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On November 3rd Frances Bell and I will be at Southampton University’s ILIaD Inaugural Conference. Here is the programme and this is the information about the conference provided by the University.

The University of Southampton’s Vision 2020 states that over the next few years we will “revolutionise education”.  The new Institute for Learning Innovation and Development (ILIaD) has been created to lead on this ambition and help shape the University’s future educational approach. But what would this look like? What will we need to do to make this happen? Will students be happy with the changes? How will research shape our educational offer?

The ILIaD inaugural conference will give staff, students and external participants the opportunity to answer these questions and showcase and celebrate educational innovations. It will provide participants with the opportunity to discover the many ways to engage with ILIaD, and to network with others interested in educational innovation.

As part of this day Frances and I will give a short presentation in which we hope to stimulate thinking about some aspects of the Future of Higher Education. For this presentation we have drawn on recent reports on the topic and in particular on an article by Bryan Alexander (2014) in which he suggests discussing a variety of possible scenarios to support thinking about the future of Higher Education.

Frances and I will each present a short scenario and then open the floor for discussion.

For Frances’ scenario see her blog post – An Interactive Exploration of the Near Future i Educational Technologies.

The wonderful Fiona Harvey, who we met at an ALTMOOCSIG event at UCL earlier in the year, will support the discussion by graphically recording comments and feedback. For my scenario I will ask participants to imagine themselves as middle-aged academics in 2025. Here is a video that I have created to present the scenario.

Scenario Transcript – Jenny’s scenario 291014 (With many thanks to Mariana Funes for her helpful feedback on this video)

In creating this scenario, I drew on Bryan Alexander’s article (2014) and the reports listed in the references below, which I very briefly summarized for myself as follows. It goes without saying that there could be many alternative scenarios.

The Purpose of Education

Higher education is a great national asset. Its contribution to the economic and social well being of the nation is of vital importance. Its research pushes back the frontiers of human knowledge and is the foundation of human progress. Its teaching educates and skills the nation for a knowledge-dominated age. It gives graduates both personal and intellectual fulfillment. Working with business, it powers the economy, and its graduates are crucial to the public services. And wide access to higher education makes for a more enlightened and socially just society.

(“The Future of Higher Education,” January 2003, In: Alexander, B. (2010). The Future of Higher Education : Beyond the Campus. EDUCAUSE Review® Online – January).

This quote from a government white paper was written in 2003, more than 10 years ago, yet is still relevant – or is it?

Is Higher Education a great national asset? Is its contribution to the economic and social well-being of the nation of vital importance?

In his 2010 paper Bryan Alexander wrote that the purpose of education is to educate people for success in life; in their workplace, their communities and their personal lives. This purpose is increasingly challenged by high rates of youth unemployment, an ageing population and increasing social conflict around the world.

The Ivory Tower

Academics have long held a privileged position in society which has granted them academic freedom and academic identity, through the high esteem in which research has been held and the way in which research has been published and disseminated. Despite moves to make research and the research process more ‘open’, it remains slow to publish and disseminate, held up by ethics committees and peer review procedures which are in need of urgent change. In current times, with the fast pace of change, research findings can be obsolete before they are even published. Similarly slow Higher Education accreditation procedures stifle curriculum innovation.

Current Trends in Higher Education

Higher Education is assailed by change on all sides.

The Institution

Rising costs and decreasing resources have led to institutions seeking new business models in a search for improved efficiency and productivity. Economic social forces and sustainability are increasingly recognized as drivers of change. There is similarly a recognised need for greater diversity of educational provision and a move towards openness, transparency and collaboration. Innovation and entrepreneurship are seen to be essential to meet the demands of an expanding global market and growing student numbers.

Scholarship

The use of digital data is changing scholarly practices. Research is more conversational and out in the open, e.g. on blogs and is being crowd sourced. There is an ever increasing number of open journals, and open peer review has also been explored.

