Another three years … what’s next? #CMALT

In November 2013 I finally completed my CMALT portfolio and achieved the much lauded CMALT accreditation. Three (and quite a bit) years later I have successfully completed the required three year review to keep my status as CMALT certified valid. So, what’s happened?

Firstly, for those interested, here are some links to previous posts I’ve written about both the process of gaining CMALT accreditation with the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) and what it means to me:

From my submitted review, here is the 500 word summary that is required (but not part of the assessment). Bear in mind the 500 word limit … you try and condense three and a bit years into an effective and appropriate summary for the portfolio!

My current role is so vastly different to the work I was doing when I gained my CMALT back in November, 2013, that it’s quite difficult to ‘update’. This will be a good exercise in understanding how I have changed, within myself, as well as my work and professional outlook.

I joined Warwick Business School (WBS) in May, 2014, as a Teaching and Learning Consultant, a world away from the role I held at Leicester. The main differences are in the line management of a team and the level of responsibility for core Business School activity.

Since first obtaining my CMALT I have

  • developed MOOCs for Warwick University and managed the partnership with FutureLearn,
  • taken an increasingly active role in WBS for aspects of teaching and learning on the world’s no. 1 Distance Learning MBA and on internally developed and run SPOCs, and
  • written two further books on the subjects of educational technology.

For the Warwick MOOCs I have:

These MOOCs have taken me, and my skills, further than I ever could have managed. Not only have I managed the development of these MOOCs (both technically and pedagogically) but I have developed my skills and responsible, across different faculties, for various aspects of the developing online courses, internally for WBS and externally on behalf of Warwick, including:

  • Line managing a team of four excellent videographers who have filmed, edited, rendered, tested and maintained consistently high quality of materials for the Warwick MBA and Warwick MOOCs, including audio manipulation, studio green-screen, on- and off-campus filming duties (author Stephen Fry, on-location filming at John Lewis Partnership and the House of Commons, and the wonderful Sir Ian McKellen).
  • Designing and implementing materials and activities for the Warwick online MBA, to match the course objectives, learning journey, and ensuring the intended outcome and assessment criteria are met.
  • Self- and team-management skills to enable multiple courses to run multiple times each year, as well as planning and maintaining the team’s ability to film and edit materials from multiple sources and for multiple courses.
  • Multi-discipline negotiations on course design and development.
  • Managing facilitator engagement in the run up to new course presentations as well as their engagement and input during each presentation and the differing experiences each cohort of learners bring.

Internally at WBS I work closely with academic groups, module leaders and tutors to develop new modules, redevelop existing ones (based on changes to the subject area and student feedback), engage with the academic groups to share and collaborate across the MBA disciplines and report on developments to the School’s senior management team.

As promised I’ve updated my Google sites CMALT portfolio with a new page for my (first) 3 year review.

So, what will the next three years bring … ? Exciting stuff, cant’ wait!

What’s next for MOOCs?

I’m not going to get in to the detail of whether MOOCs have been the disruptive element for learning as many opined four or five years ago, many have written much more eloquently on this than I ever could. For more just search for related terms or read this and this and this and this.

I will, however, pass a few words and a little judgement on one aspect of some of the developments I’ve been following for ‘online learning’ – accreditation. 

Firstly, has anyone else noticed that the original MOOC platforms don’t refer to the courses that are offered through them as MOOCs anymore? Even the platform that pushed ‘free online learning’ at every opportunity has dropped the ‘free’ from nearly all pages and courses. Obviously the ‘free’ business model was never going last long once the platforms realised that they had massive overheads to cover (staff, hosting, support, development, etc.), and that doesn’t cover the costs incurred by partners to develop the courses either.

For me online learning, whether it’s an degree awarded from an established College or University or a ‘free’ MOOC-esque course, has always been about the value the course is able to offer the student taking it. That value is both about the actual content and subject as well as the value the new knowledge has to the individual who has taken (and presumably passed) the course.

