Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Yet another recognition : The Africa Education Leadership Award and the Africal e-Learning Leadership Award to VCILT

On this Wednesday 27th November 2013, the Africa-India Summit was held at the Labourdonnais Waterfront in Port Louis. Some eminent and distinguished personalities were present during this summit which looked at achieving organisational excellence in a sustainable manner. 

A number of awards were given and among them, the VCILT through Dr Santally and Mrs Gunness landed the Africa Education Leadership Award and the Africa e-Learning Leadership awards.

As the Head of the VCILT, I dedicate this award to my staff and our students as without them working in the shadows, neither myself nor the VCILT would have been in the limelight. 

Monday, 25 November 2013

Educational 1min Video by Young Mauritius in Finals of TveBiomovies International Competition

Young Mauritians (age 15 to 26), have submitted a 1min educational digital video for the finals of the International tvebiomovies2013 environmental online competition, supported by United Nations Environment Programme among others. The video, entitled "Anti-Climate Change Missiles", may be viewed below


The 1min video begins with a metaphor, showing "climate change" as a meteorite, which is approaching the earth and threatening to end the human race, not unlike that of the dinosaurs. The video, then, creatively highlights the causes, effects and possible solutions to destroy the menacing "climate change meteorite" with "missiles".

Quote from the team leader, Jalal Laloo

 
"As the team leader, I would like to mention that  the Educational Technology (ILT2000) module at the University of Mauritius, for which you were the module coordinator, was instrumental in initiating me to the world of digital video making"

The team is competing with one other international participant in the "climate change" category and the winner will be the video with higher number of public views till 19th Dec 2013.
 

Friday, 22 November 2013

Stopping Violence in Schools - A guide by UNESCO (Converted to a Video Lecture by VCILT)



This Guide examines various forms of violence in schools and their consequences for education. It offers ten actions to prevent and stop violence in schools with practical examples that teachers can adapt in the classroom. 
 
Moreover, the guide brings suggestions to involve the international community to take action in order to build non-violent school culture and implement school safety mechanisms.

The guide in PDF and in four different languages can be downloaded on this address or you can simply sit down and watch at this video to get a very informative summary of the guide. It is a 30-minute video lecture.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

L’UoM pointée du doigt par le MRC

http://www.defimedia.info/live-news/item/39992-l-uom-pointee-du-doigt-par-le-mrc.html

I recently posted on the promotion system of the UoM that turns academics into paper production machines rather than into real researchers that re-search for the pursuit and the generation of new knowledge. 

Without knowing the real matter in depth though, let us try to think how a proposal ready to be funded by the MRC and supported by at least one eminent researcher in the name of Prof Gurib-Fakim gets turned down by the FRC of the Faculty due to the 'weakness' of the proposal. 

Let us look first at the title of the proposal. It is in the area of marine sciences and aqua culture. The reason might be that some people find that this is not really the field of Prof Gurib Fakim, or rather they might see that this is ''impeding'' on their research territory. 

Yes, this is a another fact that is bringing down research at the UoM - the new research field turf war. Again this is intrinsically linked to the main reason why people should do research at the University - that is to be promoted! Everything is looked at with a suspicious eye. Unfortunately that is the sad reality of ..........the Mauritian Society itself.

Research or a research culture cannot be imposed on people or academics. They need to have it as a passion for the area they are evolving in and research should be something that the person does for the benefit of society at large. Doing research is a form of ............ social work!! Yes it is. Whatever advancement research brings to the society either in form of new knowledge, products and services, businesses etc should be seen as a form of social work as the only outcome that we can hope for is for a better society and a better life for the citizens of the country. 

If we manage to see this and inculcate this culture into every ''researcher'' then we might at least get the first step right....En attendant, this case is not the first nor will be the last.....

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Tablets in the Secondary Schools of Mauritius: Innovative Pedagogy or a Hype?


We have recently been hearing of the tablet project where every student in the form IV Secondary schools would be given a tablet pc. A Tablet PC? Sounds good. To Form IV Students? Sounds even too good for them…..

But, what will they do with this tablet? What will be its purpose? What is the real pedagogical value that a tablet will bring to them? These are the main questions that would concern any educator out there.

A good project it is yes. But is it the right one and is it being given to the right audience? I am not so sure.

Why is it a good project? Giving a tablet to each student (at least to one class of students that is Form IV) means giving a digital device to each of them. This is a major leap towards bridging the digital divide. Agree, Internet is not readily available in the schools, and many would not have it at home, but the students can use the tablets in public WIFI enabled areas as these are growing in Mauritius thanks to PPP partnerships.

