Last August, I announced the publication of Emerging Technologies in Distance Education, a book I edited for AU Press that was published concurrently in print (for purchase) and in e-book format (as a free download). I am very excited (and surprised) to announce that Athabasca University Press is gearing up for a re-print! First of all, thank you to all of you who bought a copy, thus providing support to AU Press to continue publishing free versions of their books online.
I am surprised because I haven’t paid any attention to the printed version of the book. I’m also surprised by how quickly this happened (3 months – this could also mean that only a small number of books was printed). Either way, my interest on the printed version stops at the printed book’s ability to finance the free dissemination of the electronic version. I am more interested on the book’s reach and impact and a snapshot of these factors is provided below:
In relation to the reach of the book, here’s what Google Alerts and some simple tracking tells me:
- Every single day since publication, the book has been mentioned at least once (on blogs, twitter, and other social media)
- The e-book was bookmarked 81 times on the del.icio.us social bookmarking site.
- A number of libraries have bought copies of the printed book.
- Five instructors have used parts of the book in their teaching
- Elizabeth Wellburn has been summarizing the book chapter-by-chapter on her blog.
As far as download statistics go, this is what AU has to provided:
- The book was downloaded 350 times in August, 329 in September, and 316 times in October.
- Individual chapter downloads were: 506 times in August, 1,263 times in September, and 861 in October.
- From August to October there has been 306 visits to the book on the Google Books site. 283 of these visits have resulted in actual pages being viewed.
- From August to October there has been a total of 3, 311 pages of the book viewed on Google Books.
One final note: The book does NOT owe its popularity to me. The book is popular because of the authors who contributed their knowledge to this project (see complete list on this pdf file), and to well-known and well-connected individuals who have mentioned/used the book in their work. These include Terry Anderson, Alec Couros, and George Siemens (this list looks suspiciously Canadian!)
I don’t know how to end this entry, but to say a big thank you.
This CFP was emailed to me the other day – My colleagues presented here last year, but I was unable to attend unfortunately. Last year’s program looked quite interesting.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has just published a special report on Online Learning. Part of this issue involved asking individuals in the field the following question: Has the Quality of Online Learning Kept Up With Its Growth? Responses printed were from Elliott Masie, Alexander McCormick, Robert Mendenhall, Janet Salmons, Carol Twigg, and myself. You need to subscribe to read some of the content. I was however, given permission to post my response publicly, so here it is:
In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the world saw the rise of a method of instruction called the monitorial or Lancasterian method. This approach involved advanced students’ assisting their less-advanced colleagues in what amounted to modern-day tutoring sessions. Was the method effective? While it eventually fell out of favor, initial reactions varied. On the one hand, the approach allowed increased access to education. On the other, it could lead to poor learning experiences.
A few hundred years later, we face a similar dilemma: Has the quality of online-education offerings kept up with growth? Is the method effective? The answer is still the same: Yes and no. Over all, learning at a distance has dramatically improved during the last 15 years. The problems facing the traditional distance-learning model (e.g., feelings of isolation on the part of learners and instructors) can now be efficiently dealt with via participatory Internet technologies. Yet examples of outstanding online learning are hard to find. While social technologies enable the adoption of student-centered pedagogies, we remain faithful to our didactic approaches.
Nevertheless, we live in exciting times. I am encouraged because I see around me a desire to innovate and question cultural norms that may have hindered technology-enhanced education.
At the same time, three dominant narratives surrounding online learning concern me. These are:
- Online learning versus face-to-face learning. The tendency to compare the two prevents us from seeing the unique opportunities offered by online learning. While I understand the desire to compare, I would prefer to spend our energy on improving education rather than comparing what should be inherently different approaches.
- The latest technology as a panacea. To improve online learning, we need to stop thinking of technology as a tool to solve problems and start rethinking the ways we teach. While newer technologies may shape some of those ways, we need to evaluate our approaches, reconsider teacher/student roles, and assess the purposes of education and the meaning of learning in technology-rich environments.
- Delivering education to the masses. Unfortunately, online learning is often seen as a way to deliver education to large numbers of students. The narrative of online education as a product to be delivered harms education. We need to think of online education as an experience, and the instructor as the designer of that experience—an experience that can be fulfilling, engaging, and powerful.