Førsteamanuensis ved Institutt for kunstfag, Høgskulen på Vestlandet – Bergen.

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29. februar 2012

Building the Future - Open and Distance Learning

Some initilal reflections (if you are only interested in the summary of the seminar: look below):

The education market is about to change quite radically, especially in other parts of the world, and major universities are trying to positioning themselves. MITx, which will be rolled out in the spring, is perhaps the most radical example.

The traditional institutions' role is changing and that change comes as a sum of several factors: Technology makes it possible for new players to enter education. At the same time the economy in many educational markets change quite radically (in countries other than Norway) combined with other requirements from those hwo finally are employing the students. There is no guarantee that the current system of degrees, as a quality control of individual knowledge and skills, will sustain. Alternative systems with various credentials, certifications etc, can become more competetive because they are targeted at specific businesses and industries.

Existing actors, which see their funding decrease and new players who see potential markets will have clear incentives to develop online courses, which are more effective and better than many campus based courses that are offered today. For these actors, open educational resources will be a way to promote their services, across national borders.

Today we can assume that students apply to campuses to become part of a study environment, and social media obviously can not replace this. However, it is not difficult to imagine that there are a large number of people who would rather prefer to choose their place of living. this way they can be surrounded by a completely different social environment, and still be full or part time students. Those institustions which manage to create web-based educations that provide a high degree of flexibility are likely to be winners in these parts of the market.

Today, one might argue that campus studies are qualitatively better than what one can achieve through online studies. But we can already see that online students do marginally better than students on campus. In addition, online services have characteristics that make them potentially disruptive, coming "below the radar" of the traditional universities. Anyone who is not paying close attention to this development will live with the risk of ending up offering studies, and a study environment, which do not answer the needs of the educational market that is emerging.

Summary of seminar Building the Future, on open and distance learning and open learning resources, at HiOA on february 27. - 28. 2012.

Web-based teaching and flexible learning is growing rapidly internationally. In 2010 almost one third of the students in the United States were studying online, and by 2015 one expect that more than half of the students will gte parts o their education online (

Are existing institutions prepared for a new digital life, or will the future educational market be disrupted by new actors? A widely used example is Khan Academy, founded by Salman Khan in 2006, which shows how an initiative from an outsider flips education on its head. Khan’s approach focuses on exercises, as long as the students are in the classroom, and let students to download video-lectures after school.

All existing educational institutions will have to become more professional in combining campus-based teaching and online teaching. However, the most successful institutions will probably be those who become able to take advantage of technology to grow into new markets

Open educational resources can be freely accessed, used and further developed. such resources are on the education agenda in many countries and international organizations such as UNESCO and OECD.

Kyrre Lekve opened by showing a slide of a number of initiatives that provide open educational resources. Among the examples were Webcast Berkeley, Open Yale Courses, MIT Open Coursware and the coming MITx:
MITx will be coupled with an MIT-wide research initiative into online learning that will study ways in which students, whether on campus or part of a virtual community, learn most effectively. To the degree that MITxdemonstrates highly effective online learning tools from which campus-based students might benefit, such as self-paced online exercises, those tools will become part of the experience of MIT students. 
Lekve emphasises that open and distance learning is the key to lifelong learning, and that the current international development forces traditional institutions to "open up". The infrastructure is there, but online accessibility has to be taken further, and it must become an institutional strategy to be successful.
Mentions the Norwegian initiatve eCampus, which is going to provide ICT infrastructure for webmeetings, streaming, podcasts etc, and facilitate collaboration between institutions.

An introduction was given by Frits Pannekoek, President, Athabasca University, Canada.

UNESCO wants to double the number of post graduate learners in the world. This can't be done with traditional universities. the massification of learning can only be achieved by the use of digital tools
The digital environments makes learning less national and more international. Learning resources must be perceived more like a communal good.
  • What MIT and others have done is tremendously positive. Open educational resources is one of the most profound developments in education, in an international perspective. 
  • Pannekoek mentioned a movement i USA called "Learning analytics". An example: if one could build educational resources, e.g. in calculus, that made more people manage the course, one will make these people able to go into new areas in the educational system. 
  • There are also counterforces, like increased national control to learning. The last 4-5 years many governments have imposed restrictions on open learning. Some say that 80% of the learning must be residential. 
  • Some nations wants government based databases with quality controlled OLR. It is potentially problematic, especially if few, governmentally controlled resources are combined with a less open regime when it comes to reuse. 
  • Another threat is those who see one common course as a possibility to reduce professional staff. 
  • There is a increased protectionism by the traditional universities. In north-america there are restrictions on the transfer of credits between institutions. One must have a robust system for transfer of credits. 
  • There are to few males in higher education (Western Europe, America) 
  • The American landscape is interesting because they are the most aggressive provider of free learning resources. Can be problematic if all use the same textbooks. 
  • In USA the government exits the financing og post secondary education. will move universities towards an entrpeneurical mix. 
  • We do not know what is going to happen internationally. With the new digital environment we can not know what is going to happen. A world without universities? 

