Jun 142016
 

This afternoon, in my eLearning@ed Convener hat, I’m at a seminar with Professor Gilly Salmon which is being co-hosted by eLearning@ed and the University’s Learning, Teaching and Web Services team and Fiona Hale, who introduced Gilly’s talk.

This is a liveblog so, as usual, comments, corrections, etc. are welcomed. 

I have an interesting job, I’m Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education Innovation) at the University of Western Australia in Perth. It’s a long way away but it had a lot of similarities to Edinburgh – it is a research intensive university, it is very selective, and it has a very beautiful location. It’s perpetual summer – so not like Edinburgh in that respect! Our winter is warmer than Edinburgh’s summer!

And we have some of the same challenges as Edinburgh around teaching. We were doing well but we were a little behind in understanding C21st students and where they were going. So, it’s about innovation – the application of new ideas, new ways to do things.  I’ll talk a bit about this, and my background is in pedagoguey. But I’ve also turned amateur

  • Those who wonder about what happened – what was that?
  • There are those who try to take us to a past gone by
  • And then there are those who actually try and create it – rather than predict it!

Predicting the future can make you look silly, but it’s better than just letting it happen to you. I won’t tell you the way things are, but try and give you a spark to start that dialogue.

So, first of all I’m going to invite you to take a bit of hindsight – if you don’t have that you are doomed to repeat history…

The University of Western Australia is about 100 years old – not as old as Edinburgh, but very very old for Australia. But my hindsight here is that we pretty much deliver a model that is 1000 years old. So I’m going to pull apart some of the components of higher education, and how those are changing. And you can chop education up into many different components… I’ve made an attempt but I hope you’ll take this and critique it and expand upon it. So I have divided it into:

  • Learning
  • Teaching
  • Academics
  • Graduate-ness
  • Learning Locations
  • Knowledge
  • Technology

So, what is Learning? Someone from the audience suggests learning from experience, learning from mistakes. There are neurological aspects. Someone from the audience talks about it being about making connections – in a literal but also information sense. Another: learning is adapting to environment, where you are, when you are. Another: behavioural change, and modify behaviour. We could go on… We don’t know all that much about learning, although these are all valid ways of thinking about this. It’s complex, adaptive, systems, cognitive, physiological, all kinds of approaches…

So, I’m distinguishing between Learning and Teaching. No-one mentioned teaching just now. Traditionally it is thought of as being about someone informing a learner. There is the traditional one to many face to face context, also the Oxford tutorial model which is more discursive. Audience member suggests: it’s traditionally patriarchal or matriarchal. That’s a knowledge based hierarchy. There are also aspects of technology. We have a rough idea of the role of the teacher…

What about the role of the Academic? Audience member: create and share new knowledge. To add to the corpus of knowledge – I would argue that that “share” is important so good to see that there. Audience member: reevaluating old knowledge. Another: to model behaviour in a particular space. Yes, whether professional or academic – applies to medics, lawyers etc.

What about the idea of “Graduateness”? It’s the idea of if you go through Higher Education, maybe even later, is there something different about you? Audience member: it’s a badge in a way. Another: it’s a way to speak to other people in a group perhaps. It’s about being able to be part of particular communities. Audience member: it’s also suggestive of behaviours having changed. Another: and a warranty of your skills. Another: can also enable social mobility. Sure, career or personal development. Another: part of your identity, of being part of that. Another: for particular disciplines there is specific knowledge, but there are the transferable skills, the critical thinking, research skills, technical skills. Another: it’s also about the ability to learn… In Biology students have the ability to get into a subject they didn’t do when they started. If you tell students that they aren’t interested but that is something they would recognise. Has that idea of Graduateness always been a thing? I think the badging certainly has.

So what about Learning Locations? Why are we here? Historically people travelled to university… I’m not sure if you’ve been to pre-modern university. I went to ruins of a 3000 year old unviersity in India and the structure was very familiar – you could almost see your own university in their library/scroll area, the refectory, the rooms… That model of the space, of living, working, spending time together. Anything else? Audience member: I was thinking of location almost as a brand, as why you would go to a particular place. Another: I think that there is a sense of normalised locations – that it is less distracting, it is a space where it is normal to focus and study amongst others like you. I think that’s really critical.  That’s an interesting idea – in Australia many students live at home and attend their nearest university so that’s fairly different from here.

What about knowledge? Historically there was a shift from belief towards knowledge, and the focus on “proper knowledge”… The whole idea of what is “valid knowledge” is very complex. Audience member: Different disciplines have very different ideas of what valid knowledge is. Yes, and that’s part of inducting you to that discipline.

