Synthesising TELEDA; seven top tips for e-teaching and final #Bbworld14 reflections

TELEDA Top TipsFollowing #Bbworld14 advice to including audience takeaways, I synthesised TELEDA into seven top tips, supported by quotes from colleagues and recommendations for e-teaching practice.  I’ve already blogged about the value of stand-out titles when competing with high numbers of parallel sessions http://suewatling.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2014/07/25/bbworld14-re-imagining-education-and-the-importance-of-presentation-titles/  The size of #Bbworld14 emphasised how headline titles are an art worth collecting 🙂

Seven Top TELEDA Tips

TELEDA tip 1 busting myths of digital confidence

TELEDA Tip 1: busting Myths of digital confidence means not making assumptions about the use of technology

Everyone works differently. They might be less confident than you think but just disguise it well. The quote shows VLE are not only about technical competence  but have social and emotional challenges. Don’t make assumptions about how people feel psychologically as well as cognitively.

Recommends: build in time for a course induction. Have activities which encourage sharing aims and feelings, it’s good for e-learners to know others might be nervous about learning online and good for e-teachers to know what students are thinking about.

TELEDA Tip 2 awareness of text mis communication

 TELEDA Tip 2: awareness of text mis-communication

We’ve all had emails which leave you thinking mmm…. what do they mean by that? The absence of face to face clues makes it easy to misinterpret messages. The quotes reinforce the value of learning design and how online communication is different, sometimes scary. e-teachers should expect reluctance and be prepared for the possibility of mixed messages.

Recommends: discuss the advantages of digital text; how you can practice, reflect, edit, check spelling then paste when you’re ready. Have a net etiquette guide, either given or constructed during induction. Include the standard advice e.g. capital letters are shouting, emoticons convey emotions 🙂 😕 😎 and don’t be rude or offensive. If you wouldn’t say it f2f don’t say it online. If you would say it f2f it’s still not appropriate here!

TELEDA Top Tip 3 experiencing identity blur

TELEDA Tip 3: experiencing identity blur 

What do you call an e-teacher? It sounds like a bad joke but is a serious question. You hear tutor, trainer, moderator, facilitator, instructor but never e-lecturer. The status of teaching online isn’t high. e-teachers have to shift identity from  ‘Sage on the Stage’ to less visible and more silent ‘Guide on the Side’.

Recommends: knowledge is power so be prepared. e-teaching is complex and challenging but also an expertise in its own right. Done well, it’s a powerful tool for widening participation. Be proud of your e-teaching status and take every opportunity to share your practice.

activity based content

TELEDA Tip 4: adopt activity based content

Online resources have to guide, motivate, enthuse and excite students as well as retain them. Face to face sessions need to be redesigned on constructivist principles through an activity based curriculum. Interaction with content as well as other e-learners and e-teachers is essential for maintaining and completing the learning journey.

Recommends: set up online groups with forums, blogs or wikis and a choice of activities based on key texts. Ask for synthesis of core ideas through posters, mindmaps, presentation software, audio, video. Ask students to peer review and feedback summaries. Avoid replicating lectures with 50 minutes of talking head. Chunk content, be inclusive and always provide multimedia transcripts to suit all learning preferences.

TELEDA Tip 5 effective site signposting

TELEDA Tip 5: effective site signposting

e-teaching and e-learning are very different experiences to campus based education. They are often carried out in isolation and it’s easy to forget how a VLE like Blackboard might look like to a new user. Without the physical presence of colleagues or peers, it’s easy to get lost or confused so effective signposting is essential.

Recommends: be clear about the learning outcomes and ways to demonstrate them. Make sure e-learners know what’s expected and how they’ll be assessed. Give them your contact details and times when you’ll be available. Check links aren’t broken. Write weekly summaries which look backwards and forwards. Keep everything within two clicks from the Home page.

go do a mooc

TELEDA Top 6: do a MOOC

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) offer free opportunities to see other e-teachers at work as well as offering first hand experience of the loneliness of the long distance learner. You can dip in and out  and they’re great for ideas for designing content and enabling communication. Open Educational Resources (OER) are worth looking at too. These are educational materials made freely available through a Creative Commons licence.

