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Canadian Open Education

What’s missing in Canada is a national education focus. The option of leaving all issues regarding education in the provinces needs to shift, and our leaders in Ottawa need to make a priority of getting involved. Funding  and clear direction need to be added to the models that are already in place. Our system is not bad, but it does not represent the kind of global leadership required in what many call a global knowledge economy. Open Education, ensuring that as many adults that want to learn have opportunities and support to do so, must become a well-funded and expert-focused national priority if Canada is to remain a global success story. There is never, none, not ever, a downside to ensuring the highest possible quality education to the largest number of employable adults in a nation. The return on investment is fully, completely, widely assured in every case. It’s simple math. The playing field must be completely levelled for every person who faces a barrier to learning more about something they’re good at and turning that in to a livelihood that supports them and their families. No person should be denied this opportunity because provincial, fiscal, or physical barriers are in their way. Do we want a nation of well-educated workers and community members who understand fully the value of the support and leadership of their government? Do we? Guess what, through the current global open education movement, an enormous opportunity has been delivered to our doorstep. As a nation, we must not let this opportunity pass us by. Our equivalent of the U.S. Department of Education must be formed, and the foundational support of Canadian organizations similar to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation must step up and help fund those with strong capabilities and vision to develop and deliver a Canada-wide, open education system that invites and delights in exploring the communication and education capabilities that the internet and internet-enabled education support institutions can deliver. This must be done specifically with Canadian values and the uniquely Canadian focus that will serve our people best. As I get ready to begin a Doctor of Education program here in Canada by Distance. I can assure you, I know what my focus will be. Who’s willing to go forward with me?


#oped12 #cfhe12 Google Scholar search, amazing results!

Module 5 Scholarship II

Following on Dr. Siemens’ activity for this week in Openness in Education, I did a Google and Google Scholar search on all 9 FT faculty at the Centre for Distance Education at Athabasca. Some interesting things arose.

I searched my own name just for kicks and realize I’m not doing my due diligence in either open publishing or Google profiling. Will try harder! I got 2 accurate hits in Google Scholar, 2 non-starters.

In all cases, within Google Scholar, clicking on an article of interest leads to one of two things, a barrier to reading it (such as its inclusion in a secure journal, or it’s availability as a purchasable product) or the opportunity to begin reading because it has been posted for everyone’s (that is every privileged one with access to the Internet’s) benefit. I prefer the latter. Barriers are frustrating.

As a graduate student, I have access to a rich library at Athabasca that includes many of the articles listed in Google Scholar, so these barriers are not significant for me. However, I still prefer, from a values perspective to read and link and explore artifacts that are open. It pleases me that others who don’t have my student access can see them and benefit from them. I will endeavour in all that I do to publish openly.

What really, really stood out for me in this mini-exercise was the exceptional disparity between males and females in a Google Scholar context for this group, FT Faculty at CDE. There are six men and three women in the list, already a disparity. The number of artifacts was 6,991 for men, 129 for women. Even if one were to sift through and determine which artifacts are truly attributable to their authors, and truly open access, there would still be an exceptional and terrible difference in output and availability. The question is, what are women scholars going to take away from this unintended discovery?

Can’t write more, have to get busy 🙂

MOOCs, Hang on a Second…#oped12 #cfhe12

At my institution, my team and I have prepared several presentations about MOOCs, to inform and support curiosity about what they are, why they’re getting so much press. And it’s possible the unspoken question is, why, as an institution, aren’t we doing this? Why aren’t we this cool?

An educated guess, and I think I can make one as part of an online learning development team, of what’s going on supposes that those who are “doing it” may have several things going for them. First, some of them happen to have super professors in their MIT, Stanford, Harvard, and elite private institutional pockets. And what I mean by a super professor is someone considered the top researcher in their discipline, who has won multiple research awards, teaching awards, and has grant money, institutional support, and teams of graduate assistants. That’s a promising start to developing a course that might engage tens of thousands of learners.

