About my research

My research was set in the context of the European Commission’s eTwinning initiative and it looked specifically at the use of eTwinning Learning Events (non-formal learning). It examined how the community influences the development of teachers’ competence in online collaboration and discourse, and it considered the contribution of social aspects and online moderation.

I am very grateful to my supervisor, Dr. Julie-Ann Sime from Lancaster University, and to my eTwinning soulmate, Tiina Sarisalmi, for their invaluable support. And to my examiners, Prof. Marilyn Leask from the University of Bedfordshire and Dr. Don Passey from the University of Lancaster, for their valuable advice.
Keywords: online learning communities; community of inquiry; online collaboration; content analysis; social presence; social ties; teacher training

Saturday, 11 December 2010

What an experience

The revised Learning Event (LE) on web 2.0 tools and collaboration finished recently and what an experience it was. We tried out some of the ideas that emerged from the first LE earlier in the year and I participated as a facilitator in the Staff Room and in the final reflection. I was again impressed by the level of enthusiasm and commitment of the teachers involved.

It will take me several months to analyse all the data - and boy is there lots. So what can I say from what I see so far? Well I think we can consider it a success as far as the participants were concerned. The final questionnaire conducted by the European Schoolnet shows 66% indicating that the event was excellent and 30% very good (n=127). There was a terrific response to my final questionaire with 87 replies that is 58% of those that started the event. Here is a summary that I added to my presentation at Online Educa:

I need now to follow this up with more interviews and with an analysis of the discourse in the forums. However, from what I have seen so far, it appears that those teachers who persevered until the end - trying out what they had learned in their own teaching practice and then sharing their experience with their peers in the final reflection - learned not only about the tools but also about how to apply them for teaching and about the consequences for their own professional development. Whereas those that finished after the first 12 days of activity tended to learn only about the tools. If this can be confirmed in my analysis then it will be a significant result as this is precisely what we were aiming to improve.

39% of the teachers who started the LE completed the final activities, that is 59% of those that were still active after the first 12 days. This is a really good result; I was talking to a friend of my who delivers face-to-face training courses for HR professionals in the UK and she remarked that it is always a challenge to convince participants to come back to the course after a period away. Indeed, given that these figures only reflect postings to the forums (contributions), the number actually involved will have been higher as I am sure there will have been some who will have read the postings and benefited from the experience of others without posting themselves (lurkers). Such vicarious learning is surely valuable.

The quantitative results are useful in terms of offering immediate feedback. However, my research is primarily qualitative in nature and so I must now press on with the time consuming task of walking through the interview scripts and forum dialogues, coding and analysing. Onwards we go ...



  1. Dear Brian,
    I would first of all like to thank you for your facilitating presence in the Learning Event and the work I know you put into it, and to tell you that I appreciate your enthusiasm.
    However, I am writing this post for a different reason. I am one of the teachers who answered both the European Schoolnet survey and your questionnaire. Yet I am afraid that the issue of group work in the Learning Lab might get overlooked, so I am offering you here a few personal thoughts on it in the hope that you will consider it in your further work.
    The ideas that I have right now are all based on what happened in my group, but I will not name it (nor my colleagues) as this has been a personal quest so far and you are the first to know about it.
    I do not want to write a long post, so here goes:
    1 When groups were formed, I think it would have helped to know for each participant the time availability, not only the time zone - although I am not 100% sure that this was taken into consideration either.
    2 Also I believe that if the moderator of the Event knew about each participant's skills and areas of 'expertise' related to Web 2.0 tools, it would have been of help in forming heterogeneous groups where individual group members could have developed the very areas of skill and knowledge that were not their strengths.
    3 Self-evaluation and peer-evaluation for each of the group members at the end of group work could have assessed the contribution and effort of each.
    4 I strongly felt the need of group norms - at least in the field of communication, but now that I get to think more of it perhaps also decision-making norms and logistical norms as well. I mean choosing other modes of communication besides the google docs, and acknowledging communication.
    I will stop here for now. I hope this makes sense and maybe you have some advice for me on how to deal with it next time I'm in the Learning Lab. Thank you.

  2. Hi Daniela, I am happy to reply to your comments, however I am interviewing a few participants about their experience and, if you are interested, would like to do this with you beforehand. I'll send you an email


  3. Dear Brian,
    I have just read the conclusion about your research on your blog. I am very happy I have discovered it. It gives me the opportunity to know more about online adults' learning. I know this modern way of learning it is a challenge for both, teachers and students but most of times if it is well organized, the event could turn into succes. As i told you when I answered to the interview, for me web 2.0 learning event was a great experience because I learnt a lot, I shared experience,I made friends and I applied what I had learnt in my professional activity. The adults are, like pupils in the classroom, different and unique so the way of teaching them must to be adapt and creative.
    Good luck and Merry Christmas,

  4. Many thanks Cornelia and a Merry Christmas to you too