Open University Innovating Pedagogy 2012: 10 new directions in learning, take your pick...

OU Innovating Pedagogy 2012 Report

In case you think that universities in August are whatever the opposite of hives of activities are, the Open University would like to point out that they’re busy as bees in Milton Keynes this summer. How? By releasing a thumping big report of course.

Earlier this month we saw the release of ‘Innovating Pedagogy 2012'. It captures 10 ‘innovations that are in currency but have not yet had a profound influence on education’. Whether you’re in education, or business, or that large overlap in the middle, it’s worth considering all 10. Which we do here:

1. New Pedagogy for eBooks

Meaning...

We’re all using Kindles and iPads for eBooks. But the books are a bit, well, old school. Expect to see HTML5 and other technologies make the eBook more dynamic, enabling annotation and embedding video, animations and so on.

Our view...

This is already here - though to be fair to OU, they’re kind of saying that. We’re using HTML5 extensively for iPad delivery; see our piece on Responsive Elearning Design. For many of our clients, we’re designing what we’ve called eMagazines as communications and awareness-raising pieces, with embedded video, graphics, animations and more. We expect to see a sharp increase in eBook and eMagazines as tablets become the primary reading device. More capability for collaboration would be a good addition.

2. Publisher-led Short Courses

Meaning...

Content owners and big brand names in the publishing and education space will create commercial content.

Our view...

Not sure why this is marked out as a future trend: for at least a decade the big IP owners have been looking to monetise digital content through courses at various levels of formality and accreditation. It’s been supported by the explosion in tools that give more options here. The Open University do this, as do many others. The challenge will be convincing learners that the accreditation is worth the fees they command when there is plenty of informal non-accredited content out there.

We think the winners will aggregate and filter, adding their own content but not pretending they are the only source.

3. Assessment for Learning

Meaning...

“Assessment that supports the learning process through diagnostic feedback”. They predict a movement away from assessment as summative test and towards guiding the learner towards choices, using confidence based diagnostics, adaptive learning (which adjusts level of challenge in response to learners’ ability).

Our view...

Most diagnostics in the corporate space aim to do this already. The writers are correct to say you have to advance with caution; even the best diagnostics are prone to subjectivity. Most of our clients look for efficiency and personalised results via a diagnostic. We think the key is still human here – interpreting diagnostic outputs with a coach or manager adds depth to the analysis, though elements of that can be handled remotely. Not breakthrough thinking in the corporate space though.

4. Badges to Accredit Learning

Meaning...

The Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides (and the founders of the modern Olympics) got it right: Badges matter. They indicate skill and competency. They travel well: to Facebook and LinkedIn. They have a more evidence-based intention than more academic accreditation. The Mozilla Open Badges Infrastructure is taking off and will become a stronger movement, the OU point out that they currently ‘lack the context and drivers of accredited material.’

Our view...

We like Open Badges. We’re working on several projects with badge elements. It fits completely with the Moodle/Totara ethos of evidence-based reward for progression. The Totara team has been rewarded with funding from the Mozilla Foundation to integrate Open Badges into Totara. It’s early days still with badges, whether they will travel well across organisations and become a recognised currency remains to be seen. We think some senior leaders endorsing badges would make a big impact – display your badges!

5. MOOCs

Meaning...

Massive Online Open Courses. Again not new – think flashmob for learning. The idea is to offer a course ‘right here, right now’ for as many learners that want to join. These have morphed into longer-form 6-12 week informal learning experiences with a variety of learners, topics and formats. People join what they like, when they like – there’s some structure but really you just find your way to what you want.

Our view...

The rolling open course idea is a difficult one to pull off in corporate contexts – this sounds more like informal learning, just a more formal version of it... It’s more likely to live as a resource in organisations than in this format in our view, but we’ll be happy to hear about different examples.

6. Rebirth of Academic Publishing

They say:

“Looking for free-to-publish options that combine publishing with social, multimedia and barrierless routes for authoring and for reading, while maintaining academic quality, seems an attainable goal though with challenges to be met as we move towards digital scholarship”.

We say:

Sounds like a mash-up between trends 1, 2 and 5. And Wikipedia. Let’s move on...

7. Seamless Learning

Meaning...

Learning anytime, anywhere, using any range of devices. They contend that “What might

have once been ‘dead time’, for example travelling on a train or waiting to collect a child from school, can now be used to browse information, continue an online conversation, or make a note to be expanded later on a desktop computer.”

Our view...

True enough. We’d like to see less of the sense of wonder and more emphasis on the sense of urgency... We’re all way beyond recognising the potential of mobile device – it’s now about designing effective resources, models and experiences. Corporates have turned a corner into asking for this as a matter of course now, and we know from our work with US universities that they feel the same. This one is here now, and it’s one of the more fascinating challenges to contend with – how to effectively fill any time with useful resources and tools.

8. Learning Analytics

Meaning...

Getting large sets of real-time or near real-time big sets of data about learners – and acting on what you find. The report refers to ‘Educational Data Mining’ projects such as the Signals project which gives real-time assessment to students and share information about their preparation, performance and results in Red, Amber, and Green format.

Our view...

It’s an interesting field: any designer or organiser of a learning intervention should want to know in real time as much as possible about how learners are reacting and engaging. Methods like Amazon-style star ratings and commenting are now commonplace in our Moodle and Totara designs. It’d be great to see more real-time examples. Brainshark is a great authoring tool which shows you at which screen the learner dropped out of the module – nothing like performance review for the course creator. We’d like to see more of these examples, and it’s great that the OU is funding them.

9. Personal Inquiry Learning

Meaning...

Learners set the agenda by posing questions they want to know the answers to, and then investigate the world to find answers, seeking input from experts and peers in the process.

Our view...

The more we do to support evidence-gathering through designs and tools like Mahara and Totara, the more appealing we find this concept. The temptation in corporates may be to put limits on truly open inquiry and be more directive – understandably since they’re not places of free and open learning. But within the design of subjects with high subjectivity such as coaching, decision making, and leadership there should be scope for inquiry and analysis – anywhere that you’d expect someone to ask ‘Why is this – what’s the style for me?’. Even if limited initially, we agree with the sentiment that using social tools like discussion forums or learning logs can enhance the learners’ personal exploration of a subject.

10. Rhizomatic Learning

Meaning...

“Rhizomatic learning invokes the biological metaphor of a rhizome where the stem of a plant sends out roots and shoots, each of which can grow into a new plant.” Still with us? Course you are. This one seems to describe an all-encompassing model where learners are co-creating content, shaping curricula and challenging the role of educators: there’s no ‘fixed course’, just like in gaming.

Our view...

That’s what happens when you leave school – or it least it should be. Corporates should be places of Rhizomatic learning where there’s openness to new ideas and directions. And they mainly are – until it comes to formal courses where everyone pretends it’s the first day of school again. But don’t get us all worked up on the last trend.

Overall

It’s a useful list and a well-considered report. Much of it is already happening, at least in the corporate space. But it’s a solid reminder that there are still new concepts to push on and continue the journey – until we’re all rhizomatically doing things in MOOCs. And that may be some time.

Read it? Agree or not? Join the discussion in the Elearning Professionals Group.