Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Edgeless University - Key messages

The first thing to say about the Edgeless University JISC document is there were quite a few new sites highlighted I hadn't seen before. All are now added to my delicious bookmarks (username - tpreskett if you want to look). The best is probably Teacher Training Videos containing loads of bitesize videos on lots of Web 2.0 tools. I will try look at and use some of these. I will also aim to start creating some of these. They use Camtasia, so we'll how easy it is.

The main messages seem to be:
  • Universities need to offer OER. Some already do it but most don't. It's a question of not wanting to give things away for free. This is the biggest barrier.
  • Universities need to be flexible in how they offer their courses. Tapping into the 'informal' learning seen on such sites as School of Everything. Shorter courses spring to mind. The paper suggested links between established 'informal' learning sites and higher education institutions. That's good news for the established sites. How would this work in practice? Maybe it's just a case of paying for validation once you've done the learning.
  • The importance of universities will be maintained with the validity that they give to any learning. It's a shame that we have to rely on stamps of approval. It's right that employers still need these stamps, they need the evidence. Hopefully, the 'informal' learning offering out there now and Web 2.0 in general will chip away at these perceptions.
  • An important point is that the normal university experience is still valued and popular. But there is a market for a more flexible approach. They evidenced the Open University of Catalonia which is entirely online. Most of their students worked as well as studied so, for them, the flexible approach was ideal.
I pretty agree with all of this. What's interesting is the focus on OER. This is the area that people in education can get their head around. Conceptually it fits in with current models of education and it's easy to see how it works. The only questions with it are where and to what extent. Questions that this paper answers. When it comes to new ways of teaching and learning offered by Web 2.0, the evidence and focus was of outside initiatives. Making links, not changing fundamentally what they themselves are doing. I think this misses the point. Higher education needs to change itself, educate itself on what this paper characterises as 'informal learning'. This way universities can change what they themselves are doing not just tap into what happening elsewhere.

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