New pedagogies and delivery models for developing open online courses for international students

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1 Authors Li Yuan Stephen Powell CETIS (Centre for Educational Technology & Interoperability Standards), University of Bolton UK Hongliang Ma Department of Educational Technology, Shaanxi Normal University, China New pedagogies and delivery models for developing open online courses for international students Keywords Abstract: The rapid expansion of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has sparked great interests about the provision of open online courses as strategic choices for institutions to expanding their international market. However, the challenge is how to make the course pedagogically useful in different languages, cultural contexts and educational settings. Designing Learning for the 21st Century (DL21C) is an online course developed by collaboration between a UK and Chinese University to explore new approaches for design and delivery of open learning courses. From a pedagogical design perspective, this course was to create interactive, responsive and pedagogically effective online and blended learning and delivered through combining of online experts inputs and learning support from the local tutors. The course was free to access, but only students registered with the Chinese university participated and were awarded credit.

2 1. Introduction The rapid expansion of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has sparked great interests about their potential to disrupt the higher education system and the provision of open online courses as strategic choices for the future in institutions. Although these MOOCs developed by the USA or UK Universities have the great potential value for international students, including Chinese students, but the issues how these potential value could be turn into the real one, and how these MOOCs could be learnt effectively by Chinese students, are still needed to be further examined. To explore new MOOCs pedagogies and deliver models for international students, an open online course project was developed by collaboration between a UK and Chinese University. A primary motivation for this project included the exploration of business models, this is essential if long-term viability of new approaches and courses are to be assured. From a pedagogical design perspective, the motivation was to create interactive, responsive and pedagogically effective on-line and blended learning, freely available as an open educational resource (OER). A particular challenge was how to make the course developed culturally, linguistically and pedagogically useful in different languages, cultural contexts and educational settings. The course Designing Learning for the 21st Century (DL21C) developed by the team fulfills the criteria of a MOOC in that it was online and free to access, although in practice the only students registered with the Chinese university participated and were awarded credit. 2. Pilot study: Designing Learning for the 21st Century The course developed is primarily designed for Master students who are studying educational technology in China. It is openly available for anyone who is interested in this topic and can support an indefinite number of participants. All of the course content, including learning materials and learning activities, are under Creative Common license that can be used and reused by others without restrictions. The Chinese partner institution integrated the course as one of the modules into the existing postgraduate degree programme in educational technology at the Chinese University to enrich their curriculum offering and give their students the experience of learning using the English

3 language. Working on collaboration between the UK and Chinese university required the development of new working practices and pedagogical approaches. This enabled a business model to be developed that allowed for differential pricing for support and accreditation options for students. 2.1 Interaction model DL21C approach was based on a design that required students to become active learners and engage in constructing their own knowledge through group activities and course forums, blogs and a group wiki. The model in figure 1 illustrates the online interaction between the Chinese and British course creators and the students on the course. Content in the form of video material and learning activities and resources were developed by the British academics, the face-to-face support and facilitation of the course was undertaken by the local Chines facilitator. In addition, British academics hosted asynchronous hot-seat expert discussions where they responded to questions, and a limited number of synchronous discussions on Skype. Figure 1. The interaction model This course consisted of four integrated topics delivered by team teaching, and learning was managed and supported through individual study with structured learning activities, resources, classroom sessions and online collaboration. Course facilitators and invited experts engaged in discussions, debates and guided students to explore relevant topics, key concepts, and ideas. Students offered moral support and critical feedback to each other. In other words, the traditionally lecture-focused and content-centered pedagogies of xmoocs were discarded in this open online course, and new e-pedagogies, including the Open Learning Network (Mott & Wiley,

