Category Archives: papers

Campus Imaginary: new paper about online students & dissertation experiences

A paper based on the research conducted as part of the Dissertations at Distance project has just been published in Teaching in Higher Education. The paper introduces the idea of the ‘campus imaginary’ as a way of accounting for the tendency of online students to attribute difficult or challenging experiences of independent research to their distance from the campus.

[Campus imaginaries portray] the imagined institution and those in it as approachable, sociable, and a space more amenable to the sorts of activities interviewees found themselves undertaking as part of their dissertation. In part these imaginaries draw on assumptions about the advantages of ‘in-person’, as opposed to virtual, contact which are far removed from the experiences described in the literature on campus-based students’ independent research experiences. A number of interviewees, even those whose overall experiences of their online programmes were extremely positive, appeared to ascribe negative experiences to their status as online distance students. For example, issues such as unexpected obstacles, troubles with motivation, difficult supervisory relationships, lack of time and space to focus, and feelings of isolation and doubt were interpreted as features of the online dissertation process specifically. As we will see, however, these issues are common features of transitions from taught courses to independent study; the nature of supervisor-student dynamics; and the inherent challenges of conducting research, particularly for newer researchers.

Ross, J., & Sheail, P. (2017). The ‘campus imaginary’: online students’ experience of the masters dissertation at a distance. Teaching in Higher Education, 0(0), 1–16. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13562517.2017.1319809

 

openness & not-yetness – new journal article in Open Praxis

Amy Collier and I have been writing and talking about the concept of not-yetness for a few years now – most recently at the Educational Futures and Fractures conference in Glasgow in February.

On Friday a new article was published in Open Praxis (open access):

Collier, A. and Ross, J. (2017). For whom, and for what? Not- yetness and thinking beyond open content. Open Praxis, 9/1. https://openpraxis.org/index.php/OpenPraxis/article/view/406

This article started life as a presentation at the 2015 Open Ed conference in Vancouver – here are our slides from that talk.

Thanks in part to the discussions at the conference (some reflections on these by @cindyu , David Kernohan), we’ve been continuing to develop these ideas, and this article is the result. It takes a range of critical perspectives on openness as its starting point, and offers the concept of ‘not-yetness’ as a productive lens for examining meanings of openness that go beyond instrumentality, uniformity, and content.

New book chapter, Jen Ross & Amy Collier – Complexity, Mess, and Not-yetness: Teaching Online with Emerging Technologies

Ibook cover emergence and innovation in digital learning‘m really pleased to share my latest open access publication – a jointly authored chapter with Amy Collier (Middlebury College, US) – which defines and explores the concept of ‘not-yetness’.

Ross, J. and Collier, A. (2016). Complexity, mess and not-yetness: teaching online with emerging technologies. In G. Veletsianos (ed), Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning: Foundations and Applications. Athabasca University Press.

You can download the chapter directly and for free from http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120258 (go to the “Free PDF” tab).

Amy and I have been writing and speaking about not-yetness for a couple of years now. Here are some related blog posts and other materials:

We are just finishing up a paper based on our OpenEd15 talk, and will be submitting this soon – stay tuned!

Digital Education at Edinburgh: Spotlight issue of Techtrends

In late 2013 the Digital Education group was invited to produce a spotlight issue of the journal TechTrends. This has just been published! You can find it here:

http://link.springer.com/journal/11528/59/1/page/1

As Sian and I wrote in our editorial:

We were delighted to be invited to create a spotlight issue of TechTrends, bringing together research from the Digital Education research group at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. This group includes members involved in the online Masters in Digital Education programme, MOOC developments at the University of Edinburgh, including the E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC, authors of the Manifesto for Teaching Online, as well as our Children and Technology group, and Learning Analytics strand.

The group is diverse, and this diversity is reflected in the contents of this spotlight issue. From app design for children with autism, to how reflection is changing in information-dense environments, to students’ views of academic writing in the digital age, to patterns of participation in MOOCs, this spotlight issue is held together not by a single theme or a topic, but by a shared curiosity about what is happening to learning and education as more and more of our experiences are mediated by digital practices and technologies.

The other key thing that brings the articles in this issue together is this: the authors strongly believe that those of us who are immersed in and excited by the possibilities of technology and education are uniquely placed to ask critical questions about it. As knowledgeable insiders, we can and must examine our own and others’ practices, and challenge assumptions and oversimplifications about educational change in a digital age. These papers share this critical take, and aim to treat emerging technology trends as a generative site for asking big questions.