Next, these course leaders are, for the most part, exceptional presenters, on camera and off. After that, they either possess exceptional educational technology skills, or have someone on their course team who does. They likely have one or more online instructional designers on their team whose advice they actually take. And lastly, they have received, and are taking advice on the use that social media represents in a learning context, as a supplement to the learning management systems they’re using to deliver MOOCs. If you’re at a non-elite, budget conscious University, whose faculty have not embraced online learning yet as a valid methodology, can you compete with this model?

Many of the institutions supporting and contributing to the emerging MOOC providers (Coursera, Udacity, and edX, to name the leaders at the moment) may believe that the millions of dollars in research and course support they’re pouring in to these courses will come back to them in improved institutional reputation and somehow, in a revenue model as yet to emerge. If media coverage and learner interest is any kind of bell weather for this, they have been extremely successful in their bet. Both the institutions and the providers claim to be offering the work of their highly valued faculty as part of a shift to global values of low-cost, high quality education for the masses. This remains to be seen. I do not doubt the sincerity of some in what I will call the current MOOC game, but the millions of dollars in support and investment for providers makes me uncertain. Entrepreneurship is almost never rooted in not-for-profit values. Am I wrong about this? I can see how, if you have 10,000 learners all paying $50, that education in this mode could be low-cost for the learners, and potentially medium to high profit for the provider. Can it also be high quality? Are we willing to toss out what we know about human learning theory at this moment? Mainly that human learning is best conducted with expert guidance and support, in small groups where tasks are modelled and practiced in an immersive, experiential environment, where meaningful feedback is provided, and where learners are leaders and participants in equal measure. There are many, many unknowns at this moment.

There are some very authentic, and somewhat less famous MOOC developers and deliverers, such as George Siemens, Rory McGreal and Stephen Downes who have a strong following, yet they are not embracing the hype and model that Coursera, Udacity and edX are promoting. Why? They are very cool, and have likely received an invitation to dance at the ball. Why not simply join?

I believe it’s because, high quality teaching and learning and truly open access matter to them. Researching and developing a truly new way of teaching and learning that extends the maximum support, modelling and facilitation of networked and connected learning communities to learners, so that these learners can achieve their personal and professional goals, is what matters most to them. They are card-carrying members of Open Education Resource movements, the OpenCourseWare Consortium and other radical groups like UNESCO. It is this model that public institutions who truly value open access for as many students as possible should be looking at, and asking, why aren’t we doing this? Why aren’t we this cool?

Food for thought in the crazy fray.

Homework for #cfhe12 (may also reference #oped12)

#cfhe12 Learning Activities Week 2

  1. Map what you are hearing to your institutional context. What parts are relevant to your institution?
  2. What might be your role in moving your school to a new model?
  3. Write a dialog/argument you would make to sell the administration on the idea of moving to a new model

In answer to question 1, many of the things that I’m hearing and reading right now about technology-enhanced, blended and online learning methods map to my institution. Collectively let’s just name these delivery method variations TEL (Technology-enhanced Learning). My institution has embraced distance education and TEL as part of the continuing education school for the past ten years. However, the main campus (the day school as it is sometimes called) has rarely approached TEL delivery methods. There are some amazing departmental exceptions, Disability Studies for example, but overall, it’s a new institutional path.

It’s pointless at this crossroads in our institutional evolution to point fingers and say that it’s faculty resistance, lack of leadership, lack of technologic vision or the academic silo effect that has kept us from approaching TEL, it doesn’t matter what’s been in our way, it’s simply time to move forward. It’s vital that we begin to thoroughly investigate emerging possibilities and form a strategic TEL plan that satisfies all stakeholders (learners, faculty, administrators and staff) as a collaborative venture. I believe the future success of our institution, and of the learners who approach us, depends on our ability to do this.

A few things have shifted in the educational landscape in Ontario and globally that are bringing TEL to the attention of senior administrators. They are starting to research what’s happening around the institution and in the world. MOOCs and the exceptional media hype around them are one influencing factor, a provincial call for increased access to higher education for Ontario residents, easily transferred credits across institutions, and suggestions to increase the speed at which learners can graduate are others. Kudos to administrators, faculty and staff at this time, many positive things are happening in response to these influences.

