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Lighting The Fire in Distance Education (AECT 2009)
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Lighting The Fire in Distance Education (AECT 2009)


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  • Discuss the case: Independent Study course, Literature Course in Fantasy Literature, paper-based and online,
  • The primary source of data collection was a series of in-depth interviews. The instructor of the course and fourteen students who completed the course were the primary data sources. We also used the course materials (including the readings from the course) and the students’ assignments, where possible, as secondary sources of data. We conducted some brief follow-up interviews through e-mail conversations.We conducted several thematic analyses of the data, using a combination of holistic, selective, and detailed approaches to the thematic analyses (van Manen, 1990; 2002). The secondary forms of data were used to obtain a richer view of the themes arising from the interview data, for negative case analysis and to elicit discussion in follow-up interviews. As part of the analysis we wrote brief summaries of the themes that emerged from the data of each individual participant as well as collective themes. We conducted the conversations about the themes primarily through written correspondence. We also discussed the findings with other researchers and instructional designers to in what van Manen terms collaborative analysis (van Manen, 1990).
  • In this case, students developed a passion for what they learn, beyond just memorizing material for a grade and moving on.
  • Remember Kate’s story…
  • in the context of a distance course helped inspire them to take a deeper approach to their learning. Inspired in other wys as well, to be better people, etc.
  • Student’s discussed that this helped them learn at a deeper level, thus improving most of the “light the fire” outcomes discussed herein.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Lighting the Fire for Learning in Distance Education
      Michael C. Johnson
      Russell T. Osguthorpe
      BYU Center for Teaching & Learning
      AECT 2009, Louisville, KY (23BN-b)
    • 2. “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire” - William Butler Yeats (as quoted in Evenbeck & Hamilton, 2006, emphasis added).
    • 3. Osguthorpe & Osguthorpe (2009), p. 59
    • 4. So, can we light the fire in distance education?
    • 5. Methods
      Intensity Sampling (Patton, 2002)
      Case Studies: Instructor and 14 former students
      In-depth interviews participants
      Course materials, including student assignments (used for triangulation and negative case analysis)
      Thematic analysis (van Manen, 1990; 2002)
      Interpretation through Conversation (van Manen, 1990; 2002)
      Collaborative Analysis (van Manen, 1990; 2002)
    • 6. Ways Student’s Fires Were Lit
      Appreciation for the subject matter
      Sharing what they learned with family, friends, and others
      Self-confidence/self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997),
      Desire to continue their learning
      Deeper and more analytical learning
      Self-discipline and self direction of learning
      And so forth…
    • 7. Appreciation for the Subject Matter
      “I think that I walked away with a better understanding of what authors are trying to do when they are writing fantasy, a better appreciation for the works of Tolkien and Lewis.” –Helen
      “It just opened up a different genre that I would have never otherwise looked at” –Joy
      “I had never been a huge fantasy fan, so I gained an appreciation for that.” –Sam
    • 8. Sharing with Others
      I have been able to share this with some of my students …. I encourage them to read farther. You can’t imagine the joy in them saying they have never read a book and then have them go on and finish a series. –Bob
      I personally shared several of the insights that I was learning in church meetings, both in speaking and the teaching responsibilities that I had. –Sam
    • 9. Self-confidence/Self-efficacy
      “It gave me some self-confidence.” –Miriam
      “It seems to me that ‘self-confidence’ doesn’t really define what is going on here. It isn’t just feeling more confidence, but learning to trust your own ability to think. This should be the ultimate goal of education because it’s going beyond gathering information to actually learning and learning to learn. You don’t need a teacher to tell you what to think anymore—how sad that it is such a rare experience for a teacher to encourage students to think for themselves.” –Michaela
    • 10. Desire to Continue Learning
      “I have a running list inside my laptop of novels that I want to read once I graduate from college.” –Lucy
      “I have even thought about eventually doing a masters program maybe as a nurse practitioner … I know that there is a lot of writing in that … I think I feel much more comfortable in taking these classes.” –Joy
    • 11. Deeper, More Analytical Learners
      “I realized how much I enjoyed tearing things apart and looking at things more critically” –Mort
      Pam noticed, “a distinct difference in the depth of learning from the time I left campus to the time I graduated.”
    • 12. Self-disciplined/Self-directed
      “[taking the course] made me realize that I had the self-discipline to do independent study” –Miriam
      “The nature of an independent study course caused me to be more self-directed in learning” –Victoria
    • 13. How do we light the fire?
