The first research activity of OnCreate was to collate best practices from within the consortium. The aim of this activity (which Lincoln was lead partner) was to identify common approaches and frameworks for fostering successful collaboration in online teaching and learning environments.
For this task, each university was paired with another institution to compare, discuss and evaluate best practices. This was done in a formal descriptive way, circulating a form where partners described their uses of online collaboration in course contexts and as dialogue interviews in virtual meetings. The two partners then returned their mutual comparisons to the rest of the partnership. Issues of best practice were described in detail and suggestions were formulated in a way that could be easily translated to the design requirements of OnCreate. All results were compared side-by-side to highlight similarities and differences. Whilst the tools and frameworks currently being used to facilitate collaboration vary between each partner, the collection of best practices from across the partnership has identified a number of common structural issues, technical requirements and relevant pedagogies for facilitating collaboration.
Summary of key findings:
- Learning Management Systems are in use at all participating universities to distribute and structure course material.
- The majority of the partners employ blended learning approaches.
- Innovative and intense forms of collaboration are driven by web-based tools, notably Facebook and Google Drive. Existing LMS are considered too slow and confuse users by a plethora of options.
- Online collaboration efforts at the partner universities use no formal hierarchies and peer-based learning concepts.
- However, the pace of adoption differs even inside the institutions. An important concern is the reservation of students and staff against using tools by large web corporations in an educational context, e.g. for privacy reasons.
- Self-assessment and peer consultation models also form an emerging trend among the participating institutions.
The consortium is currently preparing a number of outputs to disseminate the research findings, including publications at international conferences, peer-reviewed journals and open-access educational resources. Martyn has co-authored a paper with 5 other OnCreate partners for International Federation of Information Processing TC3 Working Conference, “A New Culture of Learning: Computing and Next Generations” to be held from 1st to 3rd July, 2015 in Vilnius, Lithuania.