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

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. 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

de los Arcos, B., Farrow, R., Perryman, L.-A., Pitt, R. & Weller, M. (2014). OER Evidence Report 2013-2014.
OER Research Hub. Available from

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.

Activity Idea: Saying Goodbye in a Remote Team

Recently, we said goodbye to one of our long-standing team members at work as she moves to pastures new. We have been together for many years, gone through her pregnancy together, many birthdays, Christmases, oh yes, and work! And none of this has been face to face. I am based in the UK and she is based in the Philippines . Our team is located across the globe but somehow we’ve always felt in the same room, this makes saying goodbye a little harder.

In a physical office the chance to say goodbye can be memorialised with gifts or after dinner drinks – a proper send off and celebration.

In our last team meeting before her departure, held as always virtually, I came up with the idea of screen sharing, my go to for making mind maps. I put a photo of our colleague and friend in the centre and invited everyone to share words they think of when thinking of her and our time together. We added in branches of special memories and in-house jokes. I am not going to share the map we created as that is personal to us but I made one up you can see hear to give you a rough idea of what it can look like. We sent the map to our friend, so she can print it out and remember how much we all loved working with her and why we think she’ll grow to even higher heights in future. It was great fun to all create together, and yes there were tears!

Openness in Education: what is it?

Another Block 2 activity and one I feel is really the start of a longer discussion rather than a completed artefact.

For this activity we were asked to choose two readings from a list of 6, all looking at the concept of openness and openness in education and to visually represent some of our takeaways.

I chose

Cormier (2013), What do you mean… open?

Bates (2015), ‘What do we mean by open in education?’

For my visual representation I have gone back to my old friend to create a colourful mind map.

Please click here to view the original version with clickable links

I can imagine going back to this mind map in time to edit but for the moment it has very much focused my attention on the concept of openness as a philosophy of education and helped finally quieten the idea of open = free. It’s also made me focus more on when we do use an open system the dynamic between it being more user or creator centric but what I would like to further consider is when the user-creator line becomes more blurred as we see with open resources which have social and collaborative learning as one of it main pedagogies.

Open Education: Have I Been Open to it?

I am entering the second block of my latest module in my Masters in Online and Distance Education. This module, H817, is called Openness and Innovation in E-Learning and for the next seven weeks we’ll be considering openess, in terms of Open Education and Open Education Resources.

Our first activity is this – blog about our own personal experience of open education to date. It has made me stop in my tracks, have I been open to to? have I realised I was even taking part in it?

The philosophy of open education is to offer access to high-quality educational resources and experiences, free from the barriers of entry requirement, monetary restrictions etc. Open education goes beyond the simple act of sharing information, but looks to actively encourage collaboration, and I would argue an important aspect of that collaboration in a breaking down of formal hierarchy, privilege and platform.

Open education gives us Open Educational Resources (OERs), commonly online and digital, OERs can provide knowledge, resources, activities and debate with the aim that collaboration can see this disseminated, reworked and become an on-going learning environment. That said, OER does not mean a free for all and unusable chaotic landscape. What we have seen with OER is educators and learner sharing common standards, which may be required (such as Common Core State Standards) or informal standards which may be culturally or context driven and this providing a base for further development.

But this digresses from my experience of open education. Let me take you back many years, when in my late teens I was taken seriously ill, left bricks and mortar University and was housebound for some time. I was still craving education, mainly to prove I was still relevant and that great word, ‘normal’. The internet was a way off, mobile phones were bricks and even the library felt like a marathon.

In those days I discovered correspondence courses which I signed up to…with embarrassment, I mean they weren’t ‘proper’ learning were they. Whilst my peers were graduating and entering the jobs market I was completing essays to be sent by post to get a certificate that I assumed people would laugh at or consider little more than something free from a box of cereal. How many times have we heard someone ridiculed by suggesting they got their degree through the post, or even today the concept of the diploma mill – everything being tarred with the same brush and all that.

I would watch Open University broadcasts on any subject on the television, Sunday morning teach yourself Urdu programs – what I release now was I was taking part in open education and for myself at time it was a vital learning lifeline bourne out of accessibility issues.

A little later, now confident in my self made bedroom University of Rebecca, I applied to do my Masters in the Sociology of Sport with the University of Leicester by distance – one of those proper, real, brick universities with tutors and professors who worked with the government. I passed, with distinction.

Fast forward better health, entering the workplace and being almost ‘normal’ 🙂 and along came the internet and I soon found a myriad of learning opportunities to dip my toe in*, often for free or for a small fee. A love of learning, but admittedly a fear I must also keep up with the people who went the ‘normal route’ you’d find me signing up for a range of courses from leisure interests to computer skills and now I am taking the plunge to solidify what has become my career and interest in learning via online methods and technology in my Masters.

Fears still persist. I still crave the recognition and official acknowledgement of my learning with a shining certificate and still fear those I have obtained through OERs don’t carry weight or merit. Yet I’ve never really stopped to consider the wealth of learning and knowledge gained via OER in general and how I believe and hope that has manifested itself in my professional capabilities. Of course, I have a fear about this blog alone which I am daring to make public and ‘proper experts’ could come and point and laugh but as a previous post points out I am learning that the L&D community the is hugely welcoming and respectful so fear be gone.

Other than this Masters, my most recent OER experience was a course on Cousera where I paid the small fee to complete the certification which involved peer reviewed assignments and gave me that comfort I appear to crave of a standard form of measurement we have been trained to desire/require through secondary and tertiary education. This raises a lot of questions.

Firstly, even if small, we still see a monetary barrier to achieving this comfort of measurement so how do we measure learning and impact for the individual? My bugbear of being able to click play on a LinkedIn Learning video, go do the washing and come back to find it says ‘completed, here’s a certificate’ is a common cause of a Rebecca rant.

Secondly, more than ever, I am not keen on people telling me what I should learn or do next. My eyes have been opened to the ability of personalised learning journeys and I like it. How will the corporate beings who still want to steer their employees cope, not to mention that dreaded fear of if you let someone plan their own journey it may culminate with them leaving us.

Thirdly, whilst I have mentioned that OER has not become a free for all, we do still have the looming shadow of the word of the moment ‘fake this and fake that’ and the unscrupulous who will twist what is presented as an OER to be a money making scheme or certainly something of little value to the individual. Often those individuals are some of the more at risk or naive persons for whom OER should, and can be, a wonderful, powerful tool in their development, in finding their voice and being part of the wider discussions. OER can be a driving force for diversity and inclusion, for accessibility and flexibility but how do we in more powerful and privileged positions ensure that is the case.

One thing is for sure this is going to be an interesting block to study!

*in the interest of openness, I hold my hands up to being one of those people who has signed up for far many more courses than I have actually completed but that folks, is a story for another day!

Can’t Keep Up With Your Peers Online? That’s Just Fine.

Tired woman in bed

Recently, I find myself perusing social media and online journals (usually in the comfort of my bed, half asleep) and asking myself:

“Where the hell are they all getting their energy from??!”

Some people in Instructional Design and Learning and Development, seem like unstoppable thought machines. Working full-time, doing practice projects on the side, writing journal articles, taking part in all the conversations, they seem like 24-7 producers. For some of us it can seem very daunting, especially those of us who are new, changing into this career path or are more used to being in the quiet corner. If we can’t measure up to them, do we measure up at all?

For myself I am juggling working full time, part-time study for my Masters and have some health limitations. That means always being tired and never feeling I am quite making ‘it’.

Firstly, life is not a competition and yes that includes work and study life. Competition, especially in the world of work, seems to be a driving force. As much as the influencers on Instagram are selling unobtainable and unrealistic goals, the same can be said in the world of work. You do not need to keep up with the Joneses, you need to do you. Do not let the FOMO (fear of missing out) rule you. Be careful who you are measuring yourself against and ask yourself – what affect is it having on you? Is it propelling you, inspiring you? Or, is it making you feel inferior? Stressing you out?

Here’s another insight I have discovered. Those people posting loads, the non-stop creation machines – that’s who they are. They are not sat at their keyboards with the sole purpose of shaming you because you aren’t as prolific. They are passionate, dedicated and by good fortune, have the energy and platform to do this. (Side note: if anyone out there is feeling they ‘have to’ keep producing and being part of the online community and it is beginning to become a chore or they are burning out please take time for yourself! Let’s always ensure our community is not one of negative judgement and assumptions). Amongst them there will be the odd few who just love the sound of their own voice, as anywhere in life, but you have the power of who you listen to and the benefit of your own judgement and gut feelings.

In my experience the most prolific and vocal posters in L&D are open, welcoming and often eager cheerleaders. They are our ambassadors. Reach out to them, follow them, enjoy the benefits of their sharing of their network and knowledge, and THANK THEM.

Prioritise your own wants and needs, and accept that you may not be able to do everything, or be everything to all people. Don’t feel you have to say something for the sake of saying something, say something because you have something to say.

I feel I can only give back to the Instructional Design and Learning community as a second tier activity at the moment. I am not in a place to regularly blog (as much as I would love too), I can’t always stay up or join in the conversations but I am still part of the community and hope whatever little I can give back will help someone else down the line.