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.

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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. Read more

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. Read more

The two horsemen of the higher education ‘apocalypse’

Headless horseman

Headless horseman – Some rights reserved by cgc76

It was fabulous to attend the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Melbourne yesterday. I managed to see four of the five speakers and all of them were excellent. Starting with Dan Savage talking about the perils of expecting too much from monogamy we had then had Arlie Hochschild talking about outsourcing ourselves, Kirby Ferguson talking about conspiracy theories and patterns and finally Hanna Rosin, talking about “the end of men”. I’m sorry to say I missed David Simon talking about why some people are more equal than others but hopefully his video will be available on the Wheeler Centre web site soon.

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On leaving academia

Lecture theatre in decay.

Some rights reserved by matdur69

I’ve been reading Rebecca Schuman’s piece on Slate, ‘“I Quit Academia,” an Important, Growing Subgenre of American Essays’ and it got me thinking about my own reasons for leaving the academy in 1999 and also my gradually decaying anger with higher education before and since leaving. Incidentally, I think my anger seems to have a half life of about seven years but that ‘s only because I have continued to work in the higher education sector for almost all of the fourteen years since I stopped being an ‘academic’. If I’d left the sector completely maybe I would have felt better sooner.

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Developing elearning content using modern technologies

As well as providing occasional controversial thoughts about e-learning and educational technology in higher education I try to provide solutions to real world technical challenges in developing and implementing e-learning and educational technologies. One thing I’m interested in is how we can use modern web technologies to create a better experience for learner. I’ve done quite a bit of work on using HTML5 and the Bootstrap  and JQuery frameworks to help learning designers create more engaging content with the minimum of code required.

Of course I believe in openness and sharing so over at Red Dog Learning I have created a set of video tutorials on how to create engaging learning content using Bootstrap. Below is the introduction video. Go to Red Dog Learning for the rest or you can go straight the Red Dog Learning YouTube channel and launch the playlist for the video series.

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It’s the openness, stupid

Openness and Collaboration

Openness and Collaboration licensed CC BY 2.0 by Paul Downey

A couple of days ago I wrote a dreadful piece of drivel that I’ve since removed from this blog (not a step I take lightly but it was just that bad). I was trying to explain my concern at the way that some educational technology commentators appeared to be becoming increasingly critical of MOOC platforms such as Coursera and educational technology entrepreneurs in general. For me, at that point, the rise of private MOOC platforms and edtech startups in general was something that, while not ideal, was at least the lesser of two evils and could be seen as a positive trend in changing higher education for the better.

I didn’t explain myself very well. Fortunately Cole Camplese (@colecamplese)  wrote a very good piece that  articulated my thinking much better than I ever could: “Innovation Confusion – Why do those who used to push forward now push back?”. But then an interesting thing happened; yesterday David Wiley wrote a great response to Cole entitled “Be Awesome Instead”. I spent a lot of time overnight thinking about what an ethical MOOC should look like determined to blog about it this today.  Thankfully Mike Caulfield has already written another good response to Cole (Reply to Cole: Pushing Back vs. Pushing Forward) and like David Wiley his key point is about openness.

“It’s really the openness issue, full stop”

And yes it is the openness. I had convinced myself that a ‘sort of’ open was good enough as long as enough disruption was going on to make the big changes that I think we need. I was wrong. While we may argue about  what form of MOOC is best, the role of instruction versus connection, how assessment could be carried out, if at all we should all be agreed that an ethical MOOC should be open. Very much like the Psychology MOOC that Mike Caulfield co-created.

Network technology, disruptive innovation and the future of higher education

Network technology, disruptive innovation and the future from Mark Smithers
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A different view of MOOCs

This morning Richard Grusin posted a series of twenty tweets presenting a highly critical and thought provoking view of MOOCs. These are valuable so I’ve presented them here in this post.

What do you think of Grusin’s ideas?

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The penny drops with open badges

I’ve been familiar with the basic concepts around the use of open badges for a while now but I have to admit that they hadn’t really grabbed my attention front and centre until, that is, I got my first badge almost by accident yesterday. Let’s just say it was an aha moment.

I like to build things and I like to code. One of the tools I use is Jquery which is a powerful Javascript framework for building rich functionality into web pages. I’ve been using it for a while. I normally like to learn things myself and then go back and do some training if I feel I need it. It was with this in mind that I tried the free Try Jquery course run by CodeSchool.com.

Now, as an aside, let me say that this course was one of the best pieces of online learning that I have ever undertaken. The use of video explanations coupled with interactive exercises is extremely well done. The explanations are perfectly pitched. The technology used is powerful but seamless. In short, I loved it and I learnt a lot that will improve the way I code. Read more