The seminar continued with presentations by Yang Zhijian Open Univerity of China. 9 million have graduated from OUC during the last 30 years. 1/10 of the registered chinese students in higher education is from the OUC

The next speaker was Mandla Makhanya of University of South Africa. Higher education participation i Africa is 6-7%, where OECD states that 40-50% is needed for rapid economic growth. Open distance learning is a viable, affordable option, but with many well known challenges.
37,7% of enrolments i South Africa are enrolled in distance education. 83% of these are students of Unisa

Marta Mena from Argentina, and then before Morten Flate Paulsen who spoke from the perspective of EDEN - European Distance and e_learning Network (
  • an educational crisis will spur innovation and that the need for cost-effective education will result in many opportunities for e-learning 
  • the finacial situation will enforce more competition, merges, and new financial models. ODL providers will need to find sustainable and more efficient models in a more competitive market 
  • Some personal thoughts from Paulsen 
  • mobile gadgets in combination with social media are promising developments 
  • video lectures seem to have greater impact 
  • Announces the EDEN annual conference in Oslo 17-21 June 2013 

Berit Kjelstad, Pro-Rector NTNU,
  • Most of the teaching is in english (at NTNU) at most courses at master level 
  • You need to have special centres to facilitate distance learning. 
  • Take Credit, African History and Mathematics are internet only courses. However, most courses are blended learning. The blended model is where NTNU will expand. Many technical studies need laboratory facilities etc 
  • Not put into a total system. Have a job to do with strategies and staff. 
  • iTunes U 75.000 downloads (2011) 36.000 Open video 
  • Norwegian on the web (NOW)
    • developed partly because the institite did not get funding to increase the staff 
    • Typecraft
  • Need to have a very clear institutional strategy, and the staff need to go form the teaching perspective to the learning perspective 
  • educational leadership, administration and mangaement, a more clear governmental policy (full cost studies) 

Marit Aamodt Nielsen, Univeristy of Agder, spoke about how to bring our identity and values into an online world
  • PULS - Centre for Educational Reasarch and Development 
  • Beta UIA - meant to inspire colleagues 
  • Læringsarena 2020 
  • Digital university 
    • 10 mill 2012 and 5 mill the following years 
    • Digital exams are in focus
    • Campus students also want more flexible studies and immediate response. But faculty memebers feel reluctant to provide blended learning 

Kristin Dahl, Norway opening Universities
Student use of ICT During class: 3, hours, Study related: 15 hours, Private: 13 hours per week
  • LMS - used by 95% of students 90% of staff 
    • students access material and read messages 
    • teachers distribute messages and material 
    • students feel that there are little facilitation of the use of other learning methods 
  • Organizational conditions 
    • administrators: engaged staff, but most lonely riders 
    • teachers: require training that is not currently offered. 
  • Infrastructure: quality and functionality og equipment and software 
    • Individual conditions 
  • Teachers and administrators: ICT Simplify communication 
    • Advice for the road ahead 
    • focus on strategic and planning work 
    • include the use of ICT in subject descriptions and academic plans 
    • integrate digital technology into exams 
    • assist in developing documentation of the use of ICT 
    • focus on the students and work together with enthusiastic students 
    • take advatage of the students use of social media 
  • For the ministry of education 
    • initiate national strategies 
    • encourage institutions 
    • contribute funding to effective research and development 
    • project development resources 
Panel discussion
  • Are there any concerns regarding "cultural imperialism" 
    • free licences may makes it possible to for the developing countries to take advantage of resources and build their own 
    • As a physicist one has always been accustomed to learning material from the USA. There have been this kinds of discussions for quite some time. Might be different in eg the social sciences. 
  • Are some subjects more suited to distance learning. 
    • At NTNU it is the users who have requested online material 
    • At the department of mathematics they do not apply what they are doing online to the campus students 
  • Is there a trend all over the world that females dominate in number in western universities. 
    • Without gender balance there is a risk for social imbalance 
  • How to ensure quality? Is regulations needed? Should there be a ranking according to some standards? 
  • The ranking industry has a very traditional way of measuring quality. 
    • Universities are reluctant towards using outcome measures. This is a debate that we should have, because most of the discussion is about input measures. 
    • We fail to differentiate between input and output. Family background is one example that has profound influence on student performance. 
    • Looking at the number of students that succeed 
    • The concept of quality is not uniform, especially not across national borders. The model of quality also holds the potential of being imperialistic. 
    • Collaboration will increase quality, but transparency and openness are key-issues. When other people can see what we are doing, we takes extra measures to secure quality. 
    • Quality in courses that include practice can be difficult to measure in respect of quality. 
  • With defined learning outcomes it might be easier to measure quality. How students archive learning outcomes are the key issues. 
  • In China the students in distance education come from groups that are not able to get their education through the traditional system. These students must be measured differently. 
  • Working with students who have failed in other parts of the system. Need to facilitate a learning community. 
  • There is an increased number of students who do qualify for traditional universites. These students are very demanding. 
  • Peer to peer learning shows us the edges of opportunity. 
  • What can we do together? 
    • Make it possible to take courses across national borders. There are still very few students taking courses across national and institutional borders. 
    • The biggest issue is that there is no international credit-transfer programme. Universities are interested in keeping these barriers and preserve their market. 
  • Educational protectionism that can be explained by traditional economic theory 

