Developing E-Learning in Geography

Developing E-Learning in Geography

Philip Rees (University of Leeds, UK), Louise Mackay (University of Leeds, UK), David Martin (University of Southampton, UK), Gráinne Conole (The Open University, UK) and Hugh Davis (University of Southampton, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-980-9.ch001
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Technologies offer a range of tantalizing potentials for education—in terms of providing access to media- rich context and for students to visualize and interact with learning materials, as well as a variety of mechanisms for students to communicate and collaborate with their peers and tutors. This book describes the findings of an interdisciplinary research project, which provides a contextualized case study of a concerted attempt to integrate e-learning in one discipline, geography, across an international context. This chapter outlines the learning philosophies and learning strategies that inform the development of e-learning materials, focusing on a particular discipline context. The chapter authors come from a range of disciplines: geography, education, and computer science. Out of this inter-disciplinary collaboration has come new understanding of the range of approaches to learning (by the geographers) and new understanding of the enthusiasm of subject specialists (by the non-geographers). We will also report on understanding developed through working with colleagues in another country. In particular we have gained valuable insights into the challenges associated with carrying out interdisciplinary research in this area, as well as working in an international context. At the heart of the work reported here is the notion of creation and use of learning materials for geography. We set down some definitions of learning materials to begin with. We critique the widely used “learning object” concept as being computationally convenient, but restrictive, and argue for a more specialized term that better describes the discipline context. Some definitions demand that a learning object stands alone without reference to external resources. Geography teachers usually want their learners to engage with Web-based materials. Geographers want their students to tap into a wide variety of digital resources out there in cyberspace that inform them about the world. They wish to guide the students through the resources and their uses, empowering them to make their own explorations in the future. To import materials and hermetically seal them within learning objects potentially sterilizes them and presents an oversimplified view of the world. This argument leads to the definition of a learning material unit (“nugget” was the shorthand we debated and developed in the JISC-funded DialogPLUS project, part of the Digital Libraries in the Classroom program) as materials for student use with one or more activities designed to develop understanding, combined with student evaluation of the knowledge gained (tests, exercises, reflections). Nuggets connect to external digital resources held in libraries, repositories, or Web sites. This chapter also illustrates how e-learning has developed over time within a master’s program, initially in one university but now involving collaboration between three. We conclude by drawing lessons for developing e-learning in geography.
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The aim of this chapter is to review the learning philosophies and strategies that geographers need to be aware of when preparing e-learning materials. Our review is informed by collaborations between geographers, educationalists, and computer scientists in the course of the DialogPLUS transnational project, supported by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) of the UK Higher Education Funding Councils and the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the United States, involving four institutions, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Leeds, University of California at Santa Barbara, and the University of Southampton. More details of this project are described in the Preface to the book.

In the chapter we present our perspectives on the issues, controversies, and problems as they relate to e-learning in geography. We compare and contrast the different approaches to e-learning as exemplified in the contributions and main themes of the book. We discuss solutions and make recommendations in dealing with the issues, controversies, and problems presented.

We begin with a definition of e-learning, which is expanded to explore the variety of forms and settings that it can take. Then we review the value of e-learning to the teacher and student. All this draws on the collective experience of DialogPLUS project participants. In the second part of the chapter we outline learning philosophies and strategies of which geographers developing e-learning should have some knowledge, even if they decide to retain a large part of the approach that has served them well in the classroom. In the third part of the chapter we discuss and critique the nature of the learning object, which has been a focus of thinking in e-learning development. We then report on our use of the more general concept of the learning nugget, which has been developed and tested out in the international collaborative project, DialogPLUS, in which most of the book’s contributors were involved. In the fourth part of the chapter we describe how e-learning has developed in one master’s program. We conclude with some lessons from our experience in developing e-learning, which might be of use to geographical colleagues embarking on new e-learning experiments.

