ASET logo
[ OLNT'90 contents ] [ EdTech Confs ]

Concluding colloquium

Clare McBeath, Colloquium Chair

I have asked three speakers to give an overview of their impressions of the conference and to make any comments they wish, before handing it over to the audience for comments from the floor. Firstly, Peter Forrest.

Peter Forrest

Thank you. I think this has been a conference with enthusiastic and erudite thinkers in general agreement on the term open learning. Open learning is not a mode, it is a set of ideas. Jack Foks said earlier that Australia is fond of slogans and perhaps we do need a slogan like open learning to make the concepts visible. Here we have an expert, interested and motivated audience but the people we need to reach do need this kind of slogan. I am really concerned about that.

For an appropriate response to be made by the education and training system generally, it seems to me that there are two groups of people absolutely vital to reach. They are the senior executives in organisations, including industry as well as education, and the teachers. But neither group will come to conferences like this - perhaps for reasons which you can understand. Senior executives may put in a passing appearance but will usually rely on filtered information from elsewhere. The problem is that the enthusiasts rarely get to a situation where they are close to, or in the position of being senior executives. There is a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of information about open learning that has not reached senior executives. I think there is some information vital to senior executives which has come out of this conference. If they do not understand the issues discussed here, the power of technology, the way the world is shrinking with technology, they may reduce their institutions into being simply local service centres. Only the institutions which embrace these ideas and network interstate and internationally, as Jack pointed out, will stay viable in terms of up to date education.

The second group comprises the teachers. It is not only teachers of course, but also lecturers, trainers and so on. There are 20 000 in this state. How do we get those people into open learning and what do they need? They need information first of all about student centred practices. Where will they get that? They do not necessarily read the relevant journals. They need some multi media instructional design skills. Professional teachers of the future need to have these skills to be comfortable with these media. They also need, as has been pointed out during this conference, skills of management for independent learning. They are dealing with learners who wish to be more independent.

How are we going to take the concepts of open learning into the agendas of other people and get them listened to? Industry is heavily committed to open learning in some other parts of the world. They have internalised it using the technology they have and they are getting on with the job. They do not necessarily talk about open learning, as Colin Sims mentioned in the panel discussion, but are getting on with it and doing it. In a sense they are beginning to see the education system as almost irrelevant. One large company in the UK has gone a step further. ICI is using open learning for skills training and they are setting up open learning centres for their workers for voluntary further study. Their centres are fully resourced with a lot of materials that are not directly connected with work. Perhaps the most appropriate approach, as Frank Gallagher mentioned in his video conference address, is evolution not revolution. If we do not fast track the evolution locally, we could well be inundated with sophisticated consumer orientated packages from overseas. That should be a bit frightening to us.

We have something to go away with from this conference, however. We are going to spread some sort of message about open learning and the logic behind it.

Patrick Guiton

I feel particularly privileged to have been at this conference as an attendee. I can't remember the last time I attended a conference purely in the indulgent role of attendee rather than as organiser or a presenter, with all the distractions that go with those roles. Attendees can be indulgent about how they assess this conference. At an unsuccessful conference, attendees might say, "I met a lot of interesting people." At a successful conference from the attendee's perspective you get new information and stimulating ideas. These ideas lead you to a critical reflection on your own context and how what you're viewing and receiving can be applied to your own context.

Something that I am going to take away from this conference is openness as a critical measure of what I am doing. My own context is higher education external studies and I can look at openness in terms of what I am trying to achieve there and also the constraints in which I work. One can go through the checklists that various presenters have referred to, using the dimensions where, how, who, what when, and maybe why.

For openness in terms of where, the aim must be to provide full coverage, full access to external studies to all students wherever they happen to live. That is something which I think distance education has done pretty well. Paradoxically, in terms of distance education, it includes people who live in metropolitan areas and for whom distance is something other than geographical distance.

An area where we have not done well is in terms of who, that is to say, giving people full access to our programmes. This concerns quotas, and entry requirements for people moving from TAFE into higher education. These are things I shall go away to think about very carefully. Finally, the question of when. Yesterday Wally Howse suggested that higher education should consider introducing self pacing which enables students to start courses as and when they want, in the way that TAFE does. However, I am convinced that open learning must involve providing students with the greatest possible support for their learning and I believe that you do this better with cohorts of students than you can with students who start at any time they wish.

