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Are we at the Napster moment in Higher Education?

Martin Bean Key Note – notes from the 2012 HEA conference.

If there is a transcript please let me know!

Martin Bean, the Vice Chancellor of the Open University (OU) makes the point that technology in education has everything to do with brain-ware, not software, that ‘we thought our job was done when we got people plugged in’ – (he comes from a commercial technology background).

Martin Bean calls for educators in tertiary education to ‘do the right thing by our student’

Technology is the enabler – it still requires great teaching.

He is at pains to point out that our approach to education is stuck in the past, that it is NOT about rote learning to regurgitate in an exam, but helping students make sense of the information available to them.

Martin Bean is HIGHLY critical of research students who rely on the top 15 hits in Google Search and Wikipedia.

His handle on the current student is insightful.

He makes the point that ‘they want to blend their digital lifestyles with their learning – rather they would say it is ‘just the way they live’.

‘We need to create a trusting environment where the student can challenge the information’. Martin Bean

There needs to be deconstruction and reconstruction of the pedagogy to make it more relevant

Martin Bean calls for the ‘sage on the stage to coach on the side’.

He makes the point that the OU’s National Surveys say that our students want to spend time with us.

This human component is crucial for success and retention.

Martin Bean asks, ‘what would Steve Jobs do?’

  • People and process remain more important than the technology
  • What the OU does: relevant, personalised, engaging learning.

How do we inspire people in those informal moments?

The OU are lucky and unique to be able to work with the BBC on productions like the Frozen Planet …

  • YouTube as an open education repository
  • iTunes – 1:33 come in to find out more
  • Apple authoring tools

The value and opportunity of mobile

  • Akash – a tablet from India running on Android for under £50, so cheaper to give students one of these and access to the Internet than buy academic books.
  • 400 eBooks. e.g. Schubert’s poems, listening to music, seeing the manuscript, reading annotations then looking at the original handwritten manuscript …

How do we as educators do what we do so well?

  • MOOCs – engagement of hundreds of thousands, if not millions in meaningful ways.
  • More than anything esle technology creates access

We are at the Napster moment in Higher Education

See the Hewlett Foundation website for the scale of OERs. 12,000 hours of OU Open Learn for example.
Nurturing powerful communities of learning

In his final remarks Martin Beans suggests

  • Breaking the content down into shorter milestones
  • And the need for qualifications with market currency

Martin Bean, OU Vice Chancellor: We are at the Napster moment in Higher Education

Martin Bean Key Note – notes from the 2012 HEA conference.

If there is a transcript please let me know!

I took a couple of hours as part of H818:The networked practitioner to follow this presentation closely. It makes you proud to be an OU student, or in my case now, an OU Graduate. Our Vice Chancellor, better perhaps than any other, has an inspired and informed, and often witty outlook on the future of education.

He makes the point that technology in education has everything to do with brain-ware, not software,. that ‘we thought our job was done when we got people plugged in’.

He calls for educators in tertiary education to ‘do the right thing by our student’

Technology is the enabler – it still requires great teaching.

He is at pains to point out that our approach to education is stuck in the past, that it is NOT about rote learning to regurgitate in an exam, but helping students make sense of the information available to them.

He is HIGHLY critical of research students who rely on the top 15 hits in Google Search and Wikipedia.

His handle on the current student is insightful. He makes the point that ‘they want to blend their digital lifestyles with their learning – rather they would say it is ‘just the way they live’.

We need to create a trusting environment where the student can challenge the information.

There needs to be deconstruction and reconstruction of the pedagogy to make it more relevant

He calls for the ‘sage on the stage to coach on the side’.

Our National Surveys say that our students want to spend time with us.

This human component is crucial for success and retention.

Martin Bean asks, ‘what would Steve Jobs do?’

  • People and process remain more important than the technology
  • What the OU does: relevant, personalised, engaging learning.

How do we inspire people in those informal moments?

The OU are lucky and unique to be able to work with the BBC on productions like the Frozen Planet …

  • YouTube as an open education repository
  • iTunes – 1:33 come in to find out more
  • Apple authoring tools

The value and opportunity of mobile

  • Akash – a tablet in India running on Android for under £50, so cheaper to give students one of these and access to the Internet than buy academic books.
  • 400 eBooks. e.g. Schubert’s poems, listening to music, seeing the manuscript, reading annotations then looking at the original handwritten manuscript …

How do we as educators do what we do so well?

