H817 Openness and Innovation in E-learning

Blocks 1 and 2 (3 and 4 are here)

Week 1

After meeting peeps on the forum, we looked at reflection models, setting up a blog, and then researched innovative e-learning.

Victoria’s blog about reflection is great :


I looked at the Decameron Web project :

Forum : https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/forumng/discuss.php?d=1686122

Brown university – Decameron Web

As Seely Brown and Adler (2008) say, this site provides access to scholarly content – it’s a course with a syllabus and numerous articles and resources. They claim “the emphasis is on building a community of students and scholars as much as on providing access to educational content” (ibid, p.26) but after browsing the site for some time, in its current state, I have to disagree. While the intent may have been to provide a forum for discussion, there is no forum, and no apparent discussion or records of such on the site.

Following links within the syllabus (Decameron Web, 2015) provided pages last updated in 2015 with knowledge presented for transmission to the learner through reading comprehension. This is typically followed by exercises developing and expanding this knowledge through guided research. Indeed, the last published newsletter (2010) states, “Our Boccaccio students and staff assistants have already edited and encoded a significant number of new documents” and it seems that the site is now a complete resource and the collaboration between students and staff is finished. This is reiterated on the home page also.

This it seems that the collaborative project has finished and it has become a web 1.0 resource. It seems that the site is now a resource for supporting students at Brown studying Italian 1020. There is a posted meeting time of Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10.30 – 11.50 in the Digital Scholarly Lab in the Rockerfeller Library.

Googling the Decameron Web gives results showing the content has been mirrored elsewhere (example: http://vos.ucsb.edu/browse.asp?id=2506 the University of California)

Searching the OU site gives two results – a course in Classical Studies and a student thesis. Similarly, searching in the OU Library gives results relating to the content of Decameron and I was not able to find any reference to the web project itself. I intend to keep trying but time is pressing now so I have to finish this post !

Steve replied:

Hi Tom and colleagues

I decided to do Decameron Web because I’d visited and used the Yale site on the tragic hero organised by Professor Greg Nagy of Yale. Actually there was a sense of community there but very different to a face-to-face community and it was still dependent on levels of access. For non-course entrants it was the most ‘virtual’ community you can get but still a community. You never got anywhere near a scholar of Nagy’s proportions in my day at university first time round – certainly not to his (formally) unpublished thought..

However, entrants to the course get immediate access to publication – I don’t think we’d be able to see these because like ourselves, the discussion forums (I hate that word and keep going for fora) are private to participants. We can’t choose, for instance, to share these thoughts in a wider forum – across institutional boundary distances (a big issue in interpreting distance in my thinking).thoughtful

We can make our blogs totally available (to the world as it were) though I’m not really getting big audiences for mine – luckily I have no desire to go viral. I’ll put a tweet notice to mine but I can’t imagine popularity ensuing – actually avoidance of hate mail is all I aspire for. approve

Given this, I find Decameron Web great and my blog says why. big grin My first degree was in literature and I can still remember the painful barriers involved for most people getting into the elitist traditions then (the 1970s – I’m an old mansad), especially if you weren’t from a ‘reading home’. These innovations involve entry by ‘play’ clown with text – writing pastiche, multi-modal presentations – unthinkable in the days of the etiquette ridden conventions of essay writing (impersonality and all that) that we had to use then (not that those conventions don’t have a place). Great to see someone else loves literature. cool

My blog is at:


And this was my final post :

Thanks for sharing the blog – very interesting to get your user perspective.

I got the impression that what Seely et al were talking about was the web 2.0 project to collaborate and produce the Decameron Web resource, so what I was hoping to find was some record of how the project progressed, because it seems to be a finished project now.

I used Google Scholar to track who has used the Seely et al paper by searching for the reference + Decameron i.e.

“decameron Seely Brown, J. and Adler, R. (2008) ‘Minds on fire: open education, the long tail and learning 2.0’, EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 16–32”

The article has been cited 1,076 times which, frankly, is too much data for me to trawl through. Scholar lists 101 “related articles” many of which appear to be on other topics – such as the long tail in retail -not helpful. For those about web 2.0 learning etc – on topic – many are the same year so won’t provide updates abt the project – and those dated later, which might then provide me with updates about the project, are about flexible learning in other contexts not Decameron.

