From ALT-C 2009 with new dreams of the future

ALT-C has come and gone, but the issues and challenges addressed at the conference will remain with us for some time to come i.e. how we harness technology to inform our educational futures. So what did I learn from this august conference? A lot, which I cannot recount in this short blog. However there was a few which struck me as pertinent if we are to dream new dreams and change the future of higher education for the better.

Michael Wesch spoke about the crisis of significance and pointed out that we need to move beyond incremental dreams focused on past trends, to radical dreams based on new and innovative ideas. Indeed I cannot but agree with him that we need to advance from making people “knowledgeable” to making people “knowledge-able”.

Martin Bean spoke about innovative skepticism and the crisis of relevance in Higher Education and called for moving Higher Education into the place where people want to acquire their learning experience by breaking down the barriers between the formal and the informal. To him this calls for agile, efficient and connected learning systems; making change possible through people, process and technology; moving away from content-centric to people-centric education. Martin noted that people are sick and tired of education “done to me” and rather want education “for me”.

Terry Anderson made a strong case for the “Open Scholar”. Being a recent convert to Open Educational Resources (OER), the notion of the “Open Scholar” struck a strong cord with me. Terry made the point that education for the elite is no longer sufficient for planetary survival. He contended that ideas don’t gain value unless exposed to the world. Networks of practice as opposed to communities of practice have the potential to bring about the change we want in our educational futures. To him personal and social relevance should be the basis for motivating new learners.

So where do we in BDRA stand in relation to these different dreams regarding the future of education. How does our research address questions around the crisis of significance and resolve the challenges faced by Higher Education? How do we envision a future of “Open scholarship”, “Open learning”, “Open Pedagogy”, and an “Open society”? The answer may lie not just in changing academic and technical skills but rather in how we change world views on education and institutional cultures that are receptive to new dreams and therefore new learning futures.

Samuel Nikoi (25 September 2009)

Creating to share; promises and pitfalls

Last week I participated in a seminar organized by JISC in Ormskirk. The focus of the seminar was creating and sharing digital content with emphasis on the promises and pitfalls of Open Educational Resources (OER). Representatives from the CETL on Reusable Learning Objects, SOLSTICE, ROCOCO, Q-ROLO, Open Spires and ReFORM spoke about their projects and took part in discussions about the future of OERs. I came away from the meeting with a feeling that whilst Open Educational Resources offer a lot of promise there is the need for a concerted effort to debate and find solutions to some of the drawbacks that threaten the potential benefits of these resources to the HE sector. Here are a few things mentioned regarding benefits and pitfalls:

• Economies of scale in terms of cost benefit analysis
• Improved access and better use of existing resources
• Innovation in the design of teaching and learning materials

• Copyright issues
• Institutional barriers in terms of existing curriculum processes
• Lack of local content repositories
• OER literacy i.e. the capacity of academic staff to create and share open learning resources

I was quite struck by the discussion on how to engage various stakeholders to maximize the benefits of OERs whilst addressing the pitfalls. What was missing in all the discussions was the role of learners in advancing the vision of the OER movement. The Edgeless University report has emphasized the need to engage students in the design of courses to better understand their needs and also determine when and how teaching and learning should happen in the future. Clearly, making OERs more sustainable will require not just institutional commitment to “openness” in teaching and learning, or overcoming copyright hurdles or changing staff attitudes towards “open learning design” but more importantly how we as OER practitioners draw lessons from student experiences in HE to improve the quality of our materials in order to motivate learners locally and international to use these materials.

Samuel Nikoi ( 24 July 2009)

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