The design and future of open education: Curtis Bonk on Future Trends Forum

“We are in the learning century!”

What does open education mean for higher education?  After one conversation with Cable Green, my Future Trends Forum pursued this theme further on April 27th with excellent and dramatic guest Curtis Bonk.

In this post I’ll share my notes along with the complete video recording.  Some discussion on Twitter occurred as well, along with several good questions, which you can examine in this Storify.

Curtis Bonk hands up

We recorded the entire session, placed it on YouTube, and embedded right here:

I began by asking professor Bonk about the state of open, and he described it as a complex situation, global and diverse.  Access and convenience remain major motivations that bring learners to open content.

We then asked the audience to pick which aspect of open education we should pursue: psychology, design, personalization, professional development, adult learners, motivations, audiences, global perspectives, or cultural sensitivity?  (That range of options points to just how enormous is open education’s ambit.)  After discussion via chat and Twitter we settled on professional development.

Curt began by describing the use of MOOCs for faculty and staff development, with examples such as a University of London effort. This approach lets universities partner with each other, while also doing things for alumni.  In fact, open MOOCs can work for any population, esp. professions. (Bonk’s co-authored book, Adding Some TEC-Variety, has good materials on this) This represents a major change in that field, including new creativity in teaching.  This also shifts focus to a learner’s reasons for development, with freedom and choice as the biggest motivations.  Credentialing offers a different motivation for some, while also disincentivizing others. It’s about self-motivated learning.

Curt Bonk session, his screenshot

Curt Bonk screenshots his own session

I asked how open learning works for non-professionals, citing research showing many MOOC users are already professionals and/or academics.  Bonk mentioned some early wiki work (Wikibooks) where noncredentialed users were prevalent.  But now a wider range of population participate in online learning, both as students and teachers.  However, most people remain unaware of OER.

I followed up with a question about free as incentive.  Curt sees that as a thing, mentioning the example of Ning, which was popular… when it was free.  Now we’re seeing new business models appear.  Bonk mentions more MOOC research he did, available at this site.

We then entered the mingle session, discussing where open education for professional development is happening locally.

smiles in a mingle

Patrice (Cornell University) described a project of helping K-12 teachers teach STEM.  They initially considered MOOCS, but after holding a design thinking exercise, and interviewing teachers around the world, they saw other issues cropping up: time constraints, language barriers, leadership support, infrastructure limitations, and the heterogeneous variety of students.

Curt and Patrice

Curt and Patrice

Curt responded by seeing infrastructure as complex.  He recommended an Indiana framework project he helped build, along with Stanford’s NovoEd platform, which might be better than Coursera in terms of creating an ecology of learning.  It also has more tools for collaboration + project-based learning.  Bonk praised Stanford professor Paul Kim, whom he sees as the successor to Seymour Papert. Patrice and Curt agreed that teachers want to see something that works: low cost, low time.  Bonk mentioned examples from TEC-Variety.

Tianhong Shi (Oregon State University) mentions professional development for public school teachers teaching the English language, using open in a MOOC, which linked to certificates. Federal and state funding helped pay for teaching assistants.

Curt Bonk and Tianhong Shi

Bonk offered detail feedback, including citing the importance of face to face learning, plus the value of embedded systems to help learning.  Additionally, peer assistants can help teachers; it’s a strength to know someone’s relying on you.  MOOCs can be deployed if used creatively, based on emerging pedagogical practices from online learning, and if the technology works (cites a Blackboard problem).  A new MOOC is about, and also based on, “Designing a new learning environment”. Personalizing experience is also important.  More information can be found on Bonk’s free MOOC information page and in this co-authored article.

Michael at Keene State College asked about taking advantage of open in an intentionally closed environment, like a learning management system (LMS).

Bonk reflects that this has been a problem stretching back to the 1990s, describing prior work with multiple LMSes, including commercial products and homebrew projects; these problems largely remain.  One answer is to pick a learning framework.

Karen Cangialosi (Keene State College) asked a question via Twitter concerning developing instructors: “At KSC, we are trying to find ways to get tech phobic faculty to see the advantages of open pedagogy.”

Karen Cangialosi ‏@karencang @BryanAlexander At KSC, we are trying to find ways to get tech phobic faculty to see the advantages of open pedagogy. #ftte

Answer: one should not start with technology, but with a psychological framework for learning.  Use appropriate tech which you can embed in class, such as video.  Curt points to his syllabus for P540 Learning and Cognition in Education.  Start with very small steps, “quick hit activities.”  Video is especially important, as we move from the age of Wikipedia to Videopedia.  Again, small steps, baby steps, and the great sage Bill Murray:

We concluded by asking Curt to briefly speak to the connections between design and open.  He thinks that open makes us ask design questions.  How do we design effective environments?  The majority of learning will be self-directed by 2035.  Cites the late Jay Cross, Real Learning, who sees informal learning growing ever larger, but most discussions focus on formal learning.  Curt is collecting stories of people whose lives have been changed by open learning (which reminds me of Alan Levine’s stories about open).  One section of these stories should be about best design practices, the ones which support self-directed learners.

Coda one: I note the start of a feedback process, as I look for thoughts on the Forum so far, and where it should go.  You may start by leaving comments on this blog post.

Coda two: Patrice of Cornell shared a link to her Women Who Wine podcast .

Coda three:  Vanessa Vaile pointed us to a 2012 Inside Higher Ed article on Bonk and MOOCs.

(thanks to Vanessa Vaile, Mark Wilson and everyone else for scouting links)




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