Design Reflections on #OpenEdMOOC

I can’t help but be critical of the #OpenEdMOOC, Introduction to Open Education, hosted by edX. With as much excitement that was generated by the Open Community prior to the start of the MOOC, I feel that we were let down by Week 3 of the course. Here’s a recap of my critique by week…

  1. Week 1: Why Open Matters.
    • We started off with a BANG! and excitement was in the air, or least for me it was. Our Twitter hashtag was very active, learners were posting in course discussion forums who they are and why they are interested in participating and we were individually blogging about our niche in the Open community. Here’s what I shared at the end of the week, Applying OER to Design.
    • We learned foundational knowledge of OER and enjoyed an informal, casually-staged interview of the course instructors, David Wiley and George Siemens.
    • After viewing the course content, we were dropped off into supportive and relevant external content, including a few odd videos (something about a large cookie and a screencast with a distracting desktop background of what looked like planet Mars) from other OER evangelists.
    • Though I was engaged with the content, I was easily distracted by the looseness and the misalignment of the resources. A summary, instructor commentary or simple instructions on how this curated work was collected, vetted, and aligned to the lesson outcomes would have gone a long way. For example, there is an external content page with a video and the following text written at the bottom of the screen, “I discuss the importance of openness and the role it plays in knowledge, communication and learning.” Who is “I” and why should I watch his screencast?
    • By the end of the lesson, we received a course announcement encouraging us to share our blogs and summarizing course content to prepare us for the next lesson.
  2. Week 2: Copyright, the Public Domain and the Commons
    • With the announcement generating me to remain engaged and motivated in the course, I watched the next set of informal, casually-staged interview about the dystopian, copyright regime. It was quite interesting and I enjoyed David’s and George’s perspectives.
    • Realizing that the course structure would include interviews followed by a series of loosely aligned resources, I began to skim and select the most meaningful resources to my interest and practice.
    •  Since I didn’t pay for the course, I remained active by blogging end of lesson reflections, Stewards of Sharing, and joining the conversation on Twitter.
  3. Week 3: The 5R’s, CC, and Open Licensing
    • I almost missed this lesson! We failed to receive  additional course announcements from the instructors for the remainder of the course. This was pretty concerning. How are learners to stay engaged in the MOOC (which is already hard considering its a MOOC) when it appears that no one is facilitating or engaging the dialogue? Did I have a different experience because I didn’t pay for the full version of the course?
    • Same interview style, same clothing, and same room to deliver content. However, the 5R’s is where David Wiley really shines. Again I was engaged with the content, but the design of this course began to weigh on me. Anyway, I still took some time to reflect and post in my blog, Awareness of the aaRRRRRgh’s.
    • Also, there was some weird coding and formatting issues in the course LMS. I’m not sure if there was course update or if there were issues with my access. Either way, it was hard to navigate Wiley’s keynote address video.
  4. Week 4: Creating, Finding, and Using OERs
    • At this point, we were mid-way through the course. According to the syllabus, we were to have a metacognitive reflection on processes and engage in OER evangelism on our campus’. Even though I did both, I’m not sure we had enough course substance to begin advocating for OER. It’s challenging to go from foundational knowledge building to articulating practice in 2-3 weeks.
    • Same interview style, same clothing, and same room to deliver content. Maybe mix it up and put in a green screen?
    • The most value I had in this lesson was reading other’s blogs and resources, specifically on “Open Pedagogy”. I began to rely on the Open community to keep me motivated to complete the course.
  5. Week 5: Research on OER Impact and Effectiveness
    • Blah, blah, blah.
    • So, this lesson I took the least amount of notes.
    • I stopped watching the videos. Instead, I read the transcripts.
    • Change your clothes! Change the background of your interviews! Maybe go to the bar and talk about OER research design over a few beers…This is a crazy 6-week long, marathon interview!
    • Did the instructors forget about this course? No reminder or check-in announcements?
    • Hello, is anyone out there?
  6. Week 6: The Next Battle for Openness: Data, Algorithms and Competency Mapping 
    • By the end of the course we were to create a OER-module with only OER resources. While I took this course, I have been working on 2 course revisions. I revised an entire course with OER resources, but I’m not sure that I was able to do that from taking this MOOC. Of course, I learned the value of OER, but to go from foundational knowledge to articulation to practice within 6-weeks is a bit of a stretch with the materials and resources presented, especially if you are new to OER.
    • Lesson 6 talks about the future of OER in terms of big data, and the course ends there. Where do we go from here? It seems that lesson 6 is a huge topic, and not specifically aligned to the course outcomes. Hmmmm. I love learning analytics and data, to discuss a mash-up of OER and data was a dream come true… maybe a new MOOC?
    • If data needs to be open and transparent, I beg to ask, will we see the data on this MOOC? How much effort and energy was created in blog or twitter communication? What were the activity levels generated by students in this MOOC? Did activity levels drop off with the lack of course announcements? What were our most discussed topics? Did we form our own network? Will we continue the conversation?

