Open Education MOOC: some initial reflections… and Activity 4

Week 2 of the Open Education MOOC started yesterday and I am already falling behind, slightly… Yet, the first week has been an enriching experience and has given me plenty to think about! Like many participants, I have been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of contributions either via the blog aggregator or via the Week 1 forum. I soon realised that the latter does not really work for me. Too chaotic, difficult to select what I should read, too many threads and posting clogging my inbox. So much so that I have been filtering and archiving forum postings without reading them, hoping to get back to them at some point. So I was very pleased to see that the course tutors are in the process of tidying it up. It may indeed become a useful resource once I find some time to go through the postings. And then, there is Facebook and Google+. I haven’t tried either…

The blog aggregator is a different story, although the interface is rather basic. But with feedly (which I have been using since Google announced that Google Reader will disappear in July), it is much easier to read, organise, and even tag the posts I want to come back to later. However, it did take me some time to get organised, I did not bookmark the posts I wanted to read again or comment, and now I have some difficulties finding them again :).

So after this first week in my first MOOC, my head is buzzing with new ideas, questions and areas I want to explore further as they relate to my current research interests. Activity 4 asked us to identify the three main priorities that a funding organisation wishing to promote activity and research in the area of open education. Based on my experience so far, and on my involvement in various teaching, research and development, and research projects, these are:

  • Sustainability. There has been a lot of discussions on the forum or blogs about this. For me sustainability is a multifaceted concept, that should not be restricted to business models, although this is clearly crucial if open education is to survive and expand. We also need to think sustainability in terms of sustainable pedagogies, sustainable communities or collectives of open learners, sustainable platforms and tools to support the former two. This is something that we have started to work on in the context of a Lifelong Learning Programme, SpeakApps. Plenty more work to do on the subject!
  • Learning across multiple spaces and timescales. I don’t really have time to expand on this, but issues of space and time in virtual learning environments are a hobby-horse of mine at the moment… And my first experience in this MOOC suggests that openness in education raises many spatial and temporal issues that are worth researching (I am particularly interested in how learners create learning chronotopes, but this is for another day…).
  • Language and literacies. I was delighted to come across some blog posts in other languages than English. And it seems that there are quite a number of participants in this MOOC who are not native English speakers (like myself…). Yet the question of language is often neglected by institutions wishing to embark on an open education project, or simply trying to recruit students from all over the world. Can we have openness in education without thinking about the fundamental role that language has in learning, and beyond language, literacies?


Openness in education: a visual representation

So here it is! I finally managed to come up with a visual representation that defines what I understand by Openness in education, based on the readings suggested by the Open Education course creators. After reading Martin Weller’s (2012) article, The openness-creativity cycle in educationand Terry Anderson’s (2009) slides of his keynote at ALT-C, I decided to use iMindMap to represent some aspects that I found particularly interesting and useful. Unfortunately, iMindMap is not free (although there is a free version with limited functionalities), but I got it a little while ago and never got the chance to play with it until today. I have used other free mindmapping tools in the past, such as freemind and Cmap Tools (and I particularly like the latter), but I find iMindMap easier to use!

Activity 3, Openness in education

Openness in education: a visual representation (click on the image to enlarge it)

Open Education course

After a long interruption (18 months!), I am back blogging, and I will soon be back tweeting… My sabbatical is well and truly over (and yes, I had a fantastic year!), I have been back teaching since last September, and I am just as busy as ever. So much so that I haven’t had time to go near my site until now. And now, I have no choice :). First, all my students at Dublin City University (DCU) have been blogging for the past month as part of their French modules and it is time that I blogged again! And second, I have just enrolled with Open Learn (Open University) on an Open Education course, which recommends that participants use their own blog to take part in the course activities.

So, why did I decide to study this course? When I read about it on the March edition of OpenNews (Alumni edition), I was immediately drawn to it. I have toyed with the idea of studying a MOOC for a good while, but I never got around enrolling in a course. Having done my PhD with the Institute of Educational Technology (as a part-time external student), and having close links with colleagues in the Department of Languages, I felt quite confident that this could only be a good experience… if I manage to keep up with the course, that is!

I am keen in learning more about Open Education, and there is no doubt in my mind that participating in an open course on open education will be extremely beneficial to me. For the last two years, I have been involved in  a Lifelong Learning Programme project, SpeakApps. The project finished last month, and during those two years we have developed open source tools and resources for the teaching and learning of languages online. My team was responsible for piloting the tools and tasks for the Irish language and for coordinating (with the University of Jyväskylä) the development of a sustainability framework and exploitation plan. I wish I had done the Open Education course before the project started :)! Still, I believe that studying this course will help me make sense of and continue to build on the SpeakApps experience as well as give me tools and methods to make my own courses more ‘open and innovative’.