January 22, 2018

UNESCO signs mobile learning agreement

Somewhat late news, but still important for this interested in developing mobile learning applications for developing countries:

UNESCO and telecommunications company Nokia have recently signed a partnership to use mobile technologies to further the goals of Education For All.Under the initial three-year agreement, Nokia will contribute between five and ten million dollars which will be invested in three types of projects.

In a first phase, research will be conducted to identify possible applications of mobile technology to support Education For All. The results will be transmitted in the form of guidelines to education ministries and policy-makers in developing countries.

The second part of the agreement concerns teachers. It will promote the use of mobile technologies to support training and capacity-building, as well as the management of educational institutions, particularly in gathering data on staff, pupils and school facilities.

The third part of the agreement covers the development of new mobile applications that have educational potential. “Mobile technologies offer access to information and enrich learning environments. UNESCO wants to make sure they are used to promote the delivery of quality education based on the sharing of knowledge,” said the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova.

“In education mobile technology is a great enabler for empowerment,” says Esko Aho, Executive Vice President, Nokia. “Through cooperation with UNESCO we can accelerate the transformation that mobile communications can bring to the availability and quality of education especially in developing countries.”

Text courtesy of UNESCO media services.

Reducing drop-out in online courses


© Mustapha Kamal, 2010

Fusch, D. (2010) Improving graduation rates for online students Academic Impressions, April 8

An interview with K. Udas, the CEO of UMassOnline, who provides some useful tips for course instructors for cutting down non-completion of online courses.

McCrea, B. (2010) Distance Education Reaches Out Campus Technology, October 13

This is a report on how a US community college retrofited its online courses to reduce drop-out, which left me with the question: why do so few US colleges and universities study best practice in online learning before moving in this direction? (see also: Review of book on disasters in teaching online)

Both these articles are rather like an emergency service putting out fires. It’s better to stop the fire in the first place.

Fire prevention in online learning is good quality course design that controls student workload, has clear objectives, well-structured and clear online learning materials, keeps students active through online activities and peer interaction, and provides regular feedback from and contact with instructors. This will do more to reduce drop-out than anything else.

Another great help, especially for students new to online distance education, is the excellent, well-designed U.K. Open University study skills web site. It even includes a section for post-graduate students.

The advice found on the UK OU site was initially developed Graham Gibbs, Alistair Morgan, OU staff tutors/counsellors and other experts in student learning drawing on research into effective studying habits, such as the work by Marton and Saljö on deep and surface learning. Incidentally the Marton and Saljö articles below on qualitative differences in learning are required reading for any instructor, whether online or in class (note the date).:

Marton, F. and Saljö, R. (1976) On qualitative differences in learning I: Outcome and Process British Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 46, No. 2, pp. 4-11

Marton, F. and Saljö, R. (1976) On qualitative differences in learning II: Outcomes as a function of the learner’s conception of the task British Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 46, No. 2, pp. 115-127

The best little e-learning journal in the world?

For those of you who, like me, were busy over the summer, the latest edition of IRRODL (Vol. 10, No. 3) was published in June.

As Terry Anderson, the editor, pointed out,

it is the largest single issue ever published by IRRODL! The issue contains fourteen peer-reviewed research articles, two technical reports, and links to five recordings and Powerpoint slides from research presentations to IRRODL’s sister organization, the Canadian Institute for Distance Education Research (CIDER). It also contains two articles formatted for mobile devices (EPUB).’

One of the articles, Elbeck, M. and Mandernach, J. (2009) ‘Journals for Computer-Mediated Learning: Publications of Value for the Online Educator attempted ‘to determine a comprehensive listing and relative value ranking of scholarly journals whose content informs online educators and motivates scholarship.’ On a combined ranking of three dimensions, popularity, importance, and prestige, IRRODL came out top (well, it would, wouldn’t it!?). Altogether 46 journals were ranked. IRRODL’s no. 1 ranking probably owes almost as much to its policy of open access as to its high quality editor and excellent peer review process.

I’m more and more looking for theme-led journal editions these days, as it helps pull together otherwise scattered research on the same topic at a time when information on e-learning research is more and more fragmented. However, this particular issue covers quite a rag-bag of different topics. I don’t have the time to review every article, and your interests may be different from mine, but the ones I looked at were:

Zawacki-Richter, O. (2009) Research areas in distance education: A Delphi study IRRODL, Vol. 10, No. 3

From the abstract: This study had three purposes: Firstly, to develop a categorization of research areas in distance education; secondly, to identify the most important research areas in distance education; and thirdly, to identify the most neglected research areas in distance education.

One conclusion Zawacki-Richter comes to is: The results suggest that there is a shift from technology-centered research to areas that focus on management and change in distance education institutions. He also comes up with a useful classifications system for areas of research in distance education, which is not too dissimilar from the areas I identified, more personally and subjectively, in my map of research in e-learning.

This will be a useful article for Ph.D. students (or their supervisors) looking for a topic area for a thesis. I’m still not convinced though of the benefits of Delphi studies, which rarely come up with results that would not be found in a good review of the literature.

Uzuner, S. (2009) Questions of culture in distance learning: a research review IRRODL, Vol. 10, No. 3

This is a hugely important topic. Uzuner focused on the following questions: ‘Does cultural hegemony also exist in distance education? Do conflicts resulting from cultural differences transfer from the traditional classroom to the distance learning environment? If so, how do teachers and students navigate different cultures of learning in these environments?’

Uzuner came up with some interesting conclusions (despite his criticism that most of the 27 studies reviewed had flawed research methodology):

  1. Researchers express broad agreement that the diverse cultural assumptions students bring to ALNs concerning how teaching and learning should be done bring about conflicts, disagreements, and frustrations. Not surprisingly, the issues dealt with in these studies resemble those faced by traditional classroom teachers who teach culturally and linguistically diverse students.
  2. good practices for culturally diverse online learning environments are good practices for others where teachers and students are operating within the same culture and space
  3. online instructors should be sensitive to cultural issues, become aware of the variations in students’ learning strategies, and avoid adopting the “one size fits all” approach when viewing the process of learning for their students in ALNs

Uzuner also identified from the research a number of practical suggestions for dealing with multicultural online classes. This is an article well worth reading in full.

These were just three cherries I pulled out of the pie. If you have the appetite, the whole pie is worth eating – well, most of it.

A Nation Online: How Americans are Expanding their Use of the Internet

United States Department of Commerce (2002) A Nation Online: How Americans are Expanding their Use of the Internet Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

E-learning in Continuing Vocational Training, particularly at the workplace, with emphasis on Small and Medium Enterprises

Unisys Belgium (2005) E-learning in Continuing Vocational Training, particularly at the workplace, with emphasis on Small and Medium Enterprises Belgium: European Commission DG Education and Culture