Friday, March 25, 2016

I've moved on...

I originally started this blog to assist with keeping the Ako Aotearoa e-Primers up to date. I thoroughly enjoyed researching and compiling the e-Primer series, and I know that many have found them useful. My career has shifted, to the extent that my research and position responsibilities have changed. I'm still blogging though...

Best wishes and yours toward online distance education,


Monday, August 2, 2010

2.3: Primary work into the role of the e-tutor

Goold, A., Coldwell, J., and Annemieke, C. (2010). An examination of the role of the e-tutor. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(5), 704-716 (full-text).

Work on the e-tutor's role seems to have been silent over the last few years, so Goold et al's article is timely and will hopefully lead to further studies. The article focuses particularly on the online tutor's role where asynchronous discussion is required; it would be interesting to see work relating to the breadth of online tutoring roles as well.

Of particular note is the use of team-teaching, which doubtless made it possible to deal with 70+ students per module!

Friday, June 18, 2010

5.*: Blended learning at the University of Queensland

I've just returned from the 2010 Blended Learning conference at the University of Queensland, Brisbane. My keynote was beamed through via Elluminate to a UK group at the University of Hertfordshire, and a Cloudworks area provided some further interaction (the Cloudworks page for my keynote here).

I spoke on whether blended learning is a valuable educational goal, suggesting instead that we ought to think in more transcendant terms along the lines of L. Dee Fink's Significant learning and Jack Mezirow's Transformative learning. I also made mention of Narayanan's slow pedagogy (PDF).

There were several particular standouts for me at the event.
  1. Martin Oliver's excellent address (in the Elluminate recording) reminding us of the importance with starting with a consideration of the extreme diversity of our student body, and the use of a Frankenstein's monster image that quite nicely sums up a lot of blended learning.
  2. The work of David Craven (UQ foundation year) and his work with Business Island, primarily because of its excellent simulation and use of real-life collaboration (it makes use of Second Life but will soon move to OpenSim).
  3. A fantastic look at the results of the eCAPS project (see initial promises here). This, to me, was in itself a good reason for making the trip to Brisbane. The eCAPS work will soon be published (I am hoping in at least one journal that will catch e-practitioners' attention). It represents a wonderful synergy between learner-centredness, a clear outcomes focus, sound application of education theory and - as a result - an elegant use of digital technology. I hope to get members of the team to New Zealand at some stage.
  4. A chat with Dr Lynda Shevellar (UQ), whose courageous and dedicated use of blogging and online discussion demonstrates both the necessity of a lecturer with a firm commitment to online discourse and the significant challenges to applying it to an on-campus group.
There was so much more... Dr John Harrison and colleagues' excellent use of podcasting and assessment in courses associated with journalism and broadcasting; sound wisdom from an opening panel; and the opportunity to talk with members of UQs ITS and the ways in which they actively support e-learning development. Each of these discussions were in a richer context than what I can hope to adequately write about here.

I would like to express my appreciation to Drs Helen Farley and Caroline Steele for the invitation, and the opportunity to be inspired again about the possibilities we have for enriching education!

Monday, May 24, 2010

5.*: OERs - a 'global south' perspective

Kanwar, A., Kodhandaraman, B., and Umar, A. (2010). Toward sustainable Open Education Resources: A perspective from the global south. American Journal of Distance Education 24(2), 65-80.

There has been much interest in the promise of OERs in education. In this article, the authors (all associated with the Commonwealth of Learning) report on the inconclusive experience to date and the uncertain future for various OER initiatives (such as the MIT Open Courseware initiative and the Open University's OpenLearn courses). There are three core issues:
  1. The benefits of OERs are not yet substantiated.
  2. The flow of OERs goes from developed to developing countries (from North to South).
  3. OER initiatives to date are reliant on donor support (yes, these things still cost money).
The authors report on a "we built it but they did not come" scenario whereby forty-six modules of OER material relating to school teacher education were made available in Zimbabwe. The problem: buy-in by education providers. Assocaited issues were to do with the generic nature of the materials themselves and the difficulties of finding suitable resources among the plethora available. Other implementations have been more successful, however the reasons for success have to do with clear provider partnerships... so, while the resources might have been used in these circumstances (where they might have been 'made to order'), it is uncertain as to whether the resources were re-used (the real benefit of OERs).

The authors report on another project linking international providers together to collaborate on developing an OER set of courseware... the project was not completed. The key lesson: governance and quality standards are required for such initiatives... the classic mix of project management and quality assurance, which costs money.

Design of OERs is expensive and takes time. We should certainly applaud those who participate in it, and who apply themselves to developing the OER economy. However we should also be realistic about the challenges and costs of OER development, and be realistic about the level of uptake. Sustainability is a real issue, and the significance of the change management required before OERs are seriously used in formal education should also be squarely faced. Ultimately it is educators themselves who need to be convinced of the vaue of OERs. Until OER use becomes truly convenient and flexible, and perhaps to some extent comprehensive in coverage, the barriers to use may well outstrip the benefits. It seems that there has been little real theoretical progress in OERs since Littlejohn's (2004) book Reusing online resources.

5.1.3: Where is the evidence for digital natives?

Couldn't resist throwing this one in... Is there anyone no longer convinced? Helsper, E.J., &Eynon, R. (2010). Digital natives: where is the evidence? British Educational Research Journal 36 (3), 503 - 520.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

e-Ako taking a deliberate break

I'm hanging up my blogging spurs for a while to concentrate on my PhD. I am considering a new format when I return... which is likely to be as late as mid 2011. It's been difficult trying to keep up specialist knowledge across multiple areas. My reading on e-learning will continue, but blogging drops in priority for a season!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

5.3.2: Wikis in the latest JOLT

The latest Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT, 6[1]) is now available online (not a dedicated link - to the latest issue only). Three articles on wikis further the conversation [1 PDF] [2 PDF] [3 PDF]... but not, admittedly, by much! A pity that none of them consider learning outcomes using an experimental approach, which, I am convinced, the literature regarding the use of wikis in higher education actually requires. We have far too many of the 'What did students think?' evaluation; what we really need is an answer to how well did students learn? The studies also have small response rates and discrete surveys... which is not atypical in much e-learning research. This has the unfortunate consequence of results being highly contextualised and very fragmented.

It is perhaps indicative that we tend to give e-learning tools a go from our enthusiasm, rather than from a consideration of the lessons already learned; the literature review is performed after the evaluation to provide a context for what we did rather than what we will do. This approach is perhaps understandable from the standpoint of encouraging innovation, but it is a poor basis for research. I have no doubt that the authors of these papers learned a lot. As a reader, I'm left a little disappointed!