How should traditional universities deliver wholly online learning?

I’ve worked with several traditional higher education institutions over the last few years that have been in the process of building a capability for wholly online course delivery. I think it’s worth exploring the ways in which this can be accomplished and some of the pitfalls that I’ve observed. Continue reading “How should traditional universities deliver wholly online learning?”

We need to rethink university IT Services

As is often the case I’ve been spurred into action by a post from Martin Weller about IT services in universities. Specifically Martin describes these complaints about IT Services: Continue reading “We need to rethink university IT Services”

Udemy thinks they’ve “cracked online education” they haven’t. But…

Last week, on the Time web site, Udemy CO Dennis Yang claims to have “cracked online education”. They haven’t of course and this is exactly the sort of glib claim guaranteed to to annoy those that have thought deepest and longest about the ways in which technology can be used in education. There is a ‘but’ though. Whilst Udemy’s claim is overstated they are, in fact, onto something and that something is that Continue reading “Udemy thinks they’ve “cracked online education” they haven’t. But…”

Because universities are more than just girls under trees

I’ve started working with a university again. This week the team I’m working with were introduced to the university’s new Head of Digital and CX. This is quite a new position for the university  and a key part of the role is to help provide the framework for a digital strategy for the university. It was great to be able to hear the current thinking behind the strategy and to have the opportunity to provide some input. Continue reading “Because universities are more than just girls under trees”

20 years in e-learning

In June of this year it was twenty years since I set up my first web server for delivering e-learning courses. I’m using this anniversary to reflect on my experiences in educational technology over the last 20 years. I’ll have a look at some of the things we got right and some of the things we got wrong and why, after all these years, I’m still an optimist. Continue reading “20 years in e-learning”

We need more investment in mainstreaming innovations, not generating new ones

There’s an article on EdSurge today (Here’s a $5M Seed Fund to Support Higher-Ed Innovations Besides MOOCs) that talks about a new fund to promote innovation in highered. I know $5M isn’t a huge amount but the principle just seems so misguided. There is no problem with innovation in higher education. The problem is adopting and mainstreaming innovations across a higher ed institutions. This is where investment is needed. It probably won’t happen though because it’s a very difficult problem to solve and it relies not only on money but on the ability to cooperate as individuals and teams across an organisation. The nature of highered organisations does not lend itself well to this sort of activity. This is one reason why higher ed administrators would rather invest in non human projects such as facilities or buildings or, possibly, in innovations in which the team or individual developing the innovation is small and localised. But if there is no investment in mainstreaming the innovation then it’s just a waste. You may improve outcomes in one small section of the organisation but it won’t improve outcomes across the organisation.

(Featured image by Boegh


MOOCs – Magnificent, Monsters or Malediction

Random thoughts
Random thoughts by

Thanks to Kate Bowles (@KateMfD) for sending me a link to an open Coursesites web site (free registration) that has been created for the MOOC discussion at the forthcoming Universities Australia 2014 conference. Anyone can register and comment in the discussion area and I would encourage those that are interested to do so.

There are six questions in the discussion area; these are:

  • What have been the most significant impacts of MOOCs?
  • What have we learned about teaching and learning from the experience with MOOCs?
  • What impacts do you think MOOCs will have on university business models and who do you think will be most affected?
  • What do you think higher education will look like in 20 years’ time?
  • What questions should we be asking ourselves now about change in higher education?
  • What are the three best articles you have read on MOOCs?

If you don’t want to register on Coursesites and see the discussion there you can always have a look at my random thoughts. They are below:

Continue reading “MOOCs – Magnificent, Monsters or Malediction”

Higher education technology predictions for 2014


Wizard by seanmgrath
Wizard by seanmgrath

In summary, we’ll have another contentious year. We’ll see big growth in higher education services from outside of the university sector, a continued gnashing of teeth from established providers. Some new services and platforms will emerge to cater for different forms of learning, MOOCs will evolve and improve and open badges will be hot. Look out for rhizomatic learning.


Well I missed out on writing a review for 2013 so I thought I’d get in reasonably early and write some predictions for what might happen in 2014. Many of these are merely extensions of what we’ve seen in 2013 but there are some new things that we’ll see. The focus is on tertiary education. Things will be different in k12 and corporate training.

Continue reading “Higher education technology predictions for 2014”

On interactions and scalability in online learning

Expert CC by Pete Prodoehl

I’m not attending ASCILITE 2013 but I am following the Twitter stream closely and occasionally comment into the stream. This can be dangerous because sometimes the tweets don’t really represent the full intent of the speaker meaning that my comments are then out of context. This happened this morning when I read the tweets about Gregor Kennedy’s keynote presentation in which he talked about interactions between students and teachers in online courses. The tweets seemed to be suggesting that Kennedy was saying that we had gone too far with a student centred approach and that more emphasis should be placed on teacher to student interaction. I took this as a call to return to the sage on the stage model of teacher knows best and tweeted my disappointment. But Kennedy wasn’t really saying this. He was saying that the balance between teacher centred interactions and student centred interactions needed to be redressed. I agree with this idea that students can and should interact with experts during their learning. Continue reading “On interactions and scalability in online learning”

Because academic freedom does not include the freedom to create a poor learning experience


Academic freedom
Academic freedom

Dear Faculty Member or Academic (whichever you would prefer),

I was delighted to see your response to Joshua Kim’s post on experiences working with Learning Designers which he reports here on the Inside Higher Education web site. I’ll remind you of what you said:

“Enough of this professionalization nonsense. Education != instruction–education, to quote the good Cardinal Newman, “is a higher word.” We, faculty, establish the environment for education. Professional staff such as “learning designers” or “instructional designers” are extraneous and a drain on our precious few resources. Replacing tenure lines with an army of professionalized staff loaded with credentials alongside low-paid and necessarily subservient and contingent adjunct faculty is not the appropriate way forward. You are complicit with the destruction of higher education and the transformation of our institutions into the corporate university. Reject these efforts to redefine education into the instrumentalized system that you are already fully involved in. Enough.”

I think your view represents one that would be widely held in many universities and it’s important that this view be recognised and responded to because, the fact is, it represents the height of academic arrogance and pomposity dressed up as a concern for the welfare of students when, in fact, it’s nothing more than a demand for the status quo and, preferably, a return to some mythical golden age of academia.

Now I have every respect for an academic’s expertise in a particular discipline. I have no intention of arguing with someone who has spent their life studying mid-Asian relaxation techniques in the 14th century in a discussion on trends in Tibetan meditation in the middle ages. I will happily accept that somebody with numerous research outputs in the use of fruit flies in genetic studies almost certainly knows a bit more about it than me. And, more controversially, I accept the right of some academics to expound an unpalatable thesis. I may not agree with them and I may hope that somebody with expertise may counter that thesis but nevertheless it is critical that researchers and academics have the right of academic freedom to explore all possible topics and present alternative views. Continue reading “Because academic freedom does not include the freedom to create a poor learning experience”