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The Oxbridge Tutorial is up for grabs

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 29 Jan 2015, 11:07

I have been studying full-time for a year - an MA in a traditional university with lectures, book lists and online completing eight MOOCs and even trying to start a module with the OU - I gave up on L120 due to some intractable technical hitches with audio and video.

My goal hasn't been to gain yet further qualifications in subjects I love, but to experience first hand the variety of approaches to learning that exist. Back to the classroom and online. The MOOCs I have done on FutureLearn are highly 'transactional' - I believe the way huge threaded discussions are managed and can be managed successfully recreates what some consider to be the Holy Grail of learning in HE, the 'Oxbridge tutorial' where a subject expert sits one to one or at most one to three to discuss a topic, set each other straight, and then return every week, or twice a week to do the same. Experience and research shows that even in a MOOC with 25,000 starters, in a threaded discussion that has 3000 posts, that groups of learners form: typically a mix of experts, keen learners with some knowledge and complete beginners. These groups can last the duration of a two month course and spill out into other platforms and meeting up face to face.

Transition education. Not a revolution, just building on the best of what has gone before and gradually taking others along with it.  

I like that after 700 years of keeping the approach to themselves that the 'Oxbridge Tutorial' as a way to learn is, online at least, open to anyone. 

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H810 : Activity 30.1 E-learning - key roles for implementation

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 9 Dec 2012, 08:15

Review and discussion

Thinking back to Topics 25 (academic perspectives) to Topic 29 (management perspectives), what role or roles do you recognise from your experience?

  • What roles do you have in common?
  • To what extent do your roles and perspectives overlap?
  • Are any differences because your organisations are of different types or are they because people in the organisations have different priorities?

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Over the last decade I have come full circle, from the belief that the future lay in self-directed gamified e-learning where everything is managed and monitored by the system - even if an avatar is thrown in to make it appear human. (There is current activity doing exactly this - creating avatars to play the role of tutor - perhaps to serve millions of new learners this will serve a purpose!)

The goal I feel should be recreation, where students want it, of the Oxbridge model of tutorial - at least at graduate and post-graduate levels - where the tutor plays a key role as intermediary. 'Where the students want it' implies choice - so in truth a smorgasbord at every step, not just the way a module is presented, but how material is tackled topic by topic. I've reviewed platforms that have the look and feel of a games arcade - resplendent with hyper-gamified activities at every stage - this for me does more than simply exclude the disabled student, it also presumes in error that all learners have or desire this mindset. They do not. Where we have choice I think we do incline to the verbal, auditory or kinaesthetic - I also believe that our moods and inclinations, and especially experience, tip us to one model over another. All this spells out 'C H O I C E' not constraints in the conduits of a gamified series of funnels and tunnels.

The OU may not get the attention of the e-learning awards panel, but they have a more important responsibility to hundreds of thousands of students, tens of thousands of ALs ... and a few thousand staff.

  • A champion - whomsoever this may be someone needs to make accessibility a cause
  • A leader - perhaps an innovator and entrepreneur, someone who can galvanise others into action, raise the funds, assemble a team and get the most out of them.
  • Disabled student representatives - not a token person in a wheelchair, but genuine engagement and involvement from various disabled group communities i.e. involving in particular a student or former student with experience of learning as a disabled person from the 'communities' that include hearing, sight, mobile and cognitive impairments.
  • Legal advice - much e-learning is now offered on a global platform. Laws differ, but it will reach the point where disabled students wise-up to their rights and how to press for them. This isn't about interpreting the law to reduce risk and get away with doing as little as possible, it is about ensuring that the 'bar' where it is currently placed, is reached.
  • Professional Managers - team players. Some educational practices have to change - the lone educator devising their own content for a prescribed curriculum greatly reduces both the greater use of readily available resources and their creation and management on accessible platforms. Even entrepreneurs and those with marketing and communications skills in order to compete in a global market for education provision.
  • E-learning design - experienced and qualified people who have a good understanding of how to construct e-learning, if necessary with people who have a theoretical and/or a technical background and awareness. Personally I would have a minimum of FOUR people representing the following skills: learning theory, e-learning technologies (programmer), visualisation (design in its broadest meaning in relation to functionality as well as look) and the subject matter expert - not necessarily to write original content, but certainly to curate resources where they are readily available and to tailor them to a specific audience's learning needs.
  • Research - it helps to have someone dedicated to knowing where we are with the technology and resources, in this instance with a specialism relating to assistive technology (software and hardware).

