DEANZ update…

On Monday 9 March the DEANZ executive got together for its annual planning day. It’s going to prove a significant year for DEANZ. Here’s why.

Firstly, we have come to realise something. We are not about open, flexible and distance learning; we’re actually about making ako accessible for all. As an Exec, we have decided to promote our philosophical objective over specific educational practices. DEANZ as an acronym used to stand for something I won’t repeat (we’re trying to break the habit)… now, DEANZ the brand means a commitment to accessibility. DEANZ: Making ako accessible for all. We’re excited by this, and we figure that you will be, too.

Second, we will soon embark on a major promotion. We know that making ako accessible to all is an objective shared across educators right across New Zealand, and that DEANZ has a role to play in connecting professionals who share that objective. The more members we have, the more valuable the connections. Expect more value from DEANZ membership in the months ahead.

Third, planning is now well underway for DEANZ 2016. The event will be held in Hamilton, with the University of Waikato as our host. There is a conference theme of, well, epic proportions awaiting you in what will truly be a landmark conference.

Fourth, we have a new member of the DEANZ executive. Dr Maggie Hartnett of Massey University, who co-edits the Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning, has joined the team. Maggie brings great deal of expertise to the executive as a practitioner and theorist in online education.

Our recent planning day has refreshed our activity toward serving you, our members, in support of your professional roles. I’m certain 2015 will be a year of increased membership, renewed activity, and honed focus toward our shared objective of making ako accessible for all.

With best regards and on behalf of your DEANZ Exec,

Dr Mark Nichols
President, DEANZ.

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ODeL and the contemporary challenge of the MOOC

A recent article in the journal Open Learning considers some of the quality and reputational challenges facing open, distance and eLearning (ODeL). Anne Gaskill and Roger Mills are two prominent UK authors, both with previous and long-standing experience with the Open University UK. Reading their article isn’t a pre-requisite for this post!

In the article it was interesting from the outset to see ODeL (Open, Distance, eLearning) as the catch-all term for education alternative to on-campus or face-to-face settings in the article. DEANZ uses OFDL (Open, Flexible, Distance Learning), for reasons broadly outlined in this JOFDL editorial. Whether ‘Distance’ and ‘eLearning’ should be considered related is a perennial problem. The long and short of it is, our terminology and categorisation of education practices using online tools is very problematic. I’ll come back to this point later in the post.

One good thing about the Gaskill & Mills article is that it explores four major challenges that remain for many who critical of ODeL:

  • The quality of teaching, learning and quality processes.
  • Outcomes.
  • Access.
  • Perceptions of students, staff and employers.

Gaskell & Mills point out the significant progress that has been made in these four areas based on established practice, and they offer some valuable citations useful for OFDL (or ODeL?) practitioners seeking to justify their actvities. The article then speculates on the contribution of OERs and MOOCs to ODeL. It’s the MOOC aspect I’ll be exploring from here on.

Gaskell & Mills question the contribution MOOCs are making to the questions of quality, outcomes, access, and perceptions. MOOCs, they point out, are not known for quality (video lectures!?!); outcomes (very poor completions); and access (MOOCS are mainly attractive to those already highly educated). The authors do not explore the issue of how MOOCs are perceived, which is actually rather complicated. There are very mixed views of the value of MOOCs across those involved in higher education. A recent Ontario Online Learning Portal for Faculty & Instructors post provides a fairly appreciative view. The work of Tony Bates (see his chapter on MOOCs here, for example – and an appropriate rant here) provides a very comprehensive view. Tony also provides a bibliography for those interested in exploring things further, to which I would add the excellent 2014 special issue of Distance Education.

All of this is provides a fascinating area of research and debate. Let me provide my own views in the form of statements, each open to challenge.

  1. MOOCs in their original form (be they cMOOC or xMOOC) cannot provide a sustainable or equivalent alternative to formal education. The evidence for this is already in.
  2. MOOCs are more aligned with the paradigm of informal lifelong learning, than that of formal education.
  3. As MOOCs continue to mature, they will become less Massive and less Open (we are already seeing this).
  4. MOOCs (and their offspring) will, at their best, eventually resemble online distance education programmes.

It is very easy for tertiary educators to embark on distance education and eLearning. The problem is, if distance education and eLearning are implemented easily, it normally follows that they are executed poorly. I suspect that MOOCs were an attempt to embark on ODeL in an ‘easy’ way, or at least an intuitive one (see Daphne Koller’s first TED talk responsible for much of the hype). The adoption of the term ‘MOOC’ also implied something new and unencumbered from existing practice and thought. Unfortunately, MOOCs demonstrate what distance education and eLearning could achieve without reference to any of the lessons learned from decades of related theory and practice. As the lessons from MOOCs are coming in, it is clear that classic distance education theory maintains its relevance.

Coming back to my earlier point about definitions and categorisation. MOOCs are, in my view, no more than an expression of distance education and eLearning. As such, MOOCs do not escape the constraints, opportunities, pedagogies and systems that distance education and eLearning theorists have already debated and discovered. It is for this reason that I believe MOOCs will increasingly resemble online distance education programmes. They have no ontological alternative!

So, are MOOCs new? The acronym was; the provision of course materials online in video-based chunks, reinforced by multiple choice questions wasn’t. The lessons emerging from the great MOOC experiment are of no surprise to those who have been involved in ODeL for some time. Do MOOCs provide a contemporary challenge to ODeL? Not at all; instead, MOOCs are another example of ODeL in action… just not a very good example.

DEANZ back from Sabbatical

The DEANZ blog has been taking a sabbatical for awhile but is now back with a refreshed look and a line up of members ready to contribute. Because there are so many things that you just can’t say in a tweet!

Make sure you add us to your news feed reader, subscribe, follow us on twitter AND contact us to make your guest contribution.

To those who are new to DEANZ here is an overview to update you:

DEANZ  Is committed  to fostering growth, development, research and good practice in open, flexible, and distance learning. DEANZ provides opportunities for it’s members to:

Connect

  • DEANZ events, including our upcoming ‘Hot Topic’ online seminars & Virtual Conference.
  • Bi-annual conferences (next in 2016) –  discounted rates for members.
  • DEANZ Award – promoting and rewarding excellence in e-learning, open, flexible, and distance learning
  • Access our members’ list of like-minded professionals.

Communicate

Contribute

  • Advocates on matters relevant to open, flexible, and distance learning in New Zealand, such as participation in TERG, contribution to the eLearning Guidelines.
  • Establishes and maintains links with the international distance education community.
  • Develops professional resources such as 2016 Scenario Guide & Orientation to Online, Flexible and Distance Learning;
  • Promotes discussion, dissemination of research;  and identifies key areas needed for research and development in open, flexible, and distance learning.

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Promoting academic integrity online

A new report from Faculty Focus that should be of interest to distance educators titled Promoting Academic Integrity in Online Education has just been released.

Although there’s some disagreement as to whether distance education is more susceptible to academic dishonesty than other forms of instruction, what isn’t up for debate is the fact that for as long as there’s been exams, there’s been cheating on exams. The online environment simply opens up a different set of challenges that aren’t typically seen in traditional face-to-face courses.

This free report features nine articles from Distance Education Report that will give you the latest techniques and technologies for mitigating cheating and other unethical behaviors in your online courses. The 20-page special report features these articles:

  • Combating Online Dishonesty with Communities of Integrity
  • The New News about Cheating for Distance Educators
  • A Problem of Core Values: Academic Integrity in Distance Learning
  • Student Authentication: What Are Your Duties Under the HEA Reauthorization?
  • 91 Ways to Maintain Academic Integrity in Online Courses
  • Remote Proctoring: Key to Secure Exam Administration?
  • A Chink in Our Armor: Can Technology Provide a True Online Proctored Exam?
  • Practical Tips for Preventing Cheating on Online Exams
  • Identity Gift: The Opposite of Identity Theft?

DEANZ Award 2010 – call for applications

Applications for the 2010 DEANZ award for Excellence in Distance, Open, Flexible and E-learning are now open.

The Distance Education Association of New Zealand (DEANZ) wishes to promote and reward excellence in e-learning, distance, open and flexible learning. The DEANZ Award is open to individuals or groups in New Zealand, or New Zealand citizens living overseas, who have completed a project that meets the criteria of the Award.

Awards are given for projects that

  • advance understanding of best practice in e-learning, distance, open and flexible learning in New Zealand;
  • are original or innovative in concept or application;
  • are relevant to and whose outcomes are useful to the e-learning, distance, open and flexible-learning community.

Up to three separate awards may be conferred biennially in conjunction with the DEANZ national conference, with the total amount of money awarded in any year not exceeding $NZ2,000. It is expected that applications for the DEANZ Award will be associated with the current conference theme, and Award recipients (who will be notified in advance) are encouraged to travel to the conference to attend the DEANZ Award ceremony that takes place as a part of the DEANZ conference, being held in Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand Wellington, New Zealand, from 25-28 April, 2010.

More details, including a download-able application form are available on the DEANZ website.

Online Learning as a Strategic Assett

A report of interest to anyone with responsibility for policy, strategy and implementation of eLearning at at an institutional level.

The APLU-Sloan National Commission on Online Learning conducted an extensive benchmarking study over a 15-month period in 2008–2009 designed to: (1) identify key factors that contribute to successful, strategic online learning initiatives; and (2) gain a better understanding of faculty attitudes toward online learning and how those attitudes might impact institutional efforts to initiate and grow online programs. The benchmarking study included interviews with more than 230 senior administrators, faculty, and students at 45 campuses across the country and a national web-based survey of faculty that generated almost 11,000 responses from faculty at 69 campuses. The benchmarking study is the largest study of this type regarding online learning yet conducted.

The powerpoint that can be downloaded from this site is worth a browse for a summary of the key findings.

CLESOL 2010 Conference

CLESOL 2010 Conference
Context & Communication: Mediating Language Learning
Te Horopaki me te Tuku: He Rongoā i te Ako Reo

Date: Friday 1 October – Monday 4 October 2010
Location: King’s High School, Dunedin, New Zealand

The 12th National Conference for Community Languages and ESOL, brought to you by TESOLANZ (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages New Zealand) Inc. and CLANZ (Community Languages Association New Zealand) is being held in Dunedin, New Zealand 1-4 October 2010.

Held every 2 years, the CLESOL Conference is a major event on the professional development calendar for everyone involved in ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), Community Languages and Te Reo Maori.

The conference provides opportunities to hear the latest research and trends in language teaching and learning from early childhood to adult education.  It also attracts those involved in the wider sphere of English and international education, immigration and Ministry of Education officials, migrant and refugee workers, private trainers and non-government organisations.

Information will be posted to the CLESOL website as it becomes available:

http://www.clesol.org.nz/2010/home.html

For registrations of interest, sponsorship and other enquiries please contact the conference organisers:

Paardekooper and Associates
Phone: + 64 4 562 8259
Email: clesol@paardekooper.co.nz
Website: http://www.clesol.org.nz/2010/home.html