CCK09, EC&I831, eduMOOC, PLN, Professional Development

Online Learning: More Than Just a MOOC

As a life-long learner, I have appreciated engaging and interacting with a wide variety of educators in a few Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The concept of a MOOC is has been around for a while. In previous blog posts, I have shared the definition of a MOOC and my participation and experience. I have appreciated learning from the #eci831 and #CCK09 MOOC facilitators, such as Alec Couros, George Siemens & Stephen Downes. Even more,  I appreciate the knowledge shared by invited speakers and the connected learning participants who I continue to engage and exchange with beyond the course structure. MOOCs are now on the tip of everyone’s tongue due to recent education technology start-ups who are now designing MOOC-like courses and creating partnerships with many accredited higher education institutions. What’s all the MOOC about if the concept of a MOOC is not a new innovation?

#jiscwebinar What Is A MOOC? @dkernohan @mweller @jonathan_worth @loumcgill @daveowhite [visual Notes]

Image c/o Flickr user guilia.forsythe

In a recent CBC radio interview and blog post, George Siemens discusses more about the good and bad aspects of Massively Open Online Courses are for online learning. There are different sides of the camp on this topic. Some believe MOOCs will either kill or transform the academy as we know it. Here are some interesting points that were shared in the interview from George and callers to the show:

Current Learning & Development = #AltProDev

If there is an interesting alternative professional development (#AltProDev) opportunity available – I’m there! Part of the reason why I have connected to podcasting with or participation in Twitter Chats (#AcAdv Chat, #SAchat or #PhDchat) can be attributed to my early learning experiences with MOOCs. I enjoy engaging in PD to improve my skills and add to my knowledge repertoire. Across various personal and professional spheres, I have learned a great deal at formal conferences, workshops and education sessions; however, I am also proud to say I learn a great deal from my informal training and development environments that are primarily cultivated online. I think that MOOCs provide a set time period for professionals to learn about a specific topic and engage with others in a similar informal fashion. What is neat about this classroom is, that although the course might end, your network and learning artifacts continue to thrive outside the specific learning environment.

Teaching locally but accredit widely.

As a current student in higher education (I’m in process of working on my doctoral degree in learning technologies at UNT), I tend to research, read, archive, and share online to keep on top of the trends and happenings. I think my involvement in MOOCs have connected me to new concepts, research ideas, learning networks, and continue to support my formal education goals. My intention when signing up for this type of free, online learning was to support my own professional development and expose myself to new learning concepts. I reflected my MOOC experiences to my faculty advisor and he believed that participation in any one of these classes could be an added elective for my doctoral degree plan since this informal learning environment was contributing to my research design. How would this type of learning be looked like at your institution for degree requirements? Here is one suggestion for earning college credit from MOOCs if interested.

Sustainable model? Or Just Branding?

The MOOC talk seems to be all the rage as start-up companies, such as Coursera, edX, and Udacity, partner to “reshape online learning” with well-known higher education institutions. Will the massive hype of these MOOC types lead to effective use and sustainable funding models? Or is this just another method for marketing and propagation of the university brand? I do not know. I agree with George’s thoughts – we will see after the dust settles and the MOOC hype levels off in higher education.

Types of MOOCs

As the online learning trend grows there will be various types, targets and tiered offerings of MOOCs. Some of the MOOCs I have reviewed have included areas for digital competence, open education and technical resources. The content, subjects, platforms and learning environments will vary from MOOC to MOOC – and will most likely depend on the partnering institutions influence as well. Online learning will continue to be part of higher education curriculum at many institutions, but as George says “open and online courses is not going to be what cures the ails of online education.” I concur.

Incomplete = Failure?

Does a lack of commitment or completion mean that a MOOC failed? In looking at the retention and completion rates of MOOCs, the numbers vary from start to finish of a MOOC. Audrey Watters wrote a great about dropping out of MOOCs last week. She questioned if it was the content, instructor, platform or learner themselves. Good questions. If this was a multiple choice test, I might even select (E) Any of the above. Or perhaps our MOOC participants would commit more if they paid to learn – even $2 Would the freemium model commit participants more if there was a certification, badge, or accreditation for courses attached? Does extrinsic motivation trump the intrinsic goal for learning and self-fulfillment? I’m not sure.

Dynamics of MOOCs vs. Organic Classroom Experience

There are many pedagogical and theoretical underpinnings for MOOCs. If designed well, a number of online education opportunities allow for discussion, problem-solving, reflection, and unique dynamic interactions. A question from one of the callers to the CBC radio program asked (paraphrased) – can online education and MOOCs really replace the organic interactions in a face-to-face classroom environment? My initial response = it depends. I have always thought good teaching and solid learning outcomes is what drives the course. That being said it is important to note that technology is “not just a tool.” As a student, I have been in both fantastic and terrible courses both online and in class. Depending on the course purpose and objectives, instructors have the POTENTIAL to engage learners in a truly immersive and participative online learning environment. Technology is the instrument; the students are the musicians – it is up to the instructor to orchestrate and guide the collaborative instrumental play in online education.

