The Learning and Knowledge Analytics 2011 course (#LAK11) came to a close last Friday. It has been another wonderful massive open online course (MOOC), in which I learned quite a bit about the burgeoning areas of educational analytics, big data, and social network analysis. The MOOC speaker list identified key players in these spaces, thereby enabling me to grow my personal learning environment, as I added some of these people to my Twitter feed and my RSS reader. I still have to listen to a few of the last online Ellluminate sessions, and because they are archived I can listen to them any time I like; not quite like missing a physical lecture.
I have started using NodeXL and Gephi which are software tools for visualizing social interactions generated from internet activity logs or manually to reflect social situations. We have played with a number of different views of online student interaction data generated from our learning management system, which you can see in my previous post. With so much activity occurring online these days the possibilities of what to visualize seem almost endless.
Just last week a visualization of the crisis in Egypt was created by extracting Tweets from Twitter with the Hashtag #Jan25, and we all know how that situation turned out, with many claiming that Twitter was a key tool contributing to the success of the revolution. That video went viral with over 60,000 views on YouTube in just a week. So it seems these visualizations have a global and universal appeal.
Reflecting on the course
Engaging in a MOOC is a commitment to attaching yourself to a network of people, content, websites, discussions, feeds, and other artefacts. You may never meet anyone who is also taking the course, but you will connect with them using various software and through websites online. A unique code (hashtag) is attached to all of the content created by course members; this allows people to search for course related artefacts using the unique code – in our case #LAK11. When the course is complete, all of the course related artefacts are left behind for anyone to explore in the future.
With all of these different channels for communicating with each other, it can get a little overwhelming, especially in an online course. Every morning a dedicated MOOC’er will have to check the course webpage, browse the forums, check the Twitter hashtag, look for other student blogs, review the live Elluminate session and corresponding Elluminate chat.
What would be really useful would be to know from a central location which tools had been most actively used since your last visit. A dashboard of sorts, which would enable a student to see what discussions they may have missed or where someone had made a reply to their questions. I do realize this can be done using RSS, but it is not yet as easy as it should be to tie it all together. Perhaps this is what we need our LMS’s to be doing? This would enhance the learner’s personal learning environment by providing a central place to start exploring the people and content (nodes) they are connected to. I believe that some of the value in analytics will be in tying all of these interactions together thereby optimizing the learners experience.
A tip of the hat to our friends over at the Ariadne project who have attempted to develop a dashboard for visualizing and monitoring student online activity in comparison to their peers. They have not been too explicit about where this data is coming from, but we think it is generated from the Scope Moodle forum which was used in the course. The graphs show cumulative online activity over time in comparison to other members in the course, my pathway is shown in the image in green. You can see that I stopped generating log data in late January, as I have not been engaging in the forums since then.
I never regret engaging in a MOOC. It is an opportunity to gather with leaders in a field and discuss a topic of interest to others. I have made a number of connections during the course, spent some time reflecting on each week’s topic, encountered a number of interesting projects to watch, and overall increased the richness of my personal learning environment. Now I need to focus on my thesis for the remainder of the year, so I hope a new interesting MOOC will not tempt me into engaging again!