This value could be the

  1. personal satisfaction in gaining new or further knowledge,
  2. learning about a new skill or subject that has semi-professional interest (a subject at the periphery of the individual’s profession, but is not essential to it) or
  3. something that is specifically relevant to the individual’s immediate role or career progression.

Learning is but one side of the reason someone will invest time and effort into learning. The learning needs a purpose – undertake a course on Shakespeare because you’ve always like his plays and want to know more about the plays and playwright. A family member is diagnosed with dementia and you want to know and understand more about the condition, etc. This is all well and good, but people who take courses for these reasons are unlikely to buy any kind of certificate or further learning opportunity from it. They are likely to go on and take other related courses, again to further their understanding.

People who take online courses who are doing it for a professional purpose (changing job or role, career progression, professional interest, etc.) are more likely to purchase some form of certificate, but it’s still not guaranteed. I’ve taken (well, started!) a few MOOCs related to my job and interests, and finished one (the #EDCMOOC)! 

For me, the future of this kind of learning is what the course can really offer those people who complete it. A certificate is not enough – being able to show I completed 75% or 95% or another arbitrary number of the steps and all test questions means next to nothing. The certificate does not give any indication to whoever I show it to about what I had to do to get those steps completed or whether the test were 5 questions or 50. Did the course have an active educator or was it facilitated by an academic (not the course creator) or student from the partner institution? Was it facilitated at all, or just a click-next learning journey with a few tests or discussion points?. No, for me, if I’m going to pay for the course ‘certificate’ it needs to show something much much more. It needs to show how valuable it is to the industry I work in. Sometimes even the institution that created course isn’t enough pull for the certificate to mean anything.

A medical MOOC certificate would mean so much more if it was accredited by the International Council of Nurses, a marketing course accredited by the Chartered Institute of Marketing, etc. Not only could / should the course offer the opportunity to earn valuable CPD points but the accredited course outcome should be something a current or future employer would look at and immediately see the value to them; that this candidate is coming to work here with a good resumé, has shown initiative by taking further learning opportunities and is showing the skills to find and evaluate the courses that will offer them the best opportunity to further themselves.

I don’t think the way forward for MOOCs is for degree-credits either but it’s a popular route, probably as it’s easier to sell to the University partners than anything else. Only time will tell. 

When PowerPoint goes bad

What are your pet peeves about using PowerPoint? Is it the tool itself or how people use it?

I use PowerPoint, and think it is a good way to engage students and staff, and can be used as a way to spur enjoyment, engagement and interest in your subject. But that’s more about how the tool is used rather than the tool itself. So, here are some observations I’ve made over the years about PowerPoint, and how people use it ‘badly’:

  • Font – Inconsistent use of fonts across the slide deck, or even on the same slide. Using fonts that really don’t work on screen (like Times New Roman), or using Comic Sans. Please. Don’t.
  • Images – So you found Google images or another such image search. You’ve copied the image to your slide and it looks good. It doesn’t. That small image might look OK on your screen, but test it in a classroom or lecture theatre, you’ve stretched it so much it’s pixelated so much it’s almost unrecognisable.
  • Words – Writing your whole lesson in PowerPoint and spending half the lesson with your back to the class so you can read from the projector screen. Same goes if you stand behind the lectern PC and read of that screen instead.
  • Bullet points – PowerPoint makes it too easy to use them, but that doesn’t mean you should (yes, I can see the irony as I’m using them here too).
  • Colour / Templates – Just because you can lots of colour or standard PowerPoint templates doesn’t mean you should. Keep it simple so your key message shines through – the more colour / mess on the slide will only detract or hide your content.
  • Charts / Tables – Do you really need that chart or table that shows 50 different points of information.
  • Animation – I’ve never found animated stars or arrows to help the presentation. If the slide is structured properly you shouldn’t need them.
  • Clipart – Please. Don’t.
  • Volume – You may feel that your one hour presentation needs 100 slides. I’m pretty sure your audience/class doesn’t. 

