E-Learning & Learning Objects: Learning Information Searching in an E-Learning Environment
Keywords080704 Information Retrieval and Web Search
130399 Specialist Studies in Education not elsewhere classified
080000 INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES
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AbstractThe benefits of e-learning, and consequently the driving forces behind the e-learning uptake in higher education have been widely discussed. They include greater accessibility and flexibility, a more cost effective and cost efficient program of study, and a higher quality of student learning experience. However, in 2001 Zenger and Uehlein observed that in the recent "rush to e-learning the emphasis has been largely on the e and not on the learning" (p. 60). What Zenger and Uehlein are suggesting is that in the current focus on technological applications in higher education the reason for the application (i.e. meaningful learning for students) has been forgotten. The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) is committed to "[providing] outstanding learning environments and programs that lead to excellent outcomes for graduates" (QUT, 2003, p. ii). In pursuit of this goal the university has identified as one of its "top priorities" the "[integration of information and communications technology into our teaching…functions and infrastructure" (QUT, 2003, p.ii). In direct defiance to the observations of Zenger and Uehlein, QUT will "make a coordinated and strategic effort to use the increasing capacity and flexi-bility of technologies to transform our teaching and learning environment in ways which engage and challenge students, and which enable different learning envi-ronment [italics added], on-campus and off-campus, to be used in ways which are complementary and mutually reinforcing" (QUT, 2003, p. 4). This chapter will provide a case study on how e-learning is being de-signed, developed and implemented with QUT with a balanced focus on both the e and the learning. The Faculty of Information Technology at QUT is dedicated to the development of graduates who are not only discipline savvy but also highly information literate. To facilitate the development of informa-tion literacy the Faculty supported a project which involved the crea-tion of an online learning tool known as the Reflective Online Search-ing Skills (ROSS) Environment. ROSS is a flexible and interactive online learning tool for developing student skills and knowledge within the area on online searching. It was developed for use within the un-dergraduate unit ITB322 Information Resources. This chapter will dis-cuss how ROSS was developed to take advantage of emerging technol-ogy (the e) whilst grounded in sound instructional theory and meaning-ful learning principles (the learning). In this paper we will also briefly outline the various types of e-learning models and indicate which of these models we used in our design, and explain the learning theory and research findings which underpin the overall development of ROSS. The learning theory is variation theory and the research method was phenomenography. In our work, the student perspective was also con-sidered with student expectations and perceptions informing both the design and the use of ROSS. The paper will also discuss how ROSS, an e-learning strategy developed for use within a specific undergraduate IT unit, is being developed into an online learning object for use by other QUT academics regardless of discipline. The many challenges in the creation and use of ROSS will be outlined, as well as examples from the Pilot product in one subject unit, and its subsequent beta version used in other faculties. These challenges occur for both the teaching staff during the instructional design phase and for the students during the implementation phase. The lessons learnt, or the pitfalls, in the development of re-usable learning objects will all be discussed and summarised at the end of the chapter. The chapter will provide recommendations on how to ensure the design and implemen-tation of e-learning and learning objects is considered in a holistic man-ner guided by sound pedagogy and student needs and attitudes. The chapter is significant because it provides a best practice example of how to blend together imaginative use of technology, instructional theories and principles, and student’s expectations, to careful craft e-learning and learning objects so as to facilitate the learning experience of stu-dents in a holistic manner.