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Participatory Arts MOOC Evaluation and Board

An Introduction to Participatory Arts – the first presentation of the university’s first MOOC came to a close today. For students it officially ended yesterday, and today the MOOC leader, the principle content developer, and myself met in what was effectively the exam board for the MOOC to assess students’ final submission and award certificates of participation to those who had passed. There were only seven students, out of the 160 or so who were registered, which is a higher than typical non-completion rate for MOOCs, but this was a tough course, MA level content, so we weren’t too displeased. We will be following up with some of the students about the level of content and discussing how we can improve things in future presentations.

For a discussion on non-completion rates on MOOCs, and the reasons why, see this paper from Warwick University (PDF, 473 KB).

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It’s Alive!


Sunderland’s first MOOC that is, the one that I’ve been helping to develop – Introduction to Participatory Arts and Media. It’s been open for enrolment for a few weeks now, but today is the day the first presentation begins and we have just over 150 students enrolled so far. Exciting times! As well as continuing to provide technical and pedagogic advice and support throughout the duration, I’ll also be doing some TA duties as required.

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Canvas Network Training Course

In preparation for the Participatory Arts MOOC which I am helping to develop, and which is being hosted on Canvas Network, Instructure asked us to complete this training and preparatory MOOC which, as always happens with MOOCs, I started enthusiastically in early March but was quickly lost amongst the sea of deadlines and urgent jobs.

As the university has chosen Canvas for our new VLE also, this should have given me a head start, but as things panned out I’ve ended up completing all of my onsite Canvas training first. Nevertheless, completing the MOOC was still a valuable exercise as there are some differences with Canvas Network and it did cover pedagogic issues which are specific to MOOCs, such as the types of assessment used and how to stimulate student engagement week on week.

I also earned a couple of badges, Canvas Network Groupie and Canvas Network Rock Star. These were issued through Badgr, another open badge platform which doesn’t link or share my badges to my Mozilla Backpack. I really want to like open badges, I love the concept, but the different platforms need to work with each other; I want to be able to display and collate all of my badges in one place, but the only way I am able to do that is by posting them all on my own website, here, under the Badge tag. The situation screams of the XKCD cartoon Standards.

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ArtWorks Scotland Forum for Practice Development


Following on from the Interface Symposium held here at Sunderland last September, I was asked to attend the ArtWorks Scotland Forum for Practice Development at the National Theatre of Scotland to raise awareness of the pending launch of our MOOC, by networking and delivering a session on the MOOC, showing the development that has been made to date.

With the materials still being built out on the MOOC platform itself, Canvas Network, I ran my demonstration from the SunSpace development site again, after updating it with some of the latest materials, and devising an interactive activity for the attendees of the forum. Lacking time and resources to have people complete an activity within the sample MOOC itself, I embedded an automatically updating word cloud using Tagul and then, during the networking lunch before my session, I interviewed all of the participants asking them to define what participatory arts means to them in three words – this mimicked the assessment we ran at the Interface Symposium. As they gave me their answers I was inputting them into Tagul on my tablet, then during my demonstration, when I came to this page the word cloud was complete with their responses which you can see in the image above. I’m pleased to be able to note that this all went without a hitch, and there was a lot of interest in the MOOC in terms of both providing content (which was one of the aims of attending the forum), and in participating when it goes live later this year.

The rest of the forum was, for me, an opportunity to learn more about the field of participatory arts which, as someone made a point of in their presentation, is possibly the majority of art produced, in contrast to the perception of art as something produced by talented individuals for the enjoyment or consumption of others. Particularly interesting was Simon Sharkey of the National Theatre of Scotland’s presentation about their involvement with the Gulbenkian Foundation to produce Sharing the Stage and Home Away.

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Interface Symposium: Arts, Participation and Higher Education


Attended a symposium for people working in participatory arts, organised by the university with attendees from ArtWorks-U, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, ArtWorks Alliance and many independent artists. It was an enlightening day and I met lots of interesting people, with discussions around challenges facing the arts and how participatory practice can interface with university research, and presentations on current good practice and reflections on the Asunder Project.

However, the main reason for my attendance was that I was facilitating one of the afternoon sessions: ‘New approaches to teaching resources’, a live demonstration of some of the content which is being developed in collaboration between the department and WaLTS for the ArtWorks MOOC. The MOOC platform will not be ready for some time yet, so what was demonstrated was a sample unit which I build out on SunSpace. This included a number of videos produced ourselves, some video and written case studies for discussion, a main presentation which I converted to Storyline, a couple of Google forms to get gather participant’s experience and reflections on the mini MOOC and a short sample assignment asking people to give their definition of participatory arts.

After some issues getting people logged on with the guest accounts, it went pretty smoothly. I deliberately kept the structure simple and the use of tools to a minimum to eliminate the need to give any kind of training on how to use SunSpace, and feedback was generally positive and useful.

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Learn Moodle MOOC 2016


So I completed the Learn Moodle MOOC, got my badges and certificate, and learned a lot more about Moodle from an instructors point of view, having previously only used it as a student. It’s big. It’s monolithic. Reminded me very much of Blackboard in that it tries to do everything, be all things to all people, and in so doing it is perhaps over complicated and not as easy to use as I would have liked. I fear the staff development that may be required if we chose Moodle as our next VLE. On the other hand, it’s used by over 50% of HEIs in the UK so there’s a very good chance that many of our staff will have used it before, and the rest have probably used Blackboard so should find it easy enough to transition.

