Paul Stacey

In For Questioning

cc licensed (BY NC SA) flickr photo shared by Pyriet

Do you think online learning is isolating, impersonal and devoid of social contact? Have you ever used Skype, WebEx, Blackboard Collaborate, or Facebook? Do you know what an Internet discussion forum is? Have you ever been moved to tears or laughed out loud by something on the Internet? Have you ever taken online learning?

Is Abject Learning really abject? Which of the following three Canadians do you think has contributed the most to e-learning – Murray Goldberg, Tony Bates, Stephen Downes? If you could spend time with one of these three which would you choose? Do you think OLDaily is a platform for Stephen Downes’ personal views or a research program of the National Research Council’s Institute for Information Technology? If health and education together represent approximately 60-70% of all provincial budget expenditures (Ontario, BC, …) why is there so much research funding available for health and virtually none for education?

Isn’t there a tremendous potential for Canada to develop and roll-out online learning for the trades at a national level? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if that development led to Open Educational Resources for the trades? In Canada, where education is a provincial mandate not a federal one, is it possible the provinces could collaborate on such an endeavour? At what point will we switch to thinking about education globally not regionally?

Is it OK with you that faculty are not required to know anything about teaching? Do you think the government and institutions are meeting their responsibilities to the public by not requiring faculty to know how to teach? Do you think that the teaching practices associated with online learning are the same as the teaching practices used in the classroom? Are you fearful that online learning will eliminate the need for faculty? If I said to you that a faculty member can be replaced by a pre-recorded lecture streaming from a server, would you believe me? Or would you find such an idea laughable? Is a lecture an effective means of providing education? Do you think of lecture capture as an innovation? Or is that laughable too? Do students like having lectures available online? How would you teach online?

Do you know the difference between synchronous and asynchronous? Do you get all atwitter over Tweets? If you had to choose between using a blog or a wiki for online learning which would you choose, and why? If I said to you the first online course I ever took was on Enjoying Wine would you believe me? Can you imagine how such an online course would structure activities to engage students’ sense of smell and taste? Have you ever enjoyed champagne with popcorn on a hot summers day?

cc licensed (BY SA) flickr photo shared by Stéfan

Do you think online learning is an effective alternative to campus based learning? If not, why not? Are you aware of quality assurance practices for online learning? Isn’t it odd that online learning is subject to quality assurance but on campus learning is not?

Should online learning cost the same as campus based learning? Should tuition for an online course be the same as for an on campus course? If you had to choose between investing public funds in creating more on campus buildings or supporting the build out and provision of online learning infrastructure which would you choose? Are you interested in online learning for cost savings reasons? Cost savings for whom? With more and more campus based courses putting technology in the classroom and using Learning Management Systems to house course content is that saving money or adding more cost? Does anyone really know what the ROI of online learning is? Or even how to find out? Do you think it’s OK that Canada’s students are carrying so much debt on graduation?

When we’re transitioning campus based courses online should the learning outcomes be the same? Should we be considering the possibility of having special learning outcomes related to the online learning experience – say outcomes related to technology literacy and digital communications? Is it possible to do things through online learning that just aren’t possible on campus?

Do you believe that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone? How important is peer-to-peer based online learning? Are the experiences, knowledge, and skills students bring equally important as that of the teacher? Should students teach each other? Can online learning be personalized to provide multiple paths and options so students only have to study stuff they don’t know? Would you take a course from P2PU?

cc licensed (BY NC SA) flickr photo “David Lynch Interrogation Chair” shared by Homies in Heaven

Do you think traditional campus-based universities and colleges are doomed? What do you want universities and colleges of the future to look like? Should contemporary education focus on serving traditional geographic catchment areas or go global? How will institutional collaborations and partnerships shape and create a connected world? Would you like to participate in virtual classrooms that include students from around the world sharing perspectives from their country and culture? Do you agree with Lawrence Lessig that the education academy has an “ethical obligation at the core of its mission which is universal access to knowledge in every part of the globe“? Are you in favour of DIYU? What about OERu?

