ODeL and the contemporary challenge of the MOOC

A recent article in the journal Open Learning considers some of the quality and reputational challenges facing open, distance and eLearning (ODeL). Anne Gaskill and Roger Mills are two prominent UK authors, both with previous and long-standing experience with the Open University UK. Reading their article isn’t a pre-requisite for this post!

In the article it was interesting from the outset to see ODeL (Open, Distance, eLearning) as the catch-all term for education alternative to on-campus or face-to-face settings in the article. DEANZ uses OFDL (Open, Flexible, Distance Learning), for reasons broadly outlined in this JOFDL editorial. Whether ‘Distance’ and ‘eLearning’ should be considered related is a perennial problem. The long and short of it is, our terminology and categorisation of education practices using online tools is very problematic. I’ll come back to this point later in the post.

One good thing about the Gaskill & Mills article is that it explores four major challenges that remain for many who critical of ODeL:

  • The quality of teaching, learning and quality processes.
  • Outcomes.
  • Access.
  • Perceptions of students, staff and employers.

Gaskell & Mills point out the significant progress that has been made in these four areas based on established practice, and they offer some valuable citations useful for OFDL (or ODeL?) practitioners seeking to justify their actvities. The article then speculates on the contribution of OERs and MOOCs to ODeL. It’s the MOOC aspect I’ll be exploring from here on.

Gaskell & Mills question the contribution MOOCs are making to the questions of quality, outcomes, access, and perceptions. MOOCs, they point out, are not known for quality (video lectures!?!); outcomes (very poor completions); and access (MOOCS are mainly attractive to those already highly educated). The authors do not explore the issue of how MOOCs are perceived, which is actually rather complicated. There are very mixed views of the value of MOOCs across those involved in higher education. A recent Ontario Online Learning Portal for Faculty & Instructors post provides a fairly appreciative view. The work of Tony Bates (see his chapter on MOOCs here, for example – and an appropriate rant here) provides a very comprehensive view. Tony also provides a bibliography for those interested in exploring things further, to which I would add the excellent 2014 special issue of Distance Education.

All of this is provides a fascinating area of research and debate. Let me provide my own views in the form of statements, each open to challenge.

  1. MOOCs in their original form (be they cMOOC or xMOOC) cannot provide a sustainable or equivalent alternative to formal education. The evidence for this is already in.
  2. MOOCs are more aligned with the paradigm of informal lifelong learning, than that of formal education.
  3. As MOOCs continue to mature, they will become less Massive and less Open (we are already seeing this).
  4. MOOCs (and their offspring) will, at their best, eventually resemble online distance education programmes.

It is very easy for tertiary educators to embark on distance education and eLearning. The problem is, if distance education and eLearning are implemented easily, it normally follows that they are executed poorly. I suspect that MOOCs were an attempt to embark on ODeL in an ‘easy’ way, or at least an intuitive one (see Daphne Koller’s first TED talk responsible for much of the hype). The adoption of the term ‘MOOC’ also implied something new and unencumbered from existing practice and thought. Unfortunately, MOOCs demonstrate what distance education and eLearning could achieve without reference to any of the lessons learned from decades of related theory and practice. As the lessons from MOOCs are coming in, it is clear that classic distance education theory maintains its relevance.

Coming back to my earlier point about definitions and categorisation. MOOCs are, in my view, no more than an expression of distance education and eLearning. As such, MOOCs do not escape the constraints, opportunities, pedagogies and systems that distance education and eLearning theorists have already debated and discovered. It is for this reason that I believe MOOCs will increasingly resemble online distance education programmes. They have no ontological alternative!

So, are MOOCs new? The acronym was; the provision of course materials online in video-based chunks, reinforced by multiple choice questions wasn’t. The lessons emerging from the great MOOC experiment are of no surprise to those who have been involved in ODeL for some time. Do MOOCs provide a contemporary challenge to ODeL? Not at all; instead, MOOCs are another example of ODeL in action… just not a very good example.

Northern Regional eLearning Symposium

You are invited to the Northern Regional e-Learning Symposium to find out how e-learning can provide a cost effective way to meet your organisation’s training and education priorities.

This free symposium will present best practice real-world solutions that your organisation can implement. Through a series of presentations, workshops, and case studies facilitated by internationally recognised e-learning experts, you will come away with an action plan for developing e-learning solutions.
NorthTec

Northern Regional e-Learning Symposium

Maximising Outcomes and Minimising Cost

Cost: FREE
Date: Monday 19th October 2009
Time: 9:00am – 4:30pm
Place: NorthTec Interactive Learning Centre,
55 Raumanga Valley Road, Whangarei.

Location map.

Morning, lunch and afternoon tea provided.
Spaces are limited! Reserve a spot now or send
to the right person in your organisaton.

RSVP: Please RSVP by 10th October 2009 by
responding to this email or emailing
mchristian@northtec.ac.nz

highlights

  • Latest technologies for developing e-learning including 3D models and interactive courseware
  • Tips and Tricks for designing effective e-learning activities
  • Practical tools for developing your organisation’s e-learning capabilities
  • The How-To get the most of your e-learning Development

programme

Keynote Speaker: Dr Sue Bennett will explore effective e-learning practices and present a series of emerging trends, measures and resources in e-learning.

Showcase: e-Learning Partnership between NorthTec and the Northland District Health Board (NDHB). Finding the right regional partner for developing e-learning. The NDHB is entering into the realm of e-learning for its staff training.  Partnering with NorthTec as the e-learning developer, NDHB is developing their first online training course.

Workshop: Practical e-Learning Design. Learn the latest techniques for designing effective e-learning.  Take away practical tips and tricks and hands-on knowledge about building e-learning solutions for your organisation.