  • User driven development. A global issue. 
    • Moving form teaching oriented to learninng oriented. 
    • Disruptive initiatives, like MITx, which might change education. 
  • Quality 
    • Teacher education. How to learn teachers to adapt to new possibilities. 
    • How to change pedagody, especially in the traditional universities. 
    • If "digital natives" learn different that "immigrants", what are the differences. 
  • Open has alot of meanings that need to be understood. 

Who should be responsible for the quality in education. Do we have the awareness of what the teachers actually do when educating. How to develop their skills.
  • What is the role of libraries in open education 
    • more and more about the online presence of the library. The move towards ebooks is very interesting. 
    • The academic work is largely part of the hidden internet. content kept between passwords. Most students find their material through open search engines. 
    • there is a definite role for information specialists. The challenge i that in a open world people access information that is outside the quality control of institutions. Level one students might need controlled environments, with fewer choices 
    • UiT has organised the flexible education under the library. This was something that came up quite late in the process. 
    • a specific centre to teach teachers how to teach. 
  • A small institutions have to be aware of the use of resources, the best teachers have to be found among the same people as the best researchers. 
  • Quality insurance (Indonesia): open education have to give more evidence regarding the quality of education. in campus based courses one measure quality by the reputation of the lecturer. Online education have to be more specific about quality of the curriculum and the content. 
  • 600.000 students over a country with the size of Europe. Digital resources is the only possible solution. Students think that anything provided in english is of good quality. 
  • The role of librarians becomes important in countries where English is not the educating language 
  • What will happen if Norwegian institutions begin to share their content have to move form content to process 
  • How to spend less money on content and more on the students the future of open collaboration. Do it. If you find anything interesting at MIT, use it! 
  • UK: the very best they do is in the first and second year. Invest maybe 3 mill pounds in a course for first year computer science. 
  • How to protect small courses. UK open university has moved some small courses online that would have been dropped in the ordinary university 
  • Indonesia: the material is designed to be self instructional and self contained. written by known professors 
  • What will happen if open universities established themselves in Norway 
    • what about the transfer of credits to end up with a degree 
    • One can manage without a degree. Many students do not go all the wat towards a degree. the bit of paper becomes less important when lifelong learning becomes more common. 
    • The degree porcesses becomes more flexible. We could be talking about the end of universities. Our image of what universities are are very much 20-century. 
    • There seems to more equal problems between different regions of the world than what was the case earlier. 
  • Profession studies require specific skills and a papers that confirms the quality 
  • one strategy is to embrace change and invent what is coming 
  • one should not worry on behalf of others 

  • Why do we talk about "open universities"- because the universities hold the brand of excellence. This has market value. 
  • How can to pay salaries when we give something away for free. How to make things sustainable. Budgets are getting smaller. 
    • Open access: what is the business model. The MIT-example. What have they done: The know the strength of their brand. The are not really part of the open-access movement 
    • What do all the parts of the process cost you. What does it make sense to give away for free. Must think through this and make plans 
  • How do we collaborate and share in different areas 
    • The big dragon in the room is the issue of quality. there is an underlying assumption that open univeriities do not hold the same quality. This is an issue that we always have to address 
    • Universities might well disappear. The traditional church has disappeared in north america. Is the University the new church? 
  • What are the threats. Why is open not just fine? What we learned the last year, the arabic spring, is that openness is a threat to the established system. 
  • Openness is a treath and is therefor not embraced 
  • We are talking about the students, but they are not present in the discussions. 
  • There will be a tremendous knowledge on distance learning. More research is needed to provide knowledge about how it is used by students 
  • Research based education. Still have to work on this definition. 
  • Open universities will be moving towards the dual- universities because the traditional universities also have to move out of their campuses 
  • How to make the staff enthusiastic when it comes to change their mindset away from giving lectures towards being tutors. 
    • difficult to make pople become both excellent researcher and educators. Easier to measure research, which is winning this race 
  • The knowledge on how to make students enthusiastic 

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