I left technology until last… We’ve always had technologies – the abacus is a mobile technology! I love using technology, like wearables, in my own teaching. Technology isn’t new to higher education… It’s useful to remember as our students fret about Audience member: I think technology also ties into the Learning Locations, in that it’s the only space that you can access some things. 

You’ve all been doing some hindsight there… Some of these things feel unthinkable to change… And actually we can see this image of the University of Bologna in the 14th Century – you’ll have seen it before – which does look like a university lecture now, it’s very recognisable. In surfing you have the idea of the “seventh wave” – a wave that knocks you back, that changes everything, bigger, better, more powerful than what we’ve got. Most of us agree that movable type on the printing press (the Gutenberg press from around 1440) would be one of those. So, you need to look for the seventh wave things that will be the spark for a massive change.

So, we’ll look to where a lot of this has gotten to. So I’m going to start with the World Wide Web – developed around 25 years ago. Our students have never been in the world without it but many of us in this room will remember a world without it. And that has been a huge change, and has also changed the tools and challenges for the students. So we now need to think about creative and publishing aspects, information management, a thinking pedagogy (and learning journeys), learning environments (not lecture theature), web access, building a new paradigm, skills set for the 21st century…

So, lets have a look at those components we talked about, and think about where we might be in terms of Education 2.0… After the idea of Web 2.0. The technical part of the web didn’t change for Web 2.0, but the way it was used that change, hence adopting that rough idea here.

So, for example, learning is starting to change. We now know that informal learning is at least as important, if not more so, than formal learning experiences. Anyone who has held a newborn baby you can see that that baby is looking at everything you do. That’s how they listen and they learn. You just have to look at the literature in early education. So we really aren’t the only game in town when we are at University, there is so much more taking place. Students have always sat out on the grass in summer, only now are we really waking up to that.

And teaching, all of a sudden we’ve realised that peer encouragement, peer support, peer exchange, is important. And it doesn’t only have to be the teaching staff that do that. It might be teaching staff, but others too.

Academics, how many of you have started a research project, done it entirely on your own, and published it on their own. There must be some… But actually understanding, redefining knowledge has be to done as a team. The role of the academic is very much as a team leader. Years back when I moved from being a Senior Lecturer to my first chair I didn’t know exactly what that would mean. I had a professor emeritus as mentor who advised only that “you speak truth to power”, and that should be the only change. I’ve done a lot of that and always keep it in mind. You have to do a lot of that to innovate.

In terms of Graduateness…. Well the idea of licensing practice is much newer… We have moved from a graduation certificate as proxy for skills, to being much more about licensing for practice. And about the fact that those skills etc. need to be updated.

Learning Locations are also changing, from static spaces towards much more blended and flexible environments, often fully integrated. Every so often on campus I queue for the ATM and I ask students whats in their pockets – it’s my informal ATM survey – and the record so far was 19 devices on one student… But it’s rare to have fewer than 2 devices, often more. Students are constantly connected no matter what else they are doing. In our futures laboratory, where we look at new devices, technologies, approaches, we are looking to see where those devices might have learning and teaching possibilities.

Let’s see about Knowledge and what it is. For hindsight we had quite an academic view of knowledge, and around the transmission of knowledge. Audience member: we have more metadata about knowledge, to find knowledge. Another: isn’t that about finding knowledge – that it’s about understanding how to find knowledge, rather than having knowledge. Another: it’s not sufficient to be able to recite knowledge, but to be able to use and apply knowledge in their own field – hence discussion of whether exams are useful. Another: And anyone can have knowledge, not just academics. Another: it’s about volume too… And it’s about the ability to manage that, to interrogate it critically. In my area where I’m trying to change practice I have as many librarians and information specialists working with me as learning technologists. I think it’s a fascinating area, and we all need that insight as we create the future.

And what about Technology? I think we are at the point where technology is cautiously adopted. We need tools to manage that information but it is changing everything about the way that we gain information and knowledge. And those with true insight will see that almost every other sector, industry, area of the social world is transformed… And we are not at the forefront of that which is shocking. Audience: I think the way it has been cautiously adopted makes sense… There is choice and decisions to be made. There is a lot that can be done, and that has to be navigated… No matter what you pick, someone will think you are wrong. Another: there is a tension between individual and organisational choice. I agree, institutions have put huge investment in technologies to make them safe and accessible. Another: there is a tension between what the teacher gives out, and what the student uses… And student has preference there that doesn’t always align. Comment: I think that that cautiousness is about critical engagement with technology, and that is something that industry would sometimes do well to take note of. Not always… Another: And there are issues of accessibility, and that can. Comment: I think that some of that cautiousness is about the role of gatekeepers… Is cautiousness a good, critical, I’m not sure what sort of term. 

