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Transforming Online Learning: The Fully Online Learning Community (FOLC) Model

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Wendy Barber
added a research item
Recent world events have shifted our educational focus to a greater emphasis on online learning and working environments. Given the immediate and emergency moves to online learning, the effectiveness of these shifts has come into question in many institutions of higher education. What has become clear is that the longer the pandemic lasts, the more ingrained and assimilated virtual learning will become in our educational institutions. We argue that this crisis, while tragic, has also simultaneously created opportunities that would not have presented themselves in a slower, more controlled transition. The rapid changes caused by the pandemic continue to be a catalyst for the evolution of online education, in positive ways; through an unanticipated world event, acting as an essential precursor to disruptive, progressive innovation. This paper examines the critical elements of effective, online learning communities. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (2017) calls for immediate paradigmatic shifts in the way employment skills are addressed in educational institutions and society in general. These urgent demands derive from a wide variety of local, regional, national, and international sources, including the Conference Board of Canada (2016), and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (2017). These sources recommend increased emphasis on skills development in complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, negotiation, people management and collaboration. Our health as individuals and communities exists within a future that continues to be fraught with complexities related to pandemics, racial inequalities and unrest, climate change, and a digital news media laden with artificial information, misappropriation of facts and manipulation of knowledge to benefit those in power. We are at a critical juncture, and this paper describes key features of effective online learning communities to ensure better, stronger digital learning and working spaces.
Roland van Oostveen
added 8 research items
With the growing global attention to online learning, particularly in response to the COVID-19 situation, educators have developed systematic, robust, and pedagogically sound approaches to online learning. This chapter describes one such model, the Fully Online Learning Community (FOLC) model. This model, which may be implemented within fully online or hybrid contexts, consists of three overlapping dimensions: social presence, cognitive presence and collaborative learning set (at least partially) within a digital space. These dimensions, and the digital environment mediation, provide the supports for the establishment of vibrant online learning communities. This chapter extends prior theoretical and empirical work on the FOLC model and highlights community membership implications. Readiness to work within FOLC environments requires developing a range of 21 st-century competencies, such as complex problem solving and social negotiation, to effectively use the selected digital affordances and collaborate with others. These abilities and potential readiness interventions are addressed here as an intrinsic part of the model. Finally, the chapter concludes with reports of several empirical studies that explore the efficacy of the FOLC model.
This paper presents the Fully Online Learning Community, FOLC, model, offered as a transitional model for institutions addressing the challenges faced by higher education in terms of developing best practices in pedagogy and the implementation of online learning. Founded on the ideal that education is a fundamental human right, this paper describes how fully online environments can provide learner-centred, equitable, and accessible learning opportunities within problem-based learning sandboxes that are co-designed and co-constructed by learners and instructors. Assessment and evaluation are addressed as they are woven seamlessly through the learning process. Based on anecdotal and empirical evidence, the authors conclude that a dynamic and vibrant learning community can be established in fully online programs, and that these communities can have a democratizing effect on their participants.
This study aims to explore the efficacy of the Fully Online Learning Community (FOLC) Model by examining communication and behaviours undertaken between participants within a series of recorded online focus groups. A coding system based on body language expressions is proposed as an outcome of this study to determine the effect of the role(s) of emotions in the communication process between individuals. The study uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis tools for analyzing the emotional states and reactions of participants of online discussions through facial expressions, body language and content (words) employed. Findings suggest that emotions have a preeminent role in social presence in FOLC environments and they can best be determined through a multi-modal approach. Positive emotions are prolonged and easier to detect as individuals exhibit them without masking, with some possible exceptions. Negative emotions can also be detected through a combination of facial expressions and body language coding but have shorter durations than positive emotions. However, findings were not consistent for determining sadness and surprise states, as the durations were very short. Further studies are needed to explore ways to differentiate between these affects. Keywords: FOLC; nonverbal communication; facial expressions; body language coding; facilitation; social presence.
