Effective Practice with E-Learning

Effective Practice with e-Learning sets out the current context before exploring a definition of effective practice,drawing on the research and desk studies commissioned under the e-Learning and Pedagogy strand of the JISC e-Learning Programme. Ten case studies are included within the document, giving insights into existing e-Learning practices in post-compulsory education – ranging from Newcastle United Football Club Learning Centre to Colleges (FE and Sixth form) and Universities.

This guide is available in pdf format for download and further information can be found on the JISC e-Learning and Pedagogy website.

DfES e-Strategy - 'Harnessing Technology: Transforming learning and children's services'

The Department for Education and Skills have published their eLearning Strategy, which aims to improve personalisation and choice; flexibility and independence; staff development; partnerships; and to open up services. They have identified six priority actions to be implemented across sectors (schools, post-16, HE and children’s services), these are:

1. An integrated online education information service
2. Integrated online personal support for children and learners
3. Develop a collaborative approach to personalised learning activities
4. A good quality ICT training and support package for practitioners
5. Provide a leadership and development package for organisational capability in ICT
6. Build a common digital infrastructure to support transformation and reform

For more details on the strategy see DfES e-Strategy - 'Harnessing Technology: Transforming learning and children's services' which contains links to both the summary document and full e-Strategy.

Engaging Networks for Sustainable eLearning in Florence

As one of the partners of the ENSeL project, we're just back from the latest meeting in Florence. This was hosted by SAGO an Italian SME who undertake applied research into Informatics, Education and Training in the health care sector.

The meeting focused around what this network of networks has learned from elearning trials involving people from SMEs in Italy, France and the UK. We are currently in the process of devising a template for tutors to reflect on their learning from the trial. This will be based on the outcomes from Florence, but also on analysis of partners views on learning in networks, which were recorded during interviews at an earlier meeting at Göteborg University.

We used NVivo for the early analysis, but are looking at other qualititative analysis software for more flexibility. Thomas Koenig at Loughborough University provides an overview of what computer-assisted qualitative data analyses software (CAQDAS) is available.

ePortfolios for Assessment and PDP

Online assessment is becoming more and more popular as we try and push out the boundaries of our use of ICT in education. Here are a few recent projects looking at the use of ePortfolios for assessment and Professional/Personal Development Planning (PDP).

Here's how one group used 'ePortfolios to assess the Reflective Capabilities of Medical Students'. You can also access a demo of the tool they used by registering for a demonstration account.

eViva is a schools based project using ePortfolios to allow students to provide evidence of their ICT abilities for assessment. This two year project piloted a system with 10 schools and generally received positive feedback from both students and teachers. Some of the unusual functionality added interest, with students particularly enjoying being able to post comments via SMS. Other features included creating a “voice postcard” over the phone which was uploaded to the site and having a telephone Viva as a final assessment. Teachers felt that student motivation increased, and that they were given a better insight into their students learning. Students were encouraged to annotate their work (promoting reflective practices) and add comments to their classmates work (encouraging peer reviewing and collaborative learning). The final report gives details of the project, the platform and the views of students and teachers participating in the pilot.

The UKGRAD programme has developed a database of case studies from UK institutions, detailing how they are using online PDP for post-graduate and post-doctoral researchers. The resource is intended to allow sharing and advancement of best practice across the sector. (Registration is required to access the existing case studies).

Other ePortfolio projects and resources can be found on David Tosh's e-portfolio research and development community, based at Edinburgh University.

While JISC is funding various new ePortfolio development projects including:

Think-aloud protocols

Verbal protocols could be seen as first validated in a 1980 Psychological Review paper by Ericsson and Simon (later published in book form as 'Protocol analysis: verbal reports as data'). Ericsson provides an overview of Protocol analysis and Verbal Reports on Thinking based in cognitive psychology and behaviour. While Someren et al's practical guide to modelling cognitive processes using the think aloud method is useful for those planning to use this approach.

This technique has, however, also been used in other settings. For example, usability engineer Sally Abolrous discusses think-aloud protocols as a means for collecting performance and preference data on usability in her paper 'Probing and its Effects on the Validity and Reliability of Verbal Reports'. Karahasanovic has developed an online tool for using the think-aloud method with large numbers of software engineering students (although the tool doesn't seem to be available for download). Others have used this method with nurses looking at reasoning and clinical decision making.

Do you know your Positivist from your Grounded theory?

This article by Michael Myers is described as a 'living scholarship' and therefore provides an evergrowing source on Qualitative Research in Information Systems. It also includes a very useful overview of Philosophical Perspectives (a three-fold classification: positivist, interpretive and critical). Myers also describes four types of Qualitative Research Methods (action research, case studies, ethnography and grounded theory); Data Collection Techniques; and Modes of Analysis (hermeneutics, semiotics, and narrative & metaphor). There's also links to the main software analysis tools as well as other resources..