Skip to content
Syndicate content

Institute of Educational Technology > Feed aggregator > Categories > Recent blogs from IET staff

Recent blogs from IET staff

Listen to Barbara Illowsky on the Journey of Collaborative Statistics! (Part Two)

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Thu, 24/07/2014 - 15:33

Originally posted on :

This is the second part of an interview with Barbara Illowsky, OCWC Educator ACE Award winner, Professor of Math and Statistics at De Anza College and co-author of the OpenStax College open textbook Introductory Statistics (previously Collaborative Statistics). Read the first part of this interview to find out more about Barbara, De Anza College, the impact of high textbook costs, student savings, how Barbara was involved in changing State policy and her involvement with OpenStax College and Connexions.

Improving the Textbook Collaboratively 

Later in the interview I asked Barbara is there was any difference between authoring/creating an open resource such as Collaborative Statistics, and other material that Barbara has contributed to the Connexions platform, in comparison to materials Barbara uses in her own classroom.  You can also hear more about Barbara’s incorporation of the Vietnamese New Year gambling game of Tết into her Labs (mentioned in my earlier post: “It’s…

View original 416 more words


Listen to Barbara Illowsky on the Journey of Collaborative Statistics! (Part One)

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Thu, 24/07/2014 - 15:11

Originally posted on :

Earlier in the year I posted transcribed excerpts from an interview with OCWC Educator ACE Award winner, Professor of Math and Statistics at De Anza College and co-author of the OpenStax College open textbook Introductory Statistics (previously Collaborative Statistics) Barbara Illowsky. You can find my original post on the OpenEd13 interview here, which is still worth checking out for an overview of the interview and key quotes. However, I’m now pleased to announce that you can now hear this fascinating interview in full!

Introducing Barbara and De Anza College

Listen to Barbara introduce herself:

https://oerresearchhub.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/barbara-intro.mp3

Barbara on De Anza College, the students who attend and some of the challenges they face. Quoting Martha Kanter “we accept the top 100% of students who apply” Barbara also tells us why she doesn’t use the term “remedial”:

https://oerresearchhub.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/barbara_deanzabackground.mp3

OER has an important role to play at colleges such as De Anza. Barbara told us…

View original 575 more words


LASI@MK learning analytics summer institute

Together with Bart Rienties, I hosted visits from Shaun Boyd (NMIT, Australia, Victorian Higher Education and Skills Group Fellow), Shreeharsh Kelkar (MIT), and Adam Cooper (CETIS, Bolton) on 8 July 2014.

We organised a Learning Analytics Summer Institute (LASI@MK) event in association with these visits. This formed part of the worldwide series of LASIs organised in conjunction with the Society for Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR). The event was also associated with the European-funded Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE) project.

LASI@MK included short presentations from:

  • Linda Price on the long history of learning analytics at The Open University
  • Avinash Boroowa on the development of an ethical framework for learning analytics
  • Doug Clow on the systemic implementation of learning analytics
  • Vicky Marsh on links with quality enhancement and quality assurance
  • Shailey Minocha on the use of learning analytics in virtual environments
  • Zdenek Zdrahal on predictive modelling
  • Adam Cooper on the LACE project

It also included more extensive presentations by

  • Denise Whitelock on the SAFeSEA project
  • Shaun Boyd on the implementation of analytics at his institution
  • Shreeharsh Kelkar on MOOCs, software and the study of learning.

Understanding student mindsets

At the beginning of July, working with one of our pro-vice chancellors, I presented to our vice chancellor’s executive (VCE) about understanding student mindsets.

We made the links between mindsets and learner persistence. Keeping students on board is a two-way process, universities retain and learners persist.

No matter how excellent a university course, students are likely to be distracted while studying it by significant life events. This is particularly true for part-time students, whose studies continue for longer. When the going gets tough for our students, it’s not good course design that gets them through, or good teacher support alone (though that certainly helps). Our students also need the resilience to carry on, and to cope with the extra challenges that life throws at them

This is where mindsets come into the picture. How can we help our students to develop persistence and resilience; how can we help them to understand that ability is not innate but is the outcome of focused work, and how can we help them to develop a deep approach to study? Research shows that it is possible to change mindsets, but to do so across a university requires systemic change.


