New report on Emotional Presence in online education

December 16, 2014

I awoke to a new report this morning Measuring and Understanding Learner Emotions: Evidence and Prospects. The report is the first paper from the Learning Analytics Community Exchange which is a 2.5 year  EU funded project focused on learning analytics and data mining for educational use. I must say I was delightfully surprised to see the first output from a group using data analytics to focus on emotions!  Bart Rienties and Bethany Alden Rivers from the Open University in the UK have done an excellent job of reviewing work in this important area and developing a conceptual model for its further development.

Of course I was pleased to see that they built on the now venerable Community of Inquiry model developed over 15 years ago by Randy Garrison, Walter Archer and myself. I was equally pleased to see the enhancement of our model to include Emotional Presences as first argued by my colleague and Director of our Centre for Distance Education, Marti Cleveland-Innes.  Marti had asked me years ago why we didn’t include emotional presence in our original model. I rather glibly replied that the COI model was developed by 3 men from southern Alberta (Canada’s cowboy country) and that REAL men in our limited world didn’t do emotions!! More rationally, I argued that emotional presence was subsumed both theoretically and empirically by a number of the indicators of  social presence that we had described in the initial model. However, these arguments  didn’t preclude her continuing arguments and this paper shows she is not alone.

Rienties and Rivers add the emotional circle to our original Venn diagram as below.

expanded COI Model

The 28 page report then goes on to briefly review types of research techniques that have been used to define and measure emotional presence. The same challenge we undertook using transcript analysis of educational computer conferences  to validate the original model. The research methods covered include three established research methodologies:

  • content analysis
  • natural language processing
  • identification of behavioural indicators

and four others that the authors describe as using “new data” as opposed to “existing data”. I can’t really understand the difference either conceptually or methodologically, except I guess to suggest that the later methods require generation of original data for research purposes.

  • quantitative instruments
  • offline interviews and purposeful online conversations
  • wellbeing word clouds
  • intelligent tutoring systems

In any case the paper reviews and provides nice table summaries of studies done using each method.

This work is a treasure trove for researchers looking for both new methods and an expanded (yet time proven) conceptual model to guide research in online and blended learning.

One of the values of the original COI model was its simplicity. Peter Shea and his colleagues have argued for a “Learning presence“ which takes into account the learners self-efficacy, confidence and capability to learn.  While not denying the value of “learner presence” it takes the model into psychological realms that our more sociological orientation had avoided in the initial formation.  Adding any additional presences, adds complexity and besides the aesthetic value of a simpler, three circle Venn diagram, Occam’s Razor calls for simplicity of explanation whenever possible.  So can learning in educational contexts be adequately described and measures without reference to emotions? I think it can, but this review convinced me that something is lost when the emotional aspect of human experience in education is ignored.

Given the application of the model to formal education, I was surprised to not see a bit more emphasis on teacher emotion. I know from my own experience, the emotional challenges that I deal with when teaching either online or in a classroom.In any case, this review is not the last word, but a great starting point for further research in “emotional presence”.

 


Great Firewall of China

December 13, 2014

I’m on research and study leave (aka Sabbatical) this year and I see that I have been ignoring my blog as well as a number of other “normal responsibilities”. But I have been learning and enjoying. After a 6 week road trip through Eastern Canada and the USA, my wife Susan and I  are just ending a 4 week visit to China.

Our VERY gracious hosts for this trip have been the faculty and students in Distance Education and Educational Technology at Beijing Normal University. Education universities here in China still use (in English) the rather old fashioned term “Normal University” – (not implying that other universities are not normal, nor that the education ones are more normal in the modern sense of the word). Beijing Normal University BNU was founded in 1902 and is China’s 2nd oldest and one of the 3 or 4 most highly respected Universities in China.

I was charged withdoing lectures in 6 classes for PhD and Masters students, 2 lectures for Faculty and students and along the way, accepted invitations to talk at 3 other Universities. In addition I was asked to do a literature review on Interaction in Online Learning. Given the overwhelming interest in various types and modes of interaction in online education in the literature and in my own career, I didn’t think this should be too great a problem. With the help of a grad student from Canada, we did Google Scholar searches for the 10 most cited articles in each of the past 10 years, that included the words Interaction and “distance education” or “online education” or elearning in the title. We then began classifying them by types of interaction (student-student, student content etc.), methodology, context and tried to get a sense of results of recent scholarship. To increase efficiency we stored our spreadsheet of results and first outlines of the paper on DropBox.

