MA ODE module overview: Openness and innovation in elearning (H817)

I took several modules at The Open University (OU) as part of my master’s degree. Before I began this journey, I always wished I could understand better how the modules were organized and what specific topics they covered, so I’ve decided to share that information for the modules I took. (Here are all the summaries.)

OU’s description of this module

Innovations in elearning are moving apace, especially with the use of new social software tools that encourage peer supported learning. With an emphasis on exploring innovation, you will discover the latest educational communication developments, the increasing use of data in education through the fast developing field of learning analytics and also experience developments in open education. You will develop specific elearning skills (including online group moderation and collaborative elearning activity design), conduct small-scale investigations, and use case studies, with the overall aim of incorporating or rethinking elearning activity into your own professional context. This module will introduce you to current debates around the concept of openness and the ethical issues relating to learning analytics.

I would add…

Each block of this module felt very much like a stand-alone piece. There was a general theme of innovation throughout, but no block seemed to be built on (or dependent on) the previous ones. There was no book, but there was an array of journal articles to read as well as the study guide material and activities.

During Block 3, we worked on a large group project to support our investigation of the Learning Design Studio. You can click through my contributions to the group project, starting here.

Module outline

Block 1: What is innovation?

Topics:

Small-scale group project: The goal of this project was to research and jointly write a report evaluating an elearning technology. My group investigated how Microsoft Yammer can be used to support professional development training in organizations with geographically distributed teams. The report included:

  1. Overview of the Yammer service
  2. Review of areas needing further testing and research: Yammer’s features, hardware and security, and costs and financial risks
  3. Theoretical underpinnings

Paper: This is a business report in which we provide details and current developments about an elearning innovation, and give information about how it could be used in the company. I wrote about:

  1. Course apps
  2. Virtual makerspaces
  3. Augmented reality

Block 2: Open education

Topics:

Paper: This is a formal report for senior managers describing open education and outlining a strategy involving open education in the company. In my paper, I proposed that corporations in the energy industry make some of the educational resources they already create available to a larger audience as open educational resources (OER). My paper included:

  1. Executive summary
  2. Background: Providing educational resources; providing open educational resources; and timing our open offerings
  3. Policy, in three stages: planning and approvals; readiness; and publication of initial offerings
  4. Benefits: Giving back to the community, boosts to goodwill and reputation, improved recruiting results
  5. Risks: The project may fail to thrive, or the released resources may be changed in ways that hurt the company image
  6. Resources needed

Block 3: Learning Design Studio

Topics:

Project: The group project uses the Learning Design Studio model to design a learning program. My group designed a program for use in multiple museums across the world, relying on virtual worlds and virtual reality to bring museum visitors/learners together. You can click through my contributions to the group project, starting here.

Paper: The paper is a design narrative about the group project experience, based on the STARR model. The theme of my narrative was that the activities within the Design Inquiry model are interlocking and thus do not support a truly iterative process. The ways and timeliness with which people completed their design activities affected the final output because of the interlocking nature. Because we used the STARR model, my paper included these sections:

  1. Situation: Sharing our vision, defining roles and assigning responsibilities, and completing the ‘imagine’ step
  2. Task: Defining the context and challenge
  3. Actions: Case studies and theoretical frameworks, and design patterns and principles
  4. Results: Mapping out the storyboard, designing the prototype, and setting criteria for heuristic evaluations
  5. Reflections: About iterations, and about the social aspect of learning

Block 4: Learning analytics

Topics:

Paper: This paper was about learning analytics, with three sections: a definition of learning analytics and their main practical implications in your context; the most important features of learning analytics and how they can support learning in your context; and an evaluation of two examples of learning analytics encountered in this class or elsewhere. My paper had these sections:

  1. Analytics: Analytics in the energy industry, academia, and corporate learning departments; practical implications and complications; and privacy and identity
  2. Important features of learning analytics for the given context: Learners as users of learning analytics; and learners as clarifiers of learning analytics
  3. Examples: Using learning analytics for learner dashboards; and using learning analytics to inform learning design

Final paper

The final paper is a report that evaluates one innovation in either open education, learning design, or learning analytics. It provides a dissemination strategy. It ends with a description of three artifacts that could be created to publicize and disseminate this report. I wrote about Rice University’s OpenStax initiative.

  1. [Opening statement:] OpenStax is a Rice University initiative with three parts: an open educational resources (OER) repository, a library of open textbooks, and an upcoming division for adaptive learning courseware. This report focuses on OpenStax’s open textbooks, but also discusses its roots as a repository, which has provided a backbone through the initiative from its beginnings to its future plans.
  2. Overview
  3. Innovation
  4. Background: Connexions, the original project; and the progression to OpenStax
  5. Outcomes and impact: Effect on educators; and effect on learners
  6. Issues: Desire to maintain current model; need for easier discovery methods; and lack of awareness
  7. Next steps: Continued focus on foundational texts and community colleges; increased interest in texts for Advanced Placement (AP) courses; the question of financial sustainability; and OpenStax Tutor
  8. Dissemination strategy: Assisting student advocacy; targeting through unions and trade organizations; and making mouth-to-mouth easier

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