Tony Bates weighs in with a longish and well-thought-out post on the potential future of public education through the vehicle of a news report on education in the future province (?) of Cascadia: ” Forget content delivery. Almost all the content we need to teach is already out there on the Internet, either as open educational resources or freely available through the Internet… we had to focus on the hard stuff, and that is high-level skills development that requires a skilled person – an instructor, although I prefer the term ‘counsellor’ – to help with the learning and training.”
Direct Link: https://www.tonybates.ca/2019/07/28/some-thoughts-on-the-future-of-public-higher-education/
I don’t normally get excited about talk of digital technology disrupting higher education, especially when that talk originates from south of the Canadian border.
MOOCs are an interesting and useful development, but they have settled into a niche for continuing education and corporate training rather than disrupting the current system.
There have been many claims for how artificial intelligence is going to revolutionise higher education. However, at the moment there’s not a lot of AI applications out there that go much beyond pretty standard learning analytics and quantitative assessment and feedback. (If you know of any more interesting applications of AI in HE send in an article for the special edition on AI in HE in the International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education.)
However, digital technologies are already disrupting both the economy and society, and public higher education in Canada is ripe for disruption, not directly but in insidious ways.
As we shall see in the second post in this series, Canadian universities and colleges are mostly absorbing digital technologies into their regular teaching, rather than using it to disrupt the system. But that is just my point. We need to start rethinking the curriculum, rethinking the way we teach, and how we organise our institutions, to take full advantage of what digital technologies can offer.
More importantly, we need to do this to prepare our students better for a digital society and most important of all, if our institutions don’t change, they will eventually be undermined by large multinational online corporations that can do more cheaply and effectively many of the things that universities and colleges are presently doing. The loss to society though if this happens would be immense.
What Canadian post-secondary institutions need to do to avoid negative disruption or even extinction is to make themselves fit for purpose in a digital age. This is what I want to discuss over the next three posts
You can see a presentation on this topic that I made at CNIE 2019 here.
In this post I want to set priorities, but before doing that, I need to add a couple of other purposes which I took for granted. Indeed I should have started with these…
The most important reason for online learning for most institutions was to increase student access, with 95% of institutions rating it as either important (23%) or very important (72%). Closely linked in second place was the opportunity to access students from outside the regular catchment area (88%).
This is no surprise: student access and flexibility have always been a priority for online learning, bringing in new students, and enabling students with part-time or full time responsibilities in work and/or family to pursue their studies.
Also rated as important (82%) was to increase the rate of credential completion, presumably by allowing students to take courses online that would not otherwise be available on campus because numbers were capped or courses were not offered on campus in some semesters. A high proportion of institutions (77%) also rated student retention highly. I interpret this to mean that although completion rates for individual courses may be slightly lower for online than campus-based courses, the flexibility they provide allow more students to complete overall.
Getting down the list we see the value of online learning for ‘providing pedagogic improvements’ (71%), a pretty general category that might include developing skills for a digital society.
Ranked at the very bottom of reasons offered to institutions was to reduce or contain costs, but even here 47% of institutions ranked this as important.
It is important though to remember that this question asked for opinions. Although the survey went to institutional leaders, such as Provosts, it is probably answered by several different people in the same institution. Knowing their opinions is valuable, but it’s not quite the same as identifying actual priorities in terms of resource allocation, for instance.
by Tony Bates
This series is turning out to be longer than I initially anticipated. In the first three posts I looked at the following possible reasons for online learning:
– Ontario’s strategy to use online learning to ease pressure on high schools
– using online learning to reduce the cost of higher education
– using online education to support disadvantaged students: no online learner left behind.
In this post I want to look at a fourth justification: developing the skills that students will need in a digital society.
by Tony Bates
This is the third post in a series on rethinking the purpose of online learning. In the first post, I discussed Ontario’s strategy of making it mandatory to take four high school courses/credits online. In the second, I examined Kevin Carey’s claim that online learning could radically reduce the cost of higher education (at least in the USA).
In this post, I want to look at which students do best or worse in online learning, and whether we could be doing a better job supporting ‘weak’ or struggling students.
by Tony Bates
This is the second of three posts examining the purpose of online and digital learning. In the first post I looked at the government of Ontario’s strategy to require high school students to take four of their 30 credits online.
In this post I examine Kevin Carey’s claim in the Huffington Post that online learning could dramatically reduce the cost of higher education but hasn’t done so yet because of the commercialization of online learning.
by Tony Bates
What is the purpose of online learning?
Online learning has been hitting the headlines recently:
– the Ontario government requiring every high school student to take four online courses out of the 30 high school credits required for an Ontario high school diploma;
– claims that online learning is not appropriate for low income and under-represented minorities
– Kevin Carey’s rant about OPMs and the creeping capitalist takeover of (American) higher education
I have found myself being asked by the media to comment on all these, but underlying each of my responses has been my considerable unease about the gap between some of the claims and the reality on the ground, and above all not knowing the possible motives behind some of the developments we have been seeing. Each of these developments raises questions about the perceived purpose of online or digital learning.
I examine this through three blog posts:
– mandatory online courses in Ontario high schools: good or bad strategy?
– can online learning dramatically reduce the costs of higher education and reduce inequalities in the system?
– beyond access: rethinking the purpose of online learning
by Tony Bates