Friday, June 18, 2010

5.*: Blended learning at the University of Queensland

I've just returned from the 2010 Blended Learning conference at the University of Queensland, Brisbane. My keynote was beamed through via Elluminate to a UK group at the University of Hertfordshire, and a Cloudworks area provided some further interaction (the Cloudworks page for my keynote here).

I spoke on whether blended learning is a valuable educational goal, suggesting instead that we ought to think in more transcendant terms along the lines of L. Dee Fink's Significant learning and Jack Mezirow's Transformative learning. I also made mention of Narayanan's slow pedagogy (PDF).

There were several particular standouts for me at the event.
  1. Martin Oliver's excellent address (in the Elluminate recording) reminding us of the importance with starting with a consideration of the extreme diversity of our student body, and the use of a Frankenstein's monster image that quite nicely sums up a lot of blended learning.
  2. The work of David Craven (UQ foundation year) and his work with Business Island, primarily because of its excellent simulation and use of real-life collaboration (it makes use of Second Life but will soon move to OpenSim).
  3. A fantastic look at the results of the eCAPS project (see initial promises here). This, to me, was in itself a good reason for making the trip to Brisbane. The eCAPS work will soon be published (I am hoping in at least one journal that will catch e-practitioners' attention). It represents a wonderful synergy between learner-centredness, a clear outcomes focus, sound application of education theory and - as a result - an elegant use of digital technology. I hope to get members of the team to New Zealand at some stage.
  4. A chat with Dr Lynda Shevellar (UQ), whose courageous and dedicated use of blogging and online discussion demonstrates both the necessity of a lecturer with a firm commitment to online discourse and the significant challenges to applying it to an on-campus group.
There was so much more... Dr John Harrison and colleagues' excellent use of podcasting and assessment in courses associated with journalism and broadcasting; sound wisdom from an opening panel; and the opportunity to talk with members of UQs ITS and the ways in which they actively support e-learning development. Each of these discussions were in a richer context than what I can hope to adequately write about here.

I would like to express my appreciation to Drs Helen Farley and Caroline Steele for the invitation, and the opportunity to be inspired again about the possibilities we have for enriching education!

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