Category Archives: 2013/3-4

Universities: the twin challenges of fiscal austerity and technological change

Rainer Masera, Università degli Studi “Guglielmo Marconi”, Rome, Italy

University is often regarded as a public good, although it hardly conforms to the technical definition. In the post-war period, universities became primarily social goods, largely funded through the budget. This traditional approach is subject to inevitable revision. Pressures in public finances in advanced countries and demographic factors in emerging economies require different funding models, based on the recognition that university education represents also a private benefit to beneficiaries. The application of ICT technology to tertiary training represents a twin revolution: a perishable service can be made available endlessly and everywhere; the cost frontier can be drastically optimised. Intelligent application of new technologies and blended models can bring about a Schumpeterian process of creative destruction and revolutionise the existing university models to create new diversified paradigms of higher education, which extend to society as a whole.

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The impact of the world financial-economic crisis on the structure of higher education systems

How will be the impact of the world financial-economic crisis on the structure of higher education systems? How is it possible to modernise the structure of higher education systems and develop a new model of higher education systems? Following this area of research, our paper will be characterized by the following points: improving the quality and relevance of higher education systems; improving governance and financial funding; the landscape of universities and the international e-learning dimension of higher education systems; how modernise the structure of higher education systems; the impact of the world financial-economic crisis on the structure of higher education systems; universities and new challenges in financial-economic resources; modernising universities and new technological-scientific innovation; changes and reforms to develop a new model of higher education systems.

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Adoption of good practices in bad economic times: support of workplace learning of electronic engineering students through social web

Workplace learning (WPL) of students constitutes an integral part of the engineering curriculum at the Department of Electronic Engineering – Technological Educational Institute of Crete (DoEE/TEIoC). More specifically, the six months’ workplace learning duration of our students is carried out through internships between the DoEE/TEIoC and enterprises/organizations. In our economic recession times, such collaborative internships are confronted with various challenges related to pedagogical, labour market, organizational, etc. issues. The aim of the paper is to provide insights to our experience as it concerns the exploitation of practices we adopted in a social web context towards the achievement of an effective workplace learning for all parties (students, enterprises/organizations, DoE/TEIoC) involved. Emphasis will be given to students’ weblogs and podcasts in order to guarantee quality outcomes for the overall workplace learning process. Furthermore, based on data available from questionnaires filled by our students as well as by the corresponding enterprise/organization and academic supervisors, a series of internship related implications and prospects are identified and discussed.

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How MOOCs Present massive opportunities for research on learning

The “massive” in MOOCs has been limited so far to the number of people enrolled. Little understood or explored is the potential for the analysis of massive amounts of data on learning across thousands of learners. This presentation describes the data being collected by one early university partner in Coursera, how it is being used, and the plans to expand that use beyond what is currently being provided by Coursera. It will also describe the current barriers to more detailed research, what can be done to remove those barriers, and potential of MOOCs to advance learning research beyond existing perceptions of what can be achieved.

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Analytical study on online communication tools within elearning systems

Any eLearning Management System (e-LMS) contains electronic content and many tools that are needed for running an efficient electronic management system. Some of these are related to electronic communications. Arab Open University (AOU) is one of the first organizations that used e-learning systems in the Arabic region. We present in this paper an analytical study on the effectiveness of using electronic communications within e-learning environments. This analytical study will differentiate between the synchronous and asynchronous communications in e-learning. We will focus on the most used tools in e-LMS such as Messages, Forums, and Chat Session as a part of electronic communications within the learning management system. Experimental results on AOU experience of using different types on electronic communication are presented.

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Beyond the tipping point: American higher education in transition

For more than two decades experts have predicted that the US higher education system was headed toward systemic change. Many signs now point to a conclusion that we have reached that inflection point. The severe economic downturn of the past six years, combined with major demographic shifts and dislocating technological change, have exposed serious structural weaknesses in the US system that pose significant threats to all but elite tier institutions. This paper examines the current state of US higher education in light of these forces. It discusses the implications of innovative technologies and practices, as well as how institutions might use them to adapt and thrive in a higher education world turned upside-down.

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Mobile MBA: Attempting to improve learning outcomes and reduce length of studies through an integrative approach

Riedlingen Distance University uses ICT to offer a (literally)‚ Mobile MBA; content is provided in ePub format (electronic publication, not PDF) and delivered via iTunesU to students’ tablet PCs. Video podcasts, as well as self-assessments, are integrated within these ePubs to ensure “learning ergonomy” and mobility. The university’s eCampus allows students to participate in online sessions, communicate with professors and students, use online libraries or work with e-Learning modules. The impact of this integrative approach on learning outcomes, workload, drop-out and length of study is one of our main research fields. First results will be presented and an outlook regarding the next steps in development (course design, transferability, scalability/ suitability for MOOC) will be given.