What will they do with it? Certainly not for learning especially at this age. This is the time where most of them will try to impress those of the opposite sex, will be facing the adolescent crisis time and some would be too focused on passing exams which still need the old-fashioned techniques to guarantee success. Certainly not the tablet will change this.

Educating the students to use the tablet ‘a bon escience’ is the key… Has this been catered for? No…Not really.

Many teachers do not even know the tablet. Did you hear about ‘soz so garcon ek so tablet?? The famous ad by Orange that truly reflects that a big part of the Mauritian population is still digitally illiterate in the true sense of the word….Do teachers know what should be done with the tablets?

The next big question – will the tablet have access to Internet connectivity at school? Both possibilities are potentially to the detriment of teaching and learning. Internet connectivity for students would mean ‘facebooking’, ‘chatting’, ‘Youtubing’ and ‘Twittering’. Not to mention WIFI or Bluetooth gaming. Who said that? This is not a problem – we have the mechanism in place to block all those sites…. Really? Then what would the student use the tablet for? Pile je gagne Face tu perds…..Not really we will have offline resources and the students would use those resources. During the class? How will this be done as educators in secondary schools would be explaining on the black, I mean white board and the students would be looking at the tablets?

No no, this will not be like this in fact. In the free time, the tablet would be meant as providing complementary learning to the student as he can revise using the OFFLINE resources. Who said the students would not be online? I am telling you there would not be Internet.

Oh yes. Did you know that if you have an Orange SIM Card – you could just send a text to 8684 saying Internet Day and you purchase 30MB of Internet for one day? Did you know that simple smartphones could be turned into a WIFI hotspot and provide Internet connection to any WIFI or Bluetooth enabled device? Do you remember the episode of Prisoners on Facebook?

Ok lets forget of all these, let us come to the content issue. We have the solution to the long term. We have a team that will work on developing resources for the tablets. In a few years the problems will be solved, as the students would have enough resources on their tablets. Really? The tablets by that time would be outdated. By the way which tablets are we giving? Android? Windows 8 or IOS based ones? Hmmm because some resources, some formats might not really work on all. Do we really need to develop our own contents for Form IV when in reality we follow a foreign curriculum where online resources are not lacking at all? No but you know our greatest strength has always been invention. I am talking of existing things of course.

Tablets at Form IV? In reality we are not yet prepared, we do not know why it should be like this and we are not sure what we want to do. Everyone knows this.

Its not too late. Give it to the pre-primary school kids and the lower primary in the first instance. It will just transform our whole education system in the next decade. You can be sure of that!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

The Lisbon Recognition Convention and the Bologna Process

The Lisbon Recognition Convention (CoE 1997) is officially known as the Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region. It is an international convention laid out by the Council of Europe, in collaboration with UNESCO in 1997 and came into force in 1999. Wikipedia reports that as at 2012, the convention was ratified by the 47 member states of the Council of Europe except for Greece and Monaco. Non-member states such as Australia, US, Canada and New Zealand and a few others have also adhered to the convention. The convention is seen as a very important instrument to sustain the Bologna process, where the 47 member states pledged to reform their higher education systems in order to create convergence at the European level. The official higher education area[1] was formed in March 2010 as main objectives to (1) facilitate mobility of students, graduates and higher education staff; (2) prepare students for their future careers and for life as active citizens in democratic societies, and support their personal development; and (3) offer broad access to high-quality higher education, based on democratic principles and academic freedom. 


The UNESCO’s point with respect to the Convention relied on the need to better link the European Educational Systems within the two segment of Europe and to the outside world. Among other key arguments that were brought forward to support the convention proposal, was the rapid growth of private institutions imparting higher education on the global scene. Therefore the aim of the Convention will be to ensure that provision is adequately made for quality education and service, rather than discriminating between public and private institutions. 

The fundamental rule governing the convention therefore lies on the recognition of degrees and periods of study unless the institution in charge of providing the recognition in a particular country can establish substantial differences and discrepancies from the norm. The Convention established two bodies, which oversee, promote and facilitate the implementation of the Convention: 
  • The Committee of the Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region, and 
  • The European Network of Information Centres on Academic Mobility and Recognition (the ENIC Network). 
The ENIC network should not be confused with the NARIC (National Academic Recognition Centres) of European Countries. It is reported by a few sources such as the Council of Europe website, and Wikipedia that the ENIC network works closely with the NARIC network of the European Union. Together they form what is called the ENIC-NARIC network (http://www.eric-naric.net). 

