Tag Archives: MOOCs

What We Heard: The Four Biggest eLearning Buzzwords of 2013

The year 2014 has commenced, the polar vortex moved in and now some of us are in the grand thaw. Many of us are just getting started with our new eLearning initiatives for the year. But before we proceed, perhaps we should take a few moments to reflect back on 2013.

Happy New Year

Source: Microsoft Office Gallery

Wow, last year we really saw some strides being made, and some bright spots of eLearning picked up some speed. Unless you lived under a rock in 2013, the following terms should sound familiar:

  • MOOCs
  • xAPI
  • Gamification
  • Digital Badges

MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, were not new in 2013, but the topic was seen everywhere: eLearning articles, blogs and magazines. It was definitely a “hot” topic this past year. Blackboard’s CourseSites has over 50 MOOC courses available. Coursera, the leading online host of MOOCs, today boasts that 6,009, 077 people have taken MOOCs on its site. They currently offer 563 courses in the MOOC format—amazing! More and more people are creating and taking MOOCs. I got on the MOOC bandwagon last year and took my first MOOC along with over 66,000 other people for the same course. That just makes my jaw drop. Massive education by some of the top professors—again, amazing!

Experience API (xAPI, formerly known as Tin Can API) also popped up in hundreds of articles. The Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative’s training and learning architecture, xAPI, gained ground this past year with more and more eLearning tools becoming early adopters of xAPI like Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, Blackboard, iSpring, CourseMill, Lectora, LearnDash and dominKnow to name just a few. Experience API, per Wikipedia, is an eLearning “software specification that allows learning content and learning systems to speak to each other in a manner that records and tracks all types of learning experiences.” This even allows us to track informal learning, which we haven’t been able to do before.

Gamification, the use of game thinking, design and mechanics in non-game contexts, has also been around for a few years, but it was plastered all over eLearning newsletters, infographics, blogs and articles last year. We’re seeing an increase of gamification being used to better engage learners and to make them more interested in their eLearning. Companies like NTT Data and DeLoitte’s Leadership Academy are successfully using gamification in their eLearning programs. (See the Forbe’s article http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeannemeister/2013/09/30/gamification-in-leadership-development-how-companies-use-gaming-to-build-their-leader-pipeline/. )

Digital Badges, like Mozilla’s OpenBadges, is an idea that is slowly taking hold; however, the topic was found in a plethora of places in 2013. Digital Badges, per Wikipedia, are “a validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality or interest that can be earned in various learning environments.” They’re basically online icons that represent the skills a person has earned. This means that an employer can get a quick glimpse at what you’ve accomplished from not only colleges, but other types of valuable training you’ve taken. The Manufacturing Institute has driven the development of the National Manufacturing Badge System this past year to help fill the gaping hole of manufacturing positions that are going unfilled due to there not being enough qualified or trained people. The system’s purpose is to help match qualified job-seekers with manufacturing employers.

Yes, 2013 was an exciting year for eLearning, and I expect that 2014 will come up with some new, different buzzwords to help move us along to get better trained for the new challenges of 2014.

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X’s and C’s: All MOOCs are not created equal!

Just when some of you are hearing that MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) exist, you learn that there are two types of MOOCs: xMOOC and cMOOC.

Stephen Downes, the man who coined both terms (visualize Jerry Garcia or David Crosby), explains an xMOOC as “if anything, it stands for eXtended.” He meant for it to “indicate programs that aren’t part of the core offering, but which are in some way extensions.” With the passing of time- if you can call since 2008 much of a history- the xMOOC has transformed into more of a traditional college course taught with newer technology and en masse.

George Siemens, who along with Downs was the co-founder of the first MOOC, explains that the cMOOC is based on the learning theory of connectivism that basically supports the theory that learning happens out of chaos, which sees the “connection of everything to everything”.  With today’s technology, this involves learners connecting with other learners in a large network using discussion forums, wikis, blogs and other social media. They can collectively create and generate content. Critics of xMOOCs call it more of a “knowledge consumption” vs. the cMOOC, which is more of a “knowledge production.”

I have experienced being a participant in both types of MOOCs. In the spring of 2013, I enrolled in an xMOOC hosted by Coursera called “Gamification.” Dr. Kevin Werbach of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania taught the MOOC, which was structured like a traditional college course but had enrollment of over 66,000 students.

In September, I started my first cMOOC hosted by Blackboard’s CourseSites called “Badges: New Currency for Professional Credentials,” which had an enrollment of just over 1,600 students. Several gurus of the digital-badges world, like Erin Knight (Mozilla), Deborah Everhart (Georgetown University) and Jennifer McNelly (The Manufacturing Institute), to name a few, were speakers during the content sessions on different weeks. These two contrasting MOOC styles appeal to different learners. For me, it was extremely organized content and social learning vs. esoteric chaos. The Gamification xMOOC motivated me to complete all of the assignments. Unfortunately, the Badges cMOOC had such arcane assignments, I only completed one. But, did I learn from both types of MOOCs? The answer is yes! If I had to do it all over again would I? Yes to that as well.

