VI International Seminar on Open Social Learning (VIII): UOC Session

VI International Seminar of the UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning

Notes from the Open Social Learning, organized by UOC UNESCO Chair in E-Learning and held in Barcelona, Spain, on November 30th and December 1st 2009.

In search for pedagogical value of OSL: UOC experiment in progress. Gemma Aguado, eLearn Center and Carles Fernández, Learning Technologies

The experience aims to test an open learning model, understood as a virtual learning environment open to the Internet community, based on the use of open resources and on a methodology focused on the participation and collaboration of users in the construction of knowledge.

The subject of the course ‘Journeys 2.0’ lasted 5 weeks, was launched through Facebook and used a specifically designed open methodology. This methodology of the course is based on the creation of a learning community able to self-manage their learning process. For that a facilitator was needed and also a central activity was established for people to participate and contribute in the community.

The opinions of the users participating in this course show some interesting questions related with the openness:

  • The structure of the activity is still quite ‘facilitator-centered´
  • Five weeks is not enough time
  • Lack of commitment with free courses
  • Facebook and its rigid architecture
  • The trend to return to traditional ways to learn

The authors also pointed out some difficulties such as the fact that these experiences may need more than two months to start working efficiently, the limitations of Facebook as learning platform or the lack of commitment of many users.

The audience of the seminar debated issues like the strategies to engage teachers in the experience, the fact to carry out a deep reflection of the learning methodology taking pedagogical issues and not technology as starting point and the possibilities to propose courses with subjects probably less ‘engaging’ as statistics. FaceUOC slide

Report on Open Social Learning in Spain. Iolanda García, Director of Innovation at the eLearn Center

The purpose of this presentation has been to summarize the main points of a reflection document about the situation and the future of OSL in Spain, which title is: Open Social Learning and its potential to transform higher education contexts in Spain

The paper collects the contributions and discussions of 14 experts, academics and professionals from different Spanish educational institutions (to see the names of the participants, visit the link of the Working Session on OSL). The presenter clarified that it cannot be taken as an exhaustive report about the reality of OSL in Spain, but that is an open text that wants to stimulate debate and reflection a an exhaustive report about the reality of OSL in Spain.

The paper analyses the kind of experiences and projects that can be recognized in Spain around this field. It presents the main lines of work that can be identified and also some specific experiences as a set of examples. All those experiences, despite being so different apparently, have many common features like, for instance, the lack of standards, an open architecture and a decentralized structure, people active involvement, participation and collaboration; the intensive use of technology as a means for the empowerment of the community; the fact of being rooted in real local needs and based on the opportunities provided by the same context, etc.

Concerning the role of technology in OSL, the document reflects on the main trends and challenges around the technological dimension of OSL and its influence on the general e-learning landscape. In this sense, it describes the main characteristics of OSL technologies; it discusses the crisis of LMS as dominant e-learning platforms, the weak points of the social media use in formal education settings, like problems related with tracing and assessing the learning activity, etc.

The last section of the paper deals with the perspectives of OSL in the Spanish higher education system, focusing on the limitations or obstacles on the one hand, and on the opportunities and the benefits that OSL could bring to our universities, on the other.  Among the limitations, for instance, it is stressed the fact that the use of Internet in teaching and learning processes is not yet generalized in most of the Spanish universities. Another important limitation is the general lack of reflection about the pedagogical models behind the use and the design of technology and the use of mechanisms of control of the online activity, which is something alien to OSL.

Problems to follow and to assess student’s distributed learning activity are also treated.

Some of the mentioned opportunities are: personalization of the learning process; the construction of students and teachers digital identities to increase their social reputation and projection; possibilities for building learning communities and communities of practice based on expertise; the collective validation of content; opportunities for designing a new assessment approach more holistic and transversal, etc.

The presentation has finished with a concluding idea: the higher education system shouldn’t perceive the influence of OSL as a threat, but as an opportunity to evolve in order to fit the requirements and the needs of the knowledge society.

Q&A

How is the UOC going to support and driven this change of the university towards the OSL model?

The line of work of the eLearn Center is engaging teachers in projects of innovation in order to activate this change that can be later generalised to other parts in the university. Of course there are many Departments and people involved that must to work together in order to make this change possible.

It is not only the university that has to manage this change, but the way the students approach their own way of learning. On the other hand, the Vice-presidency of Innovation has designed some axis for the evolution of the educational model of the UOC and is working together with other Vice-presidencies in order to support the development of this model.

Have you thought (in the paper) about ways to create channels between studies in different universities to make possible students distributed learning?

No we didn’t, since the paper only analyses the picture of the situation but it doesn’t propose ways to overcome limitations/problems. This would be the next step.

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