Rate your online learning-ability

I stumbled on this website that rates ones readiness to be a successful oline learner. I scored 33 out of 39 which means:

You are a strong candidate for success in an online course!

It adds:

  • meets the necessary technical requirements and is comfortable with the equipment
  • has the time and resources to dedicate to online course work
  • is comfortable with the written word and use of e-mail as a communication form
  • is self-disciplined, self-guided and committed
  • has the ability to prioritize responsibilities and work independently
  • will ask for assistance when needed to build academic and social support systems
  • has much to benefit from this delivery method vs. residence programs (Examples: busy lifestyle, geographic
  • isolation from campus, parenting requirements or restrictions, physical disability, corporate support to learn at work )

Source: https://www.miracosta.edu/instruction/distanceeducation/quiz.aspx

MOOC: Online Writing Course

I have just started another MOOC course on Coursera about writing. I was amazed to discover they have outlined 5 types of online offering. I am wondering why a writing course talk about online teaching? But I found its information worth capturing:

Type 1: Traditional Undergraduate Level Online Courses: have a great deal of instructor to student interaction,  follow the course content of the face-to-face counterpart, not self-paced, follow along with the entire class within a designated time period, do activities with other members of the class, also limited in size.

Type 2: Traditional Graduate Level Online Courses: the student is much more self-directed, not self-paced, but there is more interaction among the students with the instructor in a facilitation role.

Type 3: Mass Open Online Courses (MOOC): The interaction with the instructor is limited, the instructor mainly participates through designing the course and offering its content. The instructor will also participate in some of the discussion activities and is usually assisted by peer tutors or teaching assistants. Much of the course is conducted with technology providing the evaluation through machine graded tests and assignments as well as the use of peer graded work. These courses may or may not be self-paced based on the content and the design and usually have hundreds or thousands of students from all over the world.

Type 4: Hybrid (sometimes called Blended) Distance Education Courses: These courses usually occur in the traditional college setting and are partially online courses.

Type 5: Flipped Classes: take place in face-to-face classrooms in many colleges and universities. They implement online content and activities as a major component of the course delivery. Instructors determine what content for the course can best be done by students on their own (watching video lectures, read, do tutorials, etc.) and what parts of the course the students usually need help with (writing essays, solving problems, creating projects, etc.). Students complete the work on their own online before coming to class to work with the instructor on the components that are best done with instructor assistance.

Courses with Proctored Testing: Many fully online courses require the students to go to a specific place to do testing. Usually, the site for testing is the college campus or an alternative sited agreed to by the instructor and the individual student. (This class has no proctored testing.) Student integrity is very important in distance education programs because the college has to be sure that their courses meet requirements of governmental agencies.” 

(Ross, Barkley & Blake n.d.)

Although I like this classification and it makes sense, i still find their definition of the MOOC type to be wrong, or at least, incomplete.

Ross, L. & Barkley, T., Blake, T. (n.d.) : Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade by Lorrie Ross, Lawrence (Larry) Barkley, Ted Blake. Coursera Course. Week 1. Retrieved from https://class.coursera.org/basicwriting-001/class/index

7 Principles for effective online teaching

I have been away for a while, ainy because I am busy with the impemmentation of knowledge worker technologies, and partially because I am bloggine on y personal blog. For now, I want to capture Chickering and Gamson (1987)  seven principles of effective pedagogical practices for online teaching before they get lost. They are written in 1987, but I find them still applicable today:

  1. Encourage contacts between students and faculty in and out of classes.
  2. Learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort than a solo race.
  3. Active learning is encouraged in classes that use structured exercises, challenging discussions, team projects, and peer critiques.
  4. Students need appropriate and timely feedback on their performance to benefit from courses.
  5. Learning to use one’s time well is critical for students and professionals alike.
  6. Communicate higher expectations.
  7. Provide a diverse delivery system.

It’s Here: Next Generation of Online Learning

Tomorrow is here now: Free courses with no instructors, no credits, no charge and from Carnegie Mellon University! The future of teacherless courses is emerging… not there yet, but I see the light at the end of a loooong and winding tunnel!

