At a recent MYP Coordinators’ network meeting we were discussing how – despite lots of moves towards quality control and great efforts by the IBEN team – we still had occasional concerns on the reliability of the received message from online and face-to-face (f2f) workshops. Whether this comes from an unclear message, a side conversation, a misunderstanding across languages or the participant’s personal filter, we don’t know, but it led me to think about what steps might be taken to reduce the likelihood of misunderstanding.
If this is already in the pipeline, I’d love to know more about it…
The Proposal: IB MOOC-style short courses
In the early stages of the MYP/DP teacher’s experience, the coordinator needs to know that the teacher knows the basics correctly, knows how to access the correct information and knows how to correctly operate their guide/criteria or other requirements. As unglamorous as it sounds, this seems to call for a reliable delivery method to build a baseline knowledge; a way to check the guides have been read and understood, with some reliable tasks and worked examples. A new teacher with a well-learned foundation of knowledge and skills in their subject area will be better equipped for interactive, inquiry-driven approaches in their later experiences in workshops and school-based PD.
Over the last decade, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) have become popular: where a university or institution has developed a great set of course materials, they post them online in a structured format for free participation – see Coursera, EdX, Udacity and many more at Class Central. Typically these courses work in self-paced (enrol and get working) or cohort (timed start and end) models. Although it has been estimated that only around 5-6% of participants complete the course they enrolled for, they offer learners the opportunity to try courses at a university level that they might not have access to otherwise. They democratise learning. Furthermore, many of the courses can be verified with an optional low-cost certificate after completing the course and assessment successfully – and this is where I see the opportunity for IB professional learning.
My IB as a MOOC Platform
In the current model of IB professional learning, online and f2f workshops are a great way to build a working knowledge of the programmes and make connections with colleagues from other schools. However, they are expensive and many schools have limited resources to support multiple attendees; if a workshop does not have the intended impact on the participant, it can feel like a waste of resources.
What if IBPD developed a series of short content-delivery courses in the MOOC-style so that access to the required, vetted and updated knowledge was open to all? Participants from anywhere with an internet connection could take short courses to update their understanding, at no cost: new teachers, existing teachers, those in IB schools and those who might want to be. Think a course in the style of Google Certified Educator Level 1: it doesn’t need to be ‘taught’ as all the materials are online (subject guides!), but has activities to demonstrate competence in the skills. Similarly, on the path to becoming a Microsoft Innovative Educator you can collect badges & certificates through a personally-relevant pathway.
Anyone could join in, everyone would get the same reliable information.
To get verified/certified, the participant would need a MyIB account. The participant or school would pay a small fee (around US$100 is common on verified MOOCS), complete the assessment and receive a digital certificate. This would be great in supporting in-house professional learning (particularly when guides update). Typically sending one teacher on a workshop costs my school up to $2,000 in workshop fees, flights and accommodation; that’s a lot of potential MyIBMOOC certificates. I’d love to have something like this form part of a differentiated model of in-house professional learning.
Would this model be appropriate for new teachers entering a school? Moving school, country and system can be daunting enough; taking on a full workshop out of context is not always effective. After all, we don’t know what we don’t know, and although we need to get up and running quickly, we don’t usually have great questions until we’ve taught it a while. I’d love to be able to share a couple of ‘learn the basics’ short-courses with incoming teachers, to relieve their stress and help them tune in to their new programme.
What if completion of an entry-level MyIBMOOC was required for registration into a workshop? Would this reduce the impact of inappropriately-placed workshop participants on the workshop outcomes? As the demand for IB workshops increases, it puts more pressure on the stellar work done by the IBEN team. Would this model reduce pressure on the WSL pool and ensure participants are at the right starting point to move forwards with the group effectively?
Design Principles for a Successful MyIBMOOC
What design specifications might make this model work? Here are some to get started. If you think of more, please add them in the comments below, or find me on Twitter.
- Short & focused. Long online courses are a draaaaaaag. A short course doesn’t need to deliver three days of f2f content; units on assessment & getting started in your subject, global contexts, being a personal project/EE supervisor or any other programme elements would be great.
- Always up-to-date and linkable. “What’s the page number?” is an IBEN mantra, and the same should be true here. Don’t hide information where it is hard to access, especially where accuracy is important.
- Clear assessment, focused feedback. We need to know that what we know is correct. Save the discussions for deeper-dive workshops, this idea is for building foundation knowledge only.
- Translateable. Clear and concise content might later be translated into other working IB languages. Here in Japan, as more “Article 1” schools come online, would this help get schools up and running?
- Platform agnostic & light. Of course, it needs to work on all broswers, not be blocked in any countries and not be so data-heavy that it can’t work in areas with slow internet.
What do you think? If this is already in the pipeline, I’d love to know more about it…