I use this section for occasional commentaries about events and developments of interest.
UWC (United World Colleges) International Congress
Cardiff, 21-23 February 2013
I was fortunate that this UWC Congress took place early in my tenure as chair of the UWC International Board. UWC only holds these events every six years – indeed the last was in 2005. The Congress is a gathering of the UWC clans, with representatives of many of the 144 national committees; current students, teachers, heads and council chairs from the 12 schools/colleges; and a good number of alumni.
Before the Congress I had the opportunity to visit Atlantic College (AC), where the movement started 50 years ago. Principal John Walmsley and Board Chair Stephen Cox were gracious hosts. I was particularly impressed by the way that AC has converted extra-curricular activities into intra-curricular activities by creating four faculties of Global, Environment, Social Justice and Outdoor, alongside the six faculties corresponding the hexagon of the International Baccalaureate and the Theory of Knowledge faculty. Equally impressive was the level of pastoral care given to these 180 students from nearly one hundred nations.
One of the participants in the Congress described the UWC as a cult and there were indeed moments when the atmosphere of self congratulation within this ‘in’ group was rather cloying to a newcomer. Nevertheless, both students and alumni clearly believe that UWC represents the world’s best international education. Their pride is palpable.
Although the first UWC go back half a century it is really only in the last ten – even five – years that it has started behaving as a coherent and concerted global movement. Its first strategic plan is only a few years old. Now it is eager to grow and raise its profile, an important question being whether to add more of the older model of two-year residential colleges, or to favour ‘whole school’ institutions like the UWC South East Asia (Singapore); UWC Maastricht (Netherlands) and UWC Waterford (Swaziland). The latter have a more robust business model because most of the students at the two-year colleges receive scholarship support for which funds must be raised.
In my closing remarks I praised the increasingly purposeful attitude to the development of the colleges and the movement as a whole, and also urged the achievement of balance along various continua: self-criticism vs. self-congratulation; numerical growth vs. mission reinforcement; technology vs. tender loving care; opportunism vs. strategy; and amateurism vs. professionalism.
The evident commitment of the various stakeholders in the UWC community made for an inspiring event.
The Role of University Vice-Chancellor (President): What makes for success?
(Prepared at the request of Professor Peter Okebukola of the Global University Network for Innovation (Africa) in March 2015)
Visit to the HQ of the International Baccalaureate Organisation
2013-02-12, The Hague
In the last month both my colleague Stamenka Uvalić-Trumbić and I have been appointed senior advisors to Academic Partnerships International, the new arm of the successful US-based Academic Partnerships that president Randy Best has created in order to extend the model overseas. He also has ambitions to create a global online high school and asked us to visit the HQ of the International Baccalaureate Organisation in The Hague in connection with that project.
Stamenka began by recalling how in 1999 she led the development of a recommendation on international access qualifications to higher education as a subsidiary document to the Joint UNESCO/Council of Europe Lisbon Recognition Convention. This recommendation listed the conditions under which international school-leaving qualifications (such as the IB Diploma) that did not belong to a national system could be accepted for entry to higher education. Thousands of universities now recognise the IB, with a 21% increase in public recognition policy statements in the last year alone.
I noted my special pleasure at visiting the IBO HQ now that I chair the International Board of the UWC (United World Colleges). The first UWC, Atlantic College, initiated the creation of the IB 50 years ago. The IBO hosts said that although the UWC now account for only a tiny proportion of the IB schools worldwide, they contribute a disproportionate number of examiners, curriculum developers, etc. They consider the UWC to be the IBO’s informal R&D unit since the UWC are constantly pushing back the frontiers of international education.
The IBO is a non-profit educational foundation registered in Switzerland offering four programmes for pupils aged 3 to 19. These are the Primary Years Programme (PYP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP) (which are recommended curricula supervised by the IBO), the (new) Career Related Certificate, and the IB Diploma (centrally assessed). In 2013 1,078,000 children are taking IB programmes in 3,521 schools in 144 countries. Research in UK universities shows that students with IB Diplomas significantly outperform other students during their university studies. Take-up of IB programmes is increasing at 10% per annum, the fastest growth being in Asia. Projections indicate that current figures will have doubled by 2020.
