Tag: education

E-Learning events in Australia in 2013

2013 has well and truly arrived. That means it’s time to plan your next round of professional development events to attend.

If you’ll be down under over the next 12 months, may I draw your attention to the following…

Man working on computer at the beach

ACE2013 – Australasian Computing Education Conference
• Where: Adelaide
• When: 29 January – 1 February 2013
• More info: ACE2013

Australian eLearning Congress
• Where: Melbourne
• When: 6-8 February 2013
• More info: Ark Group

Learning Cafe Unconference
• Where: Sydney
• When: 21 February 2013
• More info: Learning Cafe

E-Learning Summit
• Where: Melbourne
• When: 6-7 March 2013
• More info: Informa Network

iDesignX – Australian Instructional Design Conference
• Where: Melbourne
• When: 14 March 2013
• More info: LearnX Foundation

Simulation-Based Training
• Where: Sydney
• When: 19-20 March 2013
• More info: Liquid Learning

Enterprise Learning Innovation Summit
• Where: Sydney
• When: 19-20 March 2013
• More info: Liquid Learning

THETA – The Higher Education Technology Agenda
• Where: Hobart
• When: 7-10 April 2013
• More info: THETA

AITD National Conference
• Where: Melbourne
• When: 10-11 April 2013
• More info: AITD

iMoot 2013
• Where: Online (via Perth)
• When: 23-27 May 2013
• More info: iMoot

CeBIT Australia
• Where: Sydney
• When: 28-30 May 2013
• More info: CeBIT Australia

EduTECH 2013
• Where: Brisbane
• When: 3-5 June 2013
• More info: EduTECH

Amplify Festival
• Where: Sydney
• When: 3-7 June 2013
• More info: Amplify Festival

Australian Government Online Learning Toolkit
• Where: Canberra
• When: 19-20 June 2013
• More info: Ark Group

National Interactive Teaching and Learning Conference
• Where: Gold Coast
• When: 9-10 August 2013
• More info: IWBNet

LearnX Asia Pacific
• Where: Sydney
• When: 10-11 September 2013
• More info: LearnX

SimHealth 2013
• Where: Brisbane
• When: 10-13 September 2013
• More info: Australian Society for Simulation in Healthcare

SimTecT2013 – Asia-Pacific Simulation Training Conference
• Where: Brisbane
• When: 16-19 September 2013
• More info: Simulation Australia

MoodlePosium 2013
• Where: Canberra
• When: 19-20 September 2013
• More info: MoodlePosium

Developing talent through technology
• Where: Sydney
• When: 30 October – 1 November 2013
• More info: Telesis Events

• Where: Sydney
• When: 11-13 November 2013
• More info: AC Events

• Where: Melbourne
• When: 21-22 November 2013
• More info: eWorks

• Where: Sydney
• When: 1-4 December 2013
• More info: ASCILITE

This list is by no means exhaustive!

If you are aware of any other big e-learning events in sunny Oz, please let me know…


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The future of MOOCs

MOOCs get a bad rap. Dismissed as prescriptive, or teacher-centric, or unsocial, or something else, it’s like a badge of honour to espouse why you dislike MOOCs.

Despite their pedagogical flaws, however, MOOCs provide unprecedented access to quality content for millions of learners.

It’s all very well for Apple-owning, organic-buying professionals to cast aspersions, but consider the girl in Pakistan who’s too scared to set foot in a classroom. Consider the teenager in central Australia whose school has only one teacher. Consider the young woman in Indonesia who can’t afford college. Consider the boy in San Francisco whose maths teacher simply doesn’t teach very well.

Don’t all these people deserve a better education? And isn’t content sourced from some of the world’s best providers a giant leap in that direction?

Sure, the pedagogy may not be perfect, but the alternative is much worse.

A child using a laptop.

MOOC proponent George Siemens distinguishes between two types of MOOC: the xMOOC and the cMOOC.

The former is the subject of such disdain. Involving little more than knowledge transmission and perhaps a quiz at the end, the xMOOC is widely seen as replicating old-fashioned lectures and exams.

In contrast, the latter leverages the connectedness of the participants. Seeded with content, the cMOOC empowers – read “expects” – the learner to discuss, debate, discover, share and co-create new knowledge with his or her fellow learners.

The cMOOC’s participant is active whereas the xMOOC’s participant is passive. As Siemens puts it, cMOOCs focus on knowledge creation and generation whereas xMOOCs focus on knowledge duplication.

Despite Siemens’ evangelism though, I don’t think the cMOOC is necessarily better than the xMOOC. (I’ll explain later.) Love them or loathe them, xMOOC or cMOOC, the fact remains: MOOCs have arrived, and they are here to stay.

Moreover, I submit they are yet to wreak their full vengeance on the education industry. When I look into my crystal ball, I foresee that MOOCs will rock our world, and they will do so in 15 ways…

1. Universities will finally accept they are service providers.

As the latest edition of Educause Review indicates, universities are fee-for-service businesses. That means they are subjected to market forces such as competition.

