Learners in the Co-creation of Knowledge Proceedings of the LICK 2008 Symposium Edinburgh 30 October 2008 Barceló Carlton Hotel

These proceedings have been edited by: Andrew Comrie Nicholas Mayes Terry Mayes Keith Smyth Published by Napier University in association with TESEP, January 2009 Napier University Craiglockhart Campus Edinburgh EH14 1DJ © Napier University / TESEP All rights reserved ISBN: 978-0-902703-85-8 The responsibility for the content of these papers lies entirely with the individual authors, and not with the conference organisers. The proceedings of the LICK 2008 Symposium have undergone full refereeing. Papers can also be downloaded from the TESEP website at: www.napier.ac.uk/transform



It is with gratitude that we thank all those who contributed to the LICK 2008 symposium and to the publication of the proceedings, in particular: Supporters The Scottish Funding Council Dr Peter Easy, Senior Vice Principal (Academic Development) Napier University TESEP Partners Edinburgh’s Telford College Carnegie College, Dunfermline Keynote Speakers and Closing Remarks Professor Dr Betty Collis Dr Martin Oliver Professor John Cowan Organisers, Evaluators and Facilitators Heather Sanderson, Kerson Associates Ltd Anne Wardrope, Napier University Christina Mainka, Napier University Panos Vlachopoulos, Napier University Morag Gray, Napier University Julia Fotheringham, Scotland’s Colleges, Scottish Further Education Unit Fred Percival, Napier University Liz Foulis, Carnegie College



The idea for a symposium around learners being actively involved in the cocreation of knowledge (LICK 2008) resulted from a programme of work undertaken between 2005 and 2007 which explored the way in which learning and teaching methods can be transformed through truly learner centred pedagogy. The project, “Transforming and Enhancing the Student Experience through Pedagogy” (TESEP)1 was funded by the Scottish Funding Council2 under its e-learning transformation programme3 and was led by Napier University, Edinburgh. The project involved two colleges: Edinburgh’s Telford College; and Carnegie College (previously Lauder College). LICK 2008 was held at a time when many universities and colleges are changing the way they teach in order to meet the increasingly diverse needs of their learners, to improve the quality of the student experience by encouraging deeper learning and encouraging learners to voice their views on teaching methods and encourage and support students to develop the independent and collaborative skills, and other attributes, that will stand them in good stead for future employment and for lifelong learning. These changes are being driven by government priorities for skills development, widening access and participation, quality enhancement and lifelong learning. LICK 2008 was also held at a time when the educational value of what we can loosely refer to as 'Web 2.0' technologies are being reviewed and their potential for providing students along with their tutors with new ways to contribute directly to sharing and developing knowledge in ways that were never before possible are being explored. Judging from the amount of interest that was received in this symposium (both to attend as a delegate and/or contribute a paper to the proceedings), there is clearly a will to change learning and teaching practices and much interest in developing pedagogical approaches that are truly learner centred, and which are enriched by creative and appropriate use of emerging technologies to engage, involve and empower learners in the co-creation of knowledge. For many, this remains a major challenge and an area where there will continue to be debate and further research. I hope these proceedings will encourage many to reflect on their teaching practices, learn from the practice and experience of others and actively change their own practice and adopt learner centred approaches and embrace current and emerging technologies. Andrew K Comrie Director, TESEP


www.napier.ac.uk/transform www.sfc.ac.uk http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearningsfc.aspx




Contents: SECTION ONE – KEYNOTE PAPERS Betty Collis, Emeritus Professor, University of Twente, the Netherlands A Pedagogy for Learners in the Co-Creation of Knowledge and the Problems that Confront it in Practice Martin Oliver, London Knowledge Lab, Institute of Education, University of London Perspectives on Co-Creating Knowledge with Learners SECTION TWO – PAPERS Nicola Whitton, Manchester Metropolitan University Alternate Reality Games for Developing Student Autonomy and Peer Learning Hamish Macleod, Jen Ross and Siân Bayne, School of Education, University of Edinburgh Co-Creating a Programme: The MSc in E-Learning at the University of Edinburgh 41 Panos Vlachopoulos, Napier University The Nature of E-Moderation in Online Learning Environments Linda Creanor, Caledonian Academy, Glasgow Caledonian University Meeting Student Expectations: Are They Already in Control? 48





Joseph Maguire, Susan Stuart and Steve Draper, University of Glasgow Student Generated Podcasts: Learning to Cascade Rather Than Create 67 Angela Benzies and Jane McDowell, Napier University Academic and Professional Service Staff Collaboration to Foster Independent Learning Cathy Sherratt, Edge Hill University Autonomy & Authority: Creating a Learning Community Online

78 91


Keith Smyth and Christina Mainka, Napier University Embedding the TESEP 3E Approach in the Professional Development of Educators: a Case Study of the MSc Blended and Online Education Colin Gray, Napier University Choice, Collaboration and Web 2.0: What We Can Learn from the Student Experience of Technology-enhanced Education Richard Hall, De Montfort University Can Higher Education Enable its Learners’ Digital Autonomy? Steve Draper, University of Glasgow Learning and Community Paula Roush and Ruth Brown, London South Bank University Social Networking and Authentic Engagement: Students as “Produsers” Mark Johnson, University of Bolton and Graham Hall & Miranda Edwards, Coleg Harlech Technology, Transparency and Communication in Institutions: Social Software in the Splice Project Dr Karla H. Benske, Frank Brown, Dr Jane Mckay, Kathryn Trinder and Ruth Whittaker, Glasgow Caledonian University Welcome to (Y)our Second Life: a paper based on a workshop run at the LICK Conference 2008 on providing peer mentoring and transition support within the virtual world of Second Life at Glasgow Caledonian University SECTION THREE – CLOSING THOUGHTS Nicholas Mayes The Open Plenary Discussion John Cowan, Napier University Postscript


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Emeritus Professor, University of Twente, The Netherlands Consultant, Moonen & Collis Learning Technology Consultants bettycollisjefmoonen@gmail.com Abstract Web 2.0 describes both a philosophy of user contribution and control and sharing with others as well as the software tools that facilitate the philosophy. While many are seeing the potential benefits for education the instructor may not be aware of practical ways to implement the philosophy within a higher education programme. This paper responds to this need by presenting a taxonomy of learning activities that involve learners in the co-creation of content for themselves and others. Examples from practice illustrate each node of the taxonomy. Regardless of the relationship of such contribution-oriented activities to Web 2.0, they can be seen as good pedagogy from both research and social perspectives. However, despite their motivation, there are many barriers that confront contribution-oriented learning activities from actually being carried out in mainstream practice in higher education. These barriers relate to quality assurance, from instructional and institutional perspectives. Can the potential for learners in the co-creation of knowledge overcome these barriers in practice? Web 2.0 and its potential in higher education What are Web 2.0 tools and services? The phrase Web 2.0 was first used in 2004 to refer to Web-based services emphasizing online collaboration and sharing. Howe (2006, p. 60) categorizes four general types of processes within Web 2.0 applications that reflect these ways of interacting:     for sharing user-contributed content for evolving community-developed tagging and organizational schemes for sets of user-contributed content for developing content collections by the user community for finding not only objects but trends and overviews of contributions

User contribution possibilities are common throughout all of these Web 2.0 processes. The processes represent new ways of making, sharing and using digital documents. For higher education pedagogical approaches that involve students making contributions that are used for learning resources by others represent one way of applying Web 2.0 in practice. Such collaboration approaches are being called a key emerging technology for higher education (The New Media Consortium & the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, 2008). A contribution-oriented approach can be motivated by educational and social principles rather than any specific reference to Web 2.0. From an educational perspective, the learning model reflects an extension of Sfard’s two “metaphors for learning” (1998)--learning by acquisition and learning by participation--with the idea of participation by contributing to a shared knowledge base.


Contribution-oriented pedagogical principles are similar to Kearsley and Shneiderman's (1998) Engagement Theory, and to Action Learning (Simons, 1999). A contribution-oriented approach to learning activities also has a strategic motivation. The need for participation and contribution reflects current developments in society. Internationalisation, the world becoming a global community, the fact that individuals can expect to work in different settings and as members of multifaceted teams, and the need for social skills and communication skills: all are commonly described as characteristics of living and working in a Knowledge Economy that are rapidly gaining in importance (The World Bank Group, 2003). In corporate settings, global networks and other forms of knowledge-sharing communities are key tools in learning from the tacit knowledge of others in the corporation. This learning comes from finding relevant examples and resources contributed by others in the company, asking others in the community for help or clarification, or by joining in debates and discussions on how to generate solutions for workers’ real problems. In professional contexts, for learning communities or communities of practice, digital workbenches increasingly serve major roles in the ways in which people in a common company or professional group interact and learn from each other (Wenger, 2005). Thus a contribution-oriented approach making use of Web 2.0 tools and reflecting Web 2.0 principles is also preparation for the professional workforce. A taxonomy of learning activities reflecting Web 2.0 contribution principles Discussions of the applications of Web 2.0 principles to education are frequently organised around types of Web 2.0 tools and environments (i.e., blogs, Wikis, podcasting, and other forms of social software, see for example, Alexander, 2006). For the instructor this may not be a helpful approach. Even a phrase such as contribution-oriented pedagogy may be hard to translate into practical examples for one’s own teaching situation. The taxonomy of learning activities shown in Figure 1 has been developed to help instructors to identify concrete learning activities that could be usable in their teaching without expliciting discussing either technology or an educational philosophy. We have developed the taxonomy out of our own experiences as instructors and have validated it with different groups of instructors in both higher education and corporate learning (Collis & Moonen, 2001; B. Collis, 2006).


Figure 1. Taxonomy of contribution-oriented learning activities The Level 1 activities are the simplest to visualize and implement. Here the students only need a platform that they can all contribute to in order to build a set of artefacts that can be used for learning. Some examples are: Level 1.1 Find and contribute: • Appropriate Web links or references to extend the study material • Examples of concepts or issues Level • • • • 1.2 Create/Capture and contribute: Interview results Summaries of readings Questions that arise during project work and discussions One’s own reflections, concerns, ideas • Video/audio clips

Level 2 activities go a step further. After the collection of contributions has been gathered, subsequent learning activities involve using the collection. Levels 2.1 & 2.2 Locate/Compare & contrast among the contributed resources • Find groupings and trends; visualize them in a concept map or other sorting scheme • Identify particular contributions that best illustrate or extend the study materials • Compare and contrast your own entry with those of others; identify similarities and differences • Select key themes that emerge from the personal reflections or interviews and discuss Level • • • • 2.3 Add to, extend the collection with Frequently asked questions (with answers) Practice exam questions (with explanations) Index terms, glossary entries Web links (adding something that can update or replace a previous entry) • Add comments or extensions to previously submitted items (such as to Wiki entries)


Level 2.4.1 Collaboratively create a new product for one’s own classmates or those in later generations of the same course • Hints and tips for others studying the same materials • Resources for peer coaching during the course • Case studies from participants’ own work and experience to be studied by others during the course • Video/audio clips of interviews or examples to illustrate and extend the study materials Level 2.4.2 Collaboratively create a product for others outside of the course or module • A resource collection for practitioners, available via the Web • A collection of information for a community or for local industry • Materials for students in local schools to interest them in an area of study The Level 2.4 contributions are the most interesting educationally and socially as they involve contributing to the learning of others beyond the boundaries of a specific course or module (reflecting what Kearsley and Shneiderman, 1998, call Engagement Theory). As an example, C. Collis describes how such an approach can be a valuable tool for building partnerships between a university faculty and local businesses (C. Collis, 2006) Barriers for practice Thus, we have a rationale and we have specific examples of how to implement the rationale in practice. But can we expect widespread change in educational practice? In our experience, the answer is no. We have discussed this in terms of collisions between such an approach and student and organisation expectations of learning (Collis & Moonen, 2008). A major problem is the mismatch in terms of what students (and institutions) expect from a course or module. Zurita (2006) has noted that such changes in pedagogy may not fit the expectations of the students, and thus may not be positively valued by them. Zurita found that students are “more prepared to have a teacher-centred course than a learnercentred course….and felt uncomfortable” when expected to design learning materials for themselves and their peers” (p. 6). This is reflected in a recent survey of Finnish university students who saw themselves as only passive users of Web 2.0 applications (i.e., non contributors) in learning contexts (Kynäslahti, Verterinen, Lipponen, Vahitivuouri-Hänninen, & Tella, 2008). We call these Mindset barriers: Mindset-change conflicts Students have said to us “Why don’t you just give us what we are supposed to learn? That would be much more efficient” and even more sharply, “It’s your job to teach us”. These sorts of comments reflect a mindset about the role of the teacher as the one responsible for the flow of quality-assured study materials, and the role of the students as the ones responsible to know what is in those study materials in order to pass a test or do an exercise. Other barriers to implementation from the instructor’s perspective include:


Management burdens A key characteristic of contribution-type activities is that the instructor does not know in advance what the students will contribute and thus has to study carefully what is contributed. Thus, if instructions are not clear and explicit about what is expected, in terms of scope, origin, criteria, length, and presentation, the management burden can become enormous. Assessment-related issues Assessment is the major challenge for the instructor in a contributionoriented pedagogical approach. By definition, there are no pre-determined “right” answers, but instead will be different degrees of appropriateness on different dimensions. Students are, understandably, highly sensitive to potential ambiguities in grading and marking. Intellectual-property considerations In the university setting, issues of intellectual property make the processes relating to building on other’s contributions complicated. Students need guidance and coaching on how to properly use and cite the work of others, a particular problem when the cutting and pasting of work in digital form is technically so simple. Time burdens A contribution-oriented approach takes more time for the instructor than a traditional course, not necessarily more time before the course, but certainly more time during the course. It takes more time to manage and assess contributions that bring in new ideas and experiences than it does to manage and assess assignments where everyone does the same exercises and should come to the same result. To these instructor-specific barriers can be added those coming from the institution. There are at least four, potentially conflicting, perspectives on quality from the institutional perspective that can influence the uptake of Web 2.0 tools and processes in higher education practice. These perspectives relate to accreditation frameworks, expectations from external stakeholders, quality concerns relating to learning resources and experiences endorsed by the institution, and issues relating to IT policy. Universities are under increased pressure to demonstrate quality around common standards (European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, 2005). Thus any move towards a co-contributor pedagogy supported by Web 2.0 technology must also be monitored within the quality assurance perspectives important to the institution as an accredited degree-granting organization. Quality assurance processes give particular attention to the institution’s procedures for student assessment. The European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (2005) notes that each institution must have student assessment procedures that have “clear and published criteria for marking” and “are subject to administrative verification checks to ensure the accuracy of the marking procedures” (p. 17). The same concerns that face instructors and learners relating to appropriate assessment of contributionoriented pedagogies will also be felt by the institution when it has to defend the validity and reliability of assessment practices for such activities. Student criticisms of assessment practices are taken seriously in quality assurance


reviews. If students feel negative about the quality of learning activities and the way their performance is assessed, this will negatively reflect on the institution. In addition, from an institutional perspective, there are other stakeholder perspectives that challenge the value of student-created or contributed resources. Those who supply universities with scientific content (library services, textbook and academic journals publishers, academic bodies, and researchers themselves) take great care with the accuracy and quality of the resources they produce. The risk that students will find and produce material that is inferior and disseminate this as evidence of the scholarly level of discourse at the university is a major negative factor confronting the uptake of Web 2.0 processes and underlying ways of working in higher education. Conole, de Laat, Dillon, and Darby (2006) note that “the increasing use of usergenerated content in the form of sites such as Wikipedia is challenging the traditional norms of the academic institutions as the key knowledge expert and providers” (p. 102). Institutions will be predictably concerned about public scrutiny of student contributions as well as issues relating to intellectual property. The institution’s IT policy can also be a barrier, especially when a commitment has been made to a Virtual Learning Environment system (VLE) and the VLE has only limited facilities for supporting a contribution-oriented approach. . C. Collis (2006) notes how complicated the support of her contribution-oriented activity became for the instructor: “Students need a well organized resource environment, in which the expectations of the course and appropriate support materials are available. They also need groupware tools, such as shared workspaces; tools for document version control and distributed annotation, feedback, and editing; tools that allow them to manage their own work-in-progress and at the same time make work ready for assessment accessible to peer reviewers and faculty before going public. They need tools to manage their shared agendas and for different forms of communication. They also need skills in communication via a web environment in terms of presentation design and user-interface considerations. In addition, students must be allowed admin or at least instructor-level access to certain areas of the institutional course-management system so that it is used more as a groupware environment than a course-presentation environment” (p. 6). Considerable liaison between the instructor and the IT support services of the institution will become necessary as long as standard tools such as the campus VLE do not support students seeing each others’ contributions or subsequently building upon them. Is there a way forward? Given these many barriers, the likelihood of uptake of a contribution-oriented pedagogy is low. However, for the motivated instructor we have compiled a list of recommendations for managing contribution-oriented learning activities to reduce the management load (Collis & Moonen, 2008). Some of these recommendations are: • Be clear in the written instructions on the Web site for any contributiontype activity. Indicate clearly how much, in what form, the contribution


• •

should be and where in the Web environment it should be submitted. If it is a group submission, make it clear who should submit on behalf of the group. Provide a model or example. If possible, include a template to download, fill in, and upload with the contribution. For complex contribution activities, split the activity up into stages and give marks for each stage, thus three submissions of 5 points, 10 points, and 20 points instead of one final score of 35 points. In this way, students will better understand what you are looking for and can incorporate your feedback into the next stage of the work. This is particularly important for group projects. If an assignment involves adding to another student’s previously submitted work, find a way to differentiate the work of the different students and maintain both students’ names on the resulting product. Ensure that the students see you as a fellow learner. Pick up on ideas in their contributions and build on them in your reflections in the course Web site. Show that you are excited by what they find, for example new Web links, and what they produce as new resources for others. Block time each week for communication, feedback and management relating to the contribution-oriented activities.

With these sorts of management strategies the motivated instructor can probably implement at least a simple form of contribution-oriented learning activity (Level 1 in Figure 1) within his or her own course, assuming there are not insurmountable technical barriers in terms of institutional IT policy. However, dealing with institutional scepticism or disapproval of student contributions as learning resources will remain difficult for the instructor. Mindset change will be hardest of all. The good news is that the tools for contributing and sharing are now easily available at least outside of the official IT suite of the higher-education institution. Using Web 2.0 technology to create and share one’s thoughts and productions is a common-place activity for an increasing number of students and also instructors. At the moment this activity generally takes place outside the scope of formal education. The affordances of Web 2.0 tools and applications make sharing via Web environments an attractive pastime; hopefully a tool such as the taxonomy of learning activities presented in this paper can help match this potential to learning-related goals. Technology should not drive pedagogy, but a contribution-oriented pedagogy can become much more feasible and scaleable in practice using Web 2.0 tools. References Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning. Educause Review, March/April 2006, pp. 33-40. Accessed 20 October 2008 from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0621.pdf Collis, B. (2006, 04 September). Formal and informal learning: Bridging the gap. Presentation at the Supporting Sustainable e-Learning Forum (SSeLF), Edinburgh University, Scotland. Collis, B., & Moonen, J. (2008). Web 2.0 tools and processes in higher education: Quality perspectives. Educational Media International, 45 (2), 93106. Collis, B., & Moonen, J. (2001). Flexible learning in a digital world: Experiences and expectations. London: Routledge.


Collis, C. (2006) The Brisbane Media Map: Connecting students, industry, and university through authentic learning. In Proceedings of the 7th International Information Technology Based Higher Education and Training Conference, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia. Accessed 20 October 2008 from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/archive/00004718/ Conole, G. de Laat, M., Dillon, T. and Darby, J. (2006). JISC LXP: Student experience of technologies: Final report. Accessed 20 October 2008 from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/programmes/elearningpedagogy/lxp _project_final_report_nov_06.pdf European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education. (2005). Standards and guidelines for quality assurance in the European Higher Education Area. Helsinki, Finland. Accessed 20 October 2008 from http://www.enqa.eu/files/BergenReport210205.pdf Howe, J. (2006, December 25). Your Web, your way. Time Magazine, Vol. 168, No, 26, pp. 60-63. Kearsley, G., & Shneiderman, G. (1998). Engagement theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning. Educational Technology, 38 (5), 2024. Kynäslahti, H., Verterinen, O., Lipponen, L., Vahitivuouri-Hänninen, S., & Tella, S. (2008). Towards volitional media literacy through Web 2.0. Educational Technology, 48(5), 3-9. New Media Consortium & the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2008). The horizon report: 2008 edition. Accessed 20 October 2008 from http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2008-Horizon-Report.pdf Sfard, A. (1998). On two metaphors for learning and the dangers of choosing just one. Educational Researcher, 27(2), 4-13. Simons, P. R. J. (1999). Three ways to learn in a new balance. Lifelong Learning in Europe, IV (1), 14-23. Wenger, E. (2005). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. Accessed 21 October 2008 from http://www.ewenger.com/theory/index.htm World Bank Group, (2003). Lifelong learning in the global knowledge economy. Accessed 16 May 2005 from http://www1.worldbank.org/education/lifelong_learning/lifelong_learning_GK E.asp Zurita, L. (2006, 10-12 April). Learning in multicultural environments: Learners as co-designers. Paper presented at Networked Learning 2006, Lancaster, UK. Accessed 21 October 2008 from http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk/past/nlc2006/abstracts/pdfs /P26%20Zurita.pdf


PERSPECTIVES ON CO-CREATING KNOWLEDGE WITH LEARNERS Martin Oliver, London Knowledge Lab, Institute of Education, University of London
Abstract What does it mean for learners to be involved in the co-creation of knowledge? This paper explores different interpretations of this phrase and identifies implications for research and practice. Firstly, it is contextualised in terms of different theories of learning, leading to a distinction being drawn between pedagogical and political implications. Pedagogical implications raise questions about what is learnt and how efficiently; this includes questions about the role of learners and teachers. Political questions focus on the kinds of knowledge valued in the context of higher education, and the way in which this includes or excludes practices. A case is made for the continued value of disciplinary knowledge. The paper concludes by differentiating between problems to be solved and issues that teachers will have to continue to consider. Introduction In this paper, the idea of learners co-constructing knowledge is examined. Firstly, the epistemological assumptions and implication of the phrase are considered. Next, the practical, pedagogic implications are discussed. These are differentiated from political implications, concerning the status of knowledge in higher education and the consequence inclusion or exclusion of groups and practices. Finally, the paper concludes by identifying the implications of this discussion for teachers and researchers. Epistemological background Current interest in learners actively producing knowledge is widespread; it is reflected in writing about pedagogy (Mayes & de Freitas, 2007), has formed the foundation for movements such as problem-based learning (e.g. Savin-Baden, 2000) and has been strongly associated with the development of what has been described as Web 2.0 (e.g. Barnes & Tynan, 2007). However, the idea that learners are involved in knowledge creation is not new. It has long been the hallmark of social accounts of learning, and is reflected in many of the central texts in this tradition. For example, it formed a foundational assumption in Vygotsky’s work: Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first between people (interpsychological), and then inside the child (intrapsychological). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relations between human individuals. (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 57) Such a perspective immediately positions the learner as an active agent in the process of producing knowledge; it is engaged with, not simply absorbed. This idea persists; for example, in 1997, Wenger’s account of Communities of Practice rests on a very similar principle:


Although claims processors may appear to work individually, and though their jobs are primarily defined and organized individually, processors become important to each other. […] They act as a resource to each other, exchanging information, making sense of situations, sharing new tricks and new ideas, as well as keeping each other company and spicing up each other’s working days. (Wenger, 1997, pp. 46-47) More radically, the same idea can be seen in the writing of educators such as Freire (1970), for whom dialogic, problem-posing approaches to education were seen as a necessary alternative to the ‘banking’ metaphor that he believed was perpetuating inequalities in society. There are of course differences between these positions. For example, Vygotsky’s account of children’s development positions the learner as encountering knowledge that already exists outside of their experience; Freire emphasises knowledge as being constructed through a transformative process of reflection on personal experience; and Wenger describes how knowledge is acquired through apprenticeship to experts and held to account by peers. However, all of these accounts have in common that knowledge is created through social processes and the learner plays an active role in this engagement. Moreover, knowledge is always social: there is not private knowledge and social knowledge, with one somehow differentiated from the other. Knowledge has to be understood as a social achievement. Wenger makes this point in his discussion of practice, which he positions and a knowledgeable activity: The concept of practice connotes doing, but not just doing in and of itself. It is doing in an historical and social context that gives structure and meaning to what we do. In this sense, practice is always social practice. (Wenger, 1987, p47) But this creates a problem for the phrase, “learners in the co-construction of knowledge”. From a social constructivist perspective, learners are always coconstructors of knowledge, because this is what ‘knowledge’ means. In effect, the phrase is a tautology; it loses its power to celebrate a particular kind of learning, or discriminate between practices that might be thought of as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ approaches to engendering knowledge. Learners remain involved in a process of co-creating knowledge whether they are involved in a lively debate, copying text from a board or staring out of the window during a dull lecture. Exactly what they are learning may differ in each of these cases, of course; Wenger makes this point about the claims processors in his case study (1998). When instructed to use a form they cannot understand, they learnt that they are not a central part of the organisation they work for. Their learning is expressed in terms of their professional identity, and in particular, in terms of their exclusion from particular kinds of community or involvement. Nonetheless, the process through which they learn this is still a social one. What this highlights is a gap between epistemology and pedagogy. Viewing learning as social does not mean that all learning is designed from a social perspective. Indeed it is perfectly possible to try and encourage – or even require – social participation in a way that actively discourages learners from engaging (Gulati, 2008). It is this gap between design and process – between pedagogic intentions and learning – that will be considered next.


Pedagogies of co-construction Even though, from a socio-constructivist position, learners may always be coconstructing knowledge, the kinds of knowledge they are building in different contexts will be different. They may also find it easier to build particular kinds of knowledge in some contexts than in others. This gives rise to practical questions about which kinds of social contexts might be best at supporting particular learners as they try to develop their understanding or ability in some way. Arguably, there are two ways in which these questions might be answered: analytically and empirically. Analytical assessments of co-construction Almost any socio-constructivist theory or model could be adopted as the basis for an analytic critique of whether particular pedagogic practices would be good at supporting co-construction. For example, Laurillard’s conversational framework (1993) – a model based on Pask’s conversation theory – identifies twelve kinds of action that constitute learning: 1. Teacher describes conception 2. Student describes conception 3. Teacher redescribes conception in light of student’s conception or action 4. Student redescribes conception in light of teacher’s redescription 5. Teacher adapts task goal in light of student’s description or action 6. Teacher sets task goal 7. Student acts to achieve task goal 8. Teacher’s setting provides inherent feedback to the student on their actions 9. Student modifies action in light of feedback 10. Student adapts action in light of teacher’s description 11. Student reflects on interaction to modify description 12. Teacher reflects on student’s action to modify description Laurillard goes on to argue that learning will be impeded if some of these steps are unsupported, and provides an analysis of different media in terms of these actions. This analysis is decontextualised, based on what could be described as ideal types rather than historical cases; so for example, lectures are classified as supporting teachers’ descriptions of conceptions, even though specific lecturers’ practices might involve more participatory activities. Analytic approaches such as this often lead to advocacy of a particular pedagogic approach, or to an argument against over-reliance on others. So, for example, it is possible to trace a line of argument from the phenomenographic work differentiating between teacher-oriented and student-oriented conceptions of teaching (e.g. Trigwell, Prosser & Taylor, 1994) through the discussion of “guide on the side” approaches to teaching and on to advocacy such as Salmon’s model of e-moderation (2000). Whilst any particular line of argument might be internally consistent, a different starting point could easily lead to different approaches being advocated; arguably, each will have its merits but would remain open to the criticism that, from some alternative perspective, it neglects or over-emphasises other aspects of the learning process. Analytic approaches are still important, providing designs or explanations, but cannot unambiguously answer the question of which pedagogies are best suited to supporting learners as they co-construct knowledge.


Empirical assessments of co-construction An alternative to the analytic approach is to focus on empirical questions. This is not to suggest that empirical work is opposed to theory; on the contrary, any empirical work instantiates a theory, whether that theory is made explicit or not. However, it can be seen as differing in its orientation to theory. Broadly, the kinds of analysis described above could be understood as applying theories or models to plans or examples of practice, whereas empirical work is more commonly oriented to building or refining theories or models from such examples. There are many instances where this process is made visible, and empirical work serves to develop our understanding of social practices and their consequences (Cook, 2002). It is self evident that not all kinds of teaching result in the same things being learnt equally well by all students. For example, Vygotsky (1978) introduce the idea of the Zone of Proximal Development, describing the tasks which a child could not perform on their own but which they could with the help of a more able peer. This idea has led to studies of ‘scaffolding’ learning, introducing structures or systems that can support learners. One line of research within this has been the idea of timely interventions in learning, in the form of contingent teaching (Wood, 2001). The consequence of this is advocacy of a particular pedagogic approach on the basis of an empirically-developed theoretical model. Such studies usually require some performance of learning as the basis for judgements about the value of a particular approach or intervention. Often, this is performance on a test or for an assignment. But this is not the only way of measuring learning. Assessment may be a particularly important influence on what students learn (Biggs, 1999), but if it is to remain valid, it should reflect what is taught. If one accepts that changes in the way students are taught has any qualitative effect on what they learn, then arguably, principled changes in teaching should be followed by related changes in assessment. Equally, it may be that some other measure than test performance is deemed to be the most appropriate way to demonstrate learning. For example, adopting Wenger’s perspective (1998), people would be deemed to have learnt particular social practices successfully once they are accepted as a competent member of a relevant community of practice. From this perspective, questions of retention and progression might be better indications of learning than performance on a standardised but decontextualised test. Similarly, much recent government policy in the UK has advocated the importance of student motivation (e.g. DfES, 2005:4, emphasising motivation as a way of engaging “‘hard to reach’ learners”), and almost by default, many educational evaluations focus on whether students liked some new approach or other. This, however, raises issues that cannot be addressed pedagogically. What is the most appropriate measure to use when trying to determine the effectiveness of some pedagogic intervention? At a fundamental level, this calls into question what counts as learning, and knowledge, and how we come to judge a learner’s claims to knowledge as legitimate. It is this issue of legitimacy that will be taken up in the next section.


The politics of co-construction Considering how best to judge the appropriateness of particular pedagogic approaches raises the question of what learners are learning. This in turn has implications for what is accepted as evidence of learning. This can be illustrated using Wenger’s case study of claims processors in an insurance company (1998), introduced earlier. These individuals were expected to process insurance claims using a form prepared by financial specialists. Because they did not understand the financial model that the form represented they simply had to enter data and report the output. Their learning was about their professional identity, and specifically the marginal position they held within the organisation. This exclusion from responsible, authoritative discussions is what the form came to mean to them. Learning exclusion and marginalisation in higher education Wenger’s case may illustrate exclusion in a professional workplace, but does this have relevance for higher education? Arguably, in light of recent governmental policy, it does. Higher education has been criticised for being elitist and exclusive, and a participation rate of 50% of those aged 18-30 was set for 2010 (DfES, 2003). This, combined with drives towards managerialism and public accountability, have produced concerns about how teachers can cope with massification, diversity, student retention and the assurance of the quality of provision. This, it has been argued, has resulted in a more industrial model of higher education, in which many students are seen as in deficit, or as a problem. In a mass system, students are no longer constructed as scholars to be handcrafted, but as entities in an industrial process. Access policies have created a moral panic over standards and ‘dumbing down’. There are contamination fears expressed in the idea that massification and the entry of ‘non-traditional’ learners presents a threat to academic standards. (Morley, 2003, p. 130) It seems unlikely that viewing students in this way will result in them being active co-constructors of valued knowledge. It is also worth noting the ways in which technology has been implicated in this structuring of the system of higher education. The Dearing report, which has been identified as one of the key policy documents about technology and higher education in recent years (Conole et al, 2007), provides an interesting example in this respect. The new interactive media, offering adaptive feedback and student control have the potential to support independent study, but only if fully developed, tested and maintained. […] Many staff would seek to spend some of their time on development of learning materials, because these will enshrine the core of their teaching. […] IT methods must achieve their promise of greater efficiency both by improving the quality of student learning, and by amortising the cost of development over large student numbers. (NCIHE, 1997: Appendix 2) This account seems curiously detached from the pedagogic discussions outlined earlier; an economic rationale dominates the discussion and leads to advocacy of resource-based learning as the best hope for a system faced with everdiminishing levels of resource per student. There is no suggestion that this is a


necessary evil or is second-best in some way; indeed the almost religious connotations of teachers ‘enshrining’ their knowledge in resources portrays this as a positive and virtuous way forwards. However, closer reading of the report reveals a less desirable picture (Smith & Oliver, 2002). In relation to technology, students are portrayed as passive, except at the point at which they choose a course of study. (Courses are described primarily in terms of costs and outcomes, in line with the wider economic argument in the report.) Once a choice has been made, they are ‘developed’, but are not talked about as being active in this process. The implication is that their education is something done to them by higher education. Moreover, lecturers are not associated with teaching at all, except as something that they will have to give up in order to focus on developing highquality resources. A gulf is created between teacher and learner; no sense is given of how this very remote mediation can be overcome to foster a meaningful sense of ‘co-construction’. This line of planning was taken still further in the business case for the UK’s eUniversity: As the learner progresses through the courseware, there is the opportunity to ask questions by selecting the associated ‘chat’ channel in the toolbar. In response, a chat window opens and the learner is greeted and invited to describe the assistance sought, in text form. The person who answers the questions is part of a call centre and is specifically trained to answer questions about the courseware. […] If the mentor is unable to answer a question, it is referred to a tutor with superior subject expertise, who returns a full answer to the learner by e-mail within a set period. (PriceWaterhouseCooper, 2000) Any sense of relationship between teacher and learner is stripped away (because it is too costly), the only sense of interaction being at several removes, via email, and without much sense given of opportunities for dialogue. It is hardly surprising that recent writing about Web 2.0 technologies – the “social web” – carry with them a sense of optimism and interest in rekindling the social elements of higher education (e.g. Franklin & van Harmelen, 2007). However, it would be all too easy to assume that simply providing social software will solve the social problem; the situation is likely to be far harder to resolve than this. By leaving the freshman seminar at the margins of institutional life, by treating it as an add-on to the real business of the college, institutions implicitly assume that they can “cure” attrition by “inoculating” students with a dose of educational assistance without changing the rest of the curriculum and the ways students experience that curriculum. Unfortunately, like other addons, such strategies do little to reshape student academic experience. (Tinto, 1999:7) It is clearly not enough just to make such technologies available, nor even to exhort students to make use of them. Instead, if the situation represented in the policies above is to be avoided, it will require reconsidering how we view and treat students.


Creating structures of inequality Positioning teachers as information providers and learners as needing information is pedagogically dubious; learning is obviously more complicated than simply consuming – or merely accessing – information. However, positioning learners as somehow in ‘deficit’ is only part of the problem. The root of the problem lies in the systematic separation of teachers from students in the first place. Focusing on ‘the learner’, and on ideas such as ‘learner needs’ or ‘student responsibility’, can become a means not only of shifting responsibility, but also of pathologising, labelling and containing people in relation to different constructions of ‘difference’. (Haggis, 2006) This process – an example of ‘othering’ students so as to emphasise their difference from us – can be seen in many of the assumptions that form the foundations of research, policy and practice. For example, Laurillard’s conversational framework is a valuable and widely used point of reference for practice, research and policy in the field of e-learning. However, even this valued model presents a systematic difference between teacher and learner: teachers are the ones who structure tasks, control the environment for learning and direct the learning process. This inscribes inequality into the model. It has also led to confusion: in the revised edition of her book (2002), the figure is extended to try and account for students’ interactions with their peers, to try and explain how more collaborative pedagogic practices operate. This situation could easily be avoided. Changing the figure’s labels – for example, to ‘person one’ and ‘person two’ – would show a difference in what each of the people involved in some example of learning needs to do without fixing them into one position or the other. Nor would there be any need to complicate the figure by trying to incorporate other students as a special case. Even treating the terms as descriptions of practices, rather than people – so that individuals could swap between them at different times, depending on the situation – would be sufficient to avoid commitment to an essential division between ‘us’ and ‘them’ that then needs to be bridged. What this example illustrates is a problem with how our definitions and assumptions have shaped our understanding of current practices. It would not be necessary to involve learners in the co-creation of knowledge if they had not previously been excluded from this by definition. Critical responses to assumptions of difference Even if essential differences between students and teachers have been assumed in the way higher education is currently structured, constructive responses are evidently possible. One response would be to draw on Freire’s work (1970) on the pedagogy of the oppressed, for example. Although this was originally developed in relation to perceived political injustice and involved the development of adult literacy, it has been taken up in or adapted to suit a broad array of educational settings (Gadotti, 1994). Freire explicitly contrasted the ‘depositing’ (or “banking”) metaphor of education that he saw in formal educational contexts with an approach based on problem-posing, the purpose of which was to confront people with the inequalities and injustices that others saw


in their situation and then to support them as needed in their engagement with these issues. He explains these approaches in terms of their tendency to ‘humanise’ or ‘dehumanise’ – to treat people as capable and active or else somehow as less than fully human, and in particular, as less capable than the person acting as a teacher. Freire’s pedagogy still involves differentiating between people, but this differentiation is based on historical context and perspective, not absolute capability. Teachers are different from learners in that they have the responsibility to bring issues to learners’ attention, and then to help them if they need it. However, it is this process of raising awareness through problem posing and support that makes them a teacher; they are differentiated by how they act, not by immutable qualities that define who they are. Learners may well go on to teach, and teachers may well go on to learn. This practice-oriented perspective seems to offer a new way of thinking about the practice of co-constructing knowledge with learners, which will be returned to below. Implications for the practice of co-constructing knowledge The preceding discussion portrays a structural inequality in higher education and one possible response to it. However, as with any generalisation, there are exceptions to this pattern. People are already co-constructing knowledge, and in many cases are doing so in situations that do not presuppose structural inequalities. Problem-based learning (Savin-Baden, 2000), for example, can be used to share problems with learners that are directly relevant to professional contexts; action learning sets involve learners sharing problems and possible solutions with others who are typically treated as equals; and doctoral reading groups may involve groups of staff and students grappling with issues in current research. These examples focus on postgraduate or professional learning; however, such practices can also be seen elsewhere in the curriculum. Creative disciplines such as art, architecture and design, for example, may require students to prepare work for ‘crit’ – an open process of comment in which peers, tutors and even the public can offer feedback. There are also examples undergraduate students being asked to undertake research projects (e.g. Zamorski, 2002). However it can be difficult just to expect students who have no prior experience of working in this way to do so for the first time. In Freirian terms, having internalized the image of themselves as needy and in deficit, the first problem they may need to overcome will be to rethink how they see themselves in relation to formal educational. There are implications for people acting as teachers, too. Re-conceiving of learners as being different in their historical situation, rather than in kind, highlights a need for teachers to identify similarities and points of connection with them. One way of doing this may be to keep in mind the dilemmas and difficulties that form part of all disciplinary research. The alternative seems to be that the embedded, processual complexities of thinking, understanding, and acting in specific disciplinary contexts need to be explored as an integral part of academic content teaching within the disciplines themselves. Part of the complexity of disciplinary processes is their contested


nature; it is unlikely that two academics even in the same field would articulate and model such processes in exactly the same way. (Haggis, 2006) Viewing engagement with a discipline as a common journey (the original meaning of ‘curriculum’) – albeit one that the teacher is further along than the learners they are working with – may help re-establish a sense of connection. This is true whether or not students end up like their teachers or go on to do something quite different; that is a matter of exit from a discipline, rather than its approach, which forms the heart of most curricula. Certainly writers such as Rowlands (2000) have made strong arguments for the importance of disciplinary orientation to being a good teacher, and to being able to communicate a sense of passion to students. However, an appeal to disciplines is not a simple solution to this issue; disciplinary knowledge can be seen as being excluding and problematic. Brookfield (2007), for example, has argued that conventional disciplinary knowledge has served to exclude groups and perpetuate privilege – what he describes as the ‘whitestream’, by analogy to ‘mainstream’ but emphasising the political and cultural nature of decisions to value particular kinds of knowledge. He argues that attempts to diversify curricula by bringing in alternative positions can be understood as examples of ‘repressive tolerance’, in which ‘otherness’ is acknowledged but still positioned as ‘not normal’. Rather than eliminating inequality, he argues, such pedagogic approaches perpetuate it. The only viable alternative, he suggests, involves abandoning conventional knowledge in order to focus on alternative approaches. This radical alternative to conventional approaches to higher education is difficult and unsettling. It calls into question the purpose of higher education and the values that it serves. Nonetheless, it raises important questions about legitimacy and inclusivity, and countering it means being clear about why particular kinds of knowledge (and knowledge production) are considered appropriate or inappropriate. Clearly, not all forms of knowledge are equally valued in higher education. It has long been recognised, for example, that disciplinary communities judge what counts as knowledge in different (if sometimes overlapping) ways (e.g. Hirst & Peters, 1970). Yet such traditions manage to co-existing and respect each others’ differences, even if controversies and disputes exist (Becher, 1989). Collectively, they also face common issues in deciding which kinds of knowledge claims and knowledge-building practices they feel should be permitted within a formal educational context. Is ‘remixing’ resources an example of “copy and paste literacy” or an act of plagiarism (Perkel, 2006)? Does a participative, Web 2.0 model of knowledge building value ‘common sense’ and ‘wisdom of the crowd’ over principled and disciplined knowledge in an inappropriate way (Franklin & van Harmelen, 2007)? Should there be differences in the way that students use technology in formal education compared to how they are comfortable using it at home (Selwyn, 2006)? Questions such as these illustrate how disciplinary scholars are actively policing the boundaries around what they are willing to accept as ‘knowledge’ within their domain. This has obvious implications for how learners may act and what resources they may draw upon as they try to co-construct knowledge with


others in a formal educational context. However it must be recognised that these are important questions. Sometimes it is necessary to distinguish between the kinds of practices that are appropriate inside and outside of formal education (e.g. Lankshear and Knobel, 2004). If disciplinary knowledge gives useful purchase on the topics and problems it pertains to, then it is important for the whole enterprise of higher education that it can continue to do so in a way that has integrity. Having integrity is not, in itself, the issue. The problem arises when disciplinary communities can offer no acceptable defence for their choice to exclude particular kinds of knowledge work, either because the reaction is unjustified or because the alternative has not been adequately considered. Moreover, as practices of knowledge construction continue to develop within societies, disciplinary communities will have to carry on debating the boundaries they create, the practices they exclude and the people whom they permit to see themselves as outsiders as a consequence of this. Conclusions As can be seen, consideration of the idea of co-constructing knowledge with learners produces several challenges. At the level of epistemology, the phrase is relatively unproblematic, but gives little purchase on precisely what learners learn or how best they go about learning it. Pedagogically, matters are more complicated, in that questions arise as to which approaches are better than others in achieving particular ends, with conclusions being produced either analytically or empirically, or both. Politically, however, the phrase raises several controversies. There are questions about what learners should be learning in the first place; the legitimacy of different approaches to co-constructing knowledge (for example, when something counts as plagiarism); and about the differences that are assumed to exist between people who are teaching and learning. Arguably, it will be possible empirically to claim that progress has been made in terms of the pedagogic questions. Particular theoretical perspectives or measures of ability can be used to judge levels of success over time, even if debate persists about whether this theory or measure is the most appropriate one to be using. The same cannot be said of political issues, where positions about what should count as a credible way of producing and claiming knowledge need to be taken and defended. Political issues will require revisiting over time to ensure that positions remain appropriate. Practically, however, it is our perspective on learners and teachers – how we think of and talk about them – that may represent the most pressing challenge. Viewing learners as ‘in deficit’ or as passive consumers immediately creates barriers to the possibility of co-constructing knowledge with them. Instead, rather than treating learners and teachers as essentially different kinds of things, it may prove more productive to view them as people with different experiences, interests and responsibilities, and to conceive of teaching in terms of practices that people perform in a given situation, rather than as categorical roles. After all, teachers are people too, and whilst they may have more experience of engagement with their discipline than their learners, the difference is one of degree rather than kind. Taking this perspective, co-constructing knowledge with learners becomes a much more approachable challenge: when faced with disciplinary problems, teachers are learners too. If we have a common endeavour, what reason would there be for teachers and learners to prevent each other from trying to construct knowledge together?


