The future of Higher Ed

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The last 6 weeks ONL course has turned out to be enlightening, provocative, fascinating and engaging on how to pedagogically use technology in the classroom. We went through the benefits and advantages of using technology and also the conceivable risks and pitfalls. I really enjoyed every week, writing my personal reflections on a blog, reading what my worldwide colleagues had to say and commenting on their views of the topic.

We have read articles by famous educational developers, watched films, attended webinars, learnt about new tools, collaborated and discussed our learning’s within our groups. We have also created presentations using various tools about our findings to the whole community and giving and taking feedback. Before I went on this course I already knew a lot about technologies & tools in both business and institutions but what I learned from this course was the “why” we should use them and the “how” we can use them especially for deeper learning.

We know that today’s students are pretty much the same as yesterday’s students but the only difference is that they know more about technology than we do right now, but what they haven’t learnt yet, is how to do the thinking part.

This is where the teacher role comes in; a lot of teachers still need to learn about how to use the technology to promote the “thinking process” in students. The one topic that sticks out in my mind and one that I do have a bit of a passion for is blended/flexible learning: today in 2016, I believe that it is still important to have the social face-to-face interaction for the students to reflect & think, alongside with other colleagues of learners and of course a teacher that is a good leader or mentor.

How do we get there?
I work at a Swedish university and can only reflect on what I see here in Sweden but what I do see is that there needs to be a huge change in these institutions and sooner rather than later because the waves of the new generation of students are knocking on the doors (or in todays terms searching on the web) already wanting to learn about facts, figures and how to think so that they can get a good job.
Institutions are lagging behind and are in need of a new teacher role definition, a new support structure to help them move into 21st century education, not just support on the tools provided, but also learning design support. Some more importance and investment is needed on the value of teachers & pedagogy in higher education whether online or blended, so the teachers are motivated to make the design changes in their classrooms.

If we move now not only will the Institutions see the ROI (Return on Investment) by increased student pass rates but also the new target group of Millennial students will also see their ROI and how they can shape the future of human civilisation.

Some thoughts on the future of education:



Social Learning environments

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Many a company knows that for them to be successful you need a good team leader that leads the team to the goal and the same applies in online learning environments.
We need to move away from telling our students about knowledge to teaching them how to think, collaborate, solve, share, and communicate that knowledge.

Online learning environment’s can be very difficult as you are lacking the social interaction of face-to-face discussions, you can’t see if the student is confused, or not paying attention so you have to be more active and on the ball.

Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000) proposed that there are three essential elements that contribute to a successful educational experience in an online environment: teaching presence, cognitive presence, and social presence – which make up the Community of Inquiry framework.
You can read more about this fantastic project in depth on their site
But here is my simple interpretation of the elements in a 2016 online learning environment.

Teacher phase – initiating introductions, a clear timeline, learning objectives, Intended Learning Outcomes with clear assignments and due dates. Interacting by posting updates, reminders and answering threads on discussions. Helping the teams communicate together and engaging with the students. Using multimedia to present the content and Instructional scaffolding

Cognitive phase – Students have to be more independent now, they need to think about what needs to be done, how are they going to get to that goal, use their creativity to come up with ideas on how to get there, if they are lucky enough to have previous experience, they can use those in getting there, if not read, research and use that knowledge to get there.

Social phase – is where the action is because at the end of the day Social is where all the learning is. Social learning is not just about learning within a group virtual or face-to-face it also about learning from one another. At the social phase it is very important that the teacher has good leadership skills as a mentor/facilitator, that they are an E-moderator. Also included are online peer-to-peer discussions and reflective posts on an e-portfolio.

The “Techniques to engage the learner “ (a paper on what teachers have learned during 7 years of online teaching) have got together 20 key components that lead to success in the online learning environment which I won’t number up here but you can see on my sway presentation

Watching an interview with Gilly Salmon, who has over 20 years experience in teaching in online courses and which I can highly recommend if you want to learn more about how to design your course for online learners, suggests to both teachers and students:
“See the online environment as another place to learn, move away from believing that teaching is about content and more towards teaching about engagement and working with others. The online environment is a social and learning environment just as much as the planned classroom or lecture theatre is – just as much as the seminar is in a physical or campus-based environment”.

So research has told us that there are certain models, frameworks and key components to use in online environments, but what they didn’t know in those days is how far Social Media would develop in being able to help in the Social Phase. The students are already used to this environment, a lot of teachers still aren’t comfortable here because it hasn’t been seen as a learning environment before. So lets take the media out of Social and make it ours Social learning.


Open Education – The new definition of fair

“Why reinvent the wheel” when you have Open educational resources to help you and your learners?
Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that you may freely use and reuse at no cost. OER is a great concept with huge potential to support educational transformation. It is simply an educational resource that has a licence to share, reuse and sometimes adapt without having to ask permission from the copyright holder, You can find out more on how to do this on  creative commons.

There are already lots of free resources out there that teachers can use which will save time when designing courses, not only are they free, you can share your own and also collaborate with colleagues from all the universities in the world who are designing the same sort of courses on different open communities. For the students there are also virtual study groups where they can get support from each other on the same subjects  Open Study.
Obviously there is some trepidation from most about sharing hard work to the general public and I understand that this will take time to change in education but weren’t we the same when Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter bombarded our social lives? One of the most sharing teachers on the course KayOddone recommended this short post “Obvious to you. Amazing to others” by Derek Sivers for inspiration.

Alistair Creelman gives a lecture on Openess in education I can highly recommend it . He mentions open learning sites that you can use for OER:

and also a list of OER links – (as long as you give credits)

“What does the notion of resource-based learning mean, in essence? It means moving away from the traditional notion of the ‘talking teacher’ to communicate curriculum; a significant but varying proportion of communication between students and educators is not face to face but rather takes place through the use of different media as necessary. Importantly, the face-to-face contact that does take place typically does not involve simple transmission of knowledge from educator to student; instead it involves various forms of student support, for example, tutorials, peer group discussion, or practical work”. P11 Butcher, Neil A Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources (OER)

Here is also a list of search engines to help you search open educational resources.

Self-described “edtech fangirl & startup addict” Ope Bukola created this great Sharpie animation that shows the impact OER can have in other countries.

Moocs (Massive Open Online Courses)
There has been a bit of a wave here in Sweden over the past few years where universities are in the process of producing Mooc’s, there are project plans in place but there hasn’t been much time for communicating the benefits for faculty. One of the main benefits that I learned from ONL was by watching a video here by Lund university Marita Ljungkvist (project manager/educational researcher for Moocs at Lund) who explained the fundamentals of doing a Mooc but also mentioned how teachers can use different Mooc’s as course material in classes and can be really helpful when designing a flipped classroom.
She explained an example from a course where the teacher had the students take the Mooc first then they did individual and group work in the classroom, the average grade for this course before the flip was 65% when blended the result was 95%. The results are phenomenal, there are thousands of online courses that can be used for regular courses, all you have to do is ask their permission to reuse and they are normally quite happy to share.
In relation to the pedagogy of MOOCs, Glance, Forsey and Riley give an excellent table that explains some of their key benefits.

characterisitcs of Moocs pedagogical benefits

So on a final note after this learning curve which reached new heights, blended and flexible learning has taken on a new dimension.


A sustainable future with Flexible learning

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The education system is in need of a complete face-lift. We really have to start believing that there are students with different learning styles just as we know today in our every day lives that people have different cultures, religions and backgrounds.

Much of the heavy lifting will need to be done by governments reinvesting more money in higher education, as universities and colleges have already done much of what they can do to become cost-effective. In the view of many colleges and university presidents, the three main factors in higher education—cost, quality, and access—exist in what is called an iron triangle.

To improve the student success and throughput rates = flexible learning.

Dr Martha Cleveland Innes, Professor and Chair of Centre for Distance Education at Athabasca University and a guest professor at our university KTH (Royal Institute of technology) held a webinar on Flexible learning. Here are some of her reflections and experiences on how to move forward.

What does flexible learning look like?
“There is no commonly accepted meaning globally; rather flexibility is a wide range of responses to different situations, to different needs, underpinned by different discourses. Therefore, “flexibility” needs to be clearly defined and articulated institutionally, or it can lead to division, multiple contesting discourse and the duplication of efforts and resources…” (Jones & Walters, 2015: 65)

Flexible Learning in a Flexible Society
Boland H. G. (2005) “Whatever happened to postmodernism in higher education? No requiem in the new millennium” The Journal of Higher Education 76 (2): 121-150.

  1. The learner is empowered and can assist in the customisation of learning.
  2. Flexible learning needs to be wrapped around the students’ needs
  3. Flexible learning that can fit around students’ complex lives
  4. Flexible curriculum design with flexible assessment (offered through choice)
  5. Flexible admission criteria
  6. Flexible delivery options (on-line/on-campus; accelerating and decelerating)

At Athabasca University they are already one of the forerunners in using flexible learning in the classroom and have an open course called Learning to learn online
to help their teachers through this process, they even have instructional designers to help them with the course design to including flexible ideas, how fabulous is that? Something I believe all Universities need to invest in so the teachers can get up and running into flexible learning.

Some of the challenges she mentions in flexible learning were:

  • Getting faculty on board to Identify these new ways of teaching,
  • Lack of time to redesign courses
  • Leadership investment, we need to know about leadership so we are ready for the changes that are coming.
  • The need for Instructional designers

I like the way Jones, B., & Walters, S. (2015)  describe the delivery of learning in their article:

  • Pace, includes accelerated and decelerated programmes and degrees; learning part-time; arrangements that allow learners to ‘roll on/roll off’ (‘stop in/stop out’);
    Place, can relate to work-based learning with employer engagement; learning at home, on campus, while travelling or in any other place, often aided by technology which can enable the flexibility of learning across geographical boundaries and at convenient times.
  • Mode’ includes the use of learning technologies to enhance flexibility and enrich the quality of learning experiences, in blended or distance learning and in synchronous and asynchronous modes of learning (Tallantyne, 2012: 4; Gordon, 2014).

In a previous blog post on  Designing courses to facilitate meaningful learning I wrote here on how we need to think about what the Intended learning outcomes are and which teaching and learning activities we could use with technology enhanced learning. It was written last year but now after this ONL course I can see many more new ways of being flexible with IL’s & TLA’s.