Although I have had a twitter account since April 2007, I have still only tweeted just over 100 times! One day into the FOS course and, although I only added half a dozen tweets, I feel that I have improved my understanding of twitter significantly.
The focus of yesterday on was digital literacy and identity and I managed to read a good number of the resources in preparation for the evenings TewwtChat #FOSchat which I accessed through TweetDeck mostly.
Undertaking activity 1, which was about reflecting on my current practices and what could help students and colleagues, I was left with a feeling of unease that we are, once again, overcomplicating higher education by adding a further ‘wish list’ of what higher education should be doing.
In principle, I am convinced and have been for years that to be effective in most work contexts it is essential to proficient with digital technologies and the uses to which they can be put. However, the myriad of frameworks show how we have managed to create a new industry out of something, and my fear is that we exclude the non specialists from this conversation, thereby reducing the likelihood of bringing about meaningful change for our students.
Reflecting upon my experience of the approach of using Twitter, I am not sure that I learned a great deal about the subject of digital literacy and identity. However, I did have a good time practicing my digital literacy skills, becoming far more familiar with twitter. Maybe this evening when I can focus less on the process, I will be able to think more about the topic at hand.
I have just finished a 3 part, 3 hour LEGO SeriousPlay course run by my colleague Chrissi Nerantzi. This is what the LEGO people say:
“The idea of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® originated in 1996 when the two professors Johan Roos and Bart Victor at IMD in Switzerland and LEGO Group CEO and owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen were exploring alternative strategic planning tools and systems. They developed an understanding about the value of employees and the concept of evolving, adaptive strategy that included using LEGO elements as three-dimensional models of business issues and challenges, which later became known as LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®.”
What we did (briefly)…
The sessions format was for an initial discussion around resources provided (the homework) and then most of our time spent using LEGO bricks to build models and discuss them as a group. The applications for this technique that we experienced were as a reflective tool (from personal to focussed on an external issue) and also as a tool for creativity and ideas generation.
Typically, we, the LEGO players, built models from different perspectives, and then explained ourindividual models to the group (6 in total) at which point the strength of metaphors becomes apparent as an important vehicle for conceptualising and exploring issues. This was sometimes taken a step further by requiring players to then combine their models resulting in a higher level of abstraction about the particular issue or topic at hand.
For example, one task required us to: 1. build three models that show, a) how do other people see us professionally, b) how do we see ourselves professionally, C) what would be like to become professionally? We were then asked to place a green block on which of the models was most important to us and then explain ourselves in turn to the group. A discussion then followed with the aim of creating a combined model that represented how we saw the attributes of an effective academic.
What I learned (tentatively)…
- when there is a high degree of trust in the group, a high degree of disclosure about personal feelings can be quickly arrived at
- when questions address topics that an individual has though extensively about previously, there is a temptation to explain a position rather than develop new thinking
- to be effective the play activities need locating in a wider process that captures ideas and insights and moves on to use or implementation. Depending on the purpose, just being creative in the moment doesn’t feel valuable enough!
- the poorer the ‘quality of model’ the greater the use of metaphor and the need for imagination by all, this may be an advantage
- as players become more practiced there is a greater need for more thoughtful structuring of activities and asking of questions. If this ins’t the case, the sessions run the risk of being superficial
- there is a fine line between enthusiastic participant and disengaged outcast, this requires skilled facilitation and awareness by all participants of the risk posed by dominating conversations – listening skills are very important
- participants need to be clear about why they are playing with LEGO, what is the purpose behind it
In my mind, there is a connection between these workshops and the kinds of learning we see in early years in schools around Continuous Provision in that they are based on the principle of structured and purposeful play. I am also reminded of the work of Ultralab where we used the loosely defined concept of delightful learning as a benchmark evaluative term to apply to our projects and activities, and Richard Millwood’s analysis of the work of John Heron on delight is particularly useful as a framework for thinking about approaches such as LEGO play.
What I plan to do next…
I enjoyed my time on the course and can see that there are applications in my own work. I will sign up for the next series of workshops that explores this and other approaches to play in learning further, and use these experiences towards a negotiated learning module (FLEX – LEGO play) using the conceptual framework developed by Millwood, based on the work of Heron.
A recommended read for any action researchers out there and those interested in communities and regeneration “Transformative Community Engagement for Sustainable Regeneration.“
Selections from the abstract:
…The aim of this research is to provide a critical examination of community engagement through the development of practice and strategy of a UK housing association to deliver neighbourhood regeneration in a deprived neighbourhood in North West England.
