DigitalLearningTools

My reflections on Topic 2

Digital tools for teaching makes me curious. I would like to learn more about the possibilities of using these tools in my teaching – in classroom and for project assignments. I think that a lot of testing and experimentation is needed from my side in order to understand how they can be used. Earlier this week I got an invitation to give a two hour lecture at Tel Aviv University in December. I think I’ll try to make this to an experimentally event for me – and the students. Here, I’ll try to make a overview of what I’ve learned during the last weeks for my own reference and hopefully for some use also for others.

The introduction of the Web 2.0 concept enabled many possibilities for all kind of digital communities. Also digital education from complementing classroom teaching to massive on-line open courses (MOOC) is an important branch of the Web 2.0 era. Web 2.0 is the concept of the “next generation” internet, actually present since at least a decade, with the focus on usability, user interaction and platform independence. In contrast to Web 1.0 sites, limited to passive viewing, Web 2.0 sites will make it possible for the users to contribute, interact and collaborate in a virtual community. Typically Web 2.0 sites are social networking sites like Facebook and Google+ and media sites like YouTube.

There are many professional MOOC platforms intended for universities, big organisations as well as individual to host their professional MOOC’s with full support. The most important MOOC sites are listed below (thanks Alastair):

As I understand, these sites and organisations also provide the digital platform and related tools needed for the courses as well as instructions and support for setting everything up, usually not for free and depending on the amount of support you would need. However, I will here write a little about the open (source) alternatives and additional tools that we might need to build our own (M)OOC or as a complement to class room teaching.

Of cause, there is a MOOC on MOOC tools and how to setup MOOCs. One that is currently running can be found on Coursera with the title “Powerful Tools for Teaching and Learning: Web 2.0 Tools (Coursera)”, by University of Houston System, Bernard R Robin & Sara G. McNeil. This course will cover tools for communication, collaboration, creativity and what they call “Mini Action Research Project” and “Life Long Learning”. However, the tools they promote are only a small subset of the ocean of possibilities available and any recommendation must be considered to be quite arbitrary.

Complete (M)OOC platforms, although simple and limited, are a good starting point and can be complemented by specific additional tools. There are free and open (source) platforms available, some of them also including a cloud solution avoiding the set-up and running of a host server. However, the capacity might be limited and the “Massive” part of MOOC might not be completely fulfilled, but for smaller individual courses these tools are often sufficient. MOOC News & Reviews are listing some of the most interesting open solution for hosting your own MOOC.

  • Udemy is an easy-to-use (no coding) and free platform in the cloud. The free version is accessible only through udemy.com. It’s good for individual teachers/instructors to easily build online courses for free or for paying students. It’s a presentation platform enhanced with voice-over, quizzes and forum capabilities. Udemy has over 2 million registered users.
  • CourseSites is a more complete and advanced cloud platform but requires no coding. It is intended for teachers within educational institutions and includes basic functionality and some additional features like dashboard, calendar, todo lists et.c.
  • Moodle is the most popular open-source platform. The open source concept makes Moodle highly configurable if you know how to do, but basic courses can easily be built without any need for coding. There is no cloud solution and you need to host the application yourself which might require high performance solutions.
  • Open EdX software, the software behind EdX has been released as open source by Harvard and MIT and is the same tool as used for the official university MOOCs on EdX.org. The concept is similar to WordPress with a basic framework and added functionality via third-party plug-ins. The EdX software is fully professional and scalable (100.000+ students), still open-source, but requires hosting solutions and maintenance investment. There is also a Google tool, Course Builder, but Google now has a partnership with the EdX software and the future for Course Builder is thus uncertain.

In addition to the (M)OOC platforms there are additional tools for specific purposes worth mentioned. In particular tools for

  • Communication: Primary communication from the instructors to the students can make use of common platforms like static (Web 1.0) web pages, blogs (WordPress) and videos (YouTube). On-line classes can be given using AdobeConnect with some amount of interaction possible.
  • Collaboration: A simple way of collaborating is to use a common space for documents and presentations, which GoogleDocs can provide. Discussions can be made in Google+ or FaceBook Also AdobeConnect is easy to use for dedicated group meetings including chat, voice, video and screen sharing.
  • Interaction: Instant feedback and interactive quizzes are ingredients for active learning in both IRL and digital classrooms. Two examples of tools where the students simply use their smart phones are Socrative and Kahoot. The interaction by the students can instantly be viewed as statistics.

Of cause many more tools are available and most universities are also providing the infrastructure for teachers and students which I will not mention here. These institutional tools are often commercial and adapted to the specific university’s needs and students and teachers usually have no previous experience in these tools from outside of the institute. However, the institutional tools typically come with professional support, security and are connected to the student database and administrative systems. As such they cannot be considered to be completely open – (MO)OCs – and should be seen as tools complementing classroom teaching.

References

Alastair Creelman – lecture material in ONL162, 2016.

“Powerful Tools for Teaching and Learning: Web 2.0 Tools (Coursera)”, by University of Houston System, Bernard R Robin & Sara G. McNeil.

MOOC News & Reviews, Building Your Own Online Class? – How To Choose the MOOC Platform, by John Swope, Feb 24, 2014.

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4 thoughts on “DigitalLearningTools

  1. Great list of MOOC sites and digital tools Stefan!
    As well as you write, I think it´s really interesting with the open platforms for MOOCs such as the OPEN EdX platform. It will be interesting to se what can of MOOCs and material people will create… and what courses there is a demand for! Hopefully this will open up a new way of providing education.

    Like

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