Volume 7 Issue 2 / Jun 2009 pp85‑190
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 teachersâ€™ 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
Mobile City and Language Guides â€” New Links Between Formal and Informal Learning Environments pp85‑92
One of the major challenges in second and foreign language education, is to create links between formal and informal learning environments. Mobile City and Language Guides present examples of theoretical and practical reflections on such links. This paper presents and discusses the first considerations of Mobile City and Language Guides in language centres, upper secondary schools and universities. The core concept of Mobile City and Language Guides is geotagging. Geographical locations can be geotagged either through GPS or by marking positions directly in, e.g., Google Earth or Google Maps. Students or teachers can add various kinds of information to geotags: Photos, audio, text, movies, links, vocabulary and various language tasks. This allows the student, in self‑defined learning contexts, to down‑ and upload location‑based materials with his or her mobile phone, for immediate or later processing. More and more students are able to afford mobile phones with multimedia and broadband Internet. The potentials of user‑generated mobile‑ and web‑based content are increasing. In these years, the internet is moving from the so‑called Web 1.0 to the more user‑centered Web 2.0, i.e. Weblogs, YouTube, Google Maps, MySpace, FlickR, etc. In an educational context, Web 2.0 represents an interesting development of the relatively monologue Web 1.0, where traditional homepages often only allow minimal interaction with the site content. This paper investigates the opportunities that Mobile City and Language Guides seem to give second and foreign language students to learn from informal, location‑based, experience‑based and authentic materials; and discusses how language centres, upper secondary education and universities can involve informal learning contexts through student use of mobiles with broadband and Internet technology supporting second and foreign learning. Mobile City and Language Guides is only of several possible mobile and Internet‑based language educational scenarios. The challenge for the future, therefore, is to develop and implement new, meaningful and exciting scenarios that strengthen the linkages between formal and informal learning environments.
Keywords: second and foreign language education, formal and informal learning, broadband mobile technology, web 2.0, geotagging
This research aims to answer the question, "in what ways do mediated learning environments support or hinder learner autonomy?" Learner autonomy has been identified as one important factor in the success of mediated learning environments. The central aspect of learner autonomy is the control that the learner exercises over the various aspects of learning, beginning with the decision to learn or not to learn. But as Candy (1995) points out, there are several areas where learner‑control can be exercised. The first are the motivational‑intentional forces that drive the learner to apply some determination (or "vigour") to the act of learning. They are the conative functions of learning and include learner intiative, motivation and personal involvement. They are often associated with life goals that are independent of the actual learning goals pursued within the strict confines of the learning environment (Long, 1994). The second area of learner‑control is the one comprising the "nuts‑and‑bolts" of the act of learning, such as defining learning goals, deciding on a learning sequence, choosing a workable pacing of learning activities, and selecting learning resources (Hrimech & Bouchard, 1998). These are the algorithmic aspects of learning, and in traditional schooling, they are the sole responsibility of the teacher. In mediated learning environments, it can be shared between the platform and the actual learner. Just a few years ago, learner control was necessarily limited to these two sets of features, conative and algorithmic. Today however, with the proliferation of educational offerings in both the private and public sector, as well as the developments in educational technology, two other aspects of the learning environment emerge as important areas where learner‑control can be exercised. The semiotic dimension of learner‑control includes the symbolic platforms used to convey information and meaning, for example web "pages", hypertext, videoaudio multimedia, animation, each of these bringing with them their own specific set of possibilities and limitations for autonomy in learning. And then again, all learning environments exist in their own distinct economic sphere where decisions about whether, what and how to learn are made on the basis of cost‑benefit, opportunity cost, and extrinsic market value. We will examine the implications of each of these areas of learner‑control, and share our analysis of a series of interviews with cyber‑learners, based on this framework of conative, algorithmic, semiotic and economic factors.
