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Showing posts from 2016

Agile course design and development: Dam[n]ing the waterfall

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In my previous role I was responsible for the development of distance education courses in an institution exploiting Agile project management for its software development work. Note the capital 'A'; this was Agile as a noun, not as an adverb! Before I left, we had several important internal conversations about how Agile methodologies might apply to course design and development across what was a classically industrialised process. At the time we were working within the Scrum methodology, and we had successfully experimented with scrums, t-shirt-sizing and regular stand ups within our existing course development workflows.

 In my current role I've maintained this interest in how Agile might be applied to course design and development. Module design here at the Open University continues to partner academics with TEL, editing, media development and project specialists. The multiple people involved lends things nicely to a team-based Agile approach.

Both Open Polytechnic and th…

EDEN Research Workshop #9: Day Two

The day began with a series of back-to-back keynotes; livestream here. Keynotes were all excellent and drew from their existing work:
Paul Prinsloo's "The Increasing (Im)Possibilities of Justice and Care in Oopen, Distance Learning" drew on his and colleagues' IRRODL work Educational Triage in Open Distance Learning: Walking a Moral Tightrope and Big(ger) Data as Better Data in Open Distance Learning. Isa Jahnke's "Studying Learning Expeditions in Cross Action Spaces with Digital Didactical Designs" from her book Digital Didactical Designs: Teaching and Learning in CrossActionSpaces. Looks so good I bought it from Amazon... George Veletsianos's "A Scholarly Life Online" drew from his own web site's scholar's use of social media (also, his keynote slides here).  The first parallel session I attended was excellent, with two presentations. Kristie Naidoo from UNISA gave a presentation called "Integration of Learning Analytics in B…

EDEN Research Workshop #9: Oldenburg, Germany

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Yes, another conference! I attended the EDEN Research Workshop mainly in my capacity as an Executive Member of EDEN, which is not to underplay the significance or relevance of the event to my work.

And yes, Oldenburg is lovely.

Day One
The opening keynotes from Inge de Waard, Olaf Zawacki-Richter and Som Naidu were followed by a welcome from Otto Peters (yes, THE Otto Peters - one of the theorists who shaped my understanding of distance education at the foundational level).

Inge spoke from her research into lifelong learning and student-centredness. Her keynote "Self-determined Learning: Lifelong Learning in an Open Range or Fenced Land?" referred somewhat to some of her earlier work. Inge emphasised the importance of academics finding their voice; one key question she raised was, "Do all citizens, from birth, have the agency to self-determine their lifelong learning?"

Olaf and Som presented based on their recent paper, "Mapping research trends from 35 years o…

BERA 2016

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Research, research, research! If there's one thing I've enjoyed most about BERA 2016 it's been the clear focus on serious and rigorous research, right across the educational spectrum. This year was my first BERA, and I'll be prioritising it from here on as one to attend.

The format was especially new to me. Less plenaries and many streams meant a lot of travel across the Leeds University campus. The breadth of options gave new meaning to the term 'multiple choice'! Sessions were generally excellent and thought-provoking. Sadly, I am unable to link to the abstracts of the sessions identified below. I do find it surprising that abstracts are not made publicly available! I'll limit myself to those presentations that I personally found noteworthy.

Day One
The first presentation I attended was Kate Litherland's Sustainability in technologies for higher education - a review of the literature. Kate's presentation was a highlight for me, as it drew attention…

Using Facebook in HE: An OU case study

Open Learning has released an early online article, "The use of Facebook to build a community for distance learning students: a case study from the Open University". I've long wrestled with the concept of using social media in formal HE for a variety of reasons - but the format proposed by Callaghan and Fribbance works. I suspect their successful use of Facebook is based on three main characteristics:

It's purposeful, and facilitated. It's optional. It's cross-programme, rather than intra-module (adding variety and scale). 
The authors concludes that "Using everyday technology to connect with students, remind them of sources of informal learning and nudge them to think about contemporary social science issues in a critical way, the Faculty Page would appear to make a contribution to overcoming isolation and creating an academic community". Their work is certainly proof-of-concept; as the authors add, however, more research as to the benefits of such …

ALT-C Reflections: Days Two and Three

Day Two of ALT-C began with something quite unexpected (I suppose I should have read the online bio...) Ian Livingstone! THE Ian Livingstone! His keynote, "Code Create Collaboration" was one of the conferences highlights. There is far too much in what Ian said to be neatly summarised; his keynote was inspiring, nostalgic, challenging, contemporary and very insightful. It is well worth watching in its own right.

