Home group 3: The Icelandic Cloud
Summary of discussions on the keynotes at the Cambridge Int. Conf. on Open and Distance Learning
Cloud created by:
23 September 2009
This cloud summarises the discussions of the “home group” called “the icelandic cloud” at the Cambridge International Conference of Open and Distance Learning. The full cloudscape for the conference is available here. The aim of the home groups is to enable participants to discuss in more depth issues that arise out of the keynote presentations.
Discussions after Sugata Mitra’s keynote
One of the central discussion points of the group was around the issue of what is the role of face-to-face teaching versus online. Sugata’s three characteristics particularly struck a cord with the group, in terms of factors to foster/support learning:
- Providing a safe place/environment for learning
- Associate with play
- Ensure that it is a non-structured environment
We wondered how these factors could be applied in an adult learning context? One of the participants told us he had been an online tutor for 12 years and that he felt he know much more about his online students than face-to-face ones because of the level of interaction and dialogue.
The quality of the construction of the learning process online was raised as an issue – how should such spaces be constructed and supported?
There were different views in the group however in terms of the degree to which student actually want to collaborate and work with others. In particular, students who are in a work-based context often just want to focus on what it is that they need to do to get through and pass and they actively don’t want to work with others. [Interesting this tied in nicely with Morton’s statistics from his university where only 36% of students choose to take up the option of having a learning partner.
The group also discussed what were the different factors, which make an online learning context successful – such as the size of the group, the degree of moderation, the amount of structuring. Gender issues were also raised as an issue.
Discussions after Morton Paulsen’s keynote
If students are all self-paced, how does the assessment actually work? What is the ratio of students to tutors? Maybe the solution is to have individualised, unique assignments. The partnership model and the flexible pacing are key features and will influence the design of the courses, activities and assignments. Partnership mode will foster better learning, through dialogue with another. Interesting that most of the students opted to work individually rather than with others. What was really striking was the amount of student control.
Many students learn very well in a structured, group project. Sometimes we have to realise that group learning is good for students even if they don’t want to do it! Enables divergent rather than convergent learning and understanding. It’s a challenge and there is an issue in terms of the balance.
In the Open University, New Zealand a lot of students get their own learning partners via the workplace. It was interesting in Paulen’s statistic to see that only 36% of students wanted a learning partner. Is there a difference if you are at the beginning of your study or the opposite ie once you have more confidence you are willing to work with others. Likewise there are likely to be discipline differences, for example are Arts-based students more likely to want to work together and discuss than Science-based students? Also is there a gender difference?
We wondered what kind of tools the students studying with NKI have to support the learning partnerships?
The more freedom you give to the students, the more important the planning and structuring needs to be. Needs a complex, well balanced system to support this.
Asby’s law – the more complex the situation, the more complex the structure needs to be. http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/REQVAR.HTML The law of requisite variety
Motivation – how are the students motivated when they are working on their own.
Importance of continual encouragement via letters and emails – has a direct impact on retention.
One of the issues for institutions with a large number of modules is how do you coordinate it – for example ensuring you don’t have all the assignment deadlines at the same time.
- Several participants pointed to Dr. Mitra's work as suggesting a core change to the role of the teacher, at least at the elementary level
- This moved to a discussion of whether face-to-face instruction is still necessary or relevant
- Dr. Mitra pointed to three conditions necessary for success in his learning environment. We focused on two of them - creating a "safe" environment, and emphasizing the importance of play in the learning process.
- The aspect of "learning through play" was discussed at length, especially with regard to its relevance at other levels/ages.
- The discussion then turned to strengthes and weaknesses of face to face modes in comparison to on-line learning. Issues included demographics, type of material, timeframes, etc..
- In conclusion, we then briefly touched on the relation of gender to Dr. Mitra's work.
08:47 on 25 September 2009 (Edited 07:14 on 3 October 2009)
From Craig Turnball:
- How exactly does assessment of student work occur within the "learning partners" concept?
- How do we view group work versus individual work?
- Is this a phenomena that works in Norway because of some aspect of Norwegian culture, or would it transfer to other situations?
- Does this approach work in the situation where it is desired to see students progress as cohorts?
- Are there demographic characteristics that relate to students seeking "learning partners"?
- In particular, do we see a difference based on gender?
- How exactly does the "learning partners" process actually work? Are they given learning tools to work together? Any specialized training or guidance?
- One issue that tends to surface when talking about on-line courses is that of student "visibility". Is it more or less of an issue here?
- Has any research been done as to student motivations for using or not using a "learning partner"? Are they related to students' motivations to learn in general?
- What impact is there for part-time students versus full-time students?
- How does this set-up, with no scheduled timeframes, and the use of "learning partners", affect faculty workload? Faculty productivity?
08:48 on 25 September 2009
From Craig Tunwall:
- Introductory remarks by the chair, focusing on her attempts to get the group to change the group name
- Discussion of Keynote, as delivered by our own Professor Grainne Conole, The Open University, UK
- “Clouds” and new ways to look at learning
- Learning Spaces
- How do we get faculty to adopt new technologies/approaches?
- Does evaluation matter in an approach such as this?
- What is the overall impact of the students here? Individually? As a group?
- To what extent is this just an exercise in “academic management”
- The overriding need for examples/applications.
- How is this type of technology influenced by bureaucracy?
- What about training for faculty and students?
- The interplay between time and technology
- How do you insure the proper match between appropriate technology and individual circumstance?
- Exercise Break
- Discussion of Final Keynote, as delivered by Susan D’Antoni, UNESCO
- Ownership issues – Intellectual property rights
- How would the existence of copyright law affect open educational resources?
- Where would funding come from to make this possible – discussion of MIT effort
- This brings up the issue of compensation for the creators (faculty?) of such content/expertise.
- Closed tied to this are the publishers and others who control/influence commercialization
- How does this fit with open source issues?
Focus on role of teacher, institution, society
Conclusions drawn from each of the Keynotes
- Learning happens when students are given access to knowledge – they are empowered by using the computer to gain knowledge
- It is important that we focus on the community of learning that exists, and its impact on motivation to learn for the individual
- “Technologies” in all senses of the word open doors we may not even know exist
- Learning takes place to its fullest when sources of knowledge are unlimited
Bottom line – Meaningful access is crucial to learning
07:13 on 3 October 2009