Conference report – Learning in an open world


I ‘attended’ today’s OU conference (i.e. by logging on remotely using a web browser). AFAIK the conference was a first for the HE sector because the entire event was webcast live and archived (as well as Tweeted and blogged). Fellow geeks will be interested to know that we used Elluminate ( http://www.elluminate.com/ ) for real-time sharing of slides, audio and live conference chat, and the technology worked pretty flawlessly, with attendees from all over the world logging in live – I was one of 400 remote delegates (which represents quite a lot of CO2 if they had all attended in person…).

The fact that all the content was openly available on the Internet was in itself a significant gesture, but perhaps isn’t altogether surprising in the context of OERs, blended/distributed learning, increased remote working and a generally more web-literate scholarship community.
Many interesting questions arose, which I’ll try to summarise as a series of bullet points here;
1. As any web user now has access to (some) information by a simple text search, how does this change the role of the academic teacher? Are we now informed aggregators as opposed to content generators?
2. How practical is it for the HE sector (anywhere) to attempt to build web-based tools to compete with the likes of Google and Facebook – if our R&D will never be able to compete?
3. Much online learning is moving from a ‘dot’ to a ‘slash’ approach i.e. the University no longer needs to own the top-level url for its content and institutions are increasingly relaxed about this (e.g. youtube.com/bathspauniversity or http://www.facebook.com/bath.spa.university ); what are the implications for the development of online resources to support T&L?
4. What are the implications of the deliberate elitism (i.e. subscription model) of peer-reviewed journals contrasted with learners’ (and some international research communities’) expectations of open-ness? Is such closed learning under threat by ubiquity of information?
5. Repurposing existing online materials (not just OERs but content from any source) is becoming an integral part of curriculum design – what implications does this have for staff recruitment/training/duties etc?
6. How are student expectations changing in an all-you-can-eat information environment? How do we deal with ‘surface’ or ‘deep’ learners?
7. How do we integrate multiple learning tools from different sources, including social networking? The OU have made a start with their Social Learn project – http://sociallearn.org/register/home
8. HE’s traditional business models are based around geography, where learners attend in person; this is obviously still relevant for many subjects and learning styles, but as a learning model it predates the Internet. What are the implications for learner ‘demand’ for HE courses?
Here are some relevant links;
OU conference homepage (with Cloudworks interactivity if you wish to participate online)
Twitter hashtag #ouconf10 – http://twitter.com/#search?q=%23OUConf10
Long-form conference transcription
The much-discussed article (both at the conference and generally in the blogosphere) ‘is Google making Us Stupid’?
How should we attend a conference - by driving to Milton Keynes or launching a web browser?

How should we attend a conference - by driving to Milton Keynes or by launching a web browser?

I ‘attended’ today’s OU conference (i.e. by logging on remotely using a web browser). AFAIK the conference was a first for the HE sector because the entire event was webcast live and archived (as well as Tweeted and blogged). Fellow geeks will be interested to know that we used Elluminate for real-time sharing of slides, audio and live conference chat, and the technology worked pretty flawlessly, with attendees from all over the world logging in live – I was one of 400 remote delegates (which represents quite a lot of CO2 if they had all attended in person…).

The fact that all the content was openly available on the Internet was in itself a significant gesture, but perhaps isn’t altogether surprising in the context of OERs, blended/distributed learning, increased remote working and a generally more web-literate scholarship community.

Many interesting questions arose, which I’ll try to summarise as a series of bullet points here;

  1. As any web user now has access to (some) information by a simple text search, how does this change the role of the academic teacher? Are we now informed aggregators as opposed to content generators?
  2. How practical is it for the HE sector (anywhere) to attempt to build web-based tools to compete with the likes of Google and Facebook – if our R&D will never be able to compete?
  3. Much online learning is moving from a ‘dot’ to a ‘slash’ approach i.e. the University no longer needs to own the top-level url for its content and institutions are increasingly relaxed about this (e.g. youtube.com/bathspauniversity or http://www.facebook.com/bath.spa.university ); what are the implications for the development of online resources to support T&L?
  4. What are the implications of the deliberate elitism (i.e. subscription model) of peer-reviewed journals contrasted with learners’ (and some international research communities’) expectations of open-ness? Is such closed learning under threat by ubiquity of information?
  5. Repurposing existing online materials (not just OERs but content from any source) is becoming an integral part of curriculum design – what implications does this have for staff recruitment/training/duties etc?
  6. How are student expectations changing in an all-you-can-eat information environment? How do we deal with ‘surface’ or ‘deep’ learners?
  7. How do we integrate multiple learning tools from different sources, including social networking? The OU have made a start with their Social Learn project – http://sociallearn.org/register/home
  8. HE’s traditional business models are based around geography, where learners attend in person; this is obviously still relevant for many subjects and learning styles, but as a learning model it predates the Internet. Has the web created different user expectations of access to learning, and are there implications for student ‘demand’ for HE courses?

Here are some relevant links;

The conference continues tomorrow but I won’t be able to attend day 2 – I’m tied up with f2f meetings. One-to-one verbal interaction is still the way we humans communicate best, but it’s so darned inefficient

————————————-

Here is an example of the kind of thing that was presented – this one (ignore the music) is from Katharine Reedy; all the resources can be found here.

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