Archive for June 11th, 2010

Foregrounding the curriculum

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Educational technology has moved on from the reel-to-reel but has the OU struck a duff note for those left stranded by the digital divide?

Alan Tait, as well as being Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Curriculum and Awards) at the OU  is also president of EDEN – the European Distance and E-Learning Network.

Here he notes that that ‘very few universities have a Pro-Vice Chancellor for Curriculum; in fact it is accurate to say that I have never come across another one! In fact the term curriculum in the sense of an overall view of what subjects a university teaches only came into common parlance in the UK perhaps 10 years ago (and was recognized in a book by David Watson and Jean Bocock ‘Managing the University Curriculum: Making Common Cause’). Up till then what universities taught was taken more as an unexamined issue: it was what academics wanted to teach and what the university agreed they could. The Open University however, as a mission-led university with a strong research identity has had a PVC Curriculum for some 20 years. This indicates the ways in which we have tried to deconstruct the curriculum from being a natural phenomenon to one that is constructed to meet audience needs, aligned of course with the University’s teaching priorities, external regulation from professional and other bodies, and the views of the academic community.’

Tutoring at a distance, online tutoring and tutoring in Second Life

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Vice Chancellor of The Open University Martin Bean visited Second Life in December 2009

David Hawkridge, Matthew Wheeler, ‘Tutoring at a distance, online tutoring and tutoring in Second Life’, European Journalof Open, Distance and e-learning, here


Research into tutoring at a distance has a fairly long history and the functions of tutors in distance education institutions are well understood. Over the past 20 years research into online tutoring has advanced significantly as such institutions have ‘gone electronic’: in this paper we cite published research from the UK Open University. Recently, blogs, wikis and podcasts have arrived to supplement established systems like email, virtual learning environments (VLEs, such as Blackboard) and computer conferencing. Little research has been published so far, however, on tutoring distant students in three-dimensional multi-user virtual environments (3-D MUVEs). Distance educators may well ask whether the best practices from tutoring at a distance and online tutoring can be transferred to these environments, which do not resemble VLEs. To clarify what may or may not be feasible in a prime example of a 3-D MUVE, this paper elucidates tutoring by and through avatars on a Second Life Island created by the Beyond Distance Research Alliance at the University of Leicester (which has 7,000 students learning at a distance). It analyses what can be done in Second Life by way of meeting students’ needs for tutoring, and discusses some of the opportunities and challenges inherent in asking students and tutors to meet in such an environment.


Tutoring, distance education, online education, e-learning, Second Life

Topics of the paper

Tutoring at a distance; Tutoring online; Tutoring in Second Life; Tutoring in the Sami tent and the Kalasha village; Virtual StoryCubes and tutoring; Conclusion; References; Acknowledgements