Sunday, December 22, 2013

Why Training Should Be More Like Candy Crush?

Candy Crush Saga is the most popular game on Facebook, iOS and the Android Play Store. It is a simple match-three puzzle game. But it is more than that... as every Candy Crush player lives to tell. 
I am far from being a facebook gamer but I started playing the game this December. My objective was to understand and analyse the reason behind the game's astounding success and try and identify some parallels between good games and successful training. And I wasn't disappointed. This candy is addictive! But I wish all training was.

Here's why training should be more like Candy Crush:

1) Levels: Life is not a straight line. If it was, it would have been boring. Levels and challenges make the game interesting. When you complete one level, there is another one waiting to be explored. Following a training path with pre-defined levels would be a good way to progress in one's career. Just-in-time and just-enough are two principles that can help create these levels of training.

2) Lives: The game has limited resources. There is a default number of lives available. This scarcity of lives makes one appreciate the resources that are available and play in a more optimum manner. All training should be more sensitive to the availability of real-life resources and establish that we need to make the most of what we have. Less can be more.

3) Special Candies: When more than three candies of the same colour are matched, the game produces special candies. These special candies have special effects and can help you quickly get the required score. You can also spin a wheel to grab special candies that help you accomplish challenging goals. All training should ensure such short-term benefits, rewards and achievements. These rewards are the motivational factors that help us achieve our objectives and continue on.

4) Obstacles: Obstacles or blockers appear in some levels. They are designed to make the level more challenging and in that sense make it unpredictable. All learning could benefit from including real-life obstacles and problems that add variety and challenge to the learning process.

5) Ask Friends: This is my favorite bit and perhaps the most meaningful. Candy crush is a game you play with friends and family. When stuck on any level, you can request your community of friends for extra lives. You also need friends to help you unlock new levels (or you can buy new levels). This is so unlike most training. Most training is formal and is designed to be from one (instructor) to many (students) Instead, it should be more social and informal and allow for many-to-many relationships. Training should be designed in a way that makes you want to interact and seek support from your network of 'friends' aka experts or colleagues. This social support and community collaboration should help you move ahead in the training path.

Well, everything said, the game is fun. Period. The visuals, the sound effects and the motivating voice, all make it very likable. And because you can start and stop anytime, almost anywhere you are, you tend to think about the game often! Being age and gender neutral also takes it a longer way than most other games. 

There are many things to learn from games such as Candy Crush. But gamification of learning is more than just building games into learning. It is a systematic process of using specific strategies that are based on the principles of gaming. 

Gamification expert, Yu-Kai Chou has developed a framework called Octalysis that presents eight core drives of gamification. It is an actionable framework that can help developers 'gamify' games, products and campaigns. Chou's Level 1 of Octalysis framework includes the following eight drives:
  1. Epic Meaning & Calling
  2. Development & Accomplishment
  3. Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback
  4. Ownership & Possession
  5. Social Influence and Relatedness
  6. Scarcity & Impatience
  7. Curiosity & Unpredictability
  8. Loss & Avoidance
These drives are plotted in an octagon shape and represent the side of the brain they appeal to. The right-side appeals to creativity, social aspects and self-expression. The left-side appeals to logic, calculation and ownership.

According to Chou (@yukaichou), every successful game appeals to one, if not more, of these core drives. Further, each drive is associated with specific game mechanics and tactics. Here, you can see some interesting examples where Farmville, Facebook and Twitter are plotted on this framework.

Some other useful resources from Chou include:

I think Chou's framework has a place in the learning industry and everything else that involves motivational factors - intrinsic or extrinsic. As learning designers, we can use this framework to 'gamify' our learning intervention and identify aspects of design that are likely to make most impact. Yes, training will have core requirements including performance improvement and developing job skills. But if we are looking at gamifying our learning, this is an actionable framework that can help us score our game-based learning design and assess which drive is being used and to what extent. 

