MOOC, Online Learning, Reflections

The Student Story in Open, Online Learning

In starting a new year and a new term, I am thinking more about student stories and learner experiences in my courses. From my teaching in K-12 and now in higher ed, I continually strive to be a “good teacher.” We know that quality education comes from instructors who are reaching students and by improving learning design, delivery, and engagement. There are multiple intervals during an academic term where I stop to reflect on the lessons learned in online education and to think about my own instructional practice.

Like a number other instructors in higher ed, I review learner comments from the course evaluations at the end of the term. Beyond the evaluative score of these instruments, I think it is critical for instructors, learning designers, researchers, and administrators to listen to the student story in our online (and open) learning environments. Additionally, I solicit student my own student feedback at the beginning and end of the term to learn more about their goals and individual experiences. I also take short notes about each course assignment, project, discussion board prompt, or journal entry reflection to remind myself of how students engaged with/learned from these activities. Much of my instructional reflection involves pedagogical considerations, rather than technological applications. I want to encourage my learners to persist, so I offer opportunities to improve with draft assignments and provide on-going feedback/follow-up. In thinking about my communication practices and technological tools, I want to ensure my online classroom is interactive and offers opportunities to meet both the learning outcomes and student needs.

open_learner_stories

What do students really want from their online instructor? Here are a few things I have learned over the past few years of online teaching:

  • Provide a purpose of each course section connected to the learning goals
  • Easy to follow course design and navigation for online learning
  • Transparent expectations for requirements and how they will be evaluated/assessed
  • Clear directions for course assignments, projects, and activities
  • Meaningful online activities and projects that apply beyond the course or connected to their own career/academic goals – relevance!
  • Relatively quick responses to questions and/or communication standards as to when/how the instructor/TA for course support
  • A connection to the instructor via  “presence” or involvement in the course, e.g. video lectures, lecture/screencasting, audio files, course discussion participation, etc. to make it personal and meaningful

As I research online learning strategies to succeed, and continue to teach online each semester, I really want to know more about how my learners persist in online — so I can improve my own practice. In George Veletsianos‘ (2013) book, Learner Experiences with MOOCs and Open Online Learning, ten graduate students immerse themselves in open online learning experiences for two months and share their own narratives. This collection of peer-reviewed, learner essays offer further insight and reflection on the following questions:

  • What are learner experiences with open online courses, MOOCs, and other forms of open online learning?
  • What is it like to participate in open online learning?
  • What are learners’ perspectives of MOOCs?

Although I am not instructing a MOOC, this free e-book offered suggestions to improve learning delivery/design and identify ways to scaffold online environments for my own students.  This book may only a slice of online learning, as it shares learners’ reflections from MOOCs, it does indicate that distance education is a complex thing. Expectations, realities, and execution of this learning is quite varied.  I think these narratives provided by graduate students offer insight into distance education itself, and perhaps, how we even approach research in this arena. These student stories reminded me to involve my learners in the process of understanding their educational experience. When it comes to online learning, we should ensure the student voice is not crowded out by research ABOUT our students, that is, we need to think about research BY our students. I am thinking more about this key point as I contemplate how to best involve my sample population’s “voice” in my research and discover meaning further meaning that is often overlooked in scholarship.

Reference:

Veletsianos, G. (2013). Learner Experiences with MOOCs and Open Online Learning. Madison, WI: Hybrid Pedagogy Press.

MOOC, Online Learning, publication, Research

How Do Online Learners Overcome Challenges in MOOCs? [New Publication]

In analyzing recent MOOC research, a number of studies explore the vast amount of data collected by digital learning platforms to understand learning behaviors in these scaled classes. What we don’t know much about is:

  • How online learners resolve the problems
  • How students online persist in a course
  • The strategies MOOC students use to overcome challenges

In a new publication, The Life Between Big Data Log Events: Learners’ Strategies to Overcome Challenges in MOOCs, George Veletsianos, Justin Reich, and I share what we learned from talking to 92 MOOC students ages 21 to 81 enrolled in 4 different courses from North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. The whole paper is free and available for your reading pleasure at the new open access education journal, AERA Open, and check out the research findings presented in this short video summary created by moi:

