e-Learning, online learning, and the industries springing up around them, continue to turn heads at the highest levels but are they leading to policy change or simply more talk?
In June 2014, Hon Steven Joyce, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, hosted an ‘Innovations in Tertiary Education Summit’ to launch a national conversation about innovative best practice. Topics ranged from the challenges and opportunities facing tertiary education, through to the disruption caused by the internet, Massive Open Online Courses, (MOOCS), and the flipped classroom model.
ITES was followed up by a series of smaller workshops around the country to zoom in on the Summit’s key findings, inform Ministers, and drive policy development at a national level.
I attended a follow-up workshop in November 2014, facilitated by Jane Chirnside, Senior Policy Analyst at the Ministry of Education (MOE). Present were representatives from a variety of tertiary organisations who are already leading the way when it comes to innovation in education across both online education institutions and more traditional universities.
The purpose? To drill down into 4 key questions which emerged from the summit findings.
Question 1: What are the opportunities and risks of new delivery models? Hot button responses were; staff capacity, including the time release needed for professional development; reading the future wrong, such as investing in the wrong technology; assessment or accreditation issues; developing the infrastructure nationally to maintain tertiary innovation and maintaining affordable access for all.
Question 2: How can providers design delivery to achieve consistency, and support learners using new models? Responses indicated the importance of strengthening international networking; if there are issues of quality moderation then processes need to exist for measuring quality in new teaching models; virtual mobility; developing international compatibility, collaboration and encouraging open access to learners.
Question 3: What impact will new forms of delivery have on traditional qualifications, and are there ways to measure outcomes in different ways? The discussion exposed concern about employers’ acceptance of new forms of accreditation and the emergence of a hierarchy of qualifications, where one may be “worth” more than the other on the job market.
Solutions discussed included; the student production of portfolios as a way to earn accreditation points which can be transferred from course to course; recognising the value of internship and real world work experience as contributing to grades; recognition that one size does not fit all; focusing more on the graduate profile; use of badges from reputable organisations as a way of transferring qualifications, perhaps through the creation of an internationally recognised accreditation and badging system. A red flag was raised around the funding and tertiary performance measures needed at government levels for “chunking” courses, or breaking them into flexible blocks of credits which could then be re-assembled into tailor-made courses.
Question 4: How will new teaching technologies cater for different kinds of learners? Participants noted that Maori learners have not been well served historically, and change in the sector brings opportunities to best serve the needs of these learners. Can one curriculum cater for many groups with a diversity of needs? There needs to be greater access, equity and participation.
All present agreed the Internet had indeed introduced considerable innovation into the tertiary environment, but the question remains; will government policy makers heed the advice of practitioners to help shape a more flexible education environment?
And the other elephant in the room for me was who is there negotiating for the learner? That’s where Ed Collective can step in.
As more ITES meetings follow in 2015, I will certainly be there to keep a finger on the pulse.