Monday, October 20, 2008

Published E-Primers

I have received news confirming that two of the E-Primers ("E-Learning in Context" and "E-Education and Faculty") will be published in a book soon to be released by Icfai University Press. I was approached by a Research Associate for the Press in August, seeking permission.

Great news! The two E-Primers will still remain available through the Ako Aotearoa Web site.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

3.1.1: Is instructional design teaching?

A good question. To what extent is participating in the instructional development of a distance or blended course actually an extension of teaching? As I prepare the fourth E-Primer, I have re-read an article by Bill Pelz (2004), (My) three principles of effective online pedagogy, found in the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 8(3), 33-46.

Pelz (2004, p.33) asks:

If I create an environment in which a majority of students gladly learn that which they and I deem relevant and salient, then have I succeeded as a teacher or as a designer? - and does it matter?

The questions are challenging, yet falsely dichotomous. Teaching always has an aspect of instructional design to it; instructional design is always an expression of teaching. The best tertiary courses always reflect the complementary power of both. Together, they make great education. The relationship between teaching and instructional design is a useful thing to consider. Instructional design for distance or blended delivery might receive a new energy from faculty if they see it as an extension of their academic reach and their tenured role.

So, I wonder if tertiary faculty - often known by the title of lecturer, a most unhelpful one when it comes to formal instructional design activity - might instead be better known as 'education facilitators', or 'teaching and academic design specialists', or more realistically perhaps, as we once tried to name them in an institution I was previously with, 'subject matter experts'. Currently, we term those faculty responsible for developing and overseeing blended delivery courses in our institution 'lead academics' (note that 'lead' rhymes with 'feed', and not 'fed'!) This, at least, usefully contrasts with their formal job titles as 'senior lecturers'.

No matter whether actual titles are adapted, tertiary faculty must appreciate that their academic expertise can reach beyond the bounds of the campus, that they have the potential to transform lives through their subject expertise beyond that small group able to eyeball them.

Pelz, you have succeeded as both a teacher and a designer. And may more follow your example!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

1.1.2; 3.4.5: Sweet transgression

I have finished reading bell hooks's Teaching to transgress, and discovered an interesting perspective in a chapter she shares a dialogue with Ron Scapp. Ron is a philosopher and friend of hooks. He writes (1994, p.154):

Sometimes it's important to remind students that joy can be present along with hard work. Not every moment in the classroom will necessarily be one that brings you immediate pleasure, but that doesn't preclude the possibility of joy. Nor does it deny the reality that learning is painful. And sometimes it's necessary to remind students and [academic] colleagues that pain and painful situations don't necessarily translate into harm. We make that fundamental mistake all the time. Not all pain is harm, and not all all pleasure is good.

It is reassuring to see this admission – though hooks's work is certainly the sort where you would expect to encounter this type of honesty and critique. I find this quote useful comfort when participating in instructional design. In the College I serve, each credit of study is to be the equivalent of 10 hours' study. It is always difficult to judge how the 150 hours in any course should be planned. In E-Primer section 3.4.5 I address areas of student workload; often I have been uncomfortable with assigning workload to the 'max'. However Scapp is right. Often it's a case of 'no pain, no gain'. It is our responsibility as educators to stretch student thinking, to cause transformation.

But there's far more to this than just the quantity of work. What is discussed, and what is confronted during a course also need not be the sort of subject that might lead directly to amusement. Transformation can be all the more powerful through the painful realisation that one is biased, prejudiced, imperfect, judgemental, flawed, mortal. It is here that we must not get Scapp out of context; the remainder of hooks's work is about giving students their voice, establishing trust, negotiating meaning, and challenging perspectives.

So, what does this have to do with the 'e'? Plenty. As I point out in E-Primer section 1.1.2, e-learning is a means to an end that must fit within a particular educational framework. It is work such as hooks's, Mezirow's, Palmer's, Ramsden's that inspire me as an educator. E-learning literature helps me to take their rich ideas and implement them online; very seldom does e-learning work transform me in such a way.

Monday, October 6, 2008

New versions available

New versions of the E-Primers are now available through the Ako Aotearoa Web site. The new versions include a numbering system (which will be keyed to future blog entries) and CC licensing.

The series of E-Primers to date includes:

#1 - E-learning in context - An introduction to e-learning and the international experience; definitions of terms; a theory for e-learning; technologies; benefits

#2 - E-education and faculty - Education theory and e-learning; the changing role of faculty; workload issues; quality

#3 - Designing for e-learning - Instructional design; learning objects; constructing a hybrid course

The following two e-Primers are being written under funding from Ako Aotearoa's Northern Hub Fund:

#4 - Online discourse Synchronous and asynchronous communications; designing online discourse; online facilitation.

#5 - E-xtending possibilities Web 2.0; ePortfolios; virtual worlds; lifelong learning.

#4 is progressing well, though I am very self-conscious about how discussion forums seem passe in an age when wikis, blogs and additional forms of Web 2.0 interaction are the rage. Given the widespread use of discussion forums (and their centrality for most forms of distance and online educaiton at the moment) I have foucssed on these in particular in the draft for E-Primer 4 to date. Wikis, blogs, ePortfolios and additional elements will appear in E-Primer 5, as initially planned.