Timing tools and support in a course

support I would like to investigate if it is possible to concentrate on specific tools and support  as course continues and also when we could rely on and develop students inner motivations to continue the course and not drop out. The questions for this short post is (1): Which tools could be used for all this? When would for example tools for face-to-face contact, for peer support, and so on be most effective?

When needed

What is needed

When course start

When in the middle of a course When course ends
tools that could be used Community-building tools

Online resources and printed materials

Community-building tools

Face-to-face contact

Online resources and printed materials

Community-building tools

Face-to-face contact

Engaging with relevant professional groups

support that is needed Registration

Technological support

Library resources: how to search databases

Facilitate the building of study groups

Encourage peer support and greater participation from all students

Technological support

Feedback on assignments

Encourage peer support and greater participation from all students

Assistance in writing papers and referencing (web-based resources)

Technological support

Feedback on assignments

Encourage peer support and greater participation from all students

Assistance in writing papers and referencing (web-based resources)

when/how could we trust on and develop existing strengths in students Emphasise the positive during initial contact Identify underlying values, goals and motivation

Identify resources, protective factors and potentials of learners

Focus on existing assets and competencies

Encourage narration (life story, putting life in perspective, making sense of it)

Building psycho-social connections between peers

Validate effort rather than achievement.

Draw out past successes and high point moments

Encourage ‘positive affect’ (hope and elevated thoughts)

Emphasised psycho-social connections within the study groups

Validate effort rather than achievement..

It seems to me that many of these tools, supportive actions or trust on students strengths don’t focus on difficulties to finish a course. They may work well in the middle of a course but to me it has become obvious that we need special tools and support aimed for the last months or weeks of a course to prevent students from droping out. At the end of a course it often becomes harder  and harder for learners to keep up the good work as thoughts on the life without the course emerges as a possible reality. Then we should focus on community-building tools ,tools for face-to-face contact and to  engage students in relevant professional groups. We ought to continue with a high standard of technological support, give supportive feedback on assignments, encourage peer support and greater participation from all students and give assistance in writing papers and referencing litterature. At the end of a course it also becomes more important to draw out past successes and high point moments from the course, give and encourage ‘positive affect’ (such as hope and elevated thoughts), emphasise psycho-social connections within the study groups and validate effort rather than achievement.

(1) Thanks to Fariborz Zelli for summing up this weeks litterture in our G+ document (that is: Simpson, O. (2008). Motivating learners in open and distance learning: do we need a new theory of learner support?. Open Learning, 23(3), 159-170; The 3E Framework by Keith Smyth; Anderson, T. (Ed.). (2008). The theory and practice of online learning (pp 419-439). Athabasca University Press)

Tools, support and student inner motivation

The ratio between tools being used, support given and trust on and development of existing strengths in students

In the table below 1 is the lowest amount of investments in tools, support or developing students inner motivations and 7 is the highest amount of investments. By combining advices from the litterature for this week, I think one can come  up with the following conclusions:


  1. Tools ought to switch to more interactive face-to-face online tools the longer the course is in progress. This will motivate the students to continue the good work.
  2. Support ought to be more personal the longer the course is in progress. It also ought to be more forward-looking.Students need personal feedback when their own motivation drops and they also need to focus on the end of the course in order to keep the good work up.
  3. A students inner motivation develops from enthusiasm and high motivation to bad conscience for not having enough time to keep up the good work.

Motivation and support


shutterstock_221573581This week we will concentrate on 1. support in online environments; 2. design models for online courses and 3. online tutoring and online facilitation.

It will be interesting to try to identify problems in learners attitudes to online education and to discuss strategies on how to overcome this problems, and to discuss how learners could develop their online learning skills.

When technology meet education the question on how one best can embed technology into the learning activities and assessment practice arises.

Here’s a link to basic Rogerian counselling skills. This perspective is useful when it comes to technology and people.

Answers to questions on topic 5

Thank you for taking the tour. Below – by following the link – you can see the results from all participants.shutterstock_214438486
Answers to questions on topic 5 – Q2
Answers to questions on topic 5 – Q3
Answers to questions on topic 5 – Q4
Answers to questions on topic 5 – Q5

MOOCs – challenge and opportunity

moocMOOCs can only have been realised in a digital context, with people comming together in networking communities. They represent both a thret to and an opportunity for ordinary education. They could become important to improve teaching and to develop new distinctive missions for educational institutions (Weller, M., & Anderson, T. (2013). Digital resilience in higher education. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 16(1), 53). There is of course some importand factors to take into consideration. Rita Kop (Kop, R. (2011). The challenges to connectivist learning on open online networks: Learning experiences during a massive open online course. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, North America, 12, Jan. 2011. Available at: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/882/1689. Accessed: 2014-11-26.) notes that learners in MOOCs “have to be confident and competent in using the different tools in order to engage in meaningful interaction”. However, an ordinary MOOC don’t have that many tools and the discussion mostly goes on in ordinary forums. She continues: ”It takes time for people to feel competent and comfortable to learn in an autonomous fashion, and there are critical literacies, … that are prerequisites for active learning in a changing and complex learning environment without the provision of too much organized guidance by facilitators.” Yes indeed, it takes time to feel confortable with autonomous learning and there are literacies to be learned. And the guidance – although important – is not always there. But I can’t find the ”complex learning environment ”. I find, for instance Courseras learning environment rather simple.

To me there are many things to take into account when starting up a MOOC.

