Category Archives: learning

Digital Badges

Initial sketch for structure of Digital Badges

Initial sketch for structure of Digital Badges

I’m currently working on an open content course – the learner proposes the learning activities, the evidence they will gather and how they will demonstrate that they have met the agreed learning outcomes. It is pretty interesting stuff and opens up huge opportunities for experimenting on learning and education. To help in keeping students on track in the course, we are looking at developing a couple of sets of process-based digital badges and this is an early sketch of the possible structure of the badges.

Line manager role identity as facilitators of learning

 

IT Futures at Edinburgh

I’m attending the IT Futures conference at Edinburgh today. These notes are not intended to be a comprehensive record of the conference but to highlight points of interest to me and so will be subjective and partial.

A full recoding of the conference will be available at the IT Futures website

The conference opens with an address from the Principal, Sir Timothy O’Shea with an opening perspective:

Points to the strengths of the University in computing research, super-computing and so on, and ‘ludicrously’ strong in e-learning with 60 plus online postgraduate programmes. In these areas, our main competitors are in the US rather than the UK.

Beginning with a history of computing from the 19402 onwards. Points to Smallwood and using computers to self-improving teaching and Papert on computing/ e-learning for self-expression. 1980s/90s digital education was dominated by the OU. 1990s the rise of online collaborative learning was an unexpected development that addressed the criticisms that e-learning (computer assisted learning) lacked interactive/ personalisation elements.

2000 saw the rise of OERs and MOOCs as a form of providing learning structure around OERs. Also noted the success of OLPC in Uruguay as one of the few countries to effectively implement OLPC.

Argues that the expansion of digital education has been pushed by technological change rather than pedagogical innovation. We still refer to the constructivism of Vygotsky while technology innovation has been massive.

How big is a MOOC?
– 100 MOOCs is about the equivalent in study hours of a BA Hons. A MOOC is made up of a 1000 minnows (I think this means small units of learning. MOOCs are good for access as tasters and to test e-learning propositions. They also contribute to the development of other learning initiatives, enhance the institutional reputations including relevance through ‘real-time MOOCs’ such as on the Scottish referendum. MOOCs provide a resource for learning analytics.

So e-learning is mature, not new, and blended learning is ‘the new normal’ and dominated by the leading university brands of MIT, Stanford, etc. A huge contribution of e-learning is access.

A research agenda: to include modelling individual learning, including predictive learning support; speed of feedback; effective visualisation; supporting collaboration; understanding Natural Language; location of the hybrid boundary (eg, in practical tests); personal programming (coding) and how realistic is it for meaningful coding skills for the non-geeks to  be developed.

Open questions are around data integrity and ownership; issues of digital curation; integration of data sources; who owns the analysis; should all researchers be programmers?; and how to implement the concept of the learner as researcher?

Questions:

Question about artificial intelligence: Answer – Tim O’Shea’s initial research interest was in developing programmes that would teach intelligently – self-improving teachers – but using AI was too difficult and switched towards MIT’s focus on self-expression and for programmers to understand what their codes were doing. Still thinks the AI route is too difficult to apply to educational systems.

Q: surprised by an absence of gaming for learning?

A: clearly they can and cites Stanford on influence of games on learning motivation

Q: on academic credit and MOOCs

A: Thinks this is inevitable and points to Arizona State University which is attempting to develop a full degree through MOOCs. Can see inclusion of MOOCs in particular postgraduate programmes – heuristic of about a third of a Masters delivered via (external) MOOCs but more likely to be taken forward by more vocational universities in the UK – but using MIT or Stanford MOOCs replacing staff!.

Now moving on to Susan Halford on ‘Knowing Social Worlds in the Digital Revolution’:

Researches organisational change and work and digital innovation. Has not directly researched changes in academic work but has experienced them through digital innovation. Digital innovation has kick-started a revolution in  research through data volume, tracking, analyse and visualise all sorts of data. So data becomes no longer used to research something but is the object of social research.

Digital traces may tell us lots about how people live, live together, politics, attitudes, etc. Data capturing social activities in real time and over time rather than replying on reporting of activities in interviews, surveys and so. At least, that is the promise and there are a set of challenges to be addressed to realise the potential of these data (also see this paper from Prof Halford).

Three key challenges: definition; methods and interdisciplinarity

Definition–  what are these digital data: these are not naturally occurring and do not provide a telescope to social reality. Digital data is generated through mediation by technology and so is not naturally occurring. In the case of Twitter, a huge amount of data, but is mediated by technological infrastructure that packages the data. The world is, therefore, presented according to the categories of the software – interesting but not naturally-occurring data. Also, social media generate particular behaviours and are not simply mirrors of independent social behaviour – gives the example of the ReTweet.

