MOOC Research Initiative

Though MOOCs have been around for about five years in some limited forms, the past 18 months have been the real emergence of MOOCs in education. Everyone seems to have an opinion about them, but there is less formal research being done on them than many academics would like to see.

Those people may be happy to have read the announcement about the launch of the MOOC Research Initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of a set of investments intended to "explore the potential of MOOCs to extend access to postsecondary credentials through more personalized, more affordable pathways."

Researchers, academics, administrators, learners, and policy makers have plenty of questions as to the effectiveness of the Massive Open Online Course format of teaching and learning. The MOOC Research Initiative (MRI) hopes to fill this research gap by evaluating MOOCs and how they impact teaching, learning, and education in general.

For now, MRI is a $400,000 investment offering grants in the range of $10,000 – $25,000 each. The MRI grant program is led and administered by Athabasca University and George Siemens with support from an advisory committee of experts in learning design and MOOCs.  Although MRI only launched recently, their schedule is aggressive and they want successful grantees (who will be announced by the end August) to begin immediately this fall semester and then give interim reports at a conference at the University of Texas, Arlington on December 5-6, 2013.

Information on MRI, including call for proposals and timelines, is available at: www.moocresearch.com.

Student Video Production

I have yet to see educators settle on one way of having students produce and share video, especially for online courses. There is such a staggering amount of devices, tools, services and apps to produce and share video that I think most of us are as baffled as the tyranny of choices we confront in the supermarket aisles.

I was looking again this summer at some services I had not used before to see if there was a new FREE tool for students to produce video that could incorporate live action but also screen captures, images and maybe even desktop interactions. I wanted this for producing short "lectures" or presentations and for assignments, proposals, evaluations and portfolios.

In the past, I have used any commercial service that the school had purchased and I could offer my students. These products like WebEx, Echo260, Camtasia Relay etc. are not only costly but often too much of a tech hurdle for faculty and for students to use with any regularity.

Many people suggest that students use things like Voice Thread http://voicethread.com in online or F2F courses. Instructors can start a topic and students can all add comments, either voice or text, around it. Students can collaborate on a thread about a course topics. Images and videos made using other tools can be included too.

Animoto http://animoto.com is free for 30 second video (which might be useful for icebreaker introductions or other small assignments) but has costs otherwise.

Screencast-o-matic.com offers a maximum recording time of 15 minutes, no max free hosting for up to 15 minutes per upload and a variety of file and publishing options.

Similarly, I have had students use Jing which is free from techsmith.com/jing to create images and videos of what is on their computer screen, then share them instantly. The videos must be short, but I find it works well for proposals and elevator pitches for research topics.  It can also be a good icebreaker exercise to have them introduce themselves in a n online course. I have used it to give students my thoughts on their work in online courses. It's not difficult to use but it also can signal to me those students that are going to have issues with using technology.

I hear about more teachers using Google Hangouts in the classroom. Besides the video aspect, it offers commenting, messaging, and chat features so that students can ask questions while you lead the course, and they can interact with you and each other.

 


Gmail Redesign: Tabs

Things keep changing to web apps every day when I log in. Recently, Gmail Tabs popped up without prior warning as a new way of organizing my mail.

I hadn't really wanted a new way to do that, but these tabs, which sit at the top of your inbox page, are supposedly just a first look at a completely redesigned Gmail experience.

I guess I really am getting old because I'm not dealing as well with change these days.






If you are active on social media and subscribe to blog posts, this new tabs look might be appealing. It can separate your work related emails from your updates. I was already doing that using filters, labels, and the priority inbox but I suppose the Gmail tab feature might save some scrolling time.

Virtual Field Trips

I know that schools and institutions have been using virtual field trips for at least 20 years in some form or another. In New Jersey, all public and non-public K-12 schools and public libraries located within Verizon's territory could once use Access New Jersey (ANJ), an advanced telecommunications network.

While I was at NJIT, I helped create our first Internet2 Day in 2005 which offers high speed opportunities for virtual field trips and collaborations between research organizations and universities and even K-12 school through its K20 Initiative.

I recall in the 1990s and earlier using ITV (Instructional Television) to connect sites and use television programs for distance education. Many of these terms and services have fallen away. There is very little time devoted by public stations to ITV today. If it exists at all, it is part of a digital subchannel of a non-commercial educational public television station, or passed on to a local educational-access television channel run by cable TV organization. There are still some groups like the Agency for Instructional Technology and the Annenberg Foundation doing a kind of ITV, but most of this type of programming has moved to the Internet.

A virtual field trip today is likely to use something like Google+ Hangouts on Air to connect cultural institutions like museums, zoos and aquariums with schools and non-profits. Hangouts On Air allows institutions to share universal access to unique cultural and educational experiences regardless of geographical and financial restrictions.





Google offers two online forms to request a virtual field trip for a classroom or organization.

Classroom Form:  https://docs.google.com/a/google.com/... and an Organization Form: https://docs.google.com/a/google.com/...