Archive for the ‘Open Learning’ Category

What is the discourse behind the Open Education Challenge

January 23rd, 2014 by Graham Attwell

I don’t know quite what to think about the Open Education Challenge. It is good that the European Commission is working to support start up companies in education and especially interesting to note the impressive list of people available to help mentor new start ups. However, 20 companies hardly represents a critical mass and secondly I am not sure that the trudging successful applicants for twelve weeks around “successive European cities: Barcelona, Paris, London, Berlin and Helsinki| is the best way to do things.

And although the project is running under the new EU Open Education strap line, it is a bit hard to see just what is open about it (apart from anyone can apply). Worrying is the language of the web site: Europe will be the leading education market for years to come. Is this just another step to using technology to privatise and marketise education? True the talk is of transforming education, not disrupting it. But i am not quite sure what they mean by “All projects are welcome; the only condition is that they must contribute to transforming education.”

I am much impressed with Martin Weller’s blog on the The dangerous appeal of the Silicon Valley narrative. He argues that the popular discourse around MOOCs  conforms to the silicon valley narrative, proposing a revolution and disruption. He quotes Clay Shirky as saying  “Higher education is now being disrupted; our MP3 is the massive open online course (or MOOC)”. It also suggests that the commercial, external provider will be the force of change, stating that “and our Napster is Udacity, the education startup”. Martin Weller goes on to say MOOCs “were established as separate companies outside of higher education, thus providing interest around business models and potential profits by disrupting the sector. This heady mix proved too irresistible for many technology or education journalists.”

So where does the EU Open Education initiative fit in terms of different discourses. Is it a project aiming at opening up education and developing new pedagogies or is it a market orientated initiative aiming to develop the Silicon Valley discourse in Europe?

 

Radio goodness at Online Educa Berlin

November 26th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

It is nearly the end of November and time for Pontydysgu’s annual trip to Online Educa Berlin. And as usual, together with our friends form the University of Koblenz) we will be presenting our Internet Radio show, the Sounds of the Bazaar, live from the conference.

Sounds of the Bazaar will go out on Thursday 5th of December and Friday 6th December at 1100 – 1140 Central European Time. As usual we will present all the best from Online Educa, including interviews with speakers and participants and visitors and reflecting on this years developments and trends in the use of technology for learning.

There are different ways you can get involved. If you are coming to Online Educa we would love to interview you live on the show. Just email me Graham Attwell at graham10 [at] mac [dot] com telling me what you would like to talk about. Or come along to find us at our planning meeting from around 1400 on Wednesday 4th in the Marlene Bar. Or just turn up for the broadcast – once more by the Marlene Bar – and we will try to fit you in. If you aren’t lucky enough to be coming to the conference in Berlin, then be sure to tune into our programmes.

The address of our live stream is http://uk2.internet-radio.com:31022/live.m3u. Open this in your internet browser and it should stream from your MP3 player of choice (e.g. iTunes). And we will tell you how you can get in touch with us to ask your own questions or give us feedback on the broadcasts.

This year we have a special extra programme. RadioActive Europe is a European Commission funded project a pan-European Internet Radio platform, incorporating Web 2.0 functionality, linked to innovative community based pedagogies to address themes of employability, inclusion and active citizenship in an original and exciting way. Along with the project coordinators, the University of East London and the University of Koblenz, we will be presenting the project on the European Commission stand that Online Educa. As part of our presentation , we will, of course be broadcasting a live radio show. We will be talking live to the different project partners and exploring their work with different groups through RadioActive Europe. At the same time we will be featuring short clips from broadcasts for each of the project partner countries – in the UK, Germany, Portugal. Romania and Malta.

And once more we would love to hear from you. The programme will go out from 1215 to 1300 CET on Thursday 4th December from the EU stand at the conference. Once more if you are not able to be in Berlin tune onto the programme live. The address for the radio stream is http://uk2.internet-radio.com:31244/live.m3u.

If you cannot listen n live, podcasts from the programmes will be available on the RadioActive101 web site, the Pontydysgu web site and Online Educa following the conference.

