Sunday, August 7, 2011

MOOC Musings

Busy times on the prairie. But, it has been great to follow the panels, discussions and commentaries. I continue to be amazed by the high level discussions on the variey of topics we are covering. I am learning much.

As we collectively craft the Wikipedia definition of maasive open online classes, discussions recently are shifting to the "o" for openness. I have found the discussions fascinating. It should, of course be free and open to all. It should allow participants to drop in and stop out. It should blend both freedom and meaningfulness for all participants.

One of our upcoming discussions is whether we may want to launch a MOOC using a textbook - an open textbook, of course. We are finishing up an open textbook project among the three campuses of the University of Illinois - drawing upon the faculty expertise at the university. The topic is one that has broad international interest. And, an open textbook, combined with resources of the scale we offered - and the massive offerings provided by participants - could be powerful. An open textbook could provide a pathway -a roadmap - through the topic with participants and panels taking side trips along the way.

I am at O'Hare en route to the Penn State University for our annual Institute for Emerging Leaders in Online Learning (co-directed this year by panelists Larry Ragan and Bruce Chaloux). Much to learn there. I will be "up in the air" on my return trip for the upcoming collaborations, collective and clouds panel, but I will catch it on the recording.

Take Care! "See you online"


Monday, July 25, 2011

Ripples and Waves and Tidal Waves in Learning

I have been doing more and reflecting less in the past week and a half. It's time to pause and reflect on where we are in eduMOOC. We have now passed the halfway point chronologically. But, of course MOOCs keep giving long after the official end of the course.

We have tested the concept of using a Google+ Hangout for panels. We have completed a proof of concept - it works, though there are some audio delay issues that could be distracting in the stream. The balance is whether any value associated with seeing faces and expressions offsets that problem. At this point, we think we need further testing to see if we can eliminate the lag. Perhaps we may try this on a smaller scale before putting the full weight of a weekly panel into it.

There are many ripples from the eduMOOC. One appears to be the start of MOOC page on Wikipedia . Please check it out and update with info. Perhaps someone can add a link to the main page of the eduMOOC.

There are waves from the MOOC. We are considering some additional MOOCs that would take on topics outside of the online learning field, perhaps dealing with more traditional "academic" topics that are of broad interest to personal learners as well as formal learners.

There is a tidal wave building - generated by the changing state of higher education world wide. All around the globe, there is concern about affordable access to higher education. Resources that had previously come from governments are strained by the global economic downturn. Education is not the top priority in these times - healthcare, infrastructure, safety, and other areas seem to have a higher priority in governmental budgets. As a result tuition costs continue to escalate and institutional resources dwindle. The tidal wave may be in open learning triggered by the recession and guided by a few visionaries in our field. MOOC plays a role in modeling what is possible in reaching many learners through distributed, networked learning in which learners are given unprecedented control in structuring and building their interactive learning experience.

There is much to ponder about how learning may change in the near future to make more accessibile, affordable, ubiquitous, and collaborative. The MOOC can be all of those.

Pondering, once again.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Talking Tech ~ Always Thinking

I slipped the pilot a $5 bill and said "step on it" - I had to get back to Springfield from DC in time for the eduMOOC Tech Panel. He did just that (no doubt a MOOCer himself). We landed 20 minutes early and I raced from the north side airport to the "campus in the cornfields" on the south side of town just as Michael Cheney (of two million lecture downloads on iTunes fame) hit the downbeat to start the session. @Tektrekker led the way with her quiet vocals of techno-tunes. And, @AlexPickett played the pedagogy-drives-technology-choice percussion. Guitarist Nic Bongers picked out second life played in G+. (You had to be there! Or, you have to listen to the recording - URL is:

Thanks to Emily, who flew back from the emerging tech conference (her luggage did not seem to fly with her), and went through the labor-intensive process of combining the back channel capture and the panel recording. The recording is better than the original - it has the slides in much larger format along with a larger twitter feed display.

The Twitter back channel was abuzz with tweets. There were groups meeting in circles to discuss. And others joined discussion groups and wikis to comment. Pretty good audio and tweets working smoothly. Emily's improved presentation format for the recordings. We seem to have the basics down for this format.

Much more can be done to enhance and embellish, but in a minimalist way, this mode works to get the panel discussion out there to a mass audience. Nevertheless, it would seem that video would have some appeal. Jeff Lebow has been doing MOOCasts using USTREAM - he has some of them streaming here:
Here's another example of a capture of a G+ Hangout using Camtasia. Rob Jackson explains the process:

One possibility we are testing is gathering panelists in a G+ hangout, then streaming the circle out using the same technologies we are using to stream the panels now. We'll keep tweaking, testing, and assessing technical challenges. The video might gobble too much bandwidth, but we should be able to use Camtasia for recordings as Rob did above.

We will keep you posted. Perhaps, we'll post a mini-panel in this mode.

Nothing like new technologies to to make you think through practices and pedagogies.

"See" you online!


Monday, July 11, 2011

Week Three - Turning to Technology

It is now the third week of this raucous MOOC and we are turning our attention to the technology. It's hard not to. With the release of Google+ the MOOC is already running in circles seeking hangouts and huddles.

