Category Archives: MOOC

My MOOC Life (So Far): Part 6 – Why We Post Update

SoundCloud Podcast

The FutureLearn MOOC “Why We Post: the Anthropology of Social Media” has officially finished (although the course stays open). The creators of the course have shared a podcast in which they answer some of the student questions from the final weeks. This is a nice way to close the course (although I think I would have preferred a video – as this would have followed that way the previous content was shared).

The end-of-course email was a good touch. Not all MOOCs I have looked at do this. The email is an efficient way of reminding students of the various resources that they have encountered, as well as alerting students other educational options (upselling). With Why We Post, this was a link to the MSc in Digital Anthropology.


My MOOC Life (So Far): Part 5 – FutureLearn & #FLble1

I have just successfully completed two FutureLearn (full disclosure: a friend of mine works for the company, but beyond sharing some of my experience with him this has not affected my studies) courses: “Why We  Post” and “Blended Learning Essentials: Getting Started.”

Listening to the Click podcast  (What is the Point of Posting on Social Media?) was where I first heard about the MOOC on Social Media, and was soon hooked into enrolling.

The experience gave a chance to do a coupe of things:

Social Media

Why We Post

The “Why We Post” course was not what I thought it would be. Even though I knew what some of the focus was based upon listening to the interviews on the Click podcast, I still expected to see coverage of social networking platforms and techniques. The course was more the sharing of anthropological research from a series of field sites around the world.

However, it was a fun course and I particularly enjoyed the discussion board conversations with several participants. Each day I would eagerly check to see if there were any replies to a conversation in which we were exploring ways in which the research could be improved.

How The World Changed Social Media

Book: How The World Changed Social Media

The course also shared some particularly helpful open resources:


The FutureLearn platform is very much designed for the Cloud. The central concept is that the courses, content, discussion, and student progress will stay there forever in an open and accessible format. I am a cynical individual, so my progress through the course was largely to copy content down to a working journal. Here I could record my progress and compose my responses before copying and pasting back to the discussion boards. For that reason, the course worked best for me where I could use a large monitor in a nice quiet office.

However, the platform would work very well for those on a mobile device (i.e. iPhone or iPad) with no need to save content locally. All elements of the course worked well on the mobile devices I tested on – far better than my experience with Blackboard or Desire2Learn.

Initially I was less impressed with the discussion board. The options to post and reply are very limited (no formatting of text or adding multimedia). Nested replies were not possible. However, I assume this is a tradeoff in terms of ease-of-use, security, and speed (storage). This did not prove to be an issue.

By testing on both courses I was able to experience quizzes, peer assessment, and video. FutureLearn provides both subtitles and transcription for the videos. The videos can be streamed or downloaded.

The profile options were simple, but easy to use.


The business model seems to be partially underwritten by “Statements of Participation.” These can be purchased after successfully completing a set percentage of the course. The certificates are reasonably priced, and can be embedded in LinkedIn. I was very happy to pay what I did for the experience. I have no idea how highly the statements are viewed by employers or higher education.

Blended Learning

The material here was more familiar to me, and I was interested to see how the two educators designed and delivered this course. One technique in particular impressed me…

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts

Creating presence in an online course can be difficult – after a while students drop out due to inertia and competing demands on their time. With presence (the addictive need to check into a course and see what is happening), you are more likely to see those students complete the course.

Diana Laurillard and Neil Morris did a great job of crafting easily digestible content and activities that were just the right size. Additionally, they used Google Hangouts and Twitter to make themselves approachable and relevant as the course was taught. Answering questions live in front of a webcam is a scary experience, but became one of the high points of the course (one good technique that Neil followed was to blend live questions from Hangouts with printed questions and Tweets). I am very tempted to try the same thing later in the year.