What are your thoughts about MOOCs? Have you participated in a MOOC? Are you planning to participate in a MOOC in the near future? Please share.

EC&I831, eduMOOC, Higher Education, Learning Community, Learning Technologies, Open Education, PLN, Virtual Communities, Web Design

#mtmoot Opening Keynote: Digital Pedagogy to Engage

This morning I will be joining the Mountain MoodleMoot at Carroll College in Helena, MT to share some thoughts and ideas around engaged digital pedagogy. Our learners are connected; however  I think more educators and instructional designers need to support our students in developing effective learning skills to navigate this new culture of learning. For those of you interested in following along, be sure to tweet with hashtag  #mtmoot, check out my slides (below), and feel free to scope out the digital handout I compiled for this session.


Today’s learners operate in a world that is informal, networked, and filled with technology. Connectivity and digital access is an increasing need for our students and a vital requirement to excel beyond structured learning environments. Our learners are now able to interact with information, learning materials, and peers from around the globe. There is an increasing need to expand and enhance our learners’ involvement in learning technology to support engagement in online learning environments.

With the emergence of collaborative, online tools, educators can take advantage of multidimensional and engaged participation to reach their learning outcomes. Social media creates a space where “everybody and anybody can share anything anywhere anytime” (Joosten, 2012, p.6). Educational paradigms are shifting to include new modes of online and collaborative learning and student-centered, active learning to challenge our students to connect curriculum with real life issues (Johnson, Adams & Cummins, 2012). As a new generation of learners begin to create and share content, educators need to understand how to effectively utilize social web resources to impact in instructional practice create a culture of online participatory learning.

Emerging technology platforms and devices are beginning to disrupt education as we know it. To coevolve and positively impact learner success, it is critical that instructors and instructional designers consider how digital pedagogy can support learning outcomes. This keynote plenary will share ideas and suggested practices to develop a richer learning experience and thrive in the changing digital learning frontier.


Johnson, L., Adams, S. & Cummins, M. (2012). The NMC Horizon Report: 2012 Higher Education Edition. Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium.

Joosten, T. (2012). Social Media for Educators. San Francisco, CA: Wiley/Jossey-Bass.

eduMOOC, Higher Education, Learning Community, Learning Technologies

Digital Education: Disruption, Improvements and What Lies Ahead

In this  Knewton infographic,  The State of Digital Education, statistics share what is going on with digital education, online learning and blended classroom environments. The internet and online environments have posed some disruption to learning; however this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Educators and educational institutions who effectively embrace this digital evolution have see learning environments flourish by implementing online, social tools for engagement. Through increased digital content, mass distribution and personalized learning, the classroom is morphing into a virtual learning lab to support peer collaboration and foster life-long learning skills.  Both higher education and K-12 will see more action in the cloud as the push for personal learning environments (PLEs), mobile learning, and open content helps to design instructional curriculum.

I, for one, am very excited to see increased game-based learning and study the impacts of learning analytics in these environments. That’s just one #EdTech gals opinion. What do you think?

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media


eduMOOC, Learning Community

#eduMOOC2 – What The Research Tells Us #eduMOOC

I’m just catching up with the #eduMOOC course modules this weekend, as my own local scholastic/work deadlines got the best of me over the last couple of weeks. During the second week, #eduMOOC2 – What The Research Tells Us was the topic for the #eduMOOC panelists: Dr. Karen Swan from the University of Illinois, Dr. Phil Ice from the American Public University System and Dr. Ben Arbaugh from the University of of Wisconsin.

The panel’s #eduMOOC 2 conversation focus for online learning research were guided by the following questions:

  1. What do we know?: 
    What are the most important findings to date coming out of online learning research?
  2. How do we know it?:
    What methodologies have been most commonly used in online learning research and what promising methodologies are emerging?
  3. What do we still need to know?:
    What are the most pressing questions that still remain unanswered?  Where is online learning research headed in the near term?

As a student, I currently participate in course work through a variety of models: in-class, online and blended learning environments. Many of my online Management classes for my minor, are online,”in a can” course format that are typically asynchronous, i.e. discussion board questions/replies, multiple choice exams, online submissions and team project assignments. This mode of learning works well for full-time professionals who work 40-60 hours/week while in graudate school. In thinking about my learning preferences, my engagement increases when course materials are interesting and require collaboration/synchronous participation (Skype conference calls, group planning in Wiigo, team writing projects in Google Docs). As an adult learner and busy professional, I can also appreciate the autonomy and self-direction an asynchronous course format provides during the semester.

Learner needs and effectiveness can be impacted with the implementation of emerging technologies. There is the Clark vs. Kozma debate between the media and the message as instructors test the waters with social web and open educational resources for learning environments. Social engagement and social presence can lend to greater online learning retention – depending on the course content and the intended learner audience. From my experiences with online learning/instruction, it has been great to see learner-driven course participation and the growth of peer-to-peer learning networks to support communities of inquiry for learning.