Also, there is the issue of prominence and ownership of data. Survey data often is transparent in the methods used to generate data and therefore, the limits of the claims that can be made from the data. But social media data is not transparent in how it is generated – the data is privately owned where data categories and data stream construction is not transparent. We know that there is a difference between official and unofficial data. We do not know what Twitter is doing with its data but that it is part of an emerging data economy. So this data is not neutral and is the product of a series of technological and social decision-making that shapes the data. We need to understand the socio-technical infrastructure that created them.

Method – the idea that in big data, the numbers speak for themselves is wrong: numbers are interpreted. The methods we have are not good for analysis of large data. Research tends towards small scale content analysis or large scale social network analysis but neither are particularly effective at understanding the emergence of the social over time – to harness the dynamic nature of the data. A lot of big data research on Twitter is limited to mathematical structures and data mining (and is a-theoretical)  but is weak on the social aspects of social media data.

Built a tool and Southampton to dynamically map data flows through ReTweeting.

Interdisciplinariety: but is a challenge to operationalise inter-disciplinarity.

Disciplines imagine their object of study in (very) different ways and with different forms of cultural capital (what is the knowledge that counts – ontological and epistemological differences). So the development of interdisciplinarity involves changes on both sides – researchers need to understand programming and computer scientists need to understand social theory. But also need to recognise that some areas cannot be reconciled.

Interdisciplinarity leads to questions of power-relations in academia that need to be addressed and challenged for inter-disciplinarity to work.

But this work is exciting and promising as a field in formation. But also rises for responsibilities: ethical responsibilities involved in representing social groups and societies and data analytics; recognising digital data excludes those who are not digitally connected; data alone is inadequate as social change involves politics and power.

Now Sian Bayne is responding to Prof Halford’s talk: welcomes the socio technical perspective taken and points to a recent paper: “The moral character of cryptographic work” as  generating interest across technical and social scientists.

Welcomes the emphasis of interdisciplinarity while recognising the dangers of disciplinary imperialism.

Questions:

What actions can be taken to support interdisciplinarity?

A: share resources and shared commitments are important. Also academic structures are important and refers to the REF structures against people submitting against multiple subjects. (but is is pointed out that joint submissions are possible).

Time for a break ….

 

We’re back with Bernard Schafer of the School of Law talking on the legal issues of automated databases. Partly this is drawn from a PG course on the legal issues of robotics.

The main reference on the regulation of robots is Terminator but this is less worrying than Short Circuit, eg, when the robot reads a book, does it create a copy of it, does the licence allow the mining of the data of the book, etc. See the Qentis hoax. UK is the only country to recognise copyright ownership of automatically generated works/ outputs but this can be problematic for research, can we use this data for research?

If information wants freedom, does current copyright and legal frameworks support and enable research, teaching, innovation, etc? Similar issues arose form the industrial revolution.

Robotics replacing labour – initially labour but now examples of the use of robots in teaching at all levels.

But can we automate the dull part of academic jobs. But this creates some interesting legal questions, ie, in Germany giving a mark is an administrative act similar to a police caution and is subject to judicial review, can a robot undertake an administrative act in this way?

Lots of interesting examples of automatic education and teaching digital services:Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 12.10.02

 

 

 

 

Good question for copyright law is what does ‘creativity’ mean in a world share with automatons? For example, when does a computer shift from thinking to expressing an idea which is fundamental to copyright law?

Final key question is: “Is our legal system ready for automated generation and re-use of research?”

Now its Peter Murray-Rust on academic publishing and demonstrating text or content mining of chemistry texts.

…And that’s me for the day as I’m being dragged off to other commitments.

Distributed curriculum

This Tweet caught my eye today by triggering a train of thoughts on what a ‘distributed curriculum’ might involve.

Digitally Distributed Curriculum

This idea appears to position the curriculum as an outcome of interacting within networks of people, resources and technologies. I wonder if this curriculum is a restating for a formal education context, of the sort of personalised learning I previously discussed here. One of the issues here is on curricula design and whether all students have the capabilities, capacities and capital to direct the generation of their own curriculum in a coherent and sustainable manner or whether ‘fluid curricula’ models will need and be required to be fairly striated or ‘channeled’. Similarly, there is a need to develop successful practices on supporting students and staff in approaches to self-directed and self-regulated learning enabling deep engagement with ‘wicked’ subject problems.

Another aspect to the distributed curriculum may well be a social aspect of both participating in external professional and other communities as well as generating ephemeral communities of learners that ‘swarm’ around specific learning objects and artefacts as well as collectively bringing these objects/ artefacts in to engagement with the subject problem of interest.