  • MOOCs – engagement of hundreds of thousands, if not millions in meaningful ways.
  • More than anything esle technology creates access

We are at the Napster moment in Higher Education

See the Hewlett Foundation website for the scale of OERs. 12,000 hours of OU Open Learn for example.
Nurturing powerful communities of learning

  • Break the content down into shorter milestones
  • Qualifications with market currency

Digital Scholarship


I’ll reflect on and absorb the H818 academic stuff in due course – somewhere in the reading a couple of authors were mentioned so while the pressure is low I’ve been reading Lawrence Lessig ‘Remix’ and re-reading, possibly for the third time, Martin Weller’s ‘The Digital Scholar’.

Open Learning is with us.

Whilst more people globally will get a slice of the tertiary education pizza, there will still be those that who are stuck on the edge with the crust while the ‘privileged’ few get the real substance. This applies between ‘first’ and ‘third’ worlds, but also locally in an education catchment area – when it comes to the democratization of education through e-learning some are more equal than others through having the kit, access, inclination, support and opportunity.

Speaking with a school friend I’d not spoken to since we were 10 or 11 we got onto those OU broadcasts in the middle of the night, and then the BBC ‘Trade Test Transmissions’ – how else could we possibly know anything about how the stain glass windows were made for Liverpool Cathedral on how animals were rescued during the flooding of the Zambezi? Repetition, rich content and a dearth of anything else to watch. In sharp contrast ‘open’ today, and TV too means everything and anything. How can anything stand out? Because the search engines offer it, because of branding and association, through word of mouth through your social and other networks i.e. as a consequence of the nature of your ‘connectedness’.

Open Learning is with us

I’ll reflect on and absorb the H818: The Networked Practitioner academic stuff in due course – somewhere in the reading a couple of authors were mentioned so while the pressure is low I’ve been reading Lawrence Lessig ‘Remix’ and re-reading, possibly for the third time, Martin Weller’s ‘The Digital Scholar’.

Whilst more people globally will get a slice of the tertiary education pizza, there will still be those that who are stuck on the edge with the crust while the ‘privileged’ few get the real substance. This applies between ‘first’ and ‘third’ worlds, but also locally in an education catchment area – when it comes to the democratization of education through e-learning some are more equal than others through having the kit, accessibility, inclination, support and opportunity.

Speaking with a school friend I’d not spoken to since we were 10 or 11 we got onto those OU broadcasts in the middle of the night, and then the BBC ‘Trade Test Transmissions’ – how else could we possibly know anything about how the stain glass windows were made for Liverpool Cathedral on how animals were rescued during the flooding of the Zambezi?

Repetition, rich content and a dearth of anything else to watch.

In sharp contrast ‘open’ today, and TV too means everything and anything. How can anything stand out?

Because the search engines offer it, because of branding and association, through word of mouth through your social and other networks i.e. as a consequence of the nature of your ‘connectedness’.

University Of California Approves Major Open Access Policy To Make Research Free

Over 125 million people want a university education – current global provision struggles to cater for 5 milllion – making the source content free doesn’t create an educational package – it lack the scaffolding, assessment and accreditation, but it is food for the hungry.

The history of England’s first school for blind people

Braille provided a way to read material that could be reused by blind people and reduced the pressure on readers.

Worcester College

The attitude to blindness pioneered by those who founded Worcester College is, I think, best exemplified by Samuel Forster when he asserted that ‘the blind boy of healthy body and sound brain is, to all intents and purposes, nothing more than a seeing boy, whose lot is cast in the dark…blind boys are boys first, then boys in the dark…’, an attitude which much later became embodied in the school’s motto, “Possunt quia posse videntur”, They can, because they think they can.

Is preparedness for employment of greater value than an ‘education’?

  • The debate rumbles on in relation to all secondary and tertiary education, whether ‘academic’ or vocational.
  • Thomas Anderson, manager of the Edinburgh Asylum before he went to York, was a great advocate of the utilitarian approach, and censured the English organisations for concentrating on schooling rather than employment.
  • Why educate the blind student if they have no gainful employment or means of supporting themselves afterwards? What indeed is the point in education if nothing follows for anyone? In developing the frustration takes young people onto the streets to protest.
  • As Ritchie says, ‘education was the attainment of a certain degree of factual awareness and the acquisition of a quantum of information—the names of the kings of Israel, the lengths of the chief rivers of the globe and several other categories of facts all equally unconnected with the growing and developing nature of the young’.

Of what use is this to the young blind student?

  • Or should it be in addition to the practicalities of living beyond their school?
  • The prevalent view a century ago was that knowing stuff equated to intelligence. In 1918 on applying to join the fledgling RAF my late grandfather told me how he was asked to name the six most northern counties of England.

A challenge the blind could do without and that was met most readily by those families with the means.

