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

International Workshop and Round Table for Ed Tech Journal Editors

As a pre-conference workshop for the EDEN Conference in Barcelona this week, UOC hosted an international workshop for editors of journals in educational technology and distance learning. The event was sponsored by “La Caixa” bank. About 18 editors, representing 13 journals, participated in the morning workshop. See a list here of participating journals. The journals ranged from well-established journals to newer journals, and included open access and traditionally published journals. The morning session represented a first of sorts as many of the editors had not been involved in such a workshop before.

There were 4 main topics for debate and discussion. It soon became apparent that despite attempts to separate out the topics, all of them are very closely interrelated. Here is my summary of some of the discussion:

1. Journal Editing and Quality Assurance

  • Quality assurance can be a very broad topic and needs to include considerations for the stakeholders involved, the key quality indicators and how these are measured.
  • There is an issue between maintaining rates of acceptance and mentorship for authors needing support before being ready to publish.
  • Peer reviewers need to be looked after to manage their workloads.
  • The quality of reviewers can be improved through pairing experienced and less experienced reviewers, reviewer mentorship programmes and sharing the feedback from reviewers and the editor.
  • There was some discussion of double-blind and single-blind review as the literature shows little difference in quality.
  • More interest is starting to be shown in access to the data used in research and not just the results, but the data is often not easily accessible.

2. Author Services

  • Journals provide a variety of author services such as tracking, publicity, statistics validation, citation validation and plagiarism checking.
  • However often these services are resource intensive and journals need to identify which services authors really need and which are nice to have.
  • Services for newer authors or junior researchers:
    • Author mentorship or the use of a “Critical friend” is helpful to authors when reviewers deem papers worthy to be published but need significant reworking – this does require time by volunteer reviewers
    • Pressure to publish for PhD students – one way to help reduce the need for all students to publish is to make students part of the reviewing team and partner with an experienced reviewer, thus gaining valuable experience and expertise.
    • Many authors require help or understanding of ethics issues and intellectual property issues – journals can provide education in this regard
    • As an example, I thought the following list discussed by the editors of why articles can be rejected before getting to peer review stage:
      • Most rejected as articles do not align with the scope of the journal
      • Articles are too long and/or do not meet journal publishing requirements
      • A few are rejected for plagiarism
      • A few are rejected for articles offering nothing “novel” or value adding to the field

3. Journal Dissemination, Impact and Metrics

  • There needs to be a wider understanding of what is meant by impact (not just citations, but impact on educational practice).
  • But academic recognition is often reliant on formal citation indexes only.
  • Understanding indices, how they are calculated and who is included is not always clear.
  • All metrics have flaws – need to use a variety of metrics and not rely on a single one.
  • Traditional indices can be used together with alternative metrics, including social networking.

4. Business Models and Sustainability

  • There are a wide variety of business models in place and some that are still being established. These include commercial publishers, university publishers, support from a society or association and others.
  • There is space in the market for commercial and open publishing and some format in-between.
  • Although there is still scope for publishing printed formats, there is a clear trend towards online publishing.
  • To be sustainable often requires a change in mindset.
  • The understanding of open access and the implications is not yet clear for all publishers and authors.

Workshop Outcomes

Although the workshop report still needs to be finalised, the following possible outcomes were discussed:

  • Formation of a mailing list for editors to share information and network.
  • Cooperation of editors working together on similar research/projects.
  • Regular meetings to be held annually or biennially that focus on issues facing editors.
  • Consideration of how to use the influence of the group of editors.

An afternoon round table was open to the public and featured a debate and discussion by 4 of the journal editors. This was streamed live and the recording of the session should soon be available. To follow the twitter stream of the event, use the hashtag #elearningjournals.

Thank you to all the participating editors and to UOC for hosting a unique event. I look forward to reading the final report of the event.