To be continued ...

Please add to this mix. If we could or had to create an e-learning platform from scratch who would you want on your team. Put this in your context - say creative writing, or civil engineering, language learning or health care. In the IDEAL e-learning world who would be in it and how would the mix work?

  • IT - there need to be people, a department even, that knows how to make IT sing and keeping it robust, up to date, compliant, reliable and secure.
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Understanding what primes us to behave in a certain way must have impacts on social behaviour

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 Nov 2012, 07:50

DSC03020.JPG

Fig.1. Eyes & Ears - A public awareness film produced featuring the Emergency Services and members of the cast of Byker Grove

Understanding what primes us to behave in a certain way must have impacts on social behaviour, from the London Riots of 2011 and police behaviour at Hillsborough in 1989, through to schooling, training, coaching and e-learning - and of course, how hypnotists play their tricks.

  • Are we so vulnerable and easily led because we cannot think about too much at the same time?
  • How must this influence the savvy learning designer?
  • Surely the context of any learning environment must be highly significant, from the buildings and resources, to your peers?

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Fig. 2. A Oxford Tutorial - now as in the 1950s

  • Do Ivy League and Oxbridge Colleges have a centuries old model that works still in the 21st century?
  • Why do some libraries work better than others and why do we like to meet for coffee or for a drink?
  • Are we primed to open up, to be more or less receptive to ideas?
  • What therefore does the loan learner do studying at a distance, even if they are online?
  • What makes the experience immersive?
  • Synchronous learning in a webinar or seminar?
  • Active engagement in a discussion, multi-choice quiz or virtual world?
  • And how might they prep their context?
  • Close the curtains, dress to study?


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Fig. 3. Thinking, fast and slow

I was introduced to this concept by Daniel Kahneman in his 2011 book 'Thinking, Fast and Slowly' in the Linkedin Group for alumni of the Open University MBA Module 'Creativity, Innovation and Change'.

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The playing field for education in the UK is both muddled and uneven

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 31 Aug 2011, 04:53

Competition is a good thing, but the playing field is both muddled and uneven.

Remember, funding for higher education isn't simply from the State, but through corporates and research grants. What is more the UK has a long established history of private education at all stages; many parents plan to pay for their children's education, and where able set funds aside for tertiary education too through savings schemes.

Online support for learning, either blended or 100% at a distance, has become viable for ALL in tertiary education, so they are doing it. Even undergraduates on campus expect the kind of online facilities and support that may until recently been the sole domain of the distance learning student.

In the private sector, where I came from, creating commercial product at any stage: primary, tertiary and secondary was difficult for one simple reason - both students and institutions expected the resources to be free. One model therefore was to have content sponsored. Indeed that's how I came to succeed in producing careers materials (video) because it was all financed in advance by sponsors and distributed for free. DVD and online based course materials failed because no one would pay for it.

Ten years ago I prepared a report for my employer regarding the production of commercial learning materials, one offs for specific age groups and subjects. My conclusion was don't, unless it is all paid for upfront. Even the secondary sector is deeply affected by the BBC and their wonderful, free 'bitesize' series to support GCSEs.

There must be research on perceptions of UK universities. The cache of the long-established Oxbridge and Russell Group institutions must be substantial. From an employee point of view there are those who will divide hundreds (or thousands) of applications for a few graduate positions into two piles: Oxbridge or not.

Unsound and unfair, but if faced with ostensibly the same grade, but from different instituions, how do you differentiate short of seeing everyone for a first interview or reading exam papers for yourself?

The answer from the student's point of view used to be the CV thick with extra-curricula activities; I wonder if the future student should pack an e-portfolio, evidence of their worth and potential once away from the student 'desk'.