Recommends: visit Coursera, the Khan Academy or Udacity for MOOC and JORUM or HUMBOX for OER. SCORE have a list of repositories. Look up Creative Commons licences; some encourage repurposing as well as reuse. Built activities around searching and evaluating free online content. Use social bookmarking like Delicious or Diigo  to collect links in one place.

TELEDA TIP 7 be prepared for a pedagogy of uncertainty

 TELEDA TIP 7: be prepared for a Pedagogy of Uncertainty

The challenge of e-teaching is not knowing what to expect. You don’t know who your learners are, or if they’re going to engage in your activities, and if not, you have to figure out if they’ve got lost or simply lost interest. It might be miscommunication or misunderstanding but following the six tips above will help avoid some of the commonest errors.

Recommends: be honest. e-teaching isn’t the easy option but the advantages outweigh the negatives. VLE offer genuine opportunities to widen participation in higher education, in particular for those with multiple time commitments. They also enhance campus experiences through encouraging independent and inclusive learning.  The future is digital and e-teaching is an increasingly essential craft and skill.

Ten top tips for surviving part-time doctoral research

survival ringsAfter several false starts (three to be exact) I feel this giant research project is coming home. Getting lost has taught me a lot. I’ve learned from each encounter but never felt I was making progress. I realise now, my ideas about doctoral research were too hazy. I jumped in feet first not knowing where to begin but expecting all to be revealed in the next book, the next paper, the next person I spoke to – when it isn’t like that at all.

The research doesn’t take shape at the beginning. It develops as you read, reflect and read some more. Most of all, it emerges from conversations, with colleagues, family, friends – because only by talking about it – getting it out of your head and into the ether, can it become clear. Answering questions from others surfaces what you’re doing.

The process isn’t easy. Evenings, weekends and bank holidays have all been swallowed by a huge doctoral shaped hole. It’s lonely too. Developing survival tips and techniques is essential.  What’s worked for me might not work for others outside the field of qualitative educational research, or even some of those within it, but these are the lessons I’ve learned so far:

– Your research has to be personal; you need passion to stay the course, even when all around you seem less sure of your convictions.

– The subject has to inform your day job and make a difference to what you do. There’s never enough hours so a p/t Phd must have relevance to the greater part of your working week.

– If your passions lie outside work, re-consider a work related subject. The chances of completing are increased by the connections between research and daily practice.

– A doctorate is about learning to use the tools. Don’t be overly ambitious. Your PhD is unlikely to change the world. Aim for small changes in your chosen area instead.

– A PhD isn’t a mystery. There are set rules underpinning the process. Learning these will lay the foundation for research in the future.

– The regulations of doctoral research are laid out in dozens of books. Find the book which ‘speaks’ to you. Don’t be afraid to keep looking. When you find it, you’ll know it’s ‘yours’.

– See the component parts of your research holistically. A doctoral project is elastic. Like a cat’s cradle, its shape can move and shift so the component parts are best understood as linked rather than separate.

– Be confident. Develop the sense you have something worthwhile to say. Feel proud of the hours spent copying, cutting and pasting, losing files and feeling you’ll never get there. You will and your subject is unique, otherwise you wouldn’t be researching it.

 – Practice talking about your research. Learn to explain succinctly to anyone who’ll listen. Take every opportunity to present in public. Feel the fear and do it. The experience will be invaluable.

– The most liberating aspect is the freedom to think outside the box. Qualitative research contains permission to be creative. You’re looking for connections which haven’t been seen before. This takes imagination, sociological or otherwise. I needed to understand my research was personal before I could begin to claim the necessary ownership.

 It’s no exaggeration to say your p/t Phd will be a challenge and will dominate your life. You have to let it move in and take over.  Other advice includes join a research group, write a blog, give yourself deadlines, create targets then give yourself rewards for reaching them.

Sounds like another top ten tips in the making!

 

 

Who needs a living person when a keyboard will do?

I can’t help myself. When I read suggestions like these have to drag out the soap box.