In order to manage this growth the IBO has been re-organised to operate from three international offices in The Hague, Bethesda MD, and Singapore. As well as servicing the schools in its region, each office has worldwide responsibilities for specific functions. There is a small IBO Foundation office in Geneva and the original academic centre in Cardiff now focuses exclusively on assessment. The atmosphere of professionalism and effectiveness that we found in the office impressed us.
As well as tooling up for further years of 10% annual growth in existing programmes, the IBO continues to innovate, notably in introducing the IB Career-related Certificate (IBCC), putting some of the IB Diploma courses online, offering optional assessment for the MYP, and creating a programme for infants aged 2-5.
The IBCC framework allows students to specialise in and focus on a career-related pathway. The programme’s three-part framework comprises the study of at least two Diploma Programme courses alongside career-related studies and the distinctive IBCC Core, which is designed to create a bridge that connects each student’s chosen Diploma Programme courses and career-related studies.
The IBO now has online versions of 11 of the IB Diploma courses with 1,000 students this year. 2,000 students are forecast for 2014 with 15 courses online by 2015. Although it is called the ‘IB World School’ the IBO HQ does not itself intend to become an online school. The online courses are offered by existing IB schools to their own students for enrichment (e.g. an online course in Film Studies for schools which do not have the capacity to offer it face-to-face).
Although the IBO received many offers of assistance in putting the Diploma Programme online it decided to work with a new organisation, Pamoja Education, set up for the purpose by John McCall MacBain in Oxford. Pamoja Education agreed to implement the constructivist pedagogy of the IB and the courses are of high quality. Pamoja Education has invested $10 million in the conversions and intends to give any profits to the McCall MacBain Foundation. Pamoja Education has exclusivity until 2017 but the IBO expects to review of the future of IB online before that date.
Our visit confirmed our view that the IB programmes are by far the leading international high school curricula. Sooner or later a global online high school will be created and it would be a great pity if it were not based on the excellent achievements of the IBO.
Conversation with Antonin (Tony) Besse
As I play myself into my pro bono role as chair of the United World Colleges (UWC) international board I am arranging to spend time with both individuals and organisations that made important contributions to the UWC movement in its early days. Thus, on 15 January I met David Sutcliffe (see below), who was the second head of Atlantic College, founding head of Adriatic College and is closely involved with UWC Mostar.
Today I had a most interesting conversation with Tony Besse, whom I had not seen since we served together on the Council of Foundation of the International Baccalaureate in the 1990s. Now 86, Tony has had a most exciting life, joining the French Resistance in southern France at 14 and later taking over the business built up by his father, Sir Antonin Besse in Aden and reorganising it when the British pulled out of Aden. Just as his father had given the funds to create St. Anthony’s College, Oxford, so Tony gave the money to buy St. Donat’s Castle in Wales to be the home of Atlantic College. I those days he worked very closely with Lord Louis Mountbatten, who took on the UWC as a personal project, and also with Kurt Hahn, the thought leader behind UWC and various other educational innovations (and the subject of a recent book by David Sutcliffe).
It was a great pleasure to hear him reminisce about those early days and to reaffirm his commitment to UWC values. Like many founders of movements and institutions that I have known, he is somewhat underwhelmed by the actions and decisions of the contemporary UWC players – which made our most enjoyable conversation all the more valuable.
Visit to the University of Southern Queensland
2013-02-07, Toowoomba, Queensland
I had a most enjoyable trip to the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba
where Pro-Vice-Chancellor Belinda Tynan looked after me most graciously. Phoenix, Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas’, office cat, sent a Tweet to announce my visit.
USQ had asked me to address the topic Higher Education Futures: Keeping an Open Mind, to launch a well-attended and enjoyable event. I was especially pleased that Professor Emeritus Jim Taylor came along because he hosted my last visit to Toowoomba in 1983, when USQ was the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education and already a major player in Australian ODL. Jim was the key architect of the innovations that defined its subsequent evolution to become a benchmark for the quality offering of ODL nationally and internationally by a dual-mode institution. USQ has maintained the most state-of-the-art ‘back-end’ ODL technology in the country.
