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The Uber Experience

By: Kari Olstad

At a study trip to Silicon Valley and San Francisco we visited a lot of innovative companies and institutions, but the most lasting impression was riding around in other peoples’ cars. And a simple app.

Uber is called a “technology for sharing economy”. And I finally understand why Uber is a good metaphor for disruption in general.

As a passenger I found the Uber experience superior to the ordinary taxicab. Because the drivers need to get good ratings the cars are clean and the drivers polite and considerate. With the app I could pre-approve the car, the driver and the price. Uber mitigates the financial transactions, so no need for taking out the card and no tipping. And the price is lower than in a taxicab. In the San Francisco area the car would arrive within a few minutes. Because there was no lack of cars. Being an Uber driver is an accessible job for people without education, it is a very flexible job for those who just want to earn a few bucks now and then, and drivers said they meet a lot of interesting people. The drivers also get the name of the passenger and can rate them, creating a sense of security which is the reason why so many Uber drivers are women.

What have the taxi companies done? Nothing, it seems. They could implement many of the features that Uber has, like mutual rating, set prices, pre-paid trips and live view of the car approaching. The popularity of Uber where available demonstrates that customers want this. (No, it is not just about the price.)

What can we learn from this in education? What if Uber shows us that people want cheap, simple, when-in-need products? What if people want to be in control in their role as consumers of services provided by other people?

The technology is already there. Some call YouTube the world’s greatest educational system. There are Uber-like platforms for connecting freelance teachers and students and mitigating the payments.

What if the recruitment ads no longer contain words like “bachelor” or “master” or “college”? Will the students still come to graduate at the established institutions? Is reading text books and sitting in on lectures so fulfilling that the graduation is just an insignificant detail? Or do we rely on young peoples’ need to just be together in a secure environment led by grown-ups all day?

MOOCs were supposed to be the big disruption wave of education. That did not happen, at least not yet, but disruption usually happens from below -not from above.

(Silicon Valley also provided me with some optimistic discoveries, but this time I go for scary.)

TNS Gallup: People want further education online

A recent survey from TNS Gallup reveals that 77 percent of those who want further education, want to do it online.

 

“This shows a maturity in the population for using digital media,” says Torhild Slåtto, Director of Flexible Education Norway, which is the national organization for private and public providers of online and flexible education.

More than half wants more education
The survey is representative for the entire population in the age span 26 to 60. More than half say yes to more education, and the women are raising the bar with 57 percent vs the men’s 50. The motivation for further education is more or less equal in the different parts of the country.

Young people are more eager for education
72 percentage of the surveyed in the age of 25-29 years further education, while only 37 percent in the age group 45-60 say the same. “The twenty somethings are at an earlier stage of their career and might see this as a way to promotion. Maybe they also see that professional life in 2016 requires high levels of competency, and that they need to refill their education constantly,” says Slåtto. This age group is also somewhat more concerned with being in school or on campus together with their peers, but within the group that said yes to further education, more than six out of ten say this could happen online.

Retirees want further education!
Three out of ten retirees and recipients of benefit want further education, and 70 percent of these people would want to do it online. This should provoke some thoughts at the Senior Citizen Community Centers and providers of education. Publicly employed are a little more motivated for further education than privately employed, while self-employed are less interested. The least motivated for further education are the homemakers.

Higher education means more education
Among people that have up to four years of higher education, six out of ten want further education, and most of them would like it to be online. This is a higher score than both the less and the more educated. The least motivated are those holding only primary education.
“More than half of the population want further education, and 61 percent of those who have completed up to four years of higher education want further education. That represents such a large volume that it will have to influence the politics for both education and economics. It is our opinion that the numbers revealed in this survey is a cry out to politicians, employers and the workers’ own unions. There should be consequences for the “Strategy for Competency” politics Vox and political departments are working on. The level of digitalization has increased in all age groups and has created a demand for new offers within further education. We need a lot more innovation and development of digital learning,” says Torhild Slåtto in Flexible Education Norway.

 

In this article, we use the term “further education” broadly, as the respondents were allowed to interpret with no given indications. TNS Gallup executed the survey on behalf of Flexible Education Norway. The 1000 respondents were asked: “Would you like further education, and could this be online?”

This article was first published in Norwegian in Synkron 2:2016.