Arguing that the practice of recognition of qualifications had evolved over the past decade (1987-1997 period), the European Commission laid emphasis on the difference between the so-called notions of equivalence and the broader concept of recognition. Equivalence therefore relates to detailed comparison of curricula and lists of material studied to ensure they are equal in terms of content, level of study. Recognition refers to a broader analysis of the qualifications obtained, for e.g. establishing that a three-year post-secondary study in an approved tertiary education institution of country X is recognized as such in a different country Y. Article 13 of the explanatory notes of the convention further states that a "tendency has become apparent for formal international regulations to emphasize the procedures and criteria applicable to the process of recognition of foreign qualifications rather than to list or define degrees and diplomas that shall be recognized under the regulation". 

The Convention refers to the assessment of individual qualifications to be a “written evaluation of, or statement on, the qualifications in question, and may be given for a variety of purposes, ranging from formal recognition to an informal statement on ‘what the qualification is worth’ with no further purpose”. The assessment has to be done by competent authorities that are defined as those who are legally empowered in the home country where the assessment is conducted to do so. A further statement refers to such ‘competent authorities’ to make decisions regarding recognition to be binding. The competent authority can be a Ministry, higher education institutions, associations or Government agencies who are officially empowered by law to act as official bodies for the recognition of qualifications. 

One such inconsistency with respect to the Convention currently in practice especially in Europe is that assessment statements of individual qualifications often state that the decision is not binding on other institutions or employers who are free to accept or reject the assessment as these are based on expert ‘opinion’ and ‘judgment’. This type of inconsistency arises simply because the NARIC of different European countries have different roles as conferred to them by the Government or the rule of law in force. While, in the context of the convention, a ‘competent authority’ limits to the legal competency and does not include the ‘academic competence’ the problem with respect to bodies who are empowered to emit an ‘expert opinion’ after conducting an assessment might actually lie in the area of academic competence. A private company, running a Government agency under an outsourced contract will recruit its personnel as per its own practices. Therefore the concept of academic competence might become an issue for a body have legal competency to issue assessment of qualifications. Such an officer mandated by the private company to do so might hold a doctorate or is a graduate, but that officer might lack important knowledge and expertise in the field of higher education, comparative education and transnational education systems. 

Any individual wishing to have an assessment of a foreign qualification is guaranteed the right to fair recognition as per the provisions of the convention. One such mechanism apart from the traditional issues of discrimination and equal treatment is the provision to be made by awarding institutions to adopt a transparent approach to give as much information as possible on the programmes of studies through the Diploma Supplement, referred to as the European Diploma Supplement in the Convention and the use of the credit system, the ECTS (European Credit Transfer System). 

The Bologna process and the Lisbon Recognition convention have also been subject to criticisms from different European territories themselves especially with respect to the practicalities related to the implementation. While initial critiques suggested that the convention favored more the British system of education, it is also seen that the main inconsistency/impracticality for implementation also comes from the British Higher Education system. One such major difference in the British system is that holders of an undergraduate Bachelors degree can often join on a Doctoral programme directly without completing a Masters qualification. Furthermore a Masters program in the UK is generally a one-year program while if the credit system of the Bologna model were applied the Masters program of the UK would have normally taken more than a year to be completed. In the context of transnational education, a Masters degree for instance in India is recognized as a two-year full time course and the UK Masters would not be recognized as such. In the context of the Bologna process, therefore it is put forward that it is unclear if all UK master's qualifications are therefore equivalent to those from other countries that participate in the Bologna process. It is argued that a master's degree experience is required to train the student for their doctoral studies – both in practical techniques and enhanced knowledge of a field but the UK contradicts this argument.[2]

The fundamental rule for recognition of a foreign qualification is the official recognition and status of the awarding body and the qualification in question in the country of origin by competent authorities like UGC for India, TEC for Mauritius, SAQA for South Africa and the Secretary of Public Education (SEP) for Mexico, just to name a few. However, in the context of a rapid changing world due to a proliferation of modern technologies and the phenomenon of globalization, there are constant new challenges (e-learning and distance education, branch campuses, franchise institutions and economic issues) that are cropping up and that needs to be dynamically addressed by regulators, providers and practitioners. 


[1] Bologna Process: The European Area for Higher Education 1999-2010 – (http://www.eric-naret.net) 

[2] Source: Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bologna_Process)

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Comparative Education, Recognition and Equivalence, and Internationalization in a Competing Global Village


The world in the 21st Century is commonly referred to as a global village. Transnational communication through advanced digital and high-speed data networks has transformed the way that citizens live, study, work and do business in the modern world. The Internet through the information superhighway has caused a radical shift in the virtualization of many existing aspects of humanity.

Education, more precisely Higher Education has been seen as the main driver for development in the developed countries and as the key for ensuring the future of developing countries. However, the other side of the coin is in fact also a bit disconcerting for many. Education has become a business, and a lucrative one. Education is indeed a business, which so far, has been flourishing for mostly developed countries, as they were the role models for guaranteeing the success at an individual and global level, thus forging a huge market in the developing or under-developed countries. Many young citizens of those countries, either want to explore greener pastures outside their country and those who cannot afford to leave their home nation, will prefer to spend their money on foreign institutions being locally represented under the impression, and very often illusion that they are receiving quality education. 

