FLANZ panel discussion recording: ‘Is the Future of Education Inevitably Going to be Digital First?’

The FLANZ panel discussion, held 6th November 2020, was a conversation about how the world of higher education has responded to the Covid-19 pandemic and whether the future looks different as a result.

Duncan O’Hara, FLANZ Vice-President and Director, Learning and Teaching, at Massey, University led contributors, Australian-based Professor Neil Selwyn of Murdoch University, and New Zealand-based Professor Giselle Byrne of Massey University, and Dr Simon Paul Atkinson of the Open Polytechnic, through a series of questions.


All contributors agreed that the response of higher education institutions across the globe was nothing short of remarkable. A huge effort had been made, not least by technology-support and academic development units, alongside faculty, to serve students’ needs during pandemic restrictions. 

Caution needed

There was a note of caution, however, that having moved so much learning online in haste, that management might perceive it as ‘job done’, a cheaper option or, indeed, a satisfactory learning experience for the majority of learners. The reality is that while some institutions may have seized the opportunity to build from solid foundations and provided an enriched digital experience for their learners, others may have supplied the bare minimal.

The panel largely agreed that there is no one-size-fits-all to learning. So, any decisions by institutions and policymakers need to be context-specific, putting the learner at the heart of any technology choice.

A healthy debate was had around the issue of digital equity, ranging from access to devices, the appropriateness of those devices for the nature of the learning, network access and the disparity in digital literacy that has been emphasised in the Remote Emergency Teaching context resulting from Covid-19. 

The importance of design

The conversation turned to the Principles of the Design Justice Network (https://designjustice.org/) advocating that those impacted by design decisions need to be enabled to share their voices. This is as true for the technology tools and platforms in use as it is for the curricula that we curate.

A positive outlook

The struggle to ensure that the learner remains at the centre of institutional policy-making decisions was evident in the discourse. However, the openness of the dialogue, and the questions and comments shared by participants, show great promise for the Australasian region, with all of its heterogeneity, that positive solutions are at hand.

Thank you

FLANZ thanks the presenters, facilitators and attendees for their involvement. FLANZ encourages you to share this discussion and continue the conversations that shift the sector to quality outcomes for learners, regardless of their situation.

Australasian Online and Distance Learning Week: 2-9 November 2020

The Open and Distance Learning Association of Australia (ODLAA) and the Flexible Learning Association of New Zealand (FLANZ) are delighted to collaborate to jointly launch inaugural Australasian Online and Distance Learning Week.

This exciting new initiative in partnership with the European Distance & E-Learning Network (EDEN) coincides with European Online and Distance Learning Week and straddles National Distance Learning Week in the United States, which is hosted by the US Distance Learning Association (USDLA). A series of webinars will be available during the week from leading practitioners and international educators working in the area. This is a unique opportunity to reflect on this year’s Covid-19 experience and celebrate the potential of new digital models of education.

Australasian Webinar Schedule

03 November – Unboxing Micro-credentials: Certifying Your Future

Time: 8:00pm (NZ) | 6:00pm (AET)

This webinar will be using Zoom. Register here.

This ODLAA webinar explores of the growth of the micro-credentialing movement in the context of new digital models of higher education and flexible approaches to continuing professional development.

06 November – Is the Future of Education Inevitably Going to be Digital First?

Time: 10:30am (NZ) | 8:30am (AET)

The webinar will be using Zoom. Register using this link

This FLANZ webinar brings together a panel of educators, including Professor Giselle ByrnesNeil Selwyn and Simon Atkinson,to debate the question of whether or not the future of education is inevitably going to be digital first? Set against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic the panel will reflect on the potential and pitfalls of new digital models of learning and teaching and consider some of the lessons for the future. Participants will be encouraged to join the conversation.

Provocation questions

Is it wise to assume that technology should be the basis for future educational growth and development? How is it possible for us to envisage a future for education that is based on the inequitable distribution of social capital that is reflected in the uneven access to technology? How is it possible to foresee the impact of future social upheavals resulting from pandemics, climate change or cataclysms? We may be able to provide alternative channels of content delivery, but can we use technology to substitute a learning experience?

