MOOC’s as an Alternative/Augmentation to Higher Education

The MOOC, which means “Massively Open Online Course,” is a method of delivering content to students on an open platform, providing learning opportunities virtually free to anyone who enrolls throughout the world.  MOOC’s enable students to self-direct their learning.   Higher education professionals may use MOOC’s to teach as a augmentation to existing content provided in an LMS.  However, the effectiveness of learning and the pedagogies used when a MOOC is involved may require further research.  Some examples of MOOC’s include Coursera, edX, Eliademy, Khan Academy,, OpenClassrooms, Stanford Online, Udacity and Udemy.  Each of these can be reached via their websites and have varying scales, audiences and licensing.

MOOC’s have been evolving from MOOC 1.0, in which a 1-to-Many relationship existed with a professor lecturing to a global audience, to 2.0 which added 1-to-1 lecture plus individual or small-group exercises, to 3.0, in which many-to-many model of massively decentralized peer-to-peer teaching to the current version, 4.0 in which there is a many-to-1 relationship where collective reflection and deep listening occurs to provide future possibilities to the learner (Scharmer, 2015).

There are many questions about how MOOC’s can be effective for learning or not.  For example, the lack the personal interaction in a college class, with a professor who can establish expectations and can directly penalize students for late, incomplete, sloppy or incorrect work.  So, simply having highly accessible content may not be enough for a student to learn.  Even though the MOOC offers vast volumes of content, it may lack the motivational aspects of structured college courses.  Perhaps smaller subgroups that access the content can be a solution for the impersonal nature of MOOC’s.  The aggregate nature and openness of MOOC’s enable interactions, discussions, and reflections from hugely diverse participants.  In addition, the multitude of participates can co-create, remix and repurpose knowledge (Mackness, 2013).

MOOC’s involve a community of learners who learn in a myriad of different depths and rates.  So, a social construction of epistemology may be emerging from these collective learning experiences.  Since a MOOC is a complex system with open, self-referencing and free flow of information coming from the participants, the organization of the MOOC takes on a life of it’s own, becoming self-organizing, and can change dynamically in response to participant interactions.  The MOOC environment can take on a fluid and flexible manifestation that deviates from its original purpose, exhibiting connectivist characteristics (De Waard, 2011).

Some learning styles may not translate well to utilization of educational technology tools like MOOC’s for learning.  Students may still prefer hardcopy books to the eBooks simply because of the portability, not needing to plug it in, and the tactile feel of the pages which many have been accustomed to as they were growing up.  Also, the nature of the MOOC as an impersonal animal, may require that actual educational support people be available to interact when the MOOC does not provide direct assistance in certain situations.

Since learning online requires basic e-Learning skill sets, as well as a context of knowledge to absorb and learn new and more advanced but related knowledge, support and resources should be available to assist learners.  For example, tutors may be employed to assist learners, to help address gaps, and to provide strategies for locating and accessing information.  Tutors or teaching assistants can be available to not just help students with the automated content, but also administering, organizing the information comparing and evaluating information.  In addition, in order to accomplish higher order Bloom’s Taxonomy activities, students may need assistance organizing and synthesizing information from the MOOC.  The social construction of knowledge requires the student to be intimate with the content (private interaction) to enable cognitive restructuring and to also be socially interactive with other learners, negotiating new knowledge (McPherson, 2004).

There are also socioeconomic factors for those who take advantage of a MOOC.  For example, the success rate is much higher among white collar, well-educated course takers than those in the lower strata of the socioeconomic hierarchy.  The “educational rich just get richer” because of the disparity between those with a lot of education early in their lives gives them an advantage when using technology for educational purposes.  The educational rich, when buying into technology, have to spend a much lower percentage of their income on technology.  So, in order for a disadvantaged socioeconomic individual to gain access to technology, they may have to use public provisions such as libraries, public school subsidized computing resources, or just utilize older technology which may not be enabled, or poorly equipped for modern technological instruments like video streaming which requires larger bandwidth over the Internet, and such things as large storage requirements (Toyama, 2015).

The bottom line is that until the socioeconomic inequities can be solved for all, that educational technology may just be a pipe dream.  Certainly, we see new modalities of delivering content through MOOC’s and other online courses involving highly collaborative environments, the use of mobile technology, which have the effect of enriching already good systems which hold content for delivery.  However, without educators behind the scene providing the personal factor that students get in face-to-face and hybrid courses, which are key motivators to learning, the delivery of courses through MOOC’s is no better than antiquated correspondence courses from years ago.


De Waard, I., Abajian, S., Gallagher, M. S., Hogue, R., Keskin, N., Koutropoulos, A., & Rodriguez, O. C. (2011). Using mLearning and MOOCs to understand chaos, emergence, and complexity in education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning12(7), 94-115.

Mackness, J., Waite, M., Roberts, G., & Lovegrove, E. (2013). Learning in a small, task–oriented, connectivist MOOC: Pedagogical issues and implications for higher education. The international review of research in open and distributed learning14(4).

McPherson, M., & Nunes, M. B. (2004). The role of tutors as a integral part of online learning support. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-learning7(1).

Scharmer, Otto. “MOOC 4.0: The Next Revolution in Learning & Leadership.” The Huffington Post., 04 May 2015.

Toyama, K. (2015, May 15). Why Technology Will Never Fix Education. Retrieved March 24, 2017, from



Big Data and Analytics for Education

Large data sets are generated from educational settings, for such purposes as assessment, evaluation, accreditation, regulation, etc.  How should they be analyzed?  Is data-driven analysis the way to go?  We can use traditional database queries to extract subsets of data, but a more powerful tool is emerging to address the myriad of data, and to help analyze it in ways we haven’t been able to before.

Besides the data that gets generated from classrooms, teachers, schools, students, administrators, governments, bureaucrats and the general public, collectively the stakeholders in education, we also can find that machine data is being generated in the form of # of hits to websites, frequency of logins, downloads, search criteria, messaging interactions, social media likes, various feeds from Twitter and other social media, use of electronic devices generating location information, etc.

The challenge is how do we get a big picture of the situations we want to learn about to make decisions when there are numerous forms of data.  We may choose one data set and find it was not the most appropriate for our analysis.  Being able to integrate multiple sources of data to generate valuable information is what we need.

Enter Big Data and Analytics.  With various tools that are available for businesses to analyze their customers, competitors, products, sales and other market conditions, educators can also find valuable information to help answer the pressing questions they face about student learning, effectiveness of pedagogies and instruction, where money is best spent to achieve the greatest return, how populations can be better served through public or private education, etc.  We also see Analytics being used in sports to find the best scenarios and resources to achieve winning results (see the book/movie Moneyball, for example).  Once data is collected, stored, and made available through software tools, it can be mined to find answers to these important questions.


Ed Tech Review #2: ChromeBooks and Cloud-Based Computing

The Internet, Web 2.0 and many Cloud-based are public resources that educators can leverage for the multitude of technical, social and educational communities that are represented.  The essence of accessing the Internet, is the browser.  There are many browsers available which run on various hardware devices such as PC’s (laptops and desktops), Mac’s, tablets and smartphones.  I will focus on a browser based laptop model called the Chromebook, which runs an operating system called Chrome OS rather than Windows or OSX.  ChromeOS is a derivative of the Linux operating system.  Chromebooks usually have lesser capabilities than current laptops because they are not designed to run large applications locally with the CPU (processor) on the Chromebook.  The technology that Chromebooks take advantage of is the client-server model of program execution.

