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Event overview: “Mapping unbundling in the HE terrain: South Africa and the UK”

JoannaStroud14 November 2019

In this seminar, hosted by the UCL Knowledge Lab Learning Technologies Unit, Dr Bronwen Swinnerton presented outputs from the UnbundledHE project: “The Unbundled University: Researching emerging models in an unequal landscape”, a cross-institutional study conducted by the University of Cape Town and University of Leeds.

The project considers the intersection of marketisation, unbundling, and digital technology and its effects on educational inequalities in South Africa and the United Kingdom. The following blog post summarises some of the issues surrounding the concept of educational unbundling and the project’s report into the current state of unbundled provision in both countries.

Marketisation

Recent years have seen a growth in demand for HE internationally but this has occurred alongside global economic shocks, such as the 2007 recession. The economic downturn has seen greater pressure placed on universities to report on the impact of central government funding streams and a resurgence of debates surrounding education as a public versus private good. This debate has tended to foreground the benefits of higher education to private individuals and consequently prompted a shift towards funding by the individual, leading to increases in fees and application of exogenous market principles to the HE environment. Such pressures have led HEIs to look to generate third stream revenue and reach new or alternative markets to fill funding gaps.

Digital technology

Digital technology is now ubiquitous in everyday life and HE, with all universities making use of technology in teaching and learning to some extent. Alongside the need to reach new audiences many have also begun to engage with online education, which has seen dramatic growth since the introduction of MOOCs. These courses have been in great demand from non-traditional audiences, such as adult professionals, with platform providers and university partners now pivoting toward the use of short online courses to deliver CPD and widening access initiatives, enhance teaching quality, and promote ‘massification’ or scalable learning opportunities. It is agreed that while universities can undoubtedly reach more prospective learners with online education it is no longer a ‘second best’ or indeed cheaper delivery method.

Unbundling

Unbundling is explained by McCowan (2017) as being either ‘disaggregation’, where what was sold together is now sold separately, e.g. tracks from an album, or ‘no frills’, a basic version of a product, e.g. budget airlines. There now exists a definitive application to HE, with the project defining unbundling as a disaggregation of educational provision, e.g. degree programmes, into component parts, e.g. modules, for delivery by and to multiple stakeholders. This is often achieved using digital approaches, and is manifesting itself through alternative digital credentials, or microcredentials, often delivered via what were MOOC platforms.

Rationale for offering unbundled educational opportunities can be multifarious and their production and delivery at odds with existing or longstanding institutional processes. The approach is typically: 

  • Internal, whereby HEIs choose how and when to break apart existing provision and offer content to learners directly;
  • In collaboration with service or platform providers, in which an HEI procures services to support specific stages of the course lifecycle;
  • By working with online programme management companies (OPMs), frequently with full service or white-labelled delivery and revenue share arrangements.

The unbundling landscape in SA and the UK

Dr Swinnerton highlighted key findings from the project, including the outcomes of interviews with policy makers, HE leaders, edtech developers, and private company CEOs. Mapping information (delivered via kumu.io software) was drawn from publicly available data, such as university, private company, and online and distance education websites, press releases, and other media. 

Interactive mapping of the HE landscape in SA and the UK demonstrated HEIs, suppliers, and OPMs and the relationships between them across provision of unbundled online education. The maps could be filtered according to league table strata, and what was immediately apparent across both contexts was disparity in coverage, with partnership opportunities broadly unavailable to lower-ranked institutions. Private companies in this space, notably OPMs, chiefly target elite institutions with established brands to drive profit-making business models. This was particularly clear in SA, with historically disadvantaged universities having little to no opportunity to engage in the online education space with support from private sector organisations, and with the suggestion that this had the potential to propagate stark inequalities already inherent within the SA HE system. Similar issues were present in the UK context, but with acknowledgement that educational inequalities and the digital divide are not quite so strong outside the context of online delivery.