Teaching and Learning

The boundaries around HE institutions are becoming more permeable and modes of teaching and learning more flexible, with more online or blended learning provision. Students coming into HE have grown up in a connected, networked world with limitless access to open resources. In response, teaching is more and more focusing on the use of social media for interaction and problem solving. Classrooms are becoming multi-media learning spaces, which emphasise creativity and project-based work, digital storytelling, gaming and mobile learning. From the teachers’ perspective, increased work online results in more visible data and related accountability. The same can be said for the institution itself.

Technology

Technological advances continue apace and include: new hardware and software, ubiquitous computing, tablets, mobile learning devices, cloud computing and 3D printing. Gaming is increasingly being used for teaching and learning, as are augmented reality and sensor technologies. Collaboration tools and the use of OERs are becoming commonplace and big data analysis is receiving increasing interest and funding. Identity management and the development of personal learning networks (PLNs) is also a focus of attention.

Ways forward

There is increasing pressure on the Ivory Tower to innovate through:

  • interdisciplinary research and innovation
  • international collaboration and mobilizing collective intelligence
  • designing new business models which focus on students and innovative teaching and learning
  • cross institutional alliances and collaborative entrepreneurship.

Innovation and scenario planning are therefore essential.

Bibliography

Alexander, B. (2010). The Future of Higher Education : Beyond the Campus. EDUCAUSE Review® Online (ISSN 1945-709X), (January).

Alexander, B. (2014). Higher Education in 2024: Glimpsing the Future. EDUCAUSE Review® Online (ISSN 1945-709X). Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/higher-education-2024-glimpsing-future

Blass, E., & Hayward, P. (2014). Innovation in higher education; will there be a role for “the academe/university” in 2025? European Journal of Futures Research, 2(1), 41

Brennan, J., Ryan, S., Ranga, M., Broek, S., Durazzi, N., & Kamphuis, B. (2014). Study on innovation in higher education : final report Study on Innovation in Higher Education Executive Summary.

Downes, S. (2014). Beyond Institutions – Personal Learning in a Networked World. Seminar presentation delivered to Network EDFE Seminar Series, London School of Economics. Retrieved from: http://www.downes.ca/presentation/343

Johnson, L., Becker, S. A., & Cummins, M. (2013). Horizon report: 2013 higher education edition. Retrieved from http://hdl.voced.edu.au/10707/284916

See also the work of the University of Northampton which I wrote about in my last post: Shaping the Future of Higher Education – standing still is not an option

Next week I will be attending a day conference about the future of Higher Education at Southampton University, so this month’s Teaching and Learning Conversation, hosted by Chrissi Nerantzi, caught my attention.

The webinar was run by Prof Ale Armellini, Professor of Learning and Teaching in HE, University of Northampton. The title of the session was Opportunities for Shaping the Future of HE in a Challenging Climate.

This was an enjoyable and thought provoking session, in which Ale Armellini shared the work that is being done at the University of Northampton to prepare for the future in Higher Education – or at least to try and anticipate the changes that might need to be made.

Universities are being hit by disruptive waves. They have to compete for students, compete to offer cheaper alternatives and compete in offering online delivery. Physical space is at a premium, there is global competition for increasing numbers of diverse and demanding students, and there is a critical need to change the way they do business.

Northampton University has recognized that students want a personalized learning environment and that to meet increasing student demands they will have to raise the bar. For them this means increasing excellence and innovation, inspirational teaching and transformational learning practices and open practice. It also means exceeding student expectation regardless of their mode of study, and providing CPD and recognition for staff in relation to innovation and change. Currently the balance of different students at Northampton looks like this.

Northampton 2014

A possible scenario for 2020 might be this

Northampton 2020

There will need to be a balance between campus-based provision and online provision, but Universities will need to think carefully about how to add value to the campus experience.

Northampton is currently thinking about it in two ways:

  1. The balance between face-to-face learning and online learning will change as undergraduates go through their 3 year degree courses as depicted in the following chart:

Changes from Year 1 to Year 3

But Northampton is also thinking about how to change the learning experience and their current thinking is that lectures will become a thing of the past, as depicted in this slide.