Jack Foks

I believe that in the future we are going to talk much more about business like arrangements between individuals, between departments and institutions and between institutions, between sectors and between the public and the private sector. The time of fairly relaxed cooperation whenever we felt like it and fairly relaxed sharing of resources and expertise whenever we felt like it has gone. We are moving into a situation where if we are going to provide relevant and flexible learning and training, we have to enter into all sorts of partnerships with each other and with other organisations in order to achieve identified objectives. That is not going to be easy because as with all partnerships, except possibly marriage, it will be necessary to work out in advance just what the conditions are, what it is you are hoping to achieve and under what terms people can extricate themselves from the contract. We will have to consider copyright, intellectual ownership and sharing of the returns. If we are going to be relevant, we need to share resources effectively and in agreed and equitable ways. This is the way of the future. As I look around I am aware that there are a number of people here who have already moved in that direction, in the way they develop and deliver programmes.

Comments from participants

Colin Sims, Woodside Petroleum

I would like to refer to something that Peter mentioned about the relevance of educational institutions. Woodside isn't going it alone. We have not moved away from cooperating with institutions; we're not that arrogant. There is our work with Karratha College which Jeff and Alan spoke about today. There is our occupational health and safety project which I spoke about. We are in a very firm partnership with an institution to develop this programme. What we look for in such a partnership is an institution which can pool resources, wherever they are in WA, a management structure that exudes confidence and has enough clout to draw on those resources. Industry does not want to go from one institution to another, finding that each institution can do only one bit of the project. When this happens quality control is difficult, replacement of personnel is difficult and so on. It is important to see a strong management structure with enough power to be able to draw the necessary resources together to get the job done. But we haven't rejected educational institutions.

Lyn Smith, Central Metropolitan College

I would like to extend Peter's comments about chief executives not attending conferences like this. Consider the mode that we have used for this open learning conference. I would like to see the next conference utilising more Telecom linkups with other locations, as we had with Frank Gallagher, for example, this morning. There is the LIVE-NET video conferencing facility at the Central Metropolitan College and we ought to utilise that type of facility. There are satellite dishes and fibre optics all over the country. If we market a conference like this utilising these facilities, I am sure that executives would be happy to press a button and make their comments and "attend" through an open learning mode. Perhaps we might like to think about that for the next conference.

Patricia Meharry, Silver Chain Nursing Association, Staff Development

After talking to Rachel Hudson, who referred in her paper to accessing open learning information in the UK, I think it would be valuable if we had one central source or data base, where we could access material that has been developed. We could then adapt existing materials and get ideas for our individual situations instead of always starting from scratch.

Victor Guest, Farmnet

I would like to thank you very much for the day's proceedings. We have appreciated very much an opportunity to meet people with a variety of individual skills. It has been for me an interesting and exciting time. I would like to see greater use of computer mediated communications as a technology in open learning. I have been a professional amateur in this area for some some years, and sometimes I feel that some people have a vision towards communications technologies that is about as wide as the optical fibre cable that Mike Grant showed us. However, there is terrific potential in the approaches shown by this conference. I would like to thank you all once again.

Telecom provided a video link to Curtin University for Frank Gallagher's presentation. Carried by optical fibre from Melbourne to Telecom's Television Operating Centre in Perth, the signal was relayed to a microwave dish on one of the lighting towers at the WACA and then to Channel Nine's outside broadcast van at the Haydn Williams Lecture Theatre. The microwave relay was used because at the time there was insufficient fibre optic capacity into Curtin University.

Please cite as: R. Atkinson and C. McBeath (Eds.) (1990). Concluding colloquium. Open Learning and New Technology: Conference proceedings, 356-359. Perth: Australian Society for Educational Technology WA Chapter.

[ OLNT'90 contents ] [ EdTech Confs ] [ ASET Home ]
This URL:
© 1990 The author and ASET WA Chapter.
Last revised: 30 Apr 2003. HTML editor: Roger Atkinson
Previous URL 21 Jul 1998 to 30 Sep 2003: