Reimagining the Role of Technology in Higher Education

Yesterday I wrote about the US National Education Technology Plan. There is also a higher education supplement to this plan. The Higher Education Supplement to the National Education Technology Plan (NETP) 2017 from the US Department of Education sets out a vision for learning enabled by technology in the context of higher education. The supplement, like the plan,  focuses on the areas of Learning, Teaching, Leadership, Assessment, and Infrastructure.

What is Higher Ed? A Student Prospectus

  • New “normal” students transfer between institutions, may have dependents, work (part or full time), and study part-time
  • Ecosystem: Learning is lifelong (occurring at different times) and lifewide (education at work, home and other settings)
  • Design principles:
    • Education that enables students to achieve their goals, is suitable to their needs, and aligns with their interests
    • Helps students make wise financial decisions about education
    • Prepare students for postsecondary work
    • Allow students to adjust the timing and format of education to fit in other priorities
    • Provide affordable access to high-quality resources
    • Help students progress through times of transition and changing needs
    • Collect and use real-time learning data to assist students
    • Allow students to build meaningful education pathways
    • Allow students to document their learning in portable ways
    • Create a network of learning that supports students as creators and entrepreneurs

Engaging and Empowering Learning Through Technology

The goal is for learners to have engaging and empowering learning experiences in both formal and informal settings, in multiple contexts and various stages of life. Technology supports learners to scaffold their learning, document their competencies, and form meaningful connections with educators and peers.

  • Technology-Enabled Learning in Action
    • Access learning opportunities outside of the traditional barriers of time and space (flexible programmes)
    • Access learning opportunities outside of formal education institutions (receive credit for workplace or community experiences)
    • Access high-quality online learning resources (including OERs)
    • Learning experiences through blended learning models
    • Support student learning based on individual academic and non-academic needs (personalised feedback)
    • Participation of students with disabilities
  • Recommendations
    • Promote excellence in learning (use available formative and summative data to study how students are learning, review course failure and withdrawal rates and support student success, use learning analytics, research into how students learn in technology-rich environments)
    • Use technology to transform learning (increase collaborative and project-based learning, ensure accessibility or born accessible design)
    • Develop collaborative learning scenarios (support flexible pathways to completion, diversity in students, engage stakeholders in enhancing programmes)

Teaching with Technology

The goal is to design learning experiences that better support and enable learning, while improving the instructional approach over time.

  • Technology-Enabled Teaching in Action
    • Use student learning data to provide targeted interventions and tailored feedback
    • Use student learning data to evaluate the efficacy of new practices or technologies
    • Create active learning environments that connect students with content in different ways (inquiry-based learning, collaboration, real-world challenges)
    • Use tools to provide personal and connected experiences (virtual labs, simulations, coaching)
    • Provide high-quality resources at lower costs (not only expensive textbooks)
  • Elevating the Practice of Teaching
    • Foster ongoing professional development for teachers to develop their skills
    • Create career paths for instructors who master technology in teaching
  • Recommendations
    • Promote excellence in teaching (make resources on evidenced-based technology practices available to instructors).
    • Use technology to transform teaching (reimagine courses in ways that more actively engage students in flexible ways)
    • Develop collaborative teaching practice (co-design active learning experiences based on research)

Assessments Enabled by Technology

The goal is develop authentic assessments that enable measurement of learning and competency attainment. To improve student learning through frequent feedback and enabling personalisation.

  • Technology-Enabled Assessments in Action
    • Allow more precise measurement of student learning against clearly mapped competencies (verify and make portable)
    • Assessment through formative learning activities
    • Real-time assessments
  • Recommendations
    • Promote excellence in assessment (collaborate to create authentic assessments)
    • Transform assessment through data (determine whether student learning is accurately measured)
    • Develop collaborative assessment solutions (collaborate to provide support around assessments)

Systems That Support Student Success

The goal is to support educators and students with a robust infrastructure that bridges different learning environments.

  • Integrated Infrastructure that Supports Information-driven Student Success
    • Digital infrastructure to provide students with a mechanism to map learning and skills mastery to stackable and portable credentials
    • Controlled access and protection when using student data
    • Accessibility for all learners
    • Ubiquitous access to connectivity and devices
    • Clear Responsible Use Policies (RUP) to promote responsible use and protect privacy
  • Recommendations
    • Systems to act in tandem with policies
    • Data should be integrated, while ensuring privacy and security of information

Leadership that Enables Innovation and Change

The goal is to empower leaders to implement technology-enabled practices that optimise student success.

