Digital scholarship and ePortfolios

Current online information environments and the associated social and pedagogical transactions within them create an important information ecosystem that can and should influence and shape the professional engagement and digital scholarship within our learning communities in the higher education sector.  Thanks to advances in technology, the powerful tools at our disposal to help students understand and learn in unique ways are enabling new ways of producing, searching and sharing information and knowledge. By leveraging technology, we have the opportunity to open new doors to scholarly inquiry for ourselves and our students. While practical recommendations for a wide variety of ways of working with current online technologies are easily marketed and readily adopted, there is insufficient connection to digital scholarship practices in the creation of meaning and knowledge through more traditional approaches to the ‘portfolio’.

Reflection on practice

A key area in the development of the professional practitioner is the ability to reflect on practice as the basis for learning, with the effectiveness of this practice having been confirmed through research to be linked to inquiry, reflection and continuous professional growth (Killeavy & Moloney, 2010). Reflection can be understood as a process of internal dialogue facilitated by thinking or writing and through an external dialogue and reflection together with others (Clarke, 2003). Reflective practice writing is creative, a way of gaining access to each practi­tioner’s deep well of experience not always accessible to everyday channels and is a valuable mode of expressing, sharing, assessing and developing professional experience (Bolton, 2005). By recognising and taking responsibility for personal and professional identity, values, action and feelings the student undertaking reflection within the constructs of subject and program requirements is demonstrating a willingness to stay with uncertainty, doubt and questioning in order to engage in spirited enquiry leading to constructive developmental change and personal and professional integrity based on deep understandings (Bolton, 2010, p. 7). Knowing what to reflect upon is as critical a part of the educative process as the reflection action itself, perhaps explaining why reflective practice has become a standard in initial and continuing professional education and development. This is a pedagogical approach that draws together reflective practice and reflexivity (finding strategies to question our own attitudes, values and limits of our knowledge –  Bolton, 2010) as a state of mind to empower the process of learning.

In professional programmes in particular, it is useful if students keep a reflective journal, in which they record any incidents or thoughts that help them reflect on the content of the course or programme. Such reflection is basic to proper professional functioning. The reflective journal is especially useful for assessing ILOs (intended learning outcomes)  relating to the application of content knowledge, professional judgment and reflection on past decisions and problem solving with a view to improving them.” (Biggs & Tang, 2011, p.261).

It is perhaps simplistic to migrate a pre-digital taxonomy to a digital environment and to ignore the function of and relationship to digital scholarship for the educator or higher education academic. When it comes to online learning, it is understood that interaction with others (peers and instructors) is a highly important variable in successful learning experiences within the online learning environment, particularly when coupled with the need for students to achieve self-regulation between their own knowledge/experiences and the content of a subject (Cho & Kim, 2013).  This reflective practice, which assists in assembling knowledge and experience in meaningful ways, can be facilitated by the use of an ePortfolio, and may facilitate independent learning, development of identity, a sense of empowerment, greater awareness of self, and promote active engagement in future oriented professional practice (Rowley & Munday, 2014).

The digital information environment in which an ePortfolio is situated is one that demands a new knowledge flow between content and digital connections. While academics may consider themselves to be pedagogically driven in their learning and teaching, the availability of technologies to support different models of learning strongly influences what kinds of pedagogies will now emerge in terms of course content, subject dialogue and conversation.  As McLuhan (1964) first argued, technologies also influence and define the usage, in this case the pedagogy instantiated in the learning and instructional designs (Anderson & Dron, 2010). Academics (as teachers) need to support and nurture learners to learn within connected and collaborative learning environments, to lead purposeful and corrective discourse in relation to multiple information environments as part of the construction of meaning and understanding (Garrison, 2015).

