Guest Editorial ~ Issues, Challenges and Possibilities for Academics and Tutors at Open and Distance Learning Environments
Heather Kanuka, Canada Research Chair in e-Learning, is the guest editor of this theme issue that examines the challenges and possibilities for academics and tutors at open and distance universities. Dr. Kanuka's interests lay in the scholarship of teaching, with specific focus on faculty and tutor development and mentorship. This theme issue is reflective of Dr. Kanuka's interests. Included are peer reviewed articles by authors from Rwanda, South Africa, Israel, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and Canada, along with a book review and another installment of technical evaluation reports.
TECHNICAL EVALUATION REPORT 57. Portable Applications in Mobile Education
Portable software applications can be carried on a convenient storage medium such as a USB drive, and offer numerous benefits to mobile teachers and learner. The article illustrates the growing field of portable apps in reviews of seven contrasting products. These represent the major categories of document editing, email maintenance, Internet browsing, instant messaging, file transfer, multimedia presentation, and anti-virus protection. Emphasis is placed on ways to use portable apps to overcome the common problems of Internet usage during travel.
BOOK REVIEW: Education and Health Structure: An overview, edited by P. Nair
Education and health structure: An overview, edited by P. Nair presents a series of articles on health and education infrastructure. These articles are written by authors from India, Korea, and Singapore and examine health and education delivery systems and policy frameworks. While these authors do refer briefly to European and North American systems, the focus is mainly on India and South Asia. My key critique of this work is with the title. Without clearly identifying that the focus of the writing is on health and education in India, the reader is initially left wondering where the structures are that the book seeks to overview. . . .
MAIN SECTION: Faculty Development as Community Building - An approach to professional development that supports Communities of Practice for Online Teaching
When faculty development is viewed as an ongoing need and when we approach faculty development as a long-term, continuous effort, community building becomes a part of the process. Carefully designed faculty development approaches can facilitate and create a culture that supports a thoughtful focus on teaching, while at the same time, nurture a sense of connectedness and collegiality across the organization that is vital to continuous innovation and improvement. This paper reports on a program designed to improve the collegial culture at a higher educational organization in Western Canada. While the program was aimed at a Social Work Faculty at a research university, we believe the design can be modified and applied in other disciplines and in other environments, such as distant and open universities. We conclude with suggestions for applying our approach to faculty development in open and distance institutional contexts.
MAIN SECTION: Academics Telecommuting in Open and Distance Education Universities: Issues, challenges and opportunities
Research in distance and online education has focused on how to improve students learning and support services. Faculty satisfaction, as one of the five pillars in Sloan-Consortiums quality framework for online education, has received less attention in research. Besides online teaching, little research has examined the experiences of academics working in institutions where the faculty is dispersed geographically. Outside the academy, teleworking or telecommuting has become quite popular in recent years. Most research to-date has been conducted in information technology-related corporations and government departments, but hardly any in post-secondary educational institutions. Drawing on a literature review of research in telecommuting or teleworking, this paper discusses the potential benefits and drawbacks of telecommuting for academics and their families, and the potential opportunities for and challenges faced by their distance and online education institutions.
MAIN SECTION: Distance Learning Program for Teachers at The Kigali Institute of Education: An expository study
In 2001, a program of distance learning was started within Kigali Institute of Education in collaboration with the Rwanda's Ministry of Education. It is an in-service training program that aims to upgrade in-service secondary school teachers and alleviate the shortage of teachers both in terms of quality and number. This program runs parallel to a pre-service program, also conducted within the Kigali Institute. Academic staff members working in the pre-service program are involved in this distance learning program. After three years, a descriptive qualitative case study was conducted to determine the experiences of academic staff involved in the distance learning program. Purposive and theoretical sampling was used for participants identification and inclusion. Individual unstructured interview and focus group discussion was used to gather the data. A qualitative software analysis called NVivo 2, developed by Qualitative Solutions and Research (QSR) International in 2002, was used to compile and analyse the data. Results of the study revealed that faculty members involved in both in-service and pre-service programs face challenges associated with heavy workload. Moreover, the pre-service program is typically prioritized at the expense of the distance learning in-service program. Academic relationships between faculty members and tutors also need to be reinforced. Serving as the critical link between the distance learning in-service program and pre-service departments and faculties, this research also shows that course coordinators play a pivotal role in the smooth operation of the distance learning program.