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Teaching algorithm in adaptive e-learning

Paper deals with teaching methods and teaching styles of teachers, which can be used in electronic form of education. By electronic form of learning we mean individual electronic education, where electronic education and individualization merge. This type of electronic education is controlled by learning management software system – virtual teacher. The principle of virtual teacher is as follows. Based on detected individual learning style of student, virtual teacher optimizes education to student’s needs. Virtual teacher contains an extensive database of different learning styles, attributes of students and methodologies of creation of adaptive learning materials. The aim of this paper is the use of teaching methods and teaching styles of teachers, which virtual teacher applies during individual student‘s learning. For the student learning via this adaptive form is more effective and beneficial.

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Digital video, presence and pedagogy

As universities face up to new economic conditions and technological developments, digital technologies and video in particular are seen as a means by which mass higher and pre-professional education can be “delivered” at comparatively low cost. The introduction of video is often accompanied by powerful rhetorics of “excellence”, “openness” and “student-centred learning” but these often simultaneously diminish the importance of pedagogy, reducing teachers to technicians and students to consumers of online content. In this paper I will draw on a series of recent research and development projects in UK higher education and discuss how Deleuzo-Guattarian perspectives on learning and design make it possible to use web technologies and digital video within novel and emancipatory pedagogies.

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Ontology based learner-centered smart e-learning system

Rapid changes in learning contents and variability of the learners’ background can make e-learning systems inefficient due to their inflexibility in coping with such factors – changes and variability. In this paper, we are proposing an ontological approach in dealing with such issues. Our approach – the Ontology based Learner-centered Smart E-Learning System (OLSES) – allows instructors and learners semantically organize their learning objects to the learning contents repository and through the semantic searches, create filtered and ordered collection of learning objects as study plans – instructor-created study plans (ISP) and learner-created study plans (LSP) respectively. The OLSES continuously monitors the activities of the learners and updates their profiles accordingly so it can be used to search more suitable learning object for their learners.
In OLSES, the key to find relevant learning objects for the given topic is ontology-based semantic search. For that, all learning objects need to be registered in OLSES where an ontology-based meta-data definition is in place. In case of LSPs, learners can organize their own learning objects. This scheme builds the learner-centered learning environment by providing the learners with the relevant learning objects that suitably match with learners’ need so it help improve the learning performance at the same time.

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UCD flexible third level education for unemployed in a time of economic crisis

On the 25th of May 2011, the Minister for Education and Skills in Ireland launched Springboard as part of the Government’s Jobs Initiative (Springboard, 2011). Springboard offered 5 875 free, part-time places in higher education in areas of identified skills need in Ireland. The various courses offered lead to awards at certificate, degree and post-graduate level. The target group for Springboard is unemployed people who have lost their jobs as a direct result of the global 2008 recession and who would benefit from up-skilling or cross-skilling to get back into sustainable employment. Springboard complements the core state-funded education and training system and is one of a number of special initiatives designed to support people transition back to employment. Computer Science plays a vital role in almost every business in today’s modern world. University College Dublin (UCD) has offered courses for the last two years under the Springboard programme (almost 1m euros of secured funding). These offerings included the first online and blended programmes of their kind in Ireland. The Graduate/University Certificates in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), which build on existing activity within the UCD School of Computer Science (UCD CSI) through negotiated learning, allow participants to work with the Programme Director to choose their own software programming modules. In doing so, they design their own certificate, focusing on software development training on a part-time, flexible and tailored to their needs model. This means that students can meet their own exact software development needs depending on the area they are coming from, up-skill or reskill in the area of software development in their own time, through distance learning and position themselves to seize future (and maybe alternative) career opportunities in applied ICT. So far we have had positive feedback from the ICT courses running in 2011 and 25% successful employment in the first year, while within the first 8 months of the 2012 courses 35% have found jobs already. The biopharmaceutical and Pharmachemical course, offered at postgraduate level in 2011 and 2012, aimed to provide an introduction to students with a background in science (either as part of their undergraduate degree, or during their previous working lives) to an employment area of current and projected future growth in Ireland. The course in UCD resulted from the collaboration between the schools of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Biomolecular and Biomedical Science and the School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering. Using an identical “negotiated” model to the ICT courses, on entry students selected, with consultation from the course director, their curriculum from a suite of suitable modules made available across the three collaborating schools. Feedback from students completing the course, just like the ICT counterpart, has been positive, however, successful (re-) integration of our graduates into the work place has been somewhat lower compared to ICT. In 2011/12 approximately 15% found work in an area directly related to the course and in 2012/13 this figure is currently 16%. This paper will present the rationale behind the structure of the courses, and how UCD as an academic Institution has addressed the needs of the market in ICT and Pharmaceuticals in a time of economic crisis.

