EdTech Factotum #6: Athabasca, Facebook, Q&A with TJ Bliss

June 16, 2017

Happy Friday!

Here are 3 articles that I found interesting this week.

Just a note that I am thinking that, in future editions I may expand to include videos I have watched and/or podcasts I have listened to. Still want to keep the list nice and bite size with 3, and with a focus on edtech, open education, and online/blended learning. But I may be expanding the media scope a bit beyond articles.

A brighter future for Athabasca University?

Tony Bates, June 10, 2017 As one of the first primarily distance education institutions in Canada, Athabasca University had a first-mover advantage in online learning. Beginning in 1971, it was an innovator in online education in the early days of the internet, producing some of the earliest thinkers and theorists about online learning in the country. I know many in our field who got their credentials from Athabasca. However, Athabasca has been in serious financial trouble for a decade now and is under threat of closure from the provincial government.

One of the findings & recommendations that stuck out is that the University seems to be lacking both the technical infrastructure and an ICT model for online education and a sizeable investment will be need to bring both the infrastructure and teaching model up to date. This is a cautionary technology tale that, despite any early advantages Athabasca may have had in being on the bleeding edge of computer mediated and online learning, any institution that wishes to focus on online delivery needs to make a continual and substantial investment both the technology infrastructure and their teaching & learning model if they wish to maintain relevant in the online learning space.

See also 'Aggressive and comprehensive' changes needed for Athabasca University to survive from the Edmonton Journal

Facebook, an Online Learning Platform?

Inside Higher Ed, June 12, 2017

My 13 year old daughter has taken 2 weekend baking boot camps called Camp Cake on Facebook. Both drew over 300 participants. The event was done in real time using Facebook Live video where my daughter followed along and, over the course of 2 days, created numerous different cakes and cupcakes. If it wasn't for that experience I might be a bit more willing to write off FB's foray into learning. But she was engaged, as were her 300 online classmates.

While I don't see this taking off a a serious formal learning platform in higher ed or k-12 (I think there is another social network that is positioning itself for a bigger role in formal learning, especially in skills training), I can certainly see the FB platform being used for informal learning opportunities like Camp Cake. And, of course, the win for Facebook is the opportunity to mine user data for even more niche data that can be used to build an even more accurate profile of its users to serve up advertising. A point that is driven home whenever I see FB serve up an add for cooking supplies to my daughter.

Q&A with TJ Bliss: It’s an exciting time for open educational resources

Hewlett Foundation, June 13, 2017

This week TJ Bliss wraps up his tenure as a program officer with the Hewlett Foundation.

You would be hard pressed to find many bigger advocates for Open Education and Open Educational Resources than TJ and the Hewlett Foundation.

If you take a look at many of the bigger open education projects around the world, chances are you will find both TJ's hand and Hewlett funding backing up those projects, including one that I have been involved with at BCcampus, the BC Open Textbook Project, of which Hewlett is a major funder.

The article is a summary of some of the projects & accomplishments that TJ has had a hand in nurturing along during his tenure with the Hewlett Foundation.

It does feel that the past 5 years has been a significant period of growth for open education, due in no small part to the work of TJ and Hewlett support for projects like the Open Textbook Network, the OER Research Hub (now OER Hub), The Rebus Foundation, OERu, and the Inclusive Design & Research Centre. But, as TJ notes, some of the most significant shifts in open education are happening right now as the conversation moves from from resources to practices.

As far as I can tell, open educational practice captures the true potential of OER to improve teaching and learning. Now that adoption of OER has been maturing and expanding, more people are interested in how to use OER more effectively. In other words, they’re asking what can OER do that traditional textbooks cannot?

It is that shift that TJ will no doubt be exploring more with his new role at one of the foremost proponents of open education practice, the Wiki Education Foundation.

Thanks for reading.

Unless otherwise noted, all content CC-BY Clint Lalonde.

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