My first GDC

With accreditation as both press and Project Partner for Game Hub Scandinavia, I was really excited to attend my first Game Developers Conference in downtown, San Francisco, this spring.
 Here you’ll find the world’s largest gathering of game developers. And it isn’t really a media-friendly event, unlike E3 in Los Angeles, which is all about news for players and press. GDC is a place for game developers to share and learn. All twenty-six thousand of them.

Text and photos Ebba Køber

Editor at FuN and Project Partner in Game Hub Scandinavia

So how do you orient yourself at this gigantic arena? In a civilized society, there are rules and codes, and GDC is no exception. There are online guides and tips for how to survive the three-day event. And they don’t all say the same things. GDC is packed with virtual reality innovation, summits, tutorials, boot camps, developer days, round-tables, fun-filled interactive spaces and exciting parties and events. 
Some say GDC is all about networking, others think the lectures are the core of the show. And some even say it is the parties that are most important.

I was immediately invited into an indie-party, on my first night, on my way to the hotel. I took the opportunity to learn how this works. There were a lot of developers (even some award winning Norwegians), a keg of beer and computers for looking at games. After a couple of beers, I had to throw in the towel and check into the hotel. With a couple of business cards in my pockets, already feeling into the experience.

NEW GAMES AND ACCOLADES

An important part of the event is the presentation of new games, indie- and others, and there are also awards. 
IGF and Game Choice Awards Winners: The 18th Annual IGF Awards honoured and awarded over $50,000 in prize money to the most innovative and brightest developers in indie game development. Headlining the notable winners, ‘Her Story’ (Sam Barlow) received the Seumas McNally Grand Prize.

The 16th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards celebrated the industry’s best games and developers. ‘Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’ (Project RED) won top honours with Game of the Year and also received the Best Technology award. ‘Her Story’ (Sam Barlow) took home the Innovation Award, Best Narrative, and Best Handheld/Mobile Game accolades.

MEETINGS AND NETWORKING

As a Norwegian GHS partner, I was proud of the Norwegian developers participating at GDC. They won both Honourable Mentions and First Prizes at the GDC Play. I also had good meetings and talks while arranging a mixer with Scandinavian industry representatives and The Norwegian Consulate General. Together we attended the Nordic party, which is a very popular event, thanks to our friends at Game Hub Scandinavia.

The keynote speaker at our Norwegian FuNKon15 conference last year, Starr Long, from Portalarium was giving a talk at GDC.

THE WORLD OF VIRTUAL REALITY

This year the big focus was on VR and exciting new ways to use it in games. VRDC 2016 went on at the same time as GDC.
 In the expo area, people were queuing up to check out the newest edition of the Oculus Rift VR-mask. As press, I luckily didn’t have to stand in line and was brought into a dark room for testing.

In the picture, you see me trying out the newest Oculus Rift. It was a really new experience for the senses. With gloves, we could play tennis, light matches and build castles.

No one looks cool in a VR-mask – or do they?

LAST IMPRESSIONS

In the end, my impression of this massive event is that this is a place for sharing and learning, and those game developers have kept a playful indie approach to the industry, which I hope will continue in the years to come.

New blog post from our director on EPALE

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Torhild Slåtto writes about quality in online education on the EPALE platform. She blogs about the importance of alignment between learning outcomes, learning activities av forms of assessment. She also reminds us how education from the earliest stage was based on dialogue, and that technology can help us bring back that dialogue between teacher and students and among the students.

Brainless genius

By: Kari Olstad

A brainless crowd is a scary thing. Photo by  sookie/flickr.com
A brainless crowd is a scary thing. Photo by sookie/flickr.com

I was 12 when Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to scare the living daylight out of us with ‘The Terminator’, and old enough to not be very scared seeing ‘The Terminator II’ seven years later. Still, one thing was just as spooky in the sequel; the way the robots scan their targets and get all sorts of information about them. Today that is not science fiction anymore, it’s Google glass.

Information is power, and it doesn’t have to be exclusive. The first one to use smart glasses to sparkle at social events will have an advantage. Wouldn’t you be very flattered if a person is interested enough to remember everything you tell him? Wouldn’t you be freaked out if he also remembers all those things you didn’t tell?

Information is available to us all. (And by “us all” I am of course referring to people in countries who aren’t actively restricting access to this information or areas where infrastructure is so poor that information is unavailable for practical reasons.)

