Posted tagged ‘research’

10 journals every e-learning professional should read

7 February 2017

I was delighted when Matt Guyan blogged 5 Books Every eLearning Professional Should Read in response to my 5 papers every learning professional should read.

I feel the urge to lob the ball back over the net, so I shall do so now with a list of 10 journals I believe every e-learning professional should read.

By “journals”, I mean academic periodicals that publish the results of empirical research.

By “read”, I mean scan the abstracts occasionally as time permits, while deep-diving into a particular paper if it arouses sufficient interest.

A tennis ball resting on a tennis racquet.

Here are the journals in alphabetical order. Each one is freely accessible.

  1. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology
  2. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology
  3. Current Issues in Emerging eLearning
  4. Electronic Journal of e-Learning
  5. International Journal of Advanced Corporate Learning
  6. Journal of Educational Technology & Society
  7. Journal of Interactive Media in Education
  8. Journal of Online Learning Research
  9. Online Learning

  10. Research in Learning Technology

Do you have any others to add to the list?

My blogging year in the rear-view mirror

8 December 2015

As the year draws to a close, I like to reflect on my blog posts.

I invite you to scan the list below and catch up on any that you may have missed. It’s never to late to comment!

Rear-view mirror

Thank you everyone for your ongoing support.

I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

5 papers every learning professional should read

1 July 2015

I don’t read as many journal articles as I’d like.

Given the challenges and pressures of professional life, combined with everything else that’s been going on privately, I’ve fallen out of the habit of scanning the latest abstracts and deep diving into particular studies.

And that’s a problem because as a practitioner, I consider it important to inform my work with the latest science. While blogs (for example) certainly have their place in the discourse, so too do peer-reviewed publications.

So it was with much gratitude that I read The Science of Training and Development in Organizations: What Matters in Practice.

I say “gratitude” because it was one of the pre-reads for last night’s Sydney eLearning and Instructional Design Meetup. If David Swaddle (the meet-up’s organiser) hadn’t prompted me to read this paper in preparation for the event, I fear I never would have done so.

This in turn got me thinking about good papers – the ones that stand out from the rest. The ones that I would recommend to my fellow learning pro’s. While there are many that could fit that bill, I’ve given it some thought and have short-listed my Top 5.

A pile of papers on a desk.

1. Sfard, A. (1998). On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One. Educational Researcher, 27(2), pp. 4-13.

In this paper, the author distinguishes between two metaphors for learning: the acquisition metaphor in which the learner’s mind is akin to a vessel to be filled, and the participation metaphor in which the learner is an active social agent in the learning process. The latter metaphor reminds me that learning is not about the consumption of information; it’s about making sense.

2. Cook‐Greuter, S. R. (2004). Making the case for a developmental perspective. Industrial and Commercial Training, 36(7), pp. 275-281.

In this paper, the author distinguishes between two directions of human development: horizontal growth and vertical transformation. I translate this dichotomy as the difference between “learning” and “development”, recognising that as a profession we tend to assign disproportionately more attention to the former – to our organisation’s detriment. I elaborate here.

3. Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), pp. 3-10.

Somewhat controversial in academic circles, this paper documents real thought leadership in my humble opinion. The author challenges the notion of what it means to “learn” in the modern world, and if we put philosophical arguments aside, he provokes us to re-think our practice.

4. Biesta, G. J. J. (2012). Giving Teaching Back to Education: Responding to the Disappearance of the Teacher. Phenomenology & Practice, 6(2), pp. 35-49.

In this paper, the author rues the shift of our collective discourse from teaching to learning, whereby the sage has been pushed off the stage and recast as a guide on the side. I don’t agree with everything he has to say, but I do agree with much of his sentiment. I’ve blogged my reflection here.

5. Salas, E., Tannenbaum, S. I., Kraiger, K. & Smith-Jentsch, K. (2012). The Science of Training and Development in Organizations: What Matters in Practice. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 13(2), pp. 74–101.

In this paper, the authors outline “what matters” before, during and after training in the organisational setting. While their focus is set firmly on the traditional one-to-many mode of delivery, their advice is grounded in research and real-world experience. Even if you aren’t involved in training per se, this is a solid framework against which you can (dare I suggest should?) audit what you do and how you do it.

Sunlight shining through dark clouds

The above papers are several rays of light that break through the clouds to change our mindsets and behaviours.

Do you agree with my short list?

Which papers would be in your Top 5?

Let’s get rid of the instructional designers!

12 August 2014

That’s the view of some user-oriented design proponents.

It’s something I remembered while writing my last blog post about user-generated content. Whereas that post explored the role of the learner in the content development process, how about their role in the broader instructional design process?

I wrote a short (1000 word) assignment on the latter at uni several years ago – in the form of a review of a chapter written by Alison Carr-Chellman and Michael Savoy – and it’s a concept that has resonated with me ever since.

Here I shall share with you that review, unadulterated from its original form, except for the graphic of the user empowerment continuum and the hyperlink to the reference, both of which I have added for this post.