Weeknotes 29052015

I would like to develop the habit of daily notes. In part so I don’t loose track of what has been done each day but also to support a return to blogging starting with summarising those daily notes in to weekly notes. What I need is to spend some serious time on forming and maintaining habits as discussed here, in particular as behaviour chains, process plans and perhaps far fewer “oh screw its” .

So this week I have been:

  • attending meetings and listing tasks as I have a new academic management role.
  •  lots of marking and moderating marks and exam boards.
  •  meetings with students on Skype and Spreed
  •  reading and writing on the concept of communities on Twitter.
  •  presented at the #mscde  on the supervision process that students can look forward to as part of the programme dissertation festival in Second Life. A video of my presentation is available hereDissertation festival_001 and others will become available at the MSc in Digital Education programme YouTube Channel soon.
  • attended an excellent presentation by Dragan Gasevic on learning analytics and the importance of context in making sense of such analytics. The presentation emphasised the importance of data literacy among students, teaching staff and institutional leadership *if* learning analytics are to make an effective contribution to improving education.

eLearning@ Edinburgh

I’m attending the eLearning@Ed 2015 conference and will be attempting to live blog throughout the day.

Melissa Highton, Director of Learning Teaching and Web Services here at Edinburgh is starting the conference and the theme of Designing for 21st Century Learning. Wanted to ask what 21st century learning might be and how it might be different from 20th century. Many aspects of learning and education have stayed the same, but differences around scale, technology, teachers and teaching and, in particular, “its not ok to not understand the internet anymore”.

Highlighting some trends in the sector from the New Media Consortium with trends around maker spaces, changes spaces for learning, BYOD, personalised learning and the wicked problems of recognition and reward for teaching.

Now moving on to a panel of Chairs in Digital Education on views of 21st century learning.

First up is Judy Hardy, School of Physics and Astronomy with personal view and concerns. Looking to the student experience in 2020 and what will it be like. IN many ways, it will be very similar to now: lectures, workshops and tutorials and self-study. But there will be much more extensive use of digital technologies. Uses an anecdote on research methods for honours students that includes a self-reflective assignment and many used cloud based tools and Facebook groups and these sorts of tools and working methods will be mobilised. Also cited research on active engagement in classroom teaching against more traditional (didactic) learning design that shows active engagement has massive benefits to learning achievement.

But why is there lecturer resistance. Cited a survey showing lecturers want to teach and take pride in their teaching competences. So what are the challenges: time – which is a proxy for many things; and pedagogical context, where innovations abandoned early or perceive too much choices. So there are challenges of awareness; ‘how-to’ knowledge and why innovations in learning are important – ‘principles’ knowledge – and understanding these three forms of knowledge are crucial to implementing improving teaching.

Next is Sian Bayne based in the School of Education and Prof of Digital Education. Sian’s talking about Dave Cournier’s Rhizo Mooc, that included Tweets on one of Sian’s papers that was a set reading. The paper was about striated and smooth space in online learning: striated spaces is formal, goal-orientated and ordered while smooth space is nomadic, open and wandering-orientated and these two metaphorical spaces do merge and their boundaries blur. We can map learning spaces on to striated and smooth spaces: striated spaces as VLEs/ LMS and smooth spaces as hypertext, linkages, multimodal assessments, wikis and blogs.How do these metaphors work in 2015 and we continue to have striated spaces in VLEs, progression, e-portfolios, personalisation, adaptive learning, learning analytics, gamification. But also increased smooth(er) spaces such as Twitter, YikYak, augmented realities, flipped classrooms, maker spaces, crowd-based learning. The bigger point is that this field is predominately future orientated with lots of trends forecasts which generates a change acceleration to adapt practices to the ‘next big thing’. But trends are contingent on the situated context (the University of Edinburgh) leading to questions of what sort of institute we want to be and what is the purpose of higher education.

Judy Robertson, Chair in Digital Learning talking about current work and using technology to support learner goal setting. A lot of her work involves user centred design for mainly school pupils related to behavioural change in education and in public health.  Typically games set goals for users but the interest here is user goal setting and setting appropriate goals. Currently developing a game to encourage behavioural change to increase activity levels. Can also be extended to realistic goal setting for students in their study skills. So the question is on designing technology to be helpful but not intrusive.

Critter Jam (FitQuest) is an exercise game for a mobile phone to encourage children to run around. The game includes being chased by a virtual wolf, or to pick up virtual coins. Children can select different goals such as topping the leader board, beating your PB, setting points targets (but how to select an appropriate points goal?). Her research is on self-efficacy and in patterns of goal setting related to increased performance. Also links to resilience in context of goal failure and adjusting goals accordingly – and this could be adapted to, for example, undergraduates.

