Council on Higher Education ICT colloquium

The Council on Higher Education in South Africa is an independent statutory body that advises the government on all aspects of higher education policy, and today they held a colloquium on the use of ICTs in higher education. Here are the notes I took during the session.

Consonance and Dissonance in ICT and Higher Education (Laura Czerniewicz)
Informal vs formal directions of MOOCs. Maybe the universities and the academics need to look at the semi-formal path in-between the two other formats?

Adaptive learning – area of massive potential growth, seeing ++ investment but what happens when we have business models that determine the direction of student learning and higher education?

Also, face to face is complicated and expensive.

What are the risks in the higher education landscape?
What are the policies that map this terrain? What about privacy, ethics?
Who stands to benefit?

Blended learning is going to be the norm: arrays of delivery formats across (and within) institutions, programmes and courses.

HEIs must collaborate and work together

Comment from the audience that online learning doesn’t allow for institutional culture. But, you could argue that the online space sees students interacting with more culture and more difference and therefore more opportunity to have their prejudices and their biases confronted. What about, instead of institutional culture / academic culture, we look at community culture? How do we develop a sense of community and togetherness in online spaces?

What happens when the face to face student experience becomes the elite objective that only those with access get to experience? Maybe everyone gets access to higher education, but few get access to the campus experience.

The dominant discourse in the “emerging technology in higher education” conversation is a business model / financial discourse. This is hugely problematic for us.

Concerns about cost of bandwidth, but no acknowledgement that cost is always coming down, speed is always increasing. We’re going to start paying more for services and less for access. The cost of the pipe may even go away, but you’ll pay for the services.

See “Developing world MOOCs: A curriculum view of the MOOC landscape”, in Journal of global literacies, technologies and emerging technologies, and a curation of MOOC resources: www.scoop.it/t/moocswatch.

Concern that the MOOC conversation “doesn’t relate to our reality”, comment from UNISA representative, asking how much we can really engage with the idea of MOOCs? Why are we planning for today, rather than tomorrow? We don’t plan for now, we plan for what’s coming. In 5 years times everyone will have a supercomputer in their pocket and “the internet” will be everywhere.

One of the dangers is that the divides get bigger. Pushing students to work in online spaces is the ONLY way to narrow the gap. The “haves” will continue pushing and developing and growing…they’re not going to wait for the “have nots”. Unless we push intentionally and actively to bring the “have nots” up to the same level, we will see the gap continue to grow.

ICTs and Intellectual Property Rights (Caroline Ncube)
Concerns about copyright implications of a changing HE landscape that is moving towards flexible and open, online learning.

Moving from the place to the platform. Are we really moving towards the mobile device for real work? Or is this still a consumption device?

MOOCs traditionally are created in the North and are increasingly being used / consumed in the South. Are we going to get into the MOOC-business? Why should we? Let’s just run our courses for our students, and make them available?

Questions

  • Who owns the learning materials produced by HEI staff?
  • What rights to it does the HEI have?
  • Do different types of materials raise different questions e.g. what about video and audio capture of lectures…that is now a product / course material? Do we need to get permission from students for their image / voice capture? First of all, audio and video recordings are not new, they’ve been around for as long as we’ve been able to record video and audio.
  • What about the nature and extent of sharing materials? How far? How wide? For how long?

There’s a concern about lecturing in public. Maybe this will drive lecturers to get better?

The intellectual property related to materials produced by an academic in service of an institution is owned by the institution. So does this mean that academics can create resources and share them openly as part of open online courses? What about institutions who encourage their staff to license their materials with, for example, creative commons licenses?

Copyright protects original work in material form created by a person who is a citizen of the country granting the license. It does not protect ideas, only the material representation of that idea. It exists automatically i.e. the creator of the work doesn’t need to explicitly claim those rights.

Brief look at integrity and paternity aspects of moral rights, as well as economic rights.

Video on Creative Commons licensing (https://creativecommons.org/).

UCT has contractual policies regarding IP, so UCT owns the material but allows them to be licensed with CC licenses for broader distribution (UCT has signed the Berlin Declaration).

Questions

  • What are the implications of the stated DHET preference for OERs?
  • What is the present role of legislation in terms of all these issues?
  • Should there be changes in the conversation in light of the move towards open and online?

 

National Infrastructure development supporting ICTs at universities (Duncan Greaves)
NREN (National Research and Education Network) is a Good Thing, as they are critically important in higher education.

Different to ISPs because mature NRENs offer richer and more elaborate services on top of the infrastructure.

One NREN / One country which enables more efficient relationships between stakeholders. About 100 NRENs in the world, that all interconnect with each other. Africa connects to the global network via Europe.

They are controlled by their beneficiary institutions, but can range in terms of governmental control.

Number of staff can be used as a proxy indicator for complexity and scope of the NREN.