The first stream of Day Two consisted of five(!) sessions back to back, each 15 minutes' presentation and five minutes' Q&A. The parallel consisted of Embedding digital identity and employability in the HE curriculum: a case study, which reported on the development of Jisc's Viewpoint cardsPutting the learner in control: creating a more user friendly video tutorial, which demonstrated a very effective use of Captivate, using a format of intro (read first), demo (learn how), and practice (have a go) using step-by-step clips; Different aspects of the e…

ALT-C reflections: Day One

ALT-C 2016 is my second ALT, though I'm more likely to be able to remember this one. I was in Manchster for ALT-C 2007, and can mainly recall jet lag. I went fresh(?) from a 24-hour series of flights directly into the first session. I overcame my jet lag the day after the conference, just in time to board for my return to New Zealand. This year's one-hour drive up the A5 was so much better!

The day started with a warm welcome from the conveners, then it was straight in to Josie Fraser's keynote: "In the valley of the trolls". It was interesting and disturbing to be introduced to the tragic tale of TayTweets (overview from Wikipediahere, here and here). Josie's keynote was an unexpected one for me, though its topic quickly became relevant and it generated a lot of debate and discussion among delegates (which is always a sign of keynote success). One interesting comment from a colleague was whether Tay's sad demise was the result of multiple trolls (herd …

IWB: Innovative Work Behaviour

A colleague recently steered me toward de Jong and Hartog's 2008 Innovative Work Behavior: Measurement and Validation, available here. The article describes development of an instrument for measuring IWB.
Critically, and most helpfully, the authors propose four dimensions contributing to innovation outcomes:
Opportunity exploration. Idea generation. Championing. Application.
These four dimensions serve to better flesh out the concept of innovation itself. Frequently, innovation platforms are obsessed with the first and the second, under the mistaken belief that good ideas sell themselves.
I cannot help thinking that a fifth element is also critical, one that more logically links the second and third elements together:
Proof of concept
It could be, though, that de Jong & Hartog are suggesting their four dimensions relate to getting an idea even to the proof of concept stage (with the proof of concept equated to implementation). The authors are, after all, concerned with individ…

The value of a collaborative, mapped learning design

The Institute of Educational Technology (IET) at the OU is a core source for innovation and research for higher education. Its work in learning design is particularly noteworthy, and was on my radar well before I started with the OU.  

Collaboration via planning activities, based on evidence, are key to the OU model for learning design. An effective design emphasises student activities aligned with overall learning objectives, appropriately paced and varied. The planning events also give a structured opportunity for good practices to be harnessed across new modules.

In the latest research article on the subject of learning design at the OU, Toetenel and Rienties demonstrate how a structured approach to learning design decisions results in a richer and less assimilative module for students:http://bit.ly/2bYUOYm.

I've long believed in the value of a collaborative approach to what I've come to know as educational design . Learning design professionals, working alongside faculty…

Making money from MOOCs

An interesting, and brief story here on the subject of Coursera's new course format. Note in particular the first comment:
"So much for the democratization of information, guess Coursera's investors have finally demanded their money back. Oh well least we still have edX." And, further news as the democratisation of online education starts to unravel in at least one online service (Udemy).

As I've mentioned before, "my own view is that if MOOCs do actually survive the next few years it will be because they have morphed to become what we already know about effective distance education, done online". MOOCs were the wrong starting point for online education, and if indeed "investors [are] finally demanded their money back" from the privately-funded Coursera this may well be the beginning of the unravelling. It's not easy to depart from free, particularly with a vast alternative supply available.

I'm not optimistic about the University of L…

EDEN reflection: Back to the future?

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I enjoyed the recent EDEN 2016 conference in Budapest immensely. It was great to connect with European ODL professionals, and an honour to be elected to the Executive Committee. As with all conferences, EDEN brought together a variety of perspectives and presentations that stimulate, inspire, and sometimes frustrate. Stimulation, inspiration and frustration are, for me, the hallmarks of an effective event! The place where these overlap provides a wonderful starting point for reflection.

EDEN was also a wonderful opportunity to catch up with the “who’s who” of the ODL world and, of course, to sight-see the beautiful Budapest!



No single photo could do this vibrant and picturesque city justice, least of all any of mine! So, back to the conference.

Firstly, there was plenty to stimulate. Keynotes were very thought-provoking, and the various parallel sessions I intended were extremely worthwhile.

There were (for me) two specific frustrations in the perspectives shared.

One of the key issues…

Reading from the screen: Good for education?

