already educated people). It is debatable if the xMOOC commercial development has done and will do anything to advance the essence of the original MOOC development: opening up access to education and learning for ALL; sharing of the learning experience and resources between young and old, advanced technology users and experts in the field and novices; advancing models of learning that take advantage of emerging technologies; creating technologies that will enhance this non-hierarchical connectivist learning; creating learning and knowledge commons structures in society, to name a few issues, but we will see.

My first reaction when xMOOCs appeared that used the same old, same old, top-down course (infra-)structure that we were used to from institutions was: how dare they distort something really good to something pretty mondane, just at a large scale, and then to make money out of it? Of course it is because they could. That's the beauty of humans with technology in their hands, we can create, build on something else and make it into what we want it to be.

I still wish they had called it something else, or perhaps the original MOOC should not have been called a MOOC, but a COOL (Connectivist Open Online Learning) event.

Anyway, Anna, you have made my day and guided me back to the origin of MOOCs of connecting, creating and sharing. Thanks!

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.