Five days after ending fslt13

When a MOOC comes to an end, the activity may go up. That happened to me on these five days 13.-18.6. I have tried to comprehend the expert participant role better and analyze the life around this blog. I have a need to write still once, write a last summary as far. This diagram from Google Analytics gives the pageviews during 6 weeks.

fslt13loppuThe black arrow is at the end of the course.

I had a hunch that some posts about the laws for open participation may interest my followers and now I can see it in the results. That post has got 78 referral readers and its comment page still 15 more. The time used to reading is highest here: 8 minutes is a long time :). The next post is my try to describe my expertise and the pondering about expert participants roles ( 6-7 minutes). The statistics around this blog did not interest the visitors, so why do I continue? When I am too tired to think, I begin to work like a secretary: collect some information which is easy to find.

You can see the top at the beginning, it is 9.5. (Be yourself, 150 pageviews). As an online teacher I used to use metaphorical expressions. Why I did not continue this in fslt13, I don’t know. We did not use images, only writing in the discussion forums.

The visitors to my blog on these 5 days came from the same countries as earlier, but new visitors came from USA, Australia and India (80% new), old visitors from UK and Canada (54% new). The visitors came more from referral traffic than earlier. It is easy to understand.

Farewell fslt13 – now I’ll stop writing. The Midsummer is near and Finnish people close their computers. We belong to the nature..

badgeThis beautiful badge came to my email box next day, sent by Marion Waite, 20.6. 2013. I wish I had been a better supporter . I like the badge, it is simple enough.


Expert participants in the fslt13 syllabus

When I explored the history of the department of Psychology (University of Jyväskylä, Finland) I noticed that the first professors had some voluntary assistants around them. They helped in many ways and were postgraduate students at the same time. Now we have this situation in MOOCs. In this post I take this expert participant question very practically: what was asked and what I did. I cannot describe the process from others’ point of view, only mine.

Marion’s blog says that in fslt13 the facilitators have taken an approach to maximise the role of the expert participant. They sent emails to people like me.  I felt myself flattered (to be an expert at Oxford u know 🙂 ) and so I answered yes. Expert participants were invited to help

  1. facilitate and moderate discussion forums,
  2. support other participants in learning activities and assessments and facilitate peer marking.

I had to leave the second task because I could not participate in British markings. Actually I commented some assignments which were published in blogs. By commenting outside the Moodle I could be myself 🙂 . I had problems with the first task as well. I have told in the former posts how I felt to be in a wrong place and did not want to offer direct support all the time. I would like to wait more and let the students find their ways. I could say for instance about the profile photo that they use Gravatar, and I could send a message to tutor’s forum and ask them to notice a comment in my blog. I did not facilitate the discussion on the forums or I did it only very little.

But I did something else. I have this blog and I gathered the students’ blogs in my blogroll. So it was easier to check if there was any new posts. The same could be done in the fslt13 sites > community but to use my blog was comfortable. I liked others’ posts and wrote comments. I followed Twitter #fslt13 and greeted there some students, favorited and retweeted. I joined to Diigo group which Cris Crissman built for us. I noticed how Cris tried to flip her session and I retweeted about it.

I began to model open online participation and wrote many posts about it: power law or free will or what is this diminishing of participants. I published these questions on Expert participant forum and got feedback. I scanned the numbers of Moodle participation and shared that information. I wondered why last two weeks student assignments were presented in closed small groups. Those sessions were said to be open but it was double-bind-speak. I noticed this, if I took the freedom to go in.

I suppose that this part of my blogging, modelling open participation, will be the most meaningful afterwards. Those posts will get readers from outside the course, because the questions are general.

Marion’s blog ended in these words: “There are many unanswered questions about MOOCs especially in relation to the experience of participation. We hope our expert participants will gain a better insight into running a MOOC, build new networks an opportunity to reflect on their experiences. We will be giving them support in their roles with some online orientation sessions in Blackboard Collaborate.”

I have gained a better insight into running a MOOC. I am sure about this. Thanks to Marion about following me all the time and Jenny about your interest and help, and all others who participated in this journey.

