Saturday, 28 November 2009

The concepts of practice and competence - post 2

Second paper for activity 6.1...

"Competences for Online Teaching: A Special Report" Peter Goodyear et al.

This paper presents the outcomes of a workshop on competences for online teaching, held in the UK in 2000.

The begins by noting that while there is much hype around the growth in the market for online learning, the research evidence for this rate of growth is lacking. However, despite the hyperbole, it acknowledges that online learning is growing, and that part of this growth will be due to the reduction in expensive human resources. It notes (as you'd expect teacher/trainer/lecturer authors) that "more agile companies are realizing ... that a judicious mix of technology and teachers... can help achieve greater learning effectiveness".

The workshop reported on was tasked with sketching out the roles and competences associated with online teaching, and also to give a critique of the competency-based approach to understanding teaching. The authors also note the alternatives of humanistic or cognitivist perspectives, and state that while they are not explored in the paper, they should not be overlooked.

In considering the terminology used, the paper considers that major corporations and virtual universities seek to operate in a global context, and so consequently, definitions of the competences of effective online teaching should be expressed in a way which minimizes problems of interpretation across national, linguistic and cultural boundaries. For me, this suggested that there was as assumption that the competences would be the same across cultures, but this seems to run counter to Hillier's point that students and staff (even within the same culture) can have different views on competence/excellence, and with the Association for Learning Technology (ALT)'s view that "values and codes of practice differ from institution to institution, discipline to discipline, role to role" (and presumably therefore also between cultures).

A major outcome of the workshop was the identification and description of the main roles of an online teacher. The authors note that while all the roles are unlikely to be of equal importance in any one specific instance of online teaching, they should all be understood. The roles identified were:
  • Content facilitator
  • Technologist
  • Designer
  • Manager/administrator
  • Process facilitator
  • Adviser/counsellor
  • Assessor
  • Researcher.
The workshop also identified candidate competences associated with each of the above roles (except adviser), see original paper, p.71. The authors made the interesting observation that a "number of statements are colored by an educational philosophy, which is not necessarily associated with online teaching and learning". This may reflect the attitudes and backgrounds of the workshop attendees (who are not identified, but which was sponsored by the International Board of Standards for Training, Performance and Instruction, the Centre for Studies in Advanced Learning Technology, and the Joint Information Systems Committee of the UK universities funding councils). It is possible that many of the attendees will have had a background in non-online teaching and learning, and access to online learning products, tools and research was far less when this paper was written nearly 10 years ago. These conditions would make it unsurprising that more general education philosophies are widely reflected in the competences identified. However, this observation may also relate to the underlying fact that online education is still education, however it is delivered. Conceptions of good practice in education have evolved over time, and online provision is a very new facet (in historical terms). This also reflects the ALT view that e-learning will become an embedded normal part of most learners' experience, and that therefore the term 'e-learning' will fall into disuse. They suggest using the term 'learning technology', reflecting the fact that technologies are used to support learning, teaching, and assessment.

Goodyear, P., Salmon, G., Spector, J.M., Steeples, C. & Tickner, S. (2001) 'Competences for Online Teaching: A Special Report' Educational Technology Research and Development, Vol. 49, No. 1, pp. 65-72

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