Wednesday, September 30, 2009

1.4: Is this the future?

I received an odd RSS feed relaring to existing Beyond Current Horizons essays, once of whcih I hadn't blogged on before (see previous posts concerning these). "The digital landscape and new education providers" considers how digital technologies have lowered the barriers of entry to higher education and how many large corporates are making the most of the opportunity. The growth of home-schooling, blended learning and online question-and-answer sites is discussed, as are trends in ebooks, learning in virtual worlds and assessment. Inspiring stuff... if these trends continue, the future of education will be very different!

The article addresses the arguments of openness, quality, IP and the importance of revenue streams. Most interesting to me, though, was the very interesting section on "Lifelong learning and the learning society", which seems to emphasise training and workplace skills over classic liberal education. There are serious costs here; an industrially-based and pragmatic education is not the same thing as an emancipating, self-actualising one. "The Future" section (Part Three) ends with an excellent quote:

...we all value open-ness, participation, communication and collaboration, and that we value professional expertise and quality assurance. We value individuals and their free pursuit of ideas and interests; we value communities and the compromise that they necessarily entail. We value knowledge and innovation; we value health, the body and genuine sustainability. We value our economy and the role for education policy in ensuring a good fit between what is learnt at all stages of life, and what is needed to sustain a healthy economy run by competent, confident, adaptive people. We value the classics, the arts, and learning for the sake of personal development and wellbeing. We value diversity and flexibility; we value cohesion and manageability. We work together, with hope, towards a future of physical and social technologies that reflect these values.

Yep, I'm into that.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

1.5: The Horizon Report 2009

According to the latest Australia/New Zealand Horizon Report (International report available here), here are the things to watch along with their estimated time of impact:
  • Mobile Internet devices - one year or less. I think this is actually a wee bit optimistic; mobile Internet devices (with flexible features) are actually rather expensive to own and run, and I'm not sure that their uptake will become so ubiquitous as to make them a 'one year or less' call.
  • Private clouds - one year or less.
  • Open content - two to three years. Waaaaay too optimistic IMHO. Learning objects and open content have been available for many, many years... acceptance may well be growing, but whether the use of open content will be significant in two or three years remains to be seen. Hats off to those working on it and contributing to it, but I suspect that the level of systematic change and critical mass that might be required to make open content truly viable will take longer than two to three years.
  • Virtual, augmented and alternate realities - two to three years. Could be a bit soon... experiments are voluminous, outcomes from these are not yet, to my knowledge, convincing enough to establish whether virtual realities provide any substantial advantage over more traditional means of online learning and distance education. I'm afraid the word 'fun' is used too often in the studies I have seen. Another problem is that self-reporting surveys are often used, usually providing very predictable and not-too-useful results; another is that effective learning was limited to a few small outcomes rather than across an entire course. Perhaps the next two or three years may change this picture somewhat...?
  • Location-based learning - four to five years. Looks promising, but might become a supplement for more traditionally-oriented instruction.
  • Smart objects and devices - four to five years
The findings are based on a systematic review of literature (based somewhat on popular press releases) and expert opinion based on an Australasian Advisory Board that includes our very own Derek Wenmoth (one New Zealander...!) My interpretation remains as it was last year - some caution required, though it's always very useful to be informed about possibilities. The methodology seems a bit skewed toward the 'latest and greatest', and the cutting edge RSS sources are bound to overstate trends in a speculative way. Results might also be made more optimistic by the nature of the early adopters that the Advisory Board itself seems to represent. Still, this criticism (which may well be overstated and wrong!) does not detract from the balue of these sorts of activities... the next few years will reveal all!

Again I reveal my somewhat cautious approach to the future!

3.0: Instructional design for online courses

A link on IT Forum pointed to "An Instructional Strategy Framework for Online Learning Environments [PDF]"available from the University of Southern Mississippi. The article is, apparently, from New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 100, 2003, pp.31-43 (incidentally, I have two booklets in the series assoicated with my PhD studies relating to spirituality in higher education).

The article points out, quite correctly, that instructional design - well-established in distance education circles - must underpin e-learning design. The authors (Johnson & Aragon) also point out that the 'no significant difference' phenomena established by Thomas Russell cuts both ways; while e-learning and distance education have similar outcomes to on-campus education, there is no significant advantage to them (but note recent evidence Becta). This quote from the article is key:
The obvious conclusion from many studies in this field is that the technology used to support instruction has little impact on students’ attainment of educational outcomes. The primary factor in any instructional initiative, regardless of format or venue, is the quality of the instructional design that is ultimately implemented (2003, p.32).
I remember well when an e-learning colleague from another instution first discovered instructional design; [s]he recognised its importance straight away, even though it was a singnificant length of time after they became involved in e-learning!

Johnson & Aragon argue that effective e-learning practice begins with identifying and adopting "a philosophy of teraching and learning that is appropriate for online instruction", consisting of matching "their desired learning goals and instructional methods to the appropriate learning theories" (p.33). They suggest NOT becoming an avowed social constructivist, but rather a flexibel practitioner who is able to exploit whatever approach will meet the learning objectives.

Nice one.

Johnson & Aragon proceed to offer seven principles for "powerful online learning environments", as follows:
  1. Address individual differences.
  2. Motivate the student.
  3. Avoid information overload (follow 'The Rule of Seven').
  4. Create a real-life context.
  5. Eencourage social interaction.
  6. Provide hands-on activities.
  7. Encourage student reflection.
Grab the article and have a careful read. It's excellent.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

3.0: A designer's log

The latest eBook from AU (Athabasca University) Press is "A designer's log: Case studies in instructional design", by Michael Power. It's a very readable and insightful volume, and there is a free PDF download available... an excellent glimpse into an instructional designer's world!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

E-Primer series now complete

All five E-Primers are now available from the Ako Aotearoa E-Primer page. The series:

#1 - E-learning in context - An introduction to e-learning and the international experience; definitions of terms; a theory for e-learning; technologies; benefits

#2 - E-education and faculty - Education theory and e-learning; the changing role of faculty; workload issues; quality

#3 - Designing for e-learning - Instructional design; learning objects; constructing a hybrid course

#4 - Online discourse - Synchronous and asynchronous communications; designing online discourse; online facilitation.

#5 - E-xtending possibilities -  Web 2.0; ePortfolios; virtual worlds; lifelong learning.

It's been quite a journey for me. I have learned a lot, and taking the time to review substantial literature in the field has greatly assisted me in digging deeper into my own pespective as an e-learning practitioner. This has provided an excellent platform for further research in adult education, which is where my reading will now tend to go as I work toward completing my PhD

More attention will be given this blog once I finish the third Ako Aotearoa project I am leading, now close to its write-up stage. In the meantime, enjoy E-P 5!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

3.4.6 & 5.1.2: Diana Laurillard at ALT-C

A session at the 2009 ALT-C in Manchester by Dianna Laurillard discusses, in part, how wikis, blogs and forums; virtual adaptive immersive environments; and user-generated content sites sit within the Conversational Framework. The Elluminate session (available here) is concerned with learning design from a practical perspective, going beyond principles of good teaching. For me, the CF has always been a useful model for contextualising formal education; it is an excellent foundation for practice as well.

Some excellent discussion and illustrations relating to instructional design here, too... but there is still work to be done to assist with finer distinctions between different learning approaches.