Is the MOOCs students learning? Academic v Casual-style learning online

What we want to quickly discuss here is the gap between the teaching of a theory and testing somone’s knowledge of that theory , and Casual learning which is the passing on some practical, basic messages – via a short-form video, written article, or audio clip – that may help someone in their personal or profesional life.  Its value lies in the ability for these “casual learners” to take something away from the session, and immediately use it in their everyday lives.  The test is in practice, not formally.

If casual learning can take place as part of a virtual community of learners who are using those basic lessons in their workplace or wherever, they can come back to that community to discuss how they may have helped them do their job better, solve a problem and share experiences – this drives innovation and new ways of using ideas.  This is why casual learning is suited to a mobile or online environment being used by a professional development audience.

In an academic learning environment learners come back to their virtual campus to be graded on their understanding of the theory – not their ability to innovate or change it – requiring tests, and the creation of grading to judge an individuals’ progress.   This takes resources and, what’s more, the use of credible resources to fairly grade them.

This is why even an online university requires infastructure and bureacracy that mirrors a “real university” and for what gain?  Especially if, as we are now discovering, students may not be learning anyway – preferring to cheat their way through courses that have no actual standing.  Distance learning through universities traditionally involves on-campus, supervised testing and sessions for a reason.  It gives them credibility and motivation to study and think.  But then, of course, they lead to real qualifications and cost real money.

Offering the material of the world’s top theoretical minds is fantastic, but is the MOOC model really one that will work long-term or is all just hype?  Will it lead to a more innovative world?  Current evidence suggests not.

When news of the plagarism and cheating on the meaningless tests of the meaningless courses comes to light it simply drags the whole concept down from being “changing the face of learning” to that of being “kind of interesting” in the mould of Wikipedia.

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How Not to be a Twitter-tweeting Tool

Along with our preceding post, we’ve both become increasingly frustrated and angry at the way in which a large number of people choose to use the application – without any professional courtesy. So, we compiled the following “Rules for Tweeting without being a total Twitter Tool” for your comment. If anyone you follow fall into these categories regularly, we suggest the unfollow button. If enough people did this perhaps they’d learn.

You’re not a celebrity, respond to people.

  • When you want to talk to lots of people you use social media – hence the word “social” (look it up in a dictionary or, even better, take a MOOC on it or ask the person in the Palo-Alto-based beanbag next to you). When you don’t actually want to talk to lots of people about something you use email, SMS, your phone, two cans connected by string, DMs, Skype, sign language, inarticulate grunts… In other words, if you want to ask a question relating to the PoC of your totally way-too-cool-for-school-D-Bag-detection location based app but it was really only for your hipster friends to comment on only THEN ONLY SEND IT TO THEM. Others of us, taking an interest in what other startups are doing, may comment as a result of following you and seeing the message. Your failure to respond to our condisered feedback (based on some experience) is rude, stupid and arrogant, who knows, perhaps we have something that could’ve helped you? (See rule 3).

Thank people for Re-Tweeting you.

  • This is a funny one. We often re-tweet quality stuff because it helps us build rapport with our followers and it helps share the “good stuff”. We are thanked, perhaps, 30% of the time.
  • Being thanked for re-tweeting makes you feel good. It’s good karma. It doesn’t take much to thank someone for helping to share your thoughts wider (especially when they’ve got hundreds of followers) – it probably indicates they’re a good networker to have on your follower list. Not thanking someone for retweeting doesn’t make you a massive tool but it’s the kind of behaviour that gets you on your way.

Add value for your audience.

  • OK, I know who you are now – you’re the same guy from rule 1. You tweet stuff for your circle of hipster buddies. You tweet rather than send an email (or a DM) because this way everyone sees that you’re in an exclusive club of my-startup-was-mentioned-once-on-zdnet or the hey-I-work-at-mashable-worship-my-hipster-credibility and that makes you feel freaking awesome. 99.99% of the people following you have no freaking idea of what you’re talking about and couldn’t care less. They’re following you for the advice, inside scoops, and the chance that you could help them with something, etc. not to be the audience for your ego trip. Here’s an idea, how about add value to their lives and spend a few seconds to do that? They may not unfollow you so quickly.

