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EMMA new MOOCs starting from 29 February onwards

The EMMA team has been working day and night in recent weeks to get the platform ready for a new offer of MOOCs for the 2016 winter-spring season. Already running since January is the highly successful MOOC Coding in your Classroom, Now! delivered in Italian which already has a community of over 5000 participants. The new Philosophy for Children MOOC shows teachers how they can use stories and sketches to introduce philosophy into their classes. Another great new MOOC is Drawing light and shadows in which you can learn how to do architectural drawings of buildings, focusing on the theory of shadows and how to represent them. The EMMA webinar series is back with interesting sessions on learning analytics, translation workflows and task-centred approaches in MOOC design. From 7-11 March EMMA will also be part of the Open Education Week with several linked events. Enjoy our newsletter this month starting with a piece on the difference between personal and personalised learning by internationally renowned commentator Stephen Downes.

Personal and Personalized Learning

darco janssenby Stephen Downes, Senior Researcher for National Research Council Canada in Moncton

We hear the phrase ‘personalized learning’ a lot these days, so much so that it has begun to lose its meaning. Wikipedia tells us that it is the “tailoring of pedagogy, curriculum and learning environments by learners or for learners in order to meet their different learning needs and aspirations.” i

Even this short definition provides us with several dimensions across which personalization may be defined. Each of these has been the subject of considerable debate in the field:
•    Pedagogy – do we need to differentiate instruction according to student variables or ‘learning styles’, or is this all a big myth?
•    Curriculum – should students study the same subjects in the same order, beginning with ‘foundational’ subjects such as reading or mathematics, or can we vary this order for different students?
•    Learning environments – should students work in groups in a collaborative classroom, or can they learn on their own at home or with a computer?

In personalized learning today, the idea is to enable technology to make many of these decisions for us. For example, adaptive learning entails the presentation of different course content based on a student’s prior experience or performance in learning tasks.

What these approaches have in common, though, is that in all cases learning is something that is provided to the learner by some educational system, whether it be a school and a teacher, or a computer and adaptive learning software. And these providers work from a standard model of what should be provided and how it should be provided, and adapt and adjust it according to a set of criteria. These criteria are determined by measuring some aspect  of the student’s performance.

This is why we read a lot today about ‘learning analytics’ and ‘big data’. The intent behind such systems is to use the data collected from a large number of students working in similar learning environments toward similar learning outcomes in order to make better recommendations to future students. The ‘optimized learning path’ for any given learner is found by analyzing the most successful path followed by the most similar students.

It’s an open question whether we improve learning employing such methods. Presumably, using trial and error, and employing a wide variety of pedagogical, curricular and environmental variables, we could come upon some statistically significant results. But the question is whether we should apply these methods, for two reasons.

First, individual variability outweighs statistical significance. We see this in medicine. While, statistically, a certain treatment might make the most sense, no doctor would prescribe such a treatment without first assessing the individual and making sure that the generalization actually applies, because in many cases it doesn’t, and the doctor is sworn to ‘do no harm’.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, it shouldn’t be up to the education system to determine what a person learns, how they learn it, and where. Many factors go into such decisions: individual preferences, social and parental expectations, availability of resources, or employability and future prospects. The best educational outcome isn’t necessarily the best outcome.

For these reasons, it may be preferably to embrace an alternative to personalized learning, which might be called personal learning. In the case of personal learning, the role of the educational system is not to provide learning, it is to support learning. Meanwhile, the decisions about what to learn, how to learn, and where to learn are made outside the educational system, and principally, by the individual learners themselves.

Personal learning often begins informally, on an ad hoc basis, driven by the need to complete some task or achieve some objective. The learning is a means to an end, rather than the end in itself. Curricula and pedagogy are selected pragmatically. If the need is short term and urgent, a simple learning resource may be provided. If the person wants to understand at a deep level, then a course might be the best option.

Personalized learning is like being served at a restaurant. Someone else selects the food and prepares it. There is some customization – you can tell the waiter how you want your meat cooked – but essentially everyone at the restaurant gets the same experience.

Personal learning is like shopping at a grocery store. You need to assemble the ingredients yourself and create your own meals. It’s harder, but it’s a lot cheaper, and you can have an endless variety of meals. Sure, you might not get the best meals possible, but you control the experience, and you control the outcome.

When educators and policy-makers talk about personalized learning, they frequently focus on the quality of the result. But this is like everybody should eat at restaurants in order to be sure they always get the healthiest meal possible. It may seem like the best option, but even the best restaurant can’t cater to the wide range of different tastes and nutritional needs, and no restaurant will help the person learn to cook for themselves.

