explorations in the ed tech world

same sounds-different meanings

Tag: online learning

A crash course in ed tech and online learning for higher ed leaders

One of the things I’ve come to appreciate is how challenging it can be for an institution to grapple with online learning and ed tech.  Leadership is so important and yet the top layer of an institution is generally not selected for their in depth knowledge of something many of us have dedicated our careers to. Even Directors of Teaching and Learning centres may specialize in other things, and have only an operational level understanding of ed tech and how it supports teaching and learning.

The online learning in Canadian universities and colleges 2018 preliminary data is pointing – with a few exceptions –  to the growth of online and blended in Canadian post secondary.  I think it’s fair to say that there’s an ongoing need for institutions to have a really good understanding of online learning and a strategy or plan to grow or support it.  However, often the people who have to make the strategic and resource decisions may only have a surface understanding of online learning and ed tech, and  in smaller institutions  they may be relying on a few known champions or people who have job titles with technology in it for information and guidance or to lead an online learning strategy process.

I’m starting to think there’s a need for a (unconventional) crash course for Deans, VPs and Presidents on leadership in online learning and ed tech.  This is tongue in cheek (sort of)  but is probably something that could insert itself into higher ed executive leadership training.

Topics or courses I would include are:

  1. The Basics – Online learning is many things
  2. The Vision – Being clear on why you do/want to do online learning and understanding the drivers for it
  3. The Data/evidence – Getting real about who your students are, and what they need
  4. The Consultation – Strategies for examining the internal and external environment and why you’ll probably need some liberating structures
  5. Academic innovation – What are open education, open technology, and open education practices and why should we care about open?
  6. The Systems – How to not to fall into the trap of conventional thinking or taking the path of least resistance
  7. Gurus, Evangelists and Privilege – Stop talking about millennials and digital natives:  Being critical about Edubuzz
  8. The Networks – You probably can’t do it alone:  Examining the sector and building networks and partnerships
  9. Innovation – It doesn’t have to be expensive:  Pilots, boundary objects, and creating fail safe spaces
  10. Sustainability – Getting clear on what you invest in, where you want to build capacity, and creative ways for doing that
  11. Strategy –It’s not all about the ed tech:  Building the culture you need to support the vision
  12. Evaluation – Keeping a check and balance on where you are putting your resources

What’s missing?

Don’t let your online strategy become a conversation about which LMS to use

I’m that age where I can say I’ve been working in ed tech for 15 + years.  Like many of us, my life in ed tech in higher education began more or less with the LMS.  Through the years I’ve witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly with seemingly endless tentacles that the LMS brings to our discussions about teaching and learning and especially online learning in our institutions.

Here’s the short of it. LMS’s do some things really well and are not going to go away.  We still use an LMS at our institution, and while I would really like the vendor to invest some of our hard earned license fees into making it a more user friendly tool, we still need an LMS.  However, I’ve tried really hard to make sure our online strategy does not start and finish with the LMS, and yes, it is an ongoing battle.

That aside, I’ve observed (especially in smaller colleges) that so much institutional planning around online learning starts and ends with an LMS.  Online learning strategies are an opportunity to get clear about what online is trying to do and resources required.

What if it started by imagining a time before your institution had any ed tech?   If I was leading an online learning strategy, I would want the people involved to challenge themselves on some questions.  Why does the institution want online learning? What will it let you do?  What do you know about the students that is driving the need for an online learning strategy?

Is the online strategy covering all technology enabled learning and teaching?  Is blended/hybrid courses your thing?  Multi-access?  Is it a combination of blended and fully online?

Consider the following:

  • If you want to do open courses, you might not need an LMS
  • If you have applied programs that work closely with industry you might need more than an LMS
  • If you are doing primarily distance education you might need an LMS
  • If you are doing multi-access you might not need an LMS
  • If you are doing blended/hybrid learning you might not need an LMS
  • If seamless integration with your student information system is needed and a locked down IT environment are your reality, then you might need an LMS (but ideally you would challenge this in your online strategy discussions)

Explore how the landscape, of educational technology has changed since your institution first got an LMS.  If you care about student data privacy or don’t have a lot of resources to sink into one tool, take a serious look at open technologies that aren’t LMS’s  but could support teaching and learning in interesting ways:  Mattermost (student discussions, online group work), WordPress with any combo of extensions that make it course-like (course content and open courses, e-portfolios), Pressbooks with H5P (interactive course manuals or textbooks, or self-directed learning), to name a few.  Consider what needs to be enterprise, and what can be loosely supported for a few programs and departments.  Build the need for flexibility and a tolerance for ambiguity across the institution as part of the culture you want to emerge from your online strategy.

