Monday, 12 August 2013

Holiday over

So, that's me back at work today after a very relaxing 6 weeks off. I've been extremely quiet, in fact non-existent, on the blog front during this time.

I was however pretty active during my time off. I spent a week on Ibiza, which was very nice. It was the first time I had visited Ibiza and also the first time abroad with my two year old little girl. We all had a fab time, did a spot of sight-seeing, some sunbathing and ate lots of nice food. The weather was just perfect - not too hot.

After coming home we visited lots of nice places around Scotland: Oban, St Andrews, Stirling and spent time at my sister in-law's new house in Killearn. Whilst doing all this I managed to complete TMA4 and put a whole new roof on my shed. I got my mark back for TMA3, which I was extremely happy with, finally putting the ghosts of TMA2 to bed.

In the last couple of weeks I carried out a full upgrade of the college Moodle system to version 2.5. This is always a pest of a job, however this time around I also managed to optimise the MySQL database, install and config a PHP cache accelerator and do some work on the theme CSS. It's all looking pretty good so far.

After 10 years, the domain name davidmcdade dot com became available, so I snapped it up. I'm probably going to install Wordpress and use it for blogging. I need to figure out how to migrate the posts from this blog to the new one. Among my first posts I am going to create a comprehensive guide to the Moodle upgrade process I have just been through.

It's EMA time also, I can't believe how quickly this course has gone. I've been in a bit of a quandary the past week or so about my subject matter for the EMA, I was originally going to go with MOOCs, however I have chose Badges as it's an area that I am very interested in, I am going to blog my processes in the completion, just hope I can find some good research material!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Block 3

I've had almost a week now to reflect on what was block 3 - the AoD project. It has probably been the most crazy 6 weeks of my life.

At the beginning I was a bit confused as to why I was placed under the topic of assessing multimedia artefacts, as it was not a priority choice. As the project started to get rolling, I could see the sense in why I was chosen for this, especially when I though about it in my own work context. Also, what's the point in doing the same old - it doesn't do any harm to be taken out of your comfort zone.

Working in groups isn't easy at the best of times, never mind when you are working over large distance. The communication methods chosen by our team were very effective. We would tweet all the time and almost every day - this was good for short sharp conversation. As team leader, I had my eye on twitter constantly and found myself tweeting at the oddest of times - during classes and in meetings whilst during the day at work. Even though we were supposed to impose a hierarchy within our team, it wasn't really like that - there was equal decision making within the team. This suited everyone and was effective. For example there were occasions when not all team members could be present and decisions had to be taken. If they had not been, then we would have risked our schedule - which we managed to stick to throughout the duration. We had some good face-to-face sessions as well through Elluminate - a session on Friday night after a couple of beers is always fun.

As we moved into our design and things started to unfold, it was sometimes difficult to keep track of activities, who was to do what, what was to be part of the site and what was to be blogged. This seemed to bring out frustrations in other teams. We were very lucky in that the project manager, Trish, was good at saying, 'OK, here's what we've done, and here's a list of what we need to do and who's to do it.' I found that massively helpful. As the design components started coming together it was easy to piece things together in the prototype and see how the approaches that each team member was taking, could be utilised within the assessment framework kit.

I found by the time we got to the heuristic evaluation stage, I was beginning to run out of steam a little. I had to really motivate myself to examine another prototype and feed back on it. However once I got myself going, I enjoyed looking at the coxless4 site - I was amazed by the amount of time they had dedicated to actually building a very useful resource.

Now that it's over and I've given myself a week to reflect, I am happy with the work we produced. The most valuable part of the process for me personally, was the team working aspect and how we utilised technology very effectively for communication. It was good to dip in to a Google doc, see Trish or Priya working on it and have a quick chat. During the process itself I enjoyed the case study research - I spent a few solid days on this and found lots of great stuff.

Probably the biggest factor however is that I have a load of headspace back - I didn't realise just how much the AoD project was dominating my life, the OU does have a habit of doing this.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Open Badges Working Group Scotland

 I attended a really good meeting yesterday afternoon at JISC Glasgow - the first meeting of the Open Badges Working Group.

My attendance at the meeting came about coincidentally after I tweeted one morning that I needed to get more work done instead of reading about badges - I instantly got a reply 'do you want to come to our meeting?'

Just before I left to go to the meeting, I had chaired a college Moodle group meeting, where we were talking about the upgrade to Moodle 2.5 and the inbuilt badge system, this instantly generated a lot of discussion as people wanted to know more and I'm like 'guess what, I am just going to a meeting about badges!' - quite bizarre.

The whole badge thing got a hold of me whilst I was completing the Open Ed MOOC, I found it extremely motivational. Even when I submitted TMA2 I was instantly back on to OU MOOC earning my last badge. Ever since then I have been thinking on ways I can implement a system within the college, concentrating on three main areas: accreditation for learners on non-advanced courses, to motivate staff on introductory teacher training programmes and also to try and engage more staff in the use of Moodle.

There were approx 35 people signed up for the meeting, but only 25-30 in attendance. There was a mix of people from industry, secondary schools, FE colleges and HE. It was fantastic to hear all the different stories and ideas and of course, meet some new and old faces.

