An interesting podcast by danah boyd and Beth Wendell on social media in education.
Following the path already well trodden by terms such as “flexible delivery”, “e-learning”, and “student centred education”, MOOCs are the new key term in a line of jargon apparently designed striking fear into the heart of every tech wary educator.
I have a bit of a sensitivity to corporate guff in the education sector, as elsewhere. I tentatively feel/hope that we have seen that awful term “gamification” reach its high water mark in the education banter to now recede into laughable obscurity. But I’m wondering if MOOCs are more of this nonsense or if they genuinely offer something useful and different. The ABC’s Future Tense has taken up the subject.
More MOOCage here
The New York Times has published an opinion piece offering a valid critique of online learning. While I’m pro complimenting teaching with technology where productive, the article underscores the central deficiency in 100% online learning: the lack of human contact. The author, Mark Edmundson, professor of English at the University of Virginia argues:
“A truly memorable college class, even a large one, is a collaboration between teacher and students. It’s a one-time-only event. Learning at its best is a collective enterprise, something we’ve known since Socrates. You can get knowledge from an Internet course if you’re highly motivated to learn. But in real courses the students and teachers come together and create an immediate and vital community of learning. A real course creates intellectual joy, at least in some. I don’t think an Internet course ever will. Internet learning promises to make intellectual life more sterile and abstract than it already is — and also, for teachers and for students alike, far more lonely.”
I tend to agree that this will be the saving feature of bricks and mortar learning institutions. Conversely, what can be done to online teaching environments to make them more productively and collaborative social? Could dating sites be integrated with MOOCs?
I have been developing some new assessment activities in Blackboard this week, a little bit beyond what i usually do and have been looking around at resources.
Both my universities: Monash and RMIT, have stashed all their Blackboard training modules behind logins, but I notice there are some fairly detailed Blackboard training modules and pdfs over at Victoria University which are freely accessible. Kudos to them.
For years I have been operating in not-for-profit boards. Within these director meetings, Im forever impressed at how efficient the NFP sector is, not only financially, but temporally. People are extremely efficient with their time when they giving it for free.
I note this in contrast to many of the employed positions I have held where meetings can often blow-out in time and, in terms of productivity and outcome, sometimes collapse altogether. Many of these issues are identifiable from the start. A meeting will be called, no agenda is provided, and the event revolves around opinion and debate but with no outcomes apart from steam letting. These things are important, but don’t warrant a meeting of everyones time.
Some excellent and basic tips for effective meetings are summarised here by Christine Comaford. You can fine the original article at Forbes but I have gleaned most of the salient information and presented it here to avoid the pop-up ads. Crucially, she identifies the types of information that are useful in meetings and those that are not.
She then goes on to outline best practice techniques for setting and running effective meetings:
1. Set the meeting’s intention in advance: what exactly do you want to accomplish?
Will an email suffice instead of a meeting?
If it’s to get everyone aligned and to allocate work, then set a tight agenda and wrap the meeting within 45 minutes. The key is allow only enough Info Sharing to solicit Requests from parties who need something and Promises from those who will deliver. If it’s a company meeting/update session for the team, keep it short with segments for summary result info, current obstacles and plans to overcome them, future goals, a short education session and celebration of people/recent accomplishments.
Is the meeting’s purpose to share your thoughts/feelings? Have a one-on-one huddle for 10-15 minutes instead.
Is it to debate or point prove? How necessary is that?
2. Invite the doers, decision makers, impacted parties only.
Often meetings are too crowded because too many unnecessary people are invited. The point of the meeting is to get stuff done as a group. Get the people in the room who will facilitate that or be affected by it.
3. Have a clear meeting leader and tight time-lined agenda.
The meeting leader’s task is to keep everyone on track and drive to results. Once each key point of the meeting is mapped out, keep the focus on achieving your intention. Other topics and side conversations will be handled off line later with the appropriate parties present. Also the goal isn’t to solve detailed problems in the meeting, it’s to assign responsibilities based on Requests and Promises made. The responsible individuals will follow through post-meeting.
4. Send a recap email of all responsibilities post-meeting.
The meeting leader will summarize the Requests, Promises and details of each. Remember a vague Request (can you get me info on our top advertisers?) versus a clear Request (can you get me a report of our top 50 advertisers in the USA with spending history for the current + past 5 years in a spreadsheet by 4pm this Friday?) will help the Promise maker to succeed. The meeting leader’s job is to ensure all participants are set up to succeed in executing their Promises.
The result of the above is meetings that are efficient, effective, and keep your team happy and executing with high accountability. Further, it’ll reduce B.S., frustration, and disengaged team members.
This is taken from the VIA University College Website
Theory and practice go hand in hand
The alternation between theory and practice is characteristic of the Scandinavian education culture. We combine theory and practice, both deeply rooted in the trades and professions for which we train our graduates.
All our study programmes include practical training periods, during which students not only observe but also work with the problems of real life. As a student, you will experience dilemmas where the ability to combine theory with practice gives you the basis for gaining new knowledge and insight. This type of education is the foundation of our schools and faculties.
Dialogue versus one-way communication
At our schools and faculties, as in Denmark in general, our teaching style focuses on the students being responsible for their own education. This is different from many other countries where the lecturer is expected to be responsible for the development of the students. We emphasise the contact between lecturers and students, and this manifests itself in the way we communicate in the classroom. We expect the students to participate actively in the lectures by asking qualified questions and by challenging themselves and the lecturer. Overall, we encourage the exchange of ideas and knowledge which everyone benefits from.
Students play an active role in the learning process and take responsibility for planning and carrying out projects, either independently or in groups. The students also learn how to work in multicultural teams with teachers assigned as supervisors to guide them through the learning process.
Future employers, whether private companies or public institutions, put a high premium on these qualifications, because new graduates have knowledge of the latest theories and methods as well as hands-on experience with how things are done in “real life”.