Virtual School Meanderings

March 25, 2013 e-Newsletter – 3/25/13

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Planning and Managing Distance Education Systems: Instructional Systems

Dr. Farhad (Fred) Saba, Ph. D.
Founder and Editor,

In a previous article in this series, I presented a model of distance education consisting of seven interrelated nested system levels. These system levels have been present in most distance education organizations that I observed, or planned and built over the past 30 years. In the last three weeks, I discussed Hardware ,Software, and Telecommunication System Levels. In this article I will focus on the basic characteristics and key personnel of Instructional Systems as well as the impact of this system level on the other levels. In future articles in this series, I will discuss the other three remaining system levels as well.


Video Conferencing Guidelines for Faculty and Students in Graduate Online Courses

A review of the literature revealed that established guidelines were not available to assist faculty who use video conferencing in their online graduate courses. In an effort to address this need, a self-evaluation study was completed with faculty who teach such courses. Drawing on the results of this study together with published Netiquette guidelines and a survey of other extant literature, a set of Video Conferencing Guidelines was created.

MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Examining Differences in University Implementation of iTunes U

This paper reports on a study that was conducted at a large Research I university in the Midwestern United States to examine perceptions toward the use of iTunes U as a venue for supporting learning and teaching in higher education. Faculty and students were asked to evaluate iTunes U in comparison to a broader collection of tools and their effective use across the departments of the University. The Graduate School of Education was found to use iTunes U most prolifically, and further study revealed specific student preferences toward personalized instruction. Implications for future research and implementation are discussed.

MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Contribution of Learner–Instructor Interaction to Sense of Community in Graduate Online Education

Instructors striving to facilitate the building of community in online courses must make evidence-based decisions in choosing the most effective interaction types during the course-design process. The study reported in this paper sought to identify which types of interaction contribute most to students’ sense of community (SoC) in online graduate courses at a regional comprehensive university. Rovai’s Classroom Community Scale was used to measure SoC, and Likert-scale questions were employed to measure frequency and perceived importance of seven kinds of learner–instructor interaction. The results indicate that the interactions that are most predictive of SoC include instructor modeling, support and encouragement, facilitating discussions, multiple communication modes, and required participation. Instructor modeling was found to offer the greatest yield to instructors as a balance between effort and benefit. Implications for online course design are discussed.

MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Young people’s creative online practices in the context of school community

This article concentrates on young people’s creative online practices, such as making videos, writing lifestyle blogs, and engaging in online role-playing games. It also looks at their relations to different audiences, privacy, and the school community as a central social environment in young people’s everyday life.The research was conducted as an ethnographic study in one public secondary school in Finland during the academic year 2009–2010. The ethnography is preceded by a quantitative survey on media use among school students (N = 305). EU Kids Online research data (N = 1012) regarding Finland was used in the analysis of young people’s internet use as well.

The internet offers different possibilities for young people to publish, share, and participate online. Although the study shows that the majority of young people are not especially eager to share their creative productions on the internet, some of the teens studied had a strong interest in creative media production and online activities. The case study shows that young people’s creative online activities vary from individual activities, such as school-community–based communal activities, to collaborative activities with peers.

In order to control their privacy online, young people try to manage their self-presentations, their audiences, and their spaces where they share their productions. It also seems that active and creative internet users get more support for internet safety from their peers and teachers.

Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace

Managing Large-Scale Online Graduate Programs

As with most states, Arkansas is experiencing substantial growth in the delivery of academic programs and courses by distance learning provided by institutions of higher education. At Arkansas State University faculty have adhered to the need of students and developed a completely online certification and master’s program in Educational Leadership, Curriculum and Special Education (ELCSE). The authors outline the steps in the process of developing and managing such an online graduate distance learning program. Because distance learning coursework has evolved and expanded with the rapid growth of instructional technologies, this paper will also suggest best practices for implementing interactive online instruction for educators.

Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration

Community Colleges and Underappreciated Assets: Using Institutional Data to Promote Success in Online Learning

Adapting to the 21st century, community colleges are not adding brick and mortar to meet enrollment demands. Instead, they are expanding services through online learning, with at least 61% of all community college students taking online courses today (Pearson, 2011). As online learning is affording alternate pathways to education for students, it is facing difficulty in meeting outcome standards; attrition rates for the past decade have been found to be significantly higher for online courses than face-to-face courses (Carr, 2000; Hachey, Wladis & Conway, 2012a/b; Morris & Finnegan, 2008; Tyler-Smith, 2006). Yet, there is a lack of empirical investigation on community college online attrition, despite the fact that course and institutional management systems today are automatically collecting a wealth of data which are not being utilized but are readily available for study. This article presents a meta-review of one community college’s realization of their underappreciated asset… the use of institutional data to address the dearth of evidence on factors effecting attrition in online learning.

Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration

OER in the Mobile Era: Content Repositories’ Features for Mobile Devices and Future Trends

Learning objects and open contents have been named in the Horizon reports from 2004 and 2010 respectively, predicting to have an impact in the short term due to the current trend of offering open content for free on the Web. OER repositories should adapt their features so their contents can be accessed from mobile devices. This paper summarizes recent trends in the creation, publication, discovery, acquisition, access, use and re-use of learning objects on mobile devices based on a literature review on research done from 2007 to 2012. From the content providers side, we present the results obtained from a survey performed on 23 educational repository owners prompting them to answer about their current and expected support on mobile devices. From the content user side, we identify features provided by the main OER repositories. Finally, we introduce future trends and our next contributions., eLearning Papers

Time for a Post-Mortem?: Business Professionals’ Perspectives on the Disillusionment of Virtual Worlds

Virtual worlds (VWs) are powerful three-dimensional technologies where users can assume identities and interact with others. While designed as open-platforms for creativity, expression, and experimentation by recreational users, VWs were once lauded for their potential applications to business. Today, much of the business community has either moved on from the hype of VWs or struggles to understand whether value can be obtained by using VWs. This paper attempts to provide an understanding of these outcomes through the analysis of assessments written by 59 business professionals, who each spent an extended period of time in a popular VW during the peak of the hype. From these assessments, four broad perspectives on the value of VWs to organizations (or lack thereof) were identified, along with challenges facing use of VWs if they are to become more widely used within business.

Virtual Worlds Research

L2 Identity, Discourse, and Social Networking in Russian

As the integration of Internet-based social networking tools becomes increasingly popular in foreign language classrooms, the use of modern communication technologies is particularly critical in the context of less commonly taught languages (LCTLs), where student exposure to the target language and its speakers is usually minimal. This paper describes communicative exchanges between native speakers and non-native speakers (NS-NNS) in a telecollaborative project that spanned two semesters and brought a rich and authentic social networking community, VKontakte, into college-level Russian classes in the United States. The analysis of the students’ online activities, phenomenological interviews, and interactions with Russian keypals grounded in the principles of identity construction through interaction (Bucholtz & Hall, 2005) and Discourse Analysis Framework (Gee, 2005) shed light on the students’ emerging online second language (L2) identities along the continuum from L2 learners to L2 users. Along with global and local categories of L2 identity enactment in virtual social spaces, we bring into focus the notions of digital wisdom (Prensky, 2009) and investment (Norton, 2000), while exploring the ways in which learners of LCTLs, such as Russian, draw on Internet mediation in order to compensate for the lack of contact with the L2 and to extend social connections beyond the confines of a language classroom.

Language Learning and Technology

Farhad (Fred) Saba, Ph. D.
Founder and Editor

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