Two quotes during the course resonated with me:

  • “It is hard to sell a thing that is free”
    • Neil Morris pointed out that the costs of developing the MOOC were high, and they had crafted a quality product. However, marketing a free service was far harder than getting students into a more expensive (but equivalent) experience.
  • “We must be careful that the educator’s ‘flexibility of time’ is not taken to mean ‘elasticity of time’”
    • Sound advice.

Anyway, looking forward to the second Blended Learning course in June.

Notes from The Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning

I was at The Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning last week. The conference seems to get better each year, and I needed the weekend to think a little deeper about what I saw and heard. This here, is both a prompt and a reminder (so that I don’t forget what I saw, and work on the projects that I want to).

As usual, several of the participants used Twitter for back-channel conversations. This became a useful tool to aggregate comments and resources  via the #UWdtl hashtag. Hopefully more participants get onboard next year.

Speed Sessions

I managed to catch a couple of Speed Sessions Tuesday afternoon, only the last four, but these were helpful. The “speed” part of the speed sessions was hurt a little when presenters had difficulty getting their laptops to work with the HDMI connection to the projector in the room, but luckily those with recalcitrant laptops were able to borrow working MacBooks. Of the four sessions that I saw, Moses Wolfenstein‘s “Finding a Place for Gamification in Learning” was the most entertaining,  but Laura Bunte of Stratagem had some very useful formulae and templates to share for projecting the cost of developing online content.

Information Sessions

The Conversation Prism

The Conversation Prism

I was lucky enough to see a series of information sessions that met my interests and needs:

  • Using Game Design Theory To Develop A Faculty Self-Assessment
    • Susan Manning shared four game design elements (story, mechanics, technology, and aesthetics) that could be used by instructors to help inform their instructional design.
  • Social Media in Education: So Many Choices!
    • Ronald Hannaford posited that Social Media in Education has many of the same amorphous aspects of online learning fifteen years ago. I particularly liked the Conversation Prism image he used. He suggests a strategic plan for campus-wide integration.
  • Are Games And Simulations A Good “Fit” For Your Curriculum
    • Penny Ralston-Berg demonstrated some great examples and games. The one I will be looking at in more detail is Quizlet.
  • “Voice And Screencasting Feedback”
    • John Orlando started his session with my favorite video of the conference (Hexaflexagons). More interestingly, he shared research on the amount of time some faculty spend on student feedback – more on textual feedback, and less on audio feedback. However, the audio feedback contains more “words,” so is both more efficient and more detailed. I am pondering running some research along these lines at work.
  • “MOOC Development And Delivery From The Support Staff’s Perspective”
    • Hui-Lien (Sharon) Hsiao and Norma Scagnoli shared their processes, challenges, and merits of facilitating courses at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I am very, very curious to see how these business courses pan out.


MOOCs In China

I was in China recently, and towards the end of the trip a Chinese a teacher shared these example of Chinese MOOCs with me. I cannot speak for the quality of the courses, but here they are:







Distance & Learning Conference: Call for Proposals Now Open

Call for Proposals

The Call for Proposals is now open for the Distance Teaching & Learning Conference that takes place Madison, Wisconsin from August 11-13, 2015.

The deadline to submit your Call for Proposal is: Monday, January 26, 2015 at 4pm CST

The Distance Teaching & Learning Conference welcomes hundreds of distance education and online learning professionals every year to share effective practices, research, strategies, and new tools/techniques.

  • Share your data on established practices
  • Present a hot new topic in distance learning
  • Have your results published in the proceedings publication
  • Network with experts from around the world

Some suggested topics include: New course design models, mobile & social learning, learning analytics,

competency-based learning, gamification & badges, open educational resources

More information can be found at:




I (and two of my work colleagues) got a chance to see Shindig in practice last Friday. Shindig is a video collaboration service that is currently in beta. The user interface is particularly impressive – at work we use tools like this on a regular basis, and typically students and faculty need significant assistance to collaborate. Shindig was something that “just worked.”

