Thursday, September 13, 2007

Articles of Note: Corgi Catches, September 10, 2007

We dig through databases, online journals, an e-learning magazines for online learning articles of interest. In this weekly series, we present a few articles that you might find useful, thought-provoking, or simply interesting. Instead of giving you only the citation, we'll give you more. We'll provide a brief overview and synopsis of the article.

Here's an audio overview: Podcast.

We hope you find this to be helpful!

Articles that caught the Corgi’s eye this week:

Ayres, P. and Paas, F. (2007) Can the Cognitive Load Approach Make Instructional Animations More Effective? Applied Cognitive Psychology. 21: 811–820

This article looks closely at seven different empirical studies that focused on the use of instructional animations. The goal was to see if some of the theories used in determining how and where to use animations effectively, such as the cognitive load theory, did in fact result in achieving learning outcomes. After carefully reviewing the results of the empirical research, Ayres and Paas developed guiding principles for designing effective instructional material using animations. Ayres and Paas developed nine guiding principles, all of which are extremely clear and easy to implement. The first three are as follows:

(1) Animations will be more effective if they are segmented into smaller sections.

(2) Animations will be more effective if the learner has control over the presentation.

(3) Animations will be more effective if key information is cued or signaled. (Ayres & Paas, 2007, p. 815)

The article also addresses what Ayres and Paas perceived as fairly serious issues in the research design, and pointed out that the measure of animation efficacy was not always directly measured by looking at recall and performance on standardized tests. Further, if animation effectiveness is measured by results on tests and other performative aspects, the conclusions may be faulty. The research design must take into consideration that individual learning styles and preferences are important, as well as the kind of interactivity that is incorporated with the animations.

Kujawski, E. and Miller, G. (2007) Quantitative Risk-Based Analysis for Military Counter-Terrorism Systems. Systems Engineering, April 2007: 273-289.

You’ve made a significant investment in your online and distance learning program. Now, what happens if something catastrophic befalls it? Do you know where your vulnerabilities are? Have you prioritized them and come up with a plan to minimize your risk? You would not drive your car without liability and collision insurance, would you? So, what might happen if your server crashes, data is corrupted, or confidential information is compromised? You might be surprised how many programs do not have a coherent plan, or, have failed to identify and prioritize risk. Needless to say, they do not have an effective plan for dealing with equipment failures, problems with data, catastrophic failures, or even day-to-day operational problems. This highly technical paper may not seem to have much to do with e-learning, mobile learning, or distributed education. Basically speaking, the paper has to do with how one determines where there are vulnerabilities in the system, the likelihood of failure, and how best to protect oneself / shield oneself from risk. It’s a case for analyzing the pro’s and con’s of outsourcing key services and functions, and for building in redundancies in the system. Case in point: how many colleges and universities have found themselves essentially abandoned by the company who sold them a software program, but did not provide adequate support? How many colleges decided to outsource one or more functions, to find they have little or no control over quality of service? This article does not address e-learning per se, but the concepts definitely apply. For example, a nine-step decision tree for looking at vulnerabilities makes sense for educational providers, colleges, and university e-learning programs: 1. Identify critical assets for potential targets; 2. Analyze their vulnerabilities; 3. Characterize the adversaries; 4. Define a set of distinct threats; 5. Analyze the design-basis threat set: Determine the conditional probabilities of successful attacks . Quantify the outcomes in quantitative measures such as monetary value of damage, number and types of problems and damage, lost time, etc. 6. Decide on the need for additional protective countermeasures i. If none required, stop. ii. Else, proceed to step # 7. 7. Identify protective countermeasure options: . Develop system architecture . Develop concept of operations. 8. Evaluate the different options:- Effectiveness and robustness of threat risk reduction capability -Risk of collateral damage - Availability, flexibility, etc. Cost. 9. Select the preferred option based on the above criteria. (Kujawski & Miller, 280). Granted, it is a technical article, and much of the information may not be immediately useable for the average reader. Nevertheless, the approach to threat and risk analysis, and preparedness is extremely useful for today’s elearning programs.

Levine, S. J. (2007). The Online Discussion Board. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 113: 67-74.

The purpose of this chapter is to explain just how discussion boards “have the unique capacity to support higher constructivist learning and the development of a learning community” (Levine, 2007). Ten conditions that support the effective use of online discussions are detailed in this chapter. The findings detailed in the chapter are not unique, but are useful for individuals developing and assessing distance programs, particularly as the way in which students access collaborative learning tools (including discussion boards) expands to include smartphones and other mobile devices. Condition 1: The social climate must be supportive. It has to be a climate conducive to learning. Levine points to Knowles’ ideas on androgogy and learning. Condition 2: Introductions must be made. According to Levine, if one does not include a meaningful introduction, and does not set out rules for interaction, there can be problems as learners fail to interact in a purposeful manner. Condition 3: A guide must be involved, and the discussions should include meaningful feedback by the instructor or guide. The remaining seven guidelines are very timely and useful. Some may seem a bit obvious, but they do reinforce current practices and principles.

This Week's Blogs of Note

Jenna Sweeney's Corporate Training Blog. Excellent posts! Diverse, practical, up-to-date.

Julie Lindsay's educational technology blog. From Qatar Academy, Doha, Qatar. Functional, insightful, cutting-edge.

Helge Scherlund's Elearning News Blog. Very useful and current news, opinions, technologies, and applications.

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