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!


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


The road to change

If you still have my blog loaded into your RSS reader, you may be surprised to see some posts appear again. 2015-2016 has become more than a challenge – more like a hurdle and then a steep and winding road to change.

From Just another Bag Lady to walking relatively confidently 12 months later, to:  a decision to sell up house (what a ghastly exhausting job that was!); a new position for 2016 as Project Manager – Online Subject Enhancement in the Faculty of Education at CSU; and to two planned moves in 2016 (one to an apartment in Sydney and another to a still-to-be -built new home in country Albury.  Phew!  That’s different!

Well, life is too short to be static and unchanging. You knew that didn’t you?  So after all these years of writing here (more than 10 years), it’s time to begin to record a little more of the professional curios that come my way.

I hope your 2016 is filled with professional and personal adventures as mine certainly is!

flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Virtual representation of information

Watching Twitter (as you do) I was quite taken by this quick post from Michael Wiebrands about the use of Unity 5 Personal Edition, to test out an information idea in a virtual environment – I mean really virtual, not just online!

So the first test combining Trove and Unity, resulted in a cool looking Virtual Archive Using Trove API. The idea was to represent the data in a similar way to the visualisation scenes in the 1995 movie “The Hackers”. The content is Curtin University JCPML images pulled in realtime from Trove via their API and animated on the servers/buildings.

Pretty cool video of the virtual outcome to my non-IT eyes!

Copyright changes and Slideshare chicanery

There are many different ways to share the content of your presentation slides, but Slideshare has remained my ‘go to’ slide repository, as it aggregates all my presentations that I have chosen to share in the last eight years. Time warp almost!  These days so much goes on in social sharing processes that it’s easy to miss changes or updates.

Thanks to Ian Clark in his post on Slideshare closes copyright breaching loophole, I discovered a new service launched by Slideshare. It’s a highly relevant one related to images – a topic I always make sure to cover with any students that I engage with using images for social media professional or personal use.  I do this in the context of getting away from ‘death by powerpoint’ and moving to visual prompts to communicate, with limited/appropriate text etc. The slide-deck needs to be standalone, but also cannot (nor should it) reveal the depth of conversations had. It’s not  a lecture! So information rich and informative – tick.  Images – tick. Creative commons – tick.  Correct content attribution – tick.

I make it my business to use Alan Levine’s FlickrCC attribution helper as my totally favourite and only sane way for a busy person to get fab images, use creative commons, and meet copyright needs (as a way of acknowledging the creative work of others).  NO snitching!

I place the URL on each image page  – the simplest thing, and now the best thing to do, given the launch of Slideshare’s new clipping feature. Introducing clipping on Slideshare:

There’s so much information at our fingertips today – on LinkedIn SlideShare alone there are 18 million pieces of content. As a result, it can be hard to stay on top of everything that resonates with you. That’s why we’re excited to introduce our newest feature, Clipping,  a new tool designed to make it easier for you to conduct and organize research, and learn any topic quickly on LinkedIn SlideShare. You can now clip and save the best slides from presentations across LinkedIn SlideShare to view or share later. It’s is a handy way to keep everything organized in topic-based Clipboards. You can also share your great finds to benefit the whole community. Here’s how it works. As you’re combing through decks, you’ll notice a clipping icon in the bottom left corner of slides. So, if there’s one slide that you absolutely love, you can clip it. When you’re ready, head to your board, where all of the the individual slides you clipped will be saved. You can organize clips into boards based on topic or author. Once you’ve created a great board, you can share it with others or post it on social media.

So here’s the rub.  I’ve always made my Slideshare’s downloadable – in the spirit of being open, and making information accessible.  Sure, people can  do sneaky things with that download, but it’s a balance.

But this snip and make a new deck is a whole new bit of chicanery, as well as an issue of copyright.

There is no integrity associated with cutting and pasting other people’s creative and/or academic ideas and palming them off as your own – and this is what I fear this new Slideshare option allows. Also, if you don’t have the attribution of an image used in the actual slide (some people list them all at the end, or I add it first time used) you are also breaching the spirit of creative commons sharing processes.