Well, major surprises when I attempt to to continue the work in China.  I had heard that some Google services weren’t available, so I changed my browsers to use Microsoft Bing for searches -which worked OK, but much less coverage from Google Search). But I began to realize how Gogglized my life had become. Fortunately Google Mail works most of the time, but Google Scholar was also disabled along with Maps, Image search, Google Books, Google Earth, YouTube and most everything else Google that I use.  Wikipedia lists 2,701 banned sites but I am told that sites come and go with irregular frequency and certainly no accountability. I was particularly sad to loose Google Scholar because I have it set to let me access all of the full text works from closed works that are not available on the Internet but are available to folks like myself with university access to a number of journal databases. I am able to logon to my university library account directly, but when this hotel internet, (shared with MANY University offices) gets used during daylight hours, Internet speed gets VERY slow.

I knew that Google and the Chinese government had a major dustup, but I was surprised to see how many other services were blocked. no Twitter, no Slideshare, No DropBox, No FaceBook,  and likely a number of other services. For the first week, I couldn’t access CBC.com but now it is available – perhaps the Chinese Government  has gotten over the outrageous behariour of either our Prime Minsiter or Jian Ghomeshi, even if I haven’t!)

I also came to realize how Googlized other aspects of my life have become. As Editor Erimitus of IRRODL.COM, I was very surprised to find that this open access journal is basically unusable here in China. We had installed an automatic translator app, in large part becuase of the growing interest in China and many other developing countries in distance education research. But I had forgotten that it used Google Translate (banned). Further investigation found that we used Google analytics, google API’s that are built into the Open Journal System we use and one other Google service – on each page view!  As result the IRRODL site works SLOWLY, one has to wait while it calls and eventually times out on 4 different calls to banned services, making it functionally useless. sigh…

Most of new Chinese friends are aware of the problem, but have a number of standard responses. First, the blocked services have invigorated a number of Chinese social networks and commercial services. Many of these web services such as wechatRenrenDouban  and Jiepang  have millions of users (they have achieved critical mass) and arguably are as good or better than English language services. Secondly most academics use their library databases and seem quite resigned (no protests in the streets here) to doing without some of the systems that have become part of my personal learning network. Finally, there are MANY services which provide services for $5-10 month. I asked a friend if they were not worried that the government would come down on them for bypassing their control systems. He was quite confident that the government didn’t mind, as they were doubtlessly monitoring his VPN access and getting the potential miscreants using fewer services makes their monitoring job easier!

So, it has a been a great visit to China. We’ve seen many of the top tourist sites, squeezed into quite a few over crowded buses, subways and elevators and had many conversations with fascinating students, academics and ordinary Chinese- well at least those who speak English.

I can understand the Chinese motivation to get out of the domination of new media by Western (and mostly USA) services. We’ve been struggling with that in Canada for decades. But heavy handed blocking seems to make academics compete in research endeavours with one English language arm tied behind their back!


Does using technology in classrooms make students engaged?

July 18, 2014

In one of the worst ed tech articles I’ve read in years, Morris and Parker, attempt to find a link between technology use in a new, home grown social network and “engagement” in the classroom. On the face of it this seems reasonable. Students use a social network ergo they get engaged in the course. However this ignores  the fundamental rule about educational technology – it is not the tool but the way it is used that matters.

The article initially got me feeling uncomfortable when it attempted to make the case that there is such a thing as a “technological pedagogy”. We’ve long argued that technologies (from clay stylus, to blackboards to Second Life) can and are being used to support  and enhance many types of pedagogical instruction and interactions (see  Jon Dron and my Learning technology through three generations of technology enhanced distance education pedagogy).  Morrie and Parker go on to present a straw dog, later torn down, arguing that “the rhetoric and packaging accompanying many of these new technological teaching tools suggests that usage alone will increase student engagement and learning.” Who has ever argued that?  Technology can afford new ways of thinking and acting, but it doesn’t by itself change engagement or learning. This is of course an old argument see (Clark and Kozma) from the 1990′s. But I think we have learned that doing the exact same activity with a different tool, is not likely to change outcomes.

We learn that a rather large (187 person) American undergrad Political Science class was surveyed (33% return) after one-term use of a social network tool. Nowhere in the article do the authors say how the tool was used, if use was rewarded with marks or associated with learning objectives, what pedagogical principals were implicitly or explicitly used to design the learning activities, what training or experience the students or teacher had etc. etc?