Whether or not the more “progressive” design philosophies resonate with you, at the very least I hope they provoke your thinking…

Users co-designing


Carr-Chellman & Savoy (2004) provide a broad overview of user design. They define the term user design, compare it against other methodologies of user-oriented design, identify obstacles to its successful implementation, and finally make recommendations for the direction of further research.


According to Carr-Chellman & Savoy (2004), traditional instructional design methodologies disenfranchise the user from the design process. In a corporate organisation, for example, the leaders will typically initiate the instructional design project, an expert designer will then analyse the situation and create a design, and finally, the leaders will review the design and either approve it or reject it. The role of the user, then, is simply to use the system (or perhaps circumvent it).

In contrast to traditional instructional design methodologies, user design enables the users to participate in the design process. Instead of just using the system, they are involved in its design. Furthermore, their role is more than just providing input; they are active participants in the decision-making process.

Comparison against other methodologies

Carr-Chellman & Savoy (2004) carefully distinguish user design from other methodologies of user-oriented design, namely user-centered design and emancipatory design.

User-centered design

According to Carr-Chellman & Savoy (2004), user-centered design methodologies consider the needs of the user during the design process. In educational situations, for example, the expert designer may analyse the target audience, identify their preferred learning styles, and perhaps run a pretest. In tool usage situations, he or she may distribute user surveys or conduct usability testing. The goal of these activities is to obtain extra information to assist the designer in creating a better system for the users.

The key difference between user-centered design and user design is the level of participation of the users in the design process. Under a user-centered design model, the designer considers the needs of the users, but ultimately makes the design decisions on their behalf.

Under a user design model, however, the needs of the users go beyond mere food for thought. The users are empowered to make their own design decisions and thereby assume an active role in the design process.

User empowerment continuum, featuring traditional instructional design at the lowest extremity, then user-centered design, then user design, then emancipatory design at the highest extremity.

Emancipatory design

If traditional design occupies the lowest extremity of the user empowerment continuum, and user-centered design occupies a step up from that position, then emancipatory design occupies the opposite extremity.

Emancipatory design dispenses with the role of the expert designer and elevates the role of the users, so that in effect they are the designers. This methodology charges the users with full responsibility over all facets of the design process, from initiation, through analysis, design, review, to approval. Instead of having a system imposed on them, the users have truly designed it for themselves, according to their own, independent design decisions.

Emancipatory design is founded on issues of conflict and harmony in the disciplines of social economics and industrial relations. Carr-Chellman & Savoy (2004) recognise that the goal of emancipatory design is “more to create change and vest the users and frontline workers in organisational outcomes than it is actually to create a working instructional system”. Hence, emancipatory design may not be a universal instructional design methodology.

User design

User design fits between the extremes of the user empowerment continuum. Whereas traditional design and user-centered design remove the user from the active design process, and conversely, emancipatory design removes the expert designer from the process, user design merges the roles into the shared role of “co-designer”. It strikes a balance between the two perspectives by including contributions from both parties.

Arguably, user design is a universal instructional design methodology. Whereas traditional design and user-centered design devalue the role of the users in the active design process, emancipatory design devalues the role of the expert designer.

User design, however, values both roles. It recognises the necessity of the active involvement of users, because they are the experts in their domain and will be the ones operating the system. However, users can not be expected to understand the science of design. The active involvement of an expert designer is critical in guiding the design process and driving the work towards an efficient and effective outcome.


Carr-Chellman & Savoy (2004) identify numerous obstacles to the successful implementation of user design, including the reluctance of designers and leaders to share their decision-making powers with users, the inclusion of users too late in the design process, the tendency to categorise users into a homogenous group, and the lack of user motivation to participate in design activities.

Further Research

Carr-Chellman & Savoy (2004) claim that research specific to user design within instruction systems is scarce, and much of the research into other user-oriented design methodologies lacks scientific rigour. Therefore, they recommend the following actions for the research community:

  1. To create a standardised language to define user design and to distinguish it from other user-oriented design methodologies,

  2. To study the implementation of user design across different variables, such as user profile, subject area and mode of delivery, and

  3. To communicate the success of user design in terms of “traditional measures of effectiveness” for the purpose of influencing policymakers.

Furthermore, Carr-Chellman & Savoy (2004) recommend that researchers adopt the participatory action research (PAR) method of inquiry. They argue that PAR democratises the research process and, consequently, is ideologically aligned with the principles of user design.

It can be argued, therefore, that Carr-Chellman & Savoy (2004) promote both user design and user research. Their vision for users is not only to assume the role of “co-designer”, but also of “co-researcher”.


Carr-Chellman, A. & Savoy, M. (2004). User-design research, in Handbook of Research on Educational Communication and Technology, 2nd ed, D. H. Jonassen (Ed), pp. 701-716, New Jersey, USA: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Human enough

19 February 2013

It is with glee that the proponents of e-learning trumpet the results of studies such as the US Department of Education’s Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies, which found that, on average, online instruction is as effective as classroom instruction.