I did some hanging out myself today. I heard a bit more about how participants feel about eduMOOC - the good and the bad. I hear that we can pay a bit closer attention to our audio quality in the panels, but also that the streaming format (thanks again Tulio) is pretty cool. I hear that a lot of people are making new connections. I hear that many really like the MOOC. I hear that this MOOC is less controlled and structured than others.

I suppose that last comment deserves a bit of a response. We have approached this MOOC in a way similar to how we teach a graduate seminar. We respect the knowledge, diversity and innovative spirit of those who choose to participate in a MOOC. Our approach has been to create opportunities to learn; to mention thought-provoking ideas where we can; to invite some people who care about the topic to our panel discussions, and mostly to point people to interesting resources in the area of online learning. Our approach is not that we, the organizers, will teach in a traditional hands-on way, but that we will provide the opportunity to engage, interact, and learn. We set the original agenda, invited some panelists, created some spaces - though many more spaces were created by the participants - to give some form to the MOOC blob so people would have an idea what it might become.

Having set the stage, we are now caretakers of the forum; janitors of the classroom. It something breaks, we try to fix it; if someone or something makes an awful mess that gets in the way of others, we'll try to tidy it up enough that the others can engage, interact and learn unimpeded. We're the ones with the dustpans, mops and brooms. Sweeping, scooping and splashing. (This brings to mind mucking out the horse stalls at the Illinois State Fair which takes place each August here in Springfield, but I'll save that for another posting)

This week is going to be especially fun. I love technology. And, we have four of my favorite techno-leaders talking together on Thursday. You will find them all on twitter and in blogs and quoted around campuses and other places where tekkies reside to hide from the sun, choosing rather to bask in the glow of their tablet screens.

Most of our staff will be dispersed on the east and west coasts for various meetings, presentations, etc. during the week. But Carrie will be in charge, as I am reminded she is in charge more often than not. She and Lauren will keep the MOOC going when flight attendants have put the rest of us in "airplane mode."

So, a great week ahead!

"See" you online - hope we can hangout!

Won't anyone give this post a +1 ?

.................PS - Thanks for the +1

Friday, July 8, 2011

eduMOOC+ Hanging out, Huddling, and Sparking in Circles

I suppose it was inevitable that during a two-month period we would have a new technology emerge that would become the buzz. With "hangouts" and "circles" and "sparks" and "mobile" and "huddle" and more - this week it is Google+.

And, so it seems that we are becoming eduMOOC+ with many circles and searching in sparks and hangout conversations about eduMOOC. We are re-shaping the social side of MOOCs with a bunch of new ways to network and connect and share. This sure is going to make for an interesting case study - with the shift to (or adoption of) Google+ in the middle of the eduMOOC.

That's not to say that we have had a perceptible slowdown in blogging, tweeting, wiki-ing, facebooking, and Moodling. But, now we are plussing on top of it all! I think of it as a kind of "super-sizing" our social orders.

What is really exciting to see is how we are teaching each other how to use this new social side of Google. And, how we are sharing invitations to give scores of fellow MOOCers a hand in getting aboard the giant PLUS!

Very cool. Very social. Very open. Very, uh, MOOCish.

Now more than 2,600 of us.

You can find me plussing about at ... maybe we can "hangout" together or get in a "circle" to "huddle" on our "mobiles!"

... much more to learn this weekend.

"See" you online!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Step Ahead (or perhaps just ketchup)

As has been well-documented, we entered this 'moocventure' a bit naively and with only three weeks of preparation. I certainly take the blame for that. But, like my lifelong favorite baseball team - the Chicago Cubs - struggling from behind and valiantly trying to catch up is something I am very used to. And, that's the story of the past two days.

It has not gone without notice that some of the weekly resource pages for the coming weeks have been a bit... perhaps "spare" is a good term; or perhaps "redundant" of prior pages also applies. Perhaps some of you who have taught a new class with little available advanced prep time have experienced this - you are trying to keep one week - or one step - ahead of the class. We front-loaded materials into the first couple of weeks (thanks to Karen,Carrie, Shari, Emily and others) that we knew had to be ready in the first days of the MOOC. So, these past couple of days, we have been filling in some of our favorite resources and a few new ones into the middle weeks. As you look ahead, you will see that we have some more links and more complete bios for speakers. We are not done - we won't ever be done - but, know that we are tending to the site and adding materials.

Our goal in the weekly resource pages is not to create a comprehensive reading library of materials on the topic. Instead, we hope to give you a sampling of materials. We included tweeters and bloggers because those are sources that keep on giving - day after day, they put out the newest information. They are perpetually renewable. We included sites that seem to be established and reliable so we would have touchstones to which we could return on these topics. And, we included journals and articles that seem to deal with the topic and are relatively fresh. In sum, the goal of the reading is to give you a sweet sampling on the topic where you can get some new; some established; and where possible, something thought-provoking. We know that you will freely run with the topics in wikis, blogs, tweets, moodle, video, and more.

So, in a sense the resources listed are like a little weekly picnic at which you can browse - we will work to catch up (ketchup anyone?) - and keep the salads fresh for your browsing pleasure.

