Digital University Symposium at UWC

5691412616_02cbe62253_oEarlier today I was lucky enough to be able to attend a symposium on “the digital university” as part of a celebration of 20 years of the Cape Higher Education Consortium (CHEC). The event was hosted by the University of the Western Cape and included presentations from representatives at all four member institutions. Unfortunately I was not able to stay until the end. Here are the notes I took.

The digital university: A place for the communication and circulation of thought?

Prof. Laura Czerniewicz (UCT) (@czernie)

John Henry Newman (1824) – The idea of a university.

“Technology is not neutral”, it comes with affordances that shape practice

Technology influences the language of learning

  • Numerical representation: everything becomes data
  • Modularity: everything can be broken down
  • Automation: can feedback and teaching be automated?
  • Variability: multiple versions
  • Transcoding: computer logic influences how we understand and represent ourselves

Content:

  • Dynamic: how do you reference dynamic content. Read-write content
  • Communication becomes visible, it is a form of content
  • Sharing is frictionless and leads to multiplication of content, not division
  • Social media

How is scholarship changed with technology (from the perspective of a research paradigm)?

  • Conceptualisation of research is public and shareable (previously was private), enables communication and dialogue around the process, including other potential participants – being public has many advantages, including transparency
  • Research products available from early on e.g. research proposal becomes a resource for others
  • Massive changes in data sharing (previously data was not digital and so difficult to share), digital data can be linked to and reconfigured in different ways
  • Data can be created outside of academia (e.g. citizen science)
  • Findings (used to be shared in stable and authoritative formats e.g. journals) can now be shared in different ways and in different formats e.g. the concept of the “journal article” is changing
  • Authors can see engagement in knowledge output (e.g. sharing, comments, discussion, citations, saved -> altmetrics change the conception of “impact”
  • New kinds of outputs e.g audio files, photographic exhibitions, map and location data
  • New types of journals: those that actually show the research process, rather than simply describing the process
  • Engagement and translation: used to be expensive and static, one to many relationship, online sources limited to those registered. Rise of OERs, open textbooks, lectures, etc.

No longer clearly demarcated audiences, which enable new kinds of relationships in academia. Can take academics and scholarship outside the academy.

Digital does not necessarily mean Open. We are seeing the rise of Open Scholarship

Move from:

  • Products to services (tangible to intangible, control no longer with customer when purchased)
  • From ownership to access / license (buyer can not own, control or lend content)
  • Has profound impact on relationship to students

We need to think more carefully about rights that are affected in the move towards digital. You buy access to the platform but not the content, so the content is free (open access) but it’s presented in a platform that is not.

Are MOOCs open or closed?

  • They are (usually) free but that is not the same as open
  • You may be able to register for free, but you may have to purchase resources e.g. textbooks
  • Assessment and indicators of competence (i.e. a certificate of completion) may not be free
  • MOOCs not available under open licenses

Digital universities serve multiple interests. Be aware that the private sector has moved aggressively into the higher education space e.g. Figshare and Mendeley owned by private enterprise.

Digital universities must exploit the affordances of digital technology to enhance the university as a system of communication and thought, rather than simply as a way of being more efficient.

Enable the global, networked scholar

  • Reward and incentives for creating and sharing content
  • Support for online presence for academics, as part of the professional profile

Emerging technologies and changing teaching and learning practices

Prof. Vivienne Bozalek (UWC) & Daniela Gachago (CPUT)

The local contexts of “emerging technologies” are different, which changes how they are understood and used.

Challenges across higher education and digital universities:

  • Digital media literacy has been highlighted as an essential aspect of moving higher education forward.
  • Economic challenges

“Universities are preparing students for jobs that no longer exist”

Teachers need to be become facilitators, guides, etc. and students must begin work collaboratively, and to communicate in more and different ways.

Open University Innovating Pedagogy 2013 report

Discussion of a range of innovations in higher education and their potential impact on students’ learning, including MOOCs, badges, learning analytics, etc.

Asked the question: “In what ways are emerging technologies used in innovative pedagogical practices to transform teaching and learning across South African higher education institutions?

Used Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation curve / technology adoption cycle to analyse the results.

Saw significant difference when comparing SA educators to international educators e.g. with the adoption of Twitter, which is prevalent overseas but not yet very common here. “What is emerging in Paris may not yet be emerging in Parys

There is a lot of innovation happening in SA with “low-key” technologies. The biggest indicator of the use of technology was the passion of the individual. The biggest barrier to use was the institution they worked at.

People in SA who are using emerging technologies at a very high level are also those who are thinking most carefully about teaching and learning in authentic contexts (only a limited sample of 21 case studies, but the correlation was evident)

Results:

  • Context matters – an LMS may be “emerging” in certain contexts
  • Passionate educators use agency to overcome institutional barriers to still implement transformative changes in practice
  • We are learning differently, there is a focus on meaning learning in authentic contexts
  • Must give power and control to learners and community

Repositories: Benefits and challenges in changing scholarly communication

Ina Smith (Stellenbosch University)

Universities generate a diverse range of outputs (e.g. patents, articles, datasets) that are published elsewhere. They also invest a lot of money and time in faculty and need to determine their return on investment.

