So they asked me to put my course on-line, now they’ve sacked me! #octel

Warning run away

I was looking at the #octel video on the Saylor Foundation and my first thought was – oh there are no lecturers at all.

This made me realise that a fear that academics have been telling me about for years has finally happened.  To learn more we conducted this interview with a frightened academic …

We had to write “elements of the …  approach that you think could be applicable”  and “problems you might anticipate with the approach” now I am a learning technologist and for the things I actually teach then Sue has already written an excellent post.

So instead I am going to think about how the approach would work for academics at the University I work for.  To simply offer what Saylor offer; a well designed course of materials with no academic contact would not be acceptable to our students (particularly with no certification).

However used as part of a course I think the approach has potential.  A well designed course which uses open content where possible that students can work their way through would work well with the flipped classroom model.  Our students could study the readings and then discuss them and work on problems in lecture time (see Eric Mazur for an idea of how this works).  Putting it online and sharing “CC by” would also be good for sharing, the academic community and the reputation of the University (I would have to check how happy the Uni would be with this approach!).

The value added of a University is the contact with brilliant minds (the lecturers and other students) how much better is that contact if it is a conversation rather than a boring monologue.  Content can clearly be found on the net for free, so simply providing content will not be sufficient (even if the person providing it is brilliant – because there is also brilliant stuff for free on the net).


8 thoughts on “So they asked me to put my course on-line, now they’ve sacked me! #octel

  1. David Jennings

    Great stuff, as always – I’ve really enjoyed all your videos, but this is one of the best…
    Now let me see if I can frighten the academics a bit more. Do universities have a monopoly on ‘contact with brilliant minds’? Can social network platforms now emulate important parts of this. And, if so, could some Silicon Valley startup just take the elements of (1) Saylor-style open content (2) social media for building communities of brilliant minds around it, and (3) some bolt-on competence-based accreditation as I believe Western Governors University may do in the states?
    Obviously I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but I can’t imagine entrepreneurial minds, brilliant or otherwise, aren’t thinking those thoughts.

    1. josephgliddon Post author

      Thanks David
      Yes I am sure that some minds are actively thinking along just those lines – the whole commercial MOOC area (Udacity, Coursera etc) is heading that way.
      Done well it could be a good thing allowing humans to have lifelong learning and giving those capable of working fairly independently the opportunity to update/improve their knowledge at any point in their lives.
      Done badly it could create a 2 tier system with some able to pay for a premium education and the rest forced into a cheaper version that lacking the personalised support may have larger failure/dropout rates.

  2. DeborahLGabrielPhDMD

    Often universities put boundaries around educational opportunities. Education opportunities surround us all. We need guides, not universities or professors, they are outmoded.

    1. josephgliddon Post author

      I really hope that they are not outmoded 😦
      While I think that people need to seriously look at the effectiveness of the educational experience while people are there (and thus how new tech gives opportunities) I do like the core idea of having 3 years to go away and have a really hard think about a subject of your choice. I think it would be a real shame if we used technology as an excuse to say that society as a whole cant afford to let people have 3 years.
      Who pays and how – well that’s politics (I do have an opinion)

  3. Roger Harrison

    Hi, I’m not quite a frightened academic yet, but unclear how much of this will play out over time. Clearly there is a fantastic opportunity with OERs and social learning communities, to really open up and expand educational opportunities across the world for anyone who can access the internet and has a reasonable metacognition to approach these in different ways. I don’t agree with Deborah that universities and professors are outmoded – but their contribution to teaching and learning perhaps needs to be reflected on. Certainly in the UK at least, universities were regarded more for their research capacity and developments in a particular field, than for teaching contribution – the latter was more of a role for what were polytechnics. A crude distinction, I know, but the point I’m trying to make here, is that perhaps the role of providing and co-ordinating learning does not need to be by the leading academics in a topic, but that they, can contribute and share their knowledge to the world with OERs and other social media.

    Now, what learning institutes need to firmly grasp, is what is their own unique selling point – what is it that they can offer in the future, that cannot be achieved for the same quality for free, or for even better quality for free elsewhere (free I’m meaning low cost – nothing is free). I don’t think providing the learning interactions in a face to face setting is enough for a unique selling point – this has been done poorly in the past, and yes, some good examples of how it can be improved, but still not an efficient way to develop learning, and soon, students will be demanding far more innovative approaches. So that leaves assessment – well, university assessment has largely been in the form of a written exam, some practical work, maybe a project and possibly a group project and tutorial presentations – hardly approaches that tick many of the more contemporary pedagogical approaches to enhanced learning.

    Oh and finally – lets not forget the certificate – clearly, leaving with an assured certificate of competency will be vital for employers. But does that have to come on a single sheet of paper? Many professions have now developed their own professional exams, professional bodies and competency frameworks – certainly in my field of public health these exist – so maybe students can develp a wider portfolio of assessments to show their knowledge and skills?

    Do I think universities will go? no I don’t. I don’t think the ‘avalanche’ has come in terms of the outward institutions – their research agenda will continue to increase, and this continues to be a major focus of their direction. Undergraduate teaching will certainly continue, but change. I think the biggest change to appear quickly, will be at postgraduate levels – I suspect many of us taking this course have a postgraduate qualification. But when I was 20 years old, I didn’t have the confidence to interact like this and certainly hadn’t developed ways and skills of learning and communicating. I think this is where the attention needs to be focused – undergraduate and research.

    Now as for my own job security, humm. Well most of my work is at a postgraduate level! So I/we, need to really recognise the wealth of knowledge available now, and the many good quality courses, OERs, etc in my field that are quickly appearing, Of course we can use those materials and incorporate into the teaching. But that isn’t enough – we need to find ways that help develop students’ higher level learning and critical reflection. I think critical reflection is a key skill that is I observe dwindling in students over time, and is difficult to achieve fully in online teaching.

    A fascinating debate, but lets not use fear tactics to distance ourselves from the reality.



    1. josephgliddon Post author

      Thanks Roger – I think your reply is longer than my original post 🙂
      You make a lot of good points but I would like to pick up on
      “develop students’ higher level learning and critical reflection”
      I think this is the “Unique Selling Point” of a University (others can do it but not as well as Universities), there are fantastic examples of teaching and learning going on in institutions.
      There are also some lectures being given that simply tell students a lot of stuff – because that was the best way to do it 20 years ago and that is when the building was built and how the room was setup and how the lecturer was taught themselves.

      The danger is if Universities are judged by the second example then compared with doing something for free/cheap on the internet it starts to look like a lot of money for something that is not that much better.

      As for job security – Its much better to be an academic than a taxi or lorry driver! (Google Car)

  4. Jacob Ruytenbeek

    I’m actually leading a pre-launch startup that will be announcing its name very soon. We’re aiming to solve the problems you address in the article and some of the comments touch on. We question the added value of a university and think that there’s more to e-learning than watching one-way video. We can do better and we will do better.

    Since I don’t want to spam and take over your thread, I’ll leave it at that but if anyone wants more info on our launch, find me @jacobruytenbeek on twitter.

  5. Pingback: Wrapping up Week 8: the E in TEL | OCTEL

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