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Nicola Whitton, Manchester Metropolitan University
Abstract This paper discusses the educational potential of alternate reality games (ARGs), a relatively new game format that takes place both online and in the real world over a number of weeks, and combines narrative and puzzles to develop a collaborative community. In this paper, first the concept of ARGs are described, including their history and composition, and their potential pedagogic benefits are discussed in relation to constructivism, student autonomy and peer learning. Then the paper provides a case study of the Alternate Reality Games for Orientation, Socialisation and Induction (ARGOSI) project at Manchester Metropolitan University, which used an ARG for the development of digital literacy skills. Finally, the paper concludes by highlighting some of the potential challenges of using ARGs in education. Introduction This paper will provide an overview of the concept of alternate reality games (ARGs) and discuss their pedagogic potential in higher education. A case study of the Alternate Reality Games for Orientation, Socialisation and Induction (ARGOSI) project, which developed an ARG for students at Manchester Metropolitan University, will be described and some emerging findings presented. Finally, the paper will conclude with a consideration of some of the practicalities and issues of using alternate reality games for teaching and learning in higher education. Alternate reality games are a comparatively recent genre of game; the first fullyformed ARG is widely considered to be a game called The Beast that was created in 2001 as a promotional vehicle for the Steven Spielberg movie AI (Hon, 2005). Alternate reality games have been described in web magazine CNET as “an obsession-inspiring genre that blends real-life treasure hunting, interactive storytelling, video games and online community” (Borland, 2005). Michael Smith, the CEO of Mind Candy, creators of PerplexCity, one of the best known and most popular ARGs in the UK, describes the genre as ‘part story, part game and part puzzle’ (Brightman, 2006). ARGs provide a fictional game world and narrative that is interwoven with real people, places and events. They engage players with a series of interactive and collaborative challenges and puzzles that contribute to finding out more about the storyline as it unfolds. Martin and colleagues (2006) describe this interwoven nature of the real, online and fantasy world, saying that ARGs “take the substance of everyday life and weave it into narratives that layer additional meaning, depth, and interaction upon the real world. The contents of these narratives constantly intersect with actuality, but play fast and loose with fact, sometimes departing entirely from the actual or grossly warping it” (p6). A crucial element in the design of alternate reality games is the notion that ‘this is not a game’: an alternate reality game will often not advertise itself as a ‘game’ and it is up to the players to distinguish between reality and fiction. There is no explicit distinction between the real world and the game world, sites within the


game will often be indistinguishable from genuine sites, and the creators of the game often go to great lengths to ensure that they are anonymous and uphold the secrecy of the game. Stewart (2006), lead writer of The Beast, suggests four defining characteristics of ARGs: that they have an ongoing storyline, which is broken up and the players need to assemble over time, piecing together the narrative from multiple sources as the game unfolds; that they make use of many different media types to act as a delivery mechanism for the game, such as print, telephone, blogging, social networking sites, email, web pages, radio, television, advertising, and actual people; that they provide a collaborative environment in which players are required to cooperate to solve the puzzles (either because the puzzles explicitly require more than one person or because they are so hard and cover so many domains of expertise that it is unlikely that one individual will be able to solve it alone); and that they create an environment where the audience interact with the game world and are responsible for shaping it – the game itself changes over time in response to the activities of the players. It has also been argued that essentially, there are three integrated components in alternate reality games: exposition, interaction and challenge (Phillips, 2006). Exposition is the story, plot, and events that drive the game, the characters and their motivations, and they world they live in. This narrative is presented both online and in the real world, using real people and places with fictional events overlaid. Interaction takes place in the form of a dynamic dialogue between the players and the game characters and this creates the ability for players to shape the game world by creating ongoing mythology around the game, by communicating both with other players and with characters within the game (this can also be carried out through a variety of media including chat, email, telephone, messaging and live events). Challenge provides the game-play: the puzzles, ciphers, riddles and collective achievements that provide purposeful activity to the story and create an ongoing motivator and continued immersion in the game world. Since their inception, there have been many types of alternate reality game produced, including promotional, grassroots (games that are produced as fan sites or works of fiction for their own sake), productised (i.e. commercial), single-player, and educational (Barlow, 2006). They have been used to advertise products, films, computer games, music and television series. Although much of the most significant ARG development has occurred with developers creating games as viral marketing initiatives, they have parallels with other genres, drawing inspiration from literature (in particular the adventure game books popular in the 1980s and interactive online fiction), movies, urban treasure hunts, internet hoaxes, role-playing games (RPGs), and massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). ARGs are niche and generally appeal to a small proportion of the population, but those individuals who do become involved typically show extremely high engagement with the game, giving up large amounts of time and going to extreme lengths to get involved and complete the challenges.


The pedagogic benefits of ARGs In recent years there has been rapidly increased interest in the potential of computer games for learning, primarily for children but also in the context of adults in higher education. The increasingly diverse student population has led to a rethink about ways of teaching and learning that are appropriate, and computer games can offer many pedagogic benefits. While they can be motivational for some students, not all HE students will find games intrinsically motivating and, in fact, many perceive such games as a ‘waste of time’. However, if designed and used purposefully, when students are convinced of the efficacy, a key feature of games is their ability to create engagement, a factor that contributes to effective learning, through compelling stories within immersive environments, with high levels of interaction and feedback. Certain computer games can also be viewed as constructivist learning environments (Whitton, 2007) where students can learn by constructing their own understandings of the world, by problem-solving and personal discovery. They can provide the opportunity for learners to explore immersive virtual worlds using rich media, create realistic and purposeful contexts for practising skills that can be applied to the real world, and provide a forum for working with other players to achieve shared goals. They have the facility to create a context for problem-solving experiences, allowing groups of students to work together to tackle real-life, multi-disciplinary problems. Computer games can also support collaborative learning, enabling students to work together creatively, build on individual strengths as part of a team, develop critical thinking and negotiation skills, and test their ideas against the ideas of others. Multi-user gaming communities commonly provide platforms for collaboration and learning from others. Studies of Massively Multi-user Online Role-Playing Games have found evidence of the potential for learning a range of group skills (Ducheneaut & Moore, 2005). They can also support the Experiential Learning Cycle (Kolb, 1984) by providing authentic and active experiences in which students can gain knowledge, receive feedback, reflect on the outcomes, and apply to the real world (although, in practice, games are poorer at supporting reflection and application and these processes are commonly supported through additional activities in the context of educational games). Alternate reality games provide many of the same pedagogic advantages of computer games in general: they are collaborative, as players are required to work together to solve the puzzles, active and experiential, and provide an authentic context and purpose for activity, both online and in the real world. By presenting a series of challenges and an unfolding narrative alternate reality games create puzzlement and mystery, stimulating engagement, and as ARGs also generally take place over several weeks, or even months, they provide the space for reflection. Lee (2006) describes the advantages of ARGs over types of computer games for learning, noting that players act as themselves rather than playing a fictional character, social interaction and collaboration is required, and that there is anecdotal evidence that ARGs have equal appeal for both males and females.


Moseley (2008) presents seven pedagogic benefits of alternate reality games: 1. They facilitate problem-solving at all levels in the form of a graded challenges, and enable students to pick up their own starting levels of competence and start from there. 2. There is steady and ongoing progress and tangible rewards (usually in terms of a leader board, prize artefacts such as badges or grand prize). There is also potential for relating these rewards to assessment. 3. They employ narrative devices such as characters, plot and story (which don’t have to be fictional or fantastic but can fit into real-world themes such as history or news) to stimulate curiosity and engagement. 4. Players have the power to influence the outcomes of the game, in terms of plot direction, storyline and game-play. This increases engagement and their stake in and ownership of the game. 5. Regular delivery of problems and events, which is key to maintaining engagement, allows the game to be modified as it progresses, and provides space between events for students to reflect. 6. There is the potential for a large, active community to be built around the game, with a group that is self-supporting and provides scaffolding and advice for new players. 7. They are based on simple, existing technologies, and because they rely predominantly on existing web technologies, they do not require the highend production values and therefore do not need the same levels of technical expertise or expense to produce as commercial games. This makes them a much more practical and feasible game-based option for education. A second point on the use of existing technologies is that because players experience a number of different types of media, and are expected to use them to solve challenges and create artefacts, there is the added learning outcome of familiarising the players with a wide range of internet technologies. Alternate reality games have an additional advantage, in that they can be easily modified or changed to accommodate a different overarching storyline that may be more appropriate for different age groups, locations or subject disciplines. As they are based on a series of challenges, the challenges can be loosely coupled with the overall story and different challenges used depending on the learning outcomes required – in effect it is possible to create a whole library of challenges that relate to learning outcomes in different subject areas. The whole ARG model easily lends itself to re-use and re-purposing, particularly in the areas of key learning skills, such as information literacy, digital literacy, critical thinking, and creativity, and skills for supporting the development of students as autonomous learners (e.g. goal setting, confidence building, motivation, development of identity as a learner). ARGs also have the potential to be valuable tools for supporting student autonomy because they can be structured and run over several weeks or months, and they can support the use and gradual removal of scaffolding and increased difficulty. Players have to manage their own time during game play, fitting in physical events and activities with online ones to suit themselves. The collaborative community around the game is self-directing and players have to choose how and with whom they work on particular challenges; many challenges


are open-ended (e.g. the creation of artefacts) so it is entirely up to the players to be creative about how they approach them. Alternate reality games also provide a range of opportunities for facilitating peer learning, They start to blur the line between player and game designer, because participants are involved throughout in shaping the story and contributing to the narrative in a way that goes beyond simply ‘playing the game’. A common feature of ARGs is also their ability to create self-sustaining communities with established players supporting and mentoring new players, which could have the potential within higher education to provide a framework for peer mentoring, for example by second-year students running a game for first years. The ARGOSI project The ARGOSI (Alternate Reality Games for Orientation, Socialisation and Induction) project was a JISC-funded collaborative project between Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and The University of Bolton (UoB), starting in April 2008 and finishing in March 2009. It provides an example of the use of an alternate reality game developed specifically to support students in higher education. The project aimed to provide an engaging alternative way for students to acclimatise themselves to university life. By using techniques from game-based learning and the design of digital narrative to stimulate curiosity, provide appropriate challenges, the project team developed a game that runs over the first eight weeks of the university term. This game – ViolaQuest – consists of a series of challenges that are designed to map on to information literacy learning outcomes as well as providing the opportunity for students to work together, meet other people and get to know the city of Manchester. A current issue in higher education is that of student retention and the link to effective induction. Formal induction activities, such as library skills, tend to be short, run in inflexible face-to-face slots, and, because they are run at the start of the year necessarily use tasks that are not contextualised for students, and for which they have no perceived need at that time. Socialisation and orientation activities, which are commonly based around pubs, do not always suit students from different backgrounds and cultures. The ARGOSI project aimed to provide an engaging and purposeful alternative to traditional methods of introducing students to university life, providing a context for exploring Manchester and meeting other new students. While it was hypothesised that ARGs could be used to teach a whole range of curriculum-based learning outcomes, for this project the pilot also focused on a single area of induction content – library and information skills – as a proof of concept. It was not intended that the ARG developed would ever take the place of the traditional student induction but that it will provide an alternative aimed at students whose needs are not necessarily being met by the induction model currently provided. In keeping with other ARGs, ViolaQuest is built around a series of challenges that need to be solved collaboratively to reveal the underlying narrative. The challenges focus on orientation within the city and socialisation with other players, the ongoing story provides coherence to the challenges, and the collaborative community provides a forum for students to share information, provide hints for each other and work together. In addition, there are a number


of ‘curriculum’ challenges that are directly mapped to the learning outcomes from the library induction and integrate peripherally into the main story. The rationale behind this loose coupling of narrative challenges and content challenges is so that a modular approach can be adopted and different content challenge sets produced and used depending on the context in which the game is deployed. The ARGOSI project developed an integrated online gaming environment, drawing together appropriate and relevant online tools, including the use of character blogs, Facebook, web sites, and email. This game environment provides a mechanism for registering users, delivering challenges, showing who has completed each challenge, and public and private communication. The story behind ViolaQuest is centred on an MMU student who had found an old letter from one of her ancestors, that hints of a secret society and hidden machine. It is then up to the players to solve a series of challenges to uncover the six pieces of an old map that will give them the clue to the location of the machine, on the way uncovering what the society was for and the purpose of the machine. Key to the ethos of the project is student involvement in the development process and the development methodology is focused around regular testing days in which aspects of the game design, such as playability, usability and accessibility, are tested and refined based on feedback from the participants. This model of rapid iterative prototyping, testing with users, modification and testing supports the user-centred development of the software and ensured that the user voice was heard throughout the development. Findings from a series of interviews after early testing indicate that there are four primary reasons that the players engaged in the game: Completing (finishing all the challenges), Competing (being first and fastest to complete), Curiosity (finding out how the story unfolds), and Communicating (talking to and working with others). These factors were a useful tool in the final game design as it highlighted a need to balance these factors, for example a leader board was added to the game functionality to provide an element of competition, which had not explicitly existed in the game design previously. The testing of this design model is one of the research outputs of the project, which will also be considering whether an Alternate Reality Game is an effective and appropriate medium for enabling students to meet the intended learning outcomes of the library and information skills induction, create social networks during the induction period, improve their confidence in navigating the city and university campus, and engage in, and enjoy, the induction experience. Other issues that will be explored include evaluating the success of the development process for an educational ARG and the cost-effectiveness of the project overall.


Conclusions Although there are clearly benefits to the notion of using alternate reality games in education, there are also developmental, logistic and pedagogic challenges that need to be addressed in order to create and manage a successful educational ARG in the context of university education. Relying as they do on the imaginative use of existing low-end technologies tools such as blogs, social networking sites, Web 2.0 applications, email and ‘the real world’ to create the gaming environment, the development of an ARG is relatively straightforward compared to the typical development cycles of computer games. However, because they rely on an engaging narrative interlinked with a robust series of challenges they still require a broad crosssection of creative skills in web development, game design, graphic design and storytelling, as well as the necessary subject expertise to ensure that challenges are appropriately mapped to learning outcomes (i.e. students will achieve the intended learning outcomes from playing the game as well as the gaming outcomes). Fundamental to all ARGs is a compelling plotline that is sustainable and will act as a backbone for the game, drawing players in by stimulating curiosity and moving them on as the story progresses. Although this narrative may develop over time it must be robust and flexible enough to accommodate variations to the story while retaining a degree of internal logic. In the case of the ARGOSI an expert in digital narrative was brought in to outline the types of plotline that might be suitable and had a critical iterative cycle of plot development in order to produce the final story. In addition to a strong story ARGs require many real world and online assets to facilitate game play, for example ARGOSI required the creation a challenge web site, character blogs, and fake websites used as plot devices, as well as numerous prop documents including diary pages, maps and engineers’ drawings. The assets must be plausible as they help to drive the game forward and can be time consuming to produce and require the input of someone with graphic design skills. From a logistic point of view it would be difficult to run an ARG with too few or too many participants. The game needs a critical mass of players in order to make meaningful collaboration possible and to allow the social network of players to develop naturally (with the ultimate goal that it will become selfsupporting). One of the emerging issues from the ARGOSI project is recruiting players and maintaining prolonged engagement over the period of the game in such a way that established players have enough to do while new players are not overwhelmed. There are also issues with too many players as during the running time a core team are needed to monitor the game interaction, reveal clues and pieces of the story, create blog postings and interact with the players in many other ways; if there were too many participants this would require a level of administration that could not necessarily be delivered. The ARG-like nature of the ViolaQuest game created as part of the ARGOSI project had to be compromised in a number of ways so that it could be used safely and effectively within an educational setting. One of the key features of grassroots ARGs is the idea of ‘this is not a game’ where the boundary between real life and game play is intentionally blurred, and where players are sometime unsure about whether artefacts are part of the game or not. Although ViolaQuest


uses many virtual and real world gaming spaces over the course of the game, players are never in doubt about whether they were still playing or not, and it is clear that the game is associated with a particular educational institution. The provision of a safe and accessible learning environment was considered more important that adhering to the ‘this is not a game’ aesthetic. There is a related concern that it can be argued that the appeal of ARGs is that they are outside the mainstream, and by legitimising them in a university context educators are in danger of removing their very essence and indeed the fun of participation. Another consideration is that the use of ARGs in an educational context is likely to always remain niche. A similar pilot scheme at the University of Brighton concluded that the ARG ‘provides an interesting alternative to existing mechanisms for introducing students to certain types on information or services. This format does not appeal to all students, but is very effective for those that like it.’ (Piatt, 2007, p2). Given that ARGs may be a tool that enables universities to support students whose needs are not being met by traditional induction, it is then important to consider how big the niche needs to be before an ARG becomes a cost-effective tool. If enough students who would otherwise withdraw from university are being retained due – in part – to an induction that meets their needs then ARGs would still be an effective, if niche, alternative. A final point is the relative newness of the ARG genre in terms of academic research and the lack of papers published in the area. If they are to be considered as an effective pedagogic tool in the field of higher education, and achieve mainstream acceptance, it is important that their effectiveness in terms of learning and student engagement is rigorously researched by the academic community. References Barlow, N. (2006). Types of ARG. In A. Martin, B. Thomson and T. Chatfield (Eds) 2006 Alternate Reality Games White Paper. International Game Developers Association. Borland, J. (2005). Blurring the line between games and life. CNET news.com [Available online] http://ecousticscnet.com.com/Blurring+the+line+between+games+and+life/ 2100-1024_3-5590956.html (accessed 12 October 2008). Brightman, J. (2008). Perplexcity – the real life MMO. Gamedaily. [Available online] http://www.gamedaily.com/articles/features/perplex-city-the-reallife-mmo/68538/?biz=1 (accessed 12 October 2008). Ducheneaut, N. and Moore, R. J. (2005) More than just ‘XP’: learning social skills in massively multiplayer online games. Interactive Technology & Smart Education, 2, 89–100. Hon, A. (2005). The rise of ARGs. Gamasutra. [Available online] http://gamasutra.com/features/20050509/hon_01.shtml (accessed 12 October 2008). Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. New Jersey, NJ: Prentice Hall. Lee, T. (2006). This is not a game: alternate reality gaming and its potential for learning FutureLab. [Available online] http://www.futurelab.org.uk/resources/


Martin, A. and Chatfield, T. (2006). Introduction. In A. Martin, B. Thomson and T. Chatfield (Eds) 2006 Alternate Reality Games White Paper. International Game Developers Association. Moseley, A. (2008). An alternative reality for Higher Education? Lessons to be learned from online reality games. Paper presented at ALT-C 2008, Leeds, UK. Phillips, A. (2006). Methods and mechanics. In A. Martin, B. Thomson and T. Chatfield (Eds) 2006 Alternate Reality Games White Paper. International Game Developers Association. Piatt, K. (2007). studentquest 2006 a.k.a. ‘Who is Herring Hale?’. Summary Project Report: University of Brighton. Stewart, S. (2006). Alternate Reality Games. [ Available online] http://www.seanstewart.org/interactive/args/ Whitton, N. (2007) An Investigation into the Potential of Collaborative Computer Game-Based Learning in Higher Education. PhD Thesis. [online] www.playthinklearn.net


CO-CREATING A PROGRAMME: THE MSC IN E-LEARNING AT THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH Hamish Macleod, Jen Ross and Siân Bayne, School of Education, University of Edinburgh
This paper considers the interaction of students and tutors as the basis of the emergent, or co-created, nature and outcomes of the Masters Programme in ELearning in the University of Edinburgh’s School of Education1. The Programme was launched in September of 2006, although a number of pilot instances of the foundational course (Introduction to digital environments for learning) had been run before this. The Programme is taken entirely at a distance, with almost all of the communications between students, tutors and the administrative structures taking place online. Completion of the full Masters requires students to take six courses selected from an array of ten presently available (with others under development) and to undertake a research dissertation. There are also exit routes to a Postgraduate Certificate (on completion of three courses) and a Postgraduate Diploma (six courses). Although it is possible to complete the Programme in one year of full-time study, the vast majority of students are participating part-time. At time of writing, there are about 120 students enrolled on the Programme, and the first four research dissertations have been received. The Student Group We consider the principal strength of the Programme to be the quality and variety of the students who participate. The Programme has been able to recruit both junior and senior colleagues, from roles variously administrative, academic and technical within their institutions and organisations. Participants come not only from higher and further education, but also from government and corporate training and development settings, and from commercial and non-profit organisations that provide educational and technical services to customers. Most work in large or medium-sized organisational settings with the possibility of a rich technical infrastructure behind them, but some are independent consultants or trainers who have to carry the burden for their own technical support. The group is self selected to have a certain minimum level of technical fluency, as the ability to communicate online using a browser and email, and to create written work using a word processing tool are assumed. It is still possible however, and will continue to be possible for reasons of equity, to apply for a place at the University of Edinburgh using a paper application form. Despite their general technical competence, albeit across a wide range of experience and expertise, some are openly anxious about their relationship with technology, and its impact upon them, their professional relationships and identity. This variety presents first of all a very profound problem for the design of the courses making up the Programme, but also a very real strength. Because of the vast array of experience and knowledge represented in the group, the role of the designer of a course, and also that of the tutor who brings



that design to life (often and ideally the same person in our distributed and interdisciplinary team), is most usefully seen as that of an orchestrator of experience and interaction (Caine & Caine, 1994, p. 5). While all of the courses encourage a period of introductory social communication in the interest of promoting group cohesion, and of putting people at their ease within the group such that they will feel able to engage with the activities which follow, the very act of setting forth one’s background experiences, professional needs, and personal aspirations establishes a rich intellectual marketplace (the notion of “bazaar” might convey it better) in which the curriculum of the Programme can constantly be examined, elaborated and redefined. The Programme Team; Tutors and Designers Like the Programme students, those contributing to the teaching team bring a varied array of backgrounds, both in terms of academic domain and in experience of the application of technologies in support of both campus-based and online learners. Of particular note is the involvement of colleagues from the University’s educational development unit, and information services, reflecting the conviction of the need (whether online or off-) for collaboration across professional role boundaries in the support of adult learners. The general role of the tutor is that of participant and facilitator, learning along with the students. Different courses model different approaches to the design of the online learning experience, as individual designers and tutors come to develop their own online voices (Spector, 2007) and cultivate a presence within the virtual space of the course (Garrison and Anderson, 2003). The Programme has provided us with fascinating opportunities to explore just what it is that the online tutor has to do (Macleod and Ross, 2007). The Domain of Concern; Online Learning Teaching a programme about the technological support of learning is a particularly rewarding experience. The topic is rapidly evolving and changing, and is inherently interdisciplinary and collaborative. Because the students are participating in their studies through the medium under study, they can be expected to be more than averagely engaged in the work, and exploratory in their orientation towards it. Further they are more tolerant than many other groups might be when it comes to the vagaries and unreliability of the communication media, as a big part of their agenda is to learn about teaching with technology by experiencing for themselves first hand just what it feels like to be a learner dependent on technology. Lessons can be learned from unsuccessful approaches and, while we strive to set forth a well planned and organised programme of experiences, the openness of our students to experimentation does tend to dull the worst excesses of conservatism. The fact too that all of the courses making up the Programme were conceived and born in their online instances, rather than being translated from existing campus-based offerings, has meant that there have been few assumptions to be challenged, or traditions to be overturned. The Curricular Content The teaching team and the participating students share in the evolution of the curriculum of the Programme, the students for the most part bringing their professional and intellectual needs, and the teachers being, at least potentially, the sources of new ideas of how to act in and think about the world. These roles


are, of course, frequently reversed, and represent more a matter of the location of responsibility than of the outworking of things on any given day. It is the responsibility of the students to bring practical and intellectual curiosity, and it is the responsibility of the teachers to ensure that learning takes place. But the expectation is that students will contribute resources for one another’s learning as will the teacher. These resources will come in the form of discussion, and the formulation of searching questions, in the telling of stories about experience, or in reference to valued reading materials. The interactive nature of such exchanges makes it highly likely that the arrival of a particular insight offered by one, will fall into a “teachable moment” (Stewart, 1993) being experienced by another. The course “content” provides a structure into which such collaborative exchanges can exist. A dedicated “consumer” would derive some benefit by merely following the preordained pathway established by the course designer’s vision, but a course can only come alive through a participation which involves contribution as well as consumption. In some areas of enquiry, progress will be driven by the exploration of a landscape for which the teacher believes that he or she holds a map, but this will usually be found to be more a matter of degree than kind. Considering the evidences available about the nature of learning may require more directed guidance in matters of academic tradition (things that a student would be expected to know) than, for example, exploring the contribution of games and play to learning. The design of the course, and particularly the tasks to be undertaken, determines the angle of insertion of the learner into the intellectual space, but the trajectory through that space may very well differ quite significantly from one student to another, or between instances of a given course. This is principally what we mean and understand by ‘co-creation’ of knowledge, and in the section that follows we will discuss the ways in which our technologies and teaching practices support such co-creation. That said, it seems to be the case that there is often a pattern of convergent evolution; that important issues will out, and that one thing does have a habit of following another. Students from one cohort would most likely recognise the journey that another cohort was taking. In addition, however unconventional we may feel our Programme to be, we are located within a conventional higher education institution, where students are assessed by tutors. We have tried to mitigate this in part by inviting students on some courses to nominate additional assessment criteria for their assignments, which can take the form of a traditional or web-based essay, a wiki or blog, or any format that students can imagine and persuade their tutor to assess. In past years assignments have been presented as a Second Life2 “sky box”, a Socratic dialogue, and a multimedia web essay, to name but a few. However, to speak lightly of learning tasks does mask the important fact that some of these tasks are assessed, and that assessment contributes to the final grade awarded to the student. The tension between the flexibility that we encourage students to feel they have in taking their own path, and the assessments which constitute unavoidable markers along that path, has on one



memorable occasion resulted in a difficult but interesting event between student and tutor on a course exploring game-based learning, where the student undertook within an assessed blog space to induct his tutor without warning into an alternate reality game of his own devising (see Macleod and Knock, 2007). The tutor’s difficulty in deciding how to mark this innovative piece of work which nonetheless definitely did not meet the assessment criteria for the assignment brought home for us the limits of our, and our students’, freedom in relation to assessment. Though this was a unique event in our experience of the Programme so far, it does highlight some of the challenges we experience when we try to make co-creation a basic principle of our pedagogy. This is an area we are, as a Programme team, interested in continuing to explore, because even as our teaching and learning evolves rapidly in online spaces, assessment is less amenable to change. We sometimes feel we are pushing at the edges of a space that remains, at its centre, fundamentally the same in its relations of power between tutor and student, and its construction of learning as prescriptive and heavily focussed on the individual. This is not easily resolved, even by the extensive use we make of collaborate tools and environments. We are fortunate in our subject area, however, to have time and excuse to have these conversations with students, and to encourage them to consider, for themselves and their own students, where the boundaries of cocreation might lie. The Technologies in Use The kernel of the technological support for the Programme is a conventional virtual learning environment (VLE). For our purposes this is WebCT, which is the institutional platform used at the University of Edinburgh. The VLE is used as the first point of contact for the students with a given course, including their access to any prescribed reading, and the orientational information provided by the tutors. It is also the route by which we engage with them in the submission of their assignment work, and in the return of feedback and grades. It is also used, in many courses, as a place where asynchronous text discussion takes place. We see the VLE as a jumping off place as well as a destination however, beyond which we encourage students to explore the educational relevance of a wide range of Web tools, and especially those that we see as contributing to the ethos of the Programme. As students progress through the Programme, they have the opportunity to work extensively with wikis, social networking, virtual worlds, social bookmarking, mapping, and many new and emerging technologies. A primary example is the case of the weblog, or blog3. The foundation course is structured around an assessed reflective blog, which is worth 50% of the final mark for the course. The blog encourages students to experiment with ideas and voice as they engage in a semester-long conversation with their tutor. Tutors comment regularly on blog posts throughout the semester, and then give the student a mark at the end based on the blog’s success in meeting the assessment criteria (drawn from the postgraduate common marking scheme). As students’ experience of using their blog increases, and they become more

For our weblog we use a locally installed instance of the educationally oriented social networking system ELLG. http://elgg.org/


confident with the medium, we expect and encourage them to open their writing to a wider audience of trusted colleagues. Importantly, the growing of the blog, and the widening of the circle of readers, can be under the control of the blog’s author right up to the point at which the blog is opened to the world at large. Even then, control of publication is such that some materials can remain private, and others retained for access by only a select group. Some uses of technology are in support of social cohesion within the group. We use the social networking site Facebook among ourselves as a Programme team, and invite out students to join us. While there is no compulsion to participate, we feel that our students need to be aware of the social networking phenomenon, and the place that such resources may play in the lives and social practices of their own students and colleagues. Increasingly however, we find that Programme participants have already established a presence in Facebook before they join us. We also introduce and encourage the use of instant messaging systems such as Microsoft Messenger or Skype. In some courses and at some times we use, or see used, these tools for the express purpose of engaging in a synchronous tutorial conversation, but more often the manifestation of presence provided by such tools supports light-touch sociability and conviviality, and opportunities for convocation and consultation. This is the distance programme’s substitute for bumping into one another in the corridor. The technology of discourse and debate has classically been the asynchronous, threaded discussion forum. Through this medium students are encouraged to compare notes on their readings, to explore their understanding of what they have read, and to seek guidance from tutors and peers. A group blog has also been used for this purpose. A wiki provides an ideal medium for students distanced from one another to engage in collaborative writing and the co-creation of understanding around a topic. When a course-initiated project calls for this interaction we facilitate the use of a particular wiki tool that we have identified (PBWiki 4). But we see that students are increasingly selecting and using their own preferred tools in support of ad hoc collaborations and communications, elaborating their own digital modi operandi. The rhetoric of “smart mobs” seems particularly apposite here (Rheingold, 2003). A number of students have displayed their creativity by, in response to a course assignment, demonstrating how the functionality of a conventional virtual learning environment can be recreated for the support of a small group of learners by the judicious lacing together of freely available webbased element. This creativity has been particularly manifest in the context of our course on digital game-based learning, where students have constructed elaborate and engaging exploratory learning experiences for their colleagues based on existing web sites and services. The wisdom of even relatively small crowds (Surowiecki, 2004) can be harnessed for research purposes through the use social sharing, tagging and recommendation tools like del.icio.us and Diigo. The simple expedient of using a unique, course-specific tag allows students to leave trails of their web researches for colleagues to follow. Once the advantage of collaboration in this way has



been established, the students are encouraged to participate in the wider “flocking” behaviour that such collaborative tools make possible. Student response to the Programme The Programme seems to be well received by the participating students. All members of all of the courses are invited, at the end of the course, to complete a web-based evaluation exercise, rating their experience of the course on dimensions such as overall quality, value of participation, interest, intellectual and practical demands, and appropriateness of workload. For the most part, responses are highly positive, and comments received enable the Programme team to address any areas of concern. Where problems exist, there are rarely any surprises, as what the students raise as a concern has usually already been a manifest concern registered by the teachers. And while the end-of-course evaluation exercise provides a source of final and summary feedback, the nature of the ongoing online engagement between students and tutors means that structural problems can be raised as and when they arise, and addressed immediately. A further innovation on the MSc, made possible by technology, is the inclusion of all students on the Programme in the staff/student liaison committee that ordinarily would be attended by one or two student representatives from each year. Students are able to contribute anonymously or under their own names, as they choose. While the retention of students is a concern for any programme of study, student withdrawal has always been found to be a particular problem for courses involving distance participation (Simpson, 2003). By this metric too, our Programme appears successful. While it is always difficult to untangle the multiple reasons that exist for a student’s decision to discontinue participation on a programme of study, including health and personal circumstances, our retention rate must be estimated as being upwards of 95%. Conclusion We have learned a great deal from our students, about the nature of learning and teaching in theory and in practice, about the conduct and possibilities of an online programme of study, and about the various organisational, pedagogic, technical and social dimensions of supporting the online learner. The challenge will be to build on these foundations without loss to the openness and flexibility of what we hope to be an innovative programme, and a stimulating and creative working environment for students and tutors – co-researchers – alike. Evidences are that we can achieve this successfully and legally within the structures and assessment regulations of even an ancient institution. References Anderson, P. (2007). What is Web 2.0? Ideas, technologies and implications for education. (Bristol: JISC). Retrieved: 21 September 2007. http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/services/services_techwatch/techwatch/tec hwatch_ic_reports2005_published.aspx Caine, R. N. and G. Caine (1994). Making connections: teaching and the human brain. Menlo Park, Calif., Addison-Wesley Pub. Co. Garrison, D. R. and T. Anderson (2003). E-learning in the 21st century: a framework for research and practice. London, RoutledgeFalmer.


Macleod, H.A. and Knock, A. (2007) Mischief, power and play: when to pull the plug on diverging student-tutor agendas. Society for Research in Higher Education Conference, 11th – 13th December 2007. Macleod, H.A. and Ross, J. (2007) Structure, authority and other noncepts: teaching in fool-ish spaces. Ideas in Cyberspace Education (ICE) 3; 21-23 March 2007. Rheingold, H. (2003). Smart mobs: the next social revolution. Cambridge, MA, Perseus Publishing. Simpson, O. (2003) Student retention in online, open and distance learning. London, Kogan Page. Spector, M.J. (2007) Finding Your Online Voice: Stories Told by Experienced Online Educators. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc, 2007. Stewart, D.L. (1993) Creating the Teachable Moment: An Innovative Approach to Teaching & Learning. Mcgraw-Hill. Surowiecki, J. (2004). The wisdom of crowds: why the many are smarter than the few and how collective wisdom shapes business, economics, societies, and nations. London, Little, Brown.







Panos Vlachopoulos, Napier University
ABSTRACT Recent publications in the field of e-learning highlight the importance of the “moderator’s” approach to developing students’ online learning. They identify that the major challenges for online teachers arise from the diversity of roles which moderators are required to undertake. However, little is reported about the roles e-moderators actually adopt in different learning contexts, and how these range between ‘teaching’ and ‘facilitating’. This paper focuses on the ways in which different e-moderators in higher education approach online learning with students. It reports the findings of a recently completed PhD study, which set out to observe, describe and analyse the distinct interactions between learners and e-moderators in four case studies taken from two research settings. A grounded theory approach was used to analyse and interpret the data. This generated a comparative insight into diverse moderation practices, and the consequent actions and reactions of e-moderators and students. In this study emoderation was found to be directly influenced by the programme aims and the design of the students’ tasks, which informed the purpose of moderator-student interaction. Furthermore the observed pre-established relationships between the various actors involved in the discussions directly influenced the style of moderator’s intervention and the ways in which students responded. Herein, distinct differences in relation to the nature of e-moderation in online discussions were identified and discussed. BACKGROUND Teaching and learning in online or blended asynchronous learning networks (ALN) has been one of the main focuses of educational practice and research over the last fifteen years. The primary goal of research in the field of ALN was the process of learning and the pedagogy that supports effective learning (Benbucan-Fich, Hiltz, and Harasim, 2005). The process of learning and the pedagogy in an ALN have been examined by a number of researchers in the field of computer mediated communication (Harasim, 1990; Henri, 1992; Newman et al., 1995; Gunawardena et al., 1997) and online tutoring or latterly emoderation in particular (Mason, 1991; Paulsen, 1992; Berge, 1995; Salmon, 2000; Garrison & Anderson, 2003). The work of these authors suggested that computer-mediated communication (CMC) may facilitate deep and meaningful learning and that the online learning experience may be enhanced by effective online tutoring by a moderator. It appeared that a key word to describe the role of the online teaching staff in CMC was that of the facilitator. In CMC literature, the issue of online facilitation appeared from the early ‘90s, initially as an attempt to describe, as opposed to understand, the role that educators play online. At that time, Mason (1991) was among the first scholars who characterised the roles that teachers play online. She distinguished online tutor’s roles in three major categories. These were the organisational role, the social role and the intellectual role. Within each of these roles, the tutor facilitates the learning of the students. Within the organisational role, the duty of


an online tutor is to set the agenda for the conference. This involves presenting the objectives (also referred to as outcomes) of the discussion, the timetable, the procedural rules and the decision-making norms. Then in the social role, the tutor is responsible for the creation of a friendly, social environment for learning by sending welcoming messages at the beginning of the course and encouraging participation throughout. Providing much feedback on students’ inputs and using a friendly, personal tone are considered equally important. However, the most important role of the online tutor, according to Mason (1991), is that of the educational facilitator. As in any kind of teaching, Mason argues that the moderator should focus discussions on crucial points, ask questions and probe responses to encourage students to expand and build on comments. Moderators, according to Paulsen (1992), perceive their role in educational computer conferencing in the light of their basic theories and philosophies toward education (e.g. adult education theories and social learning theories). Paulsen (1992) recommended that online tutors should identify their preferred pedagogical styles based on their educational orientation. This orientation then influences their chosen pedagogical style. The adopted style then leads to a chosen moderator role and subsequently their preferred facilitation techniques. Berge (1995) added a fourth and transient dimension to the roles of the emoderators, namely the ‘technical’ role. The facilitator (or e-moderator), according to Berge, must make participants comfortable with the system and the software which the conference is using. The ultimate technical goal for the moderator is to make the technology transparent. When this is done, Berge suggests that the learner (and moderator) may then concentrate without technological constraint on the academic task at hand. The value of the above initial attempts to describe the roles that tutors play online has been widely recognised. Many researchers embarked upon the aforementioned characterisations of online tutoring, which are further elaborated in various studies as aspects of online tutoring are mapped alongside educational theories (e.g. socio-constructivism) leading to the proliferation of conceptual frameworks and models for online tutoring (e.g. Anderson, et al., 2001; Salmon, 2000) as well as a series of guide books aimed to assist tutors with their online teaching (e.g. Bender, 2003; Collison, et al., 2000; Ko & Rossen, 2004; MacDonald, 2006; Salmon, 2002). The essence of online facilitation and moderation in the aforementioned pieces of literature was not so much the effective use of the technology (although technical moderation is not underestimated), but rather the ways in which tutors may intervene online with a purpose. The purpose for online facilitation, nevertheless, may vary, depending on the particular context in which the online teaching and learning takes place. The literature has suggested a number of different contexts which may influence the purpose of the online facilitation. These include fully online distance and blended learning modules. So the often asked question that concerns the role of the tutor in either fully online or blended learning modules is whether traditional tutoring principles can be adapted to meet the needs for online tutoring. However, there is no consistency in the published answers. Garrison and Anderson (2003) argued that ‘it makes little sense to replicate or simulate traditional face-to-face approaches to online learning’ (2). Yet Siemens and Yurkiw (2003) maintained that the ‘skills


and knowledge for tutors online are similar to those needed in a classroom (132). The difference lies, of course, in how these skills are practised online and if and how ‘teaching’ and ‘facilitating’ online differ. In fact this latter statement was recently re-affirmed by Salmon (2007:172) who suggested that ‘there is no evidence so far that there is an easy pathway between instructivist and constructivist approaches to online moderation’. In addition to the above theoretical review, and taking a more practical standpoint, it can be said that: A. Unfortunately, to date, the various papers, and the suggested frameworks and guide books for online tutoring offer limited practical understanding as to the ways and the practical complexities within which different members of staff adopt or are required to adopt one role or another in asynchronous learning environments. B. There has been a rather limited interest in naturalistic studies wherein emoderated discussions are part of an on-going course or module for students in higher education (Vlachopoulos & McAleese, 2004). Moderation has been mainly studied as an activity on its own, in settings which included either mature or motivated students. However, the generalities emerging from there, and which are aired about e-moderation in general, need to be qualified in terms of course aims and the learning outcomes towards which that moderation sets out to facilitate progress C. The term ‘e-moderation’ can be and has been used in different ways, meanings and contexts, although these all involve someone (usually a teaching person) interacting online with students. How this over-generalised concept of emoderation fits within the higher education practice of teaching, tutoring or facilitating is still an issue to be scrutinised. These are the challenges with which this paper aims to engage the reader and providing them, where possible, with a deeper insight or at least some thought provoking questions in relation to e-moderation. It aims to do this by presenting some of the findings that emerged from the analysis of four case studies (Yin, 1994), that formed part of a recently completed PhD. Each case study concentrated on the successes and failures for each one of the fours emoderators involved. THE STUDY The PhD study reported here (Vlachopoulos, 2008), observed, described and analysed the distinct interactions between e-moderators and learners in real life research contexts in two higher education institutions in the UK. In the first setting, in an English university, one tutor and 17 students from different countries participated over a period of one academic semester in a blended Master’s course in ‘Communications, Education and Technology’. This was delivered using a mixed-mode (or blended) approach of face-to-face tutorials and sessions in a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The students worked online with their tutor, at times a guest expert and a second tutor, all of whom adopted the role of “e-moderator”. The students and e-moderators used a threaded discussion model, wherein all users had the option of responding to one another directly.


Research setting one provided the opportunity to explore three distinct cases of ‘e-moderation’ practice, involving respectively a novice e-moderator, who was also the tutor of the module; and two e-moderators (invited, guest moderators) working together on the same task; and to compare the reactions of the same group of students to the aforementioned e-moderation approaches. The second setting was an undergraduate course within a Scottish university. One lecturer and 25 students participated over a period of one academic teaching term in a blended course, delivered using a combination of traditional face-to-face teaching and an asynchronous virtual learning environment (VLE). This choice involved an interesting naturalistic (real world) setting, featuring an experienced lecturer who had decided to become an e-moderator. Students and lecturer met every week face-to-face for two-hour “lecture” sessions. Two further hours were engaged in an online student-centred-learning (PBL) tutorial, where students and the lecturer (now as an e-moderator) tackled previously declared case studies according to clear instructions and deadlines. Research setting two group discussions by the same students; students’ interactions gave the opportunity to explore the online moderation of an e-moderator who was also the face-to-face lecturer of and hence to relate e-moderation and its impact on to the achievement of PBL goals.

