Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Open and Networked Learning presentation

I've been asked to give a brief and initial presentation to people within the Faculty of Health at La Trobe: 

24 October 2012 between 1-2 in HS1 115 to give a presentation on open and networked learning processes, relating to the Internet. 

 If there's facility to project slides, here's what I'll use.. and this is still in development...

I'll try and record audio and add it here later...

The blurb I sent through:
Leigh is interested in open and networked learning, including academic practices. He will briefly talk about projects he's been involved in, that illustrate an approach to community engagement, research, teaching and assessment that is open and networked. Leigh hopes to stimulate discussion around ideas and projects that tend to challenge, inspire, and confront traditional university based practice.
Leigh has recently joined La Trobe as the Educational Designer with the Faculty of Health Science. His family have come down from Darwin where he directed eLearning at the Centre for School Leadership, Learning and Development. Leigh also worked as the Learning Commons Coordinator at the University of Canberra's National Institute of Sport Studies where he developed many of the practices he talks about today. Although he is not a New Zealander, he spent a significant amount of time as an Educational Developer with Otago Polytechnic helping them establish leadership for open educational practices in the New Zealand sector. Leigh documents his work on

Monday, October 15, 2012

No Blocks Found yet, for Australian university education

Pedestrian Green Traffic Lights Yerevan
By Heretiq
Wikimedia Commons
Last week I started searching for blockages in the Australian University system, blockages that might prevent the development of more open, networked and ultimately flexible teaching and assessment practices. I've just finished reading:

I used Diigo to keep my notes, and it would be wonderful  if others using this system might pop in and leave some notes as well! I'm reading through these laws in an effort to get myself informed enough to be having deeper level discussions around the opportunities and barriers to new or alternative ways of doing education.

In TEQSA and HESA I found only a few things that might be an issue, if not directly, then down the line in their implementation.


  1. TEQSA accredits courses only, not units of study, so there may be difficulty in getting new units or subjects up that are not attached to an accredited course. In saying that, there is a provision (41) where a provider can apply for self accreditation. I need to find out if it is common or not for a university to make this application.
  2. 26 makes reference to Threshold Standards and 58 makes reference to a Higher Education Standards Framework. Both sound as if they might be devil in detail when it comes to blockages at the implementation level.. I haven't read either through, or even located them yet.
  3. Item 134 spells out the functions and powers of TEQSA, and I couldn't help noticing item 16. the Principle of proportionate regulation. Is that a nod to 'the spirit not the letter'?


  1. Item 19.40 makes reference to an opportunity for exemption from tuition assurance. I don't know what this means, and am wondering if its a way to make room for experimentation.
  2. 19.115 Makes mention of the Provider to have policy upholding free intellectual inquiry. This strikes me as a significant opening for establishing open and online courses, if having an interest in the content of courses qualifies as 'intellectual inquiry'.
  3. I couldn't get a handle Part 2-2, Commonwealth Grant Scheme, or how the fees and subsidies for courses work, but reckon I had it right back in 2010, all-be-it the actual dollar amounts having changed. I think there might be more money than I first thought to be available.

So, I could really find very little at this top level of legislation that would stand in the way of developing more flexible teaching and assessment practices. I have no doubt I will find them in the detail, either at the frameworks and guidelines level, or the local institute policies and guidelines (including professional accreditation bodies), or most likely in the instruments and tools we use to administer - not to mention the over all assumption that is not necessarily made apparent, about how education happens in Universities.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Searching for the blockages in Australian Universities

The Vice Chancellors of some Australian universities have been using the public pressure for change in teaching and assessment practices, to make claims that the over arching regulatory and funding bodies that generally govern universities here, are stifling innovation in the teaching and assessment space. Most recently I've seen Jane Den Hollander Vice-Chancellor at Deakin University write as much to The Conversation. And I'm told Jim Barber Vice Chancellor of University of New England made similar complaints at Creating New Futures.

I'd like to find out exactly what Jane and Jim are referring to, if it's reasonable to say that such regulation is stifling innovation, or rather if what I've always thought the problem to be - that the premise and traditions of education, copy-cat administration, and narrow approaches to ICT, are the true-er reasons for lack of innovation. As Mark Smithers and Joyce Seitzinger say in their comments to Jane's article on The Conversation, we don't need more money for the sorts of changes that are apparently necessary, and that numerous prejudicial attitudes and narrow minded approaches to ICT in higher education point to a cultural problem.

When floating some old (in this head at least) ideas for alternative ways of teaching and assessmen, (2009-2012 ideas, and 2006-2009), I'm so-far pleasantly surprised that I haven't been met with outright hostility or dismissal here at La Trobe. Perhaps I've tempered my verbal delivery of such ideas, or perhaps SD is right in saying the time is right for floating such thinking.

