when do you give up on a course?

For discussions of the Open University's T214 Systems course.

Re: when do you give up on a course?

Postby Neill on Thu Oct 14, 2010 1:39 pm

People who want to work away from their main computer but who haven't high tech gadgets might have to print off version after version of the course notes from the wiki...

which was why I suggested that there is a big sign before you even join up saying "ONLY with INTERNET access"
And was also my reason for suggesting the possibility of downloading pages to work on offline.

But I have to realize that I am at the extreme opposite end of the scale to you with your "love the whole 'pencil and notebook/back of envelope' thing"
I am a totally Internet person. In the last 4 years of OU I have not opened any book that they have sent me. I have written telling them to stop wasting their money but they say they can't. I have done everything on line except take notes at tutorials and at interviews - which I normally copy to my PC and then in to an Internet backup.
I have a PC on my desk here and at work, a netbook to carry round and a Blackberry for "in between". They all synchronize to each other so that I don't lose control.

Accepting all the above, I am not the ideal person to comment on whether a new course should be Internet based :-)

Neill
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Re: when do you give up on a course?

Postby Andrea on Fri Oct 15, 2010 4:09 pm

Neill wrote:..... whether a new course should be Internet based


The truth is that nearly all the OU courses that I am familiar with which are currently in production have ditched the traditional textbased approach and many of them are almost entirely online. The shift is partially due to economics (it's much cheaper to produce, update and deliver something online than in text). The money saved can then be reemployed in cheaper courses rather than transforming trees into paper :-). What the OU is doing is externalising some of the costs (now students have to pay for having a computer and associated software, the electricity for running it, the online connection fees, the printing costs etc). But if you look at the real term costs of paying for a course, these costs have gone down over the years, whereas the costs of going to a conventional university have gone up! So the lower fees more than offset the externalised costs that students have to take on. The problem is that a few students aren't very good with managing their personal finances and prioritising education over other things ....

But the shift towards online learning has also a lot to do with moving away from the idea that "learning = reading" towards "learning = doing". So, online based learning would give people the opportunity to do much more than just read text: discuss; edit wikis; role-play; engage in interactive activities, etc etc.

I just think that people need to face up to the reality of living in the 21st century where ICTs are an integral part of our lives.

Of course, you can have crap online learning experiences and great online learning experiences. Material that constantly changed as you engage with it would be a nightmare, unless that is, it was part of a short-term collaborative group activity. I think it would be stupid to constantly edit a core course wiki, but I can see how, for example, it would be immensely useful to copy an answer to a query within a discussion forum into a separate wiki page (linked to an associated activity/resource) so that students that are a bit behind in their studies don't have to trawl through all the forum postings for help/clarification.
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Re: when do you give up on a course?

Postby jamesWtc on Fri Oct 15, 2010 4:55 pm

Andrea wrote: But the shift towards online learning has also a lot to do with moving away from the idea that "learning = reading" towards "learning = doing". So, online based learning would give people the opportunity to do much more than just read text: discuss; edit wikis; role-play; engage in interactive activities, etc etc.

I just think that people need to face up to the reality of living in the 21st century where ICTs are an integral part of our lives.

Of course, you can have crap online learning experiences and great online learning experiences. Material that constantly changed as you engage with it would be a nightmare, unless that is, it was part of a short-term collaborative group activity. I think it would be stupid to constantly edit a core course wiki, but I can see how, for example, it would be immensely useful to copy an answer to a query within a discussion forum into a separate wiki page (linked to an associated activity/resource) so that students that are a bit behind in their studies don't have to trawl through all the forum postings for help/clarification.


I DO NOT favour 100% online study. The fact that the OU is a distance learning provider does not mean we should do everything online. Environmental concern apart, moving everything online does not justify better learning, if we are not ready for that kind of learning. I still find reading from book/paper is more beneficial and efficient and it allows a deeper level of thinking (not to mention the health & mental effect from long hours of interacting with inanimate computer). Maybe that is the future trend, but I don't think we are at the verge of that evolution yet, at least not for me. ICT is powerful tool it collapses time and space, but it should not overtake our real-life (in a sense, online communication is just unreal and does not reflect real life at all - taking computer away, we might be a different person). Some costs is still worth investing.

