ICDE Conference Notes

Most of the time at the ICDE World Conference on Online Learning (16-19 October 2017 in Toronto, Canada), I was part of the excellent Global Doctoral Consortium track, so I did not attend many of the other sessions. However, here are my notes from the plenary sessions:

Emerging Pedagogies and Designs for Online Learning (Presenter: Laura Czerniewicz)

  • There are different issues for students and lecturers, for example, students want lectures to be recorded, but lecturers do not.
  • Students should be encouraged to partake in socially engaged learning and move to collaborative learning.
  • Pedagogy refers to the relationship between teaching, learning and the discipline. Online modes provoke changes in pedagogical practices and changes in behaviours, including cultural changes. This includes not only what is taught, but how learning happens, through the co-construction of knowledge (a plurality of knowledge).
  • Emerging pedagogies are:
    • Highly emotive – Change can be confusing and involves unlearning and relearning, going online can either be alienating or empowering.
    • Deeply political – involves politics and power, student agency, contestation between different constructs of who students are, supporting heterogeneous students at scale.
  • Questions for educators to consider:
    • How do the power dynamics manifest as teaching and leaning goes online?
    • What is the student experience like and what are the implications of the changes?

Expanding Access, Openness and Flexibility (Presenter: Asha Kanwar)

  • Access for whom? Enrolments in tertiary education have doubled, there has been increase in participation of women, yet need to be more inclusive for students with disabilities and support students in resource poor communities
  • Can openness enhance access? Many people cannot afford tertiary education, but can help with affordability, such as the use of OER to reduce the costs of materials for students, openness can thrive in closed systems.
  • Questions to consider:
    • Are we more flexible today?
    • Are you able to use technologies to offer flexible learning?
  • Challenges: there are gender gaps in mobile access, mobile data costs are expensive. Are there ways to make learning resource neutral?
  • Equity and inclusion will not happen by themselves, institutions need to embrace open practices and technology must be used in a context-appropriate way.

Changing Models of Assessment (Presenter: Mark Milliron)

  • The challenge we are facing is ensuring diverse students becoming successful (only half of students finish).
  • We are suffering from assessment challenges such as changing learning models, learning analytics.
  • We need to look at who learners are – more non-traditional students, part-time, transfer across institutions.
  • How are students learning? Moved from a focus on traditional time/space sets, now focus on competency development, competency-based learning, need to consider the affective domain (how they feel about learning), blending learning models, being flexible.
  • Why are students succeeding? Educators think that the big challenges are academic, but most of the reasons why students drop-out are related to family issues, psycho-social issues, managing life and logistics, different kinds of models.
  • Need to focus on policy and structural change – to help diverse students succeed, and think about how students learn.

New Delivery Tools and Resources for Learning (Presenter: Neil Fassina)

  • Adopting Overhead projectors and whiteboards were easy changes for educators, who then had to move to projectors which was a more difficult shift due to technologies involved.
  • Issues with using mobile phones in class and distractions, yet provide potential.
  • Shift from distance learning to online learning – etexts, social networks etc.
  • Commoditisation of information –  the university is no longer the cradle of knowledge.
  • Questions to consider:
    • Does a technology enhance engagement, outcomes or student success?
    • What is the role of the Open University?

Re-designing Institutional Business Models (Presenter: Stephen Murgatroyd)

  • The boiling frog metaphor in education – there are pockets of innovation, but not wholescale changes.
  • Institutions are rethinking their value propositions (either because they have to or because of government directives), Open Universities struggle financially and ideologically. Universities rely on student fees to live.
  • Reimagine business processes – potential power for analytics, unbundling of services, degrees or certificates offered through MOOCs and OER.
  • Unconstraining of learning supports – peer to peer assessment and support, machine learning support and assessment (AI).
  • Hyperscaling of global platforms for learning worldwide.
  • Seeking out new markets e.g. seniors seeking out learning opportunities.
  • Institutional business model constraints – neo-liberal agenda, austerity measures, accountability and regulation.
  • Questions to consider:
    • How do we engage faculty?
    • Is collaboration better than competition?

Tomorrow’s Learning Platform: How are technology and learning support systems developing to enable engaged and effective learning? (Presenter: Phil Hill)

  • There are two prevailing views:
    • Distance education and technology in education has been viewed as the same thing as F2F: just put it online / distance. That is the majority case.
    • On the other hand, there is a view is that everything in education is going to change because of technologies and developments.
  • Learning Management Systems are not dead, there is steady growth.
  • In the mean time:
    • Look to provide personal tutoring to each student based on their needs
    • Use video: students like to be able to pause, rewind or skip video
  • Question to consider:
    • Will educators take advantage of emerging technologies?