This new Slideshare feature needs you to actively change a setting on each and evey presentation individually (it’s not defaulted to the option that protects you from a copyright claim). As Ian explains:

To prevent your slides from being clipped simply take the following steps.

  1. Click on “Edit” underneath the slide player:

2. Head to “Privacy Settings” and select “No” to allowing users to clip slides:

Ye gad – what a process – and how many of us have missed this important update??  Well there it is – now go off and get clicking!

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

Social media and your library

Libraries use social media for a whole range of objectives these days, to communicate and promote information, events, and generally build community. How well this is done of course depends on a range of things – in particular the skills and knowledge of those who establish and drive the various initiatives.

It helps to have information to have a white paper to look at for general applications, as managers often respond favorably to evidence quantified this way.

A white paper from Taylor & Francis from back in October 2014, which I have just stumbled across, is one such useful document.  The white paper titled Use of social media by the library: current practices and future opportunities was researched and compiled to provide an overview of current practices relating to the use by libraries of social media, from a world-wide perspective.

Social media has the potential to facilitate much closer relationships between libraries and their patrons, wherever they are based, and however they choose to access library services and resources.

The document provides a useful benchmark, if you are still developing your strategy, and covers key areas, that I find are often missed in peoples thinking. Knowing not only social media objectives, but also how to choose channel applications, and co-ordinate approaches between them is critical for a social media presences. Good policy is also vital!

Visit the Taylor and Francis LibSite http://www.tandf.co.uk/libsite/whitePapers/socialMedia/ where you will also find visualisations of key findings from the white paper.  There is also a webinar to help you discover best practice (including a transcript of the session) and you can Read the Storify to see what the library community has made of the white paper results. But wait – there’s more.  You will just have to go and visit the Libsite!

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

Your #remixvic – no more cobwebs!

Once again, we have the power of a digital collections providing a great new image source for remix courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.They have almost 200,000 pictures in our image pool, free of copyright restrictions or available to be used. So dive in and get creative – remix, reuse and share the results.

Pity they do not include attribution details with each image, to make remix more effective.

Anyway, let them explain about the initiative:

We’ve opened up our image vault, dusted off the cobwebs and sourced almost 200,000 images from our collection for you to reuse, remix and repurpose in any way you choose.

So let your imagination take flight – dive into our digital image pool, select and download your photos, then create something new. Start with a vintage paper lantern, make a 19th-century papercraft dog, or be inspired by some of the other remixes you’ll see here.

Share your creation on Instagram using the hashtag #remixvic – we’ll feature our favourite remixes here and on our @Library_Vic Instagram account.

Don’t use Instagram? No worries, you can share your #remixvic creations on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr.

You can also submit your photos of the Library on our #libraryvicpic page.

Image: State Library of Victoria collection http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/dragon-thumbnail.jpg

Guidelines for Parliamentary Research Services

Guidelines for Parliamentary LibrariesThe Guidelines for Parliamentary Research Services, a joint publication between IFLA and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), was launched on 13 August at the Section’s pre-conference in Cape Town, South Africa.

A working group comprised by members of the Section on Library and Research Services for Parliaments, led by Sonia L’Heureux, Parliamentary Librarian for the Parliament of Canada, compiled the guidelines based on their experience and in consultation with other members of the Section.

These Guidelines for Parliamentary Research Services are a new step in the capture of our collective knowledge. Developed in response to a persistent demand from members of the Section for guidance in strengthening research services for parliaments, this publication is an example of how results can be achieved by working together and by mutually supporting each other in our professional work. The Guidelines are grounded in the work that librarians and researchers carry out every day, in the reality they face while serving the institution they work in, and in the collective expertise and knowledge grown in the Section through cooperation, collaboration and the sharing of ideas.

The result is a document that takes into account different realities and parliamentary contexts, capacities and levels of development, organizational structures and institutional environments. As underlined in the publication,

“many considerations can shape the design of a parliamentary research service. The observations offered here should not be construed as strict recipes to be followed. Ultimately, they must be assessed and pursued with deference to the culture and context within which the parliamentary research service is established”.

The IPU translated and published the guidelines.