Haunted by the word… Innovation

Let’s be clear I love innovation. Innovation is great but as a word and concept, it’s turning into one of those words that is haunting me.

It’s like when you hear a song you haven’t heard in ages and then it’s everywhere. Or you learn a new word and then you hear it said multiple times a day.

Innovation may not be a new word to me or catchy tune but, it is everywhere.

Everything product and new process is ‘innovative’, people’s taglines promise us they are ‘innovators’. Toothpaste is innovative, the latest dishwasher is promising to blow me away with its innovative design. For a job you have to be an innovator and you’ll get it in your title too, Chief Innovation Officer, Innovation Engineer, Innovative Implementation Manager.

And it’s not to say any of those things aren’t true or valuable but, how can this word be so omnipresent in a world were we keep seeing the same old, same old?

My thought is innovation is in its peak of being a hot buzzword. It’ used to be ‘the word genius is bounded around too easily but…’

Whilst doing some research for a previous assignment for my module H817 Openness and Innovation in E-Learning (yep, I’m doing an actual Masters module with the word Innovation in it), I was looking up innovation in e-learning. I came across an article of ‘3 Innovative Things to Do in Your E-learning’. One of them was to include a clickable next button your e-learning slide. Mmmm. When innovative meets clickbait.

Innovation, like perception, depends on your vantage point in the first instance but as a word, a descriptor, an enticing click me title…we need to, as we should with all information, always ensure we are digging that bit deeper, we are thinking critically, we are checking all the vantage points.

And it’s equally important we use the word innovation with thought, thought of our own vantage point, the vantage points of our audience and we frame that innovation within its context.

What may be innovative to us, may not be to another and vice verse. Exploring those differences can be beneficial to both parties but it becomes a lot harder to have those conversations and sift out the golden nuggets if we are deafened by white noise of the term being overused.

Let’s not make innovation a throw away word, one we slip in just to give something some extra ‘pow’ or to gilt our offerings when we know we’ve actually just rearranged the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Learning Analytics: Are You Motivated?

My current block in the H817 Openness and Innovation in E-Learning is on learning analytics and word up, after my operation I am super behind on my readings and studies but, I did want to share a few thoughts here.

Firstly, just the term learning analytics makes me shuffle in my chair uncomfortable. I think this is a fear that I can going to be drowned in data. That data savvy and intense number people are going to bury me in terminology and programs that make my headache, and make me feel like a bit of an idiot. I think this comes from something many of us may have experienced in the past, the lost in translation discussions that happen between different groups in companies or institutions. Ask a learning designer to describe a fruit bowl and then get a data analysis to describe the same thing, you will get two very different viewpoints. So analytics probably scare me a bit – not the information itself but the extraction and delivery of that information.

Learning analytics is already in action but it is still in it’s infancy, we are seeing the tip of a possibly very large iceberg. LA will inform educators, learning, and administrators. Yet are we using them effectively? How many times do we still hear of the analytics being presented not going beyond bums on seats? Or here’s a pass rate for an assessment and here endeth the story?

Summed Up Beautifully – Data Isn’t In a Vacuum

We have the ability to collect simple data so often, even before the scary analysis experts step in, yet we don’t. Why is that? Because we don’t have the time, the confidence, we know the stakeholders don’t or won’t want to hear it, all of the above? How many of us will hold our hands up and be honest, sometimes we don’t follow the learning analytics because we have a gut feeling, a gut feeling we have grown to trust and has often served us well. Let’s be honest again, how many times do some of us say “hey the learning analytics are only going to tell us what we (I) already know, we’ll get them but just as ‘proof'”

Ahern (2019) discusses the use of data in in her blog post Compassionate Pedagogy in Practice and notes the need for motivation amongst educators to implement learning design changes based on learner data.

