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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.
Otago Polytechnic in collaboration with the Commonwealth of Learning are hosting an open think tank for New Zealand educational practitioners, policy makers and decision makers to explore opportunities and pathways for building a national OER initiative.
- Place: Otago Polytechnic Forth St Campus, F Block, Level 3 – The Council Room
- Date: 22 August 2008 (lunch will be provided)
- Time: 09:30 – 16:30
Sarah Stewart, a prolific blogging colleague at Otago, takes on the health sector educators and their almost neurotic hesitance to take on an open web presence and open education. Getting our knickers in a twist?
I am still thinking about the whole issue of confidentiality and blogging, especially in the context of health practice. And I am wondering if some people are getting their knickers in too much of a twist?…
…To be honest, I do not know if there has been an analysis of the content of blogs belonging to health professionals. So I do not know how much the concerns about blogging and confidentially are based in fact or general impressions.
Sarah and her colleagues have devised a simple test to assess the content of email by Health practitioners.
Liam and I developed an assessment tool by which we were able to anilyse the risk to security and confidentiality ranging from 1 — breach of patient confidentiality — indicating a high need for security and privacy of the email’s content, to a score of 8 which had no need for either security or privacy.
The results? Well, I don’t want to steel Sarah’s lime light here. I really think Sarah and her colleagues are on to something and I hope they take it further and chip away at the common (mis)conception that is quite frankly holding Otago Polytechnic health educators back in my opinion. The almost reflex reaction up until now has been a persistant blockage for health teachers even considering open education, but I’m sure there will be a debate even before the research…
That course we ran last year is coming up again. I’ve tweaked it quite a bit – free at last from the learning management system it was locked up inside, running in a wiki schedule, backed up by blogs and an email forum.
This course has been developed by staff in the Educational Development Centre of Otago Polytechnic and is designed to help both formal and informal learners access and interpret models, research and professional dialog in the facilitation of online communities. After completing this course people should be confident in facilitating online and/or be able to critique and offer advice to other people in the facilitation of online communities.
The next facilitated course starts 28 July 2008.
Participation in this course is open. You will need to have regular access the Internet and be comfortable with independently completing tasks. To join simply introduce yourself to the discussion page and include an email address that can be use to add you to an email forum for the course.
In formal learning terms this is a level 7 course registered on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Formal learning participants engage in this course for a period of 10 weeks with an indicative time commitment of at least 6 hours per week. Formal learners will receive concentrated learning support throughout this period, and assessment services and formal recognition at the completion of the course. Some people may prefer to engage in this course informally and to set their own pace through the work using the schedule as a guide. Informal engagement is welcome and arrangements can be made for formal assessment and recognition at any time with the course facilitator.
I was hanging out in Brian Lambs Blip channel, just generally getting inspired and stuff, and when he got talking about RSS as he always does, I thought I’d have a little play with Blip’s RSS feed into Wikieducator.
I dropped HortyKims (a staff member here) into the Horticulture page and was blown away to see the full swf player displaying the actual video! I have sent away to Blip to ask for ways to control the display size of the videos, but for now it displays the size of the actual video file that was loaded. In HortyKim’s case, they are larger than your average net video. In my own case, they are 320×240 and so a little more acceptable.
Embedding media in a live sense is obviously the way to go, and the ability to create mashups with appropriately copyrighted materials will certainly attract innovators to the Wikieducator project. Blip has category feeds as well, so there is a fare bit of control in there, and they support the creativecommons licenses too. The Kaltura video player/editor that Wikieducator has been using seems to have stalled its developments as they still haven’t integrated with Blip. Youtube import is there, but given Blip’s far better handling of copyright – I think Kaltura and Blip should have gotten together much much sooner. Kaltura is a very promising feature, but it is worrisome that they are not keeping it coming.
I am really stoked to have stumbled across this ability to quickly and easily bring a Wikieducator page to life. All hail the power of RSS.
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.