Free online course on Storyboarding for Learning Design

Join our Open Online Course (OOC) on Storyboarding for Learning Design from 12 January to 20 February 2015. Start the year developing your skills! This OOC is free and open to all who design or teach courses in higher education/ professional training. Storyboards are at the heart of good learning design. Using online tools, you will develop a storyboard showing the alignment between your learning outcomes, assessment, learning activities and content. Gabi Witthaus and Brenda Padilla will be actively facilitating and giving feedback.

Click here to enrol.

Twitter hashtag: #sldooc (Include @twitthaus and @BrendaPadilla for a reply)

The problem when searching for OERs

Open educational resources (or OERs) are materials for teaching and learning that are offered freely for anyone to use, repurpose and/or redistribute. Examples include diagrams, homework assignments, quizzes, presentations, course modules and activities. Several repositories, such as OER Commons and Jorum, enable teachers and students to access these resources. People can also contribute by creating and posting their own OERs.

While the basic idea seems interesting and helpful, there are still challenges when searching for OERs. Several initiatives have attempted to list the available OER repositories. For example:

There are easily over 50 repositories around the world. These repositories have different parameters, such as the languages, educational levels and topics they focus on. Thus, their resources tend to be different. Some repositories have few search filters (or none at all) and rely on keywords to help people find what they need. For a common teacher, not entirely familiar with all the OER repositories available and their characteristics, trying to find a truly suitable resource can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  I have taken so long in my search for suitable OERs that I have simply decided that creating materials myself, from scratch, requires a lesser time investment.

A search engine that enabled people to search all existing OERs respositories at once, using different filters, could solve the search/find problem. Actually, many people look for OERs using Google, probably due to its easiness. What other alternatives can you think of? What has been your experience with OERs?

Keeping track of your readings using Goodreads

I love reading. I have read more books than I can remember. Some books, I really enjoyed… but when you read over a thousand books, stories start melting into each other. It is hard to keep track.

Recently I discovered Goodreads.com. I love it. It helps me create a record of books I have read, books I enjoyed, books I want to read… I can organise them in shelves (fiction, history, psychology, etc.) and according to the year I read them.

I can also write brief reviews that help me remember. What was memorable about that book, that story? Sometimes my review includes only a random fact I learned (e.g., Count Dracula had a moustache! – Dracula by Bram Stoker). Sometimes my review is a thought (e.g., We are only the dream of a supreme being that will eventually stop dreaming about us – Niebla by Miguel de Unamuno). I can also comment on other people’s reviews.

My friends are in Goodreads. I have a friend who reads several books per week… She inspires me. There is so much to learn! So many books waiting to be read! It is great. We share opinions and give each other book recommendations. In this way, we are creating a community of readers.

Finally, Goodreads has a reading challenge. This year I joined. I completed my challenge and exceeded my goal. I am looking forward to setting my goal for next year.

Accessible YouTube

Have you ever thought about Internet ads and screen readers? Honestly, I hadn’t, until recently. I attended ALT-C, a conference organised by the Association of Learning Technology. One session dealt with the topic of accessible websites. And so I learned that ads and comments make it difficult for screen readers to correctly read website content. What are the implications for people with visual impairments? Basically, when they have to access websites full of ads and comments, they have a hard time finding information. YouTube is an example of a popular site used for learning purposes (number two in the tools for learning list created by C4LPT) that is currently full of ads and distracting elements.

YouTube main page -- Ads, popular videos, recommended videos, recommended channels...
YouTube main page — Ads, popular videos, recommended videos, recommended channels…

Aiming to help visually impaired people, Henshaws College, supported by JISC, developed an accessible website to search and watch YouTube videos: Access: YouTube. It is essentially YouTube, stripped of ads and comments. It is a simple, plain, screen reader friendly website, available under a CC licence. It is also useful for people with learning disabilities, as it helps them stay focused on what they are watching.

Access: YouTube main page
Access: YouTube main page — See the difference?