PS: If you are into Candy Crush, here's Chou's analysis of Candy Crush using the Octalysis framework. Some of my friends claim they see candies in their dreams :) I will eagerly wait for the day when people see good training in their dreams and can't wait to get back to it!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

What I learned from eLearning Guild #DevLearn Conference 2013

eLearning Guild DevLearn Conference #devlearn wrapped a couple of weeks ago. While I wasn't there, considering that we are in an instant-sharing world, this physical absence was not a deterrent to my learning.

Besides all twitter users of #devlearn, I would especially like to acknowledge the following people who became the biggest source for my learning via the backchannel:
  1. David Kelly for curating various backchannel resources
  2. Cammy Bean for her liveblogged notes
  3. Clark Quinn for his mindmaps
  4. Bianca Woods for livetweeting and blogging the entire experience
Here is what I learned from the keynote sessions at #devlearn:

Keynotes at Devlearn 2013:
1) Unlocking Cool, Jeremy Gutsche, Author and Founder,

  • Anything that's mainstream or popular is not cool anymore.
  • Spot new opportunities and reinvent.
  • Culture eats strategy for breakfast.
  • Embrace change and focus in.
  • Failure and customer obsession are areas where you need to be revolutionary.
  • Make cultural connections.
2) The Real Power of Games for Learning, Ian Bogost, Author and Founding Partner, Persuasive Games

- Complexity vs. simplicity
- Context vs. isolation
- Conditions vs. authority
- Transformation vs. engagement
- Discourse vs. quantification
- Understanding vs. compliance
- Relationship vs. reward
Read Cammy Bean's live blogging notes from this session here.

3) The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You … and Your Learners,  Eli Pariser, Author and CEO, Upworthy

  • There is no standard Google anymore. Everything is personalized.
  • Filter bubbles  - you don't know what you are not seeing. There are bigger unknowns.
  • There is an invisible algorithmic editing of the web.
  • Filters don't allow us to challenge our thinking and keep us away from diversity.
  • We need to burst these filter bubbles and perhaps build better filters.
  • Filters should allow us to see other points of view even if they make us uncomfortable.

4) HackLab: Pursuing Progress Through Deviation, Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen, Talent Anarchy

  • Innovation isn't about big changes. Small improvements and experiments lead to innovation.
  • The changes that matter don’t happen overnight, they are the result of a lot of small, meaningful changes (hacks) over time.
  • You need curiosity, experimentation and courage to be a hacker.
  • Ask: Is it awesome? If the answer is Yes, then leave it alone. If the answer is No, then ask "how could it be better?" Pull it apart, then hack. Then ask: is it awesome.

If you are interested to learn more, check out the handouts and other conference resources that are available here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

7 Leadership Lessons from Jazz with Dr. Frank Barrett

In October, I attended a fascinating session by Dr. Frank Barrett, jazz pianist and author of Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz. The session was jointly organized by ISPI Vancouver with ICF Vancouver, CAPS, CRG International and coordinated by Brian Fraser, the lead provocateur of Jazzthink.

Dr. Barrett is an accomplished, long-time pianist and is currently a professor of management at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. Against the backdrop of jazz, Dr. Barrett shared what Duke Ellington and Miles Davis can teach us about leadership and management. Using jazz as a metaphor for learning was a brilliant concept. I had so much to learn about learning and... about jazz. 

To demonstrate the principles of creativity and improvisation in jazz, he performed with three jazz artists from the Jazzthink Trio who he had met for the first time in the room! The artists had never performed with Dr. Barrett before. Without knowing each other, just by applying the principles Dr. Barrett spoke of, the jazz band enthralled the audience with amazing jazz improv. It was entertaining and very insightful. I almost forgot that I was attending a leadership training session! 