If in doubt about any aspect of your use of PowerPoint, the best time to find out how you’re doing is now, while you’ve time to go and check it all out and not half way through the most important presentation of your career. Would you rather a slightly awkward conversation in private now or suddenly realise the conference venue has emptied for lunch 45 minutes early, just after you start your 16th of 135 slides?

Go find your friendly learning technologist (yes, we are friendly!), ask us to look over it and tell you what we think. We will be honest but we’ll be critical and, most importantly, constructive. We will offer support and suggestions, we will give your pointers on how to cut the information on the slides (and how to deliver it too, if you want) and we will be there to help you feel comfortable creating slide decks in future and deliver them. Every learning technologist I’ve ever met will do this, without question and without judgement; we’re just happy we can offer our expertise and make your job easier (and more successful).

There are plenty of online tutorials and help websites if you want to find out yourself about using PowerPoint ‘well’. Try sites like this and this and this.

If in doubt this video – Life after death by PowerPoint – will help you see the error of your ways.

Image source: EU PVSEC (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Reading: Lurkers as invisible learners

I’ve always been annoyed at being called a ‘lurker’, it’s a term that has a different meaning for me when talking about the engagement, or not, of students in an online class – read my post ‘Listener or Lurker?’ from 2013. In this instance the paper ‘Learners on the Periphery: Lurkers as Invisible Learners‘, by Sarah Honeychurch and colleagues, defines as a ‘lurker’ or ‘silent learner’ or ‘legitimate peripheral participant’ as.

“… hard to track in a course because of their near invisibility. We decided to address this issue and to examine the perceptions that lurkers have of their behaviour by looking at one specific online learning course: CLMOOC. In order to do this, we used a mixed methods approach and collected our data via social network analysis, online questionnaires, and observations, including definitions from the lurkers of what they thought lurking was … [our] research findings revealed that lurking is a complex behaviour, or set of behaviours, and there isn’t one sole reason why lurkers act the ways that they do in their respective communities. We concluded that for a more participatory community the more active, experienced or visible community members could develop strategies to encourage lurkers to become more active and to make the journey from the periphery to the core of the community.”

I’m far more comfortable with the terms used here, and reasons why students don’t engage perhaps how we’d like them to, or indeed in the way we design the course. We need to accept and address that not everyone taking online learning, whether it’s a free MOOC, paid-for CPD course or fully online degree, wants to be social, vocal, or indeed visible in the online environment. We can provide the base materials and ask the students to go off and read around the subjects, we can offer opportunities to engage and ‘test’ themselves on different types of course activities. The only way we know the students are engaging in the subject and materials is usually if we assign marks or grades to the activities, especially if those marks carry weight on the course’s final grade.

Reference

Honeychurch, S., Bozkurt, A., Singh, L, and Koutropoulos, A. (2017). Learners on the Periphery: Lurkers as Invisible Learners. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning. [online] Available at: http://www.eurodl.org/?p=current&sp=full&article=752 [Accessed 21 Jun. 2017].

Why CMALT is important to me #altc

It’s coming to that time of year when I start planning for the Annual ALT conference: #ALTC. My annual review is complete, ALTC was discussed and it’s been approved that I can attend again. This will be my fourth ALTC, and this year we’re in Liverpool.

But my reflective mind is going back to my CMALT qualification, and why it is still so important to me. Earlier this year I wrote my three-year review to keep my CMALT credential current and valid. Whilst I wait for the response and, hopefully, approval, I still think of both the process I went through to gain CMALT in the first place as well as the on-going process of how I keep myself (as well as my CMALT) current. I will update my portfolio with the review text when I know I’ve passed.

  • This is Part 16 in my series where I am posting on my thoughts about being a Learning Technologist. This, and the previous posts can be found in the What is a Learning Technologist series.