Featured Speaker: Dr John Clayton. Do you know if your organisation has the capability to develop e-learning?  What are some best practice frameworks and models for developing e-learning?  Bring back some real knowledge for your organisation to move forward with e-learning.

Showcase: Enhancing Learning with 3D Models. Who knew that Northland was a centre for innovate e-learning technologies?  This showcase will demonstrate how 3D can bring a subject to life while increasing learning transfer and decreasing training/classroom time.

Workshop: Build your organisation’s e-Learning capability. Thinking about developing e-learning at your organisation?  Let Dr John Clayton give you some practical tips and tricks on systematically improving organistional e-learning capability.

Workshop: E-Learning How-Tos Part 1: Planning, prioritisation and management. Learn how to make the most of your learning and development budget.

Workshop: E-Learning How-Tos Part 2: Instructional Design and Development. Understand what instructional design is, the roles and responsibilities of your development team, and draft a simple process for developing e-learning.

sponsored
akoNorthtec

Online learning more effective than face to face

A recent report from GetEducated.com written for the U.S. Department of Education has concluded that Online & blended education is more effective than residential method alone.

This conclusion was reached after analyzing research studies undertaken from 1996 to 2008 that address this topic, concluding the following:

  1. Online education is more effective than face-to-face learning;
  2. Online learning combined with some face-to-face learning (blended learning) is the most effective;
  3. Face-to-face learning alone is the least effective method among the three types studied.

Note that these findings are specific to college-level learning as the researchers found that not enough studies exist to merit a valid comparison at the K-12 level.

The full version of this report is available here:

Dept of Education: “Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning” (PDF)

Latest e-primer on “Online Discourse”

The fourth in the E-Primer series, “Online discourse”, is now available from the Ako Aotearoa Website . The fourth E-Primer is available under a Creative Commons license and is both a good practice guide for and a theoretical orientation to online discourse based on peer-reviewed literature. The first three in the series are also available from Ako Aotearoa:

#1 – E-learning in context – An introduction to e-learning and the international experience; definitions of terms; a theory for e-learning; technologies; benefits
#2 – E-education and faculty – Education theory and e-learning; the changing role of faculty; workload issues; quality
#3 – Designing for e-learning – Instructional design; learning objects; constructing a hybrid course

A future E-Primer, to be released toward the middle of the year, considers the potential contributions of social networking, ePortfolios and mobile technologies to formal education.

From the introduction:In this e-primer, you will discover both the promise of formal online discourse (that is, conversation mediated through internet tools) for education, and good practice. Throughout, I encourage you to apply online discourse in ways that are conducive to teaching and learning. The focus in this e-primer is more on the discourse than the
technology although, inevitably, we will consider technology. In E-Primer 5, E-xtending Possibilities, we will look at interactive journals (blogs), collaboration through wiki tools,
working with ePortfolios, and the potential of social networking tools such as MySpace and Facebook for education. Here, in E-Primer 4, we will limit our attention to synchronous chat, desktop audio- and videoconferencing, and the online bulletin or discussion boards that are common in learning management systems (LMSs). Because LMSs are commonly used in distance education and blended learning courses (MacDonald 2006; Hopkins et al 2008), we’ll look closely at them and their features.

Yet another Journal: IJMBL

International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning (IJMBL) – An Official Publication of the Information Resources Management Association — New in 2009

From the website: “Technology supported learning has been increasingly used across a broad spectrum of educational contexts, in many cases being integrated with more traditional forms of teaching. As new opportunities have emerged for mobile, immersive and augmented learning, freeing electronic teaching tools from the desktop, researchers have begun to explore the wide potentials of learning experiences that are integrated with both the classroom and the world outside, leveraging the boundless new possibilities that a pervasively wired and wireless society can support. The International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning aims to provide a forum for researchers in this field to share their knowledge and experience of mobile and blended learning environments”

Dave Parsons is the Editor.

New Designs for eLearning

Designing and implementing e-learning, the popular web-based guide to planning and delivering e-learning courses, from the national training system’s e-learning strategy, Australian Flexible Learning Framework (Framework), has undergone a $30,000 makeover.

The upgrade includes new and emerging e-learning strategies and tools, such as wikis and virtual classrooms, added to the website’s extensive online gallery.

Open course: Facilitating Online Communities

I’ve lifted this from the post by Leigh on the WikiEducator list.  This is quite a remarkable style of course. A NZ based course with an international flavour. – Derek

Open course: Facilitating Online Communities – Starts 28 July

Chat RoomThat course we ran last year is coming up again. I’ve tweaked it quite a bit – free at last from the learning management system it was locked up inside, running in a wiki schedule, backed up by blogs and an email forum.

This course has been developed by staff in the Educational Development Centre of Otago Polytechnic and is designed to help both formal and informal learners access and interpret models, research and professional dialog in the facilitation of online communities. After completing this course people should be confident in facilitating online and/or be able to critique and offer advice to other people in the facilitation of online communities.
The next facilitated course starts 28 July 2008.
Participation in this course is open. You will need to have regular access the Internet and be comfortable with independently completing tasks. To join simply introduce yourself to the discussion page and include an email address that can be use to add you to an email forum for the course.

In formal learning terms this is a level 7 course registered on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Formal learning participants engage in this course for a period of 10 weeks with an indicative time commitment of at least 6 hours per week.

Formal learners will receive concentrated learning support throughout this period, and assessment services and formal recognition at the completion of the course. Some people may prefer to engage in this course informally and to set their own pace through the work using the schedule as a guide. Informal engagement is welcome and arrangements can be made for formal assessment and recognition at any time with the course facilitator.

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