    • 14. Osguthorpe & Osguthorpe (2009), p. 59
    • 15. Alignment
      Learning outcome were clear and directly related to learning activities
      Learning activities were the assessment (expect for final exam, which was similar to learning activities)
      “I felt like [the professor’s] expectations for me as a student were very clear.” – Pam
    • 16. Linked
      Asking Personal Application Questions
      Offering Choices
      Adapt the course
    • 17. Linked: Personal Application Questions
      “The questions weren’t just about the literature but asking about you as a reader how does it apply to you.…it was probably another ingredient that made the [course] a little bit stronger.” – Hannah
    • 18. Linked: Choice
      “The course is designed for adaptability; it should be a different course for every student who takes it, a course more directly designed for that student’s particular interests” –Instructor
      “I think it engages people more when they have a choice in what they are learning.” –Hannah
      “I felt like I was given significantly more freedom to be able to pick and choose the stuff that I felt like was going to enrich my life the best” –Eve
    • 19. Challenging
      Questions as primary means of instruction
      Thought provoking
      Personally applicable
      Deeper approach over surface learning
      Distance Context
      Flexible timeframe
      Independent nature of the learning experience
    • 20. Challenging
      “I really found [the course] challenging, stimulating, interesting.” – Bob
      “I appreciated that he asked very thought-provoking questions that helped me look deeper into those stories on my own power.” –Kate
    • 21. Challenging
      “This course forced me to think more deeply.… to appreciate the text more fully I had to spend time pondering each character and deeper meaning…. I spent a lot of time answering each question in the quizzes and essays.” –Lucy
      “I really need[ed] to be reliant upon myself to go out and find those answers for myself” –Lucy
    • 22. Challenging
      “It challenges people to be self-motivated. You have to set your own schedule.… if you don’t get things done it falls back on one person.” –Hannah
      “I really need[ed] to be reliant upon myself to go out and find those answers for myself” –Lucy
    • 23. Inspiring
      Content (Stories, Characters, Insight)
      Depth-over-breadth approach
      Conversational instructional approach
      Interesting quotes/Insights from lives of authors
      Modeling of learning process
      Feedback (prompt, positive, encouraging, helpful)
    • 24. Inspiring
      “I really liked his attitude towards the course. I think that that influenced my attitude towards the course too” – Pam
      He would give you his point of view in the sense that he would kind of lead you along to show you how much he likes Tolkien and how much he enjoys reading Tolkien, but he never really let me know how he saw certain things but he let me know how much he enjoyed reading it and how much he loved reading it that it made me excited to read it…. I would be excited to read it simply because I felt like it was something he was excited to read. – Lucy
    • 25. Inspiring
      “We’re studying selected touchstones of Christian fantasy with sufficient thoroughness to enable us to read intelligently any literature of the genre, appreciating its unique perspectives and relating them to personal values” (Walker & Clark, 1982, p. 6).
    • 26. Inspiring
      “I liked [the course] because I got my papers … back in a timely manner and there were good comments that helped me learn more” –Marian
      “You get personalized feedback that you normally wouldn’t get in a classroom” –Michaela
    • 27. Inspiring
      “It is always nice when teachers don’t just give you a certain number of points and don’t just say whether it is right or wrong but they actively involve you even after you have received your materials back. That was something that I appreciated as a student.” –Sam
      “He offered very encouraging feedback … warm feedback, it was very nice, very encouraging.” –Victoria
    • 28. Foundation of Edifying Relationships
      Writing in a personal and engaging style
      Personalizing contacts with students
      Trying to be helpful and show concern for students
      Being sincere and honest with the students and encouraging them to be as well.
      Trust and respect
    • 29. Foundation of Edifying Relationships
      “For a piece of paper, I felt like it was a very personal piece of paper that I could like hear him talking to me. I felt a certain closeness to the professor that in other classes I definitely have not.” – Pam
      “You almost felt like you were corresponding with afriend on a subject you both had interest in.” – Michaela
    • 30. Questions or Comments?
    • 31. References
      Osguthorpe, R.T. and Osguthorpe, L.S. (2009). Choose to learn: Teaching for success every day, Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
      Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: W.H. Freeman.
      Evenbeck, S. & Hamilton, S. (2006). From "My Course" to "Our Program": Collective Responsibility for First-Year Student Success. Peer Review, 8(3). Retrieved 16 Feb 2009]
      Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research & evaluation methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
      van Manen, M. (1990). Researching Lived Experience: A Human Science for Action Sensitive Pedagogy. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
      van Manen, M. (2002). Phenomenology Online. Retrieved December 23, 2006, from
    • 32. Additional Readings
      Holmberg, B. (1986). A discipline of distance education. Journal of Distance Education, 1(1), 25-40.
      Holmberg, B. (1999). The conversational approach to distance education. Open Learning, 14(3), 3-58.
      Holmberg, B. (2003). A theory of distance education based on empathy. In M. G. Moore & W. G. Anderson (Eds.), Handbook of Distance Education. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
      Johnson, M. C. (2009). Character development in a distance education literature course: Perspectives on Independent Study English 395R—Christian fantasy literature. Unpublished Dissertation, Brigham Young University.
      Moore, M. (1997). Theory of transactional distance. In D. Keegan (Ed.), Theoretical principles of distance education (pp. 22-38). New York: Routledge.
    • 33. Contact Information
      Michael C. Johnson
      Russell T. Osguthorpe
      Center for Teaching & Learning
    • 34. developing in all learners the capacity to carry on self-directed learning, the ultimate maturity required of the educated person (Wedemeyer, 1971, p. 550).
    • 35. As the distance education field matures it is to be hoped that greater attention will be paid to variables besides the communication media… (Moore, 1997,p. 24)
    • 36. Linked: Choice
      …offer learners varying degrees of freedom in self-determination of goals and activities, and in starting, stopping, and pacing individualized learning programs which are carried on to the greatest extent possible a the convenience of the learners (Wedemeyer, 1971, p. 550)
    • 37. Additional information
      Distance teaching will support student motivation, promote learning pleasure and effectiveness if offered in a way felt to make the study relevant to the individual learner and his/her needs, creating feelings of rapport between the learner and the distance education institution (its tutors, counsellors [sic], etc.), facilitating access to course content, engaging the learner in activities, discussions, and decisions, and generally catering for helpful real and simulated communication to and from the learner (Holmberg, 1986, p. 36).
    • 38. Relationships
      “Central to learning and teaching in distance education are personal relations between the parties concerned, study pleasure, and empathy between students and those representing the supporting organization” (Holmberg, 2003, pp. 81-82).
      Other factors he shared that have a positive influence on student learning include, “short turnaround times for assignments and other communications between students and the supporting organization, suitable frequency of assignment submissions, and the constant availability of tutors and advisers” (Holmberg, 2003, p. 82).