Volume 1 (2022)

Advances in Online Education: A Peer-Reviewed Journal will be free-to-view and each volume consists of four quarterly 100-page issues, published online.

The articles published in Volume 1 are listed below. 

Volume 1 Number 1

  • Editorial:
    Catherine Hyland, Publishing Editor
  • Research papers
    How to build the future of teaching and learning while growing from the changes and challenges of 2020–21
    Mary Ellen Wiltrout, Director of Online and Blended Learning Initiatives, Lecturer, Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    The challenges of the last two years that the COVID-19 pandemic directly caused or exacerbated will have long-lasting impacts on teaching and learning in higher education. The need now is to thoughtfully evaluate lessons learned and areas of growth to apply in the move forward instead of succumbing to the pressures to return to old systems. Will administrators, instructors and students choose productive and effective paths forward that will enhance learning for all? Or will they slide back into old norms out of comfort or fatigue? How do we extract positive changes from these events? There have been many conversations related to this reflection within higher education. This paper presents the early and hypothesised lasting impacts of the past two years’ events on teaching and learning organised across seven themes: course logistics, tools, activities and assessment for learning, student services and programmes, work culture, attitudes, and relationships. Each theme includes the relevant challenges, the short-term reactions and solutions and examples of continuing positive practices. The process to develop the future of teaching and learning in higher education requires reflection on the past two years and deliberate action to grow from the lessons learned to avoid the pullback to fully pre-pandemic practices.
    Keywords: higher education; assessment; blended learning; online learning; digital learning; COVID-19 pandemic

  • From dot.com to pandemic: Reflections on how universities respond
    Martin Rich, Associate Dean, Bayes Business School

    This paper reflects on the parallels between two periods of rapid change in the use of technology and their impact on online learning in higher education. One was the dot.com boom around 1999–2000, and the other the COVID-19 pandemic starting in 2020. Both created an imperative to introduce elements of online learning rapidly into existing universities, and to arrange rapid change within institutions where the existing structure and systems often made this sort of change difficult to achieve. Both required implementation of technological and pedagogic approaches which had evolved gradually over the preceding years. Both took place against a backdrop of recognition that it would be difficult to predict the context within which education would take place in the future. Both introduced unexpected, and in some cases unresolved, issues around students’ responses to a changed mode of delivery of education. There were, however, important differences, notably in the triggers for the two events and the extent to which students were familiar with the tools available to facilitate online education. The paper is based on the personal experiences of the author, who was active in both periods, which are used to generate some principles and observations relating to planning online learning during periods of considerable uncertainty
    Keywords: pandemic; dot.com boom; online learning; change management; decision making

  • Practice papers
    From small acorns: Using a creative metaphor in postgraduate course design
    Jane Neal-Smith, Director of Academic Operations and Nathan Page, Educational Adviser, University of York

    The acceleration of online education especially during the COVID-19 pandemic has been well documented, and many educational institutions prepared online materials for their learners with great success. Existing fully online programmes, however, continued to operate and be developed as a matter of course. To expand the online Master’s portfolio at the University of York, a new Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme was proposed. The use of a visual metaphor in teaching is not uncommon; however, the metaphor of a tree allows a path to be traced from the roots/key themes to the fruit/key skills. The metaphor works as a template or map showing how programme learning outcomes are linked to module learning outcomes. The tree metaphor also has transferable applications such as embedding employability or decolonising the curriculum. Using the tree as a template enables future-proofing of the course’s integrity, because revisions can be embedded and linked at an ideas stage rather than in a more ad hoc manner. Examining the underpinning concepts which were derived from the University’s strategy, this paper explores the influences on the MBA’s programme design and how the inspiration and subsequent adoption of a metaphorical tree facilitated the construction of a relevant, creative and coherent programme.
    Keywords: creativity; metaphor; programme design; MBA; visual metaphor; online course; online learning

