Theory and Practice of Online Learning

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1 Theory and Practice of Online Learning

2 This book and the individual chapters are copyright by Athabasca University. However, to maximize the distribution and application of the knowledge contained within, the complete book and the individual chapters are licensed under the Creative Commons License. In brief, this license allows you to read, print and share freely the contents in whole or in part, with the provisions listed below. Attribution. You must give the original author credit. Non-commercial. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. Use for educational purposes by public or non-profit educational institutions is permitted. No derivative works. You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work. The formal, human-readable deed that outlines the license is available at licenses/by-nd-nc/1.0 The license in more formal legal language is available at by-nd-nc/1.0/legalcode Athabasca University may be interested in expanding licensing provisions beyond the limitations above, but permission to do so must be negotiated by contacting the editors, Terry Anderson, or Fathi Elloumi, Editors: Terry Anderson & Fathi Elloumi Managing editor: Gilda Sanders Copy editor: David Evans Visual designer: Ian Grivois Web site: Ian Grivois & Audrey Krawec Printed at Athabasca University, 2004 Athabasca University 1 University Drive Athabasca, AB T9S 3A3 Canada Enquiries: Toll free in Canada/U.S Colophon: Text: Sabon Numerals: Hoefler Text Headings: Monotype Lydian Paper (text): Becket Concept, 24 lb. writing, glacier Paper (flysheet): Via Vellum, 80 lb. text, sunflower Paper (cover): Productolith Dull, 80 lb. cover ISBN:

3 Theory and Practice of Online Learning Editors: Terry Anderson & Fathi Elloumi cde.athabascau.ca/online_book Athabasca University

4 CONTENTS Contributing Authors / i Foreword / ix Dominique Abrioux Introduction / xiii Terry Anderson & Fathi Elloumi 1 Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Learning / 3 Mohamed Ally 2 Toward a Theory of Online Learning / 33 Terry Anderson Part 1 Role and Function of Theory in Online Education Development and Delivery 3 Value Chain Analysis: A Strategic Approach to Online Learning / 61 Fathi Elloumi 4 Developing an Infrastructure for Online Learning / 97 Alan Davis 5 Technologies of Online Learning (e-learning) / 115 Rory McGreal & Michael Elliott Part 2 Infrastructure and Support for Content Development 6 Media Characteristics and Online Learning Technology / 137 Patrick J. Fahy

5 7 The Development of Online Courses / 175 Dean Caplan 8 Developing Team Skills and Accomplishing Team Projects Online / 195 Deborah C. Hurst & Janice Thomas Part 3 Design and Development of Online Courses 9 Copyright Issues in Online Courses: A Moment in Time / 241 Lori-Ann Claerhout 10 Value Added The Editor in Design and Development of Online Courses / 259 Jan Thiessen & Vince Ambrock 11 Teaching in an Online Learning Context / 271 Terry Anderson 12 Call Centers in Distance Education / 295 Andrew Woudstra, Colleen Huber, & Kerri Michalczuk Part 4 Delivery, Quality Control, and Student Support of Online Courses 13 Supporting Asynchronous Discussions among Online Learners / 319 Joram Ngwenya, David Annand & Eric Wang 14 Library Support for Online Learners: e-resources, e-services, and the Human Factors / 349 Kay Johnson, Houda Trabelsi, & Tony Tin 15 Supporting the Online Learner / 367 Judith A. Hughes 16 The Quality Dilemma in Online Education / 385 Nancy K. Parker

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7 CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS Mohamed Ally, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Centre for Distance Education at Athabasca University. He teaches courses in distance education and is involved with research on improving design, development, delivery, and support in distance education. Vincent Ambrock works as a Multimedia Instructional Design Editor in the Athabasca University School of Business. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree from the University of Alberta and has worked extensively as an editor and writer on an array of electronic and print-based publishing projects. Terry Anderson, Ph.D. is a professor and Canada Research Chair in Distance Education at Athabasca University, Canada s Open University. He has published widely in the area of distance education and educational technology and has recently co-authored two new books: Anderson and Kanuka, (2002), eresearch: Methods, Issues and Strategies; and Garrison and Anderson, (2002), Online Learning in the 21st Century: A Framework for Research and Practice. David Annand, Ed.D., M.B.A., C.A., is the Director of the School of Business at Athabasca University. His research interests include the educational applications of computer-based instruction and computer-mediated communications to distance learning, and the effects of online learning on the organization of distance-based universities. Dean Caplan is an instructional designer at Bow Valley College in Calgary, Alberta, with a special interest in the design, development, usability, and usage of multimedia in computer-mediated communications. He was, until 2002, employed as an instructional designer at Athabasca University. Mr. Caplan recently designed and oversaw development of a Web-based course helping older adults learn to use the Internet. i

8 Lori-Ann Claerhout is Copyright Officer in Educational Media Development at Athabasca University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (English) degree from the University of Calgary, and is currently working toward a Master of Arts (Humanities Computing and English) degree from the University of Alberta. Lori-Ann has been active in organizing other copyright professionals from western and central Canada. Alan Davis, Ph.D., was Vice-President, Academic, at Athabasca University from 1996 to 2003, and before that he directed programs at the BC Open University. His original discipline was Chemistry, and he received his doctorate from Simon Fraser University in He has special interests learning assessment and accreditation, the management of e-learning, and virtual university consortia. Dr. Davis is now Vice-President, Academic, at Niagra College. Fathi Elloumi, Ph.D. is an associate professor of Managerial Accounting at Athabasca University. His research focuses on corporate governance, and covers all aspects of effective governance practices. He is also interested in the strategic and managerial aspects of online learning research from two perspectives. The first perspective deals with the strategic decisions of online learning, trying to use the value chain, balanced scorecard, and performance dashboard frameworks to optimize online learning decision initiatives and tie them to organizational vision. The second perspective deals with the operational aspects of online learning and mainly focuses on the internal processes of the online learning institution. Subjects such as strategic costing, value chain analysis, process re-engineering, activity-based management, continuous improvement, value engineering, and quality control are the focus of his research program related to online learning. Patrick J. Fahy, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the Centre for Distance Education (CDE), Athabasca University. His career has included high school and adult education teaching, and research from basic literacy to graduate levels, private sector management and training experience, and private consulting. Currently, in addition to developing and teaching educational technology courses in the Master of Distance Education (MDE) ii

9 program, Pat coordinates the MDE s Advanced Graduate Diploma in Distance Education (Technology) program and the CDE s annual Distance Education Technology Symposium. He is Past-President of the Alberta Distance Education and Training Association (ADETA). His current research interests include measures of efficiency in online and technology-based training, and interaction analysis in online conferencing. Colleen Huber has worked at Athabasca University since 1994, when she was the first facilitator in the Call Centre. Since then, she has moved to the position of Learning Systems Manager where she is responsible for the systems used to deliver courses and manage information within the School of Business at Athabasca University. Now that these systems are available, Colleen spends a great deal of time presenting them to the Athabasca University community and running workshops to train staff on their use, as well as presenting papers and workshops to other educational communities. Dr. Judith Hughes, Ph.D. Vice-President, Academic, first came to Athabasca University in 1985, when the University was moved from Edmonton, Alberta, to the town of Athabasca, 120 km north of Edmonton. Judith s history is rooted in adult education, in teaching and research, as well as administrative positions. She has lived in a variety of places in Canada, having completed her bachelor s degree at Carleton University (Ottawa), her master s degree at Queen s University (Kingston), and her Ph.D. at University of Alberta (Emonton). At Athabasca University, Dr. Hughes oversees all graduate and undergraduate academic units within the University, including academic centres, library, educational media development, counseling and advising, and other student support units. She previously served as Vice-President, Students Services, at Athabasca University for seven years, overseeing the development of student support resources on the Web. Dr. Hughes also served as Vice-President, External Relations for a brief period, when she was responsible for executive communications outside the University, international collaborations, university development, fundraising, corporate partnerships, etc. iii

10 Dr. Hughes s research interests include the school-to-work nexus, in which she conducted research at Queen s University in the 1980s; access to university education, in which she first undertook research at the University of Alberta, and in which she continues to work at Athabasca University; intellectual honesty as institutional culture, in which she is now working at Athabasca University; and the use of technology in addressing equality of access to university education, in which she is conducting research with partners from institutions such as Indira Gandhi University and the University of the Arctic. Deborah C. Hurst, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor with the Centre for Innovative Management, Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada. Her area of specialization is the study of cultural organization change, with an interest in knowledge work and development of intellectual capital through on-going competency development and virtual learning. Her work is a balance of applied and academic research that draws from a diverse background in her pursuit of this specialization. Her current research program is concerned the experiences of contingent knowledge workers, the development, retention and valuation of intellectual capital, the use of virtual learning environments to enhance intellectual capital, transmission and alignment of cultural values, and the de-institutionalization of the psychological employment contract. For more information regarding Deborah s work or background check the Athabasca University Centre for Innovative Management Web site. Kay Johnson is Head, Reference and Circulation Services at the Athabasca University Library. Kay received her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in History from University of Ottawa and her Master of Library and Information Studies from McGill University. In addition to providing reference and instructional services to Athabasca University learners, she has been actively involved in the development of the digital library at Athabasca University, and serves as a consultant for the Digital Reading Room project. Kerri Michalczuk has been with Athabasca University since For the last five years, as Course Production and Delivery Manager, she has managed the day-to-day operation of the School of Business iv

