Virtual School Meanderings

April 1, 2013 e-Newsletter – 4/1/13

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Designing and Managing Distance Education Systems: Educational 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 systems levels. These systems have been present in most distance education organizations that I observed, or planned and built over the past 30 years. In the last four weeks, I discussed Hardware, Software , Telecommunications and Instructional Systems Levels. In this article I will focus on the basic characteristics and key personnel of Educational Systems as well as the impact of this systems level on the other levels. In future articles in this series, I will discuss the remaining two systems levels as well.


Digital Resilience in Higher Education

Higher education institutions face a number of opportunities and challenges as the result of the digital revolution. The institutions perform a number of scholarship functions which can be affected by new technologies, and the desire is to retain these functions where appropriate, whilst the form they take may change. Much of the reaction to technological change comes from those with a vested interest in either wholesale change or maintaining the status quo. Taking the resilience metaphor from ecology, the authors propose a framework for analysing an institution’s ability to adapt to digital challenges. This framework is examined at two institutions (the UK Open University and Canada’s Athabasca University) using two current digital challenges, namely Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and Open Access publishing.

The European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning

An education in Facebook

For some years academics have debated the role in higher education of Facebook, the world’s most extensive social networking site. At first there was enthusiasm—it was a new tool that could be ‘repurposed’ for education; then, as Facebook became more widespread, its use seemed less than opportune. But now, with so many students already engaged before they even come to a university, perhaps it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Facebook is as natural to education as the commute, the computer, and everything else which students ‘bring’. This paper first presents a summary of what Facebook affords, by way of its design and use, for online communication and networking, demonstrating the central role of reciprocal acts of attention exchange in this system. It then analyses, through a critical reading of research into Facebook and education, the way Facebook challenges traditional understandings of university education and the relationships between teachers and students. It concludes that, however we might seek to use Facebook in higher education (and there are many reasons we might), its use will always be shaped by—and indeed give rise to—a blurring of the traditional boundaries between formal and informal education.

Digital Culture and Education

Turnitin Systems: A Deterrent to Plagiarism in College Classrooms

Computer technology and the Internet now make plagiarism an easier enterprise. As a result, faculty must be more diligent in their efforts to mitigate the practice of academic integrity, and institutions of higher education must provide the leadership and support to ensure the context for it. This study explored the use of a plagiarism detection system to deter digital plagiarism. Findings suggest that when students were aware that their work would be run through a detection system, they were less inclined to plagiarize. These findings suggest that, regardless of class standing, gender, and college major, recognition by the instructor of the nature and extent of the plagiarism problem and acceptance of responsibility for deterring it are pivotal in reducing the problem.

Journal of Research on Technology Education

Computer-Based Practical Exams in an Applied Information Technology Course

Worldwide, fewer and fewer work tasks are done using paper and pen, yet most high-stakes assessment in schools continues to use this primitive technology. This paper reports on one component of a project investigating the use of digital technologies to facilitate assessment tasks for high-stakes summative purposes in senior secondary courses. It reports on how a computer-based production exam was implemented in 17 final-year secondary school classes for the Applied Information Technology course in Western Australia. Further, it compares the comparative pairs method of marking with a more traditional analytical method. The conclusion was that this digital form of assessment should replace the existing paper-based exam; however, it was less certain which method of marking should be applied.

Journal of Research on Technology in Education

Effectiveness of Personalised Learning Paths on Students Learning Experiences in an e-Learning Environment

Personalisation of e-learning environments is an interesting research area in which the learning experience of learners is generally believed to be improved when his or her personal learning preferences are taken into account. One such learning preference is the V-A-K instrument that classifies learners as visual, auditory or kinaesthetic. In this research, the outcomes of an experiment are described after students in the second year of university were exposed to a unit that was redesigned to fit in the V-A-K learning styles. It was found that the was no performance improvement when the students were exposed to that specific personalised learning environment and it was surprisingly noted from the statistical evidence that they underperformed in general both with respect to their previous performances and their performances in the same course but for a different unit that served as a control. The personalisation framework used an adaptive method to generate learning paths for each student and it was found that the method performed satisfactorily in its selection process. The findings of this research adds to the existing body of discourse and consolidates the belief that learning styles as determined by self-assessment instruments do not necessarily improve performances. On the other hand, it brings an interesting observation with respect to e-learning environments and the use of multimedia. A pedagogical method of instructional design that brings a sound balance in the use of different elements can indeed be of universal application and each and every learner will find his or her space in it. Indeed working towards more flexibility and adaptability of the environment might be a better approach rather than to work on the adaptivity of the environment. The European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning

Social Software and Educational Technology: Informal, Formal and Technical Values

Social software is a growing reality worldwide and several authors are discussing its use to promote social interaction in learning contexts. Although problems regarding privacy, reputation, and identity are commonly reported in social software, an explicit concern regarding peoples’ values is not a common practice in its design and adoption, in part, due to the lack of research in this subject. The issue of values becomes even more critical as social software crosses the boundaries of people’s cultures to pervade every aspect of their lives, from personal relationships to work, from play to education. In this paper we shed light on this scenario by presenting an informed discussion about values in the context of social software, as it may bridge the gap between informal and formal learning. An organization of 28 suggested values is presented in the Value Pie, as a way of informing the design of social software. Our discussion is grounded on Organizational Semiotics and the Building Blocks of Culture.

Journal of Educational Technology & Society

Beyond the School’s Boundaries: PoliCultura, a Large-Scale Digital Storytelling Initiative

Technologies are changing the way we teach and learn in many respects. A relevant and not yet fully explored aspect is that they can support, even entice, students and teachers to go beyond the school boundaries, in spatial and temporal terms. Teachers and learners can keep in touch and work together, when they are not at school; they can access “the world” via Internet; peer to peer remote cooperation is possible; multimedia possibilities provide an incentive to explore the territory, the features of which can be documented in an effective way; digital content can be accessed, created, refined at any moment, at school and from home. This paper discusses this issue at the light of PoliCultura, a large-scale (20,000 users) digital storytelling initiative at the borders between formal and informal education, in which students and teachers collaboratively create a multimedia story. In order to accomplish this task, they interview experts, visit local institutions, involve their families and the community at large, cooperate through social media with remote peers, working at school as well as from home: in other words, they go “beyond the school’s boundaries”. In doing so, they not only get engaged but they achieve substantial educational benefits.

Journal of Educational Technology & Society


Harvard Asks Graduates to Donate Time to Free Online Humanities Class

Alumni of elite colleges are accustomed to getting requests for money from their alma mater, but the appeal that sent to thousands of graduates on Monday was something new: a plea to donate their time and intellects to the rapidly expanding field of online education.

The New York Times

Listen for the next big thing on Twitter: #TwitterChats

Twitter Chats seem to be all the rage on the microblogging site. Vendors, social media experts, regular users, customers, analysts, journalists and just about anyone can join in on the conversations, which cover a variety of topics. There are Twitter Chats on any number of subject areas, but in the technology industry, they seem to becoming more and more popular.

PC World

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

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1 Comment »

  1. […] From today's inbox… FEATURED ARTICLE Designing and Managing Distance Education Systems: Educational Systems Dr. Farhad (Fred) Saba, Ph. D. Founder and Editor, In a previous …  […]

    Pingback by e-Newsletter - 4/1/13 | Leadership in Distance Education | — April 2, 2013 @ 2:32 am | Reply

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