I tweeted but there are times when a tweet isn’t enough.

Only a blog post will do.

soapbox

The Policy Exchange Think Tank says Internet access and training would cut pensioner loneliness and the BBC have picked this up http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27577143.  With no link to the original report (nor can I find it on the PE website) my knowledge is limited to this piece which reinforces skewed ideas of how digital divides are constructed. The BBC should know better. Here is an ideal opportunity to raise awareness of their complexity, in particular for older people, who often have specific requirements with regard to access.

Digital exclusion is now generally understood as being about usage as well as access. This is a step in the right direction. What gets missed is the linkage between users of assistive technologies – who need alternatives to mouse and screen based hardware and software – and the design and delivery of web content which fails to be accessible enough for devices like screen readers.

Nothing in this piece acknowledges research around the multiple reasons older people are at risk of digital exclusion in the first place. It’s  deterministic to suggest technology can cure what is fundamentally a social problem. For example ‘Eddie Copeland, author of the report, said learning basic computer skills would stop pensioners becoming vulnerable to loneliness.’ What’s being suggested? Here’s a laptop, you’ll fine now – dear. After all, who needs a warm living person when a keyboard will do?

The internet and world wide web have been amazing inventions but ultimately are mirrors of the wider society in which they’re created, managed and used. Assuming technology is the answer to social isolation is not the answer. We need less Digital First policies, in particular with regard to the provision of information, welfare and health services. What’s needed is investment in people not machines.

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Recent research into digital divides and exclusions

Across the Divide – Full Report from the Carnegie Trust  http://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/publications/2013/across-the-divide—full-report

Cultures of the Internet from Oxford Institute
http://oxis.oii.ox.ac.uk/sites/oxis.oii.ox.ac.uk/files/content/files/publications/OxIS_2013.pdf

Age UK Digital Inclusion Evidence Review
http://www.ageuk.org.uk/Documents/EN-GB/For-professionals/Research/Age%20UK%20Digital%20Inclusion%20Evidence%20Review%202013.pdf?dtrk=true

 

The consolation of sharing failure

Strawberry Fields, Central Park, New YorkImagine you are not alone.

Once more Thesis Whisperer is a mirror. Last time supervisor stress, this time the need for academic resilience in the face of rejection. I was low after being turned down for an opportunity to talk about my research then Raising the Risk Threshold appeared on my feed. I read the first line… When you get rejected from a journal or conference, or your grant doesn’t get up… and was hooked!

The post is about being unsuccessful and dealing with it. Tseen Khoo calls it academic resilience. I call it Academic Aptitude. AA to the rescue. You have to get good at dealing with rejection. It’s a learning curve. An exercise in positive thinking. Finding something you’ve done is not considered good enough hurts. Moving on takes guts but it has to be done. The easy option is to think I’ll never do it again but risk taking goes with the research territory. There’s no substitute for conference presentation, publication or a successful funding bid. Even when you’ve accepted you can’t change the world, but believe you could alter a tiny bit of it, getting your story out there and networking with like-minded people is a necessary part of the academic game.

No!

No matter how you say it, the word ‘no’ never sounds good in the context of rejection. It makes you feel vulnerable. Not good enough. You beat yourself up over the smallest detail and end up doubting the whole research package.  We all deal with rejection differently. Responses are complicated by gender, age, career status, existing workloads and colleagues.  It takes one to know one. Empathy comes from experience. I know who I can and can’t talk to. I’ll get over it and by next week will have moved on. It’s the here and now which is uncomfortable but it’s been a busy week and I’m tired. Two time zone changes and 15 hours with Virgin Atlantic in 5 days.  But now it’s back to business!

Academic Aptitude is an essential skill, right up there with critical evaluation and reflective practice.  AA is not just being gifted in a specific discipline, it’s about attitude; in particular towards research and being dedicated to the research process. It’s about looking ahead, moving on, knowing bruises fade and other opportunities will appear.  It’s about a special kind of strength and being prepared to temporarily skew the work/life balance.  I was down but felt better for reading Raising the Risk Threshold. Whether face to face or online, there is always consolation in sharing failure.

