Volume 6 Issue 2 / Apr 2008 pp99‑182
Keywords: Asynchronous, community participation, construction technique, culture, curriculum development, distance learning, diversity, e-learning, engagement, evaluation, flexible learning, Greece, higher education, ICT, information and communication technology, instructional design, instructivism, international, LMS, Marginalized, online courses, online evaluation, online learning, participation, pedagogical development., postgraduate studies, quality assessment, secondary, socio-constructivism, study guide, test, time-management, virtual classroom, widening participation
In 1999 Northumbria University published a strategy document entitled "Towards the web‑enabled University". This prefaced an assessment of need and of available platforms for developing online teaching and learning which, in turn, led in 2001 to the roll out and institution‑wide adoption of the Blackboard Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) now referred to as our eLearning Platform or eLP. Within a very few years we had over 90% take‑up by academic staff and the eLP had become integral to the learning of virtually all our students. What has always been relatively easy to measure has been the number of users, frequency of use, number of courses, levels of technological infrastructure, etc. However, with the publication of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) e learning strategy in 2005 it became apparent that such quantitative data was not particularly helpful in measuring how the university matched onto the 10‑year aspirations of that document and its measures of success. Consequently an on‑going exploration was embarked upon to try to measure where we were and what we should prioritise in order to embed e‑learning, as envisaged within the HEFCE strategy. This involved a number of key approaches: The measures were broken down into manageable sizes, creating sixteen measures in all with descriptors for "full achievement" through to "no progress to date" with suggested sources of information which would support the description. A series of interviews with key staff were set up in which they were asked to rank where they felt the university stood against each measure and what evidence would support their views. An academic staff survey was developed on‑line which invited staff to explore a number of statements based around the HEFCE criteria and express degrees of agreement. This was followed up by a range of face‑to‑face interviews. An online student survey was developed and students were asked to express degrees of agreement with these. Student responses were followed up with an independent student focus group exploring issues in greater depth. The outcomes of the three approaches were then combined and an interim report prepared which identified strengths and areas for further development. Some of the latter are already being addressed. Subsequently, the university joined phase 2 of a national benchmarking e‑learning in Higher Education exercise, running from May to December 2007, supported by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). During this exercise we engaged in a deeper exploration against a wider set of criteria, based upon the "Pick & Mix" (Bacsich, 2007) methodology. Pick&Mix comprises 20 core criteria and the option of a number of supplementary criteria. Through these approaches we will be able to set a baseline for where we currently are and it will allow us to revisit criteria later to measure our progress in those areas we identify for development. This paper shares methodologies used, identifies key outcomes and reflects upon those outcomes from both an institutional and sectoral perspective.
Blended learning is a pedagogy that is sometimes heralded as the answer to some of the problems which part time students face. Creating a module for part‑time students with some e‑learning elements is time consuming and resource intensive. Therefore it must be demonstrated that the investment in such innovations will benefit the students and create wider learning opportunities in the most effective manner. A small investigation has been conducted which has looked at the learning needs of part‑time finance students at The University of Winchester to see whether a blended approach would have benefited their studies. The results of this investigation have been used as the basis for developing the course to allow a more blended style. This paper attempts to outline how the course was designed and to do a preliminary analysis of the use of blended learning for part‑time mature finance students.
Engaging the YouTube Google‑Eyed Generation: Strategies for Using Web 2.0 in Teaching and Learning pp119‑130
YouTube, Podcasting, Blogs, Wikis and RSS are buzz words currently associated with the term Web 2.0 and represent a shifting pedagogical paradigm for the use of a new set of tools within education. The implication here is a possible shift from the basic archetypical vehicles used for (e)learning today (lecture notes, printed material, PowerPoint, websites, animation) towards a ubiquitous user‑centric, user‑content generated and user‑ guided experience. It is not sufficient to use online learning and teaching technologies simply for the delivery of content to students. A new "Learning Ecology" is present where these Web 2.0 technologies can be explored for collaborative and (co)creative purposes as well as for the critical assessment, evaluation and personalization of information. Web 2.0 technologies provide educators with many possibilities for engaging students in desirable practices such as collaborative content creation, peer assessment and motivation of students through innovative use of media. These can be used in the development of authentic learning tasks and enhance the learning experience. However in order for a new learning tool, be it print, multimedia, blog, podcast or video, to be adopted, educators must be able to conceptualize the possibilities for use within a concrete framework. This paper outlines some possible strategies for educators to incorporate the use of some of these Web 2.0 technologies into the student learning experience.
