Virtual School Meanderings

May 13, 2013 e-Newsletter – 5/13/13

From the inbox earlier today…

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Planning and Managing Distance Education Systems: Applying system dynamics

In this series of articles, I presented a hierarchical 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 previous weeks, I discussed Hardware, Software, Telecommunications, Instructional, Educational, Societal and Global Systems Levels. Last week I started to explain the process of system modeling so that you could start the planning process for your organization. I hope that conducting the environmental scan as presented in a previous article has given you a better appreciation of the components of the technology-based educational programs in your organization and the interrelationships among such components. But before we go any further on the process of modeling itself, certain important concepts in system methodology must be explained in the following as a follow up to this previous article about system methodology.


MOOCs and Beyond

In August, 2012, four months after opening, Coursera—one of several Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) providers quickly gaining traction on the Internet—registered one million students, from nearly 200 countries. This is only one of the many staggering statistics that could be shared about the sudden popularity of MOOCs, the total of which speak to the worldwide interest in accessing university courses online.

This special issue of eLearning Papers brings together in-depth research and examples from the field to generate debate within this emerging research area.

Measuring monographs: A quantitative method to assess scientific impact and societal relevance

In the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), the monograph is an important means of communicating scientific results. As in the field of STM, the quality of research needs to be assessed. This is done by bibliometric measures and qualitative methods. Bibliometric measures based on articles do not function well in the field of HSS, where monographs are the norm. The qualitative methods which take into account several stakeholders are labour intensive and the results are dependent on self-assessment of the respondents, which may introduce bias. In the case of humanities, the picture becomes even less clear due to uncertainties about the stakeholders. This article describes a method that may complement the current research on scientific impact and societal relevance. This method measures the usage of online monographs and identifies the internet provider involved. The providers are categorized as academic; government; business; non-profit organisations and the general public. The usage is further cat-egorised in national and international. Combining this data makes it possible to assess the scientific impact and the societal relevance of the monographs. The method is quantitative, which makes the results easier to validate. It is not necessary to know the stakeholders in advance: the readers are identified through the method. The used data set consists of over 25,000 downloads by more than 1,500 providers, spread over 859 monographs. More than two thirds of the usage can be categorised, and almost 45% of all usage comes from non-academics. This might indicate that the monographs have an relevance in society. Two possible influences on monograph usage were analysed: subject and language. Most of the subjects that received a higher than average number of downloads come from the field of the social sciences; the humanities were less ‘popular’. Books in English – the ‘lingua franca’ of science – were downloaded the most. Languages such as Dutch were read much less outside of national borders that Italian or German. A Dutch or Belgian scholar would need a translation in order to have more influence abroad; this applies far less for Germans or Italians. While further research is needed, the results are promising and the proposed method could be used as an addition to the existing tools to measure the scholarly impact and societal relevance of the field of HSS.


Complex Moving Parts: Assessment Systems and Electronic Portfolios

The largest college within an online university of over 50,000 students invested significant resources in translating a complex assessment system focused on continuous improvement and national accreditation into an effective and efficient electronic portfolio (ePortfolio). The team building the system needed a model to address problems met throughout the planning, design, and implementation of the assessment and ePortfolio systems. The team adopted the FEAT model to ensure that multiple stakeholder perspectives were an integral component of how the assessment system and ePortfolio development worked together. This model consisted of four domains: functional encompassed how the software tool worked and was used; educational reflected the desired learning as a result of system implementation; administrative included policies and procedures, financial and human resources, and planning necessary for project implementation; and technical included the hardware, software, and networking infrastructure necessary for ePortfolio and assessment system implementation. The researchers documented the types of problems encountered in the process, the problem solvers involved, strategies used, and actions implemented. The researchers concluded that evaluating system development is more informative if a systemic approach is used to examine the interdependent relationships among the FEAT model domains that influence the overall system maturity.