"See" you online.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ponderously pondering, again

It is the fourth of July, in the US that is a holiday, a celebration of declaring independence from England some 235 years ago this year. Fireworks and firecrackers are the order of the evening as I write this post in a tiny rural town surrounded by corn fields outside of Springfield, Illinois. The relative peace of my little bungalow is broken by the thunder of fireworks and snap of firecrackers. While this national holiday dominates activity for the day in the culture here, many of our participants in eduMOOC are going about their normal workdays.

For me, this holiday means fewer calls and fewer emails, allowing more time to again reflect on what we are doing and why.

Two research teams are forming - one organized in New Zealand (, the other organized in Canada( - both drawing on volunteers around the world. They will be examining open online classes more closely than ever before. There are many questions to be asked, and much to be learned from this, prior, and upcoming massive open online classes (notably the expansive examination of "change" to start in September and run into May -

I am amazed that so many eduMOOC participants are networking, tweeting, blogging, discussing. Normally, I would need to motivate students in my classes to do this. Those students are paying tuition and fees. eduMOOC participants are not. Yet, they are the ones who are motivated, energized, enthusiastic. I ponder why that might be.

Perhaps it is the topic. Perhaps it is the time. Perhaps we have come to a point where people around the world are sophisticated users of the Web and social networking who can freely and comfortably engage in a MOOC. Perhaps we have come to the point that high-cost higher education is no longer sustainable, and people around the world are fervently seeking alternatives online.

People in small countries with few educational institutions and IT infrastructure resources, and people in large countries with many universities and resources are moved to learn, discuss, debate, suggest, test, and celebrate online learning.

Slowly, I get glimmers of understanding from the hundreds of postings and tweets. Ponderously, I come to realize just how complex this is. To me there is no simple, single apparent reason for the response to Moocs and to this particular topic.

And, so the research work of George Siemens and Wayne Mackintosh and their associates is important. They will gather numbers, assess, evaluate, analyze, interview, focus, and track. Turning over every stone in the river of MOOCs, they will discover some trends, patterns, and perhaps some reasons.

Out of these discoveries, we can all hope, will come some answers to meet the needs of people around the world.

Participants, know that you are being heard. We are hearing what you are saying individually and in small groups. We may not yet fully understand what you are collectively saying. But, the research teams will do all they can to more completely understand why, and what for, and what may be next.

"See" you online!

Saturday, July 2, 2011


In the coming week eduMOOC puts a spotlight on research. What do we know about learning facilitated, enabled, promoted, provided, delivered,(you get the idea) through the Internet? It seems like this question has been with us forever. But, really, the Internet has only been around since the late 1960's and the Web since the early 1990's. Before the Web, there was study of "computer assisted instruction" - some of it networked like the PLATO and the EIES systems. And, research continues into such efforts as MOOCs themselves.

Our discussions of knowledge transfer or knowledge silos or shared experiences with varied contexts, all lend themselves to theory and research. And this leads to questions of how is this done best, or as good as, or better than, or different than. And, for whom does the online (school) bell toll? Or, the virtual personal learning bell?

So, it is with great anticipation that I await our readings, discussions and panel on research questions. It is research that identifies best practices, that uncovers new possibilities, that opens the minds of people to the potential of online learning.

Karen Swan, Phil Ice and Ben Arbaugh will comprise the expert panel on research in online learning. They will draw on their experiences in conducting research studies to help us get a better understanding of what we have collectively learned so far about online learning. And that is what I am anticipating most; the chance to hear these leaders in research talking together!

Much to look forward to. And, I look forward to "seeing" you in the discussions online.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Treats, Tweets, and Tweaks

What a treat it was to have a conversation with my good friends Bruce Chaloux, Bob Hansen and Witt Salley. Yesterday was the first live panel discussion - we are holding them every Thursday in eduMOOC - and it was fun to pull together good people from different parts of my profession. The recording is available online:

I have known Bob Hansen for the past half dozen years. We worked together on projects in Maine and Illinois; now nationally with the UPCEA. He is perceptive, logical and brilliant. Bob is a great guy with whom to build such things as online programs.

I have known Bruce Chaloux even longer than Bob. Bruce is a scholar and a veteran policy leader. He sees the whole picture. He knows the field from technology to pedagogy to finding solutions when none seem possible, as we did with the Sloan Semester on which we collaborated - the initiative that served thousands of students who had been displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita with online classes offered from other universities around the U.S.

And, Witt Salley, the future of our field, whom I met a couple of years ago at our inaugural Institute for Emerging Leaders in Online Learning (founded by Gary Miller and Larry Ragan of the Penn State World Campus - Larry will join us for one of the panels later this summer). Within moments of meeting Witt you know he has vision, insight, energy, and savvy. He is a leader. It is special to watch him at work carving out our future.

The #edumooc tweets are illuminating. So many good thoughts are out there. Carrie mentioned the debate over knowlege transfer to me today. Does knowledge transfer take place in online (or any other) learning? I am not taking sides on this. But, it is engaging in the discussion itself that is worth more than winning this debate. And, that's part of what MOOCs are all about - questioning, discussing, engaging. Out of that comes better understanding of each other.

