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Last week, our Business School took a day to meet, along with external people like myself, and business and community spokes people, to discuss the future of the School and its services. It was interesting to participate in the process. While it had its boggy patches and sensitive areas, it was good to see by the end of the day there seemed to be a small group turned onto an idea for a new focus in the school.
One thing that came out of it for me was the opportunity to float ideas relating to open education and the business school.
Certificates, Diplomas and Degrees to the back please
The idea I expressed that has attracted some interest was one where we invert the normal thinking of what it means to get a formal education. To take the “certificates, diplomas and degrees” part of what we do and put it in the back, and put the content and the learning activities up front. This is in response to common feedback from students where they want to know what is IN the course, what will they learn, how applied is it? Is it relevant? In my opinion, the package of certificates, diplomas and degrees give no real answer to inquiries to learning, worse – they limit educational development to a particular set of assumptions relating to that framework for learning.
Planning for Sustainable Small Management course
Hillary Jenkins is the program manager for the Diploma in Applied Travel and Tourism – otherwise known as Travel and Tourism (probably to become just Tourism soon). This course (for some strange reason) sits inside the Business School. That aside, Hillary is keen on the idea of “inverting” the package to one that envelops a wide range of interests in learning – starting with one of the courses inside her programme: Planning for Small Business.
Our first step was to find out what else was going on in Dunedin, Otago in terms of courses and support for people planning for small business. We didn’t want to go ahead and set something up that was in competition with others, and I don’t rightly know why something like a short stand alone course in planning for small business didn’t already exist in the Business School. So we called a meeting with the likely candidates of stakeholders in such a course. The Chamber of Commerce, NZ Trade and Enterprise, local business incubator Kick Start, a number of Polytechnic lecturers to assess the level of interest.
Our meeting was first see if us setting up a short stand alone course in planning for small business would be in competition, or could be complimentary to existing courses and services. We found that it would not be in competition and could be highly complimentary to existing services around town. The next part was discuss the aspect of this new course that would be unique, planning for small business with triple bottom line sustainability in mind. We aim to develop a course that will assist people in planning for a sustainable small business.
To do this we are currently in negotiation with NZ Trade and Enterprise to obtain copyrights to make a derivative of their already excellent guide Planning for Success. Planning for Success is a template for a business plan with supporting information attached to it. We want to make a derivative from this that will incorporate triple bottom line accounting as well as sustainability information for use in the business plan marketing and objective statements. We would also record seminars and presentations to compliment the resource. The derivative will of course be developed with the Wikibook that is already in development. We’ll make a printed and bound version for sale – all carrying the Creative Commons Attribution License (meaning NZTE would be free to take a version further if they wanted).
I’m getting to the new model now…
Once we have a text to structure a course around, we then want to set up a calendar of informative events that relate to that text and the courses we have. The events would be things like seminars from the Inland Revenue Department on business registration through to tax and levies; presentations from different insurance brokers; presentations from local business’; workshops from local services; etc etc. A range of short 30 minute to 1 hour events that are open to the public and enrolled students, and that have direct relevance to planning for a sustainable small business according to the text.
These short events link to slightly longer events such as a 3 hour workshop in spreadsheets; a day long tour of existing business; a consultation period with a service; a business plan writing workshop over 5 nights. These slightly more involved events are credited towards the course in Planning for Small Business – at which point the certificates and diplomas start to become relevant to participants, as they align to assessment for such credentials.
Examples: Take the perspective of someone in the community who already has full time job, but is interested in developing a small business idea. This person would have access to the short informative events and content of the formal course This type of access scales without diminishing the experience of formally enrolled participants or costing the Polytechnic anything that marketing or social development funding couldn’t account for – the old open lecture format. From the perspective of an enrolled student (which in Hillary’s course tends to be a young school leaver), they are attending informative events that make up the content of what they need to know to complete the learning activities, such as the Writing a Business Plan workshop, but with the extra perspective of it being of interest to a wider public attending the open lecture. From the perspective of the course coordinator, it is an opportunity to see a wider range of people participating in this level of content and to promote participation in the slightly more involved learning activities in the course. There is no commitment or enrolment to a certificate, diploma or degree at these events and activities. Just short, one off, regularly available, open access workshops to assist people.
Making our way to optional certificates, diplomas and degrees
Now, if those people became interested in the slightly longer sessions, they would find themselves with a group going through the tasks informed by the short and regular events. At the end of the longer learning activity, we record their attendance and completion. If they attend other activities, we record that too. Cumulatively these amount to a certificate, diploma and perhaps a degree (or they can be used in an recognition process should they decide to be interested in that sort of accreditation); or they are simply available for people to learn from – no expectation of commitment to certificates, diplomas, degrees, full time or part time study, or inflexible timetables.