International Journal of ePortfolio

Systematic Design of Blended PBL: Exploring the Design Experiences and Support Needs of PBL Novices in an Online Environment

Designing problem-based learning (PBL), especially blended PBL, is very different from designing traditional teacher-centered instruction and requires a new set of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. To be successful, teachers must step out of their comfort zone, adopt new roles and responsibilities, and develop new knowledge and skills required in PBL environments as well as technology integration skills. The purpose of this study was threefold: (a) to examine the difficulties and challenges that PBL novices faced as they designed their first blended PBL in an online environment, (b) to explore effective strategies for supporting PBL novices in the design process, and (c) to examine the impact of PBL design experience on PBL novices’ perceptions of PBL. The researcher collected qualitative data from multiple sources, including an online survey, initial design documents, feedback meeting notes, revised design documents, and reflection papers. The findings of this study provide practical insights into how to support PBL novices in designing blended PBL. The implications for teacher professional development, especially online professional development, and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education

Mining interactions in immersive learning environments for real-time student feedback

The analysis and use of data generated by students’ interactions with learning systems or programs – learning analytics – has recently gained widespread attention in the educational technology community. Part of the reason for this interest is based on the potential of learning analytic techniques such as data mining to find hidden patterns in students’ online interactions that can be meaningfully interpreted and then fed back to students in a way that supports their learning. In this paper we present an investigation of how the digital data records of students’ interactions within an immersive 3D environment can be mined, modeled and analysed, to provide real-time formative feedback to students as they complete simulated surgical tasks. The issues that emerged in this investigation as well as areas for further research and development are discussed.

Australian Journal of Educational Technology

The national broadband network and the challenges of creating connectivity in education: The case of Tasmania

Tasmania, one of the first locations to have communities connected to the national broadband network (NBN), provided the context within which to ask significant questions about the implications of the NBN for all levels and sectors of education. This paper reports findings from a research project that developed innovative methodology to explore the issues with 21 respondents categorised as “leaders” in the field of information and communication technology in education. The aim of the research was to conduct an audit of actual and planned implementation of new technologies in classroom teaching through in-depth interviews, to assess challenges faced in implementation and to facilitate dialogue between leaders in disparate education areas through provision of forums online and face-to-face. In this way the action research both contributed to an understanding of issues and acted as a change agent in stimulating the sharing of new approaches to what turned out to be a set of highly complex “wicked” problems. Resulting models using a causal layered approach demonstrate that whereas the NBN did not become the immediate solution to connectivity for these leaders, it provided the motivation to consider what a connected educational environment could be like.

The Australian Journal of Educational Technology


New Book: Handbook of Mobile Learning, Edited by Zane L. Berge, Lin Muilenburg

This handbook published by Routledge provides a comprehensive compendium of research in all aspects of mobile learning, one of the most significant ongoing global developments in the entire field of education. Rather than focus on specific technologies, expert authors discuss how best to utilize technology in the service of improving teaching and learning.

For more than a decade, researchers and practitioners have been exploring this area of study as the growing popularity of smartphones, tablets, and other such devices, as well as the increasingly sophisticated applications for these devices, has allowed educators to accommodate and support an increasingly mobile society. This handbook provides the first authoritative account of the theory and research that underlies mobile learning, while also exemplifying models of current and future practice.

Regulating Distance Ed

Institutions that offer online education programs should not be forced to answer to regulators in each and every state where they enroll students, according to a group led by the former U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley.

Inside Higher Education

Faculty Backlash Grows Against Online Partnerships

Many professors recognize that online education is changing the landscape of academe. But faculty members at several colleges are making it clear that they will not be steamrolled.

Chronicle of Higher Education

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

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  1. […] From the inbox earlier today… Having trouble viewing this email? Click here FEATURED ARTICLE Planning and Managing Distance Education Systems: Applying system dynamics In this series of articles,…  […]

    Pingback by Planning and Managing Distance Education System... — May 13, 2013 @ 10:56 pm | Reply

  2. […] From the inbox earlier today… Having trouble viewing this email? Click here FEATURED ARTICLE Planning and Managing Distance Education Systems: Applying system dynamics In this series of articles,…  […]

    Pingback by e-Newsletter - 5/13/13 | ... — May 14, 2013 @ 2:40 am | Reply

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