Finally, I tried the OU library with the authors and title of Seely et article and got no love – “0 results for everything” and this message (the bain of flexible learning)

Due to temporary technical problem the result list may be incomplete. Please try again soon 

0Results  for Everything

So, the web 2.0 project appears to be complete and it has been widely shared as a web 1.0 resource, and as Steve says, used as part of web 2.0 courses. Unfortunately, I have not found any other papers written about the project itself but it certainly seems to be a tremendous success as measured by the site and its popularity. Hurrah for open e-learning !

Week 2

This looked at OER innovation and, in my opinion, the need for OEP to make OER really innovative. The best part was discussing problems with implementing OER/OEP in the forum and the wide variety of reasons OER hasn’t, so far, been a raging success. We were supposed to evaluate three projects, but I didn’t have time :

  • xDelia based on the theory that emotions influence learning. Hmm. Very European idea. For me, I think motivations influence and emotions are temporal.
  • iSpot is an observation sharing platform for citizen science
  • another of the OLnet tools includes the useless tools such as Cloudworks and Compendium

Week 3

Sigh, back to learning theories. This time it is cognitivism, constructivism, behaviourism and the silliest by far, connectivism. I did this diagram while my group did a wiki about the first three theories. The wiki seemed to have errors and it was not pleasant to point one out, so I didn’t do anymore after that. The diagram isn’t accurate because the theories aren’t precise and my understanding is cloudy. 😉


Week 4

Another group project -agree an educational context and goal, then select a technology to fit it. There was some confusion about the task and discussing what to do but we agreed to look at introducing Khan Academy OER into an HE environment as our context. Knowing that some teachers will be out of their depth, our aim is to offer support in in the implementation of OER  through a technology. Our short list for tech was Twitter, forums, Skype, Wikis+docs…I also did a poll on Twitter about this :

tech twitter poll resultsdoodle week 4

So we chose wikis and started collecting ideas for “evidence” to support our decision, and put this on, yes, a wiki. https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/ouwiki/view.php?id=774768&group=157587&page=Group+2+Activity+12%3A+Choosing+and+evaluating+a+specific+technology.
The wiki was hard to format and that spoiled the experience, but I enjoyed the wiki this time and that was a boost.

Week 5

Significant new tech. Based on the NMC Horizon Report 2015, we were asked to fill in a table for 6 technologies, and choose 3 new ones saying why I want to use them. The table is easy since online learning is the only one I’ve used. And I don’t want to use tech – I want my students to learn. Dur.

After that, I read Sharples’ Innovating Pedagogy and compared that to the three learning theories in week3. The top ten trends were:

  1. Crossover learning – field trips etc – sociocultural / activity theory / participative
  2. Argumentation – Greek rhetoric makes a comeback – socio-constructivism
  3. Incidental – serendipitous informal learning (e.g. Googling interesting things on a smartphone) which may promote reflection
  4. Context-based – constructivist learning through experience in sites designed for learning
  5. Computational thinking – like Bloom’s taxonomy derived from software coding, it is cognitivism
  6. Learning using remote labs – authentic activity and sociocultural again.
  7. Embodied Learning – action learning skills with data analysis – behaviouralism for the 21st century as it gets a dose of positivism.
  8. Adaptive teaching – data on student learning helps teachers adapt to varying student needs and learning preferences cos every class is mixed.
  9. Analytics of emotions – eye tracking and facial recognition suggest cognition and emotional states which combined with data on mindsets, strategies and engagement can enable the teacher to be more responsive to the learners.
  10. Stealth assessment – big data collected during learning in a simulated environment.

Then we were asked to prepare for a meeting when a project board will have to agree three pedagogies to invest in over the next two years.

Of these, I’d choose

2. Argumentation for the academic writing classes I teach – the students are social sciences and they benefit greatly from seeing multiple perspectives of an issue. However, this is really just Greek rhetoric – one of the oldest pedagogies. It isn’t innovation.

5. Computational thinking – I’d like to try this in my marketing and PR classes for analysing press releases and advertising copy. I already use Bloom’s taxonomy in the teacher training sessions – local teachers here tend to spoon-feed their students too much so I show them how they can use the taxonomy as the lesson plan and create an interactive lesson. Again, I’m concerned this isn’t really an innovation.

8. Adaptive teaching – adults learning English as a second language have substantial variation in the skills and knowledge so it would be wonderful to have data to say who needs to learn or develop some aspect of their English. The lessons would be a lot less generalised and the students would make much more rapid progress I think.

