The Education Revolution: Massive Open Online Courses

BBC The Documentary:


A brief overview of MOOCs, with some of their advantages and disadvantages.

Some points covered by the programme:

  • How much of a university is down to bricks and mortar, and how much could it be transferred to an online version?
  • Stephen Greenblatt and Shakespeare and his small seminar groups – can it be re-created online?
  • On the MOOC: 10 minute videos, articles to read, multiple choice quiz, online discussion boards – but how accessible are the tutors?
  • Who are the participants – disadvantaged from developing countries, or are they already graduates from the first world?
  • Use Google Hangouts to have more interactivity?
  • Is an online course as good as a traditional one? Or is it just a cost cutting measure? University of Maryland?
  • Lecturers in Community Colleges become little more than glorified teaching assistants – replaced by MOOCs?
  • Is it good for education to have everyone learning the same course?
  • Are MOOCs universally a good thing? See the open letter from San Jose State U.
  • Typically dropout rates – 90%. Who marks the essays? Peer review? Computer graded?
  • What is the future for MOOCs?
  • Udacity – MOOCs and Business – short courses teaching short skills.
  • Project based rather than exams.
  • Prof Peter Bol – Should we be ‘the last man standing’, or do we need to look for the future?
  • Rich kids get taught by computers, while poor kids get taught by computers.
  • Not the same as learning with people on campus.
  • Sebastian Thrun

Using Shakespeare in our lessons

See this British Council video (Using Shakespeare in our lessons):

(Note – this is a good example of how not to label / describe videos on YouTube)

I have to go back to when I was 16 years old to when I last studied Shakespeare seriously. I had a great teacher – Mrs Pottinger? – who got us reading and enjoying literature. Before her I had a succession of mediocre teachers who fortunately did not turn me off English (I was still reading books), but did turn me off English lessons at school.

So, how about Shakespeare in our classes? Are our students up to it? Are our teachers up to it? Watching the video, I’m not sure I could do that, but I can see how poetry could be used to teach the rhythm and beat of the language. I remember Alan Jefferies used to teach how to use poetry at the British Council with young learners, so it is possible to a certain extent.  But in our packed curriculum, when would we have time.


Here’s a link to the fill video (88 minutes) – and this one is properly labelled and described!

Speaking the bright and beautiful English of Shakespeare, Ben Crystal

Average scores for Delivery

This was originally posted on the BOT journal as a reflection on April, 24, 2014. See this post about BOT Reflections, and the first post in the series.

Assessment 3 is conducted in Week 14. The overall grade for the assessment is calculated from the following components:

Content (15%)
Delivery (35%)
Language (20%)
Pronunciation and fluency (30%)

I have calculated the average scores for the ‘Delivery’ component of students who have done Assessment 3. In theory, those students who have done the powtoon activity should perform slightly better than those who have not (although there are many other factors that can affect this). So far, I have results from two groups (Class A and B), both of which did the powtoon activity. Class C (on Friday) did not do the powtoon activity.

Students are given a grade from A+ to F for the Delivery component. F = 0 points, while A+ = 4.5 points.

Class A: 14 students, average grade for Delivery 2.64 (overall average grade for Assessment is 2.61) (provisional)
Class B: 11 students, average grade for Delivery 2.82 (overall average grade for Assessment is 2.68) (provisional)

Class C: 20 students, average grade for Delivery 2.40 (overall average grade for Assessment is 2.55) (provisional)

So far the scores are as expected. These are weaker students in terms of language ability, so their scores for the Language and Pronunciation & Fluency components are often low.

Class C, which did not do the e-tivity, did not perform as well in Delivery as the other two classes. I think this is partly due to the e-tivity, but other factors including class size (so amount of individual feedback I can give), the factor that this class had a holiday in Week 13 so had a little less input, as well as general English ability also play important factors. Average grade for Delivery was below the Average Assessment Grade for Class C, which is the opposite for Classes A and B.

Some student feedback

This was originally posted on the BOT journal as a reflection on April, 16, 2014. See this post about BOT Reflections, and the first post in the series.

I’ve been asking students to give me feedback about using the actual powtoons (the activity) and also what they learned from it.

On the whole they enjoyed using powtoon. Comments included that it was fun and interesting, and that they would like to use them in different subjects that they do at university. They enjoyed the animations and some students said it was quite user friendly. On the other hand, some students felt it was a little bit difficult to use, but this was partly because they only had an hour or so produce the video from scratch.

Positive comments about what they had learned was that it was re-enforcing what they knew they had to do in the presentations. I can see some improvement – in a sense what I am aiming for is that simple things become almost automatic for the students so that they don’t have to think about them. Then they can concentrate on the content of their presentation. We are not there yet, but I can see progress.

One comment was that the animation in the videos can be distracting, and can mean that the message is lost. This is a good point, and we always need to balance between making something attractive, but also getting the message across.

Student powtoons

This was originally posted on the BOT journal as a reflection on April, 10, 2014. See this post about BOT Reflections, and the first post in the series.

I have added the powtoons into a playlist as they are created. So, rather than linking to them individually I can show them all together (but I don’t seem to be able to embed a playlist into BB because I had a student account; I just need to post the link on WordPress for the playlist to show up). The playlist linked to below is actually the product of two classes (around 25 students). Feedback from the first class was positive, so I decided to ask the second class to try it as well.  I have a third class which I can use as a ‘test’ and see if there is any difference in performance in final performance in the assessment (although in some ways I feel that I should get the third class to try it as well, so that it is fair to all students).

Overall I am pleased with what students have achieved. Initial feedback from students was positive. They enjoyed making the powtoons and worked well together. There are some grammar errors, but these are students with only an average English ability, and generally the message is clear.

Next stage is to get more detailed feedback from students about the activity (when I see them next week), and also get students to view and comment on each other’s powtoons. I’ll try to start that out of class, but it will probably also continue in class.


Implementing e-tivity – initial problems

This was originally posted on the BOT journal as a reflection on April, 8, 2014. See this post about BOT Reflections, and the first post in the series.

Week 12: I am getting students to create their ‘powtoon’ this week.

There have been a couple of initial teething problems which I did not find out until students got back to me with problems.

1. Old IE browsers caused a problem. I got around this by telling students to use Chrome and this seem to work OK. I think if the IE browser was updated it would also work, but it seems that many computers till have old IE installed.

2. Powtoon allows you to log in using Facebook, Google or even linkedin. Most students have Facebook or Google, so this is useful as it mean they don’t forget usernames. However, students can only export to YouTube (using their google id), so if they have logged in using Facebook, they need to log in again using Google. *

3. Posting on YouTube means much faster playback than if the powtoon is played back on the powtoon sever. But, if the student has not created a YouTube ‘channel’ before, they need to do so before they can post on YouTube. This is actually easy to do – just click a button.

* I think there are probably some issues about using social networking sites to log into these tools. Often, what you create on these sites can also suddenly appear on your Facebook wall (I don’t think this happens with Powtoon), so it is something you need to be conscious about. I guess it could be combined with ‘digital literacy’ – something we covered in Module 1?

Overall, seems to be going OK. Hopefully there will be some powtoons to share soon.

Preparation for the e-tivity: students posting on forum

This was originally posted on the BOT journal as a reflection on April, 2, 2014. See this post about BOT Reflections, and the first post in the series.

As a preparation for the e-tivity, I have asked students to post some ideas about “a good thing to do in a presentation” OR “something you should not do during the presentation“.

Here are some of their posts:

Forum posts

There is quite a good range of ideas: body language, eye contact, interaction with the audience.

I think I need to work a bit on parallel structures so that students can easily extract the information from the discussion forums and add them to the powtoon ‘slides’. This is also good practice for the actual PowerPoint slides that they need to make for the Assessment in Week 14.