I would love to hear feedback from the rest of the participants in this MOOC. I realize that MOOC are design challenges within themselves. However, after successfully completing 5 other MOOCs, I feel that this particular course has a lot of opportunity to improve. What do you think?

Our house

Week 5 Open Ed MOOC – Research and impact

“Cyclr” by Skil Fibber

Research questions can be revealing.  Areas of focus provide insight into how we define value. When we choose to invest time and money to pursue a question, we are declaring the outcome important before we even start. I did a command F search on the Open Education Group OER research page to see if Stephen Downes was blowing smoke about the narrow focus of past research. He says it’s skewed towards grades and outcomes. This very unscientific test suggests that he’s not off base:

  • the word “grade” appeared 16 times
  • the word “exam” appeared 27 times
  • the word “test” appeared 10 times
  • the word “drop” appeared 7 times

I’m with Stephen on this. It may be the lingering effects of Jesse Stommel’s recent declaration on why he doesn’t grade. It may be the influence of the Ontario students pursuing the Exponential Learning project in our SXD Lab. Either way, at best, this is an unnecessarily narrow definition of value. And, this is on top of the fact that open education research is being pursued in disparate zones. Martin Weller illustrated this beautifully in his recent post Mapping the Open Education Landscape.

Re-defining value in open education

So how does future open education research define value?

I am curious about the current research David Wiley described: a comparision between experience of an educator involved in the design or curation and one who adopts directly. I will be very surprised if there is no correlation between direct involvement and a deeper experience. Have you ever had a conversation with Robin DeRosa!? But again, history repeats itself. The bottom line of this research is the difference in student outcomes (read: grades) in these two scenarios.

At eCampusOntario, we have something called the Student Experience Design Lab. The lab was developed by a group of Ontario students and the mantra that they chose is so revealing. Their work is to design purposeful learning for a meaningful life.

Education is about so much more than grades. Our students know that. So let’s take their lead and meet them where it matters. This is our challenge as the next generation of open education researchers.

And, this conversation needs to start with a shared understanding of values. The values are not an add-on. Our values are the foundation. The 5 Rs are the tools we use to live those values everyday. Open is a way of doing everything. This is our open education house.

So … roommates?

Week 6. Unit of Work

The following contains two sections from a complete unit of work. The first section contains a reworked version of an Open Education resource for Otago Polytechnic. The second section is original work.


Section 1


Activity: What is Literacy?

(From Open Polytechnic course: Literacy and Numeracy for Learning, Module 1, CC License)

Requirements: Look at some definitions (see links) for literacy and create your own definition based on your understanding. Write the definition below, then share your definition on the class wiki.

Links:



  1. Read p. 7 of Te Kawai Ora report by the Maori Adult Literacy Reference Group in 2001 to the Hon. Tariana Turia (A summary of this can be found on thisisgraeme – link: Maori Literacy Definition from Te Kawai Ora Including Executive Summary)
  2. Workbase – Adult Literacy
  3. Education Development Centre – Why Does Literacy Matter?
  4. Queensland Govt – Literacy and Numeracy Fact Sheet



Definition:
____________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________

Section 2


Assessment: The Whakapapa of Literacy and Numeracy in New Zealand

Your first assessment deals with the historical development of literacy and numeracy in New Zealand. There are three readings below. These readings contain all the information you need, to understand the relevant, critical, historical events that have led to the current status of literacy and numeracy in New Zealand.
Read about these events carefully. For the purpose of the assessment, select a date that is important to you personally. It may be that you had a grandparent who was punished at school for speaking his/her own language, it could be that your family came from another country speaking a language other than English as your first language, it could be that your aunt was taught to read using phonetics at school, or it could be that you had a good friend who was part of a rural community using correspondence courses to learn school subjects. You need to select someone to help you. You will need to interview that special someone and answer questions like:


  • Could you please tell me about …?
  • What effect did … have on your literacy/numeracy?


