Beyond MOOCs: Sustainable Online Learning in Institutions

Link: Beyond MOOCs Sustainable Online Learning in Institutions (PDF)
Link: Beyond MOOCs Sustainable Online Learning in Institutions (MS Word .docx)

Executive Summary

The key opportunity for institutions is to take the concepts developed by the MOOC experiment to date and use them to improve the quality of their face-to-face and online provision, and to open up access to higher education. Most importantly, the understanding gained should be used to inform diversification strategies including the development of new business models and pedagogic approaches that take full advantage of digital technologies.

The critical discourse emerging around MOOCs is providing an opportunity for institutions to develop a more strategic approach to online learning. This includes enhancing existing classroom teaching practices, promoting institutional reputation and developing new revenue models. There are indications that some MOOCs are becoming more focussed on corporate training, which suggests that they may not pose a immediate threat to the existing pedagogical, revenue or business models of higher education institutions (HEIs). The number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) will continue to grow with the development of credit bearing courses likely to be a trend.
The findings from this report are summarised in three sections: key themes that have emerged from the MOOC experiment, opportunities that institutions should consider exploring, and longer-term strategic considerations and likelihood that this will happen for institutions.
Three key themes emerge from the MOOC experiment:
i. Openness – new approaches to online learning, including models for scalable provision that may generate revenues, and promote open learning, which goes beyond institutional boundaries through the use of online communities. [Increasing impact & long term, likely for most institutions]
ii. Revenue models – different revenue models taking the established ideas from technology start-ups, such as applying the concepts of freemium and premium offers into online learning, providing institutions with new ways of thinking about marketing and income generation. [High impact & medium term, more likely for institutions looking for new revenue streams]
iii. Service Disaggregation – experimentation with business models that include unbundling and re-bundling of courses and delivery related services, such as offering paid for assessment and/or teaching and support, on top of free online course content. This may have a wider impact across institutions in the future through better deployment of existing resources to add value to customers where there is greatest benefit and to reduce costs through outsourcing (unbundling is already happening independently of MOOCs). [High impact & short term, likely for most institutions]

Institutions should consider exploring a set of opportunities that have been brought to the attention of mainstream education by MOOCs, and experiment with new approaches for developing technology-enabled changes in teaching and learning to improve opportunities for individual learners. These include:
i. Technology options – new platforms and services with different functions, terms and conditions for experimenting with the development of MOOCs and open online provision in institutions, including opening up an existing VLE, partnering with a commercial MOOC platform; or using an ad hoc collection of tools and services that are suitable for innovative experimentation. [Low impact & short term, likely for most institutions]
ii. Pedagogic opportunities – for educators to experiment and evaluate different online learning approaches by developing and using MOOCs that challenge the established roles of learner and teacher and offer more flexible forms of learning and assessment that include community as well as content-based models of learning. For some, experimentation will be at the level of the individual lecturer and for others it may be departmental or large-scale cross-institutional change projects. [Medium impact & medium term, likely for some types of institutions]
iii. Learner choices – developing new and affordable ways for learners to access courses and materials with the possibility of study for credits that are affordable and flexible. A starting point that is not based on existing courses can be a less constraining way of exploring new approaches. [High impact & short term, likely for some institutions]

Institutions are operating in an environment of increased marketisation and global competition, increasing student demand, reduced central government funding and affordability issues for students. Institutions will have to make strategic choices about how they respond to the changing contexts in which they operate; depending on the starting point these will have short, medium and long-term implications:
i. Mission, purpose and values – taking full account of the significant wider changes in HEIs’ business environments that may require institutions to review how they interpret their mission, purpose and values when developing their strategic response. [Variable impact & long term, likely for most institutions]
ii. Strategic directions – using the new opportunities presented by rethinking MOOCs as a useful motivation for institutions to examine their current provision and think about ways in which they can change and diversify. However, failure to recognise the scale of this challenge may well derail any new strategic directions. For institutions with little experience of open and online provision, options for rapid development may be limited to forming partnerships with external organisations with the required capabilities. [High impact & long term, likely for most institutions]
iii. Capability building requirements – reviewing existing in-house capabilities including: technical infrastructure, academic and support staff working practices. If starting from a low base, these will require significant commitment to change and develop, in order to support new business models for online provision. [Variable impact & short term, likely for most institutions]
iv. Business model components – there is an opportunity for institutions to examine their current provision and think about ways in which they can change and diversify to develop new sustainable business models for open online provision that take as their starting point the needs of the learner rather than the interests of the institution. [High impact & medium term, likely for some institutions]

