April 26, 2006

L & T Conference - Afternoon Question Time

Panel: Dennis O'Brien, Mike Sharples, Ormond Simpson, Kathleen Gilmartin, Linda Jones, Paul Clark. Chair: Linda Price

Are we on the move?
OS - lots of recent failed e-universities
MS - Nottingham having an outpost in China(?); people have more mobile/access to mobile technology, micro-content, micro-interactions with technology, often in particular context.
DO'B - things should be (designed to be) useful; let users play a role in design.
LJ - who/what's on the move? People, OU, etc.; migration towards (significant) online components but delivered in a blended fashion. In OU context, a) worry that combined demands of teaching, research, staff development are a constraint, particularly at a time of innovation e.g. with Moodle adoption; b) buzz about how technology is and can continue to build communities.
PC - what are the ways in which we can provide rich experiences and reach new audiences using networked technology? Move towards getting OU students to discover resources (i.e.a move to more independent learnig contra the perceived traditional view of the OU of providing everything in the course pack). How do we develop community involvement/particpation/working/collaboration/collaborative learning(?)?
KG - Must find ways of accommodating student choice (e.g. in ways of communicating with them - via SMS etc.); easy to find contact/support information (i.e. effective online support network).

Floor - will our learning models work in international market?
LJ - currently working with Arab OU, but adatptation only a superficial level (not changes to learning design). How can we reach out - case studies offered significabt promise here (?for regionalisation, I guess=?)

Floor -If we teach collaboration, how do we distinguish between collaboration and cheating in assessment?
MS - small group learning; group assessment. Tools to support informal group working.

The OU has developed an effective model for distance learning. In an online context, does the OU have the right balance between funding the provision of content and support?
PC - we produce a lot of print. Do we have the right balance between print and e.g. actvities or independent resource discovery, and do we support that mix in the right way? Need to limit the amount of material we produce for students (prevent content overload). Need to re-evaluate how we develop independent student learning.
DO'B - ALs not paid enough, see themselves as central part of support network. Working for OU is about enrichment, not riches. Learning not about content, about support and removing fear. Support network motivates student and is the driver of their learning. Human communication in open environment (e.g. tutorial) can be threatening for some users who are happy messaging/living through an online persona.
OS - Phoenix is one of success stories in elearning world, and part of their success may rely on the weekly tutor phone call to students... may get a profit from increased support because of inmproved retention that arises as a result.
LJ - Ou model is not one of 'content is King' - far richer and discursive than that (e.g. tutorial in print, self-assessment questions etc.) Our content is not just facts....

Floor - missing generation (older generation) does not have skills that let them exploit new technology. I.e. the technology learning curve is disenfranchinsing particular demographic groups.

Floor - do we practise what we teach in terms of using communication technologies?
PC - not necessarily engaging with new media - blogs and wikis etc. It would be instructive for us to use these technologies.

Floor - VLEs are moving towards monolithic environments. Students have a variety of learning styles and do not necessarily want to be tied int o a particular forced way of working. How do we reconcile these?
MS - monlothic VLE tool is just a phase we are going through. The move is towards toolsets of components that can be combined in many different ways. VLEs need to be broken into parts and recombined with components that exist outside - mashing VLE components with third party compnents.

Are we going for a toolset VLE?
PC - yes - we are going to have a VLE made up of component tools, which is why we didn;t go for Web CT. We are not going for a monolith. ... Moodle lets us mix components. Can the tools be adaptable to the individual? Can we deliver content for different platforms? (e.g. as BBC lets people consume via TV, web, mobile etc.)
OS - problem of access. Approx 55% of UK households have internet accress, concentrated in middle class. Potential pool of OU students will be reduced by nearly half by requiring online access. Are we being ethical by requiring student online access, given our access mission?

Floor - students find workarounds where our technology is not what students want - e.g. students using Skype. We can't stop students using technology.

Floor (Doug Clow) - are we being ethical if we DON'T develop student online skills?
LJ - elearning policy has been developed to accommodate access issues.

Floor (Chris Pegler) - looked up stats using wireless access in room (BRILLIANT!!!): rapid significant growth in uptake of network access since those stats.
OS - yes, but only slowly. Curve is peaking...

Floor - can we provide shared access through partnerships with businesses, other institutions, mobile devices, etc.
Floor - Library 's have internet access.
OS - only one pilot project seeveral years ago wrt library intenet access, and it was a failure.
PC - OU library working hard to develop relationships with other academic libraries.

Floor - OU timescale for elearning stratey is not consonant with apparent timescale with which interent access is becoming available.

If the panel could move T & L strategy forward at a stroke, what would panel wish for?

LF - time; pressure in researchn student numbers; need time to absorb (implications of?) new technologies - an extra year.
DO'B - Doing H805(?)
MS - More time to talk to learners about learning technology design
KG - help learners cope with encroaching complexity in service provision. Ability to offer personalised learner support/personalised communciations model.
OS - start learning from research; renegotiate AL contract; stop spending on rebranding and have coherent programme for talking to students.
PC - more time to talk to one another.Knowledge is siloed in OU. Don;t seem to be able to have time or capacity to share internal knowledge. More time to share good things and the things we should avoid.

Posted by ajh59 at April 26, 2006 05:05 PM

Thanks, Tony.
This is really useful as I didn't get to that session.

Posted by: KarenK at April 26, 2006 10:34 PM