I was teaching a group of teachers (I will not say what level or country) whereof most were not very tech-savvy (neither am I, to be fair). Some of them complained that with everything so available on the internet, there would be no need for basic knowledge anymore. So I gave them a challenge: Who is the first to tell me if the name of the president of Barakasthan using the most efficient search on internet, and why has USA just banned trees in parks within all city borders? No one even raised an eye brow, much less a hand. They just went to work –and by work I mean Google. (If you plan to Google this yourself, let me save you the trouble: This is total bogus, and I was thinking it would trigger at least a small “huh?”.)

Consider this total ,and general, lack of awareness and mix it with the naivety with which we create a digital presence, and it is time to be scared again; good old fashioned eighties style horror movie scared. Especially when reading articles like these:

Because the scary thing is not what is out there, it is how we process it.

Will we be like the robots of the Terminator movies, reacting to whatever information that pops up in front of us? Have access to all kinds of information, but be unable to choose, unable to use the information wisely, to use it ethically, to use it even remotely critically?

Post-poster reflections

By: Kari Olstad

FuNKon14 is behind us, and I am already looking forward to FuNKon15, because I really enjoyed this conference a lot!

Ok, admittedly I was more than a little involved in putting the program together, so the excellent talks and presentations came as no surprise.

Still my favourite was the poster session featuring FuN members’ development projects.

The projects were described in text and pictures on the posters, and then we would stroll around, reading and learning, sipping coffee, and asking questions to the poster presenters. Some of the posters had quite a professional lay out and were printed on glossy paper; others were hand-made with glue stick and felt tip pens, and they all told interesting stories.

Just a few years ago, online learning resources and systems were developed for personal computers only, but people today are constantly logged on. To be able to learn on your mobile phone just makes learning more accessible, this again might make more learning happening. How to learn when you have reading challenges or Norwegian just isn’t your first, or even second, language? Breaking down the content into manageable pieces and making it relevant to daily situations is one way. Online learning might not seem like the best option to learn practical skills, but it is absolutely possible with the right learning resources. And why should the quality of your education depend on you living close to a skilled tutor?

The 12 posters presented at the conference addressed these challenges and more. The results we saw will benefit students of different ages, abilities, education levels and life situations. This isn’t enough to save the world –but at least it’s improving it.

And just to emphasize that the future was happening right in our poster room; we had Samsung with Oculus Rift, 3d-nordic printing 3d stuff and prof. Isidro Delgado from the La Salle University letting people play with his gadgets, like Google glasses. Why not have a little FuN while learning?

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Look to Scotland

Delegates from Norway, Denmark and Sweden visiting University of Highlands and Islands in Perth.
Delegates from Norway, Denmark and Sweden visiting University of Highlands and Islands in Perth.

A small delegation of eight Danes, four Norwegians and a Scottish Swede went to Scotland, just four days after the historic “No”. The field trip had be planned long before we were aware of the independence referendum, simply because we thought the Scots might have a thing or two to teach us about education.

One of the first thing to be noticed was that the Scots seemed to share a more flexible definition of “flexible education” than I have been doing so far. I am used to thinking of flexible education as teaching and learning that is detached from the traditional boundaries of being in the same place on the same time, and also being able to study full time or part time. In the universities we visited, flexible also included recognition of prior learning, work based learning, being able to enter learning without fulfilling formal requirements and taster courses.

Scottish Centre for Work based Learning was a good example of this. A part of Glasgow Caledonian University, it provides courses, training and education in close cooperation with employers and organisations, providing just-in-time learning that can also result in academic degrees. Engaging in learning contracts with every student, the centre develops study programs that let working professionals get academic credits while developing very relevant skills in what they think useful, even having the option to have work projects as their assessment.

Other great places to visit were the University of Highlands and Islands and the University of Edinburgh. Both demonstrated successful implementation of flexibility and technology enhanced learning, brining quality education to larger groups of learners. Two things they had in common to explain their success were thoroughness and professionalism. The development was secured with the senior managers, who were not afraid to dig in and get their hands dirty, so to speak. When pedagogical staff were motivated to go digital, they were supported both technically and legally. The universities didn’t just have visions; they had professional project management and change management. They were willing to spend the time and money necessary. For them “moocs” and “flexible education” became a part of “how we do things around here”, not just icing on the cake.

The people we spoke to all thought there was a new wind blowing; teachers are sharing and collaborating more than they used to, not only because they have to, but because they want to. Maybe they define themselves as context rather than content. This might very well increase the quality of education. It is even a viable business model.

By: Kari Olstad