What’s going on?

ECE11 in Salford looks as if it could be interesting. Dr. Alex Curos, an open learning supporter, will be speaking, his video makes it very tempting to attend but I can’t get any more funding this year. Is anyone else going?

Still remaining with the open learning theme, I liked this article from the Guardian on Taking back the universities. Many of the ideas presented in this article are probably not going to take hold in Higher Education but you can appreciate the draw of them. This is open learning in a rather radical way. I applaud the academic nature of the initiatives – these are not bawdy crowds these are people who are really interested in learning.

It’s a very confusing time out there for everyone, especially for students looking for courses (and anxious parents) their thoughts might go along these lines – should I do a course that uses computers in their teaching or is it safer not to – how might I cope when I don’t even understand what they are talking about? I was talking to a friend yesterday about these types of problems that students might be facing. We started thinking about how terms and concepts become muddled and confused. You might be talking about a particular concept but the person listening to you hears you talking about something else entirely.

I was thinking about the confusion that seems to be in the minds of people in the USA between online learning, elearning, for-profit educational institutions, open learning, adult learning and OER. Mind you I think there is a lot of confusion even in the UK about what all these terms mean. If I tell you how I perceive the differences between these terms may be you’ll get back and tell me whether you agree or not. So let me briefly examine these six different terms:

  • online learning – any sort of learning that is carried out through using the Internet (yes the Internet not the WWW) so that includes things like email.
  • elearning – a more structure form of learning using any type of electronic assisted learning. This might be things that are used off-line or online.
  • for-profit educational institutions – somewhat more difficult to define because these days all universities have to make a profit. However I tend to think of these as being very variable in the quality of their work. Anything from rather fly-by-night organisations that do training rather than education to the New College of the Humanities and even possibly the very well-respected Open University. These organizations might be very dependent on technology or they might not.
  • adult learning – can be included in all the above but for some people this seems to mean the very lowest level of learning. We need to stop thinking of informal adult learning as being some sort of poor relation. It can just as easily require students to possess good digital literacy skills as any other course.
  • OER – is another concept that often seems to be interpreted as just something pretty but unimportant and done on the cheap. Open Educational Resources have to be of a high standard, possibly even a higher standard than the sessions normally created for students at the university.

For me this is all about digital literacy, it’s not just the skills but the ability to understand what all these concepts are. They are still far too easily misunderstood/used even by those who really should know better. So what’s going on with our digital literacy programmes and teaching. I’ve joined the new JISC digital literacy mail list but haven’t heard anything yet – I do like their site though 🙂

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