Thursday, 3 December 2009

JISC Online Conference - Day 4

Finally got around to writing up day 4, after catching up with my day job this week. I firstly listened to the recording of Peter Bradwell's session on The Edgeless University, which had been recorded the day before. When he talked about being edgeless he was talking function not form. He asked what are the challenges for UK Universities:
  • maintaining standards
  • rising demand and widening participation
  • strained resources

How can we maintain standards, continue to improve access all with strained resources? and what can technology do to help? He said technology aids collaboration, the availability of information and gets more people involved in learning. Technology poses a new set of possibilities but isn't just a threat. We need to emphasise the value, the quality, affiliation and authority that comes from the institution. Universities become partners in learning rather than sole providers. They validate learning, they are a driving force for research and collaboration. This the way in which they become "edgeless", not disappearing but broadening out. Learning happens beyond individual campuses and institutions. We need to rediscover why we still need universities.

He then asked a number of questions looking at different areas and what the priorities and challenges are in those areas. Obviously this was just a recording so I wasn't actively involved in this but could see the results produced the previous day. The results were interesting (I'm not going to list it all here) and I think in some cases possibly reflected the majority of the audience as teaching featured heavily in the responses, but that could just be me making assumptions about the make up of the audience.

After that I listened to the closing keynote (which was a live session) by Nigel Paine "From courses to communities". Again a very interesting session. He said you should be open to what might work, cull to what will work, and then focus your energies - sound advice, rather than trying to get into everything focus on what works for you and your students, in your institution. Don't just jump onto the latest band wagon.

He also said environment for learning is very important. It's not just about people - you do need to spend time developing yourself but you also need to work on the environment. He quoted Patrick Dixon, who when talking about companies said - visionary companies think radically, embrace radical new partnerships, integrate processes to create realistic products that meet real needs. This is just as applicable for universities.

He argued that leaders need to move from framing to shaping - it's not your job to tell people what to think - you need to build environments in which people can create their own learning.

Learning to know, learning to be, learning to do, learning to live

Things to consider:

  • the good enough revolution - cheap and simple is just fine - get it out there, don't worry if it's not perfect
  • venue is very important both for online and face to face
  • the key to learning success = fun
  • develop tools for communities not communities for tools
  • make it easy to get started
  • be flexible and be emotional

The quote of the day has to be "not everything is equally important" - how true.

And that was it. By this point my ears were numb from wearing headphones for too long and my head was banging from concentrating so hard. Good conference but in some ways harder than a face to face conference because you spend so much time staring at a computer screen.

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