Materials do change quickly, but ideas do not. Important concepts should be taught and delivered through paper. This step, at least I can think and ponder over the idea in conventional way. I notice that I don't usually think throughly when interacting in online platform. We shall ask ourselves that if we focus too much on online activities, we do we really gained? Does the concepts, theories and experiences truly understood and ingrained in our mind? I remember reading a quote somewhere saying something like: learning without thinking is fruitless; thinking without learning is dangerous. We should ask under what condition that we can both think and learn optimally. What are we learning if we don't think? A good thinker can learn how to e-learn, not vice versa.

:)
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Re: when do you give up on a course?

Postby Teiana on Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:16 pm

we moved house this year, not far, but the old place had reasonable internet access, some things were slow, like trying to use second life, but most things were do-able (eg trying to watch a video). Where we are now, it is very slow, and it's almost impossible to watch video or do anything like that. It's all very well sticking everything online but not everyone has the same experience when they are logged in to the internet. If pages load fast and easy and things like whiteboards and stuff are easy to use, it's all great fun. But it's horrible when it's all just slow and depressing. When we nationally have a situation where everyone's got fast broadband access at least 12 hours a day, then perhaps it will be ok, but right now there's still a huge variety of online experiences.
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Re: when do you give up on a course?

Postby Neill on Fri Oct 15, 2010 8:10 pm

james wrote:
Important concepts should be taught and delivered through paper

and
t least I can think and ponder over the idea in conventional way

which I take to be your opinion. As I wrote, I never opened any of the paper. I think a choice is perfect but I also think that a Wiki based course is not going to work on paper.

Teiana wrote
When we nationally have a situation where everyone's got fast broadband access at least 12 hours a day

which I hope will not be too far away. Technically it is possible.
I am connected to the end of a radio link and have a 20000 download speed and this is a system that can be deployed anywhere.
We have communities connected with 250 people/km2 and I am sure that 25 is possible.

Neill
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Re: when do you give up on a course?

Postby Teiana on Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:52 pm

just speed tested my internet and i have a .24Mb download speed. What's 20000? is that 20 Mb? or 20Kb? Either way i don't know how internet works - they claim some numbers when they try and sell you stuff but the numbers never match up to what happens.
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Re: when do you give up on a course?

Postby Andrea on Mon Oct 18, 2010 11:01 am

I was thinking over the weekend that one can draw similarities between the transition from text to online learning with the convulsions the Church of England is currently going through in accepting female/gay clergy. There are whole factions who are used to tradition. Unfortunately, what does factions don't see is that the whole world has changed around them, and if they don't change, what you will be left with is an increasingly isolated group without the capacity to engage with the world out there.

It seems strange to me that most of the private and public sector is turning to ICTs in order to progress with their tasks, and yet, people want to still learn from books? I'm not saying that one doesn't learn anything from reading books, but are the skills that you are learning through reading books what you will need when engaging with real-world tasks?

My disillusionment with learning from text arises from very direct experiences. I have read thousands of books -- many of which I have found extremely interesting. But I have struggled to put the ideas that I have read into practice -- not because I wasn't inspired, but because I needed to experience these ideas in action.

I do sometimes wonder whether OU academics are teachers or just glorified storytellers -- able to tell an enthralling yarn which captivates you. Students in turn think they have learned something, but the real learning occurs when things are put into practice. Many people are lucky enough to be able to apply things in their work/day-to-day lives, but for those not so lucky, I'd prefer to create learning experiences that simulate that practice-based reality. Just reading text won't do that for me.
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Re: when do you give up on a course?

Postby jamesWtc on Mon Oct 18, 2010 12:05 pm

I think you misunderstood my point. I am not opposing the idea of putting what we've learnt into practice and reflecting from it, that is the basic step in Kolb's learning cycle. ICT in this context is a good way to facilitate that kind of learning.

But the problem is, I am not a postgraduate student! I am still learning the basic concepts, ideas, theories and whatnots behind the proposed online activities. If I don't know anything on the subject but expected to do it, no wonder I feel lost sometimes, being told to do something I have no idea about.

