Sunday, 26 June 2016

Three Books on MOOCs

Paul Kim (Ed.) Massive Open Online Courses: The MOOC Revolution (Routledge 2015)

Jeremy Knox Posthumanism and the Massive Open Online Course: Contaminating the Subject of Global Education (Routledge 2016)

Curtis J. Bonk et el. (Eds.) MOOCs and Open Education Around the World (Routledge 2015)

When it comes to MOOCs I sometimes feel like an anti-capitalist popping into Starbucks. I know that I shouldn't. I know that they represent just about everything that I am fighting against. It's just that occasionally I just can't resist a Espresso Macchiato to get me going in the morning. At the moment, for instance, I'm enjoying a MOOC on Royal Food and Feasting with the University of Reading and Historic Royal Palaces. It's a well-designed MOOC that seems to incorporate the best of xMOOCs and cMOOCs. (Briefly an xMOOC is a MOOC that relies heavily on video lectures and computer-marked assignments and a closed discussion space for students. A cMOOC - the c stands for 'connectivist' - is relies far more of co-operative learning with students supporting each other and using a variety of social and other media).

Paul Kim's Massive Open Online Courses: The MOOC Revolution reads like it was written by critical friends of MOOCs. There is some discussion about the 'open' bit of MOOCs in several chapters. There is no doubt that MOOCs are accessible to all (as long as you have the right technology) so from that point of view they are open. Yet the curriculum of the MOOC is not open and the content of the MOOC is not open either. Indeed MOOC platforms such as Coursera and FutureLearn have placed heavy restrictions on the use of MOOC content outside of the MOOCs themselves. 

One chapter entitled "Enter the Anti-MOOCs" distills many of the criticisms of MOOCs. They are a part of the increasing commercialisation of higher education. Many of the students (like me - I recognise my privilege) are already highly educated with a large proportion having degrees or higher degrees. MOOCs are being used as marketing tools by the most 'prestigious' universities. The reaction to MOOCs is detailed in this chapter as well and many of these are positive reactions. Initiatives such as LOOCS (Little Open Online Courses) are examined. We cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater. For me MOOCs in themselves are not bad but the model on which they are built needs to change. See later for an examination of DOCCs.

I was also intrigued by a chapter on the pedagogy of MOOCs. Rightly this focuses on xMOOCs. cMOOCs already have a strong pedagogy, connectivism, built into them (This article is a good introduction to connectivism). I was always puzzled by the way xMOOCs function. Asking students to just watch a bunch of videos and answer some computer-generated questions seems to me to fly in the face of everything we've been told about how to engage students. No wonder the drop-out rate is so huge. Only the most committed students will see this through to the end. What was also interesting is the exploration of different pedagogies of MOOC platforms. This seems to rely on the countries/areas where the platform was set up. EdX and Coursera (both in the USA) offer a different pedagogic style to FutureLearn (UK-based) or Iversity (Europe-based).

Posthumanism and the Massive Open Online Course: Contaminating the Subject of Global Education was a difficult read for me. Not because it set out to challenge my views about MOOCs but it approaches it's critique of MOOCs from an academic perspective that I'm not familiar with. For instance, the concept of "posthumanism" was one that I had never encountered before. The author's main contention is that MOOCs are part of a universalist view of humanism in which people are rational and autonomous human beings. For the author there is nothing universalist about this at all. Hence "posthumanism". The principles of rationality and autonomy are the products of a particular time and a particular place and that MOOCs buy into this universalist worldview.

He also regards MOOCs as a form of educational colonialism. Many of the most prestigious universities in the western world have jumped onto the MOOC bandwagon claiming to offer educational opportunities to everybody around the world whilst pushing their own interests in the background. Even the pedagogy used is a form of colonialism as any pedagogic theory is a product of the time and place it emerged from. 

Leading on from that the author also regards MOOCs are being a symptom of the growing influence of Silicon Valley Values (there was a fascinating programme on Silicon Valley Values on BBC Radio 4 a little while ago - you can hear it here). For me Silicon Valley Values place a huge emphasis on technology as providing the panacea for many societal problems whilst at the same time being proud of their 'disruptive' nature (see the rise of Uber and Airbnb as other examples) which actively opposes government regulation and the protection of workers, consumers and the environment. Neo-liberalism delivered through your computer/phone screen.

Like the first book in this review, MOOCs and Open Education Around the World, is a critical but not sceptical friend of MOOCs. There are lots of essays written by "educational leaders" looking at MOOCs and other open educational initiatives around the world.

Again there is some recognition that the "open" bit of MOOCs is problematic. People involved in the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement would simply not recognise MOOCs as being genuinely open. Within the book there is some difference of opinion about what open actually means. For instance, there are some chapters on the development of open universities around the world. Of course they are open access but again not open in terms of curriculum or content.

The chapters on the impact (actual or potential) of Open Educational Resources on the developing world - especially in sub-Saharan Africa - are especially interesting. OERs can open up resources for schools and colleges in the developing world in the same way that generic drugs could transform healthcare. MOOCs could play a part in this but at the moment they are more of a hindrance than a help.

I was especially intrigued by a chapter on DOCCs. DOCCs stands for Distributed Open Collaborative Course. DOCCs are being developed by FemTechNet and are, in their own words:

an alternative genre of a networked learning course that exemplifies feminist principles and pedagogical methods that support decentralized and collaborative forms of learning. A DOCC is built on the understanding that expertise is distributed throughout networks, among participants situated in diverse institutional contexts, within diverse material, geographic, and national settings, and who embody and perform diverse identities (as teachers, as students, as media-makers, as activists, as trainers, as members of various public groups, for example).

I may be wrong but that sounds a lot like a cMOOC to me and seems to draw on not only feminist pedagogies but also the newly-emerging pedagogic theory of rhizomatic learning. It you're interested in true open learning then it may be worth keeping an eye on this.

Most of the chapters in this book, however, are less analytical and are more descriptive of MOOC and OER development around the world. From that perspective, this makes this book the most useful for anybody who is considering creating a MOOC in their institution and wants to be taken through some of the nuts and bolts of doing so.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Gender, Experience and Knowledge in Adult Learning

Elena Micelson
Gender, Experience, and Knowledge in Adult Learning: Alisoun's Daughters (Routledge, 2015)

There is broad agreement that experiential learning plays a central role in adult education. Adults learn by doing and by drawing on their own prior experiences and knowledge as they do so. Malcolm Knowles, the founder of andragogy (the theory of adult learning), made six assumptions about adult learning and two of these assumptions revolve around experience. The first is that adults bring their own experiences to their learning. The second is adult learning is best when it is problem-centred rather than content-centred. David Kolb's Learning Cycle (shown below) also places experience at the heart of adult learning.

This book does not question the importance of experiential learning but looks deeper at the assumptions made about what those experiences (and the reflection that arises out of it) actually are. The author maintains that there is an assumption that we will experience the same thing in roughly the same way and following on from that our reflections will also be broadly similar. Galileo stated that anybody could look through his telescope and they would all see the same thing.

The author wants to reflect on whether that is true. Could it be that our 'universal' concept of experience and knowledge is socially conditioned and that gender, sexuality, race and class need to be taken into account when thinking about what experience and knowledge actually are. If we all looked through Galileo's telescope we may very well all see the same thing but our experiences would be very different and our reflections on what we saw would all be different too. On top of that she argues that we tend to value some kinds of experience and knowledge over others and that the ones that we devalue are, not without coincidence, the experiences and knowledge of women, ethnic minorities and other marginalised groups.

As an example, I am involved with a educational movement called Trade School which offers learning in exchange for bartered items. In the 'About' page of the Trade School website it says that "Trade School celebrates practical wisdom". Just think about that word "wisdom" for a moment and then picture first a wise man and then a wise woman. Does "wisdom" suddenly become gendered? What I see (and I hope I'm not alone here) when I think of a wise man is somebody scholarly, a  deep thinker, somebody who thinks in the abstract and is somewhat aloof and detached from the rest of the world. A wise woman, however, feels to me to be keepers of a traditional and archaic knowledge that she learnt from previous generations and will pass onto the next. Her learning comes from her experience of the world and of community around her. It is a wisdom that may not be valued as much as that of her male counterpart.

For the author of this book many adult educational theorists (especially Kolb) either simply ignore or downgrade the social context of peoples' experience and knowledge. She does give some credence to John Dewey (one of our most pre-eminent educational theorists) for believing that experiential learning can only properly exist within a social sphere. The different experiences and the different forms of knowledge that come from that experience should be properly acknowledged in the field of adult education. 

