I discovered earlier today that the final report I submitted as a part of the research study that I conducted during my sabbatical in New Zealand is posted on the Virtual Learning Network website.
The executive summary of the report reads:
This report describes a research study into the development of virtual learning in New Zealand, specifically the obstacles that e-learning clusters of schools face or have faced in their journey to sustainability and maturity through the lens of the Learning Communities Online Handbook. The project has collected and produced 14 case studies and digital stories to illustrate the matrix that describes the process that clusters of schools progress through as they evolve organizational structures and procedures to support and enhance the education of students within and beyond their cluster of schools. A total of 14 illustrations for the Matrix of the Learning Communities Online Handbook have been produced: six case studies (with a careful selection of transcriptions, video, documents, and/or other materials) four digital stories (video clips selected from an interview); plus an addition four digital stories recorded by Michael Barbour. In addition synthesis has been presented in the form of a webinar with a recording that remains available through the DEANZ web site (http://www.deanz.org).
The project also sought to answer the following research questions:
- What common barriers do e-learning clusters face in their development towards maturity and sustainability? And, how have mature and sustainable clusters overcome those barriers?
- What are some examples of how networked schools are emerging in the New Zealand context?
Using a variety of data collection methods, the researchers identified three common barriers, including a lack of a coherent vision, difficulty in securing the necessary funding and resources (particularly concerning the role of the ePrincipal), and a lack of collaboration and cooperation within clusters and between clusters.
In addition, there were several examples of ways in which the e-learning clusters have acted as a change agent to reform the way in which classroom instruction is designed and delivered, along with how schools are organised. There were many instances where the act of teaching in the virtual learning environment changed that teachers’ classroom pedagogy, and in some instances the classroom teaching of other teachers at their school. There were other examples where the strategies that had evolved to connect different schools together for the purposes of distance education were being applied within the school environment to allow students to enroll in courses regardless of when the course was being “taught” by the teacher. At a structure level, there were some schools that had transformed the role of the school-based teacher from a subject matter specialist responsible for teaching a course to generalist responsible for facilitating students’ learning of courses being taught by virtual teachers. Finally, there was at least one example of a school that was re-considering the physical learning space to accommodate student learning in a twenty-first century networked school.
Based on these findings, it is recommended that individual e-learning clusters develop specific strategies to encourage greater collaboration between clusters and work towards greater consistency between their activities, including professional and organizational development and also of the approaches to virtual learning. Second, the Ministry of Education continue to provide and expand synchronous and asynchronous virtual learning tools the e-learning clusters are able to use free of charge. Third, the VLN lead the creation of a central repository of asynchronous course content that all e-learning clusters and any school in New Zealand could adopt and adapt. Fourth, the Ministry of Education explore providing some support for the administration and coordination of e-learning based on larger geographic regions. Finally, virtual learning stakeholders in New Zealand consider supporting national research to examine the activity, scope, participation, administration, management, and success of all of the different distance education providers for the schools sector.
Again, the complete report is available at http://www.vln.school.nz/mod/file/download.php?file_guid=114023 and a recording of the webinar that describes the report is available at http://www.deanz.org.nz/home/index.php/online-seminars/recorded-webinars (although I believe the recording is only available to DEANZ members, as it requires a login).
If folks have any specific questions after reading the report, I would be happy to address them. Also note that some of the DEANZ executive (such as Niki Davis and Derek Wenmoth) and I are continuing to analyze the data and hope to produce some academic pieces from this data in the near future.