Readings:
  1.  thisisgraeme – History of Māori Literacy and Numeracy: Key events and initiatives
  2.  ACE - Fifty Years of Learning: A history of adult and community education in Aotearoa from the 1960s to the present day
  3. Tertiary Education Commission – Getting Results in Numeracy and Literacy


Some events you could consider (this is just a sample of events and they are not in chronological order!)


  • Draft Tertiary Education Strategy
  • More Than Words: The New Zealand Adult Literacy Strategy
  • The first school in New Zealand
  • The Native Schools Act
  • The first adult literacy scheme established in Hawke’s Bay
  • Te Whare Wānanga o Raukawa was set up
  • Pathways Awarua went online
  • The Adult Literacy Achievement Framework (ALAF) was developed
  • Employment training schemes included basic literacy skills
  • The first Correspondence School classes began
  • The Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Assessment was set up
  • The first kōhanga reo were established



Instructions:


  • Click on the Google Slides Link
  • Find your date on the Whakapapa Timeline
  • Check the date on the timeline – you may need to change it to show a month
  • Run the presentation
  • Click your event dot (N.B. only the little filled-in dots are links – large dots with a blank centre are time markers only!)
  • The dot will take you to the right slide – make sure you identify your slide number
  • Edit your slide
  • Check the date in the title is correct before you edit the slide!
  • You have three questions to answer about your event
  • There is room to add your video interview or voiced over presentation to the slide
  • Keep saving as you work – you do NOT want to lose your work
  • The interview requirements are listed below

If your date does not appear on the Timeline, please feel free to add a dot (N.B. if you add a dot, you must copy an empty slide from the end of the presentation and add it in chronological order. Then, you must also hyperlink the dot to the correct slide.) Dates on the Timeline are already linked to the correct slide.

Please note, if you feel confident with your level of digital skill, you can change the layout of your slide, as long as all the required elements are present.

*N.B. July 1997 has been done for you as an exemplar.
The video interview for July 1997 is also available on Youtube.

Interview requirements:


  • Find someone to interview who was personally involved in the event, knows about the event in detail from whanau or friends, or is very knowledgeable regarding the event.
  • Check the accuracy of the information before you publish your video/presentation.
  • The interview must not be shorter than two minutes or longer than six minutes.
  • You can use any media to create the video/presentation as long as we can hear the interviewee’s voice.
  • Make sure you have the permission of the person interviewed to use the video in a format that can be viewed by the general public.


Marking Criteria:
This assessment will either be marked Complete or Incomplete.
If you have excellent information, a good interview, and the presentation is professional, you can achieve a Merit.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 New Zealand License.

Transparency Matters (#OpenEdMOOC)

As I reflect back on #OpenEdMOOC, an introduction course on open education, I am reminded how essential transparency is to my own learning experiences. This week I am attending the 44th International MEXTESOL Conference in León, Mexico, and crave for the kind of sharing and communication that typically goes on at these kinds of events in my own day-to-day practice with colleagues I see face to face. #OpenEdMOOC, as MOOCs usually do, also exemplifies how individuals take it upon themselves to reach out and share knowledge and experiences so that others become aware. I find that the same moral obligation that drives me to share with my learners, is the same that drives me to share with colleagues.

As is often the case with MOOCs, the interactions with participants and the input sessions from Wiley and Siemens collectively helped form my own learnings for the course. However, because the course was an introduction, it avoided certain controversial ideas around commercial vs. non-commercial CC licenses, for example, that often make a course like this more interesting.

For me, edX was a distraction (a necessary evil), clumsy in design, and awkward to navigate (at time impossible on mobile devices). I much prefer the simplicity of referring to a public page to review content and the ease of using social media (Twitter) to converse about the content with others. Also, I often felt uncertain not knowing for sure whether or not I was meeting course objectives according to how I was supposed to upload information to edX. I never relied on any feedback in edX (if I ever received any), since I stopped checking after about the third week.

But I remain appreciative to those involved in offering #OpenEdMOOC and recommend it to anyone interested in the beginning stages of thinking about open education and how it might relate to one’s own profession practice and learning.

