Friday, April 26, 2019

[Un]intended consequences of educational change: The need to focus on literacy development #lilac19

Pam McKinney here live blogging the final keynote from the LILAC conference featuring Professor  Alison Littlejohn, Dean of learning and teaching in the faculty of social sciences at the University of Glasgow.  Allison began by outlining the neo- liberalisation of the higher education sector, positioning students as consumers and the rise in importance of the national student survey.  Allison was involved with a project called “learning literacies in the digital age” which outlined the need for learning to focus on processes and literacies, not content. Allison discussed the power of MOOCs to disrupt education, and to give people the opportunity to learn in a different way, using digital technologies.  MOOCs are one way in which Universities can open up learning, but are used as a marketing tool and reinforce a particular view of university. Kiron is a programme of MOOCs aimed at refugees that allows them to pursue study and work  towards formal qualifications.

Wikipedia is edited by a large team of people who work for free, but very few of them are women. At Edinburgh university an edit-athon took place with the aim of increasing female involvement in Wikipedia editing. For example, the first 7 women who studied at Edinburgh university didn’t have a Wikipedia page. Supported sessions on creating and editing pages took place, with a wikimedian in residence. Allison undertook some research to understand the extent to which this process supported the development of a community of practice of Wikipedia editors, using social network analysis and interviews with participants. Theee themes emerged: firstly emerging roles in researching archives in order to find information to include on Wikipedia, and this shared goal helped build a community of researchers. Secondly, an awareness of the responsibility to present accurate information, and how difficult it is to translate archival information into the digital realm, and how their own lives connected with the lives of the 7 women. Thirdly, excitement and anxiety around increasing female involvement in Wikipedia editing, balancing fears they had of trolling with desire to be part of a big agenda. As a result of this project the participants created more pages that covered female figures from history, and there was a realisation that when learning becomes personal it triggers forms of agency.

Allison presented a study where she compared learners activities in two different MOOCs, the first was an introduction to data science from university of Washington, where students who identified a low self regulated were motivated to complete the course to gain a certificate and tended to complete the whole MOOC, whereas people who had a high degree of self regulation were more likely to link learning goals to their work, and were very strategic about how they engaged with the MOOC. The second MOOC was a public health MOOC based at Harvard, where both students with high a low levels of self regulation were motivated to gain a certificate. The research identified various factors that could affect learning in a MOOC, for example self-efficacy and motivation. An online tool has been developed to help learners reflect on their learning, with the aim of supporting learners to become more self regulated learners.

Allison discussed the global challenge of anti-microbial resistance and the need for good data, and the staff processes, knowledge and skills that support this. For example staff need up to date information about microbiology,  and they need support to develop suitable lab processes.

Allison finished by identifying that literacy learning is a vital aspect of innovation, but has to support social mobility over profitability. Authentic learning activities motivate learners, and context is important to ensure literacy is learned as an embedded practice.

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