METHODS Vlachopoulos (2008) assembled his data from: a. A pre-course student questionnaire which collected demographic information and information about the students’ attitudes towards on-line learning, and their experiences of using computers and online discussions b. Three sets of interviews with the e-moderators; c. Focus group interviews with students at the end of the moderation period, to discuss the usefulness of the moderation; d. The transcripts from the online discussion board; e. A series of verbal protocols recorded by the e-moderators using the ‘think aloud’ approach (Ericsson & Simon, 1984), to provide information about the e-moderators’ activity and plans. His study concentrated from the outset on interactions, responses, reasons for postings, and influences on student learning and development, where these could be identified. He analysed the data, using grounded theory procedures described in Strauss and Glaser (1967), comprising open, theoretical and selective coding. The process started with an open coding, using NVivo 2. The data were split into discrete parts using the ‘meaningful unit’ approach (Chi, 1997). During the coding process, theory memos were written to record the development of concepts and categories. Those memos included information obtained from the verbal protocols and the interviews, which contained elements of the e-moderators’ feelings and intentions. The coding process ended when all segments of the transcript had been allocated a code. Consequently the themes and theoretical hypothesis only emerged after his analyses of coded interactions within the discussion boards. There were two coded schemas developed as part of the analysis process. One coding schema conceptualised e-moderation practice as either ‘process’ or


‘content’ focused for both the e-moderators and the students. The e-moderation of the process referred to the e-moderator’s interventions in the process of contributing to the direction of an online discussion, whereas the e-moderation of the content referred to e-moderator’s interventions in the content of the discussed topic during the online sessions. The students’ codes ‘process’ referred here to the different postings which the students made with the help of a moderator to take forward the online discussion towards the completion of a suggested task, for example by providing feedback to each other about how to discuss an issue or instructions on how to make a decision online. In contrast ‘content’ refers to the development and assembly of ideas, topics, questions which the students discussed. All the categories, which offer a first description of the e-moderation activity, were then triangulated with data emerged from another (second) level of coding, which was developed by tracing back what was reported in the other forms of data, such as the interviews and the recorded data. All messages were re-coded in respect of the purpose of interactivity, using a classification system which emerged from the voices of the participants themselves (when justifying the reasons for responding or not to other’s messages); and from the established literature in the field of online interactivity (Henri,1992; Rourke, et al., 1999). In short, this second classification system comprised the following categories:

• • • • • •

Group Proactive (Student or tutor looks for a response from someone in the group – anyone) Group Reactive (Student or tutor responds to one of the above, or some other message, playing reply back to group) Individual Proactive (Student or tutor looks for a response from a specific contributor, and even asks for it) Individual Reactive (Student or tutor responds to one of the above, or some other message, from and then to a specific contributor) Quasi-Interactive (just threaded (follow-up) message where tutor or student acknowledges previous message but continues with a new idea/concept Monologue (A new thread. No evidence of interaction with any other participant)

This coding process allowed a more complete story of e-moderation to be heard, through a clear picture of how moderators and students had behaved in particular situations. FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION From the beginning of this investigation into e-moderation practice, the role of the moderator and the consequent nature of the moderator’s interventions in the online discussions were identified as key issues. This was true for the literature survey, and in the findings which emerged from the tutors’ and the students’ data in this study. This research found that the moderators in all four case studies declared an intention to adopt a learner-centred style of e-moderation. All four moderators mentioned that they would prefer to adopt a facilitator’s role, with the students


being in the core of the online discussions. They declared so during their first interviews. More specifically, in case study one the moderator wanted her learners to go about the process of learning autonomously, and to reach conclusions autonomously (and with little influence from a teaching person). In case study two, the moderator, who did not in any case have tutorial responsibilities, aimed to promote thinking and independent learning by making thought-provoking comments and asking worthwhile questions. In case study three, the moderator aimed to follow a more directive approach by modelling ways of dealing with the task given to the students, hoping that in this way the students would develop the skills to complete the task effectively, and to an acceptable standard. Finally, in case study four, the moderator claimed to have opted for a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) approach to promote deeper thinking regarding difficult engineering issues. The moderators in this study had emphasised that they would base their emoderation interventions on their own teaching philosophies, on their expectations of the students, as well as on the prescribed roles described in the activity descriptions for each case study. Further, they all recognised the importance of training, experience or briefing in helping them prepare for emoderation. As such, this sounds like nothing new; but the ways in which these intentions and plans were actually executed in the online discussions prompts a searching for a re-consideration of the way in which tutors may adopt an intended moderator’s role, once they go online. In the related literature, the tutor or e-moderator was generally seen as a facilitator, whose role was to assist the students to become independent learners - usually through a scaffolding process (Garrison & Anderson, 2003; Mason, 1991; Palloff & Pratt, 2005; Pata, et al., 2005; Salmon, 2000). It was strongly suggested, therefore, that in online learning the teacher should no longer be in full control, and that learners should actively take responsibility and should start to coordinate and regulate their own learning (De Laat, et al., 2007). The literature survey had also indicated that, in online asynchronous learning, the tutors need to develop a particular set of skills and competencies to “teach” effectively online, and should do so develop through participation in training sessions for e-moderators (Goodyear, 2001; Salmon, 2000). The most wellreferenced competencies for an e-moderator include the ability to engage and motivate students in an open and friendly manner (Goodyear, 2001; Salmon, 2000); to appear to care about the students online (Bender, 2003; Garrison & Anderson, 2003); and to be able to provide prompt feedback, but also to challenge the students with questions (Anderson, et al., 2001). Many of these competencies for online tutors, of course, are not specific only to online tutoring but apply to tutoring in general (Laurillard, 2002). In practice, the moderators’ intentions in the present studies did not match either the ideal moderator’s profile which the related literature illustrated and which, in varying ways, the moderators who were studied had hoped to embody – or even their declared intentions. None of these moderators succeeded in effectively engaging the students online, nor in promoting the desired studentcentred learning.


All the above advice offered in the literature was affirmed to some extent (and often in the breach) by the findings in this study. It is worth pointing out that a substantial part of the literature in e-moderation and online tutoring was written by persons who have been researching their own innovative educational practice, reporting and often only describing findings which were not derived directly from existing naturalistic contexts, and which included no data about the outcomes of that practice in terms of student learning. There seem to have been no studies to date which have reported analysis of findings regarding the learning and development consequent on moderation by tutors working on credit-bearing modules. Such tutors will have had to accommodate added pressures to meet the needs of the curriculum and those of their learners. They are also usually required to adopt multiple roles within their institutions (for example, the role of the programme leader, the facilitator and the assessor). With the above in mind, the present findings raise some important issues about the nature of e-moderators’ interventions and the ways in which tutors adopt and adapt their roles in ongoing modules in HE. One factor here is the set of eschewed principles upon which the moderators decided their intended overall emoderation approach, coupled with the changes made to that, in practice. The other is the impact of the observed e-moderation approach on the students’ engagement in the online discussions, and on their consequent learning. In relation to the first issue, there is some evidence from all four case studies to suggest that the decisions upon which the moderators each based their moderation approach were primarily influenced by their understanding (or not) of the key principles and potential of student autonomy in online learning. The observed mismatches between the ‘ideal’ and the reality were perhaps the result of different views on the part of those concerned regarding what form ‘moderation’ should take, and of what an online discussion should entail in terms of student and tutor effort, interactions and learning outcomes. Similar dilemmas were also reported in the literature by tutors new to e-moderation (Bennett & Marsh, 2002; Bennett & Lockyer, 2004). The moderators in the present study expected that the students should contribute pro-actively to the discussions in their groups, and put in the necessary effort to deal with both the process and the content of the tasks. In contrast, the students expected, or at least desired, that the e-moderators should be active in leading the way. Consequently part of the tutors’ consequent activity comprised efforts, overt or covert, to rectify this lack of shared acceptance and understanding of purpose, roles and activity – and should probably have featured in the preparation for the activity. For the extent to which the principles of an e-moderation approach is based are made explicit, and understood, and are agreed beforehand by both moderators and students, seems certain to influence the way in which the moderation activity will and can develop. As far as the issue of the impact of the general nature of the e-moderation on the students is concerned, it could be said that an important factor which influenced the range of interactions between the students and the tutor or the guest moderators in the case studies which were studied was that of online ‘dynamics’. For the students in the four studies, there were various pre-established powerrelations with the tutor-moderator, the guest-moderator and those students who


sometimes adopted a moderator’s role. In all of these dynamic relationships, the students reacted in different ways. A tutor-moderator was the one who, in the eyes of the students, would eventually, informally and formally, assess the content and process of the discussion, and who thus appeared to have the final say in a judgment of moderated activity. A guest or expert moderator was perceived and acknowledged for their expertise in the content or the process, but their views might need to be validated by the tutor-moderator. This was particularly evident in case studies two and three where, although the two moderators (as expert and guest moderators respectively) were active in content interventions, their guidance in the process was only accepted and followed after the tutor-moderator had intervened to approve their suggestions. Finally, a student-moderator (or quasi moderator) may be a colleague with no greater expertise than the other students, but with the willingness to lead or at least work harder towards the completion of the task. Having a studentmoderator, however, may result in the tricky situation, where everybody else in the group will count on the student moderator to complete the task for the group. It thus became apparent that when deciding the role(s) of the tutor or the teaching person in online discussions, great care should be taken in the way this role will be explained, genuinely understood and eventually agreed by the students. That is because on the one hand many students still lack the skills to ‘resist’ the tutors’ directions; and on the other hand, in the absence of the tutor’s presence, students may be suspicious of anyone else wishing to fulfil this role (Anderson, 2006). For example, in this study most of the students did not critically question or challenge any of the four moderators. Instead students appeared to be trying to follow their moderator’s instructions in order to complete the tasks. Similarly, in case studies two and three, the students were very reluctant to follow the suggestions of the guest moderators, unless these were supported by the tutor-moderator. Despite some early warnings in research related to computer-mediated communication (e.g. Jones, 1995) about the importance of considering issues such as the online dynamics, the literature offered very little information or advice on this topic. These findings made it clear, however, that online discussions are not a power-free zone (Anderson, 2006). Online interactions normally take place in contexts ‘authorised’ and ‘defined’ by the tutor spaces; and the way in which the tutor or any other teaching person is perceived by the students plays a significant role in the way students interact with them. CONCLUSION This paper summarises some evidence to suggest that there may be important differences to be aware of with regard to the general nature of the e-moderators’ perceived - and understood and practiced - roles and their consequential impact on the students’ motivation, level of participation and engagement with the discussions. The observed nature of the e-moderator’s interventions has emerged as having a strong influence on how effectively the students engage with online discussions. The moderator may be committed to a student-centred approach and to allowing learners to take responsibility over their own learning. But this self-responsibility is still defined, monitored and even (clearly) judged by fellow tutors who are in a position to both allow and disallow students the exercise of such a responsibility.


Thus doubt may be cast on the over-generalised concepts of ‘teaching presence’ (Anderson, et al., 2001), and on the definition of ‘e-moderation’ offered by Salmon (2000). ‘Teaching presence’ asserts that learners and tutors may establish the teaching, learning and cognitive conditions for the learning development to occur in a collegial manner. However the findings of this thesis have shown that the presence of the tutor e-moderator, and their eschewed principles of teaching had a marked influence on the students’ engagement in the discussions. Furthermore, the definition offered by Salmon (2000), which suggested that an e-moderator can be ‘anyone’ who presides over an e-meeting, certainly is not in accord with the evidence of this study. All the evidence from the students’ interviews and their online postings suggested that there was a need and usefulness in having a pro-active, reflective moderator who had the skills to engage the students and to motivate them to participate in online discussions. And the reflective reviews by the e-moderators of the experiences certainly reaffirms their conviction that they were attempting to do more than preside, and felt that their intended role went far beyond presiding. References Anderson, B. (2006) ‘Writing power into online discussion’, Computers & Composition, 23, 108-124 Anderson, T., Rourke, L., Garrison, D. R. and Archer, W. (2001) ‘Assessing teaching presence in a computer conferencing context’, Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 5, 1-17 Benbunan-Fich, R., Hiltz, S. R. and Harasim, L. (2005) ‘The online interaction learning model: An integrated theoretical framework for learning networks’ In Hiltz, S. R. and Goldman, R. (ed.) Learning together online: Research on asynchronous learning networks, Mahwah, New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Chapter 2. Bender, T. (2003) Discussion based online teaching to enhance student learning: theory, practice and assessment, Stylus Publishing, Sterling, Virginia. Bennett, S. and Lockyer, L. (2004) ‘Becoming an online teacher: Adapting to a changed environment for teaching and learning in higher education’, Educational Media International, 41, 231-244 Bennett, S. and Marsh, D. (2002) ‘Are we expecting tutors to run before they can walk?’ Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 39, 14-20 Berge, Z. L. (1995) ‘The role of the online instructor/facilitator, in ‘Facilitating computer conferencing: Recommendations from the field’, Educational Technology, 35, 22-30 Chi, M. (1997) ‘Quantifying qualitative analyses of verbal data: A practical guide.’ Journal of the Learning Sciences, 6, 271-313 Collison, G., Elbaum, G., Haavind, S. & Tinher, and R., G. (2000) Facilitating online learning – effective strategies for moderators, Atwood Publishing, Madison WI. De Laat, M., Lally, V., Lipponen, L. and Simons, R.-J. (2007) ‘Online teaching in networked learning communities’, Instructional Science, 35, 257-286 Ericsson, K. A. and Simon, H. A. (1984) Protocol analysis: verbal reports as data, The MIT Press., Cambridge, MA. Garrison, D. R. and Anderson, T. (2003) E-learning in the 21st century: A framework for research and practice, Routledge Falmer, New York. Glaser, B. and Strauss, A. (1967) The discovery of grounded theory, Aldine, Chicago.


Goodyear, P., Salmon, G., Spector, M., Steeples, C. and Tickner, S. (2001) ‘Competencies of online teaching: A special report’, Educational Technology Research and Development, 49, 65-72 Gunawardena, C. N., Lowe, C. A. and Anderson, T. (1997) ‘Analysis of global online debate and the development of an interaction model for examining social construction of knowledge in computer conferencing’, Journal of Educational Computing Research, 17, 395-429 Harasim, L. (1990) Online education: perspectives on a new environment, Praeger, New York. Henri, F. (1992) ‘Computer conferencing and content analysis’ In Kaye, E. (ed.) Collaborative learning throuh computer conferencing: The Najaden Papers, Berlin, Springer-Verlag. Jones, S. (1995) ‘Understanding community in the information age’ In Jones, S. (ed.) CyberSociety: Computer-mediated communication and community, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage., 10-35. Ko, S. and Rossen, S. (2004) Teaching online: a practical guide, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. MacDonald, J. (2006) Blended learning and online tutoring: a good practice guide, Gower Publishing Company, Burlington, VT. Mason, R. (1991) ‘Moderating educational computer conferencing’, DEOSNEWS, 1 at http://www.emoderators.com/papers/mason.html. Newman, D., Webb, B. and Cochrane, C. (1995) ‘A content analysis method to measure critical thinking in face-to-face and computer supported group learning.’ Interpersonal Computing and Technology: An electronic journal for the 21st Century, 3, 56-77 Palloff, R. M. and Pratt, K. (2005) Collaborating online: learning together in community, Jossey-Bass: a Wiley imprint, San Francisco. Pata, K., Sarapuu, T. and Lehtinen, E. (2005) ‘Tutor scaffolding styles of dilemma solving in network-based role-play’, Learning and Instruction, 15, 571-587 Paulsen, M. F. (1992) ‘Innovative uses of computer conferencing’, Telecommunications in Education News, 3, 4-5 Rourke, L., Anderson, T., Archer, W. and Garrison, D. R. (1999) ‘Assessing social presence in asynchronous, text-based computer conferences’, Journal of Distance Education, 14, 51-70 Salmon, G. (2000) E-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online, Kogan Page, London. Salmon, G. (2002) E-tivities - The key to active online learning, Kogan Page, London. Salmon, G. (2007) ‘The tipping point’, ALT-J, 15, 171-172 Siemens, G. and Yurkiw, S. (2003) ‘The roles of the learner and the instructor in e-learning’ In Piskurich, G. M. (ed.) Preparing learners for e-learning, San Francisco, California, Jossey-Bass Inc, Chapter 8. Vlachopoulos, P. (2008) Reconceptualising e-moderation in asynchronous online discussions. University of Aberdeen, Ph.D. Thesis Vlachopoulos, P. and McAleese, R. (2004) In Proceedings of the 4th Hellenic Conference with International Participation ‘ICT in Education’ Athens, Greece, pp. 399-406. Yin, R. (1994) Case study research: Design and method, Sage Publications.


MEETING STUDENT CONTROL? Linda Creanor, University










ABSTRACT There has been a considerable amount of interest by many stakeholders in the ways in which new generations of learners increasingly view technology as central to everyday life, leading to speculation about what this expectation might mean for formal education. Such speculation has often been based on anecdotal, rather than empirical, evidence. To counteract this, recent studies have set out to investigate more closely learners’ attitudes towards, and use of, technology for learning. This paper describes one such study, the Learner Experience of eLearning (LEX), which aimed to explore how learners in further, higher, and adult and community learning contexts use technology effectively to support their learning. The findings indicate that learners are adopting various strategies to ensure they retain a degree of control and choice over how, why and when they engage with technology for learning. INTRODUCTION Encouraged by government strategy, technological advances and changing student and employer expectations, universities and colleges now invest considerable portions of their budgets in implementing technology to support learning. A significant part of this spend goes towards institutional virtual learning environments which provide a secure and homogeneous online space for course information, digital resources, communication and e-assessment (Browne et al, 2008). Meanwhile, outside the formal learning environment, the socio-technical landscape is experiencing rapid change and new generations of students are growing up with technology as a central feature of their everyday lives (Seely Brown, 2000). Many commentators have speculated on what this might mean for formal education, predicting that the learning and teaching environment will need to change dramatically if it is to address the expectations of these digitally literate learners (e.g. Prensky, 2001, 2006; Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005). Others are less convinced, pointing to the unnecessary ‘moral panic’ that such conjectures promote (Bennett et al, 2008). Despite the relatively short history of technology enhanced learning, speculation on its potentially revolutionary impact is not a new phenomenon. It was captured effectively by Mayes (1995) who likened it to the film Groundhog Day in which the main protagonist had to re-live one day in his life several times over in an unsuccessful attempt to change its outcome. Mayes asserts that, “We are frequently excited by the promise of a revolution in education, through the implementation of technology. … yet curiously, tomorrow never comes.” (1995: 21) Nevertheless from an institutional perspective, the advent of Web 2.0 technology, 3D virtual worlds, the widespread use of mobile devices and the ever increasing number of freely available social software tools have opened up


a huge range of options for students, and as such, can be viewed as major challenges to institutional control (Anderson, 2007). In order to provide the optimal learning environment for students, it is vital for both institutions and teachers to be better informed about learners’ experiences and expectations of technology for learning. Recognising this, the UK’s Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) began a new research focus by commissioning a scoping study of the relevant literature (Sharpe, Benfield, Lessner & De Cicco, 2005). This revealed that the great majority of technology enhanced learning studies presented a tutor or institutional perspective, with very few adopting a completely learner-centred viewpoint. It also highlighted that most of the research had been carried out in a higher education context, with other post-16 sectors poorly represented. “There is a dearth of studies into how learners in mainstream postcompulsory learning experience the increasingly ubiquitous use of elearning technologies and approaches within a generally campus-based learning context.” (Sharpe et al, 2005: p3) In acknowledgement of the fact that technology for learning is only one aspect of usage, the scoping study recommended a holistic approach to researching the learner experience which would look beyond the confines of individual programmes of study or specific technologies to encompass the full impact of the digital age on the lives of post-16 learners. The Learner Experience of eLearning (LEX) study was the first to take up the challenge (Creanor et al, 2006, 2008). This paper will begin by outlining the innovative research methodology which underpinned the study before going on to provide a flavour of some of the key themes which emerged from learners’ accounts of their lived experiences. Finally, it will reflect on how an appreciation of the learner perspective may help us to move towards a more collaborative approach to the co-creation of knowledge and educational resources through the effective use of technology. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY The four members of the research team brought complementary perspectives to the study, representing both higher education (Glasgow Caledonian University) and the further education and adult and community learning sectors (The Open Learning Partnership, London). Further valuable insight and guidance was provided by the original scoping study team and the experienced LEX project consultant. Given the holistic nature of the study and the clear focus on personal experience, it was agreed that a grounded theoretical approach was required. A decision was taken to adopt an interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) methodology which had previously been used in the psychology and health disciplines (Reid, Flowers & Larkin, 2005). IPA depends on a very open interview method, and to ensure that learning technology remained central to the discussion we also implemented a new technique in the form of ‘Interview Plus’ 1 whereby a digital learning artefact such as a blog, discussion board or web


The term Interview Plus was first coined by Helen Beetham, consultant to the JISC e-pedagogy strand


resource was introduced towards the end of an interview to re-focus discussion around the participant’s current learning experience. IPA seeks to explore lived experience by eliciting detailed personal stories. It is based on the premise that individuals are expert in their own experience, and as such, will provide valid accounts. Its interpretive nature means that evidence should emerge from an interpretation of the participant’s account rather than from previously established hypotheses. We did not begin the LEX study with any pre-conceived assumptions therefore, but rather allowed the participants to bring to the fore aspects of their experience which held particular significance for them. (Smith & Osborne, 2003). The 55 participants (55% female and 44% male) represented 3 universities, 4 further education colleges and 2 adult and community learning providers from Scotland, England and Northern Ireland. They ranged in age from 17 to over 60, with the majority (89%) rating themselves as confident or partly confident computer users. Through a robust process of analysis, the extensive data was gradually refined to a series of high level categories which captured key emerging themes under the headings of life, formal learning, technology, people, and time. Below these were a further five sub-categories of control, identity, feelings, relationships and abilities. Table 1 shows an extract from the conceptual framework which illustrates the intersections between the categories, each of which is evidenced by learner quotes.

Control It's the same way with learning to use computers and software packages… It tends to be very hands-on and people like to just touch it and feel it and experience it. A friend of mine bought a new phone last week and she spent the entire day … just exploring it, do you know, working out how everything works and what way you want it to work for you. It's very much an interactive touchyfeely thing.




Abilities You get a wee boost the first time you do something, you get a ‘oh right, I've done that myself’ and then you get that wee confidence boost and you'll go to the next step, you know. The first time you kind of hit a brick wall … you go ‘aargh’ but when you do it the first time you think ‘I did that’ and then move onto the next thing. It's definitely worth it.

I'm beginning to rely less and less on other people showing me what to do. Instead of being afraid of technology on the computer, I'm beginning to learn, well its not as bad as it seems, take your time, if you make a mistake it doesn't matter, just do it again.

Because to me a … design is a creation like a painting or you know, drawing and if I did it on the computer it would sort of lose, I think it would look too clinical.

…so my [group] we always text each other and say, oh are you coming in at this time or we’ll meet at this time and so it looks on the face of it from the university website that we haven’t been communicating all year but we have, it’s just outside of that board…

Table 1: Extract from the conceptual framework The remainder of the paper will focus on a just a few of these key themes with a particular focus on issues relating to learner control and choice. A more extensive description and critique of the methodology can be found in the LEX Methodology Report (Mayes, 2006).



LEARNERS’ VIEWS Generations Our sample reflected the fact that the student population is not as homogeneous as some commentators might lead us to believe. Yet despite the diversity in educational contexts and demographic profiles, the data analysis revealed several commonly recurring themes. Unsurprisingly perhaps, generational differences were expressed in a way which indicated that the participants were highly aware of their contrasting attitudes towards, and experiences of, technology. “…. you take it for granted because our generation has grown up with it … it’s always been there and we’ll just use it.” Lynsey, young undergraduate student The variation in levels of familiarity appeared less marked in the formal learning context however and did not appear to be viewed as a major barrier. Indeed several learners reported that, while they may have lacked confidence with technology at the start of their course, they believed they were now using it as effectively as their peers. “I'm beginning to rely less and less on other people showing me what to do. Instead of being afraid of technology on the computer, I'm beginning to learn, well it’s not as bad as it seems, take your time, if you make a mistake it doesn't matter, just do it again.” Michele, mature trade union online learner “It’s actually helping me with my kids as well because … now we can discuss things and look at things together, without it going right over my head.” Paul, mature undergraduate This sense of achievement was reported by learners as beneficial, not only to their learning, but also to their sense of self-esteem. The fact that a by-product was often the creation of closer connections with peers, friends and family was seen as an added bonus. Ownership Issues The use of personal mobile devices, particularly phones and laptops, was widespread amongst participants, with 86% describing themselves as frequent mobile phone users. This in itself was not unexpected, however what was striking was the depth of attachment and ownership expressed by the learners. “I couldn't live without my mobile phone …” “Mobile phones are another way of communicating because everyone has a mobile phone on them …” “I use my laptop, I take it away, it's attached to me, I couldn't survive without it …” “I always have my phone and iPod with me …”


Nevertheless, beyond contacting fellow learners to arrange meetings or to seek some course-related information, there was little evidence that participants were using their mobile phones, PDAs or iPods to support learning. Indeed very mixed views were expressed at the idea of downloading learning-related podcasts or receiving text messages from tutors, with several suggesting that they would see this as an infringement of their personal devices which they had carefully customised to suit their own needs. Others recognised the potential benefits and welcomed the opportunity to access learning resources more flexibly. Where participants did choose to take advantage of their personal devices to support learning, they often did so in unexpected ways, which, from a lecturer’s perspective, could even be viewed as subversive. “We’ve made a promise that if one of us isn’t there, we’ll record the lecture for them and send them it later.” (Lynsey, first year undergraduate) Overall, participants displayed very strong preferences. These attitudes may be partially due to the fact that only 4 of the 55 learners interviewed had actually experienced learning on a mobile device, and therefore had a limited understanding of how it might be applied. Nevertheless, the strong feelings expressed suggest that we should not take for granted learners’ acceptance of their personal devices being exploited for formal learning purposes. Finding and Sharing Resources The participants made it clear that the internet was their first port of call for all types of information, including academic resources. At the same time however, they recognised that the validity of these resources could be questionable. “You never know if the knowledge is actually good or not, so I'm always worried that I'm handing something in which is completely just one guy’s opinion, but it looks really professional, but maybe he's a complete liar....” Laura, young first year undergraduate Participants recognised that they needed support from their tutors to make such judgements. There was also a perception that although younger learners might be more adept at using online resources, the mature learners adopted a more balanced approach and were prepared to use a wider range of resources. “...with the generation nowadays there’s more tendency to rely on the computer, whereas with me, I will use a computer but I realise it's a tool, not the be all and end all, and I also go and get books. I think that's where the big difference lies with my reports.” Paul, mature undergraduate It was evident that for many of the participants, creating and sharing resources with peers, friends and family was also commonplace. “I would take thirty, forty photos in one evening and before I even go to bed that night I upload them onto my Messenger page and everyone I know, all my friends, at night, they just go straight onto my Messenger


page and all my photos are online then.” Emma, young undergraduate student There was little supporting evidence to suggest that this type of activity was being transferred to the formal learning context. What was reported however was a strong sense of commitment to sharing information with fellow learners within the framework of collaborative learning activities. “On the discussion board … it's sharing information with others. As the data builds up on it each year the students come along and they can … share that same bank of information.” Undergraduate focus group member The creation of multimedia materials such as video and audio files was less widespread among participants but when it was reported, it was often with the specific purpose of sharing with friends and family. This type of activity generally took place outside their institutional learning environments and was not acknowledged or recognised by tutors, suggesting that there may be scope for building on such skills by promoting more effectively the co-creation of shared resources for learning. Learner choices Where learners were less convinced of either the value of online activities or the technology used, they often chose to opt out. “You can also if you want, have a discussion over [the VLE] but I tend not to use it because, well, the teachers take a while to get back and it's not very personal ‘cos everyone can read what you write.” Alan, third year undergraduate Neither was this solely the preserve of younger learners. Mature learners also expressed strong views about their engagement with learning activities and were prepared to undermine their tutor’s expectations by making personal choices about how much or how little they would contribute. “You can choose I find, you can interact as much as you like or you can do the minimum, particularly if its activity based, so if you've got to prove that you've been in the discussion forums you just keep that to a minimum to prove you've done it.” Rebecca, mature ACL learner Participants frequently reported by-passing the institutional systems which tutors expected them to use, and instead switched to other preferred modes of communication such as instant messaging, texting, or social software sites such as Facebook or Bebo. There was strong evidence that where learning was deliberately designed to encourage autonomy, learners reported that their engagement was more intense and that their learning was significantly enhanced. The learning log or e-portfolio approach provided one such example. “[The learning log] is probably the most enjoyable bit I’ve done. It’s your own learning, it’s all what you write which is … more interesting to you.


You can relate it to your own experiences and … you’ve got a free role, you can write whatever you want … there’s no wrong answer ‘cos it’s how you interpret it.” Nick, undergraduate student There was also evidence that this sense of engagement and ownership had a wider, positive, influence on learners’ self-directed learning strategies. “the learning [log] obviously was for one course but I found myself applying it to all my other disciplines and courses and bringing everything together into it.” Undergraduate focus group member In direct contrast, other more prescriptive learning tasks often engendered frustration with the structure and pace of online activities, and once again the learners made it clear that they had a sophisticated awareness of the balance of power. “... it just depends on how the course provider lays out the course and how they allow you to access the course because of course they still control how you learn and at what pace you learn, even though access tends to be controlled by me. Obviously, they don't dictate you must be there every Tuesday between 9 and 11 for instance. That's the part that you can control, the rest of it is up to the course provider.” Rebecca, mature trade union learner The impact of effective course design in affording student control and developing learner autonomy is a central issue for both learners and tutors. Achieving the right balance is challenging, but participants were unambiguous in their view that face-to-face and technology-enhanced learning activities should go “handin-hand” and that the tutor remained central to their e-learning experience. “This kind of technology is only as good as the tutor that's behind it.” Kirsten, postgraduate student CONCLUSION As a limited one year study LEX cannot claim to speak for all learners, but by taking a deep approach to researching individual experiences it has achieved its aim of providing a platform for learners to describe their feelings, attitudes and approaches towards technology for learning. It has provided valuable evidence to inform our growing understanding of how a wide range of post-16 learners are exploiting both institutional and personal technologies in support of learning and established that the effective use of technology is not solely the preserve of younger generation. Given the disproportionate increase in mature learners in higher education (Mayes, 2007) this is an important issue. The LEX Final Report also underlines the significance of control and choice in the learner experience, stating that, “Heightened enthusiasm was evident in their voices as they described how they made decisions over technologies, learning environments and approaches to study. Indeed, where these opportunities were not available, learners took delight in describing the strategies they had adopted to circumvent recommended guidelines. There was clear


evidence of the impact on motivation which such a strong sense of ownership provides.” (Creanor et al, 2006: 27) Overall the findings indicate that despite variations in background and experience, learners display the following common characteristics when using technology effectively for learning: • • • • • they are highly motivated and are prepared to make significant efforts to overcome technical barriers they learn to deal with strong emotional reactions towards technology they are highly skilled networkers, knowing who to contact as well as where and how to find information and support they are prepared to make their own decisions about which technologies to use, and how and when to use them they are creators of a new ‘underworld’ of digital communication which is mainly invisible to tutors, and which often blurs the boundaries between life, leisure and learning.

Increasing evidence points to the fact that empowering learners can enhance learning through deepening engagement and encouraging self-directed learning (Rust et al, 2003; Nicol, 2006). By acknowledging learner use of personal technologies, involving learners more in the design of learning activities & assessments, and integrating learner-created resources, we can build on and learn from the wide-ranging technological skills and strategies which learners increasingly display. This, of course, presupposes a high degree of trust and mutual understanding among learners, tutors and peers. “For me, I would just expect people who'd committed to the course to do the course, and to speak up if they've got problems. It’s just the basics of life: be nice to one another, don't condemn anyone because they did something differently or they asked a dumb question. I wouldn't expect [the tutor] to have to monitor the forum, I would expect it almost to be self-monitoring …” (Jenny, ACL learner) Evidence from LEX suggests that our learners may be prepared, but it seems that we have some way to go before we are in a position to fully meet their evolving expectations. References Anderson, P. (2007) What is Web 2.0? Ideas, technologies and implications for education, JISC Technology and Standards Watch Report, available online at http://www.jisc.org.uk/media/documents/techwatch/tsw0701b.pdf Bennett, S., Maton, K., & Kervin, L. (2008), The ‘digital natives’ debate: a critical review of the evidence, in British Journal of Educational Technology, 39, 5, 775-786.


Browne, T., Hewitt, R., Jenkins, M. and Walker, R. (2008) Technology Enhanced Learning Survey, UCISA, available online at http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/publications/tel_survey.aspx Creanor, L., Trinder, K., Gowan, D., Howells, C. (2006) L E X: The Learner Experience of e-Learning Final Project Report, available online at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearning_pedagogy/elp_learn eroutcomes.aspx Creanor, L., Trinder, K., Gowan, D., Howells, C. (2008) Life, Learning and Technology: views from the learners, Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 2, 26-41 available online at http://www.glos.ac.uk/tli/lets/journals/lathe/issue2/index.cfm Mayes, J.T. (1995) Learning Technology and Groundhog Day In W. Strang, V.B. Simpson & J. Slater (Eds.) Hypermedia at Work: Practice and Theory in Higher Education. University of Kent Press: Canterbury. Mayes, J.T. (2006) LEX Methodology Report, available online at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/programmes/elearningpedagogy/lex _method_final.pdf Mayes, J. T. (2007) The TESEP context in HE, available online at http://www2.napier.ac.uk/transform/TESEP_Context_in_HE.PDF Nicol, D. (2006) Increasing success in first year courses: assessment re-design, self-regulation and learning technologies, in Markauskate, M.. Goodyear, P., Reiman, P. (Eds), Who's Learning? Whose Technology? Proceedings of ASCILITE, p589-598, 3-6 December, University of Sydney, Australia. Oblinger D. and Oblinger J. (2005) Is it age or IT? First steps towards understanding the net generation, in Oblinger D. and Oblinger J. (eds), Educating the Net Generation, Educause. Available online at www.educause.edu/educatingthenetgen/ Prensky, M. (2001), Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, On the Horizon, 9, 5, NCB University Press. Available online at http://www.twitchspeed.com/site/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives, %20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.htm Prensky M. (2006), Listen to the Natives, Educational Leadership, 63,4, 8-13 Reid, K. Flowers, P. & Larkin, M. (2005), Exploring Lived Experience, The Psychologist, 18, 1, 20-23 Rust, C., Price, M. and O’Donovan, B. (2003) Improving students’ learning by developing their understanding of assessment criteria and processes, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 28(2), 147-164. Winne, P. (2005). A perspective on state-of-the-art research on self-regulated learning. Instructional Science, 33, 559-565. Seely Brown, J. (2000) Growing Up Digital: How the Web Changes Work, Education, and the Ways People Learn, US Distance Learning Association Journal, 16, 2, Available online at http://www.usdla.org/html/journal/FEB02_Issue/article01.html Sharpe R., Benfield G., Lessner E. & DeCicco E. (2005), Scoping Study for the Pedagogy strand of the JISC e-Learning Programme, Available online at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearning_pedagogy/elp_learn eroutcomes.aspx Smith, J.A. & Osborn, M. (2003) Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, In J.A.Smith (Ed.) Qualitative Psychology, London: Sage.


STUDENT GENERATED PODCASTS: LEARNING TO CASCADE RATHER THAN CREATE Joseph Maguire, Susan Stuart and Steve Draper, University of Glasgow
ABSTRACT There is currently an explosion of exploratory uses of podcasts in education, but only a few where the students, rather than the staff, produce the podcasts. Where it has been done, it has mainly been for students where the technology itself was also relevant to their studies (e.g. computing science or media studies courses). Here however we report on one of these on a course for ‘nontechnical’ students from the faculty of Arts. These students were required to produce a single video podcast for their third-year philosophy course. The requirements to present something useful to fellow students and to master a new and fashionable technology are well designed to augment self-confidence and self-efficacy, to engage students, to equip them with a skill that may enhance their employability, and to foster deeper learning. However a basic reason for student generated content of this kind is that authoring for other students (rather than for marking by a staff member) should give impetus to deeper thought about the content. This would not only cement existing knowledge but also supplement it with new perspectives and considerations. Sceptics might argue differently, claiming it to be a gimmick to boost course numbers. However, crafting a report, essay or regurgitating facts on exam day involve different learning experiences and skills to that of giving a persuasive presentation to a large audience. Keywords: student generated podcasts, podcasting, educational technology. INTRODUCTION Podcasts, as a free audio or video delivered directly to an iPod needing no more than one-click to activate, have attracted a large and very wide-ranging audience. Naturally, many individuals and organisations now want to make use of this powerful platform and their desire has driven costs down while simultaneously enhancing usability. The initial barriers to recording, editing and distribution have been broken, and the most popular iPod can now record audio straight out-of-the-box without the need for any additional accessories or software. When the iPod is next synchronised the recording will be automatically transferred to the system where it can be edited in seconds – adding copyright-free jingles and / or sound effects, if so desired. From there, distribution is just one more click away. The recent explosion in exploratory uses of podcasting in education alone is a prime example. The main focus up to now has been on lecturers recording their lectures, seminars, and laboratory sessions for their classes, a practice proving popular not only with students (Draper & Maguire, 2007) but the general public as well (Wojtas, 2006). There has been investigation into student-generated content but this is often connected with information technology (Frydenberg, 2006), web design (Lee, McLoughlin & Chan, 2008) or media production 2.

Assistant Professor at Duke University, Daniel H. Foster used podcasts as part of an exercise in his ‘Radio and Theatre of Mind’ course.


However, there has been little attention paid to those who are still learning, those future experts, who are disconnected from the world of science and technology. The average Arts student studying divinity, history, literature or philosophy is likely to spend more time poring over ancient texts and penning discursive essays than, say, creating a video podcast. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is an exception, graduating from the University of Edinburgh with a Ph.D. in History, he recently released a podcast detailing the action he and his cabinet would take in tackling the global financial credit crisis3. This significant step not only represents Number 10’s recognition of the importance of the platform, but also of the need to spend precious time crafting its content, a content that is not only clear and concise but short, simple and shaped for a wide audience which may not be particularly interested in politics but which is, nevertheless, concerned about the latest crisis. This is a new medium for powerful and international public speaking, and public speaking is, in its turn, a transferable skill, that many students, not simply Arts students, no longer practise. This could be easily remedied using podcasts. There is no reason why a collection of “digital natives” (Prensky, 2001), such as Arts students, could not construct a small video presentation on a topic of interest to a large diverse audience. Thinking about the content itself, their potential audience, whether publicly available or privately presented to their peers in class, and how it will be presented should all serve to refine a student’s critical thinking and presentation skills. In this paper we report an innovative educational case with exactly these features: student-generated podcasts, video rather than audio-only, by philosophy students with no subject-related fascination with or training in modern technology, yet who are presumed to be “digital natives”. We will start by examining the course objectives and how to address them in a suitable assessed exercise. We then consider three potential assessed exercises and their respective outcomes before settling on one for use as a group assignment. The abilities required to successfully complete the exercise are determined alongside the strategies necessary for equipping students with these abilities. Performance on the exercise will be determined through an objective marking scheme that we have designed which not only provides flexibility for the marker but clear criteria for the student. The exercise is then trialled as part of the assessment of a third-year non-technical philosophy course and the feedback produced by the students which is largely favourable. We discuss the potential to repurpose products of the exercise as new learning and recruitment materials, and discuss what might be changed to improve the experience and learning opportunities for this particular class. EDUCATIONAL RATIONALE This particular learning activity needs to address several issues that are expressed in the course objectives. 1. The content needs to be a critical rehearsal, re-expression, or application of material the students had already covered in the course, with the


Downing Street Podcast - http://www.number10.gov.uk/podcast - 30/10/08





additional aim of deepening understanding rather than covering more topics. Creating material for fellow students is a natural way to frame this. As has long been understood by, for example, Piaget, you expect your teacher to understand what you mean and compress expression in order not to bore her, while peers naturally require fuller and more careful explanation. This is learning by teaching, as in the surgeons’ slogan for continuing professional development: “See one, do one, teach one”. The traditional university activity for this is the seminar where students in turn present a topic, but the drawback of this method is that it often degenerates with students paying little attention to each other’s contributions, and it usually doesn’t leave a record that can be re-used by students when it comes to essay preparation or revision. More recent incarnations of this particular genre are Collis & Moonen’s student generated content approach [See, for example, Collis & Moonen, 2005 and Spires & Morris, 2008], and “computer supported cooperative lecture notes” in which student teams contribute sections to a class-wide collection of notes on web pages. The latter had been used in earlier courses in this institution. This is also natural to do by means of group work, where each group, rather than each individual, produces a presentation. The discussion within the group is a more immediate peer process with the same virtues for deepening personal understanding. It is also independently worthwhile as a skill valued by many employers. A second major employability skill is communication; and particularly, being able to communicate in multiple formats, not merely by essaywriting or speaking up in seminars and tutorials. Podcasting is a novel medium that, in itself, might be a worthwhile skill under this heading. However, a more general issue, which this exercise was intended to develop, is the consideration of how the medium (the format) can be best used to communicate with the intended audience and the course-specific content.

ASSESSED EXERCISE The assessed exercise has to encompass the four key elements outlined in the previous section: rehearsal of course content, creating material for fellow students, group work, and communication. It needs a simple and elegant distribution platform that is easy to grasp within the limited time available and with the, possibly, limited technical knowledge possessed by the student. Distribution platforms such as cassette or versatile discs are too expensive and complicated for students to grasp in a small amount of time. A cheap and simplistic alternative is a distribution platform which utilises the power of the Internet, for example, YouTube or podcasts. Although YouTube is a popular platform the quality is low, especially text and graphics, and requires a dedicated and fast data-connection. This is not true of podcasts: not only can the audience download content to their device in advance but that content can be of a far superior quality. We therefore chose podcasts as our distribution platform. The outcome, the video-podcast, is a product for the distribution platform and should be no more than ten minutes long. Although students have only six weeks to complete the exercise, the length of presentation is to force them in to


presenting ideas clearly and concisely. In developing the assessed exercise we considered three possible courses of action: • • introductory course (audio) A ten-minute introductory presentation for the course. The exercise would consist of five episodes or lectures, lasting no more than two minutes each. revision guide (enhanced audio) A ten-minute revision guide for a course topic. The exercise would likely consist of two episodes, five minutes each in length, one that focuses on revising lectures while the other would focus on seminars. presentation on a course-specific topic of choice (video) A ten-minute presentation on a course-specific topic of choice. This would be a single episode, with the future intention of consolidating all podcasts into a single podcast.

Initially, the first outcome seemed like the best option because it didn’t require any significant knowledge or technology to produce and would be useful for future students. Unfortunately, it would only require surface knowledge of most course topics and might present too thin a notion of course content. The second option attempted to address this problem by asking students to focus on a particular aspect of the course and to use appropriate images to emphasise points. This enhanced audio approach would see students synchronise audio with images and offer DVD-style chapters for sub-topics. This would not only result in a product useful to current students but also strengthen existing knowledge in the student producing it. However, there are two foreseeable problems with this approach: (a) specialist knowledge of software, and (b) lack of reflection on the other elements of presentation like, body posture, facial movements, and physical location. We want students to think about the language they use, including their body language, and what they want the viewer / listener to understand at the end of their presentation. This would all be most easily available in the third course of action: video presentation on a course-specific topic of the student’s choice. Option three is slightly harder to achieve than audio but easier than enhanced audio. It is likely that most students will not have the specialist knowledge or software required to produce enhanced audio podcasts but will already know how to produce videos using their mobile phone or webcam and, in many cases, how to edit them using appropriate software. Option three is also the most suitable for mirroring the course objectives and promotes an awareness of audience and importance of appearance. ABILITIES The assessed exercise can be subdivided into three activities: preparation, production, and distribution. Each activity requires its own unique set of abilities with which each student must be equipped – during teaching hours, i.e. seminars and workshops – if they are to do well. Preparation Unsurprisingly preparation, in terms of both time and energy, is the most expensive activity within the whole exercise, and it is explained to the students that, if they are to communicate successfully with their audience, they must prepare their chosen topic thoroughly. This should not be too much of a problem; they will have had lectures and seminars on all the major themes, and


they will have been directed towards course- and subject-specific reading and research papers. Furthermore, the notes they will have taken in seminar discussions should provide the perfect foundation for some interesting and energetic discussion and the presentation of alternative points of view. They will also know that, contra Aristotle’s belief that the true is always more appealing than the false, these arguments must not only be sound but also stimulate the audience. The aim is to make their presentations persuasive without feeling like a lecture, which is quite a difficult thing to achieve in any medium. Group work presents may challenges, not least of which is each member finding his or her own rôle in relation to a dynamic set of relationships. This is something that cannot be taught in this, or possibly any other, class; but what the course coordinator can do in this class is impress upon the students that their group is unlikely to strike the perfect balance in its first meeting and, similarly, they must adopt an iterative approach to planning and writing the script for their presentation, starting with a basic outline for their video and fleshing it out over many attempts. They need also to run through their presentation more than once, perhaps even having several dry runs to determine the best format for their final recording. Production Producing a short ten-minute video presentation with the latest hardware and software will require few new technical abilities. The groups were advised to achieve as much as they wanted with the hardware (for example the camcorder), and avoid the software (the editing suite) as much as possible. The simple reason for this is that editing film is an expensive and complex stage in production, and in this case it would really only mask the project’s objective. Avoiding editing, with the exception of, perhaps, stitching together small segments, is entirely possible with thorough planning. The groups attended a one-hour workshop on how to use university equipment, but they were also advised that they could record and edit their video using their own hardware and software, for example, a mobile phone and iMovie. In addition to these workshops each group had open contact to the course convenor to discuss content, and access to one-to-one technical support for up to six hours, during the production stage of their video. Distribution The distribution platform is podcasts. In order to utilise this platform a simple text file, an RSS feed, is required. The feed contains information about the video such as its title, synopsis and length. The structure of the feed is similar to that of a webpage and requires knowledge of extensible mark-up language or XML and how to use it. A briefing on the basics of this language was outlined at a one-hour workshop. After the initial briefing students were asked to organise themselves into their groups and to write the RSS feed for their video presentation. They were asked to do this using pen and paper while some example RSS feeds where shown on an overhead. The group’s efforts were checked, corrected if necessary, and confirmed before the end of the session. This meant students could type their RSS feed with the confidence that it was correct. MARKING SCHEME


The assessment would ultimately be awarded a passing grade of A – D or a failing grade, E – N. The grades are mapped to a 22-point scale outlined by the University. The lowest passing score is nine (D3) progressing upwards to a maximum of 22 (A1). The assessment itself represents 25% of the final course award.