The Next Battle for Openness: Data, Algorithms, and Competency Mapping

I must admit to quite a remarkable change of heart after this week’s videos and readings. At the start of the week, I read “The Next Battle for Openness: Data, Algorithms, and Competency Mapping” and I had a moment’s panic! What do I know about any of those things? I may have a fairly good grasp of the science of learning, but I am only a novice instructional designer, and I know nothing whatsoever about being a data scientist or behavioural economist! However, I now understand so much more about learning analytics, and the collection and usage of learner data. I was introduced to the work of Candace Thielle and was blown away by her use of adaptive learning “long before it was cool”!
Stephen Downes, George Siemens, & David Wiley
 
I have followed the work of George Siemens and Stephen Downes for a number of years, and, since the start of this course, have a profound respect for David Wiley. I currently provide staff development. That is the work of the Tertiary Teaching Unit. My area of responsibility is that of elearning. I can imagine how incredibly valuable it would be to have a system that bundled up analytic information and translated the work of the underlying algorithms into real language that our lecturers could use and understand. I have worked with lecturers who have a profound knowledge of learning pedagogies and practices in some faculties, but I have also worked with lecturers holding multiple PhDs and/or years of work-place experience, in areas such as civil engineering and maritime logistics, who really have no understanding of learning pedagogy or practice. Many of these lecturers are faced with considerable barriers, including English as a second, third, or even fourth language.
My institution, Manukau Institute of Technology
 
Yes, the process of collecting learner information leading to efficient and facilitative learning environments, needs to be open. As Norman Bier (2017) indicated, “I think we are already in a world where data-driven approaches and materials are already being developed, adopted and embraced – by vendors, by schools, by foundations and by government. The future is already here”. Bier (2017) indicated that research has already shown lower costs, improved results, and the expedited understanding that leads to new pedagogy and innovative practice. Mention was made of ethical concerns. I appreciate these exist, but found so much that was impelling and inspiring, that I would rather leave the negative arguments for another discussion entirely.
Norman Bier
 
Bier (2017) warned against the learning analysis systems operating as business models offering subscription services. He saw this as counter-intuitive to the whole open movement. He cautioned about the urgency of openness in learning analytics as “proprietary solutions have made enormous inroads in claiming the data-driven space for their own”. He suggested full transparency to inform decision-making. He further suggested that transparency would facilitate the identification and remediation of biases introduced to the digital sphere by individual coders and developers. “And the transparency that’s inherent in the open approach is the best way that I know to ensure this work can happen” (Bier, 2017).
Candace Thiell
 
I was very grateful for watching the video recording of Candace Thiell and not just relying on the written article. Thiell was interviewed by EdSurge (2017) for the Thought Leader Interview Series when she was in attendance at the Arizona State University, plus Global Silicon Valley (ASU+GSV) Summit. GSV are a group of companies and entrepreneurs who are developing technology to transform the world of work and education. At 16 minutes, 30 seconds, the video includes a large segment that resonated with me (not in the article). She spoke about mindset and working with algorithms that used principles of mindset. As part of my PhD research, I have incorporated mindset analysis.
At Stanford, Thiell has worked with mindset guru, Carol Dweck. For an explanation of fixed versus growth mindsets, see the two, brief videos below.
 
Dweck’s growth mindset suggests that the brain is strengthened through struggle. Mindset interventions have been introduced into courseware. Before the introduction of complex problems, the courseware introduces “booster interventions” that educate the students on how the brain works. Data collected reveals that mindset intervention has led to students persisting for longer periods and achieving a greater amount of learning.
Another colleague of Thiell’s, Ryan Baker, has introduced affect detectors, picking up on the learner’s affectual condition. The introduction of timed mindset interventions when material is cognitively complex together with information on the affective state of the learner, seems to be a most effective, positive inclusion in to courseware. This is a most remarkable example of using the power of the algorithm to make a teaching decision.
Ryan Baker * affect detectors
 
