The University of Illinois at Springfield and the Institute of Technology, Sligo Ireland are building a model of inter-institutional online class collaborations using the preview version of Google Wave. In test waves during the fall semester of 2009, the two universities joined students in a multi-week collaboration on the topic of Internet impact on energy sustainability perceptions in Europe and the U.S. The collaboration was less about the topic and more about identifying the features of the new collaboration tool that work best in facilitating student group work and instructor engagement. The results of this test will be implemented in further collaborations to be tested in a variety of disciplines by both institutions.
A „perfect storm” of elements have come together as we enter 2010 to support the development of inter-institutional online collaborations to promote diversity, efficiency, and depth of learning. Certainly, the international economic recession has put pressure on institutions and individuals to seek innovative ways to expand access to quality in teaching and learning while keeping costs down. Traditional colleges and universities are facing decreasing budgets and increasing competition through the rapid expansion of the for-profit institutions1. The move of jobs and the economy as a whole away from heavy industry to models of higher technology and service that was predicted decades ago has fully materialized2. With that move has come an increased need for just-in-time learning and teaching that is responsive to the more competitive job marketplace and the rapidly-changing technologies.
Out of the turmoil of the global economic changes of the past decade has emerged Google, a new kind of company that proposes a new set of tenants, including „Great is not good enough” - „The need for information crosses all borders” and „You can make money without doing evil”3. It is number 117 among the Fortune 500, with some 20,000 employees and $20 billion in sales4. Billions of searches are conducted using the Google search engine daily. And, increasingly, Google has dedicated a growing portion of its resources to Web 2.0 and „cloud computing” applications that are inexpensive or advertising-supported.
In May 2009, Google announced to developers a new online tool that took a wholly new approach to communication and collaboration online. It was codenamed „Walkabout” and eventually named Google Wave. The project was led by the developers of the Google Maps project, Jens and Lars Rasmussen. Lars announced the pre-beta version of the new product in Google's official blog, with this list of questions and challenges:
Study after study of online learning effectiveness has pointed to such values as engagement, active learning, reflective learning, and social constructivist approaches as providing superior results for most students, i.e. Sthapornnanon, Sakulbumrungsil, Theeraroungchaisri, & Watcharadamrongkun, 2009 and Zach, & Agosto, 2009. These studies have in common the principles that opportunities for interaction among students and the instructor allow for the effective building of personal knowledge and understanding of the individual students.
The foundations of research in the area of engagement in online learning are well-established as articulated in the Sloan Consortium monograph by Karen Swan on „Relationships between Interactions and Learning”6. The research in the areas of social presence, cognitive presence and teaching presence documented there have been part of the impetus to bring about the development of the Community of Inquiry approach to online learning. The Google Wave platform creates a synchronous and asynchronous platform to enable some of the best qualities of these practices of presence and engagement with the instructor, among the students, and with the content area.
For most online students, active engagements seem particularly effective. In addition, some studies indicate that for some learners a less formal engagement may work best for „silent construction” and for a largely reflective process7 - it seems that the opportunity to build knowledge through carefully constructed learning environments that can support both social engagement and individual reflection may be optimum. Providing opportunities for both sharing and reflection are productive at different levels for different individuals. We will see that Google Wave enables both kinds of learning through a wide variety of tools.
Most colleges and universities use a Learning Management System such as Blackboard, Moodle, or Desire2Learn in order to organize and deliver materials to online learning (elearning) students. The systems provide a wide range of features for collaboration and discussion. But, there are areas in which they lag behind the release of Web 2.0 technologies that are rapidly adopted by faculty members seeking to provide a richly social and collaborative environment for their classes. Yet, even those using individual Web 2.0 tools lack the synergy that might be realized by integrating all of those tools into a single platform such as is provided by Google Wave.
