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(2012) Watson, Karin; McIntyre, SimonConference PaperThe adoption and integration of online learning and teaching in higher education is becoming increasingly important in our rapidly changing digital society. While many teachers and academics acknowledge the importance of adapting their own teaching practice to this new approach, knowing how and where to get started can be a daunting task for many. There is an overwhelming amount of professional development information regarding online teaching available to educators through workshops, the Internet, books, technical demonstrations and academic papers. However time-poor teachers often find it difficult to invest time and effort into attending workshops, or analysing available theory and research (McIntyre 2011) to derive online teaching approaches relevant to their own situations. Similarly, many teachers first embarking on a new online initiative can find it an isolating and frustrating experience, with limited peer support (Bennett, Priest and Macpherson 1999) and practical pedagogical guidance while ‘learning the ropes’ or preparing course curriculum. So what approach can be taken to firstly connect with these teachers at the ‘coalface,’ and then support them through their initial investigations and subsequent development of online teaching practice? In 2009, COFA Online at The University of New South Wales won funding from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) Competitive Grant Scheme for a project called Learning to Teach Online (LTTO): Developing high-quality video and text resources to help educators teach online http://bit.ly/d18ac5. The project’s aim was to produce a set of resources to enable more educators, particularly those with no online experience, to successfully adopt and develop online teaching practices, and to reach a diverse audience of teachers across different disciplines and institutions throughout the world. This paper discusses the strategies adopted by the LTTO Project to ensure the resources focused on pedagogy and were perceived as pragmatic, easy to use and readily adaptable. It also outlines how the adoption of social media as a dissemination method facilitated easy access to the resources by a wide audience of teachers both with and without online teaching experience, and promoted greater awareness and uptake across disciplines and institutions around the world. It demonstrates, through summative and formative evaluations, how this approach effectively encouraged teachers to get started with their online teaching and stimulated their interest in further research on the topic.
Exploring a Rhizomic Model for the Design and Dissemination of Professional Development in Online Teaching(2012) McIntyre, SimonConference PaperA rhizome is a horizontal system of roots that grows underground, comprising a series of nodes and connecting shoots, that continues to expand and form new connections as it grows. The Internet, with its increasing number of servers and connections could be considered as an ever- expanding system that enables new types of rhizome-like connections between people, knowledge and communities to occur. These connections can often seem random, but those involved usually have an underlying, if not immediately obvious common interest or purpose. Web 2.0 tools and digital networks are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in many aspects of contemporary society, and are in many ways similar to the nodes of a rhizome - a place where connections may form. Yet understanding how to maximise the potential of being able to connect with a diverse range of individuals, professional entities and institutions via these mediums can be difficult. What is the purpose of such connectivity, and how can the design and implementation of professional development resources utilise the concept of a rhizome as an effective means to maximise the constructivist potential offered by the digital age? The Learning to Teach Online project http://bit.ly/d18ac5 is a free Open Educational Resource (OER), designed to offer educators proven advice from a wide range of colleagues in different institutions and disciplines, about the pedagogies, challenges and rewards of online teaching. Following its release in 2010 by COFA Online at The University of New South Wales, the spread of the resources around the world via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, institutional links and word of mouth far exceeded initial expectations. While the use of social media to promote the project was always considered from the outset, the extent of the spread within K-12, vocational, higher education and private consultancies, and the subsequent penetration of the resources into existing educational programs was not expected. In this respect, the dissemination of the Learning to Teach Online project mirrored the behaviour of a rhizome, being widely spread to seemingly disparate educational communities globally, in a manner that was neither precisely controlled nor predictable. This paper is a snapshot of ongoing research within the author’s doctoral thesis, into the behaviour and significance of the ever-growing digital rhizome surrounding Learning to Teach Online. It begins to unravel how the design of the resource enabled social media to be used for rapid dissemination on a global scale. The paper also explores how, as a result of some members of existing academic communities connecting with the project’s digital rhizome, the resources were able to benefit other teachers not familiar with online teaching or web 2.0 technologies. In these cases, the penetration of the rhizome into many different types of existing academic communities has enabled the transmission and acceptance of new ideas that have begun to positively effect perception and adoption of online teaching practices amongst their members.
(2012) Blackmore, Margaret; Freeland, PamConference Paper