There are many advantages which the Chromebook can provide for all levels of education.  They efficiently take advantage of the resources available on the Internet by relying on remote processing on servers that are already in place for a multitude of applications that are “Cloud-Based.”  They are cost-effective for the educational environments that are often cash-strapped, and laden with expenses for personnel and facilities.  Since the ChromeOS is free, provided by Google, the cost factor is lowered, and the hardware itself is designed to be optimized for Internet, server-based applications.  The ChromeOS is a highly secure operating system, which offers an advantage to educational institutions, reducing computer security expenditures on such things as virus protection.  They also offer the IT departments in schools many advantages:  “The devices are stateless, so any updates needed come from the cloud. It takes all that stress and time away from the IT staff” (Parallels, 2017).

Some disadvantages exist, for example, in that ChromeBooks rely on constant Internet connectivity.  However, traditional desktops and laptops also rely heavily on Internet connectivity.  There are workarounds for loss of Internet connectivity on local area networks, in that alternative connections can be made via cell networks, WiFi and other network technologies.

ChromeBooks provide an important infrastructure component for educational environments, the client-computer, enabling accessibility to the Internet by students and teachers (O’Donnell & Perry, 2013).  The connectedness that they provide lays the groundwork to support all of the ISTE standards for students by enabling far-reaching access to applications and data for creative use.  The ChromeBooks adopted by educational organizations can increase communication and collaboration through connectivity, enable research and information fluency through access of online libraries and databases.

Teachers and Educational institutions can benefit greatly from ChromeBooks since the costs are low and they are easy to use.  According to PCM-G:  “Teachers love the (Chromebooks) ease of use, quick response time, and less technical difficulty than Windows” (Parallels, 2017).

There are an amazing number of applications that teachers can take advantage of, and that align with ISTE standards.

  • “Assessments Using achievement data to improve learning
  • Chrome Web Apps to Do more with the web
  • Flipping the Classroom to reinforce Teacher as a facilitator
  • Google Drive to Create and Collaborate
  • Google+ to Share and Connect
  • Open Educational Resources Beyond Textbooks”

(from Google in Education)

ChromeBooks also reinforce the need for improved distance learning models (i.e. ODL, or Open Distance Learning) and solutions by providing an open, secure platform for equipping K-12 and higher education students with cost-effective computers to access the Internet.  They also support Self-Regulated Learning (SRL) which is a strong predictor of academic achievement (Kirmizi 2015).

Being able to equip students with a standardized, accessible, open system for utilizing the Internet also supports Self-Regulated Learning, providing self-efficacy, and empowering students to acquire knowledge through community, then interact, organize, and reflect on their formed knowledge (Bandura 2001).  Also, the current generation of student need not be partial to a particular operating system or computer configuration, but simply need access to the applications and information on the Internet in an open way, preferring the things that matter most such as immediate social community engagement, interactivity, digital literacies, connectivity, experiential learning, and teamwork (Oblinger, D., & Oblinger, 2005).

The ChromeBook technology is continually refined through advancements in hardware technology and improvements to the ChromeOS.  Since ChromeOS is a Linux-based operating system, it takes advantage of the Open Source Community, which brings together software developers from around the world to contribute their skills to producing software which is the best it can be.  To understand the power of Open Source software, you simply can look on to realize the magnitude of the work that the community of developers have forged.  A sound technology like the ChromeBook/ChromeOS can feed upon itself in that allows for many to be reached with technology because of its low cost and efficiency, and in turn, can produce new programmers who have learnt their craft using the cloud based information and development tools that can be accessed.  The critical mass, collective activity and aggregate effort makes for a superb quality product.  (Granovetter, 1978).


Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual review of psychology, 52(1), 1-26.

Chromebooks Are The Next Best Thin Client For Businesses. (2017, January 31). Retrieved February 19, 2017, from

Distance Learning – ITDL-all issues. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2017, from

Educational Technology and Mobile Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2017, from

ESchool News. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2017, from

Granovetter, M. (1978). Threshold models of collective behavior. American journal of sociology83(6), 1420-1443.

ISTE – International Society for Technology in Education – Home. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2017, from

Judicial Affairs. (n.d.). Retrieved February 18, 2017, from

Kirmizi, Ö. (2015). The Influence of Learner Readiness on Student Satisfaction and Academic Achievement in an Online Program at Higher Education. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology-TOJET, 14(1), 133-142.

Oblinger, D., & Oblinger, J. (2005). Is it age or IT: First steps toward understanding the net generation. Educating the net generation, 2(1-2), 20.

O’Donnell, B., & Perry, R. (2013). Quantifying the Economic Value of Chromebooks for K–12 Education.


Tools for Coding in the Classroom:  Integrating Computer Programming into K-12 Curriculum to Prepare Students for Jobs or Entry into Higher Education

In today’s learning environments, students need to employ their new literacies, including digital literacies which enable them to utilize the Internet and other networked systems to search, utilize, integrate, analyze, share and communicate their understanding and knowledge.  They can use multiple hardware devices such as laptops, tablets, smartphones, and the software which is available in the form of applications/apps.  In addition, utilizing emerging electronic I/O devices such as game controllers, 3D printers, VR/AR devices and others.  However, I want to focus on the software aspect of new and digital literacies.  Particularly, not just the software applications that students learn the bring the abstractions of hardware to the high level of human interfaces, but the software development systems that drive creation of new things or intelligences of new things such as robots or other programmable hardware.  There is a myriad of programming language and educational technology options for educators to explore for use for self-directed student learning in the classroom (Akerlind, 1999).

Educational technology, ultimately, is not just for teachers, but to serve the entire educational experience which equally involves students.  So, tools for teachers to communicate, organize, and create lessons, post, and share their grades are fantastic to further the teaching practice, but technology tools which students use are the essential things that drive learning and create knowledge in them.

Software drives many of the innovations we see in education today, whether it is a website written in HTML and JavaScript, an application running on an iPhone written in Swift, or a robot being controlled by an Arduino device with software written in C or C++.  The apps that we have available in a smartphone and on the marketplaces enable us to replace at least a wheelbarrow full of things with a single smartphone (consider how much room it would take to store a camera, camcorder, compass, calculator, ruler, video game console, remote control, flash drive, book, world atlas, GPS, MP3 Player, flashlight, radio, clock, newspaper, magazine, TV, check-book, and multiples of many of these things in the form of several instances such as magazines, etc.  Also, it serves a phone!   This is all done with software, so doesn’t it stand to reason that software matters, and being able to code is essential.  The few experts in software development also make much higher salaries than most other college graduates.  Coding, specifically, may not be an official digital literacy, but it can enable many of the digital literacies such as constructors in OOP.  Software is capable of modeling the real world (Grover, 2013).