Ultimately, if people are to become effective learners, they need to be able to learn on their own. They need to be able to find the resources they need, assemble their own curriculum, and forge their own learning path. They will not be able to rely on education providers, because their needs are too many and too varied.

The PLE (Personal Learning Environment) in EMMA allows you to create your learning path with lessons and chapters from different MOOCs available in EMMA. You can learn the details of this feature in the tutorial A-Z EMMA tutorial for students. (ed.)

EMMA joins the Open Education Week 2016    

Open Education Week is a global event that seeks to raise awareness of free and open sharing in education and the benefits they bring to teachers and learners. Coordinated by the Open Education Consortium, the event showcases projects, resources, and ideas from around the world that demonstrate open education in practice.

Task-centred approach to MOOC design: challenges and opportunities
Webinar on 10 March 14:00 CET by the EMMA project

This one hour webinar is intended for people willing to improve the pedagogical design of MOOCs. Often MOOCs tend to follow an instructivist approach where learners are mostly expected to acquire and remember the knowledge presented by the teacher. This webinar will guide participants through the phases of Merrill’s task-centered instructional design model. We will show how the model can be applied to MOOC design for engaging learners in active and collaborative knowledge construction through meaningful and practical assignments. Opportunities that task-centred MOOC design offers and challenges that need to be considered will be discussed. This event is part of the EMMA webinars that address different topics about MOOCs, including design, production of videos, use of social media, etc.

Towards open educational processes and practices
Lecture series from 7-11 March by the Open University Netherlands

This series of lectures and expert discussions starts off with a general introduction into the current debate on open education and the state-of-the art of research at the moment. Several challenges for open educational practices are introduced from the perspective of ongoing research projects. A special session is dedicated to the instructional design of massive open online courses and the specific challenges introduced by large numbers of participants. Together with the National Unesco Commission of the Netherlands one day will be dedicated to international policy making about open education and the relation to the sustainable development goals formulated by UNESCO. Last but not least strategic and organisational challenges of educational institutions will be introduced by experts. Each day a one-hour live session will be offered during noon (12:00-13:00) accompanied by scientific and professional publications related to each topic. Participants will be able to ask question that will be treated during the live sessions.

Hope to see you at one of the events during this inspiring week!

International Conference on Data Science and Social Research (DSSR)
- Naples, Italy -

EMOOCs 2016 conference
Fourth European MOOCs stakeholders summit
- Graz, Austria -

 1 March 2016

EMMA Webinar
Creating and delivering multilingual MOOCs based on the use of the translation and transcription service of UPV
- Online -

Open Education Week
free and open educational opportunities
- World wide -

EMMA Webinar
Task-centred approach to MOOC design: challenges and opportunities
- Online -

Media & Learning 
Enriching learning through media education and media literacy
- Brussels, Belgium -
>> all events

More than 5000 participants in EMMA MOOC on coding in the classroom

The MOOC "Coding in your classroom, now!" started on 25 January and aims to help teachers introducing coding in their classrooms in the most natural and engaging way, without a need for prior coding knowledge. Alessandro Bogliolo, from the University of Urbino is the course leader of this highly successful course with an active community of more than 5000 participants. Each week a live webcast is organised, and participants are engaged in playful coding activities, Bogliolo also encourages the teachers to try-out activities in their classroom.  Read more

New EMMA webinars on MOOC design in March!

EMMA is organising two new webinars in March. On Tuesday 1 March we will talk about providing multilingual access to your MOOCs which is a key aspect in the European context. On Tuesday 10 March the session focuses around the task-centred approach to MOOC design. EMMA webinar series features talks with experts in the MOOC world about various topics including trends in Europe, good practice in MOOC design, the use of social media and videos, creating multilingual MOOCs, learning analytics and much more. The webinar series also gives you a chance to learn how the EMMA platform works and how you can design your own MOOC on EMMA. Read more.

Winner EMMA video competition

At the beginning of the academic year, a video competition was held, we are now very happy to announce the winner: Paola Chaaya from Turin, Italy. You can have a look at the video here. Congratulations Paola! And thanks to everybody for sending in all the nice, funny, creative videos! Watch all videos here

>> all news

EMMA MOOC offer Winter-Spring 2016


and more to come!

Ultimately, if people are to become effective learners, they need to be able to learn on their own. They need to be able to find the resources they need, assemble their own curriculum, and forge their own learning path. They will not be able to rely on education providers, because their needs are too many and too varied. 

Stephen Downes, Senior Researcher for National Research Council Canada in Moncton

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