CETIS visits China for conferences and seminars


xuzhou-conference2Two weeks ago, I joined my colleagues, Oleg Liber, Director of JISC CETIS and Sarah Holyfield, Communications Director of JISC CETIS to present at the 8th International Educational Technology Forum in Xuzhou, JiangSu province, China. The conference is organised by the National Colleges and Universities of Educational Technology Direction Committeoleg2e and it provides a platform for experts and scholars in China and abroad to discuss the latest issues on the use of technology in education, and to learn from practice, exchange ideas and share mutual interests. About 500 experts, researchers, teachers and students frome China, UK, US and Japan attended the conference. Professor Liber was invited to give a keynote lecture on “Cybernetics and Education: Insights from the Viable System Model” with a focus on Cybernetic Modelling as an approach to designing educational technology intervention. I gave a presentation on Open Educational Resources initiatives and the UK JISC-funded OER Programme at the conference.

I also attended the Chinese Government Funded Educational Technology Programmes & Innovative Use of Technology in Education conference which higher-education-press1was organised by the Higher Education Press in Beijing on 24th August. The speakers from different Chinese universities reported findings from their projects and research on use of technology to enhance teaching and learning. I was invited to give a presentation on the UK OER Programme and Innovation in HE and this provided an opportunity to discuss some mutually interesting issues with Chinese colleagues, such as copyright, interoperability and standards, etc. Not surprisingly, some other presentations at the conference also looked into models for sharing educational resources and the various barriers that prevent sharing and using teaching and learning resources, etc.

After the conference, we visited East China Normal University, Shaanxi Normal University and Beijing Normal University, all of these asarah1re universities which specialise in teacher training, and we ran seminars with staff and students from the Institute of Educational Technology in each of them. In these seminars, Sarah gave an overview of JISC and CETIS’s missions and aims, along with their programmes and activities to the audience of Chinese colleagues and students. Oleg talked about the major projects and development work that CETIS and the Institute for Educational Cybernetics (IEC) are working on, and the Inter-disciplinary, Inquiry–based learning programme (IDIBL)based at the IEC at Bolton; I tbeijing-discussion-21hen followed up with an input about the UK JISC-funded OER programme and the main challenges this is addressing. These seminars also initiated very interesting discussions with Chinese colleagues and students on various topics, and there is clearly a great deal of interest among colleagues in China in the whole question of Open Educational Resources and what these imply.

It was very impressive to learn that universities in China have developed a comprehensive degree system for teaching, learning and research on education technology in order to service the needs of using technology to extend access to education and improve the quality of teaching and learning in China. In the field, there are 224 universities with bachelor degree programmes, 83 universities offer master level programmes and 8 universities are qualified for PhD programme, whilst 6 universities provide research fellowships. It is clear that the rapid development of education technology as a subject in Chinese universities also poses big challenges on curriculum design and student recruitment. For example, how to keep up with changing technology; how to meet students’ expectations and the needs of the job market in the field.

During the visit, we discussed a wide range of issues with the Chinese colleagues, learnt from different perspectives, shared mutual research interests, and explored opportunities for developing collaborative research projects and partnerships. Sarah and I will write more about our visit to China and what we have learned.

powerpoint1Finally and most interestingly, we found a street storyteller using an old fashion technology –“Magic Lantern” to present Chinese history stories which attracted many people (different age, gender and culture) who came to visit the modern Shanghai.

OER symposium at ALT-C

Amber Thomas, David Kernohan, Mark Stiles, Tom Franklin, Chris Pegler, Liam Earney and I will present a symposium, entitled “OERs matters – vision, reality and uncertainty” at ALT-C on 8th September. In this symposium, we would like to explore a number of key issues related to the rapid development of OER initiatives, including whether:

  • only prestigious institutions can make a business case for large scale OER initiatives?
  • the learner can gain rich learning experiences as much in OERs as they would in more traditional settings?
  • publicly-funded OER repositories are still needed even if everything is available on Youtube/slideshare/Flickr etc?

The symposium will be chaired by Oleg Liber, Director of JISC CETIS. A debate about the pros and cons of OERs will involve the following prestigious panel:

  • Pollyanna Pegler, Academic, who is so keen on learning objects and sharing reusable online materials that she is writing her PhD on this subject. Because she is completely comfortable finding, adapting and reusing online materials Pollyanna struggles to understand the reservations of colleagues who prefer to stick with what they know.
  • Professor Ogden Wisden, Academic. As for the idea of Open Educational Resources, he has been laughing at the concept for around 15 years, watching the promoters of self-publication change the name and publish their half-baked concepts unsuited to proper teaching.
  • Quentinna Yan, Teacher, a self-motivated, keen learner, she is loyal user of MIT and OpenLearn and has studied a number of courses provided by those universities without any fee. She enjoys teaching herself everything she needs to know by using OERs and doing her learning when and where she wants.
  • Professor Will Pileham-Highe PVC. He is sceptical that a move into OER would offer a realistic return on investment in his university. He is very concerned about recruitment and retention and is unsure of how OER might help him achieve his goals.
  • Joe Zawinul, Government. His responsibilities cover the use of technology to save universities time and money, and he believes that sharing academic materials online would make it cheaper and provide better results than traditional lectures and tutorials.
  • A representative of a commercial publisher, who is under the pressure of meeting sales targets, re-aligning business models, negotiating rights frameworks and developing innovative online services for the digital age. For him, OER might be great, if you can find a way to play the game without losing money.

We would like to invite you to join the symposium and participate in the discussion to share your thoughts and ideas. We hope that the debate will help to clarify some of the most common concerns on OER initiatives. We will also challenge the participants to think more deeply about the impacts of OERs in HE, as well as further explore and discuss these issues in the OER pilot programme.