We are tweaking again. We have fixed the gadget that will "waterfall" the tweets in a window on the same page as the audio stream. We are wondering if we should suggest a unique tag for the panel? On the one hand, that would help assure that we get only tweets associated with the panel for the event (not having general #edumooc tweets interspersed). But, creating a new tag for each week might dilute the overall aggregation of the #edumooc. (or, are we over-thinking this?) As always comments are welcome.

Our registrations have settled down for now. >2,500. Countries represented: Argentina Australia Austria Belgium Belize Botswana Brazil Bulgaria Burundi Canada Chile China Colombia Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominican Republic Ecuador Ethiopia Fiji Finland France Germany Greece Guyana India Indonesia Ireland Israel Italy Japan Kuwait Laos Malaysia Mauritius México Netherlands New Zealand Nigeria Norway Pakistan Philippines Poland Portugal Puerto Rico Qatar Samoa Saudi Arabia Scotland South Africa Spain St. Vincent/the Grenadines Sudan Sweden Taiwan Thailand Trinidad/Tobago Turkey UAE Uganda UK Ukraine Venezuela USA Vietnam West Indies

Every time I see the list of countries, I think about the potential for greater understanding that can be nurtured online across continents and cultures.

It is late here on the prairie - nearing midnight. I hope to steal away early in the morning to wet my fishing line in the Sangamon River that winds through our region. Much like the knowledge transfer debate; it is not whether you catch the fish, it is the process of fishing that is the most meaningful.

"See" you online soon.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

In the Slipstream

Not that many years ago I would mount my 'dale and head out with buddies Rob and Bruce at 7:00 am on a Saturday or Sunday morning to complete a 100 mile bike ride by noon. Five hours was what we allotted - keeping speeds above 20 mph including stops, rotation drafting among the three of us. Each of us would have 2/3 of the ride in the easy slipstream of the others. That was what it was like today - slipstreaming again - this time it was slipping through electronic streaming.

Today was the first live session. Bruce Chaloux, Bob Hansen and Witt Salley - all with years of leadership in online learning administration - shared their perspectives on where we are today. They are a veteran lineup who daily "live" the challenges and opportunities of online learning. They set a good context for our coming discussions. I have worked with them for years on a variety of projects, so it was a comfortable conversation about where we are today in online learning.

We will receive the analytics from ITS soon, but clearly many hundreds of participants linked into the panel discussion stream. The audio and video of the .ppt were clear and sharp. The front end discerned the type of feed required by the client and directed it to either the Flash or the HTML5 stream. I am told that it looked and sounded particularly great on iPads. We have already tweaked the design of the #edumooc Twitter scroll - it should be flawless next week. I am reminded that progress requires patience. It is well worth the time and effort. What we are learning may be useful to others who seek to send out live sessions to a thousand or more simultaneous viewers while making a visible, easy-to-access Twitter back channel. In terms of bandwidth use and economy, it is much more efficient to link the speakers rather than two-way linking of hundreds of participants via a Web conferencing system. The design and load testing today makes us all most confident about the using this for future MOOCs and other broadly disseminated events. Very exciting.

Em will trim up the recording tonight, and we will have it posted by morning. Thank you, yet again, Emily.

I am really excited about the lineup to follow. We have top-notch panelists. I had hoped to have Seb Schmoller on today's panel (director of ALT in the UK), but he will join us for the look ahead at the future of online learning in August. That's going to be a great session with Cable Green, Curt Bonk, Bruce Chaloux, and Seb.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pondering Scale and Relevance

It has been busy at our center. This eduMOOC is something we are doing on top of our other full time work. Our teaching, faculty support, course development, grant work, administrative support, research, etc. all continue unabated. This is the icing on the cake! I am reminded how great the three full timer staff members in our unit are. Shari, Carrie and Emily are keeping up good cheer while working long extra hours. Meanwhile Bill, Carol, and Lauren are all doing extra work as well. Faculty members Michael Cheney and Karen Swan are making important contributions on top of their summer teaching schedules as well. Thank you!

I puzzle over the depth and breadth of the reach of eduMOOC. Countries of those participating at this point are Argentina Australia Austria Belgium Belize Botswana Brazil Bulgaria Burundi Canada Chile China Colombia Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominican Republic Ecuador Ethiopia Fiji Finland France Germany Greece Guyana India Indonesia Ireland Israel Italy Japan Kuwait Laos Malaysia Mauritius México Netherlands New Zealand Nigeria Norway Pakistan Philippines Poland Portugal Puerto Rico Qatar Samoa Saudi Arabia Scotland South Africa Spain St. Vincent/the Grenadines Sweden Taiwan Thailand Trinidad/Tobago Turkey UAE Uganda UK Ukraine Venezuela USA Vietnam.

Surely the online learning infrastructure and support varies widely among these countries. I can imagine some are mostly served through mobile phone access. Some of those accessing the MOOC rely on part-time generators providing power for a few hours a day. Others have superior bandwidth to the home than we enjoy here in Illinois. Some countries have large open efforts, others do not. It is this range, in part, that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to apply a single set of learning objectives.