11 tutorial Call Centre the first point of contact for students registered in business courses. Kerri also manages the production processes for developing online and print-based materials, including coordinating the work of production staff, such as editors, instructional designers, typesetters, and copyright personnel. Kerri has extensive knowledge of Athabasca University s administrative and production systems, and she sits on many committees that review, plan, and implement University systems. Joram Ngwenya, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of Management Information Systems as Athabasca University. His research interests include e-learning systems, e-government systems, and group decision support systems. Nancy Parker, Ph.D. is the Director of Institutional Studies at Athabasca University and is actively engaged in a wide range of quality assurance and accreditation activities, including serving on Alberta Learning s Performance Measurement and Management Information Committee, and as Athabasca s institutional liaison officer to the Middles States Commission on Higher Education. She has published in the fields of criminal justice history and institutional research. Jan Thiessen is a Multimedia Instructional Design Editor in Athabasca University's School of Business. She received a Bachelor of Education degree (English) from the University of Alberta, and Master of Distance Education from Athabasca University. Her research on faculty attitudes towards interaction in distance education helps inform her work with course authors and teams, developing quality distance learning materials and experiences. Janice Thomas, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor and Program Director for the Executive MBA in Project Management at the Centre for Innovative Management, Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada. She is also an adjunct professor in the University of Calgary joint Engineering and Management Project Management Specialization, and a visiting professor with the University of Technology, Sydney, where she supervises Master and Ph.D. research students. Prior to becoming an academic, Janice spent ten years as a project manager in the fields of Information v

12 Technology and Organizational Change. Janice is now an active researcher presenting and publishing her research to academic and practitioner audiences at various sites around the world. Janice's research interests include organizational change, project management, team building and leadership, complexity theory in relation to organizations, the professionalization of knowledge workers, and the impact of codification of knowledge on performance. Ultimately all of her research is aimed at improving the practice of project management in organizations. For more information regarding Janice s work or background check the Athabasca University, Centre for Innovative Management Web site. Tony Tin is the Electronic Resources Librarian at Athabasca University Library. Tony holds a B.A. and M.A. in History from McGill University and a B.Ed. and M.L.S. from the University of Alberta. He maintains the Athabasca University Library s Web site and online resources, and is the Digital Reading Room project leader. Houda Trabelsi is an e-commerce course coordinator at Athabasca University. She received a M.Sc. in business administration from Sherbrooke University and a M.Sc. in information technology from Moncton University. Her research interests include electronic commerce, business models, e-learning strategy, customer relationships management, trust and privacy in electronic commerce, World Wide Web navigation, and interface design. Zengxiang (Eric) Wang, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of finance at Athabasca University. His research interests are option pricing, executive compensation, corporate tax planning, and online financial education. Andrew Woudstra, Ph.D., Professor, Management Accounting is a member of the School of Business at Athabasca University where he has worked for the past 22 years. In addition to his teaching duties, he has also served the University in various administrative capacities including Centre Chair, Associate Dean, Acting Dean and vi

13 Acting Vice President, Finance and Administration. Andrew has been involved in a number of innovative process changes in the School of Business, including the development of e-learning and the School of Business Call Centre, and has published in a variety of distance education journals and books. vii