From their site:

Using intelligent tutoring systems, virtual laboratories, simulations, and frequent opportunities for assessment and feedback, the Open Learning Initiative (OLI) builds courses that are intended to enact instruction – or, more precisely, to enact the kind of dynamic, flexible, and responsive instruction that fosters learning.

The URL is: http://oli.web.cmu.edu/openlearning/forstudents

Customizing Teaching for Personalized Learning

Philosophy Statements about Teaching and Learning, v. 4.1

I. Abstract

In my opinion, the best instruction is the 1-1 approach. Not in the traditional sense where a teacher teaches one student. This is not feasible using traditional teaching methods. In an ideal teaching scenario, the learners need to have “customized”, “personalized” and “individualized” teaching that caters for their learning style and talent through the innovative use of technology in all its facets. This applies in the face-to-face setting as well as online teaching.

II. Concepts and Values

This post highlights the set of values and definitions that governs my philosophy about teaching and learning. It includes a set of practices I follow when designing as well as delivering my courses, whether face-to-face or online.

Role of Teachers: Following Entwisted (1990) line of thought, I believe that the primary professional responsibility of teachers, trainers and online courses is to maximise the learning opportunities of their learners. Some would use the term “facilitator” but I still like to use the traditional term, teacher, with added contemporary connotations.

Learning, Information and Knowledge: Information, knowledge and their relation to learning is one of the vaguest concepts in the literature (Fox, 1991). Harris supplied the definition which is closest to my heart:

“knowledge is private, while information is public. Knowledge, therefore, cannot be communicated; only information can be shared. Whenever an attempt to communicate knowledge is made, it is translated into information, which other learners can choose to absorb and transform into knowledge, if they so desire” (Harris, 1995, p.1)

According to this description, I believe that learning is the process of personalizing information and experience thus creating knowledge. Collective knowledge includes skills, attitudes and beliefs. Teachers’ role is to create the desire in the learner to absorb and transform the information and experience into their own knowledge.

Assessment: is defined as “the process of documenting, usually in measurable terms, knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs” (Wikipedia, Assessment). I believe that this definition mixes up between knowledge and information. In my courses, I like to define assessment as “the process of documenting, usually in qualitative terms, the incremental knowledge attained during the teaching process”. How to do this? I have few ideas that I hope will be firmed in version 5 of my philosophy.

Curriculum: I like to categories the curriculum into two types: the regulated curriculum where outcomes are clearly quantified and regulated (like army training, government regulated courses, professional tests) and free-form curriculum where the outcomes depends on the learners’ achievement within clear guidelines (example: art classes, architecture and medicine). I believe courses in the regulated curriculum address learning at the information level. Free form courses tackle the learning at the knowledge level. Each of these two types requires different teaching styles and methodologies. The difference is recognized in the design and delivery of each type, although, personally, I avoid handling regulated courses as an online course.

Learning Spaces: Brown (2005) used the term “Learning Spaces” to replaces the traditional classroom term. I like to use the same term to indicate any space that induces learning in individuals: a classroom, my office, a cafe, over the phone, on a forum, blog, wikipage, online, offline, and all the new medium of learning that is available.

Learning Styles: My teaching recognizes that individuals learn in multitude of ways. Consequently, the process of creating the desire in learners to learn should match the learners’ style. The literature offers at least 13 different schools of thought in this area (Coffield et al, 2004). Out of these schools, I find that Allinson and Hayes Cognitive Style Index to be the most suitable because it has “the best psychometric credentials” (Coffield et al, 2004, p139). I believe, to use learning styles as motivators to learning, I must include other factors like the set of intelligences acquired by the learner (Gardner et al,1995) and the set of strengths that determines their talent (Clifton & Nelson, 1992). My teaching should include drivers that ignite the learning desire based on the learners’ profile. Technology makes achieving this approach more plausible. I find the 4MAT approach to learning styles (McCarthy, 1990) the most suitable. This approach advocates that teaching should:

(1) Promote self reflecting, analysing, and experiencing.
(2) Inspire transitioning of information into knowledge
(3) Allow the individuals to digest and create content
(4) Encourage learners to express themselves

And I like to add a fifth one:

(5) Facilitate creation of knowledge through collective collaboration and network communication (Tapscott and Williams, 2010)

Learning Theories: As outlined by Anderson in his CIDER Webinar of April 2010, effective teaching should apply a mix of learning theories (behaviorism, cognitive, constructive and connectivism). I am a strong believer in this approach.