Roland van Oostveen
added 4 research items
Redefinition of teaching and learning in the online environment using the Fully Online Learning Community Model
This case study examines student perceptions of online learning within an undergraduate course (Psychological Foundations of Learning with Digital Technology) at a Canadian university. The learning environment designed for this course was guided by the Fully Online Learning Community model and operationalized using four theoretical pillars: (a) authentic and alternative assessment, (b) problem-based learning, (c) online community learning, and (d) critical reflection. The lead author taught the course for five years, and gleaned data from student course evaluations, focus groups, individual interviews and video-conferencing sessions. Focusing on students’ perceptions of their learning experiences, the data were analyzed using the four theoretical pillars as organizing themes. Findings suggest that successful flipped-classroom learning requires full student participation in, and shared ownership of, each of the four areas.
Wendy Barber
added a research item
This paper is a mixed methods case study measuring student perceptions of a pedagogical strategy called "Digital Moments" (DM) for developing creative interactive online learning communities. The theoretical framework within which this resides is the Fully Online Learning Community (FOLC) model (vanOostveen et al, 2016), based on a foundation of problem-based learning, cognitive and social presence, and learner-centred pedagogies.The article reviews a specific teaching strategy for increasing social presence and student engagement through the use of creative and artistic expression in problem-based learning spaces. Using "Digital Moments" as a way to build inclusion in two synchronous graduate online courses, the author describes how the teaching strategy increased student participation, developed student ownership of learning, and encouraged collaborative processes between participants. This teaching strategy makes a significant contribution to digital pedagogy. Although the growth of online learning is quite substantial, our ability to develop online communities that inspire critical and creative thinking has not kept pace. Traditional teacher-centred learning environments do not meet the needs of students in today's Fourth Industrial Revolution. As such, the FOLC model provides an online learning community model that removes traditional teacher-learner roles, allows the instructor to act as a facilitator and challenges learners to co-design and co-create the learning process. Within this digital space, collaborative disruption is encouraged, and, in fact necessary for the types of critical and creative thinking to emerge that are central to the FOLC model. Digital Moments, is one example of a pedagogical strategy that enables learners to co-create and own the digital learning space, within a fully online learning community.
Olena Mykhailenko
added a research item
This conference paper is one more reflection of the findings of the Latvian-Ukrainian project "Gender aspects of digital readiness and development of human capital in regions" (LV-UA/2018/3) highlighted some peculiarities in educator and student attitude to Information Technologies (IT) This study, among others, raised two questions that are addressed in this article: "Does gender significantly affect educator and student attitude to DT?" and "Is educators' current digital competence a comprehensive and sufficient target to meet modern rapid changes?" The theoretical investigation draws on the theory of attitude sources and capability approach of educators and students; the empirical data illustrate the theoretical statements of attitude to IT. The empirical research methods and tools to illustrate theoretical considerations are questionnaires "Personal cultural orientations", "Cultural values scale", and "Scale to measure attitudes toward IT". The research base is made up of 1013 respondents (n = 260 in Latvia; n =753-in Ukraine). The article advances arguments in favor of the capability approach to be discussed as a possibility to introduce a new pedagogical direction to further improve educators' competencies.
Roland van Oostveen
added a research item
The Fully Online Learning Community (FOLC) model is intended to operate within a co-created Digital Space to (a) reduce transactional distance, and (b) incorporate newcomers into an established learning community. An operationalized version of the General Technology Competency and Use (GTCU) framework was used with a convenience sample of Ontario Tech University students to determine readiness to work in the Digital Space. Initial findings confirm the results of an earlier study, which found positive correlations between self-reported scores and overall performance quality at the high and low ends of the continuum. We suspect that while the GTCU aids in the identification of a threshold-based approach to identifying readiness to work in the Digital Space, the instrument is insufficiently granular to identify a precise readiness point. This led the team to continue to develop a more sophisticated version of the GTCU, the current Digital Competency Profiler (DCP), and its companion, the Fully Online Learning Community Survey (FOLCS).
