Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Half an Hour, Oct 08, 2019

Summary of a talk by Stephen Murgatroyd, PhD, Chief Innovation Officer

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These are summary notes of the talk, taken by me,


“I’m here because I’m old…. So I have a lens that says ‘Be careful what you wish for’.”

- References AU MBA – “fellow deans of business thought I was completely bonkers” – took over 50% of exec MBA market in the country

Things that will force us to change


- Globa spend on education: $6.5 trillion

o A lot of this money I public; what is the relation between this and private enterprise

o Within a few years it will be 10.2 trillion

o Training is an increasing part of this


- OECD – platform for education 2030

o Three big domains: knowledge, skills, attitudes & values

§ Which merge to create competencies and action

o Reference to new PISA scale on ‘global competencies’


- NZ full-page ad: “We no longer want degrees. We want to know what you can do.”

- Drivers:

o Demographic shifts – more seniors than there are kids in schools – Canada will be totally reliant on immigration to support the workforce – we have to embrace tech in the workplace because the workers aren’t there- we also have a big literacy gap

o Economic shifts – the economy is growing in Asia-Pacific, not NA and Europe – 424 of the cities in the world produce 80 % of the worlds GDO – 325 of them in Asia – to find our place in this world, we have to get smarter faster

o New patterns of work – 30% of workers in Canada are self-employed gig workers – different attitudes about what work is and the role it plays in our life – “If we had to give everyone full time contracts, universities as they are now wouldn’t exist”

o Technological Disruption – 30-40% of jobs worldwide will be impacted by tech like AI, 3D printing, drones, etc – surgeon can practice on a 3D image of that particular person to prepare for surgery (which may often be assisted by robots) – there are stores where a robot will help us

o New kinds of organizations – Uber, Skip the Dishes, 99Designs (to design images, logos, etc) – digital platforms do the same for coding – learning & training – leveraging assets from all over the world – and this is leading to public-private partnerships

o Technological disruption – 2.4 million jobs in Canada (McKinsey) may well be created by new tech – eg. Lethbridge Herald – looking for a ‘wind finder’ – using engineering and weather tech to position windmills – we need nimble agile education systems to prepare people for these 


Things that will help us to change


- Don’t get romantic about classroom teaching – not a shred of evidence that lecturing is helpful (Robert Bernard, et al) – quote – a lecture is entertainment, not learning


- Warnings:

o Conveying content is not learning (it’s shipping)

o Pedagogy not technology drives learning – tech doesn’t teach, people do – the key component of what we’re working on is design – the relation between the teacher, learner, and material being learned

o Beware of ‘learnification’ (which is the practice of putting the entire onus on the learners) – Gert Biesta

o Beware of datafication – ie., use of data to replace sensitive decision, use of untested algorithms to manage organizations

o Understand cybersecurity and privacy

- New approaches to assessment

o Eg. Assessment on-demand – “I’m ready to be assessed now” – some AI-enabled

o Stackable assessment, marked automatically, captured on blockchain

o Competency-bases assessment (that use video)

o Eg. Apprenticeship – “why do we insist on time being the variable when it’s skills that we’re interested in”

- AI-Enabled Learning Systems

o Eg. Team at Deep Mind think we’re at the very early stages of AI

o Embedded in D2L are powerful adaptive learning systems

o Chatbots (eg. Jill Watson) – AU/Ryerson looking at engaging students using chatboths

o Automated content generation – Washington Post uses AI to write 1000 articles this year

o Quality assurance for OERs, analytics

- Simuations for Learning

o Flight training, engineering, geography, history

o Banff Centre – “conversation between students and Abraham Lincoln”

o Esp. when 5G rolls out

- Collaborative Learning

o Eg. ATB uses video-based training to help wealth managers – conversations with clients are video-taped – they self-evaluate – then they share with a peer who also evaluates – then mentor or coach adds values – sales went up 16% in 8 months with fewer people

o Linking learners to workplaces and professionals through RiiPEN

o Linking students worldwide through P2P learning networks

- Challenge and Design

o A lot of learning is still too passive – about mastery, or getting to grips with a body of knowledge

o Instead – challenge people with questions you don’t know the answer to as a prof

o Co-creation – finding knowledge together – is a powerful model of what learning can look like – showing others how I learn

- Immersive Learning

o VR, etc – coming but not here yet

- MOOCs for Degrees

o In 2018 – 101 million people enrolled in MOOCs

o 47 degrees (or equivalents) through MOOCs – in 2019 that will be 100, by 2025 that will be 1000 – at a very low cost through MOOCa

o MOOCs are modularized, you can take a component of a degree

- New Players

o Eg. LinkedIn Learning (Ontario n made deal to make it available to all students)

o Squirrel – China

o Badges – some badges by corporations being accepted by colleges as credentials

o AU Hockey BA, Siemens Megatronics


We will see :

  • Modular, stackable learning – including transfer for work-based learning; a lot more self-directed learning; significant growth in blended learning – senior will make a lot of use of this
  • “This is for me – I’m driving my own learning agenda”
  • Anywhere-Any tme assessment for learning – assessment centres, etc
  • Work-based learning for credit (compare: Middlesex University – assessment of credentials)
  • The Future Matters
  • Opportunity to create alliances – new ways of blurring the boundaries that exist


- , Feb 13, 2020
, - Shaping (As Opposed to Stumbling Into It!) – The Future of Online Learning and Training, Feb 13, 2020

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Mar 30, 2021 11:43 p.m.