No ‘one size fits all’ model for education, #OER still only at end of the beginning (excerpts from @donaldclark)

This is a long piece by Donald Clark that touches on many subjects. I’m not attempting a summary of it all here, just excerpting the key lessons that seemed most valuable from an agile learning perspective…

10 lessons learnt at WISE in Doha

This culture clash surfaced time and time again at the conference, characterised by 10 Manichean oppositions;

1. Monologue v dialogue

2. Global v local

3. Private v public

4. Closed v open

5. Teaching v learning

6. Religious v secular

7. Old practice V new science

8. Assessment v attainment

9. Horizontal v vertical

10. 20th C v 21st C.

2. Global v Local

Martin Burt, from Paraguay, laid siege to the idea that traditional schooling was suitable for the majority of the world’s poor. Just building schools is not the solution – people LEAVE schools and drop out of schools. How is quality education to be funded when governments lack resources? You can’t just say give us more money. Money in education has doubled but results not doubled. Too many children just get ‘schooled’ then leave into a life of poverty. They aren’t taught the skills they really need to improve their lives. He wanted to inject entrepreneurial spirit back into school by linking the curriculum to work and business start-ups. Learn maths so that you can understand a break-even point.

The lesson here is not to blindly import models from one system to another. I spoke to a guy in Guatemala who described Mormon archaeology and US Christian education in Mayan ruins, hugely resented by the local Mayan population. Another delegate, from rural Brazil, thought Burt’s ideas were OK but no real solution for education as a whole in most countries.

The lessons learnt from post-Katrina New Orleans, were that the trauma of disaster had become the catalyst for change. He saw education as a marathon not a sprint. Good line, I thought, but it’s mostly a treadmill. Similarly in the presentation from Haiti, where a new approach is arising like a Phoenix from the ashes of disaster. In both cases, the previous systems were moribund and broken. Only time will tell, whether these newer approaches, involving Charter Schools and fresh government policies will work.

Lesson learnt 2: Global v local – one size doesn’t fit all

There is no ‘one size fits all’ model for either funding or curriculum choices. It depends on the political, economic and cultural context.

4. Closed
v Open

Imagine a future where there’s access to free education and resources for everyone. A future where learning and assessment are free. A future free from institutional protectionism. Education is largely delivered through formal instruction in expensive institutions; schools, colleges, Universities etc. Contrast this with the way we actually access knowledge in the real world; Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, OER.

We’ve had 3 generations of open learning, the attempt to open education up to new people, places, methods and ideas. Gen 1: No entry qualifications – the massification of education through print/radio/TV. Gen 2: Web, blended and flexible approaches. Open access. Gen 3: OER – open resources – knowledge a public good. Initiatives include: CORE – China, LIPHEA – East Africa, OER Africa, JOCW Japan, The Vietnam Foundation, Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth, Open Learn.. OER promises much more than it currently delivers in terms of shaking up the status quo.

Cecilia d’Olivera Exec Director of MIT Opencourseware explained that OER is more than traditional course materials, it’s also online textbooks, online lectures, online games, complete online courses, software, virtual labs. But at heart it’s really about these c-words – consortia, community, collaboration, copyright cleared content and courseware.

MIT’s traffic is 1.5 million visits per month, so that 70 million have used the content to date. Fewer than 10% are educators, Self-learners 43%, Students 42%, Educators 9%, Others 6%. The dominant use is the advancement of personal knowledge at 46%. Guy from Taiwan translated MIT courseware to through network around the world by crowdsourcing. So what explains the failure of institutions to take advantage of this?

Cecilia suggests that it needs to be easier to find and that language is still a barrier. Sorry, but I don’t buy this. It takes seconds to find this stuff on Google. Fact is, they don’t want to use it. NIH (Not Invented Here) is the real barrier to use. Sure content isn’t enough; we need other services – study groups, certification, assessment etc. But what we really need is an embrace by government. This is happening in China and India.

Prof VN Rajasekharan Pillai gave us the run down on IGNOU Open Course Portal – 40,000 text, 1600 videos, 80,000 users, one of world’s largest educational resource repositories with a special YouTube channel. Anyone can register and use resources, there are no entry qualifications, no restriction on duration – you only pay for certification – the revolution is here.

This is driven by huge demand. By 2020 India needs to provide employability skills to 500 million! The only way to satisfy this demand is through unconventional ideas. OER will transform education, so we need sustainability plans for these initiatives. People will use it if people see advantages for themselves. This means Open Assessment combined with Open Courseware. Knowledge and learning are trapped inside accrediting institutions. Until we break that mould we’ll be pricing learning out of the hands of the masses, especially the poor.

Lesson learnt 4: Closed v open – Private money should be targeted at Open Resources

Education is a closed shop. Technology opens it up. Rather than funding schools and schooling, let’s fund the future model of open resources in the global classroom. In OER we are at the end of the beginning – so what’s about the next ten years? How do we turn this all into a quality education? Quality of teachers a big issue. Training, retraining and CPD – that is the challenge- at all levels. Above all OER needs to move from the development of materials to use of materials.


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