Tag: MOOCs

Critical responses

What should an ancient research university with a famous medical school and a track record of distance learning do in a time of pandemic crisis?

I hear you ask.

Publish a massive open online course full of openly licensed resources, of course.

And so we did.

COVID-19 Critical Care: Understanding and Application

Frontline staff can now learn the principles and practice of critical care to treat and care for critically ill patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. For free.

Thank you to all our teams and to FutureLearn ( who are by far my favourite global elearning platform company this week).


design led society

Cover image of Spare Rib Issue 171. Check http://www.bl.uk/spare-rib for copyright details.

My trip to Sweden was enjoyable and informative, despite being very brief. What I learned though, was that the Scandinavians would rather the UK didn’t leave the EU. We also considered the challenges of figuring out how MOOCs fit in a higher education system which is already free and open to all and already offers online courses.

Once again, I continued my good work of pointing out to AV tech guys that not all keynote presenters wear pockets or a waistband, or wish to have a headset put into their hair. Universal design does not seem to include women ūüôā



EU referendum MOOC https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/eu-referendum/1
EU referendum MOOC

What’s your favourite¬† digital learning university doing in the face of the EU referendum? Another one of our just in time MOOCs, of course!

The EU can often be confusing and the UK’s relationship with the EU over the years has been complicated. This three-week course breaks down the key facts and guides you through the referendum.

We look at how the UK ended up having a referendum on EU membership. We then consider the campaign issues, public opinion and alternatives to being in the EU. After the vote, we reflect on what the result means for the UK and for the rest of Europe.

Course opens 13th June, join us as we explore one of the biggest decisions facing the UK in a generation.

moocs scandi-style

Picture taken by me of a plate I have in my house. Yes I realise that Danish is not the same as Swedish.
Picture taken by me of a plate I have in my house. Yes I realise that Danish is not the same as Swedish. No rights reserved by me.

Following my various forays to Brussels for LERU,  Mons for e-moocs and Lillehammer for Norwegian LifelongLearning, I am heading off to the bright nights of  MOOCs in Scandinavia 2016 on June 09-10th.

This is the second conference on MOOCs in Scandinavia , it will take place at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. The conference is organized by a collaboration of Chalmers, Karolinska Institutet, Lund University, Uppsala University and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

You can read about the conference on their website.  You may not know a lot about Scandinavian MOOCs, but you must know they are going to be beautiful, elegant, design-led classics. You should start collecting now.

The conference in Lillehammer featured a TV nightclub and an innovative cheese slice.¬† The Gothenburg programme features dinner and mingling in an underwater tunnel. I’ll let you know how I get on.

MOOC disruption

Picture taken by me in the street. No rights reserved by me.

Do you remember when we used to dream that MOOCs would disrupt traditional higher education? Bringing new ways of thinking, learning and interacting?

Today I sat for hours at a Futurelearn partnership event in a hot room balancing my laptop on my knee while a bunch of men presented from the front and ran over time. The group discussion slots were cut short and when a woman did finally speak from the front, her Q&A was cancelled completely.

I pointed out the notable lack of women on the programme to a couple of people. They looked surprised.

Events, dear boy, events

The advance of allied forces, sorry MOOCs across Europe.
The advance of allied forces sorry, MOOCs across Europe.

This week I am mostly at EMOOCs conference in Mons. Although I’m supposed to be talking about MOOCs I keep getting slightly sidetracked into history conversations.

I’m thinking of The Europeana project 1914-18: untold stories & official histories of WW1. Europeana enables people to explore the digital resources of Europe’s galleries, museums, libraries, archives and audiovisual collections.¬† With such a resource at our fingertips (much of it OER)¬† it is very tempting to keep mentioning the War.

free range education going cheep

'Poulterer, Buenos Aires [Argentina]'. Photograph of a poulterer standing with his horse carrying cages of poultry on a street in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the early 20th century. Next to him is a man carrying a milk cannister, a man carrying two baskets of fruit and another man smoking a cigarette. http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/19g4jx
‘Poulterer, Buenos Aires [Argentina]’. Photograph of a poulterer standing with his horse carrying cages of poultry on a street in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the early 20th century. Next to him is a man carrying a milk cannister, a man carrying two baskets of fruit and another man smoking a cigarette. http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/19g4jx
University of Edinburgh’s new Chook MOOC will explain the general principles of chicken behaviour¬† that can be used to assess welfare in chickens in hobby flocks or commercial farms. The focus is primarily on laying hens and meat chickens (broilers). The main course is likely to be of interest to people who own chickens as pets or keep a small hobby flock, commercial egg and chicken meat producers, veterinarians and vet nurses.¬†¬† You know who you are.

The course begins on 3rd April and is cracking.

open with care

Fine craft by Anne-Marie Scott. Image  Creative Commons CC-BY
Fine craft by Anne-Marie Scott. Image Creative Commons CC-BY

Next week is Open Education Week March 9-13th 2015.

Last week I was contributing to face to face (at Open Educational Practice Scotland OEPS steering group) and online discussions  (comments on How Sheila Sees it) about the difference between open educational practice (OEP) and open educational resource practice (OERP).  I imagine it will come up again this week when I am speaking at the Coursera Partners Conference.

The challenge for me, is that in discussions of OEP the ‘open’ seems very ill defined. It can encompass a full range of open approaches and does not necessarily involve any consideration of content licencing.

In OER, the open is more clearly defined.  e.g Open definition, OER Commons, Open Education Week,  as it relates to content, data etc. It is content made available to be shared, used and modified. This is why Creative Commons is doing so well; there is now a way for anyone to make their content explicitly open.