I have spent time reading and investigating the various online masters course, as gaining further qualifications in and around my work is something I believe I can benefit from, but I’ve yet to find one that really interests me. There’s also the cost both financially and in time that, at the moment, I’m just not prepared to commit to. I also believe that a lot of our work, us learning technologists, is about doing the work and learning about doing the work, and I am still very sceptical of formal masters level courses offering the kind of content that can help with the day to day work. This is another reason I find CMALT more applicable to my line of work – my CMALT portfolio is my work linked to the core areas the portfolio is assessed on. It didn’t feel like a formal assessment, but it is, and it didn’t feel an onerous task either. 

I’ve also been, if you haven’t already noticed, quite busy and have written four books – QR Codes in Education, The Really Useful #EdTechBook, Emergency Rations #EdTechRations and What is a learning technologist? Without the ALT community and CMALT reflective exercises these projects would not have been possible. I also feel that I have grown because of the CMALT process, both personally and professionally, and find myself in a very good role at Warwick Business School and as a CMALT Assessor.

For me being CMALT qualified is essential to our role and gaining a qualification that can demonstrate our abilities and worth to the often sceptical academics we meet as well as giving us a trusted and valued voice with college or university management. Learning technology is important, as are the people like you and me who are the support, demonstrators and voices helping understand and navigate the tools and techniques.

If you’re interested in CMALT, wonder what it’s all about, already completed your CMALT and are thinking ahead to the three-year review here are a few posts you will find useful:

  • Chatting about CMALT – CMALT session at ALTC 2016, and my reflection on what it’s like on the other side, the reviewer and assessor (Sept 2016).
  • Three years of ALTC and CMALT – written for the ALT blog here I again reflect on the importance of the three ALTC events I’d attended, and how they’d impacted my CMALT journey and understanding of my role(s) (Sept 2016).
  • Editing and co-authoring for online publication – written for the ALT blog I am again reflecting on my connections and network that I’ve grown through the ALT community, and where CMALT has made a difference in my own view and perspective (May 2017).
  • ALT CPD: rebooted – A frank and open discussion at the 2014 ALT CPD event, these are my slides and ‘what it means to be a learning technologist’ (Nov 2014).

Don’t believe me? These people all agree CMALT is valuable. And this is just the list of people already passed, I’m sure the list of those working towards it is larger still! 

Image source: David Hopkins

The Future of Learning Technology in UK Higher Education

Last year I was approached and interviewed by Microsoft. In that interview I talked about my experiences and hopes for my work, both in the sense of personal development and in how I see (and want to see) the use of technology improve in higher education. This improvement, I said, needs to come from three main areas:

  • How we, learning technologists (in our various roles and titles) perceive technology is being used, can be used, and should be used with students. These students can be classroom based or fully online, or the use of technology in a blended approach.
  • How we work with staff (academic and administrative) to introduce new technology or new ways of working with existing technology, how this relationship with our colleagues grows and whether they are the kind who are receptive to new tools and techniques or ‘ludites‘, and
  • Why we look at new technology, how we work out if there is a use for it and if so, what is it? We’re also fully aware that some technology needs to mature before it becomes an effective teaching tool (either in reliability, resilience, or in it’s adoption across the sector).

From the report:

Learning delivery in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) is being reshaped before our eyes, thanks in part to advances in technology and the new pedagogical theories facilitated by that technology. In order to understand more about the ever-evolving relationship between technology and learning, we spent time speaking with six of the UK’s leading learning technologists working within HEIs.

In a series of interviews exploring current practice, changing needs and key trends, we were able to establish how digital devices are being used in universities and how cutting-edge technology can continue to compliment a sector experiencing fresh emphasis on collaboration, creation and innovation.

Key take-away messages from the interviews and report look at things like our ability to be device agnostic (despite this being a report from Microsoft Surface), seamless capability, VR and AR developments, AI, collaborative working and learning analytics.

David Hopkins reiterated the point (investment in institutional infrastructure) that the role of a learning technologist is “to make sure that the academics use their time with the students efficiently.”

Alongside key “UK’s leading learning technologists” like Mike Sharples (OU), Terese Bird (Leicester), Neil Morrise (Leeds), Rose Luckin (UCL), Dave White (UoAL) and myself, the Microsoft report concluded that “the revolution in learning technology is quickly becoming the most significant factor in improving student performance – in turn helping universities to fulfil their transformative role for society, the jobs market and the economy.”

Download the Microsoft Surface report here: The Future of Learning Technology in UK Higher Education.

Dear Twitter. It’s not me, it’s you

Here’s a confession … I’m not as enamoured by Twitter as I used to be. Unlike a traditional break up argument (is this the case, I don’t know?) where one party says to the other “it isn’t you, it’s me”, I am most definitely saying “it’s not me, it’s you [Twitter]”.

Twitter, at its core, is something that merely reflects us, either individually or culturally. It’s a free tool and subject to very few rules and regulations. And I don’t like what I see there these days. A year ago, I wouldn’t have thought I would be in a position anywhere I would be called, or call myself, anything other than Avid Twitter User (ATU), but today I find myself a Reluctant Twitter User (RTU). I still use Twitter because I have made some amazing friends and contacts there, I have some fabulous conversations and networking, and the like. I’ve had ideas, shared them, allowed them to grow, collected and collated articles and books, all from Twitter. And I want to continue that. For the most part my use of Twitter hasn’t changed in the last year. But the way other people use Twitter has. Let me explain.

I have never used the ‘trending‘ or ‘moments‘ features of Twitter. I’m not interested in the latest celebrity news, I don’t care what who said to whom, or which talentless so-called celebrity is on the cover of some over-priced glam-mag, or whatever they’re called. And don’t get me started on the ads … all I’ve learned from Twitter ads is that the more you interact with them (either blocking the accounts or clicking the ‘dismiss’ option) just means you get more. The last time I tried dismissing or blocking the ads I ended up with a ad every 5th or 6th tweet in the iOS app. Now I ignore them, just gloss over them, and I get far far fewer! Annoying, oh yes, but fewer of them.

No, these are mere annoyances. What is causing me to think twice about Twitter is the way, as I said earlier, the way it reflects ‘us’ and how others are using it. In the last year the world has changed, it’s quite difficult to have not noticed. For my UK and European friends, it’s been Brexit. For the US and, frankly, rest of the world, it’s Trump. My Twitter feed is now full of political commentary and all sorts of negative content that wasn’t there before. Don’t get me wrong, and I’m not making a political statement here, the world feels like it’s on the edge of a very precarious precipice, and I feel like we’re toppling into the abyss on the other side we may never recover from. But that’s not the Twitter I want, or rather not what I look to Twitter for … this is why I ignore the ‘trending’ and ‘moments’ features, it doesn’t represent the Twitter (and my network) I want. 

I admire those who are vocal and active in bringing the ‘new world’ to our attention, to bringing the elite few to task for the masses who are not as able or represented (freedom of the press is powerful and ultimately the only thing capable of bringing balance to current affairs, by holding those in power to account for their actions), but I want to read and hear about it when I choose, not somewhere where I go to learn about my work, my network, my interested and passions, etc. Twitter has always been, for me, about learning, learning technology, etc. because those I choose to interact with and choose to follow are also tweeting about that. The world has changed, and all of us with it.

So, here’s what I need from Twitter, in this new world – I don’t want my Twitter timeline/stream to be controlled by algorithms, but I do want more control (note: I want the control, not for it to be done for me) over the kind of tweets that fill my timeline. If the 1,300 or so people I follow on Twitter want to share and discuss current affairs and Brexit and the like, then I am happy for them and don’t want to stop them, or unfollow them either. I just want some way to filter those out, until I want to read them. Twitter is acting against the rise (and rise) of trolls and the nasty side of the internet (some say too late).