  • Higher education for blind children was confined to those fortunate enough to be born into families with the means and the will to provide this privately.
  • Something that across provision for disabled students hasn’t changed, for example, the specialist Northease Manor School charges annual fees of £25,000 p.a. which, usually after a tribunal, local authorities may pay – while of course the well off have no such hoops to go through.

Inspiration from those who make it:

  • Blind Jack of Knaresborough, the road-builder, Nicholas Saunderson, the Cambridge mathematician, Thomas Blacklock, writer, teacher and philosopher, James Gale, inventor and Elizabeth Gilbert, a major figure in nineteenth-century blind welfare.
  • It would be wrong to suppose that blindness, like other handicaps, necessarily acts as a stimulating challenge.
  • Blindness may act as a challenge, but only under favourable circumstances. The exceptions emphasize how grim were the prospects of blind children before education for the blind became an accepted fact of life: conditions were too bad for the handicap to stimulate.

Discriminatory:

They were (says its 1872 report) ‘to bestow a sound and liberal education upon persons of the male sex afflicted with total or partial blindness, and belonging, by birth or kinship, to the upper, the professional, or the middle classes of society.

These unctuous and somewhat naive sentiments were, fortunately for his pupils, not characteristic of Forster. His attitude towards the education of the blind was unusually realistic and forward-looking. In 1883 he read a paper at the York Conference entitled “A plea for the higher culture of the blind”.

‘The blind boy of healthy body and sound brain is, to all intents and purposes, nothing more than a seeing boy, whose lot is cast in the dark. The mysterious effects of this constant living in the dark have always exercised the imagination and sentiment of tender-hearted persons; but teachers of the blind prefer to disregard it, and come in time to forget it. To them blind boys are boys first, then boys in the dark…. needing the special aids and ingenious contrivances required by the circumstances.’

Presume nothing, ask the end user:

  • Forster wisely consulted some of his older pupils, and they advised adapting braille for the purpose.
  • Flexible, adaptable, accommodating and building on past experience and successes – so motivational and supportive rather than prescriptive.
  • Since braille was the only system which could feasibly be written, the boys learnt to write braille.
  • ‘Teaching to write with a pen and pencil is now generally abandoned as a waste of time’: but those boys who could write before they went blind were encouraged to keep it up. Forster admitted that much teaching was still oral, but not to the extent it was ten years before.
  • Can’t start young enough, so perhaps schools can introduce tools and software.
  • Forster was very keen to get his pupils at as early an age as possible, preferably seven or eight, for no kindergarten was then in existence, and the later the pupils arrived, the harder it was to teach them.
  • Ingenious and inventive:

Mr Marston has been ingeniously endeavouring to apply these games to the use of “our” boys, by means of the principle of localisation of sound.

The difficulties of those boys (roughly one in five) who went on to university are worth elaborating. The student’s main need was for an intelligent sighted reader, for he had few textbooks with which to follow lectures.

‘Daily shewing how the same visitation is robbed of its severity, and overruled to practical good.’

Vincent work station:

The software which accompanies the workstation makes it a versatile aid, but its uses might be grouped roughly into three main areas. First, and most obvious, it is a method of communication with non-braillists. Second, it is a valuable teaching aid. Third – it’s fun!

(Bignall and Brown, 1985)

Bell, D. (ed.) (1967) The History of Worcester College for the Blind 1866–1966, London, Hutchinson & Co.
Bignall, R. and Brown, E. (1985) ‘Vincent Workstation’, The British Journal of Visual Impairment, vol. 3, pp. 17–19.

Accessibility for online learners with disabilities (Open University: Module H810)

 

H810 Activity 4.1

Define problems by:

Campus–based issues:

Compulsory Education (College, old and new universities, postgraduate and even training)

Context – nature of campus, policy, history if and funding of accessibility, maturity and life-experience of the student (born with the impairment or not, residential experience or not). Gender, age, socio-economic group and sexual orientation. Before or after the London 2012 Paralympics and the call by Sebastian Coe to ‘lift the cloud on limitations’.

Access related to mobility: parking, maps, ramps, signage, estates response to lifts that may not be working, policy and funding in relation to accessibility legislation. Geographical location of the campus – in town, or out of town, residential or collegiate, degree of provision of accommodation and other services.

Provision in lecture halls or tutorials of support for mobility, sight or hearing impaired and getting this balance right so that you promote/advertise services, but don’t end up, in a wheelchair user’s terms with the ‘cripple corner’ where wheelchair users are literally pushed.

Course choices, flexibility if online provision as alternatives to some activities, registration procedures and how these are handled, such as per–start induction for disabled students and a buddy system.