The concept expert participant is very problematic and assisting teacher is not better. How about voluntary assistant? It could begin with voluntary because it tells about the nature of our work, we were not paid for participation. Assistant has a hierarchy which I don’t like but what concept could be a proper one? Tutor and mentor have certain definitions already. Resources? How does voluntary resource sound in British ears? Ridiculous or funny or?

Expert participants in fslt13?

Open online courses are full of possibilities to learn from each other and to network. Some of us participants in fslt were invited to participate as experts, because we had a some studies and MOOC experiences already. Marion raised a hypothesis in her blog using Dave Gormier’s words:

Expertise in an open online course can mean something different than in a traditional classroom. It need not be someone who has studied in that discipline but might be highly motivated within the social network of a course.

I try to handle that question using my own experiences. What concepts may I need for my pondering? Figure 1.

Dia3Marion gave the concepts craft knowledge and MOOC experience. I added networking skills from the hypothesis. Online technology is always near. Craft knowledge are connected with professional experiences. My first insight was that I don’t know the British Higher Education an its assessment so well that I could participate in student grading. Jenny commented that I could share my experiences as a teacher educator in Finland instead.

Jenny helped me with another interpretation: there is a great amount of philosophical grounds which are totally shared. Figure2.

Dia4I had read the books of Dewey, Schön, Brookfield and many others in Finnish universities and used them in teacher education. I knew them and now I found them online.

But where was the difference between practices? I had feelings about that but could not interpret what I felt. We studied openness in academic world, open communities and open hybrid pedagogy. I follow same happening in my country and reflect them against the global development.

I felt homely when I looked and listened to this presentation of Ilene Dawn. It is published in her blog here.

Dia5Teacher and learner share knowledge, but the important concept here is atmosphere. Transformation of consciousness takes place in the intersection of these agencies. The atmosphere means to sit near, sit beside, watch over, be present as a supporter. I love the slide 13, which is a photo of the students working together. The teacher has to trust in the students, groups and teams. The students have to recognize the learning happening in themselves. It is learning to learn.

This was a moment of learning to myself. I did not feel myself comfort as a direct supporter, I have never been such. My pedagogy is to wait until the students find their own truths. I did not feel that I should help everyone who said to be on his/her first MOOC. I trusted that they will find the way. My concept of online facilitating was more passive that which was in air. It is not easy to know when help is needed, but giving too much or too fast is a wrong solution. I had felt guilty because I didn’t participate in the discussion forums, only followed them.

I began to analyse students’ motivations by reading the Arrivals lounge discussions again. I found a group of students which wanted the grades and I thought that they wanted feedback only from the teachers. I noticed that only part of the students were interested in moocing and open online sharing. I tried to find those people, but many of them had already stopped to participate in the Moodle. Later I had to check my findings: some of the graded students were very open and I learned a lot in the interaction with them. Special thanks to Ilene, Steffi, Zoe and Charlotte. You were my teachers.

My answer to the given question about the role of expert participants leaves open in this post. This is a description of my way, main findings and problems which I met in fslt13. Scott, another expert, showed me that the ways to participate may vary a lot. Scott said that he was a helper. He was very active in all forums, he commented and supported. Perhaps he was “highly motivated within the social network of fslt13? “

My blog during fslt13

This is the next day after the last session of fslt13. I have gathered information from Google Analytics in order to understand what happened in this blog, which lives its life on a border of fslt community. I wrote seven posts and received 25 comments from nine persons – five of them were new visitors. I am happy about the comments.

fslt13.My computer speaks Finnish to me, it is so polite, but you can easily guess what it says. Those were the days in May and June 2013. Total 616 visits, 325 different persons and 1392 views (2,3 pages/visit and 3:32 minutes).

The first peak is on the post  “Be yourself”, at the beginning of the course, when people were active. I received seven comments to that post. Then I was not using my computer at all 21.-27.5. – it was my grandmother week with two little boys. Another peak is at the end when I wrote many posts. “Are there any laws for open participation” got ten comments.

