Friday, 26 April 2013

Further Education Research Network

I attended the Further Education Research Network spring conference at City of Glasgow College yesterday. The FERN group are a collection of individuals from across the FE college sector in Scotland that meet occasionally, formally and informally.

There were useful workshops with a mix of activities to do with beginning research, employability, educational policy, technology and widening access.

The most interesting aspects of the day were the keynote speakers. There was a gentleman from East Lothian who is a director for educational services. He spoke very much from the heart about a range of things, however focused upon how educational managers need to stop acting like businessmen and start thinking like educators - something that I wholly agree with. He also demonstrated a model of the '7 sides of educational leadership' and how it is useful in making decisions. I took part in the exercise and it turns out I am a parent, a villager and a gardener!

The other speaker was the head of learning and teaching at the University of Dundee. The presentation was about policy and pedagogy in the FE sector. This was very interesting in that discussion took place around the need for a professional body for lecturers in Scotland. Apparently these proposals were put forward a few years ago, but were rejected by various funding and education bodies. The collective at the conference mooted that there still needs to be a platform for voices to be heard, particularly in these troubled times in Scottish FE. Other than that it was good to get out and meet some familiar faces and make some new connections.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Showing off...

One more to go...

JISC SMUG and eLearning Technologist event

I attended an interesting event yesterday at Dundee College of the Scottish Moodle User Group (SMUG) and the launch of the JISC Learning Technologist Forum.

The event was a mix of technical presentations and good practice stories. Two chaps from St Andrews University were demonstrating work that they are doing with Adobe Storyline and iPads as well as chatting about the work they do for the medical school. There was a member of staff from Robert Gordon University Aberdeen giving a presentation on 'a day in the life of an eLearning advisor.'

The second half of the afternoon consisted of a member of staff from Cumbernauld College presenting on how video technology can be used in the classroom. However, the highlight of the day for me was a presentation on how to roll out SQA eLearning Professional Development Awards (PDAs) in further education - aimed at experienced staff who are unfamiliar or not confident with using technology in the classroom.

There was a lot of discussion around the fact that, given the massive reform in further education in Scotland at the moment, a lot of the elearning fraternity are fearing for their jobs. I was struck by how much eLearning is supported in other centres, and by quite large teams. You would think in these times of reform, centres would be capitalising on creating opportunities for developing 21st century learning.

There was also another good discussion on pedagogy in eLearning - an area of particular interest to me. I posed a question to the chaps from St Andrews about how they go about developing their materials with medical academics and who makes the decision about pedagogy. I mentioned the work of Price and Kirkwood (2010) and how there is a lack of evidence to suggest that technology does indeed enhance learning. I asked them about how they felt about Price and Kirkwood stating that in research intensive institutions, good learning and teaching (and pedagogy) was almost secondary. They replied quite abruptly, 'Well they are Medics, you would think that they know what they are doing!'

Price, Linda and Kirkwood, Adrian (2010). Technology enhanced learning – where’s the evidence? In: Curriculum, technology & transformation for an unknown future. Proceedings ascilite Sydney 2010, 5-8 December 2010, Sydney, Australia. Available at:

Friday, 12 April 2013

Good behaviour (don't call it a comeback)...

I have been looking through some sites that provide MOOC offerings, I am really surprised at the amount of MOOCs that are available and the diversity of courses they have on offer; I am really temped by some of them. I have however been making some comparisons of courses that I have come across, in this case ds106 and Coursera courses.

General approach and philosophy
It took me a couple of visits for me to get my head around the ds106 site and to get to grips with what 'digital storytelling' is all about. Instantly you know that it is multimedia based, where course members, (or 'ordinary people') are actively encouraged to use digital media tools to tell their own story. There is a philosophy of openness and sharing on the course where participants are expected to participate online. Educause (2013) describes ds106 as a course that explores 'the web as a culture, as a media source, and as a place to publish in the open'.

Daniel (2012, p. 2) has stated that 'MOOCs have already bifurcated into two types of course, which are known as cMOOCs and xMOOCs.' ds106 is very much in the older style of cMOOC courses where connective learning is central: learners interact with others as well as resources and are digitally literate. In a more broader sense, other pedagogies may also be at work: reflective learning (storytelling), active and constructive learning in that learners have to construct their own digital identity using tools that they see fit - or create their own Personal Learning Environment.

Technology is core to this course. The website itself utilises Wordpress effectively as it's base as well as plugins, for example for the assignment feature of the course. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is that learners are, as well as having to be comfortable with the latest in web technologies, also have to be comfortable with more technical aspects such as domain names and web hosting.

General approach and philosophy
Comparing Coursera with ds106, Coursera is a completely different kettle of fish and seems a lot more 'serious'. Coursera offers a myriad of courses, everything from psychology to computer science based subjects. Coursera provides the foundation for other institutions to provide their own MOOC offerings and exists as a commercial entity.