Prospective changes at Northampton

Unfortunately this was only a one-hour lunchtime webinar. We could have continued the discussion for much longer and it was clear that Prof Armellini had plenty more he could have shared with us.

Chrissi Nerantzi has already posted the recording of the webinar at  . It will be a valuable resource.

Thanks to Chrissi and Prof Ale Armellini for a most interesting session, which was particularly timely for my own work.

Academic blogging

George Veletsianos is running a four week open course about networked scholarship and the implications of academics’ presence and visibility online for their work and careers.

The first week is already over and there has been plenty of interesting discussion and two interesting events.

On Wednesday Michael Barbour  joined the course for a day to answer any questions that participants threw at him and he generously shared his strategies for working in the open.

On Thursday there was a webinar with Laura Czerniewicz  who shared her work on open scholarly practice in relation to presence, visibility and branding, including her guide to curating open scholarly content:

An 8-step guide to curating open scholarly content 

and with Sarah Goodier a Four Step Guide to online presence

Also shared in the course was this slideshare by Sydneyeve Matrix about academic branding –

There has been some discussion about whether academics should blog. Some have said that open scholarship means sharing all aspects of your life (I have blogged about this in the past ), but as Laura Czerniewicz said ‘Some people are not comfortable blogging – some people have a blogging voice, others don’t’.

For me it’s not either/or. Sometimes I feel that I can’t get the blog posts I want to make out fast enough. At other times I feel that I have nothing to say, nothing to add to the conversation that has not already been said, nothing that I think anyone would find interesting to read – but sometimes you just have to force yourself and start writing, because as others before me have pointed out, writing is a practice – use it or lose it.

Catherine Cronin has recently said  (I can’t remember where – sorry Catherine) that you can never tell whether something you write might be of use to someone, and you might never know.

Stephen Downes  (a most prolific blogger) has written somewhere (or maybe it was said – again I don’t remember – sorry Stephen) that if you can’t find anything to write about, you must be a boring person, ‘or words to that effect’. I think what he meant was that everyone has something to say – we just need the confidence, the belief that there is someone out there that might want to listen.

This echoes what the poet Bernadette Mayer said in a Modern and Contemporary American Poetry MOOC webinar this week –  ‘You can’t have writer’s block – as that would mean total lack of thought’. It’s not lack of thought, it’s lack of confidence. Various bloggers have written about this (see references at the end of this post).

Bernadette Mayer has provided loads of possible starting points for writers in a long document Bernadette Mayer’s List of Journal Ideas. In the webinar her advice was to find something completely impossible to write about and write about it, such that the problem becomes the material and we use the constraints. Write against the reality that is presented to you – she says.

Bernadette’s advice is for poets, but works equally well for academic bloggers. The advantage of blogging is that it can release you from the conventions of academic writing of the type done for journal articles. You can simply start and ‘let it all hang out’ and include images and multimedia. You can write a line or two or you can write at length. There are a whole host of genres you can experiment with.

I think it would be a shame to think about blogging only in terms of scholarship and academic branding. Blogging is much more than that, even for academics. It is about ‘finding your voice’ and building an identity. As Laura said: ‘So much scholarship is embodied in a person.’

Some references that might be of interest, that I have come across or been reminded of this week are:

This week in ModPo I have been introduced to, moved and disturbed by Langston Hughes’ poem, – Dinner Guest: Me. Langston Hughes was a Harlem Renaissance anti-modernist poet. Dinner Guest: Me is a compelling poem. At one level it looks so simple; at another it is clearly anything but.

hughes

 Source of image

Langston Hughes, “Dinner Guest: Me”

I know I am

The Negro Problem

Being wined and dined,

Answering the usual questions

That come to white mind

Which seeks demurely

To Probe in polite way

The why and wherewithal

Of darkness U.S.A.—

Wondering how things got this way

In current democratic night,

Murmuring gently

Over fraises du bois,

“I’m so ashamed of being white.”

