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November 2014

Rich Despite Scale, or Rich Because of Scale? MOOCs, SPOCs, and Residential Education

“When MOOCs "exploded" in 2012, they were all about scale: courses, instructors, and MOOC providers try to outdo each other on how many learners they were reaching. An unsurprising backlash came from the criticism that surely at such scales the learning experience would suffer. One unsurprising reaction to that backlash was the position that MOOC technology could also help better package curricular materials for local customization and reuse, that is, the SPOC model.

Both MOOCs and SPOCs have value, but lost in this discussion is a closer examination of which elements of both MOOCs and campus courses are rich because of scale, and which ones we should strive to make rich despite scale. I will give examples of both, based on both our work with doing research on MOOC data and our attempts to handle exploding demands for CS courses at Berkeley (our introductory CS course now enrolls over 1,000 students, and our upper division advanced courses routinely enroll several hundred).”

Armando Fox is a Professor of Computer Science at UC Berkeley as well as the Faculty Advisor to the UC Berkeley MOOCLab. His current research includes online education and high productivity parallel computing. His current teaching activities focus on undergraduate Software Engineering, for which he and Prof. David Patterson have writtenand is the basis of Berkeley’s first free MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). For more information see

  • Speaker: Professor Armando Fox, Computer Science Division, UC Berkeley MOOCLab

  • When: Tuesday 25 November 2014, 3.30-4.30pm - Note: different day and time to usual.

  • Where: The University of Sydney, School of IT Building, SIT Lecture Theatre (Room 123), Level 1

  • For more information go to the Basser seminar series site

The Basser Seminar Series held at the School of Information Technologies provides an opportunity for IT academics and representatives from industry to present and discuss their current work. The seminars offer a glimpse at the cutting-edge of IT research. For more information see

Learning is embracing social networks, finds a new Open University report examining global trends in education

Education can be dramatically enhanced by social networks, according to a report released by The Open University on Nov 13th 2014. This 'network effect’ comes from many thousands of people learning from each other, but it needs careful management to reach its full potential.

Millions of people are now studying massive open online courses (MOOCs) for free. Massive open social learning exploits the ‘network effect’ where the value of a network increases as more people use it, bringing the benefits of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to people taking online courses, by recommending, liking and following the best content created by other learners. This encourages online learners to connect to each other, join productive discussions, share ideas and create material that other learners can use.

“Social networks have transformed entertainment from delivering books, radio and television programmes into holding a global conversation. The same is about to happen with education through social learning. By its nature, we don’t know how this conversation will evolve. For instance, on an online course with 10,000 learners, there are 50 million ways that pairs of them could connect directly.

“That is a huge opportunity, but also a challenge to manage the discussion and file sharing. Learning on that scale can’t only be controlled centrally. It has to come through social network techniques that put learners in contact with others who share their interests, reward the best contributions and allow learners to report issues.”

Mike Sharples, Professor of Educational Technology at the OU and lead author of the Innovating Pedagogy report

The Innovating Pedagogy reports are published annually by The Open University to highlight new and future trends in education. The report identifies 10 methods of teaching, learning and assessment that are gaining influence but which have not yet had a major impact on education. Other key trends covered by the report include dynamic assessment, where learners are offered personalised tests to support their learning, learning through storytelling, threshold concepts that are difficult to teach, and bricolage or creative tinkering with resources.


Join us on 19 November 2014, for our final seminar of the year, presented Dr Sarah Howard and Associate Professor Karl Maton, titled “Pedagogies for knowledge-building: investigating subject-appropriate, cumulative teaching for twenty-first century school classrooms”.

To succeed in today’s knowledge society, young people need to quickly grasp the organising principles for building different forms of knowledge. Our interdisciplinary project explores how teachers marshall the resources of modern classrooms to apprentice students into subject-specific principles for knowledge-building in Science and History. In this presentation we'll be looking at video samples from the classroom to see how we are attempting to observe, identify and analyze knowledge building, and a few of our early findings in the project. Early results suggest implications for the role of digital resources in teaching, integration of general capabilities and cross-curricular teaching.


Join us on November 14 when Associate Professor Daniel T Hickey presents "Open digital badges: lessons learned from the Design Principles Documentation project".


