January 04, 2007

Technology for research based [e]learning – presentation abstract

Advances in entrepreneurial and research based [e]learning at Warwick

Warwick has developed extensive [e]learning provisions: web architecture, software and hardware catalogue, support and training, network of experts and advisors, research and development programme, and most importantly a culture of innovation (especially amongst students). This has been undertaken to serve the needs of an entrepreneurial and research oriented university.

Our focus is then upon using technology to enhance student academic processes, key research and enterprise skills, and their assessment. This is achieved by making the tools and techniques used by researchers and entrepreneurs available to students. At the same time, we extend the technical capabilities of our academic staff as researchers. We aim to foster a digitally native, collaborative, network oriented, technically proficient and media savvy university population, staff and students included, such that research and enterprise is enhanced throughout. This represents an entrepreneurial and research oriented agenda for e-learning.

I will begin with a concise but effective clarification of the concept of entrepreneurial research based [e]learning, thus providing a framework through which specific technologies can be understood:

  • Valuing the process as much as the product (and implications for skills and assessment).
  • Students as researchers creating and developing novel opportunities (four essential research skills, the link between research, creativity and enterprise).
  • Surveying and understanding current knowledge (revealing gaps and contradictions in knowledge, making opportunities appear, questioning and investigating).
  • Beyond content transmission (digital nativity, collaboration, critical reflection, network/community orientation, technical proficiency and media savviness).

I will then provide a brief overview of the technologies and techniques that we have made available, evaluating how each of these supports entrepreneurial research based [e]learning differently.

Two particular technologies/techniques will be subjected to thorough investigation: podcasting and concept mapping. These have emerged, largely without conscious planning, as popular and effective tools. Podcasting, as a student collaborative research activity, has shown great promise. It has also proved popular with older staff, who find its radio-like format to be familiar and useful. Concept mapping (as opposed to mind mapping), has been rapidly adopted by individuals and groups as a tool for gathering and analysing information. It is a highly effective tool, and yet simple and intuitive to use even when dealing with large and complex domains. I will demonstrate how it can revolutionise learning, research and collaboration through the application of critical and analytical processes.

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