We all certainly 'hit the groove' in this session! 
Here are Dr. Barrett's 7 leadership lessons from jazz:

  • Unlearning - disrupt outworn routines - challenge your routines and learn your way into new and different areas
  • Say "Yes to the Mess" - affirmative competence that favors experimentation - be open to possibilities and the creative power of teams
  • Learn from failures - use errors and mistakes as a source of learning. As Miles Davis puts it, 'If you’re not making a mistake, it’s a mistake.'
  • Use minimal structure and minimal consensus - create just-enough structure to coordinate and don't wait for gaining consensus every time
  • Take turns soloing and supporting embrace 'Followership as a Noble Calling.' Make each other happen
  • Create spaces for hanging out - create informal spaces to hang out where conversations about innovation and experimentation can happen
  • Leadership as provocative competence - know the potential of your people, disrupt their routines and move them away from their comfort zones, remind them of their true potential
In his book, Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazzthe 'Mess' refers to constant change and unstructured tasks we need to perform on a daily basis. Saying 'Yes' to the 'mess' means to develop an improvisational mindset, which means to leap in and take action. But saying yes is not about problem-solving, it is about improvising with what you have and believing that something new and creative will emerge. In that sense, if a leader says 'yes to the mess', it encourages everyone to take risks and perhaps create something amazing together!

In his book, you can find plenty of examples from Jazz to explain and highlight each of these principles. Besides the book, here are some other useful resources:
  • You will enjoy reading one of his older manuscripts that discusses some of the concepts here
  • Here is an interesting article by Dr. Barrett titled, 'If Miles Davis taught your office to improvise'.
  • Here's an interview (with transcript) as a part of the HBR IdeaCast  series from Harvard Business Review. Lots of good stuff here.
  • Another podcast that discusses some more personal examples from his career and how jazz helped him become a better Professor of Management by throwing away his teaching plan and developing a more improvisational, creative teaching style.
  • Here's a blog by Ewan McIntosh that discusses Dr. Barrett's principles and shares similar leadership lessons that have been summed up beautifully by other musicians. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

What did I learn during Learn @ Work Week?

Learn @ Work Week, September 23-27, is an annual celebration recognizing the value of workplace learning and development in Canada.

As I read the phrase, 'Learn @ Work', I wonder where else would I learn.
But don't get me wrong. We learn all the time and we can learn anywhere. But when it comes to professional learning, we learn the most at work. Learning at work doesn't only mean attending a formal training session or a conference or attending a 2-day workshop once every six months. 
Learning at work means embedding learning into every task that you we do on a daily basis. There are many opportunities to learn at work especially when we are working on challenging assignments and projects. But these opportunities can be ad-hoc and may come far and apart. The goal of 'Learn @ Work' is to promote a culture of learning not only for this week but all year round by encouraging us to create and appreciate opportunities and learning events embedded in everyday work.

So what did I learn in Learn @ Work Week?

This week, I attended the  #CSTD 'Vancouver: Our Workplace is Learning! Cracker Barrel Event'. The format allows participants to pack learning in a single event. With 7 presenters and 10 minutes with each presenter, there was plenty to learn! 

The key takeaways are centered around what the presenters said. But are mostly based on my reflection from the questions asked during the presentation and my understanding drawn from the learning experience plus some research on the web after the learning event. 

1) Kal Tire - spoke about onboarding and induction training and how it successfully used blended learning to reduce the onboarding time and make better managers; faster. From 44 months in 2006, onboarding training now is completed in 10.3 months! 
Key Takeaway >> Focus on day 1 and the first week at work to design onboarding training. Keep the onboarding training about work processes, basic safety and technical training. Introduce a career development plan for continuous learning and mentoring.

2) Royal Roads University - shared the challenges and successes with their re-branding and marketing initiative. Royal Roads University’s 2012 rebranding campaign won a prestigious global award for this initiative. Loved the marketing material they shared, including the 'cube'! 

