Posted by: Gillian | April 1, 2014

eBooks for e-D learning

Are eBooks just textbooks on your phone or tablet or pc?  Well, many really are pdfs that have just been resized to suit your device but there’s a growing ‘library’ of ebooks that are starting to harness the potential of digital technology.  Although I agree with Gaby Wood’s view of the current quality of ebooks, I’m not so sure I agree that publishers are lazy. Let’s just say they were slow to turn around traditional financial models and perhaps prudently so as the technologies were rapidly evolving.     There is now something approaching stability in the market with ePub3 which is generating a lot of support as shown at a recent London conference hosted by Jouve.  Learning designers now have e-D rather than 3D.  Material can be presented in the medium (text, video, audio, Q+A, online, classroom…) that makes most sense for the topic and target audience.  Students and learners in general do not read whole textbooks, they cherry pick the relevant bits and perhaps read more of the areas they have highlighted when/if they re-read.  As for bibliographies: does anyone ever read all of those? Well, I guess proofreaders and PhD super-stars ‘may’ – but even then I’m not really convinced. And on a Smartphone, would anyone ever???  Making the material sing and leading learners to do, analyze and create through interaction is the new e-D learning.

In short, textbooks are useful and, I think, will stay but eBooks are different.  Learners and authors need to demand more.

Posted by: Gillian | April 16, 2013

Facts, exams and success

Just been alerted to this Suli Breeze YouTube clip: I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate||Spoken Word: http://youtu.be/D-eVF_G_p-Y  .  I love the bit about remembering something five minutes after time is called: haven’t we all done that?

Exams do not define us.  However, just as attitude, intelligence and ability to adapt to new and emerging knowledge/techniques are essential for success so, too, is the ability to fit our own knowledge and behaviours into the existing culture.  Our knowledge and behaviours might take the existing culture to welcome new realities (think Apple founders) or they might be misunderstood, seen as irrelevant, ignored.  Many lifelong learners and, certainly, many returners to the world of formal education, take exams or seek formal accreditation of learning as a useful shortcut that explains to employers or other interested parties  (e.g. professional bodies, insurers) that they have certain skills.  Learning facts such as lists of kings and queens may have little obvious value when a Google search can find the information in milliseconds but training memory, developing reference points for one’s personal knowledge map and creating a base for further exploration are not easily dismissed as totally unimportant.  When learning Latin, I was unimpressed by the lessons in chucking boiling oil over ramparts which hardly seemed necessary skills for a girl in rural England; but half-remembered vocabulary and complex grammatical constructions have been of use more times in modern-day Europe than I can count whether ordering lunch in an Italian piazza or trying to work out which documents are important and which I can safely ignore for a while when working on projects.

There is much in education that is wrong and, yes, Richard Branson is a prime example of someone who decided formal education could not keep pace with his ambitions and he had the drive and intelligence to find effective ways to succeed wonderfully without (much of) it.  However, attitude and determination alone are rarely enough and in this connected world, interest groups and comment boards from Instagram to Slideshare and Pinterest are there to help us get started in building knowledge maps.  As we become more aware of what we know, sooner or later many decide that seeking a ‘badge’ or exam/qualification is a method of showing others the scope of one’s expertise.  Exam systems probably need to undergo massive change to fit the new world order but until then, refuse to be defined by grades but be comfortable in daring to join or rejoin the world where exams do open doors.

Posted by: Gillian | April 8, 2013

MOOCs – no change in HE?

Steve Downes has written a really useful set of notes from the ELI conference.  They are worth reading in detail but a few things really struck me:

