Leveraging technology to support teaching and learning

Reflections on the eMOOCs Conference

This week I had the privilege of presenting at the #eMOOCs conference in Mons, Belgium. As I’m flying home reflecting on the experience I’m reminded of the power of social media. Many of the people that I had the chance to meet and spend time with were my networked connections or scholars I have read.

The keynotes from Dave Cormier and Sian Bayne were both very good. Dave gave a great overview of Rhizomatic Learning (see Inge’s post) and underpinned it with the shift from apprenticeship/mentorship to larger distributed models of learning like during the advent of the printing press and internet. These underlying changes have lent themselves to shifts in teaching philosophy. Sian presented the Teacherbot in #EDCMOOC (see Inge’s post) and opened our eyes to the idea of using bots in teaching and learning. She presented it in a way that helped me to see the potential for good.  Both of these talks were very good and left me wanting more conversations with both Dave and Sian.

In preparation for this conference, Maha Al-Freih, Robin Bartoletti and I submitted a paper which was included in the proceedings and chosen to be one of the five experience track papers to be published in a pre-conference MOOC on edX. The pre-conference MOOC was thought of as a flipped conference, where the participants would have watched the videos so they would come to the session with their questions. However, after careful consideration the eMOOC committee thought it would be best if we prepared a Pecha Kucha for the event which would give a high level overview of the paper and allow time for questions and answers. It was wildly successful and that was in part due to Inge deWaard being such a wonderful moderator!

In addition, Inge, Sian, and I connected with several other networked scholars via a Google Hangout. 

There were other impromptu things that happened on the fly too, you can read more here in Inge deWaard’s blog.

The #HumanMOOC at #eMOOCs2015

Pecha Kucha format for eMOOCs conference talk yesterday in Mons, Belgium:

Slide 1: It is my pleasure to share with you the design intent and iteration of the HumanMOOC. This course developed community while exploring the Community of Inquiry. The redesign included a competency based, badges first approach leveraging social media and asynchronous video.

Slide 2: My co-authors Dr. Bartoletti and Maha Al-Freih could not join me for this event so it is just me. Hello, I’m Whitney Kilgore, a PhD candidate in Learning Technologies at the University of North Texas.

Slide 3: The course was made available for educators who teach online.  Our goal was to create a community where approaches for humanizing online courses could be shared within the course and beyond.

Slide 4: The course was originally built and taught in 2013 in order to share the concept of the community of inquire and explore tools and methods for enhancing each of the three forms of presence (teacher, social, & cognitive

Slide 5: In the redesign for 2015, we redesigned the course to align to the Penn State pedagogical competencies and developed competency based badge pathways.

Slide 6: The competency-based alignment mapping to course learning objectives ensured the mapping of the course outcomes to the competencies.

Slide 7: And the mapping of the learning outcomes to each activity allowed us to ensure that each badge pathway was assessed appropriately

Slide 8: The badge pathways required a series of activities for each of the (instructor, social, and cognitive presence) badges, however, the Community of Inquiry badge was stackable and required earning all three of the presence badges.

Slide 9: During this 4-week course we held a series of Google Hangouts with thought leaders regarding the design, communications and the theory, and research regarding CoI

Slide 10: We know learning is social and that students drop out of online courses due to their feeling of loneliness

Slide 11: So we explored the use of asynchronous video to enhance instructor presence online using Canvas Network, VoiceThread, and FlipGrid

Slide 12: Within the Canvas LMS, video can be added to ANY content area which means that discussions can be asynchronous video.

Slide 13: While discussions help us make meaning, the humanness of video antidotally speaking, seemed to help clarify meaning and intent.

Slide 14: VoiceThread allowed users to use voice, video or text to share their ideas

Slide 15: While VoiceThread was good, I preferred FlipGrid in this particular course. It was tablet and laptop compatible too.

Slide 16: Each learner is uniquely human. We simply explored a few tools and strategies to humanize their experience and help them do this for their students in the future.