David Reay from Geosciences and talking on distance education and the development of the MSc in Carbon Management involving the Schools of Business, GeoSciences and Economics. There was a clear demand from students for applied experience and so developed online learning as a response. Initially, developed a role play simulation with face-to-face learning and developed this for online learning that was delivered as part of the MSc in Global Challenges. So now there is a full online MSc in Carbon Management launching in September. He is also developing an online course in sustainability for campus based students linked to graduate attributes around understanding sustainability. Each student will look at sustainability in their subject area to understand what sustainability means and have an excellent online learning experience. His research is on climate change including online teaching and conferencing in terms of its environmental impacts including measuring the total carbon emissions for the online programmes. The intention is to off-set carbon emissions generated by the programme – to be the greenest masters ever!

Dragan Gasevic, Professor of Learning Analytics at the Schools of Education and of Informatics. Why learning analytics is important: especially in provision of personalised feedback loops for students that acknowledges their diverse needs. We use VLEs/ LMS but also rely on many other digital technologies for learning including on the web, using social learning, reflective learning through annotation technologies and blogs. In using digital technologies we are leaving a digital footprint. We have been collecting some of this data since the start of universities. We want to leverage this data to assist teaching, learning, policy-making etc. and this is the point of learning analytics. Learning analytics is about learning and this must not be forgotten – not just data crunching for its own sake but is purposive. Learners are not black boxes but are individuals with many different and not permanent traits, knowledge and understanding, The black box needs to be opened up to deliver the benefits of learning analytics. Looks to CLAS – collaborative lecture annotation system – but the key is to encourage learners to use beneficial technologies. So we have a duty to inform students on the benefits of a technology and to scaffold support for the students to use that technology. Found that students were more engaged with technologies in graded courses and came to internalise the use of the tool in either graded or ungraded courses. So if we teach our student to use a tool they will continue to use that tool even if that use is not required. Learning analytics support and validate pedagogy.

“Counts don’t count much is decontextualised”! We need to account for pedagogical context in learning analytics. Also, visualisations can be harmful especially in showing visualisations to learners/ students so we need to develop analytics literacy for students. We also need to scale up qualitative analysis to improve understanding of learners and to develop institutional policies to support the use of analytics. But the use of learning analytics is contingent for each institutional context – one size does not fit all!

Jonathan Silvertown, Biological Sciences, is talking about the project ‘virtual edinburgh’. The project will turn the city in to a pervasive learning environment for formal and informal education. The future is already here – such as WiFi on buses but also apps such as Walking through Time, LitLong (Palimset), Mesh, iSpot etc.. but virtual edinburgh will also allow interaction between users. Also look to the ‘nearby’ function on Wikipedia. These apps and functions will be linked together through virtual Edinburgh and draws on the teaching and learning strategy priorities on giving learners agency and providing technology to do that. Modes of interaction will involve existing and new apps, peer interaction, game play, new data layers, mashups etc. that can be used in courses or as part of self-directed (informal) learning. The ultimate objective is to create Edinburgh as the City of Learning.

Question

Question: One of the themes is on student digital literacy and what baseline of literacy should we expect students and staff to have?

Judy R: That’s a really interesting question as we cannot assume that students will know how to use it for learning.

Judy Harding: we need to think about how institutional and personal technologies are used with, perhaps students preferencing their personal technologies.

Dragan: the focus should be on study and learning skills and these will not change but that abilities may decline in these due to the affordances of new technologies.

Dave Reay: confession on start of online course assumed students would know about and be able to use particular technologies. Preparation with students is key.

Sian: the research busting the idea of the digital native. The evidence is that what students come to the university with is less important than what we expect them to do. As many of the talks have suggested, the context is key.

Question: on engaged learning[??]

Judy H: the flipped classroom is important in using the technology to engage with larger cohorts of student as the large lecturer will not disappear.

Question: teach honours and postgraduate students and trying to get students to use newer technologies and if not introduced to these technologies earlier, then it may be too late in learning to use these technologies for learning.

Judy H: do we need to be more explicit in encouraging students to develop relevant technology skills in students.

Dave Reay: this will improve in patches and should be a question for programme convenors to develop online learning experiences in degree programmes.

Dragan: we have academic autonomy and so top-down solutions will not work. We need to consider what technologies academics are aware of and can use and so what incentives are provided to encourage the use of technologies. Suggests greater emphasis and recognition of teaching.

Question: what learning technologies are we developing taking account accessibility and the ethical responsibilities of the university.

Dave Reay: the technologies and online courses increase the accessibility to the programmes to new and different students. Avoids some of the challenges of cost, visas, personal circumstances.