They need to keep track of the outputs of scholars, even when those scholars retire or move on. An institutional repository allows this to happen, even when individual’s profile pages are removed.

What is Open Access?

Two routes to open access:

  • Green: Institutional repositories offer “green access” (self-archiving) to scholarly research. Using DSpace open source software to manage the repository at US.
  • Gold: Access through open access journals. Author or institution may need to pay for publication but anyone can read for free. Usually peer-reviewed papers.

Repositories play a role in the dissemination and preservation aspects of the research life cycle.

What is the institution’s Open Access policy?

  • Increase access to outputs for a diverse audience
  • Increase visibility of outputs for academics
  • Create high quality metadata to enhance visibility
  • Preserve research output
  • Contribute to the body of literature
  • Able to maintain relationship between data and final output e.g. video and audio clips

Benefits of open access institutional repositories

  • Increase international exposure
  • Contribute to research success
  • Contribute to teaching and learning
  • Connect academics
  • Social responsibility by giving the public access to research

Clinical guidelines: should we be using them?

I attended a lecture a few days ago by Karen Grimmer-Somers, a professor at the University of South Australia and Director of the Centre for Allied Health Evidence (CAHE). An adjunct professor at the University of Stellenbosch, she visits Cape Town every year or so and this year we were fortunate enough to have her visit our physiotherapy department. She gave a great talk about the emerging use of clinical guidelines in healthcare, as well as the standards around their development and discussed why we should be looking to these guidelines in our practice.

Traditionally, clinical guidelines have been viewed with suspicion by anyone interested in working from the evidence base, as “guidelines” were often little more than one individual’s personal opinion. Over the past 5 years however, the approach to producing clinical guidelines has radically changed, with vast amounts of time and resources being poured into their development.

Nowadays, a clinical guideline focuses on the current understanding of a particular condition and makes use of a diverse range of academic literature to establish an approach to best practices, based on the outcomes of a large number of the studies available. They also inform the reader what level of evidence has been used to establish “best practice”, from systematic reviews of the literature (Level A) to expert clinical opinion (Level D). This allows the clinician to make up their own mind about how solid is the foundation upon which the guideline is built and how much weight to allocate it.

Here are a few links to some of the organisations responsible for developing guidelines (in no particular order). Since different organisations are tasked with developing different guidelines, you might have to look around until you find what you’re looking for. You should also bear in mind that not only are new guidelines being developed all the time but old ones are typically reviewed every 2-3 years, so you need to make sure you have the latest version.

And an article looking at both sides of the use of clinical guidelines:

With the international movement in healthcare towards evidence-based practice, it seems logical to make use of any tools available that would assist us in this regard.

Expanding the e-learning curriculum: oral presentation from SAAHE

In this oral presentation at the SAAHE conference, Dr. J. Dempers of the Division of Forensic Medicine at the University of Stellenbosch discusses the use of digital video to enhance the e-learning curriculum already in place in the Forensic Pathology Department. Currently, the department makes use of Blackboard to manage all course content besides testing, calendaring and video. Dr. Dempers made the argument that the use of video could not only provide a valuable alternative teaching and learning tool, but could also be a source of income for the university, should the content be of value to other institutions.

My notes are available in the following formats:

OpenDocument (.odt)
PDF (.pdf)
Microsoft Word (.doc)

Assessing the assessor: keynote from SAAHE conference

Here are my notes from the second keynote address I attended at the SAAHE conference at the University of Stellenbosch on 20 June, 2008.

Professor Christina Tan from the University of Malaya (Malaysia) discussed the importance of ensuring competence among those responsible for examining students, as well as a few interesting points on why we examine and it’s relationship to the curriculum. Again, the emphasis is on medical students and again, I feel that the principles outlines are equally applicable to our approach to assessing physiotherapy students.

You can download my notes in the following formats:

OpenDocument (.odt)
PDF (.pdf)
Microsoft Word (.doc)

SAAHE conference, 2008

Yesterday, I attended the first national Health Sciences Education conference hosted by the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Stellenbosch. It was quite inspirational, especially the talks given by two of the keynote speakers, which I found both informative and thought-provoking.

I was there to present the results of my Masters thesis, which I had someone video with the intention of posting it here. Unfortunately, the microphone on my camera didn’t capture the audio, so there’s no real point in putting the video up. However, I will be posting my presentation slides in case anyone is interested.

I’ll also be posting my notes from the conference, as well as a few comments on one or two of the other presentations. It’ll take a few days to work through though because I’m trying to catch up on some other things that are part of my “job”. I hate it when work takes precendence over the things I really want to do.