Preview

Survey of the State of Analytics in UK HE and FE institutions

Link: Survey of the State of Analytics in UK Higher and Further Institutions 2013 (pdf).
Link: Survey of the State of Analytics in UK Higher and Further Institutions 2013 (MS Word docx).

An informal survey was undertaken by Cetis in May and June 2013. Subscribers to a number of email circulation lists – with members coming largely from institutional IT, administration and educational technology responsibilities – were invited to respond.
The purpose of the survey was to:

  • Assess the current state of analytics in UK FE/HE.
  • Identify the challenges and barriers to using analytics.

Chart showing reported data sources for analytics

Chart showing reported data sources for analytics

For the purpose of the survey, we defined our use of “analytics” to be the process of developing actionable insights through problem definition and the application of statistical models and analysis against existing and/or simulated future data. In practical terms, it involves trying to find out things about an organisation, its products services and operations, to help inform decisions about what to do next.
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Engaging Developers in Standards Development; the Cetis Code Bash Approach

Link: Engaging Developers in Standards Development; the Cetis Code Bash Approach (PDF)
Link: Engaging Developers in Standards Development; the Cetis Code Bash Approach (MS Word .docx)

A linear process in which a written standard is created and then implemented in software is liable to fail for many reasons arising both from the difficulty in writing a specification that is sufficiently precise and accurate while also allowing for necessary flexibility in use, and from the intrinsic complexity of the human activities and IT systems in which it will be realised. Engaging software developers in the standards development process has been found to be an effective means to improve the written standards, to enlarge the scope of practical interoperability between software, and to identify and share effective practice. Over a period of years, Cetis developed an approach to this kind of engagement which we called a “Code Bash”. This white paper outlines the motivation, typical outcomes and practicalities of running a Code Bash and is intended to motivate people working in either formal or informal standards-development settings to engage developers in the process and to provide them with some ideas to adapt to their own setting.
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The Benefits of Open. Open Scotland background briefing paper

Link: The Benefits of Open (PDF)
Link: The Benefits of Open (MS .docx)
This background paper presents executive summaries and links to key documents and publications relating to all aspects of openness in education.

Open Scotland is a one day summit facilitated by Jisc Cetis in collaboration with SQA, Jisc RSC Scotland and the ALT Scotland SIG. The event will provide an opportunity for key stakeholders to critically reflect on the national and global impact and opportunities of open education, provide a forum to identify shared strategic interests and work towards a more integrated Scottish approach to openness in education.
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Activity Data and Paradata

Illustration of activity data and paradataLink: Activity Data and Paradata (pdf)
Link: Activity Data and Paradata (MS Word .docx)

This briefing introduces a range of approaches and specifications for recording and exchanging data generated by the interactions of users with resources.

Such data is a form of Activity Data, which can be defined as “the record of any user action that can be logged on a computer”. Meaning can be derived from Activity Data by querying it to reveal patterns and context, this is often referred to as Analytics. Activity Data can be shared as an Activity Stream, a list of recent activities performed by an individual. Initiatives such as OpenSocial, ActivityStreams and TinCan API have produced specifications and APIs to share Activity Data across platforms and applications.

