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Sammi Morgan

Open2Study is for everybody - and you don't have to study alone! We spoke to Helen McSkimming, library officer at the City of Onkaparinga's Willunga Library, about the passionate photographers that teamed up to complete our Art of Photography course. Helen explains how Open2Study is the perfect vehicle for public libraries to deliver adult learning programs - and treats us to some stunning student work showcasing the beautiful McLaren Vale wine region.

'Busy Bee' by Lloyd
'Busy Bee' by Lloyd

What gave you the idea to trial Open2Study as a Group Collaboration Project within your library?

My interest in providing adult learning opportunities in public libraries was fostered whilst undertaking my Masters in Library and Information Studies program. More recently I began looking at MOOCs, and I considered that they may provide a perfect vehicle through which public libraries could deliver adult learning programs.

'Damselfly' by Aidan
'Damselfly' by Aidan

Why did you choose the Open2study MOOC?

I thought that a MOOC on photography may have wide appeal in my community and I set about finding an appropriate course. I chose 'The Art of Photography' from Open2Study. The Open2Study platform provided many advantages. It was helpful that it was an Australian site and that I could easily communicate with the online facilitators. The website had one of the best layouts, clearly showing the structure of each course in terms of hours required, number of tutorial videos and number of assessments. A bonus was that each participant who completed the course would be able to download a certificate at no extra cost. It was convenient for me that Open2Study courses are repeated on a regular schedule so that I could easily complete the course myself before facilitating it for the participants.

'Herons Awake' by Tineke
'Herons Awake' by Tineke

What did you want to achieve?

I was looking for an interesting course which would have wide appeal, but I wanted to test the model of using MOOCs to deliver adult learning programs in public libraries. I also wanted to test whether this type of course would fit into a two hour weekly time slot which could be facilitated at a comfortable pace for the participants.

'Kangaroo Watch' by Chris
'Kargaroo Watch' by Chris

How many people were involved?

A total of 12 people attended at least one of the sessions. Nine participants completed the course and received a Certificate of Achievement from Open2Study. The majority of participants were in the over-50s age group.

'Lagoon at Victor' by Pauline
'Lagoon at Victor' by Pauline

How did you make Open2Study fit into your plans?

The Open2Study platform provided an excellent framework for the course, the lectures were of a very high quality, and the assessments were valuable in reinforcing the learning. During each 2-hour session, we watched the 10 videos on a big screen together, and then each participant completed the pop quizzes and the assessments individually on their own laptop. Although our schedule was quite tight, we found time to have some afternoon tea and lots of chat as well. Participants discussed the material from the course, and also shared their photography knowledge and experience. I created a Flickr page for our group to which the participants could upload and comment on each other's photos.

'Miners Belts' by Kym
'Miners Belts' by Kym

Did you achieve what you set out to?

Yes. At the completion of the course, I asked each participant to complete a feedback form. One of the questions I asked participants was to rate their experience in the course on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high). Of the 8 respondents, all scored 7 or above, with 3 recording a score of 10!

'Pelicans at Goolwa' by Leonie
'Pelicans at Goolwa' by Leonie

What did the students say was the best thing about participating in this course?

  • Learning new skills and networking with other keen photographers
  • Meeting others and interacting with them in learning
  • Talking to others in the same position
  • The enthusiasm of the lecturer and meeting other interested photographers
  • The lecturer was easy to listen to, explained well. I felt engaged, I wanted to learn more
  • Sharing ideas, learning new things
'Wash Day View' by Daphne
'Wash Day View' by Daphne

Do you see this as an opportunity to be run on a grander scale?

Definitely, I think the success of the pilot has demonstrated that facilitating a MOOC in a public library provides an ideal model for delivering adult learning opportunities for our customers.

Do you plan to continue or trial a new course?

I would like to trial different topics using this model. I am now looking for other courses but I am attracted to the Open2Study platform because of its very clear structure and guidelines.
Following this course, I gave a presentation to my library management team. They were very enthusiastic about the project and have made a commitment to run a pilot MOOC in each of the 6 branches in our library service in 2017.