More recently Jim has been the principal thought leader in the development of the
OERu, a consortium of 20 universities in nine countries on all continents, many identified with important innovations (e.g. University of Southern New Hampshire with Competency-Based Education; Athabasca University for a degree without residency requirements).
The consortium members are each developing two OER-based courses and USQ is leading the way with AST 1000 Regional Relations in Asia and the Pacific. For this Jim and his colleagues are developing pedagogy of discovery suited to the use of OER. Early indications are that students become tremendously engaged with what Jim calls ‘free-range learning’ once they adapt to this approach. Tuition fees for the 5-month course are only $200, reflecting the dramatic cost efficiencies that using OER can achieve.
I sensed that USQ was adapting well to the changing HE environment. The principal threat it faces is loss of institutional memory. Recent years have seen great turnover in the senior administration, bringing in some excellent people. The risk is that they will create a solid ‘vanilla’ version of a standard Australian regional university rather than developing further USQ’s unique assets and traditions.
Annual Conference of the Open and Distance Learning Association of Australia
4-6 February, 2013, Sydney, NSW
It is great to drop in on Australia’s summer in the middle of winter in the northern hemisphere. ODLAA chose Education Across Space and Time for its annual conference and I took that as the title of my opening keynote, in which I tried to bring some historical perspective to the distance learning enterprise. To a degree I was preaching to the converted, because Australia has a long tradition of external studies and distance education. Nevertheless there are plenty of people who think ODL began with online learning and make stupid mistakes by ignoring the legacy of research and expertise that ODL generated in the last century. A number of US for-profit institutions made presentations that could have been entitled ‘how we are re-inventing the wheel’.
Chatting to Anne Forster, a past-president of ODLAA who helped us greatly to recover Australia as a funder of the Commonwealth of Learning, I heard about a trend that had
escaped me. According to Ann, just as ODL really starts to expand into the mainstream, with almost all universities developing strategies for it, the regional ODL associations are losing membership and momentum. This is true of ODLAA and she said that the International Council for Open and Distance Learning and the former Canadian Association for Distance Education were having the same experience. As a former president of both organisations I find this sad because it represents a loss of collective memory. Anne said that these days distance educators are all going to conferences on web design.
Better web design is clearly necessary because so many eLearning screens are strikingly ugly and unappealing. It would be sad to lose the great investment that organisations like the UK Open University made in improving the graphical presentation of print material to make it really attractive.
Inaugural Conference of the CHEA International Quality Group
31 January 2013, Washington DC
I noted the launch of CHEA’s International Quality Group (CIQG) in an earlier jotting. Its first annual conference, held back-to-back with CHEA’s Annual Conference, was a great success. CHEA President Judith Eaton and Stamenka Uvalić-Trumbić, her Senior Advisor on International Affairs, had put together an excellent programme.
Robin Middlehurst and Peter Williams, two quality
assurance veterans from the UK, started the day with an impressive tour d’horizon of the changing HE landscape and the fundamental principles of QA. Clearly all those charged with assuring the quality of higher education be they in institutions, governments or QA and accrediting bodies, are challenged as never before by the rapid diversification of providers, programmes and pedagogy.
The programme sustained this high level all day. I suspect participants were alarmed by the comprehensive account that Muriel Poisson, of UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning, gave of the extent and diversity of academic corruption in many countries. But she ended on an optimistic note, arguing that there is a widespread trend to greater transparency and a willingness to face the issue. Nevertheless, there is clearly a long way to go before we can have confidence in the fairness and integrity of all aspects of academic life in many parts of te world.
Another contribution that I found particularly impressive and instructive was Sunny Lee’s account of Mozilla Open Badges. These are clearly an important addition to the
framework of credentials available. Although they began in the software industry they can be used by any institution or community of practice to recognise competence in almost any field. Clearly the credibility of the issuing body is important, but the common framework of metadata backing each badge gives potential employers a more detail account of the competences achieved – and how they were tested – than is the case with most other credentials. Her presentation was also characterised by an engaging blend of confidence and modesty. She stressed that Open Badges were a work in progress and encouraged feedback from users.