Sian: need to differentiate between learning and education – wanting to learn is different from seeking qualifications via formal education.

Dragan: accreditation is an important factor. Also students don’t just come to edinburgh for the content but also for the experience and networks. Online learning also needs higher development abilities at self-regulated learning. We also tend to think in terms of credit hour rather than outcomes and this can be seen in shifts towards competence based education including graduate attributes.

Question: what practical measures could be taken to keep academic staff up to date with what is happening with learning technologies at schools level

Judy R: CoE does include technology in primary such as using Microsoft office but also extreme paranoia about anything social online and allowing pupils outside the walled garden of eg, GLOW

Judy H: not all out students come through the Scottish education system and we need to encourage self-regulated learning for students coming from a vast range of education systems.

Jonathon S: that would be a goo topic for the conference next year.

 

We’re back from a break with Dash Sekhar, VPAA and Tanya Lubicz-Nawrock from Edinburgh University Students Association on “Co-Creation: Student Ownership of Curriculum”. Starts with the many forms of student engagement such as Kuh’s focus on time and effort aligned to institutional desired outcomes and Bovill emphasises respect, reciprocity and shared responsibility between students and academics.

Co-creation operates on a continuum  from student feedback/ evaluation to students as experts of their own learning experiences expressed through student representations to Co-Creation of the Curriculum. So Co-Creation is a mutuality between students and academics and so shifts power relations between staff and student.

Putting the ideas of co-creation in to action through student-led content where students create their own projects to meet learning outcomes and assessment criteria. Technology allows for more flexible and remote learning.

Student partnerships in assessment: where students select and negotiate the assessment components and weighting to create sense of joint ownership of the assessments. Involved a democratic process for selecting the final assessment process.

Social bookmarking: in a statistics course where as a part of the course, the students had to tag sites and posts related to the course content. These posts were used in a running ‘live feed’. While fairly surface, this involved a shift in how students relate to course content.

We’re now moving to small group discussion so I’ll stop here and be back later. 

Group work over and we’re on to Prof. Ian Pirie, Asst Principal Learning Developments on the use of portfolios and e-portfolios in art & design. Simon Riley (CMVM) will talk about portfolios in medicine. Portfolios are used to demonstrate research, process, methods, outcomes etc. and curate a portfolio for submission for assessment. Portfolios a central to the method of art & design education in the context of sustained practice including art, design, architecture, medicine, engineering, healthcare etc. linked to demonstration of competence.

In the case of art, design & architecture, the portfolio is used from recruitment to almost all assessments. Portfolios include all forms of media and is crucial in entry to the next stages of education and in professional careers.

Simon Riley, on portfolios in medicine. Medical education governed by the GMC as a competency-based curriculum with an interest in allowing student choice.  To enable the student choice element of the curriculum, portfolios were adopted since 1990s.

The university curriculum is closely mapped to the GMC requirements. The different themes of the curriculum is pulled together through the portfolio. Portfolios include case reports, essays, project reports, reflective analysis of professional skills, reflective analysis of experiences, assessment (by viva) and project organisation. The reflective analysis components continue to have room for further development.

There is also a professional development portfolio including capturing the graduate attributes using Pebble+ in parallel to the programme portfolios.

Gives the example of a Group Project that uses an open WordPress site. This involves the collection and synthesis of information and knowledge.

The portfolios are being used for the demonstration of competence and reflection. Portfolios also train students for progression to postgraduate study and professional development. There is a huge amount of commonality between how medicine and art & design use portfolios.

Back to Prof. Ian Pirie on the share pedagogy based on Kolb’s model of experiential learning. In the remaining time, the range of eportfolios being used at Edinburgh are shown. A key issue is transferring the ePortfolio so students can use them outside and after their University forum.

 

Melissa Highton is in the last slot before lunch to talk about Open Educational Resources: new media for learning, and recent developments on OER at Edinburgh.

Openess is seen as a bold and positive move for the University. Initially, the University set up a task group on the development of an OER strategy. OER underpins a lot of the themes of this conference. The task group involved a range of academic and support services stakeholders. Cites the Capetown declaration of 2007 as a fit with stated intentions around sharing and developing knowledge. This sharing of knowledge and learning resources is enabled by technology. But resources need amending to the local context and we’re not sure if this is possible/ legal. There are also strong opinions that publicly funded resources should be open.

A problem with the word ‘open’ is that it means different things: available, available online, accessible. There is a definition of open: “open data and content can be freely used, modified and shared by anyone for any purpose”. There is a need for rigour in the definition in apart to manage the reputational risks of stating that the university is using open resources and that staff understand licensing and sharing and publishing of material. Licensing tends to be on Creative Commons licenses which fits nicely with the notion of teaching as a creative act – and this is a growing phenomena with 882million items on CC license in 2014 from 50m in 2006.