Any hints or tips for anyone else who would like to run an Open2Study Course in a group setting?

I found fantastic support from the P2PU team in the USA especially via the 'P2PU Learning Circles Facilitator Handbook'. If you are interested, you can find the handbook at the Peer 2 Peer University's website.

 

Enrolments for the next round of The Art of Photography are now open, along with over 40 other Open2Study courses.

 

Open2Study would like to thank Helen McSkimming, the City of Onkaparinga's Willunga Libraries and the students that participated in this course (Lloyd, Elaine, Pauline, Daphne, Tineke, Vicki, Chris, Leonie, John, Michelle, Kym and Aidan) for participating and allowing us to share this. If you are interested in running group projects and need to contact Open2study please use the orange feedback button on www.open2study.com.

Sammi Morgan

When it comes to MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) we’ve all heard the question: ‘Why can’t the study I’ve completed online via a MOOC be accredited to my degree?’ Students across the world are enrolling in MOOCs by the millions and they all seem to want the same thing: credit for their hard work. Well look out MOOC lovers – one of Open2Study’s presenters has listened and answered his students’ plea!

Dr David Salisbury, AKA Dr Dave, is an Open2Study’s presenter who has incorporated his ‘World Music MOOC’ (www.open2study.com/courses/world-music) into the curriculum at James Cook University (JCU). They’re offering marks for students who download and supply their certificate of completion. “The fact that you’ve essentially completed all the aspects of the course I think is really positive… I give them an extra 10% [credit], which for students who are on the borderline of a grade can actually mean they get a better grade,” Dr Dave explains.

 “In a classroom I often only get two or three people answering questions. But in an online environment, there seems to be a higher percentage of people that will get involved. Maybe it has to do with the fact that they are not sitting in front of their classmates directly. So some of it is a bit about breaking down the walls of anxiety… You really have the opportunity to express yourself in a non-threatening situation,” says Dr Dave.

Dr Dave’s course at JCU addresses four main world music elements in four modules (rhythm, melody, harmony and texture) and runs for 10 weeks where he delivers 9-10 lectures. Eight of these lectures are focused on culture –the last four traditions are taught in class, whilst the first four traditions are introduced in the Open2Study MOOC:

“The advantage of that is because in the Open2Study MOOC there are quizzes at the end of every topic, and a quiz at the end of every module. So it gives us the kind of review process that I think is really helpful,” says Dr David. “I’ve had students give me some very positive feedback about that very aspect. I’m also aware that I now have, in some ways, a brand name worldwide. Dr Dave is now a known brand throughout the world!”

Not only has Dr Dave already implemented credit for completing the MOOC at the start of his course, he also has plans to continue doing so. “I would like to include credit via a MOOC for the second half of the course. But I also have other subject areas that I’d like to look at. I believe in Florida there’s actually legislation that essentially designates that students have achieved an accredited online course, or a MOOC course, will get credit towards their degree that they’re involved with in the Florida state system”.

When I asked Dr Dave on his thoughts about use of MOOC’s being used on a grander scale, he was a big advocate for it. “I’d like to see more of it,” he says, “It’s an absolute no brainer as far as I’m concerned.”

So the future is looking good for MOOCS – and it’s not just Dr Dave that is pioneering this new pathway. Open2Study is also working with other providers to drive this initiative, and introduce this accreditation through Open Universities Australia’s undergraduate courses. The more we talk to students and Universities about free online learning the more the vision becomes clear; free online learning is proving to be a great pathway for students into accredited courses; it also proves to be a very engaging, augmented learning experience.

 

Michael Sands

At Open2Study, we love meeting our students. They come from all over the world, from all walks of life, with one thing in common: a love of learning. Here we chat to Michael Sand, a Student Guide and Open2Study regular.

Wisconsin, land of ice and snow

Image via Flickr


I grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin the land of ice and snow. Now I live in Lehigh Acres, Florida by way of 25 years in Rhode Island.

I have a high school education. I have taken many seminars on the labor movement for my past involvement in UNITEHERE a labor union. I went as high as Vice President from New England.

I found Open2Study by searching online for MOOCs. I take courses on a couple of other sites along with auditing courses at OCS. I may be retired but I never want to stop learning. There is always something new and I want to know it all.

There is one big benefit in accessing new information online; that would be cost. You get to learn about a subject for free and find out if it is the right one for you. If not, just choose a new class next time and it just might be the one you were looking for.

I have been truly blessed to find Open2Study because they made me a Student Guide. I have always enjoyed helping people which is why I got involved with the union. As a Student Guide I try to give students encouragement that they are doing the right things to get ahead in their life. A good education is the most important thing that you can give yourself to get ahead in life. Have you seen any lanterns in the forums? That may have been me giving you some encouragement from someone who has been around a little more. As a Student Guide I also go through the community forums to see if I can be of any help.

"A good education is the most important thing that you can give yourself to get ahead in life."

The forums take the place of discussion in the traditional classroom. As such they are an important part of the whole learning experience. I urge each and every student to join them. You might just be able to help someone else. Seeing others points of view is what learning is all about.

Everyone has their own study technics. I use my Nexis 7 tablet to do all my studying on. I'm usually on my recliner with my headphones on. I try to get on the forums everyday to see what other students are saying. On Friday evening I watch this week's videos. On Saturday and Sunday I do the further reading for the week.

My one tip for someone taking their first course online is use the forums. You will get advice from people who have a little more experience than you do.

I have a little advice I'd like to give you. In today's world a good education is the most important thing you can have. I urge you to find a subject you like here on Open2Study and then go for it. You will never regret an education.

My next course on Open2Study is going to be one I had to drop out of because of work requirements a while back; Sociology.

Jennifer Piper

The Open2Study team loves getting to know our students, so when we heard that student Clare Farrelly had won a photography competition with some of her work from The Art of Photography, we had to find out more.

Catch A Drop Of Sunlight by Clare Farrelly

Catch A Drop Of Sunlight by Clare Farrelly

"The author has seen something a little different. Well done."


Tell us a bit about yourself – where do you live, where did you grow up, what do you do for work and fun?

My name is Clare and I am the eldest of six. I live in the beautiful Hunter Valley in New South Wales, Australia. I have always lived in the same town. In my seventeen years I have had many hobbies some of which are writing, sketching, stamp collection, reading, raising chooks and blogging, but most of all photography. I have done a more in-depth course after the O2S one and since then have done a few photo shoots for people, which is both a passion and a job for me.

How did you learn about Open2Study?

I learnt about Open2Study through an online homeschool group. Some friends had also done a few courses.

Please tell us about the recent competition, in which your photography was recognised. What prompted you to enter the competition?

I have entered photos in the local show since 2006 when I was just starting to take photos. The very first time one of the two photos I entered got a first. Since then it has been an annual event I look forward to. This year I did the best I ever have, getting seven firsts. There are lots of different photography sections and the one I entered photos I took during this course, is called; Creative Photo.

Which photograph/s were recognised?

My photograph Splashes Stilled placed first and the judge commented, “Beautiful image. Water looks like molten glass. Good composition exposure and texture. Good colours with no distraction.” My photograph Catch A Drop Of Sunlight placed second with the following comment, “The author has seen something a little different. Well done. Good choice of colours of the tweezers, which contrast well to the sunlight. The image could have been improved by cropping out some of the light at the top of the image.” Cup Of Light placed fourth, highly commended.

Splashes Stilled by Clare Farrelly

Splashes Stilled by Clare Farrelly

"Beautiful image. Water looks like molten glass."


How did the forums and other social networks help with your photography study? Do you still interact with other students in the Google+ Community, or other forums?

I greatly appreciated the feedback I got on my photos I posted to the Google+ Community during the course and I followed some of the advice to touch up the photos I entered (which was within rules, it stated photos could be manipulated). Now I still occasionally go on and comment on other people's photos. Being able to see others' photos was encouraging and I enjoyed looking at them and commenting.

The Google+ Community was probably the very best bit about the course and the interaction with other real people and being inspired and likewise inspiring others. I highly recommend this to anyone taking the course I did.