Figure 1: Marking scheme The final marking scheme was created specifically for the assessment, consisting of five elements: RSS feed, video file, time-spent, content and log report. The first four components are dependent upon each other, which is to say that, failing to complete one results in failure in all. Three of the components have a binary score, zero or one, they are: RSS feed, video and log report. These components are not actually scored but their satisfactory completion is recorded. If a student submits an invalid RSS feed, poorly recorded video, or incomplete log report they will still be awarded one point. However, this is not true if any of these components are corrupted, damaged or clearly neglected. A simple example would be a student spending a reasonable amount of time crafting a beautiful video and log report and submitting both without an RSS feed. The student in this case has submitted a video, not a video podcast. They would score zero for the first component, resulting in 0 x 1 x 3 x 7 = 0, that is, a zero and fail overall. Thus, a student must submit an RSS feed and video. The technical wizardry or competence displayed in either component does not matter, since a student will only be recorded as submitted or not submitted. Students showing forethought will not waste time with visual effects and podcast tricks but focus on the content. The two remaining components, time-spent and content, are scored in the range zero to three and zero to seven respectively. These components are the most important, and a high score in both will result in a very high score overall. Ideally a group should work approximately 15 to 21 hours, with each member contributing five to seven hours of their concentrated time. This might be prescriptively divided up into 15 hours crafting content, three hours production and three hours post-production. The time-spent component reflects this 21hour period but is not rigid. The marker can use their own judgment to assess


time-spent by considering all elements of information within the log report, the storyboard and the scripts. The content component from seven to zero reflects the grades A, B, C, D, E, F, G and N. Thus, an award of five points is equal to a C. The grade or score for content does not necessarily reflect the final grade. The interplay of components could easily, and did in some cases, increase the final award. A simple example would be a high-score of three for time-spent, five for content and, if we accept all other components have been submitted, this would result in a final award of 16 points or a B2. The interplay between components provides room for the marker to deliver the most appropriate grade while providing confidence and criteria to the student. THE STUDY A group assignment was set on a third year philosophy course, with 24 students in groups of two or three, to produce a video podcast on a course-specific topic of their choice. The assignment was worth 25% of a student’s final course award. The students had six weeks to complete the assignment and were required to attend all seminars and two one-hour workshops, to equip themselves with the necessary skills to complete the exercise. Groups were advised they had six hours of one-to-one technical support from a trained member of staff and had access to state-of-the-art podcast production equipment but were also informed they could use their own equipment. Access to equipment was tightly regulated, with no group allowed access after six hours of use. This was a further attempt to emphasise the importance of planning and content over presentation, but also to maintain a level of consistency in the assistance afforded each group. The groups were required to submit all their scripts and storyboards along with a typed RSS feed, their video in MP4 format and log reports, one for each member of the group. The log report contained several questions, some personal, some feedback, and some aimed at extracting any technical or group difficulties during the exercise. The log report also asked students, if they so wished, to produce a score for their fellow group members along with a justification for that score. A contingency plan was prepared for use in the eventuality of a complete breakdown in the planned activity. The plan required the module coordinator to film groups presenting their ideas. This recording would then be peer-assessed, both intra- and inter- group. FEEDBACK Students on the course were initially rather hesitant, as is natural, about embarking on a task for which they had little previous experience. We had assumed that, with the prevalence of mobile phones, video-podcasts and YouTube that they would have been more familiar with video technologies, but in fact they were not. On reflection, we should not have expected anything else because the students in this course had, and continue to have, the same attitude to the creation of web pages, something they also do in a course which runs prior to this one. In the first five years of their undertaking this sort of project their attitudes have changed very little, nearly every student reports experiencing a steep learning curve but also a strong sense of achievement when their group’s web-pages are made available to the class and they can learn from one another for essay-planning, revision, and examination preparation.


We assumed that the video-podcast exercise would be more appealing to students because it would tap into, an assumed penchant, for video-recording and editing. The course coordinator had similar feelings, as can be seen from the quote below. “I thought the dynamical form of giving a short spoken presentation on a topic would be more appealing, especially when it can be adapted and enriched in so many interesting and imaginative ways.” Course coordinator However, actual academic performance and student feedback ran counter to our assumptions. Although the students’ performance was no better or worse than in previous years, products of the assessed exercise rarely embodied the enthusiasm and creativity we had expected and hoped for. Instead groups stayed largely on familiar ground producing, what amounted to video recordings of the individuals collectively reciting essays. This is not to say that there were not moments of inspiration but they were fairly few and quite far between. The highest scoring group had sat down together and worked everything through to the last detail. They then booked some time in the studio, recorded it all in one go, did some editing, added some backing music, and had the project completed ahead of time. The project had a clear connection to one of the central themes in the course – identity and moral responsibility in cyberspace – and the content was well argued and concise. At the other end of the scale, the group who got the lowest score admitted to not having spoken together about the project before they went to make their recording. Their topic – representation and misrepresentation in space and cyberspace – was vague, they made some drawings (which bore little relation to the project), then scanned the drawings, added them to Keynote and made their video-podcast using slides rather than their own planned action. The course is very rich and stimulating, but this group had thought about the project so little that their recording ran for less than seven minutes and a considerable portion of that was their credits. It could simply be that our own enthusiasm carried us along and our expectations were set too high, but it is clear that, although our students are no different from any others in their high use of mobile phones for communication, they are not “digital natives”. However, we are not entirely forlorn. Table 1 reveals some interesting points extracted from log-reports. Three things of particular note stand out: (a) all students own a dedicated mobile phone and music player, (b) the majority perform poorly at basic digital tasks such as accessing a wireless access point, and (c) the majority of students enjoyed the exercise.





Do you own an iPod? Do you own a mobile phone? Do you browse the web on your mobile phone? Do you use any of the university’s wireless access points? Did you enjoy the exercise?
*all own Sony brand digital audio player.











Table 1: Interesting questions from the log-report, N = 14. The students were not only asked if they enjoyed the exercise but elicited what they thought about it in general, some interesting responses: “I thought the exercise was really interesting and allowed us to express what we have learned in a different way.” Student 1 “Coming up with a subject was challenging, making and editing was hard work but rewarding and at times, fun.” Student 2 “Good, challenging. Very technical and for people who didn’t like technical things... quite hard.” Student 3 It is still unclear what students found more challenging: technically producing a video or reformulating content for an audience. The products of their efforts suggest both, but this could be because the assessed exercise introduced two new elements for non-technical students: technical tools and producing content for an audience to assess in terms of its pedagogical worth. REPURPOSING The videos produced by the groups can be repurposed and used as revision material for students, preparatory material for future students or marketing material for potential students. Revision There should be little to no effort required in repurposing videos as revision aids. The videos produced by groups should really reflect a revision process by the students themselves. The salient sections of interest and key concepts should be easily extractable and concise. The short ten-minute videos represent the perfect start and end to a study session, and a student could easily refresh a topic of study by watching the video while commuting to the University Library, and before they enter the Library they know the key topics, concepts and relevant papers. They gather their resources, spend some hours reading and can then compare their thoughts and notes to those presented on the video. If they have missed anything or have had an original thought – they can tackle it at the


next study session. Idealistic maybe, but for such a powerful learning resource to be the by-product of an assessed exercise is really quite wonderful. Unfortunately, the real concern in repurposing videos as revision aids is the quality and value of their content. If all videos are published without using performance as a filter, there is potential for students to have misplaced confidence in videos that are stylish and enjoyable but which lack core content. This may mislead students during a stressful examination period, especially if significant differences exist between course content and that expressed in the video. However, if only the videos scoring 15 / B3 and above are published, we inadvertently reveal a student or students’ grade to others, and we breach their right to privacy. These reasons, amongst others, prevented us from repurposing the videos as revision aids. However, future iterations of the learning design could incorporate advice from Collis & Moonen (Collis & Moonen, 2005). But perhaps an alternative would be to use the video-podcasts to introduce new students to the course. For this purpose there could be no risk in only using the best. Marketing Video is a strong marketing resource, far more accessible than a well-written essay. Prospective employers, students, their parents and an increasingly large international audience can see at a glance the quality of learning and teaching at the university, not only through the content of the video but the approaches used as well. Unfortunately, this strength is also a weakness. Video is far easier to criticise because it is accessible and popular. Whereas literary work is tried, tested and respected as an assessment medium, videos for non-technical subjects are not. This is because too little is known about them in this context by learning and teaching practitioners and there is no reason to expect a different response from the public since they, like us, will need to be convinced. CONCLUSION In conclusion we should consider the question of whether or not it was a mistake to introduce a significant exercise that was for the students a novel task in both its format and the tools required, and in its nature as a learning activity, with students producing content for a different audience, not just for a teacher to mark. The marks show that many of the student groups focussed on either mastering the technology or on producing intellectually worthwhile content, but not both. However, the higher scoring groups did manage to address both and this might have been because they, other groups had done the comparable webpage exercise in a previous course – one of these students even reported that they had “really enjoyed this course especially the opportunity to create a web-page and a podcast which is invaluable knowledge I can take into any job I may have in the future.” This suggests that students need practice at this learning activity, just as with most others, but that they improve rapidly with practice: unique, unrepeated types of assessment lead to generally poor results. Given the employability-related learning aims of exercising communication skills


and especially in multiple formats, then introducing more such exercises rather than dropping them would seem to be the way forward. Bibliography Collis, B. & Moonen, J. (2005). ‘An on-going journey: Technology as a learning workbench’. University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands. Available http://www.BettyCollisJefMoonen.nl Draper, S.W. & Maguire, J. (2007) ‘Exploring podcasting as part of campusbased teaching’. Practice and Evidence of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education v2, no.1 pp.42-63. Frydenberg, M. (2006) ‘Principles and Pedagogy: The Two P’s of Podcasting in the Information Technology Classroom’. The Proceedings of ISECON 2006. v23, (Dallas): §3354. ISSN: 1542-7382. Lee, M.J.W., McLoughlin, C. & Chan, A. (2008) ‘Talk the talk: Learner-generated podcasts as catalysts for knowledge creation’. British Journal of Educational Technology v39, no.3 pp.501-521. Prensky, M. (2001) ‘Digital natives, digital immigrants’. On the Horizon v9, no.5 pp1-6. Spires, H. & Morris, G. (2008). ‘New Media Literacies, Student Generated Content, and the YouTube Aesthetic’. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2008, pp. 4409-4418. Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Wojtas, O. (2006) ‘Kant get no satisfaction, try iTunes new No 1’. Times Higher Education Supplement. 15th December 2006. Front Page.


Keywords: Active learning, information literacy, transformation, pedagogy, social constructivism ABSTRACT This paper outlines how the project ‘Transforming and Enhancing the Student Experience through Pedagogy’, used a social constructivist pedagogical approach to support active learning and information literacy development within a module in engineering design management, with the intention of improving both student experience and assessment performance. The result was greater engagement with the body of knowledge, increased peer collaboration, and appropriate deployment of technology to facilitate the learning, teaching and assessment in the context of on-campus delivery, supported by discipline-based information literacy input from a librarian. In taking forward the lessons learnt the authors present the current work on more systematic development of scholarship skills across programmes of study by The Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) and Glasgow Caledonian and Napier Universities, and argue that collaboration among academic and professional services staff is essential to the success of such ventures in transforming the student experience. INTRODUCTION Napier University was the lead institution on a higher/further education (FE/HE) collaborative project entitled ‘Transforming and Enhancing the Student Experience through Pedagogy’ (TESEP), which started in 2005 and finished in July 2007. It was one of six E-learning and Transformational Change projects supported by £6m from the Scottish Funding Council, the overall aim of the programme being to support effective and significant change in technologysupported learning, teaching and assessment practice within institutions and across the FE and HE sectors, partly to ease the transition between two. A community of practice approach was taken with each practitioner participating in a sub-project within their own institution and contributing to the shared knowledge of the group throughout the project’s operational phase. Work done across the whole project was collated at the end into the TESEP Transform website (Napier University, 2007a) to serve as both a showcase and a resource, and the intention was to use the experience gained and resources developed to continue with the transformation work beyond the project’s official end date. Napier University’s Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy emphasises the role of the development of scholarly skills in the achievement of its aims and clearly sets out the intention that students should be playing an increasingly active and responsible role in their own learning, including the development of these scholarly, research and transferable skills (Napier University 2008). The TESEP project provided a vehicle for the further exploration of this area and the opportunity to develop pedagogical approaches, tools and techniques that could be subsequently embedded in mainstream curriculum development and teaching practice.


THE TESEP PROJECT Vision and aims Several issues pointed towards the necessity of examining how pedagogicallydriven technology-supported learning could be used to transform educational practice at institutional level including political developments such as the widening access agenda, and practical issues such as the need for greater flexibility of delivery. Students’ familiarity with technology and the desire to use it to help them access leaning in a manner appropriate and attractive to them, the need to update the technical skills of staff and the absolute requirement to apply technology in an educationally sound manner, gave the impetus for experimenting with a range of tools and methods for learning, teaching and assessment and its support. TESEP did not promote a techno-centric approach but rather one where technology was recognised as an enabler. A central tenet of TESEP was that learning should be designed to give control to the learners themselves, hence the project’s strapline, ‘Learners in Control’. While the amount of control appropriate for each stage of study may vary, it is certainly the case that such learner control is necessary for truly active learning to take place and, consequently, if this is to happen learners must be adequately prepared and confident to accept the associated responsibility. Pedagogical foundations TESEP advocated a social constructivist pedagogical approach, i.e. one where the human activity of constructing knowledge and meaning from one’s experiences is conducted within a social context and comprises such activities as collaborative research, and peer tutoring and assessment. Technology added another dimension to this in that it enabled some of the necessary research, communication and collaboration, and the project aimed to utilise innovative tools and techniques, tailored for the specific requirements of the particular student group. Although it was not a requirement that the redesign was constructed as problem based learning, there were overlaps with this approach and some institutional projects did adopt it. Organisational structure The project was run by a professional project manager supported by a project management team comprising senior staff from each participating institution and led by a project director. In addition a project team of institutional e-pedagogy experts, an external consultant, an evaluator and an accessibility advisor supported a community of twenty practitioners drawn from a variety of discipline areas. Regular workshops, individual assistance, reflective blogs and an electronic community forum provided the mechanisms for project coordination, support and sharing of knowledge. All practitioners had access to case study outlines, models, learning designs and reflective diary material from their TESEP colleagues which assisted in transferring across lessons learnt in one project to another. THE NAPIER TESEP ENGINEERING PROJECT Project aims The engineering TESEP project was centred around a module entitled ‘Case Studies in Design Management’ which covers analysis of successes and failures in product design, examination of the effect of organisational structure on design


performance, quality management and use of computer based tools for design process support, all leading to the development of best practice exemplars for good design management. The module is part of the BSc (Honours) in Product Design Engineering which is accredited by the Institution of Engineering Designers (IED) and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). As TESEP started there were approximately sixty-five students across all years of the programme and seventeen taking this year three module. There were four contact hours per week which were used as a flexible mix of lectures, tutorials and seminars, supported by paper-based materials that were used in the form of a study guide. Students made formally assessed presentations on selected topics related to design management and also submitted an individual design management exemplar for their final summative assessment. While the module concept had been commended by its external examiner and its operation was not problematic, it was recognised that the students’ use of learning resources could be improved as their engagement had been variable and there had been little technology use within the module. The TESEP project, therefore, provided an ideal opportunity to enhance what was already a valuable module, by making the student experience more enjoyable, by promoting greater student engagement and peer collaboration, and using appropriate technologies to support this in the context of on-campus delivery. There was also the opportunity to address the relatively common problem of lack of engagement with management topics by engineers who perceive that they are not as relevant as their technical subjects. Approach The redesign was done alongside the broader training and staff development activity of the TESEP project community, initial implementation on the module was carried out in semester two of session 2006/07, and the tools and techniques were also applied as appropriate to other semester one modules of that session. The changes in delivery were designed to encourage more student activity outside class, some of which was centred around tutor supplied materials, and to put greater emphasis on students adding to this through their own individual and group research. The technology focus initially was on using video to help with the assessed presentations, and use of library databases for researching presentations, though more extensive use of technology was planned for subsequent sessions, including WebCT Vista discussion boards and wikis. Blogs and audio technology were also investigated and implemented on other engineering modules, with the aim of using such technology to support both student and staff tasks; for example, voice recognition software was used to improve the quality of assessment feedback for students. The intended outcomes for the redesign of the Case Studies module were: • • • • • More motivated, engaged and active students Better quality output from learning tasks Evidence of deeper student knowledge of the subject area More student confidence with use of technology for learning and assessment Maintenance of good progression rates and improvement in the quality of work


More effective staff teamwork, using skills of academics, educational development experts, and library staff to optimise the learning and teaching experience

The TESEP model did not focus on content creation, which is where much resource is often directed in e-learning development, but on the design of learning activities and promotion of active student engagement in a variety of tasks, including finding and analysing content, discussion and peer collaboration. Explicit development of information literacy skills was designed into the learning framework, which was not simply generic, but focused around the specific discipline and assessment tasks. Thus a progressive development of learner independence was facilitated over the period of the module delivery with the academic and a librarian guiding the students through structured activities, providing the expert knowledge to make the exploration fruitful. Student Views on Technology-Supported Collaborative Learning The details of the changes envisaged were discussed with students taking the module and their views on collaborative e-learning and technology usage were gathered by means of a survey. Key results are described below: ‘100% said they liked the idea of using technology to help with teaching and learning and 94% reported it worked well and helped them to learn. 70% indicated that they would like to use additional technologies to those used to date, e.g. podcasting, although some had difficultly using the tools already provided due to lack of time or knowledge. Around 24% were happy with the level of technology usage, either because they felt that was adequate, or because it was more than that used in other modules. Students recognised the benefits of technology, particularly immediacy, ability to work any place any time, having a repository of information and being able to potentially obtain information in different formats, and 65% believed that technology supported an interactive approach to learning. 88% also reported that they learnt more from working in a group to prepare presentations and on courseworks, as opposed to just participating in lectures and tutorials, citing benefits including: increased confidence, being able to learn from each other, developing abilities with research, more in depth learning, and being forced to work at a consistent pace throughout the module’ (Benzies, 2006). Practice (i.e. formative) and final (summative assessment) presentations were captured on video and each student group was given a DVD. The first time this was done it was very labour intensive for the lecturer, who did all the production and post-production processing tasks, but in the second iteration the students were given the video cameral and a technician did the DVD production. This worked much better in terms of managing workload, students enjoyed the process more and were better engaged and, perhaps consequently, they seemed to value the video feedback more highly than in the initial run. Actual Results The video feedback certainly did seem to improve performance on the presentation element of the assessment and anecdotal evidence indicated that this student group was also able to transfer the good presentation performance across to other module work.


However, there were still gaps in scholarly skills as evidenced by assessment performance in the individual written work and this was somewhat disappointing. This could have be tackled by reinforcing the preparation for research activity and investing effort in writing skills development, though it is believed that the TESEP project experience shows that such deficiencies cannot be turned round within a single module and that a more comprehensive approach to building scholarly skills is needed, requiring input from Year 1 and across the programme, to progressively build learner competence. Setting expectations of active learning early on is a major factor in successful use of technology and collaborative working methods in modules and programmes. For example, where students feel that they are being asked to do more work in a module organised according to a technology-enhanced, social constructivist model than in their other modules, they may express a wish to revert to a more passive form of learning. Therefore, it is suggested that to be effective, TESEP principles need to be used consistently across programmes and institutions, rather than be dependent on individual practitioners, and that institutions should review their curriculum from a learners’ perspective. SCHOLARLY SKILLS DEVELOPMENT The Need for Action If it is accepted that Universities are scholarly communities, then a key aim must be to develop scholarly skills in all students so they may fully participate in the community, including the skills of enquiry, analysis, critical thinking and writing. Sitting under the umbrella of scholarly skills are information literacy skills and these were the focus of the library staff involved in the TESEP Engineering project at Napier. The authors’ approach was a combination of a skills and socialisation rather than a ‘new academic literacies’ one, though the learning was negotiated and situated within a specific discipline context (Lea and Street, 1998). Within the current university context the direct responsibility for the provision of information literacy skills rests with the five full-time subject specialist librarians, known as Information Services Advisors (ISAs), who are assigned to one or more Schools. Approach and level of engagement with academic colleagues varies between the disciplines, and an individual academic’s own view on the value of information literacy skills development and its particular place in their module determines if and when such skills are emphasised in the learning, teaching and assessment activity. All this can lead to imbalance and gaps in the curriculum, especially in cross-discipline programmes. Other related work with academic staff has revealed the need for professional development for that group in the area of information skills, though this problem is largely unacknowledged and therefore hidden. Previous individual arrangements between library and academic staff are now complemented by more targeted staff education including showcase events at lunchtimes or internal staff conferences and sessions within the Academic Development professional development programme. This is considered important in ensuring that professional services and academic staff share a common understanding of information literacy development and resources so all may efficiently work towards embedding scholarly skills within the curriculum, thus giving students the tools to engage with active and independent learning.


The TESEP project work revealed the extent of the gap in information literacy skills among these year three students and, as they were believed to be typical of the general student population at Napier, confirmed the need to effectively prepare students for the challenges of independent learning in a more systematic manner. The particular source of the difficultly in researching for their learning and assessment tasks was that these students had received no formal information literacy training since having a short lecture as an induction input from library staff in first year and, without the TESEP project intervention, would not have had any support in this regard before beginning their honours year projects. In the context of the TESEP project the immediate challenge was to upskill these students as rapidly as possible, which was carried out by means of the academic and professional staff working together to assess the key information literacy skills required, with reference to the assessment task and the elements within the Seven Pillars model of information literacy produced by The Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL). The technology aspects of information literacy are specifically cited by SCONUL, stating that the “definition of information skills in higher education reflects twin dimensions of the ‘competent student’ and the ‘information literate’ person, and that “higher education in the UK should be more proactive in contributing to the debate about the learning implications of an ‘information society”, hence the link to the e-learning development aspirations of TESEP (The Society of College, National and University Libraries, 1999). Also, effective and efficient management of information, including the ability to determine veracity, understand, extract meaning and then use appropriately, represents an important employability skill. SCONUL has continued to update the Seven Pillars model and it forms the basis of many information literacy frameworks at UK HE institutions. The model outlines a range of information and IT skills against a path of progression from first-year undergraduates through to post-graduate researchers.


Figure 1

SCONUL Pillars

During the TESEP work, the academic and librarian had to quickly decide the skills the students needed, rather than consider this in the wider context of the requirements of the programme. By using practical group work and instructor led demonstrations in a computer laboratory it was possible to teach some new information literacy skills and proceed quickly to engage the students in some independent learning. However, while perceived to be useful and enjoyable by the student group, this short intervention had limited success in improving the overall quality of the individual written assignment, which still showed room for improvement in terms of evidence of scholarly skills generally. If information literacy skills had been developed progressively during previous years, it is likely that the students would have had not only the practical abilities but the confidence to engage further in more active, independent learning and that would have improved their assessment performance. Post-TESEP Work: Approaches and Models Involvement in the engineering TESEP project renewed staff focus on the delivery of information literacy skills and also on the benefits of collaboration between academic and professional staff. One of the practical initiatives undertaken was a pilot project with School of Built Environment and Engineering academics to develop online learning objects that may be imported into the institution’s virtual learning environment (VLE) module websites; these objects include narrated video demonstrations (created using Camtasia software) that show how to access elements of the library resources such as electronic databases. It is hoped that as the learning objects project continues, students will become involved in updating and creating some of the objects themselves. This complements the work done on the Information Skills Online resource, IN:FORM, that was co-created with around 60 students, and includes their student voices, (Napier University, 2007e). It seemed also that the time was right to start developing an institutional information literacy framework, mapping information skills criteria against levels 7 to 10 of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) levels (The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership, 2007). The criteria were selected by using not only the SCONUL Seven Pillars, but also the emerging work of the National Information Literacy Framework for Scotland, which has been developed from research at Glasgow Caledonian University and is particularly useful as it links learning outcomes using SCQF and shows how scholarly skills can be linked and embedded within a curriculum. It could also support initiatives associated with the recent focus on fostering research teaching linkages as means of enhancing graduate attributes (The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, 2006). The initial draft of a Napier Information Literacy Framework, which details recent library initiatives and resources for scholarly skills development, has been formally presented at the Faculty and University Learning Teaching and Assessment Committee meetings and at a staff conference. While this has prompted several interested responses from those attending, it would seem that this information has not yet cascaded further down to the rest of the academic staff. The mapping of skills against SCQF levels and Napier library resources may be seen in Appendix A.


SCONUL proposed “that the development of the idea of ‘information literacy’ requires a collaborative and integrated approach to curriculum design and delivery based on close co-operation between academic, library and staff development colleagues” and this approach was taken to an extent within the TESEP engineering project. The recent development of the Napier Information Literacy Framework is helpful in moving on from TESEP, but only proposes how collaboration may be done, rather than achieves it, and further work is required to ensure that graduates acquire the necessary information skills as they progress through their programmes. In terms of promoting staff collaboration, the approach taken by Newcastle University in the development of their Information Literacy Toolkit and Forum is of interest. Academic staff can choose from a range of online learning objects mapped across curriculum and student levels and they run an Information Literacy Forum, consisting of a group of interested academics and library staff, which feeds back into the development of the toolkit and fosters better collaboration. Towards Concurrent Curriculum Design Collaboration may be defined as academic staff providing input to library initiatives such as those detailed above but it is suggested that this limits the visibility and benefits of such work and instead a more strategic approach is required. The authors propose that university policies and procedures apply the principles of concurrent engineering to promote ‘concurrent curriculum design’, i.e. a process whereby modules are designed concurrently with programmes and in conjunction with professional services staff to facilitate the designing in of academic literacy skills development across each stage and longitudinally throughout each programme. The major barrier to this in the minds of some is the modular system which encourages a narrow focus on individual module development by discipline experts within subject groups, rather than a holistic view of programme provision that plans progressive development of discipline and scholarly skills. Even when modular systems did not exist and it could be argued that it was easier to facilitate ‘joined up thinking’ among individual academics developing a programme, it was not usually the case that scholarly skills development was planned in a systematic manner. At Napier the move to 20 credit modules and the redevelopment of the academic year has created opportunities to establish strategic priorities and embed the key lessons from TESEP in the guidelines for programme and module design, including the development of scholarly skills (Napier University, 2007b). This major curriculum development exercise, which was completed in session 2007/08, required each School to create a ‘culture’ or ‘ethos’ document in which it stated how it would deal with the following aspects of provision: a) b) c) d) e) continually improving learning, teaching and assessment; embedding employability and personal development planning (PDP); internationalising the curriculum; addressing the need for scholarly skills; supporting diversity.

A redesign of Week 1 activities allows basic information literacy skills development to be incorporated there, while others are best embedded with the assessment work later on in the programme, which emphasises relevance to the discipline. To help make consideration of outcomes explicit, each module


descriptor has a section corresponding to the five priorities above in which module leader may outline their approach. The introduction of a matrix management structure clarifies how the academic development and student experience functions operate, with management of these undertaken by School Directors, Faculty Associate Deans, and Vice Principals. The ISAs are available to meet with Directors of Student Experience and of Academic Development, as well as Programme and Module leaders to discuss these competencies and plan how outcomes can best be met for each student group. The information literacy framework may also prove useful for Personal Development Tutors as they discuss personal and academic development more generally with individual students. CONCLUSIONS The case is made for systematic development of scholarly skills in order to equip students for active learning and is reflected in TESEP’s learner support and conclusions papers (Napier University, 2007c and d), and the management structure, policy and procedural framework now exists within Napier to achieve the concurrent curriculum design described above. It is therefore up to those in positions of academic leadership to translate this into on-going, operational practice that is reflected in subsequent programme planning and review, in addition to annual module appraisals, and to effect a change in culture to deliver on the statements in the 20 credit ethos documents. Genuine concerns and constraints must be acknowledged and overcome but, if successful, the proposed approach should ensure a more satisfying learning, teaching and assessment experience for students and staff, and be reflected in improvements in the profile of graduates. However, this aim will be compromised if there is not genuine collaboration among staff and recognition of the specialist skills that each can contribute. References Benzies, A. (2006) Teaching Engineering with Technology. In: Harris, DMJ, Clarke, RB, Ahmed, W and Morgan M (ed) Proceedings of The 23rd International Manufacturing Conference, August 30 – September 1, 2006, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland. Newtownabbey, University of Ulster. Irving, C., and Crawford, J. (2007) A National Information Literacy Framework Scotland (Working Draft). [Internet], Glasgow, Glasgow Caledonian University. Available from: http://www.caledonian.ac.uk/ils/documents/DraftFramework1g.pdf [Accessed 17 October 2008] Lea, M. and Street, B (1998) ‘Student Writing in Higher Education: An academic literacies approach’. Studies in Higher Education, 23:2, pp.157-172. London, Taylor and Francis. Napier University. (2007a) TESEP Transform. [Internet], Edinburgh, Napier University. Available from: http://www2.napier.ac.uk/transform [Accessed 17 October 2008] Napier University. (2007b) The 20-Credit Handbook. [Internet], Edinburgh, Napier University. Available from: http://staff.napier.ac.uk/NR/rdonlyres/3EA9FCCE-9A50-415A-A77952D8BDB07656/5118/20CreditHandbookOnline2.pdf [Accessed 17 October 2008]


Napier University. (2007c) TESEP Evaluation Report: Learner Conclusions. TESEP Transform [Internet], Edinburgh, Napier University. Available from: http://www2.napier.ac.uk/transform/evaluation_report/files/conclusions_lear ners.doc [Accessed 17 October 2008] Napier University. (2007d) TESEP: Rethinking Learner Support. [Internet], Edinburgh, Napier University. Available from: http://www2.napier.ac.uk/transform//Rethinking_Learner_Support.pdf [Accessed 17 October 2008] Napier University. (2007e) Information Skills Online [Internet], Edinburgh, Napier University. Available at: http://www2.napier.ac.uk/inform/main.html [Accessed 17 October 2008] Napier University (2008) Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy: promoting learning for achieving potential. [Internet], Edinburgh, Napier University. Available from: http://www2.napier.ac.uk/ed/pdf/LTA_2008.pdf [Accessed 17 October 2008] Scottish Funding Council (2007) TESEP Project report. [Internet], Edinburgh, Scottish Funding Council. Available from: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/programmes/elearningsfc/sfcbooklet tesep.pdf [Accessed 17 October 2008] The Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) (1999) Briefing Paper: information skills in higher education. [Internet], London: SCONUL. Available from: http://www.SCONUL.ac.uk/groups/information_literacy/papers/Seven_pillars 2.pdf [Accessed 17 October 2008] The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership (2007) Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework [Internet], Glasgow, Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework. Available at: http://www.scqf.org.uk/AbouttheFramework/Overview-of-Framework.aspx [Accessed 17 October 2008]

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (2007) ResearchTeaching Linkages: Enhancing Graduate Attributes [Internet], Glasgow, The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. Available at:
http://www.enhancementthemes.ac.uk/themes/ResearchTeaching/default.as p [Accessed 17 October 2008]



Table 1

Year 1 (SCQF Level 7)

Outcomes: To recognise a need for information. To develop an awareness of the basic information sources available at Napier , recognising when and how to use these. To acknowledge the use of information sources via standard referencing methods ACTIVITIES AND SKILLS Maps to Library (NULIS) – SCONUL possible delivery Information methods Skill Develop an awareness of the basic Skill Œ Basic C&IT/NULIS services offered by the university Week1 induction campus libraries including locations PowerPoint; and opening hours Locate the main campus library for the programme of study Be capable of accessing the library Skill  catalogue (NUIN) and the electronic INFORM - library’s portal (NUINLink) both on and off online information skills campus programme Have a basic awareness of at least Skill  Library web pages one major subject resource including subject guides appropriate for the programme and year of study NULIS Online learning Know where to locate module reading Skill  objects. lists Recognise the individual elements in Skill  ISA led lecture(s) a bibliographical reference Appreciate the difference in content Skill  ISA led practical between books and journals workshop(s) Select items from a reading list, Skills ,  knowing how to locate these using ISA/Lecturer-led PBL the library catalogue and/or portal activities. Know how to borrow, renew and Skill  GUS – Get Ready for request library items University Study online Gain an appreciation of information Skill  package [Wider Access] quality and how to evaluate it Appreciate the need to evaluate the use of internet based information sources (who, what, when, why?) Be aware of the concepts of referencing and plagiarism Know where to locate, and how to use, the appropriate referencing system for the programme of study Skill 

Skill ‘ Skill ‘



Table 2

Year 2 (SCQF Level 8)

Outcomes: To recognise a need for information to fulfil a particular task. To develop insight and experience in searching a limited range of subject based information sources. To appreciate the need to select and evaluate the information retrieved, referencing it where appropriate. ACTIVITIES AND SKILLS Maps to Library (NULIS) – SCONUL possible delivery Information methods Skill Identify the information required for a Skill Œ particular task INFORM - library’s Specify the information required in the Skill Ž online information skills form of significant keywords and programme synonyms Select a limited number of appropriate Skill  Library web pages sources to search including subject Construct a search strategy Skill Ž guides appropriate to the resource being used and the time available. NULIS Online learning Consider the use of search techniques Skill Ž objects such as Boolean, truncation and wildcard searching; how to cope with NUINLINK - guides & too much/too little information; how to instruction apply search limits . Select suitable references and know Skill  Databases – guides & how to access these by linking/saving/ instruction printing Differentiate between the quality and Skill  ISA led lecture(s) nature of information retrieved from different sources using standard ISA led practical evaluation techniques including workshop(s) relevance, level, currency, bias, authority. ISA/Lecturer-led PBL Use the retrieved information where Skill ‘ activities appropriate, to construct reference lists and bibliographies, applying the required referencing system for the programme of study Have an awareness of the concept of Skill ‘ copyright for personal study



Table 3

Year 3/4 (SCQF Level 9/10)

Outcomes: To construct information strategies to meet a wide range of information needs. To develop insight and experience in searching a wide range of subject based information sources. To evaluate the information retrieved, reflecting and redefining the information search where appropriate. To consider the storage and retrieval of bibliographical references. To appreciate methods of current awareness appropriate to the area of study ACTIVITIES AND SKILLS Maps to Library (NULIS) – SCONUL possible delivery Information methods Skill Design a systematic plan to retrieve Skill Œ and review literature to meet a INFORM - library’s particular information need online information skills programme Analyse the information requirement, Skill Ž constructing a list of major and minor Library web pages concepts in the form of significant including subject keywords, phrases and synonyms. guides Determine search limits. Construct a comprehensive search Skill Ž NULIS Online learning strategy/(ies) appropriate to the objects resources being used and the time available. NUINLINK - guides & Apply advanced database search Skill Ž instruction techniques, considering the use of controlled vocabulary and/or cross Databases – guides & searching. instruction Critically evaluate search results, Skill  modifying the search plan where Endnote - guides & necessary instuction Consider an appropriate method for the Skill ‘ storage and retrieval of search results, ISA led lecture(s) i.e. importing/exporting results to and from bibliographical reference ISA led practical management software. workshop(s) Be aware of how to access material Skill  outwith Napier using the Document ISA led info on subject Supply service and/or through the use based current of external library access schemes. awareness sources & Use the retrieved information, where Skill ‘ services appropriate, to construct reference lists and bibliographies, accurately applying JISC Legal the required referencing system for the programme of study Determine a strategy for maintaining Skill ‘ current awareness in the area of study Have a working knowledge of the Skill ‘ ethical and legal constraints involved in using published/unpublished information


Abstract This paper explores how we might create or develop a learning community online, and the implications of this for the role of the online tutor. Opinion is divided regarding the ideal conditions to support the emergence of learning communities, although there seems good agreement regarding the usefulness of the online medium to support a social constructivist approach. A typology of expressed needs for tutor support is presented and discussed as a possible means to assist tutors in nurturing online learning community. Issues of ‘authority’ and peer support are also explored. Introduction This paper will explore how we might create or develop a learning community online, and the implications of this for the role of the online tutor. In the postgraduate programme in Clinical Education at Edge Hill University, a multidisciplinary professional development course for clinical educators, delivered by means of 'blended learning', the Course Team have embraced what can be termed a ‘social constructivist’ approach. Thus, the course has been designed and taught using discussion as a major element of the learning experience (see Brookfield & Preskill, 1999, 2005), and we therefore place great emphasis on encouraging interactivity within the programme. We use an asynchronous online discussion forum within our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) – simple and familiar technology, and in distinct contrast to Hung and Chen (2001), we find that it works in supporting the development of dialogue. When it works well, we can see a real learning community emerge, which could, perhaps, also be thought of as a ‘Community of Practice’, as proposed by Wenger (1998). This learning community allows us to realise our social constructivist ideals, with students supporting, interacting with, and learning from each other. Henderson and colleagues (2007) however, remind us that Communities of Practice cannot be designed, but must be allowed to emerge - although they admit that we can assist their emergence by careful architecture, a point supported by Wilson and colleagues (2004), when they identify that there is a subtle difference between a spontaneously-arising Community of Practice and the more formally constituted ‘Bounded Learning Community’ that as tutors we try to create within an educational setting. However, it is interesting to note that several years earlier, Johnson (2001) had proposed that a Community of Practice can emerge within what he described as a ‘designed community’, and so it would appear that our course context should not be seen as a barrier to community formation. Meanwhile, more recently, Hara and Hew (2007) have questioned whether the same success factors hold good for a community that is deliberately created


rather than one which spontaneously emerges – an interesting consideration when we are seeking to develop a learning community within the artificial confines of an educational programme. Online Interaction So what can the online tutor do to promote the formation of learning communities? And what is our role? Woo and Reeves (2007:15) remind us that “One of the key components of good pedagogy, regardless of whether technology is involved, is Interaction”, and this, therefore, appears to be a good starting point in considering how we might encourage the formation of a learning community. In earlier work (Sherratt & Sackville, 2006) we explored discourse within the online discussion board in our postgraduate programme, identifying the achievement of true dialogue online, rather than the unconnected statements, or ‘serial monologue’ which a number of authors have commented on (see, for example, Henri, 1991; Pawan et al, 2003; and Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007). Goodfellow and Hewling (2005) have complained that “Participation as a pedagogical synonym for learning has long been a key feature in the discourse of computer-mediated communication in education”. Meanwhile, Woo and Reeves (2007:18) have also reminded us that “social constructivists do not maintain that all conversation and discussion occurring anywhere anytime are meaningful for learning”! However, whilst it is true that consideration of the content and context as well as frequency of postings is necessary in order to gain a full picture of the overall online learning experience, nevertheless, it is also clear that active engagement within the online discussion board can contribute significantly to the learning both of individual participants and the group as a whole. Furthermore, Rovai (2002) has suggested that interaction is a major factor in creating a learning community. Thus, despite the comments of Goodfellow and Hewling (2005), noted above, nevertheless, interaction and the achievement of dialogue within the online discussion board can only be considered to be advantageous. Peer Facilitators and Social Interaction In the Edge Hill Clinical Education programme, participants are divided up so that they work in groups, or ‘Learning Sets’, of no more than 15 members. Students do not choose their group, but rather, they are allocated to their Learning Set, so that wherever possible, each Learning Set is ‘balanced’ to contain an equal ratio of males and females, and a similar spread of different professions (e.g. doctors, dentists, nurses, paramedics). In previous work, we have noted that the presence of what we have termed “peer facilitators” has a huge impact on the development of dialogue (Sherratt & Sackville, 2006), and if we accept Rovai’s (2002) proposition, noted above, regarding the importance of interaction, then this therefore impacts significantly on the formation of a learning community. Indeed, facilitating actions from peers can clearly be seen to have a different impact than interventions from tutors, and the dynamic created within the group is therefore also different. Following on from this, we have also found that groups which are ‘tutor-focused’ do not develop dialogue or indeed group identity in the same way as more peer-


focused groups, a point also supported by Garrison (2006), leading us to speculate further on the significant advantages of achieving peer-to-peer dialogue. Our speculations are supported by Thompson and MacDonald (2005: 244), who point out that “conversation is pivotal to interaction”; while Garrison and Cleveland-Innes (2005) suggest the importance of ‘social presence’ for the development of online discourse. Dixson and colleagues (2006) also note that it is important that students should feel comfortable to make social postings. Meanwhile, Daniel et al (2003) go further and propose Social Capital as a vital component of the learning community – although one might equally argue that the social engagement of the group is an artefact of the existence of a sense of community rather than in any way causal in nature. Salmon (2000) asserts that social interaction is caused, in part, by emoderators' interventions. It has also been argued that tutors can influence the engagement and interaction of students in the online discussion forum simply by the frequency with which they intervene in discussion (Mazzolini & Maddison 2003); whereas the content of tutors' postings does not particularly influence student engagement (Mazzolini & Maddison, 2007) – a proposition which is by no means supported by the findings of Celentin (2007:55), who suggests that “in order to build real knowledge during the discussion the tutor should post different kinds of messages”. Where a rich dialogue is achieved, online discussion has clear transformative potential, as Garrison & Kanuka (2004) have suggested. For example, in a recent module (CPD461), the students commented that “It was a superb demonstration of Wenger’s communities of practice”, and further identified “a ‘Eureka’ moment” in their understanding of e-learning. (Networked Learning Community CPD461, 2008.) But the question remains, as indeed we have also asked elsewhere (Sackville & Sherratt, 2008) – are all of these students actually ready to be transformed? Meyer and Land (2005) remind us that transformation can involve a very uncomfortable journey, and also that many students tend to remain instead in ‘pre-liminal space’. This, then, begs the question as to whether all students are also ready to become self-directed learners. And so, despite our explicitly articulated social constructivist pedagogy, and the opportunity for students to work together (and with tutors as peers), it appears that not everyone agrees that the peer is a role that tutors should adopt. Indeed, one of the CPD461 students complained of a “paucity of active input from tutors” (Networked Learning Community CPD461, 2008), based on the fact that substantially more ‘triggers’ were posed by students than by tutors – despite the obvious benefit that the students had become more self-directed in their learning, rather than remaining reliant on tutors to push forward their understanding. The Role of the Tutor This, then brings into question the tutor’s role as a ‘guide on the side’, suggesting that some participants and commentators, at least, expect a more active and directed input. Furthermore, Swan (2002: p32) proposed that


“instructors’ activity is an important factor in the success of online learning”. More recently, Garrison and Cleveland-Innes have also commented (2005: p137) “we find the leadership role of the instructor to be powerful in triggering discussion and facilitating high levels of thinking and knowledge construction”; and Celentin (2007) has advised that guidance from tutors will enhance the achievement of meaningful learning. So contrary to our earlier-expressed ideal of peer-facilitated learning, this implies that much more control should rest in the hands of the tutor, leading to the position of the tutor as an authority figure. On the other hand, Rovai (2002) reminds us that self-directed learners will not respond well to an authoritarian approach on the part of the tutor; and Garrison (2006:30) further suggests that “students need to assume some control or ownership of the discussion”. Meanwhile, Carusi (2006:5) has proposed that “the social relations become de-hierarchised: the teacher is no longer the central – and ‘higher’ – authority, and learners collaborate with each other, each learning through doing and each cooperating rather than competing with others in pursuit of a shared goal”. So should tutors aim to assume the role of co-learners, or is there something of an expectation that we will undertake and maintain more of an authoritative role? And how does this activity on the part of the tutor encourage the growth of an active and supportive online learning community? Students’ Expressed Need for Tutor Intervention As noted above, members of my course team have been actively exploring issues around online discussion for a number of years. In my own current, ongoing study, I have explored the expectations and expressed needs of our students for intervention and support from tutors, particularly in the online discussion forum. From this, a simple typology has emerged (Sherratt, 2008), shown in Figure 1, below, which identifies whether students expect to work collaboratively, possibly without “interference” from tutors, or perhaps welcoming them as peers (see Quadrant A of Figure 1); or whether students are more tutor-focused, looking to the tutor as an authority figure who will provide the ‘right’ answer, as shown in Quadrant D of Figure 1. Interestingly, we can see what we have termed ‘peer facilitators’ clearly located in Quadrants A and B of Figure 1 (below), and it might be suggested, therefore, that these two quadrants are where we will find conditions to support the emergence of a learning community. One might further speculate that if a group contains a majority of individuals characterised to Quadrants C or D of the typology (see Figure 1, below), then it will be extremely difficult for any sort of community to develop.