“…data can be collated for different purposes; automated actions (e.g. email triggers) or as data for humans (e.g. tutors or students themselves) to interpret…However, this does not mean that actionable insights will necessarily be drawn or that action will take place. Motivation is required at institutional and practitioner level to make meaningful use of the data, returning us back to our notion of compassionate pedagogy and a motivation to criticize institutional and classroom practices for the benefit of students.” Ahern (2019)

Ed Foster’s blog Living Learning Analytics Blog is a great blog to review on all things Learning Analytical and Higher Education. As he says in his About Me section ” I am not a data scientist or statistician, but a humanities graduate who has worked in an education setting. My role is not about fixing algorithms, but asking questions about how people can best use the technology to support student success.” I feel this is very reflective of many who work in education, training, learning and development whether in educational institutions, corporate or public sector training.


Ahern, S. (2019). Compassionate Pedagogy in Practice. [Blog] Digital Education Team Blog – UCL. Available at: https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/digital-education/category/learning-analytics/ [Accessed 30 Jul. 2019].

Foster, E. (2019). [Blog] Living Learning Analytics Blog. Available at: https://livinglearninganalytics.blog/ [Accessed 30 Jul. 2019].

Monday Meme – July 22nd 2019. The Future of Education

Some of you may have seen in the news recently that publisher Pearson is going to phase out print books and go digital first.

This came as little shock to me, and I’m sure many others interested in EdTech, but do not, I repeat, DO NOT, venture into any social media threads on this news article as you will not come out alive. For many people this is a step too far and at some point in the discussions it will turn to ‘bring back the cane’ I assure you!

Portfolio Piece – Vyond Animation Video

I have added another piece to my portfolio, an animation video piece I created using Vyond.

Screenshot of my Vyond created animation

I wanted to create a fun and short video introduction to myself. I like the ‘cartoony’ animation style of Vyond and hoped to reflect my own personality into what can other wise me a boring ‘this is what I do’ list.

Vyond is an online animation video creation and editing tool, full of templates, characters, and scenarios. It is very instinctive to use, and with the editing features you can deviate from the templates to give projects your own look and feel. I think animation are particularly engaging in creating learning content for scenarios or interactions, often more comfortable to watch and digest than real-life video, especially for certain scenarios. The cartoon feel lets you push things a little more that my come across stilted in a real life set, and make difficult or embarrassing subjects a little more approachable in my opinion.

I like how narration can be added and synced to the characters, which themselves can be edited, hence we see a more accurate representation of me and my love of cake and black clothing, than a run of the mill stock character! Though for clarification if you do meet me in the flesh my hair is now currently a very sensible brown!

The downside of the narration is, even with a good internet connection, I found uploading and editing it lags and can be frustratingly slow and unstable, often needing me to log out and back in again. I used the text-to-speech generator for the narration as I could add my own voice that day as my headset was killed in an office cat related incident (which will make perfect sense when you watch the video and see how I work!). Even this generated content would cause the system to grind to a halt. This would be my biggest bugbear with Vyond. However, if I had plenty of time to work around this, I would happily use Vyond for future projects as I do think there is value to the finished project.

After creating the video I uploaded it to You Tube for two main reasons, for ease of sharing, and to use You Tube’s closed captioning functionality which isn’t currently available in Vyond and would be my second bugbear.

So here is the finished piece, a light-hearted introduction to me – hello and for now, bye!

Team Violet Project – Our Prototype

I’ve just had my TMA03 marked, my third assignment in the H817 module, Openness and Innovation in eLearning and am thrilled with the mark so excuse me whilst I do a little celebration dance!

But more than just the mark, this has been my favourite block of the Masters in Online and Distance Education as it involved a group project.

In a team of four, we were tasked with creating a learning application or content, exploring local history using mobile and/or social technology.

Unfortunately, our fourth member was unable to take part due to a sudden family illness, so the three of us undertook the brief with six weeks to complete and document our process, and create a prototype of our idea.

Throughout the design process we created a team site to display our approaches, activities and our final prototype, Please do visit the website at https://sites.google.com/view/h817-19b-violet-team/home

A screenshot of our Prototype

The main objective and educational aim of our project was to produce an activity-based app that allowed foreign students in the UK learn and improve English language skills in a practical way whilst learning about, and engaging with, local history via mobile and social media technology.