The power of learning coding for students lies in the fact that it involves experiential and project based learning.  The hands-on instruction that students receive in coursework that involves coding enables them to construct, leading to high levels of intrinsic value, and feelings of accomplishment which has been expressed in flow theory which states that spontaneous flow experience can occur when people employ creativity from their history of gaining technical knowledge, and begin to change state of things.  This spontaneous transformation gives intrinsic satisfaction, enhancing the inner state of person, leading to success, ethical/socially responsibility, and happiness in their lives and workplaces (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).

When a student prototypes a new device with a 3D printer, codes the behaviors of a robot (whether virtual in a game, or real rolling around on the floor), programs the control of some invented device with a Raspberry PI, or simply creates a Fahrenheit to Celsius conversion program in Python, the student is experiencing a creation, which leads to high levels of satisfaction.  This moves us into the realm of “constructionism,” a word to describe the creating of artifacts that can be shared with others (Papert 1991).

I learned the computer programming languages COBOL and BASIC at Kennedy High School in the Chicago Public Schools, back in 1983.  So, it is not new to learn programming as a general education course in K-12.  I didn’t earn a degree in Computer Science while in High School, but it did spark the interest that I fulfilled when I went to college.  Learning coding is not wasted on young students.  Similarly, and more amplified, is the urgent for today’s K-12 students to be exposed to programming.  Whether they end up in pure sciences, education, engineering, or many of non-STEM (also, by adding Art to STEM, we can utilize the term STEAM) degree programs available, the ability to create a series of codified steps, with logic and control structures, to accomplish a task is essential for problem solving.  Many games have scripting languages that are accessible to the non-programmer gamer.  Engineers have programmable calculators.  Business people use Excel macros to automate processes to save time and accomplish a series of steps in an instant.  CAD (Computer Aided Design) users need to learn scripting, for example, Auto Lisp in AutoCAD to automate various renderings and accomplish multiple tasks quickly.  Auto mechanics refer to programming the “brain box,” or ECU (Electronic Control Unit) or ECM (Engine Control Module).  These devices and the machines used for diagnosis are programmable.  In home construction, the devices in a smart home need to be programmed.  And, the future of IoT (Internet of Things) will require that we all know how to program virtually any electronic device found in our homes and work (Gubbi, 2013).


Åkerlind, G. S., & Trevitt, A. C. (1999). Enhancing self‐directed learning through educational technology: When students resist the change. Innovations in Education and Training International36(2), 96-105.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New Yprk: Harper Collins.

Grover, S., & Pea, R. (2013). Computational Thinking in K–12 A Review of the State of the Field. Educational Researcher42(1), 38-43.

Gubbi, J., Buyya, R., Marusic, S., & Palaniswami, M. (2013). Internet of Things (IoT): A vision, architectural elements, and future directions. Future generation computer systems29(7), 1645-1660.

Papert, S., & Harel, I. (1991). Situating constructionism. Constructionism36(2), 1-11.


Using Unity 3D Software for Developing Games and AR/VR Educational Content

  • Animations, Simulations and Games in Education

    Educational technologies are not clearly defined and their scope and capabilities are always expanding and emerging, so animation software is certainly within the purview of Ed-Tech.  Technical educators and educational designers, in order to integrate modern technologies into classes need sophisticated software tools to design, develop and implement interactive, realistic and rich content beyond just talking head recordings.  To this end, the software application called Unity (which works on Windows and Mac) and others like it, can be used by educators to design, storyboard and develop compelling 2D and 3D animation content in the form of educational animation, games and simulations.  The trend for gamification, which attempts to apply game orientation to such varied contexts as corporate education, professional development, customer service, e-learning, advertisement, entertainment/edutainment, is still in rather primitive stages because of the gap in the realism that it can provide.  However, unified tools like Unity3D enable educational designers to take advantage of its myriad capabilities to enhance teaching and increase student engagement and tap more fully into the learning contexts of millennials.  It can lend itself to future applications in education, including VR.  Using simulations and virtual environments for educational situations can help teach in scenarios which may be dangerous, inaccessible, and prohibitively expensive.  Tools like Unity3D can also, for example, provide an avenue to implement AR and VR functionality to educational games for disabled students.

    Despite being mainly a game and simulation designer tool, Unity3D can empower educators who prefer to think outside the box to learn new digital literacies, especially for STEM education.  For example, the game Martha Madison, which was developed using Unity3D, and is aligned with Common Core standers, engages girls in STEM learning and careers using the RPG (Role Playing Game) gaming model.  Unity3D enables the deployment to many different devices, including mobile, websites, game consoles and PC’s.  As a tool to build customized course content, it has a learning curve, and may not be for all educators, but those that want to extend the stick-figure and whiteboard mentality for teaching can use these newer technologies.  (Häfner, P., Häfner, V., & Ovtcharova, J. 2013).  Educators need to take it upon themselves to develop content.  In today’s educational environments, there is usually not “them” or “they” to do it, so it must be “us” or “me” to do it.  Who better to create gamified educational content than the teachers themselves?

    In order to see how emerging software tools like Unity3D can be used in the mainstream for educational applications, we just need look to the recent past where evolutions of manual educational tools such as blackboards and erasers, videotaped content, and flipbook-type animation (ala Disney), which were used to model movement and situational content, to software tools and usages such as the transition from individual cobbled-together suites of software applications such as WordPerfect/Lotus 1-2-3/dBase in the 1980/90’s to a fully integrated application suites like Microsoft Office, and further into open source with a community based open source version such as Apache Open Office.  Just as educators can now learn to use sophisticated productivity applications like Word and PowerPoint, albeit at varying levels according to their needs.  However, educators teaching in technological curricular areas, especially STEM, in order to remain ahead of the curve and to teach technological courses, can benefit twofold by learning and using modern software.  They can instruct students in how to use the tools, but also use the tools to develop content beyond just writing text..  For example, teachers often utilize PhotoShop, but can also use Maya, 3DS Max and Blender for animation and graphics design per their needs; tools such as iMovie, MovieMaker and Sony Vegas; audio tools such as Audacity, GarageBand; use other game engines such as Unreal, Torque3D, CryEngine, Horde3D, and GameMaker; or implement software development tools such as Eclipse and Visual Studio to learn new programming languages.  Courseware needs to be stepped up from the mundane models of the past.  To incorporate educator-authored multimedia assets such as graphics images, audio clips, video clips, and animation sequences, educators need to learn the tools and upgraded their own skills and knowledge.  The course enhancement technology tools such as Respondus, Panopto, YouTube, Zoom, and other web-based tools such as social media serve the core teacher needs, but more specialized tools are needed beyond these.

    Multimedia Software and Hardware Enables Creativity, Teach Design Strategies, and Support Project-Based Education

    Multimedia design software such as Unity3D includes a suite of components which can be utilized in different magnitudes.  For example, they provide editing and capturing tools for authors to create the basic static components or dynamic elements for animations, games and/or simulations, which can be learned and used either with or without programming by both educators and students to create the components that go into the game, and establish the storyline and gameplay.  This provides an important educational technology tool for the creative endeavors of game-based learning and gamification for teachers to integrate into their coursework.  For educational designers, this may be the universal tool or method for instructional design (Dede 2011).  Unity can also be integrated with many hardware platforms and advanced hardware devices such as Oculus Rift, Oculus Touch and other VR/AR gear, which go far beyond mouse/controller/keyboard in 2D and 2½D environments, leveling up to full 3D.