What was your study schedule like? Did you have a special study time and place?

I watched the lectures during the first half of each week. I like to be on time, so I often ended up ahead and waiting for the next week of lectures to become available. I went out and took photos nearly every day, which is no unusual thing for me and it still isn’t. I just used the family computer in the lounge room.

Cup of Light by Clare Farrelly

Cup of Light by Clare Farrelly


What are your tips for someone about to start an online course?

Make sure you have time for it; it is no good to be trying to cram all that information in then rushing off to do something else. For a photograph course in particular you must try to do what the lessons teach and get to know your camera, take photos and experiment with different ideas.

Make sure you keep up to date with it all and if possible get ahead so you are not under pressure. It is easier to work in a stress free environment. At least develop some sort of schedule and set yourself some goals.

Be self-motivated.

I would also check out the website, and just have a look at how it all works and where things are. Find the forum and help places and just get to know the site.

What are you planning to study next?

I am not studying anything in particular at the moment. As of yet I don’t plan on studying anything in particular soon, I am trying to get into photography as a bit more than just a hobby. Courses are really good for learning basics but nothing teaches like experience.

Enrolments for the next round of The Art of Photography are now open, along with 47 other Open2Study courses.

Jennifer Piper

It’s National Mental Health Week in Australia, so we’re bringing you a series of tips on how to keep your mind healthy. Here’s some of our favourite ways to keep a steady mind, at work or study.

chocolate can help relieve stress

Image via Flickr

Super snacks

Did you know that some foods can actually improve your mental health?

Our favourite is probably dark chocolate. A square or two of dark chocolate can help to regulate your cortisol levels (a pretty nasty stress hormone) and calm you. Honey has been found to reduce depression and anxiety levels by acting on inflammation in the brain. Mango, as well as being a delicious excuse to take a break (they do take a while to peel) contains an amazing substance called linalool that can also help you manage your stress.

Wash it all down with a cup of green tea, containing L-Theanine, to minimise anger and frustration and bring the meal together.

To learn more about how different foods can impact your health, check out our free Food, Nutrition & Your Health course.

Brain breaks

Sometimes, the best way to get away from stress is to reduce stressful thoughts. A five-minute guided meditation, that you can cue up on your phone and do at your desk, can help recenter your thoughts and set you up for the rest of the day.

There’s an interesting exercise used as part of mindfulness, in which you close your eyes and pay attention to each part of your body, in turn. Not only does it give your brain something to focus on, other than your worries, it can also help you to identify parts of the body that are holding tension, and then release them.

Decent distractions

If your worries are too loud to get away from, sometimes a distraction is the best option. You can try counting backwards from 20, to distract your mind and give it a break from tracking all the worries running around your thoughts.

You could also have a go at creative visualisation or guided imagery. That’s where you spend a few minutes imagining all of the details around a scenario that you’d really like to happen. Maybe it’s diving into clear, cool water in a tropical paradise, maybe it’s bursting into song on the street and having everyone around you break into a perfectly choreographed dance routine. Whatever it is, picture all of the things you can see around you, as well as the smells and sounds, and then let your imagination take you on a little holiday from reality.

Mini massage

You don’t need to book into the day spa down the road to get a little massage into your day. When you find the tension turning into a headache, apply some pressure to the fleshy bit on your hand, between your thumb and forefinger. This acupressure point will hurt a bit when you press on it, but it’ll probably ease the pain in your skull. You can also slip off your shoes and rub the bottom of your feet over a golf ball, for a little self-delivered foot rub.

Nice noises

One of the senses we don’t often consider, when it comes time to relieve stress, is hearing. Just listening to a favourite song can take you away for a few moments, and if you find a song that always puts a smile on your face and gets your toes tapping, you can use it as a sort of emotional trigger to bring you back to your happy place.

There are also some great applications and websites that offer a variety of ‘white noise’, to give your subconscious something to concentrate on, other than your worries.

pedestrians in rush hour

Change of pace

Sometimes, just giving yourself a break from the environment causing the stress can allow your mind time to find its centre. We love taking five minutes to walk around the block. Not only does the sunshine and fresh air give you some much needed Vitamin D and oxygen, but the physical activity stimulates blood flow and helps to improve your overall mood.

