Reflecting on learning and seeing the world in exciting new ways.

Archive for April, 2012

DEANZ Conference 2012 reflections

DEANZ 2012 logoAnd so the DEANZ Conference has come to a close. It has been both refreshing and enriching having three days out of the office to be immersed entirely in the world of distance learning. Events such as this are a wonderful celebration of distance learning and show that, although we all work for different organisations, we share a common goal: quality education that is accessible for all learners. So many of the sessions I attended reflected my own experience of distance learning and teaching; so much so that I sometimes wondered if the presenters were actually talking about my work! One of the many things I love about distance education is that it can occur anywhere and at any time, that is, access to learning is not dependent on location or a particular timetable. It certainly makes sense in today’s increasingly busy society.

For me, the biggest highlight of this conference (and most conferences) was the opportunity to engage and interact with so many others working in the same field. I enjoyed meeting many people whom I have ‘worked with’ or encountered virtually over the years. I also enjoyed catching up with current and past colleagues, former managers and chief executives, students (former and current) and those who taught me back in my teacher training and university days. The education community is a rich tapestry and I am thrilled that my professional learning network is continually growing.

A big thank you to the organising committee for making this event happen. I look forward to continuing our professional conversations in the days/weeks/months/years to come. 🙂

Becoming a 21st century school

This afternoon’s DEANZ Conference keynote was delivered virtually via video link from Tuscon, Arizona – truly modelling distance learning. Ken Kay from EdLeader21 gave a presentation entitled The 7 steps to become a 21st century school. There is much that tertiary education can learn from the schooling sector and these ideas easily apply to all levels of learning – we all face the same challenges.

What is 21st century education?

We’re already 12 years into the 21st century, but it seems like we are still trying to define what education in this century is all about. Ken pointed us to a framework on the P21 website. He talked about blending the 3Rs with the 4Cs: critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity. These are otherwise known as student outcomes, or attributes that students should aspire to, and these also need to be demonstrated by teachers as models for effective pedagogy. The 4Cs very much reflect the key competencies that support the New Zealand Curriculum.

21st century student outcomes

What are the 7 steps for implementation?

Embracing the 4Cs in principle or rhetorically is not enough to make them work. This is where an implementation strategy is necessary and Ken introduced the 7 steps model before unpacking each step in detail.

7 steps modelKen challenged us to go home and complete the MILE Guide self assessment survey and find out which elements of our practice are from the 19th, 20th or 21st century. Gulp!

I was interested to hear Ken’s thoughts about how professionals should be using the 4Cs in their own practice (and not just for teaching students). He argues that the 4Cs can and should be used as a measure for hiring, compensation, evaluation and promotion.

Ken concluded his virtual keynote by sharing a video called The 4Cs: Making 21st century learning happen, featuring student and teacher voices.

DEANZ Conference 2012

DEANZ 2012 logoA group of colleagues and I are attending the Distance Education Association of New Zealand (DEANZ) Conference this week. The day’s proceedings began with mihi whakatau with Open Polytechnic (as tangata whenua) welcoming the manuhiri (guests) to the conference. It is good to be able to make use of the wireless internet here at the venue by tweeting and blogging from the event. You can follow updates via the Twitter hashtag #DEANZ2012.

The opening keynote address was given by Professor Paul Bacsich, who we hosted at Open Polytechnic last week. Paul continued talking about his research into models for virtual schools and colleges (VISCED) and shared three institutions who are considered successful: Sofia Distans in Sweden, Interhigh in Wales and Brisbane School of Distance Education in Australia. He has generated a list of ‘Multeversity features’ for universities and tertiary institutions in the future, including bridging into and from upper secondary school learning to reduce the drop-out while still leveraging school-level knowledge. As teachers, we are constantly looking for ways to make connections with learners’ prior learning and experience and it would be good to see mechanisms in place to support this in the tertiary sector.

Professor Niki Davis and colleagues gave an invited presentation entitled A scenario guide to effective tertiary education for New Zealand in 2016. Four scenarios were unpacked: articulation, the ‘supermarket’, quality branded consortia and self-determination. Each has its benefits and limitations and ultimately the exercise is about maximising the overlap and relationships between the four quadrants to provide the most effective learning solutions. Coming from a background in “self-determination”-styled learning as a primary e-teacher, I would love to explore strategies that would enable this approach in the tertiary learning environment.

I will continue to blog and tweet throughout the conference … or for as long as my laptop battery lasts. 🙂

Virtual post-secondary institutions

Paul BacsichOn Monday 2 April, Open Polytechnic was pleased to host Professor Paul Bacsich as our guest. Paul has been involved in a wide range of EU and international e-learning projects during the past 20 years and is a visiting fellow at the University of Canterbury e-Learning Research Lab during 2012. He is also a keynote speaker at the upcoming Distance Education Association of New Zealand (DEANZ) Conference in Wellington next week.

Paul’s first session was a keynote presentation for all interested staff and was entitled Virtual post-secondary institutions – Where next? With a particular focus on virtual schools and colleges (VISCED), including those considered to have dual-mode (ie blended) delivery, Paul gave us an overview of the successes, partial successes and failures of distance and virtual universities around the world and briefly introduced us to one successful model, the Open Universities Australia consortium. Various issues affecting the success of these institutions are similar to those faced here in New Zealand, including student retention, completion rates and performance-based funding.

Paul also held informal discussion sessions during the afternoon for our Faculty and Learning and Teaching Solutions staff to attend. The Faculty session was an opportunity for staff to ask Paul more questions about his work as it might relate to Open Polytechnic as well as give him an idea about the structure of programmes we offer. Paul believes that the biggest barriers to learning occur between the compulsory and post-compulsory education sectors – which is not necessarily the same thing as the gap between secondary and tertiary education.