Some might say I shouldn’t’ blame Twitter, it’s merely holding the mirror up to reflect society as it is changing, and it’s that reflection that I don’t like, but Twitter has changed – not just how it’s being used but also how it’s allowing itself to be used. Twitter, I believe, has a responsibility to balance how it is used. An analogy would be to not blame the car manufacturer for the people the drivers kill in accidents where their cars are involved, but we still hold them responsible for either false or misleading advertising features or safety they don’t have, as well as holding them responsible for the safety features they ought to have (so your car can go 200mph … how good are the brakes? Good enough, or the best they can possibly be?). So, Twitter needs to hold itself to account and deal with trolls, deal with the abuse of the verified icon, deal with the abuse of the global audience every tweet can have (whether it’s from someone with 3 followers or 3,000,000 followers), deal with (deliberate) misinformation from those who are in a position to affect so many, etc. Twitter has a responsibility. I don’t know how it can do any of this, but hiding or ignoring it isn’t going to make it go away. Inaction to deal with these problems, by association, is the same as allowing them to happen, almost to the level of making it approved behaviour, almost encouraging it?

Am I breaking up with Twitter? No. Or rather, not yet. But I am very conscious of trying hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Oh yes, Facebook. Don’t get me started on Facebook …

Image source: “Twitter” by Pete Simon (CC BY 2.0)

Teachers are like gardeners …

Another wonderful sound-bite from Sir Ken Robinson:

” A great gardener, a great farmer, depends upon plants growing under their care, otherwise they’re out of business. But the irony is that every farmer and gardener knows you cannot make a plant grow. You cannot do that – you don’t stick the roots on, paint the petals, attach the leaves, you know. The plant grows itself. What you do is provide the conditions for growth. Great farmers know what the conditions are and bad ones don’t. Great teachers know what the conditions of growth are, and bad ones don’t. With bad teaching all this potential of students shrivels in the face of it. With great teaching all this stuff starts to flourish and flower. And that, to me, is the great gift of teaching: to recognise that growth is possible, at any time.”

Sir Ken Robinson – Teachers are like gardeners

Image source: Sebastiaan ter Burg (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Making a MOOC ‘successful’

Designing a ‘successful’ MOOC is one thing. Making a MOOC ‘successful’ is something completely different.

Much has been written by far better and more eloquent people than me (here and here and here and here and here) on what makes a successful MOOC – all about interactions, journeys, optimum length, appropriate materials, platform, etc.. But what about making a MOOC successful? To me, there is a difference.

This isn’t about making / building / designing a MOOC, it’s about making / encouraging / promoting / informing people about the MOOC.

The argument about MOOC success, learner retention, completion numbers, registrations, etc., is one that will rage on and on, everyone has an opinion, everyone looking at something different, all very valid, and all very important questions. There isn’t a definitive answer – each MOOC is different, for a different audience, for a different demographic (maybe), and designed in a way that different learner ‘profiles’ can get something different out at the end. If indeed they reach the end, which of course they don’t have.

No, making a successful MOOC requires more than a lead academic(s) subject knowledge, learning technology, instructional/education design, assessments, an appropriate learning goal/journey, working platform, etc. You need all the other stuff as well.

The other stuff you need? Well, try: 

Support
Support for the academic to develop the course in the first place. This could be time allocated to their schedule to relieve them from teaching, research, meetings, etc. It could be time and resources to create the materials and resources needed for the MOOC. We could be talking extra training in how to design for online audiences (not everyone has designed for an online audience before), or media training, or training in how to facilitate or moderate the course once it’s running. This support is required from more areas than just the team helping to put the course together in the first place.

Support is also required for all other aspects of the course progression. If there are facilitators or moderators (use whichever term you prefer – I don’t like ‘moderators’) do they require training in netiquette or how to handle the volume of comments as well as the quality (or lack of) in the comments?

If you are running the course more than once and, let’s face it you should if you’ve put all this effort into planning and designing it, then who will continue to be involved? If the facilitators change, the training starts from scratch.

Coverage
This is a biggie, and depends solely on each course and the intended audience. If you’re aiming at business professionals for specific business process, and the outcome is they get a certificate that can be used for CPD or other such professional recognition, then you need to contact the appropriate professional bodies (trade, commercial, publishing, etc.) and see firstly about accreditation or, at least, whether they will endorse the course or send a notice to their members/readers informing them it’s running.

If your course is a teaching course in something specific, aimed at giving the online student a taste or perspective of online learning from your Institution, perhaps at a degree level education, then make sure you’ve something to give them or sell to them afterwards? Can the certificate be used on an application form as evidence of XYZ? Is completion (by whatever metric ‘completion’ is measured in the course or on the platform) enough to warrant further study with you, and can it be used as an incentive?

Has a course, with a specialist audience (perhaps not ‘massive’ in the sense of tens of thousands of active users, but with a well defined but small community that covers a very specialist industry, theory, concept, etc.) got what it takes to attract the right people without fuller involvement of their trade body or publication?

Marketing
Nothing can happen without someone telling someone else about the course. Yes, most of us have Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook accounts. I’ll put my hand up and admit I’ve been very active pushing my/Warwick’s latest MOOC (Literature and Mental Health) as much as I dare on my various channels. But, here’s the rub – yes, I have +8,500 followers on Twitter, so the reach of my tweets are quite high, but these followers are looking for tweets about learning design, learning technology, reflections on conferences, that kind of stuff. I am not the right person, or rather my social accounts are not the right fit, to be marketing this course.

I’ll use examples here from the Literature MOOC, to help explain what I mean.

Without the full cooperation of the individual department or Institution marketing, your course will only get limited coverage. Yes, I can tweet about my courses. So can the lead educator(s). So can anyone else interested in the course. What you need, to make a course successful is maximise the audience that is out there. You need to get the big players in the field of influence the course covers involved, get them tweeting about it, get them to blog about it, write to their subscriber list about it – and not just a mention, you need a full on (positive) review and endorsement. That will mean something to their readers, not just another advert that we all ignore.

The marketing team(s) need to target more than just the list of local businesses, or the alumni network, or a generic email list. While these may have their place in this and other uses, MOOCs need more. If you have the contacts, then get national press involved too!

A MOOC about psychology? What would really help get the word out would be positive interaction and authentic ‘reviews’ from the likes of Psychology Today (Facebook: 6.6m followers) or the Psychology Magazine (Twitter: @psychmag 48k followers).

A MOOC about automotive engineering? Having international organisations like Automotive News (Twitter: @Automotive_News 128k followers) interested, or get it added to the Engineering Management Science Manufacturing LinkedIn group (288k members) would help.

For me (putting my old hat on I used to wear as a freelance/self-employed web designer) the marketing is NOT about sending a press release and waiting for the news to hit. It’s not about the phone call where you ask something. It’s about building those relationships (if you don’t already have them) with an organisation who can benefit, either themselves or their members, from the course. Let them see the course, talk to them about the purpose and requirements, offer some advice or editorial, accept advice or criticism in return (you never know, it may make the course better, or at least more applicable to their members).

When I work on an online course or MOOC I want as many (appropriate) people to be able to get on it. Big Data isn’t for everyone. Not everyone wants to know about Shakespeare. Reading isn’t to everyone’s taste. But in order to make the courses successful we need to reach out to individuals to whom these courses could be important, or certainly interesting. If we can’t get to them directly, through whatever channels we have, we need to reach out to the places they congregate; the trade publications, the fan sites, the online communities, the conferences, etc.

After all, if you put the effort in to designing the best online course and best online experience for your thousands of students/learners, you want them to be able to find it in the first place. Yes?

Image source: Marjon Kruik (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

One year on: The Really Useful #EdTechBook

It’s been an eventful year in the life of The Really Useful #EdTechBook. I wanted to just look back and collect my thoughts, and give you an insight into what it means to me, and to others.

