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Wanted: Well Organised ePortfolio to Manage an Unruly MOOC. Skills Required.

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Paper Abstract presented at EPIC 2013. …

Paper Abstract presented at EPIC 2013.
This paper discusses a personal perspective on using a learner-centred ePortfolio to manage learning in a MOOC and reflects on the skills and literacies required to maximise the benefits of a MOOC experience.

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  • 1. EPIC 2013 Short Paper Presented on Wednesday 10th July 2013, IET, London Wanted: Well Organised ePortfolio to Manage an Unruly MOOC. Skills Required. Kirstie Coolin, University of Nottingham Background The web is awash with rhetoric about MOOCsi (Massive Open Online Courses), which “have quickly traversed the cultural cycle of hype, saturation, backlash, and backlash-to-the- backlash”ii (Carey 2012). Shirky helped draw the battle lines claiming that “Higher education is now being disrupted”iii (2012) and prompting Universities to defend their institutions without which, there would arguably be no MOOCs in the first place. A more measured response proposes the advantage that “MOOCs can become another generally benign way that universities can extend their influence and general visibility while realizing some of the benefits of university education for those who might not otherwise receive it.”iv (Thrift 2013) Meanwhile, as debates rage, people are taking these free online courses in their thousands from every corner of the globe, creating new online communities and opportunities to pursue low/no cost and low-risk learner-centred Lifelong Learning. When the MOOC excitement subsides, whatever pedagogical models emerge as the most successful for large scale online learning, learners will be at the centre – a model already familiar to the ePortfolio community. Objectives This paper discusses a personal perspective on using a learner-centred ePortfolio to manage learning in a MOOC and reflects on the skills and literacies required to maximise the benefits of a MOOC experience. In January 2013, the author enrolled, with 40,000 others, on the 5-week ELearning and Digital Cultures MOOC (edcmooc) run by the University of Edinburgh. Almost immediately, numerous social media networks, links and materials emerged, and it was evident that these needed managing in one place. It seemed logical to use an ePortfolio to build structure around the course to manage personal learning. Also in January, Trent Baston, in Campus Technology argued that “MOOCs are one manifestation of our era of openness in which learning opportunities are almost infinite. MOOCs need ePortfolios to improve their value.”v (Batson 2013) Edcmooc is considered a good examplevi of how to run a MOOC. Edinburgh reported “Shifting from a focus on content delivery to a foregrounding of process, community and learning networks”vii promoting connectivism as the dominant pedagogy, resulting in a high volume of student-led social learning occurring before, during and after the course. However, this course demographic was already well educated, including a high number of educators. To have a ‘successful MOOC experience’ therefore there will require competence in skills and literacies in order to organise and self-direct learning, self-motivation, digital literacy and use of social networks.
  • 2. Summary of results The author was motivated to undertake edcmooc by; subject interest; curiosity about the learner experience and; that it was at no cost/risk. ePortfolio was used to structure the tasks, temporally and thematically, using public and private spaces where appropriate, re-considering these throughout the course. It provided:  Placeholders for tasks and social media channels  Public and Private/reflective blogs  Aggregated external content  A trusted place to create, host and share the final assignment artefact  An archive to record learning Public/private spaces helped the author to engage with other participants flexibly (alongside the social media spaces) with confidence about privacy, thus entries were more reflective. Regular reflection meant that the final assessed artefact was easy to create and share. A general feeling of ‘being overwhelmed’ was reported by participants on the course; the ePortfolio helped counter this early on. Conclusions The ePortfolio was beneficial in managing edcmooc learning and the author would concur with Baston that it helped ‘tame’ the MOOC. ePortfolios have great potential to support self- directed, online learning in this massive context for a wide range of learners. However, there are still implicit skills required, in particular related to autonomous learning. In addition, engagement with and confidence within the connectivist model requires a significant level of digital literacy skills, not only in tool-use, but in developing and engaging in online community, navigating networks, data privacy, and presentation of an online identity. If these skills barriers can be cracked and the drivers behind providing low/no cost online and quality education represent a genuine desire to democratise and widen educational opportunities, then MOOCs may represent a significant democratic force, promoting Lifelong Learning in accessible and affordable ways for huge numbers of individuals, and a learner- centred portfolio is its logical companion. i Whitehead, J. (2013) What is a MOOC http://comms.nottingham.ac.uk/learningtechnology/2013/01/03/what-is-a-mooc/ ii Carey, K. (2012) Into the Future with MOOCS http://chronicle.com/article/Into-the-Future- With-MOOCs/134080/ iii Shirky, C. (2012) Napster, Udacity and the Academic http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2012/11/napster-udacity-and-the-academy/ iv Shrift, N. (2013) To MOOC or Not To MOOC http://chronicle.com/blogs/worldwise/to- mooc-or-not-to-mooc/31721
  • 3. v Batson, T. (2013) The Taming of the MOOC http://campustechnology.com/articles/2013/01/16/the-taming-of-the-mooc.aspx vi Morrison, D. (2013) A Tale of Two MOOCS http://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/a-tale-of-two-moocs-coursera- divided-by-pedagogy/ vii Knox, J. et al. (2012) Pedagogy: the Challenges of Developing for Coursera http://newsletter.alt.ac.uk/2012/08/mooc-pedagogy-the-challenges-of-developing-for- coursera/