The last two decades has seen the private secondary sector buy into/ buy up primary sector 'prep' schools even establish pre-prep schools. I wonder to what degree this long-term relationship can be maintained into the tertiary sector?

The Eton Brand, for example, as a University, would be a valid offering in a global market.

 

 

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H800: 47 H800 Week 8/9 Activity 7 Cloudworks 'Swim lanes' for learning design,

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014, 14:23

It is one thing to contribute to a flash debate, it is quite another to embrace the Cloudworks platform.

There is only one way to test the water, and that is to get in. We talk of 'swim lanes' for learning design, I like every platform, every social network, business network or here, educational network, to be a visit to another pool, a lido, indoor or out, leisure pool or training pool.

They need to know who you are, you have to sign in. Then you have to change, get in, and give it a go.

So I am for the umpteenth time adding a profile picture and a profile, tagging, finding favourites debates and linking to people.

It all takes time.

Online you control time. Intensive engagement might move things along ... on the other hand, it may irritate those who've been here a while.

It should take time.

Find the rhymn of the place, observe when and where there is a buzz. Identifiy the 'champions,' come in on the periphery, pick up a thread, join in tentatively, give it a go here and there.

I make a contribution to a Flash Debate on the futre and threats to universities

Universities will flourish as they become part of the mainstream and engaged with the world, rather than distinct from it. Relationships with governments, industries, schools (for future students) and alumni (for past student) will develop and become continual, rather than passing. Student cohorts may look the same on the ground, but in the virtual world will be broader and deeper, technology and systems allowing a greater diversity. Not all institutions will have the ability, whether through lack of financing, the burden of their past and costs, to be flexible and change. The overall impact will be of an evolutionary change, though for some it will be a fight for survival.

BRANDING

Established, motivated, well-supported and well known colleges and institutions, where there is strength as a brand, as well as financially, in their governing body and from alumni will thrive. They can afford to exploit the changing circumstances (and they can’t afford not to). Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Bristol, UCL and the OU are not about to go under. On the other hand, new, complacent, poorly supported, little known educational institutions where the sources of income and grants may be narrow or uncertain, with weak leadership and ill-established (or disloyal) alumni will fail.

BUSINESS

The opportunities to flourish are extraordinary; the global demand for tertiary education with tens of millions of people from Asia, for example, seeking higher education over the next decade means that there is a growing and hungry market if you have the right ‘product.’ Education is a business, whether the model is that students are educated for free or pay part of the fees, cash flow matters. Retailing has been in constant flux, from the high street to out of town shopping, with national and international brands dominating, and then online shopping cornering certain markets, from books to electronic goods. Retailers have had to change the mix, where they locate and what they sell. Universities are less agile and less prone to the vicissitudes of short-term purchasing decisions, but the impact on them of new technologies is no less profound. Negotiating their way through this will require skill, the most vulnerable institutions will fail.

QUALIFICATIONS

Letters after your name differentiate you from other candidates for a job or promotion. Where there are many applicants for the same position where you studied, indeed, who you studied with, will matter. It helps to study under the best in your field. It depends entirely on where you wish or plan to go afterwards, where and if a position or job requires a certain qualification, and if a qualification from one or another institution has greater perceived or actual value. However, as those with experience of the job market will tell you, it is how what you have been taught is applied and how you relate to other people, that will determine your success.

CAMPUS BASED vs DISTANCE LEARNING

Technology is blending the two: increasingly students are opting for this, to be campus-based, but to take advantage of the technology to better manage their time or support their learning. Far from being the death-knell of the traditional university, new technologies will assist in their finding ways to develop and support a broader and deeper student body. Participation and collaboration, socialising away from the screen, is a vital component of the university experience for those coming out of secondary education – the demands and expectations of a mature student are very different. How people get on, how they work together, is a vital lesson that a campus based university offers. Whilst increasingly our online experiences are as ‘real’ as everything else we do, it is how and if we can work as a team that will decide how we progress. The student experiencing this will better know themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, and suitability for different career paths.