  • Leadership in Action
  • Leadership should work together to develop a strategy and action plan for the use of technology to support strategic plans
  • Collaborate across institutions for system-wide change
  • Recommendations
    • Develop a clear vision and strategic plan for the use of technology to enable learning
    • Create strategic networks with leaders at other institutions
    • Develop systems that support lifelong learning and lifewide learning

The Future of Higher Education

  • Focus innovation on affordable and equitable access
  • Leverage technology to deliver learning opportunities to those who need it most (access)
  • Ensure technology-enabled learning is affordable
  • Focus on completion and outcomes (whether students have met learning objectives)
  • Higher education is expanding and needs to grow more (not only traditional institutions)
  • Assembly of learning experiences and resources from various sources to increase quality and access
  • Further research that tests effectiveness and informs practice

US National Education Technology Plan 2017

The National Education Technology Plan (NETP) 2017 from the US Department of Education was recently released. It sets out a vision for learning enabled by technology at all levels of education. The plan consists of 5 sections: Learning, Teaching, Leadership, Assessment, and Infrastructure.

Learning—Engaging and Empowering Learning through Technology

The goal is for learners to have engaging and empowering learning experiences in both formal and informal settings to prepare them to be active, creative and knowledgeable and ethical citizens.

  • Technology-Enabled Learning in Action
    • Enabling personalised learning experiences (menu of learning experiences: write an essay, produce media, collect data etc.)
    • Organise learning around projects and real-world learning (sharing outputs online)
    • Learning opportunities in museums, libraries and out-of-school settings
    • Pursue passions and personal interests
  • The Future of Learning Technologies (increased games and simulations, augmented reality and virtual reality)
  • Bringing Equity to Learning Through Technology (Closing the digital divide and ensure students understand how to use technology as a tool to engage in creative, productive, lifelong learning, and not simply consuming passive content)
  • Providing Technology Accessibility for All Learners (Universal Design for Learning)
  • Physical Spaces and Technology-Enabled Learning (Flexible and blended learning spaces)
  • Recommendations
    • Develop and implement learning resources to create equitable and accessible learning ecosystems that make learning possible everywhere and all the time
    • Develop and implement learning resources that use technology to embody learning sciences design principles
    • Align learning technology resources to intended learning outcomes
    • Develop an accessible standard of learning resource design to help educators select and evaluate learning resources for accessibility and equity of learning experience
    • More research is needed on how learning sciences can inform how technology is developed and used for learning

Teaching—Teaching With Technology

The goal is for educators to be connected to people, resources, expertise and learning experiences that empower and inspire them to provide more effective teaching.

  • Roles and Practices of Educators in Technology-Supported Learning
    • Collaborate outside their own schools
    • Design engaging and relevant learning experiences (using games, social networks, simulations, and multimedia)
    • Lead evaluations and implementations of new technologies for learning
    • Motivate learners (create spaces to experiment, iterate and risk)
    • Co-learners with students and peers
    • Serve the underserved
  • Rethinking Teacher Preparation (active use of technology to enable learning, program-deep and program-wide educational technology experiences)
  • Fostering Ongoing Professional Learning and Development
  • Recommendations
    • Provide teachers educators with learning experiences powered by technology to increase their digital literacy
    • Provide learners with online access to effective teaching
    • Develop skills in online and blended instruction
    • Develop a common set of technology competencies for lecturers and teachers

Leadership—Creating a Culture and Conditions for Innovation and Change

The goal is to embed an understanding of technology-enabled education within the roles and responsibilities of educational leaders.

  • Characteristics of Effective Leadership
    • Collaborative leadership
    • Personalised student learning
    • Robust infrastructure
    • Personalised professional learning
  • Budgeting and Funding for the Transition to Digital Learning (reduce existing costs, partner with other organisations, use federal funds, rethink staff responsibilities, long-term sustainability)
  • Recommendations
    • Establish clear strategic planning connections at all levels
    • Set a vision for the use of technology to enable learning
    • Develop funding models and plans for sustainable technology purchases and leverage openly licensed content
    • Develop clear communities of practice for education leaders

Assessment—Measuring for Learning

The goal is to leverage the power of technology to measure what matters most and use assessments to improve learning

