What is Leadership? – Seth Godin’s workshop

I have signed up for Seth Godin’s Leadership workshop.  A Mooc with Udemy.  It’s actually more of an online course for lots of people. It wasn’t free, it was £13 (special offer, 83% discount) so I thought I’d give it a go.

So each week I should be completing my leadership notebook, this week I have some question prompts to complete which I share on my blog.  All good fun, and hopefully I’ll learn something along the way.

An example of someone I respect leading

Miles voting for the first time, for himself!
Miles voting for the first time – for himself!

My son is now 21 and since he was 18 he has been encouraging and leading people to vote in local and national elections. He is a natural organiser and has been working tirelessly for the Green Party to encourage others to vote and to rally around and offer support. I was amazed that he was confident and willing to speak to the general public and he has inspired others his own age to stand for election and take an interest in local politics.

How I choose to lead

I am always looking at new and hopefully innovative and useful ways for engaging with technology enhanced learning. One of the ways that I have shown leadership is leading by example.  I am inspired by exploring and trying new ideas that I have read about or have experienced through talking to people or working with some amazing individuals, both students and staff.  In terms of the difference between managing and leading, for me its more exciting to be leading a new initiative, although I do find encouraging and working with my iChamps great fun too.  the difference is level of involvement and how much I can inspire while at the same time taking people forward.

Is leadership a choice? 

Is leadership a choice? er, yes.  Why would you not want to lead something as opposed to managing someone elses ideas initiatives?  Believing in the your work is a requirement to get anything to happen and why should anyone follow you if they don’t think that you can do it yourself? I hope I practice what I preach.

What change do I hope to make? 

In terms of what changes I am trying to make,  in terms of technology enhanced education, I am all about change for the better.  Taking forward ideas that doing the same things the same way as we have always done isn’t necessarily the right thing to do.  The world has moved on and HE seems to be the last bastion of resistance to changing practice. Opening up ideas and minds to the potential that we can teach and learn differently using technology and developing digital literacies skills to be more effective and efficient is what I am trying to do at Southampton.

Image: Photo by pedrosimoes7 – Creative Commons Attribution License  https://www.flickr.com/photos/46944516@N00



Takeaways of a techy kind from #ALTc

I’ve just come back from ALTc – a learning technology focussed conference, three days at Warwick University.  I wanted to record some of of it before I get consumed by the day job.

1.  I noticed that there seemed to be less about the technology in particular and more about the human interactions with it.  A number of sessions mentioned its all about the people for example.  Of course I would say that being a very people orientated person but Bryan Mathers mentioned it in his talk and it goes without saying that education technology systems are a waste of time if people don’t use them.

2.  Digital literacies – yet again, underlying theme for everything we do.  I noticed that there were many sessions mentioning online skills.  The wonderful project with Leicester Council (Josie Fraser and Lucy Atkins) which is a lovely example of collaborating with external organisations to develop skills.  They are sharing all their project outputs and I think that there will (or should be) many more intiatives like this to extend skills.   There were other sessions as well, that were not specifically about digital literacies skills but essentially that’s what they were talking about.  Spread the word.

3. Online learning is mainstream.  It’s not going anywhere and can only flourish (see point 2) MOOCs have played their part in attracting those who may not have necessarily been interested in doing anything online (purely because senior leadership teams weren’t interested) so if nothing else.  MOOCs have opened the door.

4.  People – so many people I know ‘online’ and I got to meet them face to face.  Thats the cool bit.  Yes, I am all over social media, but I stiil want to see and hear from people in the flesh. Jeff Haywood (I always like hearing about Edinburgh), Catherine Cronin (really interesting, all open and getting people to embrace the world at their fingertips) and Audrey Watters.  She has tatoos.  Lot’s of tatoos.  And some of them are techy tatoos which did distract me a bit.  But she was funny, engaging and had something to say about the use of the web and how it shapes our thinking.  Really fun and interesting which wasn’t a disappointment at all.

Next years conference is going to be all about ‘Shaping the future together’ at Manchester 8th – 10th September.  I hope it will be as much fun as this years, the ALT members are a blast and I hope to see as many of my online and offline friends as possible.


Riding Waves at ALTc 2014

It’s all very exciting – next week is the annual Association of Learning Technology Conference. I really wish I could bring the iChamps along as they’d be wowed by all I the innovation that takes place, but alas, funds are not available. I’ll do my best to bring back the expertise and hopefully I’ll be inspired by some of the ideas and activities that will be on show.

ALTc is also a wonderful way to get in touch with all the virtual colleagues so I’m hoping to meet up with as many a possible.

Part of my time will be spent on my talk about the MOOC SIG of which I’m chair and there is also a SIG meeting later on, so I’ve definitely got my work cut out for me.