MOOCs beg the question: If I can study at Stanford University for free, why would I pay tens of thousands of dollars to study at your dinky university and subject myself to your arcane rules?

2. The vast majority of students will be overseas.

Countries that currently attract foreign students to their shores will need to brace for the impact on their local economies, as an ever-increasing proportion of students choose to gain an international education without leaving their home country.

3. The pecking order will be reshuffled.

While the world’s most prestigious institutions will enjoy a windfall of new students, those that rely more on age than ability will ultimately fail as the target audience realises how pedestrian they are.

Conversely, some of the smaller, younger institutions will emerge from the shadows as the world sees how good they really are.

4. Research will become a competitive advantage.

There’s nowhere to hide on the global stage, and cutting-edge expertise will be one of the few aspects that a university will have to distinguish itself from the others.

No more lazy professors, no more specious journal articles. Faculty who don’t generate a flow of new knowledge for their students will have their tenure terminated.

5. Universities will flip their classrooms.

Bricks’n’mortar establishments will become expensive relics unless their owners redeploy them. One way to do that is to leverage MOOCs for content delivery and provide value-added instruction (discussion, Q&A, worked examples, role plays etc) to local students – who of course will pay a premium for the privilege.

Studying on campus will become a status symbol.

6. The role of the teacher will evolve.

There’s no point rehashing the same lectures when the world’s best authorities have already recorded them and offered them to the world as OERs. It’s how the teacher uses that content to support learning that will make the difference.

7. The pedagogy of MOOCs will be enriched.

While MOOCs typically comprise video clips and perhaps a quiz, they will inevitably include more instructional devices to assist distance learning (and remain competitive).

Over time, content providers will supplement their core offerings with live webinars, interactive exercises, discussion forums, wikis, social networks etc. Some may even organise real-life meetups at selected sites around the world.

8. Content providers will charge for assessment.

A certificate of completion is good; an official grade is better.

Assessment is one of the ways universities will monetise their MOOCs, and edX is already going one step further by offering proctored exams.

9. Universities will offer credits for MOOCs.

Again, this is already being considered by the American Council on Education.

Of course, a certificate of completion won’t suffice. Ka ching!

10. Online cheating will mushroom.

An ever-present thorn in the side of online education, cheating will be almost impossible to prevent in the MOOC space. But surely we can do better than onsite exams?

11. Academic inflation will skyrocket.

Every man and his dog will have a ream of courses listed on his CV. Employers will consider certificates of completion meaningless, while maintaining a reserved suspicion over assessment scores.

Outcomes-based activities that demonstrate the applicant’s knowledge and skills will become a component of best-practice recruitment.

12. Offshoring will become the rule, not the exception.

Deloitte’s global CLO, Nick van Dam, told me that American firms are using MOOCs to upskill accountants based in India on US accounting practices.

Dental, anyone?

13. MOOCs will target the corporate sector.

Current MOOCs are heavily geared towards school and college audiences. Over time, an increasing number of narrow, specific topics that link to corporate competencies will emerge.

Content providers will wag the long tail.

14. The corporate sector will embrace xMOOCs.

Learners in the workplace are time poor. They don’t have the luxury to explore, discover, and “make sense of the chaos”. They need the knowledge now and they are happy for the expert to transmit it to them.

15. An xcMOOC hybrid will emerge as the third variant.

Sooner or later, the powers that be will remember that an instructivist approach suits novices, while an increasingly constructivist and connectivist approach suits learners as they develop their expertise.

Hence, the MOOC of the future may resemble an xMOOC in its early stages, and morph into a cMOOC in its later stages.

The classroom option you should not ignore

I’m sure you know the feeling. You’re sitting in a classroom watching a presentation – which started late to allow the “stragglers” to show up – when about 10 minutes in it dawns on you…

What am I doing here?

Either you’re already familiar with what’s being presented, or it’s so straight-forward it didn’t require 30 or 60 minutes of your time. But whether it be due to politeness, shyness, peer pressure, or a sense of obligation, you remained bolted to your seat until the bitter end.

It’s such a waste of time – both for you and for the presenter.

Attendees sleeping in a seminar

Despite my obvious predilection for e-learning, I am actually a fan of the traditional classroom.

I appreciate that sometimes it is more efficient for someone who knows more than you to teach you something. As a novice, you don’t know what you don’t know. But the expert does, and he or she can get you up to speed.

Also, away from your desk you’re free from those universal distractions such the phone, email and uninvited guests. Furthermore, you have the opportunity to ask questions and receive immediate feedback from the human standing right before you.

However the traditional classroom has plenty of downsides too. For example, you typically can’t influence the content that is being delivered, you’re beholden to the pace of the presenter, and there’s always that f@#king idiot who hasn’t bothered with the pre-work yet is happy to prolong the misery for everyone else by asking inane, redundant questions.

Woman attending a virtual classA modernised version of the traditional classroom is the virtual classroom.