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The e’s have it. On raising the status of e-teaching.

Technology Alphabet image from https://sd36edtechlead.wikispaces.com/March+2 I’ve been promoting e-teaching as a partner to e-learning.  A colleague shared a paper which referred to e-teaching and I thought they’d beaten me to it,  but the authors opted for Digital Practitioner. At seven syllables a time, I don’t think it’s going to catch on.

Being an e-teacher is part of the wider conversation about online identity.

On March 28th I asked ‘When it comes to online ‘tutoring’ what should we be called?’  The term e-learning has become part of the vocabulary of education but e-lecturer is less common.

Who are we online? Teacher, Tutor, Trainer. Lecturer.  Facilitator. Moderator. Instructional Designer. Just passing through…

We should bring back the ‘e’ as in e-learning, e-resources. e-literature. e-teaching, e-practice. The e’s have rhythm. e-ducation.  e-scholarship.

Research suggests there are no clear benefits to educational technology; any difference made relates to the environment as much as the machine. This runs contrary to the rhetorical promise of ‘e-learning’ which mostly ignores the role of teaching. Recent literature has called for greater attention to educational design – as if that will make a difference. I hope it will. I still believe in the VLE.

I love Blackboard #iloveblackboard

I also believe in promoting the role of the e-teacher. Learning online is no easy, cost cutting option. An authentic experience takes time to build; it requires community, through interaction. My ABC model of Activity Based Content uses collaborative tools like wikis, blogs and discussion boards. There’s an absence of powerpoint. Learning online is tough. The loneliness of the long distance teacher/learner has to be experienced to be believed. I’m not sure you can teach online if you haven’t learned there. Which comes back to identity. To be an e-teacher is a skill. Subject specialism isn’t enough. You have to be digitally literate as well and this part is often missing. The gap between SEDA and ALT is more like a chasm.

VLE make great content containers. While teaching has moved on from behaviourist pedagogy, the VLE is still primarily used to support a transmission model of education. Recent online ‘training’ sessions with Blackboard Collaborate reinforce the dominance of the active teacher/passive recipient dynamic.

Looking back, VLE were embedded into university systems and staff told to get on with it. I remember. I was there. The advantage of being er…um….a little more mature… is the benefit of hindsight. There’s been insufficient attention paid to the reality of teaching online. Focus has been on technology and students. Now the time has come to privilege the teaching. The status of the e-teacher needs raising; it’s e-lementary and e-ssential to put teaching first.

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Image from https://sd36edtechlead.wikispaces.com/March+2

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Not waving but drowning – in an ocean of words

lifebelt

In an idle moment, I word counted my phd files. Sad but true. The total was a shock. Notes on the literature review, action research log, TELEDA reflections, random thoughts, unfinished blog posts – all amounted to hundreds of thousands of words. Like googling yourself, it was an experience both positive and negative. Trying not to think about the life I could have had, it raised issues like how many backups are enough, do I trust the cloud and why can’t I have a bigger H Drive?  The real ‘omg’ moment was realising I’ve already written my thesis – at least seven times over.

I have the words. I’m sure most of them are the right words. Now they need putting in an acceptable order.

I’ve never been good at boundaries. Fridges not made for half empty bottles. For me anyway. Better not open the box of chocolates or uncork the wine unless you’re in for the duration. I’ve started so I’ll finish. Although it works less well with words. For me, they just go on and on and on….

There’s a danger my thesis could ramble on indefinitely so I’ve been giving some thought to containing it. I like structures but I’m an activist. An atypical contradiction. Always diving in without enough preparation. My writing is rarely planned. It just happens. I know it’s not the best way to work but I also know some drastic decisions are needed. THE END needs to be in sight. There are other writing projects to do. My PhD moved in and for a while it was ok but now it’s like a house guest who’s outstayed their welcome. The relationship is not so good. Nor salvageable. I’ve done everything I can. Examined the literature (never enough) collected my data (not quite what I expected). Now I need a plan. Something which turns all this work into chapters. I need a thesis road map. From here to there. With clear signposts and a vehicle which matches the terrain. Without some clearly definable direction and limits this will go on and on….