The point is the certificates, diplomas and degrees are still there, and all the events and activities are coordinated around them, but the general public have access to the content and activities without necessarily committing to the certificate, diploma or degree. Some people will want to commit to that straight off the bat (such as our young school leavers) and nothing is stopping that either. This approach envelops many different levels of interest in the learning and optionally progresses people toward a credential if that has value to them. Hillary’s job is to currate the learning programme (similar to that of a film festival coordinator perhaps), and to facilitate people’s association and progress through that programme, in a fashion of free ranging like being the rain. (Those links help that last sentence make sense).
How does it pay? Well, the formally enrolled pay as normal. They enrol in the course up front and commit to all that is required. They receive their study allowance and start accumulating their study debt (or pay up front), we receive our subsidy for their enrolment, and they have access to all the content and learning support and assessment services that are afforded to them normally. As for the people taking advantage of the open access, they have access to the short events with an admission fee to cover costs if any. All sessions (where practical) are recorded and published for free online use. The longer sessions that these events feed into also have admission fees to cover costs and the content to support the activities are similarly available online for free. Obviously the online versions simply support the face to face events and activities.
What we need to be careful to ensure is that the formally and up front enrolled students have assured access to the sessions, and that their fee is less than if someone was to instead pay admission fees to all the available sessions.
So we are developing an open access course to cater for the requests of people who want more applied, practical, and more immediately relevant learning activities. We are separating the content slightly from the learning process and making it more accessible but still connected to ‘chunked’ learning activities. We are developing a 3 part sequence in learning that works both ways. People can attend events that lead to short learning activities that accumulate for assessment and certification. Or people can commit to the assessment and certification process up front and use the events and activities to achieve that objective. All resources will be freely available online, but also available as packaged resources for sale.
This idea is similar to the Sustainability Curriculum I proposed to Polytechnic leaders some time back, but as yet has not really grown any legs. It also relates to the free learning, fee education that is being considered by lecturers in Midwifery.
New Zealand’s collective student debt is approaching NZ$10 billion!!
Lets take a look at the cost of living for a student in Dunedin per week and get an idea of how crappy this situation is.
Weekly cost of living
Rent = $100 p/w
Energy, Internet and telephone = $75 p/w
Health = $20 p/w
Food = $100 p/w
Car = $80 p/w
Furnishings = $20 p/w
Clothing = $20 p/w
Social = $50 p/w
3 trips home per year = $30 p/w
Savings = $50 p/w
Stationary, computing and text books = $30 p/w
Student fees = $50 p/w + 40 hours p/w
TOTAL COST OF LIVING PER WEEK = $625 per week
Student allowance (if eligible) = $150 p/w
20 hours casual work @ $12 minimum per hour (resulting in a 60 hour week when combined with study time) = $240 p/w
TOTAL INCOME PER WEEK = $390 p/w (Gross!)
Weekly short fall of $235 per week. Totaling $12220 annually!!
So, let’s drop the car and savings… weekly short fall now = $105. Totaling $5460 short fall annually.
I guess we could keep chipping away at some of those weekly expenses.. who needs a social life, or trips home (or away), or health… and I guess they could work harder than 60 hours per week, or sacrifice some of that study time to work more, or find a job during the semester breaks to pay back some of that short fall (provided your landlord, food market, and all the others can stomach giving you credit until then. What about student fees? Let’s take a look at that…
Looking at student fee in relation to cost of course
A 3 year course at $12000.. what is the cost of running a course for 16 people per year? (Class sizes are one of the big reasons you would study at a Polytechnic btw.. imagine 350 people or more in a class, I struggle to see the value in university fees..)
Teacher @ $60 p/hr x 20 hrs p/w x 40 weeks = $48000 per year
Classroom and amenities = $4000 p/y
Internet and 16 computers = $32000 p/y
Other specialist learning resource fittings = $6000 p/y
Administration = $4000 p/y
Library = $6000 p/y
SUBTOTAL ANNUAL COURSE COSTS = $100 000
Less Government subsidy of around 70 – 80% = $30 000
Divided between 16 students = $1875 That’s less than half their fee!
(that subsidy figure needs checking.. it is really had to find)
Now, if we consider that in the breakdown of weekly student living costs – included in that is a computer and Internet. That might suggest that we could scale back our provision of such things (ignoring for now the fact that most students probably choose to forgo that cost in their struggle to survive here) and reduce the cost of the course considerably further (especially if I am out with that subsidy and course cost estimate).
