Tag Archives: mooc

Can I get a method: The EdinburghX SOCRMx Social Research Methods MOOC Week #1

MOOC Week #1 question responses

Making a blog post is part of the participation in the MOOC. I’m just going to put my answers here at the top so people don’t need to read the rest of my post about the MOOC and methods etc.

I’ve been working on this PhD for a little under two years now, so most of these questions I’ve covered in previous posts but will answer for the sake of the exercise.

  • What kind of topics are you interested in researching?

The relationships between edvisors (academic developers, education designers, learning technologists etc) and academics and institutional management

  • What initial research questions might be starting to emerge for you?

What strategies are used in HE to promote understanding of the roles and value of edvisors among academic staff, and more broadly within the institution? Which among these strategies are effective and why?

How do edvisors see their role and value in Higher Education institutions?

How are edvisor roles understood and valued by academics and HE management?

  • What are you interested in researching – people, groups, communities, documents, images, organisations?

People, groups/organisations, documents

  • Do you have an initial ideas for the kinds of methods that might help you to gather useful knowledge in your area of interest?

Currently leaning towards survey/interview and document analysis – job advertisements and organisational structures

  • What initial questions do you have about those methods? What don’t you understand yet?

Is this the best way to do what I want to do? Are there better alternatives?

  • Do you perceive any potential challenges in your initial ideas: either practical challenges, such as gaining access to the area you want to research, or the time it might take to gather data; or conceptual challenges; such as how the method you are interested in can produce ‘facts’, ‘truths’, or ‘valuable knowledge’ in your chosen area?

Not sure yet. I’m conscious that there might be sensitivities and politics to deal with.

Ok, so that’s the end of the ‘homework’ part of the blog. This next bit is what I’d already started writing about why I’m here and so on. 

One of the nice things that comes up from time to time when I discuss my research with academics is that they’ll excitedly start telling me about the methods and methodology that might be helpful. It’s a shame that no single suggested approach to data collection or analysis has been the same and that I don’t have a rich enough understanding of all the options to be able to make a comparison. It absolutely all gets noted down though and I will give all of the options extra attention as I come to some conclusion about what I plan to do.

A couple of things strike me about this variety of opinions – chief of which being that it can seem almost ideological in some ways. I’ve had people that I’ve barely finished describing the broad research question to swear up and down that their magic potion is the only one that will possibly cure my ailments. This is before I’ve even gotten down to what kind of data I think will be helpful or what my underpinning theories are.

Now I don’t question the sincerity of these people for a second and I even find it slightly touching that they can be so supportive and encouraging to a complete stranger. I’m sure that they’ve worked through any number of methods and learnt hard lessons about what works and what doesn’t and are keen to see other people spared some of those difficulties. It does seem though overall that once you’ve landed on a methodological tribe, that’s where you live. (But honestly, this is definitely supposition, I’m sure there’s more nuance than that – or at least I hope so).

If this is the way that things work, I can see positives and negatives. On the positive side, I would hope that pretty well any method or methodology can be valid if you can make a strong enough case for it. On the negative side, if there is an ingrained tribalism to a method and your reviewer lives in a different tribe, will you get the fairest hearing? Scholarship is meant to be grounded in objectivity but if a scholar has sunk part of their soul into a particular theory or a particularly approach to scholarship, might you not have to work a little harder if you choose a different angle?

Working out the angle in the first place is my real challenge. I have some ideas about where I’m going and what I want to explore, and I think there are some theories will inform this but I still feel that I’m very much in the unknown unknowns territory when it comes to methods. There was a mandatory research methods unit when I did my Masters way back when but at the time I had no intentions of moving into further research so I left it until last. Without seeing any particular application for the unit, I did the base level of work needed to finish it – actually I’m being ungenerous there, I still managed a Distinction – and promptly forgot everything.

There are research training opportunities available at my current uni but they are virtually entirely catered for on-campus, full-time students so it’s up to me to find my own way. It’s only recently that I’ve felt that I had a reasonable grasp on my topic so I’ve been happy to stay focused on the literature and put the how-to-research part on the back-burner. Which is all a very long-winded way of talking about why I’ve started the EdX EdinburghX SOCRMx Social Research Methods MOOC. From what I can see, this offers the overview of options that I need – they seem to favour creating one’s own bespoke set of methods, which suits my personal approach – and I’m hopeful that this will give me the focus that I’ve been lacking. I’ll obviously be keeping an eye out for the approaches that have already been commended to me, hopefully I’ll get a better picture of where exactly they sit on the map.

There’s a couple of other things that I’m already liking about this MOOC – there seems to be a manageable number of participants (~94 posts in the introduce yourself forum) and the MOOC moderators seem quite keen on the use of our own blogs for reflections and communication.

Oh and now I’m completely sold – I know this is pretty basic tool but this is essentially exactly what I’ve been looking for. They’ve used a multi-choice quiz to provide detailed feedback about methods that might suit particular research preferences. (Kind of like a buzzfeed quiz that isn’t harvesting your personal data for fun and profit). (All the answers are right)

mooc methods questions

There was also a nice video explainer of Epistemology – which I kind of knew was essentially about ways of knowing of but wasn’t clear why it mattered and perhaps also the nature of the different ways of knowing (e.g getting information from an authority figure vs experience/logic/science/tradition etc).