  • The principle of least disruptive online course design: Balancing innovation, pedagogy and student learning
    Brad Garner, Digital Learning Scholar in Residence and Tiffany Snyder, Director of Faculty Enrichment, Indiana Wesleyan University

    Amid the highly competitive world of higher education, colleges and universities continue to search for bright shiny objects that can be leveraged to set themselves apart from the pack and attract and enroll new students. Most recently, this quest has focused on the use of digital technology. That can be interpreted as both good news and bad news. The good news is realised when colleges and universities discover new ways to enhance retention and graduation rates. It becomes bad news, however, when the glitz and glamour of a new digital tool are perceived as more critical than impacts on student learning. The Principle of Least Disruptive Online Course Design provides a template for faculty and course designers as they plan to use new technology in online courses. The inclusion of new and different technologies in course design, although well-intentioned, can adversely affect student learning if not accompanied by opportunities and resources that: 1) validate the appropriateness of digital tools and their purpose; 2) promote faculty-use competency; 3) promote student-use competency; 4) provide guided application; and 5) allot ample time and resources for learning and engagement.
    Keywords: course design; innovation; digital disruption; transliteracies; learning

  • Research paper
    Supporting neurodiversity using mainstream mobile technologies: A proposed fourth-generation model
    Simon Hayhoe, Reader in Education, University of Bath

    This paper takes a philosophical approach to examining the use of mobile technologies to support Students Who Are Neurodiverse (SWANs). The paper is relevant as it addresses issues of social justice for students with disabilities and special needs. Methodologically, the paper uses the epistemological model of disability and a framework of active and passive exclusion to critically examine the nature of neurodiversity, the history of the development of accessible, assistive and inclusive technologies for SWANs and the management strategies of supporting SWANs using different forms of technology in different learning contexts. The focus of this analysis is an examination of mainstream mobile technologies and apps, and the support of people with disabilities. The study is framed by two research questions: 1) How has technology attempted to support SWANs based on their individual learning needs? and 2) Has the process of developing technologies for SWANs led to an efficient process of inclusion? The paper finishes by proposing a new model of technology usage and practice termed the Culture, Individuality, Multi-modality and Portability (CIMPo) model, which it suggests represents a fourth generation of accessible and inclusive technology and a second generation of inclusion. The key conclusion from this paper is that neurodiversity is often overlooked in education and that the culture of support using technology is burdened by its history of exclusion; however, systematised management strategies using mainstream technologies can often address many historical issues and the hurdles presented during teaching and learning.
    Keywords: neurodiversity; dyslexia; mobile computing; mobile devices; m-learning; inclusion; accessible technology

  • Case studies
    Design matters: How a course review informed online teaching best practices
    Laura A. Sheets, Reference and Instruction Librarian, Maureen Barry, Reference and Instruction Librarian and Eileen K. Bosch, Associate Dean of University Libraries, Bowling Green State University

    This paper discusses how an Applying the Quality Matters (QM) Rubric for Higher Education workshop had an impact on the online teaching practice of three academic librarians. The QM Rubric was used to review and update a credit-bearing information literacy course taught by the authors’ department. The authors reflect on how this training influenced their relationship to online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic (and beyond), using examples from their own experiences to demonstrate how instruction librarians contributed to online education during this period and how they used sustainable teaching practices to lessen the workloads of their teaching colleagues. Future steps include improved documentation, assessment, management and maintenance of digital learning objects used in online teaching.
    Keywords: instructional design; learning management systems; libraries; evaluation of online environments

  • Examining learning experience using a storytelling case: A best practice case study
    Julia Cronin-Gilmore, Professor, Bellevue University

