Tag Archives: higher education

Connected & networked higher education

I was interested to read the Connected Learning Environments paper over at Educause. The briefing looks at connected learning environments in higher education and states that:

While e-learning often connotes delivery of information in a sequential, linear fashion, the connected learning environment is integrative, personalized, interconnected, and authentic. Across higher education, leaders and learners are taking note of this evolution in education.

Such environments have the characteristics of (a) a seamless integration with student support services including careers services. This appears to emphasise a function to supporting the student in identifying their own curricula and linking their longer-term goals with module and programme learning outcomes and so may well be a re-articulation of attempts at common credit accumulation and transfer schemes; (b) personalised learning helping students engage with the best learning opportunities through competency based education and (c) authentic learning experiences linking students to research academics, employers, communities etc. in addressing real world problems.

The briefing seems to buy in to the broader discourse of a need to transform or disrupt higher education by breaking down/ permeating institutional boundaries enabling students to study across different institutions and engage in learning through multiple stakeholders.

The briefing does include various examples of elements the connected learning environment being delivered by different institutions which is useful albeit USA-centric.

Pearson’s acquisition of Learning Catalytics

A short post on the acquisition of Learning Catalytics by Pearson as discussed here. Note the quote from Paul Corey, president of science, business, and technology at Pearson:

“With Learning Catalytics we felt we could accomplish three things: help faculty turn the classroom into an immediate engaging environment while measuring feedback without interrupting flow, help students learn from each other, and help foster higher thinking skills.”

As Pearson really focuses on education technology and consumer devices, it will be interesting to watch whether its publishing arm develops in terms of full-package course designs. If the predictions on the squeezed middle in higher education pans out, is Pearson positioning itself for commercial delivery of courses designed by ‘elite’ universities supported by tutor support delivered by local colleges? In other words, removing non-‘elite’ universities from course and programme design and development and into a ‘customer’ service role.

MOOCs and business models in higher education

A great post from @audreywatters here on the education technology start-up ecosystem. This includes asking what the impact of Venture Cap maybe which is something that makes academics (at least in the UK feel uncomfortable about. Indeed, one argument for the development of the OU’s Futurelearn platform – however, this is still operated as a separate company majority owned by the OU.

Also, worth noting the following quote:

Can we (please!) foster a resurgence of open source in education? This isn’t simply about schools running their own Linux servers either (although I wouldn’t mind that). It’s about supporting open source development — community development, capacity building, technology tinkering, bug fixing, and most importantly perhaps, transparency. Can education startups be leaders in developing and supporting openly licensed materials (code and content), helping wrest education free from the control of proprietary businesses?

Which was shortly followed by the announcement that edX was releasing its MOOC software as open source.

While these developments are taking in place in a context, at least in the UK, of longer-term declining funding for higher education and the response of the sector in reducing its major cost component, people:

made good efficiency savings during the year. The most significant of these savings related to staff costs, which fell in real terms for a second consecutive year in 2011-12

So, one key question on the future of higher education is whether the prominence of MOOCs is leading to the university as an aggregator, mediating the content and technologies of an ecology of academic and technology and content firms – the university as commissioning agency?

LinkPool [10032013]

A few links and bits n bobs i’ve been looking at in the last week or so:

Current e-learning practice: is a nice brief summary from Stephen Downes on what he’d include as illustrating current e-learning practice. He suggests three areas to show the span of e-learning as (a) ‘traditional’ asynchronous self-paced  courses; (b) a educational VLE (BB, Moodle etc.) showing learner interactions and (c) an example of a MOOC

Future technology trends from Forrester. Nothing particularly new or outstanding here but a useful list in one place. Includes: gesture based interfaces; big data and real-time data; collaboration tools; the internet of things; GPS based devices and services; cloud and a very vague

New federated trust and identity models for a changing world of jobs and careers … and maybe even killing all usernames and password

Self-regulated learning in the digital age SRL)from Steve Wheeler a few months back makes for a useful read especially given the constant interest in MOOCS and their shift to becoming credit bearing (Inside Higher Ed’s discussion of some of the issues here is a useful read – raising the position of ePortfolios). I’m currently involved in a project on transversal competences and in particular, “learning to learn” which I see as being (a) one of the few truly transversal competences and (b) critical to future employability. It seems to me that SRL and self-directed learning is assumed to be unproblematic by the proponents of the disruption of (higher) education but more on this later.