Fourteen countries have made a national commitments to open education including Scotland. CC licensed material is available from all over the world – which would help in internationalising and diversifying the curriculum.

Edinburgh has launched open.ed as open content resources. Also CC licenses allow us to renew and amend any resources so as technologies change, resources can be updated and so are sustainable.

…. and now its time for lunch….and I’ll have to finish here as I’ve run out of power and that plug points don’t work… 

Working & teaching in Second Life

Second Life tutorialI am currently enjoying my first extended experience of teaching in (and on) Second Life. Here are a few images of the initial orientation sessions and later tutorials in action at two of our teaching spaces:

Orientation at the beach_001

weeknotes [20102014]

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been

further working through my research involving discourse analysis along with network and other sociomaterial methods for my PhD. I think I’m developing a stronger understanding of of the method “in action” and Technology Enhanced Learning.

I’m also continuing to enjoy the teaching on two courses: Digital Environments for Learning; and Course Design for Digital Environments.

I’m also continuing to contribute to the development of two initiatives which I’ll hopefully write about sometime soon.

What is wrong with ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’

Last Friday I attended a Digital Cultures & Education research group presentation by Sian Bayne on her recent article What’s the matter with ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’?

These are my notes taken during the presentation and then tidied up later – so they may well be limit, partial and mistaken!

16th_century_French_cypher_machine_in_the_shape_of_a_book_with_arms_of_Henri_II.

16th century French cypher machine in the shape of a book with arms of Henri II. Image from Uploadalt

While Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) is a widely used term in the UK and Europe, the presentation positions TEL as an essentially conservative term that discursively limits what we do as researchers and researchers in the field of digital education and learning. Sian’s critique draws on three theoretical perspectives:

* Science & Technology Studies (STS) for a critique of ‘Technology
* Critical posthumanism for a critique of ‘Enhancement
* Gert Biesta’s language of learning for ‘Learning

For Technology, we dont tend to define it but rather black box it as unproblematically in service to teaching practices. This black-boxing of technology as supporting learning and teaching creates a barrier between the technology and the social practices of teaching. As Hamilton & Friesen discuss, two main perspectives on technology as either as an essentialist perspective of unalienable qualities of the technologies or we treat it instrumentally as a neutral set of tools. I both cases technology is understood as being independent of the social context in which it is used. Hamilton & Friesen argue we need to take a more critical stance especially in terms of technology as the operationalisation of values and to engage in larger issues such as social justice, the speed of change and globalisation, the nature of learning or what it is to be human.

By using the term, Enhanced, TEL adopts a conservative discourse as it assumes there is no need to radically rethink teaching & learning practices but just a need to enhance of tinker with existing practice. So enhancement aligns with Transhumanism – a humanist philosophy of rationality and human perfectibility where technological advances remove the limitations of being human (Bostrom 2005)
Critical post-humanism (Simon 2003) is a philosophical critique of the humanism of the Enlightenment and its assumptions on human nature and the emphasis on human rationality. arguing that these assumptions are complicit in dominatory practices of opporession and control. The human being is just one component in complex ecology of practice that also includes machines, non-human components in symmetry. So post-humanism is more about humility and appreciation of that our involvement as humans in our context is complex and inter-related and interactional. Yet TEL buys into a dominant Transhumanism emphasising the cognitive enhancement of the mind and so could include the use of drugs as a ’technology’ to enhance learning. The Technology Enhanced Learning System Upgrade report.
Transhumanism positions technology as an object acted on by human subject so ignoring how humans are shaped by and shape technology and does not ask Is ‘enhancement’ good, who benefits from enhancement and is enhancing is context specific? It is argued that TEL could learn from the post humanist critique of Transhumanism

The ‘problem’ of Learning draws on Gert Biesta’s writing on the new language of learning and more specifically, the ‘learnification’ of discourses of education. This involves talking about “learning” rather than “teaching”, or “education”. Learning as a terms is used as a proxy for education that takes discussions away from considerations of structures of power in education itself. So learnification discursively instrumentalises education – education is provided/ delivered to learners based on predefined needs rather than needs emerging and evolving over time. So learners are positioned as customers or clients of education ‘providers’ and TEL gets bound up with this neo-liberal discourse/ perspective

So the label of TEL tacitly subordinates social practice to technology while also ontologically separating the human from the non-human. The TEL discourse is aligned with broader enhancement discourse that enrols transhumanism and instrumentalisation so entrenching a particular view of the relationships between education, learning and technology.

