Monday, April 16, 2012

Operationalising good practice in technology-enhanced learning and teaching

Teaching and LearningTeaching and Learning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Mike Keppell was facilitating this workshop at DEANZ 2012, which was based around a good practice report funded by the Australian government. The report, while not having many surprising outcomes, is supported by evidence. Mike started by asking everyone to introduce themselves, and one goal we had from the session. It was interesting the variety of people who were attending this session, ranging from the CEO of a private ITO, to practitioners working directly with students...although there was a large number of tertiary practitioners.

Mike advised that by the end of the session to give us all a toolkit to take out to use in our own practice, and that can be used in different ways.
  • How do we recognise good practice in ICT enhanced learning and teaching (ICTELT)?
  • How do we communicate / disseminate good practice in ICTELT?
  • How do we integrate good practice into learning and teaching?
The report was funded by ALTC, who commissions a wide range of reports (264 in 2010). The report looked at 25 complete projects (including 3 fellowships), and 8 ongoing project (including 1 fellowship).

Laurillard, Oliver, Wasson & Hoppe (2009) suggest that the "role of technology [is] to enable new types of learning experiences and to enrich existing learning scenarios" (p.289). They also suggest that an understanding of the authentic professional contexts that will influence the curriculum, pedagogy and assessment practices that need technology enhancement. There also needs to be a confluence between innovation and teacher values. Teachers needs time to reflect on their beliefs about learning and teaching because TEL requires a more structured and analytical approach to pedagogy. Teachers and practitioner require a sense of ownership, and TEL research must be conducted to reflect the interdependence between the practitioner and the researcher. Education leaders need more support for the radical change of institutional teaching and learning models needed, and teachers need to be more closely engaged in the design of the teaching.

The report conducted a meta-analysis of 33 projects to help develop a matrix. The outcomes indicated that:
  • A focus on learning design allows academics to model and share good practice in learning and teaching
  • Authentic learning provides a means of engaging students through all aspects of curricula, subjects, activities and assessments
  • Successful academic development focuses on engaging academics over sustained periods of time through action learning cycles and the provision of leadership development opportunities
  • Academics require sophisticated online teaching strategies to effectively teach in technology-enhanced higher education environments
  • Academics need a knowledge of multi-literacies to teach effectively in contemporary ICTELT
The full report can be accessed online here:
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Friday, April 13, 2012

The future of Distance Education?

educationeducation (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

This was the Executive panel session for DEANZ 2012, and it was kicked off with the suggestion that the Distance should be taken out of education and it should just be called education. However, there is concern that education isn't working, and if we just continue what we have been doing, we will continue to get the same results. Diana Oblinger brought to the fore notions such as, for example, using analytics, to create a personalised learning experience. The focus at Te Kura, it was asserted that the focus needs to be on the strengths of students, rather than always focusing on the deficits. The concept of being educated is perhaps under review...what does it actually mean to be educated, and how do we 'measure' this?

The requirement to have cooperation between institutions rather than competition is part of the solution, as is integration with the community...where parents, community, businesses, iwi, and hapu are involved in the design and development of the learning process. It is in part developing relationships that have relevance for the future. For example, for Te Kura, each student experiences an internship.

The continuing advance of the Internet are changing how we are learning. New course development is technology enabled, and apps are being developed to engage with learners and deliver learning. Developments in online delivery has made it easier for international students to access distance learning, and education can be 'exported' (for example, to China, India, and the Pacific Islands). EPortfolios are also gradually gaining in popularity and usage.

BRISTOL, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 24:  A prim... (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

There is a bit of a revolution just around the corner for education...although it was admitted that a revolution has been predicted many times, and has failed to happen! However, it was mooted that a simple shift is underway in people's minds around the role of the teacher and learner...away from a 'traditional' mode of classroom teaching. I remain rather sceptical. Is this shift really happening? For parents, for communities...for policy makers? How is this reflected in 'National standards' and standardised testing in schools? And, once someone has worked through a school system, how do their learned behaviours and expectations impact their learning experiences going forward?

That does not detract from the potential for learning that the opening of the world via increased connectivity, and people's awareness of opportunities (a simple example being access to experts across the are not 'stuck' with the person who is facilitating a specific course). The risk for educationalists is that this whole period of change will flow past, while they are all focused on 'quality' and design as shaped by previous conceptions of learning. It was asserted that the learners (mainly in tertiary???) are now driving change by expressing their requirements for flexible, supported,mobile, rich, authentic, personalised learning experiences.