We have identified quite a number of advantages that Wave may provide as an addition to a LMS, here are some of them:
We incorporated nearly all of the gadgets and bots mentioned above into a sandbox wave for students so that they were able to become familiar with the tools and techniques prior to starting the collaboration. It is clear that there is a learning curve, albeit a rather short one, for those using Google Wave. The tools that are integrated into Wave are generally familiar to students and faculty members as common Web 2.0 learning tools. The way they integrate into Wave and the details of their instruction sets may vary somewhat from those with which the participants may be familiar. A sandbox seems to be a good, constructivist, approach to learning the basics of Wave. A particularly comprehensive wikibook on the topic is freely available online and as a .pdf download at a modest cost: http://completewaveguide.com.
With the release of Google Wave in a „preview” mode on September 30, 2009, there was precious little time to incorporate the tool into a formal inter-institutional class exchange. The work was not included in the fall syllabi of classes, so making this a requisite part of the course was not possible at UIS. The following message was posted in the CSC 442a class section of Internet in American Life course taught by Ray Schroeder. The other three sections of the class posted an announcement. Research rules regarding this kind of activity required that we made clear that the Wave participation at UIS was voluntary and would have no effect on the grades of those who chose to participate or those who chose not to participate. The announcement was put out on November 19, with less than a month left in the semester.
the rapidly changing nature of this pre-release version of the software, the students encountered some frustration with embedded tools that did not always work. As one student put it in an anonymous survey at the end of the term: All in all I found the software to have a lot of potential, however in its current form and with the performance issues it seemed to suffer I often grew frustrated with it. That being said I am looking forward to improvements in this software and possibly using it for other applications in the future”. Another participant echoed those comments, writing: „The addition and embedding of gadgets and other web pages, whole adding to the content of the thread was distracting at some points. For example, the poll that was run was very intuitive, non-obstructive and I feel provided a great way to collect such information. In contrast, during the test some web pages were embedded into the conversation. In tempting to scroll down the conversation to find changes I would often get stuck having to click way or click scroll to get past the embedded page as my mouse wheel would begin to scroll that page as opposed to the conversation. The bandwidth requirements of some of the tools resulted in frustration, waiting for certain embedded features to render. However, these are not unexpected issues with a „preview” version of software. Improvements seem to be taking place every week, and by the time Wave is released out of beta testing, one would expect that almost all of these issues will have been resolved.
There was excitement among the participants with the opportunity to collaborate with students at another university, and in this case on another continent. Comments from students included:
This was a very small-scale study using the still-evolving „preview” version of Google Wave. It was conducted at the earliest opportunity we were able to set up the study, given the coordination between institutions; orientation of students and instructors; and semester schedules of classes at the two campuses. Despite those caveats, most of the students seemed to catch the enthusiasm of the instructors in using this technology. Through their comments and participation at this rather inconvenient point at the end of the semester, the students conveyed their interest in linking to counterparts in other parts of the world.
We were pleased to see that students seemed, for the most part, unafraid of the technologies. While there were glitches and higher bandwidth demands than some other, more mature tools, the inconveniences were generally tolerated. Certainly, we expect that given Google's track record in developing successful tools, this tool will also become more reliable and efficient as it matures.
Lessons learned from this early experiment are several.
This may have been the first, certainly one of the first, studies of this sort - joining classes from different institutions and continents via Google Wave. Many more such studies should be conducted in order to establish a set of effective practices - some of which may be specific to disciplines, cultures, institutions, and other factors.
The authors of this study encourage colleagues to test the Google Wave waters in their classes. Good practice would suggest that objectives/goals be established for the exercise using Wave. Provisions should be made for modest training (online would seem appropriate) for students and faculty members to become familiar with the relevant tools, features and operational mode of Wave.