So yes, pretty happy with what I’ve seen so far here

Teaching with Moodle – the Moodle for beginners MOOC

I’ve been using Moodle for 3-4 years now but as a big part of my job is to train our teachers in it, it seemed wise to sign up for the new Teaching with Moodle MOOC being offered by Moodle.

It’s run by Mary Cooch (@moodlefairy) and her deep knowledge of the tool and the pedagogical approaches that work with it are on display from the get go.

This MOOC is aimed at beginner users but I have to admit I still picked up some handy tips – the ability to show one topic/section per page – and there is already a rich bank of posts and questions on the discussion board about user experiences around the world.

Teaching with Moodle only started on Sunday this week so there is plenty of time to get up to speed. I was able to whip through the activities and resources for the week in a bit over an hour. As with all MOOCs, it does suffer from the overwhelming weight of numbers in some of the discussions (1500+ introduction posts) but this is a minor quibble.

screenshot of moodle mooc course

Negotiation and Conflict Resolution – Open2Study – a course review

On the weekend I wrapped up studying Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, a free 4 week/module online course offered through Open2Study

Open2Study is the MOOC* offering of Open Universities Australia, a more conventional provider of free online education and training.

Structurally, Open2Study courses use a fairly standard framework – four modules composed of ten short videos (4-10 mins) of a presenter talking to camera. After each video is a single multi-choice question and after the final video is a ten multi-choice question assessment quiz covering the content from the module. Discussion forums are also provided but not supported/moderated by the person delivering the course as far as I can see and links to additional reading/resources are also made available.

In terms of rich educational design, there’s something left to be desired in this model but at the same time, it’s a free resource drawing on the skills and knowledge of some talented people and it does provide a decent introduction to the topic.

Negotiation and Conflict Resolution was developed and presented by Dr Andrew Ley of the Macquarie University Graduate School of Management. The first two modules focus on negotiation, the third touches on conflict resolution (with a slightly heavy leaning toward understanding the origins of conflict at the expense of practical solutions in conflict resolution) and the final module focuses on communication skills.

Dr Ley is an engaging and clearly knowledgeable presenter and the videos make decent (and sparing) use of basic text and the occasional image to illustrate key points. The videos are delivered via YouTube and make effective use of the Interactive Transcript functionality. This enables learners to quickly scan the content of the video and click the text to skip to particular sections of the video.

video screenshot

This is an effective way of dealing with the difficulties in scanning the information presented in videos.

The discussion forums were scantly used – Dr Ley did suggest that learners discuss particular questions in the forums at several points in the later videos but it was left to the learners to start these posts and subsequently this tended not to happen. A more effective strategy for using the forums would’ve seen either Dr Ley or an Open2Study moderator facilitating discussion here by raising an initial question and providing responses to interesting student comments (while not dominating the thread). Wrapping up the discussion with a summary of the thread and/or further issues to consider would also be good practice.

A PDF with references for further reading is provided for each module, however it seems like an oversight not to provide these as URLs where possible.

Overall I’m glad to have the opportunity to access this level of training for free and at my leisure and if you are interested in gaining a richer understanding of some of the key principles and strategies of Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, it is well worth signing up for this course. The next intake starts on 15/09/14 at https://www.open2study.com/courses/negotiation-and-conflict-resolution

From an educational design perspective, it’s adequate but there is room for improvement – but hey, it’s free, university level education.

Next up I’ll be checking out the Open2Study User Experience for the Web course, so here’s hoping some of those lessons flow through to this blog.


*I say MOOC because this has come to be the default usage of the term but my personal feeling is that true MOOCs should have a far richer learning model than content/quiz/content/quiz

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry | Now Enrolling


Now this is a MOOC that I approve of – study seven courses (9 lessons each) at Hogwarts online.

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Mooc creators criticise courses’ lack of creativity | News | Times Higher Education


Stephen Downes pulls few punches as he discusses how the current iteration of the MOOC is far removed from the original ideas behind it.

This has also been a concern of mine – the much touted innovation seems like anything but. While I remain unconvinced of the strengths of the connectivist model – at the very least for my preferred learning style – the original form of the MOOC was very much about embracing a substantially different learning paradigm than we see today.

Among other things, he says “I think they are marvels of marketing and of the naivety of venture capitalists. Looking at the platforms from a technological point of view, I see virtually nothing innovative. These courses [reach] 100,000 or more people, but use video lectures and old-style threaded discussion lists. The idea of Moocs as an experiment in pedagogy and educational organisation has been completely abandoned by the new platforms, to the detriment of Moocs.”

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MOOC Discussion Forums: barrier to engagement? |e-Literate


I’ve often felt daunted by the volume of posts and chaotic nature of discussion forums in MOOCs – glad to see that I’m not the only one. Interesting that posters tend to be higher achievers though.

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Using forums in MOOCs


Some well thought out ideas about the issues surrounding the use of forums in MOOCs – what happens when there are hundreds of pages of posts on the first day or subject experts dominate discussions?

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San Jose State’s MOOC Missteps Easy to See – Higher Education


Some useful lessons about running MOOCs gained by looking at a poorly run one. The fact that these courses were still being built as they were being delivered – something perhaps not uncommon in face-to-face land but rarely an inspiring sign – should have been the first give away. It’s hard not to think that this was the result of a top-down “OMG, everyone else has a MOOC, we have to have one too, now, now now” mentality that even I have been bumping up against lately

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