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CDE Conference 09/02/2009. M Oliver. From present findings to future agendas: communities and the Higher Education Academy Exchange
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CDE Conference 09/02/2009. M Oliver. From present findings to future agendas: communities and the Higher Education Academy Exchange

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Research in Distance Education: …

Research in Distance Education:
from present findings to future agendas. Closing keynote presentation.
Martin Oliver
Higher Education Academy Research Observatory

Published in: Education

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    • 1. From present findings to future agendas: communities and the Higher Education Academy Exchange Martin Oliver London Knowledge Lab & Higher Education Academy
    • 2. …what happened to the Observatory?
      • “The project formerly known as…”
      • As of last week, it’s (currently) the Higher Education Academy Exchange
        • No substantive change to purpose, form, timescale etc
    • 3. The Higher Education Academy Exchange
      • A service promoting and exploring the use of practice- and research-based evidence to influence policy and practice in teaching and learning in Higher Education
        • Tools to enable access to evidence and syntheses of this evidence (e.g. prototype repository and syndicated search, wiki)
        • Spaces (real and virtual) to help communities explore evidence-based practice and its implications for students' learning
    • 4. Overview of development
      • August 07 – July 08 – “Phase 0”
        • Scoping the Observatory
        • Landscaping report for e-learning (exemplar area)
        • Generation of pilot resources and services
        • Proof of concept piloted at Academy conference
      • July 08 – June 09 – “Phase 1”
        • Development phase
        • Pilots focusing on community engagement
        • Promoted at Academy conference July 09
      • July 09 – “Phases 2, 3, etc ”
        • Adding functionality, broadening engagement, etc
      We’re here
    • 5. Landscaping evidence use in e-learning
      • Series of exploratory studies within e-learning
        • Beetham, Sharpe & Benfield
        • https://mw.brookes.ac.uk/display/hearoc
      • ‘ Landscaping’ consultation
      • Interviews with key informants
      • Survey (116 responses)
      • Follow-up interviews
      • https://mw.brookes.ac.uk/display/hearoc/
    • 6. A resounding “Yes, but…”
      • Keen on single point of access; research reviewed, evaluated and synthesised
      • After that, great variability
      • “ The impossibility of categorising respondents as users, producers, policy makers or intermediaries for research is in itself is an important outcome.”
    • 7. Authority with the sector, not for it
      • Variability reflects differing questions and practices within the sector
      • Contrast with the dominant (caricatured) medical model
      • Valuing qualitative research, reflective practice, etc
      • Building of theories and narratives, rather than mathematical models
      • Politics of quality control: who’s allowed to write to it?
      • Evidence in e-learning of benefits arising from involving practitioners in research, rather than differentiating researchers from practitioners (the studied)
    • 8. The proposed approach
      • A social model of knowledge production and use
      • Expertise of the sector, not for the sector
      • A scalable approach (people can develop as many topics as they’re interested in)
      • A sustainable approach (not dependent on central budgets, subscriptions, administration and control, etc )
      • Sensitive to differences in evidence use, vocabulary, interest, etc .
      • Strategic (spotting emergent topics, identifying gaps, informing decision making, etc .)
    • 9. A theorisation
      • Wenger’s communities of practice model
      • Practice and Reification as necessary but fundamentally different (experience and abstraction)
      • Reifications received by communities and meaning negotiated in relation to practice
      • A social account of acceptable (policed) interpretation
      • This has implications for how we make sense of research
      • How big are these communities of practice? Any overlap with disciplines, institutions, departments, special interest groups…?
    • 10. Piloting community approaches
      • How do people produce, share and use evidence?
      • SIG site
      • Expert review
      • Community discussion of practice
      • Open peer commentary on published research
      • Review processes, to identify approaches that may have wider value
      • Feed these back to inform the development of the whole observatory
      • Currently, findings are mostly about problems…
    • 11. Building from this: e-Learning projects
      • Small grants for research
      • Historically: projects awarded, visited once, conclude by generating reports
      • New model
      • Projects awarded, brought together, given technical infrastructure (wiki, Ning)
      • Are visited, encouraged to use Web2.0, brought together mid-project and again at end
    • 12. Wiki for Academy-funded projects (& others) www.academy-research-observatory.pbwiki.com
    • 13. Understanding social use of evidence
      • Success will depend on documenting and understanding communities’ use of evidence
      • An evidence base for our work, as well as for others
      • Working with pilot groups
      • Special interest group, membership group focusing on professional role, etc .
      • Further projects building capacity for this
    • 14. Longer term vision
      • People can…
      • Look to see if there’s relevant evidence about their problems
      • Add their own evidence to existing reviews (community authoring)
      • Find other people interested in these issues
      • Form and support Special Interest Groups
      • Support events, e.g. through centralised calendar, document store, space to develop shared interpretations
      • Pose questions to the sector if they can’t find what they want, which might spur new work or groups
    • 15. And it’s happening here…
      • Centre for Distance Education
      • “ From present findings to future agendas” event
      • Research into practice publication
      • An example of the kind of process we want to see happen more often
      • How can this be sustained and built on?
    • 16. Towards 2012…
      • What can you do in three years?
      • One big project?
      • Two small projects?
      • One bit of development, implementation and evaluation?
      • Set up, run and possibly wind down a special interest group?
      • So… what’s the single issue you care about the most?
    • 17. What are the priorities for the CDE that can inform our services to learners? (challenge from this morning)
      • Understanding our students
        • Describing what they do (e.g. mobile use in Africa, studies of vet use of images in CoMo) – or letting them do this
        • Describing what they don’t do and why (e.g. ‘non-progressers’ and reasons for non-completion)
        • Asking what they like … but not taking this at face value (e.g. didn’t take up study skills modules even if they needed them)
        • Debunking “them and us” (e.g. “culture” as a proxy for variation)
        • Understanding how peoples’ use of technology varies (e.g. the Proteins students: richness & enhancement vs. accessibility)
        • Theorising what they need (Denise’s issue with feedback)
    • 18. And…
      • Teachers are learners too
        • …in the most constructive sense! (So they also need understanding…)
        • Giving time/space/support to relate this to practice
        • Supporting comparative and exploratory work (what happens elsewhere, and what can we do with this stuff…?) as an opportunity for learning
    • 19. Conclusions?
      • The Exchange/Observatory: less about what we should look at, more about how we should look at it
      • New round of project planned; emphasis on social processes
      • What can be learnt from the work here?
      • What can change our work with students?
      • What connects to wider debates or the concerns of other communities?
      • This will need support and encouragement: a few people will do it anyhow, but with the right environment, more will benefit
    • 20. Thanks!
      • Emails
        • - [email_address]
        • [email_address]
        • [email_address]
      • More information at:
      • http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/ourwork/research/observatory
      • Piloting site:
      • http://academy-research-observatory.pbwiki.com/