MOOCs and Skills Training

In recent years, a global increase in access to the Internet, a demand for quality and affordable higher education and the willingness of some international higher education institutions (HEIs) to experiment with Web 2.0 tools and concepts, has resulted in the substantial growth of Massive Open Online Courses  (MOOCs).

These courses allow for new ways of learning skills and gaining accreditation and, as such, offer much in the way of skills development.

In this section, the concept of MOOCs will be introduced and their application for digital media skills training explored with reference to some of the major  resources available.

MOOCs: An Introduction

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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Disruptive Change or 21st Century Innovation?

In recent years, a global increase in access to the Internet coupled with a demand for quality and affordable higher education and a willingness on the part of faculty at some international higher education institutions (HEIs) to experiment with Web 2.0 tools and concepts has resulted in the substantial growth of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The growth in these courses is driven primarily by issues of cost and access, as outlined by Cathy N. Davidson in her article ‘Are MOOCs Really the Future of the University?’. In parts of the developing world, in particular countries in Africa, an already-existing skills shortage is exacerbated by limited access to HEIs and the sometimes prohibitive cost of obtaining a degree. In contexts such as these, MOOCs have been proposed as a potential solution. However, the utopian vision put forward by proponents of the system – free, quality education delivered online – is countered by anxiety from some faculty members at HEIs, focused predominantly on what this would mean for the traditional university system.

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Using digital storytelling to teach English Language skills in South African schools

Education standards at some schools in SubSaharan Africa is poor, with mathematics and literacy highlighted as key problem areas. According to the report Teaching and learning: Achieving quality for all (2014), published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Education (Unesco), almost half the children in this region had difficulty reading at a basic level.

This issue  is reflected to a large extent in South Africa. The Department of Basic Educations’ National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU), in a 2012 report, highlighted the fact that almost three quarters of scholars at schools evaluated in South African could not read at a normal level. This was attributed to a number of reasons, including a lack of reading content available in classrooms. Where schools did have books, these were often locked away in a store-room or only available for use for short periods in the class. Coupled with this is a large percentage of teachers with limited subject-knowledge and a general “lack of understanding … of what it means to be literate, and the specifications of the official curriculum” (NEEDU, 2014:10). The report concludes that programmes are needed to develop literacy and English proficiency and that for “language and the content subjects scholars should write at least 4 times a week” (NEEDU, 2014:11).

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CUP South Africa partners with NGO Worldreader

Interviewed for an article in The Bookseller magazine about a mobile learning project I initiated with Cambridge University Press and the NGO Worldreader.

Article below and source here http://www.thebookseller.com/news/cup-south-africa-partners-ngo-worldreader

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Review of ‘Form and Function of questions across computer and face to face based lessons: A sociocultural analysis’

In her article ‘Form and Function of questions across computer and face to face based lessons: A sociocultural analysis’ Joanne Hardman discusses the results of a study conducted at four disadvantaged primary schools in the Western Cape, South Africa. The study examined the use of technology to support the teaching of mathematics and, in particular, the questions used in face-to-face as compared to computer-based lessons. As a theoretical structure, the paper uses the Vygotskian concept of a ‘general genetic law’, which states that higher cognitive functions, such as reasoning and problem-solving, are stimulated through dialogical interactions between, in this case, teacher and student, where language is a “primary tool for mediating students’ access to higher order thinking” (Hardman, 2014:26).  Hardman explains that Vygotsky states that in order for the student to acquire knowledge they must be lead from a “place of not knowing to a place of knowing” (Hardman, 2014:26) by someone more competent than they are. This is a sociocultural process where the difference between what the student knows and needs to know defined by Vygotsky as the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). This approach suggests that a student will learn more through the assistance of and interaction with another person than through working in isolation. Naturally the asking of questions becomes central to this pedagogical process.

Hardman then introduces the Initiation-Response-Evaulation/Feedback (IRE) sequence, which describes a questioning structure. This structure tends to use a directive scaffold approach – where the teacher already knows the answer to the questions being asked and where the questions serve the purpose of the transmission of knowledge – as opposed to a supportive scaffold approach – which allows for a responsive engagement from the teacher and the active construction on knowledge on the part of the student. Directive scaffold questioning can generally be seen as restricting learning while supportive scaffold questioning can be seen to open and work  with the student’s ZPD. However, Hardman argues that both types of questioning can be viewed in a Vygotskian framework, dependent on context. She extends this framework, discussing how teachers can pose questions intended to “provoke cognitive conflict” (Hardman, 2014:26), where a disjuncture between what the student knows and needs to know is caused, thus further opening the student’s ZPD. In this situation the questions asked by the student become useful, as both a cognitive tool for the student and an indication for the teacher on how to direct an intervention. As Hardman writes, “questions are very useful pedagogical tools” (2014:27). 

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