Key Takeaway >> Focus on generating buy-ins. Connect internal and external stakeholders towards the common objective. Re-branding is a lot about creating internal advocates who can 'get' the brand and help others 'get it'.
If you are interested to explore the re-branding campaign, here are some articles:

3) BC Center for Ability Association - discussed the challenges of using online learning with a diverse group and how best to still keep it an experiential learning experience.
Key Takeaway >> E-learning has its place in this world but it can never replace face-to-face learning with a facilitator. As instructional designers, we need to identify the 'right mix' for the audience and training need. 

4) Justice Institute of BC - Showcased their home-grown PRAXIS tool that can be used to create customized immersive, real-life scenarios and problem-based decision making simulations. This was perhaps my favorite of the day! In 2011, JIBC won an Award of Excellence from the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE) for Praxis, which was then named ExPod. The virtual simulation learning tool was selected for the award in the CNIE-RCIÉ Awards Festival, for “Excellence and Innovation in Overall Use of Technology for Learning and Teaching.”
Key Takeaway >> The ability to create real-life scenarios and add real-time coaching and feedback by the mentor was a highlight of this tool. The tool was based on solving problems, making decisions (both individually and in groups), getting feedback and learning from mistakes - all the ingredient of the perfect learning material!
Here's a case study of how Westminster Savings recently used Praxis to develop an earthquake scenario simulation to test their business continuity plan.

5) Seaspan - Spoke about the business and training needs of the shipbuilding and marine industry and how it is bringing together diverse groups within their company to join the path to continuous learning.
Key Takeaway >> Even if 60% of the company staff doesn't have email-ids, learning can happen! :) The idea is to never let technology get in the way of a learning strategy. One of the objectives of the L&D/Training team is to build bridges between the various departments/divisions of an organization and help transfer best practices from one to another. 

6) Prospera Credit Union - Spoke about employee career development training and 'how they made it stick'. It was interesting to see the learning challenge presented in the form of 'snakes and ladders'. Snakes were typical training challenges and ladders were their small successes and wins along the way. This was my second favorite of the day. 

Key Takeaway >> All interventions come with known challenges and some unknown challenges. You need to design the training to overcome the knowns and then improvise to attack the unknowns. The solutions may not be dramatic or typical and infact may be very simple. The idea is to make small wins along the way. 

7) Telus - Spoke about the culture of a learning organization and learning 2.0 and how to get learning to mobile and multi-generational workforce.
Key Takeaway >> Learning has to be owned. For any organization, learning has to be a common philosophy that permeates the value system and organization culture. 

Learn @ Work (#L@WW) Resources

Monday, August 26, 2013

What Inspires Me

I recently reviewed the inspiration channel on LinkedIn. It is called 'What Inspires Me'. This channel is a collection of thoughts on inspiration 
contributed by 60 LinkedIn influencers. After reading some interesting posts on what inspires others, I sat and pondered about my own sources of inspiration. 

Inspiration can take various forms. Some get inspired by art and music. Others get inspired by sports. And yet some others get inspired by people. Although each source of inspiration has probably inspired me at some point in my life, I feel most drawn to the inspiration I get from people. People as individuals, including me, and people as a community of experiences. The social aspect of being human is what inspires me.

THIS is what inspires me - STORIES. 
Stories of people and their experiences; of their mistakes and key learning; of their inspiration and motivation. own stories to myself.

We hear stories all the time and listening to good stories always has a lot of meaning and influence. Storytelling started early for me. My parents are excellent story tellers. While both shared different kinds of stories, each story I heard, had a deep and lasting impact on my life. My parents continue to mold me with fascinating stories from their own life and the lives of others who they come in contact with. I try to continue the tradition by being a storyteller for my daughter. This is the familiar dimension to stories. We have all read and heard good stories, fantastic stories and inspiring stories at some point in our life.

But there is another dimension to storytelling. 

We also tell stories to our own self. 

Our stories to ourselves make us who we are and continue to shape our present and future. We tell ourselves stories that help us live, learn, cope, manage, love, forgive, forget and deal with countless other good and bad emotions. Stories make us and can change us depending on what we tell ourselves. We don't really remember events. We remember the stories that we told our self about the events. 