Generational Differences: Tapscott (2008) coined the term NetGen to describe individuals who were born in the digital age. I agree with him that NetGen learns in ways different than what traditional education is able to offer. Consequently, my delivery will recognize the different learning drivers dichotomies as presented by Coffield, (2004).

Parallel Education: As suggested by Brown (2010) and McGonigal (2010), new learning paradigms are emerging where the younger generation are building their knowledge outside the traditional educational systems. Some refer to this as the parallel education. The learning in this paradigm is naturally motivated and based on discovering personal talents through “virtual-real-life” experiences in areas not recognized in the traditional educational understanding. In my courses, I need to identify learners who are following this approach and encourage them to exploit it in the learning of the material. This is not easy especially that the concept is new. Maybe it will be the core driver for my philosophy version 5!

Technology in Learning: In my educational realm, technology helps to customize, individualize and personalize learning. For many thousand years, human learned based on one-to-one teaching (Toffler, 1980) until the industrial evolution came up with the idea of mass production that shaped our present educational system (West, 2001). This method is becoming obsolete to meet the new challenges (Tapsott & Wilson, 2010). With the advancement of the technology, we can go back to the natural way of human learning, i.e. one-to-one by customizing teaching to satisfy individualistic learning drivers through online courses and activities.

Continuous Improvement: My courses will always contain learners feedback to continuously evaluate means of improvement. This philosophy will continuously evolve based on new discoveries, emerging technologies, my acquired knowledge and interactions with my learners.

III. References

Brown, D., (2010), An Open Letter to Educators, YouTube Video.

Brown M., (2005), Learning Spaces, Educating the Net Generation, Educause eBooks.

Clifton, D. O., & Nelson, P. (1992). Soar with Your Strengths, Dell Publishing.

Coffield, F. J., Moseley D. V., Hall .E & Ecclestone, K. (2004). Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning: a systematic and critical review. London: Learning and Skills Research Centre/University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Entwistle, N.J. (1998). Improving teaching through research on student learning. In JJF Forrest (ed.) University teaching: international perspectives. New York: Garland.

Fox, S. (1991). The production and distribution of knowledge through open and distance learning. In D. Hylnka & J. C. Belland (Eds.), Paradigms regained: The uses of illuminative, semiotic and post-modern criticism as modes of inquiry in educational technology. Englewood Clifs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Gardner, H., Kornhaber, M. L., & Wake W. K. (1995). Intelligence: multiple perspectives, Wadsworth Publishing Company.

Judi H. (1995). Educational Telecomputing Projects: Information Collections, The Computing Teacher journal, published by the International Society for Technology in Education.

McGonigal, J. (2010). Gaming can make a better world. TED Presentation.

Tapscott, D. (2008). Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World, The McGraw-Hill.

Tapscott, D., & Williams, A. D. (2008). Innovating the 21st-Century University: It’s Time!, EDUCAUSE

Toffler, A., (1989). The Third Wave, Bantam Books.

West, E. G. (2001). Education and the Industrial Revolution, Liberty Fund Inc.

Wikipedia, Assessment, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assessment

Zukas, M., & Malcolm, J. (2002). Pedagogies for lifelong learning: building bridges or building walls? In R Harrison, F Reeve, A Hanson and J Clarke (eds) Supporting lifelong learning. London: Routledge/Open University.