Quality education is a term that was often associated to high-ranking universities and/or to universities located in the developed world such as the UK, Germany, France, Australia and the US. Europe and the US used to be the dominant territories for quality education and over the past decades countries in Asia like Singapore, India (a few institutions) and China have joined in the competition. Quality education is also intrinsically linked with culture and civilization. The Western civilization is seen as liberal, democratic and advanced. Therefore the global perception and the socio-political propaganda will be geared towards giving their education system a sense of superiority over others. They become the ideals of those living in a more traditional civilization. A clear example is the Middle-East countries like the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and other oil-rich Gulf countries where western qualifications are highly valued for high responsibility posts in major sectors of the economy.

With the advances of the Internet and the globalization phenomenon, the concepts of internationalization of education and trans-border education have taken a different dimension. Instead on only attracting foreign students on local territories, or setting up physical branch campuses in foreign land, many higher education institutions are now providing distance education courses through the open and online mode of delivery. While trans-border higher education is often projected to be a means of opening access to higher education, private and for-profit organizations are the promoters of such initiatives with the exception of a few such as the VUSSC project of the Commonwealth of Learning. However, while opening access is key to the idea, initiatives like the VUSSC have struggled to provide a reliable framework for the recognition and accreditation of such models. The emerging concept of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) as well as virtual movements like the University of the Indian Ocean or the OER University still have to make a bold statement. Most reports on trans-border higher education are conducted mainly by organizations with the roots in Europe such as OECD, and a significant emphasis is often laid against the provision of low quality education and this often creates the perception that trans-border education where the sending countries are developing ones, more caution should be exercised. 

However, it is not news that most of the so-called diploma and degree mills as well as accreditation mills exist in the US and Europe regions. Reports suggest that in the UK the prevalence of the so-called mills is very high. A diploma mill is basically a fake university that sells diplomas and degrees and other qualifications either by fooling its customers into thinking they are legitimate or by doing so with the full consent of the customer. Accreditation mills therefore are created to accredit those institutions thereby creating a perception that they are legitimate. Many people confuse diploma mills with fully legitimate institutions operating mainly in the education domain with the aim of focusing mainly on their profit rather than on the quality of education that is dispensed. They associate the term ‘mill’ with the factory concept where graduates are just being produced for the sake of producing them. This is an erroneous definition and interpretation of the term diploma or degree mill. 

Modern connectivity provided by telecommunications networks and web platforms has opened up the competition globally and the key players in US and Europe have now to face competition from smaller but recognized higher education institutions from many countries of the World. Open Universities are growing everywhere and traditional, small, less reputed private universities are exploring the avenues, grabbing a significant market share by providing recognized and affordable ‘products’ and ‘services’ to a growing demand from the middle-class ‘consumer’. The key is no longer quality education or prestige of the institution but flexibility, affordability and recognition. The reality is also obvious. In the UK for instance, many universities are autonomous but private universities, although they are regulated by Government. Similarly for instance in India, many universities are private institutions but offering good quality products and are officially recognized. The Open University of Malaysia for example is a privately owned institution while in Mauritius the Open University of Mauritius is a public institution. On the other hand, the Open University of the UK is a prestigious University which is not affordable to everyone especially international students from the third-world. 

The key is that private institutions in whatever jurisdiction they are found are privately owned entities and their mission is to do business. Many of them are not-for-profit organizations but this is not really the issue as the key is that a business is a business. The business model might be different and the target is the same – it is not necessarily profitability but survival. For higher education systems, the issue might be even bigger relating directly to a country’s economy. For example, UK is one of the largest exporters of higher education, which means that this is an important sector of its economy. 

In most countries, there are government authorities that are responsible for the regulation, accreditation and overall control of the higher education sector and providers. In India, the University Grants Commission (UGC) looks at the regulation of mainly private providers, and in Mauritius the equivalent entity is the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC). In South Africa, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) looks at higher education sector regulation and recognition. While the UGC, TEC and SAQA are all Government bodies that oversee the higher education sector in the respective countries, the western world such as the UK and the US have a different system where degree granting status for institutions are looked at by specific bodies, while recognition and accreditation follow a more open model. These differences often lead up to confusion on the real status of an institution especially in those countries and therefore can lead to problems being faced by students who embark on studies with these institutions. Therefore the terms autonomy, recognition, accreditation and equivalence can have different meanings in different parts of the world especially with respect to private institutions. The European region has established the so-called ENIC networks and in the UK, the body that is empowered by Government to provide expert advice on recognition and comparability of qualifications is the UK NARIC. 