The idea
My original idea was to write about my thoughts on the use of learning / educational technology. I then realised that, for me, the world of learning technology or technology enhanced learning (or just ‘learning’, as some prefer now) is about the people I connect with and learn from. Plus, you’ve probably read enough from me these days!

So, my original idea morphed into a collaborative project where contributors brought their own experiences, knowledge, and unique perspectives to the fore, for you to learn from.

From initial conversations, tweets, emails, etc. came the idea and concept for The Really Useful #EdTechBook. Each chapter was set aside for each invited contributor to have for themselves, no real limits were imposed, but ideally between 2,000-5,000 words. I wasn’t asking for anything in particular, I didn’t want to direct or control the flow of ideas or perspectives, other then each author’s own words on their own interpretation of the book title. I was hoping that, once the chapters came in, I could apply a narrative to their order – thinking of (1) the background / history to the use of technology, (2) the current field and areas we work, and finally (3) looking forward to what we can expect or hope for in the future. As is turned out the stories and experiences were echoing and supporting each other that it became obvious there is an underlying thread of our work; that technology has not only enabled us but also constricted us in our outlook – from repeating mistakes to growing concepts and inclusion of stakeholders in all aspects of our work. 

The book is logical, insightful and provides the reader with a rich array of both personal experience and “tools” for use in education. The book will appeal to anyone who is interested in the use of technology in teaching and learning, highly recommended!” Neil WIthnell

In the year since I finalised the copy, edited the layout, read the proof editions, and sorted the cover art I have been proud, and quite humbled, at the way in which the book has been received. I wanted to say another huge thank you to each of the chapter authors and to each of you for reading, commenting, sharing, etc. all details on the book and it’s contents.

To date (early January, 2016) there have been 2,340 downloads of the PDF edition. It is really hard to work out definitive numbers for the Kindle and paper edition, due to the number of different systems it’s available through, and the very complex reporting method each of them has, but I think the numbers of purchased editions are in the region of 80 paper copies and 250 Kindle editions. I didn’t start this project, this journey for the sales, but it’s gratifying to know the chapters and book concept has resonated with you, the reader, in some small way.

Some other links / information for you:

Earlier this year I was contacted by Vicki Davies, from the Every Classroom Matters podcast. Vicki asked me to talk to her and her avid listeners about the process, and reasoning, behind being a self-published author, which was itself published earlier this month – Every Classroom Matters Podcast).

So, what next then?
I have considered a second edition or The Extended / Next Really Useful #EdTechBook, if you like. I’ve been contacted over the past year with people interested in both writing for it as well as other who’d love to read it, but I figure the concept doesn’t lend itself to a sequel – tell me if you think I’m wrong?

I am considering other forms and concepts for a second collaborative project. If you’re interested in either reading or writing it with me then please get in touch and we’ll continue to develop it together!! You know where I am!

"A very insightful and extensive collection of authentic accounts by practitioners who identify themselves as Learning Technologists in a variety of educational settings." Chrissi Nerantzi

“A very insightful and extensive collection of authentic accounts by practitioners who identify themselves as Learning Technologists in a variety of educational settings.  This reminds us of the fast pace of change in this relatively new profession, the variety of roles and responsibilities as well as the passion of these individuals for supporting change, innovation and transformation in the digital age. Challenges and opportunities linked to professional identity, engagement and positioning are discussed.” Chrissi Nerantzi

"The Really Useful #EdTechBook does exactly what it promises on its cover. It draws together a useful, diverse, eclectic set of visions and commentaries that together provide the reader with a lucid and comprehensive vista of educational technology." Steve Wheeler

“The Really Useful #EdTechBook does exactly what it promises on its cover. It draws together a useful, diverse, eclectic set of visions and commentaries that together provide the reader with a lucid and comprehensive vista of educational technology.” Steve Wheeler