Friday, 2 November 2007

Open journals

Well everything was going swimmingly with Block 2: A great selection of readings relating to theory, with carefully crafted materials and integrated online activities to support them. But then... one of the readings on Activity Theory turned out not to be available through the (very expensive) journal subscriptions we already have. Recent issues of the journal yes, but not the particular issue with that reading in it.

Our Rights department dutifully trotted off to ask the publisher how much it would cost us to include this paper in the course, and they came back with a figure of £1,791 (about €2600 or US$3700)

Hmm... that's more than our rights budget for the whole course, so no thank you. Less law-abiding organisations would simply scan or photocopy the paper for their students. But we don't do that. So we've gone back to ask the publisher (who shall be nameless at this stage) to reconsider, otherwise we shall have to replace the paper and rewrite Week 9 of the course.

In the long-run of course, this kind of behaviour is likely to increase the attractiveness of open access journals, or some variant. At the same time, the OU already makes as many of its researchers' publications as it can freely available online. But the general public might not be aware that often academics have to sign away the copyright of their own work to the publishers of the journal in which it's published. And so academics might be unable to make their work freely available, even after some years have elapsed.

We'll see what happens...

Update 7 Nov: A happy resolution. A current subscription covering that particular journal issue has now been found.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

New links

I've updated the links on this page. One of the additions is to a set of slides showing the various pathways to a Masters degree involving H809. Of course it can be taken as a standalone course, but we get asked about pathways quite a bit, so I hope this helps.

Another new link is to Gráinne Conole's new blog. Gráinne is a member of the H809 Course Team and always makes terrific contributions to our discussions. So I think her blog is well worth a look.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Conference news

I know I said there were too many relevant conferences worldwide to be posting them all here, but there are a few coming up that might be of interest.
  • Next month is E-Learn 2007 in Quebec, Canada.
  • In November is the 2007 European Practice-Based and Practitioner Research conference on learning and instruction in Maastricht in The Netherlands.
  • A few days later is the annual conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE 2007), in Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • In December is the annual conference of the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ascilite 2007) in Singapore.
Finally, the conference is not until March, but I couldn't resist linking to the "Computer and Internet Applications in Education" Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). Did someone mutter the word "usability"? My screen-reader sees nothing...

Saturday, 15 September 2007

A busy summer

Production of the course is now well advanced. Personally, I've been on my holidays, and then the conference of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI), held this year in Budapest.

But while I've been away the rest of the course team have been busy finalising the Block 2 materials and firming up Block 3. We're also busy planning the podcasts, about which I'll say more in a future post.

We've now had useful feedback from our Critical Readers: these are the folks outside the course team who go through the materials and online activities in detail and suggest improvements. Our Critical Readers seem genuinely as excited by the course as we are, which is great!

We've had a gratifying number of applications from people wanting to be tutors on the course (see the advert). We'll be shortlisting soon. We'll continue to accept applications even after the first tutors are appointed, because we won't know until February how many students we'll have and so how many tutors are needed.

Now that students are registering on the course, the February start date suddenly seems very close!

Friday, 27 July 2007

Block 1 readings

As promised, some early readings. And they are not just "early" in the course. Several are early in the sense of being older in the field. That's because they're part of the "scene-setting" that goes on in Block 1 ("Contextualising the field"). The cutting-edge stuff comes later!

Further caveats: Firstly, most of the readings are not freely available online. H809 students will get access through OU subscriptions. Secondly, you haven't got the course materials or tutorial activities that "scaffold" the readings. Again, H809 students get these during the course.

  1. Hiltz, S. R. and Meinke, R. (1989) ‘Teaching Sociology in a Virtual Classroom’, Teaching Sociology, vol. 17, no. 4. pp. 431-446.

