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.
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)
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)
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.
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”.
- 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.
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.
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.
This is the second post about the meeting of the Universities of the Future Network (UFN) held at FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany, 11-13 July 2017. The theme for the meeting was “The Digitalization of the Universities of the Future”. The meeting consisted of 6 key themes that were discussed and debated (see part 1 here). This post looks at the last three themes. The facilitators of each theme were asked to discuss the key trends and issues as well as provide suggestions for policy and strategy development.
Theme 4: Open Educational Resources (OER)
Open Educational Resources (OER) have the potential to decrease the development costs of tuition, both for universities and for students in the form of, for example, open textbooks. However, OERs are not widely used and progress towards large-scale adoption is slow. OERs were preceded by the concept of Learning Objects which were a focus for researchers from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. This represented a great demand for the then emerging online learning that required online (and reusable) learning resources. However, reusability represents a paradox, as the pedagogical value of a learning object (highly contextualised in the original setting) diminishes as the potential for reusability (ability to be used in numerous settings) increases, and vice-versa. This potential for reuse also varies according to the academic level (primary, secondary/technical and tertiary). Universities have been the main developers of OER, with little production at other levels. From the mid-2000s, the term Open Educational Resources (OER) gained more traction. Openness became valued as resources could be made freely available on the internet with as few restrictions as possible on the use of resources. The adoption of licenses such as Creative Commons that protect intellectual copyright and allow for easy reuse has enabled dissemination. The aim of OER is to share knowledge and equalise access to knowledge worldwide. One of the challenges within the area of OER is the main focus on producing or developing content (content being seen as knowledge) and less of a focus on how content is used for learning. Key issues for promoters of OER in developed and developing countries include raising awareness and promotion, building communities and networking, sustainability and capacity development.
OERs exist within a wider open movement that includes open access, open source software, open badges and MOOCs. OERs seem to have been left behind in the preoccupation with the development of MOOCs in the early 2010s, however the early hype of the MOOC phenomenon has since waned. One of the challenges for OER production is that the production of learning materials (open or not) is generally not recognised nor rewarded in universities, with research more valued for promotion and career advancement. Another challenge is that there is often a disconnect between universities publically supporting OER initiatives, while discourses and practices within institutions do not change.
Channels and strategies for change
- Recognition for teaching activities in addition to research activities
- Recognition of the development of OERs for career promotion
- Awards for innovative OER production to promote quality and sharing
- Adoption of Creative Commons licenses
- Promotion of peer-review for OERs, similar to peer-review mechanisms for research
Theme 5: University Business Models and Value Propositions
One of the functions of universities is to develop students to be able to access employment opportunities and build social capital (thus improving quality of life). There is thus economic value to a university degree as graduates earn more and have access to certain employment opportunities. Universities equip students with advanced skills (teaching) and further human knowledge and understanding of the world (research). However, universities face pressure to stay competitive and relevant when education costs exceed inflation and revenues are decreasing. Social mobility and emerging technologies are other challenges for education. Therefore universities need to consider the value proposition they offer to students.
There are different forms of colleges and universities who target different groups, have different research and teaching orientations and cost/revenue models. This ranges from elite universities that are highly selective and research intensive, to community colleges that are open to local communities and learning focused. Universities may also be privately or publically funded. Different types of universities will require different value propositions. However, business models need to focus more than on financial operations. One approach is the Value Proposition Canvas that focuses universities to focus on students (the customers) and thereafter on strategies and revenue models. This canvas enables universities to analyse student needs, taking into account pains (obstacles, risks, negative outcomes) and gains (positive outcomes). Using a value proposition framework, universities need to consider:
- The services which the value proposition of a degree is built around (the bundle of services that addresses the needs of targeted student profiles)
- The ‘pain relievers’ outlining how universities alleviate student burdens in a changing society (pains to reduce or eliminate before, during and after degree completion)
- The ‘gains creators’ outlining how universities generate positive outcomes and benefits from the services they provide to students
The value proposition needs to link to the overall business model: key activities, resources and partners; customer relationships and channels for different segments; and a sound cost structure and revenue model. Rather than focus on a traditional model of expecting students to enrol because a degree is necessary in the labour market, universities should focus on what students need to thrive in a fast paced and changing labour market. The focus of each institution’s value proposition will depend on the type of university and where it wants to be in the future, but universities need to evolve to meet a clearly defined value proposition within the constraints of business models, resources and capabilities.
Theme 6: Virtual Networks: Research and Partnerships
Operating in a growing global marked has a crucial impact on shaping the missions, strategic planning and operational practices of universities. The global market and digital technologies have led to both increased competition as well as collaborative ventures. Virtual networks between universities are increasing. There are several themes affecting research and partnership in a digital age:
- University rankings: different league tables influence research planning and undertakings.
- World class universities: the globalisation of higher education has led to universities that incorporate high levels of international students and professors
- International funders: UNESCO, the World Bank, OECD, the European Union and other networks fund international and local research, where researchers are encouraged to work with institutions in different countries
- Government funding: National or regional governments provide funds that encourage collaborations at a national or regional level
- Research Centres: Outside of universities, researchers can operate with international or national research centres
- Research Dissemination: The open access movement encourages the widespread dissemination of scholarly research
Research is not the only form of partnership between institutions, although it is more common than teaching activities. However many universities collaborate to provide joint-degrees or participate in international MOOC platforms. Other institutions work together to facilitate global campuses in different countries.