Slide 17: Why do we teach? We want to help others learn. The feedback was deeply meaningful to us but we are just learning what the data shows…

Slide 18: So what’s next? Our research design looked at the notion of persistence in MOOCs, self-efficacy with social media & audio/video recording

Slide 19: Only 6% noted an increase in their self-efficacy for using social media for teaching and learning while 82% indicated an increase in their self-efficacy regarding using video and audio recording technologies.

Slide 20: What we know: Digital Educators who embrace the affordances of technology will transform education.

Self-Directed Learning in MOOCs by @ignatia

I attended Inge deWaard’s session at eMOOCs2015 on Self-Directed Learning my notes are below.

There are multiple contexts and other focuses in the literature like self-regulated learning, mobility, individual v. collaborative learning.In the literature self-directed learning is more aligned in cMOOCs.

There were two courses included in the pilot study conducted. The “beta” courses were two weeks in length.  59 learners were chosen for the study based upon a variety of criteria that would suit the study.  The study was conducted in three phases. Phase 1 survey, phase 2 learning logs, and phase three was structured 1:1 interviews.

The phenomenological approach of the research design was complimented by using grounded theory in the analysis of the data.

The TOP learning activities that learners engaged in were:

  1. Viewing multimedia 100%
  2. Reading Text-Based content 91%
  3. Reading Discussions 87%
  4. Taking a Quiz 83%

Most of the challenges that the learners faced were time related. The slides are included below.

The pilot pointed to changes for a future study. Inge says, I need to make a decision on self-directed learning (andragogy) or self-determined learning (heutagogy)?

Inge mentioned that there is a need to untangle the concepts of self-directed learning…  As a fellow PhD student, I found it very useful to see the outcomes of her pilot study. I really appreciated the opportunity to understand her research design and methodology.

-Thanks Inge!

Counting – Grading… #rhizo15

I’ve been thinking about a lot of things lately – sometimes so many different things that it becomes difficult to begin writing. Call it writer’s block or stage fright if you will, however, I have found that after I read a couple of the #rhizo15 posts on Facebook or Twitter, I will then spend an inordinate amount of time researching these new ideas and going down the Madagascar penguin hole to learn more.

You didn't see anything

The rhizome is getting inside my head. It is the question “WHY” that I asked every few minutes as a child trying to make sense of this world, that I find myself asking now. Why do we grade student’s work and is that a real indicator of learning? Does it measure what they know and why do we need to measure that anyway?

I’ve struggled with this question before and had numerous discussions with @alicekeeler @catspyjamasnz @robinwb and @bdean1000 on the topic over the last couple of years. And then this hit my inbox:  Be theoretical. Be practical… but GRADE ME! – Dave Cormier 

I am not a fan of GRADES. I have found grades to be motivating and demotivating at different times in my life. When I found them motivating, I was a child and it was to earn my parents attention because the attention that I received when I brought home less than an A was not the type of attention that I wanted.  However, when I consider what that taught me about life and how that quantified my knowledge or learning, I think there has got to be a better way!

Let me ask the hard question… what is the difference between a student who earns a B and a C? What factors contributed to them earning that grade? How much of that was due to learning that “didn’t occur” and how much of that was because they were juggling 800 other things? Or because when they received a low grade on one assignment it brought down their whole grade and they didn’t feel like they should argue about the grade with the teacher?  So, what value do we put on those grades in life? In parenting? In society? How does this impact the world we live in?

I would ask the community, is there a better way to demonstrate knowledge? Can we support the notion of scaffolding competence? When we value knowledge in this new collective knowledge economy I expect that we need to find ways to lift each other up and support the development of new ideas, models, methods and rather than giving someone a D or C for their efforts, we might consider providing the necessary learner support and feedback to get them where they want to go…

What if we just simply said “Competent” or “Not Yet”…

Excerpt from: Course iteration as a reflective process

MOOC iteration as a reflective process: HumanMOOC

In 2012, xMOOCs rose from the laboratories of computer scientists who brought a machine learning approach to education. These xMOOCs or instructivist MOOCs were best know for their re-creation of the lecture as video, computer graded assessments and very little to no interaction with the professor. While technology can certainly enhance some aspects of learning, researchers have written about the sense of loneliness that online learners experience. It is this lack of human connection that leads to attrition.