It seems appropriate to end with some thoughts from Stephen Downes (2017) from The Next Battle for Openness. Downes always thinks outside of the box. He suggested that the challenges for openness may not be limited to the types of data but to the way that data will be used. He referred to George Orwell’s “thought crime” and whether we could be open with the way we think. He discussed the possibility of mind-to-mind direct communication. That is not such an outrageous suggestion. Back in 1982, when I was engaged in research into mutual hypnosis, I had evidence of telepathic communication under mutual hypnosis. So, how open will mind-to-mind communication be?
The future of communication? Open or not?
Downes speculated further about combining genetic and algorithmic data to end up with a hybrid human-machine language. Would this be open? Would it be ethical? Downes (2017) stated, “A lot of the issues of ethics and what it means to be a person and what it means to be a society are going to be challenged by the new possibilities of creating, manipulating, and sharing new kinds of information. And I think openness is going to be challenged by these things”. We really cannot conceive all the possibilities that we may face in the future. Whatever happens, progress in learning and education needs to be open, collegial, and shared, so that we can find solutions to problems that may yet arise, together.
Forward Woman Artifical Intelligence Robot
 

Setting Up a Learner Activity Hub Like #YogaMOOC or #OpenEdMOOC

Since a couple of people have asked about how I put together the Learner Activity Hubs for OpenEdMOOC and YogaMOOC, I thought I would put some of the specifics into a blog post for reference (and to help myself remember later how I did it if we ever do another one). Many of the basics are covered in Alan Levine’s most excellent guide to setting up a network hub, so I will only really cover the few things that I did in addition to those instructions. I also won’t cover too much on where to find options in in WordPress – hopefully you can find that easily online, or already know how to do things like add categories, edit posts, upload images, etc.

But first, I want to go over some unique considerations for our learner hubs. The method I describe here has some extra steps involved due to some of the parameters I wanted to have for the hub. You don’t have to have any or all of these parameters in mind. But what I wanted to have unique for these hubs included:

  • No wall of text. It is pretty easy to dump all course blog posts in one place and have a never ending scroll of text. But that is hard on the eyes and a little counter productive to getting people to connect. Also a bit dehumanizing to the individual posts.
  • Link back to individual websites. The wall of text also discourages people from going to individual blogs, and seeing them as unique individuals. So I wanted to have a theme that at most displayed the post titles, linking back to the source website.
  • Images or graphics to humanize each link. If at possible, I wanted pictures of people to link back to their blogs. This introduced a few unique challenges with technical limitations, but I will discuss work-arounds below.

The basic flow of the work would be that participants that want their work to go into the Hub (this is voluntary) would fill out a form to get me the details about their blog. I would get the results of that form. I would then create a Category for each person (based on the name or a pseudonym they give me), attach a featured image to that category (one that they choose), connect that category to an RSS feed from their blog, and let the magic happen. That way, when they create a post, an image of them with a link to their blog post is added to an image grid of blog posts. I love the results, but the process to get there is a little more involved than I thought it would be.

Setting Up the Hub

With all of that in mind, I selected a theme and some plugins to make those goals happen. Somewhat.  Here is what I chose:

  • FeedWordPress plugin. This is a must have for the Hub – see Alan’s instructions above.
  • Morphology Lite Theme. This one had a nice image-based front page blog grid, although you can’t read the titles until you mouse over each image individually. That part is a bit annoying – I would like to find one that has the image with the text imposed over it. But this theme does the basics of what I need it to do well.
  • Category Featured Images Extended plugin. This allows you to associate an image with a category – this is part of the process for creating the grid front page that I will get into below. FeedWordPress can’t pull in featured images, and most people don’t use them anyways, so this is a way to get the images that the front page of Morphology Lite needs added automatically
  • Ajax Search Lite plugin – as the YogaMOOC Learner hub grew, it became hard to find certain people’s work. This plugin seems to work well as an intuitive search. See the results here. However, I couldn’t get it to work on OpenEdMOOC, which had more plugins than YogaMOOC. It may not play well with some plugins.

The first step was to install Morphology Lite and set up my installation like their demo was set-up – they have some handy instructions here. For YogaMOOC, the blog hub is the front page. For OpenEdMOOC, the blog hub is not the front page. It can be set up either way. One thing to note: there is a setting to tell how many images are on the front page (found in Appearance > Customize > Blog Options > “Image Post Template Count”), and it is initially set pretty low. If you are expecting a lot of posts, you might want to set it high (I currently have YogaMOOC set to 600 with no problems).

Next is to set up the FeedWordPress plugin. I pretty much follow Alan’s instructions above except for one change: I don’t set a default category for all syndicated posts. I do that for each participant individually so they get their own unique category (and make sure all incoming categories are converted to tags as Alan’s instructions say). The reason for this will become apparent below.

