Royal Air Force

Royal Air Force

Whatever your race, religion, social or cultural background, whether you’re male or female, gay or straight, you’ll find professional respect in the RAF and be welcomed for who you are and what you have to offer. Jobs in the RAF are far more diverse than you’d find in a civilian organisation.

MOOCs and SPOCs – Everything you need to know….

So what is this article about? Its been written to try and explain the phenomenon of MOOCs and how it is sweeping the higher education world – not just in the UK, but around the world. I hope you find it useful.
So what are MOOCs?
A MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. In its very basic form a MOOC provides access to anyone who cares to join up to a particular course provided by a university. The ‘massive’ bit is because literally thousands will join up at one time, while the term ‘online’ speaks for it’s self. These courses tend NOT to be accredited i.e. able to provide a formally recognised university level qualification, although some providers are experimenting with certificates i.e. to confirm the student has studied and completed certain elements of a subject area.

One main attraction of many MOOCs is the fact that much of the course materials studied by students are written by top academics in their field and from top institutions from around the world.

MOOCs – a potted history
As with many new initiatives in education this one has come from the States and spread throughout the world including the UK.

So who started ‘MOOCs’?
The term was first used by an American academic Dave Cormier of the Prince Edward Island University. The course he used the term for was ‘Connectivism and Connective knowledge’. I won’t bore you with the details of what the course content was about (something about technology), but suffice to say 2200 online members of the public from around the world took up the course for free.

From there the concept of MOOCs became more and more of a sea of change that many institutions in higher education felt they had to be involved in. However it could be argued that the next main development of MOOCs was the syndication of courses run by consortiums of universities such as Udacity, Coursera, edX. These organisations offer a variety of courses from institutions not just from the States, but from other countries around the world. More on what’s available in the UK later.
What next for MOOCs
Some of these organisations have now started to move into certification of their courses. What will come later (and to an extent it already has) is how to monetise MOOCs that are for moment, being given away for free.

Therefore it’s unclear how MOOCs are sustainable in the long term. The initial egalitarian notion of free study from some of the top universities from across the world is one thing, but higher education still costs, and some of these courses are run and materials written by top academics in their field. Somehow all this needs to be paid for.

So how might this be done.
Naturally it’s the American providers that are pushing the boundaries of innovation in relation how this could be achieved. Everything from franchising courses to third parties to charging for ancillary services such as CV preparation and job match help are being looked at as ways of funding courses. An obvious way is to charge for the certificates at the end i.e. don’t want one? That’s fine – you’re free to still take advantage of free study etc, but if you want it formally recognised, then its going to cost you.

So why do a MOOC in the first place?
There’s no one reason for studying a MOOC – apart from one undeniable fact – if there is a thirst/interest/need to be educated about something or other, then a MOOC is a great way of doing it, by studying with some of the best minds in what ever field you care to think of. For some it’s the interest in a particular subject area, perhaps one that is not widely available via main stream study. For others there may be the need to cover a particular subject for work or as part of other current study.

Of course for some in parts of the world where the possibility of studying something linked to a top western university is pretty much impossible, the option of the MOOC is a no brainer. And from the other perspective i.e. that of the academic, the idea of literally thousands of students studying and completing a piece of work written by them must be pretty awe inspiring.

But what do employers think of MOOCs?
That’s a difficult one to answer at this stage. The fact is this relatively new phenomenon has yet to appear on the radar of most employers. And when it’s remembered we (in the UK) tend to be behind the USA at the best of times, our employers probably won’t have a clue about them for a while yet (am I being unkind here?).

This makes it difficult for anyone to compare like for like. For an employer it’s difficult to see how they’re going to be able to tell if a MOOC is a great piece of work or a worthless piece of paper. Bench marking is something that needs to happen here. This goes too for other educational institutions. It’s not clear how a MOOC completed at one institution would be viewed elsewhere. Comparison between courses provided by different institutions is not easy. However at the moment it seems many students are happy to use a MOOC as a way of securing a place on a formal qualification at the same institution, using the MOOC as a kind of access module.

The issue of quality is in a sense directly related to the earlier point raised in this piece about recognition of MOOCs by employers. There is an issue of the quality of what is being studied and presented as the result of this work. How is this to be done and by whom?

Apparently (in the UK) the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA is a kind of OFSTED for universities) is looking into how benchmarking can be achieved for MOOCs. This would go some way to alleviating fears for students that all their hard work is not for nothing if wishing to progress education elsewhere or possibly use it for work.
So how are students doing with MOOCs?
Well it has be said that completion rates aren’t great. In fact they are pretty dire. But this is common for distance learning anyway. Completion rates for distance online study is nowhere as successful as for campus based study – not even half. The rates for MOOCs are worse still; negligible in some case e.g. maybe a few dozen out of thousands of starters are not uncommon.

