Analytics and #moocmooc

This is my final post on my experiences of the #moocmooc course that ran last week, and I want to share a few of my reflections on the role of analytics (and in this case learning analytics), primarily from my experiences as a learner on the course. I should point out that I have no idea about the role of analytics from the course teams point of view, but I am presuming that they have the baseline basics of enrollment numbers and login stats from the Canvas LMS. But in this instance there were no obvious learner analytics available from the system. So, as a learner, in such an open course where you interact in a number of online spaces, how do you get a sense of your own engagement and participation?

There are some obvious measures, like monitoring your own contributions to discussion forums. But to be honest do we really have the time to do that? I for one am quite good at ignoring any little nagging voices saying in my head saying “you haven’t posted to the discussion forum today” :-) A little automation would probably go a long way there. However, a lot of actual course activity didn’t take place within the “formal” learning environment, instead it happened in other spaces such as twitter, storify, google docs, YouTube, blogs etc. Apart from being constantly online, my phone bleeping every now again notifying me of retweets, how did I know what was happening and how did that help with engagement and motivation?

I am fortunate, mainly due to my colleague Martin Hawskey that I have a few analytics tricks that I was able to utilise which gave me a bit of an insight into my, and the whole class activity.

One of Martins’ most useful items in his bag of tricks is his hashtag twitter archive. By using his template, you can create an archive in google docs which stores tweets and through a bit of social network analysis magic also gives an overview of activity – top tweeters, time analysis etc. It’s hard to get the whole sheet into a screen grab hopefully the one below gives you and idea. Follow the link and click on the “dashboard” tab to see more details.

Dashboard from #moocmooc twitter archive

From this archive you can also use another one of Martin’s templates to create a vizualisation of the interactions of this #hashtag network.

Which always looks impressive, and does give you a sense of the “massive” part of a MOOC, but it is quite hard to actually make real any sense of;-)

However Martin is not one to rest on his SNA/data science laurels and his latest addition, a searchable twitter archive, I feel was much more useful from a learner’s (and actually instructors) perspective.

Again it has time/level of tweets information, this time clearly presented at the top of the sheet. You can search by key word and/or twitter handle. A really useful way to find those tweets you forgot to favourite! Again here is a screenshot just as a taster, but try it out to get the full sense of it.

#moocmooc searchable twitter arcive

#moocmooc searchable twitter arcive

Also from an instructor/course design point of view you, from both of these templates you can see time patterns emerging which could be very useful for a number of reasons – not least managing your own time and knowing when to interact to connect with the most number of learners.

Another related point about timing relates to the use of free services such as storify. Despite us all being “self directed, and motivated” it’s highly likely that if an assignment is due in at 6pm – then at 5.50 the service is going to be pretty overloaded. Now this might not be a problem, but it could be and so it worth bearing in mind when designing courses and suggesting submission times and guidance for students.

I also made a concerted effort to blog each day about my experiences, and once I was able to use another one of Martin’s templates – social sharing, to track the sharing of my blogs on various sites. I don’t have a huge blog readership but I was pleased to see that I was getting a few more people reading my posts. But what was really encouraging (as any blogger knows) was the fact that I was getting comments. I know I don’t need any software to let me know that, and in terms of engagement and participation, getting comments is really motivating. What is nice about this template is that it stores the comments and the number other shares (and where they are), allowing you get more of an idea of where and how your community are sharing resources. I could see my new #moocmooc community were engaging with my engagement – warm, cosy feelings all round!

So through some easy to set up and share templates I’ve been able to get a bit more of an insight into my activity, engagement and participation. MOOCs can be overwhelming, chaotic, disconcerting, and give learners many anxieties about being unconnected in the vast swirl of connectedness. A few analtyics can help ease some of these anxieties, or at least give another set of tools to help make sense, catch up, reflect on what is happening.

For more thoughts on my experiences of the week you can read my other posts.

*Day 1 To MOOC or not to MOOC?
*Day 2 Places where learning takes place
*Day 3 Massive Participation but no-one to talk to
*Day 4 Moocmooc day 4
*Day 5 Designing a MOOC – moocmooc day 5

Designing a MOOC #moocmooc day 5

It’s coming to the end of the week long #moocmooc course and today’s activity is to design our own MOOC. Once again the course team have encouraged collaboration have used a google doc as collaborative space to share ideas and form ad hoc teams this Google Doc.

I’ve had a fascinating morning exploring ideas, designs, existing courses that people have shared. I really liked this existing wiki “Preparing your online self”,not least because had been thinking along those lines myself. In yesterday’s activity reflecting on what we have learned so far I did say that some kind of check list for both learners and teachers who don’t use social networking, web 2 “stuff” (in particular twitter) would be useful. From my existing network I knew that Grainne Conole had shared an outline for her upcoming Learning Design MOOC, so it was useful to have another look at that too.

