Connected Courses MOOC (#ccourses) and #oclmooc: Assessing Connected Learning Outcomes  

September 22, 2014

Mimi Ito, Vera Michalchik, and Bill Penuel take us into the wonderfully intriguing deep end of the Connected Learning swimming pool in the latest Connected Courses MOOC (#ccourses) session, as anyone who attended the live version or catches it through the archived recording can confirm. And that’s a great thing since the deep end of any body of water is often where we find the interesting signs of life.

Continuing the massive open online course’s current two-week exploration of what drives the learning process (“Why We Need a Why”), the three educators interact with their online learners by exploring connections between learning (particularly connected learning), learning assessments, and learning outcomes.

This is far from the usual review of how well learners do within the confines of an explicitly defined learning experience—a semester-long course or, by extension, the sort of workplace learning and performance (staff training) offering that so many of us as trainer-teacher-learners provide and then review through a formal assessment process. It’s a connected-learning session that takes us into the outer reaches of models like Donald Kirkpatrick’s four levels of learning, where the gold standard is to ask what impact the learning eventually has not only on the learner, but on the community the learner ultimately serves. And it encourages us to take the learner’s point of view into account rather than focusing solely on the learning facilitator’s or learning organization’s vantage point.

“When you look from the perspective of the learner…the learning ecosystem looks very different than when you’re looking from the perspective of the class,” Ito reminds us during the session; it requires that we are as cognizant of what the learners bring to the learning space as we are of our own approach to facilitating the learning process—thinking about the learners “and how our practices in the classroom connect back out.”

“We want to take a long view of the outcomes,” Penuel suggests. “Do kids get to where they want to go next?…Where did this class lead them?”—questions we should just as firmly be asking within any training-teaching-learning setting.

All three presenters lead us into the deeper, far more significant question: Do we follow up with our learners to see “whether learning made a difference in their lives?”

“We have so few tools and practices that enable us to know what happened to students over time…a lot of these outcomes play out over time…you don’t really know what happens a few years down the line because nobody actually studies that,” Ito says.

ccourses_logoBut the picture is not completely bleak, she adds. A Gallup-Purdue University study released in May 2014 and designed to document post-graduation levels of workplace engagement and overall “well-being” provides some guidance for learning facilitators seeking ways to provide long-term positive benefits through their efforts. Learning that was project-based and that provided meaningful connections between the learners and those facilitating their learning led to significantly higher levels of workplace engagement and overall chances that the learners would thrive “in all areas of well-being.”

“It’s not just what kids got out of the course…but what happens next, “Ito reiterated.

Much of this, of course, leads us back to the goal of better understanding what connected-learning practices (fostering learner-centric approaches, finding ways to “harness the advances and innovations of our connected age to serve learning,” and nurturing deeper learning and understanding) might provide for learners of all ages, in a variety of training-teaching-learning settings.

“Interest is the beginning point, but the idea of cultivating an interest is that you don’t know where it is going to go,” Penuel notes. “Our interests are really a starting point, and we really do need experiences of various kinds that allow us to learn in order to deepen them—so develop knowledge related to our interests, to engage with others in relation to our interests—to find out what others are interested in and to perhaps do something with them. I think interests evolve, and I think new interests emerge from this deep engagement.”

All three presenters, as the session draws to an end, remind us that we are not lacking resources if we want to join them in their explorations. The Connected Learning Research Network, for example, engages in learning research, design, and practice. And the National Survey of Student Engagement is currently looking into how much time and effort students in higher education put into their learning—as well as how our colleagues in higher education are “deploying resources” to foster engagement among learners.

oclmooc_logoAs we reflect upon what #ccourses and another current connectivist MOOC—the Open  and Connected Learning MOOC (#oclmooc)—offer trainer-teacher-learners in terms of guidance and inspiration, we can’t help but be encouraged. They remind us to reflect upon what our own learning produces. They also consistently and continually serve as examples of how the connections these connected-learning opportunities contribute to our own growth, productivity, and satisfaction within the extended communities of learning we create, nurture, and sustain over a very long period of time.

N.B.: This is the fourth in a series of posts documenting learning through #ccourses and #oclmooc.


Connected Courses MOOC (#ccourses) and #oclmooc: Connections (and Learning) Everywhere

September 19, 2014

It’s no surprise that diving into two new connectivist MOOCs (massive open online courses) would be a richly-rewarding connecting and learning experience. But what is particularly inspiring is how quickly engagement produces results.

Being among the learners in the Connected Courses MOOC (#ccourses) offered by a “collaborative network of faculty in higher education developing online, open courses that embody the principles of connected learning and the values of the open web,” and being a “co-conspirator” in the Open Connected Learning MOOC (#oclmooc) open to trainer-teacher-learners worldwide only adds support to the research-proven assertion that well-designed online learning can produce positive results at least equal to what well-designed onsite learning produces. An unfortunate corollary is that many learners walk away from online learning after one bad experience—a situation that may change as connected-learning efforts continue to grow.

Connections and connectivity were abundant earlier today during the “Blogside Chat” moderated by Mimi Ito and featuring Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, co-authors of Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses and Aspiring Adults Adrift: Tentative Transitions of College Graduates. Ito, for example, provided a tremendously effective example of how to facilitate online connections: she consistently brought learners and the co-authors together via the Twitter feed during what was an incredibly fast-paced hour of online interactions and learning. Furthermore, several of us participating in the Twitter feed while listening to the presenters’ comments were also able to connect with each other through our tweets, retweets, and exchanges that produced a rudimentary online version of a class discussion. To further strengthen the online connections fostered by this MOOC, at least a few of us will probably continue the discussion via our blog postings (this one, for example) and responses to those blog pieces; through #ccourses Google+ Community postings; through the newly-established Twitter connections we are creating by following each other now that we’ve met through that Blogside Chat session; and through cross-MOOC exchanges between #ccourses, #oclmooc, and others.

(An aside to those skeptical of the sustainability of online communities of learning growing out of interactions within or between MOOCs: the Educational Technology & Media MOOC—#etmooc—community continues to thrive 18 months after the synchronous offering of the course formally ended. Participation in that community, moreover, has led several of us to continue learning together in other MOOCs as if we were part of an open MOOC cohort, and our participation in that sustainable community has inspired us to work together as co-conspirators for #oclmooc—which, in turn, started as an effort to connect educators in Alberta and has now expanded to connect any interested trainer-teacher-learner regardless of geography.)

ccourses_logoParticipation in the latest #ccourses session, earlier today, inspired interweavings so wonderfully complex (and tremendously rewarding) that it could be days or weeks or months before those interweavings are completely apparent. The authors’ assertion that college graduates are working less/reading less in class than their predecessors and, as a result, are struggling to succeed in their chosen career paths two years after graduating, for example, can be explored for connections to what we frequently see in staff training (e.g., learning opportunities that are not supported or applied when learners return to their workplaces). But we can begin by acknowledging that it’s far from impossible to connect learning to workplace results—we just don’t put enough effort into in assuring that those connections are forged.

The suggestion within the Blogside Chat session that greater challenges to learners in higher education produce greater results after graduation might be explored for parallels with what we see in workplace learning and performance (staff training) efforts: if learners are engaged, supported, and encouraged, they are much more likely to apply their learning in ways that provide personal benefits as well as benefits to the businesses and organizations they serve—and to the customers and clients they serve. But if they—like the higher-education students who are the focus of Arum and Roksa’s studies—are unclear on what their learning opportunities are meant to produce, they are going to gain and produce far less than otherwise might be possible.

There’s something to be said for building connections between academic learning and workplace needs, the authors suggested—something that could as easily be said in terms of the need for building connections between what is offered through workplace-learning opportunities and how learners in the workplace are supported. Roksa cited the tremendous success she is providing by having her learners engage in projects within communities (outside of formal classrooms) and then bringing those projects back into the classroom to provide additional learning opportunities; we could easily predict that well-designed workplace learning that is project-based would produce satisfaction for those learners, their employers, and their customers.

What all of this leads to is another call to reenvision how faculty members—and, by extension, others facilitating the training-teaching-learning process—approach learning as much as a call to reenvision how learners learn, we heard again today. Arum, furthermore, sided with our colleagues who believe that those engaged in facilitating learning need to learn to more effectively incorporate educational technology into the learning process. And we need to move far beyond the all-too-common onsite and online learning sessions that end with true-false or multiple-choice testing that inadequately measures learning.

oclmooc_logoThere’s at least one more important connection to be made from this #ccourses connected-learning experience: the connection between our recognition that we can be doing better and our recognition that if we are unsatisfied with the results our learning-facilitation efforts produce, we need to work with our colleagues and our learners to produce more satisfying results for everyone involved—a goal we might draw closer to reaching through our immersion in #ccourses, #oclmooc, and other connected-learning endeavors.

N.B.: This is the third in a series of posts documenting learning through #ccourses and #oclmooc.


#oclmooc and Connected Courses MOOC: The World as Our Learning Space

September 5, 2014

Diving into two connectivist massive open online courses (MOOC) this month, I am learning to pay more attention to how rapidly our learning space is evolving.

Each of the MOOCs—the Connected Courses MOOC (#ccourses) offered by a “collaborative network of faculty in higher education developing online, open courses that embody the principles of connected learning and the values of the open web,” and the Open Connected Learning MOOC  (#oclmooc) originally started by a group of educators in Alberta and now expanding rapidly to include trainer-teacher-learners worldwide—offers me a different learning opportunity.

ccourses_logoIn #ccourses, I’ll be among those learning from and with a group of educators I very much admire and whose work I have been following for many years. There’s Mizuko Ito, whose work as a cowriter of the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub report Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design broadened my understanding of and appreciation for connected learning after I read and wrote about it in early 2013. And Michael Wesch, whose YouTube video The Machine is Us/ing Us about Web 2.0 entirely changed the way I taught and learned and saw the world after watching the video in 2007. And Cathy Davidson, whose book Now You See It introduced me to the concept of “unlearning” as part of the learning process and who is listed as a participant in the September 15, 2014 #ccourses kick-off event. And Alec Couros, whose work on #etmooc (the Educational Technology & Media MOOC) in 2013 opened my eyes to the wonderful learning opportunities inherent in well-designed connectivist MOOCs and drew me into a community of learning that continues to sustain me in my training-teaching-learning efforts. And Alan Levine, whom I first met through the New Media Consortium several years ago and whose work on creating a blog hub for #etmooc set a high standard in terms of facilitating connected learning online and continues to provide learning objects to this day—nearly 18 months after the course formally concluded. And Howard Rheingold, whose writing on “crap detection” and so much more is a continuing source of inspiration.

oclmooc_logoThe #oclmooc experience, for me, will be very different. I’ll be working, as a “co-conspirator” helping design and deliver the MOOC, with an entirely different group of educators I very much admire—colleagues from other connectivist MOOCs, including #etmooc and the Exploring Personal Learning Networks MOOC (#xplrpln) designed and facilitated magnificently in 2013 by Jeff Merrell and Kimberly Scott at Northwestern University. I know that the learning curve for all of us has been tremendous—moving from learners in MOOCs to learning facilitators in MOOCs in less than two years—and that the best is yet to come. We’re already honing skills we developed in #etmooc and elsewhere—using Google Hangouts for our MOOC planning sessions, scheduling tweet chats to facilitate learning, organizing a blog hub so #oclmooc learners can create and disseminate their own learning objects as an integral part of their/our learning process. And as energetic and inspired trainer-teacher-learners, we’re pushing ourselves to further explore open connected learning and educational technology with our colleagues worldwide.

So yes, I am learning to pay attention to how rapidly our learning space is evolving—because I am continuing to learn viscerally, through the use of online educational technology, that the entire onsite-online world, more than ever before, is our primary learning space.

N.B.: This is the first in a series of posts documenting learning through #ccourses and #oclmooc.


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