Challenges in developing innovative pedagogy in blended learning: The case of BIM

The following is the start of a process for developing a paper that I plan to submit to Moodlemoot AU 2010 based on my recent experience in developing BIM. The plan is to:

  • Write a series of blog posts based on very rough ideas for the paper (this is the first).
  • Bring those together into a presentation that will be given at CQU under the banner of LTERC and, if I can overcome some local barriers, ustream’d.
  • Use the presentation as the structure/content for the paper submission.

Papers are due to be submitted on the 22nd March.

Some of the ideas in this post were sparked or mentioned in the discussion on this post giving an unofficial update on MoodleMoot AU 2010.

Basic idea

Over the last year or so I have been working to convert BAM (Jones and Luck, 2009) – a local e-learning tool that supports the use of individual student reflective journals hosted on external blog sites – into BIM (BAM into Moodle). The aim of the paper is to reflect on this process and attempt to identify the challenges in getting BAM/BIM developed and used effectively.

Theoretically, this idea could form the basis for on-going work. This paper identifies a single persons perspective with a single innovations in a single context. Subsequent work could expand to multiple perspectives, multiple innovations and multiple contexts.

Explanation of the title

The current use of “blended learning” in the title is in part because of a current local institutional focus. It’s use here is simply indicating a mix of media and approaches (which is what people have always done) to support L&T within a university context.

However, the use of blended learning also allows some interesting points to develop around the rhetoric and current suggestions about how to implement blended learning at an organisational level. In particular, blended learning requires a focus on re-designing how learning occurs to best take advantage of the different types of media. I think that the paper may start to argue that implementing innovative blended learning pedagogies also requires a re-design of the information technology used and also a re-design of how that information technology is managed and supported.

In addition, and not to suggest the problem only sits on the IT side, there are indications that the policies and processes managing learning and teaching within universities also pose a challenge. As do the conceptions/purpose of a number of the teaching staff, especially in terms of having to respond to/handle the policies and subsequent mismatch. Problems also exist, I think on how knowledge about L&T theory is made available (i.e. staff development and curriculum design activities) and leveraged within universities.

Why is this important?

It’s still widely recognised that the vast majority of learning and teaching within universities is somewhat less than innovative and much of it less than good. There’s been a lot of efforts to improve this situation but much of it has failed – as demonstrated by the fact that much of L&T remains less than innovative, less than good.

By attempting to identify the barriers to developing innovative pedagogy the paper is aiming to identify those areas where organisations should perhaps focus their attention, rather than simply doing more of the same. Exploring the barriers in a specific case should help identify some ideas for further research that can confirm the relative importance of the barriers in other contexts.

An initial list

What follows is an initial list. I need to add more to this – please feel free to suggest barriers that you’ve experienced and eventually try and organise the list into some sort of abstraction or taxonomy.

Some of the challenges include:

  • Learning about Moodle and Moodle development;
    While there are some useful resources, especially the developers’ forums, the information here is very disparate and inconsistent (due to differences in versions). In particular, I found it difficult to get a grasp of the “Moodle” way.
  • Moving from an institution specific to general application;
    BAM was implemented specifically for CQU. It built on CQU assumptions (e.g. many courses have hundreds of students and tens of academic staff involved spread through Australia and overseas) and systems.
  • Institutional confusion
    In the period 2008-2010 CQU has undergone organisational restructures, a re-branding and name change, a buying out of a commercial partner responsible for capital city campuses, restructures around who is responsible for e-learning – the on-going battle between IT and L&T, the introduction of several new positions and committees around e-learning, the dismantling and likely “remantling” of the L&T division, the selection of a new LMS (Moodle) and the selection of a new Vice-Chancellor.
  • Institutional complexity;
    Significant percentage of courses have hundreds of students, multiple staff spread across Australia and overseas.
  • Insitutional inertia;
    Assumptions about how a course is resourced and run that are built into embedded policies such as workload calculation. e.g. part-time tutors get paid for certain activities.
  • The hierarchical de-composition of responsibilities and the subsequent lack of knowledge on which to draw upon to solve problems.
    Really effective blended learning requires a combination of knowledge including technical, pedagogical, institutional, people etc. The traditional approaches to project management and organisational structures divide these bits of knowledge into separate groups and in some cases jealously guard their area of responsibility. This prevents the development of solutions that arise from a collaborative, serendipitous mixture of the disparate bits of knowledge.
  • An environment that does not encourage innovation and experimentation in teaching and learning.
    Universities in general value research more than teaching. A complex institutional context makes it even more difficult
  • The non-existent net generation.
    There is an assumption amongst some that new students are savy social media and technology in general. The experience with BAM/BIM is the complete opposite.
  • Training mechanisms and systems that make it difficult for staff (and students) to grok how systems work.
    To use a system effectively it helps to really understand how it works. The nature of most of the training and the systems used for blended learning are such that they encourage academic staff to development a rote-learned, process focused approach to performing tasks, rather than understanding how the system works.
  • Systems/tools that are too general and don’t offer sufficient scaffolding or contextual support.
    Most of the tools within an LMS are generic – upload a document, run a discussion forum, run a quiz. To turn that into an innovative bit of pedagogy requires a lot of additional work on the part of the academic. The tool doesn’t provide much scaffolding to support particular pedagogical approaches.

