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ePedagogy in Online Learning: New Developments in Web Mediated Human Computer Interaction
Date Reviewed: March 6, 2015
This volume consists of fourteen chapters designed “to provide a useful handbook on adopting interactive Web 2.0 tools that promote effective human-computer interaction (HCI) in ePedagogical practice for education and training” (xv). Each essay presents data for the consideration of educators and administrators who are preparing to be or who are actively involved in virtual education. Primarily, the contributors explore using Web 2.0 tools such as Blackboard/Moodle, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, wikis, and blogs, but there is much more.
The chapters are divided into four sections. The first contains essays to help the reader think clearly about methodology as it relates to the continual evolution of online education. The second section consists of essays focusing on differences between synchronous (everyone must meet at the same time either in physical or virtual space) and asynchronous learning (done on one’s own time, such as watching recorded lectures or using message boards to communicate with other students). The third section focuses on how educators might measure student development in a virtual environment. The final section is the most technical with essays dedicated to the use of software and online systems.
This book does not offer quick-and-easy steps for one to follow toward successful ePedagogy. It is dense, heavily technical at points, and it requires readers to set aside time to read attentively. An educator of theological studies will have to creatively search for ways to transfer information to their own setting since none of the essays are directly related to this field.
The essays are social-scientific in nature. The testing conditions and criteria are unique to each particular essay, taking place in geopolitical regions as distinct as Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Taiwan, the United States, and Vietnam. The diversity is promising, offering encounters with a wide-array of scenarios wherein Web 2.0 tools function. On the other hand, the principles offered cannot be understood in a vacuum without reference to context.
This book may be best used as an occasional reference. In other words, it is not the type of practical book one would read through in a few sessions. The most useful part of each chapter for the casual reader may be the list of works referenced at the end of each study. These short bibliographies invite further exploration.
In summary, readers will find insightful academic essays that will assist them in their professional development as educators in a virtual context. The essays are based on data acquired through rigorous research. The uniqueness of each case study requires the reader to actively sift universals from particulars in order to determine what information may assist them in their own work, and the technical nature of the book will require non-experts to familiarize themselves with much of the vocabulary.
The War on Learning: Gaining Ground in the Digital University
Date Reviewed: January 30, 2015
The War on Learning is an important contribution to public debate on new instructional technologies and the future of the university. A scholar of media history and digital rhetoric, Elizabeth Losh clarifies charged issues with her knowledge of historical context and a talent for cutting through publicity to identify the most important facts.
In her first chapter, Losh describes how Good Morning America hoped to use her as “a voice of moral outrage” in response to online videos showcasing techniques for cheating on exams (19). To their disappointment, Losh was unwilling to paint an uncomplicated “us versus them” picture of how professors and students use technology. Losh’s thesis is that both sides are engaged in an “incredibly destructive war on learning itself by emphasizing competition and conflict rather than cooperation” (26).
In her second chapter, Losh uses her teaching experiences to illuminate the “rhetoric of crisis” around the status of education in our culture (46). As a literature review which explains key moments in a conflict that is wide enough to include policing of student Internet activity and calls for the end of universities as we know them, it is here that Losh’s thesis is at its most persuasive. In the third chapter, “On Camera,” Losh explains how the online sharing of lectures turned one professor into a beloved celebrity and another into an object of ridicule. The war on learning is a costly distraction from the “digital literacy and competence in digital rhetoric” that is professionally important for both professors and students (89).
The pedagogy of distance learning is reviewed in chapter 4 with the salient observation that the online lecture “often is more likely to resemble a traffic school tutorial rather than a compelling professorial performance” (109). Chapter 5 discusses “The Rhetoric of the Open Courseware Movement” with a critique of the optimism around platforms like Coursera and edX that is nevertheless respectful of their potential. Chapter 6 examines the technological struggle over plagiarism and the rise of Turnitin as a somewhat ethically ambiguous policing tool. Chapters 7 and 8 consider the merits of gadget distribution (for example, iPods and iPads) and efforts to create educational video games respectively.
In the ninth chapter, Losh lays out six clear suggestions for making the digital university “more inclusive, generative, just, and constructive” based on “two decades in the trenches” (224). Losh argues that knowledge of the history of instructional technology and reflection on learning as process rather than product should precede elaborate plans for the digital university.
This is not a book for professors seeking a step-by-step guide for bringing technology into their classrooms. Losh, in fact, mentions that she wrote this volume with college presidents in mind (14). I recommend it to anyone wanting a broader picture of how technology might impact the future of university education. With well-chosen case studies Losh provides a crash course on the history of instructional technologies and deep reflection on their implications.