Are MOOCs the new evening class?

I see that FutureLearn have published some preliminary data on participation on the first eight of their MOOCs.  They’ve attracted a fair bit of interest with high enrollment rates. I was struck by some of the demographic data they’ve published, which I’ve embedded below.  80% of participants hold a degree or Masters and 70% are over 35 years old.

Are MOOCs really just like the traditional evening classes or adult courses that Universities have been offering their local communities for decades but now thanks to technology accessible to a global community?  Is this the disruption – delivering evening classes online to a global audience rather than an end to higher education as we know it?  I’ve not researched extensively but this preliminary data from FutureLearn seems to be similar to the demographic data emerging from Coursera MOOCs but happy to be be corrected if I’m wrong.

#ukmeded chat: MOOCs the future of medical education?

Moocs-mededT`onight’s #ukmeded Twitter chat is going to look at MOOCs and their potential role in the future of medical education.  In prepartion for the chat, this post provides a very brief introduction to MOOCs and sets out a few questions and points to think about that we can hopefully discuss and follow-up on the chat.

If you spend time on Twitter and you’re involved in education there’s literally no escape from the constant mention of MOOCs – massive open online courses.  MOOCs have been around for several years and the early MOOCs pioneered by George Siemens and Stephen Downes were designed around a connectivist approach to learning. This video from Dave Cormier gives an overview of how these early MOOCs operate.

Over the past 18 months the hype around MOOCs has been gathering pace as universities such as Stanford and MIT have started to run MOOCs.  Stanford had planned to run a clinical anatomy MOOC in March 2012, but this never materialised.  What did emerge though was three MOOC providers, Coursera, Udacity and edX with ambitious plans to run MOOCs across a range of subjects taught in higher education.  Universities have joined these MOOC providers and there’s a growing range of courses available.  Tens of thousands of individuals are signing up for MOOCs, and whilst not everyone is completing significant numbers are though they don’t generally receive any formal accreditation for completing the MOOC.  The MOOCs run by Coursera, Udacity and edX have become known as xMOOCs whilst those run with a more connectivity approach are labelled cMOOCs.

xMOOCs typically are built around 10-15 minute video lectures, discussion boards and different learning activities such as online quizzes or written work which might be marked by other students enrolled on the MOOC. Online learning is already widely used in medical education and so it’s no surprise that growing numbers of medical courses are being offered as MOOCs by Coursera and a piece in the BMJ a couple of weeks asked Are MOOCs the future of medical education? This is what we’ll consider in the #ukmeded chat on Thursday 9 May at 9pm (UK time).

There are lost of things we could discuss, but here a few points to start us off.

  • Will medical students in the future be able to study elements of their degree online via MOOCs?  Whilst medical students will need to be attached to a medical school or hospital for the clinical aspects of their training could the early years of a medical undergraduate curriculum be studied via MOOCs.  Could students pick and mix MOOCs from different medical schools?  How would learning on MOOCs from different universities and different countries be validated given that medical degrees are accredited and quality assured by regulatory organisations like the GMC.
  • Do MOOCs lend themselves more as a way of increasing options for student selected components or special study modules?
  • Could the cMOOC approach support more creative ways of teaching around topics like digital literacy skills, ethics, public health and global health, connecting students from different countries and cultures?
  • Are MOOCs more appropriate in terms of supporting continuing medical education and lifelong learning? Medicine is changing fast and MOOCs could be one way to support doctors keeping up to date.
  • What about #FOAMed?  The piece in the BMJ makes no mention of the growing #FOAMEd movement or connectivist MOOCs, do these have the potential to become more significant in medical education than the mega xMOOCs.

Tonight’s #ukmeded chat kicks off at 21.00hrs UK time.  The chat is open to anyone, you don’t have to be a doctor or medical student to take part or be based in the UK  so please feel free to join in the conversation.


All the tweets from this #ukmeded chat have been curated and you can read them in the PDF file linked below.