A lot of themes emerged from the meeting, mostly to do with learner motivation and engagement and staff CPD - most of us, if not all, were thinking along the same lines. What lies ahead is that were are going to form sub-groups for developing badges - I am torn between getting involved with SQA developing badges for learners on non-advanced college courses, or developing badges for Moodle training - I cant make up my mind!

I also managed to earn a badge just for attending the meeting :-)

Thursday, 13 June 2013


ADaPT are now just about complete with the Artefacts of Design project. The final stages consist of creating a prototype and heuristic evaluation for the site.

The prototyping phase was where things really started coming together. Each of the team members had different ideas for how they wanted to represent things - this was captured in the storyboarding process. I am forever the pragmatist, so I wanted to see things in action. The other two team members were looking at the bigger picture, so I suppose we had a Macro, Meso and Micro approach.

When it came time to prototype and bring the storyboards together, it was good to see how our ideas fitted together, you really could see the logical flow of our ideas - it was very exciting.

To start things off, all the team had an elluminate session. This was to decide on who was doing what for prototyping. I had taken the prototype feature table and created a shortlist that condensed some of the tasks as there were a few overlaps, that was handy for allocating tasks among the team members. I had a couple of jobs for prototyping: The first one was to take my original story board and create a concrete example of how formative assessments, resources, multimedia artefacts and summative assessment would tie together in a design based course. From this I created a Prezi that featured Don, my persona and how he could apply the example. The second job I had was to redesign the prototype section on the site and bring all our resources together. I noticed another team had created a nice menu system on their site, so I decided to do the same. I took me a while to get things organised, about 4 hours, as the AoD site was running quite slow and odd things were happening.

Once everything was on it was a mighty relief to the team, you could see things coming together and how our site would be useful in the assessment design context and at different levels. Unfortunately we lost a team member around this time. It didn't really come as any surprise as the team member was struggling to get to grips with what we were trying to do. The member created a blog post and described he wasn't enjoying the process, but enjoyed being part of the team.

The prototyping process was very useful as it provided a space for bringing our ideas into a useable package where you could see the direction in which we were heading. The only limitations was that time was against us.

Reflecting back to the very beginning of block 3, I remember thinking (I may have even posted somewhere) that working online as a team was probably going to be the biggest constraint, it in fact turned out to be the opposite, it was an absolute pleasure, thanks to my team mates of course. I probably worked better and more efficiently in this team than I have in many face-to face teams.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Gardening marathon

The weather has been absolutely beautiful in Paisley this weekend. The temperature has been around 25 celsius (is that how you spell celsius?), I can't remember the last time it's been as warm. It's been 3 years since I moved into this house, I feel now that I am finally beginning to appreciate my garden. I think it's because Isabella is now two and from the moment she opens her eyes in the morning, she cries 'OUTSIDE!!' We are fortunate that we have a big garden, she loves it. Because of that I have been keeping the garden really tidy this year, more than I have in the past, I am quite getting into gardening now, it's good time to reflect - it's easy to end up in a world of your own for a few hours.

It's the final week for block 3 in the OU - I am quite relieved at this. I don't think the learning design process that we are all going through needed to be as complex - there seemed to be a lot of frustration going on - I am luck that I am in an extremely efficient team that works well together. We are at the point now we are about to prototype the site. There was a whole group hangout this morning, to discuss block 3 and the impending TMA. I was sad to miss it, but I had family commitments to take care of.

Gladly, things are beginning to wind down in work, the summer holidays are only a couple of weeks away. My classes are finishing and I'm mopping up now, results this year haven't been too bad, I've not had the best quality of learners - they are in for a rude awakening when the go into university year 3 in September.

I've got quite a lot of Moodle business to attend to between now and the start of July. I am running a train the trainers session on backing up and resetting courses, I am also planning for a big upgrade to version 2.5 and with it, a redesign of the interface. Staff in the college found out the name for our newly  merged institution on Friday, the upgrade I imagine will have to reflect this - photoshop here we come.

Monday, 3 June 2013


After a month of waiting, I finally got my mark back for my TMA.  I got to the point where I was actually dreaming about it in my sleep.

Even though my mark isn't bad I feel as if it should have been better. Unless you get 100%, I know that most people feel this way. However, this time around my mark has been getting to me more than usual.

I am pi**ed off about the lack of clarity in the assessment description. My tutor fed back to me that I should have had more of an implementation plan - I could easily have done that, I do it everyday as part of my job and also if the assessment had have been a bit clearer.

When it comes to TMA time I tend to rummage around the other tutor group forums, I always do this and I have found it in the past to be advantageous. On this occasion I read a post from another tutor that said 'it should be an outline proposal, not an implementation manual' and for some reason that stuck in my head. I was discussing this with my wife and she said 'why are you listening to another tutor and not your own?' Maybe it serves me right.

On a more positive note, I actually submitted my TMA to my vice principal for consideration. The TMA was an implementation of a MOOC in a newly merged Glasgow college to promote digital literacies and serve as an introduction into the advanced diploma teaching in FE award. The project is called the Glasgow Regional Open Access Network. My vice principal immediately picked up on the GROAN acronym - I thought it was a nice touch myself.

