The Electronic Journal of e-Learning provides perspectives on topics relevant to the study, implementation and management of e-Learning initiatives
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Journal Article

Customer‑Driven Development for Rapid Production of Assessment Learning Objects  pp1-6

Andrew Adams, Shirley Williams

© Feb 2006 Volume 4 Issue 1, Editor: Shirley Williams, pp1 - 111

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Abstract

Customer‑Driven Development is a technique from the software development method called extreme Programming (XP) where customers (most importantly including end users of all levels) are closely involved in the software design and redesign process. This method of producing software suitable for customers has been adapted to help in the production of e‑learning material, in particular, Assessment Learning Objects (ALOs) consisting of multiple‑ choice questions. Asking undergraduate students to produce multiple‑choice questions as part of their formal assessment processes facilitated this. The outcome shows two distinct benefits to this process. Firstly, the students who took part in this project benefited from the encouragement to participate in reflective learning, both on the specific topic on which they chose to produce a multiple choice question, and in the methods and purposes of multiple choice questions (which form a significant part of their self‑assessment regime and summative assessment exam). Secondly, of the questions produced by students a significant number of them were of suitable quality to be used for future cohorts and to be made available to the wider community. This gives two important benefits to staff: developing a wide range of questions is difficult and time consuming; student insight into misunderstandings of material can often be greater than that of staff. Resources for the development of ALOs are scarce and given that students benefit directly from being asked to develop their own questions, the year‑on‑year expansion of a question set produced by students can be a very useful resource.

 

Keywords: Learning Objects, Multiple Choice questions, Extreme Programming, Computer Aided Assessment

 

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Journal Issue

Volume 6 Issue 3 / Oct 2008  pp161‑254

Editor: Shirley Williams, Laura Czerniewicz

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Editorial

The International e‑Learning Conference was held in the southern hemisphere for the first time, hosted in the beautiful city of sea and mountain, at the University of Cape Town. Several pre‑conference workshops were held, on such topics as mobile learning and open education resources, which meant that by the time the Conference began, discussions were already in full swing. The 68 papers presented were well attended and debates were lively. A Special Issue such as this one cannot capture the tenor of those debates, but it can offer a taste of the conference. We have thus selected excellent articles, which give a flavour of the conference, and of the issues raised.

One might have asked, with delegates from 20 very different countries, all operating in divergent contexts, was there enough commonality of interest and context for a shared conversation to be possible? The answer was clear. Despite widely different technological circumstances, delegates were united by a passion for learning, and the possibilities of technology to enable learning to take place more effectively. The focus was therefore not on hardware nor on infrastructural issues, but on leveraging the affordances of a very wide range of technologies to address the challenges of education, the challenges faced by educators everywhere, and the challenges of helping students learn. These challenges were recognisable across the board. Can technology help students be more engaged with learning? Can technology address the impersonal and alienating environments of large classes in universities? Can technology help students be more reflective and receive more feedback? Can the most basic problems of education, such as primary school literacy be helped by current technologies?

Participants at the conference commented in the final session on how delighted they were by the innovations shared, and by the standard of the discussions in all the sessions. The papers selected for this Special Issue is a selection of such innovations, rigorously accounted and carefully researched.

Most of the papers selected for this journal address specific micro level aspects of learning. Two, for example, confront the basics of reading and writing at the primary level. South Africans Freda van Wyk and Arno Louw report on the use of electronic reading programmes in a context where primary learners perform worse than their peers internationally. They report that while all learners were below expectations for their grades at the outset, after the programme, all had improved. At the other end of the spectrum is a Danish example where researcher Karin Levinsen reports on a primary school context where ICTs have become ubiquitous. Her paper explains how technology which was developed to assist pupils with learning problems proved so successful that they were found valuable for all learners, including those without writing and speaking problems.

Still in the primary school, Philip Balcaen describes a robust process of conceptualising and developing media rich science resources in a Canadian project. The principles and framework he reports on which enable the development of thinking skills in young learners are transferable beyond that specific context and prove useful to educators across the sector.

While the specific teaching strategies change higher up the system, learning challenges do not and students need to be helped to engage with complex learning resources in potentially impersonal environments.