#ukmeded chat – Thurs 9 May transcript on MOOCs via Symplur

MOCCs, getting my first open badge, feedback & the NSS

Student Work and Teacher Feedback by Ken Whytock, on Flickr
One of the articles that caught my attention on Zite this morning  was ‘Four Good Reasons Why Students Need Instructor Feedback in Online Courses‘ by Debbie Morrison. In her post Debbie spells out why she doesn’t think MOOCs cut it for students entering higher education straight from school and particularly in relation to feedback.  This got me thinking about the National Student Survey and the fact that feedback is the criteria that universities typically score the lowest on.  If there was an NSS equivalent for MOOCs how well would Coursera, edX and Udacity score on feedback?
The 2012 NSS did show some improvement in the assessment and feedback category but there is still room for improvement. Whilst students welcome and value feedback from their peers what they really want is feedback from their teachers. On MOOCs with thousands of students it’s pretty much impossible to provide feedback to individual  students and so Debbie questions their role and suitability for school leavers entering higher education. She writes:
College students benefit greatly from instructor feedback, including when it’s provided in a small online learning community where interaction exists between students and instructor and students and students. In a Massive Open Online Course, [or even a F2F class of 100+ students]  it’s impossible to provide the required learning conditions for this type of interaction. It worries me that colleges and universities appear to be moving towards the MOOC model for delivering some or all courses (as in the case of SUNY or California’s public higher education institutions); courses that don’t provide for a student-to-instructor ratio that supports personalized learning. The MOOC model cannot provide the type of learning experiences needed for freshman or junior college students that is required for courses that include writing composition, communications, literature analysis, and other humanities courses. One could even argue that this is the case for some courses in math and sciences. Though I am an advocate of MOOCs, since they provide an excellent learning experience in numerous circumstances, the model which relies on the premise of massive, is not an effective one for every learner in every learning situation.
On xMOOCs it’s peer feedback that plays an important part of the learning dialogue and the posts that I’ve written on my blog whilst participating in the #h817open MOOC have generated comments here and discussion on the MOOC G+ community or on Twitter, which have made me think further.  This has all been good and helpful, however somewhat ironically, my last blog post on issues with OERs, which I submitted for an open badge didn’t get any comments (maybe it was just too long!).  So I received my first open badge (the badges were one of the reasons for doing this MOOC), I felt chuffed but I was also left thinking what did the individual who’d assessed my work and awarded me the badge actually think of what I’d written? An xMOOC is open and it’s free, so I wasn’t expecting feedback, but it did leave me wondering how a typical university student would feel not receiving feedback and reading Debbie Morrison’s post this morning I tend to agree that the lack of individual feedback in MOOCs is an issue. I have a badge on OER understanding but what was it about my evidence that meant I got the badge.  What does the badge actually say about my level of understanding.  I wonder if we need to have specific details of what’s required to be awarded an open badge to give it more meaning and context?
I’ve been thinking about how we might use open badges in medical education and have some ideas of where I could possibly introduce them in my own work.  The experience of getting my first open badge has given me food for thought about making the criteria for a badge explicit and involving some level of feedback.  So even though I didn’t get any personal feedback reflecting on this has been a useful learning experience for me.
I’d be interested to know what others, including my fellow #h817open MOOCers think about open badges and feedback.
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  Ken Whytock 

Trying another MOOC: Open education #h817open

openness connection by psd, on FlickrWith work being very busy my best efforts to try and participate in the EDCMOOC didn’t really go to plan and I only managed to watch a few of the YouTube videos in week 1 and didn’t have time to catch up.  I’ve had a similar experience with the MIT MOOC on Learning Creative Learning, engaged for the first couple of weeks but then dropped off again through generally being busy and away.  So maybe it’s crazy to have signed up for another MOOC, but I have.  This time it’s the Open University MOOC on Open Education #h817open.So why I have signed up for another MOOC?  In part this MOOC appealed to me because there’s the possibility of earning open badges for some of the learning activities.  Badges are something I’m keen to explore further in relation to my own work with students and their involvement as producers of learning resources.  I’m also interested in adopting a MOOC type approach to delivering staff development around technology enhanced learning and so experience of another MOOC is helpful.  Even just dabbling and lurking in some MOOCs has been worthwhile and the MOOC I did complete on Google Power Searching has proved very useful. I’m hoping that I can last the course this time and earn my #h187open badges!

