An institutional voice to support teachers and learners in blended and distance education


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  • This presentation offers a report of research which was undertaken to examine the processes of and relationship between learner interaction and knowledge construction in online contexts. Due to the time limitation the focus of this session will be upon the interactions among learners rather than the knowledge constructed as a result of those interactions. The principle finding from the investigation is reflected in the concept that learning relationships are both a condition and a consequence of learner-learner interaction in online contexts.
  • It will be apparent, from yesterdays keynote and panel presentations that there are particular issues associated with learning and teaching in online contexts. Some of these issues are reiterated within this slide. For example you may recall that change was referred to as a constant, attention was drawn to institutional attempts to promote consistency in online offerings, that policies are being implemented which govern the availability of online courses prior to the start of term and the demand and challenge presented by the need for new educational skills .
  • A typology of learning interactions is apparent within educational literature . The first 3 on this slide list were identified by Moore. The following three were subsequently added by Anderson and learner interface was identified by Hillman, Willis and Gundawardena who recognised that learners have to interact with technology in order to access content educators and peers in online learning environments. Although traditionally learner-learner interaction has been downplayed in distance education this particular type of interaction provided the focus of analysis within the research reported here . An online undergraduate communication course was selected as a case for the study and the embedded case design reflected the social structure of the course.
  • SNA and constructive grounded theory were used to analyse data collected from the case. This side shows learning relationships as the core category which emerged from the analysis. It also provides an overview of the results of the study and offers a model with which to visualise the substantive theory which was constructed to explain the conditions, interactions and consequences of learning relationships in online contexts. Textual communication and groups were contextual conditions within the online course . The course had been designed to promote learner engagement with course content through weekly pre-reading material PPT presentations, and a range of individual, large group and small group activities. Participation was constituted 25% of the assessment for the course. 21 students completed the course, 20 of whom agreed to participate in the study. Differences were discerned in the types, degree and frequency of learner-learner interaction.
  • One of the more surprising benefits of mediated interaction related to the absence of non-verbal cues…These are more often cited as a limitation within online learning contexts.
  • A comparative analysis revealed that individual contributions to small groups discussion exceeded those contributed to large group discussions. Therefore despite being more densely populated the number of connections between learners was greater in small groups. Groups also demonstrate preferences for particular forms of interaction given the group 6 and group 4 were the most prolific users of Asynchronous communication and group 3 used this form significantly less than other small groups.
  • Some explanations for the differences observed are offered in the content of learner contributions to large and small discussion groups.
  • This slide emphasies the importance of relationships among learners
  • And here the commitment to and investment in small group activites.
  • The findings of the research have implications for educational practice as they reveal conditions conducive to learner-learner interaction, dialogic learning and the development of a sense of community within online courses.
  • J - This presentation reflects on the processes involved in managing a curriculum mapping exercise aimed at integrating graduate attributes across our undergraduate programs. This whole of university approach was needed because CQUniversity offers a variety of modes of course delivery which pose a challenge for quality assurance of our curriculum, specifically for our DE programs. The scale and modes of our DE programs have required management to develop formal and transparent systems of quality assurance. Introducing such systems has helped guarantee curriculum quality for our complex and dispersed institution. One such system development has been embedding of graduate attributes across all courses and programs. So our paper reflects on the processes involved in managing a curriculum mapping exercise that was aimed at integrating graduate attributes across our programs. While the whole of university approach served to provide cohesion, there were some challenges regarding a perceived top-down approach. Therefore, our paper also discusses the complexities of managing resistance to change within an academic community as well as the process of engaging staff as the custodians of the curriculum.
  • R - We don’t want to bore you with information on graduate attributes that you already know such as why we have them, the history, etc other than to let you know our set of eight, which include those listed here. You may see some that are common to your institution. Since the adoption of these a few years ago, we’ve had patchy implementation…hence the need for a university wide strategy that would address the gap across our programs. Our PVC L&T launched the project in early 2010 where it became apparent of the concerns from the academic community. Some of these included: A lack of conceptual clarity about what was meant by some of the ga’s along with the key deliverables of the project The perceived ‘top-down’ approach and a perceived lack of consultation with projects such as this one And a lack of ownership of the implementation plan and the project in general With this in mind, the project team adopted a coordinated and consultative approach to help alleviate these concerns as best we could.