Figure 1: Students’ need for tutor intervention in online discussion This typology is also discussed in greater detail elsewhere (Sherratt, 2008), and is a result of ongoing work. However, it already offers the tutor some insight into the differing needs to be found within a single cohort, and as such, can offer an explanation of why some groups might function ‘better’ and more collaboratively than others, even within the same course context. Once applied to future groups, it aims to assist the tutor to achieve the correct level and type of intervention to support and stimulate students, without leaving students feeling unsupported on the one hand, or stifling discussion and thereby reducing both discourse and collaboration, (as Garrison (2006) points out), on the other. However, it should also be borne in mind that these categories appear to be dynamic rather than static. Thus, the next challenge we face is how we can identify where students sit in this typology, and then, what actions we can take as tutors, to move students into a more self-directed phase of their learning (represented here by Quadrants A and B). This is the subject of ongoing and future work. Conclusion In this paper, I have explored some differing views on learning communities in the online context, and have asked how tutors might help to facilitate their emergence. I have referred to some of my current work in progress, and proposed that the simple model to describe students’ expressed need for support and intervention from tutors might offer some useful insights for the online tutor. And I have suggested that by responding appropriately to students’


individual needs, and helping them to move into Quadrants A or B of the model, we could more regularly and consistently to help to achieve a learning community where students (and indeed tutors!) work collaboratively, learn together, and act as co-constructors of knowledge. But there is no certainty. Indeed, Charalambos et al (2004:138) have reminded us that “There is no step-by-step approach that guarantees successful community building.” References Brookfield, S.D., & Preskill, S. (1999) Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for University Teachers. Maidenhead: Open University Press. Brookfield, S.D., & Preskill, S. (2005) Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Carusi A. (2006) ‘Power and Agency in Online Text-based Collaborations’. E– Learning, Vol. 3, No. 1. pp4-15. Celentin, P. (2007) ‘Online Education: Analysis of Interaction and Knowledge Building Patterns Among Foreign Language Teachers’. Journal of Distance Education. Vol. 21, No. 3, pp39-58. Charalambos, V., Michalinos, Z., & Chamberlain, R. (2004) ‘The Design of Online Learning Communities: Critical Issues’. Educational Media International 41:2 – refereed Papers and Selected Papers from the Oslo Conference. Daniel, B., Schwier, R.A., & McCalla, G. (2003) ‘Social Capital in Virtual Learning Communities and Distributed Communities of Practice’. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology. Volume 29(3) Fall / automne, 2003. Dixson, M., Kuhlhorst, M., & Reiff, A. (2006) ‘Creating Effective Online Discussions: Optimal Instructor and Student Roles’. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks. Volume 10, Issue 4 - December 2006. pp15-28. Garrison, D.R. (2006) ‘Online Collaboration Principles’. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks (JALN). Volume 10, Issue 1 - February 2006. pp25-34. Garrison, D.R. & Arbaugh, J.B. (2007) ‘Researching the community of inquiry framework: Review, issues, and future directions’. The Internet and Higher Education 10:3 (2007), pp157–172. Garrison, D.R., & Cleveland-Innes, M. (2005) ‘Facilitating Cognitive Presence in Online Learning: Interaction Is Not Enough’. The American Journal of Distance Education, 19(3), pp133–148. Garrison, D.R. & Kanuka, H. (2004). ‘Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education’. Internet and Higher Education. 7 (2004), pp95–105. Goodfellow, R. & Hewling, A. (2005) ‘Reconceptualizing Culture in Virtual Learning Environments: from an ‘essentialist’ to a ‘negotiated’ perspective’. E-learning 2(4), pp355 – 367. Hara, N. & Hew, K.F. (2007) ‘Knowledge-sharing in an online community of health-care professionals’. Information Technology & People. Vol. 20 No. 3, pp235-261. Henderson, M. (2007) ‘Sustaining online teacher professional development through community design’. Campus-Wide Information Systems. Vol. 24 No. 3, 2007. pp162-173. Henri, F. (1991) ‘Distance learning and computer-mediated communication: Interactive, quasi-interactive or monologue?’ In C. O'Malley (Ed.), Computer supported collaborative learning. pp145-161. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.


Hung, D. & Chen, D-T. (2001) ‘Situated Cognition, Vygotskian Thought and Learning from the Communities of Practice Perspective: Implications for the Design of Web-Based E-Learning’. Education Media International. Vol.38, No.1, pp3-12. Johnson C.M. (2001) ‘A survey of current research on online communities of practice’. The Internet and Higher Education 4:1 (2001), pp45–60. Mazzolini, M., & Maddison, S. (2003) ‘Sage, guide or ghost? The effect of instructor intervention on student participation in online discussion forums’. Computers and Education. Vol 40, pp237-253. Mazzolini, M., & Maddison, S. (2007) ‘When to jump in: The role of the instructor in online discussion forums’. Computers & Education, Vol 49, Issue 2, pp193-213. Meyer, J.H.F., & Land, R. (2005) ‘Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge (2): Epistemological considerations and a conceptual framework for teaching and learning’. Higher Education. 49 (2005), pp373–388. Pawan, F., Paulus, T.M., Yalcin, S., & Chang, C-F. (2003) ‘Online Learning: Patterns of Engagement and Interaction Among In-Service Teachers’. Language Learning & Technology. 7: 3, pp119-140. Sackville A. & Sherratt, C. (2008) ‘“Designing the Dreamcoat” – Helping Learners Discover New Perspectives’. Proceedings of the 33rd International Improving University Teaching (IUT) Conference, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK. July 2008. Salmon, G. (2000). E-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online. London: Kogan Page. Sherratt, C. & Sackville, A. (2006) ‘Styles of Discussion: Influences and Trends’. Proceedings of the First SOLSTICE Conference. Edge Hill, UK. May 2006. Sherratt, C. (2008) ‘Working Together: Perceptions of the Role of the Tutor in a Postgraduate Online Learning Programme’. Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Networked Learning. Halkidiki, Greece, May 2008. Swan, K. (2002) ‘Building Learning Communities in Online Courses: the importance of interaction’. Education, Communication & Information. 2, 1. pp23-49. The Networked Learning Community in Module CPD461, Edge Hill University. (2008). ‘Why Did It Work For Us? Reflections on a successful networked learning community’. Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Networked Learning. Halkidiki, Greece, May 2008. Thompson, T.L. & MacDonald, C.J. (2005) ‘Community building, emergent design and expecting the unexpected: Creating a quality eLearning experience’. The Internet and Higher Education. 8:3, pp233–249. Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wilson, B., Ludwig-Hardman, S., Thornam, C., & Dunlap, J. (2004) ‘Bounded Community: Designing and Facilitating Learning Communities in Formal Courses’. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning [Online] 5:3. Available: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/204 (Last accessed September 2007) Woo, Y., & Reeves, T.C. (2007). ‘Meaningful interaction in web-based learning: A social constructivist interpretation’. The Internet and Higher Education. 10:1, pp15-25.


INTRODUCTION This paper explores the design of Napier University’s MSc Blended and Online Education (MSc BOE), a part-time fully online programme for education professionals seeking to further develop their pedagogical and practical knowledge of technology-enhanced teaching and learning. The MSc BOE was developed in parallel to the work that Napier University was undertaking as the lead partner in the cross-institutional Transforming and Enhancing the Student Experience through Pedagogy (TESEP) project. TESEP was driven by a ‘learners in control’ ethos in the work it undertook to embed pedagogically sound, yet creative and transformative ways of using current and emerging technologies to enhance teaching, and particularly learning, across the partner institutions. The 3E Approach was one of the main tools developed within TESEP as a means of illustrating to practitioners what an embedding of the ethos and pedagogical principles adopted by TESEP might look like in practice, within the redesign of their own courses. The 3E Approach, and particularly the emphasis this places on increasing learner control and autonomy through enhanced, extended and empowered learning opportunities, was adopted as the blueprint for the design of the MSc BOE. After outlining the TESEP project, and exploring the essence of the 3E Approach, this paper describes how the 3E Approach was embedded in practice within the MSc BOE with a specific focus on the three core modules. After considering the views of participants on the MSc BOE, this paper concludes by reflecting on the challenges of implementing the 3E Approach within the MSc BOE, and also how it is influencing future programme developments. THE TESEP PROJECT Funded by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) as one of six projects in their £6 million e-learning transformation programme, the TESEP project was undertaken as a joint initiative between Napier University in Edinburgh, Lauder (now Carnegie) College in Dunfermline, and Edinburgh’s Telford College. TESEP commenced in 2005 and officially concluded in summer 2007, although as the focus of this paper suggests various initiatives instigated or informed by the work of TESEP continue apace. This is appropriate given that a primary aim of TESEP was to introduce and nurture the development of a perspective and approach to technology-enriched learning and teaching that would become increasingly embedded within the institutional culture of the partner institutions within the funded lifetime of TESEP, and which would ultimately continue to be self-sustaining and transformative beyond the conclusion of the funded period. ‘Learners in control’ was the ethos at the heart of TESEP. In essence this reflects the belief that we can most effectively help our learners to develop the professional and broader knowledge and skills they need though providing opportunities for greater learner autonomy, supported through engagement in


local and wider learning communities that use current and emerging technologies in meaningful ways that reflect how knowledge is being created and shared in today’s world (Mayes, 2007). While a detailed consideration of this ethos and the philosophy it is grounded within is not the purpose of this paper, there are important challenges and implications here that include: changing tutor and student roles; the need to think beyond the VLE to consider what we can broadly refer to as ‘Web 2.0’ technologies offer in educational terms; and recognising the more democratic and empowered way in which knowledge is being shared and constructed in networked global society. TESEP was concerned with addressing these issues, but more importantly the opportunities they offered, by tackling them within pedagogic approaches that could further enhance and, wherever possible, transform the learning and teaching experience in ways that were sensitive to today’s and tomorrow’s student, the needs of the tutor, and critically also to institutional needs and challenges. Reflecting wider debate in the sector, these challenges were seen to include widening access, pro-actively responding to increasing student diversity, and the development of employability skills and other key attributes required in the professional environment. Each partner institution also identified specific areas for enhancement they wanted to focus on within TESEP, e.g. collaborative curriculum design, FE-HE articulation, and placement-based learning. In seeking to address the issues outlined above to meet the kinds of aims and challenges described, TESEP was simultaneously about curriculum design, staff development, and institutional policy and strategy. A key element of the work undertaken involved an initial wave of practitioners from across the partner institutions being seconded to TESEP for one or two days a week, to work on designing or redesigning one of their own courses. Staff were drawn from a range of subject areas including computing, art, joinery, accounting and economics, nursing, drama, and engineering, with the courses being worked on spanning SCQF (Scottish Credit Qualifications Framework) levels 4 to 11. In being tasked to redesign an existing course or design a new one in a way that embodied the TESEP ethos, the practitioners (who chose which course to focus on, and ultimately how their course would be designed or redesigned) were supported through a multi-faceted, blended staff development experience. This set out to role-model the kinds of pedagogical approaches that TESEP was seeking to promote and further embed, and involved cross-institutional mentor groups, participant-driven workshops and online events, informal sharing of ideas and resources, and engagement with ‘critical friends’ (pedagogical specialists, staff developers, technology experts) from the FE and HE sectors. The freedom and choice given to the seconded practitioners in terms of what to work on within the context of the TESEP project, and many of the ways in which they were supported in doing so, are mirrored within the nature of the MSc BOE. A fuller exploration of the TESEP project, including practitioner and institutional stories, can be found within the range of reports, papers and interactive case studies that are available at http://www2.napier.ac.uk/transform.


TESEP 3E APPROACH The pedagogical foundations for TESEP were very much rooted in the social constructivist perspective, and emphasised the need for greater learner autonomy and control within learning communities where peers may be learners on the same course, and also peers in wider local and global contexts. As detailed in Mayes (2007), allied to this broad view was the idea that current and emerging technologies, and particularly forms of social software, could enable individuals and groups elsewhere to play a role in helping to discuss and refine the understandings within the community, and could also help the learning community itself to take increased ownership for finding and creating the materials and ‘artefacts’ that would support their learning. While there is clearly a resonance here with Siemens’ (2004) theory of connectivism, and Leadbeater’s (2008) more recent treatise on ‘We-think’ as a mass innovation phenomena, TESEP was concerned specifically with the possibilities offered by bringing together a social constructivist model of learning and teaching with emerging technologies in FE and HE course contexts. To this end, the practitioners were encouraged to work towards an embedding of the following five principles in the design or redesign of their courses:

• • •

Ensure every learner is as active as possible. Design tasks that address the question: how can we challenge learners to think more deeply about what it is they are learning? Design frequent formative assessment. Encourage the learner to test their understanding regularly and ensure they get responsive feedback including from peers. Put emphasis on peers learning together. Create small groups who will work together to produce something – a report, a lesson, a demonstration. Consider where groups can teach each about their chosen topics. Try to engender a sense of ownership. Consider whether learning tasks can be personalised. Allow the individual learner, or a small group, choice over what is to be achieved. Negotiate with learners wherever possible. Aim for project/resource/discussionbased learning – not direct instruction. Consider how technology can help to achieve these principles. Online, learners can be actively carrying out tasks, taking formative tests, producing class resources or group outputs, discovering new content for themselves, and through social software discussing and sharing all this with each other, the tutor, and other peers and experts. The overarching aim of putting these principles into practice was to realise the ‘learners in control’ ethos of TESEP as fully as possible within a particular course context. However the concept of putting learners in control, and the related notions of empowerment and transformation, are challenging to address and were met by many important questions from practitioners. These included questions around how much control is enough?, how do I build upon what I’m already doing well?, what are the implications for tutors and students?, and what do these kind of changes to learning and teaching look like in practice?


To help address these questions, and make the possibilities clearer, the TESEP project developed the 3E Approach. This envisaged, with examples and further guidance, the kind of transformation in learning and teaching encapsulated within the TESEP ethos as involving a continuum of enhanced, extended and empowered learning opportunities (described more fully in Smyth, 2007). Shown in overview form in Figure 1, the 3E Approach tries to clarify the kinds of ways in which it is possible to make changes to teaching practice that provide learners with more control over their learning, and the role that technology can play in supporting this process. In doing this, it attempts to show that transformation in learning and teaching practice can be seen as an iterative process for the tutor and their students, involving progressive changes that move the learner further towards finding, using, creating and sharing knowledge in ways that reflect the kinds of individual and collective responsibilities they will have in the professional and broader societal contexts they are preparing for.
Enhance Extend Empower

Simple adjustments to teaching practice that give more responsibility to learner

New and further developed opportunities that require learner to make key decisions about how and what they learn The engaged learner

Teaching is re-designed to ensure that learners needs and interests drive the learning experience The autonomous learner

The active learner

Peer support opportunities

Collaborative practice

Comparable kinds of tasks as they might be implemented at each stage

Online problem forums improve tutor/peer support

Student-led online seminars

Online discussion tasks generate rather than complement core content

Links to relevant online case studies for students to explore

Students source and debate their own case studies online

Students produce an online case study on a chosen topic A problem-based project provides the focus for learning from the outset

Classroom lessons involve group break-out tasks for investigating key issues

Classroom lessons are alternated with weekly research and report tasks


Figure 1. TESEP 3E Approach In this respect the 3E Approach can be seen as a ‘framework’ within which to think about the design of a course and progression within it, although an equally important point is that any course could offer a mix of opportunities at any of the 3E stages based on what is appropriate for the subject, student group, tutor and desired outcomes in question. This point about appropriateness is a critical one, as is the view that while the Empower stage may be viewed as the ideal to aim for, changes in practice at any of the stages are equally valuable when viewing transformation in learning and teaching as a developmental journey. There are clear parallels within the 3E Approach with long established pedagogical theories and concepts, for example cognitive apprenticeship and scaffolding (Brown et al, 1989; Collins et al, 1991), and furthermore the literature is rich with models and frameworks designed to aid interpretation of specific pedagogical principles (e.g. Van Merrienboer et al, 2002; Biggs and Tang, 2008). While in this respect the 3E Approach is on long established ground, it certainly proved to be a useful means for articulating and exploring the aims of TESEP with the practitioners the project worked with, who seemed to feel it was an accessible way to engage with the ideas it encapsulates. Beyond the ways in which the 3E Approach informed the course redesign within the context of the TESEP project), the 3E Approach has subsequently been adopted in various ways by the TESEP partner institutions. At Carnegie College the 3E Approach now forms the basis of the Learning and Teaching Framework, while Edinburgh’s Telford College are currently revising their Learning, Teaching and Assessment strategy around the 3E Approach and its related implications for their provision. At Napier University, the 3E Approach has formed an important part of the guidance given to staff in moving from a 15 to 20 credit modular system, has been the focus of staff workshops, and has been integral to the development, nature and outlook of the MSc Blended and Online Education. MSC BLENDED AND ONLINE EDUCATION Napier’s MSc BOE (http://www2.napier.ac.uk/ed/boe/) is a part-time, fully online programme for FE and HE tutors and other educational professionals seeking to learn more about technology-enhanced learning and teaching, regardless of whether they are completely new to this area or are seeking to take what they already do further. Launched in 2007/08 after a successful pilot the preceding year, the MSc BOE has a diverse cohort that includes staff developers, e-learning managers, lecturers, teaching fellows, and consultants. Developed in parallel to the work being undertaken on TESEP, the MSc BOE shared a common ethos with the TESEP project. The programme is collaborative and practice-based, and from the outset participants work collectively and individually on projects that are relevant to their own roles and interests, and which include case studies, design and implementation projects, and evaluations of technology-supported learning and teaching initiatives. There is an element of choice and negotiation in every task undertaken, and current and emerging technologies are used in ways that model good practice and facilitate engagement within and beyond the geographically dispersed


programme community, which includes online interaction with invited guest experts and engagement within other online groups and communities. The intention is very much to provide an ‘immersive’ experience that allows practitioners to learn about blended and online education while simultaneously experiencing both what it is like to be an online learner, and applying their developing understanding within their own work contexts. In this respect, the programme team view the MSc BOE as a natural extension to the kind of learner-centred staff development experiences in technology-supported teaching and learning that have been increasingly called for over recent years (e.g. Littlejohn, 2002; Oliver and Dempster, 2003; Mainka, 2007), and which the TESEP project itself was seeking to provide for the practitioners it supported. The extent to which the MSc BOE is designed to meet developmental and professional needs was recognised in June 2008 by the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA), and any participant successfully completing either of the three exit awards (PgCert, PgDip, MSc) now receives their own individual accreditation against SEDA’s Embedding Learning Technologies award. 3E IN PRACTICE ON THE MSC BOE While the ideas the 3E Approach encapsulates are consistent at a broad level with the philosophy and rationale of the entire MSc BOE programme, the three core modules that comprise the PgCert element of the programme, and which provide the basis for the other exit awards, were deliberately designed according to the 3E Approach. The intention here was to build in opportunities for participants to assume more control of their own learning within the programme, so that over the course of the three core modules each individual, regardless of where they were starting from, could become more fully autonomous as a blended and online educator by the end of the third core module. By ‘fully autonomous’ this does not mean expert and self-sufficient within every aspect of blended and online education, but instead well equipped to assume ownership of their own practice, with a rounded knowledge of what is appropriate within their own contexts, and an understanding of how to keep abreast and sustain their own development in blended and online education.
Enhance Extend Empower

Introduction to Blended and Online Education (Module 1)

Supporting the Blended and Online Student Experience (Module 2) Student-led seminars

Curriculum Design and Development for Blended and Online Learning (Module 3) Engagement in online professional communities Groups redesign chosen aspects of PgCert BOE or alternative course

Thought Discussions

Groups agree issues to focus on within case study allocated on individual preferences

Groups identify and research own case studies

Negotiated individual project can be conceptual in design

Negotiated individual project (design option) involves some element of implementation

Individual project involves developing entire blended/online unit/short course as negotiated


Figure 2. 3E Approach on the PgCert BOE The three core modules for the programme which also comprise the PgCert BOE, are: Introduction to Blended and Online Education (IBOE); Supporting the Blended and Online Student Experience (SBOSE); and Curriculum Design and Development for Blended and Online Learning (CDDBOL). Figure 2 provides an overview mapping of key aspects of the core modules to the 3E Approach. The three core modules are typically undertaken in the order shown, and while each module features tasks and activities at each of the stages of the 3E Approach, at a broad level of design the modules in their normal sequence map to the successive stages of the 3E approach (Enhance, Extend, Empower). A feel for how this works in practice is provided through considering the Thought Discussions element of the IBOE module, which as the first module is primarily focused on providing ‘enhanced’ learning opportunities. The Thought Discussions essentially involve participants tackling a choice of questions relating to the theme for a particular unit, and sharing their views, experiences, or perspectives on associated readings, news items, or examples with the wider group. The Thought Discussions are tutor facilitated, and work well as one important way for each new cohort to begin engaging with the subject area, and provide a good introduction to online discussion for those completely new to this. Moving on to the second module SBOSE, where there is a focus on providing ‘extended’ learning opportunities, the Thought Discussions give way to studentled seminars. This involves typically two participants coming together over their preference or interest for a particular topic or theme, and designing and facilitating over two weeks an online seminar for the group to take part in. Each pairing is given advice from an assigned tutor, but their tutor remains hands-off and, along with other members of the programme team, assumes a position of being a participant within the seminars which are self and peer-assessed. There is a clear move from experience to applied practice and skills development between these two discussion-based activities for modules 1 and 2. Within module 3 CDDBOL, there is a further shift towards autonomy when the participants are required to identify and begin engaging with an online or onlinesupported professional community that could help support their continued learning and development away from the programme, which is particularly important given that some participants may exit with their PgCert after module 3. The professional communities the participant chooses to engage with can be educational communities within their own subject area, or within the broader area of blended and online education. By coming back into the module to share what they have found, everyone is then exposed to a range of communities that may offer developmental opportunities beyond their time on the programme. Other examples provided in Figure 2 show the 3E transitions between different forms of case study projects, and individual design and development projects.


In addition to the increased control participants take over their own learning, it will hopefully be evident from Figure 2 that participants take increased ownership of the programme itself, for example through the student-led seminars discussed above, and in redesigning previous elements of the programme as they become more experienced as online educators. This idea that the programme itself is ‘up for grabs’ as a focus for discussion and critique is fundamental to the nature of the programme, as is the idea of the programme and as safe, collegiate platform for practicing and developing online tutor skills. In tandem with increased control participants take over their learning and aspects of the programme, the programme team themselves move between tutoring, facilitating and ultimately co-learning roles. The programme tutors as co-learners is another critical element to the outlook of the programme, which is after all for already experienced educators, and which is seeking to meaningfully exploit the promise and democratising potential of emerging technologies. On the MSc BOE, while the VLE provides a central presence it is but one of a range of spaces participants work within and across that includes blogs, wikis, Second Life, and social bookmarking applications. Participants are also free and actively encouraged to explore applications available elsewhere, and are supported in harnessing them effectively within individual and group projects. In addition, there is a focus within the programme on the potential to use emerging technologies for what the programme team currently (perhaps clumsily) refer to as ‘legacy learning’ opportunities. This involves each new cohort working collaboratively by choice (this task is not assessed) on a learning ‘artefact’ that can support themselves, but which can also be passed on to new members of the course community. Examples of artefacts produced so far include a wiki-based glossary of key concepts, and a social bookmark collection. In all of the preceding discussion of TESEP, the 3E Approach and the MSc BOE, there is repeated mention of learning communities, professional communities, course community and so on. While sensitive to the debate around what constitutes a ‘learning community’ or ‘professional community’ (without inferring they are the same), and whether such communities can be created or create themselves, the view of the MSc BOE programme team is a pragmatic one. The programme team accept Wenger’s (2008) view of a community of practice as “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly”, and view the course cohort as a form of community of practice that has come together around a shared professional interest in blended and online education. A course community may be viewed as a temporary one, or alternatively a community which has specific mechanisms for renewing its membership over time. Either way the MSc BOE course community is certainly developing into an effective, engaged and collegiate one whose members are beginning to support and share with each other beyond the confines of the formal course content and spaces. This is in many respects something that may be hoped for as natural outcome of embedding what the 3E Approach represents into a programme of this type. It certainly evidences the kind of learner autonomy the programme aims to support the development of. It is also indicative of another view within the


programme team around the issue of ‘learning communities’, which is that it is possible to ‘design in’ to a programme opportunities for Lave and Wenger’s (1991) legitimate peripheral participation to occur, whereby novice members of the community assume a more central position of expertise over time. Indeed, the transition from active to engaged to autonomous learner within the 3E Approach, and the way the MSc BOE tutors increasingly assume co-learning roles with the programme over time, are both instantiations of this perspective. PARTICIPANT VIEWS While studying on a programme like the MSc BOE is not going to be without challenges, not least due to the continual engagement over time that is required, the programme aims to be fully transparent about what is required from participants, and why the programme is designed in the way it is. This seems to be well understood and appreciated by participants, and feedback to date seems to indicate that the design and approach taken on the programme is providing the kind of immersive, collegiate and developmental experience intended through applying the 3E Approach to the design of the programme. While further evaluation of what is still a young programme is an ongoing concern, illustrative comments that are representative of general views include: “I wanted to become a ‘Tutor 2.0’ – someone who can exploit the capabilities of Web 2.0 technologies and critically utilise state of the art blended and online learning pedagogies to create and maintain a learning environment befitting 21st-century learners’. The programme more than fulfils this for me.” (John Sinclair, Senior Lecturer, Napier University) “This is a very hands on course with many different ways of reaching the learner and catering to many different learning styles, supported by current research articles in this area…This will help me to design and deliver blended learning more effectively, hopefully without making the mistakes of past initiatives.” (Dr Steve Wilkinson, Principal Lecturer, Leeds Met University) IMPLEMENTATON CHALLENGES The levels of engagement within the MSc BOE, and the tangible benefits that evaluation and coursework indicate are being experienced, is encouraging evidence that the design of the programme is supporting learning as intended. Despite this, there have been challenges and revelations in embedding the 3E Approach within the design of the programme, and more generally in facilitating a programme of this kind. One is in helping to prepare participants to learn in increasingly more empowered ways, in contexts where current and emerging technology is to be a meaningful enabler of effective learning. This point is a general one that will apply across many course contexts. However in the context of the MSc BOE, in which a rich range of technologies are to be used as meaningful enablers and where the meaningful use of technology is in itself a topic for study, finding ways to enable participants to quickly overcome technical issues to engage in the pedagogical ones has been particular concern. This has been tackled by ensuring that the first week of any module is dedicated to


technical and general module orientation, in which a series of ‘light’ activities are used to ensure the main tools to be used are explored, and that participants and the programme team have useful opportunities to interact informally. The online discussions across the programme quickly become extremely busy, and there has been a focus here on helping participants negotiate these levels of activity in a meaningful way. To enable every participant to gain all they can from their time on the programme, and ensure it meets their own development needs, it has also been important to take time to help each participant to plan ahead particularly in relation to negotiated individual projects. This requires some discussion early on in the programme, and at points throughout, and has been aided by the introduction of Personal Development Tutor arrangements. An obvious question to ask of a programme like the MSc BOE is the amount of development and facilitation time it requires from the programme team. The main challenge here has been in getting the overarching framework and progression between modules right. Although there is an inevitable frontloading in development time and tutor-led activities for module 1, through its alignment with the Enhance stage of the 3E Approach, through subsequent modules the programme shifts considerably for the tutors towards being more heavily focused on facilitation and being participants themselves. On the tutor as a participant, or co-learner as previously described, one thing that has become very apparent is that within a course such as this, or indeed any course that attempts to use emerging technologies to their full empowering potential, there is a need to think beyond the now well-established distinction between “sage on the stage” and “guide on the side” (e.g. Jones, 1999; Mazzolini and Maddison, 2006), and even more recent conceptualisations of the tutor’s role as a “ghost in the wings” (Mazzolini and Maddison, 2006). Pedagogical practice that fully embraces the notion of learner control, and which harnesses the empowering possibilities emerging technologies offer learners to share and help shape perspectives in a more democratic way, mean that the ‘tutor as co-learner’ provides a new end point on the ‘sage on stage’ to ‘guide on side’ continuum, and another role for the tutor to mindfully think about playing. CONCLUSION Within the MSc BOE the 3E Approach has provided an invaluable framework for embedding the kinds of progressive pedagogical practice the TESEP project was committed to promoting within the professional development of educators. One hope is that in turn the practitioners on the programme will embed some of what they have experienced and explored within their own teaching and learning contexts. Designing the MSc BOE according to the 3E Approach required careful consideration and the meeting of particular challenges, but the usefulness of the 3E Approach as a framework for thinking about course design is continuing to inform current developments on the MSc BOE. This includes through exploring ways in which to build in further ‘legacy learning’ opportunities, and further opportunities for engagement in wider professional communities. Perhaps most indicative of the direction the programme may take in a further embedding of the 3E Approach, and associated philosophy, is the development of a module that will take the ‘learners in control’ and ‘tutors as co-learners’ concepts to the next level by allowing participants who have successfully completed their PgCert BOE to become co-tutors for new cohorts coming on to the programme.


References Biggs, J. & Tang, C. (2007) Teaching for quality learning at university. Maidenhead: Open University Press. Brown, J.S., Collins, A. & Duguid, P. (1989) Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32-42. Collins, A., Brown J.S. & Holum, A. (1991) Cognitive apprenticeship: making thinking visible, American Educator, Winter, 6-11 and 38-46 Jones, C. (1999) From the sage on the stage to what exactly? Description and the place of the moderator in co-operative and collaborative learning. ALT-J, 7(2), 27-36. Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991) Situated learning: legitimate, peripheral participation. New York: Cambridge University Press. Leadbeater, C. (2008) We-think: Mass innovation, not mass production. London: Profile. Littlejohn, A. (2002) Improving continuing professional development in the use of ICT. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 18(2), 166-174. Mainka, C. (2007) Putting staff first in staff development for the effective use of technology in teaching. British Journal of Educational Technology, 38(1), 158160. Mayes, J.T. (2007) TESEP: the pedagogical principles. Last retrieved August 29th, 2008 from http://www2.napier.ac.uk/transform/TESEP_Pedagogical_Principles.pdf Mazzolini, M. & Maddison, S. (2006) The role of the instructor as a guide on the side. In J. O’Donoghue (Ed.), Technology-supported learning and teaching: a staff perspective (224-241). London: Information Science Publishing. Oliver, M., & Dempster, A.D. (2003) Embedding e-learning practices. In R. Blackwell & P. Blackmore (Eds.), Towards strategic staff development in higher education (142-153). Maidenhead: SRHE and Open University Press. Siemens, G. (2004) Connectivism: a learning theory for the digital age. Last retrieved August 29th, 2008 from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm Smyth, K. (2007) TESEP in practice: the 3E Approach. Last retrieved August 29th, 2008 from http://www2.napier.ac.uk/transform/TESEP_3E_Approach.pdf Van Merrienboer, J.J.G, Clark, R.E. & de Croock, M.B.M. (2002) Blueprints for complex learning: the 4C/ID model. ETR&D, 50(2), pp.39-64. Wenger, E. (2008) Communities of practice: a brief introduction. Last retrieved August 29th, 2008 from http://www.ewenger.com/theory/index.htm.


INTRODUCTION In the past few decades higher education has gone through a huge amount of change. Two of the factors in this change which have led to dramatic upheaval are: 1. Widening Access 2. Mode of Delivery 1. The widening access movement of the past decade and beyond has led to the present day’s hugely diverse student population. In the mid ‘90s the Tomlinson Report (FEFC, 1996) called for the promotion of ‘inclusive education’, and this idea led to national programmes such as the Department for Education and Skills’ Excellence Challenge in 2001. This morphed into the Aimhigher scheme (DirectGov, 2008) which now operates at the local level all over the country, helping young people access higher education. Additionally, the HEFCE’s widening participation funding programme supports schemes which give many students from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to study. With this increasing diversity, however, comes a much more varied set of learning styles, abilities and background knowledge. Teaching styles must change to accommodate this diversity, but since this particular group have not attended HE in the past we have no experience to draw on with which to make this change. The only people who can describe how these people learn best are the learners themselves: we need to hear the student voice. 2. The current generation of learners are well used to collaborating and communicating online via the multitude of social networking sites and other Web 2.0 applications that litter the internet. A Becta report published this year (Luckin, Logan, Clark, Graber, Oliver & Mee, 2008) stated that “learners’ use of Web 2.0 and related internet activities is extensive” when looking at children between the ages of 11 and 16. 74% of those surveyed have social networking accounts and 78% have uploaded material to the web. Given these statistics educators are understandably trying to harness these tools in an attempt to engage the learner, but as the Becta report goes on to state, these statistics refer to personal use only and learners are still unfamiliar with the use of Web 2.0 technologies for educational purposes. Furthermore, their use of Web 2.0 may be prolific but it is relatively unsophisticated, consisting mainly of content consumption rather than creation (Luckin et al., 2008). As a consequence it is impossible to assume that this familiarity with the technology will facilitate an easy transfer to working with and creating materials in Web 2.0 in an educational context.


“The experts in learner experience are the learners” (Creanor, Gowan, Trinder & Howells, 2006) and only a student can say what works for them when using internet technologies in an educational context. In order to use these technologies to their best advantage we need to hear the student voice. CASE STUDY CONTEXT This paper gives an outlet to the student voice in the context of a fully online Masters level course taught at Napier University called Blended and Online Education (BOE). At the time of writing the students on the MSc BOE had completed two modules of the course, the first being Introduction to Blended and Online Education (IBOE), and the second being Supporting the Blended and Online Student Experience (SBOSE). At the beginning SBOSE the students were given a choice as to what form their individual project would take. The first option was a development project based on their current work - to produce an elearning object or teaching plan of some sort - and the second was to maintain a weekly blog throughout the module recording their thoughts and reflections on the course, the teaching methods and their learning processes. A number of students chose to keep a reflective blog and the resulting material formed an invaluable resource containing detailed student opinions on fully online learning drawing from both aforementioned modules. Further details on the blog assignment are given in the Reflection and Control section. Furthermore, virtually all communication and discussion on the course was carried out via online message boards thus recording a further wealth of information regarding how the students felt about the teaching methods used throughout. This paper draws mainly from the author’s blog reflecting on life as a student on the course. It was maintained weekly over nearly two months of the SBOSE module. Also included is one quote from a discussion posting made by the author during the previous module, IBOE. Two particular subjects taken from this particular student voice were chosen as focuses for this paper: 1. Issues with online group work and collaboration 2. The benefits of online reflection and student control THE TROUBLE WITH COLLABORATION The first subject this paper will examine is that of student collaboration using both synchronous and asynchronous online communication tools. Group work is an often used and valuable learning tool in both face-to-face and online learning (Palloff & Pratt, 2004) but in a fully online context collaboration is made difficult by geographical distribution. The MSc BOE includes a number of group assignments, however, so this difficulty had to be surmounted using the communication tools available, both synchronous and asynchronous. In the SBOSE module students were required to complete a 10-week collaborative task which consisted of an investigative report into an area of


student support at their own institutions. This report could then be delivered online, for example a group-edited wiki or a narrated presentation. Groups consisted of between three to five people and in general no more than two of each group lived in the same geographical location. Groups were given the choice as to how they would communicate but were encouraged to regularly meet using synchronous communication software, Elluminate being one example. Elluminate is part of the current range of synchronous communication tools allowing live speech, text chat and desktop sharing. Groups can communicate while viewing various types of materials, from documents to web sites, making it a suitable platform for group academic work. The following student voice (Quote 1) is taken from a reflective blog post made by the author near the beginning of the group project: “…the group work project began nearly two weeks ago now and the learning contracts were due in at the end of last week. Well, ours has only just been finished and hard work it was… One of the greatest advantages of online collaboration, you would imagine, is the flexibility it affords. People being able to collaborate from remote locations - any time, any place. But we’ve discovered that it’s just as difficult, perhaps even more so, to arrange meetings between geographically remote participants. And then, tie in the difficulties of unreliable connections, broken microphones and unwieldy software and the difficulties only multiply. …I have to admit I’ve always preferred asynchronous. I’m on the computer for the majority of every working day and I’ve got used to checking the boards a few times a day, so I can generally respond quickly. It also means that on the occasions when I’m out doing workshops and attending meetings I’m never missing vital synchronous meetings. I do admit synchronous communication has some advantages, but the extra stress and hassle of arranging and running meetings does, to me, negate these advantages.” Student Voice: Quote 1 – An early student opinion on online group work. Initially, when comparing synchronous and asynchronous communication, it may seem common sense that synchronous is more powerful due to its real-time nature, thus allowing the rapid discussion of a topic. The literature on this matter currently carries views on both sides, however. Some say that synchronous communication is more suited to social uses such as building a sense of community and has many weaknesses that are overcome only by combining it with asynchronous communication (Cox, Carr & Hall, 2004). Others, like Mercer (2003), argue that synchronous communication “significantly contributes to developing more authentic group collaboration and knowledge building”. In the case of this paper, the student voice above seems to agree with the former view.


The first piece of evidence leading us towards the requirement for asynchronous communication is that the student states that a major requirement for his group was flexibility, both in terms of time and location, but synchronous communication takes away this flexibility, allowing attendance from any location, but not at any time. He states that there were times when he missed vital synchronous meetings due to other commitments. Asynchronous collaboration allows the true flexibility mentioned above, allowing remote participants to communicate truly any time, any place. Obviously the participants pay for that flexibility in the form of a far higher time lag but, as stated by the student, this lag didn’t seem to cause a difficulty. This finding could perhaps be attributed to the evolving nature of people’s work and leisure time, with many now having constant access to the internet during both. It has already been discussed that 74% of children aged 11 – 16 have social networking accounts (Luckin et al., 2008), thus making them significant users of the internet. Therefore the HE students of the future, and perhaps the current cohort, will spend a large part of their week on or near a computer, allowing the constant ability to check bulletin boards, email, wikis and blogs. In this context, asynchronous communication can and often does proceed at a reasonably fast pace. There will always be some that spend less time on and are less enthused towards their computers but statistics show that the number of internet users is growing and so these people are becoming more rare (National Statistics, 2008). The following student voice (Quote 2) was taken from a reflective blog post made by the author after the group project was completed. It sums up the author’s view as a student having completed an online collaborative task: “…The trials and tribulations of getting four people together online at the same time have been far more numerous than I would have expected. …we also agree that an hour online is probably equivalent to around a 15minute face-to-face meeting, through both technical issues and practical limitations of the medium. …asynchronous communication has been continuing without any problem and the time-lag between posts has been causing no problem at all. One thing that may explain this is the fact that we agreed at an early stage to have a daily post by the group chair, even if just to say, “Hi all, hope you have a good day today.” This encouraged you to go online every day to check the board as there was always something there to read.” Student Voice: Quote 2 - Summing up the student experience of online group work. Two interesting points can be taken from this statement: the first is how inefficient the group seemed to find synchronous communication, and the second is the group’s novel approach to asynchronous communication. Taking the first point, the inefficiency of synchronous communication in this case may be explained by various technical issues that plagued the use of Elluminate throughout the module. Elluminate requires that Javascript be enabled and a


microphone and headphones set up in advance. Discussions often started with 5-10 minutes of teething problems and small problems would creep in throughout. This was also compounded by the fact that by default only one person could speak at a time, making communication less efficient. Students did experiment with two-way communication but time-delays in the software made this confusing and frustrating to use at times. These problems would most likely lessen as students become more used to using the software. A possible solution could include further training in the use of whatever synchronous communication platform is chosen. An alternative may be an initial non-assessed group project, thus allowing learning time with less consequence. The second point raised by the student voice in Quote 2 is that the group here seemed to come up with their own way of maintaining asynchronous communication which could be useful in other contexts. A common failing in discussion forums is lack of participation breeding lack of participation. As the Pedagogy and Learning Technology says, there is ‘nothing more off-putting than an empty message board’ (Smyth & Mainka, 2006). By assigning someone to post a message every day they encouraged group visits even if only from a social point of view. This would lead to quicker responses when important messages were posted and so led to the fast paced asynchronous communication referred to in Quote 2. While much of the evidence above points towards asynchronous communication being a more powerful medium in online group work, it would seem that synchronous communication should always have a place in certain contexts. It would seem difficult, for example, to offer a presentation from a speaker and a following Q&A session in an asynchronous form. JISC have proven this is possible, however, running not just a seminar but a fully online conference for the last two years on the subject of Innovating Online Learning (JISC, 2007a). Keynote presentations are delivered via the web including written speeches and Powerpoint slides, and attendees can view the presentations over the period of a couple of days and discuss the ideas via discussion boards. Evaluations run after both events showed that they were very well received with 87% voting the presentations and papers as very good or excellent and 81% voting the discussions as very good or excellent (JISC, 2007b). REFLECTION AND CONTROL WITH WEB 2.0 In the introduction it was discussed how each student on the SBOSE module was given the choice as to what type of individual project they would complete: a reflective blog or a development project. The reflective blog’s purpose was to provide a narrative relating the thoughts and processes gone through by the student from week 4 until week 10 on the module and show how this would affect future work in the area. It was a requirement that at least one post was made per week and that a sum-up post was made at the end. The student could choose to make the blog public or to keep it private – the author chose the public option. The development project on the other hand required the student to create a tool, resource or other type of intervention which would improve student support on any course with which they were involved. The student developed the tool over the same time period as the blog and would hand in the tool itself along with a written explanation for assessment. Overall, the two


options were very different and provided a serious element of control for the student. The following student voice (Quote 3) is an excerpt from the author’s very first reflective blog post demonstrating the thought processes resulting from such a choice. “[Here are] the reasons why I chose to do a blog for this part of the coursework… I’m terrible at learning by rote. I need to think about things, process them and reorganise them in my head in order to remember anything. . . I’ve read a fair bit of the recommended readings, and felt that I took it in at the time, but a week later I can’t recall most of the detail. If, however, I’ve made a discussion posting on the subject in the day or two after reading it which requires a bit of processing then I recall it for far, far longer. Therefore, blogging it is for this course – hopefully this will force me to reflect on my readings more often and therefore retain a lot more information! I will hold my hands up and proclaim, I am very much a strategic learner… I will attempt to keep my work to a minimum while still attaining a good grade. …when choosing whether to do a blog or a development project, I could visualise a number of things on which I am working just now which [are] required for my work in any case… But, the purpose of taking this course is to learn of course! …so I took the conscious decision to do a blog based on the fact that it would force me to read more and reflect more, hopefully learning more.” Student Voice: Quote 3 - The student’s thought process when asked to make a choice. The following is an excerpt from the very last post of the same student reflecting on how the blog has worked as a learning tool and assessment method. “…Throughout this module I’ve been constantly thinking about my next blog post and taking notes of various things to talk about. …I’ve learned that writing about issues and ideas is a very valuable process for me and prompts much deeper thinking than I would ever have imagined. I mentioned that I hoped that this process would push me out of my strategic learner mindset… Because I have come to really enjoy writing the blog I have been persuaded to follow up interesting looking links or references in the hope of finding good material to write about. I suppose the blog gives me an extra incentive to learn… as I gain the reward of writing good, informative posts… Even if a learner didn’t enjoy writing as much, I wonder whether the pressure of having their work broadcast to the whole class would prompt wider research and deeper learning.” Student Voice: Quote 4 - The results of taking control.


