In this post “Review: The Edgeless University: Why Higher Education Must Embrace Technology”, Tony Bates writes:
“It’s not that I disagree with these recommendations, but this does not provide a new vision for the university of the future. Furthermore, while necessary, these are very weak policies for changing institutions with huge inertia.”
Agreed. I think this goes back to people’s thinking on what, how and why we need to embrace technology in Higher Education. What are the attitudes of people (educators, administrators and learners) in Higher Education towards the application of technology (in particular Web 2.0 and social media) in education and learning?
If I were to use an analogy of learning how to drive to that of learning in an education and learning institution, then embracing technology in Higher Education, especially in online education would mean that I were to learn how to drive not only a manual, but an automatic automobile, and may be even a virtual car of the future.
So, what one needs to consider in driving includes: What are the safe driving policies and procedures? What are the driving rules and regulations ? Who is the driver of such a “virtual” car? What is required for safe driving? Why safe driving? How does technology help the driver in safe “virtual” driving? What are impacts of virtual driving to society?
Source: Flickr (Envisionpublicida)
This means that higher education could now switch its gear from teacher-centred education (driving) to learner-centred learning (driving), especially in e-learning or open online education. The learner driver is driving TOGETHER with the driving coach or mentor (the back seat driver, the educators – professors, teachers, learning technologists etc.) online.
All the policies and procedures that are associated with the traditional mode of teaching – the cookbook “teacher-centred” solution – the systems, policies, teaching and learning, technology would be tested under the new paradigm of virtual “driving” by the educators and learners.
In order to envision the University of the future, how about the blending of technology and tools, education and social networks in an online environment? Would such a borderless, edgeless university be a reality out of a virtual world of learning? How would virtual driving (the vision, the actual driving) be achieved in a sustainable manner? Quite a challenge!
How would this be turned around and be integrated into the traditional education and learning system? Can we be brave enough to ask what, how and why the learner want to drive in such a virtual “learner-centred” manner? Technology, education and learning is now intertwined in such a way that the learner wants to have more autonomy in the learning process, and that one size (technology, teaching and learning) doesn’t suit all. What the learner’s need is CHOICE.
So, instead of working on a “closed” education system, an alternative approach could be to work on an “open” network education system, that would embrace all the open education resources, teaching and learning, and social networking with TECHNOLOGY MEDIATION in an open system. The MIT free open education course ware and many open education resources open learning initiative come close to the provision of those resources that could be accessed via the open system – the internet, that acts a global learning ecology.
In Social Networks provide New Lessons in Learning the University of People claims to provide a novel solution towards learning. Would it be sustainable in the long run? Would the courses offered be accredited by the education authority? How would people respond to these forms of learning? Are the learners needs met with such education provision? Time will tell.
The opening up of education with technology and social networks such as those from MIT, University of People would pose huge challenges to the existing infra-structure of Higher Education Institutions. How would fixed curriculum, closed teaching, and the administration of the system in Higher Education Institutions be able to respond to the “disruptive nature of technology”? How would those institutions respond to these urge for changes by the educators, learners and business leaders?
Would the introduction of informal learning via social networks narrow the gap between formal education and informal learning? Do we still need to have such a demarcation between formal and informal learning? Perhaps, there is only one and only one sort of learning – and that is learning in the future! Learning is part of our life – it is life long and life wide.