Next time – the gray areas in Twitter etiquette!

How Not to be a Twitter-tweeting Tool

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How we avoided a curse and decided Twitter needed some manners

PRIMEr has been using Twitter seriously as a business networking tool (alongside our Blog) to start to build our “Crowd” since (Friday) 13 July (before posting, to prove just how non-superstituous we are, we also smashed a couple of mirrors, opened and closed our umbrellas several dozen times indoors and summoned both Candyman and Bloody Mary in the bathroom mirror – aside from one grisly death within our team, there is no evidence it is Friday the 13th related). Prior to this we’d had individual accounts which we had dabbled with over a couple of years.

I must say I personally found Twitter to be quite hard work at first but ultimately rewarding when it started to “happen” and I was able to connect with others all over the world who held the same particular, focused obsession I did (a particular code of football and/orparticular team).

Tweeting with thousands of others while watching your favourite sporting team play is enormously fun (especially when you’re winning) or an instant mass support group when they lose (and for my team and our tribe tha’s a LOT right now)… For that, Twitter is a fun app – a great second screen to interact with others while you watched on your TV or a good first screen to tweet at the game. Any original ideas I had to use Twitter to find a new job had been thrown out the window within minutes of finding my team and my favourite players all had Twitter accounts. It didn’t take long for the networks to learn of this phenomenon and now Tweets on screen or read out regularly on the radio coverage are increasingly becoming part of the game.

Anyway, back to business. So far it’s been fantastic to gain introductions to hundreds (almost 300 so far on Twitter and over 500 readers of the blog) of individuals and businesses with whom we have aligned interests.

However, as far as taking those relationships any further, Twitter has been almost totally useless (which could be our fault – though we love each and every one of you). Meanwhile, as we’ve blogged about previously, our real life network has provided us with most of the resources (be they people, expertise, feedback, and PoC validation) we’ve needed to get to this point. We didn’t meet any of our associates through social media nor any of the experts we’ve workshopped our idea with. They came from past employers, Business Schools, etc.

Up next: Don’t be a Twitter Tweeting Tool…

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Australia versus Social Media : Won’t Anyone Think Of The Children?!

Ah, Australia. The Lucky Country. Some decades ago an Australian Historian coined that term to describe ourselves because we genuinely wondered how we’d achieved our wealth and standard of living by being so damned relaxed all the time. His answer, “meh, just dumb luck…”

I could go on for hours on this but it takes more than some relaxed yokels to go from being an open air prison to having a Supreme Court within 38 years of landing on a strange Continent (and after struggling for the first few years to feed itself) with the establishment of Parliamentary democracy in NSW a decade later (making NSW second or third longest continuous demcoracy in the world). You also don’t become the richest country (per capita) on the planet without getting at least a little wound up every now and then… for goodness’ sake, we gave the world multi-Billionaire Tyrant Rupert Murdoch, Wi-Fi, digital music sampling, AC/DC, the bionic ear, the secret ballot, and less impressively the “goon sack” (otherwise known as cask wine) amongst other trivial, and other obviously laid backstuff like Penicillan.

So freaking laid back are we that we built railways, roads and telegraphs across massive expanses of deserts, used this land to grow food and find mineral wealth and (whether you think it was a good thing or not), have fought the bad guys in all major wars for the last 100+ years.

SO LAID BACK ARE WE, we even stick to our own little corner or the world. (Hem hem, got a little worked up there with the sarcasm…)

We also, arguably, created the twin concepts of being over-governed and over-regulated. Which, as a largely non-laid back people, we’re happy with.

The reality is, anything which isn’t visibly regulated or sign-posted in Australia is a source of extreme anxiety for everyone concerned. Think of Helen Lovejoy (of The Simpons’ fame) representing a large portion of the Australian polity: “Why Won’t Someone Think of The Children!”

In any case, Crowdfunding it seems was clearly making someone in Canberra a little uncomfortable – perhaps seemed a little too free and easy, “What? People just give you money? But WHY? That’s far too easy!” – so they (being ASIC the Australian Securities Commission) decided to remind everyone that crowdfunding is likely to be a big scam, that will see them waste their money (meanwhile actual scam merchants such as QuiBids continue unmolested).

