Learning in an Open World: Open University Online Conference – day 1

OU Conference: 22nd and 23rd June 2010.   Live blog, morning session 11:20 AM. Day 1

Professor Martin Weller opens up the conference explaining how it will work and talking through the conference programme. He then discusses the concept of ‘openness’ and how it, alongside technology,  has been changing academic practices. The OU conference itself is an example, having previously been run on a face-to-face basis, for the first  time the OU conference is happening entirely online and contributions were accepted openly. The conference targets the OU staff but it is open to all because everything is happening openly in the Internet.

Professor Grainne Conole gives the first talk of the day on Cloudworks. It is a place for sharing and discussing teaching and learning ideas. It is a place for teachers to discuss learning designs, curriculum, etc. Everything in the site is open, and it has about 60000 registered users from all over the world. It is a good place to kick off a discussion about a topic for example, allowing users to include links, share videos, slides, photos etc. Users can also follow other users (like Twitter) and have their own “academic calendar”, in which you can mark you are attending a conference, for example, and see whoever else is attending it. It is a great place for academics, teachers and researchers to share ideas and information. To see the Open University conference page on Cloudworks see OUConf10.

Peter Scott, director of the Knowledge Media Institute (KMi) follows on to talk about the OU ITUnesU initiative. As 14th June 2010 the OU ITunesU had 19,727,000 downloads, around 90% of visitors come from outside the United Kingdom. Peter says iTunes is a good place to promote your work. ITunesU can now be run on mobile phones and the OU is now experimenting with the IPad as well.Peter emphasises that this is a great opportuntity to rethink learning channels and is a back end of powerful systems to support multiple channel opportunitites.

Chris Pegler is next, she is the academic director of SCORE (Support Centre for Open Resources in Education). Unfortunately Chris cannot connect, so   Dr Patrick McAndrew stepped in to give his talk, which has scheduled for the afternoon.

Patrick McAndrew talks on OLnet, Open Learning Network, funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Olnet looks the way in which OER can be globally researched, in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University in the USA. OLnet year 1: Blending evidence for collective intelligence is the title of his talk. The purpose of OLnet is to support how reserach can be gathered together and disseminated. OER is seen as a catalyst for ‘deeper learning’, says Patrick, quoting Barbara Chow, from the Hewlett Foundation.

One of the things OLnet looks at is how to design OER for reuse. OLnet draws on a number of tools such as Cohere and Cloudworks to promote open research in this area. Patrick says he feels that content has a special role, it is an attractor to bring people together, and it has been reflected directly in terms of recruitment (about 13 thousand people) have registered at the OU through the openess of OpenLearn.

OLnet looks at OER in different contexts, and try to bring a new perspective to researching the field. The OER field is still strognly dominated by the ‘West’ universities and OLnet aims to bring examples form other contexts such as Africa, South America etc. There is a lot of new approaches to work with OER, such as the example of a collaborator in Brazil (UnisulVirtual) that is offering ‘Winter courses’ during the Winter break based on OER – courses taken from OpenLearn, translated into Portuguese and localised. These courses will be mentored and offered to the UnisulVirtual current students and their family and friends, in a effort to open up access to higher education content and curriculum. The work done in Brazil with OER was mentioned both by Patrick and by the participants as an example of growing open education practices.

The conference then broke into 3 discussion rooms on Elluminate: in the main room the discussion is about how learners use open content, room one is about sustainability of open content and room two is about how teachers use open content.

Afternoon sessions

Professor Andy Lane: SCORE: Support Centre for Open Resources in Education

Live blogging, 13:30

SCORE builds on the OpenLearn initiative of the Open University. OpenLearn started in 2006, and has more than 9000 study hours of OER available in the website. OpenLearn  won the The TImes Higher Leadership and Management Award of the Year in ICT. Score is about increasing sector capacity for the use of OER. SCORE will support 36 fellowships and aims to create 3600 hours of OER reflecting the sector needs.

Andy explained how OpenLearn has been going through some changes, and showed comparatively the new names attributed to the various areas available for user engagement and OpenLearn. Andy also talked about an event in Leeds that led to the creation of the Leeds Manifesto on OER Sustainability (see link below). Andy stresses the needs for OER to be accessible – is not enough to be made available, it has to be accessible. A question from the audience is whether there is still any opposition to OER in the sector. Andy responds by saying that he has never come across any direction opposition.