However, Shindig is still in beta. I get the impression that the company is still trying to find its way, and work out the best way to make money. Thus, the company is now reaching out to education. This could be a tough sell – education does not have money to spare. There a some important features that Shindig does not have just yet, such as:

  • Native recording of video events.
  • Native recording of text-chat.
  • Polling / quizzing functionality.
  • Mobile client (service only works on desktop browsers).
  • LTI (Learning Tool Interoperability) API (Application Programming Interface)- i.e. works with all the major LMS ( Learning Management System) platforms.

Additionally, some of the ways that the company markets itself via the website and YouTube sends the wrong message. I get the impression that the company is in a somewhat precarious position.

I hope they make it. I really liked the user interface and basic functionality. Shindig felt like a product where I did not need to crack open the manual.


Teaching Online: Guide To Four Complex Learning Theories

I am currently in Week One of the MOOC “Teaching Online: Reflections on Practice,” and already there is a wealth of material that I am putting to (good) use. My primary reason for taking the course was to get a deeper experience of Canvas (a Learning Management System), but the course aligns nicely with work and my interests.

One of the resources shared this week was an infographic for “A Simple Guide To 4 Complex Learning Theories” (Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, Connectivism). Very useful, and worthy of sharing:

A Simple Guide To 4 Complex Learning Theories

A Simple Guide To 4 Complex Learning Theories

Source: Edudemic

Google’s News LMS (Apps for Education)

A colleague at work alerted me to the news that Google has a new free LMS for schools. Google Classroom will be the new tool that adds a Learning Management System to Google Apps for Education.

Campus Technology has a brief piece of news here, and Google has a page where you can sign up for an invite.

There is a certain degree of déjà vu all over again with the news. Google has released, or announced, similar initiatives in the past:

Google is known for discontinuing great products and services (such as Lively, Wave, Google Reader), seemingly because a product manager leaves or moves on to another project. Whilst being a free option, there may be some risk in committing to the new Google Classroom.

CourseMaster, edX, and my LMS Wishlists


On Friday, I had the chance to talk with Daniel McKelvey (VP of Business Development at CourseMaster).  CourseMaster is positioning itself as an edX service provider. edX is open source, so those with both the technical resources and the inclination can download and install their own instance of the software. Alternatively, organizations can turn to a third party like CourseMaster.

In our conversation, Daniel positioned CourseMaster as having three distinct advantages (i.e. elements added by the company):

  1. LMS core (branded, fully serviced and supported)
  2. Faculty dashboard
  3. Social collaboration and gamification

Support is for both faculty and students.

The business model is based on users (defined as interacting with 20% of course content) and duration of the course.

This looks interesting, and I intend to investigate further. Working on getting some colleagues to collaborate on a pilot.

The faculty dashboard and collaboration modules are what I am most interested in. Currently, Learning Management Systems are still pretty much Web 1.0. Most educators use the LMS as a publishing platform, and student interaction gravitates towards discussion, quizzes, and the uploading of files. Hopefully we will soon see Learning Management Systems approach Web 2.0 interactivity.

For example, services like Doodle allow me to quickly (and automatically) negotiate the best time for a group of colleagues to meet. Imagine if a LMS allowed for that type of automated decision making for the composition of student groups (based upon skillset, timezone preference, and/or project preference).  Affordances like this are what is needed in a LMS, particularly as we see increasing time demands on both students and faculty. I still have yet to see true collaboration tools built into the leading LMS providers that come close to the power of Google Docs, Skype, or Facebook. WordPress is a model that I would like to see Learning Management Systems follow here, where you could browse for plugins that add the collaboration functionality you need (that being said, WordPress  can be used as a LMS).

A Visit to edX


At edX

I was lucky enough to visit edX last week. This is going to spur me into investigating their technology a little deeper. Johannes Heinlein provided a very helpful overview of where edX is now. Personally, I find it very interesting that Google is now onboard. edX might have the potential to supplant Moodle.

Anyway, Jeff Cattel (from CLN) sent us all a photo from the day…