My college is about to merge with three others. I think this project would be good not just for the new college, but the new Glasgow FE region as a whole - placing a network of educators at its heart.


So, we're getting to the end of weeks 16 and 17, which is culminating in the production of storyboards. I am no stranger to storyboarding in both my lives as a developer and as a teacher. I used to storyboard on the occasions that I developed websites and I always encouraged my learners to use storyboards, especially when teaching web development.

Our team have been pretty much going with the flow and doing what we need to do and working very well together, although one of the team members seems to have dropped off the radar a bit. We were asked to bring together our ideas into a storyboard, so we divided the task, Me and another team member would present one each as teachers, the other two storyboards would be from the learner perspective. I toyed around with some ideas myself for a day or two, because I wasn't too sure if my approach should be from a high level or be detailed. After a quick tweet to aunty T, I decided to take a more detailed approach, which suited me as I always prefer the pragmatic approach.

I decided to base my storyboard directly on the case study that I had reviewed - why re-invent the wheel. My storyboard was an intro to furniture design course lasting 4 weeks with three summative assessments and one final formative. The aim was to use technology to capture the basic design process and build an ePortfolio of artefacts that would be used for assessment purposes. I took me a good couple of hours to work with the diagram, I thought it would be beneficial to also include a course rationale and framework.

I had a look at the other frameworks and was pleased to see the different approaches that everyone else took - it's important to have different design perspectives. The only thing we need to do now is unify them.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Activity 12 - searching for ideas

For this activity, we were asked to search academic literature for case studies and frameworks that could help the team in making decisions about the project as well as providing ideas.

One of my favourite things about being part of the OU is having access to the library - I could quite happily spend hours inside the database looking for articles and journals, and that's pretty much what I did, unfortunately I wasted a bit of time as a result of this.

First thing I came across was an article by Wills et al (2009) on an eLearning framework for assessment (FREMA). Niall Sclater was also invloved in this article - I make no secret that I am a fan of Niall, besides the fact he is a fellow Scotsman, his work with TEL in Scotland at Strathclyde Uni and now with the OU is fascinating. I was going to propose this as a framework for the project, but decided against it as I thought the paper was quite dense and may be not be that easy to digest at this stage. Apart from bearing relation to our project, what also interested me about this paper was that I am convinced that block 3 that we are currently undertaking, is based on this paper as there is talk of personas and actors etc.

I came across another few interesting papers:
  • Shared video media and blogging online: Educational technologies for enhancing formative e-assessment. (2011)
  • Factors affecting the adoption of an e-assessment system. (2010)
  • A Framework for Evaluating the Quality of Multimedia Learning Resources. (2007)
I however decided to go with: Assessment is for Learning: supporting feedback. (2012)
For me, this paper directly relates to what we are doing on our project - it is about assessing multimedia artefacts on designed based courses, I was reading the article and thinking to myself... 'our answer lies here!' I added the paper to the case study STARR document on the website.

This paper utilises a framework developed by Goldsmiths called e-scape that was slightly adapted for the project. I had a search around but could not find anything on e-scape Scotland, so I got to wondering if the project was superseded by the Glow project - the new eLearning platform for schools in Scotland, I'll need to investigate more.

When I am looking for academic related stuff, I tend not to go anywhere near Google - maybe scholar on occasions. I had a quick Google for 'assessing multimedia artefacts' and came across a slideshare from the OU from Denise Whitelock that mentions H817 and the e-scape project as well!!

It's a small world.

Leacock, T, & Nesbit, J 2007, 'A Framework for Evaluating the Quality of Multimedia Learning Resources', Educational Technology & Society, 10, 2, pp. 44-59, ERIC, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 May 2013.

McCann, AL 2010, 'Factors Affecting the Adoption of an E-Assessment System', Assessment & Evaluation In Higher Education, 35, 7, pp. 799-818, ERIC, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 May 2013. 

McLaren, SV 2012, 'Assessment Is for Learning: Supporting Feedback', International Journal Of Technology And Design Education, 22, 2, pp. 227-245, ERIC, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 May 2013.

Olofsson, A, Lindberg, J, & Stodberg, U 2011, 'Shared Video Media and Blogging Online: Educational Technologies for Enhancing Formative E-Assessment?', Campus-Wide Information Systems, 28, 1, pp. 41-55, ERIC, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 May 2013.

Whitelock, D. (2012) Understanding Current Practice Around the Assessment of Multimedia Artefacts. [Online] (Accessed 27 May 2013). 

Wills, G, Bailey, C, Davis, H, Gilbert, L, Howard, Y, Jeyes, S, Millard, D, Price, J, Sclater, N, Sherratt, R, Tulloch, I, & Young, R 2009, 'An E-Learning Framework for Assessment (FREMA)', Assessment & Evaluation In Higher Education, 34, 3, pp. 273-292, ERIC, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 May 2013.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Activity 10

That's weeks 14 and 15 completed.

It was an interesting couple of weeks in the learning design task, I am very happy with the group that I have been placed in. I was initially a bit reluctant in my role as team leader, only because of the context under which we are working - online with not really knowing each other that well. For me everything is working out fine, I hope the other team members feel the same.