The fact is this style of self regulatory type of education is simply not for anyone. Despite a plethora of different types of study options e.g. SKYPE, books, email, online tutorials etc, self motivation is difficult to do ones self. And besides, many students will be taking these courses purely out of interest in a subject area and to enhance their personal understanding of a particular topic.
So are SPOCs any better?
But first of all what are SPOCs? SPOC stands for Small Private Online Course. Again created in the US, these courses support much smaller numbers of students. Also although online teaching is still very much part of a SPOC, classroom interaction can also be an intrinsic element of this type of learning. In fact the OU has been a fore runner of this type of ‘blended’ learning for years. The mixture of tutorial, video, dvd, Skype type communications, student tutorials, phone etc has been a staple diet of the OU’s offering for quite a while, except they call it Supported Open Learning.

Universities such as Harvard, Berkeley and MOOC consortiums such as edX were the first to start to experiment with SPOCs. So how do they control numbers? Well for a start SPOCs tend NOT to be open for all in the same way that MOOCs are. Registration on a SPOC tends to be by invitation only or some form of assessment or test set by the institution to be completed and submitted by the student. The result will determine entry.

So are SPOCs the more likely of the two study experiences to survive and be adopted in the longer term? Well MOOCs are extremely successful if total student numbers are taken into account. For example some of the consortiums in the States have had more students for one MOOC than they have had for their entire traditional student cohort – ever.

However another method of measuring the success of either a SPOC or a MOOC is that of completion rates. Evidence so far points to SPOCs being far more successful in this respect and also that of satisfaction levels. It’s not difficult to see why.

SPOCs offer more rigorous teaching and assessment of a student’s work than a MOOC, which because of their huge numbers of participants (often from across the world), struggle to retain involvement in the materials and ultimately allow the student to achieve the course’s objectives.

In the UK the leading provider of MOOCs is the Future Learn consortium. Headed by the Open University, the Future Learn consortium is a non for profit provider with a number of higher education institutions involved including Warwick University in the UK, Trinity College Dublin and Monash University of Melbourne Australia.

So what of the future?
So there you have it – a quick run through MOOCs and SPOCs and what they have to offer students from around the world. So what of their future? Well this will depend on good old fashion economics. Despite the exciting potential of this new way of studying (access for all?), completion rates, recognition of completed study and above all making them pay are all issues that will need to be dealt with at some stage. In the meantime MOOCs and SPOCs continue to evolve and grow while at the same time shaking up the established model of higher education learning.
The Open University (Open Education – What are MOOCs)
BBC (SPOC in the news)

Referencing – Harvard v APA

Harvard Referencing

“One of the most standard practices expected from the writers of any article or research paper is the proper referencing of the resources”

The key difference between Harvard referencing and APA citation

One of the most standard practices expected from the writers of any article or research paper is the proper referencing of the resources wherefrom the ideas and thoughts have been taken to develop the piece of text. The citation must be done methodically and by following standard set of rules so that every resource could be found by the readers or the examiners of the writings.

The citation is important to reflect the depth of the research of the writer in forming the piece of text and, for a student, it is also important to save the dissertation or the research project from being marked as plagiarised by the examiners of the papers.

There are mainly four kinds of citation systems which are used by the writers for referencing purpose.

American Psychological Association developed the APA style of referencing to use it mainly for education, social and behavioural science.

MLA format of referencing has been created by the Modern Language Association and is used frequently by the writers working in the field of humanities and literature.

The Chicago referencing style also known as the Note and Bibliography (NB) system is widely used by the writers dealing with the subjects of arts and humanities.

The Harvard referencing system is used for the citation of the source materials especially in case of scientific writing. Every referencing system is different from the other in some way. Here we will be discussing few differences in between the Harvard and the APA referencing system.

a) “Reference List” is used in the Harvard system to list out the references at the end of the piece of text, whereas the same is indicated by “References” in the APA system of referencing.

b) Any edited work are cited by using “ed[s]” or “edited by” in the Harvard system of referencing whereas the APA system used the “(Ed[s])” for the same purpose. In Harvard referencing the names of the editor[s] are put after writing the title of edited work, whereas in the APA referencing the same is put before the title of the edited work.

c) In the APA system the page numbers are cited by “(year: page number)”, like (2010:82). The same is referenced in the Harvard System as (2012, p.82).

d) In case of referencing the chapter of a book which has not yet been edited, the Harvard referencing system is used as follows –
Chandra, P. ((2010). The Financial Management. Chapter 10 in the Management of Receivables. Kolkata: Tata McGrew & Hill. The same is referenced as follows in the APA system –
Chandra, P. (2010). The Financial management. The Management of Receivable (pp. 350-381). Kolkata: Tata McGrew & Hill

e) For referencing the electronic source of the ideas used by the author, the Harvard referencing system uses the following approach – Pandey, M. (2010). The Principles of Financial management. Available from:
Difference between Harvard & APA>(Accessed 10 January 2014).

