On 16th December I attended an event hosted by the Association of Library and Information professionals in the Social Sciences at UCL. The event centred on innovative libraries and looked specifically at how e-learning fits with libraries.
Ian Cooke on libraries and MOOCs
In a very nice room in Senate House, we sat and listened to Ian Cooke from the British Library who gave us a really solid introduction to how to design MOOCs. This was based on a MOOC that spun off the British Library’s exhibition on Propaganda, Power and Persuasion.
Ian started by giving us a brief introduction to MOOCs. Outlining that they are massive: many who sign up do not complete and Ian stressed it is not a problem to sign up and not actually do the course. Ian made the point that open doesn’t just mean free but also no limit on number. Course equals a defined programme with objectives and structured activities, just like a regular face to face course.
The rise of “MOOC-ology” does not signal the end of higher education but it isn’t a short term bubble either. It is maturing as a concept. Pedagogy is key, not technology. The Open University’s platform, Future Learn, has a pedagogy. Because of the massive and low cost nature of the MOOC, learning is through interaction between participants rather than between teacher and student.
In terms of the mechanics of creating learning activities for use in MOOCs, Ian recommended the production of films and these proved popular. Narrated Powerpoint presentations were not very popular. For the Propaganda MOOC, it was important to “Dress the set” by having a visually appealing backdrop for the videos and interviews, and the propaganda banners were used for this. Ian stressed the importance of these both being “short bites” of less than ten minutes but also the expectation that these would be polished.
Ian advised that in creating the activities, you need to be careful not to make assumptions. The propaganda team assumed the students could handle Flickr but many struggled or were uncomfortable. It is important not to assume people on an online course are comfortable with everything that is online.
Because the “Learning has to come from the people taking part” there is an emphasis on the discussion forums. Having participated in MOOCs on FutureLearn, I found the discussion forums very difficult. Comments appear as one long stream of comments without threads or a huge amount of coherence. With so many people commenting, it was quite isolating and difficult to gain any kind of meaning. Ian discussed the way moderators have to encourage and validate comments to start with and then move discussions along. But I think I would have benefited from participants signing up for discussion groups rather than one single feed.
Ian and his team are now planning the next Propaganda, Power and Persuasion MOOC. They are going to introduce quizzes as well as discussions for people uncomfortable with commenting.
James Atkinson and Fiona Paterson on treasure map library induction
James Atkinson and Fiona Paterson work for London based university with nursing students. They used Adobe Presenter to create a quiz/treasure hunt through the library’s online resources using storytelling. They used a video at the start and end of the session to introduce and wrap up the narrative about a pirate captain who falls sick aboard his ship and the attempts of the ship’s nurse to work out what is wrong with him.
They produced a handout with guidance and gave a low value prize for the winners of the quiz. After a trial run with library staff, they realised the font couldn’t be read and the questions needed rewording to be clearer.
They viewed the activity as a success but concluded that there were problems with variable length in finishing for different groups of students: from ten minutes to over an hour. They also noted that the handout didn’t get used but had valuable information on it.
One comment from audience really struck me: she noted that when technology/platforms don’t work in sessions it is an opportunity to manage expectations and part of information literacy is to understand sometimes things don’t work. I really liked this comment. I always tell my staff that it doesn’t help our students to believe we know everything: sometimes it is very valuable to explore the resources together, even if it goes a bit wrong. They learn how to cope with that!
Debs Furness and Elizabeth Lawes on skills in seconds
For this project, second year students were surveyed on what format and content they thought first year students needed to know. Videos came out as very popular. It was also noted that placing them on the VLE creates barrier because of needing a password. In order to get resources a pilot had to be made. After experimenting with different software, Camtasia was found to be good for video editing and making screencasts. Each part can be updated if needed and there is a free music archive.
Videos were around 60 seconds each. A voiceover wasn’t included because the videos were to be shown on screens in the library but I felt this rather defeated the point of a video. They used Flickr for images and institutional photographs, plus the Prelinger archives. Links to videos were sent pre-enrolment to new students. Debs and Liz were keen to emphasise the videos are an extra and do not replace learning in the classroom.