Pearson to exit adult learning business

Following a review since October 2012, Pearson have decided to start the process of closing Pearson in Practice, its adult training business:

Pearson in Practice was built around Pearson’s 2010 acquisition of Melorio plc. It provides high-quality, industry-specific training and qualifications through apprenticeships, work-based, technical and specialised training programmes. Over the past year, changes to the apprenticeships programme – and in particular the shift from a programme-led to an employer-led model – have reduced demand for the type of programmes offered by Pearson in Practice and limited the funding available to support their delivery. Pearson believes Pearson in Practice no longer has a sustainable business model and that we can better address learner needs in other ways.

WHile this is an understandable position given the changes to the apprenticeship programme in the UK – as mentioned, the shift of resources from programmes provided by training providers to employer provision, The FT provide a useful overview on the decision here. It also raises interesting questions given the recent announcement from UK government on introducing graduate apprenticeships for the professions in terms of longer-term sustainability of these apprenticeships without proper funding.

Update: Graham Attwell gives his views on the exit here in the context of privatisation of VET. In essence, direct provision of VET is a risky but necessary business – like so many public good activities – so rather than rely on the private sector, the risks should be socialised, eg, properly funded through the state

LinkPool [14112012]

A few links that have recently caught my eye:

Modernising Universities: a report on a House of Lords debate on HE in the UK. What struck me here was a sense that the UK was isolating itself from opportunities to respond to emerging trends in the wider economy as well as in education – notably in terms of internationalisation through UK student studying abroad (as opposed to international students studying in the UK) and from exploiting existing frameworks, especially credit awarding schemes, to enhance the flexibility in the delivery of and access to higher qualifications.

Linked is this post on the “liquid economy” which states:

Instead of organizing our work, communications, and social ties around slow-forming, slow-changing, and inflexible crystalline work matrices, the liquid economy is based on an increasingly quick-forming, quick-changing, and flexible liquid medium for work, based on streaming social communication models, and a hybrid sociality where an increasing proportion of connections are short-term and reliant on swift trust.

Now the House of Lords report on HE suggests the Universities are just not set-up and managed to operate effectively in such a ‘liquid’ economy. In part, this issue underpins some of the recent critique of current higher education provision including a recent article discussing  what recent developments in digital education might mean for universities. Steve Wheeler discusses self-regulated learning as emphasised in social and digital learning along with self-determined learning – heutagogy – in this post. Self-determined learning tends towards treating learning as an inherent human trait which I agree with at one level but also think that learning to learn is an important focus of what education can and should deliver – that is, may be what HE should be focused on is less on subject knowledge but more on the meta-skills of critical judgement, information and digital literacies – the ‘how’ of learning. But that would signal a major change for many (not all) universities and mark the end of “crap” lectures – to quote a student from The Guardian article.




Weekend LinkPool [13082012]

The following are a series of links on education and technology that caught my eye:

The Future of Online Education (1) discuses three competing perspectives on higher education and the potential impact of online education on these: (1) an employability perspective where higher education is all about imparting market-desired skills. E-Learning can provide the same at a much cheaper rate disrupting or destroying existing education business models; (2) social benefit model where attending higher education confers a certain capital. This is where the ‘traditional’ university market continues and (3) “signaling model” where e-learning is still seen as ‘suspicious’, less valued by both employers, students and parents. 2 & 3 is not far from some of my previous comments and 1 is possibly closer to the rhetoric of some politicians and newspapers. While the post discusses the three perspectives as “polar extremes” and reality will fall somewhere in between,  I think the argument is better framed in terms of different strategic groups of education providers, operating across different (competing and noncompeting) market segments using different channels.  So any fragmentation of the higher education sector will be more fragmented than some of the (technological determinist) commentators are suggesting. This fragmentation is illustrated by New Charter University featured in The Future of Online Education (2) which appears to be extending the models such as Open Learn or MIT’s open courseware. Edinburgh University is experimenting with Coursera. The MSc in E-Learning is specifically seeking to explore the possibilities of alternative pedagogical models through the MOOC format – there’s also a nice article on MOOCs and higher education here.

