E-learning research methodological issues


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  • It’s a rather a daunting proposition having to do an inaugural as it is difficult to know how to pitch it and it feels as if you are leaving your research philosophy very much bear. Also should one describe some in depth research or a broad overview? I have decided to opt for the latter. What I hope to do in this talk is three things. Firstly, I hope I can share with you my passion for this area of research and show you why I think it is such an exciting area to be working in. Secondly, I hope to be able to demonstrate why this is an important area, highlighting ways in which it is impacting on policy and practice. Thirdly, I would like to give you a snapshot of some of my current research interests.
  • E-learning research methodological issues

    1. 1. E-learning Research methodological issues Gráinne Conole University of Southampton Email: g.c.conole@soton.ac.uk ELRC workshop, Manchester, 3 rd May 2005
    2. 2. Impact of e-learning Organisational level Tutor skills & changing roles Virtual learning environments Interactive & engaging materials Unintended consequences
    3. 3. Increasing impact of ICT ICT as mission critical Drivers National initiatives ICT catalysts - VLEs Funding drivers Organisational structures Roles, skills and practice Teaching, learning and assessment Impact
    4. 4. The holy grail of e-learning New forms of learning Pedagogical re-engineering A global connected society Learning anywhere anytime Rich multimedia representation Smart, adaptable, personalised To what extent is this true? What is the link between the pedagogy and the technology?
    5. 5. Negative aspects Patch use of communication tools Stilted collaborations VLEs for admin and as content repositories Information overload Not pedagogically informed -ve
    6. 6. Positive aspects Critical mass of mediating tools and resources Shift from individual to socially situated Learning in context or through problem solving New innovative uses of e-learning +ve
    7. 7. Pros and cons Access to wealth of resources Information overload , quality issues New forms of dialogue Literacy skills issues New forms of community Learner identity and confusion Speed of access, immediacy Lack of permanency, surface Virtual representations Lack of reality, real is fake
    8. 8. Research philosophy & impact Research consolidating Professional practice informing Practice improving Resources developing Theory enhancing Learning shaping Policy guiding Strategy building Networks
    9. 13. Methodological issues Feeder disciplines Wealth of methods No shared language Tension between quantitative & qualitative <ul><ul><li>Lack of rigour, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>anecdotal & case based </li></ul></ul>Methodological innovations <ul><ul><li>Theoretical </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>frameworks </li></ul></ul>
    10. 14. Impact on research Bibliographic tools Endnote New discourses Chat, Wikis, access grid Data collection Online, multiple sites Data analysis New powerful tools Publishing JIME, e-Prints
    11. 15. Research opportunities Communication Email, discussion forums, Chat, video conferencing Interactivity Wikis, Web logs Collaboration Grid-technologies, sharing tools Data analysis SPSS, NVIVO Data mining Portals, databases
    12. 16. Discussion forums <ul><li>Current focus </li></ul><ul><li>Shift from analysis of content to </li></ul><ul><ul><li>multimodal approach </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Richer interpretation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use of grounded theory, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>critical recall events etc. </li></ul></ul>Early research Initially focused on analysis of content Analysis mainly via pre-defined codes <ul><ul><li>Problem </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Didn’t capture the complexity of the event </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of contextualisation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Codings too rigid </li></ul></ul>
    13. 17. Web logs and tracking <ul><li>Current focus </li></ul><ul><li>Shift from analysis of content to </li></ul><ul><ul><li>multimodal approach </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Richer interpretation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use of grounded theory, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>critical recall events etc. </li></ul></ul>Early research Easy to collect Assumed to give simple access to what users are doing <ul><ul><li>Problem </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Didn’t capture the complexity of the event </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of contextualisation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Easy to misinterpret </li></ul></ul>
    14. 18. Theoretical frameworks Communities of Practice Activity theory Dialogue Systems thinking, modelling, metaphor Distributed cognition
    15. 19. Wenger’s Community of Practice Learning Community Practice Identity Meaning Learning as experiences Learning as doing Learning as becoming Learning as belonging Social theory of learning Learning as social participation Legitimate participation Rarification
    16. 20. Activity theory Mediating artefacts Literature Subject Me Object Central issues of activity theory Outcome Text Focus on individuals negates social aspects Idea of ‘activity’ as an object-orientated and culture formation that has its own structure Mediation by tools and signs
    17. 21. Mediating artefacts Relevant literature Conference material Subject Group of academics Object Central issues of activity theory Rules Conventions of conference Community Academics interested in activity theory Division of labour Compartments based on disciplines etc Outcome New intellectual tools and patterns of collaboration