IV. Appendix: History of the versions of My Philosophy

Version 1: articulated in 1981: The focus was on curriculum and teaching.
Version 2: articulated in 1992: The focus was student learning and success.
Version 2.5: articulated in 1996: The focus included the use of Technology.
Version 3: articulated in 2000: Constructivist concepts were adopted.
Version 3.5: articulated in 2008: Web 2.0 concepts were included.
Version 4.1: articulated in 2010: References were added.

Online Learning: Khan Academy in Numbers

I think we should put Khan Academy in perspective. It is not suitable for all. It is good for 1 in every 90 individuals. Is it worth it? let’s do the analysis:

First Pedagogy: Based on Paul Kurucz, there are 3 types of learners: those who learn by seeing the big picture, those who learn by seeing the process and those who learn through networking. Coupled with Kelb ideas, it is easy to recognize that Khan’s style is suitable for the learners “who like to see the process and observe someone else doing it!”. It is not suitable for all.

Mathematically: combining Kurucz 3 criteria and kelb 4 styles, and for simplicity let’s assume that an individual can be only one of them, it is easy to calculate the permutation: 1 in every 90 people find Khan’s method suitable for their learning. This means, the other 89 finds it useless.

Demographics: Roughly, if 40% of the world population are learners (students, lifelong learners, adult, informal, etc..), and there are there 1.8B users of the internet in the world, then there are 720 Million active learners around the world who have access to the Internet.

Conclusion: as we said, only 1 in every 90 of these learners can learn based on Khan method. This means, there are 8 Million learners around the world who have access to the internet and who are in benefit from Khan’s work. 8 Million!

Isn’t this phenomenal? One person (i.e. Khan) offering a suitable learning material for 8 Million people, for free… around the world? the way they like to learn? Isn’t it outstanding! Or should we focus on the the other 712 Million to prove it futile? I am on Khan side. I like to see the droplet in an empty glass!!


1) I am ready to offer data to submit my arguments.

2) An opportunity: we still need to figure out a good teaching tools for the remaining 712 Million people. I see a lot of money here! Any partners?



Tools: Zotero

Website: http://www.zotero.org/

Since I decided to pursuit my doctorate studies, I am looking for tools that can help me study anywhere, anytime and on any device. One reserach that synch across many computers is Zotero. It has nice features like capturing web bibliographies, quotations, take notes and few more. I will be testing it and give my verdict if it is a useful too.


Detect language » Arabic

Mobile Learning: The mobile nomad

Who do I consider a mobile nomad? First, let’s agree that learning is converting the public information to personal knowledge.

The obvious answer is that the mobile nomads are the busy workers who seeks education anytime and anywhere. The one who spend so much time idling waiting for the next process of his work. Those who commute. Or those who work in modern corporate world where they have to spend 8 hours at work while their actual work load needs far less than that. Or those who live in locations that lack traditional cable internet connectivity.

The non-obvious answer is still unclear. I think the real mobile nomads are the  lifelong learners who can learn when new knowledge is needed. Information is exponentially changing and knowledge need to be created based on the most up to date information. This is a new breed of beings who are among us but not widely recognized by education. The wikipedians (i.e volunteer collaborators and open source developers) are very good example. They contribute to their knowledge and the global information anytime, anywhere and with any device.

Information Explosion, CCK11

I have just finished the second Webinar about CCK11… and just discovered that I have to change the ways I do things… integrally.

In the last years, I had 4 main emails I manage periodically, subscribed to few interesting list services and social media. I have created an environment to manage the overflow of information I face everyday. I was successful on tracking the daily changes on FaceBook, the few hundred emails I get everyday, the twitts, RSS, summaries I get and had enough time to contribute to them and to Wikipedia. I was happy and well informed and evolving at a comfortable way.

With the CCK11 course, my exposure to knowledge has already multiplied by 10… and I did not start interacting yet… I think once I start “artifacting”, or as the mooc video suggest: network, my daily intake of information will multiply unimaginably.

My old way of interacting with the information will not work. I need a new way. I hope I can figure out something soon to make good use of this experience… I will post it here once I know.

But hey, this is evolution.

One second: could this be considered my “artificat”? Is my topic “How to survive (manage) the overflow of information that connectivism create”? Maybe! Let me digest this mooc concept first before I commit. Reading time.