CHANGE

Like retailers, manufacturers, broadcasters, publishers and the post office, we are in a period of significant change, new technology was already having an impact, the economic down turn has aggravated this, obliging some forcing other institutions to act. How this change is managed will decide who survives and who struggles on. There is a fine line to tread between innovating early, or too late, changing wholesale or piecemeal. The wise institution not only spreads its risk, but also casts its opportunism just as wide as spreading your bets covers you in a world where nobody knows what will work or not. Libraries, one of the draws to a campus-based university, cannot be as influential as hundreds of millions of texts become instantly available in digital form. Senior lecturers and researchers should be employed for their ability to communicate, support and rally students around them, not simply because of the paper they are working on. Students will demand more if they feel it is the cash in their pocket that is buying what the institutions offers. Errors, failings and shortcomings of a person, a module or course, can be spread through online reviews and will decide their fate. New blends of courses will invent themselves where a student feels able, supported through e-learning, to cherry pick, even to study simultaneously quite different subjects. Cohorts, if on the ground still that 17-23 year old age group, will become far more diverse, with groupings formed by mutual interest in a subject. Life-long learning, already apparent in some professions, will become more common place as people recognise the need to refresh their understanding of some topics, while gaining new skills and additional insights.

Am I responding to a thread, or like the second or third speaker at an Oxford Union Debating Society getting up to say my piece?

And if I sit on the fence, what kind of debate is that?

We should be obliged to take sides, THAT would be a debate, otherwise it is a conversation, another online tutorial.

Thus far Cloudworks is like a new swimming pool, refreshing and full of opportunity. To thrive, let alone survive, it needs people coming down to swim, to jump in, to train, to meet ...

And once you have your regulars, keep them coming back.

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H800: 26 Guest lists and where you sit at the tutor's table (even if they're not there)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 1 Mar 2011, 07:09

How do you study if you are both a tutor and a student?

I guess if you are a chemistry tutor and you’re studying e-learning the two are complementary but you cannot, be both tutor and student of the same course (though interestingly this has/is occurring in our module with a tutor absent the OU failing to accommodate).

It’s rather making me think that student as tutor is absolutely possible.

Why not? All it requires is leadership and initiative. I don’t see tutors as subject matter experts. Can you cater for everyone? In communications you need to know your audience. Writers are meant to think of their reader as one person, not millions. How should teachers/tutors think? Of student, or students? Does it matter anymore?

Can we, knowing or indulging ourselves, choose from a plethora of ways into a subject?

I have to wonder, thinking in extremes, why we don’t have tutor groups by gender, by generation, even by profession … let alone our current professional status. Would for example all those working for the armed services benefited from being in a group of their own?

And how do we make such a choice?

Too late if you buy a book, even read a sample, only to find the rest of the content doesn’t deliver.

What about a course?

You pay the fees for a module only to feel or realise a week or so on that it is going to disappoint all the way to the end?

Do you choose by Brand?

Do you choose by awarding body?

And what say do we have?

Can we play-act the model online student?

Would it help to have such an image and then be this person?

Can we assume ourselves into a level of comprehension what we haven’t yet reached and as a result of such aspirations and performance become this more informed and ‘educated’ person?

With an interest and some training in sport and developing young elite athletes I’ve studied Long Term Athlete Development. With a sport, let alone studying, we can group children by gender and biological age. When or where do such groupings or any groupings become difficult to create, or politically incorrect to create? Should not institutions go to greater lengths to group people scientifically?

And to mix these groups up as we go along, if only to change and balanced the learning opportunities?

This is the OU’s show, their party. They are hosting an event, or series of events or have we simply taken a few steps beyond getting a box of books and CDs on the doorstep at the start of a module … to the set of railway tracks that is the like a cartoon, are laid before our eyes as each new week approaches? Who ‘owns’ this course? I get know sense of that, or someone leading. The tutors/authors of the course left years ago. Perhaps this is obvious and given the topic and the speed of change in e-learning is detrimental. I wonder, if given time, more ‘natural’ tutor groupings would form in the national forums of ‘General Discussions’ and the Café from which break-out tutor groups could be constructed (or they do?) I wonder if the solution is in the ways resources are presented, that there need to be multiple ways into a topic. That once size never did fit all.