Stefanie Hain and Andrea Back from Switzerland report on the use of blogs to support learning, describing a robust method to design environments which integrate blogs to enforce learning. Fran Greyling from South Africa reports on the potential of technology to assist with the well known difficulties of large impersonal undergraduate classes. This paper shows how assessment and community building can be amplified in quite specific ways.

The blurring of formal and informal learning spaces was also acknowledged in the Conference. Sylvia Jones and Mary Lea use an ethnographic‑style approach to show how amongst students in higher education there is an inter‑mingling of institutional and academic requirements with issues of student identity and personal affiliations, shaping students’ digital literacy practices.

It is not however, only the students whose identities are being reshaped and who need collaborative spaces and supportive communities. Educators and learning designers do too, and indeed supporting a community of learning designers itself is a matter of concern as the field grows. Jill Jameson from the UK shows through empirical case studies how to intentionally grow a community of practice, and she highlights in particular the value of the role of a ""critical friend"". Also bearing in mind the complexity of the terrain to be navigated by learning designers, Mandia Mentis offers a valuable navigational tool, e‑Learning alignment guide which offers a way of aligning the three key zones of pedagogy, technology and context.

At a macro level, the proliferation of recorded data made possible by the online learning environment itself is an opportunity for data mining in the service of macro level decision making in higher education. South African Liezl van Dyk shows how indicators can be generated from such data and correlated with student performance and learning style, offering many insights into students’ learning behaviour.

And finally a bird’s eye view is provided by Laura Czerniewicz who uses researcher and professional views to distinguish the field itself, and who suggests ways in which the field may be developing an identity distinct in its own right. The Conference, and these selected papers provide a taste of that rich and zesty field.

 

Keywords: Academic participation, Automatic pre-correction, Blended learning, Classroom and teachers’ characteristics, Collaborative on-line learning, Communities of practice, Computer aided assessmentCourseware, Critical thinking, Cross-cultural education, Discussion forum, e-Learning portal, Emerging practice, Extreme programming, Formative mcqs, Internationalisation, Knowledge construction, Learner-enfranchisement, Learning content, Learning objects, Malaysian grid for learning, Media use, Mediated communication, Multiple choice questions, MyGFL, Omnigator, On-line collaboration, Ontology engineering, Personalisation, Predicting factors, Proaction, Programming exercises, Summative mcqs, Sustainability, Topic maps, Vicarious learning, Virtual learning environment, VLE

 

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Journal Issue

Volume 7 Issue 1 / May 2009  pp1‑85

Editor: Shirley Williams

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Keywords: Academic participation, Automatic pre-correction, Blended learning, Classroom and teachers’ characteristics, Collaborative on-line learning, Communities of practice, Computer aided assessmentCourseware, Critical thinking, Cross-cultural education, Discussion forum, e-Learning portal, Emerging practice, Extreme programming, Formative mcqs, Internationalisation, Knowledge construction, Learner-enfranchisement, Learning content, Learning objects, Malaysian grid for learning, Media use, Mediated communication, Multiple choice questions, MyGFL, Omnigator, On-line collaboration, Ontology engineering, Personalisation, Predicting factors, Proaction, Programming exercises, Summative mcqs, Sustainability, Topic maps, Vicarious learning, Virtual learning environment, VLE

 

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Journal Issue

Volume 7 Issue 2 / Jun 2009  pp85‑190

Editor: Shirley Williams

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Editorial

The 7th European Conference on e‑Learning (ECEL) took place in Cyprus in November 2008. ECEL always attracts a range of exciting and topical papers in the field of e‑Learning. From a wide field the conference committee selected over 150 papers for presentation. This edition of the EJEL was planned to take the best of the papers and invite the authors to update their work with a wider audience, and to a large extent that is what we have achieved. However with such a large conference it is not possible for a selection panel to listen to all papers, so we have taken a pragmatic approach of asking Session Chairs to recommend papers from their own sessions, and from these recommendations the papers here were selected. Inevitably there is some very high quality work that we are not able to include, however the reader will find a good representation of current work from around Europe and beyond, reflecting developments from lone researchers to multi‑national teams.