It is this that makes me think that the MOOC is closer to providing support for a matrix of personal learning networks than supporting a single ubiquitous set of learning objectives.

Tomorrow is our first synchronous session. More tests of the process today. Tulio, our director Educational Technology surprised us today with the installation of a brand new high-bandwidth, super fast, streaming server for flash. Our previous main streaming server will provide the HTML5 version to iPhone, iPads, etc. that will be auto-detected when you connect.

The streaming will be found online:

Don't forget to click on the "play" button to hook up to the stream!

We will post the link to the recorded version as soon as it is available.

I hope to connect with you tomorrow... now to feed the other hungry blogs.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Numbers Numbing My Mind

It is now four weeks since we decided to do this project. Our doors have been open for a week. Our MOOC has officially been open for two days. Some of us are beginning to settle into groups and patterns. Others are not. Many are lurking and more are surveying what is on the table.

Some numbers on this sunny early evening on the prairie:

2,395 is the current registration count - I can't tell exactly how many countries are represented since we did not require that those registering designate location, but I stopped counting at 60 the other day.

3,250 is the number of Google Group eduMOOC page views. There are officially 1,275 members in the group, with 1,164 pending. So far, there are 477 messages in 43 topical areas.

58 is the number of members in the eduMOOC Wikispace - this is really worth visiting - . Eight formal groups. Some more information including RSS feed of the Online Learning Update blog. One of the groups is writing in Portuguese. Another is info for face-to-face meetings in NZ.

50 is the number of members in the Diigo eduMOOC group - there are some interesting bookmarks (links) to pages and comments on those pages there .

79 is the number of Delicious bookmarks for edumooc (including one pointing to the Diigo edumooc page)!

145 is the number of network profiles listed now. You should enter your data so others can follow you - use the entry form to submit info that is then posted at the networking profile page. When you view the profile page, know that you can search the page by pressing ctrl + F.

Countless Tweets with #edumooc. (find them by clicking in left column of home site)

Countless blogs. (find them at the networking profile page!)

Still looking for something to do in the eduMOOC - add to the totals above by visiting, joining in, linking up!

In the tweeting and discussions....

I saw those who are seeking learning objectives. The participants are the ones who must determine their own objectives. You will decide what you want to learn. If you need help in writing out your learning objectives, a good resource is: And, in the end, it is you who will decide if you succeeded what you set out to accomplish.

I saw some concern about repetition of the resources listed on the various weekly pages. As we get closer, to the designated weeks, those will be updated by the moderators. Weeks one and two have lots of resources specific to their topics.

I saw some concern that this might be a "stuffy" MOOC. Heavens, I hope not! I have never been accused of being stuffy before - and I don't want to begin now. If it seems stuffy in here - throw open the window. Post some cartoons! Send up some balloons! And usher out those stuffy buffoons!

Thanks to many of you who have chosen to follow my tweets @rayschroeder. I try to post at least one interesting item early each morning (US time) to help get us started on the right foot. Each one includes a URL to what I think is an interesting article.

Thanks also to many of you who are following the Online Learning Update blog. I aggregated it at Wikispaces eduMOOC and it is tweeted @onlinelearningu. More blogs and twitters lined in the right column over here ->

I can't wait until our first panel discussion on Thursday. The streaming site looks great - and the auto java-enabled (or not) detect is very cool - will adjust for mobile listeners/viewers. I wonder just how many will connect for the live session... how many for the recorded sessions.

More numbers to numb my mind.

Best to you all,


Monday, June 27, 2011

Beginning the Beginning

And so it begins... the MOOC, that is. Today is the first day of moocing. It seems as though we have been doing this for some time already. But, we have much more out there than we did a week ago.

The wikispaces discussion groups seem to be coming along. I wonder if I should link them to the relevant resource pages. On the other hand, I should probably just leave that up to the participants that created them. They will link if they want to link.

@Tektrekker was asking if we should just let loose and tag using Diigo, or should we report the tags into the Diigo group. I suppose that should also be decided by the users. Maybe they want to do both?

So, we have and as options for posting, and discussions. That should help to address preferences

We have 125 listed in the networking site spreadsheet. Searching the sheet using ctrl+F works well - smooth and seamless. I hope we have hundreds listed soon. There is so much more out there.

I am really excited about the display site for our streamed live sessions. Live panel discussion sessions will be held each Thursday at 2:00 pm eastern daylight, 1:00 pm central daylight, noon mountain daylight, 11:00 am pacific daylight and 7:00 pm London time. They may be viewed live online at:
Your screen will look like this:

The audio of the panel and slides will appear on the left of the screen
The #edumooc twitter back channel feed will appear center screen
A Twitter compose gadget will appear on the right for those with Twitter accounts to upload tweets
The session will be recorded and be made available online for those who wish to view later.

Small steps, but the journey begins with just one...

At a reception this evening for the retirement of our chancellor - long time friend and associate Harry Berman - our Wepner Distinguished Scholar Dr. Matthew Holden, Political Science pulled me aside. He is interested in delivering a broadly attended class on the Civil War. It struck me that if (help me), we did this again next summer perhaps the Civil War might make a great topic.