Laura Dewis – OpenLearn

Laura aims to talk about the view of OpenLearn. This proposal came out from a review of the OU broadcasting strategy. OpenLearn will merge with Open2.net. Open2.net is the website where people can find out about the broadcasts that we do at the OU. The idea is to close Open2.net and expand OpenLearn. Laura explains that teh idea is to reach users where they are, linking to different sites such as YouTube, ITunesU etc. It is expected that users will then navigate the different areas of OpenLearn and find out more about the OU courses and research projects.

Laura says that in contrast to Open2.net, OpenLearn will not be a branded BBC website. It will focus on the various formats of OER: educational content (text) , video, podcasts etc. Laura shows the new look of OpenLearn, to be launched in July this year.

George Siemens: Teaching and Learning in Open Social & Technological Networks

George is from Athabasca University. He argues that essentially an educator takes content from a knowledge field and provides some structure to it so learners can learn from/with it. He talks about news/media fragmentation – something done by newspapers for example. Media message fragmentation has not quite had an impact in education, he argues. How can the education sector be impacted by technology in a similar way ? The model in education so far is driven by concepts of complexity and emergence. Who has control and who  has capacity to shape the conversation and information exchange in education? By engaging with social tools such as Facebook or Twitter for example, the more difficult it is to leave… .in education, he argues, we need to engage more with new ways of disseminating knowledge. The conversations nowadays  are  distributed around different systems and networks, and universities do not seem to be able to pull these conversations together.

George talks about networked courses. These courses do not have a centre. They are not created years before the learner joins the university, but are created in the process of teaching and learning. There is not a particular URL for the course, for example. However, things are aggregated to make sense as they should, being pulled from different sources. Centering is needed for quality of learning, for identifying patterns, and some level of centering is important to share content. Temporary centers can be created with a number of different social networking tools, organised by the individuals themselves. Multiple temporary centers can also be created. This is a space that people can come together and where a particular learning activity is concluded. Tags can be used, Delicious, Google alerts etc. Monitoring of social media is also a type of activity that helps tracking conversations. Then he mentions clustered aggregation.

The idea is to create a central message through distributed means… learners learn from conceptual connections regardless the best lectures.. he argues. If we are more flexible in the approach, we have a different model in which we engage the learners in questioning for example. Martin Weller argues that students are conservative, and usually expect to see the content as a ‘pack’, as they can see value for money in it. It seems that learners need to become more independent, George explains, and appreciate the fact that they can learn ‘beyond’ the course with the new technologies. The lack of sense of structure demands some transformation in the part of the learners to allow for these sort of teaching and learning to happen. It is a challenge to let go of that strong desire for a structured process, and in letting it go, Siemens argues, we can enrich the learning experience by allowing for personalised contexts and resources that reflect the learners personal history and needs.

In case you as teacher, for example, have 6 learning goals, and the learners are going to all sorts of places to learn about these subjects, the steps you could take to make sense of it all are: 1. ‘Amplifying’ – By using social tools the educators can amplify the message. 2. ‘Curating’ – educators provide a conceptual feedback that enhance the learning experience, both in terms of content and conversations. 3. Wayfinding & Sensemaking: by providing resources and discussing around those. Helping students find their way but also by means of creating spaces where learners are able to find their way on their own. 4. Filtering: selection of what needs to be read and what does not need to be read. 5. Modeling: the usual role the educators have always played. This is about critical and creative thinking. By modeling examples of behaviours and models that learners need to use.6. Persistent presence: the tutor needs to engage continuously with the learners, otherwise learners will drift away. The role of the educator in a networked course is less about information provision and more about as a feedback agent in the system as a whole. Edfutures.com was provided as a URL to check (CCK08/09/10). In these courses every day the tutor aggregates the posts, use Google alerts. Intentionally distressing learners, making them overwhelmed, so they can learn through complexity. The process of learning is navigating that space. Learners begin to use social systems to navigate through it, so they begin to rely on networked learning practices. The structure of sensemaking needs to occur as a product of the learning experience. The process of analytics is important: when things (posts,messages, content)  sit on a database we are able to analyse the patterns. And understand our own knowledge deficiency by interrogating our own learning process, our mindset, and our history of social interaction.

This was an inspiring talk by George, more to come tomorrow at the OU Learning in an Open World Conference… thanks for reading this long post :-)


One Response

  1. This article was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last week.
    I have been coming to this blog for a couple of days now and i’m very impressed with the content!

    thanks & regards

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