Tag: online learning

MSC TECHNOLOGY AND LEARNING: the revolution will not be live streamed


I’ll be 49 in 2020.

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.

Further reading: 


MSc Technology and Learning: The network is the medium


* This is my first post for the MSc Learning and Technology course I’m now following at Glyndwr University. Subscribe to the RSS or follow me on Twitter for updates.

Olivia, three, is at the pre-operational stage – in the parlance of the educational theorist Piaget.

Her sister, Maya, aged seven and a half, is at the operational stage.

What do I observe about learning from my daughters [pictured above]? How do they learn? And, as I’m chief homework monitor around the house, how do I facilitate learning in between episodes of Scooby Doo and playing on scooters in the park opposite?

For me, there are some basics:

  • A safe, stable environment with a regular routine
  • Quality one-on-one time whereby we sit and read, talk together
  • Time for free play to read, play, jigsaws etc.
  • Me sharing nuggets of learning through out the day eg. talking about using nice describing words in a story over dinner, or counting in tens while we walk to school

But my daughters are not typical students.

Many students never even access the news – on radio, TV or online. Many lack support in secondary school with their writing.

What to do with them? Can we apply historical educational theories of Piagetian Cognitive Development to this group?

And, while my personal approach borrows from the ideas of Vygotskean Social Cognition in relation to Maya and Olivia, will factoring in the social environment be enough to inspire?

In the age of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), the parameters are shifting.

The traditional theories worked before but now it’s time for a rethink.

I favour a new connectivism approach, based around open conversations to spark new ideas, as espoused by George Siemens of the University of Manitoba. He says:

“Learning is fundamentally networked. When we connect to other people and other ideas, we gain a depth of knowledge in a subject.”

Steve Wheeler, Associate Professor of learning technology in the Plymouth Institute of Education at Plymouth University, writing on his blog Learning with ‘e’s, addresses this in terms of rhizone theory.

How can, he asks, we reach a place in education where students find their own level and make their own pathways through learning? In a well-argued blog post, he calls for a living-curriculum approach and support for students to create their own personalised learning pathways.

“The self-determined pathway to learning is fast becoming familiar to learners in the digital age, and is also the antithesis to the formal, structured learning found in traditional education”

Dave Cormier of the University of Prince Edward Island writes a slightly less accessible post, Rhizomatic Education : Community as Curriculum, taken from his rather cluttered Dave’s Educational Blog, in which he goes one further.

The design is poor but the idea strong. He says:

“The community is not the path to understanding or accessing the curriculum; rather, the community is the curriculum.”

So, it’s time to rip up the rule book.

Step back from the PowerPoint and encourage learners to find their own path, trying to facilitate this via increased social online learning.

Besides, by the time Maya and Olivia are filling in their UCAS forms, the view from the ivory tower could look very different.

What do you think of the views expressed in this post? Post your comments below.

MSc Learning and Technology: Why am I here?


I blame Gillian Tett.

The Financial Times (FT) columnist wrote a piece in the weekend magazine earlier this year, Welcome to the Virtual University.

She had just come back from the World Economic Forum in Davos and claimed to have seen the future of higher education – it’s online. Check out the comments from readers, too.

“… the internet is placing universities on the brink of dramatic disruption – and this change could rival … the type of shocks that technology has produced in the worlds of finance, retail and media in recent years.”

University tutors, she noted, are suitably cautious and cite the importance of a campus experience. The pace of evolution is, she also noted, relatively slow, especially in the UK compared to the United States.

But Larry Summers, a former president of Harvard University, told the great and good of Davos, that if – or when – online learning takes off, “This has the potential to be hugely transformative.”

I was intrigued.

I had already subtly started bringing more technology into my own courses at Glyndwr University. Within journalism, we had looked at social media, data journalism, writing for online etc.

But maybe, instead of arranging a guest speaker like ex-BBC Wales journalist Sian Pari Huws [pictured above] to speak to the student cohort, I could start setting up guest slots online?

Why hold drop-in tutorials when we can discuss in a news forum?

And, with the economic model behind the university system looking increasingly flawed,  then maybe I need to find new ways to deliver learning?

So that’s why I’m here.

Why did you sign up? Post your views below.