MOOC: Love it - New article in Engage magazine (Summer 2013)

ocTEL is a professional development course for HE teachers, offered free at the point of use, that has attracted over 1,200 registered participants in its first run. The course aims to help teachers make better use of technology in their teaching and learning practice. ocTEL stands for open course in Technology-Enhanced Learning, and the course has been developed and managed by a distributed team – only one face-to-face meeting – under the auspices of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT).
ocTEL is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) with a highly collaborative process. The eleven weeks of learning activities on different topics encourage participants to review their own experience, practise some skills, and then share the results with their peers. Individuals can choose from a range of different online spaces to do this, including their own blogs, ocTEL-hosted forums and a Google+ group that participants have set up themselves. The course platform captures all these distributed conversations and collates them in a daily newsletter that provides a snapshot of what’s currently under discussion.
In addition each week features a live one-hour webinar by a guest presenter with expertise in that week’s topic. These are recorded for the convenience of those who cannot make the live sessions – sometimes because, as with just over a quarter of ocTEL participants, they are in different time zones.
ALT, the largest membership body for learning technology in the UK, has been very fortunate in being able to draw on the goodwill of its community to provide experienced course production. Both the writing of the course and the tutor support have been provided by a network of volunteers, coordinate via email, teleconference and shared online documents.
While it’s true that only a minority of the 1,200 registered participants will complete the full 55 learning hours, it’s important to stress that the course was conceived with the intent that people should be able to use it flexibly. ocTEL is not a fixed journey between two non-negotiable points. “Vicarious participation” – observing others’ activities without taking part directly, except perhaps in a few areas chosen to meet individual needs – is legitimate. In fact, the openness of the course means that you can access all the materials, discussion and webinar recordings without registering or logging in. Further all course materials are openly licensed so that anyone can create derivative or remixed versions of the course to suit the needs of particular target audiences.
by Maren Deepwell
chief executive, ALT
Summer 2013
Engage is the Leadership Foundation’s magazine on leadership for higher education