Roland van Oostveen
added 3 research items
It was noted that students in Fully Online Learning Community (FOLC)-based programs felt close to each other despite never having been physically co-located (vanOostveen, Childs, Clarkson, & Flynn, 2015). It is postulated that this reported closeness is a result of (a) decreased transactional distance (Moore, 1993) (b) the use of video and audio (webcams and mic/headsets); and (c) the types of interactions that are afforded in the online spaces, particularly in the synchronous environments used in FOLC-based programs, which can lead to a democratization or greater social immediacy/intimacy (Rogers & Lea 2005). One of the attributes that is particularly noticeable in FOLC environments, which utilize audio-video conferencing software, is the marked decrease of behaviours such as raising of voice volume and using aggressive body positions. This report focuses on some attributes of social presence, namely the emotional content of our interactions, as communicated through facial expressions, body language, as well as words used within the context of the fully online courses described in this proposal, addressing the "dialog" component of transactional distance concept. The investigation reported used simulated, small group (3-4 participant) tutoring sessions hosted in Adobe Connect, with a researcher assuming one of a series of roles expressing qualities such as extreme compliance, aggressiveness, non-participation, using collaboration-building questioning practices. All interactions were captured on video and subsequently analyzed using Noldus Observer XT for reactions, particularly those that indicate changes in the amount of collaboration and transactional distance. Preliminary results of the analysis will be described in the paper.
This workshop will provide an overview of the theoretical underpinnings and description of the FOLC model and its component parts. Through small group activities, participants will examine and discuss propositional definitions for the FOLC components. Participants will complete the FOLCS online self-assessment instrument and discuss their experience with a focus on improving the FOLCS for global use. In addition, participants will examine the application of the FOLCS for use with their students as a component of determining readiness to moving into fully online learning environments. The workshop will conclude with an explanation of the global educational learning observatory (GELO) and its associated tool set will be shared and participants will be invited to join into this global research network.
This workshop is intended for individuals and institutions interested in taking a look at fully online learning with community supports; those interested in assessment tools that speak to the readiness for participation in fully online learning environments, and those involved in the creation of supports required by institutions for students, faculty, institutional. The workshop will provide an overview of the theoretical underpinnings and description of the FOLC (fully online learning community) model and its component parts. Through small group activities, participants will examine and discuss propositional definitions for the FOLC components. Participants in small groups will discuss, propose definitions, experience the FOLCS (FOLC survey) and a variety of online tools associated with the GELO, and contribute to the evolution and refinement of theoretical descriptive and predictive models of contemporary online learning. Participants will complete the FOLCS online self-assessment instrument and discuss their experience with a focus on improving the FOLCS for global use. In addition, participants will examine the application of the FOLCS for use with their students as a component of determining readiness to moving into fully online learning environments. The workshop will conclude with an explanation of the global educational learning observatory (GELO) and its associated tool set will be shared and participants will be invited to join into this global research network.
Roland van Oostveen
added a research item
Teaching, and education in general, remain firmly rooted in the practices of the past and continue to resist the implementation of strategies and theories arising from educational research. Consequently, significant reforms have been slow to take hold in educational systems around the world. Much of the reluctance can be attributed to a widely-held misconception of the nature of learning. This project attempts to address this misconception through the development of Professional Development Learning Environments (PDLEs are a series of learning tasks and a video-based case study) embedded in an online learning environment that requires the collaboration of users to solve problems. To use a Problem-Based-Learning (PBL) approach in an online context requires a major paradigm shift as well as using tools that were not designed specifically for such a student-driven, process-centred pedagogical paradigm. This becomes a problem when online resources and systems are used for supporting in-service teacher in their pursuit of furthering their education. Although the current theories of learning and teaching may present the philosophical content of such courses, the online strategies used often conflict with the theory. To study the formal implementation of PBL as a social-constructivist pedagogical approach, into an online learning environment to provide the tools for e-learning that would be closer in design to the current thinking on the very nature of learning, the PDLEs were modified to become small reusable video clips with a structure designed to facilitate PBL and focus learners’ attention on higher order thinking skills rather than specifically on content. These modified PDLEs are referred to as Problem-Based Learning Objects (PBLOs). The PBLOs were embedded into a prototype of a Collaborative Online Learning Environment (COLE) which was developed simultaneously. The entire system was pilot tested with small groups. Preliminary results show that although many technical difficulties remain to be solved, using the environment does show evidence of some effect on beliefs about personal theories of learning, causing shifts from technical issues to those surrounding processes of learning. Our preliminary research has called attention to the potential ability of PBLO/COLE to disrupt conventional, transmission-based conceptions of online learning as content delivery. At the same time, however, our preliminary work has also indicated that learners who are not used to the collaborative opportunities provided within PBLO/COLE may still hold traditional orientations to teaching and learning as a “gold standard” to which all other options are compared. A purposeful direction for our future research will entail working with learners in PBLO/COLE over a sustained period so that they may engage in an online experience grounded in principles of socio-constructivism.