Because of this good relationship, we have all contributed equally in the contribution to articulating the context. The persona task was a good help in this as it helped us reach a common understanding of the type of learner/teacher that we will be working with. Trish and Priya did a fantastic job in completing the framing document. The biggest challenge was finding time when we could all meet up together synchronously, although we all kept in pretty close contact through twitter. Although I am comfortable with working with websites, I found the Google site we are using a bit cumbersome, as I think most people are.

We still have a few weeks of this task left, which culminates in TMA3, I have already started looking at it in some detail.

Thursday, 16 May 2013


As part of our learning design task the group have to create personas. We have been asked to create two each based on the kind of people we would expect to come onto our course.
I went down the imaginative road and based the personas loosely on my wife and I. The personas created by the other team members are a mix of people with higher education experience and school teaching experience. It is pretty easy to spot the common thread - there are some with good experience of using technology in the class and there are others with limited experience and perhaps lack of confidence that would like to utilise technology more effectively. There are factors and concerns associated with each persona which in turn will be used to determine forces on the course.

This is the first time I have been involved in a learning design task such as this, it is very detailed. I can see however how our personas can be used to 'shape' the direction for the course. The team have been doing a fantastic job, it's not very often you end up in a team where everything clicks. There are another 4/5 weeks of this group task remaining, let's hope in continues.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Week 14 group task

We have moved on to block 3 on the course, which involves working on a specific task in groups to produce a web based resource...

Assessment of multi-media artefacts in a design-based course

Think of a course where students learn by designing objects or activities, and representing these as multi-media artefacts. How do you incorporate effective assessment into the course?

I initially saw the task as a bit of a challenge for me as I am not really involved in design-based courses as such. However the more I thought about it the more I realised that I kind of do this with my classes anyway. I often ask learners to produce outputs in a wide array of electronic formats, for example, video (phone), screencast, image or proprietary from a particular piece of simulation software. These objects produced by my classes are not formally assessed, however if they were, how would I go about it?

We have been allocated into our groups and we have been working great together so far, I am really excited about the resource we are going to create. We have set up our site and logbook, this week we will decide on a context and definition for the project and start to look at personas.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The Big 5

The 'big 5' of teamwork consists of:

Team Leadership
Mutual performance monitoring
Back-up behaviour
Team orientation

If I was to pick two of these in which I had a positive experience it would be back-up behaviour and adaptability.

The context under which I was working at that time (2006 - 2010) was section leader for computing in an FE college. It was a medium sized department (15 - 20) teaching staff. There was a head of department and another 2 section leaders. Each section leader was responsible for leading their own curriculum area. I was responsible for managing the computer systems and networking curriculum and led a team of 6 teaching staff. I was also responsible for managing the college Moodle VLE.

Each of the section leaders had other responsibilities for example, quality processes and timetabling. Each SL was encouraged to learn about the other roles; we worked almost holistically and not in 'silos'. This was incase a backup was needed, so for example if the timetabler was not around and a member of teaching staff was off ill, another could access the timetabling system and organise class cover. We could each easily provide backup and adapt temporarily to the environment.

In our group, there will be allocated roles. It will be important however for us to use an effective communication mechanism, synchronous and/or asynchronous to let each other know what is happening - keeping each other in the loop in case we need backup and to temporarily provide support.

The key here for MAODE students is the synch/asynch communication solution and scheduling skills because not everyone will be able to meet (conference wise) at the same time due to large geographical spread.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Activity 25 - oh dear... Not another home made video...

So, that's the Open Education MOOC come to an end. Unfortunately as I am involved in the OU H817 course, I couldn't get to enjoy finishing off the course as much as I would have liked because of having to complete TMA2. I get the feeling most others on H817 were in the same boat. I enjoyed the MOOC, it was a new experience for me in which I learned loads of new stuff that I should have learned about before, for example Creative Commons and OER. I will probably go back and finish a couple of tasks I never got round to doing.

This video, hastily put together in work, is for my 3rd and final badge, which I will wear with pride...

Friday, 26 April 2013

Further Education Research Network

I attended the Further Education Research Network spring conference at City of Glasgow College yesterday. The FERN group are a collection of individuals from across the FE college sector in Scotland that meet occasionally, formally and informally.

There were useful workshops with a mix of activities to do with beginning research, employability, educational policy, technology and widening access.

The most interesting aspects of the day were the keynote speakers. There was a gentleman from East Lothian who is a director for educational services. He spoke very much from the heart about a range of things, however focused upon how educational managers need to stop acting like businessmen and start thinking like educators - something that I wholly agree with. He also demonstrated a model of the '7 sides of educational leadership' and how it is useful in making decisions. I took part in the exercise and it turns out I am a parent, a villager and a gardener!

The other speaker was the head of learning and teaching at the University of Dundee. The presentation was about policy and pedagogy in the FE sector. This was very interesting in that discussion took place around the need for a professional body for lecturers in Scotland. Apparently these proposals were put forward a few years ago, but were rejected by various funding and education bodies. The collective at the conference mooted that there still needs to be a platform for voices to be heard, particularly in these troubled times in Scottish FE. Other than that it was good to get out and meet some familiar faces and make some new connections.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Showing off...