 

The lobster is delicious,

The wine divine,

And center of attention

At the damask table, mine.

To be a Problem on

Park Avenue at eight

Is not so bad.

Solutions to the Problem,

Of course, wait.

This poem was written in the context of a long history of racism in the USA, a system of racial subordination commonly known as Jim Crow and the question posed by African American intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois – ‘How does it feel to be a problem?’.

In the poem, Langston Hughes, a negro poet is at a ‘high society’ dinner party where all the other guests are white people. He knows that despite the ‘polite talk’ he is perceived as the Negro Problem – not necessarily hated, but a problem with a capital P.

I cannot pretend to understand what it feels like to be in this position, but the poem does raise the question of whether and how a minority voice can be heard. Langston Hughes was wined and dined at a ‘society’ dinner, but still his voice was not heard.

This situation was even more appalling because the dinner hosts seemed to have the best of intentions ‘in their terms’, but did not seem to recognise that they had all but ‘silenced’ the minority voice.

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 18.00.29

Source of image

 The issue of the minority voice is not only a racial issue. It can be seen everywhere and in any situation where alternative perspectives are not welcomed or listened to. This is particularly disheartening when it happens in learning communities and even more disheartening when there appears to be a lack of awareness or concern for those who have been ‘silenced’.

This is a significant problem for open online learning. How do we know whether the voices being heard, i.e. those that are present, are representative of the wider community? How do we know how many people feel their voices have been silenced? Where does the Problem lie?

The second topic (unit) of the ccourses MOOC (Connected Courses. Active Co-Learning in Higher Ed) is Trust and Network Fluency .

trust1

Source of image

Each unit in ccourses lasts for two weeks. For me this is good. For those who want to do a lot of reading – and there are plenty of resources listed on the ccourses site – then there is time to do this. For those, who simply want to interact with others, or think about the topic and reflect on it, this is also good. Reflection takes time as we can see from Mariana’s blog post in which she reflects deeply on trust, privacy and interaction in networked environments. It is a great post and has prompted me to respond, but also to add some of my own thoughts.

What happens when trust breaks down in online relationships? At the very worst level your life or career can be destroyed as in the case of Kathy Sierra – but even at the level of just one relationship the damage can be irreparable. (See Kevin Hodgson’s blog post).

Perhaps the answer is not to assume that trust in an online environment is a possibility. In a post a few years ago Stephen Downes wrote of person to person trust

We don’t trust each other (and we shouldn’t). Spam, viruses and phishing are the most manifest cases of this sort of breach of trust. Consequently, we have attempted to create walls around ourselves – spam filters, social network buddy lists, so-not-call registries. We seek control over the flow of information into and out of our systems through technology over which we have less and less control (because of the needs of the other forms of ‘trust’).

He concludes that

….. for the network to work, we must all give up control – but at a measured pace, in step with each other, to avoid one element of the other abusing this greater openness

Give up control. Keep in step with each other. Is that possible?

In our research into emergent learning, trust is one of the factors we consider to be essential for emergent learning in open learning environments. We discuss it in terms of the tension between competitive self-interest and mutual respect, support and growth.

Perhaps it’s competitive self-interest that we must give up, rather than control. Competitive self-interest can lead to voices that are ‘too loud’ in the online environment. Mariana writes about the ‘silencing’ effect that some online personalities can have, either through overt harassment or simply by being over-present and dominating every conversation.

How do you cope with the person who is not overtly harassing, not a troll, but whose voice is too loud in the online environment, given that people’s perceptions of what constitute a loud voice differ? This is something I used to discuss with teaching colleagues in the past when we were just beginning to run online courses. i.e. how present should we be as online tutors and what should we do about the over-present dominating student. Gilly Salmon describes this type of student/online learner as ‘The Stag’ and suggests giving them a job to do, which keeps them busy enough to prevent them from ‘spamming’ their fellow students. But not all dominant voices online are students. What of those everyday users of the internet who are trolls or who are simply always ‘in your face’; then the only alternative response is to walk away, as Kathy Sierra has done, or ‘unfollow’ or ‘block’ i.e. to disconnect.