Olena Mykhailenko
added a research item
Співпраця між Україною та Канадою уже тривалий проміжок часу відзначається особливо доброзичливими відносинами. Проте по обидві сторони океану дедалі більше українців обмірковують питання, яку Україну будувати у мирній перспективі? Стаття показує сучасні можливості постіндустріальної вищої освіти за ключовими вимірами технологій, свободи, лідерства і культури та демонструє результати одного українсько-канадського пілотного дослідження цифрових компетенцій та культурних цінностей студентів і викладачів.
Todd J.B. Blayone
added 2 research items
Online learning is having profound effects on institutions of higher education. Allen & Seaman (2014) report that in the U.S. in 2013, 33.5% of higher education students took at least one online course. While online courses are highly variable with respect to how they are constructed, ranging from blended learning, where students complete in-class or at-home tasks and assignments using an internet connection, to fully online courses, where students never physically come on campus but interact with each other using a variety of synchronous and asynchronous tools and affordances, they have, perhaps undeservedly developed a reputation of leaving students feeling isolated, disconnected and frustrated, resulting in retention and persistence issues (Lehman & Conceicao, 2014). Simultaneous to the rise in demand for access to online learning, an increasing number of calls for a paradigm shift in employment skills are coming from a variety of sources, such as the Conference Board of Canada (2016), eWeek (2015), World Economic Forum (2015) and the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (2015). All of these sources recommend, among other things, an increased emphasis on skill development in the areas of complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration. According to Miller (2014), these recommendations match a list of best practice principles for online learning including: allowing for group collaboration, promotes active learning, encourages active participation, knowledge construction, learner-centred fostering meaning making discourse and are based on higher level thinking skills of analysis, synthesis and evaluation focusing on real world problem solving. This paper presents the Fully Online Learning Community Model (Childs, vanOostveen, Flynn & Clarkson, 2015), as developed in the Faculty of Education at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). Along with a problem based learning (PBL) orientation, the FOLC Model serves as the basis for the fully online program, the Bachelor of Arts in Educational Studies and Digital Technologies (ESDT). The model was developed as a modification of the Community of Inquiry model (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2000), as a means of reducing transactional distance (Moore, 1993). It also incorporates newcomers into the learning community through the process of legitimate peripheral participation (Lave & Wenger, 1991). In program courses, instructors, teaching assistants and students collaboratively function as co-creators of the learning environment, the digital space. Instructors begin the PBL process by publishing YouTube videos as modified Problem Based Learning Objects (vanOostveen, Desjardins, Bullock, DiGiuseppe & Robertson, 2010). Students in turn, use the YouTube video to create ill-structured problems. Students bring their thoughts and questions about these problems to the hour long facilitated audio-video conferencing tutorial sessions. Acting initially as facilitators, instructors and teaching assistants model a process of eliciting preconceived notions about the problems from the students and offering challenges to the conceptions (Bencze, 2008), gradually empowering control of these interactions to the students as they collaboratively investigate the problems and build toward solutions. This presentation argues that a learning community can be established in fully online programs and that these communities can have a democratizing effect on the participants. These communities have characteristics that are described in the South East quadrant of the Teaching- Learning Paradigm Model (Coomey & Stephenson, 2001). A variety of evidence drawn from a number of ongoing research projects will be shared during this session.
Roland van Oostveen
added a project goal