The one-day conference attracted a full house of participants, including many from outside the US. It was a special pleasure to catch up again with Peter Okebukola, Mr Higher Education Africa, who has a truly impressive knowledge of developments across the continent as well as vast personal experience of all aspects of planning, developing and managing higher education in difficult environments.
Thanks to the good work of Judith and Stamenka the CIQG is off to an excellent start, with membership running well ahead of projections.
Daffodil International University, Bangladesh
International Conference on Tertiary Education: Realities and Challenges
19-21 January 2013
This was my first visit to Bangladesh since 2009 and I was delighted to find that the
Minister of Education i met at that time, Nurul Islam Nahid, was still in office. His big project, to get textbooks into schools, has been impressively successful. My role was to give the opening speech to the conference on the theme Turbulent Times in Higher Education: Lessons for Bangladesh (see Speeches and Presentations).
There are 34 public universities in Bangladesh and 70 private institutions, of which about five, including Daffodil International University (DIU), are taken seriously by employers. DIU is part of the Daffodil Group, which began as an IT company but is now active at all levels of education and is branching out overseas (Dubai, Malaysia, UK and US). The Daffodil Company was founded by Sabur Khan, a businessman and social entrepreneur
who chairs the DIU Council and has just been elected President of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce. Not surprisingly, given its origins, DIU has made a strong commitment to ICT, being the first Bangladesh University to issue laptops to all students. Its ambition is to lead Bangladesh higher education into the online world, although for the moment private universities are not allowed to offer online courses off campus (hence Sabur Khan’s decision to open ‘Premier International Colleges in other countries).
At present the APR (Age Participation Rate) in higher education in Bangladesh is a meagre 5% so the coming years are likely to see rapid growth in enrolments in this country of 160 million people. I am sure that the ban on online offerings will be lifted within at most three years because, as the first Vice-Chancellor, Aminul Islam points out, population density gives Dhaka some of highest land values in the world. Building large campuses is not an option – online is the way to go. I put DIU in touch with Academic Partnerships International.
Chatting with David Sutcliffe
I spent three very useful days in London this week meeting the staff in the UWC London office and having further briefings from Executive Director Keith Clark. I observe that the UWC movement is in generally good shape. Most of the challenges it faces are common to the all systems made up of a confederation of institutions united by a common vision. One current challenge is to develop a sustainable mechanism for funding the coordination work of the international office in London so that it has the resources to be effective without cutting across the fund-raising work of the schools and colleges by seeking donations for its own activities. Another is what the Commonwealth calls the ‘good offices’ role. How can the central office help to ensure that good appointments are made to the important posts of board chair and head teacher in the individual schools and colleges without appearing to interfere in their affairs?
During the week I had a most interesting discussion with David Sutcliffe, one of the elder statesmen of the UWC movement. He was the second head of Atlantic College, the first head of the Adriatic College, and remains closely involved with the College in Mostar. The nub of our discussion was the biggest challenge facing UWC: ‘how does an organisation continue to be a pace-setter 50 years after its foundation, when most of its ‘clothes’ (global student body; International Baccalaureate; community service; all-round education) have become commonplace after being stolen by others. Imitation may be the sincerest from of flattery and UWC should be pleased at this evidence of its impact – but what are the next summits for it to conquer?
David is keen that instead of – or as well as – multiplying schools and colleges on the existing model, the UWC should aim to nest ‘units’, rather the like the Mostar College, alongside regular schools in areas of conflict. I have heard much about the exemplary work being done in Mostar to encourage people with a history of hostility to learn to live together and look forward to visiting the College in May.
Visit to Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific
I took over as Chair of the UWC International Board on January 1 and my first opportunity to visit one of the twelve schools/colleges that make up the network occurred a week later. On 8 January I visited Pearson College, just outside Victoria, BC, and gave a speech to the students on the topic ‘What is International Development’, (see Speeches and Presentations for text and slides).
