Competencies for Online Teaching Success (COTS)

Larry Ragan, Director of Faculty development at Penn State’s World Campus has put his flip camcorder to good use over the past few months, cornering various ‘experts’, practitioners and generally experienced online teachers. He  asked each to describe one core competency for successful online teaching.

He has uploaded about 30 of these 1-3 minute videos to YouTube, including my own contribution COTS – Terry Anderson

They can all be accessed by typing “world campus cots” into the YouTube search window.

Thanks Larry, besides the useful tips and ideas for professional development activities, you’ve shown a cost effective way to document and aggregate emerging ideas and allowing some of the tacit knwoledge we are developing to become explicit and shareable.

Another great issue of IRRODL

I feel less engaged in shameless self-promotion, with this announcement of the 9.3 issue of the International Review of Research on Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL), as Jon Baggaley was the editor in charge of this fine issue.

The issue features a video as well as text editorial by Jon, neither of which should be missed. As usual, each of the 8 main section articles is available in HTML, PDF and MP3 format- no excuse for listening to hot tunes on your IPOD, during this week’s commutes, when you could be engaged learning with some of the world’s best distance education researchers and theorists!! The issue also contains 4 book reviews and 2 “research notes” articles. As always, IRRODL articles are available to all as Open Access resources, distributed under a Creative Commons License. Don’t forget to register for a free email subscription, in case you miss my blog post announcing Issue 10.1 in a few months

EduBloggers, while likely be especially interested in the review of connectivism by Rita Kop & Adrian Hill and a research article on student motivation for blog use by Paul Henry Leslie and Elizabeth Murphy. Adminstrators will enjoy learning about re-engineering distance education processes in a great article by M’hammed Abdous and Wu He. Theorists will welcome both the constructivism article and one on the role of Transaction Theory by Sushita Gokool-Ramdoo as the major theoretical grounding in distance education.

Jon Baggaley has gathered a very international mix for this issue with articles from Japan, Iceland, Ghana, United Arab Emerits, USA and SE Asia – affirming IRRODL’s claim to be the most international of the distance education journals. My thanks to Jon for very ably editing the last two issues of IRRODL, while I was on sabbatical.

This issue also is the final one to be constructed by Managing Editor, Paula Smith. Paula has been the key factor in the timely production and innovations of IRROD over the past 6 years. She leaves to begin her own web 2.0 communications company. I am sure all those who have directly interacted with Paula during the review and publication of IRRODL articles will wish her well and join me in thanking her for her considerable efforts. For those whose only contact with Paula, was indirect through reading IRRODL articles, you have benefited from her keen eye for detail, publishing innovations and competent procurement and distribution of many important works during her tenure. Best wishes Paula, from all your IRRODL friends and subscribers.

Terry Anderson- Editor, IRRODL

More Collective connections

My friend Jon Dron has finally nailed his own (and no doubt others) ideas about the collective nature of Wikipedia. His recent post notes:

  • the individual actions that create most of the articles,
  • the groups of administrative types who manage the overall infrastructure and set in place the algorithms that manage the look, feel and performance of the system
  • the networks of mostly regular users responsible for maintenance and collaborative development of the articles and finally the way we mine
  • the wiki as a collective resource.

I realize that some folks think this task of dividing and allocating ideas into categories is an arbitrary function that just gives rise to arguments (see for example Dave Snowden’s diatribe and his focus on ‘crews’.)

However I think our ‘Taxonomy of the Many’ classification system has value and defend it and classification systems in general in the rest of this post.
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Shameless Self promotion – for Mom

From the AU News Room:

Dr. Terry Anderson’s appointment as Canada Research Chair in distance education has been renewed for five years. He was presented with the award at the Convocation ceremony on June 10.

Terry Anderson
Leslie Chivers, communications director for
MP Brian Jean, presented Dr. Terry Anderson
with the documentation to officially renew his Canada Research Chair in Distance Education.

The CRC program, which is funded by the Government of Canada, will provide $500,000 in research funding over the next five years. Canada Research Chairs are selected by a college of reviewers, composed of experts from around the world, to recognize exceptional researchers, acknowledged by their peers as having the potential to lead in their field. Terry was first awarded the chair in distance education in 2001.