    Unity provides services such as analytics for gaining insights into player behavior, an asset download store for purchasing multimedia elements to use within the game, deployment capabilities to provide a way to distribute the finished product, collaborative tools, and certifications for users to gain credentials with certain levels of expertise in the application (Pantelidis , V. S., 2017).  Also, students can team up with instructors to form their own content, for example in project-based courses.  They can leverage concepts in software project management, and implement an agile, 360-degree learning/teaching/development cycle.  Student involvement in their own education by using more sophisticated, interactive and collaborative tools can help them convey new meaning, ideas, abstractions, visualizations that traditional tools and environments does not afford.

    Use of tools like Unity3D can also enrich student experiences by teaching them new literacies in multimedia, computer graphics, animation, interactive design, and programming.  Developing multimedia for a multitude of applications should be considered a digital literacy which current and future students will need to create just as they learned developing textual content in the past.  For example, sites like Wix enable students to develop web content without programming, enabling them to be developers, while providing students to self-direct their learning by creating compelling and engaging simulations and games in their respective curricula (Davies, R.S. 2011).

    Community-Based Access to Self-Directed Learning Resources

    As much of the future software infrastructure and eco-systems will be based in “cloud” resources, Unity has a learning website which can be used by educators and students to learn how to use the software to develop content.  It provides video and text-based tutorials, documentation and a knowledge base for reference, training in the form of live classes, and courseware to enable integration into the classroom, as well as paths to certification.  This is a web-based component of the Unity software system which enables educators to learn the technological tool so that they can create game content for their courses.  This is an essential capability when encountering new software.  Oftentimes there is not a specific course to learn new software available or accessible, so by having a web-based resource as well as instructional videos on YouTube, for example, educators can ramp up on the software and start using it either for instructional purposes, as with STEM or Computer Science educators, or for any teacher to utilize it for course design purposes.  Teachers of the future, besides being pedagogical experts, need sophisticated tools to develop educational applications.  Game-based learning can provide teachers and researchers opportunities to incorporate virtual and augmented reality into their coursework.

    As a Tool for Multidisciplinary Education, including Art, Computer Science/Engineering/STEM and General Education

    Using animation, including games and simulations for educational content is cross-disciplinary and provide activities for students in a variety of college studies including STEM, education, reading and writing, media and broadcast communications, business, and many others.  STEM students can utilize the software for designing, testing and simulating experiments with gravity and physics.  General education writing and reading students may utilize it for storytelling.  Artistically minded students and curricula can take advantage of Unity3D as a culminating tool after developing multimedia artwork in the many supportive software applications that are available.  By including a sophisticated development tool, the educator can enrich their TPACK components (Mishra & Koehler 2008) to have a rich canvas to teach with beyond the mundane tools that are typically used in the classroom.

    The Unity Game Engine can be incorporated into ISTE standards for K-12, and used for CCSS and NGSS, but may be more appropriate for higher education.  Education professionals in educational technology can take advantage of the tools offered by Unity for interactive course and lesson design and instruction.  Even though the high tech capability of developing a game can be considered a far cry from simply instructing in the classroom, having modern tools are essential for enriching the classroom whether onsite or online.  (Cuban, L. 1993)

    The notion of having educators become game developers will become more mainstream, just as we have sites such as Wix and Weebly to enable web development without programming.  Educators need to find new ways of customizing content for courses, and to engage the millennial students that they are teaching.  Through the use of Gamification and tools such as Unity3D, educators and researchers can tap into the psyche of these students and find new ways to engage them through incorporating innovative technology that aligns with the ways that today’s students receive information.  Many of the gameplay experiences that today’s learners have, contribute to their construction of knowledge which can be translated from game-player to game creator.  Constructivist approaches can be applied (Ben-Ari, M. 2001) when integrating software like Unity in STEM curricula and programs, whether in K-12, or in higher education.


    Works Cited

    • Ben-Ari, M. (2001). Constructivism in computer science education. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 20(1), 45-74.
    • Blascovich, J., & Bailenson, J. (n.d.). Immersive Virtual Environments and Education Simulations. Immersive Virtual Environments. Retrieved January 12, 2017, from
    • Cuban, L. (1993). Computers Meet Classroom: Classroom Wins. Teachers College Record, 95(2), 185–210.
    • Davies, R. S. (2011). Understanding Technology Literacy: A Framework for Evaluating Educational Technology Integration. TechTrends, 55(5), 45–52. (PDF)
    • Dede, C. (2011). Developing a research agenda for educational games and simulations. Computer games and instruction, pp. 233-250. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
    • Häfner, P., Häfner, V., & Ovtcharova, J. (2013). Teaching Methodology for Virtual Reality Practical Course in Engineering Education. Procedia Computer Science, 25, 251-260. doi:10.1016/j.procs.2013.11.031
    • HUSSEIN, M., & NÄTTERDAL, C. (2-15). The Benefits of Virtual Reality in Education. Department of Computer Science and Engineering CHALMERS UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY UNIVERSITY OF GOTHENBURG Göteborg, Sweden, June 2015.
    • Mishra & Koehler (2008) – SITE 2008 KEYNOTE ADDRESS (45 min) Original TPACK article: Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017–1054.
    • Pantelidis , V. S. (n.d.). Reasons to Use Virtual Reality in Education and Training Courses and a Model to Determine When to Use Virtual Reality . THEMES IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION Special Issue, Pages 59-70 Klidarithmos Computer Books . Retrieved January 12, 2017.
    • Unity Learn Website:
    • Unity Main Website:
    • Unity Store Website:


Making Sense of the State of AI and VR/AR Technology for Educational Purposes: How can VR be used as an Educational tool?

AI first existed as an exploratory science inside of Computer Science curriculum.  Since both VR and AI are branches of Computer Science (and Software Engineering) and also can be considered a part of Electrical Engineering.  Corresponding to the Computer Science AI evolution, we had 2D graphics and games that were flat in that 2D space, which evolved to 2 ½D (3D effect on a 2D device), and now we are seeing a full 3D space in recent years, as we also have seen AI applied heavily in game development.  We are still grappling with such issues, for example, as how the systems are implemented, whether they are first or third person.

VR needs AI, so VR is an application of AI.  It relies much on visual intelligence but as we can simulate other intelligences, we will have more compelling AI.  As in games where we utilize virtual bots and eventually will involve real robots in simulated situations.  This is where reality blurs with virtual reality.  In the 2000’s, I worked at DeVry University and taught GSP (Game and Simulation Programming) to college students, when VR was truly in it’s infancy for games.  Today, however, we see a myriad of options that are vying for market share and to become the preferred platform.

Utilizing VR for training and education is emerging at both the K-12 and at the college level.  There are many related and complimentary technologies that will go along with virtualized environments.  We are at a stage in emerging technology where Internet based software in the cloud, machine learning, big data analytics and data visualization, IoT (Internet of Things), and gamification applications are becoming accessible and educators are finding ways to incorporate these technologies into the classroom.  Each of these can leverage VR in their own way.