Somewhere in all the How To Survive books, I’ve read a Phd is a means to an end. A lesson in getting up close and personal with research tools and tribulations. It’s about finding your own perspective. There’s no escape from the ‘…isms’ and ‘…visms’ or exclusive language of onts and epists but I’ve spent long enough grappling with the ‘…ologies’ or getting deliciously sidetracked*.  Every time I go online I find a path less travelled. I have to STOP NOW and think about putting together what I already have.

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* For example The Craft, Practice and Possibility of Poetry in Educational Research by Melisa Cahnmann in Educational Researcher for an alternative approach to academic writing.

Image borrowed from http://dickstaub.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Drug-Rehab-Center-Help.jpg

The ontological realism of rain; making sense of research through my allotment.

evening sun on the allotment April 2014

Easter is a movable feast. Scratch the surface and older traditions connected with moon phases and the spring equinox soon emerge. Like Christmas and the winter solstice. I love Easter. Not for the choc-fest and crossed bun bonanza, but because it’s time to open up my allotment. I use the winter months for reading, writing, reflecting in firelight. During Easter, I’m unlocking the heavy metal gates again. Squared by a dual carriageway and back yards of terraced houses, I garden to the percussion of falling glass from the recycling plant and buzz of trains on the main line from Hull to London. If I stand on my the roof of my shed, I can see the bridge. This is my baseline.

Last year, my postmodern lens got a bit scratched. There were raised eyebrows, disparaging comments; it was lonely in my po-mo world. While colleagues were asking why I would want to go all postmodern in the first place, I was looking at its attention to diversity and difference and thinking why wouldn’t you? In particular, with educational technology where exclusive practice is rife, access parameters decreasing and digital divides widening (invisibly) every year.

Lyotard’s report on the condition of knowledge arrived in a blaze of cynicism and critique. There was outrage at Baudrillard’s suggestion the Gulf War didn’t happen. A lot of people enjoyed poking fun at postmodernism. Then it sort of vanished, Chomsky’s diatribe on po-mo’s polysyllabic meaningless echoing in symbolic ears. It was all a bit French but if Foucault  were alive today, he’d be saying I told you so. Wikileaks?

Postmodernism introduced words like participatory and emancipatory into the research agenda, helped reveal hidden mechanisms of social control. The word ideology has become associated with political science but it’s wider and broader than economics. From ancient Greece, as most things are (if only they’d been less patriarchal and dropped their attitudes to disabled babies and slaves…) ideology is about ideas and ‘logos’ – which has a dozen definitions (in a postmodern way) but is fundamentally about communication.

So under the sun on my allotment, I’ve been pondering the short lifespan of the postmodern academic, thinking maybe it was too ambitious, took on too much. Denying grand narrative theories was always going to be risky. No winners or losers; a grudging draw at best. Then between the digging and backache, I read about the coexistence of ‘ontological realism‘ alongside ‘epistemological relativism‘ (the ivory towers of doctoral research) which was a bit like – postmodernism. Symbolic realms, the Real, Other, fluidity of language, a continual need to renegotiate meaning, the impossibility of establishing what Putnam called a God’s eye view all sounded familiar. Hello Critical Realism. Are you the acceptable academic face of postmodern theory  for the 21st century?

My allotment is a treasure trove. It offers poetry and magic as much as sore muscles and splinters. It can be an analogy and metaphor for anything, not to mention my sanity and respite. Over the last year, grappling with my ontology and epistemology,  as befits a PhD, it all got easier when I considered its permanence. My allotment exists regardless of my presence. It isn’t an abstraction. I don’t bring it into reality. It just is. But when I show it to others, they all see it differently. It has an ontological realism but is epistemologically relative; people apply their own meaning. Beautiful or boring. Relaxation or hard labour. Envy or disinterest. There is no fixed way of seeing it. Take my allotment neighbour. Stan has a plan. He grows in straight lines,  measures, records, has neat paths and the frame he’s built for his chrysanthemums is bigger than our greenhouses put together. We have the same 250 metres square, touch the same earth, feel the same rain. We share an ontology but epistemologically we are worlds apart.