Keywords: self-directed learning, learner autonomy, educational policy, international development self-directed learning, learner autonomy, educational policy, international development
Student engagement is crucial to the success of e‑learning but is often difficult to achieve in practice. One significant factor is the quality of the learning content; also important, however, is the suitability of the process through which that material is studied. In recent years much research has been devoted to improving e‑ learning content but considerably less attention given to enhancing the associated e‑learning process. This paper focuses on that process, considering in particular how student engagement might be improved using techniques common in digital games. The work is motivated by a belief that, with careful design, e‑learning systems may be able to achieve the levels of engagement expected of digital games. In general, such games succeed by entertaining players, building on their natural curiosity and competitiveness to encourage them to continue to play. This paper supports a belief that by adopting some of the engagement techniques used in games, e‑ learning can become equally successful. In particular, the paper considers how the learning process might become a form of game that helps sustain continued study. Factors affecting engagement and elements of digital games that make them engaging are identified. A proposal for improving engagement is then outlined. The approach is to encourage student involvement by rewarding desirable behaviour, including the completion of optional challenges, and giving regular feedback on performance, measured against others in the same class. Feedback is provided through a web‑based tool. The paper describes an exploratory assessment of both the tool and approach through action research. Results for two linked university modules teaching software development are presented. The results so far are very encouraging in that student engagement and performance have increased, especially at the weaker end of the class. Limitations of the approach are also outlined, together with an indication of future research plans.
The employment of Web 2.0 within higher educational settings has become increasingly popular. Reasons for doing so include student motivation, didactic considerations of facilitating individual and collaborative knowledge construction, and the support Web 2.0 gives the learner in transgressing and resituating content and practices between the formal and informal learning settings in which she participates. However, introducing Web 2.0‑practices into educational settings leads to tensions and challenges in practice because of conceptual tensions between the views of knowledge and learning inherent in Web 2.0‑practices and in the educational system: Implicit in Web 2.0‑practices is a conception of 'knowledge' as, on the one side, process and activity, i.e. as use, evaluation, transformation and reuse of material, and, on the other, the product side, as a distributed attribute of a whole system (such as Wikipedia) or community of practice (such as the community of practice of Wikipedia contributors). In contrast, 'knowledge' within the educational system is traditionally viewed as a state possessed by the individual, and learning as the acquisition of this state. This paper is an analysis of the challenges which these tensions lead to for the learners. The argument is that Web 2.0‑mediated learning activities within an educational setting place implicit competence demands on the students, along with the more explicit ones of reflexivity, participation and knowledge construction. These demands are to some extent in conflict with each other as well as with the more explicit ones. A simple example of such conflicting competence demands is experienced when students develop a course wiki: The Web 2.0‑competence demands here concern the doing something with the material. The copy‑pasting of e.g. a Wikipedia‑article without referencing it from this point of view is a legitimate contribution to the knowledge building of the course wiki. In contrast, educational competence demands require the student to participate actively in the formulation of the course wiki‑articles. Copy‑pasting without reference from this point of view is cheating. Here, the student is met with the incoherent requirement of authoring entries that display the acquisition of a knowledge state in a context where authorship is renounced and knowledge is understood dynamically and distributively. More generally, in Web 2.0‑mediated educational learning activities, the student is required to manoeuvre in a field of interacting, yet conflicting, demands, and the assessment of hisher competence stands the risk of being more of an evaluation of the skill to so manoeuvre than of skills and knowledge explicitly pursued in the course.
Keywords: Web 2.0 in education, wikis, second life, competence, concepts of knowledge, concepts of learning
Listening to the Learners' Voices in HE: how do Students Reflect on their use of Technology for Learning? pp119‑126
The importance of the Learner's Voice and thus of listening to students' views has been evidenced in various high profile initiatives in the UK. The work presented here is from the JISC Learners' Experiences of E‑ Learning Phase 2 Learners' Journeys STROLL project. The seven JISC funded projects were set up in 2007 to investigate inter alia the changing views of students in their use of technology to support their learning. The STROLL (STudent Reflections on Lifelong e‑Learning) project has recruited a diverse range of students from both Higher and Further Education backgrounds with the aim of researching the students' experiences of learning in a technology rich environment and their progression in their use of learning technologies over the two years of the project's timescale. STROLL is a largely qualitative study with students participating from across the University of Hertfordshire (UH) and Hertford Regional College (HRC) by recording their own video and audio diaries of their learning experiences. Using the students' choice of camcorder, web camera, or digital voice recorder they recorded their daily learning experiences of using technology, including a range of e‑learning tools and the University's own MLE (Study Net). The project started in March 2007 and completed in March 2009 with the final round of student diaries collected in October 2008. The project's aim was to research and document the students' answers to the following questions: How do learners experience change through their learning journey? How do students use and make choices about their time? How do students use e‑learning tools to support their learning? How do students use their personal technologies? The qualitative data from the students' reflective diaries collected was first transcribed, then the transcripts were analysed and colour coded according to the research themes. Concept maps were created for each student's diary detailing their reflections on learning. Further concept maps of quotations relating to the research questions above were developed to identify comments which were particularly relevant to the themes. Finally NvivoÂ’ was used to support and track the large quantities of data. This paper presents some of the early findings in terms of the ease with which students interact with technology and the choices they make about what they use and when and where. The discussion includes consideration of the research methodologies, since the use of personal video diaries to record reflections on learning, is to date a rarely used method of capturing data on students' reflections.