  1. To make the most of MOOCs a university’s sense of self needs to become larger.  The protectionist view that finds the ‘best’ lecturer and creates the glossiest video to safeguard the brand of the institution is an old way of doing business.  It is what happened when distance learning first stepped from correspondence courses to multiple-media.  Eventually, institutional budgets and student demands to see their ‘own’ lecturers meant that less contrived, more immediate materials were made available for students and staff to discuss.
  2. The QA question of ‘residency’ (aka ‘hours of required study’) is an emotional one for traditional institutions but one that should perhaps be past its sell-by date in a connected world where learners bring a wide range of experiences to the table.  While completion rates are a necessary accounting measure and also a source of value-for-money reassurance to bill-payers, in and of themselves they have nothing to do with proving learning.  Outcomes assessment has been with the formal education community for many years.  Outcomes often include behaviours.  There is perhaps no need to link outcomes assessment and academic residency beyond that of enabling more predictable accounting.
  3. xMOOCs (lecture hall, got bigger) are a modern manifestation of a very old tradition indeed, that of letting auditors into lectures provided there was space and, perhaps, allowing them to ask questions but not assessing any ‘homework’ they saw fit to attempt.  They are not the same as cMOOCs which bring together experts, beginners and amateurs from all around the globe, all on different points in their learning paths, adapting the offering and the ‘course’ to suit their own needs as they progress.  The differentiation made at the ELI conference between students and learners is fundamental to the difference in the two approaches.  In the modern world, lifelong learning is seen as an economic necessity. xMoocs may be a very valuable means of higher education outreach but the ‘inreach’ cMOOCs has perhaps the greater potential for enriching the education and economic environment.
  4. Academic writings have been in digital form for many years and traditional university students in most countries are more used to gaining access to library resources online than they are to getting up at dawn to beat the queue for the only book on the shelf so, why are academic libraries still reserved for students and academics on traditional courses?  With the availability of PayPal and similar systems, it should be possible to make very modestly priced subscriptions to all the big libraries available to everyone – or perhaps a two-tiered system with a very modestly priced ‘access’ subscription and another fee for seeking the help of the librarian.
Posted by: Gillian | March 19, 2013

Personal Learning apps

The ROLE project has today had its final official review but this is far from the end of ROLE.  Personal learning environments and self-regulated learning for people at work, in education or at home are here to stay and the tools to let the user control their learning environment in a mobile, uncertain world are becoming not only more essential but ever more sophisticated.  By adding free apps to one’s Google+ space or many other social websites, or to traditional learning management systems (Moodle, BlackBoard), people can share resources, comment on them, reflect on or track their own learning, save a group of widgets as one single widget to be installed on another machine … in short make, learning easier to organise, more social and more relevant.  If interested, see the ROLE widget store.

Posted by: Gillian | March 5, 2013

In-person Communication for Business course

Yesterday I was at a workshop that was both useful and fun.  The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama has some world-famous alumni but what may be less well-known is that they offer voice coaching and presentation workshops for business people.  We acted out the quieter “What am I doing up here?” person and the irrepressible Tigger who bounces into every space, played with breathing techniques and voicing, did our best to stand in a ‘centred’ fashion.  It was material often taught in MBAs but, frankly, I’ve never seen it taught by anyone who is a real master of the subject rather than someone adding it in to their course on OB or Business Comms and the difference was immense.  See http://tinyurl.com/bxyve3b if you want to try this yourself.

Posted by: Gillian | January 2, 2013

Don’t let the jargon stop you returning to learning

Today I met a friend who wanted to sign up for a course but she was told she was expected to be a self-regulated learner. “Makes me sound like an oven,” she growled, “and I hate cooking.”

Frazzled cook

Frazzled cook

She continued, “Anyway, what is one?”  Also today, I was reviewing a paper in which primary school children in a poverty stricken community were called self-regulated learners.  If the kids can do it, the adults in a well-equipped city must be able to do so, surely?  There are many, many articles on the subject but Barry Zimmerman’s model is frequently cited (see here for one version). In basic terms, all that is needed is the ability to stop and think:

  1. What am I meant to be doing
  2. What resources are there to help me
  3. How am I going to use the resources
  4. When I’ve used the selected resources, what were the results
  5. Did the results meet my expectations/requirements and why/why not.

If you add into the equation that ‘resources’ includes fellow, often similarly lost, students, tutors, family and friends, then self-regulated learning becomes less like frazzled cooking and more like sociable exploration.  I hope the friend has fun.

 

(Thanks to debspoons at FreeDigitalPhotos.net for the image)

 

Posted by: Gillian | December 19, 2012

Degrees, learning and MOOCs

This is only a quick post but really: has the hype around MOOCs or the re-invention of UUK actually changed the ground rules?  Players in the MBA market like EBS have long understood that providing solid knowledge is useful to very many. (Any other institutions up for same claim?) Some may want a qualification. Many may just want not just knowledge but interaction with other similarly-minded people. What is ‘education’?

When Masters programmes are launched, they tend to talk much about study hours with more meaning better but occasionally a programme does ‘better’ without requiring a whole year of attendance during which time the subject matter of the programme in question develops separately and faster. It’s rare for me to actually name a programme but if you want a programme that is intensive, under a year, market relevant and includes:

  • 10-day Working Conference in the USA
  • Advisory Board and Teaching Staff from 15 countries
  • Involvement of over 10 universities and 20 companies

contact enricor@blanquerna.url.edu or see the programme website

Based in Barcelona, the teaching is in English. Classes are arranged in blocks to allow cheap flights home to continue with home life or perhaps an existing job.

Starts: January 16th, 2013  Ends: July 12th, 2013

Posted by: Gillian | October 30, 2012

Hens are like people

One can be really kind to chickens in huge well-monitored (intensively monitored) sheds and produce quality-assured eggs or meat or fertiliser with great efficiency.  It’s also possible to have a few chicken and know them really well. There’s the hen that is determined to get itself into trouble through too much curiosity, the one that hates to get its feet wet in early morning dew-laden grass, the one that is utterly desperate for a dust-bath after being confined in a much-moved pen for a few days, the one that hasn’t a clue how to perch because it’s mum never taught it. Tending to the needs of each results in much better eggs – fact. The question in education of adults is how to make that individualisation work effectively and efficiently. For HE institutions, the question is a huge and expensive one.  For individuals, the key is to look for places with an accredited track-record but also a history of strong market responsiveness in terms of how and when programmes are delivered.  Core content knowledge may be added to but essentially varies very little. Application varies a lot. Readiness to apply almost takes us back to the hens and knowing what suits whom and when….

Posted by: Gillian | October 9, 2012

Future of higher education

Watching the Emirates Air Line, installed for the 2012 Olympics, shuttling back and forth over the Thames yesterday, the BILD‘s continuing professional development workshop Learning and Development, looking to the future it was hard not to think much more widely about higher education.  Yesterday also saw the start of a new, global MOOC on the Current and Future State of Education in which some of the first week’s readings draw on the well-publicised debate about the value of going to university and of university education. To me, the arguments in the two events are but two sides of the same large coin.

Once past compulsory education, people in a fast-evolving world with a huge rise in excellent online courses available from China and India as well as the Occident, global businesses and greater access to ever more powerful data and communications technologies are not only going to have to continue consciously to learn new skills but they are going to want to do so in flexible formats.  There’s not much point in going to university for three or four or five years solely to learn a technology developed three years before that and possibly obsolete before the course even starts.  There is, however, much to be said for networked learning, possibly based around universities that will undoubtedly still have buildings – the amount of buildings seemingly required by virtual universities never ceases to amaze.  Jay Cross wrote back in 2008 of Learnscapes and that theme was picked up in the BILD workshop.  Adults, it seems to me, will still be alumni of some form of HE establishment, they will still have professional bodies offering and requiring continuing professional development, they will probably still have HR departments and training managers. In short, there will be plenty to give comfort to those who want to believe there is no need to change anything because ‘the best universities have existed for centuries’. But it will not be the same.

A knowledge economy requires a knowledge society if it is not to return to subsistence farming.   If the learner/adult is placed at the centre of their own learning universe, they can pull information from whatever sources are available (academic, professional, social) as and when they need it and by disseminating their knowledge, sharing it with others, getting feedback, they will gain expertise which may be rewarded with diplomas, money, social approval.  The individual becomes a lifelong knowledge seeker rather than a knowledge receptacle. Some indiviudals already are lifelong knowledge seekers but many more ‘have done’ with learning as soon as possible or, worse, get told that universities are only for full-time students or only for the under-40s or only for those who do not have a degree.  The boundaries need to blur and people need the permission as well as the skills to do pik-n-mix and just-in-time learning.  The permission can be fixed with political will: the skills will need to be fostered from primary school onwards with the generation brought up to progress from one online standardised test to another perhaps being in for a particular tough time but once the need is widely acknowledged,  coaches, trainers and facilitators can focus.

Universities, of course, can help by being more flexible and some are trying to do so but society as a whole needs to shift in its understanding of universities so that conversations become more equal.  As I discussed with a stand visitor at a conference two weeks ago and have discussed with others before that, a ‘free’ communications system (for example) within a business that is only ‘free’ because it is supported by Year2 undergraduates and one PhD student with a thesis to write is not a good deal, especially if the system is incompatible with other systems also in use within the business that do not require so much support.

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