So long, and thanks for all the fish…

goodbyeSix weeks has just flown by and I received the final notice from the UNSW MOOC – Learning to Teach Online on Sunday, August 16th ! Although I wasn’t able to be as involved as I had hoped, I gathered some great ideas, contributed some good resources back, and participated (lightly) in the online forums.

The primary “nuggets” I’ll take away from this MOOC are:

  • dealing with students questions by having them post in a forum and vote on which questions were of most interest – then the instructors responded to the top questions in short discussion-based videos emailed out to registered participants each week (very helpful);
  • well-organized and structured course (never felt lost – could always find forums, assignments, videos quickly);
  • collaborative Googledoc to accumulate suggested resources to support the weekly topics (easy way to involve participants!);
  • criterion (and explanatory videos) to support peer-grading of optional assignment (interesting to listen to why and how); and, finally,
  • the friendly, open supportive instructor presence established by Simon McIntyre and Dr. Negin Mirriahi!

Learning to teach online MOOCI enjoyed the flexible design of this MOOC and, although I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to complete activities and participate in the peer-feedback cycle, I found the process interesting to observe. I would think that the resulting feedback would have been very helpful but can’t be sure. I’ve been reading more about the efforts at improving the quality of peer assessments or self-evaluation in MOOCs and in the UK (Re-engineering Assessment Practices in Higher Education). I’d be curious to hear how the participants in the process felt about any improvement in their ability to assess and share?

During the final week of LTTO, Simon and Negin shared some of the demographic stats they’d collected. This MOOC (2nd one) was much more successful than the first; more participants who stayed involved (7,000) and a broader range of countries. There were:

  • 11,727 participants from 167 different countries
  • 36% were from emerging economics
  • top five countries – USA, Australia, India, United Kingdom, Russian Federation
  • most (90%) participants had at least a bachelor’s degree
They anticipate publishing future journal articles once they’ve had a chance to analyze the data they’ve collected. And it sounds as though they plan to offer the MOOC again so keep an eye on their Twitter feed UNSW ltto – (probably same time next year?)

If you haven’t already found UNSW’s COFA Learning to Teach Online project site – see  or their Youtube channel –



Two weeks is 2 short…

overflowing cupOr, to look at it another way, maybe thinking about motivation, asking questions to guide planning, selecting a type of learning activity (and potential tools) and developing a plan and a prototype is too much to deal with 4 two weeks? Some might have found that they felt like their "cup was overflowing"?

I've thought about different ways I could have approached the seminar and wondered if it would have been better to do two separate seminars; the first seminar to introduce and discuss ideas around engaging students in online learning and exploring different types of learning activities (examples). Then, the follow-up seminar could have been a real JAM and we'd have started off with ideas about selecting tools (for delivery or student response) and focused on sharing our own draft ideas for feedback. I've added a brief survey in the open seminar to collect ideas about ways to improve the experience another time.

So….today is the final day of the open, online SCoPE seminar "Creating Engaging Online Learning Activities JAM". You're still welcome to post a draft plan or prototype and get feedback. And the resources and conversation will always (as long as SCoPE continues) be available to revisit and reuse.

I facilitated a final synchronous BlackBoard Collaborate session, Friday, Aug 14th, to allow us to share our plans and/or prototypes. Although we only looked at three plans (including mine!), it was an interesting and informative discussion. Some of the highlights from my perspective:

  • Leonne B. explained how she blends her journaling activity (which includes a success-building rubric the students complete each week) and some computer-skills, applied in their BlackBoard LMS, to develop self-motivated, self-reflective learners with skills to help them in future learning.
  • Viviana C. explained her yet-to-be-tested learning activity that utilizes a focused conversation model to help students explore different science-related quotations from an evidence-based, critical perspective. Her activity provides flexibility and autonomy (two motivational elements) in how students can respond and share their reflections privately with the instructor. The activity is creative and relevant to engage learners.
  • I presented my still evolving learning activity as part of a blended workshop approach to encourage instructors (higher education) to explore different approaches to online learning from a critical perspective. The online component of the blended delivery would be 4 or 5 interactive videos (created in H5P's interactive video tool) that would feature "new" approaches to online learning including at least one that focuses on MOOCs and online learning design.

Note:  The three draft online learning activities can be found in the First Steps: Planning Your OLA forum thread.

Various questions and suggestions helped the presenters think about making minor changes or finding ways to encourage further student-to-student interactions. It will be interesting to hear about the future delivery of these engaging OLAs.

Additional notes:

  • We briefly discussed finding ways to use the SCoPE online learning community and platform to connect researchers or instructional designers wanting to test new teaching/learning activities with teachers who want to try new approaches but who don't have the time to fully develop them or support them during a busy teaching semester.
  • We talked about the upcoming research by Leonne Beebe (University of the Fraser Value) and Sylvia Currie (BCcampus/SCoPE) into the Facilitating Learning Online workshop's self-assessment of participation rubric.
  • We found out about the November 13 BCCampus-sponsored symposium Scholarly Inquiry into Teaching & Learning Practice – registration opens August 31st – they're accepting proposals until September 20th.
  • And a final contribution from SueH – a new MOOC platform launched in Europe – EMMA (European Multiple MOOC Aggregator) – something to check out and blog about in the future!