Learning analytics: answering the FAQs

The conference venue: Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow

At the end of June, I was invited up to Scotland, to talk about learning analytics at the Society of College, National and University Librarians (SCONUL) summer conference. I focused on some of the frequently-asked questions about learning analytics, with the emphasis on the role and perspective of libraries in this area. What are learning analytics? Why are they used? How can they be used to help produce desired learning outcomes? What different types are there? What are the ethical issues? How can they be used in libraries?

Learning analytics FAQs from Rebecca Ferguson


Why don’t we talk about PLEs anymore

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Wed, 23/07/2014 - 09:42

I know some people will immediately respond to this title by declaring “I do! And look at all these other people who do”. And yes, there is a PLE conference. But my sense is that we don’t use the term, or more significantly, discuss the concept of Personal Learning Environments, like we did in 2010 say.

This is not to disparage the term or work on it, I think it was very useful to frame the difference in the way we began to operate when all these new, easy to use tools suddenly became available. I’m interested from an educational technology perspective in what the decline in its usage tells us. Google trends backs my impression up that we don’t talk about it as much, and given that terms tend to linger, I would suggest that it shows it definitely isn’t a hot topic amongst ed tech people:

If you accept for now the premise that it isn’t discussed as much, then what does this tell us? There are a number of possible reasons:

  1. It’s become commonplace, so drawing the distinction between your set of tools and an institutional learning environment isn’t necessary. It’s a bit like saying “my phone is mobile!”
  2. It’s become absorbed, so it is seen as an extension of the LMS, or rather the LMS is just one other part of it. We don’t differentiate between tools for different settings because the boundaries between personal and professional have been blurred.
  3. There has been a shakedown in the market, so actually we’ve all settled on the same few tools: Twitter, YouTube, WordPress, Slideshare, plus some other specific ones. My PLE looks pretty much like your PLE, so it’s not really a Personal one anymore. Just like with the early days of search engines, we don’t talk about whether you prefer Lycos or Webcrawler now, we just Google it.
  4. It wasn’t a useful term or approach. There were projects that attempted to get data passed between LMSs and PLE tools, or to set these up for people, and in the end people just opted for some tools they found useful, and didn’t feel the need to go further.

For some of these reasons you could argue that the PLE was a success, it made itself redundant as a term, which illustrates it reached penetration. For others you could argue it was maybe a case of academics inventing something that wasn’t really there. For me, I found it a useful way to think about these new tools and moving away from pre-packaged solutions, but that’s become second nature now. Anyway, it’s useful to revisit terms and see what they tell us about the current situation. I shall now go into hiding from the pitchfork (some hand-crafted, some mass produced) wielding PLE mob.

OU Media Player June 2014 release

Dr Nick Freear's blog - Fri, 18/07/2014 - 14:39

I'm happy to be reporting on a new release of the OU Media Player that happened in mid-June.
This release fixed a number of bugs, including one relating to Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 8, and another involved fixing security warnings for non-secure audio/video media files when the Player is embedded on a site via HTTPS.

There were also a couple of enhancements. One entails hiding the title panel on pages that are Open University branded. This has proved to be a stumbling block in some deployments, as the titles are not always meaningful to the public (they may be used internally to distinguish tracks), and it looks odd to have multiple copies the OU's shield logo.

Another feature we added was Google Analytics for the legacy Open2.net media embedded in OpenLearn. This is feature isn't visible to the end-user. However, it is important so that we can track and report on usage. Based on this, I can already report that the Player is currently embedded in something like 2000 places and receives approaching 4000 plays per month.

Analytics tracks some "events" for the Player, currently, "play", "pause" and the audio/video track is "ended", . GitHub: ../mediaelement ../mep-feature-googleanalytics.js. We're interested in doing more with the Player analytics, so please watch this space.