The survey instrument too was home grown. I am unsure why a standardized tool of measure engagement was not used – there are a number readily available. But in any case the authors choose to focus the article on the underlying constructs of their instrument and its psychometric properties, these students perceptions were then tested for relationship with amount of activity on the social network

The validity of the survey is questionable. Multivariate analysis shows that the survey items were associated with  three constructs: 1 – Learning Community (LC), 2 – Constructivist Pedagogy (CP), and 3 – Equity (EQ). The amazingly bad part of this experiment was that the first two constructs (Learning Community and Constructivist Pedgaogy), were derived from Likert scales  which asked students their  perception of what the teacher did!!! How would one expect correlation between student engagement  and social technology use by asking questions about what the teacher did or how constructivist was their pedagogical interventions!  What were those interventions? The final Equity Construct assessed  the balance between teacher and student input, but again does the technology alone determine that?

The authors conclude “that usage of an award winning engagement tool is not enough to create a greater sense of engagement under the conditions adopted in this course.”  Exactly!! and why would they expect differently unless they actually modified “the conditions adopted in this course”.

I continue to believe that use of high powered social networks can and will be associated with increased engagement, but to do so, these tools must be skillfully woven into the objectives, assessments and activities of the course.  Finally, ways to assess engagement that are pedagogically compatible, relevant to the learning activities and outcomes of the course and the students and finally that reflect real learning are critically important.  The authors of this article are more concerned with psychometric properties of a home grown survey instrument, than in the effective use or the valid assessment of networking learning technologies integrated with effective  pedagogy!

Reference

Anderson, T., & Dron, J. (2012). Learning technology through three generations of technology enhanced distance education pedagogy. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 2012/2.  Retrieved from http://www.eurodl.org/?p=current&article=523.

Morris, R. C., & Parker, L. (2014). Examining the connection between classroom technology and student engagement. Journal of Teaching and Learning with Technology, 3(1), 1-15 doi:10.14434.jotlt.v3n1.4720


Virtual Barn Raising for OERs

July 2, 2014

The email below resonated with on a number of levels. I spent 15 years in Northern Alberta on a homestead as part of “back to the land ” movement. During that time the group of urban ex-pats in the area held a number of work bees, barn railings or general “help each other out days” – all of which ended in home grown music, wine and smoke!

Thus the idea of real time (F2F or online) work together to  accomplish a specify and time limited task is appealing. I’ll be joint just to see how it goes and to add a word or two on OERs.

If it looks productive and fun, I’ll try to organize a similar event this fall to focus on the lack of quality and in-depth articles in Wikipedia on Distance Education (e-learning, online learning) or whatever popular term is.  I think many of our masters and EdD. students at Athabasca  have much that could be contributed and this format might have the right ingredients for a significant contribution.

Here is the invite letter sent to a Paul Basich, a colleague with the Poerup research project and  UK friend:

Let’s get this done!

You are cordially invited to join us for a free “Wikipedia Barnraising” event on Saturday July 19th, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pacific Time, at the Oakland Impact Hub, 2323 Broadway, Oakland, California – or join us online! Lunch and refreshments will be provided for those joining us in person.Since 2012, we’ve been working — with substantial help from many of you — to strengthen Wikipedia’s coverage of Open Educational Resources and related topics. We’ve worked to build a community around this goal — at conferences in the field, through our online “Writing Wikipedia Articles” (WIKISOO) course, and through the formation of WikiProject Open.

At the Barn Raising, we will focus on high priority Wikipedia articles: articles that are widely read, but that — despite ongoing efforts — remain poorly sourced, incomplete, or out of date. (In the wiki world, we often borrow the term “Barn Raising” to evoke the idea of a community coming together to build something substantial in a short time. It’s been described as a way to “make the impossible possible.”)

We welcome online participants from around the world — and we have a few tricks up our sleeves to help everyone work together smoothly.

Please register, whether you are attending virtually or in person:

Barn Raising registration form

This event is open to all. Our goal is to make significant improvements to OER-related articles; so if you are brand new to Wikipedia and/or open education, you might want to take a little time to prepare. We will send out helpful resources for beginners as the date gets closer.

We look forward to seeing you, online or in person, and to raising a wiki barn with you!

Pete & Sara


Online Distance Education – Towards a Research Agenda

June 19, 2014

Last week my colleague Olaf Zawacki-Richter and I did the closing keynote at the European Distance Education Network Annual meeting in Zagreb Croatia.  The conference was great and it was my first visit to Croatia- but hopefully not my last.

