Making Sense 18 Day 3

Making Sense 18 Day 3

June 3, 2018 Off By JR

Roman Kraft

“I didn’t know what I didn’t know.”

What a coincidence, I had the opportunity to basically see this module presented live at OpenEd Global 2018 in Delft, the Netherlands. Martin Weller presented these topics and the citation analysis process in Learning from the past: Development of open and distance education research over time. I had never heard of this method before, but I found it fascinating. Couple that with Martin’s 25 Years of EdTech series he’s been blogging and you have a pretty good starting place to deal with the terms and concepts everyone throws around.

The number of terms presented in this module, their distinctiveness and their similarities remind me a bit of my days as a master’s student reading about “literacies”. Doug Belshaw did an amazing job tracing the evolution of “digital literacy” back to John Debes concept of “visual literacy” in the 60s and then progressing through e-literacy and electracy, through info and media literacy to digital literacy. I digress.

The presentation touched on Open Education having citations appearing mostly after 2010, but touched on Tannis Morgan’s work digging up Open Education literature all the way back in the 1970s. Tannis’ work points out that language is an invisible filter we should take note of, as she found this body of work in French, not English.

Limiting my post to what’s in the module’s activity today, I offer some brief reflections on the following:

Consider the following topics related to your practice: Areas of low connection (“islands”): 1) Open education in schools 2) MOOCs 3) Distance education 4) Open learning 5) E-learning. Reflect and write down your thoughts about the ways that any two or more of these themes be related and relevant to your practice. What makes the concepts related, what separates them? How might your concept of open education be informed by considering these themes and integrating related bodies of knowledge with current practices?

I’ll take a brief run at 3 rather than 2, Distance Ed, Open Learning, and MOOCs.

Distance Ed

As many of you may know, I made the move from face-to-face, web enhanced, and blended learning design to strictly distance ed. That takes the form of independent studies, televised, and (the vast majority) online. The module presents point form on the themes and it does group “distance ed” and “open learning” as appearing from the 1980s onward. I do want to pause here though. By dropping off the open learning bit and considering distance ed, we are talking about research and practice that goes back even further. Saskatchewan (where I currently reside) and Canada more broadly have a rich history of distance and distributed education dating back 100 years. As the module points out, it is easy to forget that there are deeper histories to these terms and practices and I think it’s worth noting that there are a lot of really powerful learning designs that are silently being forgotten as standardized Thorndike and Skinner style online courses are being created. Coupling the open learning part back onto distance ed could be seen as a way to reject purely behaviorist and instructivist approaches to teaching and learning at a distance. This could take the form of designing online courses around principles from connectivism for example. (another side note: after having been at a few open ed conferences I can’t help but notice Stephen Downes work is not mentioned much. The focus on OERs and a particular history of open education not only seems to omit the age of say distance education, but also important voices. At first I was really surprised that the citation analysis did not turn up more of Downes’ work, but after hearing more about this methodology it makes sense.)

Open Learning

I’m from Saskatchewan, completed my Master’s of Ed Tech and Design at the UofS, and have been working in open education for some time. So naturally, cue the obligatory Alex Couros reference. When I was in grad school a classmate of mine was taking a class from Alec, and what I found fascinating was that students outside of the class were welcome to check out the resources and sessions. It was around this time that I also had my first encounter with #TvsZ, DS106, and a few other open courses/learning experiences. These early examples have stuck with me as powerful teaching and learning models and influence some of the current course designs I work on. Of course, when you’re not the one teaching the course there is an added layer to consider. Sometimes that results in more classical online learning designs. Other times you get a course that completely breaks the stereotypes. And again, other times you end up with a mix (this is where SPLOTs have come in for me). Those of you that know me thought you might get through this blogpost without me talking about SPLOTs, but think again. SPLOTs have introduced a small but significant way to get some learning out in the open (even just from year to year for the same class) while reserving other activities for the walled garden of the LMS. A current example of this is the GEOL 109 – Student Curated Video Project. I think more and more of these will appear over time. Some of the questions here might be, what exactly is out in the open? Or what exactly does ‘open’ mean when we say open learning? The application of CC licensing onto open learning doesn’t really seem to fit nicely as it might if you’re talking about an artifact (OER). So is it the course material that is out in the open (publicly available)? Is it the instructor and or students’ work that is publicly published? Is it conversations that happen outside of the walled garden of the LMS or the brick and mortar of the classroom? Is it mixing students taking the class with those from a larger community? Is it allowing for participants (more broadly) to contribute to the course (like in the DS106 assignment bank) or for them to take over the open learning experience completely (like in TvsZ)? Is it renewable assignments? I think there are cases to be made on either side for any of these examples. Perhaps learning needs to be situated before the modal prefix can be added.


I sometimes think that MOOCs are for ed techies and IDs of today like learning objects were for our more experienced colleagues. As our colleagues who devoted much time and energy to learning objects received an LO hangover, current early stage career ed techies and IDs have that signature headache. I first encountered the term MOOC in grad school, and at the time of course it was in reference to CCK08 that George Siemens, Stephen Downes, and David Cormier were involved with. I had an earlier encounter with the xMOOC concept years before studying MOOCs in grad school, as a friend of mine had enrolled in a huge, publicly available, AI course from Standford. Little did I know that that side of MOOCs would blow up, and the other side would just keep doing its thing.

I participated (read: was a serial dropout) of many MOOCs during grad school and there after. I participated in Alec Couros’ #ETMOOC, some design and architecture MOOCs provided by iVersity, Jenny Hayman’s Online Education for Open Educators via D2L, courses on the Canvas network like Statistics for Mere Mortals and Human MOOC. I’ve poked my nose into courses in Coursera and EdX (yawn). Over time there are a few designs that stood out to me. #ETMOOC and similar structures that let you figure out how to interact with the community using a central course hub work well for those who are familiar with the ground and want to connect with others. A course like Stats for Mere Mortals was perfect because I had a project at work at the time that required statistical analysis and so I integrated the lessons with what I was doing at the time, completely independently. Design101 appears like an xMOOC on the surface (use of videos, has quizzes, is in a MOOC platform), but it was project oriented with 101 design charrettes and videos that served at motivational sets rather than lectures.

I’ve also had the opportunity to contribute to the design and facilitate a number of MOOCs, the most important one (to me) of which were the Instructional Design Service Course, and the Instructional Evaluation Service Course (#openabe) by Designers for Learning.

Overall, what’s most interesting about MOOCs for me is either getting the chance to try new skills, learning a bit about a subject area, or see how others design online learning experiences. Regardless of if its in a platform or not, sometimes it’s nice to just have a look around. Revolutionary? Not on its own. But what is?