The main scientific problems investigated in this article deal with technical evaluation of quality attributes of the main components of e‑Learning systems (referred here as DLEs â€” Digital Libraries of Educational Resources and Services), i.e., Learning Objects (LOs) and Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs). The main research object of the work is the effectiveness of methods of DLE components quality evaluation. The aim of the article is to analyse popular existing LO and VLE technical evaluation tools, and to formulate new more complex tools for technical quality evaluation of LOs and VLEs based on requirements for flexible DLE, as well as to evaluate most popular open source VLEs against new more complex criteria. Complex tools have been created for the evaluation of DLE components, based on a flexible approach. The authors have analysed existing tools for technical evaluation of LOs, and it was investigated that these tools have a number of limitations. Some of these tools do not examine different LO life cycle stages, and other insufficiently examine technical evaluation criteria before LO inclusion in the repository. All these tools insufficiently examine LOs reusability criteria. Therefore more complex LO technical evaluation tool is needed. It was investigated that this new more complex LO technical evaluation tool should include LO technical evaluation criteria suitable for different LO life cycle stages, including criteria before, during and after LO inclusion in the repository as well as LO reusability criteria. The authors have also examined several VLE technical evaluation tools suitable for flexible DLE, and it was investigated that these tools have a number of limitations. Several tools practically do not examine VLE adaptation capabilities criteria, and the other insufficiently examines general technical criteria. More complex VLE technical evaluation tool is needed. Therefore the authors have proposed an original more complex set of VLE technical evaluation criteria combining (1) General (Overall architecture and implementation; Interoperability; Internationalisation and Localisation; Accessibility) and (2) Adaptation (Adaptability; Personalisation; Extensibility and Adaptivity) VLE technical evaluation criteria. The authors have also selected and proposed to use the universal, clear and convenient DLE components' evaluation rating tool, and have evaluated three most popular open source VLEs against technical (both general and adaptation) criteria in conformity with this rating tool.
Keywords: managing quality in e-learning, technical evaluation, virtual learning environments, learning objects, repositories
The Enhancement of Reusability of Course Content and Scenarios in Unified e‑Learning Environment for Schools pp137‑146
With the expansion of e‑learning, the understanding and evaluation of already created e‑learning environments is becoming an extremely important issue. One way to dealing with the problem is analysis of case studies, i.e. already created environments, from the reuse perspective. The paper presents a general framework and model to assess UNITE, the unified e‑learning environment for schools, from the reuse perspective. UNITE is the e‑learning environment of the ongoing EU project (FP6 IST‑26964, 2006‑2008, http:www.unite‑ist.org). UNITE assets are described using feature diagrams (FDs) telling us about the internal structure of UNITE; representing relationships among the compound and atomic features, thus enhancing better transparency of UNITE and in this way empowering reuse. The factors of UNITE influential to reuse with some concrete results are also presented. We provide analysis aiming to extract from the model the relevant information of two kinds: (1) which is influential to reuse in a positive sense, i.e., enhancing reuse (e.g., application of meta‑design methodology for the scenarios description, classification of subjects in metadata, use of content management tools (e.g., Course editor, Metadata editor), multi‑linguistic approach, international and local collaboration between teachers and students in e‑learning scenario implementation and delivery, and methodological support, etc.) and (2) which is hindering reuse (e. g., age of the students, differences in national syllabus and national educational programmes, language, cultural and communication problems). Despite of some limitations of FDs, we found this notation useful because it allows the explicit representation of various aspects of the complex system (i.e., UNITE) focusing on variability of features and possible relationships and constraints. We focus on the aspects such as evaluation of the UNITE platform including tools, scenarios and content variability.