    18. 22. Other theoretical perspectives Distributed cognition and Person-Plus (Salomon, Pea, Perkins) Intelligence distributed between mind and surroundings ‘ Effects with’ and ‘effects of’ technology Dialogue (Vygotsky, Mercer, Laurillard ) Language as a tool, Joint construction of knowledge “ Inter-thinking”, Conversational framework Systems thinking, metaphors modelling (Senge, Beer, Morgan) Capturing organisational and cultural aspects Offer different perspectives
    19. 23. Methodology and method <ul><li>Method </li></ul><ul><ul><li>techniques through which data are collected and analysed (interviews, questionnaires, observation etc. ) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Methodology </li></ul><ul><ul><li>determines whether the implementation of particular methods is successful or credible </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the ‘systems of methods and principles used in a particular discipline’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Codifies particular beliefs and values about the world and how it works </li></ul></ul>
    20. 24. Researching organisational change <ul><li>Review a selection of research positions </li></ul><ul><li>Each with particular assumptions about the organisation </li></ul><ul><li>Explore implications for methodology and different approaches adopted </li></ul>
    21. 25. A positivist approach <ul><li>Assumes that there is an accessible real world that we have access to, and that science </li></ul><ul><li>Belief that the inductive-deductive process of inference from and to empirical data is the best way to study the world in order to understand how it works </li></ul><ul><li>Might propose that organisations exist and therefore can be studied in their own right </li></ul><ul><li>Unit of analysis might thus be a system (including material components such as buildings, policies and staff) as bounded by its status as an identifiable legal entity </li></ul><ul><li>Generates hypotheses which can be applied to other organisations </li></ul>
    22. 26. An open systems approach <ul><li>Involves creating models that allow us to understand how the world works </li></ul><ul><li>Typically such models involve analogy to living organisms, stressing (for example) response to changing environmental conditions </li></ul><ul><li>Position might still be that organisations exist, but instead of treating them as entities (‘black boxes’) they are developed as systems within which people are located </li></ul><ul><li>Researchers would look for evidence of how the organisation (system) responds to changes (feedback) in order to cope or adapt </li></ul><ul><li>Generates a model which has better explanatory potential </li></ul>
    23. 27. A phenomenological approach <ul><li>Does not assume that things exist as such </li></ul><ul><li>Concerned not with the qualities of the organisation per se, but on people’s experience of the organisation </li></ul><ul><li>Study the relationship that people have with the use of e-learning within an organisation </li></ul><ul><li>Seeking a greater understanding of what it means to experience e-learning within the organisation </li></ul>
    24. 28. A social constructionist approach <ul><li>Concerned with meaning rather than ‘things’ </li></ul><ul><li>Look at how people define and talk about e-learning </li></ul><ul><li>Concerned with meaning, but assuming that researchers have no privileged access to ‘in the head’ understanding </li></ul><ul><li>Look at the things people say and do about e-learning </li></ul><ul><li>Focus upon ‘discursive practices’ – conversations, policy documents and other ‘texts’ in which the meaning of ‘e-learning in the organisation’ is constructed and contested </li></ul>
    25. 29. A socially situated approach <ul><li>Seek to identify the practices that people engage with and the reifications of that practice that they produce (such as documentation, descriptive terms, artefacts, etc. ) </li></ul><ul><li>Seek to identify and describe such practices, reifications and groups or analyse the implications of ‘boundary crossing’ </li></ul><ul><li>Organisations exist as aligned constellations of collective practice </li></ul><ul><li>Identifying and describing forms of practice, studying how such groups form </li></ul>
    26. 30. Conclusion <ul><li>Considered the link between theory and method in e-learning research </li></ul><ul><li>Importance of establishing the credibility of research findings, in relation to the assumptions that the researcher has made </li></ul><ul><li>Need to identify the various positions that researchers hold </li></ul><ul><li>Need to develop a philosophy of e-learning </li></ul>
    27. 31. E-learning Research methodological issues Gráinne Conole University of Southampton Email: g.c.conole@soton.ac.uk ELRC workshop, Manchester, 3 rd May 2005
    28. 32. References <ul><li>Oliver and Conole (2005), ‘Methodology and e-learning’ ELRC research paper series </li></ul><ul><li>Conole (2002), ‘The evolving landscape of learning technology research’, ALT-J , 10(3), 4-18 </li></ul><ul><li>Conole, Dyke, Oliver, and Seale, (2004), ‘Mapping pedagogy and tools for effective learning design’, Computers and Education , June 2004 </li></ul><ul><li>Conole and Dyke, (2004), ‘What are the affordances of Information and Communication Technologies?’, ALT-J , 12.2 </li></ul><ul><li>Conole (2004), ‘Report on the effectiveness of tools for e-learning’, report for the JISC commissioned ‘Research Study on the Effectiveness of Resources , Tools and Support Services used by Practitioners in Designing and Delivering E-Learning Activities </li></ul><ul><li>Conole and Warburton (2005), ‘ A review of computer-assisted assessment’, ALT-J, 13(2), 19-33 </li></ul>
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