I liked the default text box editor initially, Atto, I loved it for the ‘Accessibility Checker’ feature, but as I used it more I found that it had similar problems to other VTBE’s – doing weird random things like inserting line breaks or additional space when they’re nothing there, in either visual or HTML edit modes. I also ran into a lot of niggly browser issues using a fairly default instance of Safari. The Learn Moodle mobile app was a little dated, but functioned very well, except for Big Blue Button integration which was lacking and which many of us on the course gripped about.

Other things I liked: the prompt / ability to assign a license when you upload a file; checkboxes to show metadata like size and filetype; the repositories look like they could do the job of replacing EQUELLA for us; ability to add files to a repository by emailing them to yourself; progress tick boxes for students; the ability to allow people to rate content items; the Glossary tool with highlighting function; and the very comprehensive reporting tools will be well received.

All in all, a good course, well worth doing, and there is no question that Moodle is a vast improvement over LearningStudio and would be welcomed by our academic community if it’s chosen in our VLE review.

The next presentation of Learn Moodle will begin on the 2nd of January 2017 if you missed out this time:

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Learn Moodle!

The Learn Moodle MOOC is running again. A four week free open course which teaches you everything you ever wanted to know about Moodle (possibly). It started on August 7th, so it’s still in week 1 and the perfect time to join.

I missed this last year, discovered it too late, and it’s thanks to a colleague here who spotted it in time for this year.

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Hello Old Friend


Why, hello there old friend! It’s been a while has it not?

I’m working with an academic on developing a course which she wants to deliver as a MOOC and part of my role has been to find the right platform for her. We can’t easily do anything in the University’s VLE, and Sunderland has not yet partnered with any of the big MOOC providers such as FutureLearn, so I have been investigating two free options, OpenClass from Pearson and CourseSites from Blackboard.

OpenClass has the advantage of being from the same codebase as LearningStudio making it easy for our academics to use and it should provide a pretty smooth transition for students who complete the MOOC and go on to enrol on the next level at the University (the proposed model). OpenClass, however, is no longer under active development by Pearson and so it’s future is shaky.

CourseSites is provided by Blackboard on a similar model. It is freely available for anyone to use and they can have up to five courses running simultaneously with unlimited numbers of students. This is not an exaggeration: in less than a minute of setting up my account on CourseSites I hit this error! I suspect it was just a case of things taking a little while to be created in the background, but it made me laugh as my life at Northumbria was plagued by such errors. I haven’t seen one in nearly a year and within a minute of using Blackboard again I got one straight off the bat.

On a serious note though, it does go to show that all platforms have their problems and idiosyncrasies, and that there is no perfect solution. Easy to forget that sometimes.

UPDATE: I never even had time to post this before learning that Blackboard are in the process of migrating CourseSites to their new MOOC platform, Open Education. I haven’t signed up to this one yet as it would appear to be a little more formal and I would need to sign up the University as an institutional partner, something I need to run up the flagpole first. I can’t see it being much different though, Blackboard is Blackboard, and CourseSites will serve in the interim to start development.

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Introduction to Dutch


Hallo. In maart, voltooide ik de ‘Inleiding tot Nederlandse’ cursus aan de Rijksuniversiteit Groningen via FutureLearn. Ik studeerde ongeveer drie uur per week gedurende drie weken en leerde over introducties en hoe om te praten over familie, werk, studie en woon in Nederland.

Not work related, although I would love to live and work in the Netherlands one day, but the course was CPD and one of the purposes of this blog is to record and evidence my CPD. It was also very much learning which was enhanced with technology, indeed it’s difficult to imagine the same content being delivered effectively without the modern media-rich internet.

This was my first course on FutureLearn, fitting it in the little gap between my MA taught module and the dissertation which looms large, and I was very impressed with the platform and presentation. FutureLearn features a wholly responsive design which worked well on everything I fired it up on, and the course was structured in a clear, linear fashion broken up by weeks and items with each item composed of video, audio, exposition, a short MCQ, or any combination thereof. Each item had a checkbox to mark it as complete which fed into a live progress bar along the top of the site, a nice feature. All of the video and audio material could be downloaded for offline use, and transcripts were available as PDF documents, as was the exposition items and lists of vocabulary. Collaboration with tutors and other students was achieved by means of a moderated discussion board attached to the principle items.

Being a language course, there was a large amount of vocabulary and grammar to learn for which they used an optional external tool, Quizlet, to present the vocabulary lists and grammar rules as flashcards. Quizlet was the one part of the course material which I wasn’t terribly impressed with. For a long time now I have been a user and big fan of Memrise, a tool which performs a similar function but which combines flashcard type learning with memes to help you remember them. For example, to remember the meaning of ‘vindingrijk’ (inventive or resourceful) you can use the meme ‘The person who invented the vending machine was very resourceful‘. When learning a word or phrase on Memrise you are initially presented with the word, the meaning and you can either select or write a meme to help you remember it. Later, when reviewing or testing on what you have learned, you get either the word or meaning and have to translate it. This is a technique which I have found to work exceptionally well.

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ocTEL 2014

The Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning (ocTEL) from the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), was a massive, online, open course (MOOC) for lecturers and the learning technologists who support them covering all aspects of using technology to support and improve the learning experience for students.

Alas my participation was not as deep as I had desired due to the very happy event of getting a new job just after the course started, but I was still able to take part in all of the live webinars (bar one for which I had to watch the recording), completed some of the activities, established relationships with lots of new people, learned a great deal, and discovered many new tools such as which is my new favourite. In keeping with the open nature of the course, I actually discovered this through a post someone had made and not directly via the course material itself.

This was the second year that ocTEL has run and I hope that it was successful enough for ALT to run again next year. For anyone who has missed out and doesn’t want to wait, the 2014 site will remain available indefinitely with all of the material published under a Creative Commons attribution license.

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