Digital badges offer new ways to recognise learning and accomplishment. They can contain specific claims and detailed evidence supporting those claims, and links to additional evidence. Open digital badges are interoperable, allowing earners to control where and how this information is presented and circulated. Proponents argue that these changes will allow some and force others to transcend traditional paradigms for recognising, assessing, motivating and studying learning.

Dr Hickey will present the evidence and design principles from a two-year study of the 30 badge-development projects funded in the 2012 Badges for Lifelong Learning competition. Particular attention was paid to the contextual factors that supported some badge practices while undermining others. He will also discuss his new project advancing the use of badges in major learning-management systems in higher education

  • When: 1.00pm - 2.00pm
  • Where: Education Building (A35), Room 424
  • For more information, see the event website.

All events take place in the Education Building (A35) at the University of Sydney. Registration and information is available in the Staff Common Room (401).

Program of events

Event Start End Venue
Badge pick-up and registration desk open 9.45 10.00 Common Room (401)
Opening plenary with DVC (Education) Prof Pip Pattison 10.00 10.40 351
Morning tea (catered) 10.40 11.00 Common Room (401)
Poster workshop sessions 1 and 2 11.00 12.25 323 & 325
Workshop session 1 12.30 1.15 Various level 4
Lunch (catered) 1.15 1.45 Common Room (401)
Workshop session 2 1.45 2.30 Various level 4
Closing plenary with Prof Simon Buckingham Shum 2.30 3.30 351


Poster Session 1: 11.00 - 11.40, all odd numbered posters (1, 3, 5 etc)

  • 1. A Rubric for the Selection and Creation of Videogames for Teaching and Learning Foreign Languages - Douglas Agar
  • 3. Placing focus in Malawian and UK primary schools: Is there a difference? - David Ashe, Nina Bonderup Dohn
  • 5. Technology Supported Group Ideation in the Classroom - Andrew Clayphan
  • 7. Scientific Representational Fluency: Defining, Diagnosing and Developing the use of graphs, words, equations and diagrams in science - Matthew Hill, Manjula Sharma, Helen Johnston
  • 9. Conceptualizing professional identity practices in higher education: The case of engineering students - Maryam Khosronejad
  • 11. The Value of Agent-Based Models for Learning about Nanotechnology - Polly Lai
  • 13. Designing material and digital spaces for learning - Martin Parisio
  • 15. Model-based Learning with Productive Failure and Analogical Encoding: Unpacking Learning Dynamics with Contrasting Designs - Alisha Portolese, Lina Markauskaite, Polly Lai, & Michael J. Jacobson
  • 17. Promoting Mental Health in Students - Emily Schulz
  • 19. Designing for Epistemic Agency - How student groups create knowledge and what helps them do it - Natalie Spence
  • 21. Applying SLOW to ICT-rich education - Mirian Tanti
  • 23. Improving dyslexic students’ reading abilities: the role of hypermedia multimodal texts - Piergiorgio Trevisan
  • 25. Personal hypothesis evaluation based on ubicomp sensors using pervasive displays - Farahnaz Yekeh
  • 27. A Mobile App in the 1st Year Uni-Life: A Pilot Study - Yu Zhao

Poster Session 2: 11.45 - 12 .25, all even numbered posters (2, 4, 6 etc)

    • 2. Personalisation of Learning: Students informing practice - Learning and Teaching at UNSW: Sonal Bhalla, Belinda Allen, Lyn Collins, Kristin Turnbull, John Vulic
    • 4. Shift in a University Lecturer’s Activation of Mental Resources - Shaista Bibi
    • 6. Developing Staff Capability for Teaching and Learning across Multiple Higher Education Sectors - Christina Del Medico, Ann Wilson, Iain Doherty
    • 8. Learning and Enactment in Techno-Human Ecosystems: Implications for sustainable learning and innovation of farmers in the Philippines - Gilbert Importante
    • 10. Teams making sense of disruptive technologies - Amanda (Mandy) Lacy
    • 12. The digital habitus of academic missions: Is an eNexus the missing link? - Melinda J Lewis
    • 14. Driving curriculum and technological change to support writing in the engineering disciplines - Hamed Monkaresi, Sarah K. Howard, Rafael A. Calvo, Anindito Aditomo
    • 16. Architecture of Productive Learning Networks Analysis for Design - Ana Pinto
    • 18. Student teachers’ digital competence development in teacher education: A Norwegian case study - Fredrik Mørk Røkenes
    • 20. Conceptualising a project team as a site for networked learning – an exploration of expertise and tacit knowing - Paul Sijpkes
    • 22. Towards Long Term Goals: Gamified Tangible Internet Connected Goal Buttons - Lie Ming Tang
    • 24. eLearning: Exploring the role of a social network site with learning purposes in the primary classroom - Patricia Thibaut
    • 26. Traces on the Walls and Traces in the Air (Drawings and Gestures in Educational Design Team Meetings) - Dewa Wardak
    • 28. The problem with noise, or the NOISE in the problem? - Pippa Yeoman