Look forward to talking to you all – face to face or live on internet radio – next week.

 

 

New thoughts on Personal Learning Environments

November 19th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

One of the frustrations with the Personal Learning Environments conferences has been the time it has taken us to publish papers after the conference. This year we tied up with e_learning Papers who publish an electronic journal on the European Commission Open Education Europa portal. And I am delighted to say they have just published a special edition of the journal on PLEs, edited by Ilona Buchem and  Tapia Toskinen.

The foreword to the edition is included in full below together with links to the different papers.

“The proliferation of learning innovations such as personal devices, granular and distributed applications, services, and resources, requires the learner to develop his or her own strategies for managing the various information streams and tools to support learning. Such strategies are necessary not only in educational settings, but basically in any life situation which can become a moment or an episode of learning. Digital and non-digital building blocks can be individually combined by learners in their own Personal Learning Environment (PLEs).

More of an approach or strategy than a specific learning platform, a PLE is created by learners in the process of designing and organising their own learning, as opposed to following pre-arranged learning paths. In this way, PLEs are distinctly learner-centred and foster autonomous learning. PLEs are by no means isolated; they are interconnected in a digital ecosystem of media, tools and services. Instead of asking learners to navigate within one monolithic environment, PLEs act as a gateway to an open and connected learning experience. This approach marks a shift towards a model of learning in which learners draw connections from a pool of digital and non-digital building blocks, aggregating, mixing and combining them into unique constellations as part of learning.

While emphasizing the active role of a learner, the PLE approach implies that learning is not located in a specific time and place, but is an ongoing, ubiquitous and multi-episodic process. As PLEs allow the collocation of diverse learning activities, tools, and resources, contexts permeate and learning becomes connected. In this sense, PLEs challenge some dominant paradigms in education and in the traditional understanding of borders, be it in view of learning places, educational roles or institutional policies.

This special issue builds on the current PLE discussion and focuses on crossing the boundaries of learning contexts. It features some emerging practices, including the construction of PLEs as part of an augmented localised learning experience with mobile devices; PLEs as an approach to supporting learning through work practice; and using gamification and open badges as part of the PLE approach. The findings and insights of the articles in this issue demonstrate the rich contribution of the PLE approach to the opening up of education.”

Download Print Version

Articles

Personal Learning Environments in Smart Cities: Current Approaches and Future Scenarios
Author(s): Ilona Buchem, Mar Pérez-Sanagustín

A gamification framework to improve participation in social learning environments

Wales goes OER

September 19th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

There has been lots of interest today in the announcement that Wales has become one of the first nations to agree to make university course material publicly available so that academics do not have to create their lectures from scratch.

According the The Times Higher Education Supplement: “Vice-chancellors from the country’s eight universities were expected to commit from 19 September to the principles of the open educational resources movement, which makes materials freely available online.”

Also welcome is that the Welsh government is to fund workshops to help staff learn how to use the resources, to be hosted on institutional web servers but accessible through a portal.

However there do appear to be some limitations to the agreement. “It’s up to each university to determine what they want to make available,” Professor Mulholland explained. Some would give away “significant elements” of their courses, while others could give away “very little” in the beginning. Furthermore, the resources would consist “mostly lecture notes and course materials.”

In the fast changing context of higher education, a move to share e-learning content would be an even more welcome step.

Some thoughts about MOOCs

August 14th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

I’ve avoided writing  much about MOOCs lately. Not because I am not interested or because I don’ think MOOCs are important, but mainly because I have been overwhelmed by the deluge of announcements and developments, blog posts, studies and lets face it, just hype.

Some couple of weeks ago, I was invited to join a partnership for a tender application to the EU about MOOCs for web developers. So I have spent soem time looking rather more intensively at the literature and trying to make some sense of it. Here are a few observations.

Firstly are MOOCs really disrupting universities. I guess the answer is yes and no. The great majority of MOOCs are free, and despite emergent business models around for example, selling e books or charging for accreditation, there remains question marks over the business models for MOOCs. Of course if the purpose and structure of universities is to provide free and open higher education then this wouldn’t be so important. But in an era where university funding in many countries is increasingly reliant on fees, this does become a major issue.