What I liked about the early JISC OER projects was the explicit challenge to release a significant amount of content from within your institution, and ideally for that process to become mainstreamed and sustainable. It meant the technologists and content owners ( academics) worked together with the lawyers and librarians/collections to release stuff at scale, either old stuff or really new stuff mostly.

Academic staff development people always tell me that teaching and learning isn’t about content, but I kinda think it is. That’s why we have libraries full of published content, and reading lists, and course packs, and slides, and handouts, and recordings,and datasets and we constantly produce and publish more as we research and teach.¬† And we get promoted because of it. Our students produce a bunch too, and sometimes we assess it.

As an ex- academic staff developer myself, I’d say academic staff development people don’t produce much discipline content and are notoriously bad at using each others’ so they are not big OER producers. They are more into OEP now which is such a wide concept that their expertise is needed to develop it as an area of practice.

I like OER practice. I like the rigour of defining and working within something that ‘is’, knowing what ‘is not’.¬† I think it is really interesting and challenging to help people to find , make and use resources, and to be literate in their use of open content. And I like to mainstream it in ways which lower the barrier to participation in OER production as much as possible. I like to put systems and workflows in place. The more wonderful, unique stuff gets out there on an open licence, the more there will be for me and others to use.

During Innovative Learning Week, we ran the first of our ‘Making open courses using open resources’¬† workshops at Edinburgh.¬† In theory that task should be much easier than it was 5 years ago. There are 900 million Creative Commons-licensed works, up from¬† 400 million in 2010.

We’ll present at OER15 about how we got on.


european community engagement

Me at ScotlandEuropa
Me at ScotlandEuropa

I spoke in Brussels this week about University of Edinburgh’s leading role in developing and delivering innovation in higher education. The LERU league of European research institutions is an unashamedly closed club of 21, but occasionally they have open-ish meetings and this one was packed, so it was an interesting and interactive session. This particular meeting was at Scotland House, so I felt like I was representing up.

The meeting was focussed around the briefing paper which was written while I was working at Oxford, so it was fun to respond to it on behalf of Edinburgh now that I work here.

I spoke mostly about the unique positions held by the research institutions in engagement with their communities near and far and about the channels for translating research with social relevance.

Earlier in the meeting there had been much conservative concern and warnings (from those not doing MOOCs) that doing MOOCs was not worthwhile. The presentations from Leiden and Edinburgh about our MOOC success and mission relevance perked everyone up again.

I spoke about how involvement in the emerging area of MOOCs is inline with our three- part core mission: teaching, research and innovation. Our teaching in our MOOCs is strongly influenced by research we do about our MOOCs, is innovative, and the platforms we work with are informed by knowledge transfer in educational technology development.

We are motivated to inspire the citizens and leaders of tomorrow to be curious, driven, responsible and capable of academic thinking. I spoke about the U21 Critical Thinking in Global Challenges shared online course (SOC) which builds upon and runs parallel to, our MOOC of the same name. We are taking the opportunity to strategically extend our online learning opportunities to learners or co-enquirers outside our university. Universitas 21 also has 21 members, and some of them are the same as the LERU 21 members, but many are not. Nice to see colleagues from Amsterdam and Lund.

I talked about how we strategically work collaboratively with other institutions, and with commercial partners in the delivery of online learning. I mentioned our increasing strategic closeness with SRUC and their contributions to our growing stable (or barnyard) of horse, animal and chicken MOOCs*.  I mentioned our partnership work with national museums, the Scottish Government and the Edinburgh Festivals.

What struck me though, was that the hype is fading around MOOCs and the idea that this is going to transform the business of higher education  by opening it up to all has passed. It increasingly becomes attractive to those big brands who are getting the strategic benefit of these international platforms to  discourage other from getting into the same space.  Colleagues from Leiden agreed.

Doing MOOCs well is very difficult and very expensive. Unless you have excellent teams, which we do, it won’t be a success.

In fact, if you work at any of the other LERU institutions you should certainly heed all the advice in the LERU paper and not rush into it.


*Leiden have chosen Sharia law and international terrorism as their MOOC topics. That makes ours look actually rather tame.

ambition, distraction and disruption

John Tenniel`s original (1865) illustration for Lewis Carroll`s “Alice in Wonderland”. Alice sitting between Gryphon and Mock turtle

Today, braving hurricane winds and winter storms, the FutureLearn Academic Network gathered in Edinburgh to discuss the extent to which MOOCs are (still) disruptive and suggest new directions for the future.  A number of very interesting sessions were spoken.

Unfortunately for me I was distracted early on by mention of ‘The MOOC Turtle.

My concern stemmed partly from the fact that the Mock Turtle is a difficult, unhappy creature, being neither entirely one animal nor another; and partly from the fact that the speaker illustrated the phrase with a picture of a tortoise. What MOOCs have tort us is an altogether different research question.

If one were using the Mock Turtle as the basis for a discussion about online courses the pickings would be rich*. As you know, the Mock Turtle was a lifelong learner, schooled in Reeling and Writhing, and the different branches of ArithmeticРAmbition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision, and Mystery- ancient and modern, Laughing and Grief, Seaography, Drawling, Stretching, and Fainting in Coils.  Any of which could easily be new FutureLearn courses.

And if one were looking for new delivery models, what better than ten hours the first day, nine the next, and so on?

`That’s the reason they’re called lessons,’ the Gryphon remarked: `because they lessen from day to day.’

Learning analytics have nothing on this.


*Have i mentioned that I think the liberal arts are a good grounding for understanding technology?