A thoughtful and thought-provoking presentation by George Siemens

G Siemens presentation

Towards new models of coherence

I just found time to listen/watch George Siemens’presentation (February 7, 2012) at the Technology Innovation Centre at the University of VictoriaTowards new models of coherence: Responding to the fragmentation of higher education (as you can see, George may be thoughtful but he does the academic thing by creating incredibly looooong titles)

I was so interested in the information he presented and his thoughts I was torn between paying attention and trying to capture the links or names of books or people he drew upon for the ideas he shared about the changes buffeting higher education. Luckily, being an enlightened academic, he posts his presentations to his /gsiemens slideshare account so I relaxed. I use Slideshare too so it was a simple matter to download the ppt and just make occasional notes about what he said that intrigued me. So it makes it a cinch to blog about (although I may end up being more long-winded in this blog post)

George spoke about the big changes that have been (and are) occurring both globally and in higher education in North America. The massive investments in new start-ups and by established educational providers of online learning is startling when you see it on a chart – from 2002 to 2011, a cumulative investment of $1.97 billion. The funny thing is every educational institution I know of has been facing painful cutbacks in funding and there appears to be fewer and fewer good jobs for teachers. Student tuition fees have been climbing steadily and steeply over the same period. So, who’s making money. George had some interesting insights into who is making money and how – but it wasn’t the focus of his talk so he didn’t delve deeply.

He refuted the often-stated phrase “the university is dying” with statistics that showed that it isn’t (globally, 150.6 million higher education students – 53% increase from 2000) and need for university education is growing; he demonstrated that the increased demand is coming from non-traditional students – often older, working, and with different needs. Online learning is increasingly the way institutions are responding to their need for flexibility. American statistics claim $48.8 billion market for elearning (higher education) and $16.6 B for K-12.  Of course the data is based on the American system but Canadian institutions are drooling over the possibilities and increasing their investments too I bet. Certainly my institution thinks this is the way to direct our energies.

Then he spoke about MOOCs – the hype, the meaningful trends and potential implications. Some of the highlights for me were:

Positive things about MOOCS

  • providing unprecedented access to education for people around the world (particularly those who can’t access education through traditional channels
  • connects experts around the world who are researching how people learn and the best way to teach/present learning online
  • build a dual knowledge profile – a digital footprint and an academic one
  • some of the platforms are very good – EdX (MIT, etc.) provide their platform under open licensing to other institutions so you can grow your own
  • the good ones are based on “participatory pedagogies”
  • provides high touch learning environment – frequent updates on your personal learning path are possible (e.g. Knewtons
  • model can be used to promote competency-based learning at higher education levels (not just trades)
  • provide some possibility of early predictions of “student sin distress” and allow intervention

Not so positive things about MOOCs

  • quality of learning in most MOOCs is not great – very behaviorist approach
  • higher ed may diminish to a degree or credit granting role
  • traditional faculty NOT involved initially in the development and launch of the MOOCs (IT driven) – how did this happen?
  • fragmentation of knowledge – difficult to help students correct misconceptions and connect complex ideas
  • important role of expert is diminished
  • lack of Canadian model results in loss of knowledge, expertise and applicability in context for Canadian educators and students

This is just a brief summary. It’s worth going to the UVic TIE site (link above) and watching George’s presentation. Enjoy!



About Cloudsyl

Now a mid-Island observer of the Cloud
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