Delivering the content over the internet allows people to attend wherever they are geographically located, without incurring travel costs and losing time in transit. A virtual class also allows people to attend to other tasks if need be, and to slip away on the sly if it becomes clear the session isn’t adding any value.

Of course, the virtual classroom also has its fair share of downsides too. From technical glitches to the challenges of e-moderation, it is common knowledge that virtual presenters fantasise about the good ol’ days when everyone was in the same room at the same time.

Flipped classroom

A postmodern twist on the classroom delivery model is the flipped classroom.

Taking root in the school and university environments where regular classroom sessions are mandated and homework is the norm, the “flipped” concept posits the content delivery as the homework (typically in the form of a video clip) which frees up the in-person session for value-added instruction such as discussion, Q&A, worked examples, role plays etc.

I truly believe the flipped classroom is on the cusp of revolutionising the education sector.

Empty classroom

Notwithstanding the advantages of the three aforementioned classroom options, there is yet another option that is often ignored by educators: no classroom.

Readers of this blog will be familiar with my obsession passion for informal learning environments, but in this instance I’m not referring to the constructivist approach.

Still true to the instructivist paradigm, I maintain the “no classroom” option can work.

It’s so simple: record your class on video. Then deploy it to your audience, so they are empowered to watch it when convenient, pause, fast-forward, rewind, and even play it again later.

The model is similar to a flipped classroom, but there is no in-person follow-up. And you know what? Frequently that’s all that’s needed. When the content is so straight-forward that it doesn’t require a classroom session, why on earth would you waste everyone’s time with one?

In cases where the content is more complex and follow-up is necessary, why not combine the video with formative exercises? An online discussion forum? A buddy program? Again, you probably don’t need to drag everyone into a classroom.

Woman using computer

My point is, under the right circumstances, video can provide effective instruction.

But don’t just take my word for it. Why not get a second opinion from Ted, Lynda, Salman or David.

E-Learning? Ja!

Last month I attended the Didacta education fair in Hannover, Germany.

I knew it was a big event, but I had underestimated just how big.


Five cavernous halls – each larger than several football fields – promoted the full gamut of the education sector: child care, primary school, high school, further education, workplace training and accreditation.

Each hall hosted stalls, exhibitions and lectures, and every square metre was crawling with people. It reminded me of the showbag pavilion at the Royal Easter Show on Children’s Day.

Didacta education fair, Hannover, Germany, February 2012

My primary purpose for attending Didacta was to gain an insight into the practice of e-learning in Germany, and to compare it to that in my own country, Australia.

E-Learning was a focus topic of the fair this year (hence my presence), so I made a beeline to the “eLearning Joint Stand”.

I can report that the state of e-learning in both countries appears to be very similar.

Didacta logoAmong the recurring themes were:

• Online course development
• Online training delivery
• Learning Management Systems
• Interactive whiteboards
• 3D animation
• Immersive virtual environments

One of the big differences I noticed, though, was a general lack of mobile. Train By Cell was the only vendor on the floor, and they’re American!

Anyway, I’m glad I visited Didacta, if only to validate that we Aussies are cooking along all right.

I recommend the fair for educational professionals, but I advise that a little bit of German helps a lot. Although most of the delegates speak English, the lectures, take-aways and simple things like signage are not bilingual.

I can’t compare Didacta to Online Educa because I’ve never been.

Maybe next year!

Clash of the titans

I have really enjoyed following the recent argy bargy between Larry Sanger and Steve Wheeler. From a learning practitioner’s point of view, it raises issues of pedagogy, instructional design, and perhaps even epistemology.

Having said that, I think it all boils down to the novice-expert principle. As a novice, you don’t know what you don’t know. Thankfully, an expert (the teacher) can transmit the necessary knowledge to you quickly and efficiently. In eduspeak, you benefit from “scaffolding”.

Then, after you have acquired (yes – “acquired”) a foundational cognitive framework, I suggest a constructivist approach would be appropriate to expand and deepen your knowledge. In other words, now you know what you don’t know, you can do something about it.

My sector of practice is corporate rather than K-12, but I would assume that because the learners are children, their level of experience and prior knowledge is limited. Hence, having the basic concepts explained up front is a perfectly reasonable teaching strategy.

Teacher in front of K-12 class

I wonder, though, whether conversation (online or otherwise) would indeed be a useful technique after the basics have been bedded down? Perhaps the last third or so of the class could be devoted to discourse facilitated by the teacher? Or assigned to participation in a district-wide online discussion forum? (Moderated, of course, by teachers and class nerds.)

Or – more likely – I’m exposing my ignorance of the logistics of managing a classroom.

My point is that constructivism can complement, rather than substitute, instructivism. This is something that I have argued for previously.

My secondary point is that I am quite getting over the Twitterati’s tendency to devalue the role of the expert in education. Not only is the expert aware of the important facts, but they can also impart their meaning and context.

Googling ability does not a scholar make.