I am glad someone thought about this. Doing a simple search, I could see the difference. Even more, I am now fully aware of the bunch of unrelated information I get from YouTube. It is easy now to understand why I can be writing a blog post about accessible websites, and end up buying tea and researching about the political situation in Israel (yes, I guess I am bound to be influenced by constant ads.. also, I am a curious person). So, thanks, Henshaws College, JISC and all the people that contributed to the creation of Access: YouTube.

YouTube-learning
Searching for “learning” videos on YouTube… The first two hits are non-related ads. At the right, another ad.
AYouTube-learning
Conducting the same “learning” search in Access: YouTube… all relevant hits.

Why do people drop out of MOOCs?

A couple of months ago I participated in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) for the first time. I was intrigued about the MOOC movement. I only had a general idea: free courses, prestigious universities, thousands of students, access to anyone with an Internet connection… I wanted to know more about the learning design, the interactions between participants, the assessment processes, the challenges …

I signed up in Coursera and enrolled in a course on information and communication technologies in education. I had 18,000 fellow course mates. The course consisted on activities based on independent study and self-evaluation surveys. There were some synchronous sessions, which in practice were mere videos of the teachers. Interactions were fostered through a Twitter hashtag and a number of discussion forums.

My first impression was: Chaos. Instructions were not clear for everyone. Different resources had inconsistent information. There were lots of questions. Some people seemed to have no experience with communicating online. A thread about a technical problem could have a random post of someone introducing themselves (?!). This is not an issue with a small group of participants… but when you have a group of 18k… It is overwhelming…

I dropped out after a couple of days. I am not proud of it. I am part of the statistics, of those who failed to complete the course. However, I also think it was the best decision for me at the time. I had four main reasons to stop:

  1. I felt lost in a sea of chaos. The large number of students with different skill levels derived in an overwhelming amount of messages being sent without following a coherent structure. I could not keep up with that.
  2. Course content was not completely self-explanatory. Some instructions were confusing. Different resources had inconsistent information. The teachers could not answer all the questions. Again, I felt lost.
  3. It was a free course. Dropping out had no significant consequence.
  4. The time and effort needed to make sense of the MOOC seemed to exceed the expected benefits. For me, it was not worth it.

Are all MOOCs the same? Is it only a matter of enduring the beginning?  Maybe after a while it improves? I do not know, but I will soon start another MOOC. Hopefully I will obtain some answers.

***

Why do people drop out of MOOCs?

  • Overwhelming chaos
  • Unclear guidance
  • No losses or significant consequences
  • Efforts to succeed exceed expected benefits

Public domain images in Pixabay, or the beauty of sharing

When creating presentations and learning materials, I like using images to visually enhance my message.  While I believe it is fair to give credit to the creators of the images, there are some contexts in which having the attribution text (i.e., “Image courtesy of  X”) doesn’t look right (e.g., a set of decorative images in an invitation). In these cases, using public domain images is an option.

After exploring a couple of repositories, I found Pixabay. I love it. It has high quality pictures with a Creative Commons Deed CC0 license. People are free to adapt and use the images for many purposes (including commercial ones) without attributing the original source or author. There is no need to link back to Pixabay either.

Picture of my eye
Picture waiting for approval

I am a fan. I am thankful to the photographers who provide such wonderful images free of charge.

Wanting to do my bit, I recently began releasing some of my pictures to public domain. I am only an amateur photographer. I am still learning. Most of my pictures don’t fulfill Pixabay’s quality standards, but I am trying to improve. So far I have only considered three of my pictures (out of hundreds!) good enough for sharing. Two were accepted. One is waiting for approval.

I find it interesting that having 5 downloads (and a wow!) makes me feel so happy. There’s something about sharing that feels plain good. I wonder if other photographers feel this way. I hope they do. It’s a wonderful feeling.

My first SlideShare

I recently participated in the PhD Research Day at the University of Leicester. I gave a session on tips to enhance oral presentations. I decided to upload the presentation to SlideShare.net. It was my first contribution to this community.

I was impressed with the results. Within 24 hours, I got more than 200 views and 2 downloads. I am thrilled that someone may have found it useful. I am happy to have shared.