Agile Learning Examples

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This is part of ALT's Agile learning wiki.

Contents

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

Summary in a tweet

Large scale approach using open content, encouraging learners to create own experience and links, mostly HE, experimental & still early days

Learners

Potentially anyone, self-selected according to interest in the course subject.

Level

Most MOOCs so far have been pitched at Higher Education levels

Learning aims/subject area(s)

These vary from course to course. Some MOOCs have a very rigorous and structured curriculum; others allow learners, individually and/or collectively, considerable discretion regarding which areas of a broad curriculum they focus most on.

Learning activities

Again there is considerable variation within MOOCs, but activities may include:

  • working through course materials (text, audio, video) which may have been devised specifically for the course or may have been curated from the open commons of the internet
  • participation in webinars using platforms such as Blackboard Collaborate or Google Hangouts
  • completing individual exercises and assessments
  • writing blog posts, contributing to group discussions, and commenting on other participants' blogs or forum contributions

MOOCs with more structured curricula tend to focus more on tightly-defined activities completed largely individually, while those with more open-ended curricula encourage collective, self-organised and open-ended activities. However, most MOOCs include scope for activities from both ends of this spectrum.

Organisation

To date (June 2012), most MOOCs have been organised by faculty staff based in higher education institutions, or by private-sector enterprises spun out of these institutions. So far some MOOCs have been experimental and organised outside the mainstream offerings of universities, though some have brought in funding via the participation of students already enrolled with the university.

Technology

Typically MOOCs make use of a range of technologies (rather than just one VLE, say). These may include:

  • simple web pages
  • audio/video platforms and repositories
  • online quizzes and short answers
  • synchronous webinar platforms
  • asynchronous forums and collaborative workspaces or wikis
  • blogs
  • aggregation tools
  • facilities within social network platforms (e.g. Twitter hashtags, Facebook or LinkedIn groups)
How did this come about?

The creators of what is considered the first MOOC -- the Connectivism and Connected Knowledge course in 2008 -- suggest that the MOOC format was a response to a need for an online course format that reflected the tenets of the theory of connectivism as well as an open pedagogy based on networked learning. The Wikipedia entry on MOOCs has an account of the history of the concept.

What makes this agile?

There are many features that contribute to the agility of MOOCs:

  • so far most MOOC courses have been free or very low cost, enabling low-stakes experimentation by learners
  • the approach to using materials dispersed across the web and the general spirit of openness in MOOCs is a cornerstone of the [Agile learning definition]
  • an ethos (at least in some MOOCs) that learners should be trusted to direct and select their own path through the course, and whatever they choose is the right option

MOOCs have fixed start and end dates, and, to get the most from the collective activities, there is considerable benefit from pursuing the courses in sync with other learners. However, as the course materials, including recordings of webinars and other 'live' events, remain open on the web, there is potential for learners to make their way through these materials at any time.

Where might it be going?

Since Stanford University's launch of a MOOC-like course, the Introduction to AI class, attracted over 150,000 students in late 2011, there has been considerable interest in commercialising the model. The start-up enterprises Udacity and Coursera, both founded by ex-Stanford staff, have attracted most attention in this field. It is not yet clear how the MOOC principles will persist as the model is applied to fields unrelated to its connectivist roots.

Find out more

Computing at School

Summary in a tweet

Grassroots, volunteer peer-support network and community of practice sharing resources & help to improve teaching of programming in schools

Learners 1. Teachers and parents in UK schools looking to support each other

2. Their students/children

Level School, age 8-9 and up
Learning aims/subject area(s) Computer programming/coding
  • teachers and parents aiming to support each other, share resources, introduce people from outside the education community who are programmers, build software and hardware for educational purposes, so that
  • students can develop their programming skills
Learning activities
  • Multiple communication channels for peer-learning among teachers and parents, including email group, "teachshares" (online meetings, presentations etc), wiki, traditional courses.
  • Some formal courses in teaching computing (details).
  • A wide range of projects and activities aimed at students, mostly organised at local level
  • Mutual support with related and complementary initiatives such as Computer Science for Fun
Organisation Grassroots self-organisation, partner with the BCS (the Chartered Institute of IT) through the BCS Academy of Computing (full list of partners).
  • working members commit their own free time to answer requests for support, work on projects, attend working group meetings
  • supporting members make fewer commitments but offer moral support and may help with specific problems
Technology
  • Google group email list
  • wiki
  • synchronous online conferencing for Teachshares, eventbrite for meetings and conferences
  • website and newsletter
How did this come about?

"CAS [Computing at School] was born out of our excitement with our discipline, combined with a serious concern that many students are being “turned off” computing by a combination of factors that have conspired to make the subject seem dull and pedestrian. Our goal is to put the excitement back into Computing at school." source Dissatisfied with the state of computing in the schools curriculum, but recognising that top-down lobbying and petitioning efforts are take years to come to fruition, CAS taps into volunteer effort, working in the cracks of institutional education to provide interesting and fun ways to learn.

What makes this agile?
  • CAS is open in that it is free for teachers and parents to join, and much of the technology which supports the learning activities is open in practice, even in the few instances where it is not technically open source.
  • CAS uses online communications, frequently asynchronous, for much of its work. This reflects its dependence on volunteer effort, where individuals require flexibility and their availability may be unpredictable.
  • Peer learning and support is central to the operation.
  • Provision and projects are organised and managed locally so they can be sensitive to local context.
Where might it be going?

Since Computers at School began, the UK Government has announced its intention to overhaul the teaching of computing (BBC News article). The implications of this are not yet clear. It is a recognition of the value of what CAS has been doing. Some CAS activities may move into the mainstream, and out of spare time volunteer effort into core school work. CAS could provide a model for developing other provision in areas where teachers and parents feel that the school curriculum is lacking.

Find out more

School of Commoning

Summary in a tweet

Scholarly initiative to encourage broader, deeper understanding of commons movement. Mix of collaborative features & 'school' trappings.

Learners

Members of a knowledge-sharing network of commons-related groups and organizations, practitioners, researchers, and policy makers

Level

Practitioners (professionals and academics)

Learning aims/subject area(s)

All aspects of the commons movement, including

  • emergent issues and trends
  • developing a commons-based economy
  • history of the commons and enclosure
  • philosophical underpinnings of the global commons
  • links between the commons and related issues e.g. climate change
Learning activities
Organisation

Unclear if there a formally-constituted organisation or independent legal entity. Basic approach is membership-based, with a core team and Advisory Board.

Technology

Drupal website

How did this come about?

The school appears to have been established by a self-organising group of academics, teachers and activists, who share a commitment to the commons philosophy.

What makes this agile?

The philosophy of the commons supports agility by creating an abundance of resources that anyone can tap into without needing qualifications, investment or additional licence. This abundance enables learners to experiment, improvise and change direction quickly and easily. The open features of the School of Commoning (free membership, an open knowledge garden, and social learning courses) also foster agility.

In other respects the School of Commoning may be less agile in practice that it could be. For example, the e-learning course only runs at fixed, infrequent times. Surprisingly the site does not itself make a great deal of use of open resources in the commons.

Where might it be going?

Plans and programmes for the future are detailed at http://www.schoolofcommoning.com/about-us

Find out more

WikiQuals

Summary in a tweet

Self-accredited, peer-supported qualifications for self-directed research and learning, piloting a model for accrediting informal learning.

Learners

Practitioners and professionals, mostly not affiliated to any institution, carrying out independent research in connection with their work.

Level

Ph.D and practical research

Learning aims/subject area(s)

Defined by participants

Learning activities

Also defined by participants, and potentially including any form of learning or research, including

  • literature review and reading
  • informal learning (e.g. through conversation, experience, participant observation and forms of apprenticeship)
  • any form of quantitative or qualitative research
  • participation in presentations, seminars
Organisation

WikiQuals is a project conceived and led by Fred Garnett. Participation is by negotiation with Fred and, at the time of writing, free of charge. There is no formal organisation or constitution, though it is possible that some of the WikiQuals participants ('sqolars') may seek accreditation, based on their WikiQuals portfolios of evidence, from an established university. The project is scheduled to run for one year from October 2011.

Technology
  • Website powered by Wordpress. This includes profiles of each sqolar's research, a newsletter (roughly bi-monthly), blog and other project information.
  • Each sqolar has a QR code which anyone can use to link back to their profile and portfolio of evidence.
How did this come about?

The difficulty of accrediting informal learning is one of the major problems that discourages employers and other organisations from taking it seriously. However, this leads to them failing to recognise the full accomplishments of many of their existing (and potential) staff. The WikiQuals project is an attempt to address this, and, in the process, to solve the problem that most annoys informal, self-directed learners.

What makes this agile?
  • The basic model requires no institutional infrastructure and can be replicated in many contexts with very few overheads.
  • Validation comes from peer-review, one of the best-established methods of assessing research.
  • The post-hoc basis of WikiQuals makes it sufficiently flexible to cover a wide range of self-directed learning and research activities.
Where might it be going?

Links have been established with the CROS group in Romania and further work will take place in Summer 2012 to establish WikiQuals there. Another avenue of development is to make links with the Bologna Process for harmonising Higher Education accreditation across the European Union.

Find out more
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