The next talk was a video conference presentation, “Designed to Engage”, from Dr Diane Oblinger, formerly of EDUCAUSE (USA). Diane was joining us by video on the first day of retirement – that’s keen!
Today, technology is not enough, it’s about engagement. Diane believes that the student experience can be a critical differentiator in this. In many institutions, the student will be the differentiator. She asked us to consider three different things:
- What would life be like without technology? How does this change our experiences and expectations?
- Does it have to be human-or-machine? We often construct a false dichotomy of online versus face-to-face rather than thinking about them as a continuum.
- Changes in demography are causing new consumption patterns.
Consider changes in the four key areas:
- Alternate Models
To speak to learning, Diane wants us to think about learning for now, rather than based on our own experiences. What will happen when classic college meets online?
Diane started from the premise that higher order learning comes from complex challenges – how can we offer this to students? Well, there are game-based, high experiential activities. They’re complex, interactive, integrative, information gathering driven, team focused and failure is part of the process. They also develop tenacity (with enough scaffolding, of course). We also get, almost for free, vast quantities of data to track how students performed their solving activities, which is far more than “right” or “wrong”. Does a complex world need more of these?
The second point for learning environments is that, sometimes, massive and intensive can go hand-in-hand. The Georgia Tech Online Master of Science in Computer Science, on Udacity , with assignments, TAs and social media engagements and problem-solving. (I need to find out more about this. Paging the usual suspects.)
The second area discussed was pathways. Students lose time, track and credits when they start to make mistakes along the way and this can lead to them getting lost in the system. Cost is a huge issue in the US (and, yes, it’s a growing issue in Australia, hooray.) Can you reduce cost without reducing learning? Students are benefiting from guided pathways to success. Georgia State and their predictive analytics were mentioned again here – leading students to more successful pathways to get better outcomes for everyone. Greatly increased retention, greatly reduced wasted tuition fees.
We now have a lot more data on what students are doing – the challenge for us is how we integrate this into better decision making. (Ethics, accuracy, privacy are all things that we have to consider.)
Learning needs to not be structured around seat time and credit hours. (I feel dirty even typing that.) Our students learn how to succeed in the environments that we give them. We don’t want to train them into mindless repetition. Once again, competency based learning, strongly formative, reflecting actual knowledge, is the way to go here.
(I really wish that we’d properly investigated the CBL first year. We might have done something visionary. Now we’ll just look derivative if we do it three years from now. Oh, well, time to start my own University – Nickapedia, anyone?)
Credentials raised their ugly head again – it’s one of the things that Unis have had in the bag. What is the new approach to credentials in the digital environment? Certificates and diplomas can be integrated into your on-line identity. (Again, security, privacy, ethics are all issues here but the idea is sound.) Example given was “Degreed”, a standalone credentialing site that can work to bridge recognised credentials from provide to employer.
Alternatives to degrees are being co-created by educators and employers. (I’m not 100% sure I agree with this. I think that some employers have great intentions but, very frequently, it turns into a requirement for highly specific training that might not be what we want to provide.)
Can we reinvent an alternative model that reinvents delivery systems, business models and support models? Can a curriculum be decentralised in a centralised University? What about models like Minerva? (Jeff mentioned this as well.)
(The slides got out of whack with the speaker for a while, apologies if I missed anything.)
(I should note that I get twitchy when people set up education for-profit. We’ve seen that this is a volatile market and we have the tension over where money goes. I have the luxury of working for an entity where its money goes to itself, somehow. There are no shareholders to deal with, beyond the 24,000,000 members of the population, who derive societal and economic benefit from our contribution.)
As noted on the next slide, working learners represent a sizeable opportunity for increased economic growth and mobility. More people in college is actually a good thing. (As an aside, it always astounds me when someone suggests that people are spending too much time in education. It’s like the insult “too clever by half”, you really have to think about what you’re advocating.)
For her closing thoughts, Diane thinks:
- The boundaries of the educational system must be re-conceptualised. We can’t ignore what’s going on around us.
- The integration of digital and physical experiences are creating new ways to engage. Digital is here and it’s not going away. (Unless we totally destroy ourselves, of course, but that’s a larger problem.)
- Can we design a better future for education.
Lots to think about and, despite some technical issues, a great talk.