The teaching/research nexus – an example?

As part of my new position I have an accountability that involves “facilitating the teaching/research nexus across the university”. The notion of a teaching/research nexus is still a fairly opaque term for me (something I’ll remedy in the future). While I can see the rationale behind the idea, I have my cynical doubts about whether it will end up being a term that has a meaningful impact or becomes as abused and misused as some other “terms” – e.g. generic attributes, lifelong learning etc.

The rise of social software potentially provides some interesting ways to address some old problems. Though it also provides the opportunity to play at window dressing with the new technology without actually addressing the fundamental causes of the problem (LMS anyone?). Just recently George Siemens pointed to some work around this area. I’m wondering if the same possibility exists around the teaching/research nexus.

In a previous post I connected with some ancient literature (early 90s) and Stephen Downes to talk about the importance of “professional integration”. i.e. the use of the same tools/processes for all aspects of an academic’s profession – teaching, learning and research. I suggested that the current LMS model of e-learning gets in the way of this integration, while the next generation of e-learning – influenced by social media – seems to be a good way of encouraging this integration. This integration seems to me, at least at the moment, to be necessary component of encouraging the teaching/research nexus.

This post has been sparked by an unintended example of this from my own practice that I became aware of today. An event that indicates some potential value which needs to be explored some more. Details follow.

Some context

Teaching. In the past I have taught courses on information systems development. For that particular course offering I developed the BAM project/tool as a way to encourage students to keep reflective journals using their own individual blog. The students’ blogs were not provided within a LMS. Instead they created their blogs on whatever public engine they wanted.

I was only responsible for the course for that first term. Other people have taught the course since the second half of 1996. The course has been offered 8 times since I taught it. The reflective journal assignment using BAM has been retained in the course. The questions may have change occasionally.

Research. Almost all of my research over the last 13 years or so has been focused or connected with my thesis and the Webfuse system/process being used at my current institution. The aim of the thesis is to develop an information systems design theory for e-learning. i.e. develop a better way to develop the information systems used by universities for e-learning. After long periods of procrastination, I’ve spent much of this year I’ve been writing up the thesis and posting drafts to this blog.

As you can tell I’ve been using WordPress.com to host my personal blog. For various reasons students were, in the absence of their own blog engine preference, to use WordPress.com to host their blogs for the course. One of the recent features of WordPress.com is that it automatically adds “possibly related posts” to the bottom of posts.

Can you see where this is going yet?

The unintended integration of teaching/research

Today, I’ve added a couple of posts around teleological and ateleological processes. WordPress.com has added to the ateleological post the following two “possibly related posts”: “WEEK 8” and Week 8.

These are two posts by students from the second 2008 offering of the course. It looks like the post in which they are meant to provide an annotated bibliography of some literature from the information systems development field.

WordPress.com, as an example of the use of broader social media, has provided a small, possible example of one way that the teaching/research nexus can be encouraged.

When I publish this post, WordPress.com will notify the students who own the two posts that I’ve linked to their posts. That I’m combining my research with my teaching.

Of course, these students have probably moved on and no longer look at their course blog. But you get the idea.

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