Sunday 28 September 2014

#ELTchat Summary 24th September 2014

#Eltchat : Why do we always see the same faces when we take part in online PD and MOOCs?

We were not many in number for the chat this week, but had a full complement of moderators, together with around 20 participants. That didn't stop the plethora of interesting comments which were tweeted during the hour.

The topic was prompted by my observation that the same faces keep on appearing on forums and chatlists for the webinars and free MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) taking place throughout the year. @muranava suggested that this wasn't necessarily a bad thing, as you might put your trust in the course more if there were familiar names taking part too.

Another question was why so many people sign up, yet fail, or appear to fail, to complete the course.
@HadaLitim mentioned a course she had done with IH, which contained names she was
unfamiliar with. I wondered whether that was a feature of  paid PD. So I asked the question....

Does it make a difference if the online course is paid for?

It appears that many people thought that it could certainly influence the people who would be able to pay for online CPD. They would be more likely to complete the course programme and put more into it.
@ShaunWilden thought that the course provider might also make a difference. @Ven_VVE thought that a well-designed online course would provide more interaction between participants and tutors, in comparison to a MOOC.

@MarjorieRosenbe mentioned the webinars provided by IATEFL and the various special interest groups. She thought that they attracted different groups of teachers.

Why do people register and then give up ?

@Marisa_Constantinides wanted to find out the answer and a variety of reasons were mooted:
  • unrealistic expectations of what is involved
  • too much choice of material
  • an overload of material in a short time period
  • webinar fatigue
  • spoilt for choice and indecisive so avoid getting involved
  • the other participants slacking
  • clunky websites which are not user friendly
  • People force themselves to do it and don't recognise full benefit
  • @Marisa_Constantinides told us about her first course which compressed everything into a 5-day timetable which was too short for the tasks. She said that the dropout rate was impressive- starting with 180 participants, she finished with 12. She also suggested that many people might be lurking and not actually doing the work due to differing factors.
  • Perhaps there is so much choice that people choose the wrong course

What could help?

@Marisa_Constantinides : spacing out tasks stops people getting bogged down in family matters and giving up
@klgree: finding a partner or mentor would help
@klgree: options to suit peoples needs and comfort with technology: webinars, Moocs or just #ELTchat on twitter.
@josipa74: is 'contemplative computing' the answer? 
@Marisa: people starting online PD often do not have the habit of organising their  learning, so many of those courses where you have to manage your own time need a training component at the beginning.
@SueAnnan: personally I find MOOCs chaotic. I like deadlines where everyone is on the same timescale.@ShaunWilden: this is the conclusion that many people are coming to.
@StudyBundles: twitter is an accessible point for those not necessarily interested in online PD.
@jankenb2: how about badges or some other quantifiable measures of participation?
@HadaLitim: It would need to be a recognised accreditor in some parts of the world.
@klgree: group discussions for local teachers taking a MOOC seems to aid course completion.
@slagoski23: we found adopting the #EDcamp model helps to increase motivation.

How do we sell it to the 'What do I get out of it' brigade? 


@ChristineMulla felt that it was hard to engage teachers in Ireland. This was re-iterated by @edchatirl who thought that some teachers were engaging in the wrong CPD and not getting qualifications they could use in Ireland.
 Perhaps a suggestion that better teachers equals happier students might work? 
 @Hada thought that more money was a good motivator- or the collection of certificates.This was agreed by @ChristineMulla who thought that we could add recognition, or something for the CV, to our list.
@MarjorieRosenbe thought that we should be doing it for ourselves, and not for others, but @Marisa claimed that the disinterested would only be motivated by tangible evidence such as a boost to their career.

Does it suit some learning styles more than others?

 People agreed that it might be too impersonal for some of our colleagues. Perhaps some of us learn better with f2f components in our courses.@jospia74 agreed that a bit of f2f work  twice a year made her  online MA more enjoyable. @StudyBundles did his MA as a completely online course and said that he would have loved to have had a f2f element.
@jankenb2 told us that she didn't always finished a course but took what was useful to her from the different elements.
@edchatirl: I'd be lost without twitter chats. Great CPD for me.
@muranava offered a link after saying that various learners often walk away with different results and rewards.

How do Employers perceive online PD? 

@Marisa thought that employers were often not engaged with online CPD and don't understand the benefits. @Christine believes that people are not aware of how much can be got from online learning. Although @Shaun thought that the situation was changing, @Hada suggested a note of caution. She said that anything not delivered f2f was still not recognised in many countries.

