October 19, 2017

Online Learning and Personal Change: the Movie

Vancouver Community College organized a stimulating faculty development workshop in April called ‘Technology Trends and the Courage to Adapt’, about the challenge technology presents to instructors. This involved two presentations, one from Gary Poole, of UBC, who focused on personal issues in dealing with change, and one from me about the changes needed in post-secondary teaching.

The whole 90 minute session is now available on YouTube, in 15 minute ‘chunks’, from here.

Some of you have already downloaded my slides from this session under the heading of’Designing Online Learning for the 21st Century’. If you haven’t already got the slides and would like a copy after seeing the videos, send me an e-mail.


Technology isn’t letting up. In addition to new technologies outside the LMS, such as blogs, wikis, e-portfolios, and mobile learning, now LMSs are undergoing some radical changes. What does this mean for the faculty member? In this session, we look at a few of the more significant developments, in particular how some instructors have incorporated some of these technologies, and suggest some simple steps or strategies for instructors to be innovative without getting overwhelmed by the changes in technology. Put simply, change takes courage – to step outside our comfort zones, to risk the uncertain, and to embrace the unfamiliar with our students. In this session, we will look at why change can be difficult, both individually and institutionally, with the hope that we can approach change more constructively and thoughtfully.


European report on the future of learning

Redecker, C. et al. (2011) The Future of Learning: Preparing for Change Seville Spain: Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, JRC, European Commission

What the report is about

From the preface:

To determine how education and training policy can adequately prepare learners for life in the future society, there is a need to envisage what competences will be relevant and how these will be acquired in 2020-2030. The report identifies key factors for change that emerge at the interface of the visions painted by different stakeholder groups and arranges them into a descriptive vision of the future of learning in 2020-2030. In a second step, the report discusses future solutions to pending challenges for European Education and Training systems and outlines policy options

The vision

From the executive summary:

Personalisation, collaboration and  informal learning will be at the core of learning in the future.  The increased pace of change will bring new skills and competences to the fore, in particular generic, transversal and cross-cutting skills….

With the evolution of ICT, personalised learning and individual mentoring  will become a reality and teachers/trainers will need to be trained to exploit the available resources and tools to support tailor-made learning pathways and experiences which are motivating and engaging, but also efficient, relevant and challenging…

Most importantly, traditional E&T institutions  – schools and universities, vocational and adult training providers – will need to reposition themselves in the emerging learning landscape . They will need to experiment with new formats and strategies for learning and teaching to be able to offer relevant, effective and high quality learning experiences in the future. 

Policy implications

The visions presented in this report are not necessarily new or radical….. but to reach the goals of personalised, collaborative and informalised learning, holistic changes need to be made (including, among others: curricula, pedagogies,assessment, teacher training, leadership) and mechanisms need to be put in place which make flexible and targeted lifelong learning a reality and support the recognition of informally acquired skills.

Some of the challenges the report tries to address

  • an aging labour market in Europe
  • need for a higher proportion of knowledge workers and decline in jobs requiring minimal education or training
  • high youth unemployment associated with lack of appropriate educational qualifications and lack of jobs for unskilled/trained workers
  • immigration and multiculturalism

Implications for education and training

  • technology enabled lifelong learning (from cradle to grave, any time anywhere)
  • shift of focus from institutions to individuals: Institutions will need to re-create themselves as resilient systems with flexible, open, and adaptive infrastructures, which engage all citizens and re-connect with society
  • a shift from public to private funding based on individual rather than institutional needs: the responsibility for the provision of individual education will increasingly move from the state to the individual and family groups. While state involvement in early years’ educational provision will remain central, the influence of the private sector on curriculum and policy will continue to grow.


First, this is a very important, interesting and stimulating report. It raises fundamental questions about the nature of learning and of the institutions that support learning. It warrants careful reading in full by anyone concerned about the future of learning.

As the report itself notes, ‘the visions in this report are not necessarily new’, but its recommendations are a major challenge – indeed I would say threat – for existing educational institutions, and in particular, for universities.

There are parts of this report with which I strongly agree, and other parts where I think there are some fundamental misunderstandings about the nature of learning, particularly at a post-secondary level. I agree with setting an ambitious and broad general vision for the future of learning – it’s just that I disagree with or don’t like some elements of the vision.