See also

Dr Bronwen J Swinnerton, Senior Research Fellow in Digital Education at the University of Leeds

McCowan, T. 2017. Higher education, unbundling, and the end of the university as we know it. Oxford Review of Education 43(6); pp.733-748.

Swinnerton, B , Ivancheva, M, Coop, T et al. (6 more authors). 2018. The Unbundled University: Researching emerging models in an unequal landscape. Preliminary findings from fieldwork in South Africa. In: Bajić, M, Dohn, NB, de Laat, M, Jandrić, P and Ryberg, T, (eds.) Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Networked Learning 2018. Networked Learning 2018, 14-16 May 2018, Zagreb, Croatia; pp. 218-226.

Alternative presentation delivered by UCT’s Sukaina Walji at WCOL19 with an increased focus on OPM relationships. “Degrees of (un)ease: Emerging relationships between OPMs and University Stakeholders in an unbundling landscape”

UCLeXtend platform migration

JoannaStroud25 October 2019

In recent months staff from Digital Education have been engaged in a project to migrate the public-facing short courses platform, UCLeXtend, to a new hosting provider. As part of this process the platform will be upgraded to a version of Moodle that offers several GDPR compliant features in addition to an updated interface.

A change of theme

As part of the migration we are also taking the opportunity to refresh the platform’s aesthetic, or ‘theme’, which in recent years has required continued investment to remain functional. This change will mean that the platform’s existing courses look different, although underlying functionality will remain the same and the content and activities present will not be changed. Course layouts will bear greater similarity to the internal UCL Moodle platform and course teams will have more choice over how their courses are structured and presented. 

The new site theme’s primary differences are as follows.

At site level

  • The UCLeXtend homepage will be refreshed with a change in colours and imagery, in addition to separate buttons for UCL and non-UCL logins (see work-in-progress screenshot below); 
  • Upon login, learners and staff will be presented with a dashboard of their courses. This dashboard can be controlled by individual users, giving the opportunity to highlight recently visited courses and ‘favourite’ or hide courses.

Screenshot of updated UCLeXtend homepage, with photograph of UCL Portico in background and log in buttons visible

At course level

  • Section navigation will move from the top of the page to the left-hand side. The left-hand navigation panel can be expanded or collapsed by the user; 
  • There will be greater control over the layout of each course with course formats; 
  • Courses can feature an illustrative image that is presented on both the course dashboard and as a background upon entry (see work-in-progress screenshot below).

Screenshot of new course layout with expanded and collapsed navigation bar shown

Key information

The migration is anticipated to be completed in the week commencing 18th November 2019 (updated: 13/11). A notice will be applied to the front page of the platform as to the precise date and time and it should be unavailable for a few hours at most. Teams with live courses during this period will be contacted separately with further information about how to manage the transition.

If you have any questions please get in touch with the Digital Education team at extend@ucl.ac.uk.

ABC LD – the next steps

NatasaPerovic13 July 2018

UCL Digital Education has been awarded two year Erasmus+ funding to develop their well-known ABC learning design workshop with a 12 European universities. Since its inception at UCL only three years ago this unique ‘rapid-development’ approach to help academics develop high tech student-focused modules and programmes has had an unprecedented impact on the sector. Dr Clive Young, the originator of ABC alongside his Digital Education colleague Nataša Perović, gives the reasons for its success, “Most universities have aspirational strategies to develop future-looking digitally rich and blended courses, but few teachers have the skills, knowledge and time to redesign their programmes”. ABC is UCL’s response, a light touch team-based approach which co-creates a visual storyboard for a module in just 90 minutes. Over 75 workshops have been run at UCL with nearly 500 academics (and students) redesigning around 200 modules. The participant response has been overwhelmingly positive and ABC was soon picked up beyond UCL, and is now used at 20 other universities in the UK alone. The Erasmus project builds a strategic partnership between UCL, six other universities from the League of European Universities (Amsterdam, Helsinki, Leuven, Milan and the Sorbonne, with Oxford as an associate) and six innovative universities from Belgium, Denmark, Croatia, Estonia, Ireland and Romania. The partnership will develop ABC as a downloadable toolkit that can be used globally by any institution in the sector.  More information…

Follow the project progress via twitter @ABCtoVLE @ABC_LD.