 

Keywords: Academic participation, Automatic pre-correction, Blended learning, Classroom and teachers’ characteristics, Collaborative on-line learning, Communities of practice, Computer aided assessmentCourseware, Critical thinking, Cross-cultural education, Discussion forum, e-Learning portal, Emerging practice, Extreme programming, Formative mcqs, Internationalisation, Knowledge construction, Learner-enfranchisement, Learning content, Learning objects, Malaysian grid for learning, Media use, Mediated communication, Multiple choice questions, MyGFL, Omnigator, On-line collaboration, Ontology engineering, Personalisation, Predicting factors, Proaction, Programming exercises, Summative mcqs, Sustainability, Topic maps, Vicarious learning, Virtual learning environment, VLE

 

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Journal Issue

Volume 7 Issue 3, Special ICEL 2009 Issue / Dec 2009  pp191‑316

Editor: Florin Salajan, Avi Hyman

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Editorial

Beyond institutional boundaries: Focusing on the learner and embracing multi‑disciplinarity.

The University of Toronto was greatly honored to hold the 4th edition of the International Conference on e‑Learning between the 16th and the 17th of July, 2009. Toronto’s worldwide reputation as a vibrant multi‑cultural city and the university’s well‑established tradition of open academic exploration converged to provide an ideal milieu for the exchange of ideas and practices from around the globe. Thus, it came as no surprise to us that more than 300 participants graced us with their presence over the two days of the event, as presenters or attendees. We thank our international colleagues and our University of Toronto colleagues for making this conference a successful meeting of minds and experiences. We are enriched from the learning we had the opportunity to absorb over the two days of the conference and we hope all our participating colleagues and partners share this feeling.

In this special issue of the Electronic Journal of e‑Learning we attempt to convey at least part of that learning through the selection of articles we put together. While, inevitably, we had to leave out other high quality manuscripts, we trust that the material included in this issue captures the cross‑disciplinary spirit and truly international dimension of ICEL. Before diving into our description of the articles, however, we want to place their content in the context that was framed, in a somewhat unintended fashion, by the two keynote speakers. The speeches delivered by Professor Robert McClintock of Teachers College, Columbia University and Professor Gage Averill, Dean of the University of Toronto Mississauga, complemented each other in more ways than we would have ventured to imagine before the conference.

On the first day of the conference, in his talk entitled Disclosing the Commons: On Breaking the Structural Limits of Education, Professor McClintock presented his theories about the trajectories of technologies, making the particular point that as we, individuals, gain more autonomous control of our learning (something he called ""iStudy""), we diminish control of those people who have historically existed between the ""thinker"" and the audience. But we are at an ""intersection."" In McClintock’s worldview, we are at a point where we can become the agents of ""iStudy"" – where we can expand user control, or we can fall back and reproduce patterns of institutionalized dominance and control. In his own work, McClintock has tried to put theory to action. He has sought to create environments where both learner and teacher can work without reliance on support. In his view, the future of e‑Learning is in how quickly we can normalize faculty to be self‑reliant and to produce user‑generated teaching and learning.

Using music as his example, Professor Averill treated ICEL participants to a lesson on post‑Fordist theory as it relates to education during his keynote address, Thinking Outside the Bachs: Music, Materiality, and Mash‑ups in the Information Society, on the second day of the conference. Universities, Averill argued, have historically been built around a Fordist approach to learning, where teaching is produced in a controlled, one‑size‑fits‑all modality and where the mastering of scarcity maintains the hegemony of the institution. But, according to Averill, the digital age is pushing back hard against this Fordist approach. The world is becoming a niche‑of‑one market, in an era Averill referred to as ""post‑scarcity,"" with its inherent on‑demand immediacy, infinite choice, universal access and portability. Learning, as with all cultural production, has seen the time from investment, to production, to consumption, reduced to nearly zero under the influence of capitalism. He calls this phenomenon ""prosumption,"" the idea that consumers are blurring the lines between production and consumption, as they take and reuse, and ultimately push for content to be free. In this context, Averill concluded, the challenge for educational institutions