For the past five years, he has been investigating the kinds of interaction that occur among teachers and students in online learning environments and how the degree of interaction impacts learning, satisfaction and completion rates. Over the next five years, his research will focus on unpaced learning and how social software tools can build communities of learning online despite the individual nature of the process.

“Distance learning has come a long way since the days of mail-out exams,” Terry said. “Today’s technology allows for the near-instantaneous exchange of material between teacher and student and between students. The Internet challenges educators to look for ways of improving teacher-student interaction while creating cost-effective learning experiences.”

“Enhancing and expanding distance learning methods through research is a continuing priority for Athabasca University,” President Frits Pannekoek said. The university has specialized in university-level distance learning for over 30 years. It employs a variety of electronic technologies as well as print materials and telephone-tutoring in its teaching. More than 85 percent of AU’s courses are now wholly or partly online.

“Dr. Anderson’s research in network technology is vital for Athabasca University because it speaks directly to our mandate,” President Frits said. “Athabasca University is one of the world’s leading distance education specialists. By focusing on innovation in learning, we continue to remove barriers and makes exemplary post-secondary education more accessible.”

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Terry is Tops

Terry Anderson The accolades for Terry Anderson keep on coming. In a letter from Dr. Michele Jacobsen with the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology (CJLT), she advises him of a prestigious recognition:

“It is my pleasure to inform you that you have been chosen to receive the 2006 CJLT Editor’s Award for your Volume 31, Issue 2, Spring 2005 article, Design-based Research and its Application to a Call Centre Innovation in Distance Education.

“The CJLT Editor’s Award is presented by the Editor of AMTEC’s Journal to an individual who has provided the most outstanding article to CJLT during that year. In making my recommendation for this award, I have relied entirely on feedback from the Editorial Board … your article emerged as the clear favorite.”

Terry’s article discusses a new methodology for distance education research and applied the model to work done with call centre innovation in AU’s School of Business.

In his acceptance comment at the CADE/AMTEC conference held in Montreal in May, Terry reminded delegates that at various times in his carreer he had submitted and had articles rejected from both CJTE and the CADE Journal, but that “one shouldn’t let such setbacks stop efforts to share the insights from one’s research and practice.”


Another AU connection from the CADE conference: Liam Rourke, Ph.D. adjunct faculty in Centre for Distance Education and former Canadian Centre for Distance Education Research (CIDER) employee, now with Nanyang Technological University, won the Excellence in Graduate Research award.

PLE’s getting fleshed out (conceptually) and COI Model

Stephen Downes nicely ties ideas of ownership, control, learner centricity and choice from PLE’s into notions of the mutlimedia and readwrite nature of web 2.0. Great stuff! Wish I had been there!.

I was especially interested in his update of the Community of Inquiry (COI) model that Randy Garrison and I created some years ago. This model was done to help us conceptualize and measure learning communities that we were building using computer conferencing and analyzing the results with transcript analysis. This work has spawned quite a few studies and maybe just a few insights into text based and asynchronous learning (see )

In particular the Venn diagram (below) we created has been used as a conceptual tool in many studies.

COI Model

Community of Inquiry Model

Stephen provides the first major edits to the model in 5 years as follows:

COI Model with Downe's edits

COI Model with Downes Update

The COI exists within the larger context of the educational semantic web. I also envisioned the larger Net with all of its social, teaching and cognitive stimulation and support as being outside – but directly linking in to the “three presences”. Visualized as the whole the model immersed in the flow of the Net. Stepehn’s additions make that more clear and explicitly site the encumbusing effect of the Net on learning and living these days.