Our keynote celebrated the recent launch of our new open access book from Athabasca University Press (available at http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120233.  Our slide show presented the  methods by which we identified the most published topics in the major distance education journals. Olaf has updated this list covering 5 major journal’s from 2000-2011. I was pleased to see that Canadian researchers were the most prolific!

Once we identified the 17 most researched issues, we contacted the scholar(s) who we believed was the most qualified to write a chapter on that topic. We asked them to highlight the issues, the major unresolved questions and their suggestions for a research agenda that would advance our knowledge and practice related to this issue. I’m pleased to say that we had a very good response and I think the book will be very useful for students and scholars for some years to come.

The Table of Contents is:

Foreword  Otto Peters
Introduction Research Areas in Online Distance Education  Olaf Zawacki-Richter and Terry Anderson

Part I Macro-level Research: Distance Education Systems and Theories

  • 1 Internationalization and Concepts of Social Justice: What Is to Be Done? Alan Tait and Jennifer O’Rourke
  • 2 Globalization, Culture, and Online Distance Learning  Charlotte N. Gunawardena 
  • 3 Distance Education Systems and Institutions in the Online Era: An  Identity Crisis  Sarah Guri-Rosenblit
  • 4 Online Distance Education Models and Research Implications Terry D. Evans and Margaret Haughey
  • 5 Methods of Study in Distance Education: A Critical Review of Selected Recent Literature
  • Farhad Saba

part II Meso-level research: Management, Organization, and Technology

  • 6 Organization and Management of Online and Distance Learning Ross Paul
  • 7 The Costs and Economics of Online Distance Education Greville Rumble
  • 8 The Use of Technology in Distance Education Gráinne Conole
  • 9 Innovation and Change: Changing How we Change Jon Dron
  • 10 Professional Development and Faculty Support Margaret Hicks
  • 11 Learner Support in Online Distance Education: Essential and EvolvingJane E. Brindley
  • 12 Quality Assurance in Online Distance Education Colin Latchem

 

part III Micro-level Research: Learning and Teaching in Distance
Education

  • 13 Major Movements in Instructional Design - Katy Campbell and Richard. A. Schwier
  • 14 Interaction and Communication in Online Learning Communities: Toward an Engaged and Flexible Future - Dianne Conrad
  • 15 Quantitative Analysis of Interaction Patterns in Online Distance Education - Allan Jeong
  • 16 From the Back Door into the Mainstream: The Characteristics of Lifelong Learners - Joachim Stöter, Mark Bullen, Olaf Zawacki-Richter, and Christine von Prümmer
  • 17 Student Dropout: The Elephant in the Room - Alan Woodley and Ormond Simpson
  • Conclusion Towards a Research Agenda - Terry Anderson and Olaf Zawacki-Richter

The complete book and individual chapters are available for free download, but of course we love paper purchasers ($39.95 for a 500 page text!) Thanks to all authors and to EDEN hosts!


African Council for Distance Education 2014

June 8, 2014

Zambezi Valley

Zambezi Valley

I was honoured to be invited to do a keynote talk at the 4th conference of ACDE in Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. After sitting up for 2 nights on a plane (42 hour journey) I was very glad to reach the Elephant Hills hotel and a soft bed. The hotel overlooks the Zambezi River and the constant myst of the Victoria Falls can be seen about 3 km away.

Mist rising from Victoria Falls

Mist rising from Victoria Falls

The next day I took a tour of the Falls, and they did not disappoint. They reminded me a lot of Niagara – maybe not so tall, but wider and the same deafening roar as millions of gallons of water churn over the cliff. Victoria Falls Victoria Falls

I did my talk the next day entitled ” Using Open Scholarship to Leapfrog Traditional Educational Barriers And it went OK, but the elaborate formal greetings and pomp of the opening ceremonies, meant that my time was really constrained- though I did manage to squeeze in a joke and give away a copy of one of our open access, Athabasca University Press, Issues in Dist. Educ. series books. The afternoon was spent at a very interesting workshop present by UNESCO and Fred Muller in which he challenged the Open Universities of Africa to embrace and develop MOOC applications- rather than fear them as we seem to do.  I was very impressed with over 200 MOOCs put together by 13 European OpenUpEd collaborators as a service- not profit see openuped.eu.

