The Killick Project for E-Learning Research in Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Faculty of Education is working to bring research to the general public, informing them of the strengths, challenges and potential of new and emerging educational technologies.
The goal of the project, which is funded by a Community University Research Alliance (CURA) grant, is to increase community readership, enhance understanding, and decreasing the intimidation and mental barriers that often exist when the average person sits to read the results of an academic research study.
Two of Killick’s research projects are Effectiveness of New Learning Technologies in Providing Education to Rural and Isolated Communities (Effectiveness Study), led by Drs. Tim Seifert and Bruce Sheppard, and Innovative and Effective Practices in Online Learning (Classroom Study), led by Dr. Elizabeth Murphy.
Dr. Seifert, also the associate dean of Education, is interested in whether or not distance education is as effective as on-campus classes.
Whether or not a course is more effective on or off campus is measured by grades and comparing performances in distance versus on-campus courses. Courses in post-secondary and secondary institutions are considered in the study. The comparisons are being conducted in several different ways.
“The first way is by selecting courses for which there was distance and on-campus, that were taught by the same instructor,” says Dr. Seifert, “the second was to try and find students with similar academic histories and observe them throughout the semester, with one doing a distance education course, and the other doing an on-campus course.”
Dr. Seifert explains that the mean score (average grade for each course) is considered in determining which method of learning is more efficient.
“Effectiveness, in this study, is defined as course grade,” he explains.
Dr. Elizabeth Murphy’s research also focuses on effective teaching, which she defines as, “teaching that is centered on the learner.”
During the 2006-07 year, she conducted a study with Dr. Andrea Rose, (School of Music and Faculty of Education) and Andrew Mercer, (e-teacher with the Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation/CDLI). Drs. Murphy, Rose and Mr. Mercer explored how teaching music online to high school students could inspire a learner-centered approach.
“The nine-minute video I created was shown at the CURA launch in February, and it’s available on YouTube where it has been viewed over 1,800 times. The video illustrates how Mr. Mercer teaches using a learner-centred approach,” Dr. Murphy explained.
The video was also shown at the pre-conference workshop of the Canadian Association for Distance Education in Winnipeg this past spring and to an audience of over 500 conference delegates at TLt/iT Summit 2007: Learning in a Digital World, the Joint Conference of Campus Saskatchewan and The Educational Technology Consortium.
“I’ll be going to China in October where I’ll have an opportunity to show the video once again,” she said.
In a time where the internet is fast becoming society’s primary source of communication, this type of cutting edge, gripping, modern research is exactly the type to not only improve the face and accessibility of education, but to make Mr. John Doe’s ears perk.
Dr. Murphy’s research will continue in September, as she is planning to continue her study of learner-centered teaching with technology.
“I’ve applied for approval to the Eastern School District to conduct focus groups of students and teachers in four high schools in St. John’s and Mount Pearl,” she states.
The purpose of the groups will be to gain teachers’ and students’ perceptions of and perspectives on how the internet could be used in teaching and learning.
“I’m also interested in exploring with focus group participants how common internet tools such as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube might play a role in teaching and learning.”