I am about innovation, and want my institution to be leading.. Comment: cautiously? Not particularly! Audience member: I think that many of our comments are about scale… About how you support work at scale. I see that. We are doing work at scale. Our futures observatory has 50 projects to see how technology impacts on teaching and learning, and in new technologies. Audience members: any insights into the winning technologies? I think that the leading edge virtual reality especially in medical teaching contexts, some of the robotics work, some of the 3D printing projects. We work with MIT and we have some big stuff… We’ve done a lot with holographics… But all they want to do is to put the teacher in front of the class…! But you just have to do stuff.

So, where do you think Edinburgh is? Audience member: I think it depends where you are here as we are a huge organisation… Some are way beyond “education 2.0”. Another: I think especially in postgraduate education. I won’t answer the question myself, but I want you to use this model as some sort of spark to have those conversations.

So… We are at “education 2.0” so what happens as we move to “education 3.0”? Well I think we already agree that learning is lifelong, that what we do here is a small part of the whole. As we live to 100/110, we will need to keep learning. And expectations are shifting with each generation. Teaching will have to change as a result, to be co-constructed and created. There is a kind of move towards co-constructed teaching. Our students go to Google so we have to ensure that they can interpret and understand the information they find. And we need not just to adopt and disseminate knowledge but to also be learning designers.

As we think about graduateness we have to be prepared for multiple futures. Australia has had a recent report on professions… Australia has a very strict immigration policy only accepting … the vast majority of non-professional jobs will be changed hugely, we have to enable students to be ready for that. And in terms of Learning Locations we need to enable our students, to blend in the right ways, to know how to put things together that support people in their purpose. And knowledge? We know it will be hugely available… It has to be available, contextualised, and reinvented. It’s a wider way of looking at things. And technology? It’s definitely going to be digital, definitely multimedia, definitely mobile, and definitely personal. And that will be hard in big undergraduate classes. The other thing that I’d put under education 3.0, following Tim Berners-Lee and web 3.0, it’s the coming of the semantic web… A different way to understand yourself and your role in the world.

So, I’ll leave you to invent education 4.0… But that’s 3.0. Do we all want to be part of this? (indications of things in the room is that we do).

If you want to look at what is coming… The NMC Horizon Report 2016 Higher Education edition are quite useful. They are built on a Delphi model, so it’s limited to what people already know, but you can look at these, look back at these. Right now we see near-term issues of Bring Your Own Device, Learning Analytics and Adaptive Learning; mid-term we see Augented and Virtual Reality, Maker Spaces, etc. You need to be aware of these if you want to make the future, rather than letting it happen to you.

So, what have I forgotten about? Audience member: I think the student perhaps, they are not fixed in space and time. Students now are very different from just five years – they are part of the c components really. For me, it’s embedded in what is already there, in learning etc. Audience member again: I think you could argue that that is an aspect you can’t control for…  Although I know I can’t control the other factors either! Another: I think there is the issue of globalisation, internationalisation, competition, and the many many ways in which our students are different from each other. It’s a change in the idea of cohorts – they aren’t neatly divided, they vary greatly. And they are more like consumers. Audience member: And that’s a big issue for the UK especially, of it being a market. Comment: And there is the issue of what the university is for, the motivations, the reasons for choosing that route rather than other options. Another: The role of Higher Education is changing – that is about consumers and catering to their needs… I think “service” is important because of that. Another: I think that when we look at scale the campus is very limiting… We no longer talk about a small proportion of learners at undergraduate level, but a large group for undergraduate, then post graduate and beyond… That is much more at scale.” That is the case that scale has increased, since the 1960s but also more recently… And in countries such as India there are vastly more people qualifying for higher education. I think many of these issues are very much where I see “education 4.0” sitting, and mobile sitting.

Comment: I don’t know where the role of teachers of students, and institutions and students sits, where support lies. I was wondering for a moment if you were talking about moral and ethical education… But you are thinking about the whole benefit. Comment: pastoral support really… That seems to have changing. My university has found that social media has entirely overtaken the counseling service (note: that is very much the case here). Audience member: there is also that issue of cost and travel, and the holistic experience of learning in context, which is important otherwise why would you be an international student given the cost. 

So, I am going to bring this to a close. You can have a copy of these slides of course, but also hopefully lots of sparks for ideas and discussions here too. Also you’ll find some references here as well.