You can see the full release notes for version 1.1.9.

Open Knowledge Festival 2014

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Fri, 18/07/2014 - 11:52

Originally posted on :

Earlier this week I was lucky enough to head to Berlin with colleagues Rob Farrow and Martin Weller to participate in the Open Knowledge Festival (#okfest14) Open Minds to Open Action at the amazing Kulturbrauerei… Thank to everyone we spoke to over the course of the festival; it was great to meet old and new friends alike!

In addition to our Twitter activity (check out @mweller, @philosopher1978 and @beckpitt for more) I’ve created a Storify to capture a small selection of the amazing array of activity that took place during the Festival… Enjoy! #feedbackwelcome

Don’t forget to also check out the @OKFestival team’s Storify channel here.

Kulturbrauerei (Photo credit: Beck Pitt, CC-BY)

View original


New home

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Fri, 18/07/2014 - 09:35

I’ve finally (after 8 years) moved from Typepad to WordPress, and even more importantly, my own domain. Blame Jim Groom, that guy just wears you down until you say yes. Have tried a new theme, expect I’ll mess around with it and also widgets. If you’re here from the old place and use an RSS reader (I know, who uses them now?) then the new feed is http://blog.edtechie.net/feed/

All you WordPress geeks out there can tell me what plug-ins I must have. Time to start annoying the neighbours.

5 Things That People Don’t Realize their Librarians Do #librarians

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Fri, 11/07/2014 - 14:48

Originally posted on bluesyemre:

  1. Librarians are teachers. Many libraries have computer classes, which can include teaching a room full of people how to use Microsoft Office, how to use the internet safely, how to set up accounts and stay safe on social media, or how to use photo manipulation programs. Some libraries even teach computer programming classes. Librarians also do a lot of one-on-one tutoring if there isn’t a class that specifically covers the need of the patron.
  2. Librarians are tech savvy. Whatever computer classes librarians are teaching, or when we have to help a patron troubleshoot their own technology, we have to be computer and technologically literate in order to help. We have to know the basics of computer technology, at the very least. Most times, however, we know more, and if we don’t know the answer off the top of our heads, we know how to find it.
  3. Librarians are advertisers. Libraries…

View original 240 more words


The iceberg model of OER engagement

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 12:42

I'm pretty sure I'm the first person to ever use the iceberg analogy…

I've been pondering ways of thinking about open education awareness, and OER usage that might help shape OER policy. So here's one I want to try out.

Open education in general, and OERs specifically, form a basis from which many other practices benefit, but often practitioners in those areas are unaware of OERs explicitly. It is likely that these secondary and tertiary levels of OER awareness represent a far greater audience, than the primary “OER-aware” one, so one can view the sizes of these audiences like the metaphorical iceberg, with increasing size as we push into these unseen areas. The three groups of OER usage I see are:

Primary OER usage – this group is “OER aware”, in that the term itself will have meaning for them, they are engaged with issues around open education, are aware of open licences and are often advocates for OERs. This group has often been the focus of OER funding, conferences and research, with the focus on growing the ranks of this audience.
Example: Community college teacher who adopts, and contributes to open textbooks

Secondary OER usage – this group may have some awareness of OERs, or open licences, but they have a pragmatic approach to them. OERs are of secondary interest to their primary task, usually teaching. OERs (and openness in general) can be seen as the substratum which allows some of their practice to flourish, but they are not aware, or interested in open education itself, rather in their own area, and therefore OERs are only of interest to the extent that they facilitate innovation or efficiency in this.
Example: Flipped learning teacher who uses Khan academy, TED talks and some MERLOT OERs in their teaching.

Tertiary OER usage – this group will use OERs amongst a mix of other media and often not differentiate between them. Awareness of licences is low and not a priority. OERs are a ‘nice to have’ option but not essential, and users are often largely consuming rather than creating and sharing.
Example: A student studying at university who uses iTunes U materials to supplement their taught material.

