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Abstract for eLearning 2.0 Conference, Brunel University

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My keynote abstract for the eLearning 2.0 Conference, Brunel University, 6th-7th July 2011

Higher education is about to lurch into liberalisation. Institutions are now required to ask “What is my unique selling point?” In arts, humanities and social sciences learning, there is particular emphasis on ideas and communication, and often trenchant opposition to acquisitive or behavioural models of education. This presentation will compare established norms of higher learning with some nascent, reincarnated or ‘Big Society’ alternatives, including massive open online courses (MOOCs), online tuition-free universities, and those which elevate learning above accreditation. It will consider some principles of university learning and teaching, including original thinking, critical thinking, creative friction, commitment to a community of inquiry, the concept of scaffolding, and focus particularly on the constraints of assessment and accreditation. Returning university teachers to the centre of the institution, it will ask what university teachers contribute to learning that nobody else can and, with focus on wikis and blogs, under what circumstances might teachers use these technologies to support this vision of learning.

I’m looking forward to the conference – hope I can live up to the luminary presentations of previous years. Looking forward to catching up with some people I haven’t seen for ages.


Written by Mira Vogel

June 30, 2011 at 16:59

Posted in assessment, cck11, event

The shape of the course of the future? #cck11

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The higher education crystal ball is a bit too grubby to see very far at the moment, but online learning practitioner-commentator Stephen Downes has predicted that the future will see accreditation shrink in importance relative to reputation – the contribution you make to your community of interest or community of practice.

Accordingly, the experimental Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Connectivism and Connective Learning (CCK11) Stephen Downes (University of Manitoba) co-facilitates with George Siemens (Athabasca University) runs on the open Web as an event and an educational network of/for people interested in networked learning.

MOOCs are free, open to all, and distributed across the Web independently of any institution. As a MOOC, CCK11 is a course in that it has facilitators, material, participants and a beginning and end. However, participants are not examined, do not complete assignments, and don’t pay unless they want accreditation. They work by networking – connecting with and responding to other participants’ tweets, tags, and posts. The course is distributed in that there is no single path, and no central repository. It is authentic in that participants become part of a network of people with the same interests, networks which can be sustained beyond the course because they exist independently of the course.

More in this introductory video:

This may seem like a radical departure from the business model of most higher education institutions – but wait, from the About This Course section:

“If you would like to receive University of Manitoba certification, it will be necessary in addition to apply for admission and register for the course with the University. Here is program information, here is the program application form, and here is the course registration form.”

So as well as being a MOOC, the CCK11 course is one of six you can take towards a Certificate in Interdisciplinary Studies: Emerging Technologies for Learning (ETL) from the University of Manitoba’s Department of Continuing Education. So if you did register for a qualification, you would get to carry out your studies in a highly authentic environment which, ideally, attracted a community of motivated people with similar interests from all over the (anglophone) world.

So, the learning process is free and open for motivated, savvy learners to make of it what they can or will, but the qualification – the portable seal of approval from independent accreditors, if that’s what you need –  and presumably support to obtain it, is what the institution charges for.

I’ve signed up (which commits me to precisely nothing) and although for me this year is not a good time to do it justice, I will be joining in as best I can (for example I’ll be submitting this post) and looking at certain things in particular – those aspects I’d anticipate would make this MOOC approach distinct from established forms of higher education participation, for example, those. For example, how the filtering of information works in a massified open course without entry tariff, whether the course itself scaffolds sense-making in a distributed environment or whether you need some experience and know-how before you can join (making it more distinctively a higher learning course), and what my role is as learner on a course where – presumably – the facilitation can’t be expected to run to prioritising inclusion for those who have signed up, meaning that success may depend significantly on social-affective aspects of participation. How do you identify success? The identity of institutional higher education is changing – this course promises to help sharpen up what it is, may become, and is ceasing to be and, correspondingly, to test the limits of MOOCs.

I’m expecting interesting contrasts with the more traditional (though no less authentic) online distance learning course on the next version of Moodle, which will run for 4 weeks from February.

(For a discussion of the difference between connectivism and social constructivism as theories of learning, read Stephen Downes’ and this thought-provoking piece by Lindsay Jordan – more from me when I’ve got something sensible to say about it)

Written by Mira Vogel

January 20, 2011 at 17:29

Posted in cck11, literacies, social networking, web 2.0

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