    There’s good reason for this. To much support for specific approaches will make other approaches difficult, if not impossible. And the aim of an LMS is to support the broadest possible array of uses and people. But the cost is that it is more difficult to implement innovative pedagogies.

    Offering support for the local context is also part of this. Most institutions have their own names or terms that arise out of how things are done in that context. Most LMS use a generic term, usually based on the terms used by the folk who designed it. This mismatch can make it more difficult.

  • Processes that place the focus on the top-down, analytical, inductive and deductive, which are inappropriate for the nature of the problem.
    Alternatives include ateleological processes, bricolage (especially in terms of Papert – education – and Ciborra – information systems) and abductive logic.

The literature

Garrison and Kanuka, 2004

This paper (perhaps one of the “seminal works”) includes

Finally, administrative and leadership issues are addressed and the outline of an action plan to implement blended learning approaches is presented

. The trouble is that much of what it suggests creates the problems I’m talking about above. A focus on top-down, efficiencies that drive out development which is especially important in a complex and novel idea that seeks to mix two complex ideas.

Should perhaps consider the book by Garrison and Vaughan.

Klein, Noe and Wang, 2006

Looks at motivation to learn and its effect (along with other things) on student learning in a blended learning course. Perhaps some stuff here on students, especially in connection with local students.

Davis and Fill, 2007

The abstract (emphasis added)

Blended learning, the combination of traditional face-to-face teaching methods with authentic online learning activities, has the potential to transform student-learning experiences and outcomes. In spite of this advantage, university teachers often find it difficult to adopt new online techniques, in part because institutional practices are still geared to support more traditional approaches. This paper describes how a project, funded to support international collaboration to enhance learning and teaching in Geography, has allowed a university to explore models for change. It briefly examines the associated issues of sharing and repurposing resources; it reflects on the impact of the project on local strategy, and the importance of sustaining the collaborations and approaches to learning and teaching after the funding is completed.

Draffan and Rainger, 2006

From the abstract,

A model for an inclusive approach to the identification of challenges to blended learning as a means to identify educational accessibility issues is presented. By focusing on both the learner and teacher perspectives, the model encompasses a broad range of factors, including learner characteristics, learning and teaching environments, interactions and activities. The proposed model provides a starting point for the identification of challenges to learning from a socio-cultural perspective rather than a medical or rehabilitation perspective. This holistic perspective is key to moving ‘thinking’ towards a more inclusive learning approach that embraces the needs of all learners, regardless of a defined disability.

Stacey and Gerbic, 2007

Offers some useful insights into blended learning and its relationship to on-campus or distance education institutions, plus some other points to build on.

References

Blogging

Chen, W. and C. Bonk (2008). “The use of weblogs in learning and assessment in Chinese higher education: Possilities and potential problems.” International Journal on E-Learning 7(1): 41-65. — some case study reports with similar problems.

Ducate, L. and L. Lomicka (2008). “Adventures in the blogosphere: from blog readers to blog writers.” Computer Assisted Language Learning 21(1): 9-28.