However, I am by no means convinced that those signing up for MOOCs – and there are a lot of enrolments – are students who would have previously signed up for a fee bearing course. Instead I think the real phenomenon of MOOCs is that they show the massive pent up demand for education. Some of this is to learn new skills but I suspect many participants are just driven by personal interest. Indeed a study we undertook some six or seven years ago on the use of technology for learning in Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) (download book as PDF here), found that although few employers were aware of the potential, many employees were participating in job related on-line learning, more often through participation in communities, out of personal interest.I suspect that MOOCs should better be compared to community and adult education, rather than to university programmes. In some countries such as Germany face to face provision of community education is continuing to thrive, but in other countries like the UK the economic crisis and subsequent cuts in public expenditure have devastated provision.

We also found out through the SME study that most SME employees were not particularly concerned with accreditation and certification – indeed some told us that if the learning programme was to be assessed that would be a deterrent to their participation. So although it is often said that the lack of accreditation or credentialism other than certificates of participation is a problem for MOOCs I am far from convinced this is so.

A further much commented issue is the very high drop out rates – or non completion – on MOOC courses. Once more, I am unconvinced this is a major issue. I suspect that many MOOC curriculum designers may be underestimating the time it takes to properly participate in a course and that of course is a problem. But I suspect that many people are dropping in and out of courses, following the parts in which they are most interested. I suspect that large MOOC providers like edX and Coursera may change their design to provide shorter or unit based programmes.

There is nothing new in this of course. Curriculum designers have been providing modular or unit based courses for years, and despite the danger of incoherence, these have been largely successful. In our study of the use of technology in SMEs, we were surprised at the ability of learners to structure their own learning and to judge the level of learning resources that they needed.

The lack of feedback and support for learners through a MOOC may be a more serious issue. Of course this varies greatly, with cMOOC providers seeking to develop community peer support.  I think MOOC designers are going to have to rethink how support can best be developed in the future.

Many observers have pointed out that in reality there is nothing new about MOOCs and in a densely cited Wikipedia article on MOOCs traces their precursors back to the correspondence courses of the late 19th Century. And indeed, although there is considerable innovation in the original cMOOC design, many of the ‘mass produced; MOOCs show little different than online courses which have been available for some time. To that extent MOOCs may just mark the final coming of age of Technology Enhanced Education or whatever we choose to call it. Possibly the interest may reflect a younger generation who have grown up with Google and are used to managing their own learning to a greater or lesser extent through the web. Possibly it may also reflect more ubiquitous connectivity, the spread of mobile devises and the ease of producing, distributing and consuming video. Indeed perhaps most worrying is that many MOOCs retain the weakness of previous incarnations of online learning with little interactivity or social learning.

having said this, there are many flavours of MOOcs and I suspect that we will see more and very different models develop over the next year or so. Perhaps calling them all MOOcs is not particularly helpful and there have been many suggestions of different names of different varieties. Yet the term MOOC has seized public attention – or more prperly the attention of teh press. Incidentally, the fact that some of the more right wing news media are using MOOCs to announce the end of public education should not put us off; such pronouncements can be found with the advent of radio and television as well.

More important is the learner experience and here more work is needed on design rubrics and evaluation tools: data mining cannot provide sufficient feedback alone.

My own interest is in the potential of MOOCs for vocational and occupational learning, both initial training and perhaps more importantly continuing education and training. Here I think their are some significant challenges which I will write more of tomorrow.

 

Citing and valueing Open Data

July 2nd, 2013 by Graham Attwell

The academic world has. perhaps unsurprisingly, been somewhat slow to respond to the challenge of recognising different sources of knowledge. A little strangely, one important step in developing recognition of different forms of scholarly research and knowledge is the development and use of forms of citation.

Si in that regard it is encouraging to see the publication of “The Amsterdam Manifesto on Data Citation Principles.”

