EDEN day 2

July 4, 2019 0 By JR

Making Connections in Distance Education

This morning we had an engaging presentation from Jan Elen (KU Leuven, Center for Instructional Psychology and Technology, Belgium). He told the story of their journey to distance delivery of brand new programs, the context and the challenges. Of course one of the key issues was that this was to be done with no new hires, hence the proposed ‘solution’- hybrid classrooms.

If you’ve worked in distance education and or instructional design for awhile, many of the references included in this presentation were well known to you, and I couldn’t help but think, “yeah, of course, this is all well known and has been for awhile.” Then he mentioned that their univerisyt’s first distance ed course (1978) used printed materials that applied the research he was talking about. It is sometimes easy to take for granted the rich history of distance education in Canada. For example, the U of S formed its extension division in 1910 and delivered programs to communities throughout the province (and eventually world) for 96 years before transitioning to become the Centre for Continuing and Distance Education, followed by the Distance Education Unit. That’s 68 years of experience delivering courses at a distance prior to our presenter’s university. Many of the strategies for student-content interaction the presenter mentioned are still alive and well in online learning environments today (e.g. Advanced organizers. Adjunct questions (questions prior to student-content interaction)).

While most of the presentation focused on the content provided to students (which is still the predominant thing discussed in courses both F2F and online) the presenter posed the question that came upon them with the affordances available with new (non-print based) technologies, “What dimensions do we give learners control, and in what dimensions do we share control, and which do we maintain systematic control?”

The refrain, particularly in regard to distance ed was “without the presence of a teacher”. From a Canadian context (e.g. CoI https://coi.athabascau.ca/coi-model/) teaching presence is a key element. He eventually made his way to forms of presence (Garrison 2008) that help to reduce “attrition”.

Following his presentation of the journey to distance and e-learning in his context he posed a few ideas:

  1. called for more professionalization (off hand) of those who design learning; “Learning in an educational setting is not the same as learning per se” – ie. it’s about alignment to educational goals. I actually found this point is interesting in the context of “learning designers”, and the title debates in the instructional design field recently.
  2. there are limitations on distance ed: technology (personalization, portability, access); support (cultural awareness – we’ve researched strictly on a western understanding and approach with disregard for others); design team (you need diverse expertise)
  3. there will always be Instructional disobedience, “we design the content and learning activities and the sequence so intently, and then students say ‘f*ck off’”. This is indicative of a misalignment between student conceptions of instruction and educators’ perspectives. The term instructional disobedience I continued to hear in the hallways of the conference following this presentation, and I think it will require a bit more digging and maybe its own blogpost later on.

A paradox

His final question was along the lines of this (for which I don’t have an answer)

Research in distance ed, there is a call for F2F contact with learners, for interactions, for synchronous, for multi-sensorial. When do we need to see, hear, smell, touch each other to learn most effectively?

Question from a Faculty from Athabasca U

We are Canada’s open university, and while the presenter said there are things that we need to start doing, AU has the highest graduate employment rate and highest student satisfaction in the province, and yet they don’t do any of the things mentioned by the presenter as the “what we need to start doing”. 

Connecting Educators for more effective digital age learning

The second plenary session this morning mostly discussed teachers’ professional development in what they called digital competence:

The PRESTO Project Relay

This happened to be in the concurrent session I joined at the end of the day. I recall seeing this presentation at OpenEd Global last year. The basic idea is that there are a number of projects in the class, and each project has the same number of steps. Students each start with one project and then do the first step. Then they hand it off to the next student, who assesses the previous step and then completes the following step. They then hand it off to a third student, and so on. By the end of the relay, each student will have completed each of the steps and also have had a hand in contributing to each of the projects. This has been used in engineering, as well as policy classes.

Some updates from what I recall from last year’s presentation includes:

  • His class has 300 students
  • His project has 6 steps
    • Can be done with any project that has 2 or more steps
  • Checks and balances (students have only a certain number of stars they can distribute?)
    • There is an appeal process
  • The new bit is doing it in a MOOC (8000 participants). They couldn’t provide TAs so they created a way to identify certified “referees” in the course. Badges were implemented.

Further updates proposed (9)

  • deadlines per step (24 hr extension only once) (#7)
  • option to work in teams of 2 (or make mandatory) (#6/8)
  • provide elaborate examples (based on earlier relays) (#1)
  • simplify step 1 by providing the exact research question (#3)

This presenters materials are available at GitHub.com/pwgbots/presto (new platform is available and open source) (only in-code documentation)

VLE for Open Online Learning Lithuania

The project looked at an audience of students out in society that could potentially apply to the university, and connect students to potential courses they could enroll in.

Overall, in all age groups, distance learning with a teacher is preferred according to the survey conducted.