If you can’t get out of the office, stand up and have a stretch, then sit back down and close your eyes for a few moments. Shutting out the stressors, even for a few minutes, can make all the difference to your day.

Put it all together

Of course, the very best option is to use a combination of these things (and any other favourites you might have) to lower your shoulders, calm your nerves and make the day run faster and more smoothly.

If you’d prefer a distraction that also teaches you something new, why not check out the free, short courses with Open2Study.

What’s your favourite way to reduce stress at work or study? Tell us in the comments below.

Polly Foster

We’ve all been there – you start off your new course full of excitement and enthusiasm, then a couple of weeks later you wonder why you ever started. It could be that the course is more demanding than you expected, or perhaps life got in the way and you feel you don’t have the time to dedicate to the course any more.

sometimes you just have to keep walking

Image via Flickr

Whatever your reasons, here are some tips for getting back on track.

Remind yourself of why you started in the first place

When you were browsing Open2Study’s huge list of classes, there must have been something about your current course that caught your eye and made you choose it over all the others on offer. Perhaps it was related to a project you’re a part of at work, maybe you took it in the hopes of changing career, or maybe you just enrolled for fun because it looked interesting.

If you can think back and remind yourself why you started the course in the first place, it might rekindle your passion for the topic and inspire you to keep going and achieve your goals.

Block out time to dedicate to your course

If it feels like you’re slipping behind with deadlines and you’re constantly having to catch up, it could be that you need to schedule study time into your week. Set aside a few hours to dedicate to your Open2Study course – preferably the same hours each week so you get into a routine. Let your friends and family know that you cannot be disturbed at these times, so you don’t get distracted. You need to be strict with yourself to make this work - resist the urge to check emails or browse the internet when you should be studying!

In a way, it is a luxury to have a few hours simply to dedicate to yourself and to learning. If you think of these study hours as a treat rather than a chore, you might find you are more motivated to complete your course.

Use the forums to discuss difficult topics

Each Open2Study course has a forum where you can interact with your classmates from around the world. If your passion for your subject is still there but you’re finding one topic particularly challenging, it might help to talk to your fellow students in the forums. Asking for help in this way lets you clarify anything you’re unsure about, and you might find out that other people are finding bits of the course tricky as well.

Although I love online learning, one unfortunate aspect of it is that learners generally cannot ask their tutors questions during the class. The forums solve this problem by letting students learn from each other, and you might find that taking part in this community helps you persevere with your course. 

Read around the topic

As well as asking your classmates in the forums about those difficult topics, you can also do your own research on the course material. This could be as simple as googling the bits that are making the course difficult for you. You could also see if your local library has any books that could help you - that way you’ll be an expert when you come back online!

This might seem like obvious advice, but if you don’t understand something at first, reading information worded in a slightly different way can sometimes make the most fiendishly difficult subject suddenly become crystal clear.

Put it on hold for now and come back later

If you really don’t have time to get the most out of the course right now, there is no shame in taking a break and coming back to it later. This is the great thing about Open2Study courses – they run every five weeks so you never have to worry that an opportunity is gone forever if you decide to leave part way through. There is no point in completing the course but being unable to recall anything you’ve learned because you rushed and were too busy with other things.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself by stressing out about your course. Taking a break doesn’t mean you’ve failed or given up, it just means that you’ve made a sensible decision to continue when you’re feeling ready.

Have you ever found a course tricky, or difficult to fit around your other commitments? How did you solve your problem? Let me know in the comments!

Polly Foster is a guest blogger with Open2Study

 

This post comes to you from our guest blogger, Polly Foster.

A recent graduate, Polly is currently working at the University of Bath helping students develop entrepreneurial skills. Studying digital marketing part-time and with a passion for education, careers and all things creative, she would love to make a living as a freelance writer.

Would you like to blog for us? Get in touch using the Feedback tab at the bottom right of this website, with your ideas for a blog post (or two) and some links to samples of your writing.