* After a year of professional development in e-learning, I recently submitted my final project, a 5,000-word thesis on blended learning for the delivery of journalism ethics.
Here’s an extract from my paper. Please add your comments or ideas below. This project has been provisionally marked as a first – do you agree?
“No printed word, nor spoken plea can teach young minds what they should be. Not all the books on all the shelves – but what the teachers are themselves.” – Rudyard Kipling
THE BIG CONCEPT
To conceptualise a blended-learning module to deliver deep learning for a new course in journalism ethics, incorporating ideas of immersive technology.
The use of real-life scenarios aims to challenge cub reporters intellectually, encouraging them to start thinking and acting as ethical journalists.
This independent project sets out to explore the options for a new way to teach journalism ethics in response to the ongoing change within the media industry. This move is in response to changes to press regulation and the way the journalism profession is responding to them.
During this project, I will set out my professional context, assess lessons from previous e-learning trials, reflect on the challenges I face in this task, the alternative solutions and the resources I can call upon to construct an outline for a new module.
Furthermore, I will recommend my preferred means of delivery for this course, while considering how I may need support to deliver the course.
This remains a course outline, not a complete module handbook, and assumes changes and refinements prior to implementation given feedback from my colleagues and learners.
It is, essentially, a proof concept, an overview and not yet complete, yet designed to reflect the potential of new ideas concept to deliver learning of an evolving subject.
It is based on the concept of e-learning as defined by Kirschner and Paas (2001) as “… learning (and thus the creation of learning and learning arrangements) where the Internet plays an important role in the delivery, support, administration and assessment of learning.”
SECTION ONE: WHY
Lord Justice Leveson filed his report into journalism ethics in November 2012.
As the Guardian (2012) reported, “Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press heard from 184 witnesses and accepted 42 written submissions in more than six months of hearings.”
It was, at times, quite bewildering.
In response, the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ, 2103) introduced a series of changes to the national Reporting Exam in September 2013. This also reflects the movement within the media industry to give greater importance to ethics in journalism and forms a crucial part of learning for young student journalists.
The introduction, however, has not gone smoothly and learners have found this new element of the course confusing.
The key challenge, therefore, remains to find a way to deliver this new course material in a format that makes a somewhat amorphous and rather dry topic more accessible to learners. After all, while the PCC Editors’ Code of Practice (PCC, 2014) is a worthy read, it hardly makes for a thrilling page-turner.
But what if we could test the theories via case studies and watch the consequences unfold in live scenarios, albeit ones in a safe environment with controlled conditions?
Within this context, my ideas for this course also reflect a wider move to embrace new, technology-led ways of delivery learning and promote greater collaborations between the skill sets of different departments.
Furthermore, it reflects a wider trend in the higher education sector overall to integrate more technology-based learning techniques into the classroom environment. It is widely suggested that such e-learning techniques, while relatively new, offer tangible benefits for educators.
As Garrison and Anderson (2003) note: “Education is about ideas not facts. The current passive-information-transfer approaches of higher education are contrasted with the interactive and constructive potential of e-learning.”
Overall, this project may appear to be an ambitious idea, a bold approach to learning.
But, in many ways, I am not calling for an educational revolution to storm the barricades – far from it.
I see this project as a natural progression and reflection of the times, taking new ideas and incorporating them into an existing classroom-based module to simply update the course for changing times.
It does, however, set out to ride the crest of the new wave of e-learning as the sector matures.
“The belief that online education will replace on-campus studies is a long standing and unrealised prediction,” writes Cochrane (2014).
“But in the last 24 months there has been a new wave of debate and speculation … a third phase revival. The difference is marked by the expectation that being at university will be engaging, personally challenging, and transformative of careers and lives.”
Crucially, while I propose to embed both e-learning and immersive technology into my modules in the future, I am consciously not talking myself out of a job.
My role may evolve, my input may be refined and my interaction with learners may change – but I expect to remain a very big part of the process.
As Garrison & Anderson (2003) note: “There is always a need for a teacher to structure, shape and assess the learning experience if it is to be more than fortuitous learning.”
In terms of good practice in this respect, it remains often schools, rather than universities, that are making the best of the running.
The BBC Education website recently highlighted a case study with the Stephen Perse Foundation School in Cambridge, whereby teachers are making their own online library of interactive resources for GCSE, A-levels and International Baccalaureates.
But the school’s approach is not simplistic plug-and-play education. Tricia Kelleher, Stephen Perse Foundation principal, emphasises that such online courses depend on the quality and the skill of the teacher.
“The credibility of online learning depends on the teachers who have made the materials,” she says.
“Education should be a mixed economy, there should be technology, but it is only there to support what a living, breathing teacher is doing.”
