Datafication of the “E-Learning Faculty Modules” for Next Steps

Datafication of the “E-Learning Faculty Modules” for Next Steps

Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7528-3.ch009

Abstract

Since its origin in 2011, the E-Learning Faculty Modules (built on a MediaWiki understructure) has evolved into a resource with over 130 articles in three tiers: Beginners' Studio, E-Learning Central, and Advanced Workshop. This resource has remained focused on supporting online instructors in their work. Since this resource is built in an open-source way on a designed wiki structure, it is possible to data-fy various aspects of the wiki: (1) the emergent wiki-hosted contents, (2) user page views, and (3) observable gaps with ideas for next steps. This chapter demonstrates some of the easy-access data about online usage of an open-access open-source resource distributed through a Web 2.0 technology.
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Introduction

In the heyday of Web 2.0, in 2011, a mixed team at Kansas State University launched the public-facing E-Learning Faculty Modules. The original ambitions were to provide support for the distributed instructors providing instruction through distance means. Initially, the idea was to provide password-protected access and to host the contents on a learning management system or a password-accessible website. After some debate, the project moved forward built on a MediaWiki infrastructure (McHaney, Spire, & Boggs, 2014), with high hopes that certain units would support particular aspects of the tool. The vision was an inclusive one, with faculty contributing their insights interactively with their peers. And over time, this project forked—with a public version and a curated proprietary version.

Now, seven years in, the affordances of the project and the technologies are clearer. This project, built on good will and no budget, has its limits. Any contributions to it have mostly been based on transactional interests (deans claiming credit for funding a logo, faculty doing videos to please deans who fund other projects of interest, faculty and administrators writing articles about the project, and so on). In the intervening years, a number of administrators have retired. Two of the three main contributors having left the Information Technology (IT) unit behind the work and also the project, and without continuing bureaucratic support from the original unit, the future of this resource is unclear. While it has sufficient funding for continuance in terms of web hosting and its URL (http://www.elearningfacultymodules.org/index.php/Main_Page), to thrive, the site has to continually refresh its contents so as to be relevant, and it has to be used by users. To use a data-driven approach on planning next steps for this resource, research was conducted on both the emergent contents of the wiki-based resource and on public uses of this resource.

Figure 1.

Welcome page to the e-learning faculty modules

In general, there are some anticipated potential paths: the faculty modules may continue and be updated regularly; the faculty modules may be closed as a resource, without further updates, but still remain available for reference; the faculty modules may be taken offline, and the proprietary version may continue.

To explore what informational contents are on the E-Learning Faculty Modules and how users have been using the site, data was extracted from the E-Learning Faculty Modules all in one day—so that the contents may be somewhat comparable. Several technologies were used for the qualitative and quantitative data analytics: NVivo 11 Plus; Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC, pronounced “luke”); Network Overview, Discovery and Exploration for Excel (NodeXL); and Excel. The word frequency counts, topic modeling, computational text analyses, sentiment analyses, and other approaches are all reproducible.

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Review Of The Literature

Giving advice with finesse is an art form, particularly in a distributed and diverse university environment with instructors who are world-recognized experts in their respective fields. The wiki paradigm, with its interactive co-editing capabilities and its focus on informal knowledge creation, would speak to respect for its users and overall inclusiveness. Wikis have long played a role in higher education. There are free hosted solutions that enable users to merely create accounts and start using the service. There are open-source software that enables users to create and host sites on their own servers, but these clearly require access to resources and system administrator savvy. MediaWiki belongs to this latter category. MediaWiki was created in 2001 to support the launch of Wikipedia (“MediaWiki history,” Oct. 21, 2017). Developers have created add-ons, to enhance the platform for various types of collaboration. One popular feature is the ability to export wiki books, for example.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Module: A generic unit of learning (without a current standard accepted size).

Wiki: An editable website that is accessed through web browsers.

MediaWiki: A free open-source wiki software written in PHP and made available by the Wikimedia Foundation and volunteers.

Emergent: Coming into being in an unplanned or bottom-up way (such as based on a number of small individual decisions but resulting in a macro-scale phenomenon).

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