Virtual, Augmented or Mixed Reality?

We can now see how VR systems are replicating the multimedia and hypermedia environments that we’ve been using for 20+ years involving text and hypertext, still and moving images, audio, animation and simulation.

Sensory Issues

Only some of the multimedia elements were visual, but VR systems today rely heavily on the vision sense in humans to create that reality.  What is different about VR with audio than simply stereo or surround sound.  When the VR is coupled with other physical and sensory aspects other than sight and sound, such as movement, olfactory senses and touch, can we really replicate reality.

EDU800 Week 14 Annotation

Dede, C. (2011). Developing a research agenda for educational games and simulations. Computer games and instruction, pp. 233-250. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

In his article, Developing a Research Agenda for Educational Games and Simulations, Dede makes 5 fundamental assumptions about developing a research agenda for educational games and simulations. His first assumption is that the research agenda should involve generation of usable knowledge when studying learning within games and simulations, in which many stakeholders collaboratively develop and create knowledge in a community orientation. These stakeholders include those who do the research, practice the material being studied and establish policy. The stakeholders would also include specialized theorists such as constructivists, behaviorists and cognitivists. Since games and simulations which are examined in educational research are varied in complexity, design, and applicability, it is better that many eyeballs are looking at the same things and brainstorming to find the usefulness, usability, and usage which can be applied to generating new knowledge in the research study. He discusses that instead of the usual focused independent study based upon intellectual curiosity when examining existing games and simulations, as well as analyzing the independent findings from scholars, that first a problem needs to be defined in educational science. Then as the stakeholders study simulations and games in that problem context, they can better find solutions and create usable knowledge, from a practical standpoint, to apply to the subject being studied. His second assumption about studying games and simulations involves collective research, as contrasted with rogue studies which come to conclusions in a somewhat isolated manner. In order to find solutions that attack the problem from as many angles as possible, the researchers must deliberatively and continually collaborate and combine, creating portfolio knowledge that is distributed among many sub-contexts and perspectives on the larger problem. This gives the research study substance and depth because of the synergies and catalysts that come from collaborative focus. Thirdly, he assumes that game and simulation studies should focus on what works, when, for whom. Since there is no be-all and end-all solution for learning in educational games and simulations, each individual experiencing the game or simulation has potentially different sets of take-aways. So, by individualized the study and applying the usability and efficacy of an instance of a game/simulation to each learner, a deeper understanding of what works for each person, can be determined. If multiple games and/or simulations are included, each one may resonate differently with the people using them. He likens how the variant ways that people do such mundane things as sleep and eat, and more complex things such as bonding with others, can be applied to the ways that people perform other activities, especially when in an environment that tries to approximate the real world. The real-world affects the situated virtual world, so applying real-world knowledge is necessarily applicable to simulated worlds. To measure the learning efficacy of a given game or simulation, the researchers must personalize the experience and take into account the complexities and preferences of the learner. The fourth and fifth assumptions Dede states is the treatment effects considered when developing agendas for studying games and simulations. The treatment effects he is concerned about is how the different ways that studies are conducted will affect whether the knowledge generated can be applied in a general way to other research. Depending upon how the study is designed, implemented, and analyzed, it may not be as valuable and worthwhile as a different approach. So, by normalizing and standardizing the approach to study games and simulations, there is less room for going down the wrong path and wasting time and money. Some studies may just be superficial if designed the wrong way. He states the risks of studies simply being summative studies and not having the depth of a well-run research study. Small flaws in the study design and implementation could have large effects on the results. Lastly, Dede examines the scalability, demonstrating it through a five dimensional framework from River City multi-user virtual environment for middle school science. To scale a study, it must have depth of effectiveness, sustainability in design, spreadability in an economic way, shifting to be generalized and applied, and evolvability as new information is learned.

By making his five assumptions about forming agendas for studying the educational technology of games and simulation, Dede, in one fell swoop, both focuses on how to properly study this mode of learning, while expanding the understanding that simulations should be treated with a myriad of objectives in mind. Since learning from different technological enhanced media and modalities is not fully understood, a framework needs to be developed for each one. In the case of games and simulations, having the guidelines/assumptions which Dede proposes, gives researchers a sound and sane way to approach studying something that tries to replicate the real or exaggerated world through computer generated images, sounds and scenarios.

The paper which Dede integrates the five assumptions can be applied to researching any educational technology. By attacking one of the more complex types, games and simulations, he sets the standard for studying other types, that may simply involve components of simulations such as animation, hypertext, audio, video, etc. He gives a usable framework by focusing on the five assumptions and giving future researchers a manageable way to start studying simulations. Since computer simulations and games are emergent and complex learning tools, researchers need a way to tackle their complexity through a divide-and-conquer approach. Dede segregates the approach to study how learning science can benefit from games and simulations, treating them more as a problem to be managed before being solved.

Critical Review of Research #2: Using Peer Feedback to Enhance the Quality of Student Online Postings: An Exploratory Study

EDU800: Critical Review of Research #2
Written By Daniel Grigoletti

Article: Ertmer, P. A., Richardson, J. C., Belland, B., Camin, D., Connolly, P., Coulthard, G., . . . Mong, C. (2007). Using Peer Feedback to Enhance the Quality of Student Online Postings: An Exploratory Study. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(2), 412-433. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00331.x


1. Identify the clarity with which this article states a specific problem to be explored.

The Ertmer article clearly defined the problem involving how using peer feedback as an instructional strategy may lead to better quality postings. The researchers in the study examined how instructor facilitated feedback is valuable to enable rich learning environments. As stated in the literature they referenced, peer feedback in college courses, specifically in online discussions, could have an equal impact on student learning. The study sought to find how students perceived giving and receiving peer feedback. The researches posited that good discussion feedback in online coursework is essential to close the learning loop, and since feedback is costly to instructors in terms of logistical burden and workload, that peer feedback could go a long way to alleviate significant amount of time and effort spent, while enabling students to improve socio-cognitive engagement. The authors sought to determine how peer feedback can provide cognitive improvement to students. By replacing the instructor in a limited way, peer feedback could provide manifold value to the recipient, the deliverer of peer feedback and the instructor. It does this by providing unique enhancements to the normal feedback process. They concluded that timely and high quality peer feedback has many benefits, but was not as important as when the instructor provided the same type of feedback. There were, however, many other social benefits to the students participating in the study. They had more opportunities to collaborate and w ere able to build intra-classroom relationships, and share knowledge and opinion. However, some students were concerned that because the actual instructor was not providing feedback, that they were not getting the most value from the feedback.