But that they could and will regulate it and with how big a stick they could hit you with if you f**ked up:

“Offering a financial product or securities without meeting the relevant obligations under the Corporations Act may have a number of consequences, including fines or other penalties. For example, the maximum penalty for failing to register a managed investment scheme is 200 penalty units ($22,000), five years imprisonment or both.

The maximum penalty for carrying on a financial services business without an AFS licence is 200 penalty units ($22,000), two years imprisonment or both.”

You don’t even get that kind of penalty for deliberately running down multiple hipsters in your car.

The ACCC joined in the fun then promising to become Australia’s Social Media Cop – not only warning us against crowdfunding but deciding that everything on Social Media is an ad, and that anything written anywhere, by anyone, would be governed and regulated by them - and that no Facebook fanboy would be left behind!

  • Err, Aren’t we trying to be internationally competitive? Now businesses have new burdens and are less agile to deal with change or compete internationally. Difficult access to equity crowd-funding models (that are becoming en vougue overseas) for one and potential extra headaches when trying to set up your own campaign anyway are real hurdles for Startups. And everything on Social media being an ad…? Watch out. Making a joke about your product could be as dangerous as making one about a bomb at a check-in counter. Never before has a sarcasm font been more needed.
  • Thin edge of the wedge.  When the ACCC becomes concerned about something it usually means lots of well-meaning public education and less-well-meaning punishments for others. There’s now a major risk that Social media and crowd-funding will become even more scary and more likely to be considered a scam in the eyes of the Australian public.
  • Will Commercialisation Australia pick up ths slack? Presumably this means Commercialisation Australia (CA) will relax its rules on amounts to be raised to access their funds? Not bloody likely. If ASIC and ACCC make it even more difficult to raise funds from crowd-funding by telling everyone they’re being scammed, then many startups just won’t get the cash from CA.

You’d think luck would be abundant in the lucky country.  Don’t count on being able to make your own.

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MOOCs are Great but we’re not trying to be one

(And we won’t use the word pedagogy once – well, expect here.)

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course and it represents a new take on the old “Open University” initiative which had the social aim of opening higher, tertiary learning opportunities to as many people as possible via distance learning.

Whereas the Open University initiative was originally based on a selection of short texts and television programs designed to deliver course material for its distance learning students.  A MOOC has translated this model online, teaming with Universities to make courses freely accessible on the internet and open up this course material to large numbers of student worldwide.  MOOC Startup, Coursera, for example, follows a similar Open University model – breaking down lectures and notes down into small chunks.  Unlike the Open University model, the MOOC has a social element.

It’s become big news over the last few weeks and months through the adoption of MOOC ventures by large, internationally-known tertiary institutions through Coursera.

Don’t get us wrong – we like MOOCs – democratisation of education is great and it is a form of crowd-learning which opens up lots of opportunities for innovation.  But let’s explain why we as a mobile casual learning platform don’t want to be a MOOC and why we aren’t competing with them:

  • A MOOC is no substitute for a real degree.  It isn’t and isn’t intended to be so why replicate the bureaucracy and structure of a University?  As we’ve blogged before no one’s walking away from a MOOC with a recognised degree. The release of their material is a complementary content marketing strategy for the University in showcasing themselves and their lecturers and courses. The fact that someone in Africa or the Middle East can view MIT or Princeton lectures also makes it a social enterprise for them and a form of educational diplomacy for the United States.
  • MOOC isn’t casual learning of practical, professional skills.  We want to deliver easily-digested learning opportunities via mobile video.  That’s Casual learning, like you’re doing right now.  PRIMEr’s experts will be industry peers delivering information on skills you can use, and allows you to discuss and talk about with others in your industry.  And in so doing innovate ways in which businesses and professionals work.
  • We can be complementary to a MOOC, not competitive with them.  Coursera can be our customer.  They could upload parts of the course to PRIMEr and encourage our Users to give MOOCs a go. We’d love to hear from them and other MOOCs in the future.

We’ll probably be blogging more about MOOCs in the future – maybe even come up with a crazy acronym ourselves.

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