One key source of big questions isbig data’. In this issue, Hamish Macleod, Jeff Haywood, Amy Woodgate and Mubarak Alkhatnai examine some common assumptions made about MOOCs, and find these are not always backed up by participation data from the University of Edinburgh’s massive courses. Jeremy Knox experimented with sensors to explore the boundaries between the human and non-human in the production of data, with interesting implications for future directions for learning analytics. Dragan Gašević, with his co-authors Shane Dawson and George Siemens, challenge the educational usefulness of measurement and prediction of student outcomes through learning analytics, where these analytics are not well-grounded in educational theory and practice. And big data of a different kind – the digital artifacts we collect and learn with – is the focus of Tim Fawns’ exploration of how we engage with information online. He argues that the scale of these collections, and their importance in our lives, now require approaches which combine selectivity and digital creativity to make reflection central to our strategies for coping with information overload.

Another important dimension of learning and technology is how established practice and theory might be challenged and changed by the incursions of the digital. Philippa Sheail argues that the taken-for-granted concept of the ‘meeting’ undergoes some profound transformations when applied to different sorts of digital environments. Andrew Manches, Pauline Duncan, Lydia Plowman and Shari Sabeti take a close look at the development of children’s games to incorporate them into an emerging Internet of Things (IoT). They examine how children engage with IoT-enabled toys linked to the popular games Skylanders and Disney Infinity, and reflect on the ethical and practical implications of changing children’s relationships with everyday things. Peter Evans’ research into professional learning in social media environments shows how these technologies challenge concepts of autonomy and learner control usually thought of as central to personalisation.

Finally, what is still emerging hasn’t yet become routine and invisible, and so can be particularly useful in defamiliarising our world as educators. Once things become ‘black-boxed’ (ref), they disappear from view, and examining new educational technologies, concepts and practices can sometimes crack that box open, letting us make the familiar productively strange. Christine Sinclair takes student perspectives on academic writing as a starting point for exploring the changes which might be coming in scholarship and rethinking the idea of ‘dialogue’ for a digital context. Sue Fletcher-Watson provides an analysis of the development of mobile applications for children with autism, questioning traditional relationships between researchers and developers in the process. She proposes ways for academic researchers, families and consumers, and commercial developers to work together to ensure that both the evaluation and development of these emerging technologies make use of the best available evidence.

As we have engaged as editors with the papers in this spotlight issue, we have come to feel that the different topics, approaches and concerns of our colleagues accurately reflect the richness and diversity of the field of digital education itself. Psychology, cultural studies, literature, sociology and organisation studies are all in evidence as disciplinary perspectives here. We hope that you will find, as we have, that this bringing together of perspectives is invigorating and inspiring, and offers you some fresh insights into your own matters of concern.

‘Engaging with “webness” in online reflective writing practices’: New paper available open access until 1 December

My latest paper, just published in Computers & Composition, has been made available by the publishers on an open-access basis until 1 December 2014, using the link below.

Ross, J. (2014). Engaging with “webness” in online reflective writing practices. Computers and Composition, 34, 96-109. http://authors.elsevier.com/a/1PvdMV6mkzOlZu

The article argues that online reflective practices in higher education produce tensions around ownership, control, and safety. Reflective writing pedagogies, commonly grounded in a humanist philosophical tradition, often value coherence and authenticity. Writing online, however, opens students and teachers to the sorts of questions and uncertainties about subjectivity, ownership of data, privacy, and disclosure that characterize the online context. This is the case no matter how much teachers try to protect students or deny the “webness” of their reflective practices. The article draws on qualitative data from interviews with students and teachers in higher education in the United Kingdom. It argues that engaging with digital traces calls for a different approach to reflection, and proposes the “placeholder” as a way to privilege fragments, speed, and remixability in a reflective writing context.

 

HEA report: the pedagogy of the MOOC

Last autumn, Sian and I were commissioned by the  Higher Education Academy in the UK to write a report about MOOC pedagogy. The report has been published today, and is available to download.

The report details the UK MOOC landscape, and shares findings from interviews with MOOC teachers.

The three key concluding messages the report emphasises are:

  1. MOOCs are multiple: we can no longer define them either as a single ‘transformative’ entity or clearly position them in terms of the previously dominant cMOOC/xMOOC binary.
  2. MOOC pedagogy is not embedded in MOOC platform, but is negotiated and emergent, a sociomaterial and discipline-informed issue.
  3. The teacher persists in the MOOC: though reworked and disaggregated, the teaching function and teacherly professionalism remain central.