But it is still slow going....
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Re-visualising innovative online learning spaces in an early childhood teacher education programme

Tapa from the Lau Island Group of Fiji.Tapa from the Lau Island Group of Fiji. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Re-visualising innovative online learning spaces in an early childhood teacher education programme

Lesley Pohio and Maryann Lee (University of Auckland) started by introducing the initiative and then showed a short video of the students and the photographs they took when given access to a camera, and how they interacted with the environment and the communities. The video is shown to students when introducing early learning principles, especially around ownership of their own learning, engagement with each other, and focus on the learning process rather than the end product. These translate well to the online space.

The DVD was developed to contextualise learning (and features different foci around different ECE centres in Auckland). The context is important as it helps the student teachers consider learning outside the school gate. The use of visuals helped students think about and notice details of what they are taking images of, which illustrated understanding of their environment.

Español: Caja de tapa y fondoEspañol: Caja de tapa y fondo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Revisualising the online space began with thinking about visual fluency. There was a disparity between the face-to-face and the online experience, and the way in which the environment is seen as a third teacher. “...the space has to be a sort of aquarium that mirrors the ideas, values, attitudes, and cultures of the people who live within it....” (Edwards, et al, 1998, p. 177). The ECE was framed within the notion of the environment as a third teacher, where the environment is formed around more of a workshop type focus. This was the type of experience that they wanted to create around the online experience.

The challenge was developing such a rich environment within a Moodle environment. Topics were divided up into weekly chunks. As it was a beginning course they wanted to keep it quite structured. Four key things led to the design elements. The first was multiple design pathways (not a linear process, but rather it had lots of layers). There was online forums, practical tasks, and online journal, required texts, a video clip, and a variety of Internet resources. An artist was featured every week...not as a central course requirement, but rather as an appreciation of the visual arts. Even though it was a closed online course, they didn't want this to inhibit the learning of the students.

TapaTapa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They were keen to infuse the skills and the environment with the pedagogical focus. The development of identities online was key as an initial step, and the focus was visual arts, which led to reflections around how these visual experiences had greater significance in the formation of their own identities. Alongside this, historical information was wrapped around a practical task, such as development of their own tapa. There were how to steps of technical skills, and then upload examples of their own work to share online. The aim was to broaden the notion of visual arts, rather than focus on activities – it is a holistic notion of visual arts.
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Thursday, April 12, 2012

The eLearning Planning Framework in action

Karen Melhuish kicked off the session by introducing some discussion and thinking about eLearning and what the various terminology might mean.

"eLearning is learning and teaching that is facilitated by or supported through the appropriate use of ICTs", and eMaturity is "a school or college's capacity to make strategic and effective use of ICT to improve educational outcomes" (BECTA)
Historically, different people from different contexts, might bring different understandings to the table. Karen then posed the question, Why do we need national eMaturity? Developing mature learners who are resilient, and the institutions themselves are less focussed on the tools, and more on the achievement of learning outcomes.

Karen shared with a short video, which looked specifically at an eLearning initiative with a focus on literacy. The community was involved as well as the school, which gets to the heart of the matter - the ability for schools to have the technology to be interwoven with the process, and to bring in the community, not just for the sake of bringing in the community, but to play a meaningful role in the students' learning.

Enabling eLearning is highly connected to a wide number of initiatives, and is, in part there to assist schools to maximise the opportunities offered by modern technologies and ultra-fast broadband. This will help the development, in schools, of eLearning capability, who are required to address a range of interdependent factors.. Sitting behind all of these is the notion that schools, leaders, teachers and students understand and negotiate the relationships between technology, online eLearning, pedagogy, and content knowledge within and beyond the curriculum.

The eLearning planning framework draws on many other frameworks from an international palette, but recognises the 'differences' of the NZ context. Schools are able to review the way that they are integrating technology across five key dimensions, and in turn to establish a descriptive baseline of where they currently sit.

Karen then introduced the challenge: How do we go about enhancing eCapability nationally? It needs to be through a process of sustained, evidenced cycle of application and review. Deep and meaningful change is likely to happen within a specific school, but how could these lifts be applied to a national context? What are the design issues? What are the problems? Some of the challenges:
  • Access
  • Workload
  • Sharing / collaborating - openness comes more easily to some more than others, and comparative league tables of schools are not necessarily conducive to open sharing of professional practice
  • Measuring what is actually happening rather than focussing on achievement in standardised testing (who, how, what?)
  • Deep professional learning takes time
  • Sustained support around the technology
The ePlanning framework is a step towards a more rigorous process.