 David Wiley has talked of Dark Reuse, that is whether reuse is happening in places we can’t observe, analogous to dark matter, or it simply isn’t happening much at all. He poses the challenge to the OER movement about its aims:

“If our goal is catalyzing and facilitating significant amounts of reuse and adaptation of materials, we seem to be failing. …
If our goal is to create fantastically popular websites loaded with free content visited by millions of people each month, who find great value in the content but never adapt or remix it, then we’re doing fairly well.”

By considering these three levels of OER engagement, it is possible to see how both elements of Wiley’s goals are realisable. The main focus of OER initiatives has often been the primary OER usage group. Here OERs are created and there are OER advocacy missions. For example, Joanna Wild suggests three levels of engagement for HE staff that progress from piecemeal to strategic to embedded use of OER. The implicit assumption is that one should encourage progression through these levels, that is, the route to success for OERs is to increase the population of the primary OER group.

Whilst this is undoubtedly a good thing to do (assuming one believes in the benefits of OERs), it may not be the only approach. Another approach may be to increase penetration of OERs into the secondary and tertiary levels. Awareness of OER repositories was very low amongst this group, compared with resources such as the Khan Academy or TED. The focus on improving uptake for these groups is then to increase visibility, search engine optimisation and convenience of the resources themselves, without knowledge of open education. This might be realised through creating a trusted brand to compete with resources such as TED.

There is evidence that openness has a virus like quality, in that once people are exposed to it, awareness grows and they seek opportunities to expand open practice in other areas. If this is the case, then emphasising effort on this initial exposure should be a high priority for funders in the OER world.

The iceberg model of OER engagement

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 11:42

I'm pretty sure I'm the first person to ever use the iceberg analogy...

I've been pondering ways of thinking about open education awareness, and OER usage that might help shape OER policy. So here's one I want to try out.

Open education in general, and OERs specifically, form a basis from which many other practices benefit, but often practitioners in those areas are unaware of OERs explicitly. It is likely that these secondary and tertiary levels of OER awareness represent a far greater audience, than the primary “OER-aware” one, so one can view the sizes of these audiences like the metaphorical iceberg, with increasing size as we push into these unseen areas. The three groups of OER usage I see are:

Primary OER usage – this group is “OER aware”, in that the term itself will have meaning for them, they are engaged with issues around open education, are aware of open licences and are often advocates for OERs. This group has often been the focus of OER funding, conferences and research, with the focus on growing the ranks of this audience.
Example: Community college teacher who adopts, and contributes to open textbooks

Secondary OER usage – this group may have some awareness of OERs, or open licences, but they have a pragmatic approach to them. OERs are of secondary interest to their primary task, usually teaching. OERs (and openness in general) can be seen as the substratum which allows some of their practice to flourish, but they are not aware, or interested in open education itself, rather in their own area, and therefore OERs are only of interest to the extent that they facilitate innovation or efficiency in this.
Example: Flipped learning teacher who uses Khan academy, TED talks and some MERLOT OERs in their teaching.

Tertiary OER usage – this group will use OERs amongst a mix of other media and often not differentiate between them. Awareness of licences is low and not a priority. OERs are a ‘nice to have’ option but not essential, and users are often largely consuming rather than creating and sharing.
Example: A student studying at university who uses iTunes U materials to supplement their taught material.

 David Wiley has talked of Dark Reuse, that is whether reuse is happening in places we can’t observe, analogous to dark matter, or it simply isn’t happening much at all. He poses the challenge to the OER movement about its aims:

“If our goal is catalyzing and facilitating significant amounts of reuse and adaptation of materials, we seem to be failing. …
If our goal is to create fantastically popular websites loaded with free content visited by millions of people each month, who find great value in the content but never adapt or remix it, then we’re doing fairly well.”

