Models of online & flexible learning
I mentioned in a previous post that I have been doing some work with Dominic Orr and Rob Farrow in behalf of the ICDE, looking at various models of open, online and flexible technology enhanced learning (what we labelled OOFAT). The full report is out now, and I humbly suggest it is the best (OOFAT) report you will ever read.
When ICDE set out this work they were very clear about two principles: it should address the range of how open, online and flexible models are being used, and every institution should be able to recognise themselves in the model. So, in contrast to many types of ed tech analysis it is not proposing one perfect solution which all should aspire, nor is it based on some uber high tech start-up in California. The intention was to be disgustingly practical.
With this in mind we developed a conceptual model, and an in depth survey. From this, we devised six OOFAT models, which represented how institutions globally were adopting aspects of OOFAT:
- OOFAT at the centre, where OOFAT is not implemented for one specific purpose, or market, but as an integral part of the institution’s overall mission
- OOFAT for organisational flexibility, where OOFAT supports flexibility of higher education provision across all aspects of the conceptual model
- content-focused OOFAT model, where providers concentrate on the element of content development and delivery specifically
- access-focused OOFAT model, where access to content and support is set as the focus of OOFAT implementation
- OOFAT for a specific purpose, where OOFAT implementation is developed for one very specific function or market and not right across the institution
- OOFAT for multiple-projects, where very different initiatives are undertaken by the provider experimenting with different aspects of the OOFAT model and not as part of a unified strategy
Allied with what providers were doing was their business model underlying it. We identified five of these:
- Fixed core model, where providers maintain a legacy approach to their products and services and to their target market, although they may be innovating in other areas
- Outreach model, where providers maintain the same products and services, but are innovating in the dimensions of target group recruitment and utilising new communication channels
- Service-provider model, where providers maintain a focus on their target group whilst particularly innovating in the areas of product and service and communication channels
- Entrepreneurial model, where providers adopt innovative strategies for the areas product and service, target group and communication channel, i.e. they aim to be transformative in their services and provision
- Entrepreneurial model with fixed core, where providers maintain a legacy focus to their core services (teaching and learning), but focus on being innovative in all other areas
For me the key to the report is section 9, which combines the theoretical model and findings to offer a step by step guide for any institution to review their own strategy. This starts by reviewing their current approach (ie which of the 6 OOFAT models is the best fit), then asks them to consider which model they would like to move to (using a database of the case studies to help). Finally the appropriate business model is selected to realise this. I think the most important aspect in this is not that our models are exhaustive (they’re not) or the only representation, but rather that the model itself and this way step by step guide surfaces conversations about the practical adoption of technology and open models which are not value laden. It is not that one model is ‘better’ but rather in order to best meet the needs of any institution and its learners there are different approaches. Having a framework within which you can have these conversations which is devoid of silicon valley economics and digital buzzwords is the real takeaway from the report.