CAT | Education
Over the past few years, Americans have embraced free online courses, a trend that the entire world now seems to be following. MOOC undoubtedly remains the most important and talked-about trend in education history. It is responsible for the change as well as the continuous growth of online education. The key features of Massive Open Online Courses mainly revolve around large-scale participation and online access.
The coining of the term Massive Open Online Courses followed a common course that was given to a small number of tuition-paying students at the University of Manitoba, early in 2008. Afterwards, another group of 2,300 students from the general public also participated in the course through free online classes. Course content was provided via RSS feeds and students were given a number of options for the tools they could choose to use. The term MOOC was coined by Dave Cormier and Brian Alexander in response to the given online course, and soon after, many other MOOCs emerged.
MOOCs represent the latest stage in the evolution of open educational resources. Initially, people could openly access course content over the web. This structure later evolved to accessing free online courses. And now accredited institutions are accepting MOOCs, together with free courses and experiential learning, as part of the needed credit toward achieving a degree. Although MOOCs are similar to college courses, currently they do not include academic credit. However, other forms of certification and assessment are offered, some of which depend on the learning analytics of the online environs. The future trends demonstrate a possibility whereby a completely free online curriculum would be offered leading to a degree from an accredited institution. In such a situation, students may be required to pay for the certification of their credentials but not for the process leading to their acquisition.
Advantages of MOOCs
MOOCs have become an obsession with the media as their popularity continues to grow. One of the main factors behind this obsession is the fact that MOOC models generally appeal to economic elites. This group of individuals is attracted to the promising benefits in an economic environment that characterize these models, such that each and every person is chasing the limited opportunities that feature very high returns. Secondly, MOOCs seem to satisfy the economic worries of the middle-class. With today’s high tuition fees, middle-class parents view this system as a part of a mission aimed at flattening the frustrating costs of higher education. Finally, another main factor contributing to the popularity of MOOCs is the fact that the higher education system is increasingly growing in scale. As a result, MOOCs prove to be an ideal method of teaching the increasing number of students in an efficient way.
Demerits of MOOCs
As the wise men would say it, everything good comes with its bad side; there is always the other side of the coin. Critics argue that the internet is a great destroyer of any form of traditional business. Although living on campus may be more costly and the spaces available may also be limited, campus living is considered more ideal as educational services are rendered face-to-face, which proves to be more effective. Traditional learning offers room for more tangible practical sessions and the lecturers also get to keenly observe the progress of students and alert them to problems where necessary. The fact that there are people seated in a classroom in the traditional setting offers room for competition and consultation among the students. With competition, students tend to rate themselves and strive to make improvements; this is the exact opposite case in MOOCs since the students at times may not even know each other, as they do not interact in person. All these advantages derived from traditional learning are missed out when people choose to settle for MOOCs.
Diana Wicks holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the London School of Economics. She also holds a Master’s in Business Administration from the same institution. When she isn’t contributing to education resource website Degree Jungle, Wicks works as a writer at Demand Studios.
0 Comments | Posted by naomi in Alternate Reality Games, BETT, Development, Education, Events, MOOC, Personalised learning, Uncategorized, augmented reality, online learning, online university courses
Running from January 30th to February 2nd last week was the 29th Bett show, the British education training and technology event. This year was bigger than ever before and to accommodate the increasing demand Bett moved to the Excel arena which meant our journey involved an exciting trip on the DLR. There was a lot of hype around the event this year with #Bett_show trending throughout the week:
New this year was the Bett Arena, a 750 seat amphitheatre to host talks from influential thought leaders in education from around the world, including Vince Cable and Professor Brain Cox. The education sector was shaken up in 2012 – ‘The year of the MOOC’ – so it was exciting to see two MOOC pioneers also attended the show – Shimon Shocken and Daphne Koller of Coursera.