Making Hard Choices: Using Evidence and Data to Make Educational Technology Decisions (Presenter: Fiona Hollands)

  • Consider the Cost-benefit analysis and cost effectiveness of using educational technologies.
  • How do educators select educational technologies for teaching?
  • Educators live in an echo-chamber – talk to people outside of higher education.
  • Tension between starting with the pedagogical need (the rational model) and looking for tools or starting with a tool and looking for applications (the garbage can model). A happy medium is somewhere in between – for example, some universities have sandboxes to play with new technologies.
  • Most decision makers do not look for research when making decisions – but there is not much available that is not is tool-specific. Additionally technologies change over time and research does not always fit context-specific needs.
  • So decision-makers look for local research (demos, sandboxes, pilots) for own contexts.
  • However, many institutions do not check whether the use of the technology affects outcomes (such as having a control group).
  • Importantly, institutions need to have a roadmap of where they are going and to involve all stakeholders (including students).
  • Question to consider:
    • How do you know technological choices improve student outcomes?

Perspectives on Innovative Learning Experiences that Make Higher Education More Accessible and Achievable for Students (Presenter: Randy Best)

  • Universities need to consider alternative credentials and degree options, taking advantage of technologies.
  • Providing greater choice and flexibility for students is key.
  • Need to design for online delivery and provide a less linear model.
  • More accessible education affects student debt (do not need to borrow to go to university)
  • Changing students: More diverse students, more mature students
  • Questions to consider:
    • How will new credentials work? Will they replace traditional degrees?
    • What is the impact on faculty?

Digital Transformation and the New Pedagogy for Online Learning (Presenter: Simon Nelson)

  • People tend to overestimate the short term impact of technologies and underestimate long term impact. Provided the example of the BBC and online viewing of content (TV and on demand programming).
  • FutureLearn is an Open University startup.
  • Considerations for learning platforms:
    • Platforms need to work from a mobile device
    • Platforms need to look good (high quality user experience)
    • High quality content
    • Needs to be collaborative (join a conversation)
  • Question to consider:
    • Does your learning platform meet the needs of your students?

IAmLearning Book Launched

iAmLearningCoversmall2The IAmLearning: Mobilizing and Supporting Educator Practice was launched today. This is an open access ebook for educators wanting to know more about mobile learning and how to implement mobile learning initiatives. My supervisor and I contributed a chapter to the book (Chapter 5: Moving to Seamless Learning) published by IAmLearn. Our chapter looks at students’ use of multiple devices and helps educators to consider the devices students use, the locations/contexts where they learn and how they use their devices for learning (learning activities).

The book can be downloaded as a PDF, ePub or Mobi format.


ICDE Conference 2017 Presentations

Last week I attended the ICDE World Conference on Online Learning in Toronto, Canada. I will share a follow up post later that talks more generally about the conference, but below are the two presentations I gave at the conference, one as part of the main programme and one in the Global Doctoral Consortium track. These presentations allowed me to share some of the results from my PhD research.

Becoming Seamless Learners: ODL Students’ Use of Multiple Devices

Moving to Seamless Learning: Multiple Devices and Changing Study Habits

Top Learning Tools for Education 2017

As every year, Jane Hart of C4LPT has compiled an annual list of top learning tools. This year, over 2000 learning professionals across the world from both education and business contributed to the 11th Annual Survey of Learning Tools. This year the list was expanded from the Top 100 to the Top 200. Three sub-lists were made for personal learning, workplace learning and education. I will focus on the education list that covers tools used in primary, secondary and tertiary education. I have grouped the Top 20 Tools in the Education list according to 4 categories:

Content Development or Consumption Tools
2. Word (last year: 10)
3. PowerPoint (last year: 3)
4. YouTube (last year: 1)
6. Excel (last year: outside top 20)
7. Wikipedia (last year: outside top 20)
8. Prezi (last year: 8)
11. WordPress (last year: 13)
16. Audacity (last year: outside top 20)
19. Canva (last year: outside top 20)

Social Tools
1. Google Drive (last year: 2)
9. Twitter (last year: 5)
12. Facebook (last year: 15)
13. Dropbox (last year: 6)
14. WhatsApp (last year: outside top 20)
18. Padlet (last year: 18)

Instructional Tools
10. Kahoot (last year: 8)
17. Moodle (last year: 11)

Personal and Research Tools
5. Google Search (last year: 4)
15. OneNote (last year: outside top 20)
20. Google Scholar (last year: outside top 20)

Most of the tools listed above would be on my list as well. There are no new tools for me, although Canva is a tool I have only started to use recently.

