First impressions

Last week, I published a ‘quick and dirty’ review of the recently published Handbook of Open, Distance, and Digital Education, edited by Olaf Zawacki-Richter and Insung Jung, mainly because I wanted to draw attention to this massive work. The great feature of this book is its free, online access, so you can just go and dip in to it whenever you have the time.

However, for a single blog post, I could do only a superficial review of a book that’s over 1,400 pages long, a sort of first impression. Even this involved over five hours’ reading, before I could even begin writing the post. Nevertheless, I confess to having read less than 10 per cent of the chapters for the review.

This really isn’t fair to all the over 80 contributors and the editors who put in so much work for this book. For instance, Stephen Downes complained that I didn’t read even his chapter, which is a bit the like the Pope personally admonishing you for missing mass (mea culpa, Stephen).

A reviewing strategy

In my preliminary review, I noted that each of the six sections is worth its own separate book, so what I plan to do is review each of the six sections in more detail so that my readers will have a better idea of what’s in the book, with perhaps a seventh post that looks at the book as a whole. 

I plan to give a brief account of what’s in each chapter in each section, with a review of the whole section, using the following criteria:

  1. What is new in this section? What is now covered well that wasn’t covered in previous works of this kind?
  2. What is missing? What should have been included under this topic? In particular, does this section address the issues we are currently facing in ODDE? Does it focus just on one country or region, or does it apply globally?
  3. Is it accurate or fair? Is it sufficiently scholarly/based in theory, research or practice? Does it take into account a range of relevant facts and approaches or is it too pedantic/narrowly focused?
  4. Are there practical lessons that a reader (instructor, administrator or scholar) can take away from this section?

If there are other criteria you think I should use, do let me know, using the comment box at the end of this post. I probably won’t be able to do a review of each article in detail – there are 8-10 in each section – but I hope you can learn enough from the review as to whether to follow up further by reading the articles themselves.

I also hope the reviews will stimulate discussion about the issues raised by the chapters in this book – again, please use the comment box at the end of the posts. I hope to get a least one section reviewed each week.


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