However the UK NARIC is managed and owned in fact by a private company called ECCTIS Ltd. Their role is different from that of the TEC in Mauritius for instance, which is the sole Government Authority in Mauritius regarding Tertiary Education provision. It is clearly mentioned that they provide expert advisory opinions, which is not necessarily binding on organizations especially UK Universities that are autonomous bodies and that make their own decisions on admissions and equivalence of qualifications of foreign students for instance. The US adopts a more liberal approach through independent Credential Evaluation services that form part of recognized bodies with the Government such as NACES. Basically the reliability of an evaluation conducted by a private entity affiliated with NACES will be positively looked upon. Again those are trusted expert opinions and are not biding on any institution with respect to recognition and equivalence.

Comparative education is also a concept that has its root from the origins of transnational and trans-border education where educational systems from different territories are examined and compared for equivalence. Comparative Education encompass however a broader spectrum of educational issues inherent in different cultures and has been established as a full fledge academic field of study. There is widespread global consensus that countries should engage into a facilitation process with respect to the recognition and equivalence of foreign qualifications in the best interest of students. 

The Lisbon Recognition Convention was elaborated by the Council of Europe and UNESCO in 1997 and it stipulates that qualifications of students obtained in a particular country and formal study must be recognized unless substantial differences can be proved by the institution that is charged with recognition. This convention is in line with the Bologna process initiated in 1999 where the aim was to create a European Higher Education area. While non-member states of the Council of Europe such as the US, Australia and Canada have also adhered to the Lisbon Recognition Convention, critics from academics and other institutions have termed the convention and the Bologna process as an initiative to protect Europe’s economic interests in Higher Education through an enlargement of scale of the European systems of higher education, in order to enhance its 'competitiveness' by cutting down costs.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Are we really poor takers of technology?

The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) launched the DE policy in June 2013. The presentation of the DE policy took the form of a mini workshop organised by the TEC where stakeholders in the tertiary education sector were invited to present issues related to DE provision in Mauritius from their perspective.

I was one of the presenters  and I talked on copyright and intellectual property issues related to distance education. There was also a presentation from one of our former masters student Mr Avinash Oojorah who is now a lecturer from the MIE. The talk was related to makers and takers of technology.


In short, the key points made by our good friend were centred around questions namely:

  • Why are we poor takers of technology? Why don't we use all the features of an LMS such as MOODLE?
  • Why don't we become makers of technology, for instance developing our own LMS?
  • The TEC should consider setting up an incubator for research in education technologies and/or distance education
Nice presentation and good questions except that............. we have most of the answers!

My reply to the first point is simple. We at the VCILT, we have always looked into ways to become SMART rather than poor takers of technology. A 'rich' taker of technology does not mean that ALL features on an LMS should be used. Indeed a rich taker should be a smart taker. The rule of thumb is that use what you need and discard what is not needed. The policy at the VCILT before adopting any new feature is that thorough technical and pedagogical testing should be done prior to its deployment for full use. 

With respect to the second point, in 2004 the VCILT had embarked on a very ambitious project of developing our own learning platform. It was developed and used but sustaining such an initiative was very costly and the unprecedented growth of open source initiatives made it ridiculous and devoid of logic to continue to develop a platform when our primary aim was to provide a service to the academic and student community. To 'make' technology does not necessarily mean we develop our authoring tools or develop software from scratch. The open-source community is an excellent proof for this. An innovative service produced from one technology that exist can in turn become in its own right another piece of technology. 

As for the last point, the TEC is a regulatory body and I believe it is not its mandate to house an incubator for research in education technologies and distance education. The country has three or four public universities and institutions like the MIE/MGI etc are here and its their mandate to have research incubators. The VCILT since 2002 has been in itself a research and development incubator in education technologies, e-learning and open and online learning....

Quite a few examples can be given on the last point. In 2002-03 the VCILT worked on an interactive multimedia CDROM for History and Geography funded by the MRC with the collaboration of MIE and MES. Practically 10 years ago.....This was a revolutionary product cum incubator technology which saw a real implementation about a decade later e.g in the form of Sankore project. 

Lets talk about an incubator for human capital in the field of education technologies. Again the pioneering role of the VCILT is more than obvious as we are feeding the human resource inputs to institutions like the MIE in terms of trained edtechies..

Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Contradictions of Former Vice-Chancellor Rughooputh Ramesh

For once and since weeks I felt this urge to write a bit about my experience with the Former VC following his outburst in the press after receiving his 'feuille de route' from the council of the University. For once we will deviate from education technology but we will remain in the sphere of education and education management practices.