During these interviews, we learned that there is so much more going on beyond the screen, tracking logs, and platform learning analytics. Learners shared how they engaging in the online course and activities in three domains:

  1. Describing their designated workstations and study methods for learning
  2. Utilizing online and outside resources beyond the learning platform
  3. Engaging with social networks both inside and outside the online course

Read more here:

Veletsianos, G., Reich, J., & Pasquini, L. A. (2016). The life between big data log events: Learners’ strategies to overcome challenges in MOOCs. AERA Open, 2(3); 1–10. doi: 10.1177/2332858416657002

Higher Education, MOOC

The State of #OnlineLearning in the US [REPORT]

The 11th annual survey and report of online learning in U.S. higher education was recently released:

Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States”*

=> DOWNLOAD A FREE COPY HERE

Background: From previous studies and reports of online learning in the US, there is a strong belief that  online education is a critical component of post-secondary education institutions’ long-term strategy. In surveying a number of higher education entities, it is apparent that the development in online learning has shown a small but steady increases over the past decade. This report also teases out how PSE institutions are providing online education – blended, hybrid, and others as they experiment with different models of online learning pedagogy.

Screen Shot 2014-01-19 at 10.08.16 AM

The respondents from more than 2,800 post-secondary education institutions in the US, attempted to answer the following overarching questions about online learning in higher ed:

  • Is Online Learning Strategic?
  • Are Learning Outcomes in Online Comparable to Face-to-Face Learning?
  • How Many Students are Learning Online?
  • How are Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) faring?

Key findings and highlights from the report: 

  • Around 5.5 (NOT 7.1) million higher education students are taking at least 1 online course (Read more: HERE and HERE)
  • The % of academic leaders rating the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those as in face-to-face instruction, grew from 57% in 2003 to 74% in 2013
  • The 6.1 % growth rate represents over 400,000 additional students taking at least 1 online course
  • The number of students taking at least 1 online course continued to grow at a rate far in excess of overall enrollments, but the rate was the lowest in a decade
  • 90% of academic leaders believe that it is likely or very likely that a majority of all higher education students will be taking at least one online course in 5 year’s time
  • Only 5 % of higher education institutions currently offer a MOOC, another 9.3 % report MOOCs are in the planning stages
  • Less than one-quarter of academic leaders believe that MOOCs represent a sustainable method for offering online courses

For more on the study design, survey administration, analysis,  and report production, check out The BABSON Survey Research Group: http://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/

*The survey is designed, administered and analyzed by the BABSON Survey Research Group, with data collection conducted in partnership with the College Board, and is sponsored in part by Pearson and the Sloan Consortium

Update – 1/19/14 @ 6:45 pm:

It appears the BABSON survey numbers seem to be off from the IPEDS data for students who have completed online courses – 7.1 vs. 5.5 million. Thanks for the update, Kevin. Here’s a useful article to read.

Higher Education, MOOC, Open Education

New Social Learning … is It “New”?

Education rarely reinvents the wheel. This is not necessarily a bad thing. There are a number of great theorists, researchers, scholars, practitioners, and educators who have been utilizing connected and social learning ideas for decades.

In thinking about social learning for instructional design, I will turn to Bingham and Conner’s (2010) outline for how this is “new” in many of our organizations:

  • The new social learning is not just for knowledge workers – community-oriented.
  • Plays well with formal education to capture shared learning.
  • Compliments training and supplements development.
  • Similar but not the same as informal learning – more search and reading.
  • More than just online search and social networking.
  • Not like broadcasting information, more communal.
  • Allows for interaction and experiences to share ideas.

Image from Social Media Portal

Thomas and Brown (2011) inquire about the new culture of learning in their book, specifically asking: “What happens to learning when we move from stable infrastructure of the twentieth century to the fluid infrastructure of the twenty-first century, where technology is constantly creating and responding to change?”

