We report upon a study introducing a chatbot to develop learning communities at a London University, with a largely international student base. The focus of the chatbot was twofold; to ease the transition for students into their first year of university study, and to increase study engagement. Four learning communities were created using the chatbot; level 3 foundation, level 4 undergraduate, level 6 undergraduate and level 7 post-graduate. Students and programme leaders were provided with access to the chat bot via mobile app prior to their study induction and throughout the autumn term of 2019. At the end of the term, data were collected via questionnaires and focus groups with students and teaching staff to allow for identification of benefits and challenges. Findings indicated a positive correlation between study engagement and engagement with peers. Students reported that the chatbot enabled them to obtain support and connect to their programme leader. Both staff and students also made recommendation on how engagement could be further enhanced using the bot in terms of; clearly specified purpose, integration with existing university systems, leading by example and connectivity. Extending upon these recommendations, a second pilot study is planned for September 2020, for which the focus will be upon improving attendance rates, student satisfaction and module pass rates.
This paper is a qualitative case study analysis of the development of a fully online learning community of graduate students through arts-based community building activities. With increasing numbers and types of online learning spaces, it is incumbent upon educators to continue to push the edge of what best practices look like in digital learning environments. In digital learning spaces, instructors can no longer be seen as purveyors of content knowledge to be examined at the end of a set course by a final test or exam. The rapid and fluid dissemination of information via Web 3.0 demands that we reshape our approach to teaching and learning, from one that is content-focused to one that is process-driven. Rather than having instructors as formal leaders, today’s digital learning environments require us to share expertise, as it is the collective experiences and knowledge of all students together with the instructors that help to create a very different kind of learning community. This paper focuses on innovations pursued in a 36 hour 12 week graduate course in higher education entitled “Critical and Reflective Practice”. The authors chronicle their journey to developing a fully online learning community (FOLC) by emphasizing the elements of social, cognitive, emotional and digital spaces that form a moving interplay through the community. In this way, students embrace anywhere anytime learning and often take the learning, as well as the relationships they build and skills they acquire, beyond the digital class into real world situations. We argue that in order to increase student online engagement, pedagogical approaches need to stem from two primary elements, both creativity and critical reflection, that are essential pillars upon which instructors can co-design learning environments with students. The theoretical framework for the paper is based on the interaction and interdependence of Creativity, Intuition, Critical Reflection, Social Constructivism and FOLCs. By leveraging students’ embedded familiarity with a wide variety of technologies, this case study of a graduate level course on critical reflection in education, examines how relationships, quality of work produced, and student engagement can improve by using creative and imaginative pedagogical strategies. The authors examine their professional pedagogical strategies through the lens that the teacher acts as facilitator, guide and co-designer. In a world where students can easily search for and organize information as self-directed processes, creativity and connection can at times be lost in the digitized course environment. The paper concludes by posing further questions as to how institutions of higher education may be challenged to restructure their credit granting courses into more flexible modules, and how students need to be considered an important part of assessment and evaluation strategies. By introducing creativity and critical reflection as central features of the digital learning spaces, notions of best practices in digital teaching and learning emerge.
This paper reports on a pilot project to develop a collaborative partnership between a community college in rural northern Ontario, Canada, and an urban university in the greater Toronto area in Oshawa, Canada. Partner institutions will collaborate to address learning needs of university applicants whose goals are to attain an undergraduate university BA in Educational Studies and Digital Technology degree, but who may not live in a geographical location that would facilitate this pathways process. The UOIT BA degree is attained through a 2+2 program, where students with a 2 year college diploma or equivalent can attain a four year undergraduate degree. The goals reported on the project are as: 1. Our aim is to expand the BA program to include an additional stream which includes serious educational games, simulations and virtual environments, 2. Develop fully (using both synchronous and asynchronous technologies) online learning modules for use by university applicants who otherwise are not geographically located close to a physical university site, 3. Assess the digital competencies of all students, including members of local, distance and Indigenous communities using a validated tool developed and tested by UOIT across numerous populations. This tool, the General Technical Competency Use and Scale (GTCU) will provide the collaborating institutions with data that will allow for analyzing how well students are prepared to succeed in fully online learning communities. Philosophically, the UOIT BA program is based on a fully online learning communities model (FOLC) that can be accessed from anywhere in the world through digital learning environments via audio video conferencing tools such as Adobe Connect. It also follows models of adult learning and mobile learning, and makes a university degree accessible to the increasing demographic of adult learners who may use mobile devices to learn anywhere anytime. The program is based on key principles of Problem Based Learning, allowing students to build their own understandings through the co-design of the learning environment in collaboration with the instructors and their peers. In this way, this degree allows students to personalize and individualize the learning based on their own culture, background and professional/personal experiences. Using modified flipped classroom strategies, students are able to interrogate video modules on their own time in preparation for one hour discussions occurring in video conferencing sessions. As a consequence of the program flexibility, students may continue to work full or part time. All of the partner institutions will co-develop four new modules, administer the GTCU and share data, while creating a new stream of the UOIT BA degree. This will increase accessibility for students to bridge from community colleges to university through a fully digital environment. We aim to work collaboratively with Indigenous elders, community members and distance education instructors to increase opportunities for more students to attain a university education.
From a perspective of moral education, this study has examined the experiences of a group of college students who volunteered in disaster areas after the magnitude 9.0 Earthquake, which struck the Northeastern region of Japan in March, 2011. The research, utilizing the method of grounded theory, has uncovered that most of the students have gone through positive changes in their development of moral and social characters, such as attaining deeper sense of empathy and caring personalities. The study expresses, in identifying the nature of those transformations, that the importance of volunteer work should strongly be recognized by the colleges and universities in Japan, in fulfilling their public responsibility of creating and building learning communities that are responsible and caring.
Cooperative learning has been defined as learners working together as a team to solve a problem to complete a task or to accomplish a common goal, which emphasizes the importance of interactions among members to promote the whole learning performance. With the popularity of society networks, cooperative learning is no longer limited to traditional classroom teaching activities. Since society networks facilitate to organize online learners, to establish common shared visions, and to advance learning interaction, the online community and online learning community have triggered the establishment of web-based societies. Numerous research literatures have indicated that the collaborative learning community is a critical issue to enhance learning performance. Hence, this paper proposes a learning community recommendation approach to facilitate that a learner joins the appropriate learning communities, which is based on k-nearest neighbor (kNN) classification. To demonstrate the viability of the proposed approach, the proposed approach is implemented for 117 students to recommend learning communities. The experimental results indicate that the proposed approach can effectively recommend appropriate learning communities for learners.