I have to admit that I found parts of this book quite dense and difficult to read. Perhaps part of the reason for this is that the disciplines of postmodernism, feminist epistemology, queer theory and critical studies simply did not exist when I was at university in the early 1980s so I was starting from a position behind many of the intended readers of this book. They will be familiar with many of these ideas anyway and probably use the same kind of language. 

Yet for anybody interested in the theory (and practice) of adult learning I believe that this book would be a very useful read. I didn't have a "Road to Damascus" moment as the scales fell from my eyes as I turned over every page, What I did experience was a view into a part of a world that I thought I knew quite well but that I hadn't seen through the experiences of others. Perhaps, as adult educators, that's the most useful lesson to be taken from this book. Adult educators must not assume that adult learners are able or willing to look through their eyes.

P.S. 'Alisoun's Daughter' mentioned in the title is the Wife of Bath from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. I'm glad the author chose her as the role model for this book. It's my favourite of the Canterbury Tales. The Wife of Bath is outrageous, opinionated and, in the context of the fourteenth century, very liberated indeed. Her first words are:

Experience, though noon auctoritee
Were in this world, is right ynogh for me
To speke...

[Experience, though no authority were in this world,
is enough grounds for me to speak...]

Thursday, 5 February 2015

An Education in Facebook?

Mike Kent & Tama Leaver (Eds.)
An Education in Facebook? Higher Education and the World's Largest Social Network (Routledge, 2014)

Just a quick glance at the figures shows how ubiquitous Facebook has become. Even though it has only just celebrated it's 10th birthday the last figures show that it has over one billion members who use it at least one a month. At least 10% access Facebook through a mobile device and (no surprise here) the largest user group by age are 18-25 year olds.

Given the all-pervasive nature of Facebook it's little wonder that universities have had to find ways of dealing with it in as a useful and positive way as they can. Of course Facebook started life on university campuses in the United States but it was not created as a tool for learning but as (and I feel I'm stating the obvious here) as a "social network". The one thing that universities (and by extension all involved in life-long learning) cannot do is ignore it.

The first section of the book explores how Facebook can be used as a successful transition tool for students who are starting their new lives at university. The chapters draw on UK and US examples to show how Facebook can help to build communities within and between universities. One chapter uses a case study to explore how a university uses Facebook to link together past, present and potential students to create a form of bulletin board and support network. Another chapter explores how students set up their own groups and discussions outside of whatever the university has supplied. 

I was interested in this because several of the most recent online courses that I have taken through MIT Media Lab, FutureLearn and Coursera have not jumped onto the Facebook bandwagon. These platforms encourage students to connect with each other through bulletin boards integrated into their websites or hashtags on Twitter. Nevertheless, on several of these courses I have noticed that students have set up their own 'unofficial' Facebook pages in order to continue peer-to-peer learning outside of the boundaries set up the course providers. If the plan was to ignore or somehow circumnavigate Facebook then they were not entirely successful.

Section 2 is all about Facebook being used as a teaching and learning tool - in both a formal and informal sense. There are interesting chapters on how one university in Sweden uses Facebook for supervisory purposes and another on how the creation of learning communities on Facebook have helped to develop the social capital of both students and teaching staff. The first fly in the ointment appears in this section. Two authors from the University of South Australia explore the cultural clash between the ethos of universities as a whole and the social etiquette that has developed amongst users of Facebook. This has led many university teachers to develop what is called an academic armour in which they find ways to protect themselves from the demands of students in a social media environment. The informal style of communication used on Facebook may also be at odds with the way that universities would prefer students to interact with each other and with their teachers.

For those working outside of universities and are more involved with open, informal learning (i.e. through peer-to-peer learning) this may be less of an issue. This kind of learning has a strong social media presence built into it right from when the course is constructed. This means that the social etiquette used on social media then becomes the etiquette used on the course.

The next section address some of the more practical and philosophical issues that arise as Facebook becomes a replacement for more established Learning Management Systems. The most interesting chapter explores how Facebook has quickened the collapse in the boundaries between the private and public spheres through the ideas of Hannah Arendt. There are also comparisons between Facebook and LMSs such as Blackboard and Moodle. Many students appear to be resisting using these platforms because they are already familiar with Facebook and are unwilling to learn a new system when they already have a platform that they are familiar and comfortable with. However, even when university departments do start using Facebook it does not follow that students engage with them. The chapter on how university libraries are using Facebook perhaps shows that it is not the panacea that some feel it may be.

