Guest Columnist on Online Higher Education in the U.S., India, and Singapore ~ Mike Kolodziej
Online and distance education have evolved over the years to occupy several forms. From correspondence courses beginning in the 19th century, to the widely visible public-access television courses in the mid to late 20th century, distance education has been continually impacted by technological innovations. The 21st century brought about the immergence of the internet, which has impacted society and economics in several significant ways. A host of colleges, universities and other entities, both public and private, began to leverage the connected world of the internet, to offer formal and informal learning opportunities. Early on, these offerings mainly targeted at learners in their own cultural-geographic region, have evolved to address larger and more geographically and culturally diverse groups.
As different countries take different approaches with addressing the educational needs of its’ citizens, each takes a slightly different approach to the issue exemplified in the brief snapshots below of three countries of particular interest.
Though certainly not unchallenged, the United States has been a world leader in online learning, and continues to do so today. A report compiled by the Babson Survey Research Group in 2014, showed an increase in enrollment in online courses in the U.S. to represent over 33% of the total enrollment, tripling over the previous 10 year period, totaling over 7.1 million students. The report also highlights perceptions in the relevance of online education to individual institutional strategies, with the percentage of academic leaders that view online educational outcomes as the same or better than face to face hovering around 74%. (Allen & Seaman, 2014)
Most recently in the news and popular media, MOOCs or Massively Open Online Courses rose quickly to popularity, fueled by the promise of open access education for the world. With access to some of the most widely-recognized and academically-respected expertise in a field providing the instruction, combined with a platform that could serve potentially millions of users around the globe, the potential of MOOCs though extremely high, unfortunately seems not to have been fully realized. Facing significant retention and completion rates and arguably providing little to no improvement on pedagogy, for the time being, MOOCs seem to have faded away becoming part of the status quo of the disappointingly-undisrupted, traditional landscape.
“The solution is not Ivory Towers that choose the best students, locking them in a classroom for three to four years. The path to success for nations is to find ways to educate more of the population with the skills needed for tomorrow.” (Hogan, 2010)
Recently, several countries have begun to leverage online learning as a way to advance the interests of their nations as a whole. Vivian Stewart points out succinctly in the book World Class Education, “Getting education right gives a country a powerful platform on which to build a healthy economy and a healthy society.” (kindle location 78) Several nations have already built Mega Universities with enrollments of over 100,000 students at each, leveraging multiple campuses along with online offerings to overcome barriers to access. (Hanover Research, 2011) Particularly for developing nations, scalable high quality education is seen as a vehicle that will help move the country forward in a very competitive global environment.
Education has long been recognized as an equalizer in socio-economic progression between groups of all kinds, from individuals to nations, but the recent technology fueled changes driving first world innovation and economic growth seem even more out of reach for those who start from so far behind. Linda Darling Hammond writes, “Thus, the new mission of schools is to prepare students to work at jobs that do not yet exist, creating ideas and solutions for products and problems that have not yet been identified, using technologies that have not yet been invented” (Kindle Location 357), a considerable task for all nations.
India takes education to scale:
India is the home of over 1.2 billion people, as well as one of the largest distance and open education universities, Indira Gandhi National Open University (http://www.ignou.ac.in/) established by Parliament in 1985. Touting an enrollment of over 3 million students, IGNOU offers some 228 different diploma, degree and certificate programs, largely through open and distance education programs that leverage audio, video, radio, TV, teleconferencing and more. (Hanover Research, 2011)
With a mission to “provide access to higher education to all segments of the society”, India has been a world leader in the establishment of the largest-scaled open and distance university systems in the world, a solution proportional to the large and growing size of their overall population.
Singapore starts with fundamentals:
On the opposite side of the size spectrum is the city-state od Singapore, with a population of roughly 5.5 million inhabitants, who have made great strides in increasing access and quality of their education system over the last decade as measured in international benchmark exams like the PISA. Though many of their reform efforts have focused on teachers through an increased focus on preparation and an elevated status, important curricular changes focused on 21st century skills have also supported their efforts.
According to the Ministry of Education website for Singapore, several initiatives in progress are targeting the use of technology and connectivity have been identified including creation of a resource rich, virtual teaching and learning space targeting primary and secondary schools. Another stated objective is to leverage technology and networking to create more student centric learning models to help foster 21st century knowledge and skills.