e â€” Motional Learning in Primary Schools: FearNot! An Anti‑bullying Intervention Based on Virtual Role‑play with Intelligent Synthetic Characters pp131‑138
Addressing the problems of bullying in schools, this paper presents a novel and highly innovative pedagogical approach, building on the immersive power of virtual role‑play. Educational role‑play is widely accepted as a powerful instrument to change attitudes and behaviour, but faces some difficulties and disadvantages when applied to sensitive social issues in the classroom. This paper shows how the FearNot! software application, developed within the scope of the EU‑funded projects VICTEC (Virtual ICT with Empathic Characters) and eCIRCUS (Education through Characters with emotional‑Intelligence and Role‑playing Capabilities that Understand Social interaction) uses virtual role‑play and autonomous agents to provide children aged eight to eleven years of age with the opportunity to visit a virtual school environment populated by 3D animated synthetic characters that engage in bullying episodes. The characters' actions and the storyline are created as improvised dramas by use of emergent narrative, resulting in unscripted and highly believable interaction experiences for the learner. While the students are spectators to the bullying episodes that unfold among the FearNot! characters, the victimised character starts a conversation with the student in between the episodes, describing their experiences with bullying and how they feel as a result to it, and asking the student for advice. The aim of this approach and particularly of this interaction sequence in between the virtual bullying episodes is to sensitise primary school students to the potential problems that victims of persistent aggressive behaviour are facing: By triggering an empathic relationship between learners and characters, learners understand and vicariously feel into the plight of the victimised character. Empirical evidence from bullying research implies that bullies are regularly reinforced by bystanders that witness the bullying and turn their attention to it, but do not actively intervene to end it (Craig & Pepler 1996; Lean 1998; Salmivalli 1999; Hawkins et al. 2001). Hence, this intervention strategy targets these bystanders to stand up to the bully and help the victim, due to their heightened awareness and sensitivity to the grave consequences victims face. Preliminary evaluation results indicate that the children were willing to immerse themselves in the virtual drama and that they empathically engage with the characters, attributing a range of emotions to the characters depending on the events that happen within the respective scenario. An ongoing long‑term intervention in school in the UK and Germany covers several interactions with the software over a ten week period of time.
Behind the Scenes with OpenLearn: the Challenges of Researching the Provision of Open Educational Resources pp139‑148
Web‑enabled technology is now being applied on a large scale. In this paper we look at open access provision of teaching and learning leading to many users with varying patterns and motivations for use. This has provided us with a research challenge to find methods that help us understand and explain such initiatives. We describe ways to model the research and identify where pressures and contradictions can be found, drawing on a reflective view of our own practice in performing the research. Open educational resources are defined as technology‑enabled educational resources that are openly available for consultation, use and adaptation by users for non‑commercial purposes (UNESCO, 2002). OpenLearn is one of the largest of such initiatives and is committed to the provision of open educational resources for all. It is being developed by The Open University and is primarily sponsored by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. It provides users with over 4 200 hours of higher educational material drawn from Open University courses. Other learning tools such as discussion forums, video conferencing, and knowledge mapping software are also available to the user. In this paper we aim to introduce OpenLearn and outline some of the main research issues surrounding such an initiative. We seek to explore theoretical and practical approaches that can provide suitable tools for analysis. Activity theory is seen as a suitable approach for macro analysis and its use is illustrated in terms of the complexity of large scale research. Activity theory, besides informing research perspectives, can be turned in upon the research process itself allowing us to consider the challenges and context of the research. By using activity theory in this way and illustrating from a range of practical approaches we demonstrate and illustrate a useful research approach.
