World Conference in Online Learning - Opening Plenary
Two short stories about pedagogy:
1. There have been protests recently in South African universities. Interestingly, some of these have been about pedagogy. They demanded, among other things, that all lectures should be recorded, and that a tutoring system should be put in place in all courses.
2. A formal course in the engineering faculty, where the standard pedagogy has shifted from one-to-many to a collaborative teaching style, even to the point where students are taken to the actual places where the teaching is applied, and practitioners in the community are taking part in the teaching. So the teachers are not the only authorities.
Pedagogy happens at the activity and course level, but changes in pedagogy ripple across the system. Changes in pedagogy impact practices, and change culture and relationships, and lead to profound changes in universities themselves. Changes include distance, diversity, inclusion of new participants. Students are also calling for curriculum to be decolonized, calling for a rethink in how knowledge is shared. It’s not about knowledge transfer, it’s about co-construction of knowledge.
Two key points about pedagogical change:
1. They are highly emotive
2. They are deeply political
Change is often about unlearning, relearning. The changes in pedagogy happening offline are being reflected online. Online, the experience can be alienating or engaging, empowering or disempowering. These are the challenges faced by learning designers. Commitment to care, commitment and inclusion is essential. It requires talking about politics and about power.
It highlights student agency and the different ways this play out. The concept of students as customers contrasts with the concept of student as citizens. Who is the student? Which student? Who is heard? Students don’t have one voice.
The role of the educator is also under scrutiny. Partners are being brought in from anywhere in the world. It opens the possibility for service learning an social responsibility. The role is shifting to ‘guide on the side’ - but there are dangers in the current age of anti-intellectualism.
In short, the online shakes up the power dynamics of the classroom, potentially empowering, and potentially exclusionaly. How are these power dynamics as teaching moves online. And what is the student experience like, and what ae the implications?
Asha S. Kanwar
Short intro about the Commonwealth of Learning. CoL believes that learning is essential to sustainable development. We focus on people at the bottom of the pyramid. How do we think of teaching online where no one is left behind.
Expanding Access, Openness and Flexibility
First point: Access - for whom? Only 8 percent in sub-Sahara Africa has access to tertiary government. South Asia is 23 percent. How do we get there. The world has agreed on sustainable development goals - goal 4 calls for sustainable and inclusive education.
There is evidence that the participation of women is increasing not only in OECD countries but also in developing countries. Affordability is the key barrier to access to education. Indicators related to poverty are far greater than those related to gender. People with disabilities are also disadvantaged. This conference is a platform for all of us to come up with ideas and better solutions.
Second point: can openness improve access. Even in the US, 40 percept of people report they drop a course because of the high cost of textbooks. One of the key benefits of using OER is to lower the cost of education.
But many institutions are reluctant to embrace this. Why? Is it because institutions don’t have the autonomy to do this? Only 8 of 40 countries gave institutions full autonomy. Most developing countries have centralized systems of education that do not allow openness.
Third: flexibility. 1986: Desmond Keegan said many universities are inflexible and slow to change to meet community needs. Are we more flexible today? Even in the US, 20% of people are without broadband. But access to broadband is very low in eg. Africa. Wireless appears to be the answer. But is wireless broadband the answer? It can cost as much as 50 percent of a family’s income. And women are less likely to own a phone in some countries.
Given all this, can online learning reach the unreached? Can it be resource neutral? Examples of things like tablets, wireless, solar charging, etc.
1. equity and inclusion won’t happen by themselves
2. Institutions will need to embrace openness
3. Technology by itself does not increase access
Yes I’m from the US, and we’ve had some challenges recently, but that’s not what I will talk about.
Changing Models of Assessment
We’re facing really challenges in helping people become successful. It is indicated by incolme. We’re facing post-traumatic assessment disorder. They’re pushing assessment on us, both tests, also learning analytics are pushing us this way.
Consider: who the learners are. 20 years ago we had a pretty good understanding. Only 20% were ‘non-traditional’. Now that has flipped; most are now non-traditional. Our last report looked at part time students. If we look at the data, we will not be successful unless we serve non-traitional and part time students. People are not focusing on part time students because their reporting forces them to focus on full time. Where institutions focus on them achievement is just as good, but where they don’t, there’s a 30 point gap.
What is the role of assessment in how we learn. They’re linked to time-based models of learning. We now know that this is radically inefficient. So we’re seeing an increase in competency-based learning. Western Governors University does this; 20 years ago it was a radical idea. But this has been really challenging to traditional higher ed. But also looking at the affective domain of learning - how you feel about it, what’s the best way to learn (Siemens, Thiel).