The second change substitutes ‘self’ for the ‘educational experience’ in the Centre of the COI. This is similar to the way in which a psychologist traditionally views the world through the lens of the individual psyche, whereas the sociologist tends to look at life through a social lens. We focused the COI model on the social because it was meant to explicate the social and paced environment emerging in CMC based formal education courses. In this context the ‘educational experience” was our focus and we assumed that creating a stimulating, supporting and challenging environment (by noting the three presences) would create an environment for the ‘self’ to grow and learn. I am sympathetic to the need for a great more individual freedom than afforded by most formal education systems. (see Anderson, 2006) But we also need to create and visualize the ways in which communities of inquiry and especially the type that people pay for (formal learning). The freedom of relationship in which learners are empowered to create the type of social relationship they find most beneficial is of critcial importance to many learners and too great an emphasis on the self, CAN diminish the energy needed to sustain powerful learning relationships Untangelling the social from the individual has been a very knotty challenge (see ideas on social cognition and especially Brown and Dugoid’s Social Life of Information.). I don’t have any problems seeing the individual at the centre of the community, but I’m not sure it really helps us to focus on the networked social learning that the model is designed to inspire and measure. Being explicit about the social expereince of a cohort based system and maximizing the input of various members of the community is a very powerful way to learn. The judicious use of social sofwatre will allow these groups to form more spontaneously and be supported over different boundaries of time and space, so there is a sense in which the individual will be able to create the mix of social and self that most meets their needs at any given moment. But many will still want to frame at least their formal learning in a social context

We haven’t been going to pubs and churches for hundreds of years for nothing, when it is cheaper and more convenient to drink (or worship) at home!!

Thanks for the great slides Stephen.

Wiki as conference evaluation tool

We sponsored a full day PreConference workshop on Distance Education Research sponsored by the Canadian Institute for Distance Education Research CIDER at the Canadian Association for Distance Education (CADE) and AMTEC conference held last week in Montreal. Most of the presentations are online at the CIDER site, but I wanted to discuss the use of PBWIKI to facilitate the workshop participant evaluation.

Unlike like a good adult educator, I had not gotten my act together to create and photocopy the traditional exit survey. However, I did have the email addresses of the registered participants, so I very quickly (maybe 20 minutes max.) set up a site ( at the free PBWIKI site and typed in 4 questions (the usual, what did you like, best, least, suggestions for next year) and invited reflection on the use of the WIKI for this evaluation.

I chose to make the site visible to others (check it out) but restricted editing capabilitity to those who had participated in the workshop. We had a very small learning curve as we learned (thanks Elizabeth Murphy) to place a line with single space between comments. This allowed each unique comment to each question to appear in a separate text book- looks very smart.

There are three obvious advantages to using a WIKI for this purpose.

  1. Ease of creation and administration, lack of cost and saving of trees
  2. Using the WIKI benefits not just the organizers, but the participants as well. Everyone gets to read the reactions of others and comment on them. The visibility allows participants to gauge their perceptions against those of others. This auto validation serves to enhance the reflective nature of the evaluation, forcing participants to not only present their own reactions but judge those reactions in comparison to those of others – questioning any discreancies.
  3. Finally, the process is efficient for all participants as they don’t need to write what has already been posted, but rather can expand, contrast, discuss or illustrate thier own perceptions.

Of course I didn’t get the usual means from Likert scales assessing each presentation nor a sense of how many people actually edited or just read the evaluations, but that data seems to not really add much value to my plans for enhancing next year’s conference.

So the ease of use, extremely low cost (thanks PKWIKI) coupled with metacognitive nature of the reflection seems to make WIKI’s a very useful tool for this application.

E-learning Entry level costs down to $0.00

Congratulations to the folks at Nuvvo a Canadian, employee owned company that has released an AJAX based, web service that allows ANYONE to create and manage their own e-learning system. And the cost is FREE (unless of course you want to charge people to take your courses) in which case the cost is $9.99 a month (but those are Canadian – not REAL dollars).

The service offers interactive (blogs, quizzes and emails) and dissemination tools to create and host a course. The program seems at first glance to not be dissimilar to Moodle or other LMS systems – except there is NO installation needed and the price is right.

The lowering of the e-learning creation and delivery entry barriers to $0 or $9.99 a month allows a whole new group of teachers and education delivery agents to enter the market -check out the list of currently available courses.

As i’ve long predicted, the era when quality elearning courses can only be produced, distributed and supported by an army of professionals is rapidly ending.