I was enormously impressed by the many intelligent and penetrating questions that the
students asked in a long Q&A period after my talk. It was also a great privilege that my address coincided with a visit to the College by BC’s Minister of Advanced Education, Innovation, Technology and Multiculturalism, his Deputy Minister, Ms. Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland and a delegation from the Ministry.
The Ministry colleagues were as impressed as I was by the students and by the mission of the college as explained by Director David Hawley over lunch. My only regret was the the Minister and his group did not have more time to interact directly with the students, because they are what make the UWC schools and colleges so special.
================================================================ Tablets, MOOCs and OERs – chatting with Dr Venkataraman Balaji
Yesterday I had a most informative chat with my former COL colleague Balaji. I know no one who is as knowledgeable as he about technological change in both the developed and developing worlds. Indeed, he is such a polymath that I have yet to find a topic, be it in history or science, which is outside his range.
He believes that those of us in the development business, whether in education or agriculture, have not yet appreciated the impact that inexpensive tablets will have in developing countries. He showed me a tablet costing less than $50. If children had these and wireless connections to a teacher with a $200 tablet equipped with Ubuntu Linux we could create a ‘classroom under a tree’.
Moving on to MOOCs, we discussed the challenge of operating at scale and the irony that universities where quality has long been associated with exclusivity of access are trying to open up to the world. Since they are not used to operating at scale, universities offering MOOCs have to ally themselves to companies (Google, Microsoft, Coursera, Udacity) that can handle large numbers – and rapidly changing numbers – by computing in the cloud.
He also pointed out that MOOCs are contributing to the widespread use of OERs since ‘reuse, not production, is the key to positive MOOCs impact’. He estimates that 60% of the content of online Computer Science courses is now OER. This phenomenon will help to embed OER since you cannot copyright the totality of a MOOC if it contains OER.
One indication of the growing penetration of OER is the high volume of tips and advice about relevant OER that students are exchanging on Facebook. For students the relevance of an OER to their studies is far more important than some abstract notion of ‘quality’ or ‘brand’. If it is relevant and helpful it does not matter where the OER originated.
================================================================ First meeting of the Advisory Council of the International Quality Group of the Council for HIgher Education Accreditation (CHEA)
Washington, DC, 12 December 2012.
The first meeting of the Advisory Council of this new Group was chaired by Judith Eaton (President, CHEA) and Stamenka Uvalić-Trumbić (Senior Consultant). Guests Martha Kantor and David Bergeron from the US Department of Education attended as guests. All members helped to identify key issues in higher education. The group felt that higher education is becoming a higher level policy issue that is now of interest to heads of government as well as ministers of education. I was particularly impressed by the contributions of Alan Goodman and Deane Neubauer.
The co-chairs emphasised that the purpose of the CHEA International Quality Group was not to spread US practice nor do accreditation itself. The group decided to canvass member organisations about priority areas for action and will develop policy briefs, and reach out beyond the QA community to governments. I was honoured to be asked to chair the group for the coming year. ================================================================ XX Encuentro Internacional de Educacion a Distancia Guadalajara, Mexico, 26-29 November 2012
During my eight years at COL I had fewer contacts the Spanish-speaking world (with the exception of a memorable visit to Loja, Ecuador) than during my time at UNESCO. It was good to renew my acquaintance with this rather different world of ODL through this conference in Mexico.