Exploring the e‑Learning State of Art pp149‑160
e‑Learning implementation is an area in progress that continues to evolve with time and further research. Researchers in the field argue that e‑Learning is still in its infancy, resulting into numerous implementation strategies across a wide e‑Learning spectrum. This paper explores the e‑Learning state of art. It provides a general overview of the learning process, evaluates some current implementation trends pointing out a range of frameworks and strategies used in the past decade. It further looks at the changes created by the adoption of e‑Learning within the higher education process. This is followed by an identification of emerging issues from which two problems are identified; 1) the limited uptake of technology as an instruction delivery method; and 2) the ineffective use of technology to support learning. In respect to this, future research should therefore seek to further investigate these aspects and to explore suitable approaches for effective implementation of e‑Learning to support learning. Not the least in higher education contexts.
Keywords: e-Learning learning, e-Learning implementation higher education, learning process, learning theories, learning methods
Numerous stakeholders in the field of education have been working on the development and extent of the use of ICT in different learning communities (higher education, vocational training) and in different multicultural contexts thanks also to EU funding opportunities. In this framework, they have participated in the building of various cross‑national teaching and learning models. The strategies which supported the development of such educational projects introducing online teaching and learning activities in the framework of European projects generally rely on the basic premise of the homogeneity of the educational systems likely to be used, and according to similar methods, the resources and training devices with ICT. This can lead to the negation of potential discrepancies, particularly cultural ones, in educational systems. The aim of this paper is to analyse the concept of "quality in online education within European Online Academic Education's context", how this concept takes shape and how it becomes â€” or not â€” part of teaching and learning practices. We decided to focus our attention on the concept of "quality" to understand the eventual impact of the cultural factor on the developing scenario of virtual education because this concept seems to be particularly revealing if we take into consideration its "open nature". The increasing number of virtual campuses reveals how common the development of teaching modules are nowadays together with complete degrees based on inter‑university and transnational collaborations with the aim of transferring learning objects from one educational context to another. Virtual mobility is thus becoming a reality for a greater number of students. However, the multicultural dimension of these new environments has not been investigated yet and in particular the notion of "online teaching quality" is still under‑exploited. This paper intends to provide a review of current works on Online Education Quality Measurement in general focusing on the investigation of Cultural Impact on Quality issues. At the same time this paper intends to shift the attention from students' to teachers' perception of quality and consequently on the possible different evaluation frameworks used within the same context: European Online Education. The paper is part of a PhD research aimed at exploring the impact of cultural dimensions on the design of online courses offered by universities from different European areas. The research notably aims to reveal differences between online courses' models, in order to uncover which one of them can be connected to the cultural dimension they belong to.
Keywords: cultural impact, cultural differences, quality, online education, virtual campus, virtual mobility
Training is one of the basic means of human resources development in business organizations, aiming to motivate employees, to develop their potential and to help them perform better. The end of the 20th century has seen the advent of globalisation and the diffusion of new information and communication technologies. Businesses have to change and adapt to the requirements of the new knowledge‑based and skill‑based economy. Facing pressures from an increasingly competitive business environment, small and medium‑sized enterprises (SMEs) are called upon to implement strategies that are enabled and supported by information technologies and e‑business applications in order to compete with others' organizations. One of these applications is e‑Learning, whose aim is to enable the continuous assimilation of knowledge and skills by managers and employees, and thus support organisational training and development efforts through the use of the Internet and Web technologies. Little is known however as to the level of awareness of e‑Learning in SMEs and as to the actual role played by e‑Learning with regard to these firms' training needs. A multiple case study of sixteen SMEs in the Atlantic region of Canada, including twelve that use e‑Learning with varying degrees of intensity, was designed to explore this question. We observed the firms' training process, identifying to what extent the SMEs know and use e‑Learning, and to what extent e‑Learning meets their training needs.