Online Learning and Teaching in Higher Education by Bach, Haynes and Smith was an interesting read for me. The reason for this was it reinforced my own biases on the issue.

This reinforcment is best demonstrated in one of the tables (2.1 p. 34) in book describes simple to complex uses of virtual learning environments. The simple end of the spectrum is ideas such as “A quick and easy way to use the web to distribute course materials and carry out course administration” and “A means of communication between students, tutors and outside contributors.” At the complex end there is the idea of “A platform for collaborative student projects” and “Delivery of complete online courses with fully integrated activities”.

I like this taxonomy which I had in some form in my own head already. You see when you have a background in computing and move to higher education there are impulses to use technology to fix everything. The problem is that technology introduces new issues. See the writings of Jacques Ellul on technique/technology if you want to be convinced.

The rest of the book is helping people to consider what changes are really needed if the subject being taught has a certain elements like lectures, tutorials or other teaching strategies to make them work in an online environment. These changes include deciding on a useful computing environment, design a useful look and feel and the actual changes required.

For those unfamiliar with this field this is a great introductory book from an education and information view. For those familiar with the field the last two chapters are the most helpful. What I took away from these was unfortunately something not expected – this is a lot of hard work. To make these changes properly requires more time and effort than my current workload allows. Institutional commitment to embracing all these changes is always another factor. While we have had incremental changes while I have been here the longer term issues are still to be decided. Multiple schools with multiple ways of doing things makes it more of a challenge.

Overall look at this book if you are deciding to explore the issues of online learning.

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