  • Approaches to Assessment (formative and summative)
  • Using Assessment Data to Support Learning
  • How Technology Transforms Assessment
    • Enhanced question types (graphic response, simulations, equation response)
    • Complex competency measurement (measure social and emotional learning)
    • Real-time feedback
    • Accessibility
    • Adapt to learner ability and knowledge (adaptive testing)
    • Embedded within the learning process
    • Assess for ongoing learning
  • The Future of Technology-Based Assessment (continuous improvement, integrated learning and assessment systems, use data appropriately, learning dashboards, micro-credentials)
  • Recommendations
    • Ensure privacy protection while ongoing gathering and sharing of assessment data for continuous improvement of learning
    • Implement learning dashboards and response systems to provide feedback about student learning
    • Create an integrated system for valid, reliable and cost-effective assessments
    • Research to explore how embedded assessment technologies (simulations, games, virtual worlds) assess and engage learners

Infrastructure—Enabling Access and Effective Use

The goal is ensure access to a robust and comprehensive infrastructure when and where it is needed for learning

  • Ubiquitous Connectivity (quality internet at school and home)
  • Powerful Learning Devices (including BYOT)
  • High-Quality Digital Learning Content (including OERs)
  • Responsible Use Policies (RUP)
  • Protections for Student Data and Privacy
  • Device and Network Management
  • Recommendations
    • Ensure broadband access to the internet and adequate wifi connectivity
    • Ensure there is at least one internet access device and appropriate software for use in and out of school
    • Support the development and use of openly licensed materials
    • Draft sustainable infrastructure plans
    • Create a map of connectivity, device access and their uses
    • Include cyber safety and cybersecurity training

Potential Thesis Defence Questions

As I move into my final year of my PhD, the focus is now solely on the analysis of the data I have collected, collecting all my thoughts, and writing the thesis. I found this article on 40 possible thesis defence questions by Rebecca Ferguson. The questions are listed below:

1. Can you start by summarising your thesis?
2. Now, can you summarise it in one sentence?
3. What is the idea that binds your thesis together?
4. What motivated and inspired you to carry out this research?
5. What are the main issues and debates in this subject area?
6. Which of these does your research address?
7. Why is the problem you have tackled worth tackling?
8. Who has had the strongest influence in the development of your subject area in theory and practice?
9. Which are the three most important papers that relate to your thesis?
10. What published work is closest to yours? How is your work different?
11. What do you know about the history of [insert something relevant]?
12. How does your work relate to [insert something relevant]?
13. What are the most recent major developments in your area?
14. How did your research questions emerge?
15. What were the crucial research decisions you made?
16. Why did you use this research methodology? What did you gain from it?
17. What were the alternatives to this methodology?
18. What would you have gained by using another approach?
19. How did you deal with the ethical implications of your work?
20. How has your view of your research topic changed?
21. How have you evaluated your work?
22. How do you know that your findings are correct?
23. What are the strongest/weakest parts of your work?
24. What would have improved your work?
25. To what extent do your contributions generalise?
26. Who will be most interested in your work?
27. What is the relevance of your work to other researchers?
28. What is the relevance of your work to practitioners?
29. Which aspects of your work do you intend to publish – and where?
30. Summarise your key findings.
31. Which of these findings are the most interesting to you? Why?
32. How do your findings relate to literature in your field?
33. What are the contributions to knowledge of your thesis?
34. How long-term are these contributions?
35. What are the main achievements of your research?
36. What have you learned from the process of doing your PhD?
37. What advice would you give to a research student entering this area?
38. You propose future research. How would you start this?
39. What would be the difficulties?
40. And, finally… What have you done that merits a PhD?

My Interview in the University Research Newsletter

UOC publishes a monthly Research and Innovation newsletter. For the December edition, a research staff member interviewed me about my doctoral journey so far at UOC. Here is the link to the interview: http://www.uoc.edu/portal/en/ri/difusio-publicacions/noticies/noticies-OSRT/2016/noticia_020_interview_Greig_Krull_PhD.html

Innovative Pedagogy 2016

The Innovative Pedagogy 2016 report explores new forms of teaching and learning in a digital world, and looks at 10 innovations that have not yet influenced post-school education. This is the fifth annual report produced by the Open University in the UK. This year the report was produced in conjunction with the National Institute of Education in Singapore. The 10 innovations are listed in the order of possible widespread adoption.