The literature reveals that the technology tools and pedagogical practices utilized in MOOCs vary from those used in more traditional online education and that methods of content delivery and instruction may be different as well. Online courses may include a variety of instructional approaches and meaningful interactions. “Interactions have a direct influence on learners intellectual growth” (Hirumi, 2002). Responding, negotiating internally and socially, arguing points, evolving ideas using alterative perspectives, and solving real tasks leads to meaningful interactions (Jonnassen et al, 1995, Lave & Wenger, 1991, Vygotsky, 1978). Emerging technologies and creative thinking about teaching and learning calls for the use of emerging pedagogies that specifically brings about meaningful interactions.

Our MOOC design team, committed to the belief that education is not just about knowledge dissemination but that education is about the intellectual exploration of the learner that ultimately benefits society. Therefore, the HumanMOOC design team gathered to discuss the impacts that xMOOC models of delivery could have on online education if online instructors perceived these as possible examples of quality and value. While we applauded the achievements of these scientists in their development of more efficient systems, but we had serious concerns about pedagogy and learner support.

Thinking about the Design

Our HumanMOOC design goal was to create a community space where ideas could be shared. The description of the course made it clear that instructors who teach online from multiple institutions and many disciplines would be the ideal candidates for the MOOC. The Canvas Learning Management system hosting the course served as the embedded learning space for the learners to share their thoughts and ideas. This space became the private “members-only” sharing community for participants who are not comfortable sharing their ideas and comments out on the open web. However, in true connectivist fashion we also encouraged participants to share their learning openly using blogs, twitter, and other technology tools which we called exoskeletal learning. Using a dual-layered design (embedded and exoskeletal) our team created the #HumanMOOC learning environment.

IOL_imageslide Figure 1: The Embedded & Exoskeletal course design model

The Embedded & Exoskeletal Course Design

Inside the LMS, tucked away from the open web was a rich community of practice learning about the community of inquiry where each week of the course was designed to focus on the various presences (teaching, social, and cognitive). The learning design inside the LMS was social constructivist, where participants learn by “doing”. The HumanMOOC community brings together thought leaders who are passionate about the topic of humanizing online instruction. Wenger et al (2002), discusses designing for communities for “aliveness”, as all communities require interaction in order to become living, collective repositories of knowledge. This design allows for “participating in group discussions, having one on one conversations, reading about new ideas, or watching experts duel over cutting edge issues. Even though communities are voluntary and organic, good community design can invite, even evoke, aliveness.”   And, since these communities are not limited by institutional affiliation, the diversity of the community itself adds to the variety of the ideas shared within (Wenger et al, 2002, p.4).

In the exoskeletal portion of the course, there is more of a connectivist design to the learning experience. For those who participate in the exoskeletal layer the learning is more rhizomatic, where the community is the content. It is this intentional community cultivation through communications like; live events, regular announcements, discussion posts, blogging, twitter chats and more that keeps the community informed and communicating.

When designing a MOOC the participants are unknown so it becomes important to assume that everyone will enter the MOOC with various levels of background knowledge and experience (Macleod, Haywood, Woodgate, & Sinclair, 2014). This variety creates a serious challenge for the design team who must create structured learning experiences for novice students while ensuring more personalized learning pathways that induce critical thinking for more advanced students. Course materials inside the learning management system (LMS) are designed as a scaffolded social constructivist course that can stand-alone; however, elements that engage learners in connectivist learning are found outside the LMS in most cases.

