Article from The Guardian about new research done on an MA level distance program and how some specific technology tools were incorporated into the program. Specifically, e-readers, Second Life and audio. Interesting that Second Life was being used as an asynchronous resource instead of a synchronous meeting space, which is how I usually read about Second Life being used. I also liked that students enjoyed & appreciated the audio feedback from other students & their tutor and appeared to pay more attention to comments received via audio than text. There is something appealing to me in the linear presentation of audio feedback that might make learners less likely to skim through feedback.
Research carried out recently among a group of students enrolled on a distance MA Tesol course at Leicester University offers a glimpse into a not-too-distant future when learners distributed around the world but linked via the internet will be able to enhance their learning experience with the use of some simple and low-cost digital tools.
with a simple voice recording program and headphone-and-mic sets it is possible for students to add audio clips to these message board postings
as part of the trial students and teachers were encouraged to post feedback about their work and exchange messages.
“It was incredibly successful,” Witthaus said. “Audio feedback gives the students the sense of their tutor as a real human being.”
She says tutors began to create a more effective, time-saving combination of text and audio. “They found they could write quick little annotations on students’ essays and then elaborate more in the audio feedback.”
The research also revealed that students appeared more willing to listen to feedback via audio than to commit time to reading written comments.
One other interesting result of the research was how communication could still be effective when it was asynchronous, particularly for study groups spread across different times zones.
This was most apparent with the use of Second Life. Instead of attempting to get student to congregate, in their avatar personas, in some part of the vast virtual world at the same time, the teaching staff identified where language learning was going on in SL and instructed students to carry out observations of what was happening in these virtual classrooms.
“The e-readers fitted into their lives. They didn’t necessarily replace print or their laptops or smartphones, it just fitted in. They used them in contexts where it worked for them.”