Detect language » Arabic

Updated PLE (Dec 2010)

I have chosen to divide my third attempt on my PLE into 3 branches:

(1) My Learning: Sites or Internet Activities that helps me learn. It is part of my lifelong learning activities. You may call this branch: lifelong learning.

(2) Future Learning: The activities I would like to learn in the next 3-6 months.

(3) Trouble Shooting, or what I like to describe as Knowledge-On-Demand. In general, this type of activities does not require me “to learn” as such, but it is essential for my day to day operation.


(1) “My Learning” branch

I recognize the I have 3 levels of learning: the cognitive (i.e. the information I have to retain), Behavioral (i.e. learning that changes my habits and behavior) and Paradigm Shift (i.e learning that changes my values). In my PLE, I havr outlined SOME of the web sites that helps me in each level. For example, playing SIMS helped me (and helps me) analyze daily routines and social interaction that, after playing for a while, help me develop new habits or behavior. As you may have noticed, my life is filled with online cognitive opportunities. This is the real purpose of the internet. Isn’t it?

(2) “My Future Learning” branch

In the next 6 months, I need to learn about mLearning (=Learning using the mobile devices), developing audio-visual materian for online courses (this course gave the push for it) and about Avatars and 2nd Life (my next online course).

(3) Troubleshooting branch

In my life, I face a lot of problems that I need to solve immediately. Due to the nature of my field, most of this knowledge is obsolete and worth learning (eg: programming languages… the moment you learn it, it become obsolete, so spend time learning languages is a life killer.) so, I revert to online friends or resources to find solutions either by searching previous cases, or asking in forums. This is what I like to call Knowledge on Demand.

The PLE (Bubbl.us disabled embedding their chart, so I replaced it with a static image.)

Anas PLN Jan 2011

Detect language » Arabic

Detect language » Arabic

Knowledge, Talent and Intelligence

In my last article, I mentioned that learning is the process of creating knowledge through personalizing information. Then I touched on talent and intelligence. This morning, I was thinking if the created knowledge persevere. I though not. Then, I started thinking about knowledge on demand which is creating the knowledge as needed and discarding it when it is not! This lead me to think: what is the knowledge that is retained. Reflecting on myself, I discovered that I retain the knowledge that interests me. I discard the other. Then I thought what interests me. I concluded that my talent (set of strengths) and the set of my intelligence (according to MI) determines my interest. Then I recognized that my values and controling instincts have roles to play. This made me come up with the following theory:

Learning is the process of converting information to knowledge. Retaining knowledge is another process that relates to intelligence and talent. It requires a name. Applying the retained knowledge requires a third process (that needs to be named!). Consistently applying the knowledge is the geniusity!

Data > Information > Knowledge > *retained knowledge* > *applied knowledge* > *the knowledge becomes controlling*

This theory needs more work. I need to find terms for the missing names from the literature. I need to relate talent/intelligence/values to it. I need more readings.

Dialogue about Subways and Mac’s

The below is a dicussion that happened around my “Subways and Mac’s” post on another blog. I thought to copy it over here for the records. Oxana commented:

Anas, I like your analogy. It shows some of your goals you are striving to achieve. Did you think of the “counter”/delivery people? Who will serve your course, you alone or other tutors ? Are you aiming to franchise it and give other people to run it with consistent quality and outcome? Cheers

Then Doug posted:

Anas: Its a daydream because like Oxana pointed out the servers will be in control. As you must realize the objectives and outcome system is to satisty government requirements and once the funding is in place the who knows what the assessment process will provide. Teachers like MDs are controlled by a government bureaucracy. Just calculate how much is paid to institutional Presidents for X universities in Alberta…why not have X-y and put the money into back into teaching and instruction? have fun Doug
PS its all about the beef.

Then I replied:

@Oxana: (1) no servers. Learners pick and choose. There will be the cooks who are usually invisible that prepare the material, and support staff who keeps cleaning stuff and answering odd questions. (2) no franchise. It GNU based.