It's been a great two weeks – what an immersive learning experience for me. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to explore an idea or teaching practice. Just contact Sylvia Currie who hosts the SCoPE professional learning community.




Weekly QandA Topics in UNSW MOOC

Dr. Negin Mirriahi and Simon McIntyreUNSW Australia  |  Learning to Teach Online MOOC

A feature I'm finding really interesting and useful in the Learning to Teach Online MOOC. currently underway in Coursera, is the opportunity to post questions and have them answered by Simon McIntyre and Dr. Negin Mirriahi each week. The questions are collected in a forum and participants vote on which questions they find most interesting.

The videos that result are friendly, conversational (lots of back and forth between the instructors) and informative. What's even better is that Simon and Negin model what their videos and course materials "say" about how to teach online; they answer the questions using simple, clear language, they express their interest in the questions and their enjoyment of the discussion, they refer back to specific course materials or they might point you to resources that other students have shared in different forums, and they are careful to provide instructions on how to find things.

To give you a sense of topics of interest with this MOOC's participants from Week 3:

"We are really enjoying responding to your weekly Q&A and have just posted our responses to your top 5 voted questions from Week 3. The videos are available from the Video List & Downloads page in the Week 3 Q&A Responses folder. You can also view the videos directly via the links below.

  1. How do we keep pace with current Web 2.0 technology? (05:03)
  2. Group projects in the online learning environment (06:30)
  3. What is scenario based training? (03:00)
  4. Second assignment presentation (03:33)
  5. How to generate community in an online course that students start whenever each one enrols (04:34)"

Some of the answers…

  1. NMC Horizon Reports (evidence-based, peer reviewed/suggested, different sectors i.e., K-12, museum, higher ed)
    Teacher Training Videos by Russell Stannard  (topics include:  Blogs & Wikis, Screen Casting, e-Portfolios, Flipped Classroom, Sharing & Discussion
    from the Recommended Tools & Apps discussion forum:  Olga – Top 100 Tools 2014  (plus an upcoming wiki)
    a blog called Edudemic that features guides to different technologies – for students / for teachers
    check for Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) like Classroom 2.0 features forums, scheduled synchronous events that are recorded, etc.
  2. Suggestions from forum:  making assignments or participation assessed, refer to Module 7:  Engaging and Motivating Students (includes case study: Online Teamwork and Collaboration)
    Other tips:  let students know you can "see" them, tell them that everything they do in the course space is recorded, use "iterative" assignments (set milestones throughout a project where students show what they're doing), ask students to work in online space provided or, if using other tools, to report back to shared learning space, students who don't put in the same effort won't get the same marks, get peer group to set timeline and devise backup plan if someone isn't participating, encourage students to communicate with group if they will be absent, build in peer assessment of contributions to prevent "social loafing"
    Teacher presence – participate in the course, intervene early if you see students aren't participating, make sure to explain, at the beginning, what constitute "good online teamwork", explain why groupwork is important
  3. Scenario-based training/learning:  provide students with a "real-life" authentic situation (scenario) and ask them to solve that problem or discuss potential solutions; sometimes knowledge is given and sometimes students are asked to draw on what they already know. Benefit is to go beyond recall or comprehension to explore how students will apply what they've learned.

I poked around on the Internet and found this great resource about Scenario-based learning

5.   What kind of community do you want to create? What do you want students to "get" from the community?  Can you assume that you'll have a minimum number in at a certain time? Is it optional for them to participate in community activities? If so, perhaps provide community-type options for those who want a richer learning experience and allow others to complete self-learning. Consider how you might help students develop their personal learning networks outside of your course.

Lots of great food for thought. I'll certainly have to delve into the forums more often as I missed some of the great discussions that have been taking place.

And who says you can't learn in a MOOC?



Hopping thru LTTO MOOC

LTTO_MOOCUNSW's 2nd offering of their popular Learning to Teach Online MOOC began July 8th with more than 8,000 registered participants (notice I don't call them learners?) I signed up for a variety of reasons: to take a look at the MOOC design; to see what they would cover in terms of developing engaging online learning activities; to connect with colleagues around the world. Luckily, LTTO is designed to be flexible in the ways you can engage in learning; the instructors, Simon McIntyre and Professor Negin Mirriahi utilize resources from UNSW's award-winning collection of open-licensed videos and helpful documentation (aka Learning to Teach Online) combined with brief videos to support each module of the eight weeks.

I've been hopping around the MOOC structure, sampling some of the discussion forum topics / ideas, exploring the Class Resource Library (the 2014 collection is shared thru an open Gdoc), poking around the MOOC design elements (well thought out!). Although the course is designed to be flexible, I've found the survey questions somewhat irritating as they don't offer options to select more than one response (in questions that seem, to me, to require more than one answer). On the other hand, I've appreciated the straightforward, clear design, explanations and friendly, open tone set by the two instructors. The videos are generally well done although I sometimes feel like reaching out to hold their hands still and the information presented seems to provide a good foundation for completing the activities or learning from the linked resources. As they point out in the course design / getting started information, much of the learning takes place in the online discussion forums.

So, a general enthusiastic "thumbs up" to the instructors and, although they are beginning Week 3, I'm jumping ahead to Week 7 Engaging & Motivating Students.