Things to consider are (and here I to a large extent follow Tony Bates, What’s right and what’s wrong about Coursera-style MOOCs although he analyzis the Cousera platform (see more at: http://www.tonybates.ca/2012/08/05/whats-right-and-whats-wrong-about-coursera-style-moocs/#sthash.1vv3qO4X.dpuf):

  • Methods for informal peer assessment;

The question is if the methods used on MOOCs are that new we want them to be. Tony Bates thinks it is wrong to call them new, because – as he puts it – they consist to a large extent of old practises: ”information transmission, computer marked assignments and peer assessment”  based on ”behaviourist pedagogy”. This may not be new pedagogy even if the context is new. A problem of its own is to find working methods for the peer assessments for all those who also wants credits for their work. Is it possible to combine peer reviewing with educator/tutor reviewing and not dimishing the importance of peer reviewing?

  • What replaces the teacher/tutor;

The computer is said to personalize the learning. This is not quite true. The computer could take you through the course material on a path that is unique for you. However,  you will be treated not as a person, an individual, but as a non-person. To be personalized you need a person (teacher/tutor) who  is present in the discussions, with encouragement, and an understanding of an individual student’s needs.

  • How about credits for work done . . .;

Tony Bates has a critical and important point concerning global politics and MOOCs. He calls it: ”Myth 1: MOOCs increase access to higher education in developing countries” (see more at: http://www.tonybates.ca/2012/08/05/whats-right-and-whats-wrong-about-coursera-style-moocs/#sthash.1vv3qO4X.dpuf) and writes

”If Stanford or MIT gave credit for these courses to students from South Africa who succeeded in the exams, and then awarded them full degrees, then that might be different. But these elite universities continue to treat MOOCs as a philanthropic form of continuing education, and until these institutions are willing to award credit and degrees for this type of program, we have to believe that they think that this is a second class form of education suitable only for the unwashed masses.”

We do not want MOOCs to be educationen for ”unwashed masses”, neocolonialism in the digital age. The masses are calling for credits.

MOOCs are not courses as we are used to treat them. What’s going on in a MOOC could be best understood as popularizing research for ”the masses”. MOOCs then are Open Online Courses for the Masses Presenting Research in a Popularized way (OOCMPRP). And that may be good enough for me.  We need MOOCs to present research in a simple way.

Is this jug open or closed?

shutterstock_80403730_smallThat is the question! It’s a jug containing – let’s say – wine. So in a way it is closed. Otherwise the wine would pour out. But it is also open, because there is no cap on it – so you can pour some wine into your cup if you want.

I began for some posts ago to search for answers on what  the meaning of openness in OER really is. On this post I will continue to reflect on this and to my help I will have some litterature.

It is true that education the last fifty years, or before that, often has been centrally led and imposed, earlier by the church and later on by the state. I think it is also true that recent technologies present new possibilities for a less linear and less centralized education. But my qestion for rhis post is if it is sufficiently open for ”new” pedagogies, such as Dewey(1), Illich(2) and Freire(3), and for the kind of social critique that came from these pedagogies. And the question in focus is, I think, why should we at all trust private companies such as Google if we want to develop courses – and courses wirh non-mainstream pedagogies in particular? Putting these questions led me to exciting answers!

I found that educational attempts to promote open access have clear similarities with the concept of negative liberty, coming from a liberal educational practise and focusing on emancipation from hierarchies of control systems like the state . The OER movement emphasise the liberal model of freedom from, especially ”the removal of ‘unfreedoms'”(4) as the principal aim. Macintosh, McGreal and Taylor, for example, declares in a text that aims to develop a “parallel learning universe”(5) that ”individuals are free to learn from OER”(6). To them it is obvious that learning is best done without an organisation and a structure. It seems that the idea of educational institutions as barriers to knowledge prevents them from seeing other benefits with both structure, organisation and state responsibility for HE. The perceived limits of formal institutions makes them devoted followers of formation of knowledge without the traditional forms of institutions, of structure and organisation. Their efforts to highlight OER producers, persons and companies, and to be independent from ordinary academics makes them dedicated enemies to ordinary academic learning.(7)

At this moment the question arises: does this ideological background of the OER has any implications on the use of different tools? To some extent I think it has. One question to explore could be: In what directions will OER, according to the ideological background, evolve during the next – say – 10 years? Another question could be: what advantages and disadvanteges could be found in this development?

That’s all for this post. But my interest and curiosity for the OER movement has not been appeased!

(1) John Dewey was one of many progressive educational theorists living from 1859-1952. To him knowledge should be useful and have connections to reality.

(2) Ivan Illich wanted to demolish the school as it was known and open it up to the surrounding community. He had a vision of a school where the student (the learner) was in focus, with more responsibility and more independent work with the techer as a tutor.

(3) Paulo Freire’s basic thesis was that poor people would not feed other poor people with knowledge from and about the rich world, but instead giving them the opportunity to come to consciousness and conquer their world to build a new one.

(4) As said by Atkins, Brown, and Hammond, A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities. Report to The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, 2007, p1.

(5) Abstract on http://auspace.athabascau.ca/handle/2149/3039.

(6) See Macintosh, McGreal and Taylor, Open Education Resources (OER) for assessment and credit for students project. Towards a logic model and plan for action  2011, p4.

(7) See also Jeremy Knox, Five critiques of the open educational resources movement, Teaching in Higher Education, Volume 18, Issue 8, 2013.