I like how – when you’re reading – certain words jump off the page. This is resonance. Jung would call it meaningful synchronicity. The process of writing a thesis is – I think – about finding synchronicity, joining up the relevant dots to form a new way of seeing, a different way of knowing. My phd will be a tiny sand-grain of knowledge with my name on it. In the meantime, my allotment waits…

Callendula and Honesty on the allotment April 2014 cowslips on the allotment April 2014 Red Campion on the allotment April 2014 MArigolds and Cornflowers on the allotment April 2014

Chapter One: What is Realism and Why Should Qualitative Researchers Care? from A Realist Approach for Qualitative Research by Joseph A. Maxwell (2012) Sage http://www.uk.sagepub.com/upm-data/44131_1.pdf

 

Get critical, get digital, get EDEU…

Learning Development @ Lincoln menu structure

I’ve been looking for supporting materials on critical writing and reflection for Getting Started and they’re not jumping off the page. Like digital literacies, I wonder if competence with these skills and practices are being assumed. Yet conversations suggest support would be useful. As CERD divides and EDEU* begins to form, I’m looking back. Learning development was part of CERD, until Helen Farrell, our Learning Development Coordinator, was an unfortunate loss through redundancy. The work Helen and I did lives on in the [unmaintained] Learning Development@Lincoln website, now evolved into a library lib guide page.

Maybe bringing academic and digital together under a title like ‘Learning Literacies’ is a new way to represent them. I’d like to bring these aspects of learning development into EDEU because I’ve been here before. Digging around in my archives shows how the content is relatively unchanged over the years.

In 2007 I created the Academic Writing Desk. Home page image below.

Academic Writing Desk homepage

Here is the Academic Writing Desk home page for Essay Writing.

Academic Writing Desk on Essays

In 2009 I developed Snapshot specifically for Getting Started. This was designed to introduce new students to academic practice; namely academic writing, reading, thinking and a bit on reflective practice.

Snapshot (introduction to academic practice) home page

Here is the Snapshot page on academic writing

Snapshot page on academic writing

Helen Farrell and I created the Learning Development@Lincoln website. The Writing page is shown below.

Learning Development at Lincoln Writing Page

These are all different ways of presenting similar information. An interesting insight into life in 2008 is the lack of reference to digital literacies in the Learning Development@Lincoln resources – but this could easily be put right.

EDEU will be new but not so new. Before CERD, we were the Teaching and Learning Development Office with a remit not that dissimilar to EDEU. The difference is how times have changed, how the university and the sector has changed. Internationalisation, social media, online submission, multimedia communication etc. With additional resource the new unit will provide capacity to pick up on some of the learning development aspects of these areas. Time to get critical. Get digital. Get EDEU. Bring it on! 

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* EDEU Educational Development and Enhancement Unit

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Missing my MOOC. Goodbye TOOC. It was great knowing you.

goodbye TOOC14

I miss my mooc. It was good to feel part of the TOOC14 learning community, in particular from the student point of view. It’s a sign of positivity when you feel sad about an ending but I reached the point where something had to give. In this case it was the mooc. For the tutors at Oxford Brookes on TOOC14, here’s my feedback.

  • I always felt my contributions were valued.
  • I liked the individual-ness of responses.
  • It was helpful to have additional questions built in. I felt tutors were interested in what I had to say. These questions also stretched my thinking and enhanced the learning.
  • What I really liked was knowing tutors had experience and expertise in managing online communication. As a consequence I felt it was ok not to know something, ok to get it wrong or even not get it all.
  • On TOOC14 I felt a real sense a community of shared practice and inquiry was building up.

It was a mooc but not as you might know it from coursera, udacity or khan academy. Not all but mostly, they can be impersonal. You feel like a grain of sand on a beach.

Online education is never an easy option. It takes time and commitment for staff and for students. Resources need redesigning. Retention is low. Text talk easily misunderstood. The advantages and disadvantages of virtual learning environments are about even. I think the team at Oxford Brookes have got it right.  I’d have liked to complete.

