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conference technology

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.

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Innovate (a journal of online education)

I just came across Innovate, an online journal published by the Fischler School of Education. It has some really great articles on the use of new technologies in education.

If you register (it’s free, although you do need to provide some occupational information), you get full access to all the articles.