How about the PD provided by employers themselves? 

Everyone agreed that ongoing professional development is a must after an initial qualification. Should it be compulsory? One question asked was "Where does it leave teachers with no PD in the future? @klgree felt that it could be foreign to teachers who had had little pre-, or in-service training.
@Christine made a good point. She wanted a distinction between personally motivated CPD and CPD as a box-ticking exercise just for the sake of it. @klgree and @Hada wanted to be assured that the PD was relevant to all of the participants, or worried that it just elicited groans.
@Marjorie said that a webinar was preferable as they only last an hour.

Why, then, do we do it? 

@ChristineMulla: I do it for me- I haven't really thought about certificates
@StudyBundles: I record it in our compulsory 30 hours we have to submit
@ShaunWilden : I am taking part in a MOOC. I started offering online CPD because schools couldn't do it f2f
@edchatirl: I can see the value which I was shown last year while doing my Post Grad.
@HadaLitim: I'm interested in what's happening out there and growing my PLN.
@josipa74: we are doing CPD in Berlin with our own teacher's group
@jankenb2: licensing requires PD hours which can easily be met by MOOCs.

Is there any way to monetise MOOCS and make them pay for hard-working, skilled trainers?

@josipa74 wondered whether it was possible.
@ShaunWilden suggested that if you lowered the numbers, hired capable tutors and offered it as an online class it would work.
@jankenb2 thought that it was an ideal scenario, but not necessary. She explained that good online design included synchronous sessions and a monitored discussion board.

Where can we find out what's on offer? 

@KateLloyd05 thought that there was so much choice she didn't know where to start. @SueAnnan saw the vicious circle at play: you need to be online, FB, Twitter, Google+, email to find out what is on offer online. @ShaunWilden said that he had done courses with Coursera, who then added him to their email list. I did the same with the consultants-e and iTDi. If you belong to IATEFL or another such body of accreditation, they will have a list of everything on offer for months in advance. This is also true of the EFL publishers like MacMillan or Oxford University Press.
Suggested Facebook pages were those of IATEFL, BELTA ,Tesol EVO, iTDi, Webinars for English Teachers and others of that genre.

In fact there are now so many free webinars taking place that it is lucky that most of them are  recorded for the people who can't watch them all at the same time. As @HadaLitim pointed out competition raises standards, and there are certainly some excellent offerings around. 

Some links for your perusal: 

Marisa's post from 2010 

Shaun and Marisa's IATEFL presentation
Nik Peachey on MOOCs
Belta Webinar
 Coming up on #ELTbrain


  1. Reading through your excellent summary, I reflected on what factors motivate me and what turn sme off online courses (including, but not only, MOOCs):

    - Size: I feel there is some magic number for effective interaction - between instructor and participants, and amongst participants - too few and there isn't enough variety, too many and the interaction gets too diffused and/or chaotic.

    - Time & Pace: as with size, there is a sweet spot for time and pace. Like Marisa, I find the pace can be too fast to effectively engage and if you get behind you feel lost and it's then easiest to withdraw. Too slow and you can lose interest. But this is quite personal and whether something is too fast or too slow will depend on how much time I have, and how much prior knowledge.

    - For me, cost isn't so much of a factor. I've dropped out of courses I've paid for because I just couldn't manage the commitment at the time, and I've stayed the distance with a free course when I have had the time and motivation.

    - Other participants slacking off can definitely be a turnoff. I've been on courses where I've been the only one posting, and in one the instructors even stopped - hardly interaction!

    Other thoughts...
    - There are MOOCs and there are MOOCs. The quality is questionable in many, and lots are little more than a series of reading or listening comprehension exercises.
    - I don't think we're quite at the stage where competition is raising the standard. Instead I think we're still in a 'saturate the market' phase. Let's hope this changes soon.
    - I find it laughable that as the budgets of government funded institutions (in Australia at least) are getter tighter, and teachers are being asked to find ways to bring more money in through commercial projects, there is a call from high up to offer free training through MOOCs!

    Thanks Sue. Thanks #ELTchat folk :-)

    1. Lesley, you make the same points that I'd make myself. In fact I've heard many other teachers with similar points of view. I have taken part in some excellent Moocs, and yet been really fed up when no-one else posts- or else waits until others post before regurgitating the same ideas. I also hate ones where people can start and end when they like. It means that these people get no interaction, but just benefit from what went before- and then pick up the same certificate. Okay- rant over :-)