Long overdue blog update

Its been a while since I’ve updated this blog so I thought I’d jot down some thoughts while I had the time. Aside from work, life has been pretty hectic of late with a distinct lack of fishing occurring due to good weather coinciding with other engagements and various other non-fishing things happening in my world. My wife used the fact that I purchased another V8 Ford as an excuse to buy a kitten. My argument that we can always sell the car but not the cat didn’t seem to work.

cat

Anyway onto the happenings at work.

The university where I work has recently appointed a new VC who quickly established an externally hosted blog where he is sharing his strategic vision and direction for CQUniversity. To me, this is a refreshing and welcome development in two respects:

  • Firstly, by using an externally hosted blog provider such as Blogspot, tends to break a tradition of only using technologies and services that are provided by in house systems. In blogging terms, using an in house system restricts the potential audience and conversation participants to only authenticated users. Thereby, other stakeholders such as industry, government and even future students are excluded.
  • Secondly, and more importantly, the blog is being used to air ideas and planning on strategic direction for CQUniversity in a way that is transparent and invites comment and conversation from all stakeholders.

In the latest post on his blog the VC writes about blended teaching and mobile learning which is something of interest to us as it has some links to our recent work on the Indicators project which is looking at data captured by learning management systems (LMS) and how organizations make sense of this data.

The following is a quick mind dump from my perspective that summarises the Indicators project.

Whilst LMS have some underlying flaws (Beer & Jones, 2008), most institutions are using an LMS of one form or another (Deakin University, 2002) and therefore further studies into how they are being used is warranted. When our unit was supporting the Blackboard LMS we realized that there was an enormous amount of captured data automatically stored by the system and we began ‘tinkering’ with the data to see what information could be extracted with a view to informing and improving teaching and learning at CQUniverisity.

We began to see some interesting patterns such as the one below, which indicates a correlation between hitcounts (indicative of engagement) and grades.

Hits V Grades

This distinct correlation got our attention and we set about looking at previous research that others have done in this area. There are many examples of researchers examining data captured by an LMS (Dawson, Winslett, & Burr, 2004; Deakin University, 2002),(Romero, Ventura, & ´, 2007),(Black, Dawson, & Priem, 2008),(Berg, Maijer, & Benneker, 2004) but in particular, Heathcoate (Heathcoate & Dawson, 2005) suggest that quantitative methods have tended to focus on usability and specific technical criteria while qualitative methods have been predominantly implemented to evaluate the achievement of stated learning outcomes.

One particular exception to this (Malikowski, Thompton, & Theis, 2007) presented an LMS independent model that looked at the features staff adopted over time and suggested that most LMS courses use an information dissemination mode with fewer moving on to use features that support higher order learning goals. We’ve done some comparisons with two LMS at CQUniversity and have submitted a paper on this, to a conference to be held later this year.

A gap in the research into LMS usage appears to be in cross institution and cross LMS comparisons. This is where the main body of our research is heading and it’s especially fortunate that CQUniversity currently has three LMS in operation as Moodle has been chosen to replace the other two. Potentially this enables the researchers to do some in house comparisons between the three LMS in order to paint a clearer picture of how the systems are being used and their effects on student outcomes. This information can not only be used by CQUniversity to inform T&L but can be used to assist other institutions in paralleling our research in their own institution and therefore gaining a broader perspective on how LMS are being used.

For more information on the Indicators project be sure to check out David’s and Ken’s respective blogs. I’ve also noticed that Rolley and Nona have had posted some blog updates recently with Rolley’s most recent post causing me to sympathize for his neighbors.

References.

Beer, C., & Jones, D. (2008). Learning Networks: Harnessing the power of online communities for discipline and lifelong learning. Paper presented at the 2008 Lifelong Learning Conference. from http://hdl.cqu.edu.au/10018/13162

Berg, A., Maijer, V., & Benneker, F. (2004). Blackboard 6 usage patterns and implications for the University of Amsterdam. Unversiteit of Amsterdam, Amsterdam.

Black, E. W., Dawson, K., & Priem, J. (2008, 17 March 2008). Data for free: Using LMS activity logs to measure community in online courses. Internet and Higher Education, 11, 65-70.

Dawson, S., Winslett, G., & Burr, L. (2004). Toward A Quantitative Analysis Of Online Communities. Paper presented at the Online Teaching and Learning Conference: Exploring integrated learning environments. Retrieved 25/1/2009, from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/2084/

Deakin University. (2002). Learning Management Systems at other Australian Universities. from http://www.deakin.edu.au/itl/research-eval/lms-evaluation/otherInstitutions.htm

Heathcoate, L., & Dawson, S. (2005). Data Mining for Evaluation, Benchmarking and Reflective Practice in a LMS. E-Learn 2005: World conference on E-Learning in corporate, government, healthcare and higher education.

Malikowski, S., Thompton, M., & Theis, J. (2007). A model for research into course management systems: bridging technology and learning theory. Journal of educational computing research, 36(2)(2007), 24.

Romero, C. b., Ventura, S. n., & ´, E. G. (2007). Data mining in course management systems: Moodle case study and tutorial. ScienceDirect Computers and Education(51 (2008)), 368-384.

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