Referring back to Daniels' paper, Coursera provides courses based on the more modern xMOOC type of course where 'drill and grill' behaviourist attitudes are prevalent. This is in keeping with 'traditional' university environment. Again, looking at pedagogy on a broader basis when examining, for example, Fundamentals of rehearsing music ensembles, there seems to be opportunities for active learning and collaboration.

The Coursera website is very much proprietary and serves purely as a portal site for course offerings. There are blog features available however. With regards to the courses themselves there is plenty of opportunity for getting involved in technical subjects, however the most popular technology available inside courses themselves is video lectures. Some courses also provide forum facilities and virtual labs.

The comparisons that I have made here represent the two sides of the coin when it comes to  approach/philosophy, pedagogy and technology. I was very much struck by how the Coursera offerings still stick to almost traditional (behaviourist) teaching methods and how this is in keeping with xMOOCs - is behaviourism really making a comeback? Did it ever go away? This investigation also took me back to the work of Sfard (1998) and how these two examples easily sit comfortably with 'acquisition' and 'participation' metaphors.


DANIEL, J. Making Sense of MOOCs: Musings in a Maze of Myth, Paradox and PossibilityJournal of Interactive Media in Education, North America, 3, dec. 2012. Available at: Date accessed: 12 Apr. 2013.

Educause (2013) ds106: Not a Course, Not Like Any MOOC [Online] Available at: Date accessed: 11 Apr 2013

Sfard, A. (1998) On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One. [Online] Available at: Date accessed: 12 Apr 2013

Tuesday, 9 April 2013


I have been working through week 4 today and getting prepared for my next badge. I noticed the end of week 4 talks about Personal Learning Environments. This prompted me to look back to the good old OU H800 course from last year, where we were asked to graphically define our own PLE. I used a mind mapping tool called Spicynodes, which I rather enjoy using. You can find my PLE at this location.

I am probably going to have to revise this, I am likely using even more tools nowadays!

Big OER, little OER

It's funny how you take things for granted... I hadn't realised just how much I use OER in my own practice. What prompted this was a post in another galaxy far, far way, where the question was 'do you, or have you ever used OER in FE?' I thought about this for a while before I realised that I had been using computing resources/notes from the Colleges Open Learning Exchange Group (COLEG) for over 10 years, heck I even produced and vetted support packs for them!! Anyway, I dug a bit deeper to find that COLEG doesn't exist anymore and resources from the now [Scottish] College Development Network now utilise Jorum as well as a European funded resource (in conjunction with SQA) called TranSETT - I've yet to investigate further.

Rambling aside, a quick definition of...
  • Big OER: produced formally in a large scale, for example by big institutions - MIT Open CourseWare or OpenLearn.
  • Little OER: produced by individuals, for example, on a smaller scale, perhaps the by product of already existing resources.
Big OER advantages:
  • Development of institutional relationships/networks
  • Provision of knowledge to the public
  • Wider access (easier to find)
  • Product of substantial investment
  • Good quality
  • Free
Big OER disadvantages:
  • Production high costs
  • Not very re-usable
  • Difficulties incorporating Web 2.0/social technology
Little OER advantages:
  • Re-use/re-purposing of existing resources
  • Can be produced using little effort
  • No planning needed (project management?)
  • Scope for better promotion of sustainability
  • Cheap 
  • Better integration with Web 2.0/social media
Little OER disadvantages:
  • Perhaps too contextualised
  • May require culture change with individuals/small institutions (for production)
  • Resources require updating digitally (re-purposed)
  • problems with legitimate re-use
  • Poor quality/lack of reputation
This list is of course not exhaustive, there are many other pro's and con's of big and little OER. Whilst compiling, I was thinking about overlaps that exist between big and little OER and their co-existence, 'A mixture of the two then is complementary and viable I would argue.' (Weller, 2009)


Weller, M. (2009) Big OER and Little OER. [Online] Available at: (Accessed 8th April 2013)

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

No commercialism (by the way, or wtf?)

It has been quite interesting checking out Creative Commons licensing, it really is something I should have done before now. In relation to the work I produce on the web, be it blog post, image or video etc, I would probably apply:
If someone is going to use my work, then I would like some credit for it. I wouldn't like them to gain any commercial benefit without including me also.

Working with Open Source systems since 1997/98 I have fairly good (not detailed) knowledge of the GNU GPL and BSD licensing systems. I was curious to know the differences between them and Creative Commons, it seems to be that Creative Commons does not cover computer code, therefore programmers do not recommend releasing code under CC. In this investigation I came across another licensing system, this raised a bit of a chuckle :-)

I wouldn't fancy being a Lawyer.