Distance learning – a step into the future

by Paul Maharg on 16/04/2014

Rosemary McIlwham, from the OU, on online learning.  Defined online learning, described most law schools as at information sharing, top in Shackel’s hierarchy.  Next is active and or interactive learning, then deep learning through analysis and application of principles, and finally total immersion in the e-learning facilitation of higher order decision-making.  Rosemary wasn’t sure about replication in the last category — though I’d argue that simulation, eg, is never replication, but always something different.

She showed how she used Eluminate, to track students, and for info push as well as navigation of information and different channels.  Her presentation was drew upon a pilot with level 1 law students at the OU.  Students were studying W100 Rules, Rights and Justice, the first course in the OU LLB programme.   She concluded that online teaching should have a place as part of a blended learning model.   Learning design needs to be tailored to online teaching.

Engagement was crucial.  I’d actually say that design was crucial, and Rosemary did point this out, too.  But engagement doesn’t happen without design.  Online learning did help students learn statutory interpretation skills and problem-solving skills.  Attendance was good online, with students swapping from f2f into the online groups.  Satisfaction levels?  There were no differences between f2f and online groups.  But online did want some kind of blended experience.  Accessibility?  Disabled students liked sitting at home felt much easier about engaging with the work and the community.  Access was (as is usual in these pilot studies) also greatly improved, for time-poor students, and those responsible for others, eg elders, children.

Her conclusion was positive — identified the barriers, but also the positives.  Interesting presentation.


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