  2. Wegerif, R. and Mercer, N. (1997) ‘Using computer-based text analysis to integrate qualitative and quantitative methods in research on collaborative learning’, Language and Education, vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 271-286

  3. OECD (2005) E-learning in Tertiary Education: Where do we stand?, Paris, OECD

  4. Laurillard, D. (1994) ‘How Can Learning Technologies Improve Learning?’ Law Technology Journal, vol. 3, no. 2

  5. Oliver, M., Roberts, G., Beetham, H., Ingraham, B. and Dyke, M. (2007) ‘Knowledge, society and perspectives on learning technology’, in G. Conole and M. Oliver (eds) Contemporary Perspectives on E-learning Research, London, RoutledgeFalmer

  6. Hewer, S. and Mogey, N. (eds) (1997) LTDI Case Studies, Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University, ISBN: 0 9528731 3 3; also available online (Accessed 22 June 2007)

  7. Roschelle, J. (1992) ‘Learning by Collaborating: Convergent Conceptual Change’, Journal of the Learning Sciences, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 235-276

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Now recruiting...

We are looking for tutors who are interested in being part of this. If you've experience of researching the use of technology for learning, or even if you have a more general broad educational research background, please see the employment advert.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

e-learning publications and conferences

If you work in the school sector, you might be interested in a new publication by the UK's agency BECTa: Emerging technologies for learning (volume 2)

If you work in a university or college, another UK agency JISC is holding an online conference on e-learning in June.

Worldwide there are many such publications and conferences relating to ICT in education - too many to publicise here systematically - and they are often a rich source of enthusiasm, case studies, and issues.

However prospective H809'ers might also be wanting to take a step back to ask questions such as...
  • How strong is the evidence for claims?
  • Are alternative explanations possible?
  • How could the claims be tested more strongly?
  • What theoretical explanations are offered, what do they buy us, and what are their weaknesses?
We'd be interested to hear to what extent each of the e-learning gurus is engaging in these questions.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Show 'n Tell

One of the bright ideas we had earlier in the year was a research Show 'n Tell. Each of the course team brought along three examples of original research with which H809'ers might usefully engage and that could illustrate a cutting edge methodology. To discourage bashfulness, one of these examples had to be local (either one's own work or a colleague's). We then talked about each piece of research, and what it had to offer. The discussion proved so enjoyable we had two more of them.

The readings were about...
  • research into technologies such as social websites, games consoles, podcasting, Google Maps, Second Life, robotics...
  • research using technologies such as ChatBot, eye-tracking, remote observation, audio logs...
  • analytical frameworks such as Activity Theory, discourse analysis, network analysis, content analysis...
  • issues such as effectiveness, informal learning, interactivity, economics, privacy, personalisation, capacity building...

Of course we can't promise to fit all of this into the course, but the selection of readings for the first presentation of the course does draw heavily on these happy discussions. And the plan is to update the readings annually to keep them at the cutting-edge. We're happy to receive further suggestions.

Conference on practice-based research

There's a call for contributions to the second European Conference on Practice-based and Practitioner Research on Learning and Instruction. It's being held in Maastricht, the Netherlands, 14-16 November 2007.

According to the organisers, the conference "will offer opportunities to discuss educational innovations and developments based on evidence emerging from different forms of inquiry into educational practice. Interactive formats are intended to promote interaction between practitioners and researchers."

The deadline for the submission of proposals is 20 June 2007.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Registration now open

Worldwide approval has just been granted. You can now register for the course online.

It can count towards one of four different Masters degrees:

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Do you like your learning in lumps or as a journey?

We've spent a lot of time discussing the structure of the course. We want students to engage in the questions How is ICT in education researched? And How is technology changing the way educational research is conducted? But what is the best way into these questions?

The "learning object" approach has been fashionable in online courses in recent years. For research methods courses, meanwhile, a "foundations - paradigms - techniques" kind of narrative approach has become fairly traditional.

But this is a practice-based course, and the "practice" is that of researching with and about ICT. So we think an approach based on the critical study of original empirical research might offer a refreshing alternative pedagogy.