In the preface they state:

We wish to promote best practices in data citation to facilitate access to data sets and to enable attribution and reward for those who publish data. Through formal data citation, the contributions to science by those that share their data will be recognized and potentially rewarded. To that end, we propose that:

1. Data should be considered citable products of research.

2. Such data should be held in persistent public repositories.

3. If a publication is based on data not included with the article, those data should be cited in the publication.

4. A data citation in a publication should resemble a bibliographic citation and be located in the publication’s reference list.

5. Such a data citation should include a unique persistent identifier (a DataCite DOI recommended, or other persistent identifiers already in use within the community).

6. The identifier should resolve to a page that either provides direct access to the data or information concerning its accessibility. Ideally, that landing page should be machine-actionable to promote interoperability of the data.

7. If the data are available in different versions, the identifier should provide a method to access the previous or related versions.

8. Data citation should facilitate attribution of credit to all contributors

The Manifesto was created during the Beyond the PDF 2 Conference in Amsterdam in March 2013.

The original authors were Mercè Crosas, Todd Carpenter, David Shotton and Christine Borgman.

 

Open Education 2030

April 16th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

The Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) –part of the Joint Research Center of the European commission –  is calling upon experts and practitioners to come up with visionary papers and imaginative scenarios on how Open Education in 2030 in Europe might look with a major focus on Open Educational Resources and Practices, in different education sectors.

The foresight scenarios submitted can be normative or descriptive, idealistic or provocative, critical or imaginary, reflective or polemic, imaginative or concrete, comprehensive or selective, general or specific. They should be both inspiring and scientifically sound.

Submissions are free to choose any angle, subject, approach, but they say the future vision and/or scenario should address the key question of how Open Education in 2030 in Europe might look, and include the role of OER.

More details from the EU Europa website.

What might open learning mean in 2013?

January 7th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

A new year and it is time to return to the blog. I have been back in work for a week but bogged down with a project financial report. Anyway happy new year to everybody.

New year is traditionally the time bloggers make their predictions for the year ahead. There doesn’t appear to be anything startling in predictions for educational technology. As Stephen Downes says

I’m always thinking about the future of learning technology, even if I don’t write about it so much these days. This is partially because it has become a bit predictable. Learning will become more open and content cheaper and easier to produce – hence, the move to flips, MOOCs and son-of-flips-and-MOOCs will continue. Computer hardware will continue to outpace need, so we’ll see an increase in cloud and virtualization. Always-connected and mobile will continue to grow and increase capacity with LTE and processing power, so we’ll see always-on learning. And then of course there are the things that have happened in the past, which are the easiest to predict, things like 3D printing, gamification and analytics. All good. These are the easy predictions, and everyone is making them.

He goes on to make an interesting prediction that publishers will regain power from the move to HTML5 which is harder to use than previous mark up technologies. I am not so sure about this – there are a growing number of software development kits which may make HTML5 quite easy to use.

I also think the move towards open learning needs a bit of unpicking. Open could and should go way beyond higher education institutions offering MOOCs – be they of the c or x variant. Way more important for me is the potential for knowledge to be shared openly and to be applied in context. Always-connected and mobile moves learning out of the classroom and into the context in which both knowledge might be acquired practically and at the same time applied. And if learning analytics could be extended beyond its present institutional focus to look at real life learning there is the potential to merge learning and knowledge development as well as formal and informal learning and develop a whole new ecosystem of learning. That is my hope and my prediction for 2013.

Seven things we have learned about MOOCs

November 11th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

With the explosion of interest in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), both in numbers of courses and students, and in press reporting on the rise of MOOCs, it is worth thinking about the significance of all this. Here is a short version of five things that we have learned – a longer version (possibly) to follow.

