The view I have formed during the course of MAODE and now that I am immersed in the perfect pool for e-learning I find that the vastness, and the complexity of the issues, from learning design, to the technology, from course materials to access, the whole gamut of what should or could be done, has been done, rightly or wrongly, and how we respond to current changes (student funding, Internet, global demand for higher education/life-long learning to the highest level) boils down to understanding people.
How and why do people learn?
How is this best achieved?
Always see it, whatever the scale (and there are student cohorts in their thousands on some OU modules), from the perspective of one person and their unique and shifting circumstances, abilities, weaknesses, desires, hopes, technical ability, financial and family situation, geographical location, employment status, mental and health well-being.
It still strikes me that the basic student profile is so limiting in what we are asked to provide, and yet I suspect a few clicks on a drop-down box does influence where we are placed. I know that being on my third and final module is a key reason to allocate me to one group over another, that the desire for this mix of those new to the course and those with more experience is deliberate.
It may suite the OU to have in a group of 16 a split three ways between those on their first, second or third module. Selfishly, it would suit me to be in a tutor group of 'module threes'. We are more alike because of our shared experienced; as like minds we would achieve more. Indeed, I wonder if the needs especially of those on their first module would be better catered for?
A crude marker that assumes mistakenly something about this individuals character and disposition.
I appreciate too, on the other hand, that it could be invasive to go through a heftier profiling process, however, I think such effort would be rewarded and probably show up as improved retention as people's individual circumstances, whether trivial or massive, would be, to some degree at least, accommodated.
Princesses Elizabeth had, in the 16th century, one-to-one tuition, specialists, the best in their field. What she'd learnt dicated by others, preparing her from an early age for what might be expected of her. Four centuries later can something like this not be made possible for many more? All it takes is for someone who knows stuff to spend time with someone who does not.
Above I suggest we need to think harder about the student, as a person, in all their glorious uniqueness.
Perhaps I am saying there are two people in this relationship and it is this failure to respect the importance of them both that is often not met when technology is put between them, not to make this ideal learning relationship possible, but to make any learning at all possible.