By considering these three levels of OER engagement, it is possible to see how both elements of Wiley’s goals are realisable. The main focus of OER initiatives has often been the primary OER usage group. Here OERs are created and there are OER advocacy missions. For example, Joanna Wild suggests three levels of engagement for HE staff that progress from piecemeal to strategic to embedded use of OER. The implicit assumption is that one should encourage progression through these levels, that is, the route to success for OERs is to increase the population of the primary OER group.

Whilst this is undoubtedly a good thing to do (assuming one believes in the benefits of OERs), it may not be the only approach. Another approach may be to increase penetration of OERs into the secondary and tertiary levels. Awareness of OER repositories was very low amongst this group, compared with resources such as the Khan Academy or TED. The focus on improving uptake for these groups is then to increase visibility, search engine optimisation and convenience of the resources themselves, without knowledge of open education. This might be realised through creating a trusted brand to compete with resources such as TED.

There is evidence that openness has a virus like quality, in that once people are exposed to it, awareness grows and they seek opportunities to expand open practice in other areas. If this is the case, then emphasising effort on this initial exposure should be a high priority for funders in the OER world.

Elise Adamson on OpenStax College Textbooks

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Fri, 04/07/2014 - 16:47

Originally posted on :

Earlier in the week we heard from Paul Shaber on his experiences of using OpenStax College (OSC) textbooks. Today we’re going to hear from two more educators, who I was fortunate enough to speak with earlier in the year: Elise Adamson and Adrienne Williamson. This post is dedicated to excerpts from Elise’s interview and you can find Adrienne’s interview here.

Thanks to both Elise and Adrienne for taking time out to speak with me!

Elise Adamson 

Elise Adamson (Wayland Baptist University) is Professor of Math and Physics. Elise has been using the OSC Physics book with students who are largely studying to go into medicine. She is the first in her University to be using the materials and had support from both her bookstore and colleagues for using OSC. Sapling introduced Elise to OpenStax, her “first exposure” to open educational resources (OER).

Listen to Elise tell us more about how…

View original 129 more words


Adrienne Williams on OpenStax College Textbooks

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Fri, 04/07/2014 - 16:03

Originally posted on :

Earlier in the week we heard from Paul Shaber on his experiences of using OpenStax College (OSC) textbooks. Today we’re going to hear from two more educators, who I was fortunate enough to speak with earlier in the year: Elise Adamson and Adrienne Williamson. This post is dedicated to excerpts from Adrienne’s interview and you can find Elise’s interview here. Thanks to both Elise and Adrienne for taking time out to speak with me!

Adrienne Williamson 

Adrienne Williamson (University of California, Irvine) is a Biology Education Researcher, in receipt of a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Grant. Adrienne first found out about OSC textbooks whilst she was running a Coursera MOOC (Preparation for Introductory Biology: DNA to Organisms) and David Harris of OSC got in touch via email. OSC Biology was subsequently incorporated into the MOOC which had 38,000 students enrol onto the course. Adrienne tells us…

View original 291 more words


Flipped learning – why openness matters even if you think it doesn’t

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Fri, 04/07/2014 - 11:28

As I mentioned a couple of posts back, we've been working with the Flipped Learning network in the US. My colleague Bea De Los Arcos, has a good post about FlipCon, their annual conference. As I argued, Flipped Learning has the whiff of a commercial brand about it, but that I felt it was a useful approach for many teachers. And as Bea notes, the enthusiasm of teachers who Flip is notable, and that is surely a good thing.

In my Battle for Open book I make the argument that the direction of openness is important to all of us. But I think it's sometimes hard to make that connection to practice beyond the world of open education itself. The direction of Flipped Learning offers one such example I believe.

We've found that there was a high level of adaptation of OER by Flipped teachers, but that the range of sites they use is quite limited (YouTube, TED, Khan academy dominate). To me this suggests a picture that teachers are (obviously) time poor, so they like convenient solutions. Flipped Learning itself can be seen as a convenient solution to blended learning, and the collection of resources at somewhere like Khan is again a time-saving, convenient approach. But having found resources, teachers want to be able to blend and adapt them. We've also found support for the 'openness as virus' theory in that people tend to become likely to seek out other open resources, become aware of CC licensing, etc.