Complete Chapter List

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List of Reviewers
Table of Contents
Lou McGill
Chapter 1
Philip Rees, Louise Mackay, David Martin, Gráinne Conole, Hugh Davis
Technologies offer a range of tantalizing potentials for education—in terms of providing access to media- rich context and for students to visualize... Sample PDF
Developing E-Learning in Geography
Chapter 2
Samuel Leung, David Martin, Richard Treves, Oliver Duke-Williams
In contrast to other Web-based resources, e-learning materials are not always exchangeable and shareable. Although transferring electronic documents... Sample PDF
Exchanging E-Learning Materials, Modules, and Students
Chapter 3
Helen Durham, Katherine Arrell, David DiBiase
Collaborative learning activity design (CLAD) is a multi-institution approach to the creation of e-learning material from the design phase through... Sample PDF
Collaborative Learning Activity Design: Learning about the Global Positioning System
Chapter 4
David Martin, Philip Rees, Helen Durham, Stephen A. Matthews
This chapter presents the development of a series of shared learning materials prepared to facilitate teaching in human geography. The principal... Sample PDF
Census and Population Analysis
Chapter 5
Stephen Darby, Sally J. Priest, Karen Fill, Samuel Leung
In this chapter we outline the issues involved in developing, delivering, and evaluating a Level 2 undergraduate module in fluvial geomorphology.... Sample PDF
Using Digital Libraries to Support Undergraduate Learning in Geomorphology
Chapter 6
Jim Wright, Michael J. Clark, Sally J. Priest, Rizwan Nawaz
There is an inherent antithesis between environmental management as professional practice and as concept or philosophy. Not only does this... Sample PDF
Engaging with Environmental Management: The Use of E-Learning for Motivation and Skills Enhancement
Chapter 7
Louise Mackay, Samuel Leung, E. J. Milton
In our experience of earth observation (EO) online learning we highlight the usefulness of the World Wide Web in terms of its software... Sample PDF
Earth Observation: Conveying the Principles to Physical Geography Students
Chapter 8
Helen Durham, Samuel Leung, David DiBiase
Academic integrity (AI) is of relevance across all academic disciplines, both from the perspective of the educator and the student. From the former... Sample PDF
Generic Learning Materials: Developing Academic Integrity in Your Students
Chapter 9
Karen Fill, Gráinne Conole, Chris Bailey
The DialogPLUS Toolkit is a web-based application that guides the design of learning activities. Developed to support the project’s geographers, it... Sample PDF
A Toolkit to Guide the Design of Effective Learning Activities
Chapter 10
David DiBiase, Mark Gahegan
This chapter investigates the problem of connecting advanced domain knowledge (from geography educators in this instance) with the strong pedagogic... Sample PDF
Concept Mapping to Design, Organize, and Explore Digital Learning Objects
Chapter 11
Terence R. Smith, Marcia Lei Zeng
We describe a digital learning environment (DLE) organized around sets of concepts that represent a specific domain of knowledge. A prototype DLE... Sample PDF
Semantic Tools to Support the Construction and Use of Concept-Based Learning Spaces
Chapter 12
Richard Treves
Teaching geography at university level involves students in study of complex diagrams and maps. These can be made easier to understand if split into... Sample PDF
Simple Geography-Related Multimedia
Chapter 13
Karen Fill, Louise Mackay
This chapter is concerned with the evaluation of learning materials and activities developed as part of the DialogPLUS project. A range of... Sample PDF
Evaluating the Geography E-Learning Materials and Activities: Student and Staff Perspectives
Chapter 14
Louise Mackay, David Martin, Philip Rees, Helen Durham
In this book we have illustrated the materials, software, and experience of developing and delivering geography e-learning courses and learning... Sample PDF
Reflections, Lessons Learnt, and Conclusions
Chapter 15
Sally Priest
This chapter discusses the design, technical development, delivery, and evaluation of two online learning activities in environmental geography. A... Sample PDF
Online Learning Activities in Second Year Environmental Geography
Chapter 16
Dion Hoe-Lian Goh
With the rapid growth of digital information, there is increasing recognition that digital libraries (DL) will play important roles in education... Sample PDF
Learning Geography with the G-Portal Digital Library
Chapter 17
Shivanand Balram
This chapter describes the origins, boundaries, and structures of collaborative geographic information systems (CGIS). A working definition is... Sample PDF
Collaborative Geographic Information Systems: Origins, Boundaries, and Structures
Glossary of Terms
About the Contributors