But where does this leave the development of skills of systemic dialogue that Mariana talks about?

The more choices to be ‘public’ one makes, the more likely one will find people who disagree with one’s world view and are unable to engage meaningfully with disagreement. The open web does not come with a built in facilitator to teach people the skills of systemic dialogue.

We need more meaningful dialogue and less shallow answers.

Trust should not have to mean always agreeing with each other and establishing cozy echo chambers. In fact quite the opposite. The people I trust the most both on and offline are those I can speak my mind to and who will engage with me in what I perceive to be meaningful dialogue. They do not have to agree with me, but neither do they attack me. There is as I mentioned above, mutual respect, support and growth.

I have a lot of sympathy with Dave Snowden’s comment that he made in a talk to the Change11 MOOC and which I recorded on my blog at the time

Negative stories carry more learning than positive stories. Appreciative Inquiry is often unethical and used in inappropriate contexts; it tells people what stories they are allowed to tell.  Open space is also like this in that it rewards consensus and punishes dissent. Anyone who survives in an open space does so because the only people there are those who listen – everyone else votes with their feet.

So trust in the online environment is a complex issue. It should not be taken lightly.

2014 is the 100th anniversary of the publication of Gertrude Stein’s masterpiece TENDER BUTTONS. and this week Modern and Contemporary American Poetry course (ModPo) participants have been studying the work of Stein as well as other modernist poets.

In the introduction to Stein on the ModPo site – the course leaders have written:

The difficulty of deriving any sort of conventional semantic meaning from the short prose-poems that comprise Tender Buttons turns out to be, for many readers, a helpful inducement to read for other kinds of signifying. As we hope you’ll see from the video discussions in this section, such difficulty need not excuse us from close reading. Stein’s poems really can be interpreted. They might eschew representation, but by no means do they turn away from reference.

I, with many others, recognise the difficulty of understanding Stein’s work. I have decided not to agonise too much. My experience tells me, that whilst the value of hard work cannot be disputed, there also needs to be a readiness for learning.  As Charles Bernstein said at the end of the special live webcast broadcast to celebrate the 100th anniversary…

‘The key is not to puzzle it out, but to let the figurative plenitude of each work play out. This work is not invested in pre-determining structure or in precluding or abstracting meaning.

Tender Buttons does not resist figuration but entices it and the work is rife with linguistic and philosophical and philosophical investigation as well as an uncannily acute self-awareness of its own process.’

 

In this video, nine poets each talked briefly about Tender Buttons:  Laynie Browne, Lee Ann Brown, Angela Carr, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Ryan Eckes, Jason Mitchell, Juliette Lee and Charles Bernstein.

It was fascinating to hear how they each approached the difficult task of reading and interpreting Gertrude Stein’s work. Three of these poets, in particular, caught my attention.

Lee Ann Brown read Glazed Glitter with such a lively passion and love of words that it was contagious. If you want a lesson on how to close read and glean multiple interpretations, her reading starts at 11.40 in the video.

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 13.05.15

 

Juliette Lee read just one sentence from Rooms in Stein’s Tender Buttons.

Star-light, what is star-light, star-light is a little light that is not always mentioned with the sun, it is mentioned with the moon and the sun, it is mixed up with the rest of the time.

Juliette starts talking about about 46.30 in the video.

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 13.06.34

She related this sentence from Tender Buttons to a passage from Gaston Bachelard’s book The Poetics of Space .

Space that has been seized upon by the imagination cannot remain indifferent space subject to the measures and estimates of the surveyor. It has been lived in, not in its positivity, but with all the partiality of the imagination. Particularly, it nearly always exercises an attraction. For it concentrates being within limits that protect.  Gaston Bachelard (1994, p. xxxvi)

Juliette questioned what constitutes rooms and space and suggested that space invites authorship. Her interpretation of Stein was a personal one related to her own search for understanding, and her questions about ‘space’ resonated with my ongoing search to understand space in relation to learning.