If I had to describe my feeling after the news, one word would suffice : relief. I am not happy as such but I am definitely not sad at all. To be frank, may be i was in fact happy. Anyway that is not so much the issue nor the way deemed a bit brutal by some in the way he was sidelined. 

Let me come on a few on the big contradictions of the press statement given by the Professor himself.

1. When he was appointed VC, the first thing he said was that 'no one will speak to the press on behalf of the UoM'. He will instil discipline and rigour and that a 'bunch' of people are tarnishing the image of the UoM.

  • When the Council of the University has terminated his contract with immediate effect, Prof Rughooputh in the next second was a full time academic staff  of the University. He chose then to go to the press to criticise publicly the UoM, the Council, the Students and a few staff. How could he speak on such issues then to the press?? Fais je ce que dis ne fais pas ce que je fais?
2. The former VC said in a press statement that the University was not allowed to do distance education because of the open university. 
 
  • This is false and misleading. The Open University existed as MCA decades ago and the mandate was specifically to do distance education. The idea and bill of the open university germinated since 2000 although the university came into operation only this year.The University of Mauritius on the other hand has been active since 1993 in DE and since 2000 in e-learning. What project did the former VC had? What was blocked? The lifelong learning cluster of the UoM today has more than 1000 students.
  • If the UoM has not been able to become a full fledged dual mode institution so far, it has only itself to blame to some extent. My other blog posts and papers talk about these. The former VC found one of my papers talking specifically on this issue to contain nothing as he said it to me. 
3. The former VC said in a press statement that ''Jái deranger le systeme''. 
 
  • Yes he did. All in the wrong way. His first assumption was that all eggs were rotten and he was taking his time to pick and choose those he found good.  
  • A simple example is that there is a clear cut policy of Council regarding staff involvement in Consultancy projects. No staff was paid on a project which has been already approved and completed more than a year ago when staff worked on saturdays and sundays. No reply was ever received on all communications of the project to his office or through his office.......until the day he left.
  • There are three more examples like this that can be given.
  •  The UoM is a CISCO Regional Academy which is a very good thing for its global reputation. The former VC had blocked CISCO courses from being run for more than a year until students go to complain to the Minister.
4. The VC said in a press statement that he was not allowed to run ''Stand Alone'' courses by whoever. 
 
  • Let me remind him that stand-alone modules and the concept exist about 4-5 years prior to his appointment as VC and this was introduced by the former Pro VC Teaching and Learning.
  • The stand-alone modules of last year were advertised in the press and the reality is that there were not enough applications to run them.

5. The VC was always criticising journalists as they treat him as dictator and authoritarian etc. Today those journalists are fine just because he is using the media as a means to settle his accounts. Is this not a full contradiction of himself and/or his principles?

I will stop here because the list could go on....All that I am sure is that it is neither a bunch of students nor a meeting between a minister and the Chairman of the Council that has decided his outcome. It was indeed long overdue.
 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

The 2013 Educators Seminar on "ICT in the Classrooms from An Action Research Perspective"

The seminar of the year 2013 was centred on action research and the use of ICTs in the classrooms. The seminar was organised by the Association Helping Our People (www.helpingourpeople.net) in collaboration with Microsoft Indian Ocean and French Pacific Ltd. 

75 educators attended the one-day workshop which was graced by two foreign guests. Professor Jack Whitehead talked on action research and the principle of researching, inquiring on and improving one's own practices while Prof Noel Conruyt from University of Reunion spoke on the living labs concepts in the context of teaching and learning.


Three students (educators) who have recently graduated from the University of Mauritius course in the BSc (Hons) Educational and Instructional Technology and the MSc in Educational Technologies also presented their research projects and findings to their peers. 

The key difference of this year's edition with respect to the 2012 edition was that in this edition the focus was rather centred on the humanist side of the ICT in the Classrooms while the previous edition focused primarily on the technology side of the concept. 

This workshop was a followup on the training sessions conducted in April 2013 by Helping Our People under the funding and support of Microsoft on the Partners in Learning Network (www.pil-network.com) program. Educators were trained to develop their own interactive learning materials and to use the Partners in Learning Network as a common educational social network and sharing platform. 

The presentations of research work done by educators demonstrated the work being done at grass-roots level in the schools that would definitely have a much wider impact in the longer term especially at influencing and informing Government's policy on education. 

For instance, the presentation on Tablet PCs revealed a number of elements that are important to address from the stakeholders perspectives prior to the introduction of tablet PCs for students in the secondary schools. The workshop demonstrated ability of the University and the VCILT to do high level research in education technology and to ultimately bring this to the community at large to benefit through knowledge dissemination initiatives and application in the real world context (the schools).

