Monthly Archives: August 2012

Free Online learning – is this the future for higher education?

Online learning is now available to anyone as long as you have a digital device and an internet connection. One of the latest players in the free online learning communities is Coursera. Founded by Stanford computer science professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, Coursera currently offers 120 free online courses, available to anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Coursera joins other already established online educational sites, including Khan Academy, MIT’s OpenCourseWare project and the University of California at Berkeley’s Webcasts. The difference, however, is that Coursera courses will require deadlines, evaluations, discussions and, in some cases, the student will be rewarded a certificate at the end of the course.

Students can expect to be taught online with the use of videos, quizzes and assignments, as well as allowing the opportunity to collaborate with other students and lecturers.  Online education is still quite new, so why not have a look at what courses can supplement or top up your knowledge of your discipline.

Click here to go to Coursera

Is  this the model for education of the future? What are the advantages? What are the pitfalls? I think for me its time to experience free MOOCs (Massive Open Online courses), and then maybe I can address some of my own questions.



Margaret Heffernan – Dare to Disagree

Margaret Heffernan, entrepreneur, writer, CEO of five businesses, avocates that by allowing and supporting constructive debate, where people are able to face conflict and disagree with each other, builds great business relationships, research teams and partnerships.  This innovated talk explores why the majority of us avoid conflict and choose to not rock the boat when faced with ideas or directions with which we do not agree. By thinking constructively, creatively (and divergently) when faced with conflict in our working lives, it shows that we really care about something, and that we might just possibly change our minds about something if we are able to debate the issues openly.

A 13 minute video well worth the time to review if you feel there is a person or group in your life with whom you frequently disagree, and you do not know how to manage.

Margaret Heffernan: Dare to disagree

Margaret’s motto: “Let’s not play the game, let’s change it.”



Changing Education Paradigms

This short 12 minute TED animated video narrated by Ken Robinson, creativity expert, clearly identifies the reasons why we should be thinking about changing the educational paradigm in many educational institutions today.

The currently paradigm which was designed in the past for a different time, is not meeting the needs of our students today and the need to rethink our culture, habitats, ways of  doing things for the current age to support the learners of today is imperative before we alienate our students.

A timely video that supports our current topic of producing “highly productive talent” here at UNITEC

Ken Robinson: Changing education paradigms

Connected Educator Month

The New York Times has a Teaching and Learning Network blog and you might be interested in reading Tips from 33 educators we admire which is their first post for the Connected Educator Month being celebrated this August.

The NY Times blog asked a number of educators two questions:

  1. Teaching and Learning with the New York TimesWhat is one important thing you’ve learned from someone in your Personal Learning Network (P.L.N.), however you define that network?
  2. What one person, group or organization would you recommend every educator add to his or her P.L.N.?

Of the month, the Connected Educator website says:

Online communities and learning networks are helping hundreds of thousands of educators learn, reducing isolation and providing “just in time” access to knowledge and opportunities for collaboration. However, many educators are not yet participating and others aren’t realizing the full benefits. In many cases, schools, districts, and states also are not recognizing and rewarding this essential professional learning.Connected Educators

For these reasons, the U.S. Department of Education’s Connected Educators initiative is launching Connected Educator Month in August 2012. Throughout August, there will be coordinated opportunities to participate in events and activities in dozens of online locations to develop skills and enhance one’s personal learning network.


CEM Starter Kit coverThere is even a Connected Educators Month Starter kit to help teachers get involved in the online community.

Written by The Connected Educator author Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Powerful Learning Practice in collaboration with the Connected Educators initiative, and loaded with helpful links and embedded videos, the kit takes a 31 days approach for this special month, giving you one simple way to get more connected every day.

There is an open invitation to pass the starter kit along to anyone who might benefit from being more connected.

Theories and methodologies

This week in our office we have been discussing appreciative inquiry model and connectivism. We decided that we should share so others can also have conversations about learning theories.

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative inquiry is a deliberately positive model, rather than a negative or deficiency model. When we ask “what is wrong” we are assuming a deficiency, and this model takes an alternative approach by asking “what is working?”.

The following table and list has been sourced from Wikipedia:

Problem Solving Appreciative inquiry
Felt need, identification of problem(s) Appreciating, valuing the Best of What Is
Analysis of Causes Envisioning what might be
Analysis of possible solutions Engaging in dialogue about what should be
Action Planning (treatment) Innovating, what will be
  1. DISCOVER: The identification of organizational processes that work well.
  2. DREAM: The envisioning of processes that would work well in the future.
  3. DESIGN: Planning and prioritizing processes that would work well.
  4. DESTINY (or DELIVER): The implementation (execution) of the proposed design.



When talking about the learning theory “Connectivism” the first name to come to mind is George Siemens. In this theory knowledge exists within systems and is accessed by people through participation in activities. Siemens talks about Connectivism as a “learning theory for the digital age” as technology has impacted on how people communicate and learn together. The other area to read up on is Stephen Downes’ writing on networks and nodes.

Wikipedia has the following list of principles of connectivism:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.