Course-Barometer: Compensating for the loss of informal feedback in Distance Education
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Andersson, R., Gadd, M., Johnsson, A. & Svensson, L. (1999). Course-Barometer: Compensating for the loss of informal feedback in Distance Education. In B. Collis & R. Oliver (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 1999 (pp. 1612-1613). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/6870.
The Internet and other interaction technologies can be argued to reduce the differences between classroom-based and distributed education. This paper focuses on evaluation, an area where these differences are still evident. In campus-based education we can use formal structures and routines to evaluate certain educational aspects, such as teaching methods, learning technology or course concept, or use a holistic approach to the entire learning context, and we can do so using quantitative and or qualitative methods (Oliver & Conole, 1998). In addition to this there are also more subtle and informal sources of evaluative feedback that constantly reaches the teacher. The classroom is literally filled with more or less non-verbal signals that can be interpreted in terms of feedback. The students can express their degree of interest and concentration through the way they sit, the expression of their face, where the look and through other body-lingual expressions. An important aspect of the teacher's professionalism is the ability to adapt and adjust according to these signals in order to meet the needs of an individual or a group of students. The formal systems and instruments for evaluation can easily be transformed and perhaps even enhanced by the use of IT, but the equally important informal feedback is to a great extent lost in the virtual classroom. In asynchronous text communication the loss of direct non-verbal communication is total, however several studies point to a frequent use of emoticons like for instance smileys (i.e. ":-)" ) and comments surrounded by asterisks (i.e. *smile* ) that to some extent compensate for this loss (Galegher et al 1998), (Svensson 1998a 1998b). Whittaker et al (1994) raises the question how to design IT-support for informal workplace (verbal) communication. They characterize it to be brief, unplanned and frequent and go on arguing that it is important for community building and coordination of work. In conclusion they stress the importance of asynchronous technologies in order to coordinate remote interactants.
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