December – 2014

Editorial – Volume 15, Issue Number 6

Conrad photo

Dianne Conrad
Co-Editor, IRRODL

At the end of the long journal process of submission, review, revision and final publication comes the editorial task of ordering the articles in some sort of logical way so as to increase the issue’s accessibility and attractiveness to readers. However, as an editor, I ask myself if it matters that I do this. Given that we all approach learning tasks with our own sets of tools and pre-existing knowledge and assumptions, it must be highly unlikely that any two readers will extract the same meaning from whatever article-order is implemented. Years ago, I learned from a colleague that all lists should be prioritized in order of importance or urgency. Although I took that to heart when making my own lists and although that advice has served me well, the journal’s playing field does not afford us that type of prioritizing. In this issue, therefore, I have made a division between articles based on topic area; the predominant division separates distance learning articles from OER articles, the latter being presented first. Within the “distance” pieces, I pondered whether to separate macro to micro, teacher/learner, or geographically. I leave it to you to discern whether I managed any of these!

And as always, there are the outliers, articles whose topics are so unique within a collection. In this issue, I would thus classify Cunningham’s and Koole’s articles. Cunningham has used activity theory to conclude that student beliefs and expectations lead to hidden challenges associated with mixing distance and campus-based students. Koole, writing on identity, has described a preliminary study of the kinds of strategies that students draw upon for interpreting and enacting their identities in online learning environments. Her study results indicate that online learners actively employ a variety of strategies in interpreting and enacting their identities.

In the OER camp, Oyo and Kalema give us insight into a new era of universal access to higher education in Africa, achievable through MOOCs, but only if initial requirements are met by respective governments. And from Turkey, Kursun, Cagiltay, and Can’s findings show that even though the majority of their study’s participants’ perceptions of OER benefits and their attitudes toward publishing their course materials were positive, legal issues were perceived as an obstacle to effective application. Both articles articulate important considerations for the furthering of educational accessibility.

Addressing the K-12 sector, Kimmons sought to understand how to use formal learning activities to effectively support the development of open education literacies among K-12 teachers and concluded that various misconceptions must be overcome to support large-scale development of open education literacies in K-12, and that open education advocates should recognize that all teachers, irrespective of time teaching, want to innovate, utilize open resources, and share in an open manner.

Also investigating the K-12 sector, this time in a Turkish study and on the distance side of the ledger, Randler, Horzum, and Vollmer’s research has shown that anxiety and willingness towards distance learning are moderated by personality. Their study sought to investigate whether distance learning willingness and distance learning anxiety were associated with personality in a large (n=769) sample of vocational students.

Many of the distance-themed articles concern themselves with “how to make things better.” Cole, Shelley and Swartz’s study on student satisfaction tell us that convenience was the most cited reason for satisfaction and lack of interaction was the most cited reason for dissatisfaction. The authors conclude that their study’s findings support the literature to date and reinforce the significance of student satisfaction to student retention. From another part of the world but on a similar theme, Muuro, Wagacha, Kihoro, and Obok recommend, from their findings on learners’ perceptions of online collaborative learning, that further research should focus on how to improve peer interaction and instructor involvement in online group activity.

From Spain, González-Sanmamed, Muñoz-Carril, and Sangra analyzed perceptions on the level of proficiency that online teachers have regarding their peripheral roles (social, evaluator, manager, technologist, advisor/counsellor, personal, and researcher), and their professional development needs required to improve their online teaching competencies. The researchers conclude that professional development programs should be based on a balance between central and peripheral roles to better train online teachers and thereby increase the quality of their teaching.

From their research at a Costa Rican University on how to improve student performance and engagement, Joo, Andrés, and Shearer’s findings indicate that design revisions positively influenced both students’ cognitive engagement and learning outcomes within this distance higher education context. They note, however, that student performance represented by their assessment grades might not always reflect this improvement, raising once again the issue of effective assessment in the learning process.

Calling on the expertise of 10 senior European distance educators, Volungeviciene, Tereseviciene, and Tait present a qualitative study documenting their intent to develop a theoretical framework for quality assurance of TEL integration into educational organizations. The authors report on the development of the TEL concept, success indicators for TEL integration in an educational organization, while identifying the quality parameters of TEL integration into an educational organization and developing a model for TEL integration into an organization.

Han and Han have studied how to make things better through the adoption of new technology by examining what factors facilitate and hinder the students’ adoption of the mobile campus. Their study used Rogers’ diffusion of innovation model and compared the perceptions of mobile LMS users and nonusers. Khan and Khader also tackle a technology issue – how to externalize content experts’ expert subject knowledge so that learners may more easily access this expertise. Read about the query management system that they propose as a solution to this knowledge management problem.

Khor’s article investigating ODL students’ perception and adoption of SCORM Compliant Learning Object (SCLO) sought to determine whether a better understanding and implementation of effective instructional resources was necessary to meet the diverse needs of ODL students and enhance learning performance. The results of this study confirmed that users’ perceptions have contributed significantly to the acceptance and adoption of SCLO, thereby providing a better understanding of students’ behavior on SCLO.

Using a design-based research study, Harrison and West explored whether a sense of community was maintained in a course while increasing course flexibility through the adoption of a unique blended learning model, and their findings indicate that transitioning to a blended learning environment may indeed increase flexibility while maintaining community. Last but not least, in a large study with over 1,600 participants, Salyers, Carter, Carter, Myers, and Barrett examined how elearning is defined and conceptualized,whether or not we like it, and whether or not it is as meaningful to us as face to face learning.

This issue wraps up our publication for 2014. Rory, Terry, Brigette and I would like to thank IRRODL’s many contributors, our hundreds of reviewers, the Editorial Board, Athabasca University, AU Press, and our thousands of readers (over 2,000 readers on some days) from all over the world. To you all, the best for your holiday season and a happy, healthy new year.