Open Courseware

moocIts probably not news to anyone, considering I have run a couple of MOOCs but I think the future of learning will be Open Course ware-based. Pretty frightening prediction to make considering that I am teaching and working in Higher Education, many people working in this context view Open Course ware as a straight up challenge to everything we do. But my point is that it doesn’t have to be. I work in a pretty progressive university, we have been in the MOOC space for a few years now, have signed up to edX and we have some great projects at the university-level exploring how we can change and keep current in such a climate. I like that we are thinking of how we can harness these innovations rather than compete with them, because I think that would be a mistake. edx2I attended the STARS 2015 conference in Melbourne this year and I listened to a keynote that really made me think. At the Australian National University they have a program called the Bachelor of Philosophy and its utterly innovative, students don’t follow program pathways, they choose anything and everything to study in their degree – it might be literature and engineering subjects, it might be any combination that they view as having meaning for them. This was a truly personalized degree. It struck a chord, as who are we to determine or decide for people which subjects and in which order they should be studied in -we need to throw away such linear pathways. Did the world stop turning when this was handed over to the students to decide? No. For professionally accredited programs there is often little choice, but perhaps we should move into the American system of broad undergraduate degrees and professional qualifications acquired via graduate programs? Might be an answer to all of the varied criticisms being meted out on the current generation. Just a thought.

OCWSo how does this fit in with open course-ware? Well put that flexibility and choice into the online space – what if we were to study degrees that were a mixed and varied combination of offerings from many different sources of higher learning providers? For example, I could complete a degree online by mainly completing subjects from the ‘home’ institution I enrolled in, but within that degree I could do units from Oxford University, Harvard or other such bastions of learning. Pretty exciting idea, and what if I did all of this via open course-ware? These top-level institutions are already dominating this space and leading the way, they have had the confidence to join this movement, so the rest of us should get a wriggle on and dive in. If I were selecting a university to put on my TISC form I would want a really exciting combination of offerings, I would want the big names, the flexibility of doing it online and I would want a combination of subjects that makes me unique and employable. Pretty persuasive vision isn’t it?

Digital Portfolios

digp1So I’ve recently been looking around again for a digital portfolio tool that I can use with my students and I am sadly unimpressed with how little this tool has changed or improved in the last few years. The idea of a digital portfolio is exciting, this living thing that we add to continually over the course of our professional lives. Imagine having such an archive? When I think back over my teaching career I really wish I had a record of it, something tangible and rich and full of those amazing lessons I remember teaching (plus the not so amazing ones), I could be reflecting and learning from my own experiences. There wouldn’t be many people who wouldn’t agree on the idea of a digital portfolio or even its value, but the tools have let us down. They initially were privately owned sites which hard strange file formats that could only be read within the site itself (silly), or could be exported as a PDF turning it into a 1-dimensional portfolio (pointless) or could only be used by digitally fluent wunderkids, i.e. export as an HTML rich file (nope, again, why bother??). So the portfolios themselves were not really growing this business or encouraging uptake. Adding to this mess was a commercial or professional world that wasn’t really ready for them. If you sent a letter with an URL in it, people were ready to type that into a browse or click on it to open it. They wanted a hard copy, something attached to the letter itself. So why take the risk? I remember friends bringing CD-ROM’s  and quite frankly they didn’t get responses.

digp2Now though the Blog, Website or URL is more common, and prospective employers are clicking on the link. Our digitalness is slowly changing how we present ourselves to potential employers or the wider professional world. Yet, here is the nub of the matter, the portfolios themselves, the commercially made tools out there have not improved. I am seeing more exciting things being created in Blogs and Websites which means digital portfolios are being skipped over all together. I guess its ironic that I am writing about this on my Bog, because what is if not a way for me to push out my professional identity or thoughts to the wider profession? Perhaps this blog could be viewed as my digital portfolio? An interesting idea indeed.