Thursday, January 8, 2009

4.*: JALN 12:3-4

The Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks is a long-standing and authoritative online journal dedicated to exploring the use of asynchronous technologies in higher education. I have drawn on it extensively for the fourth E-Primer, Online discourse (currently with reviewers!) What follows adds to the fourth E-Primer, due for release in March 2009 (following final editing).

So the latest edition of the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks (JALN 12:3-4) has been released. There are some truly significant articles; here are my highlights:
  • Akyol & Garrison's "The Development Of A Community Of Inquiry Over Time In An Online Course: Understanding The Progression And Integration Of Social, Cognitive and Teaching Presence" adds to the validity of the Community of Inquiry framework (which is the framework providing the basis for E-Primer 4). Most significant in the finding that "social presence and teaching presence... changed over time while the proportions of cognitive presence... remained steady". Cognitive and teaching presence were also important for influencing student learning and satisfaction; social presence was not found to be as significant. This has important implications for efforts to establish 'online community' in formal education, which is also questioned in the E-Primer based on other evidence.
  • Moore, in her work "A Synthesis of Sloan-C Effective Practices, December 2008", gives a wonderful overview of how practitioners are providing answers to questions relating to student satisfaction, learning effectiveness, scale (relating to efficiencies), access, and faculty satisfaction (all elements of quality in online education). Moore provides substantial tips for good practice in this one, drawing from actual practice.
  • Wang & Chen, in "Essential Elements in Designing Online Discussions to Promote Cognitive Presence — A Practical Experience", outline the importance of effective 'rules' for online discourse in order to maximise cognitive presence. Their article includes a useful re-configuration of Activity Theory as it relates to online discourse, and a sound set of rules that might be provided to students at the start of the course (and even form elements of a marking rubric). The results were a "strong cognitive presence in the online discussion", the very thing online educators strive for. The 'rules' given on p.171 of the article are an essential reference. Wang & Chen are careful to note that rules must be both specific and flexible.
  • A literature review by Woo & Reeves, "Interaction in Asynchronous Web-Based Learning Environments", concludes that "pragmatic strategies for improving meaningful interaction in WBLEs" include "modeling and scaffolding, dividing the class into small groups, giving appropriate feedback, encouraging intrapersonal interaction, and using authentic activities".
It is encouraging to see this evidence-based scholarship continuing to explore online discourse. If elements of this coverage don't make much sense to you, it would be worthwhile learning more about the Community of Inquiry framework. It is proving a robust model for analysis and practice. For my own thoughts on it, wait for E-Primer 4!

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