Universities in Singapore, similar to their international counterparts, offer courses and distance education in much the same way, some of which have partnered with other institutions internationally, or offered MOOCs through Coursera along with their mostly American counterparts.
~ Mike Kolodziej
Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2014). Grade change: Tracking online education in the United States, 2013. Babson Survey Research Group and Quahog Research Group, LLC. Retrieved on, 2(5), 2015.
Darling-Hammond, L. (2010). The flat world and education: How America’s commitment to equity will determine our future. New York: Teachers College Press.
Hogan, R. & Kedrayate, A. (2010). E-learning: A survival strategy for developing countries. Proceedings of the 11th Conference of Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, 24-26th March. Isaacs, S., Hollow,
Stewart, V. (2012). A World-Class Education: Learning from International Models of Excellence and Innovation. Alexandria: ASCD.
Informal Learning: A Work-place Application
An Assignment for EDLT 727, Dr. Sarah Haavind, Professor
Key Idea: Reading is a universal issue for all of us. It is important to provide reading opportunities for those who have worked hard to parent, provide, and protect us.
Key Words: Informal Learning, National Read-a-Thon
“Believing that one can initiate and sustain change is a key piece of making change possible.” Wenger-Trayner, Learning in Landscapes of Practice, p. 143
The Pruett Gerontology Center (PGC) is a non-profit research-oriented institution located onsite at a private West Texas university. It is appropriately situated to serve as a catalyst for Wenger-Trayner’s “convening role across complex landscapes of practice” (Location 3769). The PGC also fits Benkler’s label of a “commons-based, open organization” because its resources are available to anyone without membership requirement or fee (2006, Location 832).
Gerontology is a biological, psychological, and social stage in personality development. The PGC adopts Erikson’s “stage” approach (1959). Erikson’s (1959) theory of psychosocial development has eight distinct stages, which develop after a period of psychological struggle (Figure 1). Erikson’s stages follow a progression from trust to autonomy, initiative, industry, identity, intimacy, generativity, and integrity. Older adults are represented in the “Integrity” stage of life.
According to Erikson (1959), our path through life develops as a series of successfully resolved social adjustments. Each adjustment phase is the potential marker of later health and pathology. Erikson’s stages involve establishing a sense of trust in others, developing a sense of identity in society, and helping the next generation prepare for the future.
Members of the National Gerontological Society called Sigma Phi Omega wanted to impact their surrounding community in an authentic and sustainable manner. Sigma Phi Omega, with its self- decentralized structure and self-selected projects may also fit Benkler peer-production idea originally describing corporations rather than hierarchically assigned (2006, Location 1386). Within walking distance of the university campus a local assistive living center had expressed a desire to have volunteers engage with the residents on a frequent basis. For the previous semester, students had discussed a variety of ways to add a service learning component to their honor society experience.
During the month of January, the National Book Foundation promoted the National Read-a-Thon. Following Kotter’s Model for change, I guided the students to distill their ideas and commit to one event. I used blog posts to promote “Save the Date” and university media and graphic tools to create several posters of varying sizes to display onsite and around the university campus to generate interest and awareness. The PGC underwrote the cost of the posters.
Graphic by Helen Teague
(click on each tiny square above to see the picture it represents)
PGC advocates for Aging in Place, Lifestyle Redesign, and Role Navigation. Aging in Place refers to older adults remaining in their chosen environment safely for as long as possible. Lifestyle redesign involves creatively reconfiguring, adapt, and simply their environment. Either change the environment or change how you move in the environment. To honor and reinforce this goal, reading selections for the Reading Parties were customized for the resident population. Novels of true crime, suspense, erotica, and war stories were not recommended for inclusion into the onsite library. Large-print books were favored as were books by local authors. Some residents preferred to have university students read to them. Some preferred to read silently and discuss portions of the book afterward.
