What is Us•U?

Us•U is a new learning initiative starting in Lewes, bringing adults together to enjoy online and local learning. Us•U member get-togethers are held in informal settings, and members join a supportive online learning community. Us•U’s online peer support and regular face to face meetings will increase your enjoyment of your learning, and significantly improve course completion.

Why join Us•U?

You may well know how difficult it can be to stay motivated when you are studying, particularly if you are learning on your own. On most ‘MOOCs’ (massive, open, online courses), the drop-out rate is incredibly high (statistics vary, but 93% is a fair estimate of non-completion). This may be partly to do with poor learning design, or because the content isn’t interesting, but… for most people, learning is a social activity and most online learning misses out the important social aspects.

Being able to meet up and discuss things with others consolidates learning and makes it more enjoyable. Us•U brings online learning alive through regular, informal meetings.

In addition, local learning opportunities — with local practitioners, or one-off events — are supported with member conversations, whether online or at Us•U events.

When will it start?

The first Us•U get-together is on the 25th May, at BLANK, starting at BLANK. Please come! The private Us•U Facebook page, and [BLANK} is live, and available to paid up members.

What’s the cost?

Standard monthly subscription is £12, which includes free access to monthly get-togethers, learnee-learner events and the Us•U private Facebook group.

Premium annual advance subscription is £140: it includes the same benefits as the standard monthly subscription, AND you’ll get a limited edition Us•U tee-shirt!

What’s the commitment?

Ideally you will want to come to every monthly get-together, and will support each other on the Facebook page! But your commitment is down to you. How much time do you have for learning each week? Do you want to come on group outings? Are you interested in meeting local teaching artists, writers or other practitioners?

CurioUS?

If you haven’t already provided your contact details, please fill in a contact form.

General information about course fees

Us•U operates on subscription with monthly fees currently £12, and premium annual subscription set at £140.

Course fees — or learning platform subscriptions — are hugely variable; everything from free to hundreds of pounds. In addition, some platforms offer pay-for certificates or badges for some courses.

Other fun stuff

Us•U tee-shirts

Us•U mugs

Us•U totes

Payment

You can pay by cheque/debit at your first meeting or by BACs in advance, by arrangement. [BLANK BLANK]

The Theory Behind Us•U

Staying the Course

It is fairly well established that massive, open, online courses (MOOCs) have very high drop out rates: 93.2% on average, according to Havergal (Havergal, 2016, p.42). It is also well-known that the best way to ensure students stay with a course is for them to work together, in groups – ideally in ‘communities of practice’ – where there is a shared interest and commitment to the subject (for interesting discussions on this see e.g., Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger, John Seely Brown). As Jon Dron and Terry Anderson remind us, it is hard to overstate ‘[t]he value of learning with others, from others, through others, and supporting others in their learning’ (2014, p. 3).

Jean Lave
Etienne Wenger
John Seely Brown
Jon Dron
Terry Anderson

The difficulty of creating successful learning groups online

It is difficult to forge a group, let alone a community of practice, online, at a distance from others. The ‘solution’ for many online courses has been to implement some social aspects to the course, such as online asynchronous forums or occasional webinars. Sometimes these are brilliant and engage students at just the right level. More often than not, however, students find that their own voice gets lost amongst hundreds, or even thousands, of others and that making a social learning connection is impossible.

‘Digital natives’: but not necessarily ‘Digital learners’

While the digital revolution continues unabated in terms of technological change, and while increasingly people use social media to engage with their friends and family, there is a manifest gap between digital social practice and digital learning literacy. Recent research by academics like Helen Beetham, Rhona Sharpe and others working at institutions such as Jisc indicates the range of digital literacies students need to develop to be successful in their academic careers. For informal learners (those studying outside of formal university structures), the challenges are often greater, as the support offered in a university setting is not readily available

Helen Beetham
Rhona Sharpe
Jisc (2015) 'Digital literacies'
Jisc (2015) 'Digital literacies'

Learning online can be challenging – but it doesn’t need to be.

Us•U – theory meets practice

  • Meeting regularly encourages students to stick with their chosen course and keep up with the online materials and activities.
  • Linking online learning with local experiences helps to create a ‘community of practice’.
  • Learning becomes a social activity – which evidence shows is a more productive way to learn.
  • Students will have support in making the most of their online learning with common digital literacy difficulties addressed at the start of the course.
  • Where additional support is needed, more often than not, other students are able to help, but further guidance on developing digital learning can also be arranged.
Wendy Maples

References:

Beetham, H. and Sharpe, R., eds. (2013) Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age, 2nd Edn. London, Routledge.

Beetham, H. (2012) ‘Strange Encounters: academic and digital know-how’,

Keynnote speech, Association for Learning Development in Higher Education Conference.

Craig, T. (2016) ‘World Insight: designing experiential learning’, Times Higher Education. 04 August, p. 33.

Dron, J. & Anderson, T., (2014). ‘Agoraphobia and the modern learner’, Journal of Interactive Media in Education. 2014(1), Part. 3. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/2014-03. Available at http://jime.open.ac.uk/articles/10.5334/2014-03/ (Accessed 27 February, 2016).

Havergal, C. (2016) ‘Slow Burn: MOOCs can transform education – but not yet’, Times Higher Education. 21 July, pp. 42-43.

Jisc (2015) ‘Digital Capabilities: the 6 elements defined’ [Online Report]. Available at ‪https://digitalcapability.jiscinvolve.org/wp/files/2015/06/1.-Digital-capabilities-6-elements.pdf‪ (accessed 07 December 2016).

Knight, S. and Price, H. (2016) ‘Understanding the who, what and how of online learning’ [Blogpost] Jisc Blog, 14 September, 2016. Available at https://www.jisc.ac.uk/blog/understanding-the-who-what-and-how-of-online-learning-14-sep-2016 (accessed 07 December 2016).

Lave, J. and Wenger, E., 1991. Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Thomas, D. and Seely Brown, J. (2011) A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. CreateSpace Independent Publishing.

Wenger, E. (2009) ‘A social theory of learning’, in Illeris, K. (ed.) Contemporary Theories of Learning: Learning theorists…in their own words. London, Routledge.