The symposium panel comprised Marcia Johnson, Garry Falloon, Craig Hight, and Patricia Strang. The panel described four case studies in which they have been involved, three that has used a blended learning approach (1st year Earth Science, 1st year Screen and Media, and pre-degree bridging - Cert of University Preparation), and one that was totally online (Master's level education - professional practice).
A range of software tools were used including Google Earth (Earth Sciences), GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP - Screen and Media), Adobe Connect (Education), and eXe was used to develop SCORM objects for the Moodle environment (CUP). All the case studies used Moodle as a portal type environment.
For Screen and Mida they found that there was a trade-off between flexibility and contact, that there was a strong necessaity to contextualise and exercise, and that layers of support were required. Student time managment was an issue, where there was a focus on deadlines for pieces of assessment to the point where students were asking for tighter deadlines to help them get things completed and therefore not have clashes with other work they were required to do.
The Education case study was in part informed by Moore and Kearsley (1996) who state that distance learning can "lead to communication gaps, a psychological space of potential misunderstandings between the behaviours or instructors and those of learners" (p. 2). The ideas was to enhance dialogue, structure, and learner autonomy. Adobe Connect was used to help create a community of learners (and they will use Skype alongside for future trials). The tool was used for student presentations, as well as discussions, and tutorial sessions. The findings were that the use of the tool was a 'doubled edged' tool. It enhanced the sense of connectedness, but at the same time diminished a sense of autonomy. And absence of internal structure (agenda, 'knowing the rules etc) and external structure negatively affected the quality of the dialogue.
The Earth Science study was mainly developed to help student to visualise spatial relationships in the landscape. The students really enjoyed using the tools, although there were some issues with accessing the software.
Patricia gave an overview of the Pre-degree bridging programme. In the first paper there was no uptake by the lecturers and students, in part because of contextual issues, as well as ICT skills/barriers. In the second paper they went into the classrooms, explained the resources, discussed them with the students, and demonstrated the resources. The uptake of the opportunities in the second paper was much better. The teacher was not particularly computer literate, but was keen to upskill. She encouraged students to participate. Students said that they liked feedback either face-to-face or via email or Moodle. Text messaging was not so poplar, and is perhaps indicative that students are not guaranteed to apply current skills to a learning environment. This group was the least enthusiastic of the four case study participants about using technology, and few took advantage of the interactive workshops. The conclusion was that the students weren't ready for the workshops approach to independent learning, But the students did participate in the online assessment activity and the exam preparation quiz on the Moodle site.
There were some key points raised here, and the one that jumped out for me...again...was the need to for the educator to be full engaged and committed to the potential of ICT to enhance a learning experience. Without that, ICTELT initiatives are doomed!