Some more pointless stats

Following on from the dubious numbers in my Google Reader post, Slideshare have recently been kind enough to hint at what is possible via their pay plans by emailing me (on April 29th) stats on views of my presentations:

  1. Questionmark vs Blackboard for online tests – 778 views
  2. Whose education is it anyway? – Blackboard UK User Group 2010 – 566 views
  3. Supporting the transition from the physical to the virtual classroom – 480 views
  4. Using Blackboard for Pre-Entry Diagnostic Testing – 333 views
  5. ALT-c 2011: Breaking the ice, an instructional design approach for institutional growth – 252 views

These basics stats are also available via the ‘My Uploads’ section – my most viewed item being Pdp: Its Role And Implementation In The Law Curriculum as of today (926 views).

In total my 7 Slideshares have been viewed 3503 times (as of May 10th).

An issue here is how Slideshare deals with sites such as docs.hut effectively copying the resource.  Therefore, whilst there is some use in such statistics and analytics there is little value without some narrative from the users engaging with them, unfortunately a lack of comments means this is tricky to say the least.  Slideshare do offer some further functionality but there are clearly issues here – for example the best interaction around a presentation I have had is perhaps the ALT-c 2011 one above whilst its numbers in terms of views are not great.

When LinkedIn recently took Slideshare content and worked it directly into your profile I removed the presentations, whilst I am happy for these to be shared they are very much of their time and I would not necessarily recommend them as examples of my work.  I see Slideshare as something of a historic evidence archive of my development rather than examples of the kind of work I would produce today, another example where it is useful to keep different social and web tools separate for different use cases.

Cheerio Google Reader

So I’ve taken the opportunity of a long holiday weekend to jump ship from Google Reader.

My final solution has been to move:

  1. most audio subscriptions to iTunes.
  2. other RSS to The Old Reader – this seems fine so far, a little annoying that imports come in as unread but otherwise not too bad.  The mobile version (on my Windows 8 phone) seems good enough.

For the record, my Reader stats were:

  1. 1682 subscriptions (The Old Reader said it imported 819 so I’m hoping that is ignoring dead ones rather than losing any)
  2. 42 tags/folders
  3. Over the last 30 days I had read 629 items, clicked 54 items, starred 0 items, and emailed 12 items.
  4. Since April 12, 2007 I had “read” a total of 178,020 items
  5. 8 starred items:
    1. Eradicating the Stigma: HR’s Future
    2. Rethinking Human Resources in a Changing World
    3. How Poor Leaders Become Good Leaders
    4. Nine Rules for Stifling Innovation
    5. Student Loans – sale of ‘mortgage-style loan book’
    6. What is a private university?
    7. The ePortfolio Idea “Forking”?
    8. A comment I made on a blog

Revisiting some old notes

I am something of a hoarder – I tend to keep things and this includes materials from old courses.  As you would probably expect, I rarely look at these.  However, I recently decided to have a look at some old notes I found in one of my bags (I think I put them there to read on a train but never did).

I think looking back at the notes we make is a very useful experience in reflecting on our personal development, for example, it often shows when/how I was first introduced to a term or acronym and can be viewed in comparison to current practice to reflect on professional development.

Quotes from texts also help remind us of fundamental knowledge and perhaps where we are not doing what we should!

From these particular notes, mainly on instructional design and online learning, some bits jumped out:

  • The role of the professor is “master-guide” (Hype Versus Reality on Campus: Why e-Learning Isn’t Likely to Replace a Professor. Any Time Soon, by Brent G. Wilson and Lee Christopher) – useful in the MOOC debate.
  • Knowledge management is “how groups of people make themselves collectively smarter”, i.e. like training but not for the individual, in this instance knowledge is “a capacity to act” so KM is helping people make better decisions (Knowledge Management: From the Graveyard of Good Ideas, by William Horton)

Above are from the The e-learning handbook : past promises, present challenges / Saul Carliner and Patti Shank, editors.

  • “There are seven good reasons why portfolio-building is helpful:
  1. as a tool for self development;
  2. to asses prior learning;
  3. to gain accreditation;
  4. to share good practice;
  5. to evaluate training;
  6. to enhance performance;
  7. to change a culture.”

The above is from Warren Redman in 1994 (Portfolios for Development: A Guide for Trainers and Managers) but these points remain fundamental.  The arguments for and against ePortfolios must always remember these essential items.

Redman also made the following points which could easily come out of a L&D article of 2013: “increasingly there is a recognition that the key attributes needed by people in a constantly changing work environment are:

  1. flexibility;
  2. self-motivation;
  3. communication skills; and
  4. a willingness and ability to develop new skills”.

In looking back at our professional roots, such as these old notes (I think I made these about five years ago) we recognize the value in not repeating the mistakes of the past and also helps us remember that ‘new’ ideas are often not really new at all.  One advantage of the academic route into a profession is that, via literature reviews and other approaches, you can be familiar with historic projects and theory/practice development.  One fear in a less-university led world would be that historic knowledge is lost to information overload and we fail to build on the practice of the past.