One more to go...

JISC SMUG and eLearning Technologist event

I attended an interesting event yesterday at Dundee College of the Scottish Moodle User Group (SMUG) and the launch of the JISC Learning Technologist Forum.

The event was a mix of technical presentations and good practice stories. Two chaps from St Andrews University were demonstrating work that they are doing with Adobe Storyline and iPads as well as chatting about the work they do for the medical school. There was a member of staff from Robert Gordon University Aberdeen giving a presentation on 'a day in the life of an eLearning advisor.'

The second half of the afternoon consisted of a member of staff from Cumbernauld College presenting on how video technology can be used in the classroom. However, the highlight of the day for me was a presentation on how to roll out SQA eLearning Professional Development Awards (PDAs) in further education - aimed at experienced staff who are unfamiliar or not confident with using technology in the classroom.

There was a lot of discussion around the fact that, given the massive reform in further education in Scotland at the moment, a lot of the elearning fraternity are fearing for their jobs. I was struck by how much eLearning is supported in other centres, and by quite large teams. You would think in these times of reform, centres would be capitalising on creating opportunities for developing 21st century learning.

There was also another good discussion on pedagogy in eLearning - an area of particular interest to me. I posed a question to the chaps from St Andrews about how they go about developing their materials with medical academics and who makes the decision about pedagogy. I mentioned the work of Price and Kirkwood (2010) and how there is a lack of evidence to suggest that technology does indeed enhance learning. I asked them about how they felt about Price and Kirkwood stating that in research intensive institutions, good learning and teaching (and pedagogy) was almost secondary. They replied quite abruptly, 'Well they are Medics, you would think that they know what they are doing!'

Price, Linda and Kirkwood, Adrian (2010). Technology enhanced learning – where’s the evidence? In: Curriculum, technology & transformation for an unknown future. Proceedings ascilite Sydney 2010, 5-8 December 2010, Sydney, Australia. Available at:

Friday, 12 April 2013

Good behaviour (don't call it a comeback)...

I have been looking through some sites that provide MOOC offerings, I am really surprised at the amount of MOOCs that are available and the diversity of courses they have on offer; I am really temped by some of them. I have however been making some comparisons of courses that I have come across, in this case ds106 and Coursera courses.

General approach and philosophy
It took me a couple of visits for me to get my head around the ds106 site and to get to grips with what 'digital storytelling' is all about. Instantly you know that it is multimedia based, where course members, (or 'ordinary people') are actively encouraged to use digital media tools to tell their own story. There is a philosophy of openness and sharing on the course where participants are expected to participate online. Educause (2013) describes ds106 as a course that explores 'the web as a culture, as a media source, and as a place to publish in the open'.

Daniel (2012, p. 2) has stated that 'MOOCs have already bifurcated into two types of course, which are known as cMOOCs and xMOOCs.' ds106 is very much in the older style of cMOOC courses where connective learning is central: learners interact with others as well as resources and are digitally literate. In a more broader sense, other pedagogies may also be at work: reflective learning (storytelling), active and constructive learning in that learners have to construct their own digital identity using tools that they see fit - or create their own Personal Learning Environment.

Technology is core to this course. The website itself utilises Wordpress effectively as it's base as well as plugins, for example for the assignment feature of the course. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is that learners are, as well as having to be comfortable with the latest in web technologies, also have to be comfortable with more technical aspects such as domain names and web hosting.

General approach and philosophy
Comparing Coursera with ds106, Coursera is a completely different kettle of fish and seems a lot more 'serious'. Coursera offers a myriad of courses, everything from psychology to computer science based subjects. Coursera provides the foundation for other institutions to provide their own MOOC offerings and exists as a commercial entity.

Referring back to Daniels' paper, Coursera provides courses based on the more modern xMOOC type of course where 'drill and grill' behaviourist attitudes are prevalent. This is in keeping with 'traditional' university environment. Again, looking at pedagogy on a broader basis when examining, for example, Fundamentals of rehearsing music ensembles, there seems to be opportunities for active learning and collaboration.

The Coursera website is very much proprietary and serves purely as a portal site for course offerings. There are blog features available however. With regards to the courses themselves there is plenty of opportunity for getting involved in technical subjects, however the most popular technology available inside courses themselves is video lectures. Some courses also provide forum facilities and virtual labs.

The comparisons that I have made here represent the two sides of the coin when it comes to  approach/philosophy, pedagogy and technology. I was very much struck by how the Coursera offerings still stick to almost traditional (behaviourist) teaching methods and how this is in keeping with xMOOCs - is behaviourism really making a comeback? Did it ever go away? This investigation also took me back to the work of Sfard (1998) and how these two examples easily sit comfortably with 'acquisition' and 'participation' metaphors.


DANIEL, J. Making Sense of MOOCs: Musings in a Maze of Myth, Paradox and PossibilityJournal of Interactive Media in Education, North America, 3, dec. 2012. Available at: Date accessed: 12 Apr. 2013.