In this "spiral structure" (inspired by Bruner), you journey through a sequence of readings and activities, with key themes being revisited at a progressively higher level of sophistication each time.

The course themes are:

  • epistemological issues
  • theoretical frameworks
  • the changing nature of research
  • ethics and unintended consequences
  • relationships between research, policy & practice

Perhaps this spiral approach makes it a harder job all round: you have to read original research papers rather than a finely sieved narrative; and we need to create materials and activities to help you to read each research paper critically, while simultaneously drawing out these themes.

But we think it's worth it for the benefits of getting you engaged in the reality of actual research literature from the start, set in their original context, without the predefined filters of an artificially-generated "grand narrative". Of course such narratives have their place...

Friday, 23 March 2007

And the winner is...

We asked the OU's educational research students to vote on our final shortlist of three titles. Their overwhelming recommendation was for "Practice-based research in educational technology".

Many of them also provided very useful comments and additional suggestions. The new ones that most caught my attention were:
"New technologies for educational research" and "Technology-rich methodologies for educational research".

We had been worried that "practice" was too academic-y a word, but this wasn't a concern expressed by our respondents. One commented:
'Practice' and 'practice-based' are very powerful words for people working outside academia: it provides reassurance that what you find is going to be some practical use – eventually. Also helps with employers, e.g. getting funding or at least time off from work or co-operation in access to data."
Some noted that the title doesn't mention the cutting-edge technologies that the course will draw on. This is a fair point, and perhaps indicates something to be highlighted in the blurb.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Title suggestions

Thanks for all the suggestions. Here's a selection of them, in no particular order:
  • Researching technology enhanced learning
  • Researching elearning [suggested three times!]
  • Researching ICT
  • Researching Practice in e-learning
  • e-learning: Researching Practice
  • Research and Practice in e-learning
  • Researching and Studying eLearning
  • New directions in practitioner inquiry using e-research
  • Practitioner Inquiry using e-research methodologies
  • Researching technology-rich practice
  • Technology enhanced research
  • Practitioner Research and technologically supported methodologies
  • Practice-based research in educational technology
  • Researching in eLearning
  • Foundations in eLearning Research
  • eLearning Research - a practitioner’s course
  • Using e-Research in e-Learning
  • The eLearning researcher
  • Prepare for research in eLearning
  • Thinking beyond the boundaries: eLearning research and evaluation
  • Methods of Practice-Based Research for Distance and E-Learning

The ubiquity of "e-learning" is quite a surprise, because it's not a word we've used in relation to the course very much. It's probably because the word appeared in a departmental email inviting suggestions. Friends with fingers on the pulse of the zeitgeist tell me that its days as a fashionable buzzword are numbered, so we'd be interested in views on this.

Friday, 2 March 2007

A rose by any other name?

We've been mulling over titles.

Our working title is accurate but not catchy: "Practice-based research and evaluation in technology-rich environments".

We know that titles matter: some of our older course titles have been said to be too wordy, or to tell you very little about the content of the course.

Some colleagues have suggested we put "eLearning" in the title, and that "practice" is a off-putting "academic-y" word. Others like the word "practice" because of its connotations of practitioner enquiry, practical reasoning, and social practices, and because it doesn't restrict the audience to teachers and lecturers.

Another issue for the title is that the course is supposed to be not just about researching technology-enhanced learning but also about the use of technology for educational research.

What would you call it? There's a small prize for the suggestion we like the best.

Friday, 16 February 2007

Permission to shout "Woo Woo Woooh!!" incredibly loudly, sir?

After months of work on the business appraisal, H809 has been approved. :-) Full steam ahead!

Did you think this was going to be one of those infamous one-post blogs? Well, I was discouraged from posting during the appraisal. And I still need to keep flagging up that details contained herein are subject to change before the course goes live.

Mind you, if the blog posts reach double figures I'll be surprised...