We’ve learned from the successes of many Open Source Software (OSS) projects that the health of a volunteer developer community is a key element in successful project completion and maintenance. I think orienting much of our practice in the OERu around meeting the needs of volunteer course developer communities will benefit the OERu in the long run, and micro-courses could be a step in the right direction.
While folklore has it that developing with OERs is easier and faster than traditional practice, in fact the workflow of creating and/or finding, adapting and recontextualizing OERs can be a real challenge as it is quite different from traditional work patterns for educational developers. Also it takes time to learn to operate efficiently in a wiki – challenges include technical aspects of wiki syntax and page layout, structuring an entire course in a flat-file file environment, developing good communication habits that leave a trail for later joiners to pick up on, collaborating with developers who may have a different approach to the project, the need for developers to take on multiple roles where there are gaps in the community, and so on. Mentoring is critical in getting novices up to speed on all of this.
Developing one’s first course in this environment forces a huge learning curve, and by the end developers typically say they’d like to go back and re-do the project based on what they learned – if they had the time.
I believe then that the shorter development cycle of micro-courses can have multiple organizational benefits, including shorter learning curves and thus better courses sooner, more likelihood of a micro-community of developers to stay with a project to completion, a developer mix that includes the diverse skillsets needed to round out the team, and less burden for mentors to come alongside a group of novices and assist them through the development of their first course.
I agree with what Irwin and Wayne have said and I believe micro courses are possible and have a lot of potential benefits.
One reflection I have is about the order of mini courses that might be taken by students in place of one full course. Some full courses are organized in a certain order with skills building on each other...eg a Math course where a student might have to master some basic computational skills before attempting more complex tasks. So if a course is divided into smaller chunks, it might be important at times for students to take the smaller courses in a set order. I recognize that there are other courses where the order of the topics do not matter that much....and in those cases, more flexibility of offerings will be possible.
Also, learning outcomes and assessments that are part of a full course will now have to be divided in such a way as to match the credits of the microcourses...so it's definitely possible but it will involve a bit of design thought, especially if an exisiting full course is being repurposed into this new format.
That's a valid point - OERu partners will need to decide on how best to provide clear indications of the recommended sequence where OERu mOOCs build on the concepts established in other courses. Perhaps these could be indicated in the prerequisites for the course on the OERu website?
I think the most important consideration for the OERu is to ensure sets of mOOCs which lead to course credit. However, dividing full courses into micro alternatives may assist some OERu partners in staggering course development.
The design considerations are important because as you point out, the summative assessments will need to map to the specified learning outcomes for the course. This will require robust assessment design. It would be beneficial for the OERu network to establish the parameter guidelines for micro courses eg, recommended size, recommended assessment loads etc. These guidelines will simplify the learning design challenges and increasingly we could design mOOCs fit for purpose in parallel with the full course contributions.
Based on your experience working the the OERu Art Appreciation course -- do you have any thoughts on parameter guidelines for OERu mOOCs drawing on the value of hindsight?
Based on your experience working on the OERu Art Appreciation course -- do you have any thoughts on parameter guidelines for OERu mOOCs drawing on the value of hindsight?
I would say the mOOC should run for about 4 weeks to give time for activities/assessments, connections and reflection. The no. of learning outcomes and assessments will depend on the type of course and content, the amount of work involved for students, and what can reasonably be accomplished in the time frame. They should all include OER and give options for various types of learners…if possible, speak to cohort folks, as well as independent learners…or have various versions/modalities of the same mOOC. Prereq. knowledge and skills have to be clearly outlined in each mOOC. Although mOOCs are meant to stand alone, connections to other related mOOCs should be mentioned.
Thanks for that Gail,
Extremely valuable feedback from the perspective of someone who has first hand experience in designing and developing an OERu course plus authentic experience from the learner's perspective given your participation in the recent Open Content Licensing for Educators mOOC prototype. This discussion is helping us sharpen the focus for implementable mOOCs in the OERu model.