Various parts of both quotes 3 and 4 seem to highlight one of the main advantages of using blogging in a learning context – the encouragement and motivation to reflect. The importance of reflection is demonstrated by the TESEP project in its Pedagogical Principles document which emphasises that “teaching by telling doesn’t work” (Mayes, 2007). The student must be encouraged to follow a constructivist learning path – to reflect on materials and form their own mental maps of information learned. This is a process requiring the student to connect the dots, tie it in with previous knowledge and re-present the information (Kearsley, 2008) and this exact process is described by the student above when creating their blog postings. Encouraging this deeper reflection is often a difficult task. The dialogue above, however, seems to demonstrate two factors by which blogging specifically can produce this encouragement: 1. Enjoyment drawn from explaining thoughts and ideas – in essence the satisfaction of teaching and contributing to the wider world. 2. The pressure created by having to ‘perform’ to an audience and having your work visible to the wider world. Both points above depend on the cohort of students creating a network of blogs which are all visible to each other, unlike some students on the MSc BOE who kept their blogs private. If this network is in place, however, the student voice above would seem to indicate that public blogging can provide a highly effective way of motivating the students to take part in reflection. Backing this up is the student voice below (Quote 5) taken from one of the author’s posts on the discussion boards in the first module, IBOE: “[Group work] can seem pointless sometimes to students, if the task is obviously created just for that lesson and has no value elsewhere. It seems we need to find tasks which affect the outside world, and this is perhaps why the use of Web 2.0 technologies has taken off so rapidly. Suddenly we have an easy medium for creating products - blogs, wikis, YouTube - which can be seen by the outside world and help the student contribute to a realm that they value, the world wide web.” Student Voice: Quote 5 - Giving students work of value. This is a very interesting student voice in that it demonstrates one reason why students are engaged and encouraged by the use of Web 2.0 technologies – it allows the perception that their work has value in the wider world. From the quote above we can see that students consider the web a place of value and something worth contributing to, as also demonstrated by the large percentage of school students subscribed to social networking sites building and maintaining real relationships (Luckin et al, 2008). The affordances and control offered by Web 2.0 technologies, such as easy content creation and dissemination, allows the tutor to create tasks which involve students contributing to this world in a real sense. These findings seem to agree with Kearsley and Schneiderman’s (1999) Engagement Theory which advocates greater engagement in students


when work is placed in an external context, or given value outside of the classroom. Both student voices shown in this section seem to advocate that blogging and Web 2.0 in general can easily facilitate this type of contextualising and control of the outside world leading to greater engagement. Another point that could be drawn from quotes 3 and 4 is the idea of a learning partnership between student and tutor. By offering students a choice in how they are assessed they are brought into the decision making process, thus giving them a sense of control and ownership. This is an idea demonstrated by Knowles’ Theory of Andragogy (Knowles, 1984) in which ownership and control encourages more responsibility in the students, thus producing deeper engagement. Control and responsibility are also key concepts in the TESEP project’s 3E approach which advocates handing over much more power to the learner, or to empower the student as the third E promotes (Smyth, 2007). The 3E approach requires that the “learners needs and interests drive the learning experience”. In Quote 3 the student demonstrates that when given the responsibility to choose between two different assessment methods they took the decision seriously and chose the path which would most benefit their learning. It could be speculated from the evidence in Quote 3 that having made this choice the student felt more ownership of the task and felt greater motivation to perform well, leading to more research and better blog posts. Naturally, the question arises of whether the average student will always take the responsibility of their choice seriously, or will they simply expend vast amounts of time and energy (far more than they do on the coursework) finding the path of least resistance? It could be argued that provided both assessment choices are written to meet the course assessment requirements then the choice will benefit at least some students in the way demonstrated above and simply not affect others. Those that choose what they think is the easiest will still satisfy assessment criteria, but those that choose responsibly will gain ownership and control and hopefully perform better as result. The area of student control is, of course, not restricted to the area of online learning and learning technology, but it enters the context of this paper when it is considered that ownership and the aforementioned value of work could amplify the effect of each other. It was discussed previously that Web 2.0 technologies allow students to publish their work in the wider world, thus adding value to the product and increasing their desire to “perform” well. It could be speculated that the extra element of ownership generated by having a hand in setting that learning task would amplify both the sense of value and the desire to ‘perform’. Therefore, Web 2.0 technologies could be seen as an ideal platform for providing control to the student as the sense of value and ownership would work hand-in-hand. This is something which cannot be fully confirmed by the data in this paper but which would be interesting to explore in the future. CONCLUSION As discussed, this research was considered worthwhile due to the dramatic changes in both the type of learner attending higher education and the changes in delivery method used to teach them. The experiences of the student herein


can help to point educators in the right direction when developing courses to engage more diverse cohorts and to teach well over different delivery methods. Firstly, with regards to collaboration, this paper has indicated that the student of the future will prefer academic communication to proceed via an asynchronous medium provided that certain approaches are followed in its use. The large benefit of synchronous communication – the ability for quick, real-time responses – is no longer significant enough to compensate for the lack of temporal flexibility it affords. This is due to the fact that students can often respond in asynchronous environments relatively quickly as online communication in general is now a significant part of their lives. If guidelines are put in place that require or recommend regular postings then students will usually visit often. This is an important insight as collaboration online is likely to become more common as online learning grows. The communication methods used in these collaborations are key to their success. Secondly, this paper has shown evidence that public blogging is a very useful tool in encouraging the type of reflection required in a constructivist learning approach. The enjoyment drawn from writing and teaching others combined with the ‘pressure to perform’ can produce very good results according to the case study presented above. This is underpinned by the fact that Engagement Theory (Kearsley & Schneiderman, 1999) seems to apply to public blogging in that it contextualises students’ work in the outside world thus giving it greater value in their eyes. Lastly, the student voice presented in this paper seems to confirm the value of student control in online learning and demonstrates that when given the choice of assessment types using various learning technologies they will take the decision seriously. The extra sense of ownership derived from this control could well amplify the student’s sense of value in Web 2.0 generated content thus making student control in the Web 2.0 environment an even more potent learning tool. One thing that is obvious from the student voice included in this paper is that a huge amount of useful information resides in the opinions and experiences of the thousands of students currently using learning technology on a regular basis. Only by drawing information from these learning experience experts can educators create learning materials that cater to wider audiences and make proper use of the new delivery methods available to them. References Cox, G., Carr, T. & Hall, M. (2004) Evaluating the use of synchronous communication in two blended courses. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning. Volume 20 Issue 3, Pages 183 – 193. Creanor, L., Gowan, D., Trinder, K. & Howells, C. (2006). Learner Experiences of Elearning. Available from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/elp_lex.html [Accessed: 17/10/08]. DirectGov (2008). Aimhigher: Helping You Into Higher Education. Available from http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAndLearning/UniversityAnd HigherEducation/DG_073697 [Accessed: 13/10/08] FEFC (1996), Inclusive Learning: Report of the Learning Difficulties and/or Disabilities Committee (London: HMSO)


JISC (2007a) Innovating Elearning Online Conference 2007. Available from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearning_pedagogy/elp_confe rence07.aspx [Accessed: 07/03/08] JISC (2007b) Evaluation Report Highlights, Innovating e-Learning 2007 Online Conference. Available from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/programmes/elearningpedagogy/ev aljisc2007highlights.doc [Accessed: 07/03/08] Kearsley, G. (2008). Constructivist Theory. Available from: http://tip.psychology.org/bruner.html [Accessed: 26/02/08]. Kearsley, G. & Shneiderman, B. (1999). Engagement Theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning. Available from: http://home.sprynet.com/~gkearsley/engage.htm [Accessed: 04/10/08]. Knowles, M. (1984). The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species (3rd Ed.). Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing. Luckin, R., Logan, K., Clark, W., Graber, R., Oliver, M. & Mee, A. (2008). Learners' use of Web 2.0 technologies in and out of school in Key Stages 3 and 4. Available from http://partners.becta.org.uk/uploaddir/downloads/page_documents/research/web2_technologies_ks3_4.pdf [Accessed: 13/10/08]. Mayes, T. (2007) TESEP: The Pedagogical Principles. Available at http://www2.napier.ac.uk/transform/TESEP_Pedagogical_Principles.pdf [Accessed: 13/10/08]. Mercer, D. (2003) Using synchronous communication for online social constructivist learning. Proceedings of the 2003 CADE-ACED Conference, St Johns, Newfoundland. Available at: http://www.cadeaced2003.ca/conference_proceedings/Mercer.pdf National Statistics (2008). Internet Access: 65% of households had access in 2008. Available from http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=8 [Accessed: 13/11/08]. Palloff, R. & Pratt, K. (2004). Collaborating Online: Learning together in community. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, pp. 4. Smyth, K. (2007). TESEP in practise: The 3E approach. Available from http://www2.napier.ac.uk/transform/TESEP_3E_Approach.pdf [Accessed: 13/10/08]. Smyth, K. & Mainka, C. (2006). Pedagogy and Learning Technology: a practical Guide. Available from http://www2.napier.ac.uk/ed/palt/Support/page52.html [Accessed: 17/10/08].








Richard Hall, De Montfort University
INTRODUCTION The extent to which the read/write web, or Web 2.0, can enhance inclusion, engagement and learner agency within higher education [HE] curricula is a focus for current e-learning research (Ebner et al. 2007; Hall, 2008a). The implications of innovative, social and networked technologies for the development of learners’ personal responsibility and decision-making impact both curriculum delivery and design processes, where academic staff recognise the pedagogic advantages that are available through these tools (Franklin and van Harmelen, 2007). Moreover, the blurring of the boundaries between social spaces and formal learning contexts (Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), 2007) influences participation in on-line environments (Hall, 2006; Shea, 2006), and the extent to which learners digital autonomy can be enabled (TESEP, 2008; Centre for Excellence in Institutional E-learning Services (Ulster, 2008a). Socio-constructivist models offer opportunities for students to develop academic literacies that enhance their informal and formal educational outputs, through the development of critical thinking and decision-making within spaces for independent learning (Trinder et al., 2008). This development of individual decision-making and action is further catalysed through the development of personalised learning environments (PLEs), where formal and informal educational spaces can be fused both cognitively and as personal artefacts to enable self-expression and self-awareness (JISC CETIS, 2008; Ravensbourne, 2008). Where control over the personal means of production is enabled, learners can extend the power of situated, individual, educational outcomes. This paper scopes the outcomes of a thematic study of the voices of both learners and tutors in one UK HE institution. These voices highlight how epistemological innovation is impacted by: the contextual control available to users; the rules that underpin access and participation; and the feedback received from associations within those contexts. By addressing these curriculum issues, it is argued that the read/write web can and should be used proactively by educators to enable learners to develop their autonomy in situated, personal spaces, and thereby enhance the production of educational outputs. THE READ/WRITE WEB Although they are also known as Web 2.0 applications (O’Reilly, 2005), the use of the term ‘read/write’ emphasises an approach rather than a toolset and stresses the marriage of broadcast and interactive tools within a personalisable environment, which contains opportunities for: social networking; social bookmarking; user-generated content; virtual representation; the syndication of content including multimedia; and innovative approaches to content and application-handling, including mash-ups and aggregation. The impact of these tools has prompted practitioners to re-evaluate curriculum delivery in light of the interplay between applications and people (Anderson, 2007).


Recent studies on the student experience in HE (Conole et al., 2006) highlight that a framework of technologies, including both institutional and noninstitutional tools, are crucial in connecting students’ informal and formal learning. As McGee and Diaz (2007) note: applications defined as ‘Web 2.0’ hold the most promise [for teaching and learning] because they are strictly web based and typically free, support collaboration and interaction and are responsive to the user. These applications have great potential to be used in way that is learnercentred, affordable and accessible for teaching and learning purposes (p. 32). However, Trinder et al. (2008, p. 6) raise a note of caution, especially for the role of staff as facilitators of learning within user-centred learning networks, given ‘misconceptions surrounding the affordances of the tools, and fears expressed about security and invasion of personal space’. These legitimate concerns impact the connections between new, web-based tools and the pedagogies that support independent learners. This is especially important in light of the report that some students are ‘frustrated at the misuse or lack of use of [read/write web] tools within their institutions’ (Conole et al., 2006, p. 95), and that regardless of the course structures or tutor/facilitator preferences, some students are using social software on their own initiative to support their studies (Kurhila, 2006). Meaningful pedagogic development requires scaffolded participation and the modelling of ideas with feedback. Pivotal in this development is the influence of the facilitating teacher (Salmon, 2002) in promoting on-line engagement and independence. This is particularly the case in addressing any negative, social aspects of the on-line learning that can take place, such as marginalisation, low self-efficacy (Bandura, 1989), an unwillingness amongst some learners to “self-publish” (Anderson, 2007), and fears around plagiarism, privacy and data protection (Franklin and van Harmelen, 2007). In working to overcome these issues tutors need to engage with pedagogies that encourage autonomy. AUTONOMY, TECHNOLOGY AND HE Autonomy in HE is an area which is ill-defined and complex, with many personal, peer-group, technical and systemic factors impacting on the learning experience (Biggs, 2003). National projects (Ulster, 2008b) have highlighted how independent learning skills may be developed informally, and how institutions need to develop broader and deeper social networks, in order to develop academic literacies. This might also be productively linked to a partnership model of learning (Hall, 2006) where the focus is less on the production of personal and shared artefacts and more on the process and actuality of enfranchising learners. In this view students already have the awareness and reflexivity to engage with read/write web tools in a productive manner (Green and Hannon, 2006). The read/write web is used to promote active citizenship and shared political involvement (MyBarackObama.com, 2008) and decision-making. Organisations such as Amnesty International and Oxfam regularly use social networking


software like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo to lever individual agency for their current campaigns (Amnesty International, 2008; Oxfam, 2008). The interplay between these organisations and web applications enables disparate groups of individuals to associate voluntarily with each other around themes or interests. In coming together to discuss, make decisions and act, individuals can acknowledge and respect personal differences. In turn, this frames a more democratic pedagogy and toolset, through which individuals are empowered to ask meaningful questions (Friere, 1972; Illich, 1977). Moreover, it might also emancipate the learner’s role in her/his educational experience (Haggis, 2006; Sullivan, 2008). Within HE curricula this type of engagement plays out with a focus upon autonomous learning through: independence; informed decision-making; selfdirection and personal ownership of learning; confidence in taking control over the means of production; and developing domain-specific and personal mastery (Ulster, 2008a; Yorke and Longden, 2008) in formal and informal spaces. Practitioners, institutions and students need to understand how the appropriate integration of informal and formal education, alongside the development of independent, academic learning skills, can be managed within situated, selfmanaged learning contexts (REAP, 2008) that might be described in socioconstructivist or connectivist (Siemens, 2008) terms. SOCIO-CONSTRUCTIVIST AND CONNECTIVIST LEARNING SPACES It has been argued that enhanced approaches to learning are underpinned by both socio-constructivist (Bandura, 1977; Driscoll, 1984; Vygotsky, 1978) and connectivist (Siemens, 2008) learning theories. Socio-constructivism highlights the importance of structured, personalised opportunities for developing mastery in new learning situations: Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action (p. 22). At each level personal actions and decision-making are socially constructed and may be connected to Wenger’s (1998) ‘communities of practice’ model, and/or Garrison and Anderson’s (2003) ‘community of inquiry’ model. These personal, socio-constructivist elements are arguably fused through connectivism, which is portrayed as a learning theory for the digital age (Siemens, 2008). It recognises that individuals learn by making cognitive connections, and that these can be strengthened by creating networks with other individuals and repositories of knowledge. Siemens (2004) argues that the ‘cycle of knowledge development (personal to network to organization) allows learners to remain current in their field through the connections they have formed’. Where individual autonomy is strong enough to empower personal learning, and where networks are strengthened to enable knowledge construction, information sharing and decision-making, then the capacity and capability of individuals to know more is developed.


Connectivism has attracted criticism as an invalid theory of learning (Kerr, 2007), which prescribes an approach for teaching that simply frames the development of learning environments and tasks. Moreover, its practical implementation raises many issues for users to consider, around: identity presentation and formation; engagement, agency and marginalisation; privacy and security; and developing technological confidence. However, where a connectivist manifesto for learning is developed, both within the context of usergenerated and participative technologies and alongside socio-constructivism, it can begin to frame the development of PLEs. INTEGRATING SPACES FOR LEARNER AUTONOMY: PLES The Ravensbourne Learner Integration project (2008) argues that a PLE is ‘a learning environment that is assembled through learner choice’. It encompasses the personalised aggregation of tools, networks and content from a range of formal and informal places. This aggregation can exist in several places or be presented in one space, depending upon the nature of the personal tasks to be undertaken, or the specific aim to be achieved. The learning context, and both the learning that takes place and the artefacts that are produced within it, are owned and controlled by the individual student. The Ravensbourne Learner Integration project (2008) has developed an assemblage model that focuses upon the individual’s transition from private to public learning in the context of social software and communities of practice.

Image 1: e-Learning in Context, the Ravensbourne Learner Integration model The Learner Integration model highlights the links between: personal mastery in specific domains; social learning in communities of practice; and social media and technologies. It demonstrates how autonomy is enhanced through active


participation with user-centred media and within groups that make sense to the individual. The key is the process of learning and how the learner becomes an independent, self-aware actor. However, by integrating and making explicit the elements that focus upon the development of the learner’s personal aims, her/his feedback mechanisms or confidence in network-based, signal-processing, and the rules that operate within networks, personal ways of developing mastery can be addressed (Hall, 2008b).

Image 2: e-Learning in Context, a Fused Learner Integration model Individual students can develop their own approaches to conceptual mastery by modelling their learning. This is underpinned by their proximity to formal and informal associations or networks, which are personally meaningful in enabling a learning aim to be achieved. In turn the rules and frameworks that are negotiated within these networks, associations and communities frame a fused learning space for making sense of signals and feedback and making decisions. THE DECISION-MAKING OPPORTUNITIES OF THE READ/WRITE WEB Dewey (1997) noted that Genuine freedom, in short, is intellectual; it rests in the trained power of thought, in the ability to ‘turn things over’ to look at matters deliberately, to judge whether the amount and kind of evidence requisite for decision is at hand, and if not, to tell where and how to seek such evidence (pp. 667).


The ability to judge, make decisions and act upon them is a function of control over the means of production within a social setting, and gives individuals the opportunity to engage with and reshape the environments in which they operate. Authentic decision-making is embraced where power and control are devolved, so that a broadcast model of education morphs to become one which is interactive (Papert, 1993; Piaget, 1932). For Sachs (2000) such devolution must be based on trust and a sense of liberty, which together provide a means to engage with difference. A strong civil society protects liberty because it diffuses the centres of power. It creates fraternity because it encourages people to work together as neighbours and friends. It promotes equality because it tempers selfhelp with help to others, and because the help given to others is such as to encourage their participation and eventually independence (p.137). The social spaces in which we exist, and the shared values that frame them, are pivotal in promoting our social freedoms, interdependence and decision-making. It is through conversations with the users and editors of these spaces that a fuller manifestation of Anderson's (2007) core, read/write web concepts becomes apparent. Each of these concepts, namely user-generated content, the power of the crowd, data on an epic scale, an architecture that supports participation, network effects, and openness in content and computer code, affects and is affected by individual autonomy and engagement. Anderson notes (2007, p. 53) how ‘the crowd, and its power, will become more important as the Web facilitates new communities and groups’, which in turn will ‘challenge conventional thinking on who exactly does things’, and who can access, process and mash-up ‘the huge amounts of data that Web 2.0 is generating’. This process of challenging and reconceptualising is based upon the control of tools, access to and participation within a range of networks, and the facilitation of critical literacies both within and beyond the curriculum. Therefore, evaluating the spaces in which users come to terms with themselves, others, and their own means of production is critical in understanding how the read/write web impacts upon autonomy in HE. EVALUATION A note on context and evaluation The discussion that follows pivots around the impact of the deployment of read/ write technologies within one UK university. The evaluation is designed to analyse conversations about emergent curriculum approaches, in order to examine how the tools provided are being embedded. It focuses upon the triangulation of two data sources. 1. In-depth interviews and on-line focus groups with 148 students at all levels, including postgraduate, in all five University faculties between 2005-08; and 2. In-depth interviews with 11 staff before, during and after they introduced read/write technologies into their curricula. The evaluator did not focus conversations upon the implications of the read/write web for developing autonomy. Rather, the approach engaged with understanding the systematic implementation of e-learning innovations and their impact on learning and teaching. This accords with the view of Reason (2003,


106) that the ‘fundamental strategy of action research is to ‘open communicative space’ and help the emergence of ‘communities of inquiry’.’ This approach becomes rigorous through consensual participation. Thematic content analysis was used in order to unpick and capture the emergent themes from the interviews. The interviews were conducted and the coding scheme was framed and tested by the same evaluator in order to maintain an internal consistency of approach (Boyatzis, 1998). Scoping autonomy and environmental control Connecting personal and academic technologies was critical for some students, who needed to understand the boundaries for specific learning contexts. One Post-Graduate Certificate in HE [PG Cert HE] participant noted ‘Learning should simulate real-life experiences which are full of emerging gadgetry and technology.’ This member of staff wanted to ‘shift responsibility of learning to the learner and possibly engage students when they are switched off by other methods’. This connection between real-life tools and personal responsibility frames a theme of control as an enabler for autonomy. One level two student noted that ‘staff define the use of technologies and students expect to be told what to do.’ The programme tutor believed that this was because ‘they don’t come in with enough ideas, but I would like this to change over time, that they talk to each other, in MSN etc. and share thoughts and values.’ In part student expectations for more control within an environment are shaped by their autonomy in relation to the tasks and tools at hand, and understanding the point of a tool contextualised by a task. In light of this, one tutor focused upon a shared culture that emphasised deliberation and feedback: ‘The wiki will help create a culture that is less restrictive where students can configure the space and theme pages or comments.’ This type of facilitated deliberation and action enables students to find ‘the right place’ for tools and needs to be negotiated, especially where teams of staff deliver a unit of the curriculum. According to one level three learner ‘the variance [in approach] between staff is confusing – this is the same module but different things are going on. We need a conversation about consistency of approach.’ However, a level one student liked the flexibility offered where his teaching team used read/write tools that ‘are easy and open software so we can create a structure that we manage [sic.].’ The issue of students feeling controlled by institutional tools was removed by a group of postgraduate students, who stated that ‘a few of us use Skype, especially at assessment time when there was no activity on the assessment [discussion] board.’ One student commenting on the use of RSS noted: ‘the feed I've set up for a couple of websites is already paying off. It's great I don't have to keep visiting web sites’ The independent sourcing of tools by learners to support their own learning was highlighted as a threat by a tutor on a different programme, who pinpointed the tension that existed within read/write applications where ‘you have to be seen to read and to use these tools, and to give feedback.’ Another tutor argued that ‘many staff feel threatened and challenged by technological innovation that widens student aspirations’, although a third added perceptively that ‘the students have discovered and use webbased [tools] – they are migrating themselves into industry toolsets. We need to adapt.’ For this tutor, environmental control and autonomy were correlated.


Scoping autonomy through access and participation One level two student felt that access to technologies that supported his out-ofclass participation was important in enabling him to model his thinking because that's when you really get to try things out and learn by trial and error. By doing this you get more of a feel for how you might use the technologies in your work. It all becomes more concrete and less abstract. This view was echoed by a PG Cert HE participant who argued that her students valued the use of wikis for group project because this allowed them ‘to work collaboratively [and] let’s them quickly share links – so in a sense it is more about the efficiency of input’. A positive rationale for personal engagement in particular contexts underpins active participation. For some students the rationale was the personal efficacy of participating. A postgraduate learner highlighted that access to read/write tools ‘gave me a chance to practice with others, to do it for myself… to apply the learning, test out new skills, and highlight any problems.’ This places value upon a curriculum that connects personalised ways of working with adaptive tools. These connections were viewed more positively by learners where tutors frame a space that encourages autonomy. A student on a different programme stated that ‘if they [lecturers] just put their PowerPoints up I become lazy – is there any point in attending? Especially where there is no interaction.’ A peer extended this to focus upon the sharing of ideas: ‘there is some fear of the plagiarism [on the open web], but we just need to agree rules of engagement’. For a member of staff this participative application of read/write tools was crucial because ‘these tools help them to share and ask someone else if they have problems. I want [them] to see reading as a social activity and a conversation’. For some cohorts of students, association as a group using tools outside the control of the teaching team was critical in building a rationale for access and participation. One postgraduate argued that ‘we built the community between us and now I am less apprehensive about getting feedback. It removed the fear of isolation’. This approach was empowering for a level two student who argued that ‘the lecturer actually uses the technology and discusses it with us.’ This tutor went on to state that these read/write tools would affect ‘participation in the formation of their own project [group] identity, it will be interesting to see how this affects their overall [programme-based] sociability’. This type of participation, within a context that respects the differences between students and fosters a space for autonomy, was echoed by a separate lecturer: ‘The Web2.0 software is ‘owned’ and editable by them, and they can see what each other have done and all are free to comment... within a set of guidelines that promote active interest’. The level of active interest, facilitated by local environmental control and concomitant participation, spurs decision-making about threshold concepts and academic knowledge. For one learner, active participation was stimulated by user-centred social networks that have the ‘advantage for more higher-level learning where actually students are selfmanaging and communicating with each other and learning from that interaction.’


Scoping autonomy in external networks Most interactions within a curriculum are fixed within institutionalised spaces. However, for some students external associations with validated others hold most value. In these contexts, belonging to and engaging with non-institutional friendship groups and associations validates actions. A level one student highlighted that the extension of personal skills in virtual worlds, like Second Life, was forged out of shared interests between wider groups of people. He noted that the first thing we did was explore places that looked good and where people had already solved the problems we had. We talked to them about this about how they had solved problems. They talked to us because we were using the same language, and they could get something from us. One of his peers went on to argue that this impacted his creativity: ’I can understand the programming but it is the creative side that has changed, because I have had to work outside our normal group.’ A distance learner using non-institutional, synchronous classrooms noted how they ‘are a good community building tool with opportunities for us to learn in [diverse] teams, allowing you to gather knowledge and experience and ideas quickly and share it.’ For some staff this strategy is threatening. One argued that ‘It’s not clear to me how del.icio.us and Flickr are learning technologies – they look like there’s no quality control’. However, for a sub-set of students dialogue with non-students is critical in their own reflexive assessment of personal progress. A level two learner noted that ‘my identity is defined externally and I like to go off on my own and work with others. I like [our use of read/write tools] as it is an extension of my way of working.’ A second, level two learner concurred noting ‘It is a process of self-validation, to have opinions outside [the University]… outside experience is important in practice.’ This sense of shared, open validation was important for one programme team: ‘We encourage students to share their resources via wikis, del.icio.us, and other open applications’. This demonstrates a mastery over more than the programme’s intended outcomes, but also the broader role of trust and validity in the production of personal and social assets. This link between tools and people engages a set of complex approaches towards decision-making, based upon association and dialogue. One student highlighted that this complexity was forged out of shared interests, and trustful, external contexts for action and decision-making, which ‘helps build my identity and helps my work become original and authentic. It gives me inspiration.’ This demonstrates the strength of external associations, based upon both common interests and a depth of conceptual understanding, underpinned by a value-set made real by control over the deployment of read/write technologies. This point is crucial for institutions because students tend to be fleet-of-foot in the technologies that they deploy and the associations that are subsequently made. Where locally-controlled approaches take time to deploy and appear archaic, learners and tutors proactively seek out external associations and tools that enable their curricula. As a postgraduate learner stated:


I think it's quite likely that whatever the University provides people will use other tools that perhaps they did before coming to Uni[versity], such as MySpace, to manage their groups and friends. We need to look at how to make it as painless as possible to use other things alongside whatever the Uni[versity] uses. CONCLUSION: DECISION-MAKING AND AUTONOMY Through conversations with users themes related to decision-making and autonomy emerge, which are bounded by the contextual dynamics of: who sets the agenda for the use of a particular space, in terms of the tasks and tools that shape its boundaries; who controls access to that space and whether its users feel able to participate therein; and, the external networks that users create and within which they operate. Both students and staff highlight how the marriage of read/write strategies and tools can begin to open up spaces for people to develop their autonomy. A PG Cert HE participant argued ‘things have changed and I am considering how these technologies can not only enhance my teaching, but also how they can help me with my specific learning needs too’. There is still a risk of marginalising some learners and staff, where partnershipbased pedagogic models are used to promote personalised learning contexts or PLEs. This is particularly important given the political control and management of a validated curriculum by HE staff. In this way, academic and support staff need to be able to develop a meaningful pedagogical approach to the deployment of read/write web technologies, allied to problem-based tasks. As participants develop an autonomous learning strategy, the clarity of links between structured activities in various learning networks, and personal reflections on achievement became pivotal in forging an empowering PLE. Therefore, professional development for facilitating tutors within programme teams is critical in extending learner-autonomy. The capacity of the read/write web to improve the opportunities for people to work together to shape and solve problems is pedagogically important. In validating individual stories and beliefs, and in crystallising themes around control, participation and external association, these tools give learners opportunities to ameliorate marginalisation both through dialogue and a sense that the power relationships within any space have a chance to be democratically-framed. Thus, engagement with a mix of institutional and noninstitutional applications, which collectively shape the means for the production of educational outcomes, frames a context in which autonomy can be developed. Moreover, where students enter a formal pedagogic process with their actions, decisions and values already proactively informed by external engagements, there is the hope of further personal, epistemological enfranchisement in the cause of active citizenship. References Amnesty International (2008) New ‘unsubscribe’ campaign to combat human rights abuse in ‘war on terror’ launched [Internet]. Available from: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=17476 [Accessed 28 October, 2008]. Anderson, P (2007) What is Web2.0? Ideas, technologies and implications education. Bristol, JISC [Internet]. Available from:


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LEARNING AND COMMUNITY Steve Draper, Dept. of Psychology, University of Glasgow
ABSTRACT Learning is in some sense or senses a communal activity, even if not necessarily a face to face one. But in what sense? There is no agreement about this. This paper briefly surveys the ways in which other people may help learning. It draws particular attention to issues that conflict with simplistic assumptions about freedom, privacy and sociability in relation to learning. INTRODUCTION A perennial student plaint is “nobody knows my name or who I am”. This seems to voice a need for social community in institutional learning. Yet learning is in some other sense already inherently communal or social: almost all we learn in formal education comes not from our own experience of the world but from others. Yet again, peer interaction is increasingly seen as important to promote in HE (higher education). Partly this is to save staff time and so money; but in fact it is for deeper and longer-standing reasons: peers, it is argued, support learning in ways staff cannot. Thus implicitly there are quite different views of what the important “social” aspect of learning is, quite different visions of how community matters in learning. One is Vygotsky’s and Lave’s: you need to learn personally from experts, like apprentices from masters. Another vision is Newman’s and Illich’s: the best learning is from interaction with equals. The educational literature is full of such voices, but they mostly act as if deaf to each other. What is the space of educational forces here, and are they inherently contradictory or is there the possibility of synthesis? What does learning have to do with community, the academic with the social? CONFLICTING USAGES OF THE PHRASE “LEARNING COMMUNITY” The phrase “learning community” is now widely used in the educational literature, but this conceals a lack of common conceptual ground. Many authors fail to define what they mean, write as if unaware that other authors use it to mean other things, and that their use of the term is also different from its current normal meaning outside the educational literature. This is reminiscent of a common technique used by communities, e.g. teenage gangs, to differentiate themselves from other groups by coining special usages of various terms, which they prefer that others do not understand. Most educational usages of “community” refer only to positive and helpful aspects of community and do not discuss the unhelpful and divisive aspects — which ironically they seem to be practising themselves. There may be four main roots to the multiple usage. In the literature dealing with HE (higher education), possibly the single largest use of the term refers to active interventions to increase first year student-student interaction in ways relevant to learning. This approach was introduced in 1984 at Evergreen State College. It may identify sets of students with the most overlap in course enrolments, and may coordinate their work e.g. in an “integrative seminar”. The idea explicitly behind it is creating shared intellectual experience with student’s new peers (e.g. Alexander, Penberthy, McIntosh, & Denton; 1996).


A second usage for the phrase may originate with Brown & Campione (1990), who used “community of learners” and “learning community”. They saw a link between Lave’s ideas of situated learning and apprenticeship, and new possibilities in formal classrooms which they were developing. In their work, learners produced learning materials themselves, and taught other students the subject matter (biology) in a community of equals; but acquired learning skills by apprenticeship from teachers who were not subject experts but did model learning skills. Few of those who now use the phrase are referring to anything like such a rich mix of features; yet Brown herself was certainly not alluding to the full range of ways in which community relates to learning. The third root is simply the vast range of possible meanings arising from the way we can all find relevant associations between “learning” and “community”. This makes the phrase continually attractive to its many different users, yet also makes it hard to share precise meaning. Some authors simply use “learning community” as a catchphrase for any set of learners: they might just as well say “the students on the course”. While the false presupposition of a common meaning is annoying in the scholarly literature, the great range of associations is also an opportunity to uncover some puzzles that may eventually allow us to improve practice. We begin by noting that in current UK usage (e.g. in newspapers), “community” refers to people who live near each other e.g. in a town, and are organised together by law, government, and shared services. They therefore have significant interests and activities in common, but usually have not chosen the other members and frequently have little or no personal relationship with each other. A university is like this too. However most usages of “community” in the educational literature deny the negative, presuppose the positive, and in fact refer to interventions to increase inter-personal interaction, which is not inherent in the concept and reality of community. The contrast comes out in phrases such as “care in the community” which now in the UK refers to mentally ill people being required to live outside institutions, sometimes in the face of protests by “the community” itself. The fourth major root of the term “learning community” is its long established use in the literature on Adult Education, where it is used to discuss the relationship between learning, groups of learners, and their surrounding community. Similarly it has been used to refer to how a school relates to the community around it e.g. DfEE (1999). Even within this usage there are several distinct ideas: • One is for groups of schools that form a supply chain e.g. a secondary school and all the primary schools that feed into it. By forming a community, these can improve things such as whether children acquire the knowledge needed for a smooth transition between them. • Home culture: thought to be the reason that in the USA, Asian American children outperform Anglo Americans who outperform African Americans. That is, success at school is strongly affected by how the culture or attitudes of the home interact with it. • Coordination of activities in and out of schools within a community by families, schools, and out of school activities; i.e. the coordination of formal and informal learning. A stronger version of this is that some academic


subjects in fact tacitly assume that the child does thousands of hours of related practical work as a hobby. Thus a child who reads several books a week as leisure is obviously likely to outperform in English a child who never reads except at school; a boy who spends time building and mending electrical and mechanical devices will have a far better grounding for science and engineering than a child who thinks these are to be studied only in school. This emerged, among other places, in a study of why so few women used to get and keep places in computer science at Carnegie Mellon: it was not that the women were stupid or lazy, but the men just took for granted working extremely long hours at it “for fun” and had done so for years before they got to university: this gave them a grounding which many of the courses took for granted, but that merely excellent students did not have (Margolis & Fisher, 2002). Illich’s (1970) book “Deschooling society” argued for an education system without teachers: learners would find others with (for the moment) the same learning objective, and learn with them: a system wholly peer, not teacher, based. Cardinal Newman (1852) too has some remarks about how peers are more important than “exams and professors” for true education, although he thought academics who cared about tutoring would be even better. They didn’t use the phrase “learning community”, but represent the idea that learning is, or should be, fundamentally about peers learning together. (This is arguably the most natural, and deepest, use of the term: not a community with some learning round its edges, but a community formed entirely for the purpose of learning.) Another usage of “learning community” in the current educational literature turns out to refer not to students but to small groups of HE teachers meeting, say, once a month for discussion about each other’s personal research projects on teaching. These should perhaps be called “teaching communities” rather than “learning communities” (Macdonald, 2001), or “Disciplinary Commons” (Tenenberg & Fincher, 2007). On the other hand, they are about peer learning, and how peers stimulate personal reflection, and share good practice: clearly good for promoting professionalism. Newman also emphasises the importance of academics forming a cross-discipline community (again without using that word; today we over-use “collegiality” to express the thought): the importance of respecting what others know as a corrective to assuming that anyone who thinks differently from us is wrong and is stupid to be wrong. Thus he thinks fundamental to a university is that it includes scholars of all types of knowledge together in order that this fundamental feature of peer interaction is provided for the academics themselves. Jean Lave (1991) developed the concept of “communities of practice”, conceived of as the locus of learning analogous to apprenticeship: the communities here are defined by “practice” or activity, with learning occurring by joining in the activity of more experienced practitioners. Wenger (1998) wrote further on “communities of practice” and related the concept to “learning communities”. This seems, although from a very different disciplinary starting point, at bottom the same general view as that of Vygotsky, in that learning is seen as essentially social, but as not primarily between peers but between more and less


knowledgeable people, e.g. teacher and pupil. One of the relatively rare cases of applying that in HE for/to students is described in Dunlap (2006). It is a good fit there, since this was a course for turning graduates into researchers, able to participate in that community. Social constructivism also sees learning as bound to communities. However many quite different ways in which one person may influence another’s learning for the better have already been identified. A general belief that communities matter to learning doesn’t say which of these ways do not matter and which do matter, and how, and why; and so is little help for the practical business of improving teaching and learning or for the theoretical business of specifying how exactly community affects learning. The next section discusses a way in which it does matter, but which contradicts some common intuitions. TEACHER MONITORING One aspect of “community” is currently coming to prominence in the movement to break up secondary schools into smaller units of about 350 pupils, rather than over 1,000 (Wetz, 2006). The idea is that, although the majority of pupils do well in huge schools with different teachers for each subject, disaffection and failure rates are heavily influenced by whether there is a staff member who effectively monitors each pupil’s work as a whole and knows both pupil and their family well. Chinese schools do this; it is a growing movement in the USA; some are calling for it in the UK. It may not be about tutoring on the subject matter itself, but about a) whether the child feels part of a community, noticed; b) whether their work is monitored so that even if they express difficulties only by not doing things, rather than by asking for help, this is quickly responded to. There are a series of important issues here. Does “community” really mean teacher-pupil not peers? Students complain if no teacher knows their name, and really value it when they do; and this appears to be independent of whether they have good friends in the class. Do staff have two tasks, best thought of as quite separate rather than assuming that doing one will cover the other automatically? The successful schools aren’t merely smaller, but rather they ensure that for each child there is one teacher looking out for them across all subjects i.e. a separation of the functions of specialist content teaching and of monitoring each pupil’s work as a whole. This latter function involves: a) monitoring each pupil’s attendance of school and each class; b) monitoring their work e.g. are they completing their homework in all their subjects; c) knowing their family. In many ways this may simply be reinstating a function that teachers in the UK too used to make a point of doing, but now have “forgotten”: being a “home room” teacher. Apparently in China, secondary school classes are 50 (not 30) BUT they have strongly in place one teacher keeping an eye on all of each pupil’s work independently of specialist subject teachers. This issue seems to be about a feeling of community, of entrainment, of being noticed, of support when needed. But is it about “caring” or is it really “monitoring”? It may actually be more about “being known” or being noticed than being loved. And perhaps we all have a need to have our actions noticed and taken as a gesture even when we don’t, and don’t feel able to, start a conversation ourselves. Certainly, we probably don’t want to be where no-one notices we are angry unless we say “Hey, I’m


angry”, or that we are deeply upset unless we say “Hey, these are tears, I need help here”. Babies would probably live only a few days in such circumstances, but adults too are not entirely free, not just from a wish but from the need to be noticed without asking for it. Perhaps it is not exactly being known, or noticed, or monitored, but more being recognised. This is one view of a doctor’s (or a shaman’s) role: not to cure, but to recognise the disease, the person and the situation they are in, even if no worthwhile intervention can be made. For all modern medicine’s emphasis on cure, we are still all fated to die. A far older, yet still entirely contemporary, role for doctors is to recognise and certify this (Berger, 1968/1997). This is really the same point as is made in quite other contexts about how the most important feature of personal relationships is not validation, praise etc. so much as being known as we really are (Ben-Shahar, 2007). This function (“monitoring”) seems similar to the principle of “time on task” and Gibbs’ version of that as a principle of assessment design (Gibbs & Simpson, 2004). Here however it is not about designing the course, but monitoring student execution of the design so as to detect promptly those who are falling away. It rings bells with discussion in HE about addressing first year and retention issues there. It is interesting that the discussion about secondary schools, though using different language, is also about supporting the transition from primary school, about requiring pupils to be more self-managing but catching early those who have difficulty with this and focussing staff support there. In effect this is about scaffolding, not the learning of the content, but the increase in self-regulation required: and to progressively withdraw that scaffolding, but “contingently” i.e. only for those pupils who can now manage. Thus what I’ve called “teacher monitoring” seems to be important, especially in addressing dropout and retention. But what view does it imply about “learning community”? • It is about community in that the learners talk about whether anyone knows them, notices them; whether they feel part of it. • It is not about peers but about relationships with teachers/staff. • It is not about teaching content e.g. tutoring a learner through some difficulty of understanding. • It is not even about managing content or acquisition i.e. about whether the learner has “got” some concept, or passed some test. • It is not properly pastoral in the sense of solving their personal problems, or offering them counselling, although awareness of these things may be part of it. It is about helping them work round any personal problems so as to remain productively engaged in learning. • It is about learning activity “management”: about whether the learner is engaging in the learning activities. (Attendance is simply the crudest measure related to this.) Students mostly learn to become good at this over their time at university, but are often not good at it at first. They need, and often know they need, some help with this: some scaffolding. This management or self-regulation issue is what is addressed by Gibbs’ principles. Teacher monitoring is one way it is addressed elsewhere in the education system, and perhaps should be considered in first year in HE, although the important aim of equipping learners to be more autonomous


and ready for lifelong learning means that this scaffolding should be progressively withdrawn. Thus teacher monitoring could be understood as addressing a need for personal communication that does not presuppose student proactiveness but does embody a personal knowledge of the student as a whole (not as half a dozen unrelated course enrolments), and addresses the complaint “nobody knows my name or who I am”; but which contravenes intuitions about privacy, student autonomy, responsibility, and freedom. This is also a matter of making students accountable: which is recognisably a core function of community, but not one that most of the current users of “learning community” care to own. LEARNERS BEING ACCOUNTABLE I called the issue “teacher monitoring” to emphasise a contrast between it and connotations of non-judgemental support. That terminology also emphasises a perspective in which the teacher is active but the learner passive. It is however possible to think of this in terms of a much more active learner: in terms of the learner being visible, accountable, and so active. Shulman (2005), in discussing his notion of signature pedagogies, does this. His discussion explicitly comments on how students in these particular pedagogic situations cannot hide, are fully “visible” and “accountable”; and how they may well find this terrifying at first, but with familiarity, terror normally reduces to a productive anxiety: again, this stresses a difference from an unchallenging approach. The characteristics of signature pedagogies that he lists are: • Pervasive, routine, habitual. So learners are completely used to what is required in these sessions, and can concentrate on what is being taught and learned. I.e. there are standard rules of engagement for these learning activities NOT novelty in the format. • Students feel highly visible, accountable, and vulnerable. • Students feel deeply engaged. • High affective level in class. The relevant characteristic here is being accountable. This could be seen as an extension of teacher monitoring: but where the learner is more autonomous, less dependent on a teacher taking special pains to monitor them, more selfmonitoring. This suggests that where learning and teaching not only offer but demand and enforce engagement and participation from the learners, then they may fulfil implicit requirements that lead to improved retention. Feeling highly accountable, then, is the proactive learner counterpart of teacher monitoring. An intermediate case, perhaps, is mentoring: again it is advice on a learner’s process (not on the content they are learning), and from someone more knowledgeable yet not in authority. THE DIVERSE WAYS OTHER PEOPLE CAN HELP INDIVIDUALS LEARN There is a large number of ways in which others can help us learn. However two big questions are a) is it teachers or peers who are important for this? and b) does a feeling of community matter? There are unintentional and impersonal ways that others advance our learning (you overhear something that sticks in your mind and makes you think; Shakespeare wasn’t writing for me personally, probably couldn’t even imagine someone like me); and then there are things that make you feel part of a community.


