Monday, 1 September 2014

ALT-C 2014 Keynote by Jeff Haywood - Designing University Education for 2025: Balancing Competing Priorities

I can't make it to ALT-C this year, so I'm going to be attending online where possible. The keynotes are streamed through YouTube and there is conversation going on on Twitter, although I'm learning that it is difficult to listen and tweet at the same time.

Jeff Haywood from the University of Edinburgh presented the first keynote where he looked back at where learning technologies had come from.

He started off at noting that educational change is a slow process; patience and persistence is required. I'd agree with this and say that perhaps Roger's ideas on Diffusion of Innovations help illustrate the process; we see the Innovators and especially the Early Adopters getting lots of attention for their projects, and generating lots of hype. However to take the innovation mainstream you have to deal with the other 60-70% of people, who are likely to be far less digitally literate. A lot of commitment is required to make change mainstream.

To structure the talk he had 5 questions:

  • Where have we come from?
  • What lessons have we learned?
  • Where are we now?
  • Where do we want to go?
  • How might we get there?
To show where we had come from he looked back 10 years to 2004. He noted that at this point we'd reached a stability, with tools and systems that could be used as a sensible base. Some themes noted were the UK eUniversity, the LAMS model was the main one, VLEs had become mainstreamed, e-portfolios being taken seriously, and RLOs has become fashionable. Strategy of the time was demonstrated through the Lisbon Strategy and the DfES's Towards a Unified E-Learning Strategy.

Since then he noted there have been a massive expansion in tools that are being used, and there has been a maturing of the networks of people who work with the technologies for teaching and learning.

To demonstrate where we are now he looked at:
  • Gartner's Hype Cycle to show the technologies that are reaching the Plateau of Productivity
  • The ECAR 2013 and ECAR 2014 studies from the US that show students and staff are becoming more and more familiar with full online courses. Regarding the increased familiarity with online courses, he points out that this suggests that staff aren't actually resistant to change, and that students are using online courses and so feed positive towards them.
  • The SLOAN survey by Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman, which found 33% of HE students were taking at least one online course, and that they viewed online learning more positively than students who hadn't taken online courses. 
  • A GALLUP poll which showed that students saw online courses as offering more options and value for money, while being suspect of the quality of instructors and testing, and the likelihood of employers trusting such a degree.
  • The Conversation Prism to demonstrate the large numbers of online tools that people are using in education. He said that we need to measure the use of these tools.
  • The Horizon Report to demonstrate some more developments that are coming into the mainstream, although he thought that the timescales used were over optimistic.
Moving onto MOOCS, he reflected on the fact that MOOCs are marketing much more slickly than traditional courses, which is an interesting thing to consider. Also MOOCs can help us consider how we can scale what we do.

As for where we want to go, he suggests education that is:
  • on-demand
  • self-paced
  • location-flexible
  • relevant to life/career now & in the future
  • global and local
  • personalised to learning place/style/speed
  • affordable
  • high value-added
in a wide range of subjects. This doesn't mention technology, but complex technologies are certainly required to make this happen.

Jeff admitted to having a top down perspective on this when thinking of how to get there, suggesting that we need:
  • renewed vision at policy levels
  • a roadmap of modest but purposeful steps
  • investment
  • agility
  • determination
  • analysis and evidence-base
Edinburgh started looking at this through their Masters courses, with a small number of MOOCs running now. A strategic decision was made to focus on off-campus. By 2020 Jeff expects all students to graduate having taken at least one fully on-line course as part of their core-modules, and expects all staff to have experience of teaching online. He expects about 10,000 off-campus learners, but not huge numbers on MOOCs, rather the courses will be smaller open ones.

How will we get to that place Jeff describes? He suggests to experiment with things, for example things mentioned in the Horizon Report like digital literacies for all, and to experiment with scaling them in mind. How technologies and techniques are to be scaled must be a key output and focus. It would be interesting to have a think about where we do and don't do that, and to what extent.

Finally he spoke about how we need to capture developing technologies, and interweave them with what we offer. These might include real-time translation tools, and tools to enable equality in digital-physical co-presence.

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