Developing an E-Learning Platform: A Reflective Practitioner Perspective

Developing an E-Learning Platform: A Reflective Practitioner Perspective

Maria Potes Barbas (University of Aveiro, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8833-9.ch010
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Abstract

This chapter applies the principle of reflective practice - as the capacity to reflect on action - so as to engage in a process of continuous learning about the implementation of an e-learning platform at the Polytechnic Institute of Santarem, Portugal. The chapter begins with an introduction to the role of reflective practice, a discussion of fundamental e-learning principles and an overview of the e-learning platform's information architecture. In addition, two methodological tools support the reflective thinking process and the extraction of recommendations: social network analysis and visualization of structured discussion forum activity, and an inductive thematic analysis of the postings to the platform's unstructured fora.
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Introduction

Using a reflective practice angle, this chapter describes the stages that led to the implementation on an e-learning platform at a Portuguese Higher Education Institution, notably the use of the e-learning platform to promote the development of a community of practice, in the context of an MA in Education and Multimedia Communication. Since the author was involved in the development of the e-learning platform described in this chapter, reflective practice is understood here as a process of learning through and from experience towards developing new insights of individual professional practice (Mezirow, 1981; Boyd & Fales, 1983; Jarvis, 1992).

The reflections contained in this chapter are presented from the perspective of the instructor as facilitator, which implies embracing pedagogical roles, but also the roles of the technologist, researcher and administrator (Gilbert and Dabbagh, 2004; Bawane & Spector, 2009). Two methodological tools have supported the analysis of data that sustains the reflections contained in the chapter: real-time social network analysis and visualization of structured discussion forum activity using the Social Networks Adapting Pedagogical Practice (SNAPP) tool (Dawson, 2009), and an inductive thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) of the postings to the platform’s unstructured fora with a view to understand and categorize participants’ perceptions of motivations, activities, and community-orientation.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Community Of Practice: A network of peers with diverse levels of skills and experience that engages in a process of sensemaking and collective learning.

E-Learning Institutionalization: The stages of strategic implementation by which e-learning becomes fully acknowledged as an integral part of the core processes of Higher Education Institutions.

Reflective Practice: A process whereby individuals engage in critical analysis of practice and decision making, drawing on theory and personal and professional experience to improve the way they work.

Connectivism: A theory of learning that argues knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of individuals’ ability to construct, curate and extract value from those networks.

Information architecture: The structural design of information environments such as websites, intranets and online communities to support usability and findability.

Social Networks Adapting Pedagogical Practice (SNAPP): A software tool that performs real-time social network analysis and visualization of discussion forum activity within a Learning Management System.

E-Learning Platform: An integrated set of interactive online services that provide a community of learners and facilitators with information, tools and resources to support the delivery and management of teaching and learning activities.

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