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Going out of business sale

Going out of business sale CC By: heiwa4126

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

Steve Keys

No Microsoft, Please CC By: Steve Keys

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

JimReeves

The Bombay Dabawalla CC By: JimReeves

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…

Enveloped learning

Lady Orlando

little max and the wow factor CC By: Lady Orlando

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

Hands on LaBrea. CC By Here in Van Nuys

Hands on LaBrea. CC By Here in Van Nuys

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).

Who pays?

foundphotoslj

I Believe You Have My Red Swingline Stapler CC By: foundphotoslj

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.

Summary

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.

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…

10 days to the start of the free and open online course: Facilitating Online Communities.

About once a week in the lead up to the start of the course I check the course wiki discussion page to see if anyone new has added their names to the ‘I wanna be involved list‘. Each week I am nicely surprised to see not only new names, but people with experience and genuine interest! Its actually a little intimidating to be honest! There are people joining the course with more experience than I have! but I’m confident that the topic range and resources will be useful for just about anyone, and as many have said – they’re joining to fill in some gaps. I think we’ll be fine 🙂

As yet I haven’t heard from any formal participants. I don’t know if the sponsoring institution who is responsible for the traditional promotions and formal enrollments has been directing people to the course wiki or not (I sure hope they aren’t persisting with their Blackboard process – it will only confuse people). Perhaps for a formal and newbie, the idea of making an introduction to a group of experienced and highly motivated participants so far is intimidating them.. I hope not, I sort of wish I had of included a join by email button (I need to look into that feature on Wikied). Ignoring that factor though, the group we have in there already will be a valuable resource to any newbie to all this. They’d be really letting themselves down if they  opted out on account of feeling intimidated.. I must remember to quiz people to see if this was at all a factor once we get started.

In any case, I am really relieved that we have a good number of interested informal participants. They will help to carry the motivation of the formally enrolled, and will no doubt offer help with the course in general. I’m confident that some of them will turn into fee paying participants if they want assessment and certification, but its certainly not a requirement.

I’m looking forward to getting started on it come the 28th, even though I’ll be facilitating all by my lonesome, I don’t intend to allow my workload to go over 6 hours a week on average. We’ll see, famous last words…

Chat Room - A photo by iBoy Daniel

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.

Contents

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

Weekly income

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.

We’ve advertised the Permaculture Design course in the local paper last week, and again tomorrow. We’ve sent promotional messages to email forums, and the good old word of mouth. The course starts in 2 days and we only have 3 enrollments. Are we missing something? Is permaculture an unfamiliar concept in Dunedin? Is our timing wrong? Does the course need to establish itself more? Is the price wrong?

What I do know is that is that our enrollment process we have should have less failure points. As it is now, we advertise, people call a number, they are sent an enrollment form, upon receipt of a completed enrollment form the applicant is directed to the course start location. There are 3 failure points in that process (assuming we have all of our own systems and responses working well).

  1. Interested person has to make contact
  2. Interested person has to fill out and send enrollment form
  3. Interested person has to turn up

In Institutions I have worked at in the past, the advertisement for the course includes the location of the start day with a more or less open invite to turn up on day 1. The enrollments are done on that day and then its straight into it. In such an approach to formal enrollments there is only one failure point:

  1. Interested person has to turn up

And it has a feeling of being fairer I reckon. A kinda try before you buy (an enrollment form does have the sensation of financial commitment).
The local interest in the course is disappointing so far. But on an upside we have had 2 inquiries from California wanting to participate online. Kim, the course facilitator has blogged about this. Our only online promotion has been to make the course outline and schedule openly accessible on Wikieducator. When I asked the 2 Californians how they came across our course literally 2 days after putting it on Wikieducator they said Google.

So at least the name of the course is right, for Californians.

Both are interested in obtaining a certificate in Permaculture Design. Our course is not yet established enough for such a thing, but it is our goal. As is the goal to make it accessible and achievable through distance learning. We plan to use this first running of the course to record presentations, discussions and workshops to digital media for access by the distance learners. At least one of the Californians is keen to participate at this level and to help us get the most out of this effort. It is also our goal to further develop the course and make it attractive to designers generally.