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.


Submission of Thesis

I have not posted in a while as I have been busy finishing up my thesis. I have just submitted so will catch up with some blog posts over the next few days as it has been a busy few weeks. Below is the abstract for my thesis. If you are interested in reading the thesis (undergoing review now) then email me and I will gladly send you a copy.

Thesis Abstract: Supporting Seamless Learning: Students’ Use of Multiple Devices in Open and Distance Learning Universities

The widespread access to mobile and personal technologies, together with internet services, has created the potential for the continuity of learning experiences across different technologies, contexts and settings. These digital technologies include both fixed (desktops and laptops) and handheld technologies (tablets and smartphones). The use of emerging technologies in education is associated with emerging educational practices. Educators need to be aware of not only what their students learn, but how and why as well. However, there is a lack of awareness of how students use their different devices for learning and how Open and Distance Learning (ODL) universities can effectively support them to do so. The purpose of this exploratory study is to understand the learning habits and behaviours of students using different devices for learning. This is to determine how students move between technologies, locations and learning activities and the types of support they require. The research uses the concept of seamless learning as a theoretical framework, where students can continue their learning experiences across different contexts. A case study approach was followed. Two ODL universities were explored, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya in Spain and the University of South Africa in South Africa. A mixed methods design was used with a sequential explanatory strategy. Quantitative data (online surveys) was first collected from undergraduate students in each case to identify the significant variables and relationships. This data was analysed using descriptive, correlation and regression analyses. This was followed by the collection of qualitative data (semi-structured interviews) to build on the quantitative data and to explain the relationships. This data was analysed using a grounded theory approach. The results indicate the students are using multiple devices in multiple locations to perform different learning activities. Although students make use of technologies in different ways (according to their needs), some patterns emerged. Access to devices is no longer an issue as the majority of students have access to three or four digital devices for learning. Students use their devices in a variety of public and private locations, yet home is still the preferred location for study. The more portable a device, the more places it is used.  Fixed devices are seen as central devices for study purposes and used for almost all learning activities. However, handheld devices are seen as supplementary devices and are used for fewer, more specific, learning activities. The results also indicate that students use their devices together to be more efficient and productive. The use of devices together can be classified as sequential (moving from one device to another) or simultaneous (using two or more devices at the same time). The movement between devices is facilitated by cloud services that enable automatic synchronisation. However, internet access is still an issue for some students. The use of multiple devices, together with the associated software and services, are affecting study habits. Conversely, most educators do not take students’ use of multiple devices into account in the design, facilitation or support of learning experiences. Students using multiple devices require both academic and technological support to succeed. The findings have been synthesised to propose a framework for student use of multi-devices for learning to assist educators to design better learning experiences or offer improved support to students. The main influencers of how frequently a device is used for learning are: i) the learning activity or goal; ii) the location or environment; and iii) the devices the student accesses and uses for learning. However, the frequency is also influenced, to a lesser extent, by the time available, the perceived importance of the device to academic success, the level of digital expertise and the device affordances. The majority of students are able to move between devices and contexts and continue their learning experiences seamlessly. However, this does mean there is a minority of students who cannot yet learn seamlessly. These students may require additional levels of support. These findings indicate that ODL universities need to refine their learning design and support services to better meet the needs of students using multiple devices.

Upcoming MOOCs of Interest (Sep-Nov)

The following upcoming MOOCs may be of interest:

An Introduction to Gamification through Case Studies (Miriadax) offered by the UOC by Daniel Riera and Joan Arnedo. Topics include games and elements, design of games, gamification in health and education.
Starts 12 September (5 weeks). Language: Spanish.

Introduction to Open Education (edX) by David Wiley and George Siemens. Topics include open educational resources (OER), open pedagogy and practice, open knowledge and open research.
Starts 1 October (6 weeks). Language: English.

Digitizing Higher Education (edX) by George Siemens, Kelvin Bentley, Shirley Alexander. Topics include prominent digital technologies impacting higher education,new models of teaching and learning enabled by digital technologies, making sense of organizational and learning data, creating a digital strategy for your university,monitoring and tracking your progress toward digitization.
Starts 30 October (6 weeks). Language: English.