Gold for Icarus – UCL School of Management Simulator Scoops First Prize

JessicaGramp3 March 2018

Icarus – a simulation tool developed by UCL School of Management academics – has won 1st prize in the ‘Best use of simulations or virtual environments for learning’ category at the 2017 Learning Technologies Awards.

Lynsie Chew, Programme Director (MSc Professional Accountancy), and Alan Parkinson, Deputy Director (Education), who initiated and managed the simulator, attended the awards on 29 November where they were awarded Gold 1st place in their category.

The simulator, which is used in teaching on the School’s MSc Professional Accountancy, simulates running an airport, with users able to control a wide-range of aspects including variables such as the number of runways and the rent charged on retail units.

Icarus was one of six simulators shortlisted at the 2017 awards.

The UCL MSc in Professional Accountancy, in partnership with global accountancy body ACCA, is unique in its virtual availability to students located around the world.

The University approached Unicorn and LAS to design and build a complex and highly immersive simulation which would allow groups of learners from around the world to collaborate and work in teams over different time zones. This was ICARUS – a sophisticated, multi-layered, immersive and above all, realistic business simulation. The judges felt that the choice of an airport as the focus was inspired because of the wide range of businesses and services and the complexities they introduce, that contribute to its success or otherwise. Particularly impressive was the ease with which the simulation can be customised and updated with real world events as they happen and how the impact of what may appear as an isolated incident can affect different parts of the business in very different ways.

Focusing on demonstrable learner engagement and tangible outcomes required to secure the future of the programme, this project has been an unprecedented success: it boasts a 40% rise in uptake, and 95% student pass rate.


This post is an amalgamation of  content from the following sites:

Reflections after UCL’s first Mooc

MattJenner22 April 2016

I wrote eight weeks ago, just before UCL’s first foray on FutureLearn went live, to share thoughts on the journey so far. By way of transparency, and [selfishly] having a justification to look back, I wanted to share some reflections after UCL’s first, and second, Moocs have finished.

Why We Post: The Anthropology of Social Media

After years of research Danny Miller and the team went Full Avalanche mode to ensure their research was moving into the hearts and minds of the world. After studying the Anthropology of Social Media across the globe, Danny’s idea was simple; he wanted for anyone interested to find out his team’s discoveries. About two years ago Danny explained his concept for how this would happen. What he wanted, in my mind anyway, was a pyramid of dissemination:

Pyramid of Research Dissemination for Why We Post

Pyramid of Research Dissemination for Why We Post

Danny’s an ambitious researcher and he knows how to get his work out to a large and diverse audience. If you’re curious to see these outputs here are the web links to find out more:

There’s a lot to get through and I hope that the effort spent on these outputs will be enjoyed by many as the months and years go by.

Location of learners: A global audience

Why We Post provided an interesting exercise to visualise the location of learners on a global map – they are a truly Earth-wide audience:

Why We Post: Global Audience

Why We Post: Global Audience – click the image for the live Zeemap – ~2000 entries as-of 21 April 2016

Thanks to Zeemaps, who provide this service for free.

It started with a very Brazilian focus due to some early publicity from a blogger in South America but then as the course started, the pins started appearing all over. It’s so exciting to see all these people, from all across the world, taking part in a simple exercise as ‘pin yourself on the map’. It should become a standard feature for all online courses, especially very international ones. Some people even put full names and addresses – if I had the budget – I’d like to send them all a postcard from Bloomsbury, London!

Offering multiple languages // translating online courses is hard work

Each team member in Why We Post, or the original ‘Social Media Impact Study’ research activity, was given a fieldsite where they will spend many months studying the use of social media, and the surrounding anthropological context. There was always the ambition to make the research outputs as multilingual as possible – so we ended up with the brief of making 9 courses as a part of the dissemination package. Making one online course is challenging enough but 9, in 7 languages you don’t know, is an interesting challenge.