Rather, education technologies involve complex assemblages of human and non-human components and as practitioners and researcher, we need to embrace that complexity. Posthumanism as a stance, is a way of doing this and understanding learning as an emergent property of complex and fluid networks of human and non-human elements coming together. In posthumanism, the human is not an essence but rather a moment.

Unbundling higher education

These are my notes from a seminar by Amy Collier, Stanford University  titled The Good, the Bad and the Unbundled on 27 August 2014. These notes were taken live and then cleaned up a bit, links added etc. but they remain a bit partial and sketchy in places.  For a more thoughtful and reflective take on the presentation, see Hazel Christie’s post here. Amy’s own post on her visit  can be found here.

The presentation is looking at this emerging phenomenon in the US Higher Education sector and the possible lessons for UK Higher Education.

Amy has been at Stanford for two half years working on MOOCs and on supporting the increasing interest in online learning at Stanford from a position of a weak tradition of online learning. Her role initially focused on the operational aspects of course design. She now has developed a more strategic role asking what they’re doing, who is being targeted and why adopting online learning.

Unbundling is an increasingly prominent topic in US  higher education. It should also be noted that unbundling has a long presence in UK HE in particular through the Open University.

The Unbundling idea has taken hold in the US as part of a wider discourse of ‘disruption’. The US has a weird love affair with the term ‘disruption’. This love affair is based on a ‘dis-ease’ with how things are currently done. Higher education is ‘broken’ and should be disrupted and that disruption is often undertaken through unbundling. Yet, that discourse of  dis-ease with a broken education system is often promoted by others as means to sell ‘solutions’.

Unbundling is the separation of ownership of infrastructure and processes of service provision to gain efficiencies and savings. So unbundling involves the compartmentalism of components of HE that are then outsourced to other providers rather than the traditional model of being provided by a single institution.

As an example, the music industry as traditionally produce a bundled product such as the album, but then iTunes disrupted this product by allowing the purchasing of single songs, users creating their own playlists, etc… Apple and iTunes allowed us as customer to do things with the purchased products independently of music businesses. This development lead on to Pandora and Spotify and took place within a discourse of ‘freedom’ and ‘access to artists’ and hence as the democratisation of the music industry. Similarly, we’e seeing an emerging discourse on the democratisation of higher education in US.

So what is the problem? What is lost when we unbundle? In the case of the music industry, we can see a counter-trend with the return of the cassette as a ‘product’ as a piece of art that cannot be unbundled (popular in Portland – who knew?), it is a single, indivisable and cohesive piece of art. Similar examples of rebundling can be seen in the examples of free music when you buy phone X or in playlists created by Pandora. So unbundling and then rebundling leads to a loss of control and more importantly, a loss of a sense of the whole – replaced by another interpretation of that whole – the art of the album. Also, while obscure artists can be found online they don’t have the sales volumes to make money through these unbundled services.

How does this apply to HE? Returning to the notion of HE as broken is “disaster porn” such as the  IPPR report, An Avalanche is Coming. The IPPR report cites the diversity of pressures on HE in terms of purpose, funding, public policy in the context of a globalised economy where HE is no longer fit for purpose. HE should, therefore, look to technological solutions and these are to be found in the private sector.

A particular recent emphasis is on questioning the value of university, is it worth going? The degree is dead, reimagining higher education. Jose Ferriera (at Knewton) claims bundling works to trick people in to believing a service is worth more than it is and hiding the real cost-benefit.

Unbundling in HE may involve splitting: content; social networks; accreditation; delivery; testing; and research (see Henry Brady, UC Berkeley). But what are the tensions then between economic efficiencies and the holistic integrity of education?

MOOCs have inflated this discussion of disruption and unbundling. Clay Shirky argues that HE is being, and should be disrupted and, returning to the music industry analogy, the “MP3 is our MOOC“.

And we can see examples of MOOCs unbundle accreditation from HE now. The American Council of Education is offering credientialisation of MOOCs through member HEIs so separating/ unbundling the delivery and accreditation of courses. Antioch College told its own students that they could receive credit for MOOCs thereby unbundled content, credit and, in this case, the tutoring and support of learning.

But the concept of unbundling has been going on in HE at least since the 19th Century, for example, in unbundling academics from the pastoral roles.

The problems of unbundling:

While a lot of the authors of the disruption discourse make this comparison to the music industry, as George Siemens states, education is a social and cultural as well as content ‘industry’. In taking that perspective, a number of problems with, or questions on, unbundling can be identified:

1. Who, how and what of rebundling? Who does the rebundling and what power are they taking through rebundling? Things that get unbundled tend to be rebundled with a change of ownership and control and what does this mean, for example, on the student experience?

