This paper presents an evaluation of the work of the Commonwealth of Learning’s (COL) eLearning with International Organisations (eLIO) section. Participants in the investigation included a representative sample of the learners (N = 15), their supervisors (N = 5), and the COL staff, including all of the eLIO staff (N = 10). The methodology consisted of an examination of all relevant documents, interviews that formed a learning history, and a sample survey. The investigation concluded that the eLIO achieved its goal of developing a distance learning model, and it met or exceeded identified objectives, with a high degree of satisfaction expressed by all participants. This included teaching +2000 satisfied learners; partnering with eight international organizations; achieving a 62% female participation rate and a high completion rate (75%) in the courses provided; testing, piloting, and delivering two new elearning courses; conducting needs analyses; recruiting/training highly qualified tutors; monitoring; and using appropriate technologies. Shortcomings of the programmes include the lack of pre- and post-tests, little analysis of pricing structures, some unclear instructions (a need for plain English), unclear copyright licensing, only very limited use of available OER software, and the absence of a succession plan for the manager. Based on the high level of satisfaction among all participants, it was recommended that the section maintain its present work and address these shortcomings.
This paper presents a review of distance education literature to describe the status thereof and to identify gaps and priority areas in distance education research based on a validated classification of research areas. The articles (N = 695) published in five prominent distance education journals between 2000 and 2008 were reviewed for this study. The conclusion is that distance education research is strongly dominated by issues related to instructional design and individual learning processes; whereas, other important areas (e.g., innovation and change management or intercultural aspects of distance learning) are dreadfully neglected. There is a significant trend towards collaborative research and more qualitative studies. Over 80% of all articles originate from only five countries.
The authors report the results of a study that provides bases for comparison between the time necessary to participate in courses delivered asynchronously online and courses delivered in a traditional classroom setting. Weekly discussion threads from 21 sections of six courses offered as part of online, degree-granting, accredited, graduate programs were examined. The purpose of this research is to determine whether students are spending more or less time participating in an online course than in a traditional classroom. The discussion size (i.e., the number of words per discussion) was determined using the automatic word count function in MS Word. Once the word counts for each course section were determined, the average words per discussion were calculated. The authors used 180 words per minute to calculate the average reading time, based on the work of Ziefle (1998) and Carver (1985, 1990), in order to determine the average minutes per week a student spent reading the discussions. The study indicates that a typical, graduate-level, online, asynchronous discussion requires about one hour a week of reading time, and the time commitment for participatory activity is similar to that of traditional, face-to-face courses, given that it takes under two hours to compose initial messages and responses to the discussion prompt. Although these findings are informative, further research is recommended in the area of time spent on online course activities in terms of student hours earned to enable a direct focus on various student characteristics, such as English language competency and student level.
This paper discusses findings of a mixed method approach to a study of the development of a community of inquiry in an online and a blended learning environment. A graduate course delivered online and in a blended format was the context of the study. Data were gathered from the Community of Inquiry Survey, transcript analysis of online discussions, and interviews with students and the course instructor. Using multiple qualitative and quantitative data sources, the goal was to explore the developmental differences of the three presences (social, teaching, and cognitive) in the community of inquiry framework and students’ perceptions of a community of inquiry. The results indicated that in both the online and blended course a community of inquiry developed and students could sense each presence. However, the findings revealed developmental differences in social and cognitive presence between the two course formats with higher perceptions in the blended course.
Adventure learning (AL) is an approach for the design of digitally-enhanced teaching and learning environments driven by a framework of guidelines grounded on experiential and inquiry-based education. The purpose of this paper is to review the adventure learning literature and to describe the status quo of the practice by identifying the current knowledge, misconceptions, and future opportunities in adventure learning. Specifically, the authors present an integrative analysis of the adventure learning literature, identify knowledge gaps, present future research directions, and discuss research methods and approaches that may improve the AL approach. The authors engaged in a systematic search strategy to identify adventure learning studies then applied a set of criteria to decide whether to include or exclude each study. Results from the systematic review were combined, analyzed, and critiqued inductively using the constant comparative method and weaved together using the qualitative metasynthesis approach. Results indicate the appeal and promise of the adventure learning approach. Nevertheless, the authors recommend further investigation of the approach. Along with studies that investigate learning outcomes, aspects of the AL approach that are engaging, and the nature of expert-learner collaboration, future adventure learning projects that focus on higher education and are (a) small and (b) diverse, can yield significant knowledge into adventure learning. Research and design in this area will benefit by taking an activity theory and design-based research perspective.
The undergraduate science programme was launched at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in 1991-92 with an enrolment of 1,210 students. The programme was well received, and enrolments increased over the years. However, the success rates have not kept pace with enrolment. In this paper, the authors report the results of an evaluation of the undergraduate Physics programme at IGNOU. The evaluation, the first of its type for this programme, adapted the major tenets of the CIPP model. The findings are based on the responses from a randomly chosen sample of 509 learners across India. The methods employed for the study include records, document, and database analysis, surveys, and case studies. Although the University has enhanced access to higher science education, the attrition rate is high (73%), and the success rate is low. The authors recommend that the University review and reorient its strategies for providing good quality, learner-centred higher education in science subjects. The programme should address the concerns of the learners about the effectiveness of the student support systems, the difficulty level, and the learner-friendliness of study materials with the goal of achieving long-term sustainability while maintaining parity with the conventional system. The need for improving the presentation of the courses and simplifying the mathematical details is emphasised.