Farmer, B., A. Yue, et al. (2008). “Using blogging for higher order learning in large cohort university teaching: A case study.” Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 24(2): 123-136. – describe an adaptation of WordPress to support “class blogging”

Boldman, R., A. Cohen, et al. (2008). “Using seminar blogs to enhance student participation and learning in public health school classes.” American Journal of Public Health 98(9): 1658-1663. — seminar blogs on Blogger, better functionality than discussion forum other insights.

Hall, H. and B. Davison (2007). “Social software as support in hybrid learning environments: The value of the blog as a tool for reflective learning and peer support.” Library and Information Science Research 29(2): 163-187.

Kim, H. N. (2008). “The phenomenon of blogs and theoretical model of blog use in educational contexts.” Computers and Education 51(3): 1342-1352. – describes a model which might fit somewhat with BIM

Ladyshewsky, R. and P. Gardner (2008). “Peer assisted learning and blogging: A strategy to promote reflective practice during clinical fieldwork.” Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 24(3): 241-257.

Oravec, J. A. (2003). “Blending by blogging: weblogs in blended learning initiatives.” Learning, Media and Technology 28(2): 225-233.

Tekinarslan, E. (2008). “Blogs: A qualitative investigation into an instructor and undergraduate students’ experiences.” Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 24(4): 402-412. — mentions plagiarism, contextual issues, student perception of ease of use

WIlliams, J. and J. Jacobs (2004). “Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector.” Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 20(2): 232-247. – early intro to the application of blogging. With early case study from QUT

Blended learning

Arbaugh, J. B. (2008). “Introduction: Blended learning: Research and practice.” The Academy of Management Learning and Education 7(1): 130-131.

Davis H, Fill K (2007) Embedding blended learning in a university’s teaching culture: Experiences and reflections, British Journal of Educational Technology, 38(5): 817-828

Draffan E, Rainger P (2006) A model for the identification of challenges to blended learning, ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 14(1), 55-67

Garrison D, Kanuka H (2004), Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education, The Internet and Higher Education, 7(2): 95-105

Garrison, R. and N. Vaughn (2008). Blended learning in Higher Education: Framework, principles and guidelines. San Francisco, John Wiley & Sons.

Ginns, P. and R. Ellis (2007). “Quality in blended learning: Exploring the relationships between on-line and face-to-face teaching and learning.” The Internet and Higher Education 10(1): 53-64.

Hardy, I. (2010). “Academic architectures: academic perceptions of teaching conditions in an Australian university.” Studies in Higher Education First published on 26 February 2010 (iFirst).

Klein H, Noe R, Wang c (2006), Motivation to learn and course outcomes: The impact of delivery mode, learning goal orientation and perceived barriers and enablers, Personnel Psychology, 59(3): 665-702

Laumakis, M., C. Graham, et al. (2009). “The Sloan-C pillars and boundary objects as a framework for evaluating blended learningThe Sloan-C pillars and boundary objects as a framework for evaluating blended learning.” Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 13(1): 75-87.

Mortera-Gutierrez, F. (2006). “Faculty best practices using blended learning in e-learning and face-to-face instruction.” International Journal on E-Learning 5(3): 313-337.

Oliver, M. and K. Trigwell (2005). “Can ‘blended learning’ be redeemed?” E-learning and Digital Media 2(1): 17-26.

Osguthorpe, R. and C. Graham (2003). “Blended learning environments: Definitions and directions.” Quarterly Review of Distance Education 4(3): 227-233.

Stacey E, Gergic P, (2007) Teaching for blended learning – Research perspectives from on-campus and distance education students, Education and Information Technologies, 12(3): 165-174

Vaughn, N. (2007). “Perspectives on blended learning in Higher Education.” International Journal on E-Learning 6(1): 81-94.

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2 thoughts on “Challenges in developing innovative pedagogy in blended learning: The case of BIM

  1. Pingback: BIM 1.0alpha is released « The Weblog of (a) David Jones

  2. Pingback: The story of BIM – Origins – blogs and minute papers « The Weblog of (a) David Jones

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