Pushing the Boundaries of Higher Education Conference

UOC organised a conference entitled “Pushing the boundaries of Higher Education: Challenging traditional models with innovative and creative practices” on 3 October at the CaixaForum in Barcelona. Several international speakers were invited to share their thoughts on innovative and creative practices in higher education. You can read their thought pieces at the associated conference site.  The PhD students were also fortunate to share a round table at the event to discuss our research and our responses to the conference speakers. I have summarised the main points from the speakers below:

Theme 1: Fostering Innovative Practices and Self-Regulated Learners

Heutagogy (Lisa Blaschke)

  • A challenge educators face is employer dissatisfaction with graduates not having the necessary skills. Employers want autonomous or self-motivated graduates to manage complexity. Yet educators prefer traditional instruction styles. Challenges for students include rising education costs.
  • Heutagogy is self-determined learning, a learner-centred approach based on principles of agency, self-efficiency, reflection and meta-cognition. Learners are at the centre, they control their learning paths and outcomes. When combined with social media, learners created Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) and develop personal learning networks. Examples of social media use include curation (Scoopit), reflection blogs, participation in MOOCs, and sharing (Instagram and WhatsApp).
  • This involves students being involved in: what is learned and how, and the assessment is decided together with the educator. The educator guides and scaffolds the process. This approach is suited to open and distance learning.
  • Challenges to adopting heutagogy: there is greater responsibility required for students to be autonomous, it is difficult to return to passive/formal pedagogies, a fear of loss of control by the educator, assessment becomes more difficult, as rely on some self-assessment.
  • Benefits of heutagogy: Improve critical thinking, reflection, engagement, promote independence and self-confidence.
  • Link to thought piece.

Innovations and Traditions in Teaching and Learning (Tony Bates)

  • Challenges facing higher education include: a shift from content delivery to higher order skills, need for expertise in pedagogy, technology and subject matter, increasing diversity in students, increasing costs of higher education.
  • What is meant by innovation? Although the meaning varies, it can be considered the use of technology to solve a particular problem.
  • Variables to consider: spread of academic disciplines, reasons for the innovation (main reasons are to increase access or to provide greater flexibility), based on research or best practice (most innovations did not consider research or best practice), the technologies and pedagogies used (most innovations did not use leading edge technologies or pedagogies, focused on lecture capture, web conferencing, LMS, mobile apps, social media), the outcomes that are sought (only ½ of studies had changes in the teaching approach to develop knowledge management, critical thinking, problem solving or teamwork), the diffusion of the innovation (most innovations did not spread outside the department).
  • The use of technology needs to be combined with innovative teaching methods.
  • Link to thought piece.

Theme 2: Switching from Content Delivery to Epistemic Practices

Learning in MOOCs: The [Un]democratisation of Learning (Alison Littlejohn)

  • MOOCs seen as disruptors and democratising forces in online education, characterised by scale and diversity of learning. But while MOOCs do widen access, they tend to attract those who are already well-educated. They tend to be designed for those who know how to learn (not scaffolded) and conform to traditional norms (not own path) with the aid of an expert teacher.
  • Learners engage differently in MOOCs, not all aim to complete, some only want to be present or to have the experience or only to learn about a specific concept. Therefore, we need to rethink the metrics.
  • There are other tensions in MOOCs. There is a tension between learner autonomy and conforming with norms/passive learning. There is a tension between observing the activity of learning that occurs within the MOOC platform, while students learn in their own environments e.g. social media or in physical meetings. Traces offer fragments of how learners learn and only provide fractured views of progress against learners’ own goals. Many MOOCs are designed for students who are able to learn, excluding those who are not autonomous learners. The extent of help provided by learning analytics is questionable (focus on what is easy to measure rather than what is critical for learning).
  • Competencies to consider: analyse personal motivation, goal setting, strategic planning and learning progress, help learners plan and manage time.
  • In summary, supporting learners learning how to learn is complex and resource intensive. The challenge is not to think about MOOCs as a product of consumption.
  • Link to thought piece.