2 and 5 are very simple to implement. They require teacher training and minor modifications to the teaching materials. This may result in changes to the exams in time. The latter two already happen as a matter or course so it’s really the teacher training that would the focus of my analysis for the board. I favour training to small groups to ensure quality is high and using peer observations as a way to disseminate practices and ideas. So in a dept of 16, I reckon 2 years to fully implement is reasonable.

8 requires data collection so that mean students using devices and the institution harvests the data and processes it for use by teachers, so it’s a significant investment in hardware, software, training and hiring new staff with specialist skills. It requires a whole new way of teaching-learning through devices and teachers who are able to work this way and in an iterative loop with the data that gets produced. Insurmountable problems, I’d say, given the IE8 problem I’ve noted but certainly possible in 2-4 years at more innovative institutions.

Week 6

The first assessment is, sadly, a classic OU task. It has been worded in a deliberately vague way with the intention of making it flexible but with the result being obfuscation. The purpose is described as a report but the sections (with strict word limits) do not fit the genre stages of a report and the assessment grading criteria do not correspond with the “report” sections. I think the courses are generally very good but what really lowers the overall quality of the OU is its assessment system.

Week 7

Block 2 Open Education

First reading was a blog post by Cormier discussing whether open is a a creator or user perspective and how the OU is open to users but not an open creator cos it costs $.

The next page was what motivates people to create OER (in the public domain or unrestricted copyright such as Creative Commons) – and that’s altruism essentially.

There was a critical theory paper by Gourlay – she perceives some of Downes’ comments on MOOCs as something akin to a conspiracy theory (Latour 2004) – that in order to promote Moocs, Downes is attacking the hegemony of fee-based education. To do this she takes Foucault’s idea of a heterotopia (a space that creates a real form of a utopia) and says that OER providers do so because of their idea of utopian education -a horrible generalisation which she herself contradicts as being actually only Downes’ opinion, and in fact, is her caricature of it. I think this is a fundamentally wrong perception – the motivation is not utopian, it is egalitarian and based on the real problem that many people can’t afford fee-based education: OER addresses this injustice. Gourlay never mentions this. In fact, in trying to build a philosophical attack on Downes, Gourlay not only fails to discriminate between the many forms of OER and the institutional MOOCs, she refers to them as one and seeks to artificially polarise the difference between OER and VLE resources, without ever discussing what they have in common: flexible learning. Ultimately, her aim is to promote her own idea that Downes is demonising fee-based education and he is wrong because philosophically he is arguing for a heterotopia of desire (her own term, not Foucault’s). Thus, she maintains that research into day-to-day practices is necessary to critique privilege and power in education,  and guess what, she supports this rather weakly with her UK Govt funded research into VLE use. She uses this research to rather unconvincingly assert that students don’t perceive hegemony. I rather think in her desire to maintain universities as funded knowledge production centres, she has completely missed the point that OERs are the only option for people who can’t afford education but want to improve themselves.Egalitarian not heterotopian?

Gourlay, L. (2015) ‘Open education as a “heterotopia of desire”’, Learning, Media and Technology, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 310–27.

There is also an online book by Martin Weller – which really bugs me because it is only online and needs a browser with the right plugins to work. It wouldn’t on the PCs at work. But then I found a downloadable pdf so I wondered why the OU didn’t post that instead. Awkward.

Then there was also a presentation by Anderson and video by Wiley – gonna watch them during downtime at work. (Wiley was interesting but a little unrealistic about the world he lives in and I started to understand why Gourlay might see him as a bit of utopian).

The idea then is to make a representation of these ideas about openness and post it here. It’s a work in progress. Then Steve did a great job in the forum so I will just refer to his.

Finally, we were given some of the burning issues in open ed, and ask to think about three we would prioritise and why. My immediate response is to reflect on myself and think that barriers, support and quality would matter most to me as a learner and even as a teacher too, with pedagogy as equally important as quality.

  • Sustainability – many OER projects have received initial funding from organisations such as the Hewlett Foundation. How sustainable are they after the funding stops?
  • Pedagogy – are different ways of teaching required to make effective use of open education?
  • Barriers to uptake – what prevents individuals or institutions from either using or engaging with open education?
  • Learner support – how can learners best be supported in these open models?
  • Technology – what technologies are best suited to open approaches?
  • Quality – how can we assure the quality of open educational content?
  • Rights – how do we protect the intellectual property of individuals while encouraging wide distribution?

My post in the forum – very broad because the organisation and its aims are unknown, so I also redefined learner as stakeholder:

I picked barriers, support and quality.

Essentially, the aim of spreading free education won’t happen unless:

  • barriers are removed, (e.g. hardware, software, connectivity, IT training, languages, society’s attitude to it, and more) and I’d argue that access is a subset of barriers
  • support is given to the huge number of students (and other stakeholders/learners) who won’t benefit without it/may lose because of it, and
  • the quality encourages and facilitates learning and personal development relevant to the individual – no small feat.(I’d argue that pedagogy is a subset of quality and is a precursor to sustainability)

Thus research should look at

  • what barriers exist and investigate how these have been overcome in contexts, and how efforts to overcome them in other contexts have not been successful and why.
  • who are the stakeholders – understanding them and their perspectives – a swot analysis
  • what is currently taught, by whom and how, and how it can be adapted or evolved to at least maintain if not improve on current standards.

Week 8 OER

The first reading was an old paper (2001) by Downes who wanted to create a system for all the online resources that people were producing which he called learning objects. These databases were called repositories but his ideas were not user-friendly, the objects themselves were not what users wanted, so it ultimately failed, but in the process, MIT created OpenCourseware. I didn’t spend that long on this because my own experience is that there is an overwhelming amount of OER and I don’t know of a simple system for finding what I want – which is how I see the role of a MOOC – if a MOOC has it, someone has done that for me. I should revist week 8 at some point but I’ve been busy and need to keep up.

The next two activities were about the issues facing OER and how to search repositories for OER. Activity 1 required a blog post of 500 words on 3 issues, and activity 2 was using solvonauts to find OER to use in a course, as well as checking Merlot, MIT, OpenLearn, OpenStax, and Saylor.
Did I mention how there’s too much to do each week? This course is overloaded in block 2. Weeks 11 through 13 are lighter but apparently block 3 is going to be full on according to our tutor and the course information.

Week 9

 It starts with the fundamental idea of the re-usability of OER giving Wiley’s 5Rs as an intro to licensing such as Creative Commons.

  1. Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  2. Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  3. Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  5. Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

After browsing the Commons licences and reading arguments for and against commercial licenses, we then jumped to sustainability – is it possible without funding and hence licenses that produce income. Wiley wrote a paper in 2007 based on three models of sustainability at the time: MIT (centrally funded), Rice (collaborative decentralised authoring), USU (teaching practice derived), which we were asked to use to analyse 4 current OER inititaives:

Coursera, BCcampus, FutureLearn and OpenLearn.

From Steve’s Blog :

Criteria Cousera BCcampus FutureLearn OpenLearn
Course production goals [2]A partnership (142 institutions) based at mainly federal level in the USA, including Rice, Pennsylvania, Stanford as well as curational experts (MoMO – Museum of Modern Art) but with global links to 28 countries (see Knox 2016 on this as an instance of global ‘imperialism’). [3]This is nearer to the old ‘Rice’ model in that partners appear to unite around a common goal in opening up learning rather than in (just) selling themselves. Some partners shared with other institutions here. Course production goals open to innovation from the periphery and less centralism. [4]The OU of the future is an offshoot private company with lots of partners, in the semi-public private sector (and antagonistic to ‘commercial’ providers in a fairly patrician way, it feels from the reading from the last activity. 82 partners are all establishment universities, archives and professional bodies – all on the road to a kind of ‘privatisation’. [5]Founded in 2006, the site has an old-fashioned air to it now. Locked in the OU perhaps as it still is but not for that long.. The old OU link to the BBC is prominent (God bless her!)
Control over course produced High from the centre (as standard control?) but with some distribution to partners at distance. Much lower from centre and highly distributed at level of partner input and self-regulation. Appears to be very high, in the names of standard control – hence importance of ‘establishment’ nature of partners. Maybe then (a guess a very authority prone conception of education Totally from within the OU’s larger structures and not divorcable from that.
Learner Control Very little in pre-design but lots in assessment modes Lots – it has the development of Open Textbooks not seen elsewhere that I found. Very little that is made prominent here. Of course the usual ‘satisfaction questionnaires’ but is that involvement. I looked at my learner page. Mainly a monitor of activity in which I see what the stealth systems allow me to see.
Target Organisation Size (relative in this list) Huge! Grobal! Distributed widely but not usung anything very common at the level of control but concepts – openness! Aims to Grobal. Aims I would think to diminish or be absorbed into normal work of parent organisation.


