Newsletter - June 2002Welcome to the June edition of the ascilite newsletter for 2002. Our lead article is by Robert McLaughlan, one of the winners of an ascilite Award in 2001. The Awards process and winners are documented on the ascilite site. The very valuable ERIC is our interesting site elsewhere this month.
ascilite Newsletter is produced three times per year and we welcome article suggestions from our readers. Send your article suggestions to any of the editors.
Editor for this edition: Russ Pennell
Editorial team: Tony Gilding, Cathy Gunn, Meg O'Reilly, Russ Pennell, Gerry Lefoe
Web Editor: Russ Pennell
An Online Roleplay/Simulation
What's interesting on the ascilite website?
What's interesting elsewhere?
An Online Roleplay/SimulationRobert McLaughlan
University teachers are faced with the challenge of integrating the development of technical skills with 'soft' skills. A review of Australian Science graduates found that graduates agreed that their degree gave them analytical and problem solving skills. However there were lower levels of agreement about the extent to which their degree studies developed an awareness of social implications of developments in their discipline, understanding of other points of view, the ability to use information technology effectively, the ability to work with others and a capacity to deal with complexity and ambiguity (McInnis et al. 2001). The Mekong e-Sim was designed to address the development of these skills in a way that crosses discipline specific boundaries, engages students in authentic learning environments and has cross-cultural and international dimensions.
The Mekong e-Sim is a roleplay-simulation. Roleplays involve participants deliberately adopting a role for a specific purpose and a simulation is a simplification of reality that maintains the essential functions of the simulated environment. Roleplay-simulations combine the attributes of both a simulation and a roleplay where the simulation acts as the context and structure within which the roleplay occurs. Students learn about the adopted role, the setting of the simulation and the issues that cause interdependence among the roles as a consequence of their interactions within the roleplay-simulation. The use of ICT allows the conventional face-to-face roleplay-simulation timeframe to be extended thus providing greater opportunity for reflection and technical analysis of options during decision-making by the participants. It also allows the participation of students whose participation would otherwise be restricted by time or distance. Although the use of ICT has broken down some of the barriers associated with wholely face-to-face roleplay-simulation, we believe it is important to support some face-to-face contact among a subset of the participants to maximize learning outcomes. The e-Sim used a widely available Course Management software (Blackboard) to host the e-Sim. The software allowed for sending email, text chat, discussion forums (using bulletin boards), HTML content and group work areas.
Who was involved?
The Mekong e-Sim is a cross-disciplinary learning experience designed for use with undergraduate university students. It is specifically intended to develop learners' understanding of multiple perspectives of issues related to development and technology within the Mekong region of South East Asia. Consequently, it is applicable to a range of subject discipline applications. The activities within the e-Sim were designed to take about 50 hours and constituted one module of a semester subject or course. The current target audience comprises students in the following subjects at four participating institutions.
- Asia-Pacific Development, The University of Sydney
Third year geography students drawn from the Faculties of Arts, Science, Education and Economics.
- Technology Assessment, University of Technology, Sydney
Third year engineering students from sub-disciplines comprising civil, environmental, telecommunications, computer software engineering and mechanical engineering.
- Environmental Engineering II, Adelaide University && Sepang Institute of Technology, Malaysia
Second year engineering students from the Civil, and Civil and Environmental Engineering programs.
Design of e-Sim
The Mekong e-Sim was constructed around four key stages:
- The Briefing stage involves participants becoming familiar with the e-Sim structure, geographical context, requirements and technology. It also involves them researching a range of different information sources to develop an understanding about the responsibilities, views and strategies of their adopted persona identity. Four students share a single persona.
- The Interaction stage comprises interactions between different personae in response to events that have occurred and the actions of other personae. The events are modeled on news events such as the announcement of a public hearing on a specific topic or the discovery/restriction of a scarce resource shared by various personae. Participants are therefore required to operationalise the understanding of their persona and the simulated environment gained during the briefing stage. This understanding is reshaped as participants experience consequences that follow from their actions. These interactions were conducted primarily using email and ran for 17 days.
- The Forum stage involved four online public forums based around a simulated public inquiry. Personae could post submissions in response to the specific terms of reference for each of the inquiries and then respond to other submissions. The topics chosen for the forums involved a proposal to build a large dam, the development of a natural resource management plan for a lake and the prioritisation of alternate Regional Transport Initiatives. Another forum was set up to solicit funding proposals from personae relating to development projects they wished to pursue. During the forums students gained an understanding of the multiple perspectives about the topic being debated. The debates in the forums took place over a 48 hour period.
- In the Debriefing stage participants identify what they have learned as a consequence of participating in the e-Sim. The debriefing comprises the online publication by each participant of an incident, which occurred during the e-Sim and their learning from that incident. This is supported by a face-to-face session that uses a structured process of guided recall, reflection and analysis of the roleplay-simulation based on the experiences of the participants present and their understandings deriving from the online critical incident reports.
What student learning occurred?