Content is King – Welcome to Tubeocracy! (Yishay Mor)

  • Teachers are failing students and institutions are failing students, so students turn to unregulated sources of knowledge
  • Postulates, we live in an era of:
    • Pervasive data abundance – big data dominating lives, potential efficiency, massification and personalisation. Data literacy is thus important. However ethical, cultural and philosophical questions are raised.
    • Pervasive information abundance: Good teachers cannot be replaced by machines, good teachers provide questions, not answers.
    • Transient procedural knowledge: knowledge of “how to” changes.
    • Eroding epistemic knowledge: flooded with content and “anything goes”.
  • Future
    • Hybridity: transcend disciplines & learning structures for ill-defined, authentic tasks
    • Empowerment: emphasise autonomy and independence
    • Criticality: critical and reflective mindset
  • Link to thought piece.

Future of Education or Future of Learning (Philip Schmidt)

  • Learning involves acquiring and developing skills, knowledge and competencies, while education is the system to enable learning
  • Lifelong learning focuses on learning over a lifetime, while lifewide learning focuses on the learning contexts, places and spaces.
  • Peer2Peer University is an example of lifelong and lifewide learning that originally provided online support spaces, but shifted focus because it was improving quality, but not access. Now they work with public libraries to create learning circles in local communities. It provides a mix between global and online and small and local.
  • Pressures: sustainability and financial models, preparing generations for significant problems such as climate change, preparing to create fulfilling societies e.g. the automation of jobs.
  • There is a difference between content of learning and practice of learning. Creative learning involves the 4 Ps: projects, peers, passion and play.
  • Link to video.

 

Theme 3: Next Generation Learning Environments

The LMS is dead: thoughts on the NGDLE (Jim Groom)

  • Personal APIs – individuals control over who has access to their online data.
  • LMSs/VLEs remain central to future but through decoupling the pieces, integration through APIs and LTIs (learning tools integration for single sign-on). But this is not revolutionary, it is embedding scripts in the LMS. Many personalisation and analytics are 3rd party commercial services that depend on data collection. Web platforms exist to capture and monetise data. Technologies in closed systems create roadblocks for educators and students.
  • Who manages and controls our “life bits” (the digital bits we share)?
  • Link to thought piece.

Interventions (Brian Lamb)

  • LMS designs are teacher and course centric. Often used with the metaphor of lego blocks, which were applied to learning objects too.
  • Calls for interoperability to promote open seamless ecosystems for personalised learning experiences.
  • Ideas: digital sanctuary in practice, digital and data literacy, the idea of SPLOTS (simplest possible online tools) and more ethical online teaching.
  • Link to thought piece.

Theme 4: Leveraging the affordances of technology and learning design

Value-based Vision-driven Learning Design (Rikke Norgard)

  • Provision of systems where students can take courses when they want, at a pace they want, with auto-assessment.
  • Universities were seen as a factory for society’s workforce, therefore focused on competencies, rankings and utility. But there is a push for academic citizenship. And a push against walled gardens and the transmission of content and marketisation of education. There is a move to co-creation, collectiveness, citizenship, and critical-creativity. An opportunity to connect educational values and teacher visions with pedagogical principles and design patterns and learning experiences
  • Focus on the problem and the vision, the learning experience, pedagogy, learning activities and patterns as well as the materials and tools to achieve learning outcomes.
  • Link to thought piece.

Digital Networks (Terry Anderson)

  • Higher education continues to sustain a hidden curriculum (norms, values and beliefs). There is a call to use the real world, rather than campus as context for learning. Educational experiences now extend to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. But most teachers do not use social tools (either inside or outside the LMS) such as blogs or wikis and focus on the administrative tools. Educators do not adopt technologies until they see a perceived benefit and have the self-efficacy to believe efforts will be successful.
  • Issues to consider: a networking system and digital competence
  • Link to thought piece.

 

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