Desk space and layout in rooms and libraries.

Access to social spaces, not just dining areas, but JCR, library, bar, lavatories, postroom, laundry services, theatres etc.

Online learning issues:

Quality of thinking behind the e–learning and how often updated and ameliorated to ease and improve access for everyone.

Training as well as provision of assistive technologies.

Tick the boxes at the design and build stage for: cognitive, visual, hearing and mobility issues. i.e. keep it simple and apply web usability criteria relating to fonts, sizes, choices, colours, contrasts and layout i.e. good design is clearer for everyone.

Issues by subject/context:

The choice is with the student if they have the grades to join the course, but do you question someone with a sight impairment signing up to an art history course, someone with a hearing impairment studying music or potentially someone with mobility impairment signing up to a module in physical education, geology, civil engineering or mining – for example. On the other hand, though this is based purely on personal experience, I feel sure that an above average percentage of people with dyslexia are artists or actors, or coach/teach sport i.e. they shy away from highly text based academic courses and careers. Part of higher education is a chance for a person to discover where their strengths and weaknesses lie.

Common to all:

Extra time to complete tasks, even flexibility in the term or year for longer treatment breaks.

Personality, life–experience and participation in social life, how post compulsory education in various forms can be a ‘big step in forming an independent personal and social identity’.

 

Turning thoughts into action – the life of Z A Pelczynski remembered

20120816-030059.jpg

Read cover to cover yesterday, into the evening and small hours. I’m now onto the second read, with various notes to add, references to pursue and further research to undertake.

Yet to be published, I’ll give detials in due course of how to get your hands on a copy.

Why read ‘A Life Remembered’ ?

It’s a fascinating life story from surving the Warsaw Uprising as a teenager to achieving as an Academic and educator in England, Scotland then at various leading universities around the world while pursing various interests and causes with passion and dogged determination. A life lesson? I think so.

Super-selection creates a monoculture that does not benefit society

7th January 2012

Tim Blackman, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Open University: in response to the article by Baroness Blacktone in the THE: says,

It’s interesting that selection has always been a hot topic in secondary education but widely accepted in tertiary education. Just as selective schools are our ‘best’ schools because of very little to do with the teaching but a lot to do with who they keep out, we should start to question just what makes a ‘top’ university.

What do you think? My take is as follows:

Life is messy; selection based on consistency of performance suits a type, not simply by background but by character. We gain when everyone is able whatever route they take to satisfy their desire to learn, indeed there may be greater appreciation and gratitude of the worth of education for those who haven’t gone through via the conveyor- belt of privilege. The caveat is to respect those who not only don’t want to study: they like to learn by doing, but who seek out to learn in a way that suits them and their circumstances. Flexibility has been the watch-word for this group until now; ‘personalised’ learning that turns an education into a carefully tailored and personally adjusted garment is the next step.

The thing that binds the extraordinary diversity of students at the Open University is ‘the desire to learn’, something that I find most humbling in those who have been imprisoned for their crimes and find salvation in learning, invariably through the OU, others, ‘prisoners’ of circumstance, can equally find the OU offers a way out and on, if not up and into parts of society that had shunned them because they not dine things in the right order and at the preferred time. Increasingly, in this century, courtesy of personalised learning through mobile devices the OU model of flexibility and ‘distance’ or e-learning could be picked up at secondary, even primary levels, something that is perhaps being demonstrated by the Khan Institute in North America, indeed happens anyway vicariously through learning in social networks or in online games.

The shift towards increasingly personalised, flexible, online and even mobile learning can only be achieved by self-selection; in the case of learning this becomes the point where the individual’s desire to learn is ‘activated’ never mind the advantages or ‘disadvantages’ of their prior life opportunities. The ‘system’ will improve and benefit more by valuing this moment and therefore nurturing those who make it to a course or through a qualification via what is currently thought to be a ‘different route’. To which I might add that ‘who you are’ at and during a short or extended period of learning matters more than the grades you were able to achieve in your youth, ‘privileged’ or otherwise. For many OU students the opportunity to learn, whoever and whenever they make a start, can with the nurturing and supportive environment and ‘personality’ of the OU result in countless extraordinary stories of lives being enhanced, turned around, given meaning, value and even status.

A final thought, I had this ‘converyor belt of privilege’: boarding prep school, public school, Balliol College, Oxford yet my love and respect for learning has only come from the Open University; I am a better person for it.

Might I also suggest that this perceived selection process leads to expectation that someone with such an education (not their choice but their parents’) is then possibly obliged, like it or not, to continue into the Foreign Office, MOD, Banking, Law or Accountancy instead of developing a sense of how they are instead of what others want them to be?