The event was held on the Saturday 22nd June 2013 at the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre in Bell Village, Port Louis. 



Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Dynamic Generation of Personal Learning Environments: A Conceptual Framework

For the past ten years, I have been researching about personalisation in web-based learning environments. In short, I wanted initially to probe if an automated system could be built that would propose learning resources to a learner based on his or her personal learning preferences.

It is important to note that the personal learning preferences of a learner can encompass a number of attributes and factors ranging from his learning needs, level of education, the subject area, his preferred learning and cognitive styles etc. The list is non-exhaustive.

During the period of inquiry, a simple personalisation framework was conceived and developed and it featured a fuzzy algorithm to select learning resources that would form a learning path for a student given his preferred information processing styles based on the V-A-K model. 

Looking at the outcomes of the research which demonstrated that students performances did not necessarily improve by providing them with content that is matching their supposedly preferred styles, a new perspective opened up though in the possibility to dynamically generate a learning path for a student based on his preferences from the pool of open learning resources that exist over the web. 

My research started about a decade ago when adaptive intelligent systems were under investigation. The web evolved to Web 2.0 where the learners and the teachers had important roles co-creators and consumers of knowledge while in the era of Web 3.0 the intelligent web has surfaced. 

In a brief discussion with a colleague in an international conference on the research, we agreed that a shortcoming of the personalisation framework that was developed was about the enormous effort that seems to be needed firstly for developing multiple content representations, and second tagging of the learning objects. It would be costly both in terms of efforts and resources to develop the learning objects and then time-consuming to tag them appropriately based on the personalisation model. 


In the current era of Web 3.0, both of the pertinent issues as described above seemed to have been automatically resolved. The worldwide web is flooded with Open Education Resources and repositories keep growing everywhere. Most content need not be developed or redeveloped. A simple search on the web will reveal multiple representations of content in terms of modality, level of study, type of learning approach and the list goes on.




From the figure above, we can see that the e-learning platform becomes mainly a portal for the dissemination of personalised learning paths. These paths can be generated based on a pre-selected set of variables representing individual differences (not necessarily limited to learning styles). The e-learning platform is intrinsically linked to the World Wide Web and to specific open courseware repositories, digital libraries and other resources.

Regarding the tagging process, an extension of metadata of such resources can easily be done and instead of one teacher needing to tag resources, many of these resources can already contain a significant amount of metadata information relevant to the personalisation we want to achieve. Once the algorithm is applied, a personalised learning path can easily be generated for any learner in a course where the system automatically looks for content from a pre-selected list of repositories. This element will definitely constitute an area for future investigation.

 

Thursday, 30 May 2013

The ''notorious'' impact factor.....

Read the original article here....


Summary points:

Richard Van Noorden askes the following question: If enough eminent people stand together to condemn a controversial practice, will that make it stop?


That’s what more than 150 scientists and 75 science organizations are hoping for today, with a joint statement called the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). It deplores the way some metrics — especially the notorious Journal Impact Factor (JIF) — are misused as quick and dirty assessments of scientists’ performance and the quality of their research papers.
  • Scientists routinely rant that funding agencies and institutions judge them by the impact factor of the journal they publish in — rather than by the work they actually do. This is what our universities are also doing...to stop people from getting promoted especially third world developing countries....

  • The notorious IF bears little relation to the citations any one article is likely to receive, because only a few articles in a journal receive most of the citations. Focus on the JIF has changed scientists’ incentives, leading them to be rewarded for getting into high-impact publications rather than for doing good science. This is related in detail in the post Research and Development v/s Research and Publications.

  • Even the company that creates the impact factor, Thomson Reuters, has issued advice that it does not measure the quality of an individual article in a journal, but rather correlates to the journal’s reputation in its field.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Studying the Long-Term Effects of Online Education

Online learning has grown into an integral element of higher education. No longer an experimental novelty practiced by a handful of tech-loving pioneers, digital classrooms have enjoyed a steady surge in popularity for their low cost and ease of access. But you can't change the way people approach learning without permanently impacting a few things along the way. Recent studies offer plenty of insight when it comes to better understanding how online and blended courses influence the students enrolled in them. And current trends and undertakings might reveal some of the possible hamstrings they might encounter — and, thankfully, some of their possible solutions.
 
Read the full article on 

http://www.onlineeducation.net/2013/02/26/studying-the-long-term-effects-of-online-education

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Action Research, Living Theories and Jack Whitehead

Action Research: What is a Living Educational Theory Approach to Action Research and a Human Existence?