References

Anderson, T., & Dron, J. (2010). Three generations of distance education pedagogy. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 12(3), 80–97.
Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2011). Teaching for quality learning at university. Open university press.
Bolton, G.(2005). How to begin writing. In Reflective practice: writing and professional development (2nd ed.)(pp. 141-162). London, UK.:Sage.
Bolton, G. (2010). Reflective practice: Writing and professional development. Sage publications.
Cho, M. H., & Kim, B. J. (2013). Students’ self-regulation for interaction with others in online learning environments. The Internet and Higher Education, 17, 69-75.
Clarke, M. (2003). Reflections: Journals and reflective questions a strategy for professional learning, NZARE/AARE Conference. New Zealand.
Garrison, D.R. (2015). Thinking collaboratively: Learning in a community of enquiry. London: Taylor & Francis.
Killeavy, M., & Moloney, A. (2010). Reflection in a social space: Can blogging support reflective practice for beginning teachers?. Teaching and Teacher Education, 26(4), 1070-1076.
McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions of man. New York: McGraw Hill.
Rowley, J., and Munday, J. (2014). A ‘Sense of self’ through reflective thinking in ePortfolios, International Journal of Humanities Social Sciences and Education, 1(7), 78-85.

Extract from

Digital scholarship powered by reflection and reflective practice through the use of an ePortfolio approach to course design in Higher Education. (Refereed publication)

World class education through OERu

Home___OERuOne of the delights of working at Charles Sturt University is being able to range across innovation opportunities – to make a difference!

A project that I have had some connection with has been the open university initiative branded as OERu. Check out what they are up to at https://oeru.org. It’s a very interesting project headed by Wayne McIntosh UNESCO / ICDE Chair in OER, Director of the OER Foundation, OERu thought leader.

The OERu makes education accessible to everyone. Coordinated by the OER Foundation, we are an independent, not-for-profit network that offers free online courses for students worldwide. We also provide affordable ways for learners to gain academic credit towards qualifications from recognised institutions.

In the traditions of open sharing, the OERu partners develop all OERu courses in WikiEducator.  This is a healthy relationship because 75% of the funding which keeps the WikiEducator website going is generated from OERu membership fees.  Without this support – we would not be able to fund the hosting of WikiEducator.

I need to ask for your help!  We need you to subscribe to the Youtube Channel.

One of the outputs of the communication’s project is a short video explaining what the OERu is and how it is designed to enable education opportunities around the globe.

As a charitable organisation, YouTube has approved a Youtube for non-profits account for the OERu. We have met all the requirements to qualify for a custom url for the new channel, expect that we need 100 hundred subscribers.

We need your help – please subscribe to the OERu Youtube channel so we can qualify for a custom url.

This will make it easier for learners to find more affordable options for higher education and higher education institutions to become more sustainable.

Thinking is awesome – eportfolios



Current online information environments and associated transactions are considered an important ‘information ecosystem’  (Haythornthwaite & Andrews, 2011, p in ch 8) influencing and shaping professional engagement and digital scholarship in communities of learning in the higher education sector (Lee, McLoughlin & Chan, 2008).   This kind of  information ecosystem is also considered to be social in practice and making use of use of participatory technologies and online social networks to share, reflect, critique, improve, and validate academic engagement and scholarship (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012, p.768).

Thanks to advances in technology, the  powerful tools at our disposal to help students understand and learn in unique ways are enabling new ways of producing, searching and sharing information and knowledge (Conole, 2013). By leveraging technology, we have the opportunity to  open new doors to scholarly inquiry for ourselves and our students. While practical recommendations for a wide variety of ways of working with current online technologies is easily marketed and readily adopted, there is insufficient connection to digital scholarship in the creation of meaning and knowledge as an action of digital scholarship. It is perhaps simplistic to migrate a pre-digital taxonomy to a digital environment and to ignore the function of and relationship to digital scholarship for the educator or higher education academic.

Portfolios are a well-researched and proven pedagogical approach to support reflective thinking as well as providing the opportunity for students to demonstrate functioning knowledge in the context of intended learning outcomes within a subject or through a course.

A portfolio provides reflective knowledge construction, self-directed learning, and facilitates habits of lifelong learning within the profession.

Considering the potential of e-portfolios means that we can also meet the challenges of learning within enhanced subject experiences which we have detailed through the CSU Online Learning and Teaching Model.

