Wrapping up Week 8: the E in TEL

10/06/2013 in Course information

Last week’s theme on ocTEL focused on a fundamental question in Technology Enhanced Learning: why are we doing this? In what ways is TEL better than other forms of learning? Many remain suspicious that it isn’t better, so we need good, robust answers to this challenge. If we’re saying learning is enhanced, what kinds of enhancement could we, and should we, be aiming for?

Contributions are still coming in on these question, so perhaps it’s premature to declare a ‘wrap-up’ — I certainly don’t want to discourage further thoughts — but Week 9 on managing TEL projects and risks is now under way, so a little clearing of the ground is in order.

The first activity kicked off with by encouraging you to review some recent examples of new TEL models that purport to make learning cheaper and/or more accessible, with a view to identifying implications for your own teaching and learning practice. Much of the debate tended to start from an assessment of whether these models are either inspiring or irrelevant.

Joseph Gliddon has a natty technique with his to-camera video blogs, demonstrated to good effect in his slightly dystopian extrapolation from Open Educational Resources to widespread job losses in higher education (do check the comments as well, presenting a few different sides of the argument, including a startup business: “We question the added value of a university and think that there’s more to e-learning than watching one-way video. We can do better and we will do better.” Hmmm, well at least there’s one bit of that we can all agree on.)

This is pure speculation, but I’m fond of citing the Innovation Grid for Education, below (source: Leadbeater and Wong, 2010, pdf), and I wonder whether people’s response to the likes of xMOOCs and the Saylor Foundation maps on to the kind of innovation/enhancement they aim for in higher education? If you aim for enhancements in top left of the table, these models seem to have little to offer. If you aim for the right and/or the bottom of the table, they are more suggestive and promising.

Formal Learning Informal Learning
Sustaining Innovation Improve education through better facilities & teaching Supplement education by working with communities and individuals
Disruptive Innovation Reinvent education to create an education better fit for the times Transform education by making it available in radically new ways

I enjoyed Jane Challinor’s post because she got to grips with the kinds of enhancement she wants, taking a stand for qualitative rather than quantitative enhancements, as well as highlighting some of the institutional factors that can constrain this:

I admit I haven’t  really thought in terms of reducing costs as far as my project goes… The decision to use more technology in my teaching is really about increasing the sense of fun and interactivity that students get from it and decreasing the amount of time I stand up  in front of them reading from slides.

Weirdly the climate in HE now is so heavily influenced by NSS, Unistats and KIS data that any curriculum decisions which reduce f2f contact in favour of more online, problem based, collaborative, digital approaches are actually being overturned. We are being required to add in hours of lectures and seminars in modules where you would actually be expecting much more independent learning of the students.

Jane’s post also makes a loose link with how the kinds of peer support we covered in Week 7 have a part to play in achieving enhancements:

in connection with the Scale Up project – I have recently helped put together a bid to fund student mentors to work with new undergraduates on the development of digital literacies in transition. The use of students as change agents to mentor other students (and staff) is an exciting idea and if successful I hope to engage the student mentors alongside other teaching team members to contribute to a project blog.

Finally, Imogen Bertin has recently kicked off a detailed and ongoing analysis of what’s driving enhancements in education:

…look at the rest of the Internet disintermediation – it’s economics and productivity (aka convenience for the customer) that will change how educational institutions operate in the end. Thing is, if we want education to be based around learner needs, there are some good arguments from supply chain management that might avoid mis-steps.

There’s probably something in there for everyone, though Imogen’s discussion of education as a product may not sit comfortably with everyone, especially if you’re worried about the commodification of learning.

But a great deal of education “product” is functional. Where does your course lie? Functional or innovative? Is it changing year by year? Is the demand for it going up or down? What is the value to the learner, and how are you measuring it? My area changes month by month. I want to customise the course based on a pre-course survey to the specific group of learners who enrol. I especially want to respect the time of my learners, and provide a good user experience as well as a good learning experience (convenience). This involves a lot of content origination work on my part.

This is still a live discussion and no one has had the last word. Feel free to join in.

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