Also, you can choose to set up the syndication update scheduling how you like. Because the OpenEdMOOC Hub is smaller, I have it set up like Alan recommends. Because the YogaMOOC is so large, there are typically a few problems with updating automatically. I have to update that one manually each day to deal with those issues.

The Category Featured Images Extended plugin pretty much works right out of the box, but I do recommend setting up a Global Fallback Image, which I will go into below.

The Ajax Search Plugin can be configured how you like, but I recommend making sure to turn on any option that says to search Categories as well.

To get the data from the participants, I created a Google Form and embedded it in a page with some basic instructions and a link to more detailed instructions for those that need it. I just collected the information that I needed – but getting user images is a bit more difficult. Depending on our course, you may want to set up a different system for collecting user images.

The final part of the set-up was to create an initial post that contained the instructions for adding blogs to the hub. I kind of see this post as the cut-off point for older posts – anything older then this was probably not created for the course and can be removed from the Hub. This is up to you of course – you can keep older posts if you like. But this initial post also serves as a visual placeholder to make sure your blog display limit is high enough – if you don’t see the post at the end, then turn up the limit. I also use this post to create the global fall back image for the hub. I set up a default category for the blog, and then add an image branded for the course. The key is to check the “set as global image” option. when editing the Category to add the default image. This will set your course iamge as the default image for anything that doesn’t have one.  This can help you to see any feeds that you set up incorrectly: if you see the image where it shouldn’t be, this signals you that something is wrong with that feed because it is falling back to the default.

Adding People to the Hub

This is where the time consuming part happens. It only takes a minute or two to set up each person, but once you get a long list of people it can add up.  However, this is a time commitment that decreases over time once most people in the course that are going to sign up for the hub are signed up.

Since I used a Google form to collect information, I can get the results in a nice convenient spreadsheet. This is where the fun begins. Some people fill out the form great, others miss a lot. I try to extract a name, a link to a blog feed, and an image for each person. The name and image can be flexible, but if the blog link doesn’t work or has no RSS feed, I mark it as a problem and move to the next one. Additionally, I try to respect what people put in the form. If they say they are using a course tag instead of a full blog, but there is no tag, I mark it as a  problem and move on. Once I get through the whole list, I send an email to those with problems with links to help them their issues (typically a form email with everyone BCC’d on it).

The first step is create a category for each person based on their name (or pseudonym if they choose). Sometimes I have to look at their email address or Twitter account to get a fuller name in order to make sure there aren’t several “John”s or whatever in the system (since some people only seem to enter their first name). As soon as you add a new category, it appears at the top of the list – very convenient. I click on the edit link immediately to add the default image for this participant’s category:

The “add image” option can be found near the bottom of the edit category page. Something to think about for images in the Morphology Lite theme: the system displays the image at full size on the front page. This will lead to a chaotic patchwork effect for images of different sizes. If you like that, then no problem. I really wanted to have an organized grid, so I manually crop and resize each image to 240px by 240px. This takes time, but gives a good grid for the final product.

A quick note on finding images. I tell people to have the image they want on their about page of the blog they use, but not everyone does that. Some of them I have to search the source code for an avatar that is hidden (WordPress loves to do this for some reason). Sometimes I have to pull one of the images off the header or sidebar of the blog. But since many of these are stock images within the popular themes, those run out quickly. So then I look for their Twitter avatar if they have one. But sometimes (more often than you would believe), I come up with no images – anywhere. So I basically run their name through jdenticon to get a unique image and move on.

Once you have an image associated with the category and have it updated, you should see it on the Category page:

The Next step is to go to the Syndication area to add the blog to the Hub. This is where it can get tricky as well. Not all blogging services work the same. WordPress works the best for full blogs and tags/categories. Blogger will also work for full blog, but you have to do some link trickery to get Labels (their version of tags/categories) to work (see Alan’s instructions on this one). Some services like Wix, Weebly, etc are just downright problematic at best. They might need RSS feeds turned on for the whole blog, and often RSS feeds don’t work well at all for tags/categories. See Alan’s instructions again on finding tricky RSS feeds.

