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MON: Compulsory Or Graded Peer Forum Activity As A Factor Affecting Inclusion And Ownership Of Learning In Higher Education Distance Learning (Richard Sharp)
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28 December 2017
The presentation while recognising the value of peer participation, experienced in asynchronous forums on higher education (HE) distance-learning courses, will discuss its application. Peer participation is regarded by some as an essential component of learning. Brown states that participation is key in a social view of learning in which understanding is socially constructed, saying “we learn […] from our interaction with others” (Brown, 2007, 3:27). Where learning and curriculum design is framed to support this kind of social learning pedagogy, then forum participation may be set as compulsory or graded (effectively compulsory).
The paper will ask whether a compulsory approach to peer activities acknowledges diversity and supports inclusion within the student cohort. Also, whether the reduction of choice could negatively affect a student’s sense of ownership about their own learning practices, leading to isolation and exclusion.
In support of diversity and inclusion
The UK Department for Education (DfE), in a report about inclusivity in HE stated that HE institutions must adopt inclusive practice in order to equitably support the learning experience for the whole student body (Department for Education, 2017, p. 3). The report confirms the Government’s acceptance of the social model of disability, and notes how inflexible practice, not individual characteristics, are at the root of exclusion issues (Department for Education, 2017, p. 12). Although the report focuses on disability and adjustment, there is also a clear recognition that inclusive practice and design can remove barriers for all students by “using more flexible methods of teaching, assessment and service provision to cater for different […] learners” (Department for Education, 2017, p. 16).
Choice, flexibility, and ownership of learning.
Anderson’s (2003) Equivalency Theory proposed that there are three types of interaction that a student engages in: student-student, student-teacher, and student-content interaction. These differing foci can be equally valuable in achievement of a learning outcome, dependent on the individual and situation. In relation to student-student peer interaction, Luhrs and McAnally-Salas (2016) state that asynchronous discussion forums are especially useful for students on distance courses (Luhrs & McAnally-Salas, 2016, p. 29).
When Downes (2006) said that ‘students own education’, he was referring to how students can now define and construct their own personal learning environments (PLEs) and make individual choices about how they act, and interact, in their own learning practice. The National Centre on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) also state that a key factor in encouraging engagement is to “optimise individual choice and autonomy” (National Center on Universal Design for Learning, 2017). The ability to choose gives the student a sense of ownership of their learning practice.
Can graded or compulsory forum participation activity be restrictive and disabling?
Inclusion is a term which is often linked to disability adjustments. However, all students benefit from experiencing control over the learning practices that they choose to adopt. The presentation will suggest that practitioners consider the effect of making participatory forum activity compulsory or graded, and asks whether, for some learners, it could reduce choices, and create feelings of exclusion and disengagement?
Anderson, T. (2003) ‘Getting the mix right again: an updated and theoretical rationale for interaction’, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, vol. 4, no. 2 [Online]. Available at http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/149 (Accessed 20 December 2017).
Brown, J. S. (2007) ‘Researching open content in education’, The OpenLearn Conference October 2007 [Webcast], Milton Keynes, The Open University. Available at: https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/ page/view.php?id=972208 (Accessed 18 December 2017).
Department for Education (2017) Inclusive Teaching and Learning in Higher Education as a route to Excellence [Online], Gov.UK, Department for Education. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/ government/publications/inclusive-teaching-and-learning-in-higher-education (Accessed 18 December 2017).
Downes, S. (2006) ‘The Students Own Education’, Stephen Downes, 19 June [Blog]. Available at: http://www.downes.ca/post/34792 (Accessed 18 December 2017).
Luhrs, C. and McAnally-Salas, L. (2016) ‘Collaboration levels in asynchronous discussion forums: A social network analysis approach’, Journal of Interactive Online Learning, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 29-44 [Online]. Available at EBSCOhost (Accessed 19 December 2017).
National Center on Universal Design for Learning (2017) Universal Design for Learning Guidelines [Online]. Available at: http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines_theorypractice (Accessed 18 December 2017).
Poster for presentation: various media formats
Alternative formats are available for reasons of accessibility and choice. A simple audio track in MP3 format has been created but cannot be hosted on my blog site or uploaded here - so the audio track on the PowerPoint Slideshow will act in its place.
01:19 on 28 December 2017 (Edited 00:04 on 16 February 2018)
Project Output - Paper (draft) - Open for comments
I have my project output 'paper' in a draft format (at about 3800 words) and am sharing as a work in progress in the OU OpenStudio peer environment, as part of my preparation for the conference and EMA.
The document is shared for H818 peers on OpenStudio in my project set - this is the link, which can be copied to a browser: https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/studio/slot.php?id=1097685&sid=456127
Here is a publicly accessible link to the document:
00:04 on 25 January 2018 (Edited 00:04 on 16 February 2018)
Conference presentation outputs
I stated, following my presentation, that I would share the materials.
If they open in the browser from Google drive, you can use the download button in the browser window to save the file and run it normally.
20:58 on 19 February 2018 (Edited 21:24 on 19 February 2018)