I’m off to a reasonable start and have completed one of the first week’s tasks, creating a visual representation of the key concepts of openness in education as we see them.  My approach to this has been to think about what open education means to me and its impact on me as a teacher and a learner.  Personally I feel that open education has opened up new opportunties to connect with people and learn from their experience as they’ve shared what’s worked and what hasn’t.  It’s challenged me to see things in new ways, to try out new things, it’s inspired me.  I’ve connected with people I would otherwise never have met and had opportunities to work and collaborate with them that wouldn’t previously have been possible.  This has been facilitated by technology but ultimately this isn’t about technology but about the individuals who’ve chosen to share and be open scholars.

I created my visual artefact in Haiku Deck on my iPad and unfortunately I can’t embed it on a blog so  you’ll have to follow the link below to see what it looks like!


Image credit
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  psd 

FutureLearn – UK HE Collaborating to Compete

futurelearnSo after asking the question a few months ago about whether UK universities were missing a trick with MOOCs it looks like the answer is no.  It’s clear that whilst Edinburgh has joined Coursera other UK universities have been working together following up on the recommendation from the HEFCE Online Learning Task Force report and are collaborating to compete and seizing the opportunity of online learning for UK higher education with the launch of FUTURELEARN.

One of the task Force’s recommendations was for investment to be made to facilitate the development and building of consortia to achieve scale and brand in online learning

Quality online learning is not a cheap option. Through collaboration, institutions can achieve significant economies of scale and more rapid development and adoption of technologies, for example in the development of learning resources or in sharing the risk of developing new forms of provision. This approach enables institutions and organisations (that are perhaps already collaborating in other areas) to exploit their joint brands and extend them into new markets, offering innovative, quality provision. Collaboration should embrace and harness the strengths of diverse institutions and organisations, across public-private and sector divides.

FutureLearn, headed up by the OU and with other UK university partners looks to me like one response to this recommendation.  Tony Hirst and Doug Clouw have already blogged about FurtureLearn and  I fully agree with Doug about FutureLearn being worth a try.  I was quite excited when I read the piece on Friday morning in TechCrunch and I look forward to seeing how FutureLearn develops.

Trends in online learning: #FOAMed

In recent months RSS feeds and Twitter have been overflowing with mentions of MOOCs, as Cousera, Udacity and EdX continue to attract new university partners and launch growing numbers of courses.  As these big guns have entered the world of MOOCs they’ve attracted lots of attention from the mainstream press, whilst MOOC participants are blogging about their experience as learners on these MOOCs and some of the issues they’ve encountered.

So how about MOOCs and medical education?  Back in January I blogged about an open online anatomy course that Stanford were due to be running in March.  Out of curiosity, I signed up along with a few colleagues, but the course was postponed and it’s not one of the 24 Coursera offerings listed under medicine so who knows if it’s going to go ahead.  I’m sure we’ll see more medical themed MOOCs come on stream from the big players running what are now being referrred to as xMOOCs.  Overall though in terms of online medical education I think there’s another emerging trend that’s more interesting than MOOCs and that’s free open access medical education (#FOAMed).

#FOAMed resources are typically being delivered via blog sites and much of the credit for the emergence and growth of #FOAMed is down to Mike Cadogan and Chris Nickson of Life in the Fast Lane fame and the growing band of emergency medicine bloggers that are following in their footsteps such as the team at St Emlyn’s.

It’s not just all about emergency medicine though, there are growing numbers of clinicians using blogging platforms to support and deliver medical education and particularly at postgraduate and CME level that can be branded as #FOAMed.  One example that’s been gaining momentum over the past year is  #gasclass set up by Sean Williamson and colleagues on Teeside.  #gasclass uses a WordPress blog and Twitter to support case based discussion for trainee anaesthetists.  Set up originally to  support weekly face to face training and discussion of local trainees it now attracts an international audience and is a great example of #FOAMed.  Another example is #ecgclass run by Heather Watherell and her Keeping ECGs Simple blog.  There are other sites and related twitter chats springing up around different medical specialties including urology and public health and a growing list of #FOAMed supporters.

