I’m currently in Cochin, India for the Sixth Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning. The theme of the conference is ‘Access and Success in Learning: Global Development Perspectives‘. I’m here with a contingent from the International Award Association for whom praxMatrix is developing an Online Award Leader Training platform for the Asia Pacific region in conjunction with consultancy from AFG Venture Group. In relation to that, we are delivering a paper entitled: ‘Resolving Technical Infrastructure Disparities in Wide-Area, Cross-Border Geographical Zones to Deliver Effective Training Modules‘. Nothing like a short title to get them interested!

It’s a very large forum with around 800 delegates, mainly from the tertiary education sector, all, I imagine, seeking a way forward through what sometimes seems to be a dense jungle of opportunities and dangers. I wonder how many of the delegates though, keen as they are to find open learning solutions, are thinking of these in terms of the technical solutions available and how many are thinking in terms of a fundamental shift in delivering learning which will require, from them, a lot more than simply adapting new technology to their current teaching and content development methods.

In Korea I prefaced the work we are doing for the IAA with a long ‘introduction’ focusing on how learning and the learner has changed, how community based and shared learning and user-generated learning is becoming a force that no educational, training or online learning development organisation can refuse to ignore and why this was not a ‘theory’ of learning but, as Sir Ken Robinson puts it,  an ‘ideology’ of learning that has its roots in a fundamental shift in the way that society, particulary the younger generations, view and live the learning process and how information is created, valued and used. This demand-driven learning makes the development of any online learning project redundant if the design of that project does not take into account, within the design process, the fundamental drivers of the ‘new’ learning paradigm.

During a six hour stopover in Singapore I picked up a book by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, ‘MacroWikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World’. The book focuses on the power of collaborative innovation and open systems and how they are creating real and sustainable change throughout all of the social, political and cultural institutions that are no longer capable of carrying forward their mandates given the rapid errosion of the operational models they are based on.

Although the book doesn’t spend a lot of time on education and the learning process it does, in Chapter 4, have some key points to make about what is needed if universities are to survive. As I’m at a conference largely dominated by university delegates and as I couldn’t have said it better, I’ll finish this post with a quick quote from p141 of the book (and recommend that you buy a copy if  a really good analysis of the nature of the change we are all experiencing interests you):

“… change is required in two vast and interwoven domains that permeate the deep structures and operating model of the university. First, we need to toss out the old industrial model of pedagogy – how learning is accomplished – and replace it with a new model called collaborative learning. Second, we need an entirely new modus operandi for how the content of higher education – the subject matter, course materials, texts, written and spoken word and other media – is created…. If universities open up and embrace collaborative knowledge production, they have a chance of surviving and even thriving in the networked, global economy.”

And why is the old pedagogical, top-down, text-book model no longer valid?

“Yesterday you graduated and you were set for life – only needing to ‘keep up’ a bit with ongoing developments in your chosen field. Today when you graduate you’re set for, say, fifteen minutes.”

I don’t think I should shout that last quote out in the forum – stampeded by angry academics defending their ivory towers isn’t a good way to make friends.

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