    Traditional marketing case analysis involves students reading from a textbook and writing an analysis paper, which consists of a summary of the present situation, root problem(s), presenting alternatives, evaluating strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and creating strategy recommendation(s). The idea of having students study case analysis in an alternative format was considered. A small, locally owned, upscale restaurant was chosen as the subject of a new case to be studied in a Master of Business Administration (MBA) marketing strategy course. Rather than having it presented in a written format, electronic storytelling was selected as the means for presenting the case. Approximately 250 students completed the case in an online course over a one-year period. The students completed an online survey after submitting case analysis papers. Survey data revealed that 92 per cent of the population thought storytelling was interesting, 78 per cent indicated that it improved their learning experience, and 79 per cent indicated that they would like more storytelling cases in the MBA strategy course.
    Keywords: case analysis; storytelling case; MBA curriculum; marketing case

  • Research paper
    Teachers’ digital competences as a key factor for the digital transformation of education
    Sandra Kučina Softić, Assistant Director, University of Zagreb University Computing Centre (SRCE)

    Many factors influence teachers’ attitude toward using information and communications technology (ICT) and e-learning and their implantation in the educational process. Teachers are reluctant to embrace new things if they are not acquainted with them or do not have complete information. Those who have some knowledge and experience in the application of ICT and e-learning are more open to their integration. The COVID-19 pandemic was unexpected, and no one was prepared for it, especially those teachers who did not use ICT and e-learning. In a short period of time teachers had to embrace digital technologies in order to ensure continuation of educational processes. In surveys carried out during the pandemic, teachers find that their digital competences have increased based largely on the use of ICT and e-learning technologies. Two years after the start of the pandemic, surveys are showing that teachers have good knowledge of e-learning applications in the educational process, but they need professional development in the use of ICT and e-learning more than in digital pedagogies. Yet, their use of ICT and e-learning technologies during the pandemic is predominantly in videoconferencing tools to ensure the continuation of live lectures, and in the use of learning management systems (LMS) for dissemination of information about the course, learning materials and communication. Research results indicate that there are no significant changes in the use of LMS since before the pandemic. Experience gained during the pandemic is not in online education, but mostly in emergency remote teaching whereby teachers used basic technologies in order to ensure the continuation of educational processes. It can be concluded that lack of digital competence influences teachers’ readiness for use of digital technologies and their perception of the possibilities and benefits digital technologies can bring to education. It can also explain why teachers are going back to classroom teaching or an online/classroom hybrid as an addition to teaching and learning. Teachers’ digital confluence can significantly influence the process of digital transformation of education, as competent teachers will be able to provide high-quality education. It has become evident that digital technologies are unavoidable in the educational process and their implementation is important for enhancing its quality. Accordingly, teachers’ continuing professional development must become an integral part of their career, not just an opportunity for those who are interested.
    Keywords: teachers’ digital competences; higher education; digital transformation; ICT; e-learning; continuous professional development; digital transformation

  • Case study
    Lessons learnt: Digital transformation of processes led to a rethinking of how certificates of completion are issued
    Helen Williamsdóttir Gray, Development Manager and Sigurður Fjalar Jónsson, Marketing Manager, IÐAN fræðslusetur

    Digital transformation of processes and services is affecting business and everyday life. This paper describes a small training centre in Iceland that has in recent years been involved in this transformation following discussions and actions in connection with Industry 4.0. As a result of the urgency for digital transformation of services due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, a disruption in services emerged. Collecting information about the digital transformation of educational services led to new knowledge on the phenomenon of issuing credentials/certificates for learners. Issues of security and accessibility as well as potential ways for learners to share verifiable credentials resulted in the investigation, creation, testing and issuing of digital credentials to learners upon the completion of courses at IDAN Education Centre. This journey has highlighted the potential of digital credentials, but at the same time revealed weaknesses that have compelled the authors to face up to challenges, address problems and act. The human factor has been, and continues to be, the most challenging factor in issuing digital credentials. Our organisation stalled in their implementation due to lack of resources, clarity and commitment. Looking ahead, management still believes that digital credentials are of immense value for learners, companies and educators. IDAN is regrouping and reorganising for the next phase of digital transformation of services.
    Keywords: digital transformation; digital credentials; culture; security and the human factor