Research

My research contributions over the past 20+ years have been in three broad areas: the relationship between learning technology and learning theory; learning in polysynchronous learning environments, including 3D virtual environments; and university teacher and student attitudes towards and use of learning technologies.

The relationship between learning technology and learning theory

I postulated that particular learning theories logically led to particular applications of technology for learning in a 1996 ASCILITE paper and a 2001 article in BJET. Recent studies I have led using innovative learning analytics and fMRI methods have questioned constructivist assumptions underpinning inquiry-based designs for online learning. Findings from these studies have been published at international conferences (ICLS and Networked Learning) and in the journal Educational Media International, and have underpinned invited conference presentations and symposiums (ASCILITE 2010, CSUED 2009) and invited seminars at the University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland, the University of Sydney, Macquarie University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Learning in 3D virtual worlds and polysynchronous environments

My research into learning in 3D virtual environments has included the development of theoretical models, the undertaking of experimental studies, and evaluation studies exploring applications in specific higher education discipline contexts. Initial theoretical models relating the characteristics of 3D environments to their learning affordances were presented at ASCILITE (2002) and in a 2002 eJIST article and were subsequently extended in a 2010 BJET article . Experimental studies have explored motion control interfaces, the role of active exploration in spatial learning, the importance of task-test alignment, and the role of attention focussing strategies. These studies led to an ASCILITE outstanding paper award (2003) and articles in AJET and HCI. Evaluation studies have focussed on applications of 3D environments in Chemistry and Teacher Education, and a scoping study which I led on the use of virtual worlds in higher education across Australia and New Zealand. Recent work has extended this earlier work in exploring learning in polysynchronous environments using virtual world, video and web conferencing technologies. Grant funding has included a 2010 $33K grant from the DEEWR DEHub consortium which I led, a 2010 $220K ALTC Priority Programs grant led by Sue Gregory of UNE and a 2011 $220K OLT Priority Programs grant led by Matt Bower of Macquarie University. Publications have included articles in Computers & Education (2009) and AJET (2011), outstanding paper awards at ASCILITE (2010) and DEHub/ODLAA (2011) and a series of book chapters.

University teacher and student attitudes towards and use of learning technologies

This stream began with a 2006 $177K Carrick Institute Competitive grant led by Gregor Kennedy of the University of Melbourne. The research included a critical investigation of the notion of the ‘Net Generation’ through multi-institutional teacher and student questionnaires, focus groups and evaluation studies of the use of emerging Web 2.0 technologies. Results questioned prevailing ideas about a homogenous generation of ‘Digital Natives’ being taught by an academic workforce of ‘Digital Immigrants’. Early conference presentations were highly cited (e.g. papers at ASCILITE 2006, 2007 and 2008) and follow up articles have been published in Computers & Education (2010 and 2012) and JCAL (2010). My work in this area continued through conference publications in 2011 and 2012 emerging from a CSU institution wide questionnaire. Currently, through a 2014 $180K ARC Discovery grant led by Sue Bennett of the University of Wollongong, I am exploring the ways in which students interpret and engage with online learning tasks and the learning outcomes they achieve.

 

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