My suggestion is, if you haven’t experienced a MOOC yet, enroll in one and experience an xMOOC or a cMOOC.  The “open” part of MOOCs makes it easy. They are meant to be “open,” meaning no obstacles like educational prerequisites or fees.  So, what are you waiting for, go MOOC yourself!

Postscript – Now it’s 2016 and more terms have been added to our vocabulary along the lines of MOOCs. Now there are SPOCs and SOOCs. A SPOC is a “Small Private Online Course” and a SOOC is a “Selective Open Online Course”. SPOCs were popularized by the Harvard and UC-Berkeley crowds. SPOCs are mainly online courses that can be closed or private. Harvard, for example, offers a SPOC on “The Architectural Imaginary” to incoming Design School students. SOOCs tend to be open but may be massive or smaller (think hundreds instead of tens of thousands as for MOOCs) and are typically for a more targeted audience.

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Initial Thoughts on My First MOOC

I wanted to learn more about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), and I thought the best way to learn about them was to sign up and experience one; so I did. Then I had to choose one. I signed up for the Gamification MOOC on Coursera.com which was taught by Professor Kevin Werbach from the Wharton School of Pennsylvania. I wrote the following on April 10, 2013, about one week after my MOOC started.

When I signed up for this MOOC, I really didn’t know what to expect. What little I did know was that MOOCs (pronounced mooks, rhyming with spooks) offer a way to learn content, they’re usually free, most do not count as college credit, and that they’re talked about in almost every training and development discussion group and blog that I’ve read in the last year. MOOCs are relatively new, dating back to 2008, but have become much more widespread and talked about in the last year.

I quickly learned that for my particular MOOC, students are expected to spend four to eight hours a week watching content videos, doing homework, taking quizzes, writing assignments, and completing a final exam. Plus, the course would last six weeks. Geez, that sounds like a lot of work!

One thing I had read about MOOCs is that tens of thousands of people typically sign up for them and in a few cases, over 100,000 people sign up. However, only about 10percent complete a MOOC. Well, that sounded like a challenge to me, so I signed up for one with a goal to complete it. The MOOC topic didn’t matter much to me; I was more interested in the process of taking the MOOC. Why a MOOC on Gamification? Well, because I’m an instructional designer based in a marketing department. What I learn about gamification can not only spill over into my instructional design work; it can also give ideas on how gamification can help companies with their marketing strategies.

Over 62,000 people signed up for the Gamification MOOC  for April 2013. From stats collected via a student survey for our course, participants were from 149 countries with the highest percentage (28%) from the United States and 6 percent each from India, Brazil, and Spain.

Each week, two units of online video content sessions (about five to six videos per unit) are posted to watch. Each video session is from about three to 16 minutes in length with an average being 10 minutes. During the videos, Dr. Werbach not only explains content, but also uses presentation slides, graphics,  and drawing tools to further explain the concepts. In a few of the videos, it pauses to give you a brief assignment to write down in your notes, to participate in a discussion forum, to ask you a quick multiple-choice question, and then the video continues.  Dr. Werbach’s personality and presentation skills made what could have been very tedious videos very interesting.

Video examples

Video examples

More video examples

More video examples
Screen shots used with permission from Dr. Kevin Werbach

Coursera (www.coursera.org) serves as the Learning Management System for this and several other MOOCs. Other learning tools are used in the MOOC such as discussion forums, links to additional resources, a course wiki, and the ability to set up location “meetups” with other students of the course.

The “grading” of the course is based on a number of quizzes, written assignments, and a final exam. I had my first online quiz (multiple choice) last week. It was fairly easy if you took notes, but maybe it was designed to be easier so that participants would stay engaged in the course. We’ll see if it gets harder as the course progresses. This week we have Quiz #2 plus a written assignment that must be submitted at the end of the week. The written assignments are peer-graded. Each written assignment that is submitted is then assigned to five students to read and grade based on a rubric. Then, you get the average of the five grades by your reviewers. If you don’t participate in grading assignments from five other participants, you get a zero for your grade. This course was also given last fall, and they said that the peer grading worked well. It should be interesting to see how this works next week.

Takeaways from week one? Content can be learned via MOOCs, MOOCs take some effort and time commitment from participants, and MOOCs can be an effective way to learn. I’m looking forward to continuing this experience.

See part 2 of this article: Final Thoughts on My First MOOC!