But students would still be being forced into debt.
So what could we do in the way of free learning, fee education to afford more flexibility – save another $40 per week? And what could we do with other Government grant money to provide computers and Internet at affordable prices for students – save another $50 p/w? And what could we do with Open Educational Resources to reduce text books and library costs – save another $20 p/w? And what could we do with distance education so as to offer options for avoiding Dunedin costs of living – save another $100 p/w?
I don’t think we are thinking hard enough on what we can be doing to help address this serious social problem affecting the quality of learning in NZ. We have students who have little choice but to study and work 60 hour weeks, racking up and worrying about debt, and/or reducing their standard of living well below what I would call acceptable. I dare anyone to take a tour of rental properties in Dunedin.
Hillary Jenkins, programme manager for the Diploma in Applied Travel and Tourism has been accepted to present a talk and panel discussion in London this July, as part of the Fifth Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning.
Hillary has been working hard over the past 6-12 months, developing open access course information and resources on Wikieducator, with course blogs to interface with the online resources.
At the moment the course runs mainly with face to face participants, but is gradually building the capacity to support distance learners, and flexible learning opportunities.
The wiki course is as always a work in progress, and Hillary’s team are doing a good job at keeping 2 steps ahead of their students (its a precarious life teaching!), but her paper is available here, where you can get a quick overview of the background, progress, issues and concerns.
Well done Hillary, and the Travel and Tourism team.. good luck in London.
Otago Polytechnic lecturer Ruth Lawson recently published her Anatomy and Physiology of Animals text to Wikibooks, with worksheets on Wikieducator.
Bronwyn Hegarty offered advice, support and project management for the effort.
The project was funded by Otago Polytechnic.
I wonder if New Zealand’s Performance Based Research Fund will ever come around to recognising the criteria met, exposure and acclaim?
A printed and bound version is available through LuLu.com, and the Commonwealth of Learning is considering further work on the text to take it to a more global education readership.
Well done Ruth, Sunshine and Bronwyn!
Dave Bremer, a colleague at Otago Polytechnic criticises my interest in using MediaWikis for online learning.
My problem with this is that Wiki’s are just textbooks…
It is true that in the past, and the vast majority of wikis today are primarily reference materials or text books. But over the past 2 years, a few individuals and institutions have been exploring the use of wikis to develop and manage courses, hoping to leverage the benefits of collaborative editing and open access.
Harvard, US: Law and the Court of Public Opinion. An early example of an open access course that uses a course blog, email forum, Second Life meeting spaces, and a course wiki.
Utah State, US: Introduction to Open Education. Inspirational in its simplicity, and a proven success through its primary use of a wiki that blogging students use as a course schedule.
Media Lab, Finland: Composing Open Educational Resources. Inspired by Intro to Open Ed, this course has been developed on the Wikiversity platform that follows the same simple course schedule format for blogging students to follow. Note the numbers of people in the edit history and discussion page, demonstrating the benefits of collaborative course development.
Otago Polytechnic, NZ: Designing for Flexible Learning Practice. Also following the simple schedule format for blogging students to follow, but on the Wikieducator platform. This course uses a course blog for announcements and weekly summaries, and will be using web conferencing for lectures. Note the use of the Wikieducator Liquid Threads (a threaded discussion feature on the discussion page for the course). Also note the Print to PDF feature which came in very handy on the course orientation day.
Otago Polytechnic: Horticulture. This project mainly uses the wiki as a storing house for lesson plans and activity sheets for use in class or by distant learners. It follows Otago’s development structure based around competency units with a library of resources page and activity sheets set as sub pages to each unit.
Otago Polytechnic: Travel and Tourism. This project also follows the Otago development structure of unit pages with library and activity subpages. The teachers in the course are using course blogs for each of the subject areas and simply point to activity sheets on the wiki depending on the needs of the classes.
Otago Polytechnic: Massage Therapy (link to Programme Manager’s blog post update). Uses the wiki as a storage bay for resources and activity sheets with course blogs announcing new things to the students. Has an interesting use of RSS to a start page to bring together all the different courses to create a course hub.
Otago Polytechnic: Anatomy and Physiology of Animals. A text book developed in Wikibooks, with lesson plans and activities developed in Wikieducator for use in different contexts including face to face classes, or courses within the learning management system. The text book has been picked up by eLearning designers in Vancouver and will be developed further on the open licenses, integrating the activity sheets as well.
