The course followed a somewhat different structure than earlier modules, structured as a series of case studies, each dealing with a different aspect of the relation between education and development:
- Teacher education in sub-Saharan Africa;
- ICT in education in Latin America
- Non-formal adult education in South Asia
- Education in conflict areas, the case of Sri Lanka
For the EMA we needed to develop a case study and link it with the main themes of the course. I chose to focus on Early Childhood Education, with a regional focus on sub-Saharan Africa. It’s one of the three core themes in VVOB’s portfolio and nicely illustrates some of the themes in the course:
- Relations between research and policy
- Role of western-dominated international organisations in setting development agendas.
- Role of aid in ‘developing’ poor countries.
- Role of public and private players in education.
- Economic vs Human-right based aid discourses.
- Role of local vs. ‘expert’ knowledge.
But on to my short evaluation of this module. For me, the positives include:
- well-balanced “course design” with a combination of practical ‘cases’ and commentary readings. The latter are more general or theoretical papers, outlining the main positions in the debates on aid, education and development. I found it a great selection, not limited to the usual suspects (Freire, Sen, Easterly, Collier…), but including some inspiring writers (Samoff, Thomas) that were unknown to me.
- selection of cases: variety of debates in education and development, supported by a variety of resources (donor publications, academic papers, videos…)
- regular updates: Materials seem to be updated regularly, including the introduction of new case about education in conflict areas this year.
- nature of EMA: design your own case. I found it a well-though assessment task, aligning with the course outcomes and the type of activities in the module.
- synchronous tutor-led sessions. As I argued before, I find this an important element in an online course. It creates a link with tutor and fellow students and gives you the feeling you’re doing a course together, rather than being engaged in some process of self-study.
- detailed and constructive feedback on the TMAs. Extensive, constructive and actionable feedback by an experienced expert definitely gives an added value to a course.
No course is perfect. Some negatives include:
- lack of interaction with peer students. It’s a bit a shame that with such a diverse group of people, many of them active in development and education, not more interaction and collaboration took place. There was little interaction on the forum, online tutorials were rather sparsely attended and few (if any) were blogging or active on Twitter.
- collaborative activities didn’t work out well. Salmon’s model of online interaction was confirmed here in the sense that planning collaborative activities without first investing in building an online community is unlikely to work. Secondly, the assessment should reflect the time spent on various activities in the course, implying that some part of the overall score should be based on the collaborative activities, as in H800.
- Why not let students peer evaluate each other’s. Getting the opportunity to read and give feedback on others’ papers would be interesting for myself (assuming the paper is good), would improve my feedback-giving skills and may improve cooperation among students.
- That this was not a module provided by the Institute of Educational Technology and it was shown by the lack of any use or stimulation to use Web 2.0 tools. Bookmark sharing, blogging or Twitter were not introduced or stimulated, whereas they could have had an added value for the module.
- Finally, as much as I like the tutor system of the OU, I do think that some interaction with course team members would benefit the quality of the course. Papers from various course team members were read and discussed within the module. How interesting would it be if an online tutorial could be set up with the authors?
This was my final module (for now) with the OU. I’d certainly like doing any other modules with the OU with the future, but their course fees and lack of offer in some domains (economics, international politics) mean it won’t probably be for a few years.