Thoughts from Online Educa 2012 – Mooc-h ado about nothing?

images Well, it’s that time of year again – festive lights, mulled wine can only mean one thing.  Well actually two things and one of them is Online Educa Berlin.  As one of the major conferences in the international  learning calendar, what sets it apart is not just the scale but more specifically the scale of the conference.  Unlike many other shows, this is a huge conference with a small exhibition – in fact at each 1 1/2 hour slot during the day, there are 18 different workshops, presentations, debates and learning labs taking place.  In total, there are 102 sessions, not including video sessions, talking head sessions and the exhibition itself. But amongst the sheer volume of sessions, there is one theme that is the talk of the event – MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).  A quick wander around the exhibition and you could see MOOCs appearing on roller banners, multimedia presentations and leaflet stands.  It’s not all that surprising given that the audience for the event is predominantly from the education sector (with a huge showing from Universities worldwide), but it’s not a simple love story by any means.  In 2012, the media have covered extensively the push from Harvard and MIT on their EdX MOOCs initiative and it appears others are eager to follow suit (or at least not appear to be left behind).  But in the conference sessions and debates, there has been evidence of quite the backlash against MOOCs.  Much of the criticism is levelled at dubious design and pedagogy, complexity for the student, high drop out rates and even a new acronym definition ‘Massively Over-hyped Online Content-dump’. So MOOCs are just a fad, right?  Wel it’s not all that easy to pick your way through the objections, are they born of analysis or fear?  It is certainly a legitimate criticism of MOOCs that as a result of size, the varied quality of materials and support by virtue of their open nature poses serious challenges on learner experience, quality and ease of use.  However the unprecedented access to free contents from some of the world’s leading academic institutions is incredibly exciting.  The non-chargeable aspect is one that is shaking the sector and raising concerns over funding for universities and even their existence in the long-term. However, we’ve been here before.  The rise of online distance learning sparked something of a backlash from advocates of traditional models of learning not just in academia but in the commercial sector too.  Face to face will never be bettered, online is a poor substitute, a cheap and not often cheerful solution to budgetary pressure.  However, once design and pedagogy improved, the acceptance that perhaps a better learning outcome could be achieved (through the marriage of formal and informal learning) spread throughout learning and education.  In my view, I see MOOCs as a gateway to learning, a way to promote an interest in developing knowledge in a subject, an opportunity to connect with others, a taster that may lead me to bite and enrol in a more formal programme with an institution.  Perhaps the term loss leader is a little too crass, but MOOCs could be the shop window to the opportunities online learning can provide and a way for a wider population to experience an alternative way to access higher education before committing their money to university fees.  The impact of this is ensuring the MOOC doesn’t ignore sound learning design methodology and it could be that those MOOCs are not being well received may be experiencing a lag between drive to get your subject matter expertise online and understanding of what an effective delivery of your expertise looks like online. In addition (and something that was a key driver for Willow developing Pathway back in 2007) is a better more intuitive way to deliver these programmes.  The massive part should allude to participation, not on volumes of content that are increasingly difficult to navigate and sift.  So perhaps the next phase of MOOCs will focus on what works in order to simplify and refine their offerings.

Get your free guides to creating great online learning in just 5 days

We are very excited about the launch of our new series of guides on ‘5 days to Success: Creating great online learning in just 1 week’. Our first guide is available down for download from our site here.  It is taken from our ‘5 days to success’ workshop so if you like what you read, why not sign up for a place on our next session on 29th March 2012 at Southwark Cathedral.  Places are currently just £99 for those that book in the next 2 weeks, so secure your place today!

The alternative to Moodle – decide for yourselves at our October Seminar

Social learning, mobile learning, learning on demand, bite size learning – the buzz words are seemingly endless which can make the search on how to actually deliver good online learning appear seemingly endless too! But here at Willow, we believe in good instructional design delivered in a simple, well designed way. That’s why we developed our own learning support system to offer the best social learning experience without the complexity of open source systems and the bloat of an LMS. If you want to know more about how we do this, then we have an event for you. Meet the team on the 4th October in London, where we’ll be exploring the key issues in moving from traditional training to World Class online learning. We will also take the audience through our unique approach to online learning supported by “Pathway”, the alternative business solution to Moodle. The sessions will be co-hosted by Patrick Mills, Director of Professional Development for the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising who will share their experience of partnering with WillowDNA. These sessions are aimed at Training professionals who wish to move from a traditional training solution to one which incorporates online learning. If you are from a professional body or specialist training company delivering complex or subject specific training, this event is particularly relevant. Some come along, it’s free and you can sign up for the morning seminar or afternoon seminar

And an iPad in an apple tree – a Christmas message

So as I celebrate Christmas by downloading the wordpress app for my iPad whilst trying not to spill my mulled wine over it, I find myself contemplating what 2011 will bring. As head of learning design here at willow, the last 12 months have been particularly interesting. Many years of supporting learning strategies have given me plenty of opportunities to make the case for social learning, mobile learning, collaborative learning and on. However as many of my contemporaries will know all too well, it’s been a tough case to make to a nervous L&D world. But with the inexorable rise of high quality mobile content, better devices, innovative app development and greater connectivity, the audience want more from learning. With iPads and alike tucked under their arms, people expect better from their online learning experience and rightly so. Never has it been easier to access a whole variety of sources, experiences, insights and share, discuss and learn from it all with others. This now changes the game – the choice is not ‘do we deliver this topic using e-learning or workshop or coaching’ etc. It’s how do we make it easier for people to access the best stuff, via the best medium, have the best conversations about it, add the best of their experience, take the best into their work and share it with others? Signposting, creating the learning journey, learning paths – call it what you will, but it’s what everyone who has ever had a passion about collaborative learning, social learning, knowledge sharing and truly creating the learning organisation has been waiting for. It’s the conversation we’ve all wanted to have and now everyone is joining in!

If you don’t already subscribe, you should!

A great blog for anyone involved in the development of rapid e-learning.  Pick up some great hints and tips…

An oldie but a goodie! – Cisco’s telepresence

A number of our clients are starting to use telepresence more widely and are getting great results.  For those of you that will do anything avoid video conferencing and haven’t yet seen telepresence in action, get set to think again. [youtube=]