CSU Thinkspace is an online blogging and web platform that allows for varied and flexible use of the tool during a course, creating a range of subject experiences that can build into an extensive digital portfolio of learning achievements. header2-295kwr0

Back in 2013, as part of my work as Courses Director, we established Thinkspace which is a branded version hosted by CampusPress from Edublogs.  Awesome.  Working with my favourite consultant Jo Kay, the design and support structures were set up.  We were ready for the integration of reflective blogging and an integrated approach to an e-portfolio!

We have been using Thinkspace for :

  • reflective blogging
  • website creation
  • digital assessments of various kinds
  • digital artifacts
  • open education resources
  • course and subject specific learning experiences
  • peer-to-peer engagement
  • developing digital literacies for working and learning online
  • providing graduates with evidence of their personal and professional capabilities in their chosen discipline field.

I was recently asked to create a video that explains what Thinkspace is, and the pedagogical rationale of using Thinkspace in subjects with a particular emphasis on the use of Thinkspace as an e-portfolio within a course (degree program) Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship). We also adopted the same approach in the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks & Digital Innovation).

Here is a video that tells the story. You may often see blog posts shared on Twitter as part of the participatory learning experiences!

 References:

Conole, G. (2013). Designing for learning in an open world. New York, Springer.

Haythornthwaite, C., & Andrews, R. (2011). E-learning theory and practice. California, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Lee, M. J., McLoughlin, C., & Chan, A. (2008). Talk the talk: Learner‐generated podcasts as catalysts for knowledge creation. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(3), 501-521.

Veletsianos, G., & Kimmons, R. (2012). Networked participatory scholarship: Emergent techno-cultural pressures toward open and digital scholarship in online networks. Computers & Education, 58(2), 766–774. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2011.10.001

Image: flickr photo shared by BookMama under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

 

 

Read your email – support DOAJ!



One of the resources I have always introduced to my students is the Directory of Open Access Journals. DOAJ is an online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals. Not only it is a valuable repository of information, but the Directory is also a fabulous introduction to may to the world of Open Educational Resources.

Open educational resources (OER) are freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes. It is the leading trend in distance education/open and distance learning domain as a consequence of the openness movement.

BUT – it seems that if folks don’t read their emails – then we have a problem.  Well I know that some people claim email is dead – wish my email box at work knew that! Funny.

So it was a bit startling to see the media release hit my Twitter stream from DOAJ. Seriously – I read your email and support open access to information.

Copy here of the news alert included for your astonishment too!

Today DOAJ will remove approximately 3300 journals for failure to submit a valid reapplication before the communicated deadline; a deadline which was extended twice to allow more time for reapplications. This batch removal is another step in DOAJ’s two year long project to increase the value and accuracy of the information provided in it.

Here are some details about the reapplication project from its launch in January 2015 to today:

  • The reapplication process is a necessary step towards ensuring that all journals in DOAJ (of which there were about 10000) met the higher criteria for indexing that DOAJ launched in March 2014. The criteria were produced as a response to the maturing open access arena, the greater demands made on open access publishing by questionable journals and publishers, and to retain DOAJ’s relevancy and importance in open access publishing.
  • Some journals have been in DOAJ since 2003 and have never refreshed their information with us.
  • As of today over 5000 journals have already submitted their reapplication to us and we are busy assessing those. Many reapplications have been accepted back into DOAJ.
  • The contact for every journal to be removed from DOAJ was emailed at least 4 times, informing them of our intention to remove their journals if they failed to submit a reapplication by the agreed deadline.
  • We send email via Mailchimp and took all the necessary precautions to ensure that our emails didn’t end up in Spam, get trapped in institutional firewalls, or failed to deliver for other reasons. We used the Mailchimp authentication options to “verify” that our emails were from a genuine source.
  • The first email, announcing the reapplication project and inviting people to reapply, was sent out in January 2015 and went to publishers with 11 or more journals in DOAJ. The second email went out to publishers with 10 or less journals in DOAJ in June 2015.
  • Reminders were sent out regularly, once a month as well as announcing the deadline to our largest communities: via this blog, Twitter and Facebook.
  • To ensure that our emails ended up with the correct contact, we spent a considerable amount of time tidying up our contacts database: we updated at least 1000 records.