  1. There is a huge pent up demand for education. MOOCs provide free and flexible access tot hose who could not previously take part in education. That includes not only from poorer countries with a limited education infrastructure but also from rich countries. And whilst some of the demand my be due to people wishing to improve their qualification, for many others the main motivation is personal interest.
  2. After a long period when Technology Enhanced Learning was seen as a supplement to traditional systems or as only for more technologically confident learners, Technology Enhanced Learning is now part of the mainstream and for many learners may be the mode or context of learning of choice.
  3. Education is now a global industry. National borders are no longer a barrier to participation in on-line courses and universities are being forced into international alliances to deliver courses to a global student body. At the same time, investors see Technology Enhanced Learning as an opportunity to develop new markets and are pumping money in accordingly.
  4. There does not seem to be any confidence about what the future financial market is for MOOCs. Some institutional managers see it as an way of recruiting more paying students to their university, others talk of a future market in selling accreditation.
  5. The new so called X-MOOCs such as Udacity or Coursera offer little in terms of new or radical pedagogies. Instead they rely on relatively well established approaches to online learning. However, they may reflect the growing experience in developing online courses and the reduced cost and ease of production of videos and, for students, the ease of access through ubiquitous connectivity.
  6. MOOCs are disruptive to the traditional university model. However such disruption may be more from globalisation and the financial crisis than from the introduction of new technologies per se.
  7. Innovation comes from outside the institutions. Despite being ignored in the popular press, MOOCs were developed and pioneered by people such as Stephen Downes, George Siemens and Dave Cormier (See Stephen Downes’ MOOC blog for more). The so called c (connectivist) MOOCs were far more innovative in pedagogic approaches but the idea was taken over and adapted by the mainstream institutions once they had proved their viability and attraction.

 

 

Disruptive Education

October 29th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Last Friday, Fred Garnett and I made presentations to the weekly virtual Teaching and Learning Conversations (TLC) organised by Cristina Costa and Chrissie Nerantzi from Salford University. The title of the conversation, which took place on the Blackboard Collaborate platform, was disruptive education.

Fred lives in London and I was also in London for meetings, so we decided to meet up at the Westminster Hub (more on that later this week). And it was great fun! Fred and me both shared our presentations and so it evolved into a genuine conversation. I don’t know about the others, but i learned a lot (including that there is nothing like face to face proximity for a real conversation. We both agreed that globalisation is probably more disruptive to educatio0n at the moment than the introduction of new technologies, which are only an enabling factor.

I will post my slides tomorrow (and a link to the recording which seems to be broken at the moment). Here are Fred’s slides – slightly changed after the session. I especially like his distinction between disruption applied to education, which he says needs

  • new distance learning resources
  • new business models
  • globalisation
  • competition
  • capitalism
  • You!

and disruption applied to learning, which needs:

  • critical pedagogies
  • new collaborations
  • human-scale
  • Per to peer
  • social
  • Us!
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    News Bites

    Digital Literacy

    A National Survey fin Wales in 2017-18 showed that 15% of adults (aged 16 and over) in Wales do not regularly use the internet. However, this figure is much higher (26%) amongst people with a limiting long-standing illness, disability or infirmity.

    A new Welsh Government programme has been launched which will work with organisations across Wales, in order to help people increase their confidence using digital technology, with the aim of helping them improve and manage their health and well-being.

    Digital Communities Wales: Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being, follows on from the initial Digital Communities Wales (DCW) programme which enabled 62,500 people to reap the benefits of going online in the last two years.

    See here for more information


    Zero Hours Contracts

    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

    Separate figures that only look at the number of people who are employed on “atypical” academic contracts (such as people working on projects) show that 23 per cent of them, or just over 16,000, had a zero-hours contract.


    Resistance decreases over time

    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time


    Postgrad pressure

    Research published this year by Vitae and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and reported by the Guardian highlights the pressure on post graduate students.

    “They might suffer anxiety about whether they deserve their place at university,” says Sally Wilson, who led IES’s contribution to the research. “Postgraduates can feel as though they are in a vacuum. They don’t know how to structure their time. Many felt they didn’t get support from their supervisor.”

    Taught students tend to fare better than researchers – they enjoy more structure and contact, says Sian Duffin, student support manager at Arden University. But she believes anxiety is on the rise. “The pressure to gain distinction grades is immense,” she says. “Fear of failure can lead to perfectionism, anxiety and depression.”


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