So hopefully we will gain more local enrollments in the course. Any suggestions are very welcome.

I’m waiting enthusiastically for Dave Wiley’s summary of his Intro to Open Education course. Dave has given us a brief update just to remind us its coming…

I was quite inspired by the simple and familiar layout of the course outline, and the obvious and understated requirement for participants to maintain a blog in the course. I should have set my news reader onto all the participant blogs and watched the progress more closely, but hopefully Dave’s summary will represent the good bits…

Dave’s course has clearly inspired the Fins with their own course in Composing Open Educational Resources on Wikiversity – which looks to be another very useful course. And I think I’ll encourage the teachers here who are working on Wikieducator to develop their course pages in much the same way.

I know we in EDC have been needing to rejig our own wiki course outlines, and I’ve been wanting to do something like Dave’s design since I saw it. We are also requiring participants in our course to maintain blogs while in the course, but boy it can turn into a heavy workload.

I quite like the stand off, low key, high expectation style of Dave’s approach and am hoping to learn ways to better manage my time coordinating and facilitating our courses that use blogs and wikis… so, waiting for Dave’s summary 🙂

I first saw Andrew Odlyzko’s article Content is not king in Vol 6 Num 2 of the journal First Monday in 2003 or something. First Monday has consistently delivered many a mind altering experience for me, and even 6 years later it is worth revisiting this Feb 2001 article. In it Andrew makes an almost prophetic argument for the time.

In the following sections I develop the argument that connectivity is more important than content. The evidence is based on current and historical spending figures. I also show that the current preoccupation with content by decision makers is not new, as similar attitudes have been common in the past. I then make projections for the future role of content and connectivity, and discuss implications for the architecture of the Internet, including wireless technologies.

At the time of Andrew’s article, Learning Management systems were being used by educational management to bash the early adopters of the Internet into line and force them out of their DIY Internet projects and into template driven, organisation wide Learning Management Systems. I was called in to create high cost “Learning Objects” that the students would use instead of text books and analogue distance learning materials. The teacher took a back seat, always waiting expectantly for the content, always quietly skeptical that anything online would change what they do. To claim that content was not king at that time was something of a challenge to the likes of me who’s income was being made through eLearning content production, and to the managers who were blindly redirecting massive amounts of money into new content production. We hardly took notice of this argument, strangely nor did the displaced teachers…

Around the same time Dave Wiley produced the Reusability Paradox which was another spanner in the works articulating a persistant frustration being felt by content producers and elearning developers. The content wasn’t being used!!

It took me another 2 years to see the writing on the wall, and when Web2 / socially networked media / user generated content came along in 2003/4 I began to see my escape route.

Today, I recognise a connection in Andrew’s argument that content is not king, and Illich’s Deschooling Society – Chapter 6, Learning Webs. In Learning Webs, Illich also argues for investments in connectivity before content. I also recognise through the Illich connection that this argument has been going on for quite some time, and is not likely to get resolved anytime soon. Even with such stark and plainly obvious proof like email, SMS, blogging, online learning communities, and content-less courses that it is connection that is of more value to people.

So today, the struggle to appreciate these arguments goes on. At Otago Polytechnic we are investing in Flexible Learning. A considerable amount of that investment goes to Internet based content production unfortunately. We bicker and fight about this nearly every day. I myself spend a significant amount of time developing content, even though I am experienced and aware of the reasons why not to. To balance this plain as day risk we are also trying to get our teachers (and students for that matter) connected as well, but it is harder to quantify or see the results of this than it is with numbers and screens of content.

What does “getting our teachers connected” mean? It means helping them to appreciate Internet connectivity beyond content access; it means encouraging them to blog; network online and find others in their field, make contact, communicate, form learning communities, connect. It means extending the already familiar and tangible notion of face to face contact to an online and hence always connected context. It is very hard work, and very difficult to develop, especially when we can have very little say in the infrastructure that supports such an effort here in New Zealand.

