by Stephen Downes
Dec 25, 2015
OUSA Releases Broader Learning Environment Policy Paper
Alex Hobbs, Antonio Sergi, Chris Fernlund,
Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA),
The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) has it exactly right with this policy paper (3 page PDF, 29 page PDF) addressing learning environments. "There is much more to higher education than simply attending class," they write in a paper "to discuss the learning environment in all its forms, as we have come to understand its fuller meaning." In particular, they address four areas of concern (quoted):
- professional development opportunities for students are lacking [and] tools and programs used for tracking co-curricular opportunities are underutilized;
- monitoring student performance throughout their university experience, is a service currently not being adequately provided on campuses;
- funding priorities have for the most part ignored study spaces, student services, and other related student space;
- distinct lack of initiative on the part of university administrations in developing community engagement programs.
Good stuff. But let me take these initiatives a step further. Wouldn't it be great if they were available to everyone in society, whether or not they are engaged in university studies? Instead of providing these services to a special group of people that qualify by paying tuition, let's figure out how to network them and make them available to everybody.
More from the OUSA: papers on financial assistance and teaching & assessment.
The rich-poor divide on America’s college campuses is getting wider, fast
Jon Marcus, Holly K. Hacker,
The Hechinger Report,
This same trend is reflected, albeit to a lesser degree, in other countries. And in the United States, as this article shows, the higher education system is set up to benefit the wealthy and give them multiple advantages over the poor. “It’s creating something of a caste system that for too many people takes them from wherever they were on the socioeconomic spectrum and leaves them even more unequal.” The reason I am working in online learning is to act against this trend, to take these advantages away, one by one, to give the poor as much opportunity to and through education as the wealthy. It's not just about access to resources (though that's part of it). It's about forming self-supporting communities, extending the network into the workplace, access to social supports and scaffolds, providing models and creating expectations, and much more. Most of the ways elite universities benefit their rich clientele happens outside the class, and it's a great myth that access to learning is the same as access to courses and texts.
Gen Z Should Network Its Education. Now. Here’s How.
Continuum | In Beta,
This article may become known for coining the term Wise and Influential People (WIP) (which as of now has exactly one and only one result in Google). These are "local business people they’d like to work for, subject-matter authors, academic experts". But it is otherwise pretty shallow. It suggests young people (a.k.a. Gen Z) should create personal learning networks by connecting with WIPs. OK so far (assuming you define WIP broadly enough). But the article suggests imitating WIPS through word use: "When students use the WIPs’ own language—ideally by citing parts of their books, articles, or blog posts back to them—they signal that they are serious." This is too superficial. To understand the meaning of the words, a person has to do the work - to write the software, bake the cake, repair the car, design the furniture, balance the books. Use the WIP as a model, not just as leverage.
By The Numbers: MOOCS in 2015
I think it might be a bit premature to say that the end of MOOCs has arrived. After all, according to this report, more people signed for MOOCs this year than ion the previous three years combined. " Last year, we at Class Central estimated that around 16–18 million students signed up for MOOCs across all MOOC providers. That number has gone up to 35 million this year."
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