While Activity Streams record the actions of individual users and their interactions with multiple resources and services, other specifications have been developed to record the actions of multiple users on individual resources. This data about how and in what context resources are used is often referred to as Paradata. A specification for recording and exchanging paradata has been developed by the Learning Registry, an open source content-distribution network for storing and sharing information about learning resources.
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Cetis Analytics Series: Case Study, Acting on Assessment Analytics

Link: Cetis Analytics Series Vol 2, No 2. Acting on Assessment Analytics (pdf)
Link: Cetis Analytics Series Vol 2, No 2. Acting on Assessment Analytics (MS Word docx)

Over the past five years, as part of its overall developments in teaching and learning, The University of Huddersfield has been active in developing new approaches to assessment and feedback methodologies. This has included the implementation of related technologies such as e-submission and marking tools.

In this case study Dr Cath Ellis shares with us how her interest in learning analytics began and how she and colleagues are making practical use of assessment data both for student feedback and overall course design processes.
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Writing in Book Sprints

Link: Writing in Book Sprints (OER13 Conference Paper) (PDF)
Link: Writing in Book Sprints (OER13 Conference Paper) (MS Word .doc)

Outlines a novel approach taken by Jisc and Cetis to synthesise and disseminate the technical outputs and findings of three years of HEFCE funded UKOER Programmes. Rather than employing a consultant to produce a final synthesis report, the authors decided to undertake the task themselves by participating in a three-day book sprint facilitated by Adam Hyde of BookSprints.net. Over the course of the three days the authors wrote and edited a complete draft of a 21,000 word book titled “Technology for Open Educational Resources: Into the Wild – Reflections of three years of the UKOER programmes”.
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The Learning Registry: social networking for open educational resources?

The Learning Registry: social networking for open educational resources? (OER13 Conference paper) (PDF)
The Learning Registry: social networking for open educational resources? (OER13 Conference paper) (MS Word .doc)

This paper reflects on Cetis’ involvement with the Learning Registry and Jisc’s Learning Registry Node Experiment at Mimas (The JLeRN Experiment), and their application to UKOER initiatives. Initially funded by the US Departments of Education and Defense, the Learning Registry (LR) is an open source network for storing and distributing metadata and curriculum, activity and social usage data about learning resources across diverse educational systems.
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New approaches to describing and discovering open educational resources

Link: New Approaches to Describing and Discovering Open Educational Resources (OER13 Conference paper)(PDF)
Link: New Approaches to Describing and Discovering Open Educational Resources (OER13 Conference paper) (MS Word .doc)

This paper reports and reflects on the innovative technical approaches adopted by UKOER projects to resource description, search engine optimisation and resource discovery. The HEFCE UKOER programmes ran for three years from 2009 to 2012 and funded a large number and variety of projects focused on releasing open educational resources (OERs) and embedding open practice. The Cetis Innovation Support Centre was tasked by JISC with providing strategic advice, technical support and direction throughout the programme. One constant across the diverse UKOER projects was their desire to ensure the resources they released could be discovered by people who might benefit from them; if no one can find an OER no one will use it. This paper will focus on three specific approaches with potential to achieve this aim: search engine optimisation, embedding metadata in the form of schema.org microdata, and sharing “paradata” information about how resources are used.
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Cetis Analytics Series: Case Study, Engaging with Analytics

Link: Cetis Analytics Series Vol 2, No 1. Case Study, Engaging with Analytics
Link: Cetis Analytics Series Vol 2, No 1. Case Study, Engaging with Analytics (MS Word .docx)

Jean Mutton, Student Experience Project Manager, University of Derby, shares with us some approaches she has been spearheading in terms of using data and analytics to help improve the student experience. Through their participation in Jisc development programmes, Jean and her team (including paid student interns) have taken a service design approach that focuses on the needs of end user first.

This case study explores the wider issues around using data to inform decision making, and the strategies the University of Derby are developing to improve their student enhancement processes by addressing key questions such as:

  • What is actually happening to students, how can we find out?
  • What are the touch points with between students and the institution?
  • What are the institutional “digital footprints” of our students?
  • What really matters to our students?

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