LOOCing into the future of digital learning

Koerner_MD_1615 770

A new local open online course helps users “acquire, maintain, refine and promote” digital literacy skills. Photo: Martin Dee.

A new local open online course—or LOOC—is helping students develop digital literacy

A pioneering offering from the Faculty of Education and UBC Library is enabling UBC students, staff and faculty to develop their digital literacy know-how.

The two units have introduced the University’s first LOOC, or local open online course, as part of UBC’s Master of Educational Technology (MET) program. As the name suggests, a LOOC is a localized form of a MOOC – or massive open online course. MOOCs have been a big topic in online education recently. UBC’s first MOOC – which it launched in January 2013 with Stanford University – attracted more than 130,000 registrants.

“A LOOC is a way of attaching this phenomenon of massive learning to UBC’s large, global and thoroughly excellent existing community,” explains David Vogt, Graduate Advisor for the MET program. He adds that the project could be expanded to all B.C. post-secondary campuses in the future.

The three M’s: Mining, Meshing and Mobilizing

The MET course, called M101, helps users “acquire, maintain, refine and promote” digital literacy skills. These are grouped into topics including Mining (researching, evaluating and managing information), Meshing (idea creation and collaboration) and Mobilizing (publishing and presence in the digital world).  A wide range of topics, including citation management, digital humanities, Creative Commons licences and more are featured.

The LOOC is open to all members of the UBC community who have a Campus Wide Login (CWL). M101 is entirely online and self-paced, and users can build their skills in any area, and in any order, they wish. It’s also designed to be accessed a few moments at a time, perhaps between classes. The virtual course is flexible enough that students can sync learnings into their formal studies – for example, by using a new presentation tool to enhance a term project. Instructors can also use M101 to boost research competencies for any given subject.

Related: UBC’s Flexible Learning Initiative, use techniques that have been shown to dramatically improve learning

A new spin on flex learning

Vogt feels that the LOOC effort fits well with UBC’s Flexible Learning Initiative, which focuses on technology-enabled learning. “A lot of flexible learning has to do with the University’s understanding of how it can be flexible,” says Vogt. “I see this from the other side – how do we enable our learners to be more flexible?”

The project received a grant from UBC’s Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund in spring 2013. Work began in April – aided by the expertise of UBC’s Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology – and the LOOC was opened to co-authors of content, including UBC librarians, in July. The first set of students from the MET program was able to contribute as of September, and the aim is to open the course to the entire UBC community in early 2014.

The power of regeneration

Another notable aspect of the LOOC is its capacity for regeneration. Users can rate and review content, and offer new content – thereby reaping the benefits of previous contributions and adding value for future students. “The idea is that we’ll get all of these online graduate students in education offering content for the LOOC as a fundamental part of their learning experience,” says Vogt, also the Director of Innovation Strategy for UBC’s MAGIC lab.

Nicole Christen, a MET student who is researching adult participation in online communities, looks forward to being a project participant and contributor. “The main benefit of this particular LOOC is its ability to be regenerative and remain current, in terms of content, through student participation,” she says.

Vogt hopes that M101 will eventually offer online “badges, ” which can be used to recognize a learner’s new or enhanced skill set and serve as a powerful incentive. “In this age where employers of all kinds are really looking for added value from new employees, digital literacy knowledge and skills are going to be a slam dunk combination,” he predicts.

Erin Fields, UBC Library’s Teaching and Learning Librarian, notes that the LOOC offers benefits for a range of audiences. “The LOOC is providing an experimental space that pushes content creators like librarians to become confident in the immediacy of information creation and co-creation,” she says. “For students and the UBC community, the LOOC is filling a large information gap. It provides education in an area that isn’t currently addressed in a campus-wide way, and allows for the community to engage in information and conversations about social network technologies while growing digital skills.”

Fields, who has organized a group of six UBC librarians to develop LOOC content, is excited about the initiative’s potential. “This is a huge benefit for UBC Library, as it allows us to partner in a truly forward-thinking project,” she says. “It opens a discussion that may not have been possible before now.”