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REF NO.: 117

SUBJECT: Memorial University researchers launch virtual learning project
DATE: Feb. 21, 2007

Newfoundland and Labrador has been described as an ideal e-learning laboratory. Having a geographically dispersed, highly educated population provides unique opportunities for researchers to study and understand the complexities of e-learning and the usage of new and emerging technologies, especially in rural and isolated areas. Memorial University researchers in the Faculty of Education have launched the Killick Project for E-learning Research, a unique community-university research alliance involving the university, the provincial Department of Education, school districts and the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association among others. The project aims to foster innovative research, training and new knowledge in the area of e-learning in the field of education. 
            “The Killick Project will serve as a model for all communities in Canada and elsewhere by fostering innovative research, collaboration, training and the creation of new knowledge related to overcoming the educational challenges faced by isolated communities,” said Dr. Axel Meisen, president of Memorial University. 
            “Advancements in distance learning have revolutionized educational access for all students. Learning is no longer limited by geography, which is great news for students in rural areas of our province,” said the Joan Burke, Minister of Education. “Newfoundland and Labrador is recognized as a leader in distance education. I am confident that the research undertaken at the Killick Centre will further cement this reputation, and will continue to strengthen our distance learning program.”
            Dr. Jean Brown, Faculty of Education, is the principal investigator on the project that brings together senior researchers at Memorial, College of the North Atlantic, the province’s Department of Education, the Newfoundland and Labrador Teacher’s Association, and School Boards from across the province.           
            Dr. Brown and her team were awarded a Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) to develop the project and will receive $1 million over five years to create a community-university alliance to foster innovative research, training and the creation of new knowledge in the area of e-learning with additional financial and in-kind commitments from partners in the amount of about $7,500,000, bringing a total project value of $8,500,000.
            ”New technologies are changing how educators and students interact through teaching and learning across Canada and the world,” said Dr. Alice Collins, dean, Faculty of Education. “This is especially true in rural and remote areas where access to specialists and specialized programs are difficult to obtain. This new project will answer vital questions about the effectiveness of e-learning, best practices, and how to best utilize infrastructure and monies.”
            A backgrounder on the Killick Project is attached. For more information on the Killick Project, visit www.killickcentre.ca.
 
Killick Project for E-Learning Research Backgrounder
            Research studies
Effectiveness of New Learning Technologies in Providing Education to Rural and Isolated Communities  - Through a series of studies effectiveness will be examined in relation to three main outcome areas: access to programs, learning outcomes, and cost, with the main approach being comparative. E-learning will be examined in comparison to conventional classroom-based learning and, to the extent possible, to different approaches to e-learning. This study will include a large quantitative analysis of secondary databases (from DOE, CNA, and MUN) as well as qualitative research studies. This work is foundational and will inform all other studies.
Investigators:  Dr. Bruce Sheppard and Dr. Tim Seifert, Faculty of Education
Main community partners: Memorial University of Newfoundland, Department of Education (DOE), School Districts, College of the North Atlantic (CNA), Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation (CDLI).
 
Innovative and Effective Practices in Online Learning - The purpose of this five-year study is to investigate learner-centered (LC) practices in a context of e-teaching at the high-school level. The objectives are to identify, describe and document existing e-teaching practices congruent with LC principles as defined by the American Psychological Association [APA] (1993); identify and describe potential e-teaching practices congruent with the LC principles; evaluate the practices in relation to their effectiveness (in terms of student-learning), feasibility (possibilities and problems), scalability (to other subject areas and teachers) and sustainability (beyond the period of the study); Critically appraise the LC principles with respect to e-teaching at the high-school level in a CDLI context. The study will adopt a design experiment approach involving formative iterations of evaluate and refine, with a dual focus on theory and practice and with collaboration between the researcher and participants.   
Investigator: Dr. Elizabeth Murphy Faculty of Education. 
Main community partners: CDLI, School Districts, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Faculty of Education.
 
OPLC and Teacher Preparation - Three studies will investigate effects of active long-term participation in online professional learning communities (OPLC) on the practice of pre-service and beginning teachers. 
Investigators: Dr. David Dibbon and Dr. Ken Stevens, Faculty of Education.

Main community partners: Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers Association (NLTA), Virtual Teacher Centre, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Faculty of Education, School Districts.

 
Perceptions of Distance Education in Newfoundland and Labrador over a 10 Year Period - Initial data for this study will be obtained from a study entitled, Effective Schooling in a TeleLearning Environment, conducted by the Centre for TeleLearning and Rural Education, Faculty of Education, Memorial University in 1999 – 2000. In a series of extensive interviews throughout the province, principals, teachers, parents, and students were asked to comment on various aspects of distance education. A series of similar interviews will be conducted in the school year: 2009 – 2010.
            Drawing on historical methodology, this research study will focus on the nature of change and continuity over time and attempt to explain why and how change occurs. In the 1999 – 2000, interviewees consistently identified the lack of effective teacher-student interaction as a major drawback of distance education. This study hypothesizes that the implementation of new online computer technology aimed at promoting meaningful teacher-student interaction and a new way of learning will affect the successful integration of distance education program in rural schools. The study will determine the impact of new interactive technology by comparing the perceptions of earlier participants with those who have benefited from the technology ten years later. Findings will inform future policy decisions regarding distance education delivery.  
Investigator: Dr. Trudi Johnson, Faculty of Education
Main community partners: Policy makers (from all partners).
 
Participation of High School Students in the Isolated Aboriginal Communities of Coastal Labrador in Web-delivered Learning (Aboriginal Study) - The overall intent of this project is the identification, development, implementation and evaluation of selected interventions that have the potential to improve the e-learning experiences of this group of students.
Investigators: Dr. Dennis Sharpe and Dr. Dave Philpott, Faculty of Education
Main community partners: Labrador School District, Labrador Inuit Association, CDLI
 
The Impact of CDLI Course Participation on Student Transition into Post-secondary Education and/or the Workforce - In partnership with CDLI, all provincial school districts, Memorial University and CNA, this proposed study will track the transition into post-secondary education and/or the workforce of a selected year cohort of CDLI course participants and non-participants. Of particular interest to the partners is the impact of prior distance course (e-learning) experiences, attitudes towards web-based courses, the technological proficiencies, and degree of success of CDLI students compared to others.   
Investigators: Dr. Dennis Sharpe and Dr. Dale Kirby, Faculty of Education
Main community partners: CNA, CDLI, Memorial University of Newfoundland
 
District Leadership for the New Learning Environment - Primary research questions are: (1) How can district leaders use the tools and ways of learning in the new environment to facilitate better connections with trustees, district personnel, schools and teachers? (2) How does this affect leadership roles?   
Investigators: Dr. Jean Brown and Dr. Bruce Sheppard, Faculty of Education
Main community partners: School Districts, NLTA, Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils (NLFSC), Newfoundland and Labrador School Board Association (NLSBA)
 
Curricula Shifts in a Digital Age - This philosophical study examines how new technologies are influencing, challenging, and changing current conceptions of the nature and structure of school-based disciplines. It has three broad aims: 1) to re-conceptualize and add to the discourse of what it means for students to be literate and numerate in the 21st century, 2) to understand how digital technologies expand and deepen understandings of school-based disciplines, and 3) to examine how digital technologies broaden and influence notions of pedagogy, citizenship, and community.   
Investigators:  Dr. Barrie Barrell and Mary Cameron, Faculty of Education
Main community partners: School Districts, CDLI, NLTA.

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