The measurement of social presence in online learning environments could be further reviewed to help educators prepare for the future of elearning. There is definitely a need to create greater educational research repositories to further validate online learning and online course assessment. Data mining and content analysis models are just a few suggested ways that educational institutions can utilize business models for measuring course design and development.
The panel also suggested a need to increase the pool of educational scholars who are researching online learning and teaching. I was surprised to learn that learning analytics and data-driven academic positions are not being filled. As a PhD student in an integrated program ATPI (learning technology, organizational management, educational psychology/research), I am often exposed to a variety of disciplines, researchers, publications and ideas that span across the fields. As a professional in higher education, I have held a variety of positions within student and academic affairs (residence life, career services, academic advising, first year programs, instruction) I get a different cross-pollination of ideas and resources.
More scholars need to consider collaborative efforts and cross-disciplinary research to move online learning investigation and development forward specifically in the suggested future research area listed by this #eduMOOC2 panel:
  • Repositories of institutional/educational research
  • Federation of large data sets for educational research
  • Quantitative assessment & measurement
  • Increased research in online learning
  • Globalization & cultures in online
  • Quality of learning
  • Linking outcomes to specific courses/institutional goals
  • Open Education Resources (OER) role in online learning
eduMOOC, Learning Community, Open Education, PLN, Virtual Communities

Online Learning Today with #eduMOOC

Last week, the #eduMOOC course with over 2, 500 participants located in over 60 countries participated in the first session topic Online Learning Today for the Online Learning Today… and Tomorrow course.
I will be honest – the massive, open and online courses format will not be taking first year undergraduate courses by storm. Many of my incoming students are concerned with transition from high school to higher education, and often stay clear of online courses in their first semester. In contrast, as a graduate student and self-proclaimed life-long learner, I like the autonomy and independence a MOOC has to offer. I like to connect, share and learn informally with others, so this is probably why I signed up for the course.  The first week’s session (Thursday 1-2 pm CT) was recorded and the PDF slides were archived for those who could not attend the live session. Here are a few key questions and ideas discussed from the panel:

Who do we serve in online learning today?

Online learning has typically met the needs of our non-traditional learners; however with the impacts and growth in emerging technology for education online learning is becoming a staple at most higher education institutions. As we are encouraged to “do more with less,” online learning is now required to meet the continuum of learners and learning pedagogues are not quite developed for many campus learning environments. Although online learning is just another dimension of learning, more higher education technology leaders need to identify methods for effective design and high-quality curriculum delivery.

Is the nature of how we learn changing? How? Why?

Both the learners and learner environments have evolved over the past 30 years. The delivery, medium, and evaluation of learning has impacted today’s higher education classroom. Emerging methods of curriculum execution and faculty instruction are beginning to increase learner engagement beyond our campuses. Online learning allows for fluid participation and continuous experiences. Learning has always been social; however new mediums now increase our learning networks across the globe and enhanced how learning objectives are reached.  

In order to meet the needs of global learners in higher education, more institutions will have to move forward with technology or be left behind. Other questions that were discussed by the panel include: 

  • How do for-profit vs. not for profit higher education institutions impact online learning? 
  • We may have one the access war, but have we won the accessibility war with online learning?
  • Are we considering universal design for learning
  • Is there still cannibalization of online learning? Disrupting College via @amprog
  • How are faculty, instruction & evaluations designed to review impacts for online learning?
  • What are the challenges for online learning today in 2011?
Captain Obvious point: Online learning is growing and many institutions are behind in their development and support for this type of learning. This fact is apparent. Take a look at most higher education course offerings online and how these courses are designed. Online learning IS growing, in terms of, demand, quality, global reach, resources, and access. What I am more interested is HOW higher education institutions will meet the demand of online learning? Institutions are currently struggling with decreased budgets, low enrollment numbers and maintaining staffing needs to support our student populations – just to name a few challenges.
In reflecting about the session, I can not say that I came away from it learning a whole lot of new ideas – more these questions will shape what lies ahead in this course for the weeks to come. I was sort of disappointed that the panel did not represent any global educational leaders in the #edtech field as planned – but hopefully this will change in future sessions. And I did take note of the debates around the actual value of this #eduMOOC and other MOOCs for education and learning in a few blogs, Twitter and other online entities of the social web – which also has contributed to my learning. 

It’s this sort of discourse that most challenges me to think and really, a MOOC is similar to a personal learning network and what you decide to make of it. As a seasoned-learner, I find great value in on-going discourse that occurs on the #eduMOOC backchannel on Twitter, on the eduMOOC Fb group or just reading blog posts that share ideas and resources about the course topics. I encourage others to engage by following a few key hashtags [#onlinelearning #eduMOOC #elearning] and start a dialogue with your classmates. I still think the best types of learning from MOOCs comes from the community of learners and those participating in the learning network. As it was said best: