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MOOC's Anatomy. Microblogging as the MOOC's Control Center

MOOC's Anatomy. Microblogging as the MOOC's Control Center

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Published by Carmen Holotescu
Paper for the 9th eLearning and Software for Education Conference - eLSE 2013 - organized by the Romanian Advanced Distributed Learning Association in Bucharest, April 25th - 26th, 2013.
Paper for the 9th eLearning and Software for Education Conference - eLSE 2013 - organized by the Romanian Advanced Distributed Learning Association in Bucharest, April 25th - 26th, 2013.

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Published by: Carmen Holotescu on Sep 03, 2013
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The 9
International Scientific ConferenceeLearning and software for EducationBucharest, April 25-26, 2013
Carmen Holotescu
 Politehnica University, Department of Computer Science, 2 Bd. V. Pârvan, 300223 Timioara, Romania
Gabriela Grosseck 
West University of Timioara, 4 Bd. V. Pârvan, 300223 Timioara, Romania
ș ș
Vladimir Creu
 Politehnica University, Department of Computer Science, 2 Bd. V. Pârvan, 300223 Timioara, Romania
: During the last five years, MOOC, the acronym for “Massive Open Online Courses”, hasbecome a trend that evolved at an unprecedented pace, accelerated by high profile entrants like topranked universities and open platforms. The paper explores the most important MOOC projects, with a particular emphasizes on dimensions such as: social media and microblogging platforms for content distribution, facilitators activities, participants interactions, and relations with mobile learning and Open Educational Resources (OERs). The authors also present the design framework of the first  Romanian MOOC (roMOOC), which will be run in the summer of 2013, for teachers and practitioners from universities and schools. The roMOOC topics are related to social media and OER integration inthe teaching and learning process, while the control center for connecting the distributed participants, facilitators/experts, content and interactions will be Cirip.eu, a Romanian educational microblogging  platform.
 MOOC, microblogging, social media, higher education
The term MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) was coined by Downes [5] and Siemens[24], who facilitated the first such online course with hundreds of participants distributedgeographically, while the content, communication and collaboration were hosted by a large typologyof social media platforms. The central topic of the course was “Connectivism and ConnectiveKnowledge” – CCK08 [6], [5].In 2012, which can be considered the year of MOOC, this trend has evolved at anunprecedented pace, accelerated by high profile entrants like top ranked universities and open platforms. The three leading providers are: Coursera (Stanford University, 33 academic partners, for- profit), Udacity (Stanford roots / no university affiliation / for profit) and edX (M.I.T., Harvard;University of California at Berkeley and the University of Texas, non-profit) [6].MOOC is also listed in the Higher Education Edition of NMC Horizon Project 2013, with atime to adoption of one year or less, even if “challenges remain to be resolved in supporting learningat scale” [20].This year the portal FutureLearn, the first initiative launched outside of USA [8], is expectedto open a MOOC platform, which is supported by Open University and other UK universities, and also by the British Council and the BBC: "students will have opportunities to connect beyond the
immediate course to a world of open educational resources, including The Open University’sOpenLearn” (http://futurelearn.com).
According to [25], MOOC brings a new “model for delivering learning content online tovirtually any person - and as many of them - who wants to take the course” having as centralcharacteristics the learner-centered, open access and scalability approach. Thus, in the online space,the global appetite for global learning becomes a powerful force, with a growing number of universities that try to redefine the idea of education through MOOC [19], [8].Originally conceived as ICT interactive "events", in 2012 MOOCs make their first appearanceas a teaching activity. Surprisingly, the demand for courses became enormous and growing. Thisapproach allows higher education institutions to offer online courses to millions of students andteachers to have audiences of tens and even hundreds of thousands. Currently courses cover a widerange of disciplines, from Computer Science, Physics or Mathematics to Medicine, Humanities andSocial Sciences [8].The main reason for supporting MOOCs by academic community lies precisely in this possibility - to provide access to a high class education at which only a limited number of individualshave had access until now. Even though the courses are not equivalent with those offered byuniversities, they are similarly taught by experienced teachers from the best universities in the worldand the exams are in front of the computer.However MOOC is not „an educational panacea” [1], it is a supplement for traditional courses/ a recipe for educational reform which
has the potential to become a global higher education gamechanger” [3]
In order to understand the challenges in prototyping a successful MOOC and in organizing thefirst Romanian MOOC (roMOOC), we have explored and evaluated some representative projects,classified by literature in the following categories:a)
 Network-based: cMOOC Constructivist MOOC 
. The explored courses - CCK08, CCK09,CCK11, mobiMOOC, etMOOC and eduMOOC - are flexible, with the content co-created,shared and discussed by participants on a large area of social media platforms. “They are based on the explicit principles of connectivism (autonomy, diversity, openness andinteractivity) and on the activities of aggregation, remixing, repurposing and feeding forwardthe resources and learning.” [23]; b)
xMOOC – "x" represents "extension", "experimental" or "multiplied" up. Theexplored courses – on the platforms MITx, edX, Coursera, Udacity - are usually offered byuniversities or their spin-offs and are structured around fixed content and assessment [17].c)
 pMOOC – project-based or task-based MOOC is a new category represented bytwo courses that were explored: OLDS-MOOC, that "combines a constructivist pedagogicalorientation with a practical and authentic outcome" [21] and DS106 (http://ds106.us
),designed as a storytelling workshop, in which the participants had to create digital stories.Based on literature and courses reviews and on direct participation in a few courses (CCK08,etMOOC, HTML5 Game Development on Udacity), our study compares a number of 14characteristics of MOOCs: institution that offers the course, course advertising / mode of subscription,topics, central platform for content/activities/interaction, social media platforms, microblogging usage,connection with OER, mobile learning features, duration, facilitators/guest lectures, number of  participants/completion rate, facilitation for sense of community/ learning community nurture/ pedagogy, feedback/assessment and certification.Due to the limited space of this paper, only one representative course from each category will be described here, while the entire study is presented as a spicynodes mindmap athttp://cirip.ro/grup/lds.
Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (CCK08)
, the
that started the MOOCmovement, was organized by the Learning Technologies Centre and Extended Education atthe University of Manitoba for 12 weeks, starting with September 9, 2008. It had as topicsconnectivism, openess and new roles of teachers [4]. The facilitators were George Siemensand Stephen Downes, while other very well known experts such as Terry Anderson, AlecCouros, Howard Rheingold and Nancy White acted as guest lectures.The central platform was CCK08 blog/wiki, with readings, resources, activities andassignments, each course topic being presented in an audio/video clip or document. Each daythe participants received a newsletter, this contributing to the community nurturing andmotivation. The central wiki was translated by participants in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian,Hungarian and Chinese.Meanwhile a lot of social media platforms were used, suggested by facilitators or by participants: Elluminate for guest lectures, Pageflakes aggregated participants contributionstagged cck08 on personal blogs, Delicious, Flickr and Slideshare, Moodle forums used for users interactions, Twitter, Facebook (CCK08 group), seesmic for video messages sent by participants, uStream, Google Maps with participants locations, Second Life, Google Groups,Twine, Wordle, Google Reader and Yahoo pipes for content aggregation, etc. Most of thecourse resources were CC materials and little OERs (resources on different social networks)[27].
The microblogging technology was used for participants interaction, but not in an extended way: the central Twitter account for this course @cck08 has 44 tweets and 146 followers, and the participants sent approx. 600 tweets tagged #cck08.
25 students from University of Manitoba were for credit participants and were assessed by thefacilitators for activities such as: weekly reflections on blogs, participation in Moodle forumsand commenting on blogs by peer learners in the course, three short reflective papers (500-750words), also a final project as a video, podcast or presentation addressing issues like: "What isthe quality of my learning networks - diversity, depth? How connected am I? How has thiscourse influence my view of the process of learning?" etc.There were also 2200 external/informal participants “who self-organize their participationaccording to learning goals, prior knowledge and skills, and common interests" [18].However, only 84% of the formal participants and 6% of the informal participants completedthe course [7].“It is not the first large course offered on the Internet. What makes this course unique is thecombination of these elements: its large size, its openness, and its for-credit status. It is thefirst course explicitly designed according to the principles of connectivism” [5].CCK08 was offered again by the same facilitators as CCK09 and CCK11, with a refreshedvision on how to better involve and motivate the participants, and as PLENK2010 (PersonalLearning Environments Networks and Knowledge) in a larger facilitation team. b)The first xMOOC was “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence”, with the first run on the onlinespace athttps://www.ai-class.com, organized in partnership with Stanford Engineering, duringOctober 10 to December 18, 2011. The course was taught by Sebastian Thrun and Peter  Norvig, who considered it “a bold experiment in distributed education”. The curriculum of theStanford's introductory Artificial Intelligence course, also similar materials, assignments andexams were used. There were 160,000 registered participants from over 190 countries. Basedon automatically-graded assignments a percentage of 16% completed all the tasks.
The participants informally shared on Twitter (central account @StanfordAIClass with 200tweets)
and on the Stanford AI Class Google group. The video lectures were published onyoutube (http://www.youtube.com/knowitvideos
), being translated by volunteers in 40languages.The course was then moved on Udacity, a for profit platform/organization offering freecourses in Mathematics, Physics and Computer Science, for “democratizing education”. Onlyfor-credit courses are paid and they are run together with San Jose State University. The business model considers also the partnership with Pearson VUE for testing centers and a “job placement program” (http://blog.udacity.com).

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