Themes:

  • Successful tertiary education
  • Enabling development that can be sustainable

Expert panel speakers:-

  • Prof. Datuk Ansary Bin Ahmed
    CEO, Asia E-University
  • Prof. Roberto Carneiro 
    Catholic University of Portugal
  • Dr. Diana Oblinger
    CEO, EDUCAUSE
  • Dr. Rafael Rangel
    Tecnológico de Monterrey
  • Dr. Wim Veen
    Delft University of Technology

Topics discussed:

Immersive Learning

Children in the developing world are very, very similar to children in the developed world. This seems an obvious concept, but it should be noted that despite the very different resources that may be available, and cultures that may be present - the mechanisms of learning may be very similar. Dr. Diana Oblinger raised the importance of studying the cognitive process - learning how to learn.

Students in the new world are used to having a computer to research, collaborate and play (possibly whilst learning, see below). Hole In The Wall offers just one computer, in a central location, in an underprivileged village, through which children may assemble to draw knowledge and, in the process, engage in meaningful conversation and immersive learning activities that broaden their horizons.

Mindmaps of the discussion

A Vision For Tertiary Education

Please click the pictures for an enlarged view.

A Vision For Tertiary Education 2

Networked Learning

Dr. Rafael Rangel, of the Tecnológico de Monterrey set forth the idea of a Virtual University, as implemented in Mexico. Starting from just one campus, information is shared, collaborative environments are set up and students become the teachers. Education is expanded from one central place to become surfaced through 1,862 Community Learning Centres. The cost of learning has been greatly reduced, and this is a great case study for distributed learning, and one we can use in many other scenarios. Further reading on the Mexican implementation and the Pakistani implementation may help.

Emphasis should also be placed in the process of teaching, as well as the distribution of content, we can't simply rely on the magic of new technologies to help students to learn.  The system as it is still needs improving - the new needs to run parallel with the old for now, at least to some degree.

Games

In his opening line, Dr. Wim Veen insisted that all the delegates play World Of Warcraft. No, seriously! Whilst I may not entirely agree, it's definitely important that anyone involved in the education of today's children should have an understanding of online, collaborative gaming - and the benefits to be gained through it.

Students of today are inevitably going to be playing one game or another, and this isn't just a way of developing RSI and wasting time. Online games are non-linear, and contain a range of distributed content - but are always focused on problem solving, collaborative learning and active learning.

Carleton offer two basic introductions to the established concept of teaching through games - how and why. There are also some links to more detailed academic documents on those pages, which can help you delve deeper into this environment.

Support

When the question was raised of who the new 'left out' will be, as we move into the networking, distributed learning system a very important point was raised. Support is still needed. Without appropriate mentoring and support from teachers, educators and increasingly, facilitators, students will encounter roadblocks and find it hard to progress. There can be little substitute for personal encouragement - however gratifying finding a solution or learning a skill may be. This encouragement can, however, come from those that students work with, rather than those that they learn from.

Qualifications

In a year's time, I'll have a degree in Computer Science. Want to hire me? No? Me Neither. Let's try again.

In a year's time, I'll have the skills required to solve problems, and integrate myself into your business, providing valuable solutions to your customers. Want to hire me? Good - where do I sign?

Dr. Wim Veen enlightened us as to a program for drop-outs he has recently helped institute. There's no diploma to be had at the end, there's no exams to sit - there's learning for the sake of gaining knowledge. Do educators really want to train people to pass qualifications? I sincerely hope not. Educators want to better the lives of those they interact with, and this system helps those who find it hard to work with the traditional system to still gain from the range of content provided.

Another point was raised from the floor, that education is for life. It is paramount that students are educated for the future, for all aspects of their life. It is equally important that those outside of the traditional education system have access to skills and new information which can benefit them both in their career, and in their life. Education is about improving the quality of human life, not just gaining certification in order to progress into the world of work.

Content

We now have some great ideas for how to share out our information to students, but who creates our content? What content should be created? How should it be created?

Traditionally we've looked at content as objects that are created by academics. In the future, content will be more dynamic and more people will contribute to the content used to educate students. E-learning will help facilitate this, but a major challenge of tertiary education is how to help students to build meaningful material from data and academic resources.

A point was also raised that skills taught in tertiary education should be more directly applicable and relevant to the businesses that students will be moving into. Collaboration with the private sector, and 'practical learning' can help here - but there will always be an ongoing challenge in striving to find a balance between the right levels of academic theory and practical application.

What to teach?

Opposing views were presented as to what content should be created, and how it should be made available to students, versus how it should be recommended to students.

It could be argued that students rarely know all of the skills they will require to achieve their dreams, and that it is important for students to be 'pushed' through the mires of advanced calculus so that they can move on to engineering design. There's still much to be said for incorporating some degree of the 'teacher knows best' attitude that we are moving away from, as the teacher is often an experienced professional in a field.

It could also, however, be argued that utility, 'freedom of education' is King. We will spend our lives learning, and the most important student/tutor interactions are those where the student is taught how to learn, and then studies what they want to study, when they want to study it - rather than being told what they are allowed to study, or should study

An example given in support of this argument was that of Wikipedia.

"As people learn more about content, they can create definitions using their own experience, and we then end up with a shared resource, to which many people have contributed, and that's what learning should be all about."