A generic and abstract meaning of “community” is the way learning is often, perhaps always, promoted by interaction with other people around learning; that is, the social aspects as opposed to the individualistic cognitive aspects of learning. It’s mysterious as a whole because, as constructivism rightly emphasises, there is an important sense in which learning is essentially private, something each learner does internally for themselves, and that no-one else can directly do for them. On the other hand, it seems clear that teachers have an enormous effect on learning: children who stay away from school seldom learn much unless their parents devote themselves to teaching them. So the general question is, what is it that people do for learners that makes a big difference? Another important issue here is how intentionally cooperative these ways of helping are. In any community, in many ways the members are indifferent to each other, in some ways they are in conflict or competition, but in some other ways they are importantly inter-dependent. Learning is certainly like that too. Learning is at bottom a private affair internal to the learner’s mind, that no-one else can possibly do for the learner: it is not like building a house where labour can be divided. However other people can make a big difference, although whether they intend to varies. When two students revise together by taking turns in devising test questions that the other must try to answer, they put in equal work and end up learning similar content. When two people discuss a concept, they certainly put in similar time and effort, but the research evidence (Miyake, 1986; Howe, Tolmie, & Rogers, 1992) shows they typically take away rather different understandings even though both benefit a lot. This means the previously more advanced learner learns from the process even though the other “had” nothing to teach them. When you look up an entry in Wikipedia, or see how much work another student has done, or which books they have taken out of the library, you benefit even though they didn’t intend that you personally would benefit, nor have you in any way helped them. But we can say that you have benefited from community. The important ways in which other people can help learning may be categorised in three ways by: whether the help is intentional or not, whether the provider has a personal relationship with the learner or not in the specific sense of the provider adjusting what they do in response to the learner i.e. whether it is contingent, and by whether it is reciprocal i.e. the interaction has approximately equal learning benefits for both or not (peer vs. teacher). These three binary categories in reality have intermediate or mixed instances as well, but the main point here is to illustrate how extensively other people may be important to learning even though unintentionally, with no special expertise, or no special relationship with the learner. The table below shows examples for all eight of the combinations of these three categories. Additionally, “+” marks a fourth binary categorisation of whether the learner is proactive, taking the initiative in organising or arranging for the activity. A fifth binary categorisation, not systematically marked and developed here but implicitly varying among the examples, is between help at the basic content level of concepts to be learned, and help with the management level of deciding on what learning activities to perform.


Learners benefit from others with and without special expertise, intention, or being personally known + indicates an activity initiated by the learner (proactive-ness) Helper’s expertise Intention to teach Intended Unequal, staff, benefit not reciprocal Personal relationship (contingent action) Teacher monitoring, Scaffolding of procedural skills + Ask a tutor Not personal Lecturing, Writing a textbook, + Asking an expert

+ Eavesdropping on Role model (using a strangers, teacher as), Using a celebrity or hero (+) Imitating or observing Unintended as a role model, someone more + Studying the career of knowledgeable whom you a politician to gain similar know success Wikipedia, + Alternating roles e.g. Anonymised versions of testing each other, student student reciprocal reciprocal critiquing, critiquing, The same but imposed by + Posting a question to a staff forum


Equal, peer, reciprocal benefit

Anonymous peer review, + Comparing your marks or actions to the class Peer discussion, norm, + Borrowing lecture notes, + Listening to Unintended + Spying on, imitating, or classmates’ questions observing a classmate you and comments, know + Mutual help with the process e.g. ask where the classroom is.

LEARNING REGARDLESS OF PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS The table above illustrates that many of the ways in which others assist learning do not involve a personal relationship in the specific sense of the teacher adjusting what they do in response to the learner. Since the invention of writing, it has been unnecessary for the teacher to know the learner in any way. Although a letter writer often adjusts what they say to a specific reader, and some authors talk of “knowing their audience”, it is impossible to say that Shakespeare or Newton changed what they wrote from knowledge of me. Similarly for every type of peer interaction, there are ways for a learner to benefit both with and without the other intending or even knowing about them. The underlying issue here is what is the relationship of the social and the academic — of Tinto’s (1975) two types of integration thought to be important in reducing dropout — of personal social relationships and productive learning? A personal relationship is founded on knowing specific things about the other, and


most importantly, the history of the interactions. If you act identically with a person, regardless of anything they do or say, it cannot be a personal relationship. This is “contingency”: the dependence of one party’s action on the other’s previous action(s). This has also been shown to be important in some teaching: Wood, Wood, & Middleton (1978) showed that optimal tutoring on a procedural task was “contingent tutoring”, where the tutor’s next intervention was varied depending on the last action by the learner. However this isn’t the only (nor the most common) way in which one person can help another’s learning; and furthermore, their strategy doesn’t depend on prior knowledge of the learner, but on responding to what they are doing currently. Much of this runs counter to the intuition which many learners and teachers have, that the social precedes the academic, and that to get a group or class to work together, they must first be introduced socially (by “ice breakers” in the small scale, cheese and wine events for large classes, etc.). This is widely accepted advice in e-learning e.g. Salmon’s (2000) stage 2. However as the review by Kreijns, Kirschner & Jochems (2003) reveals (perhaps inadvertently), while the e-learning field believes “that social interaction is a prerequisite for collaboration and collaborative learning”, such advice is only an advance relative to “taking social interaction for granted” i.e. to technologists’ naive surprise that simply providing the technology (e.g. a discussion board) is not sufficient to induce academically productive peer discussion. It is better than doing nothing, but not only is there no evidence that it is optimal, but it is not even as advanced as best non-technological practice. For example a long established, although not widespread, practice is the reading party, where a group of learners and staff spend several days together engaged in joint academic tasks. These are frequently mentioned as their best learning experience by students who have participated in one, and also produce strong group bonding. This should be no surprise since the social psychology literature on group functioning has long established that the causality predominantly goes in the contrary direction. Not only is social attractiveness (the bond between group members) independent of personal attractiveness (the bond between two individuals outside any group context), but the need to collaborate on a task creates group cohesiveness even when this means reversing strong prior hostility, as Sherif’s experiments and theory of Realistic Conflict established. (See for example the textbook by Hogg & Vaughan, 2008.) This implies that the best way to get a group of learners to bond is to give them a joint task. In other words for learning, the academic precedes the social. This makes sense of quite common student complaints about ice-breaker activities as wasting their time (after all, students’ purpose is to learn, not to pay universities to help them with their social life), and more importantly of Trotter’s (2006) study of two courses with contrasting dropout rates. One course provided a social activity at the start and had a high dropout rate; the other did not, but did start the course with group projects (which gave the students a directly relevant activity while “incidentally” interacting with each other) and had a low dropout rate. It seems likely, then, that a more careful consideration of the literatures relevant to learning and community could yield better suggestions about supporting academically productive peer interaction. Certainly Baxter (2007) obtained impressive learning gains based on online “virtual” student groups where there was no provision for meeting face to face nor for prior small group social


interaction, but had repeated joint group projects which led to considerable and useful peer interaction. Furthermore, the literature on conceptual learning through peer interaction shows that there is no special need for prior social bonds, but on the contrary there is a need to arrange for both a difference in opinion and public statements of that difference to counteract the tendency for groups to agree verbally regardless of their actual private opinions (Howe, Tolmie, & Rogers, 1992). Here the social need not precede the academic, and even tends to obstruct it. This may be why so often student study groups assembled on a basis of prior friendship seem to be less productive than those formed for strictly academic purposes. More generally, besides reconsidering our teaching practices to take community more seriously, perhaps the most important attribute for a graduate to acquire is a realisation that our learning can be enhanced by people that we don’t know or even that we don’t like: that the social and the academic are not bound together in any simple way, and that the lifelong learner is not dependent on personal relationships. This readies a graduate both for workplace group working and for learning with peers through the realisation that both parties benefit and no altruism or loyalty is required (although it is often engendered). “COMMUNITY” AGAIN Communities, therefore, matter to learning in several separate ways. • Learning is better promoted (more learning outcomes are realised) if preexisting communities support it: families, cultural attitudes, governments. • Other people help learners in many ways, not all personal, not all intentional. A learner without access to other people would be handicapped, although by no means entirely prevented from learning. Thus there are some other positive community effects on learning, even without supportive attitudes. • Groups (“communities”) specially formed for learning are also important, although not essential. Learning in a group (others doing the same course) inside an organisation like a university, increases the availability of resources including social resources, that promote your personal learning. • Knowledge itself is socially distributed, and not individually and independently grounded. This social network could be called a community, although of a different kind. If we consider a topic as simple as what does something weigh, then what we want to mean is whatever the government standard of weight is; which in turn depends on international standards, and in turn these are under review by experts (who are currently seeking to replace the standard kilogram lump of metal by another way of defining the standard). This paper itself also illustrates how meaning is a series of pointers to other meanings, not something anyone “owns” or “has”. When we teach something, even if merely by inducing rote learning of technical terms, we are connecting our learners better to a community of users of the technical terms. Modern practices of creating special online forums around a topic illustrate that communities of practitioners benefit from exercising this social aspect of distributed knowledge. These are much more flexible than traditional communities, and much closer to instantiating Illich’s vision.


• But possibly the most powerful effects of community on learning are not at this “object level” of what is meant or known; but at the “meta level” or “management level” of how learning activities are regulated. Learning in a group, to a common timescale, is widely felt to be important, even necessary. It is notable that the Open University, in other respects offering the most freedom to the learner to choose the time and place of the learning work they do, nevertheless imposes deadlines and timescales that keep sometimes gigantic cohorts of students in synchrony. CONCLUSION What should a practical teacher or course designer take from this? What is not a good idea is to take “learning community” as new knowledgeable-sounding jargon for “a cohort of students”, plus a cosy view of them as “a community”. This is neither warranted nor likely to improve learning. Rather than rely on one’s own feelings of benevolence as a guide to what community means for learning, it seems best to recognise that “community” is a phrase that fits numerous distinct issues in learning. They have been researched separately and should probably be regarded as separate phenomena or issues. This is not to say that the different issues don’t interact, and in practice may have synergistic effects. On the contrary, really successful learning designs typically will succeed in addressing all these issues well in an integrated way that makes them look apparently part of each other. However it does mean that acting to achieve one issue does not mean you are bound, or even likely, to achieve all. They are not interchangeable. Less inspired learning designs act on some important issues yet fail to cover them all. This applies also to Tinto’s notion of “integration”: both “community” and “integration” allude to a feeling of belonging, and to a relationship between social and academic aspects; but both in fact have many different, and in some cases opposing, interpretations. Learning is social, but not only in the ways we might prefer, or that our favourite theory notices. Three independent dimensions were proposed as a way of mapping out the diverse ways in which other people may assist learning: whether the help is intentional, whether it is contingent (modified by personalised reaction to the learner), whether it is reciprocal (based on a relationship as peers, not as expert-novice). Learning may be aided by other people with and without each of these: in all eight combinations, all of which relate to real communities in the everyday, social sense in some way. However it may be that underlying this three dimensional scheme is a profound contrast between whether what is being learned is procedural or propositional. Both may be assisted by community, but the social organisation of that help is different. If you are learning a procedure (e.g. cooking a recipe, writing a computer program) then a single failure usually causes the failure of the whole process. Situated learning, communities of practice, apprenticeship, and scaffolding are all organised around doing: around performing, learning, and reproducing procedures. In contrast if you are trying to understand a concept, you are exploring the ways it links to other things (that is one definition of deep learning), but no one link is vital. Discussion is productive for testing and creating such links, but agreement is not necessary, nor reproduction of others’ beliefs about it. For this, collegiate interaction is what is required and mutually beneficial, not group work producing a joint product.


The idea and practice I called “teacher monitoring” raises another point: that the aspects of community that have a positive effect on learning may not be about being accepting, or respecting privacy and individual choice. Just as real communities are by no means uniformly benign, and perhaps could never be if they are to maintain cohesion and discipline, so learning communities are not entertainment services, whose only purpose is to give pleasure, comfort and a feeling of consumer control. The ways in which learners are aided by other people are extremely diverse, and uncritical acceptance and lack of challenge are not always best for learning. “If you travel with us you will have to learn things you do not want to learn in ways you do not want to learn”. [from a letter by Doris Lessing, replying to a reader who had been seriously disturbed by reading one of her novels. Quoted in Alan Yentob’s “Imagine” TV programme on Doris Lessing, broadcast Tues 27 May 2008, 10:35pm on BBC1] ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS My thanks to Palitha Edirisingha, Isobel Falconer, David King, George Roberts, and Denise Whitelock, with whom I discussed versions of this paper and so improved my ideas about it. References Alexander, B.B., Penberthy, D.L., McIntosh, I.B., & Denton, D. 1996. Effects of a learning community program on the first-year experience of engineering majors In Proceedings of the 26th Annual Frontiers in Education - Volume 01 (November 06 - 09, 1996). FIE. IEEE Computer Society, Washington, DC, 377-380. Baxter, J. (2007) A Case Study of Online Collaborative Work in a Large First Year Psychology Class The REAP International Online Conference on Assessment Design for Learner Responsibility, 29th-31st May, 2007 Available at: URL: http://ewds.strath.ac.uk/REAP07 (visited 15 Nov 2008) Ben-Shahar, Tal (2007) Happier ch8. p.118 (London: McGraw-Hill) Berger, John (1968/1997) A fortunate man (London: Vintage Books) Brown, A.L. & Campione, J.C. (1990) Communities of learning and thinking, or a context by any other name in D. Kuhn (ed.) Developmental perspectives on teaching and learning thinking skills vol.21 in the series Contributions to human development pp.108-126 (London: Karger) DfEE (1999) Schools Plus: building learning communities (London: Dept. for Education and Employment (1999) available at: http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/familyandcommunity/buildinglear ningcommunities/ (visited 17 Oct. 2008) Dunlap, J.C. (2006) The effect of a problem-centered enculturating experience on doctoral students’ self-efficacy The interdisciplinary journal of problembased learning vol.1 no.2 pp.19-48. Gibbs, G. and Simpson, C. (2004) Conditions under which assessment supports students’ learning Learning and Teaching in Higher Education vol.1 pp.3-31. Hogg, M.A. & Vaughan, G.M. (2008) Social Psychology 5th edition (Harlow, UK: Pearson) Howe, C.J., Tolmie, A., and Rogers,C. (1992) The acquisition of conceptual knowledge in science by primary school children: Group interacting and the


understanding of motion down an incline British Journal of Developmental Psychology vol.10 pp.113-130 Illich, Ivan D. (1970) Deschooling Society (London: Calder & Boyars) Kreijns, K. Kirschner, P.A. & Jochems, W. (2003) Identifying the pitfalls for social interaction in computer-supported collaborative learning environments: a review of the research Computers in human behavior vol.19 no.3 pp.335353 Lave, J. (1991) Situated learning in communities of practice ch.4 pp.63-82 in L. Resnick, J. Levine, and S. Teasley (eds.) Perspectives on Socially Shared Cognition pp.63-82 (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association) Macdonald, I. (2001) The Teaching Community: recreating university teaching Teaching in Higher Education vol.6 no.2 pp.153-167 Margolis, J. & Fisher, A. (2002) Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing (London: MIT Press) Miyake, N. (1986) Constructive interaction and the iterative process of understanding Cognitive Science vol.10 no.2 pp.151-177 Newman, J.H. (1852/1976) [ed. I.T.Ker] The idea of a university (Oxford: Oxford University Press). Salmon, G. (2000) E-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online (London: Kogan Page) Shulman, Lee (2005) Pedagogies of uncertainty Liberal Education vol.91 no.2 pp.18-25 Tenenberg, J. and Fincher, S. (2007) Opening the Door of the Computer Science Classroom: The Disciplinary Commons SIGCSE ‘07: Proceedings of the 38th SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, 2007 Tinto, V. (1975) Dropout from Higher Education: A Theoretical Synthesis of Recent Research Review of Educational Research vol.45, pp.89-125. Trotter, E. (2006) Enhancing the early student experience: the student voice Pedagogical Research in Higher Education (PRHE) conference ‘Pedagogical Research: Enhancing student success’ Slides available at: http://www.hope.ac.uk/learningandteaching/prhe/index07.htm (visited 13 Nov 2008) Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) Wetz, J. (2006) Holding children in mind over time Report available at: http://www.channel4.com/news/media/current_affairs/pdfs/Bristol_Education _Initiative.pdf (visited 17 Oct. 2008) Wood, D., Wood, H. & Middleton, D. (1978) An experimental evaluation of four face-to-face teaching strategies International Journal of Behavioral Development vol.1 pp.131-147.


ABSTRACT Ambivalence seems to typify the attitude of many academics towards the use of read/write technologies (also known as Web 2.0): they might work, but then they might not. And there would be new skills to master, so passing by on the other side is often the action of choice. This research study turns that approach upside down. It is a part of a larger undertaking, Using Ambient Social Media: free-to use software as viable VLEs in syllabus design and assessment, a Learning & Teaching Innovation Project funded by the University. Even though the original title of the research used the term VLE, it seems now that PLE might be a better term, as “VLE” implies institutional learning environments. while “PLE” suggests a more informal produsage environment. Two cohorts of students of digital photography were privileged to participate in one lecturer’s pursuit of excellence, as “produsers” (Bruns, 2007) in the lulu.com environment. The overarching focus of this presentation is the transformational experience of the students as they engage in an online professional self-publishing environment. Bruns coined the term “produsage” to reflect the output of a producer-cum-user, particularly in the process of user-led content creation. These students were produsers of photobooks and photomagazines, using the affordances of lulu.com – an environment that constitutes a technosocial framework (Bruns, 2008c) within which to operate. This iteration of produsage is characterised by complexity; it is a blend of innovation, risk, entrepreneurship and professionalism with (in this instance, anyway) just a dash of intrigue. Several factors serendipitously create this opportunity: firstly, there is the proliferation of read/write technologies, begging academic exploration. The successful Innovation Project bid also influences the potential in terms of both resources and focus. Then the opportune discovery of e-tivities (Salmon, 2002) provides a framework within which to design learning interventions. and, lastly, the support available from the University’s Learning & Teaching Enhancement Unit, together with the articulation between this study and the Institutional Pathfinder project. The underpinning pedagogic logic of the account is one of distributed learning. This is an approach that forges a link between the traditional in media art education and the innovative; between knowledge creation across ‘distributed’ locations such media labs, studios and workshops and knowledge creation using new software and virtual learning environments (Logan, Allen, Kurien & Flint, 2007). It aptly addresses the potential for learning in the produsage model. In a quirk of course design, it might also be said that produsage is the guiding principle for the engagement of students in articulating the assessment criteria; transferring these criteria to a rubric; and evaluating artefacts-in-production and providing peer feedback to each other.


INTRODUCTION This paper describes the way in which one lecturer engaged her students in a learning experience that we believe fits the profile of produsage (Bruns, 2006). In the context of a higher education digital photography degree, using the ubiquitous read/write technologies, and mapped onto the characteristics of produsage, distributed learning is offered as the theoretical framework for the teaching and learning activity. These characteristics then frame the case for produsage in lulu.com – the print-on-demand social networking site and the virtual learning environment that the students used in their learning journey. CONTEXT In December 2006, a team drawn from the Arts, Media and English Department (AME) of London South Bank University’s (LSBU) Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences successfully bid for funding through the University’s Learning & Teaching Project Innovation Scheme. The team said: “In our view social media will play a great part in future patterns of professional and educational communication. Through our ‘lead-edge’ media programme we have an opportunity to both study students’ current use and design forms of assessment which ‘mesh’ with social media and hence provide an important model for HE in general.” A year later, the team was awarded a second tranche of funding from the Innovation Project Scheme to “build on the knowledge base gained with the research project: Using Ambient Social Media: free-to use software as viable VLEs in syllabus design and assessment … and [to] further the research with a renewed focus and methodological approach.” The second project was called “From coursework to social network: exploring social network sites as art and media learning environments”. This paper focuses on the aspect of students as produsers (Bruns, 2008c) in a read/write environment during the first round of funding. Self-publishing initiatives that rely on the availability of free social software have exploded onto the radar of, amongst others, higher education (HE) institutions. Using these print-on-demand (POD) platforms, authors are able to manage the production and distribution of their work on an unprecedented scale. This paper seeks to explore the relevance of the POD phenomenon in HE by addressing the following research question: “Do digital photography students engaging with print-on-demand social networking technology act as authentic produsers?” In the first semester of the 2007-08 academic year, two units entitled “Photographic Cultures” (at level two) and Brief-Led Project (at level three)– were embedded in lulu.com, an online POD platform. This piece of research explored the use of a single site as a creative produsage environment as well as the vehicle for demonstrating the accomplishment of learning outcomes. A second facet of the research was the engagement of students in the development of the criteria that were used to ascertain the achievement of outcomes and in the application of those criteria in grading their peers’ work. THE READ/WRITE WEB IN HIGHER EDUCATION The big picture of this presentation is the transformative understanding (Land, 2007) gained by the students as they engage in an online publishing


environment. The case for the use of the read/write web (Richardson, 2006) in higher education has been ably stated, a position acknowledged in the Innovation Project that forms the backdrop for this study. While Weller (2008) emphasises that the read/write approach takes into account both technological and social facets, there is also the need to explore the emerging use of technology in the light of intellectual property issues (Dautlich & Eziefula, 2007). We recommend Anderson’s article (2007) for anyone wishing to investigate the potential in greater depth. The paper traces the emergence of the phenomenon now known as Web 2.0 or, as we prefer, read/write technologies and their application in the higher education environment; it also offers a comprehensive bibliography for further reading. In our experience, many academics are aware of the read/write web, of its current use, and even of the potential that it embodies to improve the student learning experience. It seems to us that it is the perception of a need to master new skills and, possibly, pedagogies that it the greatest barrier to their implementation. This study is evidence of how engagement as produsers provided students with the opportunity to engage in an environment relevant to their field of study. These digital photography students benefited from being produsers (Bruns, 2007) in the lulu.com environment. WHAT IS A PRODUSER? Bruns (2008a) defines a produser as someone who engages in “user-led content production (produsage)”. While he tends to link the concept with the read/write web, Bruns does not confine produsage to this technological genre. Figure 1 (Bruns, 2008b) depicts the produsage process:

Figure 1:

The produser (Image first published in Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage by Axel Bruns (New York: Peter Lang, 2008). © Axel Bruns. Used with permission.)

Reflecting on the definition, it becomes clear that there is a continuum of produsage, from implicit to explicit. One implicit form of the activity must be plain to anyone who has an online account with, say, Amazon (Bruns, 2007). Surfing the website while logged in, and buying particular items, triggers the underlying engine to generate suggestions of products that might be of interest to the user – both at the current time and during future visits to the site. By


using the site, the individual produses a personalised (in this instance) view. We might call this many-to-one produsage, as it is the buying patterns of many that create the view presented to one. This form of produsage is clearly mediated by technology. Another, less obvious, example of implicit many-to-one produsage is to be found in the PageRank algorithm at work in Google (Brin & Page, 1998). Simply put, pages are ranked by the search engine according to how many other pages cite it (or are “backlinked” to it). So the keywords upon which a user conducts a search generate results that are dependent on the input of many. At the other (explicit) end of the scale, Wikipedia is an output of produsage, as are flickr and YouTube. In terms of the definition, it might be said that some kinds of group work also fulfil the conditions of produsage. In this study, for instance, there is a clear case for many-to-many produsage in the way that the students worked as a group to define and refine the assessment criteria; transferred these to a rubric; evaluating artefacts-in-production; and provided peer feedback to one another. At the heart of the concept, however, is a user who engages with content to produse an output. While the social nature of the read/write environment is more or less implicit in the produsage context, it is the change in focus from the industrial production model to a service orientation that hallmarks the concept. Bruns (2006) identifies four key characteristics of produsage:  users produse new content which is made available to others;  in the creative process, they collaborate with other produsers;  products are always subject to revision; and  this “revisioning” process necessitates new traditions of copyrighting. In this paper, we aim to demonstrate how these characteristics were evidenced in the study; how the students prodused photobooks and photomagazines, using the affordances of lulu.com – an environment that constitutes as technosocial framework (Bruns, 2008c) within which to operate. PEDAGOGICAL FRAMEWORK Distributed learning is an often neglected theoretical framework within which to explore the complex nature of media art education. This approach forges a link between the traditional styles of teaching and learning in the field and the innovative. It also accommodates the shift from students’ creating knowledge in such ‘distributed’ locations as media labs, studios and workshops, on the one hand, and the way that they use new software and virtual learning environments (Logan et al, 2007) to address academic requirements and creative enterprise, on the other. It encapsulates the environment conducive to learning implicit in the produsage model. Salmon’s e-tivity model (2002) offered a design for learning interventions. The learning and teaching activity in each unit was carefully designed in such a way that the face-to-face activities of the students each week in class alternated with online e-tivities that provided a link between the topic of the earlier face-to-face session, and that of the next one. For instance, in week two, the students spent part of their class time in the University’s library researching the photobook collection.


An outcome of that research was to identify a particular volume that they wished to explore further. The e-tivity for the week that followed required that they continued their research in the online environment, looking for such information about their chosen photobook as the “ISBN, publisher’s site and critical reviews”. Using lulu.com’s blogging tool, they posted the information they had discovered for peer comment. The knowledge, understanding and skills acquired in this activity fed into the next week’s face-to-face class. A particular focus in the design of these units (with particular reference to the second that we believe articulates well with the produsage model) was the way that students engaged with the assessment process in a particularly meaningful way. We believe that the pedagogical framework is an appropriate place to explain this process, as it builds on the “syllabus design and assessment” of the earlier funding, and engages students with pedagogical processes. In this round of the research, the teacher and students engaged in a carefully orchestrated activity to design assessment criteria that addressed the learning outcomes of the individual units. Rubric Studio, freely available at facultycentral.com, was used to design “irubrics”, marking grids that captured the assessment criteria, as well as negotiated descriptions of levels of achievement. These rubrics were used collaboratively for marking by both students (for peer assessment) and lecturers (for tutor assessment). Early in the course of the unit, and once the students had engaged with photobooks in both the physical and online environments, the students and lecturer engaged in the process of developing criteria for assessing work. (It should be noted that in the University’s validation procedures, learning outcomes are stated, as are assessment methods. Assessment criteria, however, are at the discretion of the lecturer. This situation created the opportunity to engage the students in the process.) After introducing learners to rubrics in class, they were asked to consider the learning outcomes and develop assessment criteria in response to such questions as: “What qualities would you look for in deciding how to mark a photobook?” With a list of questions, the class broke into self-selected small groups with the following tasks: • identify 6 assessment criteria that measure the learning outcomes • rank the criteria selected in order of importance, from most important to least important • present the top two criteria to the class. As each group presented their top criteria, they were listed on the whiteboard and the class then decided which four criteria of those identified were the most relevant to the outcomes of the project. The class then decided descriptors of 'poor,' 'fair,' 'good' and 'excellent' performance for each criterion. The collaboratively decided criteria were listed down the left side of the rubric matrix and the descriptors were entered under the scores 0-5 which formed the column headings. In this process, the produsage principle can be clearly traced. This is an unashamedly criterion-referenced approach to assessment. Biggs (1999) states that there is “no educational justification for grading on a curve”


(emphasis in original) and we would agree. It is also a student-centred approach. And this is where we find the touch of intrigue: the excellent results of the students were considered by the system to be out of line with the norm. We believe that there is a case for future research into the lip service paid to criterion referenced assessment in an HE environment that clearly still believes in grading on a curve. THE CASE FOR PRODUSAGE IN LULU.COM The use of lulu.com as a virtual environment within which to teach these two cohorts of students was essentially a natural progression from earlier work in this area. We earlier noted Bruns’ four key characteristics of produsage (2006):  users produse new content which is made available to others;  in the creative process, they collaborate with other produsers;  products are always subject to revision; and  this “revisioning” process necessitates new traditions of copyrighting. We will briefly explore each of these attributes in the light of the lulu.com experience. Figure 2 depicts the way that we see the produsage principle at work in these students’ activity.

Figure 2:

The produser in the lulu.com environment. Adapted from The produser (Figure 1 above.)

Produsing new content In the course of their activity in the digital photography unit, students used existing content (in this case it was digital material that they had produced during a previous unit) which they transformed into photobooks and photomagazines. These in turn are available online in a POD environment, and may well also feed into a future iteration of produsage. We would contend that, in addition to engaging with content, the students brought skills and understanding to the produsage environment that were refined and reinvented in the process. Their feedback on the units reflects a clear perception of the innovative nature of the enterprise: “Personally I believe


anything that challenges the norm and gets you thinking in different ways is a good thing. This module is not presented to us in a traditional, stuffy, listen and takes notes old school university style. We are studying a new art form and our lecture methods should reflect the move away from tradition.” Another student recognised the active nature of the engagement in lulu.com as a benefit: “It is easier in my opinion to learn digital media practices on the Internet as opposed to the classroom or lecture hall - personally I am a more practical individual and feel the need to actively do something to learn effectively”. Collaboration with other users The engagement of students with each others’ work during the course of the unit is recognised by them as a part of the learning curve: “There was a lot of help being given through blogs, forums and in person between all classmates during this period. Considering so many seemed unfamiliar with Indesign only a few weeks ago we all managed to create and upload an interesting mix of books into the Lulu store.” The community spirit that was fostered in the process was also perceived as valuable: “Learning by way of a community has been great for this unit, though I have not myself benefited from being part of a community it has clearly been a help to some members of the class who find websites and concepts such as those we have been studying more difficult than the theoretical issues in photography.” Products subject to revision While the students did not explicitly recognise the potential for revision of their work, it is clear that the very tasks they were set – to recreate their own existing digital material in a new format that is only published on demand – opens the door to refining and revising what has been produced. There was some sense of the messiness of the process, however: “Learning about digital media in an online environment as opposed to a more traditional format (i.e. a classroom) has been slightly chaotic at times.” New traditions of copyrighting The students were clearly still engaging with a traditionalist view of intellectual property: “Another issue that was voiced by a large amount of our group was the fact that, while publishing as students, we do not control the simple intellectual copyright to our work.” They even had concerns about the possibility of the “University who could, in theory (i hope not practice), profit from our work and charge us royalties for what is essentially our own personal art.” The underlying conversation reflects that in HE in this country: ownership and possible plagiarism. There is a clear case for engaging the students, and possibly the HE community more generally, in a conversation around the changing nature of intellectual property and ways to address the emerging traditions of ownership. CONCLUSION “Do digital photography students engaging with print-on-demand social networking technology act as authentic produsers?” We believe that we have demonstrated that the students who were the participants in this research study were produsers, in the way that Bruns describes the produsage process. While


the students were not apparently explicitly aware of the potential for a revision stage or stages, the nature of their engagement with the process lends implicit acceptance of the concept. We consider that the proliferation of social networking and associated technologies means that the opportunities for higher education to incorporate a produsage model, particularly in fields such as arts and media, will multiply. Rather than engaging in retrospective reactive conversations about faits accomplis, we recommend that universities blaze trails by proactively pursue research projects in this area. References Anderson, P. (2007). What is Web 2.0? Ideas, technologies and implications for Education. Available from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/techwatch/ tsw0701b.pdf Accessed on 20 October 2008. Biggs, J. (1999). What the student does: Teaching for enhanced learning. Higher Education Research & Development. 18(1). 57-75. Brin, S. & Page, L. (1998). The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine. Computer Networks and ISDN Systems. 30(1-7). 107-117. Bruns, A. (2006). Teaching the Produsers: Preparing Students for User-Led Content Production. Paper presented at ATOM 2006 Conference, Brisbane, Australia, 8 October 2006. Bruns, A. (2007). Beyond Difference: Reconfiguring Education for the User-Led Age. Paper presented at ICE 3 (Ideas, Cyberspace, Education) Conference. Ross Priory, Loch Lomond, Scotland, 21-23 March 2007. Bruns, A. (2008a, October). 'Anyone Can Edit': Understanding the Produser. The Mojtaba Saminejad Lecture presented at Temple University, Philadelphia. Available from http://snurb.info/index.php?q=node/286. Accessed on 16 October 2008. Bruns, A. (2008b). Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage. New York: Peter Lang. Bruns, A. (2008c). From Production to Produsage: Research into User-Led Content Creation. Available from http://produsage.org/. Accessed on 2 October 2008. Dautlich, M. & Eziefula, N. (2007). Web 2.0: new internet, new etiquette . . . new law? Available from http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/ article2725636.ece. Accessed on 20 October 2008. Land, R. (2007). Overcoming barriers to learning: threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge. Available from http://www.uwic.ac.uk/ltsu/documents/land_lecture.doc. Accessed on 20 October 2008. Logan, C; Allen, S; Kurien, A. & Flint, D. (2007). Distributed e-learning in Art, Design, Media: an investigation into current practice. York: Art Design Media Subject Centre – Higher Education Academy. Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin. Salmon, G. (2002). e-tivities. London: Kogan Page. Weller, M. (2008). The implications of Web 2.0. Available from http://cloudworks.ac.uk/?q=node/73. Accessed on 20 October 2008.


Introduction SPLICE is a JISC-funded project focussed on the establishment and role of technological habits of teachers, learners and administrators in lifelong learning. Within this broad focus, the relationship between the use of social software and increased professional transparency of teachers within the institution has come under scrutiny. This has revealed some organisational benefits to educational institutions of the use of social software which add a new dimension to the ongoing discussions around the role of social software in education, particularly those concerning the Personal Learning Environment (Johnson and Liber, 2008). Here we are focused on identifying social mechanisms which might explain these organisational phenomena: an objective which we argue is not only important to the project, but to the broader strategic approach to social software within Universities. SPLICE has generated a range of outcomes which reflect the complexities of the topic of ‘technological habit’. However, the task of translating these outcomes into meaningful evaluation and knowledge which is valuable to the sector at large presents some significant methodological challenges. To address these challenges, SPLICE as a whole has adopted an approach which draws on the techniques of Realistic Evaluation (Pawson and Tilley, 2004). By using Realistic Evaluation, the focus is to ensure that knowledge outcomes from the project are useful to people outside the project, so that (for example) if an institutional manager asks “if I do what’s been done in SPLICE in my institution, what will happen?” an answer which accurately predicts events (good and bad) can be given. Realistic Evaluation helps because it is a multiple theory-driven process for identifying possible social mechanisms. In doing this, it is distinct from traditional single-theory approaches (for example the traditional ‘before’ and ‘after’ case-study), or phenomenological no-theory approaches (e.g. Glaser and Strauss’s ‘Grounded theory’ (1962)) Realistic Evaluation prioritises the process of theory construction and testing as an essential part of construing meaning from project outcomes. As such it is closely allied to multimethodological techniques in the social sciences (Mingers, 2008). One advantage of taking a multi theory-driven approach is that existing theories can be mapped onto perceived outcomes. This is our purpose in this paper as we consider the outcomes of the project from the perspective of the communications theory of Niklas Luhmann. Thus, this paper concentrates on one possible mechanism, and as such it is part of a much larger evaluative process. Realistic Evaluation Central to the Realistic Evaluation approach is the idea that there are discoverable mechanisms responsible for social phenomena, and that better knowledge of these mechanisms can give greater control to practitioners, whether teachers, administrators or learners. In asserting the role of mechanisms in the social world, Realistic Evaluation is rooted in the philosophy


of Critical Realism (Bhaskar, 1977; Archer 1982). Pawson and Tilley argue that the job of evaluation is to uncover those mechanisms through a process which they (following Bhaskar) call Retroduction. In essence, Retroduction involves describing the Context (C) within which a possible Mechanism (M) might be responsible for producing a particular Outcome (O). The relationship between Context, Mechanism and Outcome can be shown as in the diagram below:
Context Mechanism

Outcome Figure 1: Context, Mechanism and Outome in Realistic Evaluation

In line with the Critical Realist position, Pawson and Tilley argue that whilst the experience of a project to any particular observer (or stakeholder) might be different (or relative to the observer), those experiences are not that different. In other words, they may be the product of a common mechanism working within each individual context. Thus in encouraging individual participants to articulate the mechanisms that they feel to be responsible for what they experience, it may be possible to consider overarching explanatory frameworks which describe mechanisms which are common to each. Such overarching mechanisms can then be considered for their explanatory and predictive power with regard to each individual outcome. Outcomes and a Theory Within any learning technology project there are a large number of stakeholders. In SPLICE these included: • • • • • • • • Technical developers project managers Teachers Accounting managers Institutional administrators Funding body programme managers Creative Technology practitioners Learners

The project may be viewed as a set of commitments and communications between these different stakeholders. Over the life of the project, each stakeholder establishes a particular perspective on the outcomes of the project. Different stakeholder views of project outcomes are necessarily dictated by the context within which they are situated, and yet the mechanism that lies behind the generation of those outcomes may well be common across the project. The stakeholders within SPLICE have had different experiences of it. Some learners had highly beneficial experiences, whilst others continued to feel uncomfortable with social software and didn’t engage much. Institutional administrators varied in their experiences of the project, from simply managing the project money, to identifying key synergies between project outcomes and institutional objectives. Individual teachers varied in their experiences, from overcoming reticence to engage in new technologies, to transforming their


teaching practices. Software developers experienced a capacity-raising effort, although some users of the software didn’t enjoy the fruits of their endeavour. The involvement of Creative Technology practitioners in the project was designed to enrich the learners’ social network with real practitioners. These practitioners, like the learners, varied in their experience of the project, from ignoring it to experiencing significant transformation of their technological practices. Each of these individual stories represents an individual outcome, and from the Realistic Evaluation perspective, mechanisms may be suggested for each of these outcomes, as can the contexts within which the mechanisms operate. It was not unusual to find individuals experiencing very different outcomes from the project (sometimes conflicting with each other). Treating each observed outcome as being the product of a mechanism allows such complex dimensions to be examined. The process of identifying possible mechanisms is inevitably the result of discussion between stakeholders. This might take the form of “What do you think is going on?”, although such a ‘blank canvas’ technique can be intimidating for some stakeholders. Pawson and Tilley describe a process of mutual teaching and learning about possible mechanisms between researchers and participants. Here, existing theories which might be known to either the researcher or the participant may be explored for their explanatory power as a starting point for deeper investigation. This has been our basic approach here and the theoretical position from which we have started draws on the social theory of Niklas Luhmann. Luhmann’s Theory of Communication The challenge in creating a unifying framework for describing the variety of outcomes experienced by participants is to create a set of distinctions which can be usefully applied more universally. The first question is, bearing in mind that the distinctions should be applied across the board, what should the theory concern itself with? This is an ambitious question. For to answer it is to commit to a particular view of the purpose of education and its relationship to the broader social world. Pawson and Tilley point out that any theoretical approach is predicated on particular ontological assumptions. It is important, therefore, to be clear about the particular ontological assumptions that are being made. In our theoretical description here, we follow Qvortrup (2005) in upholding Luhmann’s prioritizing of ‘communication’ as the principal category in understanding the project (and for Luhmann, any social system). For Luhmann, any institution functions to maximize the probability of ‘successful communications’ between the stakeholders within it. The phrase ‘successful communication’ has a particular technical meaning which Luhmann describes as a three-stage process of ‘information’, ‘utterance’ and ‘meaning’. Each of these, Luhmann argues, is a selection from a set of possibilities: first there is a selection of ‘what’ it is to be communicated, which Luhmann terms ‘information’; secondly a selection of ‘the medium’ – the ‘how’ something is to be communicated (‘utterance’); and finally a selection (by the recipient) of ‘what it means’. All these selections are probabilistic. The communication is ‘successful’ if the process of selections of information, utterance and meaning leads to the production of further selections. As a result, the success of further


communication is deemed more likely and thus the communication becomes self-sustaining (or in Luhmann’s terminology, borrowed from Maturana and Varela (1980), autopoietic). The environment of an institution contributes to the success of a communication by attenuating these possibilities – for example, with codes of practice, professional discourse, processes and procedures – more broadly, perhaps, what we might conceive of as institutional ‘culture’. In applying these distinctions about communication to the outcomes of SPLICE, we have to ask whether, and to what extent, a teacher’s reticence to engage with video is a communicational problem, or, similarly, learners being reluctant to blog. Luhmann emphasises that communicational practices are not simply linguistic, but understood within the broader concept of ‘communicative action’ – which includes technical actions as much as it does language. By this definition, the creation of software that doesn’t work, or is unusable, has communicational implications amongst the stakeholders of the project. Similarly, the communication between teachers and learners, when viewed through the lens of ‘maximising the probability of successful communication’ may also be useful to explain the outcomes reported by teachers – particularly in comparing the differences between well-motivated and poorly motivated learners. Furthermore, the broader issue of ‘raising capacity’ amongst project stakeholders may be seen in the light of raising the probability that individuals will communicate successfully in an increased number of contexts (e.g. with different organizational groups within and outside the institution, the e-learning community, etc). Social Software, Personal Transparency and Communication The focus of SPLICE has been on social software, including the use of a social network (http://splicegroup.ning.com), micro-blogging (http://www.twitter.com) video podcasting and other technologies. Each of these interventions has served to amplify individual practices which otherwise would have been limited to a small community: once online, activities that took place behind the classroom door become available to others. This is an example of the sort of professional transparency brought about through the use of social software that has been identified by Dalsgaard (2008) and which, he argues, carries significant organizational benefits. Thus, considering the diverse range of outcomes from SPLICE, we need to consider the impact of this increasing personal transparency and the organizational changes that are entailed by it. Transparency applies to both teachers and learners in the project: increased transparency in learners means greater opportunities for peer learning, sharing practices and experience; increased transparency for teachers means sharing practices with a larger community of other teachers and learners. Whilst these increases in transparency might be seen to be beneficial to an organization, personal transparency also presents challenges to the individual. Most typically, many individuals on the project have articulated that they feel uncomfortable at exposing aspects of themselves which may well be considered private. Teachers may feel the classroom to be their private domain, and may not feel comfortable in using video. The learner may worry about the implications of revealing things about themselves in a public space.


Both these positive and negative outcomes are important to the project, for within the realistic evaluation approach, they are regarded as outward manifestations of complex social and personal mechanisms. On the positive side, concrete evidence was gained in SPLICE concerning the organizational benefits of personal transparency on the institution together with benefits to learners which followed from this. At the same time, a lot of evidence was gained concerning the struggle individuals experienced in engaging with social software – often not through any identifiable deficiency of skill, but rather a mistrust of the transparency that was entailed through using it. Transparency and Communication: the experience of Coleg Harlech The organizational impact of transparent practice was most clearly demonstrated in Coleg Harlech. Coleg Harlech is a small FE institution which specializes in the education of mature learners seeking a ‘second life-chance’. Prior to the project, Coleg Harlech managed separate programmes in Visual Arts and Multimedia. Teaching was constrained to the classroom and groups of learners reserved any inter-disciplinary collaboration to informal social gatherings outside class time. This SPLICE project focused initially on the Multimedia cohort, and teachers and learners joined the online social network for the project. This was a vehicle both for formal sharing of work on the course (including photographs and videos), but also (and more importantly) for informal messaging between different learners – often in the different institutions involved in the project. For teachers, the network afforded the opportunity to experiment with different forms of communication – most notably video. In understanding the impact of the project on Coleg Harlech, it is useful to apply the distinctions from Luhmann’s theory. The social network amplified communication between course participants such that this communication became discoverable to others. Similarly, the videoing of teaching practices had a similar effect. Amplifying communications in this way may be seen as increasing the probability of successful communication as a whole across the institution, since members of the institution who were initially not deeply connected to the project could see the communications underway and engage with them. In practice, this manifested itself in an increasing awareness that there were opportunities for inter-disciplinary collaboration, and a deeper level of discussion took place between departments as more teachers were engaged with what was going on. Prior to the project, like any institution, the professional concerns of teachers in Harlech revolved around individual learners, the curriculum, timetabling, etc. SPLICE added a new component into these concerns, and one which caused a critical reflection on teaching practice, curriculum and pedagogy. Moreover, staff within the college started to engage in external discussions with the broader elearning community. Because the focus of the project was on social software and transparent practice, this further stimulated dialogue and engagement. As some learners experienced benefit (and others struggled) from the social software environment, so staff reflected on their experiences. Thus, established patterns of communication within the college were disrupted by the project and gradually Coleg Harlech moved towards a position where teachers (particularly) were engaging in richer communication about their practices with a broader range of stakeholders. One concrete benefit of this process was the combination of the


initially separate Visual arts and Multimedia programmes into a single ‘core’ module focusing on technology and creativity. As previously suggested, not all stakeholders had their capacity raised in this way, but all were affected by the project in some way. Nevertheless, the increase in successful communication across the institution is perhaps a useful index of the efficacy of the impact of personal transparency across the organization. This suggests that Luhmann’s assertion that institutions serve to maximize the possibility of successful communication can be compared favourably to the overall increase in successful communication produced through personal transparency and may therefore present a way of measuring the value of a particular intervention. Thus we are on the point of suggesting a possible mechanism: that transparency can increase the probability of successful communication and that this can benefit institutional function. Within the Realistic Evaluation methodology, this is one of many possible mechanisms which must be considered for their explanatory power. Challenges for Transparency and Organisational Change If our mechanism has any value, then it should be able have some predictive power too. This means that an institutional manager in a new institution unconnected with the project, on asking “If I encourage the use of social software within my institution, what will happen?”, can be given an accurate description of what is likely to happen based on the mechanism we are suggesting. The answer to this question, however, must also consider the barriers to engaging staff with personal transparency. Harlech is a small institution, and this factor facilitated the improved communications that ensued in the project. Nevertheless, Harlech exemplified the diversity of engagement with the technology. Staff and learners varied tremendously in their disposition towards technology – particularly their disposition to personal transparency. “Expect diversity” would be the obvious starting point for answering the institutional manager’s question. But then we might continue to say that if the barriers to engaging with transparency can be overcome, then the capacityraising effects of SPLICE can be reproduced. However, the barriers are significant and SPLICE has paid particular attention to addressing them. If personal transparency to increase the probability of successful communication is the goal, what measures may be put in place to bring this about? SPLICE has paid particular focus on those who were not interested in engaging with the technology. Over the course of SPLICE, many individuals transformed their personal technological habits. This transformation was brought about through a range of different types of intervention. Within SPLICE, these interventions have been categorized into three groups: • • • Rational argument: presentations arguing that the world is changing and that changes to technological are necessary Institutional coercion: changes to institutional procedures, assessment regimes (particularly for learners), and the need to satisfy the requirements of the project. Creative disruption: Creating activities to give insight into issues of technological habit; engaging in rewarding creative practices which entail online participation.