I’ve also been thinking more about what I would want as a learner from a MOOC. This week has been pretty intense, and deliberately so. There have been many mentions of the sense of being overwhelmed, and I think there is a natural tendency to want to scaffold and be scaffolded that is really hard to let go of for both a teachers and learners.

In today’s introductory essay “Inventing Learning” Sean Michaal Morris (@slamteacher) wrote:

“I like to imagine that MOOCs are a creative act, almost a sort of composition in and of themselves. They’re a composition that begins with one person or a team of people who design the course; but no MOOC is truly finished until the participants have had their say. To be creative in course design is to be both author and audience. We are the author of the themes and ideas behind the course, and the audience to how students / participants interpret, mold, revise — and what they fashion from — those themes and ideas. This is true in a classroom. This is true in a MOOC. . . Perhaps what frightens us most about MOOCs is the loss of control. In the new model of online pedagogy, the classroom has exploded; or rather, theories of classroom practice . . .”

So I revised my earlier thoughts of producing a pre MOOC MOOC instead I would use the wiki guide highlighted earlier as a suggested pre course activity and came up with this

Mainly because Twitter has proved invaluable this week. I’d maybe expand this slightly by adding: choose a topic, ask some questions, start following people and follow back and instructions that when things started to get a bit overwhelming:

Don't panic button

Don't panic button

If you want to go down the cMOOC route like #moocmooc, then you have to be willing to let go, embrace chaos and interaction, diversions – all the things Dave Cormier talks about in his rhizomatic approaches. If however you want to be a bit more traditional, then the xMOOC model is probably a safer approach. That’s why the big guns have taken that approach. It’s controllable, scalable, doesn’t take staff away from their comfort zone, and isn’t (from the courses I’ve seen so far) really providing any challenging pedagogical approaches.

This may change and I’m looking forward to what the eLearning and digital cultures Coursera MOOC from colleagues at the University of Edinburgh will look like. An outline of their approaches is available here.

But for now, for me it’s back to twitter.

Massive participation but no one to talk to: #moocmooc day 3

So it’s day three of #moocmooc, and after exploring what MOOCs are, places where learning takes place, today’s theme is “Participant Pedagogy”.

We’ve been given a short list of articles offering a number of perspectives from Howard Rheingold, Amya Kamenetz and Stephen Downes, and been to consider and respond to the following questions:

*How does the rise of hybrid pedagogy, open education, and massive open online courses change the relationships between teachers, students and the technologies they share?
*What would happen if we extracted the teacher entirely from the classroom? Should we?
*What is the role of collaboration among peers and between teachers and students? What forms might that collaboration take?
*What role do institutions play?

We’ve also been asked to:
*Create your own conversation around the topic of participant pedagogy.
*Do this by writing an article on your own blog or, if you don’t have a blog, by starting a thread in the discussion forum within this course.
*Establish the space, provide the tools, and provoke your audience to respond. Announce and link to your post on Twitter w/ hashtag #moocmooc and hashtag #post (to help people search and avoid spambots).

I thought that this task might be enlivened by some face to face discussion around the questions and I’m inviting fellow moocmoo-ers and anyone else who is interested to join me in a google hang out tonight (15 August) at 8pm (BST). As well as getting to know some fellow course members, I’m hoping this will be a good opportunity to try out Google hang outs, which I haven’t done before. I understand you can record conversations to, which again would be useful.

Unfortunately, despite a couple of tweets and a post to the course discussion forums, it looks like no-one is really that interested. So if you, dear reader, would like to talk about participant pedagogy (or anything else really) and try out google hangouts – DM me (@sheilmcn) and so I can get your email address and invite you to the hangout. There is a limit of 10 people which again I think would be about the right number for a this kind of conversation. However I am having rather mixed feelings of irony that there is so much other “massive” mooc participation/activity going on, that so far no-one seems to want to participate in this activity. I’m not paranoid, honest, but am beginning to feel slightly like a Billy no-mates:-)

I should have had more faith in my fellow moocmooc-ers. Have had a great chat tonight, despite some technical ‘issues’ at the start (note to self – don’t try to do a google hangout on 7yr old mac, with domestic broadband).

Places where learning takes place (#moocmooc day 2)

So I survived day 1 of #moocmooc, and the collaborative task of creating a 1,000 word essay explaining the history, context and potential and potential pitfalls of MOOCs, worked surprisingly well. Thanks to the people in the group I was assigned to, who took charge and got things done. I’m curating the resources/ recommended readings from the course on Pearltrees and you can see links to all the group submissions in my #moocmooc pearl.

