Thursday, June 19, 2014

Trends in education and sustainability

World cyber games 2004
What are the trends in education? A good place to start your explorations is the 2013 Horizon report, a resource which has become internationally recognised as the voice of the future in education.  Also refer to a report prepared by the Open University Innovating Pedagogy. Please be guided by the resources and activities on the course wiki under the topic called Trends.

You will also be exploring the meaning of sustainability for your teaching practice and for your learners. This includes thinking about the 'greening' of education, and how to create a lot out with the smallest possible a footprint. Sustainable approaches influence student and teacher workloads and are strongly linked to open education resources (OER) and practices (OEP). You need to figure out how you can be a more sustainable educator. It is also about using teaching approaches that support effective pedagogy and action competence: Co-operative learning, Inquiry learning, Experiential learning and Reflection. Some principles are general to all teachers (e.g., workloads and definitions of OER) and others will be specific to your context (e.g., embedding principles of sustainability specific to your discipline, and using open resources).  Read more on the course wiki.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Diversity personified

Student Diversity by Leyton
In the last class, we talked about the characteristics of four different students. Click to enlarge the image. Our context was that they were studying in a personal training and fitness programme and had to attend classes everyday Monday to Thursday - 08:30 to 15:30. They needed to learn about anatomy and physiology, access online resources and attend the gym for a full day on a Friday. At first glance, it looked like only one of them would be able to attend on-campus classes regularly. Can you spot which one?

We discussed the problems that these four students might have accessing the learning environment. These problems related to a number of factors in addition to socio-economic and ethnicity factors. For example:
  • learning ability - study skills, literacy and numeracy, digital information literacy;
  • motivation and attitude;
  • pre-requisite learning - qualifications, life experience;
  • whether they could be self-directed - take responsibility and be self-regulated (set goals, monitor progress and evaluate understanding).
Such factors contribute to diversity. Consider each student in turn, and think about the diversity in each of these areas. For example, Student D is not an English speaker and is a single mother. We decided that she currently lived with her parents. Student C had little motivation for his study because he really wanted to be a nurse. Use your imagination to conjure up a story for each student to describe their diversity - you may even wish to think up a case of your own.

Can you think of any other factors that might pose barriers to learning?

As well as posing problems, we also discussed solutions so that the students' diversity could be accommodated. Some of our solutions are shown on the image in red writing.  For example, Student B was able to get her practical training at a local gym, and access online resources on her smartphone. You may also think of some others. Our conclusion was that all four students could study this programme even if living far away without a computer or broadband, and if working in more than one job. Can you see why? With a bit of imagination it is possible to be flexible because there is always a solution if think creatively and are willing to offer alternatives.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Abbotsford Community Services diversity mural by University of the Fraser Valley
By now, you need to have decided on a working definition of flexible learning and started exploring the flexibility of your course(s) using Casey & Wilson's (2005) Flexibility Continuum.  If you have managed to explore some examples of flexible learning that is even better.

How are you going with the learning objectives for the topic: What is Flexible learning?
  • Define flexible learning in your context.
  • Explore principles and processes of flexible learning and teaching.
  • Investigate multiple dimensions of flexible learning.
  • Critique a variety of examples of existing flexible learning and teaching options.
  • Reflect on how the dimensions of flexible learning could be applied in your context.
Activities, two and three relate to the first topic. 
Reference: Use the flexibility grid - Table 2.2, p. 7 & 8, and also Appendix 3, p. 41-44 in A practical guide to providing flexible learning in further and higher education by Casey, J. & Wilson, P. (2005). 

If you are following the schedule, Diversity is the topic you need to be working on now. However, the schedule is only a guide so don't be too hard on yourself if you are at a different stage.

Why do we need to have a grasp on diversity to understand the 
concepts of flexible learning? 

Understanding who your students are, how they learn and what will encourage them to engage with your subject will optimise equitable access to the learning environment. Is it true to say that only by acknowledging difference can we be inclusive? Or is it fairer to say that good learning design is inclusive by default? What is diversity? What is culture? How is cultural diversity relevant to your teaching?

Where to start? 
Check out the materials on WikiEducator about Diversity. Activity Four will guide you. Check out this short four minute video about how diversity can impact on learning.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Flexible Learning: Getting started

Isolation and the falling stars by 802
To get started in the course and find out how to set up your learning portfolio, please go to Getting Started on WikiEducator.  If you need assistance, please get in touch as soon as possible, otherwise weeks can go by if you don't get over the hurdle of setting up your portfolio. 

The schedule and assessments are in the 2014 Course Outline

Remember you can make your blog or ePortfolio space private if you prefer and invite just the course lecturer. I can supply email addresses if you wish to give course participants access as well. If you do feel comfortable having your work in a public forum, the advantage is that others can interact with you, and give you feedback. 

In class today, we looked some examples of blogs and ePortfolios from other classes - links on the right of this post. We also began talking about what flexible learning means - the first module - What is Flexible Learning? - and discussed the five dimensions of flexibility and ratings on the flexibility continuum (Casey & Wilson,  2005). We also made a start on thinking about how flexible participants' course design was with regard to these dimensions.

On Moodle, you can find material that was given out in class: