Thursday, September 6, 2012

1st UNISA International Open Distance Learning Pre-Conference Workshops

Workshop 1
On the first day, two parallel sets of pre-Conference workshops were held in Johannesburg and Pretoria. The first workshop was held in the UNISA Senate Hall on Tuesday, 4th September, 2012 was on 'Academics Online Presence: Assesing & Shaping Your Visibility' by Laura Czerniewicz, who has worked in the field of educational technology at the University of Cape Town for over ten years. She is currently the Director of OpenUCT Initiative committed to sharing scholarly knowledge resources to all with Internet connectivity.

Professor Czerniewicz began her presentation by a quotation that on "the Internet, nobody knows you are a dog" (Peter Steiner, 1993). She then dicussed the concepts of digital footprint and digital shadow where digital footprint was the content a user created while digital shadow was content created about the user. Professor Czerniewicz then noted that in some cases users did not know much digital shadows they had on the Internet and was this could have a negative impact on their professional careers. She also discussed the building blocks of the networked scholar.  Professor Czerniewicz called for the opening up of scholarship through sharing knowledge and publishing in open access journals, using social networks such as Twitter and writing blogs. She also recommended that academics maximise the visibility of their work through use of tools such as Google Scholar, Wikipedia (normally listed first in many Google searches), Linkedin and

My reflection on this workshop is that as a user of the Internet and creator of knowledge, I needed to take responsibility on having a meaningful online visibility that created value for knowledge users.

Workshop 2
The second workshop was on 'Designing a Roadmap for OER Implementation and Sustainable Development' by Dr. Andreia Inamorato, an International Consultant in Education and Technology-enhanced Learning and a Researcher in Open Educational Resources (OERs). She was currently working as a Research Consultant for the European-funded OER project OportUnidad in Brazil.

Dr. Inamorato defined OER as:  (UNESCO and  COL). She then went on to look at the motivations for people to study using ODL. Dr Inamorato then spoke of the 4 Rs of OER as being reuse, revise, remix and redistribute. She then discussed the business models of OER as being contribution model, institutional, sponsorship, and Government model. An example of TEMOA and Leeds Metropolitan as OER portals were given. Other examples were Open Learn, teca and Connections:

My reflection on this workshop is that OER implementation requires careful planning if it is to be useful to educators and learners. This requires the engagement of all stakeholders in ODL planning and implementation.

Workshop 3
The third workshop was on 'Designing, developing, and running (massive) open online courses (MOOC) by Dr. George Siemens. George Siemens is a writer, theorist, speaker and researcher on learning, networks, technology, analytics and visualisation, and openness in education. He is the Associate Director of the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca University and leads the learning analytics research team.

Dr Siemens started by defining MOOC: Massive Open Online Courses and their potential for very large growth. He then gave a history of massive open learning. Dr Siemens noted there were free open courses search as Coursera and Udacity which offered far better learning content than what some universities and institutions were able to offer with their limited budgets. This provided an opportunity to teach globally and accredit locally. Dr Siemens noted that the technology for MOOCs was still underdeveloped. He then provided 9 steps for running a MOOC. These steps included:
1. Topic & Audience
2. Find someone to teach with
3. Determine content
4. Plan spaces
5. Plan interactions
6. Plan your continued presence
7. Learner creations and activities
8. Get the word out: promotion and sharing
9. Set your expectations        

My reflection on this workshop was that massive open online courses had a role to play in teaching and learning. But they required adequate planning in order for them to be effective and relevant to learners.

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