I am thinking about this question a lot. A number of educators are looking for the “new” instead of asking questions and assessing the present practices. As a scholar-practitioner with perhaps faculty inklings, I have many concerns and questions for the future of our learning in higher education:

  1. Who (collaboratively) will best respond to the challenges and changes for our learning landscape on your campus?
  2. Why are educational changes and decisions being made? Is there assessment and evaluation? Data-driven decisions? Literature to support the change?
  3. What are we doing well & what can we improve upon in our face-to-face, online, and blended pedagogy in higher education?
  4. How are we thinking about connections, creativity, and social learning for our campus learning environments?
  5. When & how seek out the learners’ input for changes to our educational curriculum, campus programs, and student support services?

The idea of one idea, one thing, or one person to tackle the challenges/changes in higher education is ridiculous. If you think a “new” way to learn – perhaps a MOOC – will solve your university or college, then I am concerned about your strategic goals and learning outcomes. Take a gander at George Siemen’s recent #open13 talk [slides & video] to get a historical perspective on MOOCs (then and now), learning challenges, and other considerations for higher education pedagogy. [P.s. If you want to talk more MOOCs and research – y’all should come down to Texas for the 1st MOOC Research Conference in December]

One great take away from George’s talk (via a priest) about the upcoming shifts to higher education: “Don’t move away from things…because if you move away from things you don’t have a clue where you’re going to end up. Instead, move towards something.”

References

Bingham, T., & Conner, M. (2010). The new social learning: A guide to transforming organizations through social media. Berrett-Koehler Store.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change (Vol. 219). Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

Siemens, G. (2013, November 7). MOOCs: How did we get here? Elearnspace. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2013/11/07/moocs-how-did-we-get-here/

MOOC, Web Design

#EDUSprint 3 – Creating the IT Architecture for the Connected Age

Here’s the recap for the last EDUCAUSE webinar of the EDU Sprint series: #EDUSprint 3 – Creating the IT Architecture for the Connected Age. Today’s session talked about the role of IT on campus, technology planning, and the infrastructure of IT services for digital learning.

#EDUsprint 3 - Is IT Creating a New, Connected Age?

The session discussed the processes, management strategies, and governance structures from the following higher education leaders on the panel:

  • Tracy Futhey, Vice President, Information Technology and Chief Information Officer, Duke University
  • Tracy Schroeder, Vice President, Information Services and Technology, Boston University
  • Ethan Benatan, Vice President, Chief Information Officer, and Chief Strategy Officer, Marylhurst University

Many spoke about how their IT unit is thinking deeper about services to connect to learning and the needs on their campus in a holistic manner. Tracy Futhey shared her ideas around IT services, and how we not only need to consider location within the organization, but more about the delivery and methods for our IT units.

IT Services

Although there was talk about campus-wide strategy, I rarely heard much about bringing others around the table for this discussion. Much of higher education still operates in silos, so the full potential of connectedness and planning technology in learning cannot just occur in an IT unit, academic department or business solutions. I think that more administrative leaders need to bring faculty, staff, graduate students, undergraduate students, IT developers, and external shareholders together for these strategy meetings. in higher education. As our campus environments change, so does the IT needs and services to support learning and engagement.

I did appreciate when Tracy Schoeder shared about the Digital Learning Initiative and Technology Planning at Boston University. Although emerging technological trends evolve, I think that planning and assessment need to be part of the regular planning cycle.

Strategic IT Planning - The BU Example #edusprint I also appreciated that BU puts a focus on the human aspect of their planning, and not just the IT solution. Organizational structures should be assessed and reviewed for the IT architecture, to meet the needs and understand the institutional goals for learning.

Human Architecture for Digital Learning @ BU

Finally Ethan Benatan, started with a few predictions on how IT will change, be challenged, and move in the future – which is always a difficult task. I did appreciate that he shared a design process… and that it was just that – A PROCESS. There will not be a single solution to each campus environment, and it takes some agility and insight to move your higher education institution in the right IT direction and continue to assess your needs.

Here are some new links & reads from the session in no particular order:

Did you miss the last of the 3-day #EDUsprint? No worries. Here are a few resources for you:

You’re very welcome. Happy learning!

MOOC

#EDUsprint 2 – How Technology Can Change Pedagogy

The EDUCAUSE EDU Sprints continues, so why not share what I gleaned from today’s session. With a lot of information being shared, it actually feels like more of a marathon, so here’s the breakdown from the #EDUsprint 2:  How Technology Can Change Pedagogy webinar.

How Tech Can Change Pedagogy

The session was lead by the following panelists who shared their thoughts about gong “Beyond MOOCs”:

  • Hank Lucas, Professor of Information Systems, University of Maryland College Park
  • W. Eric L. Grimson, Chancellor, MIT
  • Susan Grajek, Vice President, Data, Research, and Analytics, EDUCAUSE

Hank Lucas sees great challenges and opportunities with blended learning, online learning, and MOOCs; however he wants to charge institutions with more than the technological trends. Due to these emerging technologies and social platforms, there are many different ways to connect with our students; however we have to be purposeful and think critically about our instructional design.  

The Survivor Model via Hank Lucas

Lucas shares his concept of ‘The Survivor Model’ (screen shot of slide), that outlines how disruptive technologies will impact higher education and learning. [Side note: You will find “disrupt” on the #sxswEDU 2013 bingo card I made back in March.} The language always seems so doom and gloom, especially when asked what the “threat” for learning technology is on our campus i.e. students, adminstration or faculty. Roll the cliche…

Lucas thinks more institutions need to question where they stand with online learning, blended learning, and MOOCs, as “The schools that compete vigorously with faculty who figure out how to add value to their courses will survive and flourish.” And I would agree with one of the final points he shared:

Eric Grimson gave his 2 cents of higher education and learning technology change, which included ideas around learning techniques, active engagement, suggestions for assessment, and a “new” accronym to add to our campus alphabet soup: SPOC (small private online course)

The second segment seemed to dive into ideas and themes being played out in our schema of learning in higher education. Grimson shared ideas and suggestions to help support online learning, which included:

A number of articles were shared in the streams, so here are a selection reads from today’s webinar:

More resources for online learning, instructional design, flipping, MOOC-ing, and then some:

Unfortunately I had to dip out of this session early and I will have to catch the rest of the webinar via the recording – but here are some interesting takeaways I found on the #EDUSprint Twitter backchannel that should be noted:

MOOC, Professional Development, SocioTech

#EDUSprint 1: Beyond MOOCs – IT as a Force of Change

I joined today’s @EDUCAUSE 1st #EDUSprint webinar, IT as a Force of Change, discussed connected learning, technological impacts, educational models, and, of course, MOOCs. For those of us who educate, design, and research these items, not much of today’s session was new; however the speakers highlighted some interesting points and conversations around “where we are and where we need to go with higher education learning?” Today’s session was focused on framing large-scale, online learning programs – which is why MOOCs came to the forefront of the questions and discussion with the featured panel: Elliot Masie (The MASIE Center) and Chris Dede and Timothy Wirth (Learning Technologies, Harvard University). #EDUSprint 1 - Beyond MOOCs

MOOCs were called many things and labels were shared about the role of MOOCs in higher education. Here are a few words/phrases to describe MOOCs: unbundle, four letter word, innovation, change, disruption of education, learning model, same-old pedagogy, digital engagement, connected learning, revenue-maker, the future, and even an EXPERIMENT. If this is true…

In thinking about pedagogy and instructional design, I really hope we are considering the impact to our learners and subject material. Too often we go to the “shiny and new” hype for learning trends, rather than using learning outcomes to align curriculum content and assessments. Sometimes, I think our administration and educational leaders seem to miss the point…

Here are a few resources shared during the session that might be useful for those of you wanting to bone up on large-scale online learning with MOOCs:

Beyond the talk and questions about MOOCs, I thought the central thread for connected learning and meaning-making in education was strong. The fundamental question that needs to be ASKED and ANSWERED by more of our institutions was posed by Elliot.  was posed by Elliot is critical for our institutions to ASK and answer:

“How can we build a connected campus?

More information and a recording of the 1st #EDUsprint session can be found HERE, and, of course, there are a few Twitter notes from other #EDUsprint -ers for you to take a gander at… and perhaps I’ll see you in the #EDUsprint streams tomorrow…