Now, given the pressure on teachers, and the desire for a convenient solution, wouldn't it be great if someone came along and offered a really good collection of resources for Flipped Teachers to use (maybe allied to the Common Core), combined with advice on how to Flip, a platform, and so on? Well, look here, Pearson have partnered with the Flipped Learning network and are offering a course on how to Flip. As it says "Contact your local Pearson Account Executive and get flipping today!"

Now, there's nothing wrong with this, in the same way that commercial companies offer solutions based on open source software, it can be part of a healthy ecosystem around the subject. But it doesn't take too much imagination to see how Flipped Learning could become a Pearson trademark, and a solution offered by them to schools. And then all sorts of things stop happening – the freedom for it to develop in a manner led by teachers, the inclination to find resources beyond those provided by Pearson, and perhaps most significantly, it stifles teachers becoming part of the broader, open community.

I think this example will be telling. For many teachers in the Flipped Network, open education isn't a primary concern, for instance they may not be aware of the term OER. But it is a substratum which allows them to operate in the manner they like. Before they know it, this openness could be undermined and replaced by a packaged, proprietary solution, and they won't even know what theyt've lost. That is why I think the battle for open is significant for all of us in education.

Siyavula Educator Survey Results: Impact of Using Siyavula (Part IV)

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Fri, 04/07/2014 - 09:30

Originally posted on :

This is the final part of a four-part series of blog posts co-authored by Beck Pitt (OER Research Hub researcher) and Megan Beckett (Siyavula). You can read our posts on the Siyavula educator sample and background to the study here, more on education in South Africa here and more on educators’ attitudes and behaviours toward OER here. This post features some of the findings relating to questions specifically about Siyavula open textbooks and their impact on educators and students.

As a recap, the following research findings relate to 89 educators who have used or currently use Siyavula open textbooks. You can read more about the sample group and background to the study here.

Siyavula display (Photo Credit: Megan Beckett CC-BY)

Siyavula Open Textbooks

We asked educators how they first became aware of Siyavula textbooks, as this is of particular interest to Siyavula. Respondents could give more than…

View original 2,183 more words


Flipped learning - why openness matters even if you think it doesn't

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Fri, 04/07/2014 - 08:41

As I mentioned a couple of posts back, we've been working with the Flipped Learning network in the US. My colleague Bea De Los Arcos, has a good post about FlipCon, their annual conference. As I argued, Flipped Learning has the whiff of a commercial brand about it, but that I felt it was a useful approach for many teachers. And as Bea notes, the enthusiasm of teachers who Flip is notable, and that is surely a good thing.

In my Battle for Open book I make the argument that the direction of openness is important to all of us. But I think it's sometimes hard to make that connection to practice beyond the world of open education itself. The direction of Flipped Learning offers one such example I believe.

We've found that there was a high level of adaptation of OER by Flipped teachers, but that the range of sites they use is quite limited (YouTube, TED, Khan academy dominate). To me this suggests a picture that teachers are (obviously) time poor, so they like convenient solutions. Flipped Learning itself can be seen as a convenient solution to blended learning, and the collection of resources at somewhere like Khan is again a time-saving, convenient approach. But having found resources, teachers want to be able to blend and adapt them. We've also found support for the 'openness as virus' theory in that people tend to become likely to seek out other open resources, become aware of CC licensing, etc.

Now, given the pressure on teachers, and the desire for a convenient solution, wouldn't it be great if someone came along and offered a really good collection of resources for Flipped Teachers to use (maybe allied to the Common Core), combined with advice on how to Flip, a platform, and so on? Well, look here, Pearson have partnered with the Flipped Learning network and are offering a course on how to Flip. As it says "Contact your local Pearson Account Executive and get flipping today!"