More recently it’s been great to see undergraduate medical students getting involved with #FOAMed activities.  There’s the Twitter Finals Revision Group #twitfrg set up by Faye Bishton.  Each week Faye posts up notes for revision topics for medical students and hosts a Twitter chat on Thursday evenings at 8pm (UK time) and doctors are joining in to provide additional support to this student led initiative. Another student example is Anatomy Zone.

I don’t think the #FOAMed approach is just relevant to medical education, tools such as blogs, twitter and social media are open and accessible to anyone and in essence it’s perhaps another way of describing open educational recources (OER).  Last week I was interested to see some posts in my Feedly feed from Clive Shepherd on Kineo’s Learning Insights 2012 report and one in particular in which he highlighted that elearning is changing and said:

If you want to know about, say, photography – one of my current interests – the first thing you do is go to Google and YouTube. Your search doesn’t lead you to slide shows full of bullet points and multiple-choice questions, but to blogs, Wikipedia articles, screencasts and lots and lots of videos.

You know the detailed information will always be available online so you don’t bother trying to learn any of that. You want the big picture, the important ideas, lots of tips and tricks, and demonstrations of the key skills. If you have questions, you go to the forums. If you want to benchmark your progress against that of your peers, you join groups, share your work and provide helpful critiques to others. We are completely accustomed to learning in this fashion and very satisfied with how well it works. We cannot see why things should be so different at work.

So e-learning design is changing because, more often than not, it’s not traditional e-learning that people want. They’re looking for resources not courses. They want these resources in all sorts of forms – plain text will often do, graphics are nice, but they particularly like video. They are not expecting these resources to be fully-functioning learning objects, that take a learning objective through to its conclusion. Rather they want to pick and choose from a range of materials that can each make a contribution to whatever evolving goals they may have.

We’re looking for a new breed of digital learning content designers. Yes, they will be able to analyse a need and understand an audience but, most importantly, they will be great communicators in a wide variety of media.

It used to be that we turned to text books for resources, but as Clive suggests we’re all increasingly looking online for resources and when we find them we share them.  One of the roles of the doctor is the doctor as teacher and with the advent of #FOAMed what we’re seeing is a new generation of digital medical educators. Educators (or digital learning content designers as Clive describes them) who’ve engaged with technology and used it to create learning resources and enhance learning and create new opportunities for social learning that can both complement and supplement face-to-face and on the job learning.

The interesting thing is that this approach hasn’t emerged out of an institutional top down approach or beacuse of funding calls.  It’s being led by individual doctors who want to improve and enhance medical education and have grasped that technology can help to make resources openly accessible and support online learning.  There are also doctors who’ve started blogging who’s blog posts are also being used to support learning and in turn #FOAMed resources.  Two recent cases that spring to mind include Laura Jane Smith’s post on the Human touch which was posted up on our respiratory teaching blog and shared with our 1st year students and also Jonathan Tomlinson’s post on Shame which medical students were sharing and resharing via the Twitter sphere.

When I took up my current post, Life in the Fast Lane was one of the few medical education blogs around and Mike Cadogan was one of the first doctors I started following on Twitter.  Together with Alan Cann’s MicrobiologyBytes, Sam Webster’s blog and  Jim Groom’s work at University Mary Washington, Mike got me thinking about using blogs to support our undergraduate teaching and that led to an interesting journey for us at Dundee with our VLE.  Four years on it’s clear to see that Mike and his Life in the Fast Lane team are continuing to inspire growing numbers of doctors to embrace free open access medical education.  I hope this a trend that continues.  The future’s bright, the future’s #FOAMed!

Are UK universities missing a trick on MOOCs and open courses?

The Guardian grabbed five minutes with Steven Schwartz, VC at Macquarie University, to talk about the online course revolution and how the UK and Australia compare on social mobility.

Schwartz’s comments and observations on social mobility make for interesting listening.  He highlights what many of us already probably suspect is happening, ie that the current financial climate is seeing a decline in social mobility in the UK.