These three ‘levers for change’ were applied at different stages of the project, and each one produced some measurable transformation in practice. For example, a number of events were conducted early in the project to talk about social software. This was a ‘rational argument’ and as a result of it, more people engaged with the SPLICE network, and started to sign-up for some of the social software services discussed (notably Twitter). As would be expected, transforming assessment regimes had an impact on both teachers and learners, as learners were coerced into engaging with technology where they might not have otherwise done so. In a number of instances, this produced lasting transformation in practice. Finally, drawing on the interdisciplinary spirit of the project, learners were placed in situations they were not familiar with (for example, multimedia learners in the pottery studio), and shown how to make a connection between those situations and online engagement. Of these three levers, institutional coercion had the most demonstrably significant impact, although it is difficult to isolate it from the other two levers – particularly since opposition to coercion may have been mollified by the application of other levers. Behind these observed effects of the different interventions we made lie further mechanisms relating to the ‘person’ which are beyond the scope of this paper. Whilst the mechanisms which link transparent practice with increased communication are borne out by the Harlech experience, the causes for people changing their practices in response to particular interventions are not dealt with. However, to answer the institutional manager’s question realistically, identifying a mechanism for the benefits of transparency is only any good if they are also informed about mechanisms for changing practice and overcoming the barriers of engaging with transparency. Conclusion Through the example of Coleg Harlech, we have argued that transformation of personal technological habit to increase transparency of professional and personal practice is possible. We have asserted that increasing transparency through social software has direct benefits on the organization of institutions, which in turn can enrich learner experiences. We have further asserted that it is possible to transform technological habit through recognizing ‘levers for change’ and applying them appropriately. Whilst there is much discussion in the e-learning community about social software, it can sometimes appear that the only reason to engage in blogging, or Twittering, or anything else is because “it’s there”. Sceptics will rightly point out that this isn’t a good reason for doing it. At the same time, a clearer rationale for engaging in social software is hard to articulate. In this paper, drawing on the experiences of the SPLICE project, we have attempted to do this. The task isn’t easy because it entails asking some searching questions relating to the attribution of ‘value’ in any technological intervention in education. There are an unlimited number of ways of making distinctions within the education system. To consider the task of evaluation as one of making distinctions to describe mechanisms at work which produce outcomes is the first step, and we have used Pawson and Tilley’s approach as a starting point. We


have also produced a set of distinctions which try to account for the variety of experiences in SPLICE through using Luhmann’s communication theory. If they are good distinctions, then seeing the system through their lens will produce results which are to the benefit of institutions and learners; if this doesn’t happen, then new distinctions need to be examined. However, at this stage, we can point to an instance of practice in Coleg Harlech were Luhmann’s distinctions seem to ‘fit’, where increase in personal transparency has had a real impact on communication structures within the institution, and where these changes have brought about genuinely beneficial experiences for teachers and learners. Behind all this lie the real challenges of institutional life and the continual struggle to maintain an environment for effective teaching and learning practice. E-learning coordinators, IT managers and Vice-chancellors struggle to steer their institutions in a fast-changing world, and the many opportunities for intervention must be carefully considered. We have argued in this paper that useful evaluation empowers people with the knowledge of what is likely to happen, borne out of previous experience. If that knowledge is accurate and events (good and bad) pass as expected, then the control of those who have the power to steer events is increased. References Archer, M.S. (1995) Realist Social Theory: the Morphogenetic Approach CUP Bhaskar, R (1975) A Realist Theory of Science Sage Bhaskar, R (1979) A Possibility of Naturalism Sage Dalsgaard, Social (2008) Networking Sites: Transparency in Online Education http://eunis.dk/papers/p41.pdf Glaser BG, Strauss A (1967) Discovery of Grounded Theory. Strategies for Qualitative Research. Sociology Press Johnson, M; Liber, 0 (2008) The Personal Learning Environment and the Human Condition: from Theory to Teaching Practice Interactive Learning Environments, vol 15, no. 1 Luhmann, N (1995) Social Systems Stanford University Press Mingers, J (2005) Realising Systems Theory Maturana, H; Varela, F (1980) Autopoiesis and Cognition: the realization of the living Boston studies in the philosophy of science; vol.42 Pawson, R; Tilley, N (2004) Realistic Evaluation Qvortrup, L (2005) Society’s Education System – An introduction to Niklas Luhmann’s pedagogy theory Seminar.net – International Journal of media, technology and lifelong learning – Issue 1, 2005 Tilley, N. (1993), 'Understanding Car Parks, Crime and CCTV: Evaluation Lessons from Safer Cities', Crime Prevention Unit Paper, 42, Home Office, London: HMSO


INTRODUCTION Learning and teaching in virtual 3D worlds is still a relatively new field to be explored and as such is an exciting area to be involved in. Many consider 3D worlds to be playful spaces that are “…adaptable, creative, sociable and collaborative…”. It has also, however, been described as an “uncanny space” that may function as “a learning environment which nurtures a creative sense of dissonance, troublesomeness and ‘strangeness’ in both learners and teachers”. (Bayne, 2008). Glasgow Caledonian University’s ‘C U There’ initiative is currently developing a virtual campus on Second Life with the aim of providing student support as well as exploring ways of embedding the virtual campus in its learning and teaching strategy. It has also encouraged staff and students to become involved and create their own projects within the realms of Second Life. To set the context, the paper will provide a brief overview of Second Life (SL) and discuss issues and challenges of successful transition support in general and within Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) in particular. The main part of our paper will focus on two new projects:

1. i-CAMPPUS (internet College Articulation and Mentoring Project for
Prospective University Students) 2. Overcoming the barriers of asking for help: the feasibility of Second Life as a platform for students to access support from an Academic Development Tutor without feeling stigmatised.

We shall present a brief overview of both initiatives, portray the process of familiarisation with SL and share the experiences of the developers and future student mentors working within a virtual world. Both projects are in preliminary stages and should be viewed as ‘in progress’. Part of the introduction to the projects aims to offer an insight into the virtual campus: its possibilities as well as its limitations. Research has shown that students who need advice and support most will not actively seek help (Thomas 2002, 2005, Whittaker, 2008, Yorke & Longden 2004). So can a tool like Second Life reach out to those students who hesitate or abstain from asking for help by allowing them to retain their anonymity? On the one hand, it appears to be an ideal way of ensuring that all students have access to an alternative form of support. On the other hand, recent studies indicate that the uptake of so-called Web 2.0 tools and emerging technologies


has not been as successful and as widespread as the academic community would have hoped (Kennedy et al, 2007). Against this background, we aim to discuss what lessons we can learn from using emerging technologies, social networking in general and SL in particular. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using SL for student support and mentoring? How can we encourage students to become involved in and use a virtual campus? Are there certain groups of students who are less likely to engage with such a medium than others? If yes, what can we do about that? Some of the outcomes of the workshop discussion will inform the final discussion of the paper. SECOND LIFE - THE GCU CONTEXT Second Life is a three-dimensional environment that exists on the internet. It is an extension of the World Wide Web, but instead of two-dimensional images, text, links etc, environments such as this render content in 3D. There are a few such environments in early stages of development from developers around the globe, but for our purposes we refer here to SL. Second Life is a rich multi media space. It supports images and video, and, like Web 2.0, it has a range of tools that support communication such as text chat, audio chat, ability to send email, and functionality that allows data to flow both in and out of world. These services use many of the standard Web 2.0 tools that are already in existence. As it extends content, it also extends interaction and communication. SL additionally has a feeling of presence, of ‘being there’, not available in flat Web 2.0 environments. SL uses what is known as an avatar – a virtual representation of the person who is logged in. The avatar is in effect an extension of the person, or of ‘you’. The avatar is used to navigate around the world, and is used to communicate and interact with others in a way that is not possible in even a rich Web 2.0 environment. This richness of sensory data, the immersion and feeling of embodiment are what make 3D virtual worlds stand out as a different type of technology. But how can we use this kind of environment to support learning? It is in the processes that SL supports that the potential lays. Wikipedia defines SL such: Residents can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade items and services with one another. 1 It is these affordances of SL to support socialisation and learning through collective creation, sharing and generation of knowledge and content that are potential key factors for education. Exploration on the potential of SL in higher education is still in its early stages. As an extension of Web 2.0, it supports social-constructivist pedagogies; problem based learning; Inquiry based learning; authentic tasks; communication and interaction; group activity, collaboration and teamwork.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_life. Accessed 20/01/09


For example, we are currently developing a simulation on the GCU SL Islands to demonstrate complex algorithms that are used in artificial intelligence design. The algorithms are used to plot paths between waypoints to allow a robot to move from point to point. This is a difficult abstract theory for undergraduates to grasp. The development of this simulation is being undertaken by two MSc Computing students as part of their coursework. Not only are the two students working on this project collaboratively, they are building it as a learning tool for other students, using their own knowledge of the difficulties of understanding this process to inform the design. Another simulation – Radiographic Expose Manipulation – is being developed to help students experiment safely when learning how to operate an X-Ray machine. This simulation allows for practice that cannot be achieved in the ‘real’ world, on ‘real’ patients. Other universities around the UK are using Second Life in English, Philosophy, Psychology, and the Arts. It is used for science simulations, discussions, rapid development of ideas, for instance in architecture or, product design. Graphic design and multimedia students are learning to use SL as one of the many tools of their trade. Journalism is another field in which the use of SL is very popular, with organisations such as Reuters playing a prominent role. Moreover, students can learn business and management skills, while marketing skills can be practised by trading in-world products with little risk. For the particular strand of this paper – mentoring and transition support – it is the feeling of ‘being there’ combined with social and personal interaction within a supportive community that are of greatest importance. In addition to the pedagogical uses of SL and acknowledging the need to provide additional support for students and staff alike, GCU, through its ‘CU There’ project, aims to create a community of learners. Its philosophy, ‘by the community for the community’, as reflected by the title ‘CU There’, is proving successful, if slow to implement. A weekly evening class is run, aimed to reach and gather a university-wide group of interested individuals, both students and staff, in an unofficial, nonformal setting, allowing for a self-paced discovery of the Virtual World and its possibilities. This evening class has evolved and is now for the largest part conducted by the first group of participants, assisting and guiding new arrivals, if the need arises. The classes are usually attended by a mix of students, staff and others including participants from the local council, business, residents, and even 'virtual' Glaswegians. A genuine feel of community has developed with all helping each other, while traditional borders between students and staff gradually disappear and, last, but not least, people enjoy discovering the more outlandish elements the SL environment has to offer (Trinder, Francino & Littlejohn, 2008). THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TRANSITION AND PROGRESSION SUPPORT As mentioned before, the philosophy of ‘CU There’ is to build an SL island, which is not just linked to teaching and learning at GCU, but is open to the wider community of Glasgow, to support community engagement, the widening


participation agenda, and links with employers. One of the aims is to encourage the participation of non-traditional learner groups in the GCU university experience, both real and virtual, as part of GCU’s Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning strategy. It has been widely acknowledged that students from a non-traditional background are more reluctant to actively seek advice and ask for support than their more traditional counterparts (Benske, 2006 & 2007; Thomas, 2002 & 2005; Yorke & Longden, 2007). This is particularly worrying for post-1992 universities that provide a wide range of support mechanisms, while still facing a relatively high drop-out rate, especially amongst first-year students (Thomas, 2002 & 2005). Glasgow Caledonian University is a post-1992 institution and has a large number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds: it is significantly over its benchmark in this regard, with 37% of full time undergraduate entrants in 2005/06 coming from SN SEC classes 4-7 and 29% from low participation neighbourhoods against a benchmark of 32% and 16% respectively. GCU also has a very high percentage of students who enter the University after completing HNC/Ds in colleges. As a result, GCU has a highly heterogeneous student group and is adopting a strategy of enhancing transition support and the learning experience for all students in an attempt to steer away from a ‘deficit’ model and inadvertently stigmatising particular groups of students (Whittaker, 2007). The increasing diversity of the student population and the mass nature of higher education is a critical issue in terms of transition support. Large student cohorts require creative thinking in terms of support processes and the curriculum and the more effective use of technology. In terms of transition support, lack of preparation and wrong choice of course (Ozga & Sukhandan, 1998, Yorke & Longden, 2007) can hinder successful integration (Tinto, 1987) as can lack of interaction (social and academic) with other students and academic staff (Krause, 2001). Informal learning networks and peer-support structures to support academic and social transition the from the pre-entry stage and throughout the first year have been highlighted as essential in recent research and development work on transition and progression (Creanor et al, 2006; Harvey, et al, 2006; Whittaker, 2007). One possible strategy to counterbalance the reluctance of students to ask for help and to enable more creative thinking in terms of support is to ensure anonymity. Against this background, SL appears to offer an ideal solution, enabling students and staff to remain completely anonymous throughout their virtual interaction within SL. GCU’s use of SL aims to encourage prospective and new students to explore the GCU learning environment, such as the Saltire Centre and a range of teaching and learning activities prior to entry as well as engaging in social activities both in the real and virtual environment. It will also enable students to meet other new students prior to arrival as well as mentors and programme staff and to encourage informal peer networking throughout the first year and beyond.


The exploration of 3D virtual worlds as a means of supporting students to develop the confidence and skills to prepare for, and succeed at, university forms part of a longitudinal induction process which will inform broader HE sector research and development in the area of transition. GCU’s ‘CU There’ and other SL projects at GCU will enhance the understanding of HE and college sectors and will explore the ways in which new technologies (with which students may be comfortable, but which may be unfamiliar to college and university staff) can be used to develop the informal learning networks (Creanor et al, 2006, Trinder et al 2008). The models that will be developed will be transferable and adaptable across the HE sector, for different learner groups. i-CAMPPUS (INTERNET COLLEGE ARTICULATION AND MENTORING PROJECT FOR PROSPECTIVE UNIVERSITY STUDENTS): SUPPORTING TRANSITION OF COLLEGE STUDENTS THROUGH SECOND LIFE The i-CAMPPUS Project works within the framework of GCU’s College Articulation Project (CAP), which aims to support and enhance the transitional experiences of students as they move from college to university. Transition is not viewed as a ‘one-off’ experience – we recognise that it begins before entry to university and continues once students have moved into their new institutions. Project support is therefore long-term and looks at pre-entry, point of entry and post entry issues for students. Project strands include: Subject-based transition: how can differences in teaching and learning approaches between college and university be better understood and students helped to adapt to the university approaches before making the transition 2. Mentoring: building on GCU Induction for HN entrants to provide a continuum of support pre- and post-entry using students who have made the transition as mentors and role models 3. Disability: evaluating the current arrangements for students with disabilities with a view to improving their experience 4. Research and evaluation: extending the University’s Student Evaluation Project to gain a more systematic picture of students making the transition and their progress and also evaluating each strand with a view to identifying effective approaches for future development.


The project is engaged in continuous research and development to allow us to hear the student voice and to understand the differential impacts of the range of transitional challenges students can face when they move to university. A key component of the project is the development of Communities of Practice, which underpins the project by developing networks of people involved in supporting students. The Mentoring Strand The mentors who work for CAP provide peer support at a number of levels: Pre-entry Support Mentors assist project staff with Pre-UCAS and Pre-Exit sessions across 19 partner colleges. Mentors can provide powerful role models and a key source of information for students considering university. College students are given an


overview of transition issues and the differences they may experience between college and university. They are also given information on the support available to them. Students hear first hand from a mentor who has already made the transition – wherever possible this is a former student of the college. The session is supported by information packs and signposting to relevant websites including the Mentors web pages (www.gcal.ac.uk/mentoring/web). Point of Entry (Induction) Support Mentors provide support for new students at a number of induction activities including the HN Induction Programme (Co-ordinated by ELS for all new HN Students), the GCU Orientation Programme (co-ordinated by Learner Support for all new students), the International Welcome Programme, and Campus and Library tours. Mentors are also deployed across campus in highly visible t-shirts in the early weeks of the semester to take general orientation queries and to signpost new students to appropriate staff and support services. Post Entry (On Programme) Support New students can meet with mentors through a programme of weekly drop-in ‘surgeries’, which are advertised by mentors in their departments and across the university campus. The surgeries enable students to meet with mentors in their own departments and aim to help them adapt to university by offering reassurance, practical advice, informal support, and signposting to staff and services. Students can also e-mail the mentoring mailbase (mentors@gcal.ac.uk) with individual queries or to request a meeting with a mentor. Mentors are also available to support a variety of departmental or central activities where requested. Challenges The process of registration and creating an avatar, coupled with the need to spend time familiarising yourself with the SL software and environment, requires a significant commitment from participants. This may be a hurdle that some are unwilling or unable to cross, particularly where other forms of ‘distance’ information and guidance such as telephone, e-mail or websites are already available and relatively quick and simple to access. Low-income groups may not have access to a PC with a sufficiently high specification, or to a high-speed broadband connection, both of which are required to use SL. Some people, e.g. mature people, may not have the ICT skills to participate in SL or if they do, they may have a ‘fear’ of the environment if they are unsure of the culture. Also, certain groups of disabled students such as those who are blind or visually impaired, those with dexterity problems or perhaps even dyslexics, may be excluded by the nature of their disability? However, initial reactions from both students and mentors are mainly positive: Very informative. Easy going, fun and friendly. Things were made a lot clearer for me. Really liked listening to (the mentor’s) personal stories relating to uni. It was good to hear from an actual student who could tell us what it will ‘really’ be like.


Initially, I was concerned utilising [SL] because it was an area that I had no knowledge about. I was worried that I would not be able to understand [it] and therefore I would not be able to work through the sessions well. New technology is something that I do not regularly embrace very well, however [SL] was fairly straightforward to use […] The controls and navigation is somewhat demanding at first […]. The concept is ambitious, innovative and ultimately, attainable. I think without a good overview of the controls though only technically minded students will be interested in making use of it. OVERCOMING THE BARRIERS OF ASKING FOR HELP: THE FEASIBILITY OF SECOND LIFE AS A PLATFORM FOR STUDENTS TO ACCESS SUPPORT FROM AN ACADEMIC DEVELOPMENT TUTOR WITHOUT FEELING STIGMATISED Project context The pilot project described below aims to explore the utility of Second Life (SL) as a mechanism through which to provide student support, and is being coordinated by one of the University’s recently appointed Academic Development Tutors (ADTs). As part of its widening participation agenda, GCU has appointed a number of ADTs who work with a range of students, particularly those from non-traditional learner groups, to support learning and promote development of academic skills. Learner support takes place within the context of specific disciplines in this case health and social care, and embraces a developmental as opposed to remedial approach to learning via individual tuition, whole-class workshops and online guides. While a high volume of students make use of the academic development service, staff acknowledge the challenge of promoting uptake among those who feel embarrassed or stigmatised; typically the very students who require the most support. Indeed, it has been well documented in the literature that those students who are most in need of academic support do not actively seek it (Thomas, 2002, 2005; Whittaker, 2007; Yorke & Longden, 2004). The inspiration for this project lay in the creative properties of SL, which allow users to disguise their identities and construct their own appearances through an avatar. It was conceived that if students could access academic support through these disguised identities, social barriers to accessing support could be overcome. Project description The project has two phases: one which aims to provide one to one support (Phase 1) and another which aims to provide group support (Phase 2). At the time of writing, the construction of a learning and teaching area within SL is underway. The ADT has created an avatar and has familiarised herself with navigation, communication and other ‘in world’ activities. Phase 1 will involve the provision of a weekly drop-in in which students will be able to access advice from the ADT’s avatar in a purpose built entry-restricted space, which will be ‘invisible’ to others. To protect anonymity, communication will take place via private messaging. Phase 2 will involve the provision of a series of scheduled academic skills workshops in a purpose built space. Workshops will be delivered


on a fortnightly basis and will cover topics such as critical thinking, academic writing, study skills, and exam preparation. The workshops will be delivered in real time by the ADT’s avatar using sound and textures (e. g. notice boards), and the timing of workshops will be carefully planned in order to reach as many students as possible. Evaluation While a qualitative data collection method would be most appropriate to gain an insight into students’ experiences of engaging with the project, the significance of preserving anonymity hinders such an approach. Evaluation will therefore take place in-world with the use of a brief questionnaire containing open and closed questions, designed to address issues such as the following:

To what extent is the loss of face-to-face interaction a disadvantage? Is the space more engaging if it is imaginative or if it imitates familiar real life settings? Would students have been willing to make a face-to-face appointment if the SL project had not been available?

Early experiences It is beyond the scope of this paper to provide a detailed account of the ADT’s initial experiences of familiarising herself with SL and so only a brief summary, capturing the key features of this process, is presented below. Adapting to SL and creating an avatar The ADT’s early experience of using SL was largely positive. Despite initial concerns about the investment of time required to become acquainted with the software and develop communication and navigation skills, she found the processes to be surprisingly intuitive and user friendly. The software was generally easier to use than had been anticipated and the SL tutorials were found to be helpful. While the ADT encountered no difficulties adapting to the concept of a 3D world, she was struck by the range of multimedia experiences made possible by the technology, its immersive properties and the strong social nature of the environment. This was particularly evident during orientation when she was approached, in a seemingly arbitrary manner, by avatars who initiated text chat, while others could be heard conversing in different languages. When creating her avatar, the ADT was impressed with the degree to which SL makes it possible to alter avatar appearance. Although a significant amount of time was required to create her avatar, the ADT enjoyed, somewhat unexpectedly, the novelty of a virtual shopping experience involving the purchase of accessories such as avatar outfits, skin and hair. When the desired look was finally achieved, she felt a sense of satisfaction and affiliation with her new virtual creation. Attitudinal changes Interestingly, the ADT noticed some attitudinal changes during the first few weeks of engaging with SL. Initially, she approached the project with a rather neutral, perhaps sceptical, perspective on its ability to engage those who may not be considered “technology wizards”. With a developing knowledge of SL, however, her enthusiasm for the software developed as she mastered new skills and gained a sense of curiosity in relation to exploring new SL islands. The ADT has also been quite surprised to find herself growing an attachment to and


becoming quite invested in her avatar, an experience, which is no doubt unique and raises interesting avenues for identity related research within virtual worlds. Limitations Despite these positive experiences, two significant drawbacks were encountered and should be noted. Firstly, the ADT’s PC, despite having a reasonably up-todate specification, did not fully support the SL software, which created frustration and a need to have additional software installed. Secondly, the ADT experienced mild abuse in the form of offensive text comments and avatar stalking while completing one of the SL orientation tutorials. While she did not find this particularly distressing, the potential for abusive behaviour should be taken into consideration when using SL in an educational context. Perceived benefits and challenges Benefits: • • • Anonymity removes potential for social evaluation concerns, thereby offering a more inclusive service Reduction of traditional boundaries and power relationships between students and staff Opportunity for students in disparate locations to log in and participate, thus removing the necessity to be on campus to access support, although it is acknowledged that target groups may not have access to computers that support the SL software (see below) Potential for interactive and peer assisted learning (Phase 2) Potential to free up staff time by running annotated Powerpoint presentations and videos without the need for a tutor to be present (Phase 2) Development of IT and virtual learning skills which are of value in the modern workplace Potential to engage the more kinaesthetic and visual learners Potential to encourage subliminal learning through SL’s game-like features

• • • • • Challenges:

• •

The group of students that the project aims to target may be those with the lowest levels of IT literacy. This may cause apprehension and act as a barrier to their participation. An up-to-date PC with reasonably high spec is required to support the SL software. The group of students that the project aims to target may not have home access to computers that support SL, thus requiring them to be on campus to make use of the service. This access restriction could potentially act as a barrier. While the strength of the project lies in the facility for students to access support anonymously, there may be drawbacks associated with the loss of face to face interaction, especially where individualised support is sought in relation to highly sensitive issues.


Future expansion of the project is dependent on staff buy-in but recent research suggests that this could be problematic; some staff are enthusiastic about 3D world technology while others may be deeply sceptical (Trinder, 2008). While measures would be taken to police the service, the opportunity to disguise one’s identity could potentially entice misuse in the form of, for example, avatar harassment, unauthorised or dishonest use, and menacing.

FINAL DISCUSSION The presentation of the two SL-based GCU projects in relation to transition support, and the use of SL in a HE context has shown that the reaction towards SL is mainly positive. While some staff and students may still be reluctant to use SL as a means of communicating with other staff and students at GCU, those who have engaged with it, are enjoying the possibilities of SL. Nevertheless, the fact that Web 2.0 technologies are not as popular as practitioners in universities would have hoped will need to be addressed. The workshop discussion at the TESEP LICK Conference 2008, however, touched on two major concerns in relation to SL and other emerging technologies within higher education: firstly, concern was expressed over the potential reduction of face-to-face teaching by emerging technologies. Secondly, workshop participants discussed the potential drawback of identifying too closely with the avatar. In this case, staff and students could have difficulties distancing themselves from the SL context, leading to some of them feeling personally insulted, irritated, or harassed by other avatars. It was agreed that these concerns should be taken into account when planning the use of SL in learning and teaching. The use of SL in higher education in general is in its early stages, and so are the two projects introduced in this paper. There will have to be further evaluation of the uptake of SL as well as the effectiveness of SL based pedagogies. Further reports on experiences of using SL at GCU will not only be discussed in reports, at conferences and other publications, but also on the GCU SL island, where all the projects mentioned above take place. REFERENCES Bayne, S (2008), “Learning in a strange place: Second Life at the University of Edinburgh”, seminar presentation abstract, available online at: http://www.academy.gcal.ac.uk/professional/iws.html#sbayneN Benske, K. (2007) ‘Students in Transition: Tracking GOALS Students in Transition From School and Through the First Year of Higher Education - A Work in Progress’, published in ‘The times they are a-changin’: researching transitions in lifelong learning’. Conference Proceedings, Centre for Research in Lifelong Learning (CRLL), [CD-ROM] Benske, K. (2006) Students in Transition - Literature Review; West of Scotland Wider Access Forum [Internet], available online at: http://www.westforum.org.uk/index.php? option=com_content&task=blogsection&id=7&Itemid=36 Creanor, L., Trinder, K., Gowan, D. & Howells, C. (2006) LEX. The Learner Experience of e-learning. Final Project Report, JISC


Harvey, L., Drew, S. & Smith, M. (2006) The first year experience: a review of literature for the Higher Education Academy, HEA Kennedy, G., Dalgarno, B., Gray, K., Judd, T., Waycott, J., Bennett, S., Maton, K., Krause, K., Bishop, A., Chang, R. & Churchward, A. (2007) The net generation are not big users of Web 2.0 technologies: Preliminary findings. In ICT: Providing Choices for learners and learning. Proceedings ascilite Singapore 2007. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/singapore07/procs/kennedy.pdf Krause, K. (2001) The University Essay Writing Experience: a pathway for academic integration during transition Higher Education Research and Development, Vol 20, No. 2, pp. 147-168 Ozga, J. & Sukhandan, L. (1997) Undergraduate non-completion in higher education in England (research report 97/29) Bristol, HEFCE) Tinto V (1987) Leaving College, Chicago, University of Chicago Press Trinder, K., Francino, F., Littlejohn, A. (2008) Poster presentation: GRiID: GCU research in Internet 3D, ALT-C2008, 8-11 September, Leeds. Trinder, K., Guiller, J., Margaryan, A., Littlejohn, A., & Nicol, D. (2008) Learning from Digital Natives: Integrating formal and informal learning. Final project report. Higher Education Academy, UK. Available at: http://www.academy.gcal.ac.uk/ldn/LDNFinalReport.pdf Trinder, K., (2008) Fearing your Avatar? Exploring the scary journey to the 3rd Dimension, Proceedings of ReLIVE08 (Researching Learning in Virtual Environments) International Conference, 20-21 November, OU, Milton Keynes Whittaker, R. (2007) Quality Enhancement Themes: The first Year Experience. Transition to and during the first year, QAA Yorke, M. & Longden, B. (2007) The First Year Experience in HE in the UK. Report of Phase1 of a project funded by the HEA, Higher Education Academy





The discussion in the Plenary brought together many of the themes that had emerged during the day’s programme. As Chair of the Plenary, Terry Mayes reminded the delegates that one of the purposes of the day was to attempt to influence policy. Terry introduced some key issues that had come into focus during earlier discussion and the Plenary considered each in turn, attempting to derive practical messages for policymakers. The first of these looked at the impact of what Richard Hall had termed “external literacies”. These refer to skills, knowledge and attitudes that students acquire in their online activities outside the formal settings of education. Bringing these into their learning activities within the curriculum can produce a range of effects that influence their own, their peers’, and even their tutors’ approaches. Richard gave some examples of students at De Montfort: game design students working with SMEs beyond the formal curriculum; computer science students working on scripting and finding technical help in Second Life; a psychology student with thousands of vlogs on YouTube. In each of these examples students were exploring their learning in networks that went well beyond the institution’s VLE, and were exploiting expertise that in many cases went beyond that of their tutors. Clearly there is a subset of students who are highly digitally literate, and these learners are highly ‘connected’ in a way that implicitly widens their learning environment. For these students the notion of flexible learning is taken for granted, though such flexibility provides a challenge for institutional procedures built on an assumption that the institution controls the learning environment so that it can assure quality. Such digital natives also challenge the conventional relationships between students and their teachers. Some of the discussion around this topic concerned the expectation of learners that they need to choose their own social networks. Though these networks might be used for learning, the students may not be comfortable sharing such networks with those who will be responsible for assessing the quality of their work. A counterbalancing view was put by Joseph Maguire who reported on the low level of digital literacy of many of the students in the course in which he had attempted to introduce an element of co-creation. However, Steve Draper reported evidence that a survey of digital awareness amongst students had revealed a higher level of familiarity with social networking tools for level one students than for level four, so the level of digital literacy of incoming students is probably increasing rapidly. Nevertheless, Steve reminded the group that merely being fluent with one or two social networking tools, like Facebook, does not necessarily imply digital literacy in the sense that Richard Hall’s examples implied. Kerr Gardiner, though, put the view that our idea of digital literacy is changing all the time. For example, it would no longer be regarded as necessary to write HTML. The discussion widened to consider how far HEIs are responsible for ensuring that all students are fully equipped with the skill and knowledge that would allow them to exploit Web 2.0 possibilities for enhanced learning. The fact is that the set of required skills and knowledge is changing too fast for a curriculum that


might be intended to last for four years. A certificate of Web 2.0 competence gained in year one would seem quaintly out of date by year two. Nevertheless, the digital divide is real and the more we encourage the idea of co-creation the more disadvantaged are students who fall on the wrong side of the divide. This takes us right into the debate about generic skills and the extent to which they can be embedded in mainstream teaching of disciplines. What attributes should a graduate in the 21st century have, and how far should HE go in supporting them?2 Some participants in the discussion saw a deficit model driving this agenda, and expressed concern about the negative consequences of this. The Chair introduced the term ‘academic literacy’ into the discussion. This is intended to widen the concept of digital literacy to include the skills of critical thinking and enquiry. Not all the discussants were convinced that this term would convey what was intended. Steve Draper wondered whether social skills should be regarded as important here. He admits to finding it challenging to work in a “leaderless herd” and assumes that many undergraduates also find this difficult. As the discussion about academic literacy continued it became clearer that there are many components of ‘21st century literacy’ that should be addressed. Fluency with all aspects of modern technology is a key requirement for the building of successful performance in every area of modern life, associated as it should be with social and personal confidence, awareness and sensitivity to social and political agendas, and the ability to make informed judgements. Academic literacy refers to a basic flexibility to adapt to rapid changes and it is perhaps not very well served by the teaching of a standard discipline-based curriculum. The discussion moved on to the challenge of equipping staff with the confidence to move in the direction this symposium was trying to encourage: Christina Mainka’s workshop had revealed this as a key issue. Martin Oliver suggested that current strategies had alienated staff by emphasising their “deficiencies”. Mark Johnson and Kerr Gardiner both contributed to the discussion around this point, emphasising the need for institutional policies to grasp the importance of encouraging staff to explore and discover for themselves the pedagogical possibilities. Geoff Goolnik raised the concept of a “sandpit area” for staff, though Nicola Cargill-Kipar reminded us that so long as institutional policies offer more reward for research than for teaching, we will continue to see a low level of engagement in such approaches. Angela Benzies described how hard it is to make progress in a single area of teaching – a module, say – when the individual is embedded in a teaching culture that hardly changes from year to year. The Plenary then focused on the central topic of the symposium: the co-creation of knowledge. The Chair suggested that the term raises several questions by its ambiguity. The co-creation of what and by whom and for what purpose? In her keynote Betty Collis had emphasised the learning benefits students derived from the act of creating materials. The discussion centred on the need for this task to be purposeful and authentic for each learner. One example is to ask students to produce materials from which others will learn: placing the learner in the role of teacher is a powerful constructivist device. But will the materials produced really

The nature of 21st century graduate attributes is the subject of the latest Scottish HE enhancement theme, aiming to integrate all previous themes. See www.enhancementthemes.ac.uk


be used for teaching others? Indeed, Terry Mayes questioned the pedagogical rationale for this since delivering materials for learning is not in itself an effective pedagogy for the recipient, only for the creator. In Joseph Maguire’s example he had to rethink the intention that video podcasts would be reused by the following year’s students, although the reason for this had more to do with the need to assure the quality of the content than to enhance pedagogy. Betty Collis suggested that having stages of feedback prior to video production would have helped in this case. Terry’s suggested approach was to capture the process of creating the materials, and reuse this (e.g. video diaries and records of discussions) rather than the actual content itself. Finally, there was an interesting discussion about online communication itself, and the importance of the affective dimension of this. Mark Johnson noted how we are all revealing more and more about ourselves through technologymediated communication and wondered how far this should go in educational organisations. Steve Draper put the view that academic discussion actually precedes social bonding, rather than the other way round, as is usually assumed. Linda Creanor agreed that these issues were important in Web 2.0 pedagogies, but not yet properly understood. The group agreed that this was one of many issues of importance highlighted by the symposium that needed deeper understanding. The possibility of holding further symposia on this topic received general support. The Chair concluded the Plenary by thanking the participants for a successful day. He particularly thanked the TESEP Project for its sponsorship of the event.


POSTSCRIPT John Cowan, Napier University
Introduction I was asked to sum up the day, in some way, while the delegates who remained consumed their canapés and sipped their wine. I approached this, in the spirit of the acronym for the day, by following LICK with CHEW – standing for “Carrying Home Experts’ Wisdom”. Needless to say, it was the wisdom of the speakers and participants which I had in mind, not my own! This is a brief summary of my postscript. Outline I took as my theme the approach followed by Stephen Brookfield in some of his lectures. He would commence by telling his students the question which he intended to address and why he thought it important; and he then concluded by asking them what question that had raised in their mind, and what they proposed to do to find an answer. I warned my audience that I would do the same. • I stressed that questioning and its application by students had mattered to me ever since I first read Postman and Weingartner. I had warmed to the suggestion that the measure of someone’s education and thinking is not what they know, but the quality of the questions they ask. So my structure for this short input would be to declare the five questions I had brought with me to the events of the day, to outline why I thought them important, to report what progress I had made in finding answers, to mention en passant the questions which might have been posed during the day, but had not – the dogs that did not bark in the night – and then to move on to the questions which I was taking away home with me (quite a sentence!). I freely admitted the wisdom of the old saying – that any fool can ask a question which it takes a wise man (sic) to answer. So I felt equipped to question, and favoured by a gathering able to answer.

Question 1: How far should learning go beyond the assimilation of content? Although I have enthused about many aspects of his writing, I confess that Curt Bonk has often worried me by his emphasis on “delivering the content” through and in e-learning. That concept, like much of John Biggs’ writing, concentrates on the first three levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, if you use that form of categorisation. I’m afraid that I feel that IT has taken over much of the delivery, handling and use of content and the routine application of basic methodologies which used to be the remit of graduates – and that the real demands in HE nowadays are to develop graduates who have analytical and evaluative abilities, are creative problem-solvers, and have sophisticated interpersonal skills. I was hoping that these more pedagogically challenging, as well as more relevant and useful, outcomes, would figure in our programme.


Yet I noted that content featured a great deal in what Betty Collis had to say; and that Martin Oliver also spoke of the co-creation of knowledge. I wondered if the title for the day had seduced us to steer clear of higher level objectives. I was heartened when a questioner in the first session rightly (in my judgement) raised the issue of preparing students to use important skills. So I came back to my engineer’s emphasis on developing abilities. I was listening as the day progressed for discussion and reporting of the development of abilities, and of achieving affective goals, but I didn’t hear much of that. However I still had in my mind the questions raised by Martin Oliver, which I did not dare to paraphrase, but which went quite some way to giving us something to chew on under the heading of levels and domains. Question 2: Do we do enough to recognise and nurture unexpected learning outcomes? It has troubled me for a while that our current educational practice, which almost amounts to an obsession, is to specify and concentrate in an aligned way on expected learning outcomes, and has almost excluded the possibility of totally unexpected learning outcomes. Yet I keep encountering them, and being pleased for the learners for whom such learning has occurred. There are the wonderful skills which can develop while the learner is in pursuit of the scheduled outcomes. There are the rich rewards which come from wandering down an attractive sidetrack, increasingly found in internet searching. There are even interpersonal skills which emerge from planned and unplanned group activity. My students keep reporting such learning, and their pride and pleasure in it – which I share. I instanced the woman working with me on an Enquiry Skills module, who decided to optimise the multi-tasking for which her female brain, with its greater number of connections between its hemispheres, was better suited than is mine; and who demonstrated objectively in due course that she had succeeded in her aim. In recent years, I have persuaded some of my programme team colleagues to add a blank learning outcome at the end of the lists in our module specifications: “Any outcome which is in accordance with the goals of this module or programme, but not covered in the above list”. We then find a source of marks, bonus marks, with which such learning can be recognised and rewarded. When I mention this eccentric approach in academic company, I note that more than a third of those gathered nod agreement - and that there is almost a competition to contribute, in terms which begin: “I had an example of that recently, when…” During the day, I found many mentions of such outcomes, and even of demands from speakers for diversifying learning to include them; but as yet hardly anything of schemes for properly recognising unplanned outcomes. I needed to think more about that. Maybe you do, too? Question 3: Do we make enough use of self- and peer-assessment? It seems difficult nowadays to avoid mentioning concern for assessment in higher education. In the context of the day, I found it fairly easy, and I hope appropriate, to let a familiar bee out of my bonnet.


Betty Collis had warned us early on that “assessment remains a real challenge”. This would not come as anything new to an audience familiar with the fact that assessment which does not reward or encourage what the teachers claim to value is perhaps the greatest weakness in British higher education. I mentioned that, any time I am asked for advice from a newly appointed auditor, external examiner or reviewer in the UK system, I advise them to look at the module boxes, check assessed outcomes against declared outcomes, and begin to enquire about the marked differences which I can almost guarantee they will quickly find. Carrying forward my concern for higher level abilities from my first question, I mentioned that I am acutely aware that higher level abilities cannot be judged from full information about performance - without the involvement of the learner. Often only the learner knows if a creative performance is original to a breathtaking extent, or an adaptation of something encountered elsewhere and (rightly) admired, or repetition of an earlier creative effort. Given the pedagogical desirability of self-assessment, and the cost-effectiveness as well as the proven pedagogical power of formative peer-assessment, both seem remarkably neglected and under-used in the sector at present. The possibility of harnessing them was raised mildly from the floor by a few participants, but I felt it could profit from more attention – soon and almost urgently. I hoped that by airing it, and by arguing the case, I might have planted the question in the minds of a few of those listening. Question 4: Are our curriculum developments evaluated systematically and objectively? Over the years, many colleagues have told me that they can tell when a class, even a new activity, has gone well, because you get a “gut reaction” to that effect. When I have asked how they tell the difference between a gut reaction and indigestion, their consequent annoyance often tells its own story. In a context where so much is changing so rapidly, with the advent of IT and otherwise, methods and approaches are seldom the same as four or five years ago. Changes in the curriculum are often radical as well as rapid, and their impact on learning can often only be anticipated speculatively. Yet we operate now in an age where annual and periodic review are a feature of the scene, and where each such review is expected to be soundly evidence-based. It behoves us, then, to ingather data to inform our judgements and claims about the effectiveness of the innovations which we pilot. Given the attendant risks, the practice of ensuring that students have the security of a “safety net” lest the innovation does not deliver as hoped, is also surely desirable. As an innovator, provision of safety nets has always been a feature of my first steps into new educational territory. However, during the day, I did not encounter planned safety nets, and on the one occasion when I raised the possibility as a desirability, I did not encounter an empathic reaction. Yet, again in the first session, Betty Collis had reminded us that new developments “are not easy, first time round” (for staff or students). One participant then asked “So what if the innovation fails?” – without receiving adequate advice during the day. In his challenging study of reasonably competent and experienced teachers


engaged in e-moderation, Panos Vlachopoulos reported much to be learnt from mistakes in e-moderation, and the occurrence of many mistakes to be learnt from. Happily there were bright spots as far as evaluation was concerned. Angela Benzies and Jane McDowell described an iterative development, in a commendable partnership between and information scientist and an academic, where there had been delightfully systematic and purposeful formative evaluation. Overall, though, during a day which concentrated a great deal on innovation and change, formative and summative evaluation, and means of collecting useful data, were seldom mentioned. I was left asking if we give this priority enough attention. Question 5: How should teaching contribute to self-directed learning? In situations where the learning is self-directed and fostered in learning communities, what is the role for teachers, once the plans have been made and communicated to learners? To put it bluntly, are we needed? Linda Creanor reported a student as saying “technology is only as good as the teacher that’s behind it”. Hamish Macleod and colleagues wrote of the “orchestration of experience and interaction”. How can or do we discharge that remit? I joyed while wrestling with this dilemma to find what was for me the greatest gem in the day’s collection and offerings. This was Steve Draper’s paper on “Learning and Community”. In this, he identifies our teaching role, today and tomorrow, in a visionary and inspiring way, even if under what I felt was the regrettable title of “teacher monitoring”. So what questions did I take with me for the journey home and thereafter? I had made progress with the questions on my original list, as I hope I have indicated; but they still remained, with amendments and enlargements. To these I added: • Martin Oliver’s issue regarding the two perspectives (see his paper, in which he does more justice to this than could I); A sneaking concern expressed in a question which developed for me through the day, as I related back to my absent colleagues and their priorities and practices: “How typical are we of the sector, its concerns and its progress?” Finally, in a climate where more and more teachers advocate group working, interaction and social-constructivism, I’m troubled to sort out: “At what point does or even must deep understanding become self-created and personal?”

I dwelt for a short time on that last question, airing experiences in which my studies of problem-solving students had revealed their need in the end to summarise and apply their approach in terms of highly personal metaphors and similes with which few if any peers, or tutors, could identify. As I had promised, I then urged the remaining audience to consider, before tackling the serious task of whisky tasting, what questions they would be taking away with them, and what they would propose to do about seeking answers. In


a setting where acronyms were popular, I struggled to find yet another expansion of “LICK”, and could only overwork the letter “K” (as is so often done nowadays), and suggested feebly: Let Inquiries Continue Kreatively!


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