Notes from Heads of E-Learning Forum (HeLF) University of Birmingham: Summary 19th February, 2014

Heads of E-Learning Forum University of Birmingham: Summary 19th February, 2014

I have been to Birmingham a before but that was the only aspect of my trip that was familiar. I was presented with a lot of new experiences.  It was my first visit to the lovely, sprawling Edgbaston campus. It was my first time attending the Heads of e Learning Forum led by Neil Ringan (MMU), and it was also my first time hearing about the new VLE on the block: Canvas. It will be interesting to follow their progress with this tool. Closer to home, this is also the first time I've mentioned the MOOC word on this blog! Below are some rough notes from a friendly, informative and incredibly valuable event. 

Slides from the day can be found on the HELF website 
Twitter search #HELFUK

Keynote 1: Why universities are investing in MOOCs?
Speaker:  Hugh Davis, Professor of Learning Technologies and 
University Director of Education, University of Southampton


General discussion around the Avalanche report, and the concept of universities Napster moment, as well as critical analysis of MOOC pedagogies (e.g: lack of a conversational framework).

Key points

Clicks not bricks not wholly accurate – clicks and bricks
Content is free - Does this suggest OER is mainstream?
Argues that certification and interaction with MOOCs has an impact for employers. MOOCs and badges as evidence on CVs and LinkedIn profiles.
Disruptive to traditional modes of education – challenge is to grasp the opportunity
MOOCS in campus based learning seen as key
MOOCs as a subset of an existing course – dual role of the content and delivery
o Benefits of this are that we develop awareness and capacity to develop high quality on-line courses.
o Benefits of creating resources are that they can be reused in different settings – flipped model, MOOCs or in class.
Georgia Institute of Technology - online degree of computer science at low cost in contrast to campus based version. 

The MOOCs 

Traditional ‘edutainment’ courses as MOOCs -Web Science – How the web is changing the world  and Oceanography course 
4 week courses better completion rate.
20% drop out
Questions around whether completion is the correct measure of success (HEA project)
Academic time ‘freely’ given. Significant costs around legal issues
Questions around the support students need to complete a MOOC

Is this the end of the campus? Not according to VC Professor Don Nutbeam “I don’t think so! Challenge is to optimise the campus experience by embracing the digital movement, and freeing up the timetable to allow for higher quality contact time”

Neil Morris 
Professor of Educational Technology, Innovation and Change
University of Leeds


Leeds did not have any significant distance learning going on until the signed up with Futurelearn. The move into MOOC’s was supported by the previous year having an institutional policy on OER. This helped pave the way to creating open courses but also what they describe as a digital learning channel.  The channel contains both open and closed routes but is presented as part of a whole, digital presence for the university. Blackboard and library journals closed, while their Futurelearn, YouTube, Jorum, iTunesU spaces are open.

Key points:

Major backing from VC and provision of financial support helped 
Multidisciplinary team set up for two year to create and embed open courses – includes LT, graphic designer & cameraman
Academic staff explicitly informed of the level of work & engagement required
Rigorous process for selecting and approving MOOCs – 6 month timeline. 
Governance the most demanding aspect.
Academic involvement is paid for by the faculty

The MOOCs 

Decision to make MOOCs short: none over 4 weeks long
Focus on quality not quantity – only two ready so far.
Emphasis on Digital literacy skills of participants. Lots of orientation and preparation.
Aspiration to be more constructivist – Adobe connect used for small group activities
Academic live on the platform 1 hour per evening over the duration of the course


5k on course - right size for them as more could have caused issues
Retention slightly different - staircase drop 
48% retention figures – statement of completion certificates issued
Under 18s not on these platforms
Overall positive feedback for the course and it was above the average for a FutureLearn course
Students rated the orientation material very highly.

The MOOC experiment: An Academic's view
Speaker:  Dr Momna Hejmadi, Senior Teaching Fellow, 
University of Bath


This is the academics perspective on getting your course ready to go MOOC and unlike the previous presentation this was a useful account of how to deliver a MOOC with limited resources and on a tight timescale.

Key Points

Community creation – always a section of participants who were very engaged and ‘helped’ with the content
Provided new ideas, stimulus and international perspectives on the subject for the team
Very positive comments overall and no negative responses. 
Engaged learners unlike in class
Having a dedicated team helped. 
Self-selecting group willing to experiment in the MOOC opportunity – not part of the workload allocation model
Staff keen to create content suitable for flipping as well as MOOC ready. Shock at level of work involved
Careful team selection – mix of skills and academic expertise. Video production skills – (9 in total)
PHD students used a reviewers and moderators


Inside cancer: how genes influence cancer development
6 week model
xMOOC approach adopted- targeted at anyone with an interest 
Marketing involved to make the title ‘snappy’
Create Adapt and Review - developed in 3 months for a selected launch date in January (non-negotiable date)
Activities included test, discussions, reflection and active role play
7847 enrolled
More than half had a degree. 
Some were from professional fields
Backed up with live face to face session. 
Podcast of live sessions and summary sessions. 


Time taken to create and/or re-purpose it for online deliver
Article access – many core journals behind paywall
Copyright materials-  not all OER
Would like to increase face to face engagement

Keynote 4: Exploring Educational Boundaries
Speakers:  Mark Wetton, Head of Learning Services and 
Amy Woodgate, Project Coordinator, 
University of Edinburgh


University of Edinburgh have led the way in the MOOCs in the UK. Initially, this was only in partnership with Coursera, however, they are now exploring delivery via Futurelearn also. Many of the courses they offer are no in their second/third iteration. They have released a report summarising the experience of their first 6 courses. 

Key points

Quality Assurance (QA) rigorous but flexible – MOOCs not credit bearing yet, but could be with little tweaking
QA creates a sense of community - Constant dialogue and training 
Moving to MOOCs is massive – dedicated teams to help but admission that it is intimidating even for enthusiasts
Everybody involved is learning and gaining skills to support and deliver online– a community of 130+ within the institution
Broader understanding and engagement of OER across the institution
Building up a skills base within academic and support teams – now part of the workload allocation model.
MOOCs feed into the mainstream teaching – content used in face to face flipped models


34k completed certificates have been achieved by participants
Reputation of individuals involved enhanced – research, journals, books are considered visible signs of success. 
Opportunities increased as people from around the world are interested in this research
Recognition that they won’t make money…building the brand in lifelong learning and targeting alumni.
No plans to monetise their MOOCs at this time


The maturing of the MOOC report
MOOC Moocher Blog