  • R - Need here to go into detail about each of the key activities
  • J - Explain the online mapping tool elements
  • J & R - So having reflected on our project over the last year, we’d like to share with you the successes, some improvements and recommendations for the future. Successes: Increased awareness of graduate attributes. There were a number of reasons for this, namely to do with our communication strategy. We presented at faculty and school meetings which provided an opportunity for academic staff to ask questions whilst developing an understanding of the project. It also meant that we were able to build in their concerns to the project and to the online mapping tool itself. The trust issues and perceived ‘top-down’ approach was also reduced due to the time we spent discussing with academics the value of the tool and how we were helping in the process. Additionally, we were able to make immediate updates to the tool based on academic feedback. Whole of university approach – it ensured that senior management, dean of schools, academic staff were all involved. We had learnt some valuable lessons from a previous implementation of our LMS. It was also important that each discipline felt ownership of the project and also ownership of the mapping process within their discipline and that these were different across disciplines. Recommendations: -understanding the resistance to change and the barriers that occur within this, but it was part of the process for staff to have their say and know they were being heard. -we did a lot of work with staff in the beginning to ensure everyone was included in the process and the project. But we could have improved on this -accrediting body compliance – some disciplines had already undergone a process of accreditation compliance with an outside agency, we could have built this into the project so there wasn’t double handling
  • J - With government funding hinging on demonstration of meeting graduate attributes, projects such as the one described here and more fully in our paper, are increasingly important. Attempts by universities and stakeholders to implement change have been difficult. Our project has used a whole of university approach to develop and implement a system to embed graduate attributes across the curriculum. This project has met the needs for a quality assurance system that has enhanced the university’s courses and programs. The complexity of this project, has required an understanding of cultural and organisational change along with the allocation of appropriate resources. It is hoped that this reflective process will assist other higher education institutions wanting to undertake a similar process. The nature of DE is very complex, particularly for our dispersed institution offering a range of multi-modal delivery mechanisms This project was partly about managing a resistance to change and also partly about ongoing conversations with staff. We did this by using a whole of university approach to the GA project. Something that we think contributed to the university mapping and embedding of GA’s across all our ug programs.
  • This paper highlights the problem of how to effectively manage and support the growing numbers of casual academics working in distance education.
  • The ALTC acknowledges the issues we have before us. Bradley et al. (2008) acknowledge the current issues associated with the highly casualised workforce in the sector. The Bradley Report implies further demands on an the already shaky higher education system. NTEU highlights these facts.
  • Both globally and locally the research is scant, even though casual DE academics are noted as being more marginalised than their on campus counterparts.
  • Literature over the past decade shows little movement in data, despite problems and questions of sustainability being raised throughout. This is not a new phenomenon.
  • Isolated evidence of good practice, but a broader, fully integrated model is needed.
  • The sector cannot keep ignoring the workforce that is playing a substantial role in driving the sector.
  • Bring this back to the future implications for the sector as raised in Bradley et al. (2008). Focus on sustainability for future generations of the academy.
  • ***Key is to better understand the Problem/Issues so that the sector can select and implement an effective sector wide solution .
  • An institutional voice to support teachers and learners in blended and distance education

    1. 1. Institutional Voice : Power of Place & Community Engagement
    2. 3. <ul><li>What strategies and approaches are required at institutional level to support the higher education workforce in the provision of distance learning opportunities for students in culturally and linguistically, socially and economically diverse communities? </li></ul>
    3. 4. <ul><li>Learning relationships as both a condition and consequence of learner-learner interaction in online contexts </li></ul><ul><li>Graduate attributes & curriculum design implications </li></ul><ul><li>Online learning networks & communities of practice for teachers’ professional development </li></ul><ul><li>Workforce planning and the integration of casual academics in a blended & distance education system </li></ul>Institutional Voice
    4. 5. Learning relationships: A condition and consequence of learner-learner interaction in online contexts Dr Dolene Rossi [email_address]
    5. 6. <ul><li>Rapid evolution of distance education </li></ul><ul><li>Change: In pedagogy, curriculum, infrastructure, policy, organisation and governance </li></ul><ul><li>Demand for new skills: Educators and learners </li></ul><ul><li>Capacity versus capability </li></ul><ul><li>Opportunities and unrealised potential </li></ul>Online learning contexts
    6. 7. <ul><li>Learner-content </li></ul><ul><li>Learner-teacher </li></ul><ul><li>Learner-learner </li></ul><ul><li>Teacher-teacher </li></ul><ul><li>Teacher-content </li></ul><ul><li>Content-content </li></ul><ul><li>Learner-interface </li></ul>A typology of learning interactions