So - what should be in an online professional learning hub?
  • Practical examples
  • Space to communicate
  • Opportunities to fluidly connect between institutions
  • Case studies / access to experts
  • Mentors / coaching
  • Facilitator
  • Initiatives underway (school leadership)
Enabling elearning is not just about providing, but it is also about schools contributing and sharing - reciprocity - and also provide a 'connected' experience.

Appropriate education performance indicators for ODL organisations

This was the first keynote to open the second day of the DEANZ conference 2012, in Wellington, NZ. Caroline Seelig is Chief Executive of the Open Polytechnic of NZ.

Not everything that can be counted counts, not everything that counts can be counted (Einstein)
Albert Einstein Français : Portrait d'Albert E...Albert Einstein Français : Portrait d'Albert Einstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The presentation focussed on why ODL is different, and how the unique student base of ODLs impacts Education Performance Indicators (EPIs). The conception of EPIs was introduced in 2010, and the primary intent was to measure and improve the performance of the tertiary education systems. They also determine government funding.
Caroline indicated that the Open Polytechnic is 'different'. It has a nationwide mandate for delivery (dispersed, consistent provision), and offers single-mode, flexible, specialist, distance delivery (no students on campus). It has a completely different business model, with different cost structures. the curriculum development requires upfront portfolio and courseware development costs, and low ongoing delivery costs. It is neither metropolitan nor regional, which means there is limited community support and advocacy. The student body is quite distinct, with the majority of the 41,000 student as part-timers,, older (76% over 25, and 33% 40+ years), and are in the workforce (70%).
Vanessa gonerilla gonerilla English: NZ Red Ad...Vanessa gonerilla gonerilla English: NZ Red Admiral Butterfly in Wellington, New Zealand Māori: Kahukura (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Some common false perceptions include:
  • ODL is a cheaper mode of delivery - not necessarily, but is cost effective
  • All other providers can easily create dual mode delivery systems that are as effective
  • No role for ODL in Youth Guarantee of NEET initiatives
  • OP student cohort could easily switch to network of F2F providers
  • Part time learners in work force should achieve the same results, at the same pace, as full time F2F learners
  • It should be simple to benchmark all ITPs against each other
Caroline indicated that the government values the part-time learner, but the QC is adjusted according to part-time provision. BUT a student that studies full-time for 6 months gets the same adjustment as a student that studies part-time for 12 months. The ODL model impacts EPIs by providing a 'safety net' role as a national provider for courses other TEOs can't provide (but who get the final qualification credit).
Are EPIs a target to aspire to or just another funding game? And where could EPIs go? There is huge diversity within in NZ around provision, but what is happening is that the TEC are using the same ruler to measure these fundamentally different providers. The students are very different too, and, in secondary school deciles are applied to schools, but in tertiary the opposite is true. In tertiary those students from lower socio-economic backgrounds often have less robust support systems in place; therefore those tertiary institutions working with these students should be recognised. There are indications that the focus is on students who are not in employment and then looking at their pay rates and employment filed at 2 and 5 year milestones after graduation.
This presentation was an interesting insight into the way EPIs can skew the way governments...and students...measure an institution's success. It was also a call for considering the student holistically, rather than a statistic performing to a benchmark - it's not just about the EFT funding that go in and the EPIs that come out. There are many associated benefits to ODL, including, for example, freeing up families to provide homecare for children rather than putting them into childcare while they study, thus providing way more culturally responsive, flexible learning opportunities.
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Blending learning for human service education

Iconic image for social science.Iconic image for social science. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Neil Ballantyne opened by giving an overview of blended learning, emphasising that it is not a lesser model than purely face-to-face. He then moved on to look at Social science knowledge (declarative knowledge - knowing about), clinical practice (knowing how), and which you might put online. He introduced the term technoscepticism, and indicated some articles such as "The failed promised of hypertechnology" (Kreuger & Stretch, 1999), and What is the role of hypertechnology (Kreuger & Stretch, 2000). These articles pull a "lot of stuff out of nowhere", and were written to support a point of view rather than to critique or discuss face-to-face and blended approaches.