Connectivism and Course Design Implications

There is no clear typical learning design of a cMOOC. This type of MOOC can be loosely structured by the week, and courses are open, messy, and lack a clear method of assessment of learning outcomes since the objectives or learning goals are defined by the learner (Kop, Fournier, & Mak, 2011; Stewart, 2013). cMOOC learners often state that cMOOC courses lack a coherent structure or summary of learning and describe them as being chaotic. Researchers have found cMOOC courses provide fuzzy or messy learning opportunities with flexible, open, disruptive, unpredictable tasks that create tension and anxiety which are an essential part of the transformative process (deWaard et al., 2011; Kop et al., 2011). These concerns regarding connectivism and the chaos of messy learning are addressed in the embedded design of the HumanMOOC, yet still messy learning is strongly encouraged in the exoskeletal layer of the course. While the course is structured in a very linear, logical weekly format the learning is intended to stretch far beyond the LMS into the blogosphere and beyond.

Social and mobile

Social media tools are essential to MOOCs as they promote connectivity, communication, and interaction (deWaard et al., 2011), and they increase course enrollment through social networks as friends and colleagues recommend the course to one another (Stewart, 2013). Learners are also using their mobile phones to access materials and learning via the Internet at an increased rate (deWaard et al., 2011; Williams, Karousou, & Mackness, 2011).

Interaction and dialogue in a MOOC are central to learning design because the network of learners share how they have created knowledge, and knowledge creation is central to the learning process (Couros, 2009; Milligan et al., 2013). This social sharing provides a sense of social presence or connectedness that enhances learning and helps learners create meaning through discourse (Kop, 2011). The ability of learners to create knowledge and share it online is a very different model of learning than the traditional model where the learner passively absorbs knowledge from the teacher (deWaard et al., 2011; Stewart, 2013).   Milligan et al. (2013) stated, “Even lurkers can learn effectively in connectivist environments: taking the knowledge they acquire to their own external networks.” (p. 156)

The guiding principles for an open, social, connected course, according to Couros (2009), are that instructors assume the role of facilitators and social connectors rather than that of lecturers or knowledge delivery systems. Learners in these courses engage in social knowledge creation and participate in collaborative activities. In addition, learners should be provided assignment choices to allow for alignment between an individual’s personal and/or professional goals and course outcomes. It is expected that connections developed between learners and course facilitators across social networks should outlive the course.

Learners can leverage emerging technology tools to consume and create content and reflections on personal learning experiences that can be shared across distributed networks using Twitter, Blogs, LinkedIn, and other social media tools. Online synchronous events draw a community of learners together and help grow MOOCs because community members typically invite their colleagues, friends, and classmates to join the event and thus expand the community. Adams et al. (2014) confirmed Cormier’s notion of MOOCs being event-based learning experiences, much like attending a sporting event, and that it is this eventedness that contributes to their uniqueness.

HumanMOOC (2013) Course Design Refections

The embedded course design was intended to be social constructivist and to cultivate a community of practice. Upon reflection and using methods employed in Conole, Dyke, Oliver, & Seale (2004) the course activities were evaluated using the sliding scale to determine the degree to which each element within the course is individual or social, reflective or non-reflective, and informational or experiential. After evaluating each individual activity an aggregate mean was determined for each broad activity category (see Table 1).

Activity Individual – Social Non Reflective – Reflective Experiential – Informational
Synchronous Events 6.125 7.5 9.375
Interactive/Social Activities 8.25 7.25 2.5
Discussions 6.83 6 3.5
Non-social Assessments 2 6.67 5.3
Score 6.14 6.9 5.8

Table 1: Activity Category score

By developing this reflective model of the course the designers were able to visualize and categorize the learning theory based upon the octahedron models presented in Conole et. al. 2004. The final score in the table above was aligned with the model of the Communities of practice. Leveraging Conole’s applied reflexivity approach allowed us to reflect on the design of the course and ensure that the intended design was explicit. Considerable reflection into the learning design of HumanMOOC revealed that the course was indeed a community of practice as seen in the figure below.

ConoleCoPFigure 2: Communities of Practice mapped to the model (retrieved from Conole et. al., 2004)

The post above is an excerpt from a journal article that I co-authored with Dr. Robin Bartoletti and is currently under review by the editor of the journal.  Dr. Bartoletti and the editor of the journal have given me permission to share this pre-publication excerpt from that larger work in order to clarify some of my initial reflections on the design of the HumanMOOC which was taught in 2013. The course was taught again in Spring of 2015 and that data is not yet available.  