South African NREN (SANREN), outcome of collaboration between TENET (non profit company owned by 23 public universities in SA and 6 research councils) and the CSIR. Originally required significant investment from Department of Science and Technology.

Founded to meet the internetworking requirements of SA HEIs.

2014 international bandwidth = 7.5GB/s (compared to 2008 = 241MB/s)

Good design is invisible. Poor design is very visible.

South Africa gets 4GB/s per day, just from Google. SANREN doesn’t look at the content moving through the pipe.

The current challenge is to decide if this infrastructure is a NRN, a NReN, or an NREN? In other words, what services is the network going to privilege? Universities can be seen to have a primary interest in either research or education, depending on who is defining the role of the university.

Unresolved questions

  • Who will be served? Universities, academic hospitals, schools? Not a simple question.
  • What governance arrangements are in place?
  • How will the network be funded?
  • Who will decide what services will operate?

Why do we have this idea that all we need to do to “fix” higher education is to add technology?

 

The DHET’s projects relating to ICTs (EL van Staden)
Focus of presentation is on policy and funding decisions made by DHET

What are the challenges in the higher education system, and how is DHET responding in terms of strategies related to ICT?

DHET looking at expansion, access and equality. In addition, looking at PhD staff to increase to more than 75%, and move the “distance” component of higher education to 40%.

Our current physical infrastructure prevents us from scaling up higher education in SA. We currently cannot reach our targets for access by 2030. DE must include a qualitative alternative in order to make a significant contribution to growth.

Evolving some institutions into blended institutions. There needs to be a convergence of ways in which traditionally “F2F” and “distance” institutions offer their courses.

There needs to be an enabling environment for appropriate integration of ICT to enhance distance education provision. There must also be reasonable access to affordable connectivity.

We need to be very careful about conflating “effective use of technology” with “improvements in student learning”. There is a strong sense of the wonder and magic of the internet to solve our problems.

“If we can dream it, we can achieve it”. We can’t afford to dream. What is the practical reality in terms of the problems we have in higher education, and how do we address those?

ICTs must complement the teacher, not replace them. Need to look at capacity development of academic to use technology to enhance learning.

We must be careful about thinking that “open” is necessarily “good” because open is not always used to mean transparent. It is usually used to mean “free to access”.

Social media in higher education (Vivienne Bozalek)
Students using social media for social purposes, rather than professional purposes

We are in a position of gross inequality in SA higher education, how do we ensure that we are inclusive in our strategies?

Important to share ideas and experiences across institutions. Challenge that all institutions use different platforms. Move to social, cloud-based tools.

Pedagogy more important (obviously) than technology or platforms.

Are there any disadvantages to using social tools that connect academics? Difficult to separate personal from learning. Do you want to separate them?

Options to encourage use of social media

  • Support teachers
  • Encourage and support use
  • Build in time for teacher development
  • Sustainable infrastructure
  • Recognise and reward innovation

Need policies to support innovative use of social media. Innovation without institutional support won’t scale to institutional levels. If you only ever work as an individual, your ideas won’t scale.

Resolve binary between research and teaching, where they are different. Need an expanded view of scholarship (see Boyer, 1994 – Scholarship reconsidered, and Brew, 2003 – Teaching and Research: New relationships and their implications for inquiry-based teaching and learning in higher education, for a discussion).

How does social media, which is perceived as open and informal, get integrated into university spaces, which are traditionally quite closed and formal? How do we bring those tools into the classroom?

Lots of assumptions about student and staff use, and efficacy of use, of social media. Students and staff represent a diverse group.

Do students mistrust institutional use of social media?

How do we regulate professional boundaries when we do mix professional relationships in social platforms?

Does the role of the teacher / lecturer change when you start using social media in the classroom? How does it change? An example of using the tool that changes behaviour.

We must accept that we can’t control learning. But the suggestion here is that we can manage it. What is the difference between control and manage? Social media is about moving through and beyond boundaries, not trying to manage them.

We’ve just had a long discussion about social media but we haven’t defined what we mean by social media. We all have different ideas about what that term means.

We must be careful of using technology to reinforce our biases and prejudices.

Discussion session
Markus Mostert makes the point that there are a lot of IT people here and very few academics / pedagogical experts. The discussion around infrastructure is important but then we must be sure that we don’t talk about T&L. The “building technological infrastructure for learning” is a different conversation to learning.

Priorities are expressed through policy, but academics don’t want to feel regulated. Policy must serve to support the scholarship endeavour without directing it in too narrow a focus.

There is a strong case to be made for the idea that academics must be technologically literate. If you’re an academic, you can no longer say that you don’t understand technology.

