By David, editor at Surviving the OU

David returns from the Easter Break refreshed and gets stuck straight back into the module

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts then find them here: Entry 1, Entry 2Entry 3Entry 4  and Entry 5.

Easter Break

Yay! A nice short and sharp entry here because this week was taken off for Easter. Lovely to get the feet up, have some peace and quiet and just relax for a week. Right? Wrong! Not only were the kids running around completely deranged from chocolate over consumption but this was the only time to get caught up on some of the forum posts or activities that had slipped me by. Hope you all had a nice break by the way and at least took a minute away from the books if indeed you are currently mid-module.

Open University at Easter

Week 11: Debates on elearning

This week we delved into the issues of elearning, digital divides, access of use, learning costs and many other topics of interest. The key themes and issues are always a good place to start so let’s have a look at them:

  • Knowledge about education in general and elearning in particular is provisional and contested. A traditional view is that ‘truth’ is approached via academic debate, with different sides bringing facts, arguments and opinions to bear in an attempt to persuade their opponents. However, debate itself is an imprecise, social process.
  • Educational opportunities are extremely unevenly spread around the world.
  • eLearning is seen as an important tool for reducing these inequalities.
  • Access to elearning can involve use of cheap and convenient access to appropriate hardware, software and content.
  • eLearning programmes vary in terms of their quality.
  • eLearning is not necessarily a cheap option when part of an accredited programme.

The opening activity this week was fairly interesting. We were directed towards an article on the Economist website (we had to access it via the Wayback Machine as the original post had been taken down for some reason) to look at a ‘classic debate’. The debate was taking place online in the Oxford style where two academics were arguing a position back and forth and readers were invited to add their comments as the debate proceeded. The international editor of the paper was acting as moderator to ensure things did not get out of hand. As we followed along we were required to comment in the tutor group forum in line with this pattern of activities:

  • A1a: Jotting down some thoughts
  • A1b: Reading the opening remarks
  • A1c: Reading the rebuttals
  • A1d: Reading other comments
  • A1e: Reading the closing speeches
  • A1f: Discussion in tutorial group

The question they were debating was, ‘Are smart cities empty hype?’ What’s a smart city you may ask? Well I was wondering that myself. Here’s a basic definition from the big Google machine.

The two debators argued back and forward but it wasn’t really that interesting and I’m not that bothered either way about the subject matter so I was happy to move on with my life and dig into activity 2. This was about the global digital divide and we had to first look at world statistics and global figures around internet access before honing in on a particular region and then asking whether the divide gap will ever be eradicated. Smartphones were proposed as a possible solution to bridging the gap and we had to discuss all of this in our forums.

Activity 3 was entitled ‘Aspects of quality and elearning’ and took us into the realms of ICT (Information and Communication Technology).  The next section harked back to the opening weeks of the course and discussed digital natives, the google generation and the myths surrounding those brought up in the digital age and their competencies and habits of use when it comes to technology.

See the video for a brief introduction to this idea

The final activity was about costs of elearning, whether it’s worth it and the increasing trend of MOOCs and free courses. Plenty to chew on in this segment!

The first cost studies of The Open University by Wagner (1972, 1977) were very encouraging and certainly supported the case for large-scale distance universities. But Wagner’s figures were based on early high-performing cohorts on large-population modules and his comparisons were with a highly elitist UK higher education system. In 1993 Perraton was much more circumspect…

Think that will do it for now then. Cheers for taking the time to follow along and hope you gained some insight from this post. We’ll be back in two weeks’ time for Entry #7 so stay tuned.

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