Details of the conference are available along with live streaming (yikes) #altc2014 (I’ve also seen #altc but I don’t think that publicised)

See you there if you’re going, stop by and say hello! Conference programme

Measures of quality

I spent a day in London this week at the British Academy Offices of the Quality Assurance Association (QAA). I was invited to attend as our University is part of the Futurelearn consortium and they wanted to bring the partners together with their QA people to discuss how involved or what place the QAA has/should have with monitoring quality of the courses that are on offer. There were representatives of about 10 of the partners, including Leeds, Cardiff, Exeter and Edinburgh. Mark Lester (Futurelearn) was our Chair and it was a nice informal (and open) discussion with Stephen Jackson of the QAA.

There were three questions that were put to us:

1. As corporates and others consider entering HE territory with their own MOOCs, is academic credit the key differentiator of MOOCs for the HE sector?
2. Given criticism of the varied quality of MOOCs, is their a role for any agency in helping to make the quality of MOOCs second to none?
3. How should one measure or evaluate the quality of a MOOC?

This was an interesting meeting for me because I haven’t been involved in many Futurelearn meetings (no time!) but I’ve kept my eyes on what’s been happening at my own institution and at others. I’ve watched the development of MOOCs from the sidelines and have noted various degrees of quality assurance processes being applied usually in accordance with current in house procedures. Which has worked fine and the results have been pretty good. This is only natural, as you would apply what you know. I had it in my head that maybe, just maybe we need to be thinking differently. I don’t have all the answers but I’m not sure using models of design and therefore QA created for a different time and system and squeezing then to fit, may not be the best approach.

What was also interesting for me was the conversations that purely focused on Futurelearn. I know it was a Futurelearn meeting and many of my colleagues are involved in the development of courses using their platform. However, the QAA were concerned with ALL UK MOOCs, not just those via a platform provider.

Being concerned with digital literacies, and the development of innovative and engaging learning, I see that MOOCs, in all their guises (cMOOC or otherwise) could be an effective tool for creating a wonderful, rich learning environment for many on campus students. I also know that in the UK we are very lucky and admired for, our quality of education provision, so the role of the QAA as a vehicle for quality enhancement and consistency is where I hope we can be headed.

Stephen Jackson mentioned that the QAA were going to develop their own MOOC with a set of toolkit like resources to offer guidance. I hope this works. That seems to be the best approach, ‘the guide on the side’.

One last comment, I felt that the last question on measures was a bit ‘old news’. One of the first articles I ever read about the MOOCs in the US was about how the learners provided the measures for success of MOOCs. The market via the tools at their disposal would speak, publicly, about successes and failures. Institutions wouldn’t have the control that they have over survey data, the learners would speak for themselves. Losing control is not comfortable for many institutions, but if you put yourself out there, be prepared for the fallout. Good or bad, we are always encouraging feedback from our students. It’s time we practice what we preached.

MOOCing in the name of

In the back of my mind, every time I think about MOOCs, both within my institution or because of the articles I have been adding to my resources on Scoop.it, I’m constantly drawn to the issue of  QA.  How does a Faculty/Institution, know who is offering a MOOC in their name?  And by what process or measure can we assure the quality of that MOOC in line with the campus based offer?  Annoying as this may be, I think these are questions that we need to consider if offering a course, by whatever means, to whomever.  Its just a matter of quality and, in turn, reputation.

The second part of my week was spent at the CRA Residential, which I will probably blog about via the CITE website.  However, I thought that I would add here a question that cropped up during the two days I was there.  On Friday there was a talk from the QAA about how they recognise the awards that are given to students as part of the co-curricular activity that they may get involved in.  Things like a Vice Chancellors award, a Employability Award etc.  Now, these are not credit bearing but they said that they were interested because of the impact on the student experience.

My question, was “If these non credit bearing awards are of interest to the QAA, why not MOOCs?”   I did go and speak to them afterwards to ask them and they said that as long as a MOOC was not offering credit, although they do represent UK Higher Education, they wouldn’t be interested in particular (other than the reputation part) however, I then asked what about blended learning and MOOCs?  What if, you took a MOOC (from Coursera for example) and then asked your on campus students to enrol? This has happened to many in the US already.   My research has led me to Doug Fisher, who spoke at the ALT conference in November.  He has just written a paper about ‘Wrapping’ the MOOC around his course.  He was not alone.  There are at least three others within my research that took a similar approach.   In the US, their programmes are different, QA is not the same.  But in the UK, if you offer a course that leads to an award for that institution, then all of it, no matter where the course is from, would be of interest to the QAA.

Blended learning and MOOCs are what I see as a huge benefit of MOOCs.  So when preparing a MOOC in the UK, the advice would be to ensure that you follow traditional processes for approval of modules, then at the very least, there won’t be any nasty surprises should the QAA come a knocking’.