I am falling asleep at the keyboard right now... storms all night last night kept me up. Soon, I'll rest and "try again" tomorrow.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

MOOC Never Sleeps - But It Dines at MacDonald's on Riccarton Road in Christchurch, NZ!

Last night I wrote that I was worried about generating study groups where questions could be asked and discussions could be held. I went to sleep still concerned. I woke up about 2:30 in the morning and checked my email to find five kind participants had expressed interest in working on this in Wikispaces. John said he was interested in discussion groups - not online, but rather in person. I gave edit permissions to all and went back to sleep. This morning, there were new discussion groups ready-to-go! See them at . And, Derek Chirnside had posted a number of opportunities to hold in-person discussions in New Zealand! There is one in the works for July 1 in Christchurch at the MacDonald's on Riccarton Road, 4:00 pm. (remarkable!) I won't be able to make it on Friday.... but, perhaps some day.

I am learning that the MOOC never sleeps. And, that people are engaged everywhere.

I just published a new networking list. I hope we get more to fill out the networking form ... check out the blogs, Twitter addresses, home pages, wikis and more at the Participant Contact and Networking Page ! When at the page, you can press ctrl + F to search for terms or names on the list.

The MOOC belongs to everyone. We collectively build this learning opportunity through our engagement in the many activities open to us such as:

  • Discussions in the Google Group

  • Discussions in the Wiki

  • Bookmarking and tagging with edumooc in Diigo

  • Tweeting with #edumooc

  • Blogging

  • Other social networking

  • Web pages

One of our participants whose name I have forgotten has mentioned that MOOCs are supposed to be messy, but also connected and distributed.

Thank you to all who are particpating!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wikis and Wood Ticks

It's Saturday, the day I generally reserve for chores (and for feeding the five hungry daily blogs I publish). For the first time in weeks, it wasn't raining when I awoke at 5:30 am. The rain has prevented me from getting out to the few acres I maintain far out on the prairie, an island of woodland and weeds in the sea of corn in central Illinois. I am not too proud to say that I believe my half a dozen acres are the largest producer of wood ticks and poison ivy of any unincorporated entity in the state of Illinois. When I arrived this morning, the weeds were taller than the garden tractor. After doing some mechanical repairs under the mowing deck, I pulled out into the acres of weeds for a slow bumpy four hour journey. Those four hours were spent thinking about eduMOOC.

I am concerned about making it as easy as possible for participants to create study groups, and to connect through social networking such as blogs and Twitter. We have made some progress this week, but it still is nagging at me.

Wayne Mackintosh's suggestion was a great one. He opened his wiki for a study group on OERu. I had already claimed edumooc wikispaces. So, while bouncing along through the weeds I decided to create the beginning of a template for a study group, seed it with a couple of questions and get the word out to the moocers that they could set up their own groups in the edumooc wiki or the edumooc Google Group. Of course any other site one wants to offer is welcome, but these are set up and are open.

Another suggestion from Jason Rhode and Tektrekker among others was that we should be sure to have a prominent place for moocers to share their blogs, Twitter, sites, and interests. We approached this in two ways - for the more experienced users, we opened a edumooc Diigo group; and we created a simple-to-use fill-in-the-blank Google Form that publishes to a web page for everyone. We resolved to review the submissions and publish the page daily. But, not too many people have used it yet. So, I made mention of it in the little video, I added it to the announcments, and I (thanks to Emily's suggestion) added a our little globe icon to the link for the page, hoping that this would draw more attention to it. We have 60-some profiles published as of this late afternoon.

Monday, I will contact the panelists for the first live session on Thursday. All are experienced with Elluminate and with panels. Each of them has done countless speeches and presentations. They are a good group. I had hoped to get some gender balance on this panel, but repeated invitations brought no response. I suppose they wondered whatever a MOOC might be. Sigh. Anyway, I will reinforce the value of using a headset/microphone with each panelist, and we'll go a little check inside Elluminate.

Our registrations now stand at 2,105 - the latest ones from Pakistan, Spain, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Ireland and the US. Amazing.

I picked some wild blackberries growing among the poison ivy this morning - time now to enjoy them while watching the weather channel and the storms rolling in this evening.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Balancing at the Height of 2,000 ft / meters / people!

At moments today those of us at the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service looked at each other and just laughed. Two thousand people! In all of those countries. It is daunting; it is scary; it is fun; it is rather remarkable. I suppose laughter seems a bit of an odd response, but certainly it is better than panic or crying.

Actually we feel confident. We are confident in the quality and expertise of the panelists (I just responded to Karen Swan, Curt Bonk and Cable Green this evening - as with all of the panelists, these people are very experienced, dedicated and know whereof they speak) . We are confident in the importance of the topic. We are confident in the value of this MOOC. We are confident in the technologies. We know it will work; we just want it to work very well.

There is a lot of balancing to do.