2. Comment on the need for this study and its educational significance as it relates to this problem.

Studying feedback in educational environment is a useful endeavor because it seeks to understand the cognitive benefit to students having their work analyzed, reviewed and rated, and getting the results presented back to them for reflection. Feedback in online discussions extend and amplify the ramifications of feedback by showing how one of the emerging and powerful course delivery mechanisms, the online course, can be integrated with virtual and asynchronous interaction from faculty and fellow students. Further, this study combines the need to study feedback, including the use of feedback in online environments, and specifically the use of peer feedback in online environments. Since online course pursuits require unprecedented self-direction and independent learning without the face-to-face account of the instructor, the role of fellow students can prove to be a way to extend learning in a powerful and economical fashion. Since a typical class of 30 can have interactions within the hour or two for any given week in an onsite class, a hybrid modality or fully online course can enable 24×7 interaction through using an LMS, giving students the ability exchange ideas and having them share the responsibility for learning. This will extend content exploration, provide knowledge creation, and present unbounded reflective opportunities to learn. As a natural progression and complement to onsite models, emerging online delivery methods and courses need to meet with the challenges that students have absorbing extreme volumes of information in our technological world, which needs to be disseminated and learned. The improved and increased interactions between and among students in online environments can be a powerful way to build courses for learning new technological content. Utilization of new literacies such as information literacy is important especially for the digital natives or millennials who comprise much of the student body within today’s colleges. Also, since the typical instructor is logistically limited in giving high quality personalized attention to every student, peer-based learning can go a long way to alleviate the logistical challenges that educators face when teaching online.

3. Comment on whether the problem is “researchable?” That is, can it be investigated through the collection and analysis of data?

The problem of investigating the effects on learning of peer feedback in online discussions is very researchable, given the extensive availability of online course instances which deliver essentially the same set of courses that are available onsite. Since online threaded discussions are asynchronous and automatically “recorded,” the data representing the discussion events can be readily collected and examined. The networked electronic communication tools that are employed in online courses include emails, discussions, blogs, threads, wikis and synchronous chats. Therefore, the opportunities to collect qualitative data from any given LMS are plentiful. In addition, the computerized aspects of cloud-based tools, large storage capacities and the ability to access the data for assessment and analyzation enables examination of both qualitative information and quantitative data such as frequency of postings. In this study, the researchers proved that they could also examine the qualitative data using software that examines and analyzes it using various data collection techniques. Armed with technological tools, learning management systems, persistent data collection, and external software, they were able to comprehensively attack the problem, and establish a baseline for future research into online feedback, whether it is peer based or instructor based. Further, future research into feedback in online courses can be done on the other aspects of online courses that were not included in this study.
Theoretical Perspective and Literature Review

4. Critique the author’s conceptual framework.

The authors used a case study framework to investigate the learning impact of peer feedback versus instructor feedback in online courses. The environment that they examined was a graduate level course. They used a scoring rubric to examine the participant responses based on Bloom’s taxonomy to determine whether or not high-quality feedback could be sustained during the semester in several discussion questions (DQ’s). They were interested in seeing how the quality of the postings changed during the course of the semester. They wanted to see whether higher-levels of Bloom’s taxonomy could be achieved, but had to be sensitive to the way that the discussion questions were written to ensure consistency. They utilized a process to inform students of feedback, then interviewed them on the results. It involved both giving and receiving peer feedback within an online course, from pre-course to post-course. They utilized a constructivist approach and hoped to see an increase in the quality of the responses. They also wanted to gauge whether peer feedback was better or worse than instructor feedback. Since most of the previous research they referenced did not involve peer feedback for online courses, they were at a disadvantage in that they could not compare notes to similar studies. They acknowledged that additional research needed to be performed and that this study was exploratory in nature. The conceptual framework of the study was based upon a very specific type of feedback. Feedback wasn’t applied to assignments, tests, labs and other work performed in an online course, but was only provided to threaded discussions. Further, it focused on the nature of peer-to-peer feedback as opposed to traditional instructor feedback. The study was ambitious in this respect, since it sought to extend the knowledge of learning science in a relatively new medium, the online course, and with the proxy for face-to-face interaction, the discussion thread. Because of this narrow examination, it proved to be effective to ferret out the positive effects of peer feedback. The study can have the effect of furthering our understanding of the online modality and how the asynchronous interactions can help learners. There is an asymmetrical contrast to onsite course interaction/peer feedback because of the vast difference between the two environments.

5. How effectively does the author tie the study to relevant theory and prior research? Are all cited references relevant to the problem under investigation?

The authors of this study frequently cite prior research into feedback, and the importance of this in educational environments. As an exploratory study, this study adequately tied the previous research on feedback in non-online settings to the current examination of online peer feedback. For example, they cited Liu, Lin, Chiu and Yuan to reinforce the idea that peer feedback requires students to implement additional cognitive processes beyond just reading and writing, including questioning, comparing, suggesting modifications, and reflecting on how the work being rated compares to their own. The study also refers to McConnell’s about how collaboration of peer assessment allows students to be less dependent on educators, giving the student more autonomy and independence. This collaborative process gives alternatives to the students doing the ratings to develop and increase their own knowledge, learning and skills in the subject area. This meaningful interaction and discourse between evaluators and students receiving feedback, gives value to both parties in the learning process. It leverages the power of teaching as a learning strategy, by providing students opportunities to “micro teach” by evaluating and assessing peer discussion postings.

6. Does the literature review conclude with a brief summary of the literature and its implications for the problem investigated?

While the survey utilized many good resources and references to relevant literature, they did not include a comprehensive review of literature, nor did the conclusion include a summary of literature. Instead, they strategically placed literature references throughout the article. The implication of taking this approach for the problem they were investigating, is that the literature may not be comprehensively available for peer feedback in courses with online discussions. Their approach to the literature review was not conventional, but they did sufficiently include relevant studies on peer feedback in other settings. The structure of the document was more focused on stating the problem and presenting the research results. They could have included more references to draw from for this study, but it was relatively short and focused on a very specific sub-area of providing feedback, namely that which is provided in online discussion forums.

7. Evaluate the clarity and appropriateness of the research questions or hypotheses.

The review questions provided by the researchers in this study focused on the impact of peer feedback on the quality of online student postings, the quality of and increased learning be through the use of peer feedback, the perceptions of the value of receiving peer feedback vs instructor feedback, and the perceptions of the value of giving peer feedback. The RC’s were clear and appropriate to establish the study and compare/contrast feedback from peers vs. instructors in online courses. The discussion postings in an online course form an important basis for communication and learning, and the hypothesis was clearly written, resulting in analysis of the impact and quality of discussion postings. For peer feedback in online discussions to be most valuable, the researchers reiterated from previous research on feedback in general, specifically from Schwartz and White, that good feedback is prompt, timely, and thorough, provides ongoing formative and summative assessment, is constructive, supportive, and substantive, and should be specific, objective, and individual. Also, by citing Notar, Wilson, and Ross, they included the notion that feedback should be diagnostic and prescriptive, formative and iterative, and involve both peers and group assessment. Peer interaction in online courses serves to provide an important interpersonal connection and gives the students motivation to check and recheck their work since their peers are watching and assessing, and also builds a sense of community and trust. The real learning is adjusting one’s perspective to view how others respond to the question, then responding to the response. This discourse leads to deep learning since it drills down to new territory of the topic. Peer feedback also has the effect of offloading some of the workload from the instructor, by transferring the task of reviewing content to students. The article emphasized how providing feedback is one of the most time-consuming elements of teaching online, so sharing the responsibility of providing feedback with students has a twofold benefit: 1) reduction of workload for teachers, and more importantly, 2) giving students opportunities to synthesize information at a high level, emulating the teacher role. When a student gives peer assessments, it opens up dialogue, the recipient is given insight into their own learning. Online courses rely on quality design and interaction to be rich and valuable, but it cannot all be planned, so the discussion thread provides a dynamic aspect to the course. Therefore, feedback in all forms is essential to make the course compelling, keep students engaged, accelerating and amplifying learning. Students are used to getting feedback from instructors, but when getting it from peers, then it layers the learning by having a non-expert examine responses, allowing the sharing of ideas and diverse perspectives, and leading to a more collaborative learning environment rather than a patriarchal model.