So to summarise the mOOC guidelines the OERu could think about:
Target a mOOC for roughly 4 weeks of learning interaction for cohort based offerings. That would fit rather well assuming approximately 10 hours of study per week which is pretty much in line with what many single-mode distance teaching providers use thus totalling about 40 hours of learning which seems to be the minimum for authentic and meaningful summative assessment. This would not preclude “continuous” or open registration alternatives.
The mOOCs should be designed to accommodate a continuum of learner needs, for example learners participating for personal interest who can sip and dip into topics of interest right up to learners studying for formal academic credit.
The ability to deliver OERu mOOCs where cohort learners registered for full time study could interact with OERu independent learners including those who are participating for personal interest.
Designing OERu mOOCs for reuse in different modalities, for instance, integrated into full-time study on campus plus free OERu learning (parallel mode). Thinking creatively we could also have one mOOC with multiple exit points, eg 1st yr bachelor's degree level, 3rd yr bachelor's degree level and master''s degree level moving towards a competency model. These mOOCs could cover the same topics, but the assessment will differ substantially depending on level. (This would not work for all disciplines – but certainly something we could try in subject areas where this could work.)
Clearly state prerequisite skills, for example social media skills with student support tutorials to help those who don't have these skills to get up to speed.
Partner mOOCs – that is the associate courses required for gaining full course credits should be clearly identified. This means that we must take course credit as the point of departure ensure that when a learner successfully competes the “set” they can get formal credit towards the courses leading to credible credentials.
Great summary Wayne! I think you hit all the main points...it also seems to me that you have a good template in the education scenario mini MOOC you have been working on.
The Scenario Planning for Educators (SP4Ed) course has helped us to refine a workable template for micro Open online courses. We also have the benefit of data and evaluations from the learners. With reference to your earlier post using the SP4Ed course as a practical example, we have valuable data to confirm the design metrics of the course.
From the open report:
The SP4Ed mOOC was designed for a total of 50 notional learning hours including the preparation time for the summative assessment assignment for offerings where the mOOC is embedded in a formal university course. The course was designed for 25 hours of teaching-learning interactions plus 25 hours for the final assignment preparation.
The SP4Ed 13.09 participants were asked to report the time they spent each day working through the course materials and activities. The weighted average was 2.3 hours for each of the 10 teaching days for the course, thus totalling an estimate average of 23 hours. The workload of the course falls within the specified design parameters.
Drawing on the data from our learners, the interaction-learning hours was in the ball park (aka 25 hours). Desiging a summative assessment assignment of +15 hours would bring us up to a total of 40 notional learning hours. The equivalent of 1 credit within a 3 credit course.
in general US colleges and universities define a 3 credit course as 40 contact (i.e. seat time) hours with an additional hour or two of work for every "classroom" hour...reason I am mentioning this is that we could somehow use "hour estimates" to define the "worth" of various experiences.
Let's take the example of 40 contact hours plus 80 hours (say two hours for every classroom hour) that would total 120 hours for a 3 credit course. This is pretty consistent with similar calculations we have done at our Canadian partners. So we could say, for example that 3 mOOCs could equate to 3 credits. So the math works ;-).
The closer we move to competency models, the mechanics of learning hours will become less important from an administration point of view. Eg in the US, programmes are funded / measured by "credit hours" and I know this is a topical subject in the US.
Competency based models versus credit learning hours is not an an "either or argument" in my view -- just different ways of looking at the problem.
The mOOC model generates the flexibility the OERu will need to manage international articulation without compromising pedagogical value of the design because because the micro course does not go below the "minimum threshold" for meaningful assessement and the assessment itself provides wiggle room to get the numbers to stack up for articulation / adminstration purposes.
The value of prototyping mOOCs is that we've been able to tweak and refine as our experience has grown since the first open course we offered in the WikiEducator community in January 2007.
The SP4Ed template is also pedagogically neutral - it doesnt attempt to dicate any pedagogical approach. Designers can use whatever flavour they want, behaviourism, constructivism, conectivism, free range learner - -whatever suits the purpose but the mOOC template can slot into existing credentialing models.