A conference paper by Geoff Kaufman (Carnegie Mellon University) and Mary Flanagan (Dartmouth College) called “High-low split: Divergent cognitive construal levels triggered by digital and non-digital platforms” (PDF available) has had some coverage [Science Daily] [Psychology Today] [PC Magazine]. The studies published in the paper compared levels of construal (perception and comprehension, or ‘gist’) of subjects reading the same matter from print, and a screen in an RCT (Randomised Control Trial).

There were four studies, each comparing performance in digital and print formats, as follows:

One: Completing the same survey (Behaviour Identification Form)
Seventy-seven participants (average age of 24.2 years), completing the same survey either on an iPad 2 or in print. After being randomly placed in the iPad or print groups, subjects completed survey testing their use of abstract and concrete descriptions of various behaviours and events. Care was taken to provide the same size text and…

3D virtual lab for science education

Inspired by this:

http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_bodekaer_this_virtual_lab_will_revolutionize_science_class

I sincerely hope this does, in fact, revolutionize science class. The statistics mentioned in the clip alone make pursuit of this worthwhile.

And, it's cost-effective: http://web.labster.com/

My team's currently playing with Gear VR; take my word for it, it's absolutely awesome. Labster is available for other formats (including PC, iPad, Mac), but it's the £400 Gear + Galaxy combo that looks to unlock it as an engaging and immersive experience.

Awesome. Thoughtful and proven... and, like all good innovations, perfectly obvious when you think about it! An excellent example of how a resource-based approach to education can unlock scalability, exploration, and impressive outcomes.

Innovation #3: Pit stops then and now

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In innovation it's tempting to focus just on one factor. In education, the overwhelming focus tends to be that of technology. But technology is just one part of the story. Consider how pit stops have changed over the decades. This clip contrasts things well:


Clearly the technology is different (what is that first guy banging the tyres with?) But the real success here rests on so much more. A few observations:
The main technology shift here is the use of pneumatic wrenches (and new ways of connecting the wheels). There are more people involved - and some with new roles. There is a clear objective, namely less processing time for the car. The process is much more efficient: from 57 seconds to about 1.3. The video seems to emphasise the difference in time taken to change tyres. To be fair the second driver didn't get their windshield wiped. So, to focus on the tyres: there were 12 people involved in the 2013 example instead of the one in the earlier clip, and there were two addit…

Innovation: A framework #2

I've submitted a response to the current Productivity Commission exercise considering aspects of the New Zealand tertiary education system. Unsurprisingly it has an explicit focus on innovation, which seems a key theme right across higher education providers at the moment. My current role sees me responsible for a fantastic team of dedicated learning and teaching innovators, and I'm proud to be able to say that their ideas really rock my world from time to time. I'm even prouder to say that I am actively encouraging them to make me uncomfortable.

My interest in innovation goes back to - I'm embarrassed to say - last Millennium, when I studied entrepreneurship as part of my BMS at Waikato University. I was greatly influenced by reading the late, great Peter Drucker and encountering the theory of Joseph Schumpeter. The lessons from these classes, innovation in the context of entrepreneurship, have guided my interest in online distance education right from the start.
'…

Learning, Part 2: On schemata and growth

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We don't just store bits of knowledge as stacked Lego bricks. Instead, we assimilate new knowledge within the stream of what we already know. In turn, the newly assimilated knowledge influences the stream of how we interpret new knowledge.

In Making it stick, Brown, Roediger III and McDaniel define learning as "acquiring knowledge and skills and having them readily available from memory so [one] can make sense of future problems and opportunities" (2014, p.2).

Learning, then, is a process of assimilation and extension. Sort of like a smudge. 
The process of learning is often described in terms of a developing schemata(Wikipedia article again highly recommended!) whereby what we already know both determines and changes as the result of what we learn. Such development might be equated with transformative learning, whereby an education doesn't just shape what we know; it also fundamentally changes our view of the world. It is here that the cognitive sciences become utt…

TEL innovation: A framework

It seems TEL and innovation are terms eternally linked. While much of actual TEL practice is rather predictable (not in the sense of it somehow being disappointing), TEL practitioners themselves are often driven by a desire to be more innovative, to always stretch the limits of what is done. Stakeholders and institution leaders are likewise interested in TEL innovation. But what exactly constitutes innovation?

The term innovation is a much-used, yet seldom-explored term. Only somewhat helpfully, innovation is defined as "somethingnewordifferentintroduced" and as "a new idea, more effective device or process". Innovation is most certainly perspectival, in that what one person would describe as innovative may not be considered innovative by another. Innovations might justifiably be at either extreme of tiny ("that's nice") or incredibly significant ("that changes my understanding of what can be done!"), just as they might be either incremental…