Morris, S.M. and Stommel, J. (2013) A Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age Hybrid Pedagogy, January 22
I’ve just caught up with this (work keeps getting in the way of blogging, damn it) so forgive me if you’ve already seen it. This statement has been developed by a group meeting in Palo Alto, California, and has some well-known names attached, such as John Seeley Brown, Audrey Watters and Sebastian Thrun.
It’s really in two parts, the first setting out a collection of rights for learners and the second a statement of principles for providers of online learning. You will need to read the full article to get a more detailed description of each, but here is a very brief listing:
Rights (of learners)
- to access: ‘Everyone should have the right to learn.’
- to privacy
- to create public knowledge
- to own one’s own personal data and intellectual property
- to financial transparency
- to pedagogical transparency
- to quality and care
- to have great teachers
- to be teachers
Principles (to which online learning should aspire)
- global contribution: ‘Online learning should originate from everywhere on the globe, not just from the U.S. and other technologically advantaged countries.’
- value: ‘The function of learning is to allow students to equip themselves to address the challenges and requirements of life and work.’
- flexibility: ‘Ideally, they [the best online programs] will also suggest and support new forms of interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary inquiry that are independent of old gatekeepers such as academic institutions or disciplines, certification agencies, time-to-degree measurements, etc.’
- hybrid learning: ‘online learning should …. be connected back to multiple locations around the world and not tethered exclusively to the digital realm. ‘
- innovation: ‘Online learning should be flexible, dynamic, and individualized rather than canned or standardized.‘
- formative assessment
I have to admit being somewhat puzzled, not so much by the rights and principles themselves, but why it is thought necessary to codify and then publicize them.
First, would not most of these rights and principles be subscribed to already by most people that support public higher education, at least in North America, Europe and Australasia? (I can’t speak for the Chinese or North Korean governments.)
If that’s the case (and it may be worth discussing this more), then the issue then is not the goals but the means to achieve the goals. Online learning is one, but in no way the only, means to some of these rights and principles. It is also true that while many working in or supporting public higher education would subscribe to these rights and principles, we often fall way short of implementing them, for a variety of reasons, such as lack of adequate resources or a poor choice of priorities. But that’s another discussion.
The question then comes to my mind as to why it has been necessary to spend time discussing and agreeing on principles and rights that most people in public education already accept.
One reason I suspect is a concern that developments in online learning outside formal, public education have the potential to run roughshod over these rights and principles. For instance, highly selective, campus-based, elite universities, at least until very recently, have not subscribed to some of these rights and principles, yet are now ‘discovering’ open learning through MOOCs, while still denying many of these rights to potential on-campus students.
Also, there is probably concern that MOOCs themselves are being exploited, at least by some organizations, for commercial reasons and this may result in some of these principles or rights being ignored or trampled on.
However, it could also be that some working in elite institutions have discovered God, and He is open, and so they need some commandments or a bible.
Thus having a statement of such rights and principles may be valuable, although how these rights or principles can be enforced is not at all clear to me – and what’s the use of a right if it can’t be protected?
Over to you
Do you think setting out these rights and principles is valuable?
Do you think public higher education generally subscribes to or adheres to these?
Why do you think such a statement has been made? Is it trying to say more than it does?
Don’t just tell me: join the conversation at https://twitter.com/search?q=%23learnersrights
See also: Kolowich, S. (2013)’Bill of Rights’ Seeks to Protect Students’ Interests as Online Learning Rapidly Expands Chronicle of Higher Education, January 23