Conole, G., Oliver, M., Dyke, M., & Seale, J. (2004). Mapping pedagogy and tools for effective learning design. Computers and Education, 43, 17-33. 10.1016/j.compedu.2003.12.018

Couros, A. (2009). Open, connected, social–implications for educational design. Campus-Wide Information Systems, 26(3), 232-239.

deWaard, I., Abajian, S., Gallagher, M., Hogue, R., Keskin, N., Koutropoulos, A., & Rodriguez, O., (2011). Using mlearning and moocs to understand chaos, emergence, and complexity in education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(7), 94-115. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1046/2026

Hirumi, A. (2002). Interactivity in distance education: Current perspectives on facilitating e- learning. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 3(2), v-viii.

Jonassen, D., Davidson, M.,Collins M., Campbell, J. & Haag, B. B. (1995, January 1). Constructivism and Computer-Mediated Communication in Distance Education. American Journal of Distance Education, 9(2), 7-26. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ512278) Retrieved on March 6, 2009, from ERIC database.

Kop, R., Fournier, H., & Mak, J. (2011). A pedagogy of abundance or a pedagogy to support human beings? Participant support on massive open online courses. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 12(7).

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Macleod, H., Haywood, J., Woodgate, A, & Sinclair, C. (2014) Designing for the unknown learner. EMOOCs 2014 European MOOC Stakeholders Summit, Experience Track 245-248.

Milligan, C., Littlejohn, A., & Margaryan, A. (2013). Patterns of engagement in connectivist moocs. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(2), 149-159. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol9no2/milligan_0613.htm

Stewart, B. (2013). Massiveness openness = new literacies of participation. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(2), 228-238. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol9no2/stewart_bonnie_0613.htm

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Williams, R., Karousou, R., and Mackness, J., (2011). Emergent learning and learning ecologies in web 2.0. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), 39-59. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/883/1686

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

The importance of play in learning

On April 28th, I had the privilege of hosting #profchat with some amazing educators and educational designers in higher education. In my own experiences as a learner the times I have had fun or experienced the JOY of LEARNING is when I have held on to the knowledge gained at that time. I can recall many experiences from my educational career that were life changing and they all had to do with Play, Joy, or the passion for the topic that I was studying.

I’m currently crafting an article on the topic and would love your thoughts on how we can add a little Play into higher education!


I’m sorry Dave – I’m afraid I can’t do that #rhizo15

I should begin with an admission of guilt: I have only completed one MOOC that I was a learner in. Yes, I have an EDx certificate. However, the open courses that I have built and facilitated I have finished, just in a different way. While this rhizomatic learning experience is pulling me in, I have a dissertation proposal that is pulling me back out.  I hope that I can hang in there for the full #rhizo15 experience. However, where the major professor calls I’m going to have to use my default line:


But what if… what if I can stick it out.  What are my goals for the course? What are my subjectives?

My last open course #HumanMOOC was all about building a Community of Inquiry online. We explored methods and tools to enhance teaching, social, and cognitive presence. This gives me the thought that I should explore community further from the learner perspective within Rhizo15. Do I feel that sense of presence from my instructor? Do I feel a connection with my fellow learner? (Yeah, I do Sarah! Thank you) And, do I go deeper down the rabbit hole (cognitive)?

My expectations based upon the “pre-week” or what I like to call Week 0 is that I will experience the presences but the development of the community may be more fragmented since there are not shared objectives, but rather we need to find our own community where we have those shared goals, ideals and interests.

So, I’m lost in this #rhizo15land in search of my own ideas regarding what I hope to learn. But as I write these words, I am reminded that in my PhD coursework, I would often have my own personal objectives that I wished to accomplish. These were not always/typically aligned with the curriculum. Perhaps this is the enlightenment that I have been waiting for… by finally reflecting on this notion of subjectives, I have realized that I have already begun doing this in my own little bubble.