Once you have the feed, you will need to add it to the syndication area found here:

If a participant is using a full blog, then you usually pick the first one in the list that comes up when you click “Add.” If they are using WordPress tags/categories, you will usually have to scroll down to the third Option on in the list (which is the feed specifically for the category):

Once the feed is added, I will typically add the participant category right away while their name is still fresh in my mind. Scroll down to find the feed you just added. Of course, if you have a large class this list might get long after too long. If you are adding several and are doing them one at a time by following these directions, you can do a CTRL + F to search the page for “none” and this will take you to the new one you just added in the list since it (theoretically) shouldn’t have updated yet. Click on the “Categories” link under the feed you just added:

Then scroll down that page to find the category list, look for the person’s name you just created, click the box next to them, and save:

This will connect their category named after them (which is attached to their image) to their specific feed that you just added. What I usually do after this is go back to syndicated websites, search for the new feed again, and click the “Update Now” button next to it. This lets me check to see if everything is working while also clearing out the “none” next to the “last update” label so that I can search for the next feed I add easily. Once that is finished, it should tell you how many posts were pulled in:

If you are using Morphology Lite, there is still one step needed to add blog posts to the front page. Morphology only displays posts on the front page that are set to the post format of “Image.” FeedWordPress pulls in all posts as a “Standard” post format, even if you tell it to use the “Image” post format. That feature just doesn’t work in Morphology for some reason. However, it does give you the ability to moderate posts since you have to change each post to the correct format before it appears. Sounds weird, but you would be surprised how much non-course stuff I have gotten in the Hubs (resumes, recipes, and randomness, oh my!).

You can find the posts you need to update easily in the Posts list – Image post formats have an image symbol next to them, and the new ones just added should be missing it:

Click edit to update the post. Then change the post format from “Standard”:

To “Image”:

Save, and you are done.

Alternatively, once you get a large number of posts, it may be hard to go into the post list and find one or two new posts hiding in hundreds of links. You can go to the Categories page and use the search bar to find the category you just added, then click on the number in the Count column to just display those posts from that category:

Then I usually like to go to the hub to make sure the new smiling face is in there, just to make sure:

That is about it – repeat until everyone is in. I will also send out a mass email to all that I added successfully as well as a mass email to those that had problems so that they will all know where they stand. A quick note: if people update their post on their blog, FeedWordPress will also update the related info on your Hub. This will reset the post Format back to “Standard,” and the post will no longer appear on the front page. You might want to go through the full post list from time to time to catch these older updated posts.

I tend to go through the moderation process each morning just to make sure it doesn’t pile up.

Hope that covers it all – I will update if I run across anything I forgot.

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

Reflecting or objectives?

In the final week of the #OpenEdMOOC, I learned some connections that I had not been aware of: How openness is also related to learning analytics and algorithms. I had been familiar with the idea that algorithms must be transparent (mainly via K. Zweig and her algorithmwatch.org) and I participated in the ‘data donation’ that took place before our federal election in September and attempted to get this transparency. But I had not thought about how companies would be tempted to abuse student data when they are trying to sell their ‘secret sauce’ of learning — although I had been skeptical against such recipes before. At least now, this MOOC paid off for me, and it was the first one after a long time that I did not drop out before the last week. So I want to share what I noticed about my own learning and motivation and reluctance. There were elements that motivated me to reflect and engage, and there were elements that put me off. The latter ones often included a task, or an objective, or the big final project, and I was surprised about myself how often the edX platform with its rigid goal-directed framing, increased my reluctance to ‘obey’. For example, the ‘prompts’, the ‘due dates’, the ‘next’ button, the ‘activities’, and in particular the size of the ‘project’: a 1 hour lesson. (I did not mind writing the three little essays in CCK08 despite I was not a for-credit learner because this felt like just the right size for voluntary engagement.) I don’t doubt that such tight pacing, or ‘lock-step’ walkthrough, across a wide field of content might be useful for some at-risk learners. But I think many adult learners do not like such a tight prescriptive style, and for workplace learning such formal structures are even more unpopular. But even worse: I noticed that for me, such MOOC ‘objectives’ (“Detail how…”, “Describe how…”) actually inhibit reflections in the sense of: What struck me as susprising or salient or resonating?. Because, for the latter, a ‘broad vigilant attention’ is needed (sorry for borrowing once again from McGilchrist), while the guiding objectives switch off this kind of attention and turn over to a ‘narrow focus’ kind of attention, to follow the tip of the teacher’s pointer stick, so to speak. So, the well-meant suggestions for ‘activity’ may just put off from reflective activity — and maybe this is why reflecting is so unpopular among pressed students? Image: adapted from Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing (under CC-BY-SA) and Rodin (Public Domain). Filed under: OpenEdMOOC