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Individualisation and diversification of higher education systems for mastering the challenges of the critical issues of the globalisation

The critical issues and challenges for education systems in the globalisation age will be analysed. The theoretical background for the improvement of the micro- and macro-education systems based on the theory of the competence transfer by networks will be explained and applied for the diversification of education systems. It is related to the particular relevance of individualisation and diversification as strategic success factor. The application of diversification is essential for improving the access to the educational markets. The future effects of synergy and prognostic development based on diversification in networks of higher education will be derived from special case studies realised by educational organisations and networks such as GUIDE.

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Challenging the firewalls of the mind: opportunities for universities to overcome the constraints of austerity

The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created – created first in the mind and will, created next in activity”. The methodologies of 21st Century learning and teaching offer positive, hopeful answers in an age of austerity and exponential change. Ubiquitous information, open global communication, instantaneous, universal and almost costless access, challenge the rights of universities to assure the quality of learning. Lost in translation is profound teaching and learning – the kind which changes the course of lives and colours existence with meaning and moral significance. Teaching is an art, a conversation between people, an act of service; a desire to serve the common good. While 21st Century learning and teaching is challenging traditional taught delivery patterns and methods, these challenges may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the future of learning. Learners have already learned how to collaborate, share and care for the other outside the constraints of formalised learning. They are equipped, as John Schaar says, to make paths to the future because the activity of making the future using the affordances of social technologies has changed both the maker and destination.

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Antigravitational rotate live-scene as tridimensional, multiagent and cognitive educational space

Merlau-Ponty tactility and Deleuze and Guattari non-linearity are basic concepts for a real-time experimentation that we use to connect Arts, Technologies and Education. Thanks to Docebo saas that supports the research Digital space makes school. Learning and education at web 3.0 time – that involves schools (primary and secondary schools) and their ordinary activities – research is a “site specific” experience that choose schools to study how to innovate learning and teaching introducing a “tactile” use of digital spaces and to create a cognitive space integrating learning and e-learning practices. A real time scene based on tactility and non-gravity – in collaboration with Altro Equipe, is developed in new Docebo Learning Management System called “Docebo school” based on tactile method and performing and embodied methodologies.

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Mentoring teaching skills within the context of open distance learning

A college at the University of South Africa embarked on a formal mentoring programme to mentor newcomer academics in appropriate teaching skills relevant to a contextualised open distance learning environment. The mentors who took part in the in-house mentoring initiative were experienced academics who will be retiring from the system over the next decade. The aim of the research reported in this paper was to determine which open distance learning-related teaching skills are considered most important to be conveyed through in-house mentoring. Based on an interpretive paradigm a mixed-methods research approach with document study and individual e-interviewing was used. Main findings included that a student corps with diverse characteristics and needs still necessitates an emphasis on tuition via print media, but with an increased incorporation of technology to arrange for constructive learning through interactive communication so as to respond to viable imperatives for technology application. Major teaching skills pertained to the developing of study material in the proper register for reader understanding and to employ myUnisa (a web-based learning system) to facilitate learning. The research contributes to a refining of the discourse on constructive open distance learning teaching within an environment that is increasingly exposed to using digital technologies to adhere to global imperatives for knowledge-based relevancy.

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SONETOR: using a social computing platform to train cultural mediators

This paper presents the training approach adopted in SONETOR project (www.sonetor-project.eu), which aims at developing a training platform that will integrate existing social networking applications with modern adult education methodologies and specially produced content and services, in order to assist Cultural Mediators in developing formal and non-formal skills and competences and in applying them during their work with immigrants. The paper presents the actions we took in order to organize the user community that would participate and benefit from the project, a report on the cultural mediators’ training needs, a draft profile of Cultural Mediators, the SONETOR platform, the main outcome of the project, and the guided and peer learning scenarios that can be realized with it.

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The implementation framework of social media for distance learners in Africa Nazarene University, Kenya

Distance education as a primary means of instruction is expanding significantly at the college and university level. Simultaneously, the growth of social networking sites (SNS), including Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace, is also rising among today’s college students. An increasing number of higher education instructors are beginning to combine distance education delivery with SNSs. However, there is currently little research detailing the educational benefits associated with the use of SNSs. Non-commercial, education-based SNSs have been recently shown to build communities of practice and facilitate social presence for students enrolled in distance education courses. In order to evaluate the largely unexplored educational benefits of SNSs, we surveyed graduate students enrolled in distance education courses in ANU, an education-based SNS, based on their attitudes toward SNSs as productive online tools for teaching and learning. The results of our study suggest that education-based SNSs can be used most effectively in distance education courses as a technological tool for improved online communications among students in higher distance education courses. Debates rage about the appropriateness of using social networking in teaching, with arguments ranging from waste of time and distraction from academic goals to the need to reach net generation students. This paper explores a range of current social networking choices and argues that like any tool, they should be carefully evaluated in terms of affordances and course goals. Several different tools are reviewed, and questions that might be useful for evaluation are discussed.