However, it was his comments about announcements of new MOOCs and groups of Universities collaborating in the develpment of MOOCs and open courses coming out of the US almost every day, but none coming out of the UK, that made me stop and think.  He’s right, in the UK there are hardly any announcements about MOOCs. There are only two that spring to my mind the Oxford Brookes First steps into learning and teaching MOOC and the recently announced OU MOOC on curriuclum design with OERs, but there may well be others that I haven’t heard of.  Should we be concerned about this?  Are we lagging behind in the UK?

Schwartz goes on to ask ‘where is the digital strategy’ in the UK?  Last year HEFCE published the Online Learning Taskforce’s report Collaborate to Compete: Siezing the opportunity of online learning for UK higher education.  The report stated:

Institutions and organisations need to invest in learning, and leadership and vision at the highest level is required to bring a step-change. Such changes will not occur rapidly enough without effective organisational structures and processes.  Online learning is a strategic issue, not a simple, bolt-on option.

18 months on it would be interesting to evaluate what impact this report has had on UK universities. Is there a clearly articulated strategic vision on digital learning in all UK universities?  JISC and the HEA continue to invest in OERs and  the HEFCE report suggests that £5 million per annum should be invetsed in OER projects.  Are OER projects the right way forward, are they delivering what academics on the ground actually need? How many JISC funded OERs are you using in your courses? Or are you making more use of YouTube videos and content in iTunesU and content developed by individuals using other web 2.0 and social media tools?

Another recommendation the report made was for investment to be made to facilitate the development and building of consortia to achieve scale and brand in online learning.

Quality online learning is not a cheap option. Through collaboration, institutions can achieve significant economies of scale and more rapid development and adoption of technologies, for example in the development of learning resources or in sharing the risk of developing new forms of provision. This approach enables institutions and organisations (that are perhaps already collaborating in other areas) to exploit their joint brands and extend them into new markets, offering innovative, quality provision. Collaboration should embrace and harness the strengths of diverse institutions and organisations, across public-private and sector divides.

This is effectively what the big guns in the US have been doing.  The taskforce suggested that £20 million per year for 5   years should be invested to set up 3-5 consortia and that this should be the responsibility of national government and devolved administrations.  I’ve not heard of any progress on this but I may have missed any announcment.  Does anyone know if there’s anything happening on this front?

Reading this again also brought back to mind the failure of the UK eUniversity (UKeU) which cost £62 million of public money.  There’s a detailed parliamentary report which explores why the UKeU failed, I’ve not had chance to reread the whole report again but I remember one of the issues being the underlying technology platform and also that a supply led approach was a key driver rather than demand.  Educause also published a piece on the real story behind the failure of the UKeU.  Their piece highlights:

The initiative was touted as an innovative response to the perceived opportunities and threats of online higher education—in the form of U.S. institutions such as the University of Phoenix Online and the University of Maryland University College, not to mention the many—at the time—dot-com start-ups such as NYU Online and Cardean University.

Which brings me back to the Schwatz interview.  Is there a new threat from the established US universities and the MOOCs they are offering via Coursera, Udacity and EDx.  The Stanford MOOC on Artifical Intelligence attracted 58,000 particpants from more than 175 countries.  Should we be worried that we’re not hearing announcments of UK MOOCs? Has the UKeU expereince made us too cautious and caused us to miss an opportunity or has there been too much of a focus on OERs?  Will lagging behind on MOOCs affect recruitment for UK online distance learning programmes?

Lots of questions, I’m sure others have similar questions and it would be interesting to see some converastion around these issues with others both in the UK and wider afield.

Open clinical anatomy course: Is this the future of medical education?

Today I, somewhat belatedly, caught up on the news that Stanford University will be running an open course on Clinical Anatomy as part of it’s growing offering of open educational courses.  The first clinical anatomy course will focus on the upper limb and kicks off on the 5th March with more cousres being planned including one on the anatomy of the head and neck.

So is this the first of many more open medical education courses to come?  Is anyone in the UK planning on doing anything like this in medicine?  Are any UK medical students planning on signing up for the stanford course?  It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out.  The video below gives more info on the course and you can sign up here.