Our stories to ourselves can be so powerful. They can reshape, reorient, reinvent us in ways we never thought possible. Stories define our relationship with our own self and with others - people, nature, the universe. In that sense, our stories define who we are and who we become. 
If there are no stories, there is no us. We believe in our stories and that's why they exist, they grow in our heart and that is why we exist. 

Stories inspire me. What inspires you?

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, 
stories are the thing we need most in the world.” ― Philip Pullman

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Diversity and Inclusion: The Road to Cultural Competence

Read somewhere: "Culture is the software of our minds – and we are not all using the same programs.

As more organizations truly become international, there are more multicultural teams now than ever before. Therefore, there is a need to understand cultural differences and work towards fueling the growth of the business using the power of these differences. Trainers and learning development folks play a key role in identifying, appreciating and incorporating these differences in designing more 'inclusive learning'. But there is more to multiculturalism and diversity than meets the eye. 

"There's more to cultural awareness than simply being polite...
There is a big difference between knowing how not to upset people and knowing how to really engage them at a level at which they will excel."

These words are from an article by Neil Shorney, in the latest issue of Training Industry Quarterly. The article is titled: "Cultural Differences in Training". The article describes various aspects of cultural differences that a trainer needs to appreciate and consider. These include cultural differences in behaviors, hierarchy and communication. The author describes these aspects of cultural differences with examples and reflects on how these come into play in real-life contexts within the classroom and in an online environment.

The Learning and Development community needs to appreciate diversity in their own 'classroom' before attempting to design the perfect 'diversity and inclusion training' for their internal or external clients. Through these articles and this post, my objective is to reflect on what we, as instructional designers or learning specialists, can do to make our training designs and training delivery more inclusive.

As I read more about diversity and inclusion, the following article by 

Shari Saunders and Diana Kardia, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching was most useful: Creating Inclusive College Classrooms
I quote from the article here:

"In an inclusive classroom, instructors attempt to be responsive to students on both an individual and a cultural level. Broadly speaking, the inclusiveness of a classroom will depend upon the kinds of interactions that occur between and among you and the students in the classroom. These interactions are influenced by:
  • the course content;
  • your prior assumptions and awareness of potential multicultural issues in classroom situations;
  • your planning of class sessions, including the ways students are grouped for learning;
  • your knowledge about the diverse backgrounds of your students; and
  • your decisions, comments, and behaviors during the process of teaching."
Another article by Christine A. Stanley, Texas A&M University Teaching in Action: Multicultural Education as the Highest Form of Understanding discusses various approaches to achieving multicultural education and describes how to create more inclusive training content using these approaches:
  • The Contributions Approach
  • The Additive Approach
  • The Transformation Approach
  • The Social Action Approach
The article reiterates how '...Multicultural teaching affords us an opportunity to broaden our assumptions about teaching and learning'. 

As I was attending the 'Best Practices in Diversity and Inclusion: A Panel Discussion', a webinar by ASTD this morning I realized, perhaps like all other participants, that diversity and inclusion is a journey. We can never get there since the world is changing everyday. Even though it is a long road to cultural competency, every step counts. 

'Diversity is inviting everyone to the party and inclusion is getting everyone to get off their chair!' via a speaker in  on 10 July 2013.

Friday, May 31, 2013

What can Astronaut Chris Hadfield teach us about learning?

Astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to command the International Space Station, returned to Earth this May after five months in orbit. 
In these five months, Chris tweeted beautiful pictures of our planet, shared many 'how-to' videos about life in space, and even performed live with 1 million students across Canada for 'Music Mondays' via a live webcast. He collaborated with Barenaked Ladies for I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing) and rounded off the journey with a melodious and poignant reflection with his cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity.

A clearer view of Vancouver on a sunny day - can clearly see 

the ferry terminal, airport and many boats in the Inlet. 