…An action research approach using interlinked inquiry streams was undertaken with residents, senior managers and practitioners. The findings were used to develop community engagement strategy, articulate a model of engagement practice and enable the residents’ lived experience and views on service providers to be heard.
…The first contribution is the adaptation of Andrews and Turner’s (2006) Consumerist and Participatory Framework for the analysis of community engagement in a housing association context.
…The second contribution to knowledge is the creation of a model of transformative community engagement practice, based on an extended definition of neighbourhood sustainability, the literature review and research findings.
…Findings can be transferred to other housing providers or agencies looking to engage residents to achieve sustainable outcomes that will improve their lives and local neighbourhoods.
In 2012 we published a diagram that gave a view of the evolutionary process behind the development of MOOCs in our white paper (MOOCs and Open Education: Implications for Higher Education, p.6). Recently we revisited this diagram (I know you shouldn’t try to re-heat a Soufflée!) in a paper (Partnership Model for Entrepreneurial Innovation in Open Online Learning) where we made an analysis of what, if any, impact MOOCs have had over the past 3 years and what the trajectory of development might be in the future.
We identify four key ideas/trends:
- I. Most MOOC content is not openly licensed so it cannot be reused in different contexts. However, there is a trend for MOOC to be made available ‘on demand’ after the course has finished, where they in effect become another source of online content that is openly available for use to support blended learning courses or a flipped classroom approach in face-to-face teaching.
- New pedagogical experiments in online distance learning can be identified although It is likely that they will evolve to more closely resemble regular online courses with flexible learning pathways. However, a range of paid-for services, including learning support on demand, qualitative feedback on assignments, and certification and credits will develop.
- The disruptive effect of MOOCs will be felt most significantly in the development of new forms of provision that go beyond the traditional HE market such as professional and corporate training that appeals to employers. these will be backed by awards from recognised institutions.
- The development of online courses is an evolving model with the market re-working itself to offer a broader range of solutions to deliver services at a range of price levels to a range of student types. There is great potential for add-on content services and the creation of new revenue models through building partnerships with institutions and other educational service providers. As these trends continue to unfold, we can expect to see even more entrepreneurial innovation and change in the online learning landscape.
John Seddon is a UK based systems thinker working primarily in the public sector. One of his core arguments is that when targets are imposed (a command and control managerial approach) on a system , it results in de facto purposes being created which, in turn, constrains the methods being used to undertake the work at hand (Seddon 2008, 82) – this is critique of Michael Barber’s Deliverology. I think that there is a lot in this simple analysis for educators when trying to innovate teaching in educational institutions.
One example of this in a higher education context is the use of learning outcomes for management and to make uniform the way in which curriculum are described, offering the prospect of a common student experience and a way of standardising evaluative judgements about achievement. This has lead to a way of authoring course/module specifications that severely restrict what and how students are assessed. Successfully meeting learning outcomes (coupled with assessment criteria) has become the de facto purpose of the educational system. As a consequence, educational methods (teaching practices) are severely constrained so that the purpose is met; learners and teachers work tirelessly towards successfully completing the assessments for a course.
Working this way severely distorts the students education in a direction imposed from the outside by what are often poorly constructed requirements in the first place. Little attention is payed to the needs of the students and there is limited scope for teachers to innovate in their practice as the risks are too high of students failing to meet the targets.
It doesn’t have to be like this. I would argue for putting the target setting back in the hands of the teachers and learners to identify their local needs (their purpose) and set their own targets thereby enabling teaching methods to be liberated. This doesn’t have to be a free-for-all approach, but a redressing of the balance back towards the professionalism of the teacher and sharing responsibility for learning with the student will I think improve the outcomes. In practical terms, there is a place for well crafted learning outcomes that focus on the capabilities we are seeking to develop in learners but that allow for significant negotiation of how to achieve and demonstrate this.
Below is the executive summary from our Cetis paper Beyond MOOCs: Sustainable Online Learning in Institutions, looking at the benefits that institutions might gain from the recent MOOC mania. I think the section on business models has the most to offer to institutions, but this was also the hardest part to explain in a way that would be helpful to Institutions.
1. Executive Summary
The key opportunity for institutions is to take the concepts developed by the MOOC experiment to date and use them to improve the quality of their face-to-face and online provision, and to open up access to higher education. Most importantly, the understanding gained should be used to inform diversification strategies including the development of new business models and pedagogic approaches that take full advantage of digital technologies.
