Advanced E-Learning@Berlin

The Free University of Berlin invited an illustrious group of researchers and administrators to participate in a two-day conference on E-Learning. The videos are being made available.

The gist of the conference is: there are management freaks who are heavily into using LMS (just use one, anyone) to set up courses automatically, cram this down people's throats and call it e-learning. We are not amused. Then there are a few visionaries who have understood that collaboration and interaction are the next wave of e-learning. I want their toys, it sounds good!

I was bored during the final podium which is being held by people who were not present for the lectures before or who do not seem to really understand what was discussed previously. So started this, reporting top-down, with my favorites first, after exchanging silly emails with colleagues who were equally bored.

  1. Eric Duval from the Catholic University in Leuven in Belgium. (Man, he already has this in his blog!)
    One of the members of the podium stated that a book would always be better than e-learning (why was he up there, anyway?). In the ensuing coffee break Eric noted that a flower is much better than a book, so maybe we should all be opening up flower shops. Right on, Eric!
    His topic was: Open Matters! And people don't care about open source, they want open standards so they can do new things with old toys. And all that without having to ask permission to use the stuff. He coins the word "coopetition", cooperation and competition together. He has an open Metadata system Globe (Global Learning Objects Brokered Exchange) which looks fascinating, you can search in many repositories with a single, simple search. He is also involved with Ariadne.
    We spun this idea during the coffee breaks about how to get e-learning to your average professor of Greek. We take as a given that the university pre-populates his course for the LMS used at the school. Now we want to offer him some goodies for adding to the site. On the basis of what we know about him (never used the LMS before, teaching Greek, etc) we offer him some stuff from a repository. If he links to it, we count this as a plus, and look for more. Eric would go sofar as to data mine his email to get more clues on what the Greek professor works on. I don't know about that.
    We also spoke about privacy issues - there is a lot of personal data floating around (and being mined!) any more. Eric thinks we need some way of calling back our data, terminating the "contract" (you give me your location data all the time and I'll send your telephone calls to your mobile phone) and being able to delete those traces which become uncomfortable.
    The next biggest thing, he says, will be attention and is working up a site on Attention trust meta data.
    He also mentioned the Network of Excellence in Professional Learning, ProLearn.
  2. Reinhard Keil, University of Paderborn
    Medi@rena seems cool! He has a paper on it (the access is locked, but the paper is in Google's cache): Semantic Positioning as a Means for Visual Knowledge Structuring, Patrick Erren and Reinhard Keil. The ideas are wonderful and demonstrate how a collaboration could work virtually. His major thesis: Knowledge must be transformed, not transferred! People must work at and with knowledge, not just recieve it. This means writing, not just reading. And making semantic links, just like Vannevar Bush's Memex, outside of the the primary medium.
  3. Peter Baumgartner, now back in Austria at the Donau Uni Krems (he has a blog, too, Gedankensplitter)
    " If content is King (Duval) then context is Queen"
    Discusses a little-know book by Michael Polanyi, "Personal Knowledge" (that's the guy with the "inert knowledge" stuff the constructivists rabbit on about).
    He expressed shock at the number of people equating eLearning with LMS systems. Quotes David Wiley - "If content is all we need, libraries could do the job."
    His talk was on social software and got into some details on social bookmarking, communities of practice and participation/ePortfolios: www.web2null.de - sekretaria.de
    "We need to learn to trust our students!"
  4. Peter Schirmbacher, HU Berlin
    described the work they do using Moodle as the default LMS. They are currently running over 800 courses on Moodle, in answer to the question "But does it scale?"....
  5. Sabine Jeschke and Christian Thomsen from the TU Berlin showed a remote experiment and a virtual experiment tool. Very nice, but hey guys, my colleague Horst Schwetlick at the FHTW has been doing this in his project WebLab for years. In passing they mention Genesis, Gender sensitive Virtuelle Wissensräume. I must have a look. Can't find a web-site, but a paper: Genesis: eLearning and Diversity in Mathematics and Natural Science. Nina Dahlmann, Sabina Jeschke, Ruedi Seiler. Recent Research Developments in Learning Technologies (2005)

Other talks:
  1. Serge Goldstein from Princeton belongs to the management freaks. Princeton used Blackboard, populates the server with material for all courses, and has a Video-on-Demand server so that teachers can use films in class. They request a film in the library, the library buys the DVD and puts it on the server. The teacher can assign mark in/mark out pieces or the entire film. The films can ONLY be viewed on campus at special machines without DVD-burners for obvious copyright purposes. They have a portfolio on line with links to some interesting stuff.
  2. Rolf Schulmeister, normally a master speaker, gave a talk about e-learning in the US. Seems this is mostly used for Associalte Degrees. People save money by getting an AA or AS degree at the local (cheap) community college, then transfer to Prestigious University for the last two years. Saves 2 years of tuition (Princeton is at 40.000 $ / year by now - smelling salts!) and you still count as having your degree from PU. But he tries to turn this into a flame of the bachelor/master Bologna process and this does not work. Look, Rolf, just because this is causing the Universities headaches is no need to fret. The FHs in Germany have been doing module examinations for years, we just called it something else. And we survived. The Bachelor will be okay - especially when I see the great students we currently have!
  3. Nicolas Apostolopoulus from the FU Berlin is another management freak. The FU Berlin got a pot of money and are squandering it on management. Sigh.
  4. Manfred Gross, from the Charité in Berlin spoke about ELWIS-MED. Management freak squared, he rabbited on about balanced scorecard and such. Teaching is not the same as selling shoes!! Have I mentioned this before?
  5. Our Vice-President in charge of E-Learning, Hans-Herwig Atzorn, attempted to explain what we are doing at the FHTW Berlin. Although all the active colleagues were in the audience, he didn't ask one to even look at the slides and pick off the worst mistakes. He also didn't mention any of our exciting stuff. The next speaker noted dryly that we seem to be concentrating on only doing things which we believe people can be forced to do, and that is mostly in the administrative area. I apologized profusely for the talk all around (I mean, we had people here who evaluate proposals, don't want them to think that at the FHTW e-learning means doing class registration online - which at times is acutally the position of the administration.....) and pointed out some of the great stuff we are doing.
  6. Peter Stucki, Uni Zürich
    How can you present a dead horse as being a prospective winner in the next derby? That's what he did, pushing the Swiss Virtual Campus and the Virtuelle Hochschule Bayern (gotta have JavaScript turned on to be let in the door....). Another management freak - counts all sorts of stuff that has nothing to do with eLearning. Well, at least our VP didn't hold the worst talk at the conference....
The podium discussion was a disaster, it would have been better to sit in the nice gardens of the Harnack House and speak with the others over another cup of coffee.


Erik said...

You can find the original entry in my blog that Debora is referring to at http://ariadne.cs.kuleuven.be/wordpress/eduval/?p=118

I'm not sure though whether these miserable man's musings deserve a place between a wise woman's words :-)

WiseWoman said...

Comments that are not blogspam are always welcome!

fichtenmoped said...

Not all people who are totally into managment are bad teachers...
As you mentioned Manfred Gross, he's acutally quite good at what he does.
Didn't consider him being an appallingly bad speaker, much in contrast to some other people there.
Have to agree that the conference was mixed, I found some parts of it really weird (84 slides in 25 minutes made me sea-sick).
Liked the part with the remote experiments from Sabina Jeschke.