Generally the African Open Universities are focussed on quality production of print packages and support (tutorials, testing etc) in local learning Centres. They suffer from the same prejudice from educated elites, and the faculties of traditional universities, but of course their costs are much lower. It is clear to all that sufficient campus universities will never be built to accommodate the large and growing demand for higher education in Africa.  Many of  the presenters presented compelling cases for more support, but also presented evidence of the changes that their programs are making in the lives of disadvantaged students.  All the participants seem to have a sense that they should be using more net based technologies, but judging from the general absence of laptops by all but a few of the conference delegates, I think that net access and literacy is an issue not only for students but for faculty as well. This has been a very short trip, but the kindness of new friends and of the Zimbabwe people I have met here at the hotel is long!


3 Bears Story

June 5, 2014

I had the pleasure of driving from my home in Edmonton through the Rocky Mountains and back en route to the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education in Kamloops BC.  It was a great trip partly because I got to show this spectaual scenery to two friends – Albert Sangra form the Open University of Catalonia and Stefan Stenbom from  KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

I’ve been going to the Rockies since I was a kid and my parents served as house parents in a number of Canadian Youth Hostels on the road from Banff to Jasper.  Arguably this Ice Fields Parkway is one of, if not the most scienic paved highway in the world. Despite the many trips I’ve made to the mountains, I have never seen a live grizzly bear (though many black bears).  Perhpas just to impress my European friends on this trip we saw not one, but two grizzlies and a black bear thrown in for good measure – a regular mountain safari!

Grizzly #1

Grizzly #1

Grizzly #2

Black Bear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second grizzly was a bit further away, but showed off his height a couple of times by standing up on his hind paws to scratch his back on a tree.

Of course we had to take the giant snow machine ride up onto Athabasca Glacier (sadly in retreat these years) and ventured out on to the new GlacierSkywalk- a glass floored walkway cantilevered  918 feet above the valley floor.

IMG_9295

On the Athabasca Glacier

Glacier Skywalk

Glacier Skywalk

All in all a great spring trip, with good friends – one of whom, Stefan, is a great photographer!


Study-Buddy Study

May 8, 2014

I was delighted to get an alert from Google Scholar that some open publication had cited my work. I didn’t really plan on then spending an hour by reading through a  thesis, writing the author a quick note and now this blog post. But learning opportunity strikes!

The publication was the MEd. thesis by Colin Madland, a grad student in our online  MEd program specializing in online education and in this case the sample was drawn from MEd students. So lots of relevancy for me.  Finally, the examination of a different model of student-student interaction always interests me.

I recommend this thesis as a fine example of clear writing, nice tie to practical and theoretical work, good  clear questions (but do we really need formal hypothesis in Mixed method research?). The sample size was relatively small (<50) using an online, mostly author created, questionnaire. Thus the quest for significant differences wasn’t achieved for some questions (like the deep and surface learning measurement) but some powerful numbers and quotes about percie3ved value of the intervention.

The study context was the very common, paced, 100% online, graduate course with 20-30 students, using an LMS and occasional synchronous webconf. The innovative feature of the course was the focus on problem based learning activity wherein students were required to develop a detailed learning design for a known training or educational problem. For 5% “bonus mark” students could agreed to participate in a  form of study-buddy pre-submission assessment and feedback on the final product(s) from the buddy and to create a 1-2 page reflection on the experience.

The results were generally positive about the study-buddy intervention, a claim Madland supported with descriptive survey means from Likert scale questions of value and use. Of course not everyone liked working with study buddies, so Madland tried on a learning style type designation of learners as bunnies (quick to get work done and handed in) and bears (plodding along to last second turn in.)  As expected, bear/bunnies relationships had more problems, but the results were inconclusive, some bunnies got along with bears. I’m not big on learning style labelling, but my wife is convinced that Meyers Briggs, Enneagram and other ways to ‘know thyself” are invaluable, so what do I know…

The work concludes with has some very nice and practical recommendations for online teaching and course design. The study finds that study-buddy interventions is relatively cost effective, needs marks for incentives and generally “works”. However, it should NOT be made compulsory as some expect or demand more independence in online learning. Perhaps what is most important for  administrators and teachers is that study buddies were reported to reduce marking/proof reading that consumes too much of the teacher’s time. This is an example of  substituting student-student interaction for student-teacher interaction. Study-buddies seems to have both pedagogical and economic advantages. The research on peer teaching as long shown evidence of learning value, but most of this work has been done face-to-face. I would be interested in examining the tools used by the pairs (Google docs? social networks? LMS???) to support this type of 2 person work group.

For researchers, the data confirms the results of the meta analysis comparing learning effectiveness after various dimensions of increased student-teacher, student-content and student-student interactions (Bernard et al. 2014). Further it can be used to support my  “Interaction Equivalency Theorum“.  This form of structured student-student interaction substitutes for student-teacher interaction with roughly “equivalent” results.  A group (even one with only 2 members) needs comfort and competence to function effectively in a performing a challenging task at a distance. Thus, the study-buddy experience is also a great learning activity for an increasingly distributed work force. Unlike student-teacher interaction, student-student interaction is scalable – though does require good tools and network efficacy to be used effectively by  distributed students. Thus, one could also imagine these being added as optional learning activity for MOOCs.

So, well done Colin! I look forward to reading an article summarizing this work and for a blossoming of study-buddies online.

Terry

References

Bernard, R., Abrami, P., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Tamim, R., Surkes, M., & Bethel, E. (2009). A meta-analysis of three types of interaction treatments in distance education. Review of Educational Research, 79(3), 1243-1289.

Madland, C. (2014). Structured Student Interactions in Online Distance Learning: Exploring the Study Buddy Activity. (MEd.), Athabasca University, Athabasca Ab. Retrieved from https://dt.athabascau.ca/jspui/bitstream/10791/47/3/Structured%20Student%20Interactions%20FINAL.pdf


MOOCs Unfairly Maligned

May 2, 2014

The Chronicle of Higher Education continues to amaze me how badly they can cover a story. This morning’s edition contains an article with a jarring headline reading “Passive MOOC Students Don’t Retain New Knowledge, Study Finds.  The study by Littlejohn and Milligan and is under review for IRRODL and thus no one – neither the Chronicle authors nor the Scottish news article authors (the second hand information upon which the Chronicle article was based) have had a chance to review the final copy. Nonetheless, the study found that indeed many professionals did not appear to apply their new knowledge to professional practice in substantive ways and showed  little  reflection on learning- despite the overall favourable impression of the content and the MOOC course in general.

There was no mention of students retaining new knowledge – or not as implied by the heading.  But more fundamentally, the students learning experience was not optimal compared to what?   I doubt there is a professional alive who has not attended a professional development event in ANY format to which these same criticism could not be levelled- and for some of the ones I have attended the content itself has been terrible and I’ve paid real money for the privilege of attending.

MOOCs are not a “perfect” way to learn, and only starry eyed proponents or venture capitalists would (or at least have) argued they are.  The popular press and the “experts” at the Chronicle have spent the first 2 years of the MOOC gushing about how terrific they are and now they provide equally bad commentary denigrating them.  I’d likely cancel my subscription to the Chronicle, if like MOOCs, the mini electronic email edition I get each work day wasn’t free!

 


Another research article on audio feedback

April 30, 2014

I’m a big fan of using audio feedback for marking of papers and proposals with my Education grad students.  I use Adobe Acrobat to embed usually short audio comments (maybe 20-40 per paper) and a summary comment. I do it because it saves me time and generally my students report really liking it. It allows me to project more positive “teaching presence” and I think I am much better able to express complicated as well as short mechanical issues – QUICKLY!  Too may educational technology based innovations or more general educational innovations  actually cost teachers’ time -even after an almost inevitable time lost surmounting a sometimes steep learning curve.

Thus, I was pleased to see:

Cavanaugh, A., & Song, L. (2014). Audio Feedback versus Written Feedback: Instructors’ and Students’ Perspectives Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(2).  http://jolt.merlot.org/vol10no1/

This small scale study looked at postsecondary English teachers using audio (I think monologues using MP3) and not embedded (and IMHO much better Adobe Connect annotations).  One teacher reported taking MORE time- but only because she wrote the comments by hand and then read them into the recorder (sigh…).  Generally students liked the feedback assessed by interviews and a short survey.

This study helps us uncover the different (likely discipline centric) ways in which essays are marked. Teachers reported using and liking the audio for general, global comments, but text feedback for small mechanical issues that are common in English assessment (noting or correcting grammar issues as example).  There are likely other differences amongst style of teaching, learning and assessment across disciplines and perhaps across different educational level and ages.

The article has no earth shattering surprises, but does confirm my earlier thoughts on audio feedback- so I like it.  It also has one of the most extensive lit reviews (for a short paper) that does a good job of reviewing our last decade of use of audio feedback.

The biggest question though, is if audio is faster, is preferred by students and teachers, is very cheap to implement- why aren’t all teachers using.

Terry