Photograph by: Chris Hadfield , NASA

He taught us about space, International Space Station and our planet. 
But what can Chris Hadfield, the astronaut, teach us about learning

Here are my top 5 take-aways from the journey into space and back, with Chris Hadfield:

  1. Make it funHe made learning fun! Without us knowing about it, he managed to teach us about life in space and we now know things that we never knew we needed to know! He used his conversational style, played his guitar, did somersaults in zero gravity and used simple language that people across ages and continents could understand and relate to. 
  2. Make it meaningful: His how-to videos and demonstrations were short, to-the-point and meaningful. They were good examples of independent learning objects. The videos were based on questions an average person could be thinking about and the content was just-enough. 
  3. Make it personable: All videos and photos shared by Chris were very personable. He did share all videos with the masses....but it felt like an intimate conversation, as if it was just him and you. It seemed like a dialogue even when it was a one-way communication platform. His charming commentary and smiling face added to the experience. Using social media tools like facebook and twitter, he captured the attention of many. 
  4. Make it problem-based: The videos were based on answering a question on how to perform simple tasks in space. These questions or problems were submitted by earthlings - children and adults - and included things like how do astronauts shave in space, how do astronauts brush their teeth, how do astronauts clip their nails and cut their hair,  how do they sleep, what kind of food do they eat etc. Chris also performed live scientific experiments including an experiment designed by 10th graders around what happens when you try to wring out water from a towel
  5. Make it count: Perhaps this is one of the most 'unknown' factors of the entire learning experience that Chris Hadfield and his team (including his son, Evan) created for us. There was a lot of planning and preparation that went into creating, editing and sharing these videos with the world. The preparation started 3 years before Chris went into space. He was given a video camera and practiced recording himself through his training. While he was in space, a team at Quebec was providing ideas for new videos and writing scripts for the videos he produced. A team also edited the videos he posted and polished them with enhanced graphics and sound. His son, Evan was managing his social media accounts and was the one to encourage him to plan and conduct a Reddit 'Ask me anything' session ahead of his mission into space. While it seemed like a simple, one-man affair, much planning, preparation and constant work was being done by many to make this learning experience count and to get all the international attention that it did. It wasn't the first time that an astronaut had shared pictures from space, but Chris and the team made it big and made it count!

I am sure as I review the videos and the photos one more time, I will be able to find many more things that I can learn from Chris. Also, the learning isn't over yet. Chris is continuing to tweet about his experiences after landing including all the scientific experiments being performed on him and how his body is getting used to gravity. So there's so much more to learn! 

If there's something you found interesting in the entire experience, feel free to comment below!

PS: Here are some interesting articles and images that capture the spirit of what Chris Hadfield taught us about space and everything else.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The MOOC Mantra: Top 5 Tips for Success

In February, I completed my first #MOOC course titled, E-learning and Digital Cultures (#edcmooc). At the time, this was one of six MOOCs being offered by the University of Edinburgh through Coursera. This was a 5-week course with two major themes followed by completion of an artefact to summarize the key learnings from the course. The artefact was evaluated by peers and a median grade was reported to each individual.

This post is a reflection of my learning from the MOOC experience and aims to help others who are riding this wave. This post is not about the #edcmooc course though it does use the course as an example.

MOOCs are massive open online courses, which means:
  • Massive: There are massive numbers of students enrolled in a course. #edcmooc had 40K enrollments. However, enrollments don’t say much about participation. I would suspect that for #edcmooc, there were around 2-3% participants.
  • Open: They are open meaning free to enroll and attend with an open structure. This could also mean the courses use open content for teaching as was the case for #edcmooc.
  • Online: This is self explanatory. The online intervention includes reading, viewing videos (lectures or other instructional videos) and lots of interaction and discussions via discussion forums and other social media tools such as google, facebook, twitter etc. This may also include online assessments such as quizzes and perhaps creating a portfolio or an artefact.
  • Course: While they don’t offer any credits (yet!) or charge tuition fees, MOOCs are courses and have learning objectives and an overall learning goal.