And who can blame them? It is only natural for evangelists to seize upon evidence that furthers their cause.

But these results mystified me. If humans are gregarious beings and learning is social, how can face-to-face instruction possibly fail to out perform its online equivalent?

That was until I watched Professor Steve Fuller’s Humanity 2.0 TEDxWarwick talk in Week 3 of The University of Edinburgh’s E-learning and Digital Cultures course.

The professor explains with wonderful articulation how difficult it is to define a human.

Sure, biologists will define humanity in terms of DNA, yet they can’t even agree on whether the Neanderthals were a subspecies of Homo sapiens or a separate species all together.

If we remove our gaze from the electron microscope, we have our morphology. Perhaps a human is an organism that has five fingers on each hand? But does that mean someone who is born with four (or six) is not human?

Perhaps a human is an organism that uses tools? Well, vultures drop rocks onto eggs to break them open.

Perhaps then a human is an organism that uses language? Whales might have something to say about that.

It is an intriguing conundrum that has occupied our thoughts since anyone can remember.

Title page of the first edition of René Descartes' Discourse on Method.

In the 17th Century, René Descartes made an intellectual breakthrough. He contended that “reason…is the only thing that makes us men, and distinguishes us from the beasts”. In other words, we are the only creatures on God’s earth capable of rational thought. I think, therefore I am.

Descartes pushed his point by arguing that while a robot might one day be developed to speak words, “it is not conceivable that such a machine should…give an appropriately meaningful answer in its presence”. And despite astonishing advances in artificial intelligence, the philosophical Frenchman remains right. Even Watson, who triumphed at Jeopardy! and today mines big data to help humans make better decisions, can not reasonably be considered a human itself. It is simply a product of computer programming.

Speaking of machines, if a human were to progressively replace her body parts with robotics – hence becoming a cyborg – at what point does she cease to be a human? According to the humanist tradition of Descartes, the absolute difference between a human and a non-human is a property of the mind. So, arguably she will remain a “human” until her brain is replaced.

But that begs the question: if we flip the scenario around and place a person’s brain in a robot’s body, does that make it a human?

All this philosophy starts to do my head in after a while, and that’s before getting into Freud’s posthumanism.

Somehow I prefer Joseph Gliddon’s simpler definition of a human: something that drinks coffee.

Cup of coffee

It’s not as flippant as it sounds, for it is our artificial enhancements that paradoxically make us more human.

Riding a bicycle, for example, is a quintessentially human endeavour. No other creature does it. Yes, a monkey might do so in the circus, but the reason we find it funny (or at least unusual) is because it doesn’t normally do that. The poor thing is mimicking a human.

Similarly, digital technology is an extension of our notion of humanity. Humans are the only organisms that use computers, surf the Web, write text, film video, record audio, and engage with one another in online discussion forums.

So when we view online pedagogy through this lens, we recognise very little of it that is not human. Consequently the strong performance of online students becomes less mysterious. In fact, it becomes expected because, just as a bicycle enhances our capability for travel, digital technology enhances our capability for learning.

This expectation is supported by a further finding of the Department of Education’s research – namely, that “blends of online and face-to-face instruction, on average, had stronger learning outcomes than did face-to-face instruction alone”. In other words, students who had the technology via the blended design performed better than those who didn’t.

But it doesn’t work in reverse: “the majority of…studies that directly compared purely online and blended learning conditions found no significant differences in student learning”. In other words, those who had the face-to-face interaction via the blended design performed no better than those who didn’t. Apparently the online instruction was human enough.

OK, on that bombshell, I think I’ll ride my bike to the cafe and pick up a cup of joe…

Of posters and round tables

11 December 2008

Learning Technology Research Symposium 2008 banner

Today I attended the Learning Technology Research Symposium hosted by CoCo at my old stomping ground, Sydney University.

The first part of the day comprised a “Research Poster Showcase”, in which the symposium attendees browsed posters about the work being undertaken by researchers not only at Sydney University, but also at other universities in Australia and overseas. Some of the researchers were present to chat and answer questions about their pride and joy. The poster abstracts are available online.

The showcase was followed by a keynote presentation, New technologies, new pedagogies: Mobile learning and participatory culture, presented by Jan Herrington from the University of Wollongong. Jan provided an overview of a series of workshops undertaken at UOW in which both teachers and students learned how to develop vodcasts for dissemination via PDAs and iPods.

One of Jan’s points was that while many university students are familiar with mobile technologies and use them on a daily basis, they remain under used in higher education; and where they are used, they tend to be employed for relatively low-level purposes (such as downloading lecture recordings or looking up timetables). I would suggest a similar situation exists in the corporate sector. It’s time to get smarter about m-learning!

The afternoon comprised “Research Round Tables”, in which the attendees contributed to open discussions facilitated by expert chairs. The roundtable abstracts are also available online.

At the end of the day, I found the symposium informative, and I enjoyed catching up with my uni buddies and meeting new people in the e‑learning community. I’m certainly looking forward to next year’s symposium.