Earlier 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
- 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
- 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 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.
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)
- 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