[1] Ritzer, G. (2007)The Globalization of Nothing 2 California, Pine Forge Press, Sage Publications.

After this we went on to look at size – big and little OER. From Michael Brown’s blog :


Benefits: status/credibility, uniformity, collected and curated, support, stability, production value

Drawbacks: limited by project/budget demands, formal and/or informal entry barriers (i.e. coding skills), specific, unlikely to be adapted.

Little OER

Benefits: low-cost/no-cost, flexibility, anyone/anywhere production, likely to be adapted/aggregated

Drawbacks: potentially low presentation/production value thus low status, dispersed and unorganized

The benefits and drawbacks of big OER seem, to me, to indicate that they are probably more applicable to open courses. Open courses benefit from uniform designs, high production values, and uniformity. The drawbacks are easier to overcome because of the institutional resources that can be devoted to designing courses. I see these as being aimed at administrative and management personnel (or, if designed for learners to use, to motivated subject-specific learners).

The benefits and drawbacks of little OER seem to be geared more towards teachers (or for modular, unplanned, spontaneous, or casual learning). The flexibility of little OER lends them to both planned and on-the-fly use and adaptation in classrooms and other learning environments. The drawbacks are minimized by this flexibility.

Week 10

First up was an interview discussing some of the issues with MOOCs, then a reading – a systematic study of MOOCs, and then we are encouraged to check out Stacy Jordan’s huge volume of resources (huge, gah), and there were even 2 more recommended but optional readings, one of which was, well, huge.  Stacy also has a good page on MOOC completion rates (15%).

Yet another reading (choose one of three it says, gah) was followed by an activity to get a badge. The first one I read was Paul Stacey’s rant about how bad xMOOCs are because they don’t use the pedagogy he says is supported by research. I tried registering for a couple of cMOOCs but couldn’t get the registration done for ds106, and Rhizomatic.net looks too chaotic to be of value except to network. So I skimmed another paper on the Rhizo experiment and then did the badge activity, resulting in this blog post for a badge.

The last part of week 10 is discussing if PLN (personal learning networks) are anything new – I think they are not new but they have changed because the nature and number of relationships has changed since Web 2.0 took hold.

Week 11

This was an academic discussion about pedagogy. More Weller – reading his pedagogy of abundance and posting how to deal with this in the forum. Nothing new. Connectivism is next (again) which is an ontology/pedagogy, and honestly it is not really worth bothering with since education deals with it and more as digital literacies. Then “Rhizomatic Learning” which is a curriculum experiment for autonomous learners who want to network. This week was a twot.

Week 12

The idea of this week is to look at technologies and literacies as a contrast to pedagogy. So first was an extract from 2011 Weller Digital Scholar, before moving on to the role of common technologies such as blogs, hyperlinks, embeds, social networks, VLEs, and any other tech we can think of. Then literacies were given through Mozilla’s site (building connecting exploring) and as these skills described by Jenkins et al. (2009) :

  • Play – the capacity to experiment with one’s surroundings as a form of problem solving
  • Performance – the ability to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvisation and discovery
  • Simulation – the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes
  • Appropriation – the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content
  • Multitasking – the ability to scan one’s environment and shift focus as needed to salient details
  • Distributed cognition – the ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities
  • Collective intelligence – the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal
  • Judgement – the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources
  • Transmedia navigation – the ability to follow the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities
  • Networking – the ability to search for, synthesise and disseminate information
  • Negotiation – the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norms.

Week 13

TMA02 time – writing an open learning proposal for an institution. We also could get another badge by posting a vlog or multimedia post about openness in education.

In your video reflect on what you have learned in this block, covering one of the following elements:

  • What aspect of openness in education interests you most (and why)?
  • What the future direction of open education will be in your opinion, justifying your answer.

So I’m going to do a voice over for a melting snow video to suggest the future of education is more openness but this won’t have a radical effect because there is already an overwhelming volume of information available that greater openness won’t change. Instead, the effect will be to make institutions blend openness and protection – like snow lingering in some areas but not others.


And that is the end of the first half of the course. It has made me aware that openness is not much to get excited about unless it provides education to those who would normally be excluded, and that innovations appear to be minor unless you take a broad definition of innovation, and then it’s everything.