Work ethic supersedes what we call “inspiration”

tumblr_m2qxwcR1aO1qidn1bCohen approaches his work with extraordinary doggedness reflecting the notion that work ethic supersedes what we call “inspiration” — something articulated by such acclaimed and diverse creators as the celebrated composer Tchaikovsky (“A self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood.”), novelist Isabel Allende (“Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.”), painter Chuck Close (“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.”), beloved author E.B. White (“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”), Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope (“My belief of book writing is much the same as my belief as to shoemaking. The man who will work the hardest at it, and will work with the most honest purpose, will work the best.”), and designer Massimo Vignelli (“There is no design without discipline.”). – Maria Popova

T&L seminar with UCT Law Faculty

Earlier this year I was invited by Alan Rycroft at the UCT Law Faculty to give a presentation at a seminar on T&L. The seminar took place yesterday and I presented some research that I did in 2012 where we used Google Drive as an implementation platform for authentic learning. I’ve written about authentic learning before, so I won’t go into any more detail here.

I would however, like to share some of my thoughts and notes from the session. Unfortunately, I had to leave halfway through the presentations, so I missed the second half of the day.

Anton Fagan – The use of laptops in the classroom. Anton made a strong case for banning laptops in the classroom under certain conditions, specifically when students are taking notes during lectures. There seems to be evidence that, while using a laptop to take notes can result in higher fidelity (more notes and more accuracy) it also results in less understanding, probably as a result processing information differently depending on whether we type it or write it. However, we do need to be careful about conflating lecturing with learning. Most of the articles discussed seemed to posit that the ability to recall facts presented during a lecture was the same thing as learning. Coincidentally, I had recently read this article in the New Yorker, which discusses the same thing:

regardless of the kind or duration of the computer use, the disconnected students performed better on a post-lecture quiz. The message of the study aligns pretty well with the evidence that multitasking degrades task performance across the board.

There are other studies that present similar findings but should we really be surprised by this? We’re saying that distracted students score poorly on tests of recall and understanding. This doesn’t seem to be about laptop usage, but rather that there are two other issues present.

  1. Students are more likely to be distracted when using an internet connected device during lectures, and are more likely to distract others
  2. Even when they are trying to take notes during the lecture, the act of typing those notes can degrade their processing relative to hand writing them

It seems that these two issues are relatively simple to address. In the first instance, work on improving your lecture so that students are less likely to be distracted, and in the second, make students aware that typing notes leads to lower levels of recall and understanding, but allow them to choose the method that best suits them. For example, I prefer that my notes more accurately capture what the speaker is saying. Afterwards, I go through my notes again, adding additional thoughts, linking to additional resources, and therefore engaging with the content a second time around. This is what I have done with these notes.

Geo Quinot – The LLB between profession and higher education. Geo presented his perspective on a set of policy frameworks, including recent proposals by the Council on Higher Education Task Team on Undergraduate Curriculum Structure. He discussed the relationships between the Profession and Higher Education the Quality Enhancement Project (QEP).

I found the talk to be a really comprehensive overview of the relevant policies and frameworks that will be placed centre stage over in South African higher education over the next few years. Unfortunately, there was way too much that was covered for me to try and sum up what was presented. I’ve linked to some of the documents that Geo referred to in the list at the end of this post.

Jacqui Yeats – Student engagement in lectures and tutorials: an experiment. Jacqui shared some of her experiences of teaching large classes in the Law Faculty. I was impressed with her systematic approach to changing the way she lectures, and took away the following ideas:

  • When your class size exceeds a certain number (and no-one really knows what that number is) you move from being a lecturer to being a performer or public speaker. The Presentation Zen blog has some really great resources for lecturers who are intentional about how they present.
  • Lecturers rely a lot on student feedback and reaction. Even if they’re not actually saying anything, it makes a huge difference to at least see some nodding heads when you make eye contact. I’ve never thought much about students’ responsibilities in terms of giving something back to the lecturer. This comment made me think a bit about my own accountability when listening to others’ speak.
  • Use more “soft” breaks. Soft breaks are short breaks (2-3 minutes) where Jacqui presents students with “educationally useful” content that is still marginally relevant to them in order to keep them interested. In other words, the cognitive distance is not so close to the lecture content that it doesn’t count as a break, but not so far removed that students are distracted and find it difficult to get back into the topic when the break is over. The example she gave was giving students writing tips, which I thought was a great idea.
  • Encourage friendly competition between students or groups of students. Jacqui made it clear that aggressive competition and ranking students probably isn’t a great way to get them to engage but that friendly competition with low risk that wasn’t explicitly linked to module outcomes seemed to get them more motivated. This is something that we’re struggling with in our department…student motivation and engagement seems quite low. We’re trying to figure out ways to develop a community in our department and I think that this idea of friendly competition is worth exploring.

Thank you to the UCT Law Faculty for inviting to present some of my work. I appreciated the opportunity and also learned a lot from the experience.

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