4 2009) and Patchwork Media Approach to Assessment, were embedded. 2.2 Assessment and Credit Most MOOCs use quizzes as their main instrument of assessment short multiple choice questions with automated answers for feedback. Some may offer other types of assessment that require open responses, but with limited resources it is not possible for thousands of essay assignments to be marked by one lecturer (Yuan & Powell, 2013). Different from these MOOCs, the students registered DL21C can gain two credits (equivalent to 20 UK credits) if they finish all the learning activities and pass the Patchwork Assessment (Winter, at el., 2003) at the end of semester carried out by local facilitators since this course is integrated into the postgraduate program and has become one of the optional courses for Chinese postgraduate students. Students were expected to develop study habits which enable learning and contribute to assessment through personal reflection in a learning log, regular participation in group activities and online discussion, and creating an e-portfolio for assessment. The e-portfolio of work used a 'patchwork text' approach which addressed each of the learning outcomes. It included a summative commentary identifying the individual student learning in relation to the intended learning outcomes for the module in a coherent account of their learning journey. 2.3 Localisation There are concerns about adopting MOOCs in different languages and cultural contexts. Most MOOCs provided by elite institutions in English speaking countries are designed specifically for their own students on campus, instead of students in developing countries which have local languages. It poses difficulties to learners whose English is second language in other countries. In this course, staff in the Institute for Educational Cybernetics (IEC) in UK worked closely with Chinese institutions to find out what resources were needed most. The courses was subject to ongoing revision of reading materials and learning activities based on the feedback from the Chinese students and the local facilitators in order to make this course linguistically, culturally and pedagogically integrated into their context. For instance, according to the feedback from Chinese students and local facilitator at the beginning, the IEC course designers condensed and divided the reading materials into two categories -essential readings and optional readings, provided the captions for video materials, and uploaded these videos with closed captions into one of the biggest Chinese video websites as videos on YouTube or other websites in UK or USA

5 take either a long time or fails to download from China. 2.4 Openness Since this course is open and available to everyone without any registration after published on the Chinese partner Moodle site, it has been accessed by a broadly Chinese educators and learners. The guest views generated by Moodle in Table 1 illustrates the monthly visits which covered all the topics of this course. Also this course have been reused by the Chinese partner institution to create their own open courses even after the pilot study was finished. Table 1 Part of Statistics of DL21C in Moodle Period ending (Month) Guest Views 1 January December November October September August July June Effectiveness of the new pedagogies and delivery models At end of the semester, an online questionnaire was developed and face-to-face focus group interview was implemented to examine the teaching and learning effectiveness of DL21C. 3.1 Students satisfaction and learning gains The satisfaction degree about the overall quality of DL21C in Table 2 illustrates that most students were satisfied with this course. Meanwhile, all the interviewees said that both the content and the teaching methods of this course were better than these of other courses in their local Master degree program, and also agreed that the interactions among students in this course are much

6 border and deeper. Some interviewees said that they were particularly impressed by the teaching methods and their critical thinking and creativity had been aroused. Here is the interview transcript of students Z: "I think the British teachers do not emphasize their own authority. For example, when we started to learning the topic 'A systems approach for technological interventions ', the teacher had already drawn his own intervention diagram but he told us to draw our own diagrams according to our own understanding, without any hint that his diagram is the only right answer. Another example is that, during the LAMS design activities, the teacher designed a LAMS activity sequence in advance, but he encouraged everyone to design his or her own LAMS sequence or re-design the teacher's, without any emphasis on the authority of the teacher's design too. This is quite different in China. While, in the other courses in our university, we are used to just remember what the teacher speak in the class and think that if keep the knowledge in our mind, and then these knowledge will become ours. Table 2 Students Satisfaction about the Overall Quality of This Course Items Percent Very satisfied 22% Somewhat satisfied 67% Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 11% Total 100% Generally speaking, the interviewees said they had gained a lot besides the achieved learning outcome when they completed the course, which include the in-person online learning experience, the real conversation with foreign teachers, the personal experience of the British postgraduate module, and the improved ability to read and write in English, etc. 3.2 Students perceived difficulty The difficulty being perceived by students in Table 3 illustrates that this course was somewhat difficult for some students, but there is no one who thought it was very difficult. The following is a typical response from one of the students: As you know, language is the most serious obstacle to studying an English course