Today’s theme is “places where learning takes place”. Participants have been asked to create a video sharing their views, experiences and share them on Youtube. There there are some really great contributions which have been collated in this Storify.

Now, today has been not quite an average Tuesday for me. We had our almost annual CETIS Scotland meet up at the Edinburgh festival. This was a bit of a family affair too and so we went to see Horrible Histories - which is a very fine live learning experience in itself. Those in the UK will know what I mean – if you’re not from here, check it out for probably the best guide to British history. Anyway I was thinking about where I learn at various points during the day. For #moocmooc, it is primarily online – at the office, at home, on the train – anywhere with a decent 3G/wifi connection. But I do need quite space to contemplate too. This tends to be when I’m walking to or from work, sometimes in my favourite chair with “a nice cup of tea”.

However the level of contribution and activity in this (and any online, never mind “massive” online course) can be overwhelming. In the twitter chat last night a few of us agreed that boundaries were important to help stay focused, and also the ability to not feel overwhelmed by the sheer level of activity is a key strategy which learners need to develop.

It sometimes feels that you’re trying to juggle all sorts of mismatching things, whilst trying to doing three other things at the same time and speak to 200 people you’ve never met before.

This afternoon we stopped off to watch a street performer who ended up ten feet up a ladder, took his kilt off and then juggled three very large (and sharp) knives. All this on cobblestones! Sometimes being in a mooc feels a bit like that. Slight crazy, a bit dangerous, but great fun – particularly when you get good feedback and connect with others.

Anyway here is my little video (I’ve bent the rules slightly but using animoto and not posting to youtube ).

To MOOC or not to MOOC?

Is the one of the underlying questions of the week long MOOC being run this week by Hybrid Pedagogy. Like many others working education I am interested in MOOCs, and there has been a flurry of activity over recent months with a number of big guns joining, or perhaps taking over, the party.

The #moocmooc course is running over a week, and today’s themes centre around “What are MOOCs? What do we think they are? What do we fear they may be? What potential lies under their surface?”. There’s a group task to complete – a 1,000 word essay on “What is a MOOC? What does it do, and what does it not do?”, and a twitter conversation tonight to share experiences.

However, I think that these questions need to be underpinned by a couple of “whys”? Why are you interested in MOOCs? Why are you thinking about taking the MOOC route? Sian Bayne and her colleagues in the MSc E-Learning course at the University Edinburgh have done exactly this in their recent ALT Article “MOOC pedagogy: the challenges of developing for Coursera“.

And by way of not answering the assignment question, I’m trying to reflect on my experiences of MOOCs to date. So far it looks like the majority of participants seem to be from North America, although there are a few UK faces in there too. I’m particularly interested seeing if there are any major differences in implementation/drivers between North America and the UK. Not everyone is going to be able to go down a full blown MOOC route, but what are the key elements that are really practical for the majority of institutions? The open-ness, experimenting and extending notions of connected learning? Potential to get big enrollment numbers? It’s probably far too early to tell, and as most of the participants probably fall into the early adopters category their motivations may not reflect general practice or readiness.

Although I have a professional interest in MOOCs, it’s probably their potential for me as a learner that really excites me. I’m not particularly motivated to do any more “formal” education – for a number of reasons, but time is probably the main one. I’m also very fortunate to have a job where I really do learn something new everyday, and I feel that my peers do keep my brain more than stimulated.

Being able to participate in open courses around topics that interest me, without financial risk to me personally or my employer (which adds pressure for me) is very appealing. I’ve tried MOOCs before (LAK11) which I enjoyed – particularly the synchronous elements such as the live presentations and chat. But if I’m being honest, I didn’t spend as much time on the course as I probably should have. On the plus side, I did get a feel for being a student on a MOOC and some useful insights to learning analytics.

Although I probably tick the right boxes to be a self motivated, engaged and directed learner, sometimes life just gets in the way and it turns out that I’m a bit rubbish at maintaining engagement, direction and motivation. But that hasn’t put me off MOOCs. Like tens of thousands of others I signed up for the Stanford NPL course, and very quickly realised that I was being a tad optimistic about my coding capabilities and that I just didn’t have the time I would need to get anything out of the course, so like tens of thousands of others I silently dropped out. I did think the traditional design of that course worked well for that subject matter.

But #moocmooc is only a week, no programme required, and also a week in August when things at work are a bit quieter than normal. Surely despite the twitter conversations talking place from 11pm my time I’ll be able to cope with that? Well we’ll see. Already it has got me thinking, given me the opportunity to try the Canvas VLE and back into blogging after a brief holiday lull.

*Day 2 Places where learning takes place
*Day 3 Massive Participation but no-one to talk to
*Day 4 Moocmooc day 4
*Day 5 Designing a MOOC – moocmooc day 5
* Analytics and #moocmooc