The last sections of the book where for me the most useful as it looks at some of the actual and potential problems that extensive use of Facebook can bring. Much of this revolves around the issues of privacy (which appears to be a greater concern for the universities than for the students); how Facebook creates an environment in which students regard their tutors as being available to them 24/7; the thorny issue of whether staff and students can be 'friends' on Facebook and the fact that Facebook is a commercial entity with shareholders to please and revenue to be raised through advertising. Facebook is also under scrutiny because of their habit of 'data mining' details about their users that they pass onto their advertisers. For anybody involved in education these are real issues that need to be thought about before using Facebook either as LMS or as a way for students to connect with each other. From this book it is clear that this is an issue that does not seem to worry students so educational bodies will probably have to do the worrying for them.

At the moment (leaving aside some evidence of Facebook fatigue and the rise of other social media platforms such as Tumblr and Instagram) Facebook is still growing, is here to stay and has become part of the learning and social environments of students. For anybody working with those students this book is invaluable in helping to navigate your way through that environment.

If you want to buy a copy of this book then here is the link.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Handbook of Mobile Learning

Zane L. Berg & Lin Y. Muilenburg (Eds.)
Handbook of Mobile Learning (Routledge, 2013)

The blurb on the back cover refers to the book as a "comprehensive compendium" on research into the field of mobile learning. It's a lot more that that. I would call a magnum opus of mobile learning. Coming in at over 600 pages and with 53 chapters covering a huge range of issues about m-learning this book should make it's way onto the bookshelves (or e-reader) of everybody who is interested and involved in mobile learning.

The issue of course is that will, in the very near future, be just about everybody involved in learning. Although reliable figures are hard to come by and even then should be taken with a certain amount of scepticism, there are about 300 million people with a tablet (either Android or IPad) and about one billion people with smartphones. There is obviously a great deal of overlap between these two figures but that is still a very large number of people with access to a mobile device that is used on a daily and habitual basis. 

The first part of the book explores the history and theory of m-learning. You would think that a history of m-learning would be a very short chapter indeed. However, as m-learning is placed within the context of distance, open and electronic learning then it has a longer ancestry. This is only the first two chapters of this section. The rest is a collection of writings of how the pedagogy of m-learning is developing.These chapters were fascinating in that it shows how educational theory is increasingly lagging behind a fast-changing technology. Various learning theories revolving around constructivist and connectivist approaches, activity theory, the ARCS model and the ideas of Jurgen Habermas are discussed. There is some agreement that the pedagogy that best fits m-learning is different from that revolves around e-learning which is itself still in it's infancy. The section concludes with some brave attempts to peer into the crystal ball and predict the future of m-learning. I say 'brave' because predicting the future of something as fast-moving and fluid as mobile learning is not that easy. It'll certainly grow from a qualitative point of view but from every other perspective - who knows?

Part two focuses on the needs of different groups of learners and how m-learning can support them. For those of you involved in open learning then this is one of the most useful sections of the book. Mobile learning allows for much greater independence and choices on the part of the learner; more engagement and interaction with the content and many more opportunities for communicating with tutors and with fellow learners.

The one thing that distinguishes mobile-learning from other kinds of leaning activity is the fact that it is mobile. This allows for learning that can take place anytime and anywhere. How this works in practice is the main part of this section. Chapters explore how mobiles have been used with medical education, cookery classes, universities, work-based learning and, most interestingly for me, a chapter on the use of mobiles in museums. 

The next part of the book shifts the focus from the learner to the teacher using mobile devices and explores the whole area of instructional design. Teachers using mobile devices will have to re-think many of the ways in which teachers teach their subjects and how they relate to their learners. There is an intriguing chapter on the concept of the 'flipped classroom' and how mobile technologies can transform the way in which our children learn in school. There is a return to an exploration of pedagogies in m-learning, especially how it fits in with instructional design. The last chapter is on how a MOOC was designed for use on mobile devices. I found this very interesting because the MOOCs that I have been involved can clearly be done on a mobile device but have not been designed for optimum mobile use. Futurelearn, the UK's new MOOC provider, has stated that the MOOCs that they will be offering will be mobile-friendly. At the time of writing, the first MOOCs through Futurelearn  have yet to be launched so how their design takes into account mobile-learning is currently not known.

Moving on from the learner and the teacher, the fourth part of the book explores the challenges of creating and implementing mobile learning. In a sense, the chapters in this section are simply stating the obvious. Don't even think about instituting mobile learning in schools, universities, libraries, museums or wherever without making sure that the proper administrative and management scaffolding is firmly in place. Yet the obvious does need to be stated in order to prevent a badly-planned rush to mobile learning. For instance, there is an excellent chapter on a university that distributed IPads to all of their students. This mass deployment created all sorts of challenges for the university and changed the relationship between the students and staff in ways that were not predicted. The most important chapter in this section is the one that introduces the Mobile Implementation Framework, which offers a way for implementing new technologies into institutions. It would be easy to skip over this section and to leave the administration and management of m-learning to others but you would do so at our peril.

And so to the last part of the book. This was the part of the book that I found the most fascinating. Over fifteen chapters the canvas is spread wide as case studies of mobile learning from around the world are explored. Again these case studies come from schools, community organizations, universities and many other kinds of learning bodies. The most inspiring chapters are on how mobile devices are helping people in the developing world access learning in a way that would have been unimaginable only a few years ago. Malaysia is heavily investing in technology infrastructures and there are a couple of chapters on how educationalists in Malaysia are taking advantage of this through mobile-learning. Mobile devices are being used in India and sub-Saharan Africa to help children to access materials that were until recently out of reach.

Apologies for the big review but it's a big book on a big subject. It is difficult to imagine anybody involved in learning, including those in open learning, will not have to embrace (either whole-heartedly or reluctantly) mobile-learning. In the same way that printed books, radio, television and computers have revolutionised learning so mobile devices will do the same again. This book will help everybody to get ready.

If you want to buy either the hard copy or the ebook then here is the link.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Quick Hits for Teaching with Technology

Robin K. Morgan and Kimberley T. Olivares (Eds.)
Quick Hits for Teaching with Technology: 
Successful Strategies by Award-Winning Teachers 
(Indiana University Press, 2012)

For the 'digital immigrants' who are teaching in today's further and higher educational establishments technology has become an indispensable tool in delivering their courses. Understanding how to use new technologies has become much easier even as the choices of technologies have mushroomed. What is more difficult is how to use this new technology in a way that captures the interest and imaginations of students (both on campus and online); helps them learn better and at the same time allows tutors to develop the quality and effectiveness of their teaching.

This is where this book can prove useful for anybody involved in open and online teaching and is looking for creative and interesting ideas on how to engage with their students. The contributors are mainly Indiana University staff and they cut across different disciplines and departments, including maths, geography and medicine. Lots of the suggestions in the book are discipline-specific but most are not and even the ones that are can still be remodelled to fit in with a different subject.

The book is divided into four sections each of which deal with different ways in which new technologies can be best used in teaching. The first chapter has suggestions on how technology can assist in promoting student engagement. The second part explores how technology can be used to improve access to learning for those who may find the traditional college setting less feasible. Chapter three looks at imaginative ways for using technology in the evaluation of both learning and teaching. The last chapter helps with the problem that all of us are facing today, namely how to do more with less. The contributions to this chapter give examples of how technology can make teaching more efficient.

There are far too many (just under one hundred at a rough count) contributions for any examples to be detailed in this review. However, the use (in both consuming and producing terms) of blogs, wikis, clicker, podcasts as well as using websites such as YouTube and Prezi appears several times throughout the book. There are suggestions in the book that surprised me and surprised me in a good way and it will certainly influence my future practice. I can see tutors in open and online learning reaching for this book for inspiration again and again.

For readers of this review outside of North America, the distributors of this book have offered a very generous 20% discount off the price of the book if it is bought through their website. You can find details here and the discount code to use is CS0613QHTT.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age

Helen Beethem and Rhona Sharpe (eds.) 
Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing for 21st Learning (Routledge, 2013)

This is a new edition of a book that was first published in 2007. In the six years since the first edition of this book the online and open learning world has moved on considerably. The development of OERs, that were in their infancy in 2007, has continued to grow and develop. MOOCs (for many the antithesis of OERs - as highlighted by the current debate over FutureLearn's Terms and Conditions) did not exist in any form that we would recognise today and the learning potential of social media platforms was only just beginning to be recognised.

The thrust of the book is that pedagogic theory cannot be created in a vacuum. Social, economic and cultural values have moved on since 2007 and the technology that is available has changed quite a lot as well. All of that means that we need to search for a new pedagogy as we move from an emphasis on teaching to one of learning.

The first part of the book explores the concept of "design for learning" in which the creators of open learning materials need to take into account a new way of learning when the materials are put together. In a sense, these learning theories have been around for some time but are being repurposed to take account of societal and technological change. Of the three broad learning theories covered in the book (associative, cognitive and situative) it is obvious that situated learning theory is coming to dominate discussions about open learning. 

The second section moves from the theoretical to the practical with case studies of learning design being discussed within the framework of learning theory. The case studies include perspectives from those who work in the field of arts and humanities teaching; a 'Student as Producer' project at the University of Lincoln in the UK and the development of the LAMS (Learning Activity Management System) design tool.

The theoretical discussions in the book about learning theory and how it applies to "design for learning" is an extremely useful section for those who are unfamiliar with the whole area of learning theory and design for learning. I suspect that this may include many teachers in the post-compulsory education field who are, to use what might be a controversial phrase, "digital immigrants" and are faced with students who have grown up with learning in an entirely new way. Understanding the theory by itself in not enough. You can read instructions (or watch a video) on how to swim or ride a bike but in the end you have to go ahead and start putting that theory into practice. So the last section of the book is also extremely useful as a way for reflective practitioners to see how others have added practical flesh to their theoretical bones.

The book can be ordered through the Routledge website. (Please do not use Amazon until they fess up over their tax affairs)

Monday, 13 May 2013

Supporting Students for Success in Online and Distance Education

Ormond Simpson Supporting Students for Success in Online and Distance Education (Open and Flexible Learning Series) ) (Routledge 2012)

Large Image

Strictly speaking, this is not a new book but is an amalgam of two previous titles by Ormond Simpson which explores how to support and retain students in open and distance learning.

I want to explore this book from the perspective of supporting students studying MOOCs. There is only a brief mention of MOOCs in this title yet I feel that there are many parts of this book that will help those who are running, or are considering, running MOOCs.

In essence, the book tackles the problem of a 20% completion rate amongst students on open courses. This is a better statistic than for MOOC completion. According to Sir John Daniel's "Making Sense of MOOCs" (2012) when MIT offered a course called Circuits and Electronics about 155,000 people from 160 countries registered to start the course. Of the 155,000 people, 23,000 got as far attempting the first problem set, half-way through the course there were 9000 students left and only 7000 saw the course through from beginning to end.

This extremely high drop-out rate has led to some criticisms of MOOCs. However, during a "Google Hang-Out", George Siemens, one of the original MOOC creators, questioned whether completing a course should be regarded as a sign of success and non-completion as an indicator of failure.

Simpson refers to this accepting approach to an extremely high drop-out rate as a Passendale view of education in which thousands are sent over the top in the knowledge that only a few will reach the end and that that is somehow okay. Surely the greater the completion rate then the more successful the MOOC. It shows that the course was well-structured and reveals a greater relevance to the needs of the students.

The book first tackles the reasons why people drop out of open courses. This is clearly important because if the reasons for drop-outs are known then it will be easier to find solutions. As far as I am aware, there have been no studies into why people drop out of MOOCs but again it's probably comparable. As way of a confession, I have dropped out of two MOOCs. Both were concious decisions and were based on a recognition that one course did not fit my needs and the other coincided with a sudden increase in my professional work.

The next part of the book then goes on to explore how students could be retained on open courses. If any MOOC organisers are concerned about keeping as many students as possible on their courses then this part of the book should be a must-read. Some of the recommendations in the book talks about retaining students through personal contact. This is clearly impossible when there are tens of thousands of students. However, it seems to me that the weekly instructional e-mail could also contain an element of encouragement for students that might be struggling. Students using peer-to-peer support through discussion boards and other social media could also be used to encourage retention.

To accompany the book Ormond Simpson has an excellent website with some excellent resources on open learning. The book can be ordered through the Routledge website.