Here is the map which shows how visitors to this blog came from 63 different countries. Finland 245 are  mainly my own visits.

fslt13mapFrom UK and USA came the next visitors, then Canada and Australia and India.  Not big numbers of total 616 visits, visitors distributed all around the world. Many of my permanent visitors come from Asian countries and they come to read my post about Learning theories in teacher education or follow my blog with the category teacher education.

Because USA is a big country with many states inside it, I took a map about it, if someone is curious. 26 states are blue.

fslt13usaCalifornia has been the first all my blogging time and New York the second. I have learned a lot of geography by using Google Analytics and Google maps.

Most visitors came directly to the last blog post(499). The posts with hashtag fslt13 were visited in these numbers:

  1. Are there any laws about open participation 74 – ten comments
  2. Be yourself  64 (most people came direct to the blog) – seven comments
  3. Open education or opening minds 24 – no comments
  4. Looking forwards to fslt13 20 – two comments
  5. trying to define my expertise 20 – four comments.

Some information about the sources which reference comers used:

fslt13sour254% came via references, 26% came by search and 20% came directly

The most usual sources were Twitter, where I told about blogging,and my new home on the internet. Then the course sites (blog list) and the Moodle. Facebook was not my usual place to tell about this course, neither my Finnish blog. Google is one of the best sources to find whatever.

Now I have been very transparent and shared this information to all participants. What could we learn from this?

I had a blogroll with other blogs and only Ilene, Steffi, Niki and Zoe have continues to the end of the course. I will take away others with 1-2 posts (7  people).

The course is ended but learning in our minds continues. My next post will handle with the different expert roles on open studies but I have to sleep first 🙂


Old and new steps into digital life

Some discussion in the fslt13 course has aroused memories in my mind. I want to check my writings at the beginning of my online teaching. I used to write in Finnish, of course, so I try to translate some thoughts and figures now. I was one of the first teacher educators who became interested in online teaching. We got the first learning platform in the year 2000. I began my blog in 2007 and published these figures in it.

onlineteachI had worked the last 1990’ies in teacher education with up-to-date pedagogy. We had adult students from all professions and we supported them individually. The student built their becoming way to work as a teacher = their theory-in-use. We had flipped the classroom already.

With this pedagogical awareness it was clear to use the same pedagogy  in online teaching as well and it was easy. The energy went to learning how to use the first learning platform, it was a big change. I have written in my figure that it took one year to use the first one, and the change to the following learning platform took another. All the technologies must be integrated to the ‘theory-in-use’ and it took over three years. The aim was to build continuous development as online teachers in teacher education – this change of culture takes ten years or more and sometimes it never happens. What is needed to implement this vision, it was the topic of my second figure.

passionYou must be interested in, to have passion to teach online. It was so demanding at the beginning that it was much easier to stop and say that it is not working, students don’t want it, we have no time for so many technological problems. Attitudes changed very slowly and I can still meet all those old prejudices against online teaching.

The most important source of learning to work online is in the action, you have to teach and facilitate online in order to learn from practice. You may get support from literature, research and theories but you cannot assess their value and practicability without acting yourself.

Networks developed from year to year when online teaching became more usual and popular. OnLine Educa Berlin is an important international conference to meet colleagues abroad, a short flight from Helsinki,  and we have our Finnish meetings in Aulanko. Many online networks are available every day. The first began in 2007 – before that there were some communities for nerds only, I think.

When I compare these writings in the situation just now, I feel that the development has become faster and it is normal to work by implementing many changes simultaneously. New devices come and go, you try them and leave them. You need networks to learn from others’ experiences. Technologies have become easier to use and follow at the same time when teachers have got better digital literacies. Attitudes have changed so that online teaching is wanted and appreciated because many people have positive experiences about it.