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15 FOREWORD Dominique Abrioux During the last ten years, the Internet and the Wide World Web have fundamentally altered the practice of distance teaching and learning. Nowhere is this fact more evident than in the transformation undergone by single-mode distance universities as they seek to apply the benefits of emerging information communication technology (ICT) infrastructure to their core business, with a view to improving the quality and cost-effectiveness of the learning experience afforded their students. By the mid 1990s, Canada s Open University, Athabasca University, was ripe for change. 1 Not only was the technological world that had hitherto enabled distance education undergoing radical and rapid change, but so too was the University s political environment, as debt reduction and elimination became the rallying cries of provincial public policy. Moreover, Athabasca University, Alberta s fourth public university, had under-performed during the ten previous years, as evidenced by the fact that in it suffered from the highest government grant per full-load-equivalent student, the highest tuition fee level amongst the province s public universities, and a dismally low graduation rate. Concerned with this state of affairs, the Government of Alberta announced that it would reduce Athabasca University s base budget by 31 per cent over three years (ten per cent more than the reduction applied to the other universities), and that it expected significant increases in enrolment and cost effectiveness. Today, this institution has risen to the challenge and serves some 30,000 students per year (a threefold increase over 1995), has more than tripled its graduation rate, commands the lowest tuition fees and per full-load-equivalent student base grant in the province, and, most importantly, enjoys the highest ratings among sister institutions in the biannual, provincially administered learner satisfaction surveys of university graduates. Several complementary factors have combined to bring about this dramatic change in Athabasca University s institutional performance, but none is more important than the move towards the online delivery of its programs and courses. The direction had been prepared for in the early 1990s as Athabasca University 1 A complete case study of Athabasca University is available at the Web site below. Retrieved January 19, 2004, from tualuniversity/index.html ix

16 2 (1996, January). Strategic University Plan (pp. 5-6). Retrieved January 19, 2004, from sup/sup.htm developed and then launched (1994) its first two Masters level programs (Master of Business Administration and Master of Distance Education), both online degrees and global innovations. The Strategic University Plan of assigned primary importance to embracing the electronic environment through: the transition from predominantly print-based curricula presented in electronic format, print format or both, depending on the appropriateness of the medium the dramatic expansion of computer-mediated communication systems to facilitate the electronic distribution of course materials produced in-house correspondence between students and staff (including mailing of assignments) computer-conferencing among students and between students and academic staff the provision of library, registry, and other student support services access to electronic data bases electronic formative and summative evaluation the exploitation of distributed learning systems (e.g., the World Wide Web) the provision of assistance to students learning to use systems 2 This book, authored principally by current and past staff members integral to the implementation of this strategic vision, presents individual practitioners views of the principal pedagogical and course management opportunities and challenges raised by the move to an online environment. Although grounded in a discussion of online learning theory (itself presented and developed by academics who are engaged daily in developing and delivering electronic courses), it does not seek to be either a complete guide to online course development and delivery, or an all-inclusive account of how they are practiced at Athabasca University. Rather, each chapter synthesizes, from a practitioner view, one component piece of a complex system. One of the main advantages of digital content is the ease with which it can be adapted and customized. Nowhere is this more true x Theory and Practice of Online Learning

17 than in its application to online education in general, and at Athabasca University in particular, where three complementary values characterize the organization s different approaches to how work is organized and how learning paths for students are facilitated: customization, openness, and flexibility. Consequently, and notwithstanding the inevitable standardization around such key issues as quality control, copyright, materials production, library, and non-academic support services (all of which are discussed in this book), considerable variation in operational and educational course development and delivery models is evident across the University s different academic centers. Just as the University supports several learning management systems (see Chapter 4), so too are there various, recognized approaches within Athabasca University to the management and administration of teaching and learning processes. As such, the models and cases presented in this study should be considered as examples of what has worked well given one organization s particular culture, not as prescriptive descriptions of the only way of engaging in effective online education. There is, however, one common trait that both defines Athabasca University s flexible undergraduate learning model and informs most of this book s content. At the undergraduate level, all five hundred plus courses are delivered in individualized distance learning mode: students start on the first day of any month, progress at their own pace, and submit assignments and sit examinations at times determined by themselves. This flexibility presents tremendous advantages to adult learners who generally also face the demands of both employment and family responsibilities, but it poses particular challenges when administering, designing, or delivering distance education courses. While most of the online advances outlined in this book will often have parallel applications in cohort-based e-classes, the distinction between individualized and group-based distance education is one that the reader is advised to keep in mind. In keeping with its mission as an open university, Athabasca University is delighted to provide this book under an open source license, thereby removing financial barriers to its accessibility. As its President, I take pride in what our collective staff has accomplished and recognize the particular contribution that this book s authors are making to the global extension of our mission. Foreword xi

18 xii Theory and Practice of Online Learning

19 INTRODUCTION Terry Anderson & Fathi Elloumi The Online Learning Series is a collection of works by practitioners and scholars actively working in the field of distance education. The text has been written at a time when the field is undergoing fundamental change. Although not an old discipline by academic standards, distance education practice and theory has evolved through five generations in its 150 years of existence (Taylor, 2001). For most of this time, distance education was an individual pursuit defined by infrequent postal communication between student and teacher. The last half of the twentieth century witnessed rapid developments and the emergence of three additional generations, one supported by the mass media of television and radio, another by the synchronous tools of video and audio teleconferencing, and yet another based on computer conferencing. The first part of the twenty-first century has produced the first visions of a fifth generation based on autonomous agents and intelligent, database-assisted learning that we refer to as the educational Semantic Web. Note that each of these generations has followed more quickly upon its predecessor than the previous ones. Moreover, none of these generations has completely displaced previous ones, so that we are left with diverse yet viable systems of distance education that use all five generations in combination. Thus, the field can accurately be described as complex, diverse, and rapidly evolving. However, acknowledging complexity does not excuse inaction. Distance educators, students, administrators, and parents are daily forced to make choices regarding the pedagogical, economic, systemic, and political characteristics of the distance education systems within which they participate. To provide information, knowledge, and, we hope, a measure of wisdom, the authors of this text have shared their expertise, their vision, their concerns, and their solutions to distance education practice in these disruptive times. Each chapter is written as a jumping-off point for further reflection, for discussion, and, most importantly, for action. Never in the history of life on our planet has the need for informed and wisdom-filled action been greater than it is today. We are convinced xiii

20 that education in its many forms is the most hopeful antidote to the errors of greed, of ignorance, and of life-threatening aggression that menace our civilization and our planet. Distance education is a discipline that subsumes the knowledge and practice of pedagogy, of psychology and sociology, of economics and business, of production and technology. We attempt to address each of these perspectives through the words of those trained to view their work through a particular disciplinary lens. Thus, each of the chapters represents the specialized expertise of individual authors who address that component piece of the whole with which they have a unique familiarity. This expertise is defined by a disciplinary background, a set of formal training skills, and a practice within a component of the distance education system. It is hardly surprising, then, that some of the chapters are more academic than others, reflecting the author s primary role as scholar, while others are grounded in the more practical application focus of their authors. In sum, the book is neither an academic tome, nor a prescriptive how to guide. Like a university itself, the book represents a blending of scholarship and of research, practical attention to the details of teaching and of provision for learning opportunity, dissemination of research results, and mindful attention to the economics of the business of education. In many ways the chapters represent the best of what makes for a university community. The word university comes from the Latin universitas (totality or wholeness), which itself contains two simpler roots, unus (one or singular) and versere (to turn). Thus, a university reflects a singleness or sense of all encompassing wholeness, implying a study of all that is relevant and an acceptance of all types of pursuit of knowledge. The word also retains the sense of evolution and growth implied by the action embedded in the verb to turn. As we enter the twenty-first century, the world is in the midst of a great turning as we adopt and adapt to the technological capabilities that allow information and communication to be distributed anywhere/anytime. The ubiquity and multiplicity of human and agent communication, coupled with tremendous increases in information production and retrieval, are the most compelling characteristics of the Net-based culture and economy in which we now function. The famous quote from Oracle Corporation, The Net changes xiv Theory and Practice of Online Learning

21 everything, applies directly to the formal provision of education. Institutions that formerly relied on students gathering in campusbased classrooms are suddenly able (and many seem eager) to offer their programming on the Internet. Similarly, institutions accustomed to large-scale distance delivery via print or television are now being asked to provide more flexible, interactive, and responsive Net-based alternatives. Each of the chapters in the book reflects the often disruptive effect of the Net on particular components of a distance education system. Open Source Licensing This book is written by authors from a single university Athabasca University which has branded itself Canada s Open University. As an open university, we are pleased to be the first such institution to provide a text such as this one as an open and free gift to others. The book is published under a Creative Commons license (see to allow for free use by all, yet the copyright is retained by the University (see the copyright page for license details). This open-source license format was chosen for a number of reasons. First, it is true to the original spirit of the university, and especially of an open university. We believe that knowledge is meant to be shared, and further, that such sharing does not diminish its value to its creator. Thomas Jefferson eloquently expressed these ideas in 1813 when he wrote He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. (1854, pp ) Introduction xv

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