The National Institute for Digital Learning hosted a number of visiting scholars in the month of December, many of which gave interesting and engaging talks that dealt with the implications and development of MOOC’s. One such visitor was Professor Meg Benke, of New York State University. Visiting on December 14th, Meg gave a visiting scholar presentation on current and future trends in both online and blended learning. Higher education, and the education system in general, is in a period of transformation, on a level which has not been seen for quite some time. The questions of how best to improve student learning and how technology-enhanced learning will play a part in this future are difficult questions to answer. Benke’s presentation aimed to tackle this topic, and proved to be a fascinating talk for the members of staff present.
Another notable academic visitor in December was Dr Tom Farrelly of IT Tralee. Farrelly’s talk, titled Who Owns My Lectures? An Exploration of Academic Ownership in the Digital Age, took place on December 18th, and discussed the fascinating area of academic intellectual property in a digital age. This argument is a difficult one, as there are many people who make the case for academic information being openly accessible to best realise positive externalities.
While it is true that, in most cases, teachers and lecturers are happy to have their notes and PowerPoints shared online, there are often exceptions. Examples of this include, but are not exclusive to, a YouTube video with several hundred thousand hits, a popular book, or a MOOC course on the platform Udemy, which may have several thousand paying students. When a producer of content is making money from it, the task of making it free while still not hindering the income of the producer is an extremely difficult task, and one that there is no clear answer to.
Members of NIDL staff were invited to voice their opinions on the topic, and the talk highlighted the fact that, while the use of online media has made the creation and sharing of educational tools incredibly simple, the impact of this on the traditional lecture and classroom layout, from which it was much easier govern teacher income is a challenge that is still very much difficult to address.