A quick look at NZ Internet stats

My sense tells me that these stats reflect a reality in Otago that we fail to fully comprehend in education. And when we’re talking broadband, we should probably expect low speeds, low data caps, poor reliability, and shared computers to be further impacting all through that 33% broadband. How can we facilitate connectivity in the way I’ve described with infrastructure and take up that produce these stats?

Connectivity is our biggest challenge. Both infrastructural and behaviorally. Content is hard to justify when at least 67% of New Zealanders have very limited means to access it.

I plan to find out more about the KAREN project, and how it is promising very fast internet connections between universities and other nodes throughout NZ. At the moment the KAREN project seems to be focused on its application in research and formal education, celebrating stories of video conferencing between research groups, and distance education into schools. I want to find out if anyone has proposed distributing some of that connectivity out to communities. Something along the lines of South Australia’s Air Stream project, would possibly help improve both access and uptake of broadband connectivity, and help introduce an appreciation of wireless in the region. I’m not sure how big the KAREN is, but if a portion of its use could be made available for free community wireless across the region, I think that will go a long way to improving connectivity.

Update:

What follows are notes and to-do lists for the Horticulture course developments here at Otago Polytechnic.

This course has 3 elements to its development

  1. Developers blog that documents content being developed, research in her subject area, and notes on her own professional development.
  2. Production of instructional media in the form of videos and slide presentations
  3. Wikieducator development in the form of a course page, resource lists for each topic, and learning activities for each topic.

Progress on the developers blog

http://hortykim.wordpress.com has developed into a personal and humorous account of Kim’s adventures in this project. Clearly Kim has become confident in publishing both video and hypertext to the web and takes pride in her abilities to do so. Kim has kept regular notes on meetings, and development work. Of note is the move from having a media expert in to record and edit instructional videos to her DIY and ‘on the fly’ videos. In my opinion the DIY is ultimately the most sustainable model of content development, involving media skills equivalent to other teacher skills sets such as photo copying and slide presentations.

To do:

KT: Focus on designing learning activities for each of the learning objectives in the course and post initial ideas to her blog. Seek out ideas from other teachers, and seek feedback to own ideas

LB: Continue to provide support in teh form of comments and ideas for activities, and instruction on how-to manage publishing of media.

Links:

Progress on media production

An extensive collection of video has been produced, ranging from DIY to expert, and covering many of the topics in the course including chainsaw maintenance, pruning fruit trees, weeds management, nomenclature and health and safety. Points of note:

Videos are currently available on Blip.tv as well as the Internet Archive with the Internet Archive automatically optimising the videos for dial up and broadband download and streaming.

As well as video, some slide presentations have been loaded to Slideshare.net more to follow.

Photos and images continue to be loaded to Flickr with a view to the comment and note features of the Flickr site being used in activities.

To do:

LB: List all videos in the resource pages for each learning objective on the wiki

LB: Assist with optimising available presentations ready for loading to Slideshare.

KT: Use videos, slides and photos in learning activities. Keep talking with Leigh about ideas and capture ideas to developer blog

Links:

Progress on the Wikieducator

Progress on the Wiki has been on the whole slower than planned. Some concerns from other teachers in the department about how open the course content should be recently caused a sense of uncertainty, and learning activities used by other teachers has been difficult to obtain. This has effectively left one person to gather or create resources and devise learning activities causing progress to be slow. The structure of the course content on the wiki is reasonably complete.

To do:

LB: Continue working on the structure to simplify navigation and to place less emphasis on the formal aspects of the content such as the unit pages.

KT: Continue writing up learning activities for each of the objectives, drawing from the resources and add them to the developer blog and/or the wiki

LB: Monitor progress, offer suggestions and help write activities. When all learning objectives have 2 or more learning activities, incorporate them into the course page so as to help simplify navigation.

Links: