Monday, April 18, 2011

34. A Dimension Matrix for Online Learning

A Model for Faculty Teaching Online: Confirmation of a Dimensional Matrix
Marilyn Ryan, Nagia S. Ali
Journal of Nursing Education, August 2005 - 44-8

The interest of this article arises from the idea of action research. A faculty of nursing created a matrix based on "wisdom" and knowledge that faculty members gained from a "hands-on" approach, which was subsequently validated by research about instructors and their experience in teaching online.

A couple of ideas already come to mind about this initiative. The idea that sharing knowledge and experiences can be a satisfying and really constructive process for teachers, especially when it comes to talking about online education. In addition, tackling challenges at hand with an action research approach is also a definitely positive way to improve knowledge and actions in institutions that wish to adopt and enhance their online learning offerings. Lessons learned from the experience detailed in this article are many. A few listed below:

  1. amongst theoretical underpinnings of the study are constructive theory - I can definitely relate to this approach - knowledge is built by learners and not transmitted.
  2. learners construct their knowledge in a social, interactive and supportive learning environment. 
  3. additionally, a framework for Web-based courses was also used, by Billings (2000) was used. Criteria included time on task, feedback and active learning. 
  4. the study used dimensional analysis - concerning interpretation of data and qualitative coding of data from different perspectives. Dimensions include pre-existing circumstances, conditions under which the event occur, processes to achieve outcomes and outcomes. This is a complex but quite solid framework.
  5. another set of words for the categories in the previous points are: antecedent conditions, context, strategies and consequences.
  6. Some of the findings include:
    1. strong support in staff and the organization in general for online learning - this positively affected the outcomes.
    2. policies can support this structure that can be in place before proceeding.
    3. ownership should be pre-determined.
    4. create user-friendly courses.
    5. teaching online requires faculty to learn new pedagogy, be creative and more energy.
    6. online environments are advantageous as far as time and space limitations.
    7. timely responses and feedback are expected by students. These should be agreed upon before beginning.
    8. learners may need to be taught about their own new responsibility in the new learning environment.
    9. make use of content experts.
    10. use interactive and reliable resources.
    11. increased levels of communication.
    12. online learning communities tend to be born.
    13. reflective writing increases.
The five dimensions that emerged from the study include:

  1. Faculty role change
  2. Increased awareness of pedagogy
  3. Collaborative learning environments
  4. Different relationships with students
  5. Flexibility outweighs committment

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