Research Design and Analysis

8. Critique the appropriateness and adequacy of the study’s design in relation to the research questions or hypotheses.

The design of the study utilized a sound researching approach to learning about peer feedback in online discussions by providing multiple raters to evaluate the perceptions and effects that peer feedback delivered to participants. The hypothesis tested how peer feedback compared to instructor feedback in quality and whether or not it benefited the learning outcomes. The study provided a great variety of resulting data to help judge the effectiveness of the feedback, however, it acknowledged that there are logistical problems with providing feedback and collecting information to assess its effectiveness, including both quantitative results and qualitative analysis of the responses via interviews, providing valuable insight to the researches. Data were collected through a variety of research techniques such as multiple and standardized pre-and-post interview protocols in which students were asked several research questions addressing discussion postings and assessed the quality of interaction, and provided data on the perceptions from both students and researchers on the value of giving and receiving peer feedback. The study applied learning theory, including Bloom’s Taxonomy to help determine the depth of learning as a result of peer feedback, which appropriately addressed how deep the learning occurred with respect to higher order learning such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

9. Critique the adequacy of the study’s sampling methods (e.g., choice of participants) and their implications for generalizability.

The study involved a number of discussion questions to measure the peer feedback process, contrasting it with instructor feedback, and using a paired sample t-test. However, due to a small sample size, the quantitative results only provided a limited insight into the effectiveness of peer feedback to learning. They were able to assess the relevance and impact that student feedback had, but cross-referencing to teacher-only feedback in online courses was not present, and the qualitative assessment of the student-to-student peer feedback was not present. The specific sampling in the study was adequate to generate knowledge about the short-term perceptions of how peer feedback can be used as a alternative (but not a substitute) for instructor feedback, but it was lacking information about how peer feedback can affect the learning outcomes for online students.

10. Critique the adequacy of the study’s procedures and materials (e.g., interventions, interview protocols, data collection procedures).

The researchers utilized various data collection instruments such as entry and exit survey questionnaires, scored ratings of weekly discussion question postings, interviews and surveys for data collection. They applied rubrics, and standardized the interview protocol which added reliability, and analyzed data both from primary groups and subgroup. The consistency of the data sets, variety of data collection procedures gave them the ability to rate the effects and impacts on student learning while giving and receiving peer feedback, and concluded, from the interviews, that the students had a positive perception of the value of peer feedback. They also performed “triangulation” between the interview data with the ratings of the peer feedback. This provided integration between measurements of both quantitative and qualitative data collection, which had the effect of amplifying the assessment of the quality. They were able to recognize patterns in the interview data through using software for quantitative analyzation, called NUD*IST. They paid attention to validity, accuracy, and completeness of the data, looked for discrepancies, and used check-coding to check inter-rater reliability while studying the peer feedback.

11. Critique the appropriateness and quality (e.g., reliability, validity) of the measures used.

Various data collection techniques were used in the study. Qualitative data collection was conducted at intervals of weeks 3-5, and weeks 7-13, and included standardized interviews to establish reliability. The interviews were conducted via phone and in-person (for a duration of 20-30 minutes), and were then recorded and transcribed to ensure accuracy and completeness. The interviews provided insights into the participant perceptions about giving peer feedback and on various aspects of feedback including quality, timeliness, and quantity. They also collected specific feedback from students on the feedback process itself, and measured their understanding applying Bloom’s taxonomy. The researchers utilized tabular data to aggregate the sampled question responses.
Quantitative data collection included entry and exit survey questionnaires, in which they used the results to measure overall perceptions of students giving and receiving peer feedback. Providing scores/ratings on discussion postings during the semester, correlated with the research questions using the same rubric that students had used. They collected data from the peer ratings discussion postings, provided by various peers, and applied rubrics, to ensure that the measurement of posting quality was consistent. However, the data provided was sporadic from student peer feedback because they were not required to score every peer posting so the data set was incomplete. During the data collection process, the raters compared results, and examined discrepancies and collaborated on the results. They also did make sure that timing was not a factor in scoring by removing posting dates, and times were removed from these documents. With regard to sampling reliability, the raters scored randomly selected discussion question. The raters provided specific examples of student responses in the qualitative data collection, for example, measuring student feelings about Internet filtering, and enabled the students to give elaborations on their responses.

12. Critique the adequacy of the study’s data analyses. For example: Have important statistical assumptions been met? Are the analyses appropriate for the study’s design? Are the analyses appropriate for the data collected?

During the analysis of the comprehensive and adequate data they collected, the researchers in this study, the researchers utilized various statistical methods for measuring and studying the quantitative data. They compared their results to the assumptions stated in the research questions, and the results they anticipated in their hypotheses. They employed methodologies to analyze both the quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative data analysis included tallying results of pre-surveys in which the researchers gave the students opportunities to answer not only objective questions, but also open-ended questions in order to assess student perceptions. They used a 5 level rating scale to measure agreement/disagreement, which they then analyzed using statistical means and other measurement instruments. They also conducted a post-survey in week 16, in which students rated the importance of peer and instructor feedback and commented on the value of both giving and receiving peer feedback, but they noted that not all of the pre-surveys (12/15) were returned. They also performed a final survey to verify interview data collection. During analysis, to alleviate validity concerns, after completion of the data collection they triangulated interview question data with survey results. They compared average scores using a paired sample t-test to compare the ratings obtained on postings from both peer and instructor feedback prior to the use of peer feedback. Reliability of the data was ensured by using multiple interviewers, multiple evaluators to reduce bias. They also used check coding to ensure inter-rater reliability. They utilized measurements of quantitative data, providing mean ratings regarding timeliness, quality, and perceptions of importance of feedback.

Interpretation and Implications of Results

13. Critique the author’s discussion of the methodological and/or conceptual
limitations of the results.

Feedback, to be effective, should be of high quality and timely and since students in online courses do not experience the physical interaction in onsite classes. The learners may struggle to feel social connections to classmates in the virtual environments. Students can both give and receive peer feedback which goes a long way to personalize interactions since students must use critical thinking to analyze other works, then absorb and process criticism from the other students. By prescribing an expected response, whereas the latter opens up common experience dialogical interaction. The student-to-student interaction is more socially oriented and involved co-construction of knowledge. This provides more of a group oriented factor to threaded discussions, which are decidedly asynchronous communicative instruments. However, by adding a peer-collaborative factor, it adds another valuable dimension to the activity and may help with cognitive processing of the content. Peer feedback can have drawbacks in that students may become anxious about giving and receiving feedback, concerned about the reliability of the feedback. In addition, students may not be prepared or be comfortable to take on the role of evaluator.