-Thanks Dave, I’m afraid I might just do this!


Online Community Building

The development of an online community takes an investment of time and energy. I call this an investment because it does pay dividends through the sharing and collective knowledge of the crowd. In #HumanMOOC, we explored building a community of inquiry by focusing on presence (teaching, social, and cognitive) and Dr. Rena Palloff specifically talked about the need for the instructor presence to be very strong at the onset of community development in order to set the stage for more social presence.

I had the privilege to attend Tekeisha Zimmerman’s dissertation defense “Testing the Psychometric Properties of the Online Student Connectedness Survey” yesterday. First of all, she was brilliant as she made many of the points that rang true during the #HumanMOOC and that Dr. Palloff talked about in her Google Hangout. However, she also made the point that the instructor cannot simply be an observer.  ~ Think about that for a minute…

Have you had learning experiences where the instructor wasn’t present? Where the community of learners didn’t pull you back into the conversation? Where the community wasn’t a community but rather a disjointed, fragmented social organization?

Twitter screenshots


I am already having a very different community experience in #rhizo15. The community is pulling me in simply because I mentioned that I really wanted to participate this time.Thanks to Sarah and Chrissi for the nudge!


I love a good messy learning experience and I thank the community members for pulling me into the fold. I’m going to focus my next few blog posts to my learning in #rhizo15 and I hope that some of our #HumanMOOC friends join us there too.


Where is there you may ask?  Here is rhizomatic learning’s facebook group and use the hashtag #rhizo15 to find the conversation and join in!  For more details see Dave Cormier’s blogpost: http://davecormier.com/

Faculty Satisfaction with Teaching Online

The demand for online courses has increased dramatically–so has the number of faculty teaching online. Online pedagogy has evolved over a short period of time, creating challenges with changing delivery methods, training, support, and course development.

As faculty reflect on their experiences, are they satisfied teaching in the online format? Are they satisfied with the student learning achieved? Do the benefits of online learning, like flexibility and accessibility, outweigh the obstacles?

Whitney Kilgore, vice president of academic services at Academic Partnerships, conducted research to answer theses questions. Kilgore explored factors grouped into three categories: student, faculty, and institutional. The hypothesis stated that based on previous research faculty members are satisfied with teaching and with student learning outcomes in fully online courses. Survey says? Yes—overall, faculty are satisfied with teaching online. Check out the infographic to better understand how faculty responded to the research survey.

Share your thoughts in the comments section! Do the survey results align with your experiences teaching online? In which areas of online teaching are you most satisfied, and which areas are more challenging? (Click infographic to enlarge.)FacultySatisfaction with teaching online

Originally posted July 5, 2013 (on facultyecommons.com

Triggering Events to Promote Cognitive Presence

As a part of the #HumanMOOC, Jim Groom, the director of teaching and learning technologies at the University of Mary Washington shares his story about how he has used triggering events in #DS106.

We were thrilled to get to hear the story of the Summer of Oblivion.  It sounded like it was fun and when instructors have fun teaching and the students have fun learning, the experience can be transformative and lead to deeper learning.  If you don’t know #DS106, it is a digital storytelling course at the University of Mary Washington.

The experiment was to have Jim become Dr. Oblivion from VideoDrome. Who says that “The television screen is the retina of the mind’s eye. Therefore, the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore, whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore, television is reality, and reality is less than television.”  Jim says that he was struck by the notion of taking on this persona and attempting to be focused on being this other character.  He struggled with the identity after three days of the hour long lectures, he had an identity crisis.  He talked with his co-faculty and they suggested that Dr. Oblivion disappear.

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 8.30.23 PM

The missing persons narrative took hold when Dr. Oblivion went missing. And, the students began to drive the narrative through their creations. Jim plays the part of the Teaching Assistant who goes mad with power and banishes students from the course which prompts the rise of #ds107.

There are some really interesting twists and turns that he shares.  I won’t give away the ending (no spoilers) see more of the Google Hangout here:

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