Tuesday 16 June 2015

The goals of expanding and improved learning

Frances Pinter on knowledge infrastructures
Changes in the knowledge infrastructures taking place in the academic ecosystem itself will have a profound effect on how learning objects for personalised learning develop in the future. How are publishers, large and small, coming to grips with this.

Frances Pinter, from Manchester University Press and Knowledge Unlatched, provided a concluding overview of aspects of the changing environment and what it means for publishing at the Personalised Learning and Publishing Partnerships seminar.

Knowledge infrastructures are an ecology of people, places and spaces in a discipline. The first iteration was in silos: humanities, social sciences and STEM operating in isolation. The second knowledge infrastructure phase is a Venn diagram of overlapping disciplines.

What are the changing features of these knowledge infrastructures? The borders of tacit knowledge and common ground are shifting. We used to use a lot of face to face contact, but now, that has changed. The complexities of sharing data across disciplines and domains are challenging, but increasingly interesting. There are new norms of what 'knowledge' is. The speed of change of is speeding up.

Selecting and analysing data has changed. In the humanities especially. Think about archaeology. You used to have go and dig to experience it. Now it is catalogued and experienced digitally. We're having to develop different methodologies to deal with the vast datasets that social media provides.

The control of dissemination is changing. Libraries have a much more central yet threatened role in helping with this. What about perpetual preservation, data protection, etc. There are still plenty of issues we haven't come to term with.

How can we reflect on all of this to enable personalised learning? What are the tools that passive recipients we have talked about will engage with and how can we get them to co-create? It's about a change in scholars and scholarship.

Pinter's colleague attended a recent conference in the US. They reported there's a lot of anxiety about careers, but actually a lot of recruitment in the field of digital scholarship. There's also the rise of the 'Alt-Ac' those who just want to research and aren't interested in tenure. Collaboration and interdisciplinarity are encouraged.

What do academics think is needed? A workshop at the Sloan Foundation found that they want to create and nourish mechanisms for large-scale, longer-term research with interdisciplinary collaborations across disciplines. They also want to develop analysis techniques.

What can publishers do? Be clear about the value of your brand. Co-create new forms, collaborate and take models from elsewhere for inspiration. Pinter cites the example of the Natural History Museum. they needed extra space for all their exhibits. their solution? Move the famous 'Dippy' dinosaur in the main hall and take him on tour, hang a whale from the ceiling for added interest and add in the additional exhibits below.

Publishers need to experiment with new business models and bring people with different skills into publishing (a work in progress). They also need to improve discoverability and interoperability as well as foster open access for books. Publishers need to sharpen how they see the future. Open access may be part of the solution.

The new business models that are emerging out of the push for open access do hold promise, particularly for books. Pinter's recommended reading is the Crossick Report. You can't hinder the development of one part of academia simply because academics prefer to work with long form content. The writing of the monograph has an important role to play in the development of knowledge.

Pinter's conclusions from the seminar are:

  • Although the Ebook Observatory report showed no impact on sales, does that still hold true today?
  • Technical changes are there, but the business models aren't
  • The idea of dropping prices to gain market share doesn't take into account the cost of development
  • The Jisc e-textbook projects are fascinating, but not yet costed. They are about seeing if it can work, not if it has a sustainable model (yet, we're in transition...)
  • Many of the big projects large publishers are developing are likely to be funded from the profits of the existing products so they are unlikely to disband the old model when the new ones are still so experimental
  • Digital is making some very fundamental changes to how students learn.

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