Our target audience was foreign students studying in the UK who may or may not be formally studying English.  During group discussion we agreed encouraging participants to undertake activities in this context would be beneficial for a number of reasons:

  • Encourage exploring the local environment with purpose and encourage engagement with others both at the historical site and online.
  • Expose participants to different and colloquial English language both spoken and written.
  • Offer activities suited to a wide range of language ability.
  • Create an application that was non-linear and endless to allow for follow up, continual usage, and growth.
  • Allow participants with different degrees of confidence in using a social platform to partake and expand their comfort zone.

I undertook the role of media manager and instructional designer, though as a team we were highly collaborative in all activities that were given us as part of the learning design process.

In terms of theoretical framework we used Connectivism and Constructionism, further details of which you can find on our team website.

On the completion of our storyboards and a meeting, I amalgamated the storyboards and our decisions to build on my initial Pidoco wireframe to create an interactive prototype. This was my first time using Pidoco and I really enjoyed it and will definitely use it again.

I then created a video walkthrough of the prototype which you can view here (closed captioning available):

Team Violet Prototype Walkthrough

And you can try the prototype out yourself:


Personally, the project helped me understand the importance of creating personas as part of learning design. Whilst at the time of the persona activity we decried it as a team as ‘overkill’, at the storyboarding and prototype design stage we came back to the personas frequently. They focused my mind on how the design would be viewed and experienced from the participants viewpoint which would be inherently different to my personal experience (Malamed, 2009).

Having never used Pidoco before, using it was both a practical learning but also a further insight into the importance of storyboarding and wireframing, rather than jumping into final product creation. I have experienced being asked for rapid prototyping or immediate creation in the corporate training field and understand from communications within the instructional design community this is very often the case. In my opinion, this risks undermining the final product and hoped for objectives.

In reviewing the prototype as a team, we evaluated that it presented a strong skeleton for a final app and if pursuing further would spend time on the provision and context of in-app resources for participants, ensuring the technology was adaptive, the language contextualised, and explanatory feedback was being achieved which echoes the finding of Heil et al (2016) during their study of mobile language learning applications.

I really enjoyed working with my teammates and am very proud of what we achieved, especially in the time frame.

I hope you find the prototype and project interesting and welcome any feedback.


Heil, C., Wu, J., Lee, J. and Schmidt, T. (2016). A Review of Mobile Language Learning Applications: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities. The EuroCALL Review, 24(2), p.32.

Malamed, C. (2009). Learner Personas for Instructional Design. [online] The eLearning Coach.

Rotten to the Core

I’m sorry, that is such a clickbait title but, I couldn’t resist!

I’m pleased to say I had my operation last week and am recuperating well. Once inside the surgeons found I didn’t have gallstones plural, but one massive black pearl pigment stone, about 3cm in diameter and that my gallbladder was in fact, rotten. Full of pus and adhered to my liver and bowel. They made a marvellous job of removing the offending article and as they said, I was a bit of a walking sepsis time bomb. So after the initial shock, time to be very grateful that it is all gone and I am no longer rotten to my core (well not in that sense at least 😉 )I am already feeling better overall, hardly surprising!

Stock picture: I’m not the ‘take a picture of my own cannular sort of a gal’!

I cannot praise the care I received from the NHS and Royal Derby highly enough.

I will now endeavour to be a good patient at home – no heavy lifting or stretching for a while, and must rest when my body says so but that is easy said than done! Mum is being both nurse and warden to keep me in line.

Unfortunately, I cannot cut glass for a little while longer as it is amazing the pressure glass cutting puts through your arm and into your core without you realising it. Luckily, however, I have found I can recline with my laptop in comfort so can amuse myself spamming on the internet and getting back to studying.

Thankfully I was able to complete my TMA02 (with 91%) and complete the group project and TMA03 before going into hospital, and I will be blogging about that group project in a separate post as I would love to share our project with you and gather your feedback.

Our final module block in on Learning Analytics which I am looking forward to diving into.

With so many life changes of late, it is nice to have a breather and re-evaluate, even with 4 itchy incisions in my stomach!

More Change Than A Penny Arcade

Well if nothing else, I like to keep life interesting!

So a few changes have happened over the last few weeks. Or rather CHANGES, in bold….and neon…and with spikes.

