Can we really teach ‘Indigenizing’ courses online?

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This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.

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Author: Matthew Stranach, Coordinator, Educational Technologies, Thompson Rivers University

On April 16, Canadians — and internet users around the world — have the opportunity to participate in “Indigenous Canada,” a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offered through the University of Alberta and the Coursera consortium of online learning providers.

Similar courses — for instance on “Reconciliation through Indigenous education” and “Aboriginal worldviews and education” — are offered by the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto respectively.

“Indigenization” of the curriculum is an urgent issue in Canadian higher education.

As a non-Indigenous faculty member at Thompson Rivers University, I make no claims to speak for, or about, Indigenous communities. I specialize in learning technologies, have a strong interest in instructional design and e-learning and my doctoral thesis was on social presence in MOOCs.

My university has made a priority of “Indigenizing” curricula and expressed the desire to be a “university of choice” both for Indigenous students and for open, distance and online education. Given my role as a faculty member is to support learning technologies and instructional design initiatives, I have taken a strong interest in Indigenization programs across Canada.

Indigenous ways of knowing

So what are we talking about when we discuss Indigenization? Camosun College, in their “Inspiring relationships” strategic document provides a useful starting point in this discussion:

“Indigenization is the process by which Indigenous ways of knowing, being, doing and relating are incorporated into educational, organizational, cultural and social structures.”

Of the 94 Calls to Action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, seven deal specifically with education while another while another four deal with “education for reconciliation.”

Higher education clearly has a role to play in helping to implement these calls to action — through teacher education programs, and across the entire curriculum.

Within the context of MOOCs — and e-learning generally — there is much potential to align with Indigenization curricular goals. MOOCS, for example, could amplify and extend place-based, problem-based and project-based learning of Indigenous content as well as language revitalization and storytelling.

There could also be great value in bringing Indigenous content to a potentially “massive” audience. In the past, some MOOCs have seen enrollments in the hundreds of thousands.

Didactic teaching methods The concern is that there is, as yet, little evidence which speaks to good practices for Indigenizing these types of massive online courses.The question arises of how to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing, being, doing and relating into the way these courses are designed, delivered and facilitated.As an instructional designer I am constantly going back to the question: Who are the intended learners? And what are their needs in relation to the content, subject matter and program of study?While there is still much to learn about who participates in MOOCs and for what purpose, some studies on this topic have shown that MOOC participants tend to be university — or college — educated males in their 20s to 40s. Results from my own doctoral research study are consistent with this profile.It will be interesting to see what outreach the providers of these Indigenizing courses and their institutional partners will engage in — to reach as diverse a range of learners as possible.Another concern is that MOOCs offered through Coursera, EdX and other similar providers use relatively didactic, one-way teaching methods. The learning management software, course design and learning outcomes have tended to favour a homogeneous, cognitive-behaviourist approach to teaching and learning — with little interaction […]

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Can we really teach ‘Indigenizing’ courses online?

Can we really teach ‘Indigenizing’ courses online?
Share this!

Next week, on April 16, 2018, Canadians — and internet users around the world — will have the opportunity to participate in “ Indigenous Canada ,” a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offered through the University of Alberta and the Coursera consortium of online learning providers.

Similar courses — for instance on “ Reconciliation through Indigenous education ” and “ Aboriginal worldviews and education ” — are offered by the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto respectively.

“Indigenization” of the curriculum is an urgent issue in Canadian higher education.

As a non-Indigenous faculty member at Thompson Rivers University, I make no claims to speak for, or about, Indigenous communities. I specialize in learning technologies, have a strong interest in instructional design and e-learning and my doctoral thesis was on social presence in MOOCs .

My university has made a priority of “Indigenizing” curricula and expressed the desire to be a “university of choice” both for Indigenous students and for open, distance and online education. Given my role as a faculty member is to support learning technologies and instructional design initiatives, I have taken a strong interest in Indigenization programs across Canada. Indigenous ways of knowing

So what are we talking about when we discuss Indigenization? Camosun College, in their “ Inspiring relationships ” strategic document provides a useful starting point in this discussion: “Indigenization is the process by which Indigenous ways of knowing, being, doing and relating are incorporated into educational, organizational, cultural and social structures.” Of the 94 Calls to Action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada , seven deal specifically with education while another while another four deal with “education for reconciliation.” A paper bag used to collect the tears of those testifying, to then be burned in a sacred fire, is seen at the final day of hearings at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Richmond, B.C., on Sunday April 8, 2018. Higher education clearly has a role to play in helping to implement these calls to action — through teacher education programs, and across the entire curriculum.

Within the context of MOOCs — and e-learning generally — there is much potential to align with Indigenization curricular goals. MOOCS, for example, could amplify and extend place-based, problem-based and project-based learning of Indigenous content as well as language revitalization and storytelling.

There could also be great value in bringing Indigenous content to a potentially “massive” audience. In the past, some MOOCs have seen enrollments in the hundreds of thousands . Didactic teaching methods

The concern is that there is, as yet, little evidence which speaks to good practices for Indigenizing these types of massive online courses.

The question arises of how to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing, being, doing and relating into the way these courses are designed, delivered and facilitated.

As an instructional designer I am constantly going back to the question: Who are the intended learners? And what are their needs in relation to the content, subject matter and program of study?

While there is still much to learn about who participates in MOOCs and for what purpose, some studies on this topic have shown that MOOC participants tend to be university – or college – educated males in their 20s to 40s. Results from my own doctoral research study are consistent with this profile.

It will be interesting to see what outreach the providers of these Indigenizing courses and their institutional partners will engage in — to reach as diverse a range of learners as possible.

Another concern is that MOOCs offered through Coursera, EdX and other similar providers use relatively didactic, one-way […]

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