@Doug: (1) Servers will never be in control. Look at our course, are our Facilitators in Control? They just ensure we adhere to goals and give us support if we ask for it. Beyond that, they are almost invisible… right? (2) This is the beauty of dreaming: You don’t have to worry about what would go wrong. I understand where you come from about regulated studies. This is why I believe there must be other “restaurants” to cater for these cases. I, myself, will always avoid creating online courses for them, although in my heart, I am sure we can use the Subway method as well… but it is headache… and as Dawnn suggested in her video, I want to be happy!

Oxen, cars and Education

This excerpt was a rely to one of my colleagues who shed some doubt about the effectiveness of online courses in regulated courses:

Doug: This is so very true. We have a dilemma. Trying to use the wrong tools for the solution. It is the curse of living at the verge of change.

This reminds me of an Australian movie about something that happened in 1920’s. The scene shows a farmer who owns a lot of horses and oxen that he use to plow and harvest his field. His young son, who just graduated, came back to the farm driving one of those newly invented cars. He told his father that this machine is the future and it will replace the animals in the field work. His father rode on a horse and told him “show me”. Obviously, the horse was much faster running on the field terrain and the car got stuck in the mud after few yards. The father sat triumphantly on his rocking chair and cynically asked his son: “It will never replace my animals. How do you feed hay to this machine?”
Obviously the car was the wrong tool for the period. Few years down the load, the car evolved into a tractor and replaced the animals and changing the farming industry and proved Malthus wrong. The son was right, but the father did not see at the time.
We are in a similar situation. Online courses and technology are not the solution for everything yet. We still have to use the horses until online courses and education evolves to become suitable. Until then, we have to use the “cars” where they are applicable. Like driving from the city to the farm and not more.

Subways and Mac’s


I want my online courses to be like Subway sandwiches and not like MacDonald buns! I want the learner to choose the ingredients of the course. To choose the style of activities that makes them learn. They cannot choose the objectives nor the duration. Subway and Mcdonalds have the same objectives: to give you calories and nutritions. One style allows you to choose the ingredients that the you want. The other gives you limited alternatives to choose from.

At Subway, if you aim is to lose weight, you choose more vegies than bacon. If you want to put on weight, you double the cheese, bacon and mayo’s. At Macdonald, you do not have this flexibility. I want my online courses to be the same. They should have clear objectives: (1) the learning outcomes dictated by the curriculum; a and (2) a fixed duration by which the learner should complete the outcomes*. The course will offer a variety of activities. Paced and self paced. Traditional sequential reading material and leaping hyperlinked reading material. Videos and handouts. Synchronous and Asynchronous interaction. Learning by doing and learning by observing. Self reflection and networked interaction. Mayonaise and Catchup. Peer learning and self-learning. The list need to be completed.

The one who chooses to learn using my online course should know what they want and how they learn. Like the Subway customer: they know what they like to eat and know how to choose. For the others, let them go to a Mac restaurant (i.e. packaged courses) or to a fancy restaurant (i.e the structured-constructivist-interactiving course) . Not mine. I want my student to “Learn Fresh”. … and I woke up!

Questions: Was it a daydream or something that I can really make? Do you think there must be more objectives? Like assessment? Any suggestions for more ingredients I need to add the “menu of the course”? I know McDonals is far more popular and profitable than Subway around the world! Do you think traditional online/distant course delivery will prevail over my styles?

My Virtual World

I have been spending the last few days interacting with new virtual friends over the concept of online teaching and learning. This morning, I felt I need to live the real life. I needed a break. I needed to touch again with reality. So, I went to FaceBook and redecorated my CafeWorld and redesigned my mansion on FarmVille… Where is my reality? This is like an onion… you peel one layer to find more layers… and as I understand, most of the nutritions of the onion is in the cover, which we throw away…

I know this should make me think about my life… but what is wrong with doing what I enjoy even if the society say otherwise… I am reacting with real people except I do not experience their physicality… how different is this from talking with a real person? … more realities to be discovered from the virtual world…