For those partners who want full courses -- that's fine because 3 mOOCs equals one North American course ;-)
Great comments. I would like to speak to this from the "trenches" as most of my summer was spent on course development and re-development as we moved our LMS to Moodle.. You said "While folklore has it that developing with OERs is easier and faster than traditional practice, in fact the workflow of creating and/or finding, adapting and recontextualizing OERs can be a real challenge as it is quite different from traditional work patterns for educational developers." For sure, this is folklore...our whole course development staff, not to mention the content expert folks like me, to a person feel that it is easier to develop our own material and design our own things than to spend the time culling through OERs...there is no way I could have redesigned nine courses this summer using OERs...our instructional designers say that as of now the OER repositiories are too hard to search...I would have to agree.
I feel sad to say this but I find doing things in wikieducator is hard too. It is easiest for me to use one system (which is why I am glad we moved to Moodle/Mahara) rather than back and forth among several. Honestly, I have a lot of things I have created and put under Creative Commons license that I would love to share but probably won't have the time or energy to do because the need to know and use two platforms.
I hope you don't mind my using personal examples but I think we need to bring some of the practical realities into our discussion. I can justify doing things in Moodle for ESC and then "giving them away" to others through Moodle compatible means. I cannot justify extra time to transfer the same material to a wiki...and I am very OERu and wikieducator friendly...my colleagues are even less likely to do it...and frankly the college is less likely to feel that it is a good use of their time.
Another comment on this:
You said I believe then that the shorter development cycle of micro-courses can have multiple organizational benefits, including shorter learning curves and thus better courses sooner, more likelihood of a micro-community of developers to stay with a project to completion, a developer mix that includes the diverse skillsets needed to round out the team, and less burden for mentors to come alongside a group of novices and assist them through the development of their first course.
I may be a bit confused on the terminology but in my environment, I could see developing a module or two for one of my courses that could then be made available for other partners or perhaps even learners to use OER...for instance, I just did two or three sections of a 2 credit course we offer on PLA essay development that might be very helpful to share with others who could then put them into their own institution specific context...but I would not have the time to put even a mini-course structure around them...so perhaps we are talking about something not as structured as micro courses...or maybe I am just stumbling over the word "course"...
I think there's room for both - i.e. one based more on an institutional sharing or repository approach - which has been around for a while now - and the other, more recently, on co-development in a collaborative environment with a larger shared objective toward credentials as in the OERu. Also, from an organizational perspective I'm thinking about what may work in a more formal educational enterprise such as a university, and what may be more successful in a.volunteer community such as the OERu.
That being said, I'm sure I'm not the only one here who cringes slightly when we find ourselves compelled to focus our discussions on learning in terms of courses, credits, contact hours and other such terms. It feels like trying to parcel out learning by the kilogram with the idea that somehow when we have filled up the bag we now have an educated student.... Nevertheless this work needs to be done so that we can offer coherent learning opportunities that also can gain the recognition of post-secondary institutions open to recognition of learning through the OERu.
There are are also some in the OERu camp who openly and with pride support courses, credits, contact hour equivalents, self study packets etc. Some believe that parceling out learning can be (has been and continues to be) a very effective way of teaching and there are many years of experience to back this up. We have many educated students who have learnt many thiings from the parcelling of learning. Most of us included. These parcels provide effective coherent learning opportunities.
Not to say that there aren't other alternatives (most unproven) that should be explored like personal learning environments, connectivism, micro credentialing etc. etc. As you quite aptly noted, there is room for both in the OERu camp.