In the opening ceremony Microsoft’s VP for education Anthony Salcito’s proclaimed that ‘’Technology will always step up to the challenge we need in our classrooms’’, so let’s take a quick look at what stepped up this year:
Innovation was abundant and it was focused around tablets, apps and cloud technologies. As expected, everywhere you turned to look there was an interactive whiteboard and some were showcasing some impressive improvements – SMART were exhibiting their Short Range Projectors which can be mounted only 50cm away from the board, meaning no more blinding lights for teachers. GloView have launched Any Surface IWB which can be used on any wall to turn it into a touch sensitive interactive whiteboard. 3D projectors like 3D Visualisation by Reach Out Interactives Ltd were another exciting development meaning that students can see objects such as a beating heart in 3D, moving it around to view all angles. Augmented reality apps also featured at the show with Samsung showing an app that scanned codes to show 3D objects that could be moved around on a 2D screen.
The range of interactive learning resources on show was incredible and we particularly enjoyed being shown around the Royal Society of Chemistry’s interactive periodic table:
Big this year was the Cloud; looming and ominous, it looks to be supplying programmers and educators with unlimited possibilities. Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 were promoting their cloud based applications. Microsoft Office 365 enables you to run Office applications such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel within your web browser – to launch the program all you need to do is log into a website. Integration with SkyDrive cloud storage and the fact that you don’t need the programs installed on your harddrive to run them means that students can access the programs and their files anywhere.
However, whilst there were lots of impressive technologies on show, this does not always translate straightforwardly into improved learning in the classroom. In November NESTA found that “costly digital technology that has the power to transform education often sits in boxes because teachers do not know how best to use it”. Chief executive Geoff Mulgan said: “The emphasis is too often on shiny hardware rather than how it is to be used.” The technology available offers so many valuable opportunities to educators and students that it cannot afford to be underutilised. The show opened with the message that technology should follow the needs of teaching and this was a theme ran throughout Bett 2013. The slogan “vision before technology” was used by Janet Hayward (Cadoxton Promary School) and Tom Rees (Simon de Senlis Primary School) as they expressed the “need to take an educational perspective as opposed to a technological approach to digital learning by training our best teachers to talk about how it benefits them and their classes’’. This is where Bett becomes all-important; events like TeachMeets allow teachers to share their experiences, favourite resources and to learn from each other. Resources such as Teachers TV, which we were very happy to see in it’s new form at the show, are vital to share knowledge and helping keep teachers up to date and informed. The countless workshops, meetings, breakout sessions and LearnLive talks that Bett facilitates provide a platform to bring together and encourage discussion between the developers, teachers and content providers. Communication on this level is vital to ensure that the exciting technological advances exhibited at the show are used to their full potential and not left clean and shiny in their boxes.
We found this infographic “The Learning Life: An Inside Look at the Habits of the Modern Student” on Faculty Focus. It was created by StudyBlue, a leading mobile study tool with more than 2 million users, using data from a survey issued November 26-30 to the company’s users aged 15-22 attending high schools and colleges across the country.
The results highlight the increasing connection between students and technology:
OCC loves elearning. We’ve worked with many organisations in the education, publishing, medical and professional sectors to develop a wide range of elearning resources from apps to LMSs. Check out our work here and get in touch if you want to know more.
Feel free to share to our infographic but please link to us at www.opencc.co.uk
View infographic that accompanies this post.
In the UK we are used to accusations of being over-traditional and stuck in our ways and our education system is no exemption to this. In my final year at university I experienced the American lecturer for the first time. Lecturers from the US made fun of our class for expecting to just turn up, sit down and be lectured. They wanted a dialogue, response, audience participation – they taught us in a way that, in contrast to my previous experience, seemed almost futuristic. But I was wrong- the future of education is not in Americans making you say constructive things in lectures, apparently the future is in MOOCs. But what is a MOOC?
A ‘loser’ or a ‘moronic bonehead’? A cocktail bar in Leeds? A municipality in the Netherlands? Korean food? Or an acronym for Massive Open Online Course?. It’s the latter, but just in case that doesn’t make things clearer – MOOCs are open access courses that operate on a vast scale; available to anyone, online, for free. MOOCs are proving to be extremely popular – Coursera, which was set up by two lecturers in Stanford, has upwards of 1.5 million students from across the world enrolled and many MOOCs are attracting 10s of millions in venture capital.