Turkish? Why We Post: Neden Paylaşıyoruz: Sosyal Medya Antropolojisi :)

Turkish? Why We Post: Neden Paylaşıyoruz: Sosyal Medya Antropolojisi via UCLeXtend 🙂

Firstly the plan was to build the course in FutureLearn – this would prove enough lessons-learned to equip us (disclaimer: Laura Haapio-Kirk far more than me) with a working model of the course. Once built (or mostly so) we then made a pathway of converting it into UCLeXtend – still English. Now FutureLearn and Moodle are different beasts – but we found ways through. With a little tinkering, and designing a style-guide, we converted one platform to the other (by hand, btw, and all credit to Perla Rembiszewski who worked super hard to get this done). Once the English UCLeXtend course was ready it became a template, Perla and Laura then converted it into 7 documents, all in English but with empty placeholders for the translation.

If you imagine breaking a course down into chunks – each of these would be a row in a table. Then it gets tricky, translation is not a process, it’s an art. A translator is not an Input:Output engine, they’re a multilingual human. They have to read, interpret, learn, translate and then piece it back together. Being super organised helps a lot. The process creates mistakes and translation quality is, at best a variable, and at worst, somewhat arguable. Unless you’re paying full whack (which gets super-expensive) you’re also probably relying on good-faith and interest in the project to get to the end. Credit due to Laura who managed the whole process and barely complained about it; that’s the mark of a professional.

Multi-language versions of Why We Post – now available

The the course is now available in

All via UCLeXtend and remain open for study at any time as self-paced courses / open learning resources. This makes me happy.

Moodle is multilingual, quick reminder

Lastly, it’s surprisingly easy to enable other languages in Moodle – people say negative things about it (shame, but I get it) but being able to just ‘turn on’ Spanish (or whichever) is quite powerful for a globally ambitious researcher who wants to share back to their hosts who gave them so much. And we’ve yet to have a support request in Spanish from a troubled user – I’m worried we’ll only be able to ask them dos cervezas, por favor if they do! But maybe a fair exchange for a password reset?

Many Faces of Dementia – high levels of participation

Step 2.2 from the Many Faces of Dementia - Tim Shakespeare's FutureLearn Mooc

Step 2.2 from the Many Faces of Dementia – Tim Shakespeare’s FutureLearn Mooc

Tim Shakespeare’s course, Many Faces of Dementia, covers rare forms of Dementia. It highlighted how powerful the FutureLearn platform can be at engaging learners. Tim has made a great course, covering Dementia in a human and scientific way. The learners must’ve appreciated this because it trumped many (many) FutureLearn courses in the level of engagement recorded. Courses usually achieve around a 20% fully participating learner statistic but the Dementia course had clocked in over 45%. This means of those who started the course 45% of them went on to completing 50%, or more, of all the steps in the course. If we can get in and see why, we’ll do what we can to share the secret – because this is really good.

Selling certificates // income generation

I won’t go into much detail – it’s not a large sum – but we’re planning on using the income generated for good causes. Originally I hoped to set up a fund for learners on lower incomes to apply for gifted certificates but this is actually quite tricky within university finances. Instead we’re exploring options of funding student research to enhance or report on our Mooc activity. I want to send any income generated in the right direction.

Chatty learners & Why We Don’t Post?