How do we balance access. Early on in our planning we thought we would just use Diigo for sharing sites. The cool sticky notes and the nice social aspects of sharing via Diigo seemed right. But, as we watched the registrations mount up, it seemed likely that many of those signing up had not used Diigo or Delicious or even knew about them. And, we discussed whether using these might make some less likely to participate. And, could we teach a thousand people quickly how to use them. Or would they just see the words and "change the channel." So, we decided to do both - make both available - suggest an edumooc tag for Diigo and create an edumooc Diigo group. But, we would also create a fill-in-the-blank form for networking sites so people could choose to share via Twitter, blogs, Web pages, or wikis. Of course, having an open fill-in-the-blank form is an invitation to spam and worse. So, we would manually review the submissions at least once a day and upload the page. That would delay the process of listing networking, but at least it would protect the site a bit.

Two years ago we were the victim of a radical group of hackers from the Mediterranean - sigh - they marked up our New Century Learning Consortium site. So, we are still smarting from that a bit; it makes us a little extra cautious.

We tested the streaming site today - it worked wonderfully. We tweaked wording for the Twitter gadget - to make clear that you still needed a Twitter logon to tweet, but this way you could simultaneously watch the panel, watch the back channel and compose a Tweet on the same page! (thanks Tulio!) Pretty cool, we think. And, we believe that by keeping the size of the images relatively small, we should be able to reach many hundreds of people without any serious buffering delays. We keep asking ourselves, with more than 2,000 registered, just how many will tune in a 1:00 pm central time (US) live Webcast? We are guessing that about 1/3 or 1/4 will join the live events. The others, we conjecture, will be asleep in Australia or at work in Brazil. We'll find out on Thursday. The balance here is the size of the image to reduce bandwidth so that more can see it without getting buffered right out of viewing the panel.

I keep updating the presenters and the moderators with messages every day or two. I want them to know that this is a big deal - worth their time and attention. Today I sent them a pdf of the cities and institutions that people listed as an option when registering (NOT emails or names). But, the cities and institutions go a long way to making the size of this MOOC real. A balancing act - I don't want to overload presenters with emails, but I want to keep this on their radar. These presenters are very busy (several are traveling abroad today).

We keep struggling with Google Groups. It is working for most, but some are having difficulties. Another balancing act. We think that it is generally easier for the less experienced users than the other alternatives. And, it would great for 100 or 200 or so. But, after about 500, we began getting delays and time-outs from Google because we were uploading so many at a time.

Balancing interests, balancing experience, balancing access, balancing bandwidth - seeking input from several people on each issue to help make the right choice for the most people. That's what much of today was about.

It is clear that not everyone is reading the entire home page; they are missing important things that would make the MOOC a better experience for them. So, I decided to record a short message. It shouldn't hurt to give this a little bit of a human touch. But, we knew we needed captions and the option to translate for some of our MOOC members. So, I recorded in Em's office (she has the full Camtasia suite on her computer - and we could save a step in the process by recording right into Camtasia) - wish I had better eye contact - and gave a three-minute tour of the page. We could have made a production out of it - cutting in to each part of the page when I talked about it; instead, we decided to put the video in a little window and ask people to look around the page while I talked.

A long day punctuated with laughter and a crowning event of passing 2,000 registrations. Closing now to feed my five other hungry blogs.

PS - Just saw a nice article will be in our local Springfield, IL paper tomorrow:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

MOOC - Big Numbers / Small Victories

A successful day. Much accomplished. Current count exceeds 1,800.

  1. We needed to find a resource to help our participants understand Google Groups. I hadn't been able to find anything in YouTube or text. I asked Jason Rhode of NIU to check around. Instead, he created a custom video tutorial just for our users. Wonderful!

  2. We needed a "networking central" to provide social networking addresses and interests of participants in order to facilitate hook-ups and collaborations. @tektrekker jumped in and created a Twitter list. And, Emily crafted a Google Form, developed the database and associated .html page. We confirmed that ctrl-F worked for search and put it in the header. We will manually update after scanning each update for spam and other inappropriate material. It should work well for the purpose of sharing contact and networking info.

  3. In the beginning, we did not anticipate that thousands of people would sign up for the MOOC. We thought the 100-seat Elluminate (now Blackboard Connect) classroom would suffice since many will not be able to make the synchronous sessions each time due to work schedules, etc. But, as the numbers mounted, it became clear that 100 seats would not be enough. We checked the possibility of complimentary "bursting" for those sessions to 400 or 500; something that Elluminate had done previously for us (we have received recognition for our work with Elluminate in the past and they were happy to reciprocate). But, the new owners, Blackboard, were not inclined to help the MOOC. Tulio Llosa, Director of Educational Technology at UIS created a custom streaming page that displays a mini-browser with Elluminate and a neat little twitter gadget below to display a back channel. The test today was flawless. If we keep the image space small we should be able to support 500 or perhaps more streams via the larger flash server. And, Tulio will look at opening the mobile-friendly non-flash server as well. Doing this during the summer when there are fewer demands on bandwidth will help us as well. We will run more tests tomorrow.