In a living educational theory approach to action research, individuals hold their lives to account by producing explanations of their educational influences in their own learning in enquiries of the kind, 'How am I improving what I am doing?' They do this in contexts where they are seeking to live the values they use to give life meaning and purpose as fully as they can. The living educational theories of professional educators and other practitioner-researchers usually explain their educational influences in the learning of their students and can also explain their educational influences in the learning of social formations. See www.actionresearch.net/writings/livtheory.html.

For tutors and action researchers on masters degree programmes interested in classroom research and action reflection see Action planning in improving practice and in generating educational knowledge See also the Master's Writings.

For beginning action researchers interested in action methods see Jean McNiff's Action research for professional development: Concise advice for new action researchers a celebration of 21 years of collaboration with Jack Whitehead. For practitioners interested in continuing professional development Programmes (CPD) see Living Values, Improving Practice Co-operatively: An Action Research Project

For supervisors and action researchers on doctoral programmes interested in research methodologies see Doctoral Writings and the doctoral and masters supervisions and references at http://www.actionresearch.net/arsup.shtml.  For other Action Research see these writings

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Testimonial from one of our student educators....


Sir,
  

I wish to thank you heartily for teaching us useful technologies which are of great use to us in the education sector. On Thursday 04th March I had a presentation with an audit from France i.c.w use of Sankore at school. I created my learning site using Kompozer and hosted it on Apache.

That was too good. He thought that I was on the internet when infact it was my computer which was acting like a server. I also used the History and Geography CD which the VCILT developped and it's one of my best CD and which I use the most with my students. My presentation was mind-blowing and I got very good notes and sincerely I believe that some credits go to you as well.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart and wish you ALL THE VERY BEST IN YOUR FUTURE ENDEAVOURS.

GOD BLESS YOU.

Best Regards

L.K

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Research and Development (R&D) v/s Research and Publications (R&P)



The University of Mauritius has a rigorous system of peer-review when it comes to assessing applications from academic staff for promotion purposes. The promotion criteria are divided into three distinct categories namely teaching, research and service. Most staff is promoted to higher grades based on their research marks. A quantitative marking system allocates marks for publications and the conduct of funded research projects. Every year academic staffs of the university are promoted from lecturer to senior lecturer to associate professor until they reach the grade of professor. This gives an indication that the performance of the university in terms of research is a healthy one. On the other hand when we look at the recent quality audit report we find that one of the faculties has had more than a hundred research publications over one or two years. However, the report including the recent visitor’s report highlight the main weakness of the university to be research. Some have phrased it as meaningful research. Others have highlighted the need for research in areas of national interests etc.


Where is the problem then?


We are very often confronted with the term R&D when the theme of research is brought up either in the industrial sector or in academia.  Research is basically a process of ‘free’ inquiry into areas or elements about which we want to find logical answers to the questions that we have. We might want to explain why something is the way it is, or what is the best solution to a specific problem that we encounter, or how can we keep on improving on things that are already working well. Research is a process that takes time. As the name implies, research is about search and search again and may be search until you find the answer or you give up. Hence the term, re-search. It is a process that involves a methodical and or methodological approach to inquiry and there is an outcome at the end. Whether it is about collecting data and making sense out of them or pushing your brains to its limits to reflect and try to explain things, research is about looking in some depth at elements of interest or concern to the researcher or the research community. 


In developed countries it is widely said and proven that research has been the driving force behind innovation that leads to the socio-economic developments of the countries through industrialisation, the design and development of new products and services to the global markets. This is how the term research and development has been coined, I believe. Research leads to the exploration of new ideas, which in turn are developed into products and services that can be commercially exploited or that can lead to significant improvement to the community (common good). Naturally speaking, research and development activities often span over years, even decades and in some cases more than that.


In contrast to the above, our promotion system looks at the number of research publications of academics hence I have coined the term research and publications. When people engage in a rat race of research and publications we often end up with little or no applications of the research. Researchers are driven by the mindset where after a paper is successfully published in a peer-reviewed journal, then they move on to undertake the next ‘research’ with a publishability prospect. The other route many will take to distort the value of research is to fit themselves into all possible situations where their name could figure out on a published work to earn some marks. Hence we find ourselves being a bit the jacks of all trades under the umbrella of ‘multidisciplinary research’.


Publications is a means to disseminate the research findings and to provide others with a benchmark or reference point on what is already available and what can be done. In the earlier days we had no choice than to have recourse to paper-based publishers and publishing and dissemination of one’s work was a tedious task. Only a ‘select’ category of persons could have access to those facilities. Nowadays with Web 2.0 where anyone can have his or her own site or blog dissemination of one’s work is much easier than before. Publications through publishers is not the only way to demonstrate scholarship as digital scholarship is gaining ground extra fast as advocated by Prof Martin Weller of the Open University of UK.....