The critical discourse emerging around MOOCs is providing an opportunity for institutions to develop a more strategic approach to online learning. This includes enhancing existing classroom teaching practices, promoting institutional reputation and developing new revenue models. There are indications that some MOOCs are becoming more focussed on corporate training, which suggests that they may not pose a immediate threat to the existing pedagogical, revenue or business models of higher education institutions (HEIs). The number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) will continue to grow with the development of credit bearing courses likely to be a trend.
The findings from this report are summarised in three sections: key themes that have emerged from the MOOC experiment, opportunities that institutions should consider exploring, and longer-term strategic considerations and likelihood that this will happen for institutions.
Three key themes emerge from the MOOC experiment:
- Openness – new approaches to online learning, including models for scalable provision that may generate revenues, and promote open learning, which goes beyond institutional boundaries through the use of online communities. [Increasing impact & long term, likely for most institutions]
- Revenue models – different revenue models taking the established ideas from technology start-ups, such as applying the concepts of freemium and premium offers into online learning, providing institutions with new ways of thinking about marketing and income generation. [High impact & medium term, more likely for institutions looking for new revenue streams]
- Service Disaggregation – experimentation with business models that include unbundling and re-bundling of courses and delivery related services, such as offering paid for assessment and/or teaching and support, on top of free online course content. This may have a wider impact across institutions in the future through better deployment of existing resources to add value to customers where there is greatest benefit and to reduce costs through outsourcing (unbundling is already happening independently of MOOCs). [High impact & short term, likely for most institutions]
Institutions should consider exploring a set of opportunities that have been brought to the attention of mainstream education by MOOCs, and experiment with new approaches for developing technology-enabled changes in teaching and learning to improve opportunities for individual learners. These include:
- Technology options – new platforms and services with different functions, terms and conditions for experimenting with the development of MOOCs and open online provision in institutions, including opening up an existing VLE, partnering with a commercial MOOC platform; or using an ad hoc collection of tools and services that are suitable for innovative experimentation. [Low impact & short term, likely for most institutions]
- Pedagogic opportunities – for educators to experiment and evaluate different online learning approaches by developing and using MOOCs that challenge the established roles of learner and teacher and offer more flexible forms of learning and assessment that include community as well as content-based models of learning. For some, experimentation will be at the level of the individual lecturer and for others it may be departmental or large-scale cross-institutional change projects. [Medium impact & medium term, likely for some types of institutions]
- Learner choices – developing new and affordable ways for learners to access courses and materials with the possibility of study for credits that are affordable and flexible. A starting point that is not based on existing courses can be a less constraining way of exploring new approaches. [High impact & short term, likely for some institutions]
Institutions are operating in an environment of increased marketisation and global competition, increasing student demand, reduced central government funding and affordability issues for students. Institutions will have to make strategic choices about how they respond to the changing contexts in which they operate; depending on the starting point these will have short, medium and long-term implications:
- Mission, purpose and values – taking full account of the significant wider changes in HEIs’ business environments that may require institutions to review how they interpret their mission, purpose and values when developing their strategic response. [Variable impact & long term, likely for most institutions]
- Strategic directions – using the new opportunities presented by rethinking MOOCs as a useful motivation for institutions to examine their current provision and think about ways in which they can change and diversify. However, failure to recognise the scale of this challenge may well derail any new strategic directions. For institutions with little experience of open and online provision, options for rapid development may be limited to forming partnerships with external organisations with the required capabilities. [High impact & long term, likely for most institutions]
- Capability building requirements – reviewing existing in-house capabilities including: technical infrastructure, academic and support staff working practices. If starting from a low base, these will require significant commitment to change and develop, in order to support new business models for online provision. [Variable impact & short term, likely for most institutions]
- Business model components – there is an opportunity for institutions to examine their current provision and think about ways in which they can change and diversify to develop new sustainable business models for open online provision that take as their starting point the needs of the learner rather than the interests of the institution. [High impact & medium term, likely for some institutions]
The above titled presentation was given at the recent altc2013 conference in Nottingham. It was based on work undertaken by the jisc cetis service in the production of the Cetis Analytics Series in 2012/13. In addition, towards the end of the 2012-13 academic year we undertook a Survey of the State of Analytics in UK Higher and Further Education Institutions 2013.
Some reflections based on the comments by session participants:
- there is significant interest around undertaking small scale analytics projects, that is ones that don’t depend on high level management support or significant amounts of resource
- there is concern around the purpose to which analytics might be used, with a risk that crude interpretations made by administrators and managers may result in harm being done
- the biggest barrier to making initial progress is modelling an institutions data: what data is collected; where is it held; and how can it be accessed
- there are only the beginnings of an understanding of what benefits analytics might bring for learners better understnding out their own learning and the better organisation of institutions