And my problem here is, I just can't read everything online. I'm accustomed to paper and pen, at least that's how I was trained to read and write since I was very young age, practicing everything on paper (Yes, including memorising minimum amount of 5000 chinese characters, taking notes and connecting ideas).

Let's ponder this: Suppose that you HAVEN'T read thousands of books and you don't even have the basic knowledge of the discussion, do you think you can put them in practice easily (not necessarily through ICT)?

I believe change should be gradual, not forced. Acceptance of female/gay clergy does not happen overnight too. Maybe I can do better in future, but not now. After a long day working with computer and thousands line of computer code, I'd prefer taking my eyes off the computer for a while. Tradition is not always bad, but if the change is forced, I'd rather have no change at all. You simply just can't change the way I learn overnight. Meanwhile, we are only in transition phase.

Last note: I have studied B120, introductory business course. It comes with 5 books with all about theories/concepts. We are however required to go online to read some articles, discuss/debate in forums base on what we have learnt, and summarise our online discussion in TMAs. I think that's good blending and most people are comfortable with it.

Sorry... I'm not as smart as you all... but it is at least my preferred way of learning for now.
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Re: when do you give up on a course?

Postby Neill on Mon Oct 18, 2010 9:23 pm

James wrote
Sorry... I'm not as smart as you all...

I do not think it is about smart.
I think it is about the way you are happy working.
I would always rather have online resources and you prefer books. Doesn't mean either of us are stupid. Just different.

I did at some point mention that my vision of a 100% Wiki based course is maybe a little extreme.
It would suit me but not many others.
It would however be cheaper to produce and much easier to update. These are important considerations for administrators and course chairs and probably carry a lot of "weight".

Some one - maybe Teiana - suggeted an IPad based course.
Is this maybe a compromise we could live with.
I get my Wiki and you get your sitting in the armchair experience.
Or does it really have to be paper?

Neill
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Re: when do you give up on a course?

Postby Teiana on Mon Oct 18, 2010 10:39 pm

something in the things andrea and james have said here brings to my mind the 'argument' about theory vs practice - there are some people who think theory is the thing you do first, and once you have 'learned' it, you use 'practice' to test the theories out, and prove/disprove them... there are other people who think practice is the thing you do first, and theory is what you do afterwards, as a means of explaining your findings...

some people Like theory, they don't feel the need for 'practical' stuff. What they enjoy is to study the theories, and philosophise about them. They don't want to have to interact with the practical side of things, because that would take them away from their beautiful theories.
some people Like practice, and don't see the need for theory. What they enjoy is 'doing', and then doing something else. These people don't really want to have to write up reports etc, they want to 'see' results.

what bothers me a bit is that andrea in the past has gone on about different learning styles and i think he understands people learning in different ways, yet, when james ( clearly a theoretician) wants to 'do' theory, andrea seems to think that is 'wrong'... (ok maybe i'm polarising the argument a bit)

Surely a) we need to recognise and appreciate the variety of learning styles people have and b) there's room for everyone?

It's not wrong to want to sit and read and enjoy theories, and read books, some people spend their whole lives doing that. It's also not wrong to want to get out there and 'do' practical stuff...

You don't *have* to have 'done the theory first' to be able to get on with practical aspects.
You don't *have* to be planning to/engaging with practical aspects in order to experience/justify studying a theory.

It's fine to enjoy theory or practice, or slices of both layered up like cake, or, any percentage combination of the two.

Some people will want courses that are theory courses and i see no reason for them not to have them.

However - caveat - modern times mean that in a business sense/economically... we can store information and theories on computers, so the theoreticians in life can be less 'marketable' in some circumstances than the people who want to 'get their hands dirty'. I can fully understand an argument for providing courses that churn out Workers for jobs.. after all, many people take courses specifically to Get Jobs. So while academically we should enjoy all types of learner and styles of course, we still have to think about the business market..

you can't turn a theoretician into a practical person, and trying to do so may well just upset them or make them uncomfortable. It's not some substandard way of working to study theory, but in todays world the theoreticians can sometimes get left behind, as it's quite hard to keep moving as fast as the practical people.
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