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Quality in online education: using a formal quality model

Online education continues to expand to meet the unique needs of a technological, knowledge based economy. The move towards more online education has challenged the paradigm of the traditional on ground experience which has dominated academia for centuries. However, online learning is not without its detractors. One common concern raised with respect to online learning relates to the quality of the experience, particularly related to on ground education. Key stakeholders such as students, regulatory bodies and employers all want to ensure that the online experience is similar or equivalent to that of the traditional on ground learning. To achieve quality in online learning there has been increased emphasis on developing appropriate frameworks that can be used guide quality efforts. In addition, many organizations have either been developed to support quality in online learning or existing organizations have included quality sections to provide networking opportunities to improve the product. This paper explores the current framework for managing online quality from the perspective of the United States; and, the paper discusses the role of a formal quality model that can be used to guide online quality efforts.

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Quality assurance in times of crisis: example of Croatian Agency for Science and Higher Education

Higher education system in Croatia has in recent years been undergoing comprehensive reforms. In the period from 2005-2009, study programmes have been aligned with the Bologna process, regional public polytechnics have been established, there were significant investments in development of regional public university campuses and increase of private initiative in higher education, and the establishment of Agency for Science and Higher Education initiated the establishment of quality assurance systems at HEIs.
With recession, opportunities for investment in higher education and science have been reduced, which raised questions of the system efficiency and rationalization, as well as the introduction of new models of financing. Mergers of smaller, especially private higher education institution has been noted, and questions have been raised of the use of new learning and teaching technologies and better alignment of study programmes with labour market needs.
There is a strong emphasis on quality assurance in higher education and science. Agency for Science and Higher Education carries out various external evaluation procedures, in addition to other activities indirectly related to quality enhancement. Together, they provide better interconnection of data in science and higher education, and a base for evidence-based policy making.
In the next stage of the reforms, an emphasis should be put on further development of quality assurance systems in higher education, in accordance with the newly adopted Croatian Qualifications Framework Act, with the main goal of establishing a better link between supply of education and labour market demands.

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Open education: commercial or social model?

The traditional intellectual property rights try to protect authors in the commercial field (edition, distribution, public communication, translation, etc.). But we are living now in a very different world where a lot of authors don’t want to protect all their rights, but to share their works. And that is the case of university professors. The main part of their educational materials are not used in a commercial way, so why don’t share them with an open license? This is the way University of Cantabria (UC) has followed with some different programmes: OpenCourseWare, Massive Open Online Courses and Open Repository (UCrea). And it works.
The OpenCourseWare site (OCW) has more than 150 open courses, with more than 1 200 000 visits in 2012. Not only individual courses have been published, but also full Degrees (Nursery, Mines, Energetic Resources and Economics). Our main goal is the quality of the materials. From the very beginning we knew that if we wanted to show open resources we had to do it well. OCW is not only a way to spread knowledge, but also a way to show how we do it. Now we have better courses, and professors have a better knowledge of the possibilities of e-learning. All the materials have to pass a quality control. At the same time, texts and photos that could have problems with the intellectual property are removed.
UC has started to work with MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) in 2013. We have shown 6 courses in Miriada X with more than 26 000 students. This initiative has had a great repercussion in media. Even though a real accreditation is not offer yet, several ways to do it in the future are being studied (with or without taxes). A lot of professors are waiting to participate.
Finally, UCrea is an Open Repository for professors and researchers. The difference with OCW is that you do not have complete courses but only individual documents (more than 800).
Results of using Open Educational Resources: less costs, promotion of the University, good practises in intellectual property rights, better educational resources.

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Competency-based education: leveraging educational technology to support emerging economic demands

The rapidly changing landscape of the economy and technology demands an innovative lens through which to view the educational needs for the future. If deployed effectively, technological applications can enable students to learn independently of time and space and the monopoly of traditional seat-time requirements may need to be supplemented with models that support a broadening student profile. In some universities, a robust online learning resource and the employment of learning analytics has been found to foster student retention and improve completion rates. This paper will explore a competency-based higher education model in the context of the Bologna Process within the European Higher Education Area.

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GUIDE towards the future

For the period 2014-2015, GUIDE Association will intensify its activities of organizing international events, which will serve both as a bridge between the hosting geographical area and the rest of the world, and also as an international platform for the analysis and discussion of the hottest trends in the field of online and distance education. In doing so, the Association aims at meeting the needs of its members in regions in which such conferences are not common, thus fostering new opportunities for development and knowledge sharing.

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