REFERENCE

Tim Blackman, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Open University: in response to the article by Baroness Blacktone in the THE:http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=418423

Is education a problem or a business opportunity?

‘In Business’ with Peter Day on BBC Radio 4 recently included insights on higher education from the Open University Vice Chancellor Martin Bean.

Martin Bean enlightens, enthuses and convinces us of a model that puts the student at the centre of things, supported by great teaching that exploits everything online and distance learning can now offer.

Personally I always need a transcript alongside radio or TV before I can discuss it so I offer a partial transcript here:

The Open University point of view is expressed in the first eight minutes.

PETER DAY (PD) suggests that people are complaining about education.

This is ‘In Business’ so the angle is on the transition of graduates into business. HP sponsors students through degrees (something accountancy giant KMPG launched last year with several universities and of course the armed service have done for decades)

‘Almost everywhere education seems to be failing to produce what people want from it’.

Now businesses are getting much more involved we are told.

Is education a problem or a business opportunity?

‘Wherever they come from and whatever they are learning what should students be taught? That’s something companies are increasingly getting involved with because they are finding it difficult to get the trained people they need’.

Various industry leaders are interviewed, but a substantial part of programme, indeed the first 8 minutes of a 30 minute piece goes to the Open University, Vice Chancellor, Martin Bean, (MB) who we are reminded comes from industry himself having led education at Microsoft.

How is the OU introduced?

One of the global pioneers in new kinds of education was the Open University set up by the British Government 43 years ago to create distance learning based on broadcasting to reach students outside lecture halls. The internet now provides huge new opportunities for the Open University. Here’s one of the OU’s online lessons:

(The remit for the ‘University of the Airwaves’ wasn’t simply to exploit the technology of the day: broadcast TV and radio, but to give educational opportunities to those who had or were missing out from conventional routes).

The History of English in 10 minutes (narrated by Clive Anderson), an iTunes podcast is offered as an example of the online learning experience.

PD: Education is in some kind of crisis: why?

MB: Institutions needs to have the student at the heart of the equation otherwise it leads to dissatisfaction either with the teaching, or worse still the outcomes when they graduate.

Are employers getting 21st century skills, softer skills that are really about people, about the ability to collaborate, group problem solve, the ability to communicate effectively verbally, the ability to work in teams and our model as you know is based on practice-based learning, so the beauty of embedding learning in the workplace with the Open University model means that you’re actually getting the best of both worlds. I think the fact that over 80% of the FTSE 100 companies in the UK sponsor a OU student gives a pretty clear indication to me that that model is one that overcomes some of that

PD: There is competition from the more traditional universities now?

MB: Other more traditional universities are embracing more innovative practices that we’ve been using and I think that’s fantastic, that’s what students are demanding, these are students now that view technology and access and real time interaction an absolute necessity in their life.

It’s all about embracing the technology of the day.

MB: What’s on my agenda now is to continue to leverage the web, and the personalisation of the web, to fully embrace these new tablet and mobile devices that are proliferating the world and directly link them in to our virtual learning environments, so that people can get as much out of a tablet or mobile device as they do for entertainment today they can get as much if not more using it as a Higher Education learning device.

PD: Looking at the history of technology it is often thought that the new will replace the old?

MB: We have to redefine what personal means. The web has moved from being very content centric to very people centric.

The personal side of higher education is where the magic happens.

MB: What’s interesting though is the redefinition of what ‘personal’ can actually be. We used to think of personal as meaning physical, having to be in the same room, what’s interesting in what has happened to the web is it has moved from being very content centric to being very people centric and enabling us to engage and collaborate in Facebook-type ways that we could not have contemplated even five years ago.

PD: Is it better?

MB: It’s not fair to compare classroom or lecture with online as it is all to do with the quality of teaching.

What is effective teaching?

When we get that precious time with an academic we want is discourse, want we want is challenge.

The real question is ‘what’s fit for purpose?’

Other contributors were:

Nick Wilson
Managing director, HP UK

Rob Williams
Principal lecturer, University of the West of England

Ralph Mainard
Deputy master, Dulwich College

Joe Spence
Master of Dulwich College

Jim O’Neill
Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management

Kunal Bahl
Founder of Indian coupon website Snapdeal

Krishnan Ganesh
Founder Tutorvista

Eric Schmidt
Chairman, Google

REFERENCE

Day, P (2011) In Business. TX 5 JAN & 9 Jan 2012 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b018xwtc (Accessed 10 Jan 2012)

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