Neil looked at distance education in social work and current and emerging trends (US Council survey of social work):
  • 41% of BSW and 52% of MSW are delivering distance courses
  • Further 18% of BSW and 19% of MSW are considering delivery
  • 72% of BSW and 56%of MSW are using Internet/Web delivery

A comparison of on-campus and distance social work education (Olairio and Trotter, 2010):
  • Different demographics
  • Were studying like this because they had to (life circumstances)
  • No significant difference in satisfaction or grades
  • Slight difference in relation to some Fieldwork Educator ratings

Method for learning and education.Method for learning and education. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Learning practice skills are often being mediated even in face-to-face scenarios by technology. It is not unusual, especially where problem based approaches are used. Check out Ballantyne and Knowles (2007), "Enhancing student learning with case-based learing objects in a problem-based learning context: the views of social work students in Scotland and Canada (Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, Vol 3, pp. 363-374). There were no significant differences between the outcomes of the face-to-face and which point it becomes significant. Online / distance learning is no longer the second cousin. Clinical skills can be taught online. kinds of interaction? What do we mean by interaction? There are interactions with content, tutors, other learners (the diagram by Anderson, T, 2006 is well worth having a look at). Communities of inquiry can underpin the design of online and blended learning experiences. Having the right learning experiences at the right time are problematic. So, what if you could have a virtual practicum. For one hour each week praticum students engage in an immersive VR simulation. They engage with real and simulated actors in key scenarios linked to learning outcomes. Difference cultures can be represented, and skills are practised and can be assessed. the avatars pass the Turing Tests. Would this be an educationally toxic experience?

A different pattern of student engagement: Mature distance students at university

Concept map describing activities offered by u...Concept map describing activities offered by universities to encourage integrative learning. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Ella Kahu started with a definition of mature students as 25 and over years of age. Many mature students are blancing their study with other resposibilities. There is a 29% attrition rate in the first year, and course pass rates are 79% (figures from the MoE; mature students doing bachelor degrees). The project aim was to develop a deeper understanding of student engagement in mature distance students.

Mature students have:
  • Equal levels of satisfaction
  • Deeper learning strategies
  • more committed / motivated
  • Different pattern of interaction (less interaction with other students)
  • Better able to manage distance (have the life skills and time-management skills
  • Experience a lot of role and financial pressure
  • alienation and anxiety
  • Lack of skills (don't necessarily have the up to date skills required...yet another thing to learn in the first year)
  • Overload of first year
  • Knowledge conflict
The definition of student engagement for this study comes from the OSSIE: "The time and energy students invest in educationally purposeful activities, and the effort institutions devote to effective engagement". The scales of engagement include academic challenge, work integrated learning, active learning, enriching education experiences, and staff and student interactions.

Ella's research questions are: Which dimensions predict satisfaction and learning? How do age and model of study relate to engagement and outcomes? How do students who consider leaving university differ? Of 1116 first year domestic undergraduate students at Massy, 27.1% are aged over 25. The relationship between engagement and satisfaction - the more engaged students are the more satisfied they are. The students who reported a higher support and more work-integrated learning were more satisfied. This increases to 44% where there was active learning.

Students who considered leaving (27%) were less satisfied, there was no difference with age or mode of study, there was lower learning, and reduced engagement (less supportive learning environment, less integration with work, and reduced academic challenge).

Age and mode of study did not affect the outcomes of satisfaction and learning, but saw more connections between what they were doing within the work environment, but made fewer friends with other students. the distance students scored lower on all levels of engagement.

Key things to consider are:
  • Creating a supportive learning environment (academic and social)
  • Work integrated learning are related top satisfaction, learning and persistence, and build on strengths of the mature distance students.
  • The active learning requires building in choice around asking questions and discussing equally, collaboration with other students...but caution is required.
The limitations of the study include the fact that the OSSIE was developed for practice not research, the timing of the survey, it's a snapshot of a brief moment in time, but it requires more depth (including qualitative). and the view of engagement is behavioural.

Changing culture of learning: Mobility, Informality, and connectivity

To teach is to learn
This is the second live blog post I'm making from DEANZ 2012. Kwok-Wing Lai is a professor of education at the University of Otago, and I remember reading one of his books when I first started being interested in eLearning about 12 years ago. Today Kwok-wing started by talking about knowledge, skills and soft-skills that students require to be successful in society. In NZ students are seen as "lifelong learners who are confident and creative, connected, and actively involved" (The NZ Curriculum, 2007, p. 4). NZ students are to become "competent thinkers and problem solders....actively seek, use, and create knowledge" (p. 12). Developing human agency in this way requires a change in culture around learning and teaching.

On average 8 yo 18 year olds spend 25% of time using social networking. A survey conducted by Kwok-Wing looked at the learning characteristics that young learners have (for example, working in groups etc). Michael Wesch "a crisis of significance" - his findings indicated that his students were struggling to find a meaning in their learning. To develop agency in learning it needs to be situated, authentic and personalised. Kwok-Wing showed Michael Wesch's video A vision of students today. to indicate some of the aspects of learners today. He then looked at informal learning as:
  • Spatial - learning across space (anywhere)
  • Temporal - learning across time (any time)
  • Cognitive - learning across domains (any topic)
"....there is no teacher, no defined curriculum topic or concept". We are already doing it. 18.5% of learning happens in formal learning environments. Informal learning includes using technologies to find things of personal interest, connecting with friends, and as a distraction.