The collaboration of organic and synthetic: Towards to a hybrid learning ecology

Reflections on Week 6: #OpenEdMOOC

Image Credit: ApolitikNow
Frankly, there is not much to say about the final chapter "the next battle for openness". However, I am a believer that as long as used for good intentions, algorithms can be helpful in any educational processes. In essence, we, humankind, are the creator of these algorithms and it would not be very logical to blame these algorithms. You can follow Zeynep Tufekci's tweets regarding the use of algorithms in many areas, she really has a critical perspective.
A final remark, the use of data-driven systems will increase our dependency on some platforms which conflict with the nature of open education. A possible solution to bypass that limitation can be more investment on Open Source Softwares and bind new alliances. In sum, I believe that the collaboration of organic and synthetic powers are inevitable and we are moving forward to a hybrid learning ecology.

What research says on OERs?

Reflections on Week 5: #OpenEdMOOC

Based on discussions on week 5, I carried out a quick research by benefiting from text mining and social network analysis to see the patterns on OER research.
The research corpus consists of 499 scientific publications that are indexed in Scopus and have "OER" or "Open Educational Resources" in their title.
Based on 1039 keywords, I analyzed keywords with occurrences of a minimum 3, which ended up 96 keywords.
The initial findings indicated that OER is simply an issue of higher education, it is a practice of some expected approaches such as open education, open and distance learning, distance learning, e-learning and blended learning. Interestingly, F2F learning wasn't covered much in the research. Quality assurance is a topic to be explored, and culture seems to be one of the barriers (as discussed in earlier weeks). Among the 5Rs, "reuse" seems to be most preferred "R".
Now, I feel encouraged to explore more the research on OERs? I hope I will find someone to collaborate, I will create some time to explore more and then write on this topic ;)

Impacts of OER in Community College

I appreciate Stephen Downes take on OER – that there should be “no significant difference” between classes taught with OER or commercial text as far as outcomes go. I got into education to see that happen. The impact that I have measured in the past is grades, completion rates, and student satisfaction. I completely respect and value his definition of impact, and it would take a very deep longitudinal study to track that. In the community colleges I have worked at, we have had some more immediate problems to solve. There are five areas where OER and open textbooks are critical to the success of community college students: Cost Most of our students are working. Money is a huge issue. It should not be this way but it is. It is barbaric that the richest society on the planet can’t take care of health care or education, but that is where we are. The state of Washington has one of the highest homeless populations among its students. There are 40,000 homeless students in Washington. And a study came out that said that across the U.S., 14% of the college students are homeless. How are students supposed to learn, let alone have a transformative experience when they are worried about the next meal or where they are going to sleep? Eliminating the cost of textbooks is an essential step in solving this problem. Financial Aide  For various reasons, some that the students might be able to control and some they can’t, financial aide is often late. This means that students who are on financial aide are often two weeks behind in the reading. This just adds to the stress of being in college. Yes, we can put books on reserve in the library, but it is not the same experience as having access to a text when work schedules and transportation allows. Relevance and Corrections Students are often paying for books, resources, and at least chapters that are redundant with other classes that they will not use. Also, if there are errors in the books, we often have to wait two years, or what ever the publication cycle is, to get corrected texts. With OERs, faculty and students can customize the texts and make corrections instantly. Student-Authored OER Even better than making corrections, I have had the honor of working with a class where the students created the text. The assignments in the Communications class were designed to update the text and keep it relevant for the next class. The students had real ownership of the learning and often were available to help the next iteration of students work on the text (which was a wiki). Student Satisfaction Each semester, I would survey the students to have them talk about their experiences with the courses and learning materials. The open text book classes always had a greater student satisfaction because the students had immediate access to the materials (sometimes before they even enrolled in the course), the materials were always relevant, and they appreciated the lower cost. Often the research around OERs is performed at colleges where the students do not have the financial concerns, are highly motivated, and are not under the stress that community college students find themselves. I would find it very easy to believe that for students at MIT or Stanford, there would be no significant difference, but for students in the community colleges, it is all the difference in the world.