Sunday, 28 June 2020

Boma - a few meetings over the last 6 weeks

This is a continuation of my Boma journey - more notes from our time together as a group.
Our meeting on the 25th of  May was still online. The first section was with our group and then we had a guest speaker - Shai Reshef, founder of the University of the People. These are my notes from that session.
The first part was about making assumptions. We looked at our projects and the problems we are trying to solve and the users of what we design. Our next step was to have a discussion about whether our users actually need this - we assume they do, but really, do they?
How can we validate our assumptions? Surveys, shadowing a student, focus on specific aspects rather than the whole thing. If it's a product, have a landing page and example of that product. Kickstarter is an example of digital validation - people will put money in if they think it is useful to them. Also Indiegogo. We need to be careful that people who give positive feedback with actually use it. Need to be specific.
We discussed what we each needed to validate - we assume so much, but it's not always true. The people we talk to need to have an understanding of our project. I think my main assumption is that teachers have the desire and capacity to grow their own practice.
Having a minimum viable product is important - having something tangible that they can see and then decide if they would use it. Having this means that you can have user testing, having people using it and then send out updates, it won't be perfect. Need to look at our own bias into the project, we think its awesome, but it might not be.
We looked at one question we would love to get an answer for, and who would be a good person to answer it, then ask that question of ourselves and answer it with what we think that person would say. One example I had was "how can we get rid of assessment as a driver of learning?" and that person would say "get rid of assessment - the definition of success is different for every person - standardised assessment is not needed". This inner mentor is great to ask questions and answer them with a different lens.

Shai Reshaf

Non-profit University of the People -Democratising Knowledge
How online learning will solve the future of higher education
Students have to work to pay for university and they know they won't be successful without education. The University of the People opens the gate to higher ed for many who can't afford to go otherwise. UNESCO predicts that in 2025 98 million students will not have seats in the existing universities, and that was before COVID 19 - see this article on drivers and innovations shaping higher education.
University of the People is the first non profit, tuition free, American accredited online university.
It started in Europe where the students could keep their jobs, stay with family but still get a degree. It is opensource where people help each other, teach and learn from each other for free. When he first started this and announced it was going to happen, the NY times wrote an article and the next day people wanted to help. There are over 17,000 volunteers and they have a wide range of highly regarded educators. The volunteers are supported by paid workers who back them up and sometimes be in their place if there is a gap to fill. AT this stage there are 200 paid supporters. The programme advisors are paid but the instructors all come as volunteers. but have an honorarium if they complete the course they teach - US$3 an hour - they majority stay for this, It started in 2014 with 500 students and each year that has doubled and they now have over 31,000 from over 200 countries. The classes are small, between 20-30 and they mix with students form all around the world. A course is 9 weeks long, 8 weeks of the course and 1 for an exam. Every week they have lecture notes, homework assignment and discussion. It has a very strong academic pedagogy which opens minds to different cultures. It runs form Thursday to Wednesday as a week and they have virtual classrooms where they can choose to share info with their peers. The discussion question is at the core of pedagogy. All students comment on it and it develops over the week. All student must write at least 1 original comment and then 3 comments on other peoples discussion. The main discussion is between students, not lecturer. The homework is assessed randomly, they get a grade for homework, log and discussion each week, then have a final exam. Students go to this university to have a better future, many are refugees from all over the world.
Shai says they are the opportunity for those that have none, It was said in 2009 that it won't run on volunteers and if it did it wouldn't be accredited and f it was it wouldn't be sustainable. It is. People said "online is not the real thing" - now, with Covid19 it has been shown it is the real thing. The future of higher education is ruined if they are not moving online correctly. You can't just move online and expect it to work the same. They need training and tech support. Need to be kept motivated and engaged It can be isolating, they must have social engagement. 'Peer to peer' learning is a way to make it more interactive and less isolated. A discussion form. Having a virtual librarian or student advisor to be a 'big brother' helps to be in touch to see how they are if they are not turning up.
The UoPeople have gained a lot of knowledge over the last 11 years and have offered to teach other universities - they want to help others with using the power of online learning. It can harm students, the university and higher education if not done well.
Many people struggle to pay for college - the USA, UK and others have millions of people who cannot afford  and now with Covid19 it is much worse. The USA will have over 30 million unemployed in the next few weeks and hundreds of millions will lose jobs and need to improve their education or change career to find a new one, many will not be able to pay for that. This becomes and online learning solution where they can keep a job while completing an education.
The UoPeople are a solution for this, but many students are too scared to go to uni because of Covid19, or their parents may have lost jobs and cannot afford to send them anymore so the universities have to adapt. Perhaps they could move the first year online and give it out free while this situation calms down a bit. What would happen if all universities did that? Perhaps 1/3 or 1/4 would complete the year - they could work while studying. Both uni and students save money but still have a campus life. Many universities will not survive after Covid19 - many have funding cut but this way they could have more students for the following years. A dramatic restructuring is needed. Many people have discovered how powerful online learning is.
UoPeople will continue to offer its course, it is affordable for anyone who wants a better chance for a better future. It will continue to grow while there is a need.
Did you see high schools online before the pandemic?
In the USA there are quite a few online. In some the athletes train all day and only make it to school at night. For Upper Elementary and High School they need motivation, self discipline, support is needed. It doesn't work if it's just a lecture.
At UoPeople they do 15-20 hours a week for every course and only do 2 courses a week, so 2/3 hours a day each course. Almost all students work so they do this on top of work. Most are in their late 20s, they have been working or dropped out of college. The most popular course is Computer Science but Business administration is larger. It costs $100 for each end of course exam so could be $1000 for the full time year. They do have some scholarships as well. $1000 is small compared to $30,000 at traditional uni.In Africa they have many needing scholarships so they have a long waiting list there.
Where will education be in 10 years?
It is utopian, not dystopian. The top universities will always be there. Harvard for example, costs US$60,000-$70,000 a year, then living on top of that, just the books cost over US$1200. If Harvard was to say 'it's now going to cost you $1,000,000, people would still pay to go. This is true for all the top universities. But most universities won't be there in 10 years. The cost is increasing. In the UK 20 years ago education was free. No it's 10,000 pounds a year. Worldwide, governments are unable to support as they used to so parents pay. Are they only teaching university, or researching? A professor may teach only 6 hours a week and the rest of the time they are researching, and students are paying for that. Eventually students will not be able to pay. UoPeople will be there offering low cost education. They will be there, Harvard will be there and everything in between. If you go to another uni you must be willing to pay more. How much are you willing to pay to learn about the ancient history of Greece? It's a market. What do I get for how much I'm willing to pay. If people have a local job and are in a local community they may be prepared to pay more to stay there. There will be some fully online, some blended and some face to face. It will be different - how different? We'll see.

