Mobile Learning and BYOD CLL event – Southampton Uni 7 March

Last Friday, my colleague Nick and I attended an HEA organised event  – Changing the Learning Landscape (CLL) – at the University of Southampton (UoS).

It was an informative event about practices around mobile learning and bring your own device (BYOD) approaches by various UK institutions.

Following an introduction to the day by Alison Le Cornu from the HEA, Prof Hugh Davis, Director of CITE at UoS gave an introduction on university strategy and digital literacies. Digital literacies were defined as the skills needed to be developed by students in order to ‘be equipped to live, thrive, learn, work, collaborate, influence and lead in the increasingly digital and connected world’. Mobile learning and BYOD could certainly contribute towards that direction but some of the issues that a university has to take into account were reported to be the following:

What devices will it support
How these devices are going to be supported
Who will pay for software/apps required
If the university supplies hardware, who owns it (whose Apple id etc)
Which devices can access university systems

These questions set the scene for the rest of the day.

Fiona Harvey and Tamsyn Smith talked about their ‘iPads and alternative devices coffee club’ during which staff get together for coffee and a chat on various apps. Interesting idea that can generate informal networks for ideas exchange in the use of tablet devices for mobile learning.

Tim Cappelli form the University of Manchester Medical School disseminated information from their approach with medical students and explained why they did not follow a BYOD approach. These reasons included data security – which in their case were sensitive patient data –  and homogeneity. However, Tim acknowledged the fact that the single platform approach is not without issues; those include high initial outlay, tablet fatigue and may make it hard to find an exit strategy.

Prof Steven Furnell from Plymouth University gave a talk ‘Your device – Everybody’s problem?’ in which he highlighted the dilemmas between pre-selected devices and BYOD in terms of ownership and management but also highlighted the security issues that mobile devices are prone to, including loss, theft, security passwords and malware.

Katie Spires, a Web Science PhD student from UoS shared her experiences on how some iPad Apps and the In class App in particular can be helpful as an assistive technology for organising one’s learning.

Following that, Adrian Halnan from  the School of Education at UoS shared his reflections from BYOD as part of one of the modules he taught; this highlighted the advantages and limitations of students bringing their own device. An interesting point made by Adrian was that while the advantages of BYOD – familiarity, personalisation, access to own software, flexibility around study patterns/note taking and portability – were more related with students’ learning, the limitations of BYOD – lack of charging stations, printing problems, network reliability, some programs being unavailable – had to do primarily with management issues.

John Schulz, also from the School of Education at UoS offered his experiences from his School in which iPads are given as weekly loans to some mature students and army students during their on-campus residentials. The tablet devices have commonly used apps downloaded on them and as they are backed-up on the cloud, they can easily be restored and reused.

The day closed with an overview of the Students as Digital Literacies Champions (Digichamps) from the DL Digichamps at UoS


Connectivism: A progressive learning theory for advanced learners?

I was reading yesterday Stephen Downes’ blogpost in which he replied to some of the critics of connectivism

A particular line caught my eye: ‘The claim made by connectivism is that communication is non-semantical’. It got me thinking, is non-semantical communication real communication? I posted my question on twitter addressing Stephen Downes himself, who had the time -and the courtesy – to reply directly to my tweet saying that ‘communication signals don’t contain meaning and reference inherently’. When prompted by my question whether the educator’s role is exactly that, i.e. to create reference and meaning interacting with learners, his reply was that ‘No that’s a different kind of pedagogy, constructivism maybe. Connectivism is about growth and development, not meaning making’.

The idea that communication actually could be ‘multiple simultaneous monologues’ may seem strange at first but it has philosophical underpinnings and is not ungrounded.  Although as an educator I have been thinking that the aim is to create reference and meaning interacting with others, philosophically I accept that this may not necessarily be the case. We all need to challenge our thinking from time to time.

Elsewhere, the founder of connectivism have claimed that autonomy is one of the basic elements of a connectivist MOOC:  ‘Autonomy – this is essentially the assertion that members of the network (in this case, participants employ their own goals and objectives, judgments and assessment of success in the process of interaction with others. This is reflected, for example, in Dave Cormier’s assertion that “you determine what counts as success in a MOOC.”[16] A collection of people working in a MOOC should be, for example, thought of as cooperating, rather than collaborating, because though they will exchange value and support each other, each will be pursuing his or her own objectives and depending on their own means and resources.’

Accepting the claim that ‘communication signals have no inherent reference/meaning’ as a working hypothesis, in combination with learner’s autonomy – the ability to set their own goals and objectives, but also the ability to self-evaluate whether these are met and to what extent –  as a prerequisite for learning, where does this leave us?

Is connectivism an advanced learning theory suitable to advanced learners?

While it is anticipated that postgraduate learners are able to set their own goals, can we expect the same from all learners, including those in the early stages of their learning journey?


The impact of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in Higher Education – Wed 26 Jun @6pm

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) – a term coined by Dave Cormier back in 2008 when the first experimental MOOC ran – came to prominence in 2012 with the launch of Coursera, EdX and Udacity platforms in the United States. Most often MOOCs are short courses with duration varied between a couple of weeks to a couple of months, and at the moment, they do not provide academic credit, but some do provide a certificate of completion or statement of accomplishment.

MOOCs are currently free for participants and are funded by public and/or private sources. However, there is speculation that in the near future, Universities involved may profit by charging for certification and by building hybrid courses around MOOCs that carry academic credit. 

In this talk I will summarise my personal reflections from participating in a MOOC and provide a brief evaluation of the connectivist MOOC (cMOOC) learning design. Following that, MOOCs’ future sustainability in general will be discussed and a speculation of their future impact in HE will be attempted, including both online and on campus education.

The event is organised jointly by the BCS Hampshire, the BCS elearning SIG and Southampton Solent University and is free for anyone interested; however, you are kindly requested to book your place online following the link below:

The MOOC Quality Project

There seems to be a lot of rhetoric on MOOCs lately and the ways that they are going to ‘revolutionise’ education. However, there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed before MOOCs can provide credit and the MOOC Quality Project seems to be moving the conversation on MOOCs to the right direction. 12 weeks, 12 experts in the area are discussing their position regarding MOOC and Quality issues in particular in a project initiated by the European Foundation for Quality in E-Learning (EFQUEL)