The opportunity to be the CORE Education Travel Scholar for 2013 has been a fantastic experience, and one that I recommend to you all. Having recently completed my Doctorate in Education I had much to share, and few to listen. The story seems true that your thesis really does only get read by yourself, your supervisors, examiners, and, if you make them, selected family members. You can prove this anecdote wrong at here if you really want.
The CORE Travel Scholarship enabled me to present the findings of my research at a prestigious distance education conference in the United States. The 29th Annual Distance Teaching and Learning Conference was held in Madison, Wisconsin, and had around 600 delegates from a wide range of American and international universities. I believe I was the only delegate from either Australia or New Zealand: I was a novelty. I was also expected to be somewhat shorter and have hairy feet.
Many of the conference topics centred around the development and proliferation of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). These online courses are beginning to transform aspects of the tertiary education sector, and are really starting to challenge the 'bricks and mortar' concept of what a university is and where you go to learn. Enrolments for these courses are also growing rapidly and spreading the net wider, both geographically and with respect to the traditional profile of a university student. The concept of a traditional university geographic territory is now challenged by MOOCs being offered worldwide.
Another area of interest for me was the development and use of Learning Analytics. As data is collected on online learners, programmes of learning are increasingly being tailored for individual need. As the detail of their learning profile becomes more comprehensive, even more targeted assistance and support is being provided. Presenting certain types of learning material, such as video or animations, higher up in search requests and prompting students of submission dates if they are frequent last-minute submitters are all being increasingly used to track, monitor, personalise, and support the online learner. This, I hope, is the direction our own Network for Learning (N4L) is headed.
The contacts and informal discussions also formed a huge part of my learning experience at this conference. Being an international conference added another layer to this opportunity, allowing me to develop an international perspective and global contacts. It is also fairly humbling speaking with professors from the likes of Stanford, Harvard, and Rice Universities, and you realise we really are a global education community.
I cannot thank CORE Education, and Josephine and Michael Winter especially, for their support during this scholarship. It has been a fantastic professional experience that I encourage you to explore.
Dr Wayne Duncan, 2013 CORE Travel Scholar.
- What is a MOOC?
- Read about Learning Analytics in this article from Learning Frontiers
- CORE's Ten Trend: on Open-ness discusses MOOCs and the moves towards worldwide education
- Find out how to apply for the 2014 Travel Scholarship
Wayne Duncan is Deputy Principal of Northern Southland College. His thesis on understanding the function of empathy in synchronous multimedia conferencing draws on both his prior work managing distance learning projects and his experiences as an educational psychologist. He is currently working with Professor Angus Macfarlane and Dr Kathleen Quinlivan researching empathy in face-to-face classrooms, and has also been invited to be on the advisory group for the Network for Learning.