Keywords: Computer supported learning, e-learning environment development, meta-design, mobile learning, reusability
This paper addresses the question: how can e‑learning be embedded in traditional universities so that it contributes to the transformation of the university? The paper examines e‑learning strategies in higher education, locating the institutional context within the broader framework of national and international policy drivers which link e‑learning with the achievement of strategic goals such as widening access to lifelong learning, and upskilling for the knowledge and information society. The focus will be on traditional universities i.e. universities whose main form of teaching is on‑campus and face‑to‑face, rather than on open and distance teaching universities, which face different strategic issues in implementing e‑learning. Reports on the adoption of e‑learning in traditional universities indicate extensive use of e‑learning to improve the quality of learning for on‑ campus students, but this has not yet translated into a significant increase in opportunities for lifelong learners in the workforce and those unable to attend on‑campus. One vision of the future of universities is that 'Virtualisation and remote working technologies will enable us to study at any university in the world, from home . However, this paper will point out that realisation of this vision of ubiquitous and lifelong access to higher education requires that a fully articulated e‑learning strategy aims to have a 'transformative' rather than just a 'sustaining' effect on teaching functions carried out in traditional universities. In order words, rather than just facilitating universities to improve their teaching, e‑learning should transform how universities currently teach. However, to achieve this transformation, universities will have to introduce strategies and policies which implement flexible academic frameworks, innovative pedagogical approaches, new forms of assessments, cross‑institutional accreditation and credit transfer agreements, institutional collaboration in development and delivery, and, most crucially, commitment to equivalence of access for students on and off‑campus. The insights in this paper are drawn from an action research case study involving both qualitative and quantitative approaches, utilising interviews, surveys and focus groups with stakeholders, in addition to comparative research on international best practice. The paper will review the drivers and rationales at international, national and institutional level which are leading to the development of e‑learning strategies, before outlining the outcomes of a case study of e‑learning strategy development in a traditional Irish university. This study examined the drivers and barriers which increase or decrease motivation to engage in e‑learning, and provides some insights into the challenges of embedding e‑ learning in higher education. While recognising the desirability of reaching out to new students and engaging in innovative pedagogical approaches, many academic staff continue to prefer traditional lectures, and are sceptical about the potential for student learning in online settings. Extrinsic factors in terms of lack of time and support serve to decrease motivation and there are also fears of loss of academic control to central administration. The paper concludes with some observations on how university e‑learning strategies must address staff concerns through capacity building, awareness raising and the establishment of effective support structures for embedding e‑learning.
The Identification of Key Issues in the Development of Sustainable e‑Learning and Virtual Campus Initiatives pp155‑164
This paper explores a number of key issues that have been identified as being important in the identification and evaluation of best practice within the context of e‑learning and virtual campuses. The 'Promoting Best Practice in Virtual Campuses' (PBP‑VC) project is a two year European Commission Education Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) co‑financed project that is aimed at providing a deeper understanding of the key issues and success factors underlying the implementation and sustainability of virtual campuses. The PBP‑VC project team have been working with stakeholders from a number of large virtual campus projects across Europe in identifying and exploring key issues relating to best practice and sustainability. The importance of developing a practical framework for identifying, evaluating and promoting best practice in virtual campuses and e‑learning can be demonstrated by the significant number of high profile e‑learning and virtual campus failures both within Europe and globally. In many cases their failure has been quite spectacular with millions of dollars being wasted as a result some quite basic errors in overlooking key best practice issues that have occurred across several large‑scale projects. This paper will provide a description of the different issues relating to models for best practice and sustainability that has been developed by the PBP‑VC project.
Adoption of Web 2.0 Technologies in Education for Health Professionals in the UK: Where are we and why? pp165‑172
This paper describes the findings about the use of Web 2.0 technologies in the education of health professionals in the United Kingdom (UK). The work is part of a wider study scoping the use of e‑learning. Its objectives were to: Explore issues influencing implementation and use by both early and late adopters; Identify barriers to implementation and good practice; Review the employment of e‑learning within curricula representing a range of teaching models. In phase one, a postal survey obtained data from 25 higher education institutions relating to their uptake and development in this field. A second phase identified four case studies, two from early and two late adopters, reflecting the features identified from phase one. In the case studies, interviews and focus groups with students and staff were conducted to gain a deeper understanding of the issues which were significant to them. The main findings suggested e‑learning development and use varies, with a spectrum of employment across the sector. The predominant engagement is with instructivist learning approaches managed through a Virtual Learning Environment with only limited experimentation in interactive learning online. This paper will discuss the findings from the study where they relate to the limited use of Web 2.0 technologies. It will include a discussion on the moral, legal and ethical implications of current and future developments.
How Reproducible Research Leads to Non‑Rote Learning Within Socially Constructivist Statistics Education pp173‑182
This paper discusses the implementation of a new e‑learning environment that supports non‑rote learning of exploratory and inductive statistics within the pedagogical paradigm of social constructivism. The e‑ learning system is based on a new computational framework that allows us to create an electronic research environment where students are empowered to interact with reproducible computations from peers and the educator. The underlying technology effectively supports social interaction (communication), knowledge construction, collaboration, and scientific experimentation even if the student population is very large. In addition, the system allows us to measure important aspects of the actual learning process which are otherwise unobservable. With this new information it is possible to explore (and investigate) the effectiveness of e‑based learning, the impact of software usability, and the importance of knowledge construction through various feedback and communication mechanisms. Based on a preliminary empirical analysis from two courses (with large student populations) it is shown that there are strong relationships between actual constructivist learning activities and scores on objective examinations, in which the questions assess conceptual understanding. It is also explained that non‑rote learning is supported by the fact that the system allows users to reproduce results and reuse them in derived research that can be easily communicated.
Keywords: statistics education, reproducible research, reproducible computing, social constructivism, non-rote learning
This paper explores the impact that SCORM conformance has had on workplace e‑learning. The author describes a project in which she was requested to "repurpose" some materials that had originally been designed for the face‑to‑face teaching of English as a Foreign Language, into SCORM conformant e‑learning materials. The rationale for this request was that the training centre management wanted to track learners' progress via a Learning Management System (LMS). However, in order to integrate SCORM‑conformant tracking functionality into the programmes, the learning materials would have to have been stripped of all the collaborative, productive and communicative aspects of their pedagogy. The learning designers and training centre management had to engage in a steep learning curve to find an alternative solution that was both pedagogically sound and administratively efficient. This anecdote highlights some of the challenges facing the corporate sector in terms of the management of e‑learning content. To put the issues into context, the paper gives an overview of SCORM, and defines some related terminology â€” Sharable Content Objects (SCOs), LMS and Learning Content Management System (LCMS). SCORM conformance has two main aims: the ability to deliver content on any Learning Management System, and the ability to track learners' actions and scores when they use the materials. It is argued that, while the higher education sector has chosen to emphasise the first aim, focusing more on the development of stimulating learning content that can be shared across disciplines and across institutions, the corporate sector has emphasised the second aim, focusing more on tracking learners' progress through learning programmes. It is suggested that this is one of the explanations for the continued proliferation of relatively rigid, behaviourist style teaching materials for workplace e‑learning. This instructivist style pedagogical model is considered in relation to the military and programming origins of SCORM, and a number of more innovative approaches to workplace e‑learning from the recent literature are discussed. The paper concludes by arguing that, for corporate e‑learning programmes to be successful, all stakeholders need to be included in the strategic decisions, and all stakeholders need to engage in a learning process to understand each others' points of view and explore the available options and their consequences. This study will be of value to anyone who needs to develop SCORM conformant courses, as well as managers who are charged with overseeing such projects, or developing an organisational training strategy involving an LMSLCMS.