Educause (2013) ds106: Not a Course, Not Like Any MOOC [Online] Available at: Date accessed: 11 Apr 2013

Sfard, A. (1998) On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One. [Online] Available at: Date accessed: 12 Apr 2013

Tuesday, 9 April 2013


I have been working through week 4 today and getting prepared for my next badge. I noticed the end of week 4 talks about Personal Learning Environments. This prompted me to look back to the good old OU H800 course from last year, where we were asked to graphically define our own PLE. I used a mind mapping tool called Spicynodes, which I rather enjoy using. You can find my PLE at this location.

I am probably going to have to revise this, I am likely using even more tools nowadays!

Big OER, little OER

It's funny how you take things for granted... I hadn't realised just how much I use OER in my own practice. What prompted this was a post in another galaxy far, far way, where the question was 'do you, or have you ever used OER in FE?' I thought about this for a while before I realised that I had been using computing resources/notes from the Colleges Open Learning Exchange Group (COLEG) for over 10 years, heck I even produced and vetted support packs for them!! Anyway, I dug a bit deeper to find that COLEG doesn't exist anymore and resources from the now [Scottish] College Development Network now utilise Jorum as well as a European funded resource (in conjunction with SQA) called TranSETT - I've yet to investigate further.

Rambling aside, a quick definition of...
  • Big OER: produced formally in a large scale, for example by big institutions - MIT Open CourseWare or OpenLearn.
  • Little OER: produced by individuals, for example, on a smaller scale, perhaps the by product of already existing resources.
Big OER advantages:
  • Development of institutional relationships/networks
  • Provision of knowledge to the public
  • Wider access (easier to find)
  • Product of substantial investment
  • Good quality
  • Free
Big OER disadvantages:
  • Production high costs
  • Not very re-usable
  • Difficulties incorporating Web 2.0/social technology
Little OER advantages:
  • Re-use/re-purposing of existing resources
  • Can be produced using little effort
  • No planning needed (project management?)
  • Scope for better promotion of sustainability
  • Cheap 
  • Better integration with Web 2.0/social media
Little OER disadvantages:
  • Perhaps too contextualised
  • May require culture change with individuals/small institutions (for production)
  • Resources require updating digitally (re-purposed)
  • problems with legitimate re-use
  • Poor quality/lack of reputation
This list is of course not exhaustive, there are many other pro's and con's of big and little OER. Whilst compiling, I was thinking about overlaps that exist between big and little OER and their co-existence, 'A mixture of the two then is complementary and viable I would argue.' (Weller, 2009)


Weller, M. (2009) Big OER and Little OER. [Online] Available at: (Accessed 8th April 2013)

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

No commercialism (by the way, or wtf?)

It has been quite interesting checking out Creative Commons licensing, it really is something I should have done before now. In relation to the work I produce on the web, be it blog post, image or video etc, I would probably apply:
If someone is going to use my work, then I would like some credit for it. I wouldn't like them to gain any commercial benefit without including me also.

Working with Open Source systems since 1997/98 I have fairly good (not detailed) knowledge of the GNU GPL and BSD licensing systems. I was curious to know the differences between them and Creative Commons, it seems to be that Creative Commons does not cover computer code, therefore programmers do not recommend releasing code under CC. In this investigation I came across another licensing system, this raised a bit of a chuckle :-)

I wouldn't fancy being a Lawyer.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Issues surrounding OER


Open Education Resources and open education have become more popularised over the last decade and offer the potential to bring education and participation to a much wider audience. However, issues have and continue to surround OER.


The implementation of suitable pedagogies for online learning has always been problematic, not just for OER but also for online learning in general. In a study by Price and Kirkwood (2010, p.772) it is revealed that there is often too much focus on technological considerations leading to the ‘omission of pedagogical considerations.’ This has severe implications for the development of OER as without effective learning, this can lead to learners with a ‘passive, un-engaging experience leading to surface learning.’ (Stiles, 2000, p.1)

More recent developments now exist to aid in addressing problems with implementing suitable pedagogies within OER. For example, activity theory developed by Engestrom (1987, cited in Attwell and Pumilia, 2007, p.215) provides an Activity Triangle Model that could be useful for educators in understanding the concepts behind Open Content and OER as well as content creation.


The design, development, implementation and maintenance of OER can be a costly and time consuming process. According to Downes (2001) this can involve having to utilise a variety of resources including, for example, subject matter experts, technical specialists and graphic/interface designers. Other costs may be incurred through having to resolve copyright and intellectual property difficulties. This seems to cause tension within institutions as they ‘cannot afford to invest significant amounts of time and money in giving away their resources for free.’ (Albright, 2005, p.6)

To address these issues it would perhaps be worth looking to development models used by the open source movement. This sees ‘communities’ of developers sharing workload, and in turn improving the scalability and transferability of the development process. As well as faculty members being involved in the development process, academics across different institutions could also be involved, for example. Often with this type of open development model, projects meet their goals without individuals receiving payment; ‘in place of money, people will find other incentives to merit involvement in projects.’ (Wiley, 2007, p.6)


Quality lies at the heart of the educational process, regardless of context. Most educational establishments define their own policies when setting out quality standards. This however is also driven by governing bodies like the Quality Assurance Agency for higher education and Education Scotland.

Issues start to arise when trying to define quality within OER, given its ever changing open nature and the context within which OER are being utilised. Some also argue that by applying formal quality processes, this would constrain the development and use of OER. 

To address these issues, initiatives have emerged that employ peer review and reputation management strategies that provide users with a guide to the quality of materials. Other ideas have included providing a ‘star rating’ system - not unlike that of Amazon. A report from 2011 from the European Foundation for Quality in eLearning (EFQUEL, 2011) in Mainstreaming Open Educational Practice recognises that there are problems associated with quality in OER. This report defines an Open Education Policy, which ‘allows for quality improvement in education through external validation, as all resources and also practices are shared and possibility for feedback is opened.’


OER has become very popular over the past decade; however issues continue to surround OER. This document has identified specific areas in OER such as pedagogy, sustainability and quality and has suggested what can be done to help address issues in these areas.


Albright, P. (2005) UNESCO (IIEP): Final forum report. 2008-09-01. [Online] Available at: (Accessed 25 Mar 2013).

Attwell, G. Pumilia, P. M. (2007) The New Pedagogy of Open Content: Bringing Together Production, Knowledge, Development, and Learning. [Online] Available at: (Accessed 25 Mar 2013).

Camilleri, A. F. Ehlers, U.D. (2011) The European Foundation for Quality in eLearning: Mainstreaming Open Educational Practice: Recommendations for Policy. [Online] Available at: (Accessed 27 Mar 2013).

Downes, S. (2001) Learning Objects: Resources for distance education worldwide. [Online] Available at: (Accessed 26 Mar 2013).

Price, L. Kirkwood, A. (2010). Technology enhanced learning – where’s the evidence? In: Curriculum, technology & transformation for an unknown future. Proceedings ascilite Sydney 2010, 5-8 December 2010, Sydney, Australia. [Online] Available at: (Accessed 24 Mar 2013).

Stiles, M. J. (2000) Effective Learning and the Virtual Learning Environment. [Online] Available at: (Accessed 24 Mar 2013).

Wiley, D. (2007) On the Sustainability of Open Educational Resource Initiatives in Higher Education. [Online] Available at: (Accessed 26 Mar 2013).

Monday, 18 March 2013

Openness in Education

This is my visual representation of Openness in Education. An enjoyable task in that I was able to take lots from these readings. The challenge was what to leave out!

You can view the above live at this link

Enjoy! :-)

Friday, 15 March 2013

OpenLearn introduction


I work as a faculty depute head at a college in Glasgow, I am however currently seconded as eLearning and VLE manager. I am a trained teacher and GTCS registered. My background is in network engineering, open source systems (UNIX/Linux) and computer forensics.

I have been responsible for pushing forward and supporting the elearning agenda within the college since 2006. When it comes to technology and teaching, I always like finding out about new stuff - hence the reason I am here :-)

I have really enjoyed H817 so far. I think it will be really interesting to see how placing the H817 formal group alongside informal learners will work out.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

TMA time

I've just completed the first TMA for the course. I always end in the same situation with TMAs in that I over-read them, analyse them too much and end up getting bogged down a bit. In the end however I was fairly happy with the work that I submitted, so here's hoping that everything goes OK.

I was asked to provide a report on innovative elearning for an organisation and choose three technologies. I went for: Audiovisual technology for learner feedback, Assessment for learning with VLE's and Using Facebook to extend and enhance learning and teaching.

I utilise assessment for learning with VLE's and Facebook quite heavily already in the classroom. I had to pick one from my own practice, so I opted for Facebook because it's probably the most innovative technology I use (well, the learners use).

So that's block 1 over-with now and the next section of the course entails involvement in a MOOC. As well as the tutor group, other informal learners will be involved, so it will be interesting to see how that goes.

Monday, 4 March 2013

The problem with Pedagogy

As I have been reading through papers on my course, I have been reflecting on the problems that continue to persist with using technology in learning and teaching. The Price and Kirkwood paper from 2010 tries to make sense of evidence that can be used as a basis for evaluating technology enhanced learning, however, goes on to say that evidence is still lacking in this area - this is one of the things that annoyed me about the H800 course.

What I did find especially interesting is that the paper concludes with saying that teaching in HE is very much driven by research, and learning and teaching is almost secondary and that academics may lack the necessary pedagogical skills as it is not a requirement for them to be teacher trained.

Last June I delivered a workshop to around 20 teaching staff on using technology for learning and teaching. This was a range of staff from new to experienced. The focus for the workshop was on pedagogy and how to map it to appropriate technology i.e. blogs for reflective learning. What struck me during this session was that staff were struggling to understand what pedagogy actually was, just one mention of the word and heads were sinking!

This issue is raised again with Sharples et al. (2012) where it is mentioned that '...impediments relate to pedagogy rather than with technology...'

I think this is quite worrying. How are we expected to promote technology enhanced learning if teachers are lacking the fundamentals?

Price, L. and Kirkwood, A. (2010) ‘Technology enhanced learning – where’s the evidence?’ in Steel, C.H., Keppell, M.J., Gerbic, P. and Housego, S. (eds) Curriculum, Technology and Transformation for an Unknown Future, Proceedings ASCILITE Sydney 2010, 5–8 December 2010, Sydney, Australia; also available online at conferences/ sydney10/ procs/ Price-concise.pdf[Tip: hold ⌘ and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]  (accessed 22 June 2012).