  1. Learning through social media: People use social media such as Twitter and Facebook for informal learning. A range of learning opportunities is available such as access to expert advice, encounter challenges, defend opinions and amend ideas in the face of criticism. However, learners may also encounter inaccurate information, biased comments and hostile responses.
  2. Productive failure: A method of teaching that gives students complex problems to solve and attempt to form their own solutions before receiving instruction. By struggling and sometimes failing to find a solution, students gain a deeper understanding of the structure of the problem and its elements.
  3. Teachback: One person (a teacher, an expert, or another student) explains their knowledge of a topic to a learner. Then that learner attempts to explain, or teach back, what they have understood. This helps learners to understand a topic or problem by reframing it in their own terms and explain what they have learned in a way that is understandable.
  4. Design thinking: Solving problems using the methods and thinking processes used by designers e.g. experimenting, creating and prototyping models, soliciting feedback, and redesigning.
  5. Learning from the crowd: Amateurs and experts exchange ideas, generate and discuss content, solve problems, vote for the best solutions, and raise funds. A classic example is Wikipedia.  Possible applications of crowdsourcing in education include collecting and curating teaching resources, letting students share and discuss their work online, and providing opinions and data for use in projects and research studies.
  6. Learning through video games: The focus can be on games designed for education, the use of game elements in workplace training, simulations such as flight trainers, or on social benefit. However, it is difficult to balance learning with fun.
  7. Formative analytics:  Support learners to reflect on what they have learned, what can be improved, which goals can be achieved, and how they should move forward. Focusing on analytics for learning, rather than analytics of learning, can empower each learner through timely, personalised, and automated feedback.
  8. Learning for the future: Learners need to be educated not just for today but for the future. They should acquire skills and dispositions that will enable them to cope with an uncertain life and a complex work environment. Learning for the future builds human capacity to learn.
  9. Translanguaging: In a globalised world, many learners study in and speak a language that is not their mother tongue. Translanguaging refers to moving flexibly and fluidly between languages. Pedagogical strategies engage the language abilities of bilingual students in teaching and learning, for example by using bilingual partners, organising international collaboration, searching the internet in multiple languages and accessing a wide range of online communities and resources.
  10. Blockchain for learning: A blockchain stores digital events securely on every user’s computer rather than in a central database (the technology behind digital currencies like Bitcoin).  Blockchain learning explores how this approach could be applied to education in which achievements are recorded by a wider range of participants. A blockchain could be used as a permanent shared record of intellectual achievement.

An interesting list of possible innovations in education. Surprisingly, there does not seem to be any overlap with the list of innovations in the 2015 report. The report provides a mix of approaches that are not new, but not widely implemented in formal education (video games, social media, design thinking), together with non-education innovations with potential for learning (blockchain) and some creative pedagogical approaches (teachback, productive failure).

Reference

Sharples, M., de Roock , R., Ferguson, R., Gaved, M., Herodotou, C., Koh, E., Kukulska-Hulme, A., Looi, C-K, McAndrew, P., Rienties, B., Weller, M., Wong, L. H. (2016). Innovating Pedagogy 2016: Open University Innovation Report 5. Milton Keynes: The Open University.

 

 

Scholarly Publishing with Open Praxis

I participated in a webinar organised by the ICDE Global Doctoral Consortium (GDC) on 7 November about Scholarly Publishing. The webinar was presented by Dr Inés Gil-Jaurena, Editor of Open Praxis. These are my notes from the webinar.

Scholarly publishing and contributions to the scientific community

  • There are different motivations for publishing that need to be considered: individual (advancement) , institutional (recognition), funder and the broader scientific community (build upon results).
  • Another consideration is the intended audience: local or international, specialised or general.
  • Different options for publication are available: books, journals, blogs and others.
  • Journal publications can be in different languages, open access or not, short papers or long papers, theoretical or empirical.

The PhD Process and Publication

  • PhD Programmes have specific requirements regarding scholarly publishing. Some require publication before the thesis is presented, while others only want publications after the thesis is approved.
  • PhDs can be obtained via a research report (thesis) or via a collection of publications.
  • Other dissemination events during a PhD include conferences and seminars, and the publication of articles and book chapters.
  • Check your programme requirements carefully.