Among the areas of study that may be of value to examine are:
The potential impact of Google Wave in higher education is significant. It may enable the breaking down of institutional and geographic barriers that have separated institutions for millennia. We may, for the first time, be able to effectively join classes for brief periods of one or two weeks to collaborate and learn from one another - across institutions, across geographic boundaries, and across cultures. Though not the focus of this article, the impact of Wave extends to all aspects of higher education - beyond the classroom to the administrative and governance offices. Certainly, faculty and administrative committees and leaders will be able to effectively use Wave for both synchronous and asynchronous multimedia discussions and decision making. In many respects Google Wave enables us to collect the impact of a wide assortment of Web 2.0 technologies. Rather than being separate tools, we can realize the synergies of bringing those tools together on one platform.
Imagine foreign language classes meeting with advanced literature classes in the country of that language. For example, a Chinese class in Poland might meet with a Chinese literature class in China. Perhaps a European History class in America might meet with an analogous class in Europe. Or, a journalism class might meet with a political science class. Out of these kinds of collaborations may come deeper and broader understandings generated by the students themselves among and with each other. The potential is enormous. The opportunities are endless.
Our recommendations for other institutions are:
INFORMACJE O AUTORACH
Autor is Director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service at the University of Illinois at Springfield. He began working with interactive computer learning technologies through the PLATO system in the mid-1970's. Having taught more than 38 years at the University of Illinois (in Urbana-Champaign and Springfield), he is Professor Emeritus. His research interests focus on the application of technology to enhance learning and to extend educational opportunities to those who are otherwise disenfranchised from traditional higher education opportunities. Schroeder received the 2002 Sloan Award for Most Outstanding Achievement in ALN by an Individual and was a Sloan-C Distinguished Scholar in Online Learning 2002-2003. He was "visiting scholar in online learning" at the University of Southern Maine 2006-2009. His Online Learning Update and Educational Technology blogs and twitter postings are widely read and syndicated around the world.
Autor is the Open Learning Project Coordinator at the Institute of Technology Sligo, Ireland where he has been a faculty member since 1984. He is behind the rapid growth in online learning in the Institute since 2002 and significantly involved in the growth of e-learning in Ireland since 1999, organising the EdTech series of conferences since 2000 and as a founder of the Irish Learning Technology Association in 2002. His main areas of expertise are in web-casting, synchronous online training, instructor-led online training and rapid development of online training.
Autor graduated as an electrical engineer at University College Dublin in 1969. He worked in a variety of engineering, product and project management roles in Africa, Ireland, France & Belgium before returning to Ireland in 1994. As Chief Executive of Excellence Ireland (the national independent quality association) from 1994 to 2003 he led the development of programmes to enable Irish organisations improve their performance. He served as President of EOQ (European Organization for Quality) (1998-2000). Seán now works on various teaching and developmental programmes for the Institute of Technology in Sligo such as transformational change and energy management. He is one of the Institute's staff to deliver programmes exclusively on-line. He was appointed a Board member of the ESB (Electricity Supply Board) in 2007. He has served on a variety of national boards and has recently been nominated trustee of Feasta - The Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability.
Spis treści artykułu
Informacje o autorach
Nie ma jeszcze komentarzy do tego artykułu.
1 R.E. Schroeder, Recession reality in higher education, 8 January 2010, recessionreality.bl.... [04.02.2010].
2 D. La Boltz, The Decline of manufacturing and machine tools, and the future of American industry and the working class, „Monthly Review”, 24 July, 2009, www.monthlyreview.o.... [04.02.2010].
3 Corporate information - our philosophy, September 2009, www.google.com/corp.... September 2009, [04.02.2010].
4 Company profile on hoover's - google, inc., 2009, www.hoovers.com/com.... [04.02. 2010].
5 L. Rasmussen, Went walkabout. Brought back google wave, 28 May 2009, googleblog.blogspot.... [04.02.2010].
6 K. Swan, Relationships between interactions and learning, 2004, sloan-c.org/publica.... [04.02.2010].
7 S. Gulati, Constructivism and emerging online learning pedagogy: a discussion for formal to acknowledge and promote the informal, 7 April 2004, www.leeds.ac.uk/edu....