Thomas, K. (2014), Is flexible study the future for universities? Available via Guardian Higher Education Network at http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/jun/10/flexible-study-future-for-universities
* This is the third post as part of the Technology and Learning series. See the teaching pages for more posts.
There was spluttering in the ivory towers this week.
Dr Alex Hope, Lecturer in Sustainable Development and Project Management at Northumbria University, posted on his blog, Dr Sustainable. It was subsequently picked up by the Guardian’s Higher Education Network.
I suspect that the academic of the future will not be tied to an institution but be a thought leader, communicator and teacher undertaking a range of activities on a freelance/contract basis – and that the world will be a better place for it.
The comments section fizzed with indignation and pomposity but I suspect he hit a nerve.
We’re all heading for portfolio careers – lecturers and learners alike. The old guard may not like it, but a job for life is now a concept as outdated as Betamax and MiniDisc.
This is nothing new.
Brown, J. S. and Adler R. O. were talking about it in 2008 in their much-quoted article, Minds on Fire. In fact, the section on future careers was the element that particularly resonated with me personally.
I shared many of the views expressed, especially about the need for new models of teaching to prepare learners for the kind of working life they will lead in the near future, and felt enthused by the idea of joining “a community of practice.”
In this open environment, both the content and the process by which it is created are equally visible, thereby enabling a new kind of critical reading—almost a new form of literacy—that invites the reader to join in the consideration of what information is reliable and/or important.
Sign me up, I say.
Although I do worry about the example of allegedly good practice they cite from David Wiley of Utah State University. whereby students posted material deliberately on public blogs. Okay, it forces them to think about posting more responsibly, but, given I’m dealing with a group of inexperienced journalism students, the words ‘defamation’ and ‘libel’ are ringing in my head like a repeat-loop car alarm.
The section about the “long tail in learning” made sense. The endless choice of online courses, as opposed to the constrained financial-imperitive choices of a physical university, offer a strong case for e-learning.
I did struggle, however, with the concept of “reflective practicums” and how this relates to “closing the loop”. As somebody coming into academia as an industry practitioner, I’m sure Dr Hope will understand my frustration sometimes with too much talking and not enough simply getting on with it.
But my major reservation lies with the concept of Learning 2.0 and the “open participatory learning ecosystem”.
The theory is valid. “We now need a new approach to learning—one characterized by a demand-pull rather than the traditional supply-push mode of building up an inventory of knowledge in students’ heads,” write Brown and Adler.
That’s great. But I still have final-year students who need a room-based tutor to explain to them how to put one foot in front of another, let alone their assignment due in before Christmas. There’s a generational shift needed from early-years education upwards, I suspect, before learners I encounter will be ready for Learning 2.0.
But it will come. And I, for one, hope to be ready for it, fitting in my teaching – of course – between the range of other activities that will form my ever-evolving portfolio career.
Dr Hope is probably getting ready for it, too.
At least, he will be once he has finished fielding all those coffee-spluttering comments at the bottom of his blog.
That means I’ll probably have a good 10-15 years of working life ahead of me and will have to continually adapt to new working methods or communities of learning.
So what will my classroom look like on the fringe of my quarter century? How will I deliver learning? And how could engaging with e-learning benefit both my learners and me personally in the future?
Writing in Educause in 2003, Warren Wilson detailed his recommendations for good practice with regards to technology in learning.
He espoused the way technology lends itself to a more learner-centred approach and encouraged institutions to embrace change, calling upon them to give staff more time to develop evolved courses and reward staff for their increased contribution.
He says: “This new learning paradigm puts the student in the centre of the learning environment as an active participant.”
“Faculty can more easily mold learning modules to the needs of the individual student by utilising technology.”
What strikes me is, while this utopian vision has much appeal, the pace of change is much slower than Wilson would have expected.
A recent report by the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education suggests that the revolution will be more about stepping stones than tearing down the barricades.
Report author William Lawton says: “Technology does not have a free hand in driving change.”
“Change is driven (and held back) by people, institutions and countries with real political and economic interests.”
In other words, people put barriers to change. Yet, to me, there are major benefits to moving towards an e-learning model of delivery. These include:
More consideration of the individual needs of each learner
The community of collaborative learning leads to wider expertise via shared resources
Leveraging the strengths of new technology provides a more even playing field for all types of learners
Greater flexibility for learners and tutors to work outside of straightjacket hours
An opportunity to ‘unbundle’ courses, blending my particular expertise with tutors from other institutions in exchange for credits
So how will my classroom look in 2020?
Will the ever-accelerated pace of change finally lead us to Wilson’s utopian future? Or will box-ticking, budget-squeezing management lethargy ensure it looks much like it does today with tokenistic nods to e-learning and lip-service platitudes regarding the needs of individual students?
I fear more of the latter but I can’t be sure.
For that I’d need 2020 vision.
What do others think? Join the conversation below.