But … as this post on the Future of Technology in Education emphasises, universities can have a long way to go on getting the basics right:

Time and time again we heard examples of poor communication (between university and students, teaching staff and students, IT and staff/students…etc)

We don’t know enough about what students want and how students live – it was agreed we should try *asking them*more often.

The importance of digital literacy – plenty of staff and students just don’t have it. Thankfully, there seemed to be general agreement that the ‘digital native’ is simply a myth. @suebecks gave a great presentation with many fascinating examples of the importance of digital skills to employability.

So existing institutions may simply lack the capabilities to deliver outside their existing strategic groups but lack anything that differentiates them in that group as wella s lacking the capabilities to change into the emerging strategic groups. So the shake out of higher education *could* be extensive and terminal for many but …. are we *yet* seeing the demand for the alternative models to drive that sort of disruption?

Visualising open education

An interesting post on open education from Amber Thomas that explicitly acknowledges two key aspects: the tensions within [open is not necessarily “good” in the eyes of all] and the economics of [provision costs]. The concluding image emphasising the porous boundaries of both learning institutions and the learners’ concept of learning and how that opens spaces for new providers and, perhaps, demands new business models is an interesting starting point for discussion. What may be key to how this nascent model evolves will be the attitude of learners and whether their demand is for learning or validation – which I’ve discussed a bit previously. Although potential changes in the graduate jobs market *may* lead to a greater focus on learning over certification which would (a) be a good thing in itself and (b) potentially shake up the educational institutions in a fairly fundamental way

Barriers to Open Education

Graham Attwell makes a good point here that one of the biggest barriers to the further expansion of open education is to open up curricula. Curricula are increasingly snapshots in time of the (common denominator?) views of experts be they universities, governments, qualification agencies, professional bodies etc.

In a time of rapid social economic and technological change, curricula can quickly go out of date. And expert driven curricula processes are usually extremely slow to respond to such change.

The conclusion made is that its the experts need to be prepared to give up some of their authority/ power but it is also the institutions themselves. Professional bodies, qualifications agencies, universities, etc. still see competitive advantage in holding onto curricula and so do their ‘customers’, that the business of qualifications includes buying into a specific status that depends on a degree of ‘closedness’. Qualifications are more then just about learn but also about social status, access to employment opportunities etc. (see this post in relation to a similar perspective on VLEs & PLEs) and that can mean that the ‘customer base’ (students) are as big a barrier to the expansion of open education as the experts.

Next Generation University?

Came across an interesting post here on profound changes to higher education. To quote:

New alternative paths towards higher education are opening up every month. The growth of open educational resources mean that the content for a course is freely available and does not need to be developed by the university or school. Collaborative learning means that students learn in groups and through their own personal learning networks. The missing ingredients in the mix are the teacher’s role of facilitator/guide/mentor and role of examiner. Those elements do not necessarily have to be provided by the same institution and thus courses can be offered free of charge and based around a flexible and personalized infrastructure. Students of the future will be able to follow personalized learning paths following courses provided by a variety of providers, sometimes completely net-based, sometimes work-based and sometimes more traditional campus-based courses. In the end the student’s e-portfolio can be presented to a university or accreditation institute for assessment and a degree can be awarded.

Its an interesting and, in many ways, attractive proposition especially at postgraduate, post experience levels where the learner is seeking the recognition of prior learning (RPL) or new knowledge and skills related to their interests, hobbies and professional development. But for qualifications as a route in to the labour market the status of such a degree as is being described to employers (or recruitment consultants) will remain a major barrier. I think it is safe to say that qualifications based on RPL are less valued than more traditional qualifications by employers and, to an extent, by the learners themselves. This barrier is reinforced by a number of factors such as academic self interest in preserving the status of the institution as well as the diversity fo motives for students attending higher education in the first place. While learning will feature in these motives, so does gaining a valued product (qualification) to access ‘better’ jobs alongside basic things like leaving home in a ‘safe’ environment, meeting new people and developing new networks of strong and weak ties – I’ve discussed this previously in the context of institutional virtual learning environments and branding.

These will remain significant barriers to Open Education – its not all about the actual (formal/ subject) learning folks!