Remember when ‘Wikis were well wicked’?

[I drafted a long post about this a while ago, inspired by the alliteration and the Beastie Boys, but never posted it – this is an abbreviated version]

A while back it seemed Wikis were the answer to many of our ills – breaking down the barriers of web design, enabling creation of knowledge bases, an easy way to capture tacit and crowd-sourced content.

Social media and mobile, and MOOCs in HE, seem to have stolen the thunder of Wikis in more recent times.  Wikis indeed have probably just become a standard tool amongst the suite available to educators, knowledge managers and other professionals.  Their flexibility however means they remain a tool with huge potential.

It is then of interest to see the launch of Wikispaces Classroom a few weeks back – a wiki combining tools (such as ‘Projects’) to effectively build a LMS out of a long standing (as Web 2.0 tools go) product.  The below video introduces Classroom and does mention (toward the end) how it might be seen as LMS-lite functionality.

Seems like a great example of a c.2005 buzz tool evolving but maintaining their original spirit [well Wikipedia says it launched then so that was a good guess].  In my old role I maintained a departmental knowledge base on Wikispaces (my handover was effectively just a case of tidying this site up) – compare that to Rypple (that I used for feedback/ratings/team management in that role) which has now evolved to Work.com within the Salesforce suite and you get two quite different models of online tools evolutions.

Thoughts on three very different MOOCs

I have recently undertaken a number of ‘MOOCs’ on topics of interest, most recently:

  1. Science, Technology, and Society in China I: Basic Concepts (Coursera)
  2. Internet History, Technology, and Security (Coursera)
  3. Today’s Blended Teacher (Blended Schools) – see some previous posts for work on this (note I skipped the last week)

Now I started all of these very much expecting to just ‘pick’ at certain resources.  This approach is partly based on how I perceive the free/open web – MOOCs, to me, are just another web resource. The key difference is that most are still using some form of hidden web tool such as a Learning Management System (LMS), collaboration and may offer accreditation.

In the instructional approach MOOC courses follow they are offering a structure comparable to section headers in Wikipedia, or the mix of media a newspaper website uses, the structure given to a webinar, etc. etc.  The value of most courses comes from collaboration, with instructor/expert and participants, not their static resources.  Of these three, Blended Schools, running a nice Google+ community and Hangouts, offers more in the collaboration area than the Coursera offerings which both effectively followed the same model:

  1. Lecture video (IHTS supplemented with some excellent creative commons – materials including videos with the experts the course was about)
  2. Knowledge checks within videos (a nice feature of the LMS/VLE platform to keep the flow going)
  3. Some additional reading
  4. Assignments – STSC 3 written papers/IHTS weekly quiz and final test (with optional extra credit written papers).
  5. With forums around all of this (I did not really engage with these nor any of the IHTS meetups which were arranged – the instructor even meeting up in ‘class hours’ around the world with some participants)

This similarity in model is perhaps a result of the two Coursera items being, effectively, stripped down and very introductory undergraduate university offerings.  That said, the assignments were far from what I would expect of an accredited HE course – STSC relied on peer grading (which has led to lots of comments/complaints and even an offer of the instructor remarking papers for people with a particular grievance) and as with most multiple choice quizzes (which do not use remote proctoring or lock down browser) IHTS was open to cheating.  Indeed of the three papers (all c.500 words) on STSC I struggled to see the major benefit in the final paper (possibly due to my misunderstanding of the topic/question I must admit) and thus deliberately did not spend as much time on the answer.  This in itself was an interesting experiment in that the peer grading showed a clear trend that my own perceptions were correct (assignment 1 nearly gained full marks dropping down by assignment 3).  STSC did provide a rubric to help write your answer – now I am normally in favor of this as I think it helps frame the research and keep students on track.  However, I wonder if in a MOOC it is particularly at risk of misuse in allowing for people to ‘avoid class’ but still pass the assignment.  That said, if we take a MOOC as just another web resource (albeit one hidden away on a community or LMS) then rubrics can be a useful guide to the capabilities you should have developed – i.e. the arguments you should be able to form from engaging with the other resources (including people).

Overall I came out of the two Coursera items with some new knowledge I can apply in my work and some fundamental historical basis for knowledge I already held.  However, they’ve done nothing to suggest courses at this scale are more or less effective than ones I have done in the past (such as my online MA) – they are just different.  Indeed, as pointed out by people elsewhere the real problem is likely to be MOOCs led by institutions with limited online instructional design expertise who ignore the work done by so many people over the last few decades.  The problem, no doubt will be picking out the courses which are actually useful to you and not just vanity projects for the instructor, marketing by an institution, making money (via the ‘in app purchase’ route of getting you in then selling you reading, accreditation, etc) or other reason.