Online meeting - 8 June

This session was meant to have a guest speaker, who unfortunately couldn't make it so we had another session with our group. We spent some time looking at timelines for our projects - interesting to think about what it might look like in 1 year, 5 years or more!. We talked about the coaching and mentoring times and spent some time on our own projects.
What are questions we still have? What are we pretending not to know? We went through our project evolution documents and completed some more of this.
I think one of the biggest things for me is self doubt/ I sometimes wonder if I can do this and whether I have the skills and the knowledge to follow through. Some good advice for this was to give yourself the advice you would give to someone else if they had that problem. What would I say, I'd say of course you have, go for it, you can do it - so that's what I need to believe in for myself. Mindset is such a big part of doing this project and I think it has been difficult with Covid19 and everything that has been going on.

Face to face meeting - 22 June

The last session we had was in person! It was so nice to actually be with people and connect again. We had a short talk by Kaila Colbin, co-founder of Boma Global and CEO of Boma NZ. She is so inspirational and it is great to have her around. She talked about shame - having that intensely shameful feeling that you are not worthy of love. Being a bad kid, not doing homework, no-one loves me, a spiral. A real fear of not being good enough. We want to be someone who does what they say they will do. There was a bit of discussion about Dave Meslin: The antidote to apathy and Dr. Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability - both well worth a watch. We talked about balancing life, work and Boma and how hard it has been. Hopefully our 3 day trip will help to narrow things down a bit and give us a path of action.
We each did a quick talk about where we were at right now. We all asked some questions of each fellow, using some expanding questions from the Leadership Lab to both reflect on past situations and look at ways forward. The questions I was asked are:
What has been a big win for you this year?
If it works perfectly what will the outcome be?
What advice would you give someone else in this situation?
How might you test this idea?
What can we support you with?
Who has overcome this and might be able t support you with this? Who could be collaborative partners in NZ business and Education?
I'm looking forward to spending some more time on my project over the holidays - I have started a minimal viable product and hopefully can get this to a stage where I can share it will kaiako at my kura next term to see if they would use it - no assumptions!!

We are off to Lake Tekapo in the holidays to do some work together and hopefully that will give us a kick start into the next step. I am looking forward to it!

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