    Please note each roundtable, unless otherwise stated, has a max of 35 people.

    Title Chairs Timeslot
    Personalised Education: Where to Start and in Which Direction Abelardo Pardo, Kalina Yacef, Tim Shaw, Kathryn Bartimote-Aufflick 12.30-1.15
    Optimising online lectures Jo Lander, Karen Scott 12.30-1.15
    MOOCs at the University of Sydney Bob Kummerfeld, Judy Kay 1.45-2.30
    Education as a complex system: Implications for educational research and policy Michael Jacobson 1.45-2.30
    Beyond the Flipped Classroom: Theory, Research, and Rubber Hits the Road Phil Poronnik, Michael Jacobson 12.30-1.15
    Educational data mining and learning analytics: Opportunities and pitfalls Lina Markauskaite, Abelardo Pardo, Peter Reimann, Kalina Yacef 1.45-2.30
    CampusFlora[at]sydney Rosanne Quinnell 12.30-1.15
    From sage on the stage to guide on the side Manjula Sharma, Helen Georgiou, Matthew Hill 1.45-2.30
    Just Ask Charlie: Using an app to support professional learning from student feedback Kate Thomson, Jen Scott Curwood, Martin Tomitsch, Graham Hendry, Andrea Lau, and Liam Moy 1.45-2.30
    Visit to the Educational Design Research Studio (EDRS). Note: 20 spaces only. Peter Goodyear, Roberto Martinez-Maldonado & Martin Parisio 12.30-1.15

    Closing plenary with Simon Buckingham Shum

    SimonBuckinghamShum.jpgThe closing plenary on the day will be on Learning Analytics: Critical Issues and presented by Simon Buckingham Shum, Professor of Learning Informatics and director of the Connected Intelligence Centre at the University of Technology, Sydney.

    Education is about to experience a data tsunami from online trace data (VLEs; MOOCs; Quantified Self) integrated with conventional educational datasets. This requires new kinds of analytics to make sense of this new resource, which in turn asks us to reflect deeply on what kinds of learning we value. We can choose to know more than ever about learners and teachers, but like any modelling technology or accounting system, analytics do not passively describe sociotechnical reality: they begin to shape it. What realities do we want analytics to perpetuate, or bring into being? Can we talk about analytics in the same breath as the deepest values that a wholistic educational experience should nurture? Could analytics become an ally for those who want to shift assessment regimes towards valuing the qualities that many now regard as critical to thriving in the ‘age of complexity’?

  • Join us on 12 November 2014, for a seminar by Dr. Angela Brew titled “Creative curriculum change through research”.

    In designing innovative new courses, decisions have to be taken about the structure and nature of the student experience, what it is intended that students should learn and how and whether their work is to be assessed. Using research-informed approaches to educational enhancement means infusing these decisions with disciplinary and pedagogical research findings and processes.

    Dr. Brew will explore how the scholarly work of academics and students can inform decisions about both the content and the processes of learning that need to be taken in designing a course.

    Using research to inform teaching in this way poses a number of challenges. Who is included in making the decisions and at what level? Sometimes curriculum decisions are taken at an institutional level. Sometimes the decision-making is at a departmental or course team level. These decisions may constrain or open up opportunities for individual lecturers and course or subject teams regarding the particular ways learning is to occur. So on what basis are decisions to be made? Whose research is to be drawn upon? What theoretical approaches are to be used to inform decisions? What are the benefits and pitfalls of including students in the research and in the design and decision-making process?

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