Charles Bernstein. I, who know very little about Gertrude Stein’s work, would have found it helpful to listen to him first. He starts speaking at about 51.00 mins into the video.

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 13.08.07

Charles explained that Tender Buttons is ‘the touchstone work of radical modernist poetry, the fullest realization of the turn to language and the most perfect realization of ‘wordness,’ where word and object are merged.’

‘It is a work of textual autonomy…. Words do not represent something outside of the context in which they are performed. The meanings are made in and through composition. Meaning is not something to be extracted or deciphered but something to be responded to…. The more readers can associate with the multiple vectors of each word or phrase meaning, the more fully they can feast on the unfolding semantic banquet of this work.’

At the time of listening to this webcast, I am steeped in my own research, analysing data and searching for meaning. These discussions about Stein’s work have made me realise that essentially she was a researcher too, a researcher into the origin and influence of words – the influence of words on words, as well as the influence of words on us.

Perhaps all researchers need to be aware of the influence of words, the multiple interpretations and narratives that can be told and that they can hold, and the potential for divorcing words from their meaning.

Lots to think about here. I am still miles off being able to understand Gertrude Stein’s work but I feel that I am one step forward from last year when I wrote about what I was learning about learning from Gertrude Stein. So that’s progress!

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 10.53.42Source of image: Modern and Contemporary American Poetry MOOC (ModPo) course site

There has been a really interesting discussion this week between ModPo’s leaders, Al Filreis and Julia Bloch, about the progress of this year’s ModPo course. For me the fact that they continually reflect on what works and what doesn’t work in ModPo is a model of good practice in teaching and learning. The added bonus is that they openly share this, so that other educators can learn from it too.

In this discussion they discuss the first ModPo assignment (the 500 word essay on Emily Dickinson), peer reviews, some notable discussions in the forums, what is coming up in Week 5 and what is the value of ‘massive’ participation (30000 +) in ModPo.

I particularly enjoyed the discussion about assignment writing and peer review.

Assignment Writing

This is the third time ModPo has run, and over this time Al and Julia have come to see the limitations and risks of the assignment review rubric and how a rubric can dampen the potential for a good assignment. They say that they noted how a rubric wasn’t able to cover some of the fabulous close reading of poetry that was/is being done in ModPo. I can relate to this having in the past marked assignments that are clearly much better than the rubric that is being used to mark them. I can also relate to their discussion because I know from experience that the first time an assignment is given, it is unlikely to be completely ‘fit for purpose’ and will need ‘tweeking’ for the second, if not the third, use. Eventually it becomes a good assignment which both tutors and learners understand and which allows learners to reach their full potential. I always used to worry about the first run of an assignment and whether it would be fair on the students.

Al and Julia also have a wonderful discussion about the meaning of the word essay. Julia points out that the word ‘essay’ comes from the old French word ‘assai’ , or ‘essayer’ meaning ‘to try’, ‘to examine’, ‘to test’ . So an essay is a practice, not the final word. At this point their poetic selves take over and they describe an essay as a finger exercise, an etude, a venture, a fugue, an unfolding dialogue; people riff, expand, post variations, in call and response mode.

Peer Review

Discussion of the word ‘essay’ led naturally into a discussion about what Al called ‘the dance of peer review’. A person ‘assays’ forth, someone pulls back, then comes forward and meets you half way, there’s a bit of a dance, a fugue, a give and take.

101092-1

A dancer in virtual space performs with her reflection (Source of image)

‘It’s not that you learn and then I judge whether you learned, but rather you ventured forth and I came to you, and we’re together trying to figure out how this works. You are allowed to change my mind.’ (Al Filreis)

Al pointed out that this type of peer review is possible because the course is ungraded, non-credit bearing, free and open and that through this, improvement of the course is a communal activity. The course gets better as people learn how to respond. Al and Julia have seen better assignments this year as a result of this ongoing, iteratively reflective process.

I think this is all about feeding forward, rather than feeding back.

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