Policy Channels and Strategies for Change
- Policies are needed at international, national and institutional levels that facilitate virtual networks and collaboration in research and teaching activities
- While most higher education systems operate at a national level, universities need to enhance cooperation internationally
- Universities need to encourage research undertaken across disciplines and across institutions (enabled by virtual networks)
- University leaders need to carefully evaluate which international and virtual networks to participate in
- Universities need to prepare for growing numbers of international students and global campuses, as well as facilitating the movement of students between universities
I participated in the second meeting of the Universities of the Future Network (UFN) held at FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany, 11-13 July 2017. The theme for the meeting was “The Digitalization of the Universities of the Future”. The meeting consisted of 6 key themes that were discussed and debated. This post will look at the first three themes, while a second post will look at the last three themes. The facilitators of each theme were asked to discuss the key trends and issues as well as provide suggestions for policy and strategy development.
Theme 1: Towards a Policy of Access: Digitalisation for All
The UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education focuses on expanding access to post-secondary and university education and lifelong learning, on the basis of inclusive and equitable practices. Thus, there is a need to balance equitable access on a national and global scale and the improvement of access, scale and the quality of teaching and learning in a digital age.
Looking back, access to print materials with the invention of the printing press meant the book provided a means of education that had mainly been done by oral lecture before. Now the internet and other digital technologies provide a similar means to change education provision. Some of the associated changes are open educational practices, reform of accreditation and quality assurance and the development of teacher professional competencies. While digital education can expand access, developing countries still battle with high illiteracy rates, low participation rates in higher education and massive capacity development needs.
Policies are needed to respond to national economic needs and social development goals. Digital education requires resources to be sustainable.
Policy Channels and Strategies for Change
- Institutional strategies to support systems and practices (widen participation to those who were traditionally excluded, access to technology and connectivity, support mechanisms for different students, relevant financial and human resources for digital education, recognition of prior learning)
- Open education policies for the transformation of teaching and learning (vision of open education to inform and support open educational practices)
- Redefining the changing roles of institutions (competencies for digital education, sustainable business models, industry partnerships, accreditation and quality assurance)
- Creation and optimisation of open educational content and skills (development and production of OER, development of lifelong learning skills and digital literacy skills)
Theme 2: Teaching and Learning in a Digital Age: Challenges and Opportunities
The use of technology in teaching and learning varies depending on the methods of education provision: Fully online, Blended or Face-to-face. In reality, however, this distinction is blurred as most education provision is blended. Another development linked to digital teaching and learning is the open education movement. This includes Open Educational Resources (OER) such as open textbooks and MOOCs. There are several challenges and opportunities for digital teaching and learning:
Challenges for digital teaching and learning:
- Technical infrastructure development and maintenance
- Costs in the development and use of digital processes and procedures
- Digital literacy skills of teachers and students
- Lack of incentives (rewards and recognition) for innovative teaching methods
- Changing roles of educators and support staff and other stakeholders
Opportunities for digital teaching and learning:
- Reaching new target groups
- Promotion of student flexibility and mobility
- Improvements in teaching and learning quality
- Potential cost-savings for institutions and students
- Increasing collaboration between institutions
- Facilitate the co-creation of knowledge
Policy Channels and Strategies for Change
- Strategy and change processes
- Prioritisation of digital literacy skills
- Expanding infrastructures for digital teaching and learning practices
- Funding for developing and distributing digital learning resources
- Frameworks for digital teaching (teaching load, data protection and copyright issues)
- Investing in support structures
- Collaborative projects
Theme 3: Redefining Knowledge in a Digital Age: Internet and Social Media
The internet and social media have had a massive effect on knowledge creation and dissemination in the digital age. Key drivers in the changes of knowledge production and recognition are:
- Decentralisation and disintermediation: The internet has diversified means of knowledge production and information dissemination and universities are no longer regarded as the main providers of expertise.
- Massiveness and growing demand: Universities are facing unprecedented demand for higher education. Learning is also offered in flexible ways.
- New forms of knowledge production: knowledge production is more distributed and collaborative. There is also unprecedented growth in information online. The rise of artificial intelligence systems will open a new frontier for knowledge production and application.
- New forms of knowledge recognition: In addition to traditional forms of recognition (diplomas and certificates), new forms of recognition include digital badges and portfolios. Alternative forms of assessing the impacts of academic research have also emerged.
Policy Channels and Strategies for Change
- Discovery: Building original and significant research, generating new and relevant knowledge (strategies: open data policies, building Artificial Intelligence infrastructure, digital literacy policies and data management plans)
- Integration: Build connections across disciplines, integrate new discoveries and promote use of knowledge across disciplines and communities (strategies: connection between disciplines, promote digital scholarship, technology integration models, implement new computational approaches to explore large data sets)
- Application: Knowledge needs to offer different forms of helping society and professions to address problems and the dissemination of results to different stakeholders (strategies: build new tools to assess and validate knowledge in formal and informal settings, explore mixed reality technologies, such as augmented or virtual reality, development of Open Education Resources (OERs))
- Teaching and learning: optimising connections between learning and practices and enriching pedagogical approaches through research and dissemination of good practices. (strategies: developing less formal learning cultures and community support, development of alternative credentialing mechanisms and university ranking systems, design of new assessment systems)