The full provocation discussion can be found here: https://flanz.org.nz/is-the-future-of-education-inevitably-going-to-be-digital-first/

09 November – Surviving to Thriving: Rocking the New Normal

Time: 11:00am EST | 2:00pm EST

US Distance learning Association (USDLA) will provide registration information.

The Science Learning Hub: Building Science Capital and Confidence. A FLANZ webinar conversation: 03 October at 3:30pm.

Join Andrea Soanes as she provides insights into how the Science Learning Hub integrates online content, social media and webinars to be an effective tool in building science capital and confidence. Find out more here

No registration required. 
Join us 03 October 2019 at 3:30pm

FLANZ webinar recording: Towards understanding student engagement in online and blended learning.

Join Dr Cheryl Brown as she unpacks some of the contradictions and complexities in the way engagement is conceptualised by students in an online and blended learning context.

Join Dr Cheryl Brown as she unpacks some of the contradictions and complexities in the way engagement is conceptualised by students in an online and blended learning context.

In this FLANZ Conversation webinar, Dr Cheryl Brown, Associate Professor of e-Learning & co-Director e-Learning Lab at the University of Canterbury,  reports on a research project conducted in the College of Education, Health and Human Development at the UC’s College of Education exploring undergraduate distance students’ experiences of engagement in a context that is blended with on-campus peers and incorporates work-based learning. Drawing on a survey and focus groups with students Cheryl explores some of the contradictions and complexities in the way engagement is conceptualised by students in this online and blended learning context. Findings suggest that for students, flexibility is paramount and that digital tools did support students’ engagement through helping develop understanding, independence of learning and enjoyment. Students also emphasised other less visible engagement strategies and the importance of peer support outside of the classroom. There was also a link between students’ sense of wellbeing, inclusion and/or belonging (related to their feelings and emotions) and digital tools.

About Dr Brown

Dr Cheryl Brown is Associate Professor of e-Learning & co-Director e-Learning Lab. School of Educational Studies and Leadership (EDSL), (Te) Kura Mātauranga me te Rangatiratanga. The College of Education, Health and Human Development, Te Rāngai Ako me te Hauora.

Background reading

Those wishing to read more of the background to this presentation might refer to the recent ASCILITE paper:

Brown, C., Davis, N., Sotardi, V. & Vidal, W. (2018). Towards understanding of student engagement in blended learning: A conceptualization of learning without borders. Open Oceans: Learning without borders. Proceedings ASCILITE 2018 Geelong (pp. 318-323). Available from http://ascilite.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/ASCILITE-2018-Proceedings.pdf

Webinar recording: Fostering self-directed learning in MOOCs.

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Watch Curt Bonk and Meina Zhu, from Indiana University, discuss how to create a learning environment to facilitate learners’ self directed learning in this webinar recording.

More than 100 million learners enroll annually in over 11,400 MOOCs from some 900+ universities around the world. However, most MOOC participants do not complete the course of study.

Indiana University’s study of MOOC research indicates that MOOC instructors believe that they can create a learning environment to facilitate students’ self directed learning. To help students with self-management, self-monitoring, and motivation, MOOC instructors use a variety of strategies such as helping students set their own learning goals, building learning communities, offering immediate feedback, embedding quizzes for self-assessment, providing progress indicators, inserting reflection questions, designing short learning units, offering flexible timelines, highlighting estimated time frames, and making available optional learning materials. 

In the future, adaptive learning systems, artificial intelligent systems, and learning analytics are expected to support self directed learning. Several suggestions for instructors, instructional designers, and MOOC providers will be offered in this session.

You can find more information on Professor Curt Bonk here. Curt is joined by his colleague, Meina Zhu, an Associate Instructor & Ph.D. Candidate in Instructional Systems Technology.

MOOC/muːk/Noun: a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people.