Monday, June 26, 2017

MOOCs as admissions considerations

It's been a while since I've sat down to blog (with the exception of my brief postings last week).  I guess I've had my nose firmly planted in books (physical and digital) trying to get through the reading components of my dissertation proposal so I can sit down and write. I tend to find (for me anyway) that having a bit more of a complete picture in my head as to what I want to write about cuts down a a ton of edits down the road. Because of this I also haven't really engaged a lot with my learning community (MOOCs and LOOMs alike).

That said, a recent work encounter broke my blogging slumber and has pulled me from my dissertation a bit.  In my day job one of my roles is to answer questions about our department's program (what is applied linguistics, anyway? j/k 😆) and that includes questions about admissions. While we prefer applicants with a background in linguistics or related background  such as languages (such as French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, whatever language and literature background) we do accept others who did their BA in something different.  Personally I think that the language is archaic and comes from a time when the mission and vision of our department was slightly different, but that's neither here no there.  My point is that when there are people interested in our program who come from a background other than languages (such as business, or computer science for example) the question always becomes  how can I better prepare for this program, and ensure I get admitted? Basically ensuring that the applicant shows some sort of connection with between their interest in our program and what they did, or want to do.

In the past couple of years MOOCs have come up!  Even though I've been steeped in MOOCs for the past six years I didn't really think others were.  Furthermore, it amazes me how much value others place in MOOCs, and MOOCs that they have taken. Personally, while I like taking xMOOCs (I just signed up for about 10 of them recently through edx and future learn, and I am trying to do one on Canvas on collaborative ICT...) I don't know if I would ever mention my exploits in the MOOC arena to others (except maybe through my blog, or through a group of close MOOC friends).  My rationale for not sharing my learning is this:  While I personally derive value from what I do in MOOCs (it expands my own horizons, even if I am just viewing some videos) I also know that assessments are a little forced in xMOOCs.  Simple MCEs or short-answer peer-graded assignments don't really point toward mastery of something.  In ye olde days of xMOOCs the certificates of participation were free; provided that you completed the MOOC in its original run.  Now xMOOCs require you to pay for a certificate of participation, and I personally don't see any value to that.  Even if you pay for a verified certificate where you have someone proctor you while taking MCEs, what does that really mean?  That you can take a test?

This all got me thinking about the potential use of MOOCs for application purposes.  I personally think that by taking (and completing) a MOOC it shows interest in the topic, so that's a positive for the applicant, but it doesn't necessarily show any mastery. So, while useful, it definitely has its limitations.  The certificates don't really mean much to me for my current work, and yes - I do hold on to the certs that received while they were still free (😉) but I don't see additional value to the ones that people get these days in exchange for cash.

What do you think? Is there a value to students doing MOOCs with the aim of getting into a specific part of higher ed?

Friday, June 23, 2017

VConnecting NMC Carol Sharicz Wendy Shapiro Judith Erdman

OK, so here is the final session that I was an onsite buddy for from this summer's NMC summer conference.  This session has us join Wendy Shapiro, Judith Erdman, and Carol Sharicz from the UMass Boston Instructional Design Program.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

VConnecting at NMC17 Michael Berman & Eden Dahlstrom

What is the NMC? What is its history?  Well, see the following virtually connecting session from the NMC summer conference and find out :-)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

VConnecting at NMC17 Gardner Campbell & Christina Engelbart

Here is a session with Gardner and Christina.  Their session was one of the few that I got to attend and it was really good! The odd thing is that sessions that I wanted to attend were mostly in the same room, and if you didn't get there in time, the door locked behind you (bug or feature?)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

VConnecting at NMC17 with Michelle Pacansky-Brock, Jill Leafstedt

Continuing with my virtually connecting documentation activities this week, here is a session with Jill Leafstead and @brocansky. Hey!  Got to meet another twitter buddy in person! Woohoo! :-) We were also joined by Eden Dahlstrom the new executive director of the NMC.  The thing we learned (too late) was that the Mac defaults to the build-in microphone when turned off, so...the wired microphone is just for show :p  Oh well.  The things you learn!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Virtually Connecting at NMC - with Bryan Alexander

A bit of personal documenting this week, posting some videos of virtually connecting sessions from last week's NMC 2017 summer conference. This was my second virtually connecting series with me as one of the onsite buddies, and this was a fun talk with Bryan Alexander.  I've been a virtual and an onsite buddy for a while now, and I still haven't gotten the timings right! I guess  I have more to learn.  joining me as onsite buddy for this series is Greg Dillon, a fellow local instructional designer, and vConnecting buddy.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Kicking off the lit-review (2.0)

With the summer here, and all of my doctoral coursework behind me, we are firmly in the self-determination area of the game-board.  No external pressures, no external timelines (although there is a statute of limitations on the degree), and interim assignments.  The dissertation proposal is it! That's the next target (which I am hoping to meet by December 2017).

I already have a literature review done, but I was really eclectic in putting it together.  The lit-review (albeit incomplete and in need of some tightening) does present facets of what might be happening underneath it all when it comes to collaboration amongst self-formed groups in open educational experiences, but it doesn't work all that well when providing a grounding for collaboration amongst learners. In other words, I skipped to the chase even though I haven't formally collected data or spoken to other my study participants yet. I am just theorizing from past observations.

In any case, that old lit-review is currently scrapped. It may come in handy later, but I need to focus on the foundational stuff first.  That said, I did a few searches in databases, looking for full-text, peer-reviewed, materials on collaboration in educational contexts. I ended up finding around 200 articles that may be of use (out of several thousand results for my key terms). I also looked for relevant articles on MOOC demographics (to get a sense of who's who in terms of the people involved on the learner side of things in MOOCs).  Finally, I raided my stash of articles that I've been compiling (hoarding for future reading...whenever there is time) since 2011 when I first got involved with MOOCs. This stockpile also contained articles that were of relevance mostly to a previous (dropped) dissertation ideas, but have relevant to the one I am working now.

All things said, I have around 420 peer reviewed articles that look promising, plus 6 or 8 books on collaboration.  That's a lot of reading.  It's also highly likely that I will find stuff in the references section of those articles that I will need to track down because those articles seem of interest.  So, there are two questions that come to mind:

1. Is this overkill?  Now, not all of the articles will prove to be useful and they will go on my reject pile, but even assuming a 20% relevancy of references (80 articles) and a 10% relevancy from those reference's references, that's 588 articles to shift through, which makes for a potentially huge literature review.

2. What is the best way to track your readings (beyond Mendeley, RefWorks, and the like)? Whenever I read there are tons of marginalia, underlined text, and highlighted text. Things that may come in handy later...but may just as well be left on the cutting room floor.  Neither the PDF format, nor the paper format really satisfied me. I feel like I am either putting a ton of work into copy/pasting all of my notes into Google docs but a lot of times I end up using at most 20% (at most 40%)  of that stuff.  It's great note taking, but not sure it is good use of my time.  Then again with articles (especially digital ones!)  I fear that my thoughts in my marginalia are invisible to me because they are simply not collated in one place.

3. (OK I lied, there are 3 things):  How likely is it that I am experiencing academic FOMO with regard to item #2?

I guess rubber meets road this weekend.  I think I'll kick off by re-doing my introduction.  Most introductions I've seen are about twice as long as my draft intro, so it's time to go back, see what I wrote, and provide a little more focus and depth to my intro.  My goal for this time next week: have a new introduction.