What I agree with in the report

I agree completely with the need to make learning more relevant, more engaging for young people, and more heavily dependent on the intelligent use of technology for teaching and learning. Lifelong learning is essential, and so is the need for major institutional change to adapt to the learning needs of the 21st century. We are heading for disaster socially and economically by failing to meet the needs of young people who are increasingly being shut out of the labour market at a time when the workforce is aging. Part of the reason for this is external: globalization, and a particularly short-sighted and uncontrolled version of capitalism. But part is also due to the failure of our institutions to adapt to the changes in society, in particular the technological revolution and the changing nature of our students, and thus far too many young people drop out or underqualify because formal education is not seen as relevant or motivating.

More specifically I agree that technology offers the potential for the personalization of learning and this is highly desirable but the reality of making that happen on a mass scale is another matter. Collaborative learning is also critical for the future, but although I accept the importance of informal learning, I will argue later that it does not meet all learning needs.

What I disagree with or missed in the report

The first disagreement is with the assumption that all levels of education will require the same changes and the same vision. First we need a multiplicity of visions because predicting the future is fraught with difficulties and it would be foolish to put all our eggs in one basket. Also there is not a universal set of needs for learning for the future. There will need to be different goals and different solutions. I would prefer to have seen a document that looked at different markets or needs for education and training, that dealt with a diversity of learning needs.

The second is more an omission. The report is very weak on the infrastructure or organizational changes needed to implement the vision. For instance, take the personalization of learning and particularly the goal of individual mentoring. How would this be organized and paid for? It is one thing to set a vision; it’s quite another to find sustainable ways to pay for it. How would or should institutions respond to this? I understand that the important thing about a vision is to define it, but there also has to be some suggestions about how it could be realised.

Although I fully agree with the need to emphasise the development of ‘soft’ skills such as problem-solving, communication, critical thinking, reflection, I disagree that these are generic, transversal skills (what an ugly Europeanization of English). Problem-solving is not the same in medicine as in business, for example. Not only is the knowledge base (the information needed to solve a problem) different, but so is the method (one is science-based and deductive, the other is more intuitive and with more willingness to accept risk). These skills need to be embedded within a specific domain (although I do agree that we need more interdisciplinary studies, which is not the same as developing transversal skills).

Lastly, I do wish people would realise that there is a difference between scientific or academic knowledge and everyday knowledge. Academic learning is about generalization, abstraction, hypothesising, testing and critical thinking. It is about questioning and challenging, based on logic and evidence. I am not arguing that this is more important than everyday knowledge, but it is different and there is a strong need for academic learning, because it takes us into areas that would not imaginable otherwise. The report does not deal with this issue, assuming that all learning needs in the future will be the same.

And this brings me to my concern about an over-emphasis on informal learning. Informal learning will be increasingly important in the future, but on its own it will not meet all learning needs. Learners often need a structure and guidance, feedback and assessment, to know what standards of learning are expected, etc. This means the demand for formal learning will still be there in the future (although its provision may/should be very different). The real challenge is whether we should combine both formal and informal approaches or whether they will be more effective if kept separate. This decision has major implications for how our institutions should be organized. (It would also help if we had a less ambiguous and more detailed understanding of what we mean when we talk about formal and informal learning respectively).

Above all, this report should force our universities to think very carefully about what their core values and beliefs are, to what extent these can or should be modified to meet changing needs, but also what they should not give up or lose, because those values or principles are critical for a free, open and knowledge-based society based on reason and evidence.


Despite these criticisms, this is an excellent report. It should stimulate a really useful debate about the future of learning, and how educational institutions need to change, or whether new models of organization that may not be institutionalized will need to be developed. Although it is set in a European context, the issues it raises are common across developed countries and also relevant for developing countries. I just wish it had come up with some concrete proposals or models for how these forms of learning that they are proposing would be established and sustained.


For those of you with a LinkedIn account there is a discussion of this report at: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Future-Learning-3960155.S.78957225?view=&gid=3960155&type=member&item=78957225&trk=eml-anet_dig-b_nd-pst_ttle-cn




#Change11: Welcome to week 6: Managing Technology to Transform Teaching

© Tony Bates, 2011 - Creative Commons license


Welcome to week 6 of this Massive Open Online Course organized by George Siemens, Stephen Downes and Dave Cormier.

