USING WIKIS TO PROMOTE SELF-MANAGED PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR ACADEMICS IN HIGHER EDUCATION
University College Dublin (IRELAND)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Conference name: 3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 15-17 November, 2010
Location: Madrid, Spain
Abstract:Regardless of rhetoric, higher education curricula remain predominantly linear. Consequently, they reward convergent thinking by both academics and students. Students find that a sequential approach to study is required by programme structures and academics find that anything other than a sequential approach to teaching becomes severely problematic in terms of administration. As a result, accidental and incidental learning is seldom recorded and rarely rewarded.
A new Open Educational Resource (OER) from University College Dublin (UCD) uses state-of-the-art social-communication technology to enable users to structure their own learning. It adapts the MediaWiki platform to allow academics to construct individualized professional development programmes. A crucial aspect is that users can create private wiki spaces to record their experiences and to which they may return to reflect and revise. These spaces can be used to produce an e-portfolio. The OER is linked to a professional qualification in university teaching but enrolment for this is not necessary in order to use the interactive material which is freely available on-line.
Key aspects of the UCD Wiki design are (a) academics use the same technology their students use socially, and (b) it enables academics to adapt their teaching methods and material to this technology while maintaining standards.
The OER was launched in June 2010. Users in June and July who could be identified (the site allows anonymity) were surveyed. Results suggest that the OER:
1. Prompted academics not engaging in professional development to begin such engagement.
2. Particularly attracted users from institutions and countries where there is minimal opportunity to engage in organized professional development.
3. Encouraged those already engaged in professional development to encapsulate this within the offered Diploma.
4. Prompted much greater investigation of the literature on teaching and learning in higher education.
5. Brought about collaboration across traditional boundaries such as those between subjects, disciplines, institutional units and institutions.
6. Brought about a sharing of experiences concerning effective practice in teaching in higher education.
7. Prompted users to review how they use the internet in their teaching.
8. Prompted an understanding of the impatience of students with current university web-sites – especially static repositories.
Significance of the study:
Higher Education should have the predominant aim of developing critical thinking and autonomous action in students. It should develop the ability to identify, analyze and challenge the assumptions that contextualize and situate knowledge. Such criticality and autonomy can actually be discouraged by pedagogic processes and curriculum structures that are rooted in the technologies of the past (lectures, books, hard copy essays and assignment reports) with only limited use of the social networking and information-gathering tools familiar to today’s students. Further, these students can interpret teachers limited use of technology as evidence of them being out-of-touch with the real world. Consequently, students’ respect for the standards of the Academy may be damaged.
The UCD OER embraces the social technologies of today’s students but retains the rigor of traditional academic practice. In the UCD OER, academics use the new technologies and learn how, within these, traditional academic standards can be preserved.
Keywords: Higher education, adaptive wikis, open educational resources, academic development, professional development.