The meeting was organised by the Rector of the Sistema de Universidad Virtual of the Universidad de Guadalajara, a most impressive leader who clearly inspires devotion in his staff. I was the only person to speak in English and although I felt my Spanish returning as the conference progressed, it was deeply frustrating to understand the general drift of presentations but miss the nuances. This was particularly the case for a speech on teaching, both classroom and distance, delivered with passion by the Professor Lorenzo Garcia Aretio, who holds the UNESCO chair in Distance Education at UNED in Spain. I was amused to learn that the Spanish acronym for MOOC is CAMeL. Certainly MOOCs have been a camel in the tent of higher education in 2012. One is tempted to make biblical allusions about the MOOCs camel passing through the eye of the needle of the narrowly selective admissions processes to the campuses of the universities that offer them. On a personal note I find it remarkable how much cultural habits attach to language. Mexico shares Spain’s relaxed attitude to punctuality and here, as in Spain, I find the adjustment to starting lunch at 15:00 at little difficult at first! ============================================================ International Forum on The Role of the UNEVOC Network in transforming TVET for a sustainable future. (Bonn, Germany 16 November 2012)
I was very touched to be invited to give a keynote talk on the final day of this Forum, which was partly a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the UNESCO-UNEVOC Centre in Bonn. It was created during my time as ADG/ED at UNESCO and I have good memories of addressing the inaugural event on 7 April 2012. They invited me back for
that reason. TVET people are a particularly energetic and committed lot and it was a pleasure to present some of the work on Flexible Skills Development that we had done at COL. I am most grateful to Alison Mead Richardson, who let me use material from her own presentations. ============================================================= International Conference IITE-2012 ICT in Education: Pedagogy, Educational Resources and Quality Assurance
On 13/14 November I attended this conference of UNESCO’s Institute for Information Technologies in Education in Moscow. It was aimed primarily at countries from the Commonwealth of Independent States. My previous contacts with IITE went back to my time as ADG for Education at UNESCO and it was good to see their work again. It was particularly gratifying to take part in a Ministerial Round Table where OER were one of two agenda items, the other being ICT Competency Frameworks for Teachers. Having spent much of this year consulting on the drafting of the Paris Declaration on OER that was adopted at the June World OER Congress, it was very pleasing to see Ministers from the countries of this region engaging with the implementation of the Declaration.
Work at the DeTao Masters Academy
In late October and early November I spent two weeks at the DeTao Masters Academy with my fellow Education Master, Stamenka Uvalić-Trumbić. While in China she also gave a keynote address on Quality Teachers: Key to Quality Cross-Border Education at the China Annual Conference for International Education 2012 and presented the background briefing at the Expert Meeting on Feasibility Study for Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education held in Nanjing on Oct 30-31.
We were able to see the steady progress that DeTao is making. There are now over 100 Masters in a diversifying range of disciplines and we visited the studios of several of them at new CCIC building just completed on the campus of the Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts (SIVA), where Danish designer Timothy Jacob Jensen has a fully functioning studio to serve China. Rainer Maria Latzke is planning an exhibition of his mural art and frescography at a local museum.
DeTao is gaining acceptance by offering Guest Lectures at Peking University and SIVA, which leads to students gaining credit for internships in the Masters’ studios. It is examining ways of giving formal recognition to the more advanced work that the Masters do with senior executives and professionals. DeTao is also looking at the idea of helping the Masters offer eLearning courses in collaboration with Chinese institutions.
Joining the UWC (United World College) movement
From January 2013 I will assume the role of chair of the International Board and Council of UWC, taking over from Tim Toyne Sewell (pictured), who has carried out this task with distinction for six years. This network of 12 colleges and schools on four continents
is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first institution, Atlantic College in Wales. My first contact with the movement came in the late 1980s when I was asked to speak at Pearson UWC Pacific in Victoria, BC. My daughter Catherine was with me and, inspired by what she saw, later gained admission to UWC-USA in Montezuma, New Mexico. A student from Saskatchewan, Ian Chisholm, who was also there, later married my other daughter, Anne-Marie. Ian now serves on the board of Pearson College. Being involved with this small network of schools is a big change from the main focus of my career, which was bringing education to large numbers (mega-universities and mega-schools). However, since the UWC colleges offer the International Baccalaureate, my new role does link back to my earlier service as a member (and later vice-president), of the Council of Foundation of the IB Organisation in the 1990s.
My Experience as a KNOU Fellow
It was a great privilege to be the Fellow chosen during KNOU’s 40thanniversary year. I thank the President, the Academic Dean, Professor Taerim Lee and all the KNOU staff for the warm hospitality they showed to me.
My visit in September also happened to coincide with the completion of the new headquarters building. I was the first person to have an office in this new block and indeed, the builders were still putting down the floors and finishing the work during my first two weeks there. During the second two weeks there was a flurry of activity as KNOU staff moved into the building with all the books and papers from their previous offices. I felt to be at the heart of KNOU activity! The activities of my fellowship kept me very busy. I gave the opening keynotes at both the eLearning Korea 2012 conference and KNOU’s 40th anniversary Forum. Several other universities did me the honour of inviting me to give speeches and this allowed me to visit the Ehwa Womans University, Seoul National University and Korea University. I also gave two seminars to KNOU staff and visited the Digital Media Centre, where I recorded a 50-minute video interview with Professor Taerim Lee for OUN at the end of my visit. Previously I had gone to the Educational Broadcasting System, whose president remembered me from my first visit to KNOU in 1985. A special highlight was a weekend trip to Jeju. This allowed me to see a KNOU course being delivered and also to tour the island a little – unfortunately in the rain! Writing my research paper, which is a requirement of the Fellowship, proved to be immensely rewarding. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are the higher education buzzword of 2012 as numbers of well-known US universities, starting with MIT, Harvard and Stanford, fall over themselves to offer online courses worldwide to student cohorts numbering in the tens of thousands. I decided to make my KNOU research paper a historical account and critical review of MOOCs and titled it: Making Sense of MOOCs: Musings in a Maze of Myth, Paradox and Possibility. I was fortunate to publish the paper at a timely moment and the well-known commentator on educational technology, Professor Tony Bates, reviewed it on October 1stas: ‘the most thorough, comprehensive and balanced overview and analysis of MOOCs that I have read’. In summary, my KNOU Fellowship was a most enriching professional experience. I got a real feel for the scale, dynamism and diversity of Korea’s higher education system. Had I stayed longer I would have enjoyed interacting with senior KNOU staff about future scenario and strategy planning for KNOU, matters that interest me greatly as a former head of the UKOU. But one cannot do everything in a month!
Strategic Plan for the Open University of China
The Presidents of the Open University of China, Yang Zhijian, and the Open University of Japan, Yoichi Okabe, attended the KNOU 40th anniversary forum on September 17. Yang Zhijian passed me a copy of the Strategic Plan of the Open University of China, which was hot off the press. It is a 60-page document, half of which is a good English translation. The plan is ambitious and comprehensive and seems to me very well designed to build on the legacy of the CCRTVU and the regional RTVUs while creating something new and different. To quote: ‘In the current era of new changes, it is imperative for OUC to be more open, embrace reform and innovation, promote the strategic transformation from RTVUs to open universities, and accomplish a historic leap forward. This is China so the numbers are impressive: ‘the number of job holders receiving non-degree education shall have grown to 35 million by 2020… those receiving degree education shall have grown to 4.5 million by 2020’. I was pleased to be named in the Plan as a foreign member of the OUC Advisory Board and I will come back to many other interesting elements of the plan in future jottings.
KNOU’s 40th Anniversary International Forum Future of Open and Distance Learning for ‘Knowledge Network Society’ 17 September 2012
A most interesting day! Gwang-Jo Kim, the impressive (Korean) Director of the UNESCO Bureau for Education in Asia-Pacific in Bangkok followed my own keynote. His 60+ slides gave a comprehensive overview of demographic, economic and educational data in the region. He identified the core of UNESCO’s work in higher education as the Guidelines on Cross-Border provision; the Regional (and possibly a Global) convention on degree recognition; and follow-up to the World OER Congress. Key issues for ODL are the change in student demand; the need for more TVET, science and engineering provision; and quality assurance.
Sebastian Vogt (FernUniversitat, Germany) gave a passionate plea for a global structure to systematise the provision of open badges. The software is in place but institutions must organise themselves collectively to take advantage of it.
Jos H A N Rikers (OU Netherlands) pleased me both by arguing for the radical importance of Open Educational Resources and also by extending my signature ‘iron triangle’ of access, quality and cost into three dimensions by showing that OER change the relationship between access (free online materials); quality (through the collaboration of experts) and efficiency (by avoiding duplication of effort).
The US Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) launches an International Quality Group
My colleague Stamenka Uvalić-Trumbić is acting as a senior consultant on international affairs to CHEA for establishing an International Quality Group (CIQG).It was announced in Washington, DC on September 13 by CHEA chair, David Carter and President Judith Eaton.
The CIQG’s aim is to provide a venue for accrediting and quality assurance bodies, colleges and universities, businesses, foundations and others around the world to work together on international quality issues. This new division of CHEA will be open to worldwide membership and I am honoured to be a member of its international advisory board. Members and others will be able to commission research by the CIQG, which will hold an annual conference – a successor to CHEA’s international seminars – and will publish a newsletter and research briefs.
The creation of the CIQG reflects the tremendous credibility that Judith enjoys within the global quality assurance community. She and Stamenka, who carried the flag of quality assurance at UNESCO for many years, make a formidable team.
Harmonizing Higher Education in Africa: Dream or Reality?
My fellow DeTao Education Master, Stamenka Uvalić-Trumbić, continues to be active in international higher education gatherings. In mid-September she was in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire for the latest in series of pan-African meetingson quality assurance that began in 2006. In a sad illustration of the challenges facing higher education in Africa, the university that hosted the meeting only recently re-opened after two years of closure due to the post-electoral crisis. Nevertheless, Stamenka was impressed by the progress that has been made in expanding collaboration and networking across Africa despite its tremendous diversity – one example being that just four countries account for 70% of Africa’s research (Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania).
Key speakers (pictured) were Juma Shabani (UNESCO, Bamako) who organized the meeting; Alice Lamptey, who gave an overview of African Union Commission initiatives; Stamenka, who reported on progress in regional harmonization in other regions of the world; and Peter Okebukola, who presented the African Quality Rating Mechanisms. A major concern, in these difficult economic times, is whether donors will continue to support this promising emergence of an African Higher Education and Research Space. ================================================================
eLearning Korea 2012 (2012-09-12)
I found two presentations at this event particularly interesting. The keynote, co-authored with Stamenka Uvalic-Trumbic, that I delivered on “Open Educational Resources: The Coming of Age of ICT in Education?” was followed by a most engaging talk by Dr Peck Cho on “What should we do in the area of eLearning to develop creative talents in Korea?”. He cited low royalty income as a measure of Korea’s poor creativity. The Korean economy moved through parts assembly taking advantage of cheap labour to ideas assembly that enabled it to be a fast follower of technology developed elsewhere. Korea’s challenge now is to become a first mover in ideas production. Noting that there are 170 concepts related to creativity he reduced them to six: Basic Knowledge; Fuzzy Thinking; Curiosity; Sense of Adventure; Positive Mindset; and ‘Slack’. He claimed that ‘slack’ is a very Asian concept but that Asian countries have lost their heritage of creativity by slavishly following the West. Slack is the ability to communicate and empathise. The problem is that Korean students are packed with Basic Knowledge at the expense of developing the other five qualities. Furthermore, they have a great fear of failure and always search for the ‘right’ answer. In a section of his talk that I found particularly interesting he cited neurological research showing that the heart has its own mini-brain, which explains why those who receive heart transplants often find that their tastes (e.g. in music) suddenly change. He stressed that the heart does have an influence on the brain and that creativity requires a better balance between the affective and cognitive domains, which in terms of education means a balance between liberal arts and technology. Dr Frits Pannekoek, President of Athabasca University (and former President of the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE)) always has interesting things to say. Today he stressed the potential of learning analytics to transform the conduct of education. He also talked about the way that open content is challenging university business models. Indeed, he considers that there is currently no viable business model for higher education. It is urgent to develop one. Finally, he believes that the middle-class establishment will always try, through government regulation, to strangle attempts to open up higher education that might threaten the role of elite universities. For him ‘brand’ is everything. Even if the much touted MOOCs (Mass Open Online Courses) are of low quality in terms of both content and also student support, the elite brands behind them will ensure their acceptance.