If you want to participate but haven’t registered with #Change11, please do so now by clicking here. It’s free!

This week’s topic

This week’s topic is Managing technology to transform teaching and looks at how university and college management can bring about changes to transform the institution. A key theme of the discussions will be: Can change come from within, or do we need to re-invent new forms of higher education that are de-institutionalized?

Why this topic?

New technologies will transform and are transforming post-secondary education in many different ways. Some argue that they will lead to the dismantling of universities and colleges as we know them.

However, it is my view that universities and colleges will be with us for some time into the future. There is always likely to be a need for guidance, structure and assessment of learning, and many learners will look to established institutions for such support, and for ways to validate what they have learned.

At the same time, it is also my view that universities and colleges need to change dramatically if they are to meet the future needs of learners, and in particular if they are to fully reap the benefits of technology for teaching and learning.

The issue

The issue then becomes: what changes are needed and why? And how best can these changes be facilitated and by whom? This is the topic I wish to facilitate in this MOOC.

Many university and college leaders recognize the growing importance of learning technologies, yet institutions are still extremely conservative in their actual use. Although there is a great deal of small scale innovation taking place, the basic structure of teaching, based on full-time campus attendance and face-to-face classroom teaching, is still the predominant paradigm. Online distance education is growing but still constitutes less than 15% of all enrollments in North America. In any case, the future is not likely to be sharply divided into classroom and distance education, but will combine a rich mixture of digital and face-to-face learning.

If institutional leaders – and many faculty – see the need for change, why is it so slow in coming? What could be done to speed up the changes? What strategies and actions could be taken to support innovation in teaching, better use of technology, and better learning at the same or lower cost? These are some of the topics I would like to discuss during this week of the MOOC. I’m very much looking forwarding to participating in this MOOC with you all.

How will this week of the MOOC work?

I plan to do this by drawing on a recent book I have co-authored with Albert Sangra, of the Open University of Catalonia, Spain. It is based on the strategic plans for technology for 36 universities around the world, and on 11 more in-depth case studies. By comparing the strategies used by institutions for supporting the use of technology for teaching and learning with the extent of technology use for teaching within these institutions, we were able to identify best practices leading to technology integration in teaching and learning. I will use this to provide some content to discuss in this MOOC, but I also am looking to participants to add their knowledge and ideas. The goal is to suggest ways to speed up the transformation of the post-secondary institution to a more modern, more effective, digitally-based organization that will better meet the needs of 21st century learners.

The structure of this week will be as follows:

1. A 60 minute webinarwhich lays out the main findings from the book. An audio recording of the webinar on Sunday is now available: MP3 Audio recording

When: Sunday, October 16. This webinar will be at 12.00 noon PST, 3.00 pm Eastern standard time, 8.00 pm GMT.

For copies of the slides in pdf format, click here

2. Posts on this web site (look for #Change 11 in the title of the post, in the RSS feed). Please use the comment box for discussion or questions about the postings.

3. Follow-up activities using the book web site: http://batesandsangra.ca, which includes extracts from the book, scenarios, and discussion topics.

4. Asynchronous online discussion, using the forums in the batesandsangra web site.

5. A wrap-up posting on Sunday, 23 October, at this web site.

Do I need to buy the book?

 You do not need to buy the book to participate in this MOOC session, but it would obviously help. Jossey-Bass, the publisher, sells it as an e-book at US$37 a copy and  Amazon will deliver a hardback copy at around C$40 within two or three days.

Suggestions for reading

Bates, A. and Sangrà, A. (2011) Managing Technology in Higher Education: Strategies for Transforming Teaching and Learning San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/John Wiley & Co.

There aren’t many other books that deal with this topic. The nearest/most convenient and also most relevant is:

Davidson, C and Goldberg, D. (2010) The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age Chicago: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (freely downloadable)

In particular, read Chapter 5: Institutions as Mobilizing Networks. For lots of reasons why change in universities is difficult, see Chapter 4: FLIDA 101: A Pedagogical Allegory. See also my review of this book.

Katz, R. et al. (2008) The Tower and the Cloud: Higher Education in the Age of Cloud Computing Boulder CO: EDUCAUSE – again, available for free downloading. This book deals with some of the technical issues around technology management in the age of cloud computing.

