Following conferences online: the bad

One problem I have is that I have too many interests, it is a reason why previous blogs have failed to have much of a ‘flow’ and it impacts on me in other ways.  For example, I fail to keep up with my Google Reader feeds and personal blogging.  It also means that there are more events I would like to attend than I possibly could (unless I won the lottery and could afford all the travel and fees).

Yet if I miss an event I will try and catch up online as much as possible – live streams, recorded sessions, twitter feeds, etc.  However, I have increasingly noticed problems with this approach.

(1) Live streams – increasingly I miss the conversations around the sessions, I used to think attendance and reflection were key but the conversation and collaboration are really what you miss out on.

(2) Recorded sessions – YouTube digests no longer really come in a format which easily exposes all that is new.  This is probably to make sure you visit YouTube rather than just view the email but it is difficult to see all the videos from a channel in the one you once could.  One solution might be for channels to ‘drip-feed’ the release of recordings over time.

(3) Twitter feeds – using TweekDeck I can try and keep on top of Twitter feeds.  However, the combination of spam, endless RTs and the growth of Twitter are causing problems.  In the latter case if you are not quick the feed can become polluted – for example #BBW12 initially used for this year’s Blackboard World conference was soon hijacked by the Baltimore Beer Week.  Now, I’d image @BaltBeerWeek was probably more fun that BBWorld but wouldn’t the organizers check online for tag use first?  Or perhaps they did and it it is perceived that it doesn’t matter if its an old tag as the main use is for real time collaboration?  Whatever the case, I have always used Google to check on hashtag use before recommending them and had presumed everyone does.  Do you?  What would then be a solution?  Lists, which are there in Twitter but probably not used by many, might offer one solution.  Alternatively some kind of index or perhaps a TweetDeck system with more intelligence that  can store and save tweets by identifying attributes such as topic (via keyword) and event (by location or date).  Of course tweet archiving solutions do exist and there is, evidently, a need for me to become more of an expert in that area.

My next post should cover the ‘good’ of following the ALT-C conference this past week.

Final post on my online MSc

If you ever read my last blog, you will have seen various posts about the online MSc course I was working through during the last three years.  You will have also seen that I was not always very positive about the experience.  Thus is it was interesting, just as I was graduating from that course, to see the increase in press coverage for MOOCs and the increasing adoption of ‘free’ online course programmes such as

The major question for me is how, in these course formats, the instructor/tutor role is formed and the level of socialisation with other students.  At times my MSc was limited to working through materials with some discussion board or synchronous chat.  This, to me, is eLearning as has existed for some time and in many ways a replication of a lecture-heavy instructional design.  Indeed accessing static eLearning materials will be familiar to many from the workplace and there are plenty of examples online, including via Alison.

The real value of an educational experience is often the support of experts and your peers in giving a context to your learning.  I fear many large-scale courses are not managing this well.  For example, my recent MOOC experience of Google’s Power Searching with Google MOOC, which contained some good instructional video and useful activities, struggled with a very ‘noisy’ discussion platform.  Do you then start to select entrants, as traditional university courses have, to try and ensure a higher quality experience?  Alternatively do you deliver static materials as a way to advertise what is possible for a fully supported experience, in the form of open course ware rather than open courses.