Pushing the Boundaries of Higher Education Conference

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

Theme 1: Fostering Innovative Practices and Self-Regulated Learners

Heutagogy (Lisa Blaschke)

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

Innovations and Traditions in Teaching and Learning (Tony Bates)

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

Theme 2: Switching from Content Delivery to Epistemic Practices

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

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

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

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

Future of Education or Future of Learning (Philip Schmidt)

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

 

Theme 3: Next Generation Learning Environments

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

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

Interventions (Brian Lamb)

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

Theme 4: Leveraging the affordances of technology and learning design

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

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

Digital Networks (Terry Anderson)

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

 

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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

Presentation: Distance Students Usage of Multiple Devices for Learning

My presentation at the eLearning Update Conference, at Emperors Palace, Johannesburg on 7 September 2016. The presentation shares the initial results from a survey of UOC students regarding their learning behaviours using multiple devices.

Trajectories for Digital Technology in Higher Education

Last week, EDUCAUSE Review Online published an article on 6 Trajectories for Digital Technology in Higher Education. The goal of these trajectories is to enable responsive and personalised digital learning environments in higher education. They make use of “trajectories” instead of predictions as working with trajectories means “we know where something is headed, but we refrain from guessing where it will end”.

There are 3 contextual characteristics provided before discussing the trajectories:

  • Personalisation – use of digital resources to create custom pathways for learning and degree success
  • Adoption of hybrid learning models – greater online dimensions
  • Analysis of ever-increasing amounts of data – more nuanced and timely insights into all kinds of learning processes

The 6 trajectories:

  1. Device Ownership and Mobile-First: More and more students are owning multiple personal devices. The increasing use of mobile devices for learning is leading universities to consider a mobile-first approach by integrating mobile technologies into courses. Students are no longer  constrained by campus IT networks and make use of non-university apps and services.
  2. The Textbook and Open Educational Resources (OER): The format of the textbook is changing, and the purchasing of commercial textbooks is declining (in part because of increased costs). The textbook is no longer the course requirement, but an option. There is an increasing abundance of open content and OERs.
  3. Adaptive Learning Technology: Adaptive learning technology is a kind of e-tutor to anticipate the types of resources and contents learners need to progress.
  4. Learning spaces: Learning spaces is an umbrella term referring to the physical spaces specifically designed to accommodate learning activities. The focus is not on places of presentation, but being places of discovery, invention, and knowledge construction. Students do not sit in rows but in groups around tables. Technology involved includes wireless projection.
  5. Next generation Learning Management System (LMS): A single system will not be able to meet all the future needs but will likely consist of a number of integrated applications.
  6. Learning Analytics and Integrated Planning and Advising Services (IPAS): Analytics for teaching and learning seeks to promote learner success by providing near real-time information to instructors and advisors, helping them build and sustain positive learner momentum.

As always with this type of list, it remains to be seen what will happen in each of these areas. From this list, I am happy to see the increasing awareness of OER. For some of the others, like Learning Analytics, there seems to be a great deal of discussion of potential, but little practical impact at the moment. I am still not convinced about the need for a next generation LMS, when so many academics still do not make use of many current LMS features. But my own research will definitely tie into trajectory 1 where I will be looking at how distance students use multiple devices for supporting their learning.