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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.

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:

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

The course has 3 aspects to its development

  1. Content in the form of activities and lesson plans on Wikieducator
  2. Course blogs for the presentation of the activities and the communication around them
  3. Staff blogs for the establishment of online communication skills and industry expertise

Progress on Wiki

The structural design for the wiki is near complete, with usability and visual design commencing this week. Usability and visual design will include:

  • Course pages will simplify navigation to resources and activities.
  • Wording will be made personalised
  • Graphics to enhance attractiveness and offer visual ques for quick reference

To do

  • LB: Learning Objective, Resource and Activity subpages need to be created for a number of new course pages.
  • HJ: Start writing activity pages for all of the learning objectives. Include aim, activity, resources.
  • SC: Conceptualise visual style and graphics for the wiki
  • HJ, SC and LB: Wiki pages for courses starting in February must be completed by mid January ready for use in staff training

Links

Progress on course blogs

All course blogs have been set up on edublogs.org using the courses listed on the Travel and Tourism main wiki page. Graphics and banners are currently being developed for each. Course blogs must be ready to use before start of Febuary.

To do

  • LB: Give Hillary admin access to all blogs
  • LB and SC: When course pages on wiki are finished (check with HJ) copy content onto course blog about pages
  • HJ: Focus on finishing the course pages in wiki
  • SC: To develop a number of banners for each blog for consideration by staff

Links

Progress on staff blogs

4 staff have set up blogs on wordpress and are currently exploring the features and learning how to use them effectively. Some of the staff have set up RSS readers and are starting to check each others blogs and comment in. When blogs start to reach a competent standard, active networking will begin.

To do

  • LB: Check in on blogs and offer support
  • HJ: Provide incentives to staff blogging
  • SE: Continue to support learning
  • HJ: Coordinate intensive learning sessions throughouut January and February

Links