Friday, 16 April 2010

Online Learning Task Force

I've just skimmed through the March 2010 update of the HEFCE Online Learning Task Force.  Makes for some very interesting reading.  Basically it boils down to 3 things that need to be adhered to;
  • Do the market research (who is doing what well, & learn from others mistakes), the OU is obviously a good model to learn from, and conversely so was the UKeU!!  Often I see HE going "off on one", blissfully ignorant of the good practice that's gone before by others who've done this well (Ultraversity is a good model, as it Sheffield College Net trainers courses, so is Oxford Brookes, to name but a few). Professor Gilly Salmons 5 stage model & emoderators books are a good place to start.
  • "Traditional" distance courses are built around a vocational model, relying heavily on adult leaning and work based motivational needs (see also Maslow). Paper behind glass would form the basis of this experiences. This model is a cost saving model.  I'd guess very little moderator/facilitator interaction or even less peer2peer engagement.  Good online/distance learning takes time to nurture & support and promote student centred & active learning. It is not cheap, and requires skill & time to design and support. I repeat, it it not a cheap alternative to F2F delivery.

  • And finally, this interim report acknowledges that effective pedagogy and the supporting organisational infrastructure is the key to successful online/distance learning.
  • The technology is here, now all we have to do is catch up. See also USA, North America & Australia for exemplars of effective distance learning :O)

Snippets from the report.....

Online learning: the current picture in the UK....This research suggests that:

a. More should be done to provide a simple taxonomy of the wide range of
student experiences that currently fall under the broad title of ‘online distance

b. The vast majority of online distance learning offered by HEIs is focused on
postgraduate-level provision.

c. Most online distance learning can be identified as professional development,
or as having a strong vocational focus.

d. It can be challenging for potential students to find out about online distance
learning courses, with information often hidden in complex institutional web-sites.
Where details are available, they frequently fail to provide the full range of
information that a potential student needs to make a decision about studying

e. We need to improve the market intelligence available to give a clearer picture
of the position of UK online distance learning in an international context.

and further more :

We have examined what lessons the UK HE sector can learn from previous online
learning ventures, whether successful or ones that no longer exist. ...some interesting points noted so far include:

1. It is important to clarify the purpose of the venture, including a viable, robust
business model.

2. Building on existing success tends to be most effective: in general it seems
wise to grow in, and from, subject areas and markets where institutions have an
established reputation.

3. Clear leadership and ownership is required to maintain strategic focus and
avoid an attitude that online learning is an ‘add-on’ or peripheral activity.

Finally these excerpts caught my eye:

  • It is also clear that technology platforms are not a barrier to success. The OLTF does not intend to dedicate significant attention to this area. We intend to pay more attention to business models to ensure sustainability and cost-effectiveness, and to pedagogical good practice to support academic quality.
  • ...the importance of good pedagogy to the design and delivery of excellent online learning, recognising similarities and differences between on-site, blended and fully online models different organisational structures and business models that are used to support the development and expansion of online learning for the benefit of newer entrants..


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