Now, there's nothing wrong with this, in the same way that commercial companies offer solutions based on open source software, it can be part of a healthy ecosystem around the subject. But it doesn't take too much imagination to see how Flipped Learning could become a Pearson trademark, and a solution offered by them to schools. And then all sorts of things stop happening - the freedom for it to develop in a manner led by teachers, the inclination to find resources beyond those provided by Pearson, and perhaps most significantly, it stifles teachers becoming part of the broader, open community.

I think this example will be telling. For many teachers in the Flipped Network, open education isn't a primary concern, for instance they may not be aware of the term OER. But it is a substratum which allows them to operate in the manner they like. Before they know it, this openness could be undermined and replaced by a packaged, proprietary solution, and they won't even know what theyt've lost. That is why I think the battle for open is significant for all of us in education.

MOOC completion rates DO matter

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Fri, 04/07/2014 - 08:29

It has become accepted practice amongst those who know about MOOCs to sniff at completion rates. Focusing on them (hell, even mentioning them) demonstrates just how constrained you are by the old ways of thinking daddio. I find this particularly from the cMOOC crowd, and I've stopped talking about them, because as David Kernohan suggests, to even talk about them is like saying you hate learning.

The commonly used argument against completion rates (or even worse 'drop-out rates'), is that they aren't relevant. Stephen Downes has a nice analogy, (which he blogged at my request, thankyou Stephen) in that it's like a newspaper, no-one drops out of a newspaper, they just take what they want. This has become repeated rather like a statement of fact now. I think Stephen's analogy is very powerful, but it is really a statement of intent. If you design MOOCs in a certain way, then the MOOC experience could be like reading a newspaper. The problem is 95% of MOOCs aren't designed that way. And even for the ones that are, completion rates are still an issue.

Here's why they're an issue. MOOCs are nearly always designed on a week by week basis (which would be like designing a newspaper where you had to read a certain section by a certain time). I've blogged about this before, but from Katy Jordan's data we reckon 45% of those who sign up, never turn up or do anything. It's hard to argue that they've had a meaningful learning experience in any way. If we register those who have done anything at all, eg just opened a page, then by the end of week 2 we're down to about 35% of initial registrations. And by week 3 or 4 it's plateauing near 10%. The data suggests that people are definitely not treating it like a newspaper. In Japan some research was done on what sections of newspapers people read. There is an interesting gender split but also the sections are quite evenly divided:

Men top 5 sections:

  • Headlines (62.0%)
  • Domestic News (55.4%)
  • Sports (55.4%)
  • Economy (53.3%)
  • International News (47.8%)

Women top 5 sections:

  • TV listings (71.4%)
  • Headlines (65.3%)
  • Domestic News (53.3%)
  • International News (50.8%)
  • Crimes and Accidents (39.2%)

For MOOCs to be like newspapers then you'd expect 65% to read the topics in week 1 and, say 54% the topics in week 7. This doesn't happen. Now, it could happen, if MOOCs were designed that way, and you thought that was appropriate for your subject matter. But to say it does happen is simply incorrect.

Now for any individual this may not matter, you've dropped out when you felt like it, and maybe that was a meaningful experience (or maybe it was a painful experience because you felt out of your depth, but we don't like to talk about that either). But for MOOCs in general as a learning approach it really does matter. Most MOOCs are about 6-7 weeks long, so 90% of your registered learners are never even looking at 50% of your content. That must raise the question of why are you including it in the first place? If a subject requires a longer take at it, beyond 3 weeks say, then MOOCs really may not be a very good approach to it. There is a hard, economic perspective here, it costs money to make and run MOOCs, and people will have to ask if the small completion rates are the most effective way to get people to learn that subject. You might be better off creating more stand alone OERs, or putting money into better supported outreach programmes where you can really help people stay with the course. Or maybe you will actually design your MOOC to be like a newspaper.

Kernohan raises the point that it is in the commercial interest of MOOC companies to dismiss drop out rates. A good question to ask yourself when someone says completion rates don't matter is "if they had 90% completion rates, would they still be telling me they don't matter?".