    7. 9. <ul><li>Fiona (W3LGD) …There are distinct advantages to communicating online because the noise factors are reduced through lack of physical/environmental interference to the &quot;conversation&quot;. Visual and non-verbal distractions are non-existent allowing a clearer, uncomplicated climate for discourse... </li></ul>Mediated interaction
    8. 10.   Asynchronous communication Group 2 (n=3) Group 3 (n=4) Group 4 (n=5) Group 6 (n=3) Group 9 (n=5) Total Small group posts Total Large group posts (n=20) W1 3 4 11 16 8 42 55 W2 12 11 10 43 13 89 49 W3 18 13 14 29 26 100 38 W4 12 14 38 23 15 102 49 W5 31 12 52 55 11 161 72 W6 15 5 38 52 8 118 107 W7 18 10 33 34 20 115 59 W8 29 10 37 32 28 136 66 W9 22 8 26 19 16 91 45 W10 12 4 40 14 23 112 50 W11 10 1 49 38 29 127 57 W12 20 5 28 30 21 104 56 Total learner posts 221 97 376 385 218 1297 703
    9. 11. <ul><li>Jane (W8SG6-AS) ...This is definitely a good example of increase in size = decrease in participation...A lot of the things that I want to say are already said...hence participation in my case has decreased. </li></ul><ul><li>Avril (W8LGD)... I feel no cohesion within a group this large as nothing seems personalized or related to me. There is less contribution from each is not worth the effort when trying to learn in the class discussion board... </li></ul>Social structure
    10. 14. <ul><li>Kelsie (W8SG9-AS)... Although I am a member of two groups for this online course I feel I have only experienced a bonding with my smaller group with which I conduct my group activities... In this small group we have worked together and communicated towards reaching a mutual goal ... The small size of the group has allowed our communication to flow beyond our task topic and include personal information that has highlighted our differences and similarities... </li></ul>Actions and interactions
    11. 15. <ul><li>Kirin (W8LGD) ...I am keeping up to date with my readings and trying to have the weekly tasks finished on time, I am putting so much effort into this subject, mainly because I don’t want to let my group down... </li></ul><ul><li>Jenny (W8SG2-AS) I know that we are classed as a group (of) ladies but do you think that we are evolving into a team, due to the intimate knowledge we are collecting of each other, achieving more independence as our abilities grow and not needing as much tutor help, the ability for us to co-ordinate ourselves and resolve issues to achieve the end goal and work as a unit? If we were disbanded and made to reform to other groups we would not have the cohesion required to work as well as we do… </li></ul>Actions and interactions con’t…
    12. 16. <ul><li>Learner-learner interaction </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Instructional design: Required participation and the size of learning groups </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Dialogic learning </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Textual communication </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Learner control and responsibility </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Development of a sense of community </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Learning relationships: personal knowledge investment of time and commitment to group goals </li></ul></ul>Conditions conducive to:
    13. 17. A whole of university approach to embedding graduate attributes: A reflection Julie Fleming, Robyn Donovan, Colin Beer, Damien Clark
    14. 18. The project <ul><li>Lack of clarity </li></ul><ul><li>Perceived ‘top-down’ approach </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of ownership </li></ul>Communication Critical thinking Problem solving Information literacy Information technology competence Cross-cultural competence Ethical practice Community concerns: Our attributes:
    15. 19. Key activities <ul><li>Implementation plan adopted - Feb 10 </li></ul><ul><li>GA project group established - April 10 </li></ul><ul><li>Project launch - April 10 </li></ul><ul><li>Development of online tool - April - July 10 </li></ul><ul><li>Implementation of tool - July 10 </li></ul><ul><li>Visits to all schools - Apr - Sept 10 </li></ul><ul><li>Establishment of ARG - June 10 </li></ul><ul><li>Term 2 pilot - July 10 </li></ul>
    16. 21. Reflections <ul><li>Successes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Increased awareness of GA’s </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Trust issues with ‘top-down’ approach </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Whole of university approach </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Recommendations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Understanding the resistance to change </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Building ownership of processes and project </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accrediting body compliance </li></ul></ul>
    17. 22. Summary <ul><li>Government funding increasingly important </li></ul><ul><li>DE is very complex </li></ul><ul><li>Managing resistance to change </li></ul><ul><li>Developing ownership through academic conversation </li></ul><ul><li>Whole of university approach. </li></ul>
    18. 23. Community of practice or networked learning: A matter of design Wendy Fasso
    19. 24. Context and research question <ul><li>Questions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What is the nature of design that can lead to predetermined outcomes in an online learning environment? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Can the pedagogical design of online activities lead to different patterns of interaction? </li></ul></ul>
    20. 25. Methodology <ul><li>Content analysis – wikis and forums </li></ul><ul><li>Survey – on commencement of course and on reflection at end </li></ul><ul><li>Social network analysis of surveys and forum discussions </li></ul><ul><li>Analysis: PMI reflection, teleconferences </li></ul>
    21. 26. Data and analysis <ul><li>Total Participants: 32 </li></ul><ul><li>Participation in collaborative activities: </li></ul><ul><li>Why? </li></ul><ul><li>Difficulties however with aggregation </li></ul>Communication type Average participation Forums 23 Group wikis 32
