Tuesday, December 22, 2009

5.3.4: Now, that's a good use of technology!

A virtual graduation ceremony hosted in Second Life by the University of Edinburgh reminds me of my own 'virtual graduation' through the Open University's KMI Stadium back in 2001 one cold morning at 3am in my pyjamas (fortunately no video feed!) In the case of the distance ceremony by the University of Edinburgh, Second Life makes good, novel sense... Trencher caps off to doing such a novel thing, and so well!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

5.3.4: BJET on virtual worlds

The latest issue of BJET 41(1), the first volume for 2010, is a special issue on virtual worlds... one that will be of interest to many engaged in Second Life and potential education futures. As my PhD gathers steam, my reading must become more selective - and so, with reluctance, I note this issue and turn my attention elsewhere!

Friday, December 11, 2009

General: OMG!

OMG! When will it end. Save time, but shallow appreciation! Must read. Is 'classicness' in story, or in style?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

1.4.1: Diploma mills alive and well online

In the editorial of the latest American Journal of Distance Education, Michael Moore describes a student's encounter with a diploma mill - that is, an online (distance) education provider of little substance, unaccredited, whose qualification is of little (if any) ultimate worth. Moore refers in his editorial to the Diploma Mill News, a Website (blog) that gives some insight into the size of the problem.

It is unfortunate that in the online world it is all too possible to pass oneself off as a quality provider of education... I am reminded here of the pre Dot-com Bubble hype surrounding the hyper-investment in e-commerce. The perceived danger was that existing companies would be left behind as new 'e-enterprises' claimed the virtual storefronts. What the dot-com advocates forgot, which led to their rather expensive lesson, is that business dynamics relating to trust and branding run deep. It is all too easy to create a brand online. Developing the requisite substance and trust of that brand, however, cost - not just money, but also (especially) track-record. The conventional wisdom of the day was that everything would be done online, that real-life could not last now that the Internet was blowing everything to bits (to cite one popular book of the time).

As history has shown, it is not easy to extrapolate trends based on the demise of Britannica and the rise of Wikipedia (particularly as the latter faces its own difficulties). While publishing has been hard hit; open source software development proves itself a viable alternative to commercial solutions; and online collaboration reaches new heights, formal education is yet to be seriously challenged. Changed, yes, but not challenged - and not fundamentally changed.

The important difference is, formal education is not in the information business. Neither is it in the accreditation business. Rather, at its very best, it is in the cognitive transformation business. The qualification is evidence of this transformation, but it is not the substance of it. Diploma Mill qualifications are not worth anything because they are not evidence of cognitive transformation. Formal education providers - accredited ones - have transparent systems in place that provide evidence that they are configured for this transformation to take place... and this, I contend, is why formal education providers have the edge even in a connected world.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

General: Thoughts on Ascilite and research in educational technologies

Ascilite 09 finished yesterday. It was an excellent event, great to catch up with colleagues past and present. My own invited address, though purposefully provocative, seemed to be well-received; I spoke on the phenomenon of groupthink and its dangers in a connected world.

In the last day of the event, reflecting after my attendance of several presentations, it occured to me that some were emphasising reflection on practice over informed practice. In other words, some of the lessons presenters drew from their experiences were actually highly predictable and already known, based on literature already available.

In other words, instead of the expected
Informed practice to intervention to post-reflection
I was encountering
Intervention to post-reflection to (pre-existing) informed practice.
I wonder... do we in e-learning circles tend to do more than we actually read?

General: A view of the future?

I have been asked to prepare a paragraph on how technology might look in the next ten years in New Zealand, and to comment on how an academic institution might need to be aware of to be prepared for the future.

Here's my thoughts:

By 2019, internet access will be ubiquitous in New Zealand. Broadband infrastructure and mobile devices will make connectivity universal. Information will be at one’s fingertips, literally. All books, theses, journals will be available instantly on request; payment will be through either micropayment or institutional license (for enrolled students). Society will learn fairly quickly that connectivity does not equate with learnativity.

Part-time enrolments will increase as more students balance the opportunity costs of tertiary education with their own desire for lifelong learning. Full-time students will also exist however they will be a minority of, typically, school-leavers. To overcome the barriers of ‘local’ distance, classes will be streamed live to all course enrollees who will in turn participate via their mobile devices. Students will interact through online spaces that are extremely fluid and convenient to use from mobile devices however such interaction will serve only a small part in academic learning. Assessment will increasingly become important; rather than being collaborative, assessment will become increasingly reflective and integrative in scope. The classic essay will remain.

To be prepared we need only anticipate with open minds. The switch to this sort of environment is neither complex nor expensive, and good quality education and course design will remain so in this emerging environment.

Some reports and further banter are available from http://e-ako.blogspot.com/search?q=future.

A more cynical view of the future would be as things are now, only more of our students drive to class in hybrid cars ;o)