MOOC completion rates DO matter

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Fri, 04/07/2014 - 07:29

It has become accepted practice amongst those who know about MOOCs to sniff at completion rates. Focusing on them (hell, even mentioning them) demonstrates just how constrained you are by the old ways of thinking daddio. I find this particularly from the cMOOC crowd, and I've stopped talking about them, because as David Kernohan suggests, to even talk about them is like saying you hate learning.

The commonly used argument against completion rates (or even worse 'drop-out rates'), is that they aren't relevant. Stephen Downes has a nice analogy, (which he blogged at my request, thankyou Stephen) in that it's like a newspaper, no-one drops out of a newspaper, they just take what they want. This has become repeated rather like a statement of fact now. I think Stephen's analogy is very powerful, but it is really a statement of intent. If you design MOOCs in a certain way, then the MOOC experience could be like reading a newspaper. The problem is 95% of MOOCs aren't designed that way. And even for the ones that are, completion rates are still an issue.

Here's why they're an issue. MOOCs are nearly always designed on a week by week basis (which would be like designing a newspaper where you had to read a certain section by a certain time). I've blogged about this before, but from Katy Jordan's data we reckon 45% of those who sign up, never turn up or do anything. It's hard to argue that they've had a meaningful learning experience in any way. If we register those who have done anything at all, eg just opened a page, then by the end of week 2 we're down to about 35% of initial registrations. And by week 3 or 4 it's plateauing near 10%. The data suggests that people are definitely not treating it like a newspaper. In Japan some research was done on what sections of newspapers people read. There is an interesting gender split but also the sections are quite evenly divided:

Men top 5 sections:

  • Headlines (62.0%)
  • Domestic News (55.4%)
  • Sports (55.4%)
  • Economy (53.3%)
  • International News (47.8%)

Women top 5 sections:

  • TV listings (71.4%)
  • Headlines (65.3%)
  • Domestic News (53.3%)
  • International News (50.8%)
  • Crimes and Accidents (39.2%)

For MOOCs to be like newspapers then you'd expect 65% to read the topics in week 1 and, say 54% the topics in week 7. This doesn't happen. Now, it could happen, if MOOCs were designed that way, and you thought that was appropriate for your subject matter. But to say it does happen is simply incorrect.

Now for any individual this may not matter, you've dropped out when you felt like it, and maybe that was a meaningful experience (or maybe it was a painful experience because you felt out of your depth, but we don't like to talk about that either). But for MOOCs in general as a learning approach it really does matter. Most MOOCs are about 6-7 weeks long, so 90% of your registered learners are never even looking at 50% of your content. That must raise the question of why are you including it in the first place? If a subject requires a longer take at it, beyond 3 weeks say, then MOOCs really may not be a very good approach to it. There is a hard, economic perspective here, it costs money to make and run MOOCs, and people will have to ask if the small completion rates are the most effective way to get people to learn that subject. You might be better off creating more stand alone OERs, or putting money into better supported outreach programmes where you can really help people stay with the course. Or maybe you will actually design your MOOC to be like a newspaper.

Kernohan raises the point that it is in the commercial interest of MOOC companies to dismiss drop out rates. A good question to ask yourself when someone says completion rates don't matter is "if they had 90% completion rates, would they still be telling me they don't matter?".

OpenStax College Student Survey Results (Part II)

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Thu, 03/07/2014 - 16:15

Originally posted on :

Welcome to part two of the OpenStax College (OSC) student survey findings. In this post we look more closely at some of the findings relating to the use and impact of OSC open textbooks.  You can check back to Part I for the background to these findings, an overview of the sample and the main research findings relating to OER behaviours and attitudes.

Please note that as commented on in Post I, these survey findings relate to both informal and formal students who told us they have used, or currently use, OSC open textbooks. As previously noted, further work needs to be done to better understand the results that follow.

OpenStax College Textbooks 

Nearly 60% of survey respondents told us that OSC textbooks were required reading and that they did not purchase any other textbooks for the course (57.8%, n=26). 34.0% of respondents told us they were using OSC…

View original 1,382 more words