In my role, to address question 2, as an online instructional designer, I hope to listen to the needs of instructors (subject matter experts) and their learners, and help educate, train, and influence instructor and learner satisfaction with TEL. In my work, I advocate for andragogy first, technology second, and recommend research-based, effective practices in the development of engaging, interactive, rich learning environments. The aim of the TEL courses is to be collaborative ventures between instructors and learners. Every day I learn something new from subject matter experts about their discipline and their learners that improves my ability to support and advise. Every day I come up against barriers and constraints to success in these ideals, the technology, the failings of technology, the learning management system, the content management system, outdated attitudes, my own closed mind, timelines, student feedback, lack of resources. Nothing new in barriers and constraints, all institutions and practitioners in TEL are up against them.

Why? because TEL is exceptionally new. Not more than ten to fifteen years have passed in large-scale use of the Internet as a learning environment. Significant change to education systems that have been in place for centuries is going to take somewhat longer than fifteen years. Research is there, but there’s not enough to begin to approach an agreed-upon model for TEL. We’re experimenting, let’s be frank, however, we have a rich history of research on how humans learn effectively, now is the time to really apply it.

In support of the wider university moving to a new model, I hope to lead from within and have a part in the overall conversation. I look forward to listening to all of the amazing perspectives and creative thinking that I know live with all of the real people who contribute to the learning community (I’d rather consider it a learning community than an institution, it sounds nicer).

Warning: While I feel very passionately about these things, I don’t take myself too seriously. Clearly this is a soapbox moment, but I believe I’m walking the walk of it. Most of you taking this course are likely to be as well. Shared values create amazing power.

My dialogue to entice administration to move to a new model sounds like this…

The needs of learners, and learners themselves, are changing, significantly and rapidly. As a caring, public learning community, invested in learner success, we must consider responding to their changing needs, rather than clinging to what may be, in our view, tried and true, comfortable educational practices. We need to lead by example, be innovative, and unafraid to make mistakes. We will make mistakes, and the larger, louder, and more transparent, the better. Making mistakes is one of the ways we learn well, and often how human knowledge advances.

Creative thinking and willingness to modify and adapt are attributes that have served humans for millennia. Let’s all go out on a limb, learners, faculty, administrators and staff, together, and take a chance that we have every possibility and every tool we need for success. If we truly collaborate, and if we select leaders and advisors who understand the landscape and transformation, we will succeed.

Within our communities, our city, our provinces, and our nation, we reside within economies that are unhealthy and may not fully recover in our lifetime. Our response to these realities must be to become more open, rather than closed. To learn, to share our knowledge, to be innovative, to support learner needs and ensure that everyone within our sphere of influence, whatever their abilities, can acquire the skills they need to develop livelihoods. Technology presents unprecedented opportunities for communication among people who wish to teach and to learn, let’s be certain we’re having conversations, listening to needs and taking action.

Article sent to my by a colleague today

Dr Stefan Popenici describes several issues in current higher education thinking and links to several good articles on a wide variety of topics. His main point, that MOOCs are not in any way saviours for universities under pressure to appear innovative and open, points to an important point that “fear of missing out” should not be a driving factor in strategy or policy. I also very much enjoyed the point to the article on the “MOOCs and the McDonaldization of Higher Education” The article is possibly too wide, but for me, the key segment was here, about connected vision and real strategy formation…

“Moreover, the great online shift is leaving behind the model of a University where experts that are teaching classes organize access to universal knowledge. Knowledge will be even more easily available for students and few remaining dynamic universities will focus on research and advancement of knowledge. These will actively seek to create alliances and networks of collaboration for research and production of knowledge rather than teaching and mass production. This will be a platform for dialogue and innovation, in socially and regionally engaged and globally embedded forms of collaboration and generation of knowledge.”

Openness in Education MOOC #oped12

ImageHello, welcome to my blog, in a sea of blogs about online learning, information dissemination, openness in education. I’m currently participating (albeit a late starter) in a massive, open, online course offered by Drs. Rory McGreal and George Siemens. It can be found here

I am an instructional designer and researcher, working on M.Ed. at Athabasca University. I look forward to sharing some of my findings and cool stuff I’ve seen and learned.