The Mekong e-Sim has been evaluated at all stages of its design and implementation. Evaluation was planned using Bain's (1999) framework as a guide. Student perceptions of their learning and responses to the e-Sim were evaluated using student comments in the debriefing essay, a paper based student survey and focus group discussions.
Survey results indicated the following levels of student perceptions that the e-Sim:
- developed an awareness of multiple perspectives on natural resource decision-making and development issues (91%);
- contributed to the development of negotiation, and communication skills (70%);
- assisted the development of knowledge about organizations in the region (94%); and the values and attitudes of personae (85%); and
- was enjoyable (68%).
In addition to considering student perception of the learning that resulted as a consequence of participating in Mekong e-Sim we also examined student responses to the e-Sim as a learning activity. Ninety two percent of participants rated the Mekong e-Sim from satisfactory through to excellent and student comments elaborated on this: 'it is undeniable that the e-Sim as a whole does capture the complexity of natural resource management decision-making. The unique experience provided in the e-Sim is one which transcends the restrictions of a classroom, enabling learning to occur in an exciting and highly motivating context'.
Mekong e-Sim was intended to support students in understanding multiple perspectives associated with natural resource management. The extent to which students demonstrated this was evaluated through the examination of written assessment tasks that were designed to demonstrate student capabilities and understandings. Analysis of debriefing essays using SOLO taxonomy (Biggs and Collis 1982) indicated that 75% produced multi-structural responses to the problem supporting our belief that this approach effectively supports student learning about alternate perspectives on problems.
|Robert G. McLaughlan
University of Technology, Sydney
The University of New England
|Holger R. Maier
The University of Sydney
The Mekong e-Sim won an ascilite Award in 2001.
What's interesting on the ascilite website?The annual ascilite Awards are judged by a different group of members each year, with entries called mid-year. The first Awards were presented in 1996, and for several years the Awards Presentation occurred as a separate event held during the Annual Conference. From ascilite2000 in Brisbane, the Presentation became a feature of the closing day of the Conference, providing a larger audience and exposure for the winners. The record of Awards is here.
Recent ascilite Award Winners
|Best CD-ROM Project||An Ocean in the Classroom, Roisin O'Rielly, James Cook University|
|Best Web Project||Mekong e-Sim, Robert McLaughlan, UTS and Holger Maier, Adelaide University|
|Highly Commended (Web)||The Virtual Shopping Mall, Bob Ivison, University of Melbourne and University of Auckland|
|Special Commendation (for use of video)||BUILT: Building Understandings in Literacy and Teaching, Kristina Love, The University of Melbourne|
|Best CD-ROM Project||Phonetics: An Interactive Introduction,Dr Nicholas Reid, University of New England|
|Best Web Project||The Health Care Game, Dr Johanna Westbrook, University of Sydney|
|Highly Commended||Magnetic Resonance Technology CD-ROM, Lara Ross, University of Queensland|
|Best CD-ROM Project||An@tomedia: Matthew Riddle, University of Melbourne|
|Best Internet or WWW Usage||A Multi-layered Simulation in Political Science, Mike fardon, University of Western Australia|
|2nd Prize, Internet or WWW Usage||Skills for Learning Online, Liz Smith, Charles Sturt University|
|3rd Prize, Internet or WWW Usage||The InterLearn Software Tool, Leonard Webster, Monash University|
|Highly Commended||Platform Web, Graeme Salter,University of Western Sydney|
What's interesting elsewhere?ERIC
ERIC is the Educational Resources Information Center, a federally-funded national information system in the US that provides a variety of services and products on a broad range of education-related issues. AskERIC is a personalised Internet-based service providing education information, and is currently celebrating its 10th year of service. At a time when many of our members are in the process of preparing their papers for the next ascilite conference in Auckland, the Internet sites and discussion groups located within the educational technology section of the AskERIC website, provide a wide range of references on computer based aspects in teaching and learning.
EdNA What's New
|A comprehensive Australian online educational resource network. What's New service provides material which has recently been added into EdNA Online.||Australia
To subscribe: http://www.edna.edu.au/edna/page1469.html
|IRN Internet Resources Newsletter||A-Z collection of the latest Internet Resources for academics, students, engineers, scientists and social scientists.||Heriot-Watt University, UK
To subscribe: http://www.hw.ac.uk/libWWW/irn/irn.html
|INFOBITS||Each month the Information Resources Consultant selects from a number of information technology and instructional technology sources and provides brief notes on key topics of interest.||University of North Carolina USA
send email to email@example.com with the following message:
SUBSCRIBE INFOBITS firstname lastname
|SCOUT Report||The Internet Scout Project provides information about the Internet to the U.S. research and education community.||University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
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|ALT: Association of Learning Technology||ALT is an educational organisation which seeks to bring together all those with an interest in the use of learning technology in higher and further education.||UK
ALT is affiliated with ascilite and we have a reciprocal arrangement for conference attendance at the membership rates.
|DEST's Higher Education Division||The Department of Education, Science and Training provides a free electronic newsletter on issues and developments in Australia's higher education sector.||Australia
To subscribe: http://www.dest.gov.au/highered/enews/subscribeenews.htm