I did the fatal thing of jinxing life. As I walked out of the hospital eight weeks ago after Mum’s final heart and orthopaedic check up with the thumbs up I dared to say ‘well hopefully that will be the last of this place for while, we seemed to have lived here for the last three years! Let’s have an awesome year’

Fast forward a few weeks and I was writhing in sheer agony in A&E. One infected gallbladder and I was admitted for a few days of IV antibiotics in one arm and morphine in the other.

Huge shout out to all the staff at the hospital who were nothing short of angels!

Also, I was sadly made redundant.

Redundancy has not been a pleasant experience (well, it rarely is, is it?) but after 9.5 years and feeling like I had been physically run over by a JCB, well this just made sure my brain and feelings were also turned to mush. There were, I am not afraid to admit, some exceptionally dark days afterwards and I have to thank my family, friends and GP for getting me through those. I will include a list of resources at the end of the blog post for those who may find themselves arriving at this post and in a similar position.

Needless to say physical pain and stress levels have been ‘up there’ but as they say the only way is up, or a bit zig zag at least for a while.

It has put me behind in my Masters study but I cannot praise the Open University, my tutor and my classmates enough for their support and I am slowly catching up and looking forward to the distraction and goal of my studies in the months to come. I am signed off and my operation has been set for 5th July with my doctor wanting me to take some more time out as I am a burnt out.

I like to think, or certainly hope, that all this timing and putting me out of action is for a greater purpose, a time to reassess and refocus. If nothing else I will catch up on Netflix!

I’ve started my portfolio on the site and look forward to building that out as I go along too – much overdue.

But for right now I am off to cuddle a hot water bottle and continue finishing up TMA02 and then enjoying our block 3 collaborative project which I will tell you more about soon!

Help and Resources:

Redundancy Help – Money Saving Expert

Citizen’s Advice


NHS – Help with Suicidal Thoughts



If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and need support, you can text SHOUT to 85258

Meme Monday is back! When you are playing catch up…

I am a bit behind in my Masters study at the moment after taking almost three weeks to kick a nasty flu virus out of the way.

Compared to my last module, H817 isn’t as heavy on readings but that is like saying a rattlesnake bite might be a bit kinder than an alligator bite! And of course you don’t just stop at the required readings, there’s the suggested readings and the rabbit hole you disappear down as you scour the online library, blogs and everywhere in between.

I am resigned that I will not read everything ever for H817, in fact part of mastering a Masters I have discovered is choosing your reading battles wisely!

Thankfully we have a meme to sum it all…

Have a great week everyone!

Issues Facing Open Educational Resources

This blog post is an activity for H817 Openness and Innovation in eLearning where we are asked to consider three key issues we feel face OER (Open Education Resources) and how they are being addressed.

For a quick recap on what OER are I recommend the nice and clear Defining OER on WikiEducator.

OER are learning resources which are available in the public domain and can be freely accessed, utilised and re-purposed by others under open licensing. Many define OER as must be openly accessible and allow the 4Rs – reuse, revise, remix and redistribute.

I like to remember that OER or learning objects should not be considered only as standalone objects, pockets of fact or thought that will be transmitted into the brain of anyone stumbling across them but rather they are part of a larger learning process and practice. How we create OER and how we then create and facilitate learning processes is an intertwined field. With that mind of thinking, I really like the following diagram from fro Beetham et al (2012)

Beetham et al (2012) Venn diagram of the crossover of open practice and open content

There are many issues facing OER but the three I have decided to consider include:

Bias: whilst I could go a level above and state authenticity, reliability, and creator expertise as an issue I’d like us to consider bias, whether explicit or implicit.

Bias is being addressed in what I see as a, necessary, two-pronged approach. Firstly, creators of OER are being challenged to debate and address bias in their own creations and that of others. At OpenEd17: The 14th Annual Open Education Conference in 2017, a panel session was held on “Equity, Bias and their relationship to OER”

The session introduction noted:

“The open education movement is heavily rooted in the belief that teachers and faculty have the freedom to develop content that meets the needs of their students. This raises a few questions. Can the implementation of OER exacerbate bias? To what degree is OER content culturally relevant? Does the majority of OER content have a white American male slant? Are we remixing content that unintentionally alienates a particular group of students?”


This discussion within the OER community must continue unabated to address issues of bias in OER and to help both creators and users recognise it.

As I said there is a two pronged approach to recognizing and challenging bias in OER and that second prong is ensuring users must be aware of the possibility of bias and have the critical thinking skills to question and research any bias in OER they are intending to use. I particularly liked finding this rubric from Federation University, Australia which helps users evaluate OERs and including in the rubic they call out creator bias and obvious bias. I would argue we need to take the debate and warning of bias to the user even more overtly, given that a user may be more likely to not consider or recognize bias that those who have a lot of OER experience and life under their belt but also because today’s OERs users are the ones who will redistribute, grow and create future OERs.

Accreditation: this issue is because it is one close to heart. I’m over 40 but am still hurt when the dentist doesn’t give me a sticker for being a good patient. I am a recognition junkie. I want a badge, a medal, a certificate. I want something I can point at. Now, we can argue this is a major flaw in me but let’s not get personal! I know I am not alone. We live in a world where we are always trying to prove ourselves, to our friend, family, employers, potential employers. Even if we don’t get certificate based on assessment and ‘proof’ we know something, we like something tangible to show we are ‘doing something’.

The OER Evidence Report 2013-2014 does acknowledge this in their findings:

“the possibility of accreditation seems to be motivating to OER users, as
suggested by survey respondents when asked about ‘other’ factors that influenced their choice of OER:
“Transferable credits and job/ work experience
or accreditation”
“College credit”
“Certificate of accomplishment or completion”
“Accreditation so that I can use to apply toward a degree or
for professional designation requirements (i.e. CPA)””

OER Evidence Report 2013-2014 (p.33)

Whether it be a badge for participation, or a certificate based on some level of assessment, their is a great deal of motivation for the user in such a goal and we see several OER offering them. It is interesting to see OpenLearn describes this as ‘earn while you learn’ and describes their badge and statement offerings as “Earn a free digital badge or Statement of Participation as evidence of your learning to share with employers, friends and family.”

Accessibility: my third issue I’d like us to consider is accessibility to OER, for those with disabilities. The OER Evidence Report 2013-2014 refers to the importance of Open Education for those with disabilities in terms of access to education over all stating:

Analysis of users of The Open University’s OpenLearn OER platform suggest that OER can increase access to education for informal learners with disabilities with 16% of respondents reporting a disability, compared with the UK-wide figure of 8% disabled students in higher education. For all learners this figure came down to 11.1%

OER Evidence Report 2013-2014 (p.17)

However, the report does not go into details about disabled users satisfaction or issues with technically accessing OER material such as can the material be used with a screen reader, are video and audio materials accompanied by closed captions or transcripts?

I’d direct people who may not have considered this aspect before to Open Education Handbook/OER & Accessibility

“If the outputs are not meeting appropriate accessibility requirements then they have failed to be ‘open’ before they have even left the building, and a sustainability decline has already commenced”


Accessibility as part of the content design needs to be implemented and addressed at the beginning.

Merlot.org have a dedicated portal addressing accessibility issues, solutions and a community of institutions and educators actively researching accessibility issues and how to implement solutions. There portal can be found here.

Please share any of your thoughts, ideas or comments – I’d love to hear them, it’s almost as good as getting a badge 😉

Beetham, H., Falconer, I., McGill, L. and Littlejohn, A. Open practices: briefing paper. JISC, 2012 https://oersynth.pbworks.com/w/page/51668352/OpenPracticesBriefing

de los Arcos, B., Farrow, R., Perryman, L.-A., Pitt, R. & Weller, M. (2014). OER Evidence Report 2013-2014.
OER Research Hub. Available from http://oerresearchhub.org/about-2/reports/

Comparing MOOCs: DS106 and Coursera

This blog is actually an activity in #H817 Openness and Innovation in eLearning, this week we have been considering MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). For this activity we are asked to compare either DS106 or Rhizomatic 15 with offerings from FutureLearn or Coursera.

I’m comparing DS106 and Coursera. I recently completed a Coursera course (Instructional Design Foundations and Applications) so am familiar with it as a learner and user.

Before looking at both and comparing them in terms of technology, pedagogy, and general approach and philosophy let’s just remind ourselves on the backbone of what a MOOC is.

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Courses and refers to online courses which are open access (via the internet) to an unlimited number of participants. MOOCs came out of the OER (Open Educational Resources) movement to offer scalable, open and affordable solutions to offering, sharing and collaborating learning experience.

Let me hand the explanation over to Dave Cromier, who coined the acronym MOOC, for a far better explanation!

Dave Cromier introduces us to what a MOOC is.

Heading back to comparing DS106 and Coursera – why the need or interest to compare, I mean a MOOC is a MOOC is MOOC, right?! Well no, as the MOOC movement has developed we can see emerging differences to some of the finer points not least the pedagogical approach the MOOC author(s), or participants, take. We now see individual MOOCs dedicated to one area or topic to large scale enterprises using the MOOC model to offer a huge array of topics, from non-profit altruistic investment to for profit, capital backed endeavours.

It’s a really crude analogy but in my mind MOOCs are like bread, some are artisan loaves and others are sliced white but they are both bread and want you to have a nice sandwich at the end of the day.

DS106 describes itself as:

“Digital Storytelling (also affectionately known as ds106) is an open, online course that happens at various times throughout the year at the University of Mary Washington… but you can join in whenever you like and leave whenever you need. This course is free to anyone who wants to take it, and the only requirements are a real computer, a hardy internet connection, preferably a domain of your own and some commodity web hosting, and all the creativity you can muster”


Coursera tells their story as:

“Coursera was founded in 2012 by two Stanford Computer Science professors who wanted to share their knowledge and skills with the world. Professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng put their courses online for anyone to take – and taught more learners in a few months than they could have in an entire lifetime in the classroom. Since then, we’ve built a platform where anyone, anywhere can learn and earn credentials from the world’s top universities and education providers”


Whilst Coursera is a multi-course platform I am only going to think about the individual course I took which I mentioned before, a course which follows Coursera’s technical and pedagogical design we are going to delve in to now.


As with all MOOCs, both DS106 and Coursera are harnessing the internet and web connectivity to deliver their courses, both with online platforms.

Coursera’s technological approach may be considered more polished and commercial, with a purposely design platform specifically tailored to their requirements and wants. It uses best practices of web page and user interface design. . It is designed for both computer and mobile usage, with a free mobile app available. This makes the platform very accessible in terms of mobility and gives learners the opportunity to access and use their MOOC across a wide range of devices and therefore, across a range of physical areas meaning they are not required to be tied to a given place. As a for profit, capital backed MOOC, it clear to see that there has been a financial commitment to the engineering of the site.

It is a largely self-contained platform with robust search functions. As such, there is a dedicated communication channel for users having technical issues and little reliance on third-party applications. The system incorporates and hosts its own content such as video and asynchronous forums.

DS106’s technological approach echoes their roots in the open movement. As a non-profit site, were funding for the server has been in the past provided by a kickstarter campaign, DS106 has utilised free and open source technology, third-party technology and an altruistic and participatory community to create their online presence. The main site is in the style of a blog, with participants needing to have access to their own blog to fully participate. The site has no robust search function and is organised in a relatively simple, blog style hierarchy. Whilst the site can be accessed on a mobile browser and displays well, there is no specific mobile app or technology to further enable mobile access.

The use of technology, and trouble shooting, is supported by the community. As the site links out to, and uses, many third party applications, much of the DS106 handbook actually refers to using and troubleshooting such technology such as WordPress, Audacity, GIMP, Flickr etc. The use of third-party can be seen as an issue given the possibility of failure of that third-party. For example, DS106 notes they have a downloaded archive but that much work curated on Storify was lost when that service was pulled. This means participants must have some technological knowledge and awareness to ensure their work is backed up. Of course, it can be argued that a MOOC such as Coursera is at risk of market changes and ‘going under’ but I would argue this is less of a risk than reliance on open third-party applications.


Open pedagogy is often referred to as requiring open and free access, and the 4Rs of reuse, revise, remix, redistribute as the backbone. In MOOCs we see that content is open and free to access as a pedagogical constant thought the 4Rs may not be. Whilst some MOOCs will allow, and actively encourage, the reuse, revise, remix and redistribute aspect of content, others may provide content under closed licence but ensuring access is open and free.

For the two MOOCs I am comparing there are some distinct pedagogical differences.

DS106 stays pedagogically close to the ideas as laid out by Cromier in the previous video. As an open ended course, or as they themselves state “course experience”, DS106 is a non-linear, ‘pick and mix’ approach to content and activity. It relies heavily on the pedagogical approach of social learning, encouraging peer-to-peer interaction and even peer devised assignments. With no ‘teacher’, DS106 moves away from the expert led approach and towards a much more participatory model where learners rather find their answers as opposed to ‘learn’ a correct answer. Content is continuously being produced by the community however, this means it must also be actively assessed and policed by the community (as I looked at it today there were a lot of spam posts). There is no specific end goal or rather, the end goals are specific to the individual learning and their interpretation of their success. The site is very open about this approach and explains it fully in their verbiage.

The Coursera pedagogical approach is much more didactic in nature, mirroring the traditional expert-led model often experienced in offline education and training. Content and activities are presented in a linear fashion, with assessment and an end point. Whilst Coursera has flexible deadlines, these are deadlines nevertheless.

Courses are presented are specific units with a beginning, middle and end. The content is set and presented in the form of readings and videos. However, Coursera does employ some participatory methods with the use of interactive quizzing and social learning through the use of asynchronous forums though again, this is largely directed as part of the linear course plan. Whether users go ‘off piste’ and begin other conversations or develop other communication lines is neither encouraged nor prohibited. One area Coursera is using the power of the community is in the use of peer assessed assignments, where users are given assignments to produce (usually in the form of short essays or posts) which are then scored by fellow students following a rubric and they are encouraged to comment on their scores and reasoning. Coursera, like many of the mainstream MOOCs, does offer certification to show completion of a course and its assessment for a fee.

Like DS106, Coursera is also open in its pedagogical approach and has an open blog which includes insight into their pedagogical research and implementations such as the post “How A/B Testing Powers Pedagogy on Coursera

So whilst they have some pedagogical differences, both DS106 and Coursera use an open and free access approach and are adopting social learning, though to differing degrees.

General Approach and Philosophy

It would be very easy to try and spar DS106 and Coursera against one another as the happy hippie versus the corporate line puller but this would be both disingenuous, lazy and missing the point by a few thousand miles. Neither one is better or worse than the other but are examples of what can be done in the MOOC model, what can be offered and also, warn us of what pitfalls there may be. Both are dedicated to open and free access to learning. Is one at risk of too heavy-a reliance on altruism and open/free source? Yes? Could another be at risk of being influenced by the market and this reflected in an almost ‘colonisation’ of knowledge or bias? Yes. But, they also represent the many arms to the MOOC model, a model which is scalable, affordable and hugely adaptable.

One area which I did notice though which isn’t asked for in this activity but I would like to address is the issue of accessibility in terms of learners with disabilities.

DS106 has a very distinct visual look, grey background with white and fuschia text, which made me wonder if this was deliberate for accessibility. Personally, I found it very difficult to read and would have to alter several aspects of my monitor. Colour contrast for text is one aspect of ensuring accessibility for visually impaired users. I put the frontpage of DS106 through the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool and it came back with 34 instances of poor colour contrast on the page, making it very difficult to read. This compares to 1 instance of poor colour contrast when we put Coursera through the same tool. I cannot find any reference to accessibility on the DS106 page so must assume the look is a design choice. Other accessibility issue included videos without closed captions or transcripts.

As a commercially backed site it is unsurprising that Coursera has a dedicated accessibility section and aims to comply with WCAG guidelines. They have a dedicated communication channel for accessibility issues to be raised.

For open resources such as DS106, accessibility will and should be a topic for discussion and I think it actually opens a further door and exciting conversation around using the open movement to support and solve accessibility issues.