7 because it is usually not easy and takes much time for us to read English articles, especially academic papers. Fortunately, the British teachers provided us with easy-to-read English papers, and I felt confident to read them. Meanwhile, the weekly assignments were not too many and difficult, so I could handle them and felt happy to do them. Table 3 Students Perceived Difficulty of This Course Items Percent Somewhat difficult 67% Neither difficult nor easy 33% Total 100% Although the reading materials were significantly reduced based on the students feedback at the beginning of the delivery, the language was still the biggest challenge or barrier for nearly all the registered students. 3.3 Students preferred learning activities The favorite learning activities in this course in Table 4 illustrates that hands on use of technology (LAMS & Recourse) are most favorites, and synchronous hot-seat sessions (Skype), blog posts and working in groups collaboratively are in second place. One student wrote: Asynchronous discussions gave us opportunities to deeply discuss the topics. We had time to think over our own opinions and express them fluently in English. We used blogs to post opinions elaborately and respond with each other. As for the hands on use of technology, I like it very much. Table 7 Students Favorite Learning Activities Percent Hands on use of technology 23% Synchronous 'hotseat' sessions 17% Blog posts 17% Working in groups collaboratively 17% Asynchronous discussions 13%

8 Diagramming your thoughts 13% Working independently 0% Total 100% Although the Skype video conference was considered as a very good approach for the Chinese students to communicate directly with British teachers, the effectiveness was limited just because of the high demand in listening and speaking competencies for Chinese students. Compared with the asynchronous interaction on course forum or blogs, the synchronous students-teachers interaction on Skype was not so effective indeed. 4. Developing an open learning model in institutions 4.1 Open learning model Figure 2 illustrates an open learning model. The underlying proposition is that by allowing learners to choose the level of support they need or can afford, it will make access to higher education a possibility for people who would otherwise be disenfranchised by student fees. In response, capacity and capability need investing in to transform appropriate courses for open learning and develop and resource the processes that enable a pay-as-you-go approach to support and assessment. In the diagram, two dimensions are identified that are central to the model. First the extent to which there is formal recognition of learning (summative assessment, accreditation, awards) or self-evaluation by the individual concerned. Second, a continuum of institutional resource implications that has at one extreme the campus attendance supported (lectures, tutorials, seminars, etc.) through to no ongoing resource implication beyond making the open learning materials available. Between these two dimensions there are many possibilities and an individual learner would, in the open learning approach, select the appropriate option for them at a given time.

9 Figure 2. The New Open Learning Model 4.2 Business model The business model developed for this course depended upon the division of labour between the partner institutions. The design of work undertaken by UK academic activities were readily scalable with limited extra costs as numbers of students increase. The more significant resource implications of scaling up numbers of students are borne by the local Chinese institutions, and this allows the collaboration to take advantage of the different costs bases of UK and China. It is expected that the course can be expanded to several Chinese institutions and to set up a consortium through the host Chinese institution to share the cost of expertise input from the UK partner. Discussion and Conclusion This open course made it possible for more Chinese students, including those studying in Chinese institutions or self-learners, to gain UK educational experience and if registered with the university also gain credits. Although DL21C is not massive compare to other MOOCs at the moment, it has the potential to scale up through work collaboratively with Chinese institutions. For most students in developing countries, one of the feasible approaches toward effective learning in MOOCs is to transfer the original MOOCs created by western institutions into local degree-granting program accompanied with the localisation of learning content and activities, learning support from local teachers. There is a need to develop open learning strategies in

10 institutions in order to make higher education more accessible, flexible and cheaper by adopting open online courses (or MOOCs). Since the language is the biggest challenge for Chinese students to learn a western Open Online Courses, it is extremely necessary to firstly translate it into Chinese if the goal is to reach massive Chinese, including providing English videos with Chinese subtitles, short articles in plain English or long articles in Chinese. Reference Mott, J. & Wiley, D. (2009). Open for learning: the CMS and the Open Learning Network. In Education. 15(2). Retrieved from Yuan, L., & Powell, S. (2013). MOOCs and Open Education: Implications for Higher Education. Winter, R., Parker, J. Ovens, P. (2003). The patchwork text: A radical re-assessment of coursework assignments. Innovations in Education and Teaching International. 40 (2),

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