Many teachers do not see informal learning as they domain. But there is a semiotic relationship between formal and informal learning "The emphasis is on sharing, working together, and using a wide range of cultural references and knowledge..." (Sefton-gree, 2004, p.33). Mobile learning, Wing-Lai referred to as mobility in physical space, technology, conceptual space, social space, and learning dispersed over time (Sharpes, Arnedillo-Sanchez, Milrad, & Vavoula, 2009) = agency in learning. Mobile learning, therefore, is a set of attitudes, dispositions, and "habitus of learning" (Kress & Pachler, 2007). Knowledge is not fixed, not transmitted by authority, and we are constantly creating knowledge. There is a shift in control via ubiquitous access to learning resources, and in turn, the learners produce knowledge. This person is a mobile learner...and the whole world is mobile...the whole world is our curriculum. The goal of knowledge building is "the production and continual improvement of ideas of value to a community" (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2003, p. 1370). And the role of the teacher is to support students to ask questions.

How can we use technologies to make learning more connected, more mobile? In Knowledge building students work in a community, investigate a topic, ask questions, conduct research, and self-assess progress. They also engage in face-to-face and online discussions to share, critique, build on, and synthesise ideas that are new to the community. It is a way of advancing personal and community knowledge.

Kwok-Wing then moved on to talking about 3 initiatives currently underway in NZ including a postgraduate course on teacher development, The Otago University Advanced School Science Academy (OUASSA), and with senior secondary school students. The question about how this approach might be applied within a school curriculum was then addressed, with particular reference to the OUASSA project.

Analytic or operational necessity? Towards the Multiversity.

This is a live blog from the first keynote presentation from the DEANZ conference. Paul Bascsich (Canterbury fellow 2012) spoke about analytic or operational necessity? Towards the Multiversity. Paul has wide experience around many areas, but today at the DEANZ conference he gave a world tour of virtual universities and polytechnics, most of which are teaching at a distance, and many countries have a 'state' single-mode provider...and 'open' university.. The US already have in-depth success (Sloan / Educause), while many other counties such as the UK, Australia, Canada etc have dual-mode providers. They virtual polys and unis god well beyond the OECD and BRIC, for example, the Middle East, Thailand, China, India etc.

Many of the virtual university initiatives have faded, have not been reported on, or never achieve "second stage ignition" (Bacsich, passim). Distance learning is "in trouble across the world" from governments (says President of ICDE). The Dutch OU, for example, has had some "blips".

Virtual school have been an area of growth, and some of their experiences could "teach tertiary a thing or two". There are 50+ in Europe, and a robust offering from Oceania, Latin America, and Asia. Sofia Distans is one example from Sweden (mainly asynchronous), which was started for diplomats' children. Interhigh in Wales has more synchronous learning opportunities, and the Brisbane school of Distance Education in Australia is an example of an OER approach.

Latin AmericaLatin America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Has there been a lost decade (well 10 to 20 years)? First Class was brought into the OU in the 1990s, and the first large-scale course for teachers was offered online at this time. Paul asserts that universities are facing crises - the "perfect storm" around what they are offering. Should their focus be broad or narrow? Retention is a classic problem, and this is usually worse when distance learning is involved. Quality is often fobbed off, rather than resolved. Effectiveness and study time are also an issue. Academically adrift - Arum and Roksa - was recommended as a useful read, and suggest that students come out of university with analytic skills not much better than those they came in with. In England, student study times have dwindled and vary widely between institutions and courses, and they are lower than in much of the previous years.

Outside the US, there is no overall articulated and evidenced case for blended and/or distance learning, and Paul asked for more up-to-date research. Do studies on study time to ensure that students and parents are not short-changed...and this is part of knowing your student. Student satisfaction is only part of the picture. Research has value for the nation, but not necessarily for the parents, students, or institutions. The evidence from the for-profit sector suggests that breadth of provision beyond traditional HE is key to (commercial) success of eLearning.

elearningelearning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Paul started to wrap up with some key multeversity features including:
  • Joining with other institutions to set school-learning exams
  • Linking with international partners to lobby governments and ensure true benchmarkable quality
  • Generating 'liberal arts' thinkers yet e-business ready.
He finished by posing the question "Will your institution make it through the singularity and be transformed? But the question is, how to do it? The thoughts Paul included are: start now, "know thyself", use incremental approaches, employ change management tools, have a compelling vision and will, and develop leadership at all levels.