Sharples, M., McAndrew, P., Weller, M., Ferguson, R., FitzGerald, E., Hirst, T., Mor, Y., Gaved, M. and Whitelock, D. (2012) Innovating Pedagogy 2012: Open University Innovation Report No. 1, Milton Keynes, The Open University; also available online at blogs/ innovating/ (accessed 13 August 2012).

Friday, 1 March 2013


I have become so immersed in H817 that I have hardly had time to think about my blog. I seem to be engaging much more with this course than the previous H800, even though I engaged pretty well with that!

I have been involved in a couple of group tasks over weeks 3 and 4. In the first task I was split into a group of 5, which I very much enjoyed as we all worked well together and had productive Elluminate sessions. This group task focused on learning theories, our group was tasked with investigating Behaviourism. I seems that behaviourism gets a bit of a bum rap these days in light of newer trends in learning and being more social and participative. It was good however to dig in a bit deeper and examine what was probably at one time the only theory for 'classic' teaching. I did however have the image of Jason Bourne stuck in my head along with an American drawl saying...
'b e h a v i o u r  m o d i f i c a t i o n'.

This weeks group task has been quite full on. The whole group has had to work together this time to produce a report that chooses and recommends a particular learning technology. Maybe playing it a bit safe, I put forward ePortfolios, however the group chose screencasting for feedback. I gathered together a bunch of references from the OU library for people to use. We are now at the end of the week and others are knocking the final report into shape before we present it.

Overall it has been an interesting and fun experience, it's probably been the first time I have worked collaboratively online with such a large group, the tutor seems to be happy with the work that has been produced (so far). A few of the group members have echoed my sentiments also - you don't have to contribute to everything, as long as you contribute.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Week 2

There was a lot of discussion on the forums this week that focused around examining innovation.

There was a discussion on OpenLearn, the OU site that provides free educational resources. While investigating this site, it struck me how open source models are very similar to those of open education. I suppose common sense should have told me this. This even led me to examining the GNU General Public License.

I contributed quite a long post into this discussion about how the OpenLearn site was in fact innovative - even though I had initially thought it wasn't. This view was changed when I investigated the wiki for the site and read about it's history, fundamentals and the features it offers, it really is a good resource. There were some interesting (and lengthy) posts about how people define innovation and of course their opinions on the site.

In this investigation, it brought me back to thinking about how years back, open source software was rubbished, is the same thing happening now with open 'free' courses? Do people think that because they free, they are not going to be as good as proper 'paid-for' academic courses? One of my colleagues at the moment is doing a MOOC elearning course, and seems to be happy with the way the course is structured and put together, however is at odds a little with the content and doesn't feel as if the course is really about elearning, but more 'digital culture'.

I think the standout discussion for me was about learning analytics, probably because I could relate to it, as my organisation is currently investigating ways of centrally interrogating data that is available from a wide range of sources. This discussion however focused on the benefits of intervention (using technology?) techniques for monitoring student progress and outcomes etc. Again a varied discussion in this thread about the techniques that others employ. Someone in particular raised an interesting point about learners that are not monitored have borderline performance, and those that are perform better.

An Elluminate session has been organised for this week. Our discussion is about:

1.  What drives innovation in the examples you have investigated?
2.  Does an innovation have to be useful for the learners?
3.  Should innovation lead to far-reaching changes in practice for the learners or the teachers? Or both?

Based on the forum, it should be a lively discussion!

Monday, 11 February 2013

End of Week 1

So it was good to get going with week 1 on the course. I was really surprised at how busy the forum was. I managed to introduce myself to a few others on the course and post back some replies, I am sure I will get round to meeting everyone eventually.
I had a read at the reflective writing article by Michaud that details Gibbs’ Model of reflection, which I found to be quite useful. I had heard of the model before, but not in any great detail. Coincidentally, I was involved in discussions in work and with other colleges about reflective writing and learning, so I was able to forward this article, which others agreed was very useful.
Perhaps more interestingly this week, I went to visit a University and was involved in discussions about using technology in learning and teaching, with a focus on Moodle and Mahara.
After reading the Conole (2010) article ‘harnessing the power of Web 2.0 practices’, which details the difficulties in HE with utilising technology (especially with regards to pedagogy and organisational issues), I was struck by how commonplace these problems still are in education and in big institutions. Conole, however, goes on to detail (promote?) Cloudworks as a solution.
At the university, I was being faced with serious (and I mean serious) academics with not that much experience of technology. They were discussing (almost panicking) about how they get their new curriculum online, how they adopt suitable online teaching strategies and pedagogy and what tools can they use for assessing. They did not seem to be getting that much help from the organisation - bit of a shame :(


My new H817: Openness and Innovation in eLearning starts with the OU tomorrow. I am looking forward to it and have set this blog up especially.
I am going to use this blog for the reflective writing process as well as to keep track of papers I have read and resources that I come across. This will be handy when it comes to TMA time. I may also use it for work.
I have to read this, it looks quite interesting, I have already circulated to some people who might also find it interesting.