14. How consistent and comprehensive are the author’s conclusions with the reported results?

The researchers in this study drew from many relevant theorists with regard to the effectiveness of feedback. However, many of the studies were pertinent to face-to-face rather than online learning environments. The researchers in this study concluded that student-to-student feedback can be used effectively in place of instructor feedback. The important factors which they stated and tested repeatedly were the timeliness, consistency, and quality, but not necessarily the quantity of the feedback responses. The integrative data collection using interviews as well as direct observation of feedback responses provided a deeper understanding of the motivations of the students and how they internalized the learning opportunities into cognitive growth. The pre-and-post interview experience gave the students to reflect on the process, and the researchers cross-referenced and corroborated the interview comments to determine the perceptions that students had regarding the effectiveness of the feedback process. This reflection appeared to have a positive effect on the learning effectiveness. The difficulties that arose were assessing the qualitative aspects of student postings, and determining the reliability and validity of peer feedback. These results which were presented in the form of survey and interview results (including actual quotations from the respondents) coincided with the expectations by the researchers that the feedback process would add value to the course experience. However, the authors conceded that, since this was an exploratory study, they were evaluating peer feedback rather than feedback in general. Even though peer interaction enables sharing and comparing of information, they did not find there was better critical thinking and analysis as a result of peer feedback. The peer-to-peer feedback had value in that it enabled students to form basic feedback commentary, co-construct knowledge with peers. It did provide better comprehension of the content through reflection, and reinforcement of lower-levels of Blooms Taxonomy, but did not prove to result in higher level cognition, which face-to-face student interaction may be able to do better.

15. How well did the author relate the results to the study’s theoretical base?

The study was focused on online learners and a specific type of feedback, peer feedback in discussion threads. They tied this well to a number of theorists (Higgins, Hartley, and Skelton) analyses of the importance of timely, substantive, and high quality feedback in learning environments, and how feedback provides formative assessment (Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick) which contributes to improved self-regulation (Robyler) better socio-cognitive engagement with the content (Vygotsky), and more efficient learning. By studying discussion respondents in a variety of ways and using both qualitative and quantitative data collection methodologies, the researchers were striving to learn whether or not feedback from peers (students) improved upon or did not strengthen or weaken learning, the cognition of and construction of meaning through interactions with instructors. In addition, the researchers scored discussion feedback using Bloom’s taxonomy. By doing so, the examination of how peer feedback lent itself to the lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy involving recalling and comprehension, but also how the reinforcements from peers would affect application, analysis and synthesis of the knowledge being discussed. They developed a process involving question-response-feedback cycle, where they collected and delivered the feedback responses to the participants. The raters also collaborated with each other, comparing the question-response-feedback results and integrating them with interview results through triangulation. They found that higher quality learning occurred with a combination of student-to-student as well as instructor feedback, and concurred the findings from the Ko and Rossen study which stated that the learning process is improved when the student can to cross-check their understanding. They also concurred with Mory that feedback is essential to the learning process.

16. In your view, what is the significance of the study, and what are its primary implications for theory, future research, and practice?

The study provided a significant insight into how mixing the roles of student and teacher with respect to the provision of quality feedback, specifically peer-to-peer feedback, can enable students to learn and reflect on their thoughts beyond the feedback from instructors and in addition to the immediate discussion questions/topics. The implications of the study were to inform researchers how peer feedback may aid educators in facilitating course tasks, developing alternative dialogues, disseminating information, and assessing performance in online courses. The theorists cited in the article qualified the need for good feedback as a catalyst for deep learning. They concurred that prompt, timely and thorough feedback is essential to improve learning and develop skills in communication and subject matter. The researchers in this study also provided justifications for how good feedback in general leads to better retention, but in addition, that peer feedback can provide opportunities for social interaction integrated with knowledge construction and sharing. The study presented here is a good foundation for learning about the effect of peer feedback in online courses, and can lead future researchers to delve deeper into the interactions enabled through embedded functions of the LMS. This type of study is very relevant and applicable to online courses in their current state, but the online course is evolving and will include richer interactions that may benefit greatly from various forms of feedback.

EDU800 Week 13 Annotation

Robelia, B., Greenhow, C. & Burton, L. (2011): Environmental learning in online social networks: adopting environmentally responsible behaviors. Environmental Education Research, 17(4), 553-575.

In this article, Robeliaa discusses how an application within Facebook, called Hot Dish, can be integrated and used to help students learn about the environment. The study performed was an examination of using Facebook in education in order to help those with like minds communicate and share information about a subject area, specifically, environmental studies. Applications such as Hot Dish can be developed to integrate on the Facebook platform. Programmers can develop their own applications to leverage the Facebook environment, and Hot Dish is an example of this. First, they defined and discussed the SMS (Social Networking Site) and then described how Hot Dish was integrated into Facebook. The key features that Hot Dish were leveraging from Facebook is the ability to have unique profiles, share connections with others that have common interests, and be able to access and communicate with this list of connections. Hot Dish specifically was designed to share information within the Facebook SMS about pro-environmental and climactic change topics and activism. Since the SMS is a common way for young people to communicate, it can be layered upon for a more specific purpose. As an open-source application, Hot Dish has many authors and contributor, and can be extended and enhanced by a community of technical people, programmers to enrich it beyond a proprietary application. The study did a meta-analysis of studies in environmental subject matter, and showed how Facebook can be used to help learner communities to study and share information about environmental science.

However, the application Hot Dish, can work as a way to disseminate information about the environment, but a Facebook group may be adequate for most types of special interest applications. The Hot Dish enhances the community building process that Facebook facilitates. Facebook applications, as well as other social media applications, can be built to further the features and functions of the parent, or hosting SMS. The applications can be customized to focus on such things as sub-community creation, creating deep and rich learning experiences, facilitating areas to post, share and showcase specific articles on the topic, in this case, the pro-environmental movement. This particular application can prove to help those involved in environmental studies to develop and create new knowledge, be able to share through a powerful medium, particularly through social means. As a subject area such as environmental studies evolves, a software system like this can develop learners and help build skills and qualify people for careers in environmental industries, as well as enable further research and study into this area of science. The Hot Dish system can be used to model ideas and practices for those that want to further their knowledge and ability in affecting constructive improvements to environmental science. By creating rich learning environments like this, the meaningful engagement that students have with the subject matter increases.

The potential for building custom applications on top of SMS’s can be very powerful for researchers and educators to have already-established foundations for their content and learning experiences. Since Facebook is so ubiquitous and universal, it has great value to educators to use it’s already-built community basis to develop learning communities. It can be tied to many learning theories that researchers and educators are interested in such as social learning theory, free-choice learning theory, and behavior-change theory. The open-source applications on Facebook which is highlighted in the article is just one example of using the networks and infrastructure of systems that are already established to perform and provide new purposes. Other applications for subject areas of interest to learning science such as government, medicine, business, museums, hobbies, science education and others can be developed.