During our fslt course we have had presentations from Jenny Mackness and Sylvia Currie. Jenny’s theme is open academic practice and Sylvia’s theme is building open communities. I can see an analogy from my description of online teaching, how it has developed, and these new areas of opening. Technology has a central role in these new digital openings. Jenny uses the dimension of limited vs extensive use of digital technologies combined to open digital academic vs. closed and lone academic. Read her blog for better descriptions (I am tired in this phase of writing English 🙂 ).

Sylvia’s pondering about building open communities touched my mind too. She asked if the organizational side of development has taken too much time from the intellectual and social sides. Jenny has a good post with links about Sylvia’s presentation.

Who are the best facilitators in all this development? The answer is not the experts who have forgotten the past difficulties. The best facilitators may be the co-learners who have just learned the thing, just succeeded to solve the problem. The experts may tell about their experiences but they may answer to a wrong question, change the question so that it is more interesting. Now I have a feeling that this all is pretty obvious but I hope that I learned something while writing this 🙂


The funnel of open participation

I want to continue with the theme open participation. I read the slideshare of Doug Clow and want to show one of his slides :

dougclowThe registration is the first step to participate, you can be a lurker without it. The activity finds many ways and the funnel becomes narrower from week to week. Those who are active, develop and progress.

This is not a power law, claims Clow. This is a usual story anyway: steep drop off from one stage to the next. Highly unequal participation pattern can be recognized.

Clow says that we should think less about total dropout and more about why participation reduces at each stage and try to find the patterns of participation. It is possible to widen the funnel if …. what?

I found my old blog post from Nov 23th 2010: Designing for commitment in online communities. There are many good ideas for helping newbies and working with co-learners. Kraut has found two basic ways of commitment: identity-based and bond-based. The first is deep and long lasting motivation, bond-based means social bonds, which last short or longer times.

I did a rough sketch of the activity on Moodle forums of fslt13. This seems to tell the same story which is known from open courses.

viewsThe Arrival Lounge, where everyone tells about her/himself, it has most views. It is a place where you have to return if you want to check the background of a certain participant.

  1. From week 0 I used both reflective statement and supporting learning – discussion, it is the sum.
  2. Week 1 = views about reflective practice discussion
  3. Week 2= teaching groups discussion
  4. Week 3= lecturing discussion.

These numbers are only part of all activity. It would be better to summarize all doings during the week, but I cannot get those numbers directly. The administrators offer better diagrams, this is a rough sketch as I said.

There is activity, thousands views of 149 participants. Participation reduces at each stage, but it turns to the assignments which cannot be seen in this diagram. I leave that part without comments, I have been lazy myself and followed lightly what others do. It is not the best way as Eloise said in a discussion in Twitter #fslt13:

“I feel I’m missing a dimension of #fslt13 bc I’m not doing the assignments – getting a lot out of discussions + webinars.”

If we want to measure or assess the effectiveness of open courses, a proper question could be: Do they ever come to the end? Many of my open courses are still going on and the learning platforms are open. Discussions continue in Facebook Groups, Diigo groups or Twitterchat happenings. Isn’t this a real effectiveness? Drop out numbers seem to be high during courses but new people are coming in afterwards. What is this? Building a global learning community?

Did I say something new? Not sure but I had a need to write this out 🙂

Are there any laws for open participation?

Now I am writing about a topic which I hardly understand myself. Let’s begin with a story. When the course CCK08 was ending and I told in Finland that 20 students were commenting at the end of the course, I got a quick comment from a network expert: it is the 1-9-90 principle. I did not believe any principles, I thought it was a coincidence (2000 registered, 200 active, 2o at the end commenting and 2 stars). After that I have found that principle many times. What should I understand about it?

I have tried to understand the different ways, which participants use in their web life. Digital natives are born to it, immigrants have to learn (Prensky/never liked this ). Digital residents live and have social connections in the web, visitors use the web for certain purposes (David White/liked very much). There are more definitions and I have a blog post about lurkers, networkers, active participants etc. here

All those concepts tell something about living and participation in the web. But is it really so, that the Pareto law (1-9-90) , Power law knows the distribution about free and open web life, for instance MOOCs? I have an image which demonstrates my ideas.


My experiences have proved that the number of active people is always very small and the participation curve goes down very fast.

It is said to be ‘not scalable’ and it is the opposite of random, which gives us the Gauss bell form. ‘Not scalable’ is more random than random?

Today I met this phenomenon in fslt13, when I tried to analyze the actions of students and facilitators in the Moodle.

When I discussed with a Finnish expert Erkka Peitso (the image is based on his presentation), he explained that it is the resources which are limited. People do not have time and other resources for all the interests, which they dream of. This seems to be true in MOOCs. It can be described as a tunnel which becomes narrower all the time. Doug Clow has a blog post about this funnel. It is a presentation from LAK13 – I have to take time to read them all.

Another image which can help to understand is taken in Change11, Howard Rheingold speaking in a collaborate session.

rheingoldHe knows what he is speaking about. The concepts of collaborative or collective intelligence are challenging, but the participation curve takes the form of the power law. High engagement with a community is rare. There is Core and Periphery, I can’t help 🙂

When we have a course with participants who aim to the university credits and only a small number of free moocers, the core group consists of teachers and these ‘real’  students. Time will tell. We have some weeks left in fslt13. Actually Doug Clow claims that “it is not power law”. We should explore the process and don’t believe in simple laws. As I said, I don’t know what to think about this post.

We have an interesting experiment about using expert participants, exploring what we can do… are we helpful or more harmful?


Open education or opening minds?

What is the quality of learning on online open courses, can it be defined or described or understood? This question has been in my mind many years or always. When I try to understand my ongoing open course, fslt13, I simultaneously try to catch learning. During my former MOOC, E-learning and digital cultures, we got an address to Gardner Campbell’s lecture. I blogged about it Feb 8th this year with a heading Learning from the future as it emerges. I was critical in my writing, but now I listened Campbell again and received his message better than three months ago (so I am learning!)

I copy here the recommendation on the former course edcmooc (I cannot write complicated English like this, please enjoy):

Campbell draws on Bateson’s ‘orders of learning’ to explore what open education is, and is not, doing, and what it might do. Using Bateson’s metaphor of the double bind to describe the situation many students (and teachers) find themselves in, Campbell urges that we attempt to make space for double takes, and for what he calls ‘opening education’, which ‘has to provide hospitality, a feeling of home, not so confusion is reduced but so confusion is strengthened’. This lecture is important because it addresses learning as a difficult problem – perhaps the difficult problem – and not as a natural consequence of free access to information.

As a contrast with the other educational perspectives, it serves as a warning that what we really want – our utopia – is not necessarily to be found in the structures we are putting in place (or finding ourselves within). As we move on to talk about how digital culture and digital education might ask us to reconsider the meaning of ‘the human’, let’s leave this week with a big question for pondering: what does ‘opening education’ mean for you?

Campbell, Gardner (2012). Ecologies of Yearning. Keynote at Open Ed ’12, October 16, 2012, Vancouver BC. (63:19)

The lecture is 63 minutes and I think it is better to go to YouTube to listen if you want to take the time. Campbell asks many questions about open education which are worth of pondering. Learning can be on level zero: simple response, or level one: correction of errors, conditioned reflexes (stimulus-response). Level two means learning to learn and context recognition and then the context becomes a trap. Level three means meta-contextual perspectives, not just adaptation but own choices, to become human. This is a challenge: how to see more than usual contexts. Don’t fake the double take, Campbell says. He yearns for opening minds, I think, open education (as MOOCs) as such is not enough, it can have the same content and ways to study, without any deep changes.

Opening needs feeling of home and moments of choosing. We shall not cease from exploration. Hunger for new learning and a little love combined is the ideal which is hard to reach. Perhaps we have much of this quality in fslt13? I remember how George Roberts blogged about fslt and how Marion Waite follows  participants in fslt13 and organizes different ways to support. Many excellent participants do their best and we are learning. But anyways: We see things as we are, not as things are. What does this mean in my thinking, or yours? I have been pondering same questions on 1970’ties and still do. Waste of time or what may be this  back to basics dreaming?

Trying to define my expertise in fslt13

I was very eager to begin my participation in fslt13 week 0. I wrote two blog posts and commented on some forums. I enjoyed the first sessions. Then came a pause: I began to think about my expertise. What could I give in order to help or support my co-learners?

It was easier to recognize what I cannot offer: I do not know the British universities and their assessments or grades. Most of our expert participants live in UK, Oxford, London etc. They know these practices, so I may leave this side to them. I also recognized the difference between fslt13 and my way to act as an online teacher. I did not use any strict schedules or small groups. I gave the freedom to participate when the students wanted, when the time was suitable for them. I even gave the freedom to select their topics. Some people did their assignments at the beginning of their studies, some at the end. Every assignment was very personal and I did not care about the style or correctness of their texts. The diversity was great and I used to be a flexible 24/7 teacher. I cannot wait that this is the case in fslt13, this course is more normal or usual: topic of the week is clear and there are deadlines.

I have to find my expertise on a general level. I have participated so many different MOOCs that I know the process. My former blog posts based on my former experiences. I know that some chaos, uncertainty and disorientation belong to the orientation phase of MOOCs. But I began to ask myself on week 1 that who wants this knowledge of mine? I read again the arrival lounge discussions and found many different expectations.

One group of students aimed to learn to teach better, new skills and techniques. Some wanted to learn more from higher education and enhance their competitiveness. – I used to work in teacher education but teaching is contextualized and depends on the culture. So I am not sure how I could help these people in their career building.

Another group of students wants to learn more about online learning or about MOOCs and the technologies used in them. Here I recognized many questions which I was interested in myself: the engagement, cultural effects, teaching philosophy and style. Some students told that this is their first MOOC and they want to live it through . That got me to think that what makes a MOOC? Is it the openness and the freedom to choose the tools? This fslt can be performed by following guides and deadlines and working alone just like whatever university course, is this?

The diversity of expectations and very heterogeneous students are considered as a richness in open online courses. I have a hunch that this is true in fslt13 and our students will learn quite different skills and knowledge depending on their different orientations.

We have many experienced moocers which already know online learning very well. Our list of expert participants could be much longer than it is (about 22 of 133 = registered in Moodle today). But it is not important how our roles are defined. I believe that this experimentation to use expert participants, as described in this blog of MazWaite, this will produce us some new knowledge. This is a post about my process of losing my expertise and redefining it in this context. I had to define what I am not to understand what I am. Sometimes I wish I were more simple (simpler does not sound right, I am not sure..)

Now I am going to follow Icehockey, Finland against Sweden, our favorite enemy.

Be yourself!

The beginning of MOOC is always the same: what to read, what to do, how to participate? I have lived through about ten moocs, but these feelings of disorientation  don’t leave me. That’s why I was very happy to find this image in Facebook today:

There are pages of Global Shapers. You may like the pages and find more good advices.Thanks for the image.

BE YOURSELF  is something that is good to find again and again. It is simple and not simple at the same time. Just calm down and be yourself. It is enough. And actually you cannot be anything else. Everyone else is already taken 🙂

We have 80 active participants in our fslt13 Moodle today, our second day and the number will rise up. It means that we have great amount of different expertise and interesting people. They live mostly in UK but also in Canada, Ireland, USA, Spain, Honkong, NZ, Australia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Portugal.

What can I say to myself just now? Relax and enjoy, calm down and forget wrong expectations. Wrong  means (when I speak to myself) that do not wait to behave perfectly and help everyone in the best ways. Just find something to do, so you don’t concentrate on yourself. Be yourself and act, do something that you really want to do. Do not pretend anything.

I have worked as an online teacher many years and found my way. Perhaps it depends on my personality but I don’t like exact advices (to say some words to everyone, no). You must behave authentically and be yourself (again!) Adult students can take care of themselves and each other, they take responsibility of their learning. So let them do it. Now I feel relaxed and return to the Moodle forums.

It is raining in Finland and nice to sit inside with my computer. See you! Remember the meeting at 16. a’clock BST.