    22. 27. Data and analysis <ul><li>Facilitator role </li></ul><ul><li>Forum 1 (early) </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Forum 2 (later) </li></ul>
    23. 28. Data and analysis 1: Sharing, opinions, application 2. Challenge, dissonance and debate 3. Conceptual exploration and negotiation 4. Modification based on new knowledge 5. Consensus and application 22 active 25 active
    24. 29. Data and analysis <ul><li>Felt welcome: 100% </li></ul><ul><li>Quality of learning: 79% </li></ul><ul><li>Learning preferences catered for: 79% </li></ul><ul><li>Confidence as leader: 89% </li></ul><ul><li>Value as PD: 95% </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitation: 95% </li></ul><ul><li>Support: 90% </li></ul><ul><li>Created vision: 84% </li></ul>
    25. 30. Conclusion and future directions <ul><li>Value of collaboration tools outside of forums, for consensus-building </li></ul><ul><li>Clear episodes of networking and group activity, linked to tool and pedagogy </li></ul><ul><li>Importance of design for socio-emotional impact on learning </li></ul><ul><li>Future research: alignment of Defensible Pedagogical Design: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Moral (socio-emotional and development of online “self”) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cognitive </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Collaborative </li></ul></ul>
    26. 31. The casual academic in distance education: From isolation to integration – a prescription for change Katrina Higgins & Bobby Harreveld Presenter: Katrina Higgins
    27. 32. Higher Ed reform in Australia <ul><li>The ALTC RED Report (2008) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Highlights deficiencies in casual academic use </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Analysed good practice in casual academic management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sector wide change needed (Percy et al., 2008). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The Bradley Report (2008) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If implemented will result in increases in HE </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Has implications for regional and remote areas and as a result DE (Bradley et al., 2008). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The National Tertiary Education Union (2009) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Expressed concerns over Bradley et al. (2008) proposals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Infrastructure and workforce planning issues </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Increased reliance on a casual workforce (NTEU, 2009). </li></ul></ul></ul>
    28. 33. Casual Academics in Distance Ed. <ul><li>Scant research is noted in this area, especially within an Australian university context. </li></ul><ul><li>Within a South African University study, isolation was identified as significant (Fouche, 2007) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Isolation from colleagues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Isolation from unit/coordinators </li></ul></ul><ul><li>When academics are isolated from colleagues casual issues are further compounded (Fouche, 2007). </li></ul><ul><li>This is an area that my PhD research is exploring. </li></ul>
    29. 34. The University casual academic <ul><li>Casual numbers are high (Percy et al., 2008) </li></ul><ul><li>Experience marginalisation ( Gottschalk & McEachern, 2010; Brown, Goodman & Yasukawa, 2010; Bradley et al, 2008; Churchman, 2005; Keogh & Garrick, 2005; Junor, 2004; Wheeler, 2004 and Bassett, 1998). </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Aspects from this literature include: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Poor professional development opportunities </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of career progression </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of resources </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of communication and integration with faculty </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Job insecurity </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>High workloads </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Identified in literature as the working underclass!!!!!! (Churchman, 2005; Bassett, 1998). </li></ul>
    30. 35. What is currently being done? <ul><li>Systematic sustainable policy in managing casual academics is rare across the sector (Percy et al., 2008) </li></ul><ul><li>Within past studies: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Effective management of casual academics is not well evidenced; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Some isolated strategic directives have been noted, however these have been primarily evidenced at a faculty level only </li></ul></ul>
    31. 36. <ul><li>Strategies identified all focus on the integration of casual academics through: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Communities of Practice (Beaumont, Stirling & Percy, 2009; Cornelius & Macdonald, 2008; Wenger, 1998) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Professional Conversations (Tait, 2002) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Collaboration (Brown, Goodman & Yasukawa, 2010; Beaumont, Stirling & Percy, 2009; Cornelius & Macdonald, 2008; Churchman, 2005; Junor, 2004; Tait, 2002) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>BUT - More is needed </li></ul></ul>Strategic directives
    32. 37. In Conclusion <ul><li>Change will be necessary to meet the future demands of higher education, in particular, distance education. </li></ul><ul><li>Few examples of effective strategies for the integration of casual academics have been identified; but how can large, sector wide integrated improvements be made? </li></ul>
    33. 38. The Key Message <ul><li>More exploration is required NOW as understanding the needs of casual academics in distance education will be a precursor to the provision of suitable management, leadership and support throughout the sector. </li></ul>
    34. 39. Questions ?