In all these examples, I think it would be a stretch to call them simply text books (apart from Anatomy of Animals which is quite deliberately a text with activity sheets to support it). It is difficult to avoid creating texts while creating courses however – as evidenced in just about any LMS course development. This is why some of the wiki courses listed here are using the Otago development structure. The structure encourages the separation of information and other reference materials from lesson plans and activity sheets firstly to maximise re-usability, and secondly to assist teachers who are developing there courses on the wikis to think more deliberately about what it is they want their students to be doing, and to create a variety of different activities around a single learning objective for use in different contexts.
More info about Otago’s exploration of wikis for developing and managing courses on Wikieducator.
So I’ve been going along to the Sunday sessions for the Permaculture Design course, where we now have 11 face to face participants and 5 online participants.
In the face to face sessions we have been focusing a lot of time on the principles and ethics of permaculture. I agree that these need a lot of time and they are quite inspiring ideas that could be applied to just about everything we do (even organisationally), but I get a sense that the face to face participants might be feeling that the course is moving too slowly and that they would like to start getting into more tangible activities.
I’m really glad though that the online group is there with us. Their emails and blogs have given me a lot of motivation to research and maintain the course wiki and related resources, which in turn has kept me feeling as though the course is very active. However, because the face to face participants seem to be not participating online, they may be feeling that the Sunday sessions aren’t moving along quickly enough. Today Kim and I spent a few minutes showing the face to face groups around the online work being done, so I hope some of them will come on and start putting more into the course so that they may get more out of it, but I suspect that that is not what they expected when they enrolled in the course.
So far we have the course wiki that includes the course schedule and links to any media recordings we capture throughout the course, as well as a discussion page that captures the latest from the online participant blogs (we’re still waiting on 3 more). We have also started a Permaculture Design textbook over at Wikibooks that would at first appear to be all by me, but I’ve simply been copy and pasting the handouts, and some of the notes from the participant blogs as a process of my own study in the course. The text will hopefully evolve into a self sustaining resource for many others to use once it reaches that critical wiki point. And there’s an email forum running for people to keep in close contact if they struggle with anything other than email.
What has surprised me is the level of interest that was quickly expressed by people from Portugal to Vermont, and how web savvy they all are :) It turns out that international interest in permaculture is quite high, which is easily verified by the extensive network of websites and media over the Net for it. With the the online participants helping us to use this pilot course to develop online communication channels and information, we will hopefully have a certificate level course soon, with an online study option, that will help enhance and sustain the face to face course.
On February 22, 2008 Otago Polytechnic will be running a 4 month part time Permaculture Design Course.
It is also being developed into an Open Educational Resource (OER) on Wikieducator. (Work in progress)
In the wiki is a full break down of the course as it will initially run, including budget and fees. The development has received seed funding from the Otago Polytechnic sustainability fund and we are working on ways to make it economically sustainable in the long term without making fees prohibitive for people wanting to benefit from the course. (Producing OER for the course is one part of that…). We are also aiming to widen the scope of the course so as to attract designers generally into thinking about the principles of Permaculture in their work.
This post is to both promote and note the work and intentions behind the project.
Otago Polytechnic is throwing a lot of weight into developing itself as a sustainable organisation that provides holistic education around sustainability. In this effort a small fund was made available to seed ideas and new projects that advance that effort. A proposal to develop a Permaculture course was developed with initial input from William Lucas, Mark Jackson, Kim Thomas, Peta Hudson and myself. After some fiddly administration tweaking to make the course fit our particular ways, the proposal was accepted and we were given the go ahead.
Kim Thomas and Peta Hudson used to run a short course out of the Horticulture Department called Introduction to Organic Gardening for the City Dweller. Essentially the content was very similar, or enough to use as a basis for the Permaculture Design course that we would build and widen scope from. Peta developed a schedule for the course, electing to use 9 x 6.5 hour workshops on Sundays so as to be available for hobbyists and professionals. While the first course will run on this schedule, we hope to find ways to widen the scope and content so as to attract professional designers and other industry sectors interested in sustainability, and the ideas that Permaculture may bring to developing sustainable production systems and living spaces. We hope that design lectures will become involved in the course and help as achieve this goal.
Open Educational Resource:
The first instance of the course will be thoroughly documented with a view to producing a range of educational resources to support all potential learners, as well as feedback to the teachers and participants. This material will be made openly accessible on the Wikieducator platform and used to support future developments of the course. It is hoped that the project will gradually attract input from other professionals and that collaborative development partnerships will form that will assist in the objective of widening the scope of the course.