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

AcAdv, Higher Education, Learning, Professional Development, Social Media

Bringing Our Personality and Self(ie) to the Online

You can’t help but bring yourself to anything you are passionate about. I truly believe this.

Self-Love

This past week has brought conversation and debate prompted from a single blog post about The role of personality in education. Thank you, Martin. This post shared thoughts on how individual courses emerged with a “cult of personality” to drive it towards success, collaboration, interaction and then some. For these type of MOOCs, the learning design was intentionally focussed on the characters (Yes. Dave and Jim are characters… who I adore) to encourage participation and community in the vast Interwebs:

To be successful they often require someone with a well established online network to gather enough momentum, and because creating successful cMOOCs is hard work, that person usually needs to really be central in driving the course forward. And when this works well, it really does create a very engaging learning community.” ~ @mweller

I really think the “chalk and talk” can and should be changed for effective teaching and learning. This will take time, and much more than a popular face and/or a shiny technological platform to alter the culture of teaching and learning in higher education (online, blended OR F2F).:

…an understanding that public service is only a part of identity, and thus the educators who are engaging emergent technologies in the name of pedagogy and content need to be able and willing to build connections and relationships between the formal requirements of the educational system with the personal transformation of each individual.” ~ @RMoeJo

Of course, these ideas about personality and lead personalities are not always representative of the spectrum of learning we see leading these initiatives in higher ed. Social media has created opportunities for unique and powerful collaborations; however they have limited a voice from other populations. There are a number of flaws in elevating pedestals in online learning. Thanks for the reminder Kate, I appreciate her post to consider how we  reward and recognize privilege in our domain:

And on campus, we struggle with personality across student surveys and intellectual property policies: we haggle over the idea of the individual as creator of educational content whose expertise is the guarantee of student experience, while setting up procedures to assure the depersonalisation of content production so that students are protected from the vagaries of charm. Personality: can’t live with it, can’t live without it.” ~ @KateMfD

I am not naive in thinking a number of these social mediums and emerging technologies often influence the network, create affinity groups, and allow lead personalities to dominate. However; I am reminded these same social networks permit educators to customize student experiences, collaborate with researchers, and  build meaningful relationships to scaffold learning and inquiry.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared with student development and academic advising faculty/staff the only way I know how to best engage in what I do. To be myself, specifically, how to model your persona in the online to support student success and professional development on campus. In the #AdvSelfie session, we discussed how it is important, more than ever, to be present and engaged in the digital. More than ever we need to ask questions, be involved, and participate in the backchannel conversations happening at and around out institutions.

Mentoring and modelling online is the key to success for all in higher education — this includes our academic staff/faculty, administrators, staff, educators, and students of all educational levels. In an effort to engage in this dialogue, I challenged participants at the #NACADAmelb and other professional/faculty in higher ed online to BE PRESENT. This challenge stemmed from a 30-day challenge for those who are active online (or should be). To be the example for others on campus, I encouraged the advising group (hey – we all advise one way or another) to be the example with The #AdvSelfie Challenge – so you should probably participate as well:

the-advselfie-66-638_CHALLENGE

The #AdvSelfie Challenge: Post your best selfie showing how you mentor and model your online persona for your #highered campus (students, staff & faculty) with the hashtag #AdvSelfie before July 31, 2015 at 11:59 pm CDT. Prizes WILL be awarded … so get creative!

the-advselfie-7-638

 

UPDATE 08-14-15: And the winners of the #AdvSelfie Challenge Are….

Thanks to all of you who participated in The #AdvSelfie Challenge! It’s been great to see how you share some of yourself to colleagues, students, faculty and friends on campus. Kudos for being the digital mentors and models we need in higher ed!

Congratulations to the following “winners” of The #AdvSelfie Challenge:

Sara Ackerson, Washington State University Vancouver, WA: For reminding her colleagues and students to laugh and find the best things in others for success.

SaraA

Amanda Mather, Texas A & M University at Qatar: For sharing who inspires and mentors her own advising career in high education.

AmandaM

John Sauter, Niagara University, NY: For connecting his university and professional advising community in WNY to be active participants and engage online.

JohnS

 

All winners will receive in the mail their own copy of the What Happens on Campus Goes on YouTube book shortly.

WHOCSY_book

Thanks for showing your #advselfie! Keep on supporting & being present online for your campus communities. Happy reading, y’all.

dalmooc

Do You Want to Learn About Learning Analytics? #dalmooc

Last week, I attended the UTA LINK Lab talk presented by Dragan Gasevic (@dgasevic) on learning analytics and research. This discussion shared all the digital traces and learning that can be collected and measured in our various learning environments, and questions how we are best doing some of these analytics within our institutions. Although we have a number of statistics, data, and information on our learners – how can we offer actionable insight, summative feedback, and information about learner progress. Our post-secondary institutions seem to want to only deal with the “R” word = Retention. Often institutions are looking to identify students at risk, provide information about learning success, and understand how to enhance learning – but how can we effectively use data when often times our metrics only focus on single outcomes?

data-analytics-608x211

Photo c/o the #dalmooc edX Course Site

Instead, it is the process and context that our education institutions need to identify when looking at learning analytics, that is, the need to understand and optimize learning (Butler & Winne, 1995). Whether we apply the community of inquiry framework,  cognitive presence, which includes triggering events, exploration, integration and resolution (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2001), or the COPES (Conditions, Operations, Products, Evaluation, & Standards) model (Winnie, 1997) –  it is the meaningful data points for learning analytics that really need to be identified within our educational institutions.  As @dgasevic said, “Learning analytics is about LEARNING!” Often we assume the data collected from our courses and our systems will provide us with the answers; however if not identified in a purposeful way – why bother? What we really need to consider is, what does it mean to study and support the learning experience and not just the end results?

Here are a few areas of learning analytics and data evaluation need to be considered (just to name a few):

  • learner agency and self-regulation
  • interaction effect – external and internal conditions
  • formal and informal learning communities
  • instructional intervention methods
  • multimodal learning
  • emerging technology impact, i.e. mobile, wearable tech, etc.

Here are  questions our institutions need to consider when they want examine learning analytics:

  • What data we are collecting? And why?
  • How does the learner information we know contribute to the PROCESS of learning?
  • Who should be part of this learning analytic research for learning?
  • How can we best present and interact with the data? Can this be more immediate?
  • How can we encourage and support multidisciplinary teams to study learning analytics at our institutions?
  • Are we being being driven by questions of need, access, and availability for the learning data collection?
  • What ethical and privacy considerations should be considered when collecting data around learning?

Interested in learning more about learning analytics and data in education? Check out the paper in press by Gasevic, Dawson, and Siemens http://bit.ly/techtrends15  or better yet – join the 9-week Data Analytics & Learning MOOC that UTA & edX is hosting on this very topic starting Monday, October 20th: http://linkresearchlab.org/dalmooc/ or follow along with the conversation on Twitter #dalmooc.

References

Butler, D. L., & Winne, P. H. (1995). Feedback and self-regulated learning: A theoretical synthesis. Review of educational research, 65(3), 245-281.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2001). Critical thinking, cognitive presence, and computer conferencing in distance education. American Journal of Distance Education, 15(1), 7-23.

Gasevic, Dawson, Siemens (inpress). Let’s not forget: Learning analytics are about learning. TechTrends. http://bit.ly/techtrends15

Winne, P. H. (1997). Experimenting to bootstrap self-regulated learning. Journal of educational Psychology, 89(3), 397.

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, 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…