MAIN SECTION: Adaptation for a Changing Environment: Developing learning and teaching with information and communication technologies
This article examines the relationship between the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) and learning and teaching, particularly in distance education contexts. We argue that environmental changes (societal, educational, and technological) make it necessary to adapt systems and practices that are no longer appropriate. The need to adapt, however, can be perceived as being technology-led and primarily concerned with requiring academic staff to develop their skills in using ICT. We provide a critique of continuing professional development (CPD) for using ICT in teaching and learning that does not entail examining the impact of environmental changes upon the assumptions, goals, and strategies which underlie and shape an organisations educational practices. In particular, we oppose CPD that concentrates on the individual teacher and their use of ICT. Instead, we contend that professional development should focus upon the scholarship of teaching and learning, and must also reflect the wider organisational context within which ICT is managed and used.
MAIN SECTION: A Multi-Island Situation Without the Ocean: Tutors' perceptions about working in isolation from colleagues
Distance education is generally seen as a very isolating experience for students, but one often forgets that it can be an equally isolating experience for teaching staff who oftentimes work in isolation from colleagues. This study examines the experiences of nine tutors at the Reading and Writing Centres of one of the 10 biggest universities in the world, Universtiy of South Africa (Unisa). The tutors work at different Regional Offices across South Africa. This study examines both quantitative data (closed-ended questions) and qualitative data (open-ended questions) obtained from questionnaires. This study seeks to determine to what extent administrative support, professional development support, and colleague support influence tutors feelings of isolation. This paper takes the position that if feelings of isolation are curbed, staff retention will be improved, which means that the university can retain valuable experience. Findings show that contact with and collaboration between and among colleagues significantly decrease feelings of isolation. Other important methods of curbing isolation are regular training and continuous administrative support.
MAIN SECTION: Identification, Motivation and Job Satisfaction among Tutors at the Open University of Israel
Tutors working for The Open University of Israel (OUI), a distance learning institution, are often the only academic staff who have direct contact with students. Their performance is therefore crucial for the university. The nature of their job, however, might hinder optimal performance: they are temporary and part time employees, and thus have low job security. Their academic freedom is limited and, in most OUI learning centers, they are professionally isolated. These factors can negatively affect tutors' organizational identification, job satisfaction, and motivation. This study is focused on two sets of variables that serve as possible predictors of identification, satisfaction, and motivation: (1) role perceptions (job importance and job richness); and (2) organizational attachment (relations with the university, attentiveness of the university and the university's appreciation of their work). Seventy-one (n = 71) tutors completed a general survey. Regression analysis and path analysis revealed that identification and job satisfaction were well predicted by job importance and organizational attachment, while work motivation was not. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
MAIN SECTION: ‘It’s a unique role!’ Perspectives on tutor attributes and expertise in distance language teaching
This article outlines the background to, and progress on, a project based on work carried out at the Open University UK (OUUK). The aim of the project is to articulate the attributes and expertise required by tutors of languages in distance education. A review of the literature on the roles and competencies required for tutors operating at a distance indicates that the specific context of language teaching has received relatively little attention from researchers in the field. There has, however, been considerable interest in the skills and attributes necessary for face-to-face language teaching in the classroom, which is outlined here. Issues of definition and research perspective are discussed, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of various research approaches. The different stages and outcomes of the collaborative project are described in detail, demonstrating how the unfolding research design allowed opportunities for consultation, reflection, and responsive changes. The next stages of consultation are outlined, together with implications for the on-going professional development of tutors.
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