The Minerva project provides access to higher education at reduced cost by focusing on (transferable) skills rather than content/ domain knowledge. They rely on MOOCs for domain knowledge for introductory courses. So Minerva are rebundling MOOCs provided by others while focusing on project-based and experiential learning..

A dark-side of this is that there will still be very bundled education institutions and there is a danger that these highly bundled experiences become the expensive premium service for an elite minority. So the unbundling and rebundling ‘disruptions’ will increase the divisions on access to high quality education.

So, while it remains the case that for some students the unbundled experience may be what they want and need, a key question remains that if unbundling is about raising access to HE then who for and to what form of HE?

Also, bundled and unbundled experiences collected data. HEIs are generally trusted to handle data with care and respect but what happens when services are unbundled and rebundled with the concomitant opportunities for the commercial exploitation of student data. For example, the backlash on the recent Facebook experiment was not just against Facebook but also Cornell University for their role in analysing the data.

2. Impacts on teaching and other staff.
We can see the unbundling of the academics’ role eg, in support development of student social networks, advising, admissions, instruction design,teaching, research etc . especially to para-academics, but this is problematic if you view the academics’ role as holistic.
In the case of MOOCs, courses are being designed by people who may not deliver/ teach on them. But this approach can also be seen in the development of Online & Distance Learning (ODL)  programmes from the 1990s as they considered how learning technologists interacted with academic staff. Different models of ODL can be seen:

(i) craft model where faculty did it all; (ii) collegial model where academics helped each other; and (iii) where a virtual assembly line was created the produced a course for  academics to deliver. The craft model is where academics identified themselves as autonomous experts whereas this identity was lost in the assembly line model. So unbundling also affects academic self-identification.

But why is an integrated faculty role of value? Because it engages academics in their work and highlights the integrative role of research and teaching. On the other hand, unbundling does allow faculty to focus on individual areas of strength – why force a shy researcher in to teaching?

There are other models such as Patricia Ianuzzi’s (University of Nevada) team-based model involving the co-production between academics and para-academics of student experiences.

3. the lost art of the University: what happens when unbundling leads to loss of serendipity and synergies of the bundled student experience?

On a positive note, unbundling may provide opportunities for the redesign of HE and to challenge assumptions of the institutions.

Examples of redesigning rather than unbundling has changed HE
1. domain of one’s own at the University Mary Washington as a push-back against VLEs and MLEs. Each student was provided with a domain for students to use any tools they wanted and use for their learning. This initiative allows students to experiment with online learning both personally and in groups. Another initiative is Thought Vectors at Virginia Commonwealth University enabling student learning on open websites.

2. the Stanford 2025 project involved both students and staff to consider the redesign of Stanford for 2025. For example, redesigned away from semester and academic years to a much more flexible programme structure built around micro-learning opportunities as Paced Education. In effect this is unbundling the curriculum and is being implemented through The Impact Lab. This social innovation is focused on the food system and involves students researching (immersion), prototyping and piloting implementations of interventions in the food system.

The key point of this talk is to examine the issues and opportunities in the unbundling of higher education.

Q&A
Q: Can you separate the neo-liberal drivers of the rise of idea of unbundling and the more positive opportunities of redesign? How suspicious should we be of unbundling in HE?
A: I’m very suspicious mainly because I work in Silicon Valley and see unbundling projected as way for start-ups to access investment and government  to ‘solve’ higher education through the private sector.

Q: Can you comment on the adjunct faculty in the US as it appears to be linked?
A: Unbundling the faculty role leads to the deskilling of the faculty so seeing rise of adjunct faculty as having very specialist skills along with precarious employment positions. See the alt ac movement in US (alternative academic).

Q: Comments Music Industry to suggest that senior managers saw that the internet would change their business but didn’t know how to change. Also, the UK has the experience of the OU for the team development of courses. Finally, HEI is very diverse but that is hidden to many of us. Some HEIs rebundle through eg, accreditation of prior learning (cites military in US as example of this)
A: RPEL is really important. A key danger of unbundling is that it imposes a monolithic view of HE and that a sense diversity is lost.

Q: Interested in your views of a model from Cornell University of a faculty housing model of free housing if you live with the students as a rebundling of student services?
A: Stanford has strong ethos of living on campus and the creation of a learning community.

Q: Who is the customer and what is the product? Are students viewed as a product and society the customer?
A: The student as customer is a strong aspect of the unbundling discourse. People have changed their ideas of education as a public good and the promotion of citizenship – now less of a priority given the end of the Cold War.

Q: Worried that there may be an oversimplification of a good or bad unbundling and whether there is a need for a bigger discussion on what the university is for?
A: I’m not opposed to unbundling per se but more discussion is needed beyond the binary of good and bad but that allows the challenge of the assumptions of educational institutions