A good book that lays out why universities and colleges need to change their approach to teaching (even though its focus is mainly on the k-12 system) is:

Gilbert, J. (2005) Catching the Knowledge Wave: the Knowledge Society and the Future of Education Wellington, NZ: New Zealand Council for Educational Research

Ehlers, U-D. and Schneckenberg, D. (eds. ) (2010) Changing Cultures in Higher Education: Moving Ahead to Future LearningHeidelberg/London/New York: Springer, 610 pp, US$129.00. Note the price. If your library has a copy though it is well worth reading.

Next steps

These are just suggestions. There’s a lot of material here already but here’s a suggested ‘action plan’ for you:

1.Participate in the webinar on Sunday if you can.

2. In any case, download the slides from the webinar.

3. Post any comments or questions you have on the webinar or slides as comments to this post or one of the others on this site with the #Change 11 tag.

3. Go to batesandsangra.ca and browse through the site. Read in particular the executive summary and go to the list of contents and click on each chapter to get a summary.

4. Also read some of the scenarios.

5. Go to the forums on batesandsangra.ca and pick a topic. If a topic is heavy with contributions, go to another – there’s lots of discussion questions.

6. Look out for further posts on this site during the week and use the comment box to respond.

The next post will follow on from the webinar. I look forward to your comments, both on this web site and at http://batesandsangra.ca.

Have fun and I’m really looking forward to discussing this issue with you all.

Later posts and comments

To follow up on later posts and comments from participants on this topic, go to:

#Change 11: Week 6 Managing Technology: the discussion so far


#Change 11: Week 6: Managing Technology: final thoughts and closing



MOOC: #Change 11- Change: Education, Learning and Technology

George Siemens, Stephen Downes and Dave Cormier have been running this Massive Open Online Course now for five weeks. A MOOC is being facilitated by an ‘innovative thinker, researcher, and scholar’, over 30 in all from 11 different countries. The draft schedule is available here. (This week David Wiley is leading discussion on the history and future directions of open education.)

For those of you unfamiliar with a MOOC, Wikipedia gives a concise description:

A Massive open online course (MOOC) is a course where the participants are distributed and course materials also are dispersed across the web. This is possible only if the course is open, and works significantly better if the course is large. The course is not a gathering, but rather a way of connecting distributed instructors and learners across a common topic or field of discourse. …..Typically, participation in a MOOC is free…. Although the courses generally do not have specific requirements all MOOCs provide rough timelines in the form of weekly topics to focus discussion. The rest of the structure can be minimal – often consisting of a weekly presentation on the current topic, discussion questions, and suggested resources. In recognition that those attending a MOOC are expected to make the course their own, guidance tends to focus on allowing curriculum and structure to emerge from the exchange between participants. Posting in discussions, reflecting on topical ideas, and sharing resources using a variety of social media are at the core of the MOOC learning process.

It’s my week starting on Monday, although I plan to do a webinar at 3.00 pm EST, 8.00 pm GMT, on Sunday (16 October) as I’m travelling on the Monday. Details of how to connect to the webinar will be posted here shortly when I have the information.

The topic is: Managing technology to transform teaching and looks at how university and college management can bring about changes to transform the institution. A key theme of the discussions will be: Can change come from within, or do we need to re-invent new forms of higher education that are de-institutionalized?

I will be using this web site for posts on this topic, and also the web site for the book ‘Managing Technology in Higher Education’ at http://batesandsangra for additional learning materials and a large number of discussion forums, so the MOOC will be the main topic for this site until October 23, although there will be some other posts as well.

If you wish to follow this MOOC and are not registered yet, its free, but please register here.

More details are coming in another post, but in the meantime I cordially invite all of you to join me in this interesting experiment.

Ten recommendations for using technology to save time and money

Ehrmann, S. (2010) Taking the Long View: ten recommendations about time, money, technology and learning Change: The Magazine of Higher Education, Vol. 42, No. 5, pp. 16-22

Steve Ehrmann has a long experience with working with educational technologies, both as a consultant and as a senior executive in higher education institutions (he is currently with Drexel University). In this article, he focuses particularly on long-term change (‘to really hold, any change initiative needs to be sustained for perhaps a decade‘) and the implementation of low-threshold technologies, with a focus on technology, time-saving and transformation.