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					Draft 1: 06/09/2002 Terminology

Technology Assisted Off Campus Programmes at Oxford Brookes University A Note on Terminology
George Roberts Version Draft 1 Date 06/09/2002 Notes First published draft.

full details and references are in the Appendix to the report on the Brookes Intranet E-Learning is pre-paradigmatic Kuhn (1962) argued that a field goes through various stages: pre-paradigmatic, paradigmatic ("normal"), and revolutionary (transitional, from one paradigm to another). Within a paradigm developments are incremental. However, in pre-paradigmatic or revolutionary periods, before a new field emerges, there is a period of inchoate research into a given subject matter. There are competing schools and terminological uncertainty. Popper (1994) observes that the adoption of a new framework or theory may solve one or two problems but invariably opens up many new ones. Learning Technology, or e-learning, as a field, is pre-paradigmatic. Conole (2002) says: Multi-disciplinarity, in new emergent research areas, is in many respects a strength; however it also means that there is often no shared common language or set of definitions. This is evident currently in the learning technology domain, where the definition and scope of different types of online environments and resources are indistinct and, in some instances, overlapping. For example, the latest glossary of learning technology terms from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) states: "the vocabularies of learning technology, education and information technology share an ever growing number of terms yet are far from unified". Fundamental cleavage There is a fundamental cleavage that underlies much discussion about e-learning. Robin Mason (2001, p. 27) observes: As the scope of online learning has broadened with the technology, confusion has arisen about what is meant by the term e-learning, and other terms, such as online learning, web-based training, virtual environments and telelearning, are often used interchangeably which complicates the field still further. One result of the technology-assisted off-campus programmes research has been to highlight the complications and new problems that are opened up by e-learning. Some definitions of e-learning carry overtones of computer-based training transferred to the Internet where the emphasis is on electronic content, not communicative potential. Practitioners who emphasise electronic content often bring a behaviourist outlook to their teaching, online or off. Such practice is common in competency-based corporate development. Other definitions focus on the communicative aspects of electronic access and interaction. Practitioners empahsising communication often bring a constructivist outlook to their teaching. Such approaches, online or off, may transform the role of the instructor from "authority" to "facilitator" (cf Mason 2001 again). These broad generalisations illustrate this cleavage. Parties may hold to very different beliefs about teaching and learning and yet conduct a discussion about the applications of technology to teaching and learning as if they were coming from the same place. It is widely held, for example, that "interactive learning" is good. But what is interactivity? Is it the interactivity of a person with a programmed learning environment through multiple hyper links and branching pathways within a bounded (although possibly large) domain, or is it the interactivity of people with people using multiple synchronous and asynchronous communication channels? Is it both? Like "interactive learning", "blended learning" has popular currency. This describes what Mehrotra et al (2001) would call "Web enhanced" courses as distinct from "Web-based" courses. According to Saunders and Werner (2002), Blended learning "... employs multiple strategies, methods, and delivery systems ... The blend may be a single instructional method combined with a presentation and distribution method, or a combination of multiple

DRAFT 1 06/09/2002


methods." Blended learning may describe the increasing use of online enhancements to face-to-face courses as well as the reciprocal well-established practice in distance learning of incorporating face-to-face enhancement into predominately DL programmes; summer schools are characteristic of this practice. Conclusion: the approach taken ... This discussion of terminology has been for the purpose of making the observation that "quality and distance/online learning" is about many things. Measures to evaluate e-communication will be different to those used to evaluate econtent. It may be important to determine where along a continuum of blended learning we would draw a line and say this is distance learning with a face to face component, but that is face to face with a distance component. In either case that component might be online content or it might be online communication. The Brookes Online Market Study took the following approach: The terms open and distance learning (ODL), online learning, e-learning and so on are left deliberately imprecise, due first to the lack of consensus on what e-learning means, and also to indicate an inclusive approach to these practices. ... For discussion purposes this paper refers often to technology-enhanced off-campus programmes. This is the broad area in which significant growth is expected across the HE sector. This survey uses the term "technology-assisted off-campus programmes", not wishing to judge what level of technology use is an enhancement nor to suggest that assistance necessarily leads to any enhancement at all. This should be the subject of further study.

References QAA Distance Learning Guidelines Oxford Brookes University, Quality and Standards Handbook for Academic Programmes of Study, Section 3. Approval of New and Revised Programmes of Study, sub-section 3.11 Delivery by Distance or Online Learning Brookes Online study


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