There are two types of MOOCs:
  • xMOOCs – These are the traditional format MOOCs that are made of video-based lectures, assignments and quizzes.
  • cMOOCs – These are based on the constructivist approach to learning, as #edcmooc was. They are more open in structure and provide the environment for participants to construct their own knowledge and perhaps find more meaning in what they already know.

In terms of overall experience, for me, #EDCMOOC was a fantastic experience. I don’t necessarily believe that the course was about e-learning but it certainly was about digital cultures. Having said that, it was a good learning experience and perhaps, it might have set a high standard for any other MOOCs I participate in the future. Here’s the introductory information for #edcmooc that hooked me in!

As I walked the MOOC path, I lived and learned every day. On the facebook group page for #edcmooc, a participant posted an interesting question: “what would be the single best piece of advice to give someone about to embark on their first MOOC?” 

And I thought to myself what would this single piece of advice be. If you only want that single piece of advice, see bullet 5 - the MOOC mantra!

If there is scope to absorb more, how about the top 5 tips to be a successful MOOCer?

1) Find your underlying motivation to enroll in a MOOC
I understand that each of us is motivated in different ways. For me, part of the motivation to enroll in a MOOC was to experience a MOOC, to connect with people from all over the world, to develop my own personal learning network, to explore how learning happens with massive number of people online etc. So, for me, my motivation was to explore all characteristics of a MOOC. Recognizing and remembering this motivation kept me on track.

2) Be genuinely interested in the subject
I realized that if I have to spend a couple of weeks doing this, I better like the subject! So, I started searching for MOOC courses and found my interest in #edcmooc. Not surprisingly, the honeymoon period with MOOCs as a phenomenon ended pretty soon for me. I quickly figured out the organized chaos in the environment and realized that some of us were thriving in it and others were quickly being left out. In such a situation, choosing a subject in which I had a genuine interest really helped me stay motivated. If the subject area does not attract you deeply enough, it will be tough to continue. If everything else fails, the subject area will challenge you, motivate you and inspire you to continue.

3) Engage with the content and others
Whether xMOOCs or cMOOCs, all MOOCs are organized around self-paced reading, viewing videos, participating in discussion forums and/or chats and completing assignments. As you can notice, these learning modalities need you to invest a time. This is tough to do and even tougher when it is all online. But this also means that the more time and constructive energy you invest, the more ‘benefits’ you will reap of that investment. More on this in point 5 below.
I realized that the more I participated in the discussion forums, twitter chats and google hangouts, the more I wanted to learn. Through various social media tools and the Coursera platform, I was sharing my point of view and learning to absorb and accept many other ways to look at the same stimulus. In all MOOCs, the instructors and the content act as catalysts but you got to do the dirty job of learning on your own. Learning best happens when you truly and deeply engage with both the content and with your peers who are going through the same process.

4) Make the ‘massive’ more personal
Massive can be intimidating and overwhelming. For #edcmooc, with 40K enrollments and 500 people active most of the time, my mailbox was overflowing, my facebook notifications for the #edmooc group were endless, the twitter stream moved faster than I blinked my eye.
After going through a week of stress related to various platforms to connect and contribute, I chose my top 3: twitter, discussion forum on the Coursera website and #edcmooc content aggregation stream. I had to find a simple way to deal with the ‘always being online’ phenomenon. I figured that there was no way I could interact with 40K people, so I created my own personal circles of learning. I used select social media tools with a select list of participants and found my way to work around the massive to make it more personal.
5) Give more to get more:
You will get more if you immerse yourself in each of the four characteristics of MOOCs and truly embrace massive open online courseware. My final “mantra” for budding MOOCers is:

 “WYGIWYG” - What You Give is What You Get

If you put in quality time and sincere effort, you will get the return on investment that you are looking for. The best way to offer your best to a MOOC is to pace yourself. As tempting it might be to look at what’s in store for week 4, I suggest that you study within the proposed structure and sequence of the course and do your readings and assignments every week. Participate in the discussion forums and share your views on a regular basis. Find the inclination to comment sincerely on other posts and give inputs. Create the time to do atleast one activity a day. This is perhaps one of the most critical ways to give more and get more and feel a sense of completion and accomplishment at the end of the course.
MOOCs are really about what you can offer to yourself and to others. The course coordinators organize the learning for you but you need to take responsibility for your own learning. There is immense potential for generating meaningful content as you move through a MOOC course but you will need to realize that you are the one who’s going to be creating that content.