In September of this year, the first students to pay £9000 a year enjoyed freshers’ week in the UK. In anticipation of this three fold increase in fees, applications earlier in the year were down by 12%. Our Higher Education system is becoming a privatised market place where education is bought as a ticket to a bigger wage packet. Meanwhile another form of higher education is emerging in the form of MOOCs. The ideology behind the MOOC is that knowledge and education should be free, available to all and sought for their own sake. The aim is to democratise education – Sebastian Thrun, founder of MOOC Udacity claims “It’s the beginning of higher education for everybody“.
But where will this divide lead? 2012 is being heralded as ‘The Year of the MOOC’ but what will 2013 hold? In the market place of higher education it appears that nothing can compete with the MOOC; they are free and open to all. In July the first UK university – the University of Edinburgh – joined the MOOC Coursera. So are MOOCs going to replace our outdated, corporatised universities? No, if we stop being scared of the success of MOOCs we can see that the two systems of higher education are not necessarily in conflict, in fact they are naturally complementary.
MOOCs need Universities. Most MOOCs host courses directly from universities. The MOOCs Udacity, edx and Coursera have all been started by lecturers or universities. It is unlikely that they would be aiming undermine themselves; more likely is that they see huge potential in elearning. These MOOCs derive credibility directly from the institutions that choose to offer courses through them. There are MOOCs that offer independent courses, most notability Khan Academy, but even these rely heavily upon universities. MOOCs are predominantly taken to supplement or refresh degrees; they are most valuable when used in this way, rather than as stand alone courses. In 2004 the UK elearning university UKeU was scrapped with officials claiming that “universities were more interested in “blended” learning involving a mixture of IT, traditional, work-based and distance learning to meet the diverse needs of students – rather than concentrating on wholly e-based learning” The Gates Foundation is a great supporter of MOOCs but their grants are mainly focused on the development of MOOCs “as a supplement to traditional courses, rather than a replacement for them”.
Equally, universities need MOOCs. MOOCS are essentially Learning Management Systems (LMSs) with the password restrictions removed. Most higher education institutions use some form of LMS to enrich teaching. For example UCL use the LMS Moodle which is accessible to all current UCL students and staff with a UCL email address. Users can use LMSs to share resources e.g. documents, handouts, videos of lectures; to communicate, to work together, to organise and structure work; and to administer online assessment.Universities can harness the potential of MOOCs to augment existing courses. The benefits of elearning cannot be denied and universities need to adapt to stay relevant. The fact that so many students are signing up to supplement their current university courses suggests that universities are missing something. Opening up courses via MOOCs benefits in-class students by producing a more diverse class for discussion and greatly improved elearning resources.
There is not just one way to learn. Everybody enjoys learning different things and in different ways. Maybe we are witnessing a new way of teaching and learning arising, but it doesn’t necessarily have to replace other ways. More choice can only be a good thing. As Stephen Downes, a MOOC founding-father stated – “MOOCs don’t change the nature of the game; they’re playing a different game entirely“.
“Given Tablets but No Teachers, Ethiopian Children Teach Themselves”
Classrooms are changing. Technological advances are transforming the way that children learn, or at least are taught. This is happening fast – there are dramatic differences between my school experience and that of someone only 5 years younger. My French teacher used chalk and a blackboard to teach us our verbs, something which now seems positively prehistoric, although some teachers were more high-tech and favoured the overhead projector.
It is widely acknowledged that technology can aid learning: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt demonstrated that children who learn from an ipad version of a textbook compared to a standard paper version can score up to 20% higher on standardised tests. Through engaging children and capturing their attention with colours, videos and games, technology can improve learning with the same content just in a different format. But this applies in a school setting with teachers, so what if there are no schools and no teachers? Can technology help children to teach themselves? The organisation ‘One Laptop Per Child’ (OLPC) has teamed up with MIT to give children in Ethiopia Motorola Xoom tablet PCs. In villages with no schools and near 0% literacy rates they distributed solar powered tablets in unlabeled boxes with no instructions and monitored the results.
“Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android” Nicholas Negroponte.
So did it succeed? Can children teach themselves? They taught themselves how to use the tablets and even how to hack into Android but it is as yet unclear whether they will teach themselves to read and write. The fact that the tablets are in English rather than their own language probably won’t help. But even if the children do learn to read and write, to say that the children have ‘taught themselves’ is not strictly true. They may not have been taught by a ruler toting, glasses wearing, librarian-esque old woman but instead they are being taught by app designers and content devisors – the people who wrote and selected the “preloaded alphabet-training games, e-books, movies, cartoons, paintings, and other programs” . Tablets were chosen over laptops because of their intuitive usability which captures and works with the natural curiosity of children. Features which seem intuitive to the user are heavily designed and the fact that they seem easy and natural is a result of brilliant design. The same is true of programming and writing – e-learning programs have to seem intuitive, mimicking the natural learning process to guide you through it.