I’m using the phrase tutors but am not sure this is the right word. When it comes to online ‘tutoring’ what should we be called? When the pay scale says Lecturer, how does that translate to online environments. I’ve submitted a conference proposal  this week suggesting greater attention be paid to the role of e-teacher. The word e-learning has worked its lexographical way into the vocabulary of education but we rarely come across e-tutors or e-lecturers.

Who am I online?

Teacher, Tutor, Trainer? Lecturer?  Facilitator? Moderator? Just someone passing through?

The pedagogy of uncertainty which underpins all online courses is also one of invisibility with regard to participants. I wonder if this is indicative of the lower status attached to virtual learning environments. It feels like they remain the second best option. Learning online is what you do if you can’t get on campus. Supplementary. Other. Students are students where ever they are but the identity of those who virtually teach remains much more of a mystery.

 

Educational Design Research or Educational Action Research – what’s the difference?

Action Research

Educational Design Research

Educational Design Research (EDR) looks like Action Research (AR) by another name. On first encounter it’s not easy to tell them apart.  EDR aims to produce useable knowledge. AR to produce actionable knowledge. Both are essentially practical rather than theoretical; aiming to find solutions for real world problems. Both take time. They share an action reflection reaction process which can’t  be rushed. It’s as long as it takes. No short cuts allowed which conflicts with publish or perish imperatives driving academic research. No quick wins which is good because reflection on practice can’t be rushed and if research cuts corners it isn’t worth it.

So what about their methodologies? An ED Researcher typically identifies a problem and uses a framework of analysis (to understand the problem), design (to literature review and create a potential solution) and evaluation (for testing and revising the design accordingly). An Action Researcher identifies a problem, develops a potential solution, practices, evaluates and reflects before revising and repeating. The theory generated by both is based on empirical rather than hypothetical practice. They look so similar you have to dig deep to separate them.

Digging deeper I find a paper by Wang & Hannafin, 2005, saying EDR ‘…advances instructional design research theory and practice as iterative, participative and situational rather than processes ‘owned by operated’ by instructional designers.’ So rather than designing instructional techniques and methods in isolation, EDR is a collaborative process taking into account the real world environment of the classroom. The teacher identifies the problem. Calls on the ED researcher. They devise the research project in collaboration rather than isolation. Sounds promising. Especially if it narrows the divide between the technology and the pedagogy.  Techies and teachers should walk a mile in each other’s shoes. I’m sure it would help.

Digging deeper still, I fins a paper by Reeves, Herrington, & Oliver, 2005, which claims EDR emphasises content and pedagogy rather than technology. If your research involves educational design and it’s using technology for education, I’m not sure how you can separate them. The original problem of elearning remains i.e. rifts between the technology and the teacher. I can only think the authors are dismissing the technology because they’re so familiar with it, they don’t see it an an issue whereas for most teachers, it’s the technology itself which is the barrier.

It’s possible this is pedantic rather than paradigmatic difference or comes down to continental linguistics like you say instructional I say educational. We have virtual learning environments, you have technical solutions. Like Blackboard Learn™ is an education technology platform and we call it a vle.   

This is fine detail but research is as much about the small as the large and the similarities and differences between EDR and AR are relevant. While both offer academically rigorous paradigms for the empirical study of teaching practice, one is research into your own teaching practice while the other is research into the teaching practice of others.

So by this definition I am an AR not a EDR even though both address existing significant problems (rather than research for its own sake), define pedagogical outcomes, develop learning solutions and emphasise interaction and community (Reeves, Herrington, & Oliver, 2005: 110). The primary difference for me, I think, is AT can address any social situation whereas I’m applying the principles to educational practice and this reinforces the parallels with EDR.  It’s necessary to spend time interrogating the differences and similarities. Part of the process is finding connections and using them to highlight and confirm my research questions. In the time stressed environments we all work in, I think this has been time well spent.

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Reeves, T. C., Herrington, J., & Oliver, R. (2005). Design research: A socially responsible approach to instructional technology research in higher education. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 16(2), 97-116.

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