Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Re-organising Universities - Article review

I've been reading this article, 'Re-organizing Universities for the Information Age' by David Annand as part of the flexible learning course that I am doing.

Annand argues that 'University education is still conducted within pre-Industrial Age organisational structures' and suggests that we can expect that Universities will need to transform themselves to meet the needs of more and more students, and increased demand for flexible, cost-efficient learning options. Annand points out that distance education is perhaps a step in the right direction in terms of offering flexibility for students and cites Taylor's ideas of a 'Fifth Generation Learning model'. Annand warns that the traditional inflexibility of University programs does not position a University well for the future, where the demand will increase and be unsustainable in the current, traditional format. In closing, Annand talks about 'irresistible technological, economic, and social imperatives seem about to impose significant change on the conduct of higher education worldwide'.

There are some strong ideas in this article - I love the term 'irresistible technology' - I agree that there is something seductive and captivating about new technology. The lure of something new and fresh and different. But we sometimes get pulled back to reality when we find out that new technology isn't available for everyone. Some people won't have the computers, or the broadband internet to be able to access the 'irresistible technology'. But I will stop this tirade and try and focus back on the article!

I think it is an exciting time to be a PhD student at a University because I feel like we are about to embark on something new. New in terms of delivery of learning, and flexibility of learning and assessment, which will affect the structure of the University, where people are based and how we communicate with each other. As a PhD student hoping to move into a Research or Academic career, I am excited and encouraged by the flexibility that I hope to see available by the time that I complete my research. It's an interesting article and I am keen to hear what other course participants think.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

What is Flexible Learning anyway?

I have been having a think about what is flexible learning and I wanted to try to draw together some of the excellent resources out there. As part of the course , we are directed to find out about the Australian Flexible Learning Framework. This is a great web site and suggests that flexible learning is basically learning where there is more choice for the learner in where, when and how the learning will happen. It can include things like teleconferencing, videoconferencing and using other multi-media tools. Megan suggests that flexible learning has probably been around for a while, however the tools that we use now are more advanced and interactive and Jenny has a really clear example of some of the problems and solutions to flexible learning.

Sarah's blog is awesome and a great place to explore at any time, as she is a regular contributor and there is always something new there. Sarah's post about cookie baking introduces the Personal Learning Environment (PLE), and for Sarah it seems that the online tools and activities tend to merge into one PLE. Sarah has also written about eLearning and her ePortfolio.

I'm still thinking about how it all goes together and what will work for me. I am seduced by all the bright lights and whistles of the multi-media world that we live in and the options and opportunites that are out there. I feel that Sarah is brave and courageous to expose to the world her ePortfolio, goals and achievements, and I am not sure if I could do this. But then, why wouldn't you want to tell the world about your successes? Maybe this is one of those things where you just need to take a leap and see what happens? What do other people think?


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

X marks the spot

One of the things we are asked to do as part of the flexible learning course is to think about the reasons that a person might have for NOT doing a flexible learning course. It is an interesting way to approach this ... and here is my short story.

X is a busy person. There is always something to do and there are so many 'jobs lists' around the house that she is thinking of making a list of the lists. Where does all the time go these days? I am sure that it wasn't this busy last year. X is interested in a course, but there is no way that she can fit in the time to attend the classes, she can't take time off work, she can't afford any fees. Makes you wonder if she is really committed to the course in the first place?

If there was a course that was flexible - it just might work. It would need to be something where she can pick out the bits that she really wants to learn, and do just as much or as little as she can. It would be different to the 'normal' courses, where someone else decides what needs to be studied - in this course, X can decide which bits are interesting and relevant and which bits she already knows or is not interested in. This course is about actually learning something new, rather than just going through the motions of what you have to do for assessment. It might mean no study for a whole week, then a flurry of activity at once when the opportunity can be grabbed. Technology is important too - she can't access the internet at work, because her organisation has it blocked, although she does get broadband internet at home. It needs to be simple to use, not take forever to load up on the screen and it needs to be fun.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Flexible Learning Course - 2009

I have just joined up for the Flexible Learning Course 2009. It is an exciting program, developed by staff in the Educational Development Centre of Otago Polytechnic in New Zealand and the best news is that it is free. Yep - free. The course is structured into chunks, so you can practice a range of activities that are designed so that you have a go at different things, like developing a blog, reading and responding to other blogs and meeting a group of other interested people.

I have a little experience in blogging and I set up my blog last year. I have posted intermittently and met some very interesting people around the world who have similar interests to me. I am a PhD candiatate at La Trobe University in Bendigo and I am interested in exploring whether blogging can be a way for practitioners that are socially or geographically isolate to engage and connect with other professionals. I am looking at a couple of different ways of reflective practice and one way is via a blog.

My reasons for doing the course are to develop my skills, experiences and confidence with flexible learning and to engage with other people who are also interested in these topics. I hope to also be able to learn the language of e-learning, PLEs, delicious, twitter and other strange words.

I have two blogs and they are linked via my profile. One blog (this one) is about reflective practice and the other one is more personal and family orientated. I wasn't sure about whether to combine the blogs or separate the blogs. I had thought that family members might enjoy the personal one and be bored with the reflections, and the people interested in the reflections wouldn't really be interested in my veggie garden. I am interested in your feedback - what do you think?