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In many countries, the increasing costs associated with higher education combined with reduced funding for public education during a period of fiscal restraint threatens the sustainability of current models of provision. Glenn Harlan Reynolds (2012) warns of a “Higher Education Bubble” in the United States. Sebastian Thrun, founder of Udacity.com, a for-profit platform for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), predicts that there will be only 10 institutions delivering higher education in 50 years (Steven Leckart, 2012). In contrast to these doomsday scenarios, Audrey Watters (2013) and others counter that professors and the institutions that employ them are not necessarily resistant to change, and that we should not “hack education” in a way that dismantles public institutions and threatens local economies, the community, social justice, and the public good.
In this presentation, I briefly trace the development of MOOCs and I discuss the differences between the high profile platforms that rely on lecture videos and machine marking (xMOOCs) and earlier experiments that follow what George Siemens refers to as a “Connectivist” approach (2005), which encourages participants to build their own personal learning network (cMOOCs). Using a case study method, I discuss three types of Design courses that leverage open strategies and serve as exemplars of “digital scholarship” (Martin Weller, 2011). The first, #Phonar (Photography and Narrative), is a Coventry University course that uses blogging and social media to connect place-based students to online participants. The second, ds106 (Digital Storytelling), is an online-only course offered by the University of Mary Washington that requires students to interact with one another and with the wider world through blogs, social media and an Internet radio station. The third, DOCC2013: Dialogues on Feminism and Technology, is a Distributed Open Collaborative Course that was offered for the first time in the fall of 2013 by fifteen universities in the United States and Canada, with academics working collaboratively across institutions.
I argue that by encouraging a paradigm shift in education from Push (broadcast) to Pull (accessing an archive) to Co-create (collaborative production) Design education can provide positive examples of how we can do more, and reach more, sustainably. Blurring the boundaries between teacher and student, online and offline, and formal and informal, education can enhance learning and extend its benefits beyond the lecture theatre and design studio. This pedagogical shift is in line with contemporary Design practice, in which collaborative and participatory processes are crucial, especially when working to solve wicked problems.