Finally, the question is about why students succeed and what’s their biggest challenge. The biggest challenge is academic. Colleges are losing more students above 2.0 than below 2.0. 40-45% were between 3.0-4.0 - high achievement students. Students leave for a family reasons - some academic, but also psycho-social reasons, life and logistics. We have different kinds of learners and we need different kinds of models.
In all three of these areas, these are things we thought we knew, but the data show us this isn’t necessarily true. We have to focus on policy change and practice change in each of these three areas. We have to have assessment and reporting regimes that allow us to actually look at these different students. What we’ve seen is we can get personalized pathway information for students, we can help them stay. The right message at the right toime to encourage students makes all the difference. Students should be captains of their own ship - if they can look at the data they can at least help in their own rescue.
Where we’ve been: not so long ago we became excited about the entry of an overhead projector. Or a whiteboard. And the ability to use these technologies was almost unlimited. Soon the world shifted and we were able to shift everything into PowerPoint. But for the first time this included more thn just the educator: it included IT. Also, not all of us could maximize the potential of this new tool.
New Delivery Tools and Resources for Learning
We are also talking about limiting cellphones and shutting down wifi so students would be distracted. At the same time in distance learning came the emergence of online courses. The telephone was no longer primary; it would be supplemented by email. But again, we had more difficulty maximizing these tools. An we were forced to ask questions we had not asked before, eg. What is the role of content. Or, how etexts were not just digital versions of the text.
The change continues. We master one technology just as the next is beginning to be pushed into our environment. We embrace technologies we used to try to keep at bay. We see ourselves pulling from multiple industries - gaming, AR, deep learning, AI. Today natural language tech can simultaneously translates texts. People from around the world can feel like they’re in the same room. Or or phone can make us feel like we’re in a Socratic debate.
In all this, open and distance education institutions have taken it upon themselves to lead the way. But at the same time, we’re seeing the increasing commodification of information. People looking for knowledge need not look to a university; they just use Google. We’re lokking at calls for inclusive access to learning with rapid shifts in demographics. Increasing calls for accountability.
We need to do a double duty: asing not only questions others ask, but also questions others do not. Eg., does the technology improve outcomes? Does it increase learner success? How can we maximize its utility? We need to be looking at the future while other institutions adopt the approaches we have been pioneering for 50 years. We can test our assumptions about shifting roles, how learning is defined, how learners can become partners in both 4 year degrees or lifelong learning.
What is the role for an open university in the age of online higher education? Is it to test , adopt, and even drop techs at faster speeds? To have an ever-present readiness for what comes next. There’s no instruction manual for this.
Image: the boiling frog. People have been waiting for higher ed to change since I’ve been about 4. We’re seeing lots of pockets of innovation, but very rarely in the same place at the same time. I have five comments to make:
Redefining Existing University Business Models
1. Institutions are rethinking their value proposition, partially because they are being asked to, partially because of market forces. Some are succeeding, but others are struggling financially and ideologically. Eg. 22 UK universities rely on student fees for over 65% of their income, and Brexit really worries them. Part of these value propositions have to do with part time students, flexible credentials
2. Reimagining business processes. Some to do with analytics, but we’re also seeing unbundling going on. Eg. Kentucky has a system of on-demand credentials, where 365 days a year you can start short term short courses for stackable microcredentials. There are MOOCs and OERs. Also blockchain.
3. The changes in learning supports. Eg. Peer-to-peer review, assessment, support mechanisms. New forms of assessment. There’s lots more use of analytics to help students progress and the use of AI for student support services. Eg. Case in Georgia Tech where ‘Jill Watson’ bot fooled the students.
4. The hyper-scaling of platforms for global reach is happening. In 2016 56 million people registered for a MOOC. This is a lot. This is a big deal MOOCs are dead? Really? They’re not dead; they’re different. The business model might not work for some providers. But they are being adapted and can be used to create credentials. We have a growing number of transnational credentialing systems. Small nations of the Commonwealth, OERu, etc.
5. Most institutions are seeking out and trying to secure new markets. For example, seniors - this is the wealthiest generation of seniors ever. There’s a strong focus on some specific groups: eg., girls and women, the education of boys (esp. where they are withdrawing from students). There’s also the focus on STEM and coding (not really the future - the future is creativity).
These models face a number of constraints. One is austerity, which is getting worse. Another is the mistaken neoliberal idea that competition is better than cooperation. Also issues around accountability, quality assurance, and leadership.
In this conference there are sessions about the future, which I encourage you to attend.
Finally: what are the implications for faculty? And second, isn’t collaboration better than competition for our future?