To reinforce the community strength in our landscapes of practice (Wenger-Trayner et al, 2015), I encouraged a discussion of to bring age-appropriate snacks for their event. The University has an auxiliary support group of women who are known for their home-made sweets and casseroles. This group agreed to provide the snacks for the event. The PGC underwrote the cost of the snacks. A local store donated the paper plates and napkins from the overstock. In picking up the paper plates, cups, napkins, and tablecloth from the store, one of the students said, “I did not even know about this store. It feels great the someplace in town wants to help.” Some of the pictures from the event show the growing collegiality and mutuality of the informal learning process: http://blogs.acu.edu/pruettgerontology/2015/01/27/turning-the-page-on-read-a-thon/ and at this link: http://4oops.edublogs.org/2015/01/28/informal-learning-with-read-a-thon/
Returning to Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages, the integrity stage is marked by a healthy process of life review. An example of a component of a healthy process of Life Review occurs when older adults begin to tell stories to others. Sometimes during this time of story organization, life events are reinterpreted and rearranged. According to Erikson, a successful transition through the process of Life Review will make them better prepared for death. The Healthy Process of life review when older adults begin to tell stories and reinterpret life events. Erickson calls this “integrity”. How do you hear and reflect back when people want to tell their stories. The patience to let them tell their story. Eric Erickson, psychosocial stages says that this process of life review will make them better prepared for death. Talking about death is natural for them. Not to initiate but receive it. When they reach a point of integrity where they are not afraid of death but are accepting of it as a part of the life cycle.
Students’ survey responses indicated that they experiences this Life Review event during the Reading Party day. They had become acquainted with the Life Review by completing a prior interview assignment from their gerontology class. They experienced the Life Review exchange again during their “Reading Parties” visits. Their landscape of practice included both classroom learning and conversational exchanges.
In post-event and post-survey peer-to-peer sharing within Sigma Phi Omega meetings and orientation with personnel at the assisted living center how to hear and reflect back to older adults when they wanted to tell the stories of their life was a primary lesson to learn.
What is the best way to hear and reflect back when people want to tell their stories? Erikson’s Integrity Stage requires listeners to practice patience to let them tell their story. Not to initiate a follow-up story but to receive the story from the speaker and acknowledge and validate it.
Students in the Life Review conversation are wise to remember the distinction between human “beings” and human “doings” (Dyer, 2010 p. 39). Students must be still and listen. They must listen actively and intently. They cannot just rehearse their response while an older adult is speaking. They must actively analyze what is most meaningful to an older person and try to get back to that, either in reality practice or in recreating and validating the experience through storytelling interaction.
Often in conversation, there is a tendency to add to what another is saying. For example, Speaker A may begin talking about their grandchildren. Listener A may decide that they will extend the conversation by talking about their own younger brothers and sisters, cousins, children they babysit, etc… This changes the roles from Speaker to Listener is counterproductive to the healthy life review process.
Discussions with personnel at the assisted living facility, residents at the assisted living facility, and students individually and in the group revealed that the initial “Read-a-Thon” Reading Party was successful and all participants wanted to build on their “short-term wins” and continue events (Kotter, 1996, p. 117). We began to increase our “Guiding Coalition” (Kotter, 1996, p. 51). We added community members from our local library, our workforce commission, and faculty from our Sociology and Social Work departments.
Invitation To Peer Review
We also began to look for sustainable funding. One avenue we pursued with the “Careers in Aging Week” grant. Working together we co-created a proposal to fund the key components previously funded by the PGC. I researched best practices and created a Google Doc to hold the text I wrote for the initial grant proposal. An editable link was sent to our new guiding coalition who made edits and comments.
Grant Proposal Peer Review
The entire grant document was submitted by midnight on February 2 by the PGC Director and the Sigma Omega President. Because of a family event, they compiled they worked in my absence. That, to me is the beauty of participatory design after an informal learning event: the interchangeability of roles of “sage on the stage” and “guide on the side” (Feeler, 2012, p. 163). We hope to hear the status of our application (whether we won) by the end of March.
The informal learning first experienced in the “Reading Parties” has grown now to a “Painting Nails Day Party” has grown to a mutually beneficial intergenerational and informal learning experience.
Student Peer-to-Peer Communication
The informal learning also achieved a renewed focus on Filial piety. Rooted in Confucianism and the Bible (Deuteronomy 5:16, Matt 15:5-6, Luke 15:21, John 4:20), Filial piety refers to honoring parents as a prime responsibility. Confined originally to families with an older relative, with over 23,400,000 people in the country who are over 65 years of age the responsibility of care grows to include members of the community. As Director, Dr. Charles Pruett states, “Today is the first time in history that the younger members of the tribe have to tell the older people in the tribe where they fit in the society.”
Course Alignment: Include a sentence that specifically states how the project is connected with the content of this class. 1.) Understand how to harness the way social networks and communities share knowledge. This project will utilize social media tools to query, organize, plan, and analyze a service learning outreach in our local community by local authors, local library and city leaders, and our local university students serving in a service learning group.
2.) Identify social networks and informal communities in the workplace. This project will use participatory planning to connect university students, with the non-profit Pruett Gerontology Center in a service learning project for older adults in an assisted living center close to the University campus.
3.) Identify technologies and strategies that facilitate collaboration, knowledge capture, and sharing. This project will utilize the following social media tools: google docs, email, text, Skype, blog posts, Camtasia, and Cincopa.
4. & 5.) Acquire strategies for building and supporting formal online (networked) learning.
This project began with a partnership between local university students and the on-campus non-profit PGC. After a successful first event launch and an invitation to continue Reading Party concept, the student group and PGC staff decided to apply for grant funding to ensure sustainability and to recruit community group members to strengthen partnerships for successful continued implementation.
Benkler, Y. (2006). The wealth of networks: How social production transforms markets and freedom. Yale University Press.
Dyer, W. (2010). The shift: Taking your life from ambition to meaning. Hay House, Inc.
Erikson, E. H., Paul, I. H., Heider, F., & Gardner, R. W. (1959). Psychological issues (Vol. 1). International Universities Press.
Feeler, W. (2012). Being there: A grounded-theory study of student perceptions of instructor presence in online classes (Order No. 3546663). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global; ProQuest Dissertations and Theses A&I: The Humanities and Social Sciences Collection. (1266830430). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1266830430?accountid=13159
Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading change. Harvard Business Press.
Matthews, W. (2012). World religions. Cengage Learning.
National Book Foundation, http://nationalbook.org/2015_readathon.html#.VPEHOGc5CxA
Wenger-Trayner, E., & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2014). Learning in Landscapes of Practice. Learning in Landscapes of Practice: Boundaries, Identity, and Knowledgeability in Practice-based Learning, 13.
Today I learned about a dynamic, thriving professional organization for technology leaders.
CoSN is the Consortium for School Networking. CoSN empowers educational leaders to leverage technology to create engaging learning environments and provides the tools essential for their success. For over two decades, CoSN has served technology leaders and provided them with the management, community building, and advocacy tools they need to succeed. Today, CoSN represents over 10 million students in school districts nationwide and continues to grow as a powerful and influential voice in K-12 education.
CoSN’s mission is to empower educational leaders to leverage technology to create and grow engaging learning environments. This timeline shows some of the ways we’ve worked to advance 21st century learning.
CoSN’s Core Beliefs are:
1. The primary challenge we face in using technology effectively is human.
2. Technology is a critical tool to personalize learning.
3. Equitable and ubiquitous access to technology is a necessity.
4. The effective use of technology for transformation of learning cannot occur without strong leadership and vision.
5. Technological fluency allows children to be prepared for the world of today and tomorrow.
6. Technology enables innovation in our educational systems, which results in greater efficiencies and productivity.
7. Global connections are vital to transforming the education process and improving learning
CoSN provides district technology leaders with the tools and resources they need to help school systems create a data rich culture. This initiative helps leaders implement and sustain data usage while providing a national forum on how data can be used to individualize the learning process.
CoSN also focuses on the implications of digital media for the creation of a student-centered, technology-enabled learning environment. We help school district leaders create a participatory learning environment through resources, best practices, and lessons learned in policy implementation to enable a digital transformation in learning.
CoSN works to increase the capacity of district leadership to leverage mobile learning. This effort helps educational leaders overcome the barriers and develop, plan, implement, and manage policies to effectively enable mobile learning. We explore and develop resources that support school leaders at this critical juncture of exponential growth in mobile learning.
– See more at: http://www.cosn.org/focus-areas/instructional-focus#sthash.rGmKgQnR.dpuf