Instead of sinking money into vendor products, invest it in people to support a new kind of ed tech ecosystem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few moments from ICDE 2017 #worldconf17

I skipped Open Ed  this year to attend the ICDE World Conference  in Toronto.  The last time I attended ICDE was eight years ago  in Maastricht.  I brought my daughter, who was 5. She got sick in the bathroom 15 minutes before my presentation, then sat on the floor and did crafts while I presented.  (Somebody took  a photo of her which still lives in the conference archives. Check out that mom-purse full of kid stuff).  Of the things that I remember, the conference was held in a very nice venue but there was no food at all for the four days.

I  remember being impressed by how  it was very international.

Back to this year.  I’m not sure where else you can have the convergence of distance eduction, open education, OER, and online learning all at one conference.  I learned that ICDE has been around for 86 years which is quite remarkable and perhaps underlines the important roots of distance education.

I attended a session at every time slot, listened carefully, and with one exception, didn’t take any notes.  I’m left with memorable moments, although every session was excellent and deserves to be mentioned.  The organization was impeccable, the food was plentiful and delicious, and the hospitality was outstanding.  Maxim Jean-Louis stood at the exit of the conference and was there to personally shake the hands of all 1400 participants from 95 countries who attended. Very classy and an incredible act to follow.

For starters, I appreciated that most of the sessions I attended, including keynotes, were largely panels and no PowerPoints.  This was refreshing.  The Day 1 keynote panel resonated with themes of agency, equity, education for good (Stephen Downes wrote a great summary. The Day 2 keynote panel not so much. In fact, I felt like a toddler being chastised for not playing nice with the mean kids in the sandbox.  From this panel I remember that ‘students don’t care about privacy’, and that higher ed needs to talk and learn from private sector providers and training types ’cause they know stuff. (For the record, we regularly attend DevLearn, the most vendor driven corporate training conference I can think of, and most of us in the public higher ed sector have no doubt spent countless hours reflecting on tensions and questions of public and private).  A note for keynote speakers at international conferences – be careful about gross generalizations that are relevant to your national reality, especially if said keynote panel represents collectively one country.

I should add that the vastly different keynote panels was probably a stroke of organization genius in presenting us with two vastly different flavours of discourse. This is healthy, even if it made me uncomfortable.

Some other memorable moments:

I learned from a Stephen Downes presentation that he has a sense of humour that I really appreciate, even if I didn’t understand where his head was with AI.  He was very witty.

I attended a Tony Bates session on quality in online learning thinking I was already fairly knowledgable on the subject and ended up taking pages of notes. Tony has a great conference summary over here.

I learned that Brazil has an incredible website of more than 60 open, short course modules for continuing professional education for doctors, in Portuguese and Spanish.  Unfortunately, I’ve been trying for DAYS to get registered because one of the fields requires something called a CPF, but they have been friendly and are working on it.

I learned that Canada is falling behind in some areas I don’t want to mention here, but let’s just say that some federally funded health education projects are largely uninspired.

I learned that my former UBC desk mate, Adnan Qayyum, is a research rock star and now occupies Michael Moore’s former professorship at Penn State.  His comparative international education work is fascinating, and one of the tidbits I can’t stop sharing is that 50% of Russian Higher Ed students are in distance education.  That’s a lot of potential OER, if we can move to bridge the distance education as OER gap.

I learned that the ROER4D is a fantastic research project that I need to dig more deeply into and continue to follow.

As I do when I go to conference cities, I try and check out a gallery or two. I went to the Art Gallery of Ontario and got my fill of Group of 7, and ‘discovered’ David Milne. But a highlight was checking out the newly opened Galerie de Bellefeuille where the nicest private gallery employee I have ever encountered (thanks Ray!) led me around the works and pleasantly and unpretentiously chatted art.  This included pulling up Drake’s page on my instagram  to show me the bedazzled buddha he had purchased the day before.  In case you’re intrigued, it looks like one of these.

 

 

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