So for all of you out there who want to enroll in a MOOC , there is no better time to do so. Find a reason why you want to do the course, chose a subject that you are passionate about, engage, participate and give more to get more.

By the way, for the artefact that I submitted for the #edcmooc course, I received a median grade of 2 (meaning the artefact achieved all evaluation criteria fully) and have a ‘Statement of Accomplishment with Distinction’. 
But more than the grade and the statement, I value the entire learning process, the debates and discussions on twitter chats and discussion forums, the inputs from the instructors and 'hanging out' with them, the feedback that my peers shared about my artefact and how they were able to relate to the artefact in their own ways. 

There is definitely more to MOOCs than what we can see today. It is about a learning experience and I believe it will only get better. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

EDCMOOC - My Digital Artefact: The Human Revolution

For the last 4 weeks, I was immersed in an online course titled "Elearning and Digital Cultures" #edcmooc .With more than 40,000 students from all over the globe and 5 amazing professors from the University of Edinburgh,(Jeremy Knox, Siân Bayne, Hamish Macleod, Jen Ross and Christine Sinclair) it was indeed a massive online learning movement!

This is a digital artefact that I have created as a part of my submission for the EDCMOOC course on Coursera. Hope you enjoy it! Comments and feedback are welcome.

PS: A more reflective post on my experience with #edcmooc and MOOCs in general will be coming soon.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Learning Metaphors and MOOCs

The use of metaphors is an intriguing concept. Metaphors have the power to transform the way we think and the way we respond. As a part of our week 2 reading for Coursera's Elearning and Digital Cultures Course (#edcmooc), we were to reflect on the metaphors of the future in digital culture and in online education.
I recently read an article titled, "On two metaphors of learning and the dangers of choosing just one" by Anna Sfard. Anna shares that there are predominantly two metaphors that are used to describe learning: The Acquisition Metaphor (AM) and the Participation Metaphor (PM).
While the names are quite indicative of the type of learning process being highlighted, to clarify, AM describes the model that believes knowledge is a commodity that can be acquired and therefore applied. This ties in very well to all the cognitive theories of learning led by Pieget, Vygotsky etc.
PM indicates that learner participates in the process of learning instead of acquiring knowledge. So, learning is seen as a process of becoming a part of the 'whole. In this case, the 'whole' is the community in which the learner participates in.
While AM focuses on 'knowing', PM focuses on 'doing'. Perhaps, I am over simplifying the article, but I think these metaphors are a great way to look at the past and the future of all learning. While our past focused on AM, our future learning decisions are more PM. These metaphors resonated well with my own frameworks for learning design as I have seen them evolve over the last 14 years.
However, as the author correctly points out, you can't choose one over the other since all learning environments will have both the components - acquisition and participation. I believe that design for learning can begin with one metaphor as a core guiding principle.
In this context, for me, MOOCs fit well with the participation metaphor. The MOOC platform reflects a more democratic way of learning, open, scalable and where essentially the learner is a participant in the creation of knowledge. MOOCs allow for collaboration and social connections in the context of learning. However, I don’t deny that the ‘structure’ and ‘instruction’ in the acquisition metaphor is an essential component of the MOOC environment specially as a critical factor for success. But more about MOOCs in another thread.
You can read the complete article here: This article is an extended version of an invited lecture given at the Eighth International Congress of Mathematics Education in Seville, Spain, in Iuly 1996.