It turns out, people are not all that social on a social learning platform. Yes, there were lots of really valuable discussions and people who were commenting, replying, liking and following others were adding genuine, insightful and meaningful contributions – I have no desire to degrade or downplay this part. What’s so surprising is still how few people actually do this; a huge majority of people are not using the social functions. Many Faces of Dementia has 4 comments per learner and Why We Post had around 6. Some basic URL digging shows FutureLearn has just over 3m learners and 12m comments, so about 4 comments per learner across the site. I know some people don’t start after sign-up, but it seems that even those who do, they still don’t necessarily contribute conversationally throughout the course. Can you imagine weekly seminars where only a handful of people ever speak? (Oh, yeah – humm…)

The numbers are not perfect and some people post a LOT (I see you ;)) but these averages seem worth scruitinising. I’d like to explore how to make a really social course, or better understand Why We Don’t Post? I don’t think Danny’s up for that one…

Keeping courses short // Run parts if you like long ones

Are shorter Moocs better? I don’t know the minimum or maximum length but 4 weeks, 1-2 hours per week seems good. If it’s actually 4 weeks but 3-4 hours per week, people may struggle to fit it in, and you might lose people. Better research is out there. UCL’s next course, Making Babies in the 21st Century, is six weeks – so I’m still mulling this rule over. Any longer than six weeks and I would be tempted to split the course into two parts, so people can space out the learning and fit it into their lives. Time will tell on this one, ha.

We’re going for more

The second round of Mooc proposals is open for anyone at UCL to submit an interest in. Initially the call is for expressions of interest in developing a MOOC to run on the FutureLearn platform at some point within the coming 12 months.

  • Briefing meeting at 1-2pm on 27 April in the Logan Hall, UCL Institute of Education.
  • Deadline for expressions of interest is 9 May.
  • Deadline for proposals is 23 May.

The panel, chaired by the Pro Director for Teaching, Quality, and Learning Innovation will meet to decide which proposals receive central funding, with notification to teams by 6 June 2016. More information is available via the Teaching and Learning Portal.

 

ABC has reached 21

NatasaPerovic24 March 2016

(For latest news about ABC LD, visit ABC LD blog)

Digital Education has now run 21 of our popular rapid learning design workshops. ABC uses an effective and engaging paper card-based method in a 90 minute hands-on workshop. It is based on research from the JISC and UCL IoE and over the last year has helped 70 module and course teams design and sequence engaging learning activities. It has proved particularly useful for new programmes or those changing to an online or more blended format.

To find out if ABC is for you this short video captured one of our workshops earlier this year.

Participants feedback remains encouragingly  positive 

“I thought the ABC session was really helpful.  I had been a little unsure ahead of the session what it would achieve – but I genuinely got a lot from it.  Going back to the basics of methods etc really helped focus on the structure and balance of the module.  I thought the output was very useful.”

“Thank you for convening the abc workshop today, i  found it thought provoking and challenged the way we think about our teaching. It is too easy to stick to what we have done previously and I found today gave me different ways to think about how to evaluate our current teaching and to bring in different approaches. It will definitely improve my thinking and I will continue with the approach to incorporate some of the ideas into the modules.”

“Thank you for the workshop today- it was an eye opener. I found it really useful to think about categorising how the learning objectives will be delivered and assessed, and examining the variety of ways that these can be achieved. It made me think more deeply about what skills the students can develop by making them responsible for their learning journey and not simply the content that needs to be delivered to them. We will let you know how it goes!”

“It was great and many initiatives have emerged from it.”

abc workshop group work

For questions and workshops contact Clive and Nataša

cy_np

 

 

 

For more information see :

ABC Curriculum Design 2015 Summary
http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/digital-education/2015/12/02/abc-curriculum-design-2015-summary/

ABC workshop resources and participants’ feedback http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/digital-education/2015/09/30/9169/

ABC beginnings http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/digital-education/2015/04/09/abc-arena-blended-connected-curriculum-design/

 

ABC News:

We are currently developing an online toolkit to support the workshop, have been working closely with CALT to embed the Connected Curriculum in designs and we are developing collaboration projects with The University of Glasgow, Aarhus University (Denmark), University of Leiden (Netherland) and Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez (Chile) in order to look at the learning impact of this method. Our colleagues in Chile are even translating the workshop into Spanish.

ABC also featured on UCL Teaching and Learning portal as a case study: Designing programmes and modules with ABC curriculum design http://www.ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning/case-studies-news/e-learning/designing-abc-curriculum-design