Removed journals are welcome to submit a new application to DOAJ at any time. They will be placed in the queue along with other applications. We will add a third tab to our spreadsheet ‘DOAJ: journals added and removed‘ that will list all of the journals removed.

When a journal is removed from DOAJ, any article metadata will also become unavailable. This is standard functionality. We are confident that the majority of the journals removed have never supplied article metadata to us, or have done once but haven’t sent us anything for at least 2 years.

If you use DOAJ as a data source and would like to do your own analysis of the journals indexed,  download our journals CSV (https://doaj.org/csv) today before 11am BST, 12pm CEST. A copy of that spreadsheet is also available here.

Image: flickr photo shared by opensourceway under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

E-learning in higher education



Distance education and distance learning, once undertaken by one-to-one correspondence between learners and teachers (yes I did this!) has been radically transformed into online learning, or e-learning, through the use of learning management systems and other web based or digital tools. Now this type of education is characterized not so much by ‘distance’ as by the mode of ‘electronic’ or ‘e’ learning environments that is internet or web-based, and provides ongoing challenges for the researcher investigating professional contribution (i.e. teaching or educating) in higher education.

Distance education has evolved through many technologies, in tandem with the affordances these technologies provided, and each mode or ‘generation’ has required that distance educators and students be skilled and informed to select the best mix(es) of both pedagogy and technology. Internet connectivity is ubiquitous and now makes communication from multiple locations easy, and puts a vast range of online resources in the hands of individuals, who can stay aware of other’s activities through Twitter feeds and social networking site information or stay connected and update data (including status information) to central sites for others to view and use (Haythornthwaite & Andrews, 2011. p. 20).

In practical terms when communication online becomes more relational, socialized and expressive, individuals are required to master an emergent, articulated repertoire of communicative competencies that mixes interpersonal and group process fluencies to make linkages and correspondences through a repertoire of competencies inextricably social and technological (Lievrouw, 2012, p. 626). In this way new communities of inquiry are formed around shared interest, activity and educational experiences (Garrison et al. 1999; Shea & Bidjerano, 2010), facilitated by the web as a platform for content creation and collaboration by multiple recipients (Franklin et al, 2007).

Whichever way we look at it, working with technology is now an integral component of academic life, content information and connectivity, providing essential components of access to scholarly resources, digital content, communication platforms, and new social, legal and technical frameworks of practice – leading to new forms of scholarship and learning (Borgman, 2007 p.3 ). Academics (as teachers) need to support and nurture learners to learn within connected and collaborative learning environments, to lead purposeful and corrective discourse in relation to multiple information environments as part of the construction of meaning and understanding (Garrison, 2015).

According to Nagy (2011) creating the right blend of resources and methods for an engaging learning environment requires particular and diverse skills, and skills take time to develop and need refreshing as technologies (and student expectations) evolve, though there is an unresolved presumption that academics should contribute to the generation of new knowledge so that teaching is informed by discipline practice.  Nagy (2011) concludes that the increasing application of web-based technologies and flexible learning tools associated with academic programs is associated with growing numbers of university staff able to make substantial contributions to scholarship in teaching and learning.

However, different academic communities engage differently in scholarship. Also the proliferation of digital content is part of the change in scholarly communication, and the nature of digital scholarship is dependent on emergent practices, processes and procedures of scholarly communication conducted via various digital domains.

Lynch (2014) describes digital scholarship as a shorthand for the entire body of changing scholarly practice, in recognition of the fact that most areas of scholarly work today have been transformed, to a lesser or greater extent, by information technologies, such as: high-performance computing; visualisation technologies; technologies for creating, curating, and sharing large databases and large collections of data; and high performance networking which allows us to share resources across the network and to gain access to geographically dispersed individuals to communicate and collaborate. New techniques and forms of digital engagement will be required, and at the same time, older modes of disciplinary inquiry will be preserved, carried forward, and reconstituted (Thomas & Lorang, 2014).

In short – there is much to think about, much to change, and much to investigate with deep research into the new fields of digital scholarly endeavour.  Digital scholarship should underpin the changing focus for e-learning or online learning for (distance) higher education, not just be driven by the affordances of online technologies.

Yet while personal and social technologies are also (explicitly or implicitly) increasingly expected to be used for academic work, embracing digital communication and information media, the implications and/or relationship to digital scholarship practices remains disconnected or compartmentalised. I believe that understanding digital scholarship may support new pedagogies to emerge in terms of course content, subject dialogue and conversation, which will require an elaboration of the relationship between scholarly practice and technology from digital and social perspectives. – to perhaps create the lasting (and effective) change and development we are ultimately seeking!

 References

Borgman, C. L. (2007). Scholarship in the digital age. MIT press.

Franklin, T., Van Harmelen, M., & others. (2007). Web 2.0 for content for learning and teaching in higher education.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (1999). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The internet and higher education, 2(2), 87-105.

Garrison, D.R. (2015). Thinking collaboratively: Learning in a community of enquiry. London: Taylor & Francis.

Haythornthwaite, C., & Andrews, R. (2011). E-learning theory and practice. California, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Lievrouw, L. A. (2012). The next decade in Internet time. Information, Communication & Society, 15(5), 616-638.

Lynch, C., (2014). The ‘digital’ scholarship disconnect. Educause Review, May 19. Retrieved from http://er.educause.edu/articles/2014/5/the-digital-scholarship-disconnect

Nagy, J. (2011). Scholarship in higher education: Building research capabilities through core business. British Journal of Educational Studies, 59(3), 303–321. http://doi.org/10.1080/00071005.2011.599792

Shea, P., & Bidjerano, T. (2010). Learning presence: Towards a theory of self-efficacy, self-regulation, and the development of a communities of inquiry in online and blended learning environments. Computers & Education, 55(4), 1721-1731.

Thomas, W.G. & Lorang, E. (2014). The other end of the scale: rethinking the digital experience in higher education. Educause Review, September 15.

Image: flickr photo shared by sandraschoen under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

 

Enhancing the student digital experience

The challenges of learning and teaching in online environments are ones that all educators face today – or at least should! So in this context, I was pleased to see the latest @JISC report for the university context:- Enhancing the Student Digital Experience: a strategic report.

The report seeks to provide answers to key questions:

  • How are you responding to the changing digital needs and expectations of your students and staff?
  • Do the experiences and the digital environment you offer to your students adequately prepare them to flourish in a society that relies heavily on digital technologies?
  • What are you doing to engage students in dialogue about digital issues and to work collaboratively with them to enhance their digital learning experience?
  • How well is the digital vision for your establishment embedded in institutional policies and strategies?

A must read and addition to your professional collection.

However, from my experience in  Higher Education what we do is probably far more complex and less likely to come to a happy resolution than in schools. This is not because we are any less competent, but rather that many in tertiary see ‘teaching’ as of secondary importance to everything else, whether that is research, writing or administration – because of the pressures put on them.

This ‘dilemma’ leaves me somewhat unhappy with the trajectory and resolution of competing interests in my own small ‘realm’, particularly when as Courses/Program Director part of my brief is to nurture good quality learning opportunities for students.  It puzzles me  when I see a messages come into my mail about  “strategies for assessment design that reduces marking time”, or “designing subject content and/or assessment to increase alignment with your research interests and why this is justifiable.” Both could (in my mind) run counter to overall course design, and/or quality engagement with students if taken in the wrong way. .

So the real problem of course is not commitment of lecturers, but the priorities, that often make teaching the thing that you have to do rather than the thing you want to do. I would love to know how many folks in HE love their teaching, and work tirelessly with students to achieve the best outcome possible.  I’ll leave it to you (from your personal experiences) to think of an answer.

Conversely, of course, students come in many shapes, and dispositions, so the overall learning experience is still a dual experience.  We can’t always meet everyone’s needs in online learning environments – after all, the learners themselves have to take a lead role/responsibility in the process.

I’ve kickstarted another great year in my favourite education degree http://www.csu.edu.au/digital where we encourage students (amongst other things) to share their experiences in the Twitter back-channel.  You have to have fun with learning too!  Two subjects that I am involved with are underway #INF530 Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age, and #INF541 Game Based Learning. I encourage students to joke around about the challenges, as that helps to lighten to pressure on us all.   (Of course, if they are using the back channel already, they are usually doing very well! Good on you Amanda and Simon!)

 Image: creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

Critical connections: power for your mind online

Ideas are central to our need to connect and communicate – and technology has become a pivotal process or tool in that social and intellectual process of connectedness. Has it transformed learning in higher education? Not so much!

Let’s be clear – using technology and/or technology tools does not equate with empowerment of the learning/knowledge formation experience –  unless the technology connection allows for critical knowledge connections to form, or transform, the experience of learning.  This is a huge challenge, and while I understand that technology is around us (and that in my case I deliver all the learning experiences in my degree programs with technology) I am not convinced that I know yet what online learning is all about.

For example, Steve Wheeler re-iterated the often-stated importance of technology in schools in his recent post Talking Tech:

The personal, mobile device has started to transform learning in both formal and informal contexts. Learning in any place and at any time is going to gain traction in the coming years, and the emphasis will be on personal learning. Students can gain access to any amount of resources and connections that will help them to learn; they can use their mobile phones to connect with others; and also create and share their own content with potentially huge audiences outside and beyond the walls of the classroom. The value of this is immeasurable.

Trouble is, this does not convince me at all that we have made significant progress in understanding exactly what we are aiming for.  Tim Klapdor expressed this very clearly in reflecting on the current state of mobile learning:

The reality is that institutions (and the entire edtech industry) have under estimated the paradigm shift required to embrace mobile. It’s still treated as just a feature, or a nice to have rather than the future of computing.

Tim pins down the practicalities of mobile learning in higher education, and mirrors my experience (and huge challenges) of trying to shift a university environment past the bleeding obvious integration of mobile (there’s an BB App for that) (it’s clunky at best).

I prefer to treat mobile as the tool for daily, fast interaction within a  cohort of curious learners.  It would be arrogant of me to claim to know everything about the subject areas that I may be working in – and so I see learning as a peer education experience.  So mobile is vital for ease of connection, and engagement with the very essence of our critical connections – people, information, tools, communication, and more. How else can we genuinely power our minds?  How else do we move past the more traditional higher education experience of “I have the content, now you learn it please” model of engagement?

What we have is a an information interconnection between us which can be conceptualized as complexes of activities, tools and values, and for this the personal learning environments we create for students in the higher education experience must represent learning and inquiry that is responsive to these new information landscapes.

More easily said than done – as we are hamstrung by systems and practices that make it hard to liberate the potential of technology and mobile learning. Add to that the culture of openness that has had a significant impact on the educational sphere, as shown by the rise of open educational resources (OER) and open access (OA). While a complete transition to information openness has not yet been realised, educational practices that are entirely focused around traditional, closed and proprietary knowledge systems are in tension with these changing information landscapes.

So I find myself wrangling with BlackBoard, and horrified by the constraints that the Blackboard CSS places on the learning experience.  What a contrast to read GitHub for Academics: the open-source way to host, create and curate knowledge which was orinally published back in 2013 at Hybrid Pedagogy. I read it then, and read it again now, and (depressingly) realise that in the normal day-to-day work I am involved in, pure, focused and genuine innovation is well-nigh impossible. Unless of course you are head of an innovation unit, or in some other fancy role, and have time and money to throw at the project of transforming higher education.

I wish!  Academics like me don’t get that kind of opportunity.

All I can do is work with my students in my newest degree program, and hope that in some small way we can make critical connections, power our minds together, and move learning forward to the future!

Live long and prosper.

Image: Spock creative commons licensed ( BY-NC ) flickr photo shared by doctorlizardo