You said: That being said, I'm sure I'm not the only one here who cringes slightly when we find ourselves compelled to focus our discussions on learning in terms of courses, credits, contact hours and other such terms. It feels like trying to parcel out learning by the kilogram with the idea that somehow when we have filled up the bag we now have an educated student.... Nevertheless this work needs to be done so that we can offer coherent learning opportunities that also can gain the recognition of post-secondary institutions open to recognition of learning through the OERu. I certainly concur with this. My doctorate is in Adult Education and my masters is in Counseling so every fiber of my professional being shouts independent, self-direction, self-structured learning etc. On the other hand, about thirty years in and around higher education administration says that the reality is credits, credentials, and some way of measuring them in terms of both depth and breadth (thus credits, approximate hours etc.)
I also think that OERu is a bit of a hybrid...for instance, I am both a volunteer in the OERu and a full time professor for one of the partners...and the more I can do to make the two coincide the better...thus, if I can design materials that benefit our matriculated (translate "paying") students and share them with the other Anchor Partners (and possibly directly with learners) I can afford to do it. If I am "only" doing something on a volunteer basis then it is likely to go to the bottom of the "to do" list. I am not sure if such time constraints affect open software developers as well but I am fairly sure I speak for others here...many of us would be glad to share as long as we get "credit" here...this is especially true of some our most creative professors who are still working their way through the tenure process and first and foremost have to show this institution that they are valuable contributors.
I get a bit concerned when we (OERu) counts too much on volunteers...as a person who is approaching retirement age and battles health issues I am afraid that there is not going to be much of me left to use in retirement...it is probably best to figure out how to get double mileage out of me in the here and now...and that means somehow taking institutional realities into consideration.
I am not sure if such time constraints affect open software developers as well but I am fairly sure I speak for others here...many of us would be glad to share as long as we get "credit" here...this is especially true of some our most creative professors who are still working their way through the tenure process and first and foremost have to show this institution that they are valuable contributors.
Having spent the majority of my career working at universities and trying to forward the open agenda I understand the challenges -- we can share battlescars in BC. When all is said and done, the OERu is making steady progress.
Out of interest, the majority of open source software developers are in full-time employment working in companies which understand the benefits of the open source development model. When I first moved to New Zealand, a little more than a decade ago, there were no open source learning management systems used as enterprise systems. Today, 70% of New Zealand's tertiary education providers use open source learning management systems. A few committed individuals can make a huge difference, even on a national level.
OERu is making steady progress - one small step at a time. Our OERu anchor partners agree to allocating a 0.2 Full time equivalent (FTE) staff member to work on their OERu contributions. Some insitutions allocate more time -- for example, Otago Polytechnic has the equivalent of about 3 FTE staff working full time on the OERu. I appreciate that at some instituions the executive signoff doesn't always filter through to the operational level in terms of recognition -- but we will get there.
One initiative to consider OERu and related discussions at the senior leadership level is the establishment of the OERu Coucil of Chief Executive Officers. The inaugural meeting will be hosted at Kwantlen Polytechnic University on 5 November 2013 after the anchor partner meeting. We have a good turnout currently with 11 senior executives attending this meeting and I anticipate that the number will grow by the RSVP date 0f 30 September. Another step in the right direction to help forward the integration of the OERu model on the campuses of many of our partner institutions.
Keep the faith -- were past the tipping point :-)
You make a good point
I'm sure I'm not the only one here who cringes slightly when we find ourselves compelled to focus our discussions on learning in terms of courses, credits, contact hours and other such terms.
but in a world where Government's, national and provincial, what standards and evidence of achievement - and particularly when we want to develop qualifications that can be made up of content from multiple partners - we are stuck with the language of courses and credit. It is not as engaging as planning and supporting the learner in their learning; so if we were only looking at adult CPD or upskilling it would not be an issue, but as we are looking at undergraduate studies we need to speak both a local and international language - however annoying it is at times :-)
I certainly understand, and I myself have worked in that environment most of my life. I guess I just hope that as we continue to plan the future of the OERu, we remain open to, and maybe continue to press the boundaries of, traditional ways of assessing and recognizing learning toward credible credentials. And I think in the OERu are doing that already. I see this as part of the potential for institutional tranformation through the engagement of partners and others with open initiatives such as the OERu.