Journal Selection

  • Consider the topic/area (matching your topic) and the language and international scope.
  • The Impact Factor and impact in social media are important metrics, some PhD programmes specify which journals are preferred or required. Another consideration is where the journal is indexed and the abstract can be found.
  • Review the quality and history of the journal: check previous issues, the peer-review process, who is on the editorial board, who is the publisher etc.
  • Other considerations include: open access, acceptance rate, time until publication, electronic follow up regarding progress, licensing and copyright, publication and communication processes etc.

About the Open Praxis Journal

  • Open Praxis publishes 4 issues per year, about 35 articles (research articles and innovative practice papers)
  • The acceptance rate is between 50-60%.
  • Normally it takes 1 to 2 months for peer review and 4-6 months until publication.
  • PhD students are welcome to register as journal reviewers.
  • Listed in the Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI) from Web of Science.

Preparing for Publication

  • Check the journal guidelines regarding: length, structure, preferred methodologies used, reference styles, ethical guidelines. Also consider the submission of supplementary documents and data.
  • Many articles are rejected before peer review because the article does not match the scope of the journal or the journal guidelines were not followed.
  • Review before submission: language and content review. Make use of your supervisor and fellow students.

Editorial process: from submission to publication

  • Submission: Register in the journal website, follow the submission checklist.Fill in the required metadata: author, affiliation, ORCID, abstract, keywords, references, etc. Submit the full paper.
  • Editor first screening: Reject or send to peer-review.
  • Peer-review process: Two reviewers per paper (sometimes three), it takes about 2 months. The Editor then makes a decision: accept, minor revision, major revision with second round review, reject.
  • After acceptance: Check metadata, add acknowledgments, proof-correction and finally, publication.
  • After publication, authors and publishers disseminate through social media, direct email. Article is disseminated in Google scholar, ORCID, institutional repositories, and academic networks.

 

 

 

Celebrating Teaching at Unisa

The 2016 Unisa and Teaching and Learning Festival, held 20-21st October, aimed to celebrate teaching and learning at Unisa. It was also an opportunity to hear from the nominees for the Unisa teaching awards. The theme of the festival was to celebrate the new generation student. I found this to be quite a strange theme, as Unisa has a diverse student body profile that incorporates a range of age groups. I’m also not sure that there is such a “thing” as a new-generation student. I suspect the context also has to do with the move from more traditional distance education towards making more use of online learning. The timing of the festival also had the very pressing issue of #FeesMustFall hanging over the proceedings.

The keynote speaker was Koffi Kouakou (from Wits University) who pointed out that teaching and learning go hand in hand, and that you can only be a good teacher if you learn well. He adapted an expression from EM Forster to say “How do I know what I learn until I learn what I teach”. He also emphasized the role of storytelling in teaching and encouraged teachers to develop the art of storytelling. Prof Rosemary Moeketsi spoke about the need for the decolonialisation and transformation of curricula. A frequent topic in the festival was how to better support students in the South African context and focus on what is relevant for students. Another keynote speaker, Prof Paul Prinsloo from Unisa, encouraged lecturers to make use of newer technologies such as learning analytics in a caring way to improve support to students in a way that does not add to teacher time. e.g. a tracking system that sends automated reminders (email or sms) when students do not submit an assignment.

Although the main part of the festival comprised short presentations from the nominees for the teaching awards from various colleges, teaching and learning support staff also presented on the support provided by their departments.

Here are some of the points that stood out for me from the nominees’ presentations:

  • Team approach to course design: In the Unisa approach, teaching is a collaborative process. Not only do lecturers sometimes work together to develop courses, they also get input from other stakeholders to improve the quality of the course. This includes members of their departments, industry representatives, course designers and others.
  • Incremental improvements: Many of the presentations highlighted small but meaningful changes that are made in their courses each year, rather than a completely innovative approach. Put together, a series of small incremental improvements can make a major difference to students.
  • Use of multimedia and OERs: Although not widely used yet, lecturers are experimenting more with the use of short podcasts, videos and animations that they develop themselves. They are also increasingly making use of existing open content out there to enhance their courses e.g. YouTube videos.
  • Use of instant messaging communication tools: Several lecturers have been using WhatsApp as a communication platform to engage with their students and go to “where the conversation is”. This also enables lecturers to stand back and let other students answer questions first etc.
  • Formative assessments: Many lecturers are encouraging students to use online self-assessments as part of the formative assessment process.
  • eTutors:  More and more courses at 1st and 2nd year level are making use of e-tutors to support the teaching process.

Congratulations to the award winners, the awarding of the teaching prizes closed the festival.