That ideally we would each have a personal tutor, that all learning would be one to one and tailor to our needs, as they are and as they change … and as we are changed by the process and anything else that is going on around us.

Do we all want a take-away, or a pot-lunch?

The set menu and if so as a school dinner, or from a top restaurant? Home cooking or our own cooking?

Might I say with H800 are getting the ‘set menu,’ i.e. the choice is limited. All I’m discussing here is choice; the next point would be the size of helpings. How do we respond to either being hungry as a wolf (read everything) or not hungry at all (graze nonchalantly doing the bare minimum?) The answer, as I found in H808, was to have plenty of moderated activities in the General Discussion, Café and Supplementary Activity Forums … where like minds could meet, where if you found you had time or wanted to make time, you could get involved in a different group and therefore benefit from an alternative dynamic. I have found that with groups, even more so away from the OU, that are global in scope, that you find groupings that are topic specific and where you can, whenever you like, find a conversation to engage with that adds to your knowledge.

It is a vital part of the learning process I believe, where you form opinions and develop ideas as a result of your engagement, the only issue being that your voice comes out of the tips of your fingers rather than your mouth, which rather suggests we’d all have been better off communicating to our parents and siblings at home via a QWERTY keyboard from an early age so we had these surprisingly necessary skills in place.

Perhaps, as there appears to be so much inclination, whether desire or otherwise, to shift towards the Oxbridge tutorial system as a model, (small tutor groups), might not we also have junior, middle and senior common rooms?

Might we not also have a variety of virtual colleges? And taking just one idea from this … ought we not to have more than one tutor, even within a module, perhaps a different module for each TMA?

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Oxbridge History Exam 1980

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 5 May 2014, 07:03

The journey I set out on to get to Oxford or Cambridge took two years.

Not getting along with Economics I switched to History after a term in the Lower Sixth. (Not getting on with Sedbergh School, Cumbria, I left smile !)

My essays, though long (always, my habit, then, as now - why say something in six words when eighteen will do?) Tell Proust to write in sentences of less than six words, in paragraphs that don't flow from one page to the next (ditto Henry Miller).

Where was I?

See how a stream of consciousness turns into a cascade?

I digress.

My essays (I still have them. Sad. Very sad). Were on the whole terrible. A 'C' grade is typical, a 'D' not unknown. So what happened to get me to straight As, an Oxbridge exam and a place to study Modern History at Balliol College, Oxford?

Composting

I was bedding down. Putting things in a stack. And working my pile. Perhaps my history tutors detailed notes and bullet points fed on my poor essays? Perhaps the seeds that took root were carefully tendered?

Repeated testing (my self) and learning how to retain then regurgitate great long lists of pertinent facts helped.

Having an essay style I could visualise courtesy of my Geography Teacher helped. (Think of a flower with six or so petals. Each petal is a theme. The stamen is the essay title, the step the introduction and conclusion).

Writing essays over and over again helped. Eventually I got the idea.

Try doing this for an Assignment. You can't. Yet this process, that took 24+ months to complete can be achieved over a few weeks. Perhaps a blank sheet of paper and exam conditions would be one way of treating it, instead I've coming to think of these as an 'open book' assessment. There is a deadline, and a time limit, though you're going to get far longer than the 45 minutes per essay (or was it 23 minutes) while sitting an exam.

Personally, I have to get my head to the stage where I've done the e, d, c, and b grade stuff. When I've had a chance to sieve and grade and filter and shake ... until, perhaps, I reach the stage where if called to do so I could sit this as an exam - or at least take it as a viva.

Not a convert to online learning as an exclusive platform though.

Passion for your tutor, your fellow students ... as well as the subject, is better catered for in the flesh.

The way ahead is for 'traditional' universities to buy big time into blended learning, double their intake and have a single year group rotating in and out during a SIX term year (three on campus, three on holiday or working online.)

P.S. Did I mention teachers?

Have a very good teacher, it helps. The Royal Grammar School, Newcastle where I transferred to take A' Levels delivers.

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