Even in non-education focused games “good game designers are more like good teachers” because they need to teach you how to play the game; anticipating your possible next moves and steering you through the process without you even realising it. Subtle signaling, encouraging and gentle nudging in the right direction is the style of teaching involved here – in line with the vision of OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte “I believe that we get into trouble when knowing becomes a surrogate for learning” . It is true that in contrast to the traditional slate tablets which Victorian children used to rote learn facts, modern tablets – some even named after slates – facilitate a more exploratory and creative development but it is not true that the user is unaided in this path to discovery.
This Christmas will see the 2012 Furby revival. The mechanical fur covered children’s must-have of the late nineties has been revamped and is back for a new generation of children to enjoy. The 2012 re – furbish – ments include LCD screen eyes which are even more disturbing that their slowly blinking predecessors, a more complicated mechanical body for an impressively large array of dance moves and more sensors so it will be even harder to turn off. Furbys remain without an off switch. But the most exciting addition is that the 2012 Furby comes with its own smart phone and tablet app.
You will be able to feed your Furby by virtually flinging food at it via an app – a vast improvement on just putting your finger in its mouth. And at last you can get an app that will translate Furbish. So you can finally understand that “yoo?” means “Why will you not play with me today?” along with the subtext “This usually means the Furby is upset”. This is, of course, only useful if you are too lazy to teach your Furby English.
The return of Furbys may not seem significant and indeed the popularity of the 2012 Furby may prove to be as short lived as its forebearers. But the kind of technology they offer and the uses to which it is employed are unlikely to be a fad.
Smart phone and tablet apps for children are very popular – 75% of parents share their smartphones with their children according to a recent study in the UK. There are thousands of apps specifically designed for children which range from educational games to apps for their favourite Disney character. The combination of an app with a physical – more traditional – toy is the next step in the evolution of children’s entertainment. The simplest way to integrate an app and toy is to create an app that functions as a remote control. For example, you can use your phone or tablet as steering wheel to control toy cars or helicopters. More impressive apps go beyond this, such as the app gun which uses a device’s camera to turn the screen into a view finder; transforming your surroundings into a battle field.
The app enhances the toy and the act of playing with it beyond the physicality of the toy itself and in doing so the app creates an augmented reality. Playing and experimenting is how children learn, so there will inevitably be worries regarding any detrimental effects relating to augmented reality i.e. that children will somehow be unable to function in reality.
Will it confuse children? Will it spoil them? Will it make them lazy? Whether augmented reality and gaming are beneficial to learning is a topic that we discuss regularly in this blog. Augmented reality creates new experiences and new ways to interact with topics and as a result facilitates learning.
Many commentators on news reports favour the ‘in my day we had nothing but imagination’ approach to attacking advances in augmented reality. The danger being that children could be presented with toys so brilliant that they don’t have to use their own imagination to have fun. These commentators forget that augmented reality works with imagination to ignite it not to replace it. Augmented reality involves the suspension of disbelief which requires imagination.
There are augmented reality apps that harness children’s imagination for their own benefit, for example the app that claims to make plasters fun. It aims to take away the fear associated with plasters for the child’s –minimal – health benefit demonstrating the possible constructive applications of this technology.
In 1998, age 8, I had a Furby for Christmas. A year later my sister had a Baby Furby. My main memories of the late nineties Furby craze are children telling horror stories. Terrifying tales of Furbys awakening mysteriously in the middle of the night were swapped around the classroom. Furbys that mysterious moved from across the bedroom through the night. Furbys that kept talking when they had their batteries removed.
Just typing the phrase ‘furbys are’ into google produces the above results indicating my recollections may be part of a wider phenomenon. It is very hard to prevent a child’s imagination from enhancing any toy and I doubt that the toys of the future, including this year’s Furby, will escape any imaginitive improvements.