It’s 2008, and it’s off at a run … stayed on leave until mid-January, so now back at work and slowly getting into gear. The new ODLAA Executive Committee is gathering steam, and ready to make the year a good (great!?) one. Up in the wilds of NSW, Ian at UNE is beavering away at the website, bringing it up to date and poised to add new content as it arises. I’m looking forward to getting to know the rest of the team a little better (although I have at least a passing knowledge of all of them!) and to engage in our monthly meetings. Chris and I have been chatting on the phone about the work ahead, and we’re all keen to ensure a successful year for your association.
By the way, something that’s struck me over the holidays was the amount of advertising that Open Universities Australia is undertaking. In fact, their radio and television advertising is pretty good – catchy and entertaining (‘So, anyone got your carspace yet?’) – they should have streamed versions on their website! And taking a quick squiz around the providers, I note that Curtin is now no longer providing print-based materials for its courses … any others already taken the plunge, or are they taking the lead?! Is this still somewhat of a contentious topic, or is it now accepted wisdom that this is the way to go?
Speaking of the way to go, there’s clearly immense interest in social networking, and this year should see this interest grow as the tools mature. Plenty is being written about it, one of the latest salvos coming from the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education. If your institution subscribes (you can check on the site), then get yourself a copy of Social Software for Learning: What is it, Why use it? The authors, Scott Leslie and Bruce Landon, present a strong case that social software is “especially suited to online learning. Whilst some of the current explorations of the uses of social software for learning might simply be dismissed as experiments with new technology for its own sake, that misunderstands what many of its adopters have experienced for themselves: that social software is extremely well suited to enable learning, that in emphasising users’ identities, connecting them with each other and helping network level value emerge out of individual actions, the model being developed in social software actually addresses many of the critical stumbling blocks which have plagued earlier e-learning efforts.”
Their arguments concerning the value of motivation, authenticity, connected knowledge and peer presentation and review clearly resonate with the challenges we face in distance education. They present illustrative examples, sensibly address emerging issues, and present us with a series of key questions to address. My favourite: “How can we disaggragate the currently entrenched, monolithic learning management systems (LMS) that, far from enabling freedom, harnessing motivation or promoting openness, reveal in their very nomenclature a focus instead on control, on ‘managing’?”
How do we distance educators respond?