Monday, February 25, 2008

Research evaluation has good news for blogging


It was great to discover some research with good things to say about using blogging for learning. This is also a great example of how evaluation can provide evidence for teaching and learning innovation.

"This article received an Outstanding Paper Award at ascilite Singapore 2007 Conference, gaining the additional recognition of publication of an expanded version in AJET. " (
Farmer, Yue & Brooks, (2008)

Reference: Farmer, B., Yue, A. & Brooks, C. (2008). Using blogging for higher order learning in large cohort university teaching: A case study. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(2), 123-136.

The evaluation is still being carried out and preliminary results indicate there is potential in using blogging to enhance learning.


Overview:
The blogging trial was conducted and evaluated with 200+ first year students being team taught in a "Cultural Studies Program at the University of Melbourne"(p125). To ensure security and because the blogs were being assessed, a purpose-built platform called "CultureBlogging" was created, and the authors also mention it aided compatibility with a proprietary learning system.

It appears the exercise was overall well supported by students though grades were a little lower than those obtained through traditional assessment methods. Student feedback indicated that more scaffolding in the way of guidelines on how to write on a blog and how to write reflectively about themselves was needed.


"Although most students were generally media savvy in their uptake of new technologies and some were already familiar with the tools of blogging, most however were not necessarily familiar with the nature and possibilities of blogging as a self reflexive practice. More guidance on the pedagogical aims of blogging would possibly have helped make the exercise more user friendly and critically transformative"(Farmer et al., p8).


Only 56/200 responded to the questionnaire about the use of blogging in the course, but the researchers also have the blogs to examine and content analysis of these is continuing. There was positive and negative feedback about the blogging exercise but overall the researchers report on the use of blogging in a large group of students as worthwhile. They did pick up a conflict between students' perceptions of blogging and educational use and this is an area where they recommend some strategies will need to be applied.

"We would hope that by supporting, guiding and modelling use of modest Web 2.0 tools such as blogs we will be enablingstudents to take on ‘prosumer’ identities that are more significant and self aware than the simple phatic discourse of online sociability and the prosaic ‘daily diary’ experience that many students seem to associate with blogging" (Farmer et al., p12).

There are more articles waiting for me to read in AJET (Australian Journal of Educational Technology) .

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Evaluation of eLearning for Best Practice course is starting

Well it has been a mission getting the course material ready. The picture of Kaihaihai beach from the zigzag track near the Heaphy track is a reminder I was on holiday this year.

I decided to transfer everything to WikiEducator for ease of updating and currency. Also it is a great opportunity to put some of the facilitation ideas and tools we used in Facilitating eLearning Communities course into practice.

How did I get interested in evaluation?
My interest in evaluation comes from spending a number of years teaching and learning online and designing and developing online courses. I have also used a number of multimedia resources, and the quality of them has been rather variable. I studied evaluation for interactive learning systems with Professor John Hedberg when he was lecturing at the University of Wollongong. Yes I was a distance student, and that is the best place to sit if you want to critique best practice.

Thomas Reeves and John Hedberg felt so strongly about the need for better evaluation practices that they wrote a textbook about the subject. The reference is - Reeves, T. & Hedberg, J. (2003). Interactive learning systems evaluation . Educational Technology Publications: Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

I was able to put evaluation into practice when I was part of a two year collaborative project (eLearning Collaobrative Development Fund - eCDF) to develop online information literacy modules. My experience as Chair of the Analysis and Evaluation committee was invaluable - I led several evaluation projects as part of the development and learned a heap about evaluation in action. There are several reports in the Research and Evaluation section on the project website at: http://oil.otago.ac.nz

I also build in evaluation in all the flexible development projects I manage and I am always intrigued by the lack of awareness for the process of evaluation. I am really looking forward to working with a new group in the class and to help them complete an evaluation project relevant to their work.