Can science be taught online? What about the labs? Would you hire someone to work as a scientist in a lab if their only exposure to the laboratory environment was through virtual means? Is most professional science work mediated by technology making use of computer-based instrumentation mainstream? Do you consider unmanned deep sea submarine experiments or Mars rover experiments “real science”? Are you comfortable with doctors using robots to do surgery from thousands of miles away?

Can art be taught online? What about the studio portion? Do you think visual artists must learn how to use a physical brush or are you OK with them learning to use the digital brushes available in Photoshop and Illustrator?

If collaborations and partnerships are the future of education why does government funding for education reward autonomy and competition? Is education a commodity? Or is education a public service? Should education be about economic development and acquiring skills for the work place or development of socially aware and responsible citizens? Can online learning support societal goals such as access to education, cultural diversity, and social inclusion?

How do education and learning theories like behaviourism, cognitivism, and constructivism work in an online learning context? Is connectivism the first new education theory for the digital age? Should online learning instructional designers foliow the ADDIE model or do we need to invent a new model that involves a more iterative, on-the-fly approach? Do we need new pedagogical models for online learning that differentiate the way different fields of study are taught online? Would pedagogical approaches for teaching business online be equally as effective for teaching nursing?

Are you aware that in the US states providing online learning to students not resident in that state require authorization from the state where the student resides? Can you imagine applying that principle more globally? Do you think thats bizarre in today’s borderless digital world? Can’t a student choose for themselves where they get their education from?

Are you in favour of a monolithic fully integrated online learning technology platform as is being assembled by Blackboard through acquisition of WebCT, Angel, Elluminate and Wimba? Or do you prefer a more flexible loosely coupled systems approach? Does Providence Equity Partner’s purchase of Blackboard for $1.64 billion make sense to you? On the Student Information Services (SIS) side is SunGard Higher Education Systems purchase by Hellman and Friedman LLC, a private equity company that already owns Datatel Inc good news for online learners? Will Hellman and Friedman (SIS) and Providence Equity (LMS) play together to create a unified edtech campus?

Is it possible for people to be addicted to their digital devices? Or is that as ridiculous as saying people who are overweight are addicted to knives, forks, and spoons?

If online learning is growing so fast and becoming increasingly core to both on campus and online education offerings why do so few institutions have an educational technology and online learning strategic plan?

Do you want to ask me a question? Do you think these questions make a profile of me? Are you curious how I’ll use your answers?

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This post is inspired by Padgett Powell’s novel “The Interrogative Mood” in which every sentence is a question.

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Are you serious, Paul? How would you feel if I provided answers to all these questions? Would anyone agree with my answers? If enough people did agree with them, would anything change? And in any case, what’s YOUR opinion on all these questions? And most of all, why are you asking ME?

Comment by Tony Bates


Thanks for commenting in the same format as In For Questioning. It’s kind of fun isn’t it? :)

I initially drafted a reply as follows:

Did you find this post unserious? Does how I feel matter? If I agreed with your answers have we doubled the possibility of change? If enough people agreed with your answers would a network effect for change not be created? Could we arrange a meeting at the Bacchus for martinis where I’d share my opinions on all these questions? Aren’t you the guy with all the answers?

But my wife says after a while this question format gets a bit aggravating. Expect continuing with more and more questions pushes it a bit far, although my post doesn’t even come close to how far Powell pushes it with his book.

I do seriously question things. This post captures a lot of questions that I have about online learning. Over the past few months I’ve also been writing down questions I hear others asking, including you, so this post is a bit of a collage of questions across the entire online learning landscape.

As you know from research, there is an art to formulating the right question to start with. Sometimes I find that the right question stimulates a response that does make change. I know you have answers to many of these questions, and so do I, but I thought it might be interesting to do a post entirely as questions in the hope that some questions, or even one, would be a spark that leads to action.

I’m also hoping to stimulate (provoke?) others into sharing their questions so that collectively we might define what needs to be done to advance online learning. What do you think?


Comment by godsvilla

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Pingback by In For Questioning « Learning Change

Will you ever post the answers? I would like to know your opinion about online learning.


Comment by Natasha

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