Using Technology-Enabled Learning Networks To Achieve Practical Improvement Outcomes: A Pilot Project To Explore Impact Of Student-Made Videos On Student Engagement In The IET MAODE Programme At The OU

Boyd, Lesley (2017). Using Technology-Enabled Learning Networks To Achieve Practical Improvement Outcomes: A Pilot Project To Explore Impact Of Student-Made Videos On Student Engagement In The IET MAODE Programme At The OU. MRes thesis The Open University.



This project investigated how technology-enabled learning networks can be used to achieve practical improvement outcomes at the OU. Koper (2009) defines a technology-enabled learning network as ‘a technology supported community of people who are helping each other to better understand and handle certain events and concepts in work or life’. In a literature review of organisational learning in public service organisations in the UK, Rashman et al. (2009) observe that ‘learning within and between organisations has been identified as central to the processes of public service improvement’. However, little is known about the mechanisms of technology-enabled organisational learning to achieve practical improvement outcomes. Existing work on technology-enabled learning networks tends to be dominated by academic or professional learning, the primary objective being the improvement of knowledge or practice residing in individuals. The aim of this research is to address that gap, using an innovative technology-enabled participatory action research approach. Action research simultaneously seeks improvement outcomes whilst reflecting on the learning taking place.

The project established a learning network, using the Masters in Online and Distance Education (MAODE) programme in the OU Institute of Educational Technology, as a case study. The practical improvement outcome sought was to increase the sense of student engagement with the MAODE learning community, by using student-made engagement videos. The project investigated the extent to which student-made videos assisted in providing the student with a sense of engagement within their learning community. It then reflected on the collaborative learning taking place in seeking the improvement.

Three conceptual frameworks from the literature were compared, applied to the learning network, and evaluated. Data from the learning network interactions was thematically analysed to determine the utility of the three identified frameworks, and whether a new framework was justified which would support the innovative technology-enabled participatory action research approach.

Despite numerous challenges, the learning network was able to proceed as far as the evaluation stage in the first cycle of an action research spiral. Some insightful and useful feedback was provided by students, and two additional videos were produced. Future project work could include establishing the ongoing operation of the learning network within IET, following through the improvement suggestions which have been made, embracing a more systemic approach, and evaluating success in achieving practical improvement outcomes.

The three applications of the identified frameworks to the learning network illustrated that they are indeed descriptive tools which can help to analyse component parts and critical success factors necessary in a learning network environment. However it appears that they are still not adequate in identifying the mechanism by which the learning happens.

The data analysis suggests there is some justification for a new framework, potentially combining the necessary elements of the three frameworks identified in the literature, with a narrative based series of events which represent the collaborative mechanisms by which technology-enabled organisational learning may occur. This may form the basis of further PhD research.

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