In the APA system the same is referenced as follows –
Pandey, M. (2010). The Principles of Financial management. Retrieved January 10 2014 from: Difference between Harvard & APA>

f) For referencing Booklet, pamphlet or leaflet, the Harvard referencing system uses the following approach: Centre for Social Research and Development. (2010). Effect of environment on the society (Brochure). 4th edition. Amy, Pandey.: Author
The same is referenced in the APA style as follows:
Centre for Social Research and Development. (2010). Effect of environment on the society (4th ed.). [Brochure]. Amy, Pandey.: Author

g) For referencing conference proceedings without any author or title, the Harvard system follows the following approach of referencing –
National Nuclear Conference. (2010). Conference proceedings held at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, 10-20 May 2010. Conducted by Department of Nuclear Physics. Mumbai: Indian Institute of Technology.

In the APA system the same is referenced as follows –
National Nuclear Conference. (2010). Conference proceedings held at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, 10-20 May 2010. Indian Institute of Technology.

There are quite a few tools for referencing like Harvard Referencing Generator and APA Citation from the ‘Home of Dissertations’ which is easy to access and free to use.

Jake Philip from the Home of Dissertations

All about Apprenticships

Apprenticeships – what you need to know
What are apprenticeships?
An apprenticeship is basically a job with training. Trainees are usually supported by both the employer and a training provider who makes sure the apprentice is covering the proper content while in the workplace. Apprentices usually receive some form of allowance or wage (more later). The length will depend on the type of apprenticeship undertaken, but they can last anything from one year onwards. Open to 16-year olds and over, apprenticeships are available in just about every occupational area you can think of – far too many to list here, but popular areas include Engineering, Construction trades, Hairdressing and Childcare to name a few.
Why do an apprenticeship?
Because it’s a great way to get into a career with both training and earn money at the same time. An apprenticeship can gets hands on work experience with an employer than will often lead to a full-time job at the end of it. According to government sources someone on an Advanced Apprentice can earn up to £117,000 more during the course of their career than someone without one.

What type of Apprenticeships are there?
There are four main levels of apprenticeship.

Intermediate Apprenticeships
For those with under 5 GCSEs A-C grades at the start. Pay can start from £2.73 per hour (Oct 14), but this is a minimum and can be higher with some employers. Progression onto further levels of training is a possibility. Successful completion of training at this level is the equivalent to GCSE 5 A-C grades.

Advanced Apprenticeships
For those with 5 GCSEs A-C grades at the start. Pay can be up to £200 per week and even more depending on the employer. Progression can be onto further levels of training and qualifications. Successful completion of this level of training is the equivalent to two A levels.

Higher Apprenticeships
For those with good A level results at the start. Pay can be up to £25,000 per year at completion of training. Progression can include going onto higher education e.g. Foundation degrees and beyond, as well as professional recognition for certain industries. Employers involved include Rolls Royce, IBM, Deloitte and PwC. The cost of the training is met by the government and the employer, so there is no university debt to pay at the end of the course.

Degree Apprenticeship
The Degree Apprenticeship still in their infancy but is taking off fast. They have been designed to be comparable to a traditional Hons degree from a conventional university. The cost of the training is met by the government and the employer, so there is no university debt to pay at the end of the course. Occupational sectors covered include IT and Manufacturing to name a couple. Companies involved include BT, Fujitsu, Ford, Glaxo and the Lloyds Banking Group while the some of the higher education partners are Exeter, Aston, Loughborough, Manchester Met and the University College London.

The idea behind them is that an employer will be able to ‘grow their own’ staff to degree level, so by the time they qualify, they will have the critical thinking and analytical skills developed as part of their study, but also have the practical hands on experience of working with the employer.

So, should I do an Apprenticeship?
That depends on you. What type of person are you? What type of career are you looking for (you can’t be doctor through this form of training)? Do you like the idea of working, training and earning an income at the same time? Then an apprenticeship could be for you. However you’ll need to understand that an apprenticeship is a job, albeit with training, but a job nevertheless. You’ll get a minimum of 20 days holiday, so not the weeks and weeks off that your students at college and university will get. Also, the nature of work will be different to what you’ve been used to. That’s not to say there are endless cups of tea to make and floors to continuously sweep, but you won’t necessarily be doing cutting edge activities all the time either.

Apprenticeship Vacancies – Still Interested?
So, if you’re interested where do you find out where the vacancies are and what in?
One of the first places to look is the government’s own apprenticeship vacancies list. See below

The National Careers Service offer useful help and guidance on creating a good application form.