In a recent interaction with someone well informed on the administrative processes at this university, I was asking how we might go about setting up a recognition of prior learning process, so we can explore ways of formally enrolling people when they complete a subject, rather than when they start. Might this be a way to report 100% completion rates? No one fails or is recorded as dropping out if they enroll when they know they will pass. Courses would need to adjust to loss-lead funding arrangements, and that will probably be a sticking point, but then again funds will come in as they normally do because most people will continue to enroll traditionally, and when people taking the flexible enrollment route do eventually enroll-at-completion, they bring in another form money. How could we structure teaching, assessment, administration and funding around this inversion of process toward more flexibility and diverse income streams? Might we introduce more granular forms of assessment services through badging while we're at it, offering access and value to people not interested in full degrees? Would it then follow as a logical next step, to offer access to online courses for free, as another loss leader, but fee for more personalised tuition services..?

I was directed to:
  1. The Higher Education Support Act 2003, Australasian Legal Information Institute
  2. Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011, Australasian Legal Information Institute
  3. Higher Education Policy, Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education
  4. Funding Programs, Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education
  5. The Advanced Standing, Articulation and Credit Transfer Policy, La Trobe University
  6. The Domestic Educational Partnership Policy, La Trobe University
So, it's in these laws, policies and funding arrangements that I hope to answer two questions:
  1. What exactly are the Vice Chancellors referring to when they talk about restrictive regulations? and/or
  2. What stands in the way of my ideas around inverted educational arrangements?
Have I missed a key document or consideration?

I've started a Diigo Group around these sorts of links, to use it as a note taking spaces in the hope that a few others might join in, Developing Open Online Courses in Australia.

And now for something from a time when the common good and forth estate were more important, Lyndon Johnson and the signing of the Voting Rights Acts.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

A true(er) history of MOOCs

A moose, not a MOOC.
Care of the USDA Forest Services and Wikimedia Commons
In my new job at La Trobe University, the word "MOOC" has popped into conversations. I've tried not to write anything much about Massive Open Online Courses, as the emergence of the meme and its adoption by large universities and businesses has irritated me just as much as I'm sure it has irritated others.

Many thanks though, to Dave Cormier for acknowledging other people's work leading up to the MOOC meme, 10 minutes and 34 minutes into the audio recording of a discussion with Steve Hargadon on the "The True History of the MOOC" (Massive Open Online Course) with Alec Couros, Stephen Downes, Rita Kop, Inge de Waard, and Carol Yeager. [Audio].

Unfortunately Teemu Leinonen was left off again, though I think his work with Composing Open Online Educational Resources (March 2008) was an important reinforcement of David Wiley's seminal work (linked in the acknowledgements section of Teemu's course) that inspired others who would develop the MOOC.

Before MOOCs flew the coup of the original developers and became the child of the celebrity universities and businesses, there were a number of people working on distributed open online courses. These early developer's work remained small scale, and remained largely unnoticed, and evidently forgettable. When the open courses run by the North Americans attracted massive numbers of people, this was the part that signified a new stage and development. The scale of participation around their open online courses indicated a possible tipping point for open and networked online learning, and suggested a possible business model, given the scale. The distributed approach to structuring open courses was a commonly accepted principle among the early developers of open courses and, as the discussion acknowledges, this distributed use of the Internet was the only practical way for people to support each other when learning in open online courses.

I tried to capture some of this history on the Wikipedia entry for Networked Learning, including copying Dave Cormier's videos to Ogg format and uploading them into the article. I was surprised when a new Wikipedia article had been created specifically for MOOC, firstly because it dropped off some of the history and content I was trying to construct and defend around the Networked Learning article, and secondly because the article had questionable notability at the time (criteria important to Wikipedia administrators). To date, the MOOC article remains poor to Wikipedia standards, with countless unsupported claims. This is not good for the preservation of the principles and values that informed the work of open and networked learning advocates.

Today, the publishing businesses and American universities are scrambling to occupy the MOOC meme, riding a bandwagon of value creating market development. I've ignored it until now. But when my local university is discussing MOOC as a new word and not an older acronym, and local media starts asking Vice Chancellors for their not-so-well-informed opinions, I'm compelled to find a position.

We are indeed at a tipping point it seems, but I'm concerned that the principles are getting tipped out! Principles of connected and constructed learning, open access, free content reuse, international, cross cultural and collaborative engagement, transparent processes and open documentation, peer to peer assessment and acknowledgement of people breaking conceptual ground in the lobbying and development of open and networked practice. I appreciate the efforts of the participants in the discussion hosted by Steve Hargadon, who attempt to express this concern.

So, what am I to do, when drawn into discussions at La Trobe referencing MOOC? Is it an opportunity to create space for the development of open and networked educational practices, or is the shallowness of interest and awareness ultimately a barrier to such an effort? Is the time right, in other words?