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Learning technology and widening access

Talk by Seamus Fox at ISKS conference 11 May 09

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Gráinne Conole
11 May 2009

•    Reasons for using learning technologies, open and distance teaching universities and learning technologies, rhetoric on widening access and actuality, policy enablers and barriers, e-learning strategy for DCU
•    Distance education to online programmes, use of LT in traditional HEIs, proposal that 2 modes are merging, will this happen???
Three stage development
•    Minimum/introductory: online information, etc
•    Intermediate/contextual: some embedded activities
•    Advanced/transformational: significant shift in pedagogical practice
Rationales for adopting LTs
o    Enhancing reputation
o    Information skills/literacies
o    Supporting disabled students
o    eAssessment and plagiarism
o    Improving quality of T&L
o    Increasing flexibility
o    Widening access
o    Reducing costs/improving cost effectiveness
•    OBHE 2004 research – why use elearning? Enhancement of on-campus teaching came out as the most important factor, closely followed by enhancing on-campus flexibility; whereas Sloan – top reasons students from new geographical regions or new markets, and contribute to extension efforts
•    Improving quality of T&L: Abundant evidence – engagement, active learning, higher order skills, group skills/collaborative, etc; also learning outcomes but at a cost…
•    Bates (2000) cost and learning technology; introduction of new technology is likely to lead to increase rather than reduce costs
Widening access
•    Extending access: educational disadvantaged, people with disabilities, under represented minorities, mature students/second chance
•    Distance education – equity and access
•    To provide a second change to HE for adults who do not wish to enter F/T education or who cant do so account of family and or work Ewing Report 1987
Outside of Europe
•    States – over 800 colleges offering at least one off campus UG programmes
•    Almost 600 colleges offering at least one PG off campus programme
•    Almost 4m student talking at least one full online course
•    Australia – dual mode embedded?
•    Canada – Athabasca and large providers
•    Europe
•    CEC 2006 aimed at best qualified students need to grasp the challenges presented by lifelong learning agenda
•    Rhetoric: OECD 2006 – equity of access, lifelong learning, HEA strategic plan (2008), National Access Pan (2008), Smart Economy (2009) – flexible learning for up skilling
•    Mismatch between rhetoric and reality – socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor
•    Funding mechanisms are undermining the policy rhetoric for widening access

Extra content

Embedded Content


Helen Farrell
4:57am 23 November 2009

We're wanting to open up access to our critical thinking site. Advice sought! To put you in the picture: 

My colleague, Erst Carmichael from the University of Western Sydney (UWS) and I (Helen Farrell, University of New South Wales) have worked together for over fifteen years developing materials to enhance students’ critical thinking. We both work in learning support units which exist outside traditional faculties. Initially we produced a book of essays from a variety of discipline areas which demonstrated critical thinking (Critical thinking- What is it?). These essays were annotated by both the student writers and their lecturers to highlight how a critical approach was achieved. Then we moved on to doing a CD Rom and a video which also explore the nature of critical thinking in Higher Education. For about the last five years we have had a critical thinking website on the UWS site. These supplementary Web 2.0 materials however are password protected and available only to UWS students.

In the medium term, we hope to redevelop our critical thinking site so that it has open access to the higher education sector (both teaching staff and students) and so that resources may be shared. We see this social networking opportunity as potentially offering a stimulating, learning environment for both teaching staff and students. Are there any traps for unwary planners?


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