open badges

More reflections of day one of Jisc #digifest14: Part 2

So here’s part two of my reflections on the first day of the Jisc Digital Festival meeting following on my post earlier this evening with  part one of my reflections on the opening keynote.

After the opening keynotes there was a brief Q&A session and my ears pricked up at a question asking whether there was a Jisc strategy to support open source solutions to create digital transformations.  The Twitter back channel picked up on this and highlighted that many open source tools had been developed with JISC funding but that these hadn’t been sustained and further developed due to the stop start nature of the funding.  Some highlighted that open source systems should be promoted and encouraged ahead of proprietary systems.  I have a lot of sympathy for this view and have written previously about HE adopting open technologies and an agile approach to developing our technical solutions in the same way that the Cabinet Office has. I’ll pickup on this thread later.

Following the keynote we moved onto a mix of workshops, expert speaker sessions, panels and tech demos.  First off I went to the workshop which launched the new Jisc Open Badges Design Toolkit.  We worked through the Toolkit and I think this is going to prove really useful to those looking at open badges and thinking about how you might use them.

Next up I pitched up at the hangout session – ‘Flipped classroom, or just flippin’ technology? Where are we now with technology, student experience and organisational change?’  The slides for this session aren’t up as yet, which is a shame because I’d like to have another look at them.  I found myself at odds with some of what was said in this session, for example the notion that the use of technology in a lecture makes it interactive.  Surely it’s not the technology that makes the lecture interactive it’s the design of the learning activity.  There’s also the issue of how we design learning spaces, our newly refurbished lecture has been designed to support team-based learning and small group learning, technology is used in these interactive learning sessions but it doesn’t work in isolation.  There was also the suggestion that technology makes the flipped classroom more flipped but I was left thinking again about whether students are really engaged with the flipped classroom.  It would have been nice to have seen a bit more attention given to the pedagogical approaches rather than the notion as the technology being the agent of change (it’s worthwhile looking at this paper on the missing evidence of scholarly approach to teaching and learning with technology in higher education).

Onto the afternoon and another workshop this time on developing digital literacies.  This linked to another Jisc toolkit and there was some good discussion in the various groups in this session.

The day ended on a bright note for me with Joss Winn’s session looking at ‘The university as a hackerspace: Can interventions in teaching and learning drive university strategy?’.  In part one of my reflections on the first day I asked whether we need to think about what higher education really is.  Joss outlined how at Lincoln they have been questioning the purpose of the University and how teaching and research need to work together.  In so many of our universities these have been separated and the relationship between them has become dysfunctional.  Lincoln is well known for its work on students as producers and it was interesting to hear how this concept is becoming embedded into their programmes.  Joss also raised questions about who’s driving innovation in our Universities, is it IT departments and are they best placed to be doing this.  He proposed that University’s need a hack space to foster interprofessional innovation and research.

As someone who’s worked closely with students as producers and also piloted a hack event I’m perhaps slightly biased but for me this is so much more interesting and exciting than flipped classrooms, MOOCs and learning analytics. For me it shifts the focus from students as consumers as learners to developing our students as producers and scholars and their creativity and problems solving skills.  Having recently worked with a colleague in the School of Computing on a 4 week module which saw medical students work with computing students on technology projects, it’s clear that both sets of students developed skills in communication, team work, time management, problem solving, digital literacy in ways that mirrored what goes on the work place whilst applying their subject knowledge and understanding.  Both sets of students found it a great experience and we’re hoping to run this again next year.  The conversations that have resulted from this experience have also been interesting.  The computing students were surprised that the Medical School weren’t using Blackboard as their VLE but WordPress.  Following this initial surprise they asked why we couldn’t work together to further develop WordPress as a VLE more widely across the University which links in with the issues around open source technologies in HE.  We pay so much to consultancy firms in HE and yet we have so much talent and creativity in our institutions.  How much more could we achieve if we created hackspaces for staff and students to come together and take forward and build solutions to enhance learning and teaching, research and administration in our institutions.  What if JISC and the HEA and other funding bodies awarded funding to projects born from HE hackathons that addressed issues common to most universities rather than just giving the money to what seems to many of us like the usual suspects.  Would this be a way to better support a more sustainable approach to the development of open source solutions in higher education.

There are some of us involved in UK medical education who are keen to explore the notion of hackerspaces further and it would be great to extend that conversation across HE more widely.

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