  4. Carrie has been working on keeping the Google Groups uploaded with new registrations. But, Google will block her after an unspecified number of uploads - several hundred. Then, she is blocked from group uploads for a period of hours. Meanwhile, new members of the MOOC are impatient, even though we warn on the home page that it may take a day to enroll them in the group. In addition, there are lots of individual problems that must be solved; some participants fail to receive their invitation from Google, others use corporate Google Apps email addresses which won't allow them to register, still others find that Google is blocked by their work firewalls. One by one Carrie is working with them to resolve problems.

I promised to keep these postings short. Soon, I will blog about the challenge of balancing the desires of the tech savvy for certain advanced applications (such as Diigo) and the practical desires of those less savvy who have little experience beyond email and web browsing.

All in all, it was a highly productive day. In between MOOC work; Carrie, Emily and I did an hour-long Webinar on Alternative Search Engines. Carrie kept up with teaching her intensive summer class. Shari worked on selecting one more panelist to cover the "cloud" aspects of collaboration and tested the streaming with Tulio. Emily and I picked up the work in the Sloan Consortium Workshop we three are coordinating.

We had just a few minutes of a shortened lunch which we shared, somewhat sadly, with our good friend Harry Berman, Chancellor. Harry has been a champion for our online learning efforts. He and I arrived on campus as young faculty members in 1977. Harry will retire next week after a highly productive and supportive tenure of 34 years. So, it was a fifteen-minute lunch with an unspoken sadness that he will leave, but also a few laughs about Mac vs. PC and praises for the new iPad 2.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

By Way of Introduction

Hi! I am Ray Schroeder, the convener of the "Online Learning Today... and Tomorrow" eduMOOC (massive open online course). Click on the title of this posting or here to visit the home site of the MOOC

I hope to use this blog to chronicle the development and progress of the MOOC as well as to share some thoughts about the weekly sessions as we move through the summer.

Briefly, about me - I am a professor emeritus and director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS). I began my academic teaching career as an Instructor on our Urbana-Champaign campus in the 1971-72 academic year. Forty years later, I continue to each each semester. I publish a number of blogs - with a minimum of a dozen postings daily for the past decade. I also carry half a dozen Twitter personae as I tweet on a variety of topics in higher education and for the University Professional and Continuing Education Association. I am most proud to have received the inaugural Frank Mayadas Leadership Award from the Sloan Consortium where I am an inaugural Sloan-C Fellow. My home page includes scores of free and open resources from speeches, presentations, etc. that I have made over the past few years. There's even a link to a commencement address from back in 1984 - looking toward the "coming information age."

In May 2011, I was invited to present a keynote on the topic of "The Open Future of Higher Education" at the e-Cornucopia Conference at Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Michigan. This wonderful conference led by Catheryn Cheal, and the great group of people attending, prompted me to think deeply about the current state of online learning in higher education, the broader context (economic, technological, and political) in which we teach/learn, and the future.

On May 31 at a regular staff meeting, I asked our team if we would be willing to consider launching a MOOC to further investigate these topics. Some of the most intelligent, energetic, talented and insightful people on this planet are on our team at COLRS where they encourage, support, provide pedagogical perspectives, develop technological solutions and promote online teaching, learning and researchh among the faculty of UIS. The team agreed - though I think they knew better than I was willing to acknowledge, just how big an undertaking this would be, but they tolerated me nevertheless.

I wanted to be sure we finished this MOOC before the fall term began. We have about 350 online class sections each semester at UIS where 38% of our credit hours are online and more than half of our 5,000 students take at least one online class each year. The first weeks of class are a busy time for us. That meant that we had to put this project on an insanely tight schedule - put it together in three weeks, announce, launch at the beginning of the fourth week.

So, we went about identifying key trend areas where we thought change was afoot. The COLRS staff have a wide network of colleagues in online learning. We initially identified about twenty leaders in our field whom we thought would make great panelists. With the inevitable conflicts of schedule for the busy people we invited, we added a few others to fill slots. We called upon UIS faculty members associated with our unit, Distinguished Professor Karen Swan and Professor Michael Cheney to help us as moderators of sessions. And, we invited the deeply-collaborative e-learning strategist at our sister campus in Urbana-Champaign, Glenda Morgan to moderate another of the sessions.

In just three weeks after I mentioned the idea at our staff meeting, we put the framework together, arranged the panels, and announced eduMOOC to the world. Marc Parry (@marcparry) of the Chronicle of Higher Ed Wired Campus blog wrote about the MOOC and enrollments headed skyward. As I write this post, we have 1,538 registered (I had thought we would end up with one thousand fewer than that), and the number is increasing by the minute. The visionary Wayne Mackintosh, director of the OER Foundation, has been most supportive. Many at the university have been very supportive of this as well, particularly Jane Treadwell, dean of the library; Tulio Llosa, director of Educational Technology; Provsot Pardie; our long-time supporter and friend Chancellor Harry Berman; and many others.

Honestly, we are learning and adapting as we go (that is not all bad - one of our goals is to innovate, not to merely replicate what has been done before). We are making adjustments to the growing enrollments. We are documenting our efforts. We will offer the opportunity to all who participate to evaluate the experience. We will share our findings.

I hope to post often. I will share some of the behind-the-scenes work, changes and updates. I will also share my personal thoughts on many of the topics as they arise.

I plan that future posts will be shorter!

See you in the MOOC!