Learning process in hybrid environment
Learners in hybrid environments
Actors in hybrid learning environment
Perspectives for future research
Background of the research
The first task of the research was to identify and classify the actors and resources needed by the learner in the hybrid learning environment. The detailed research questions related to the task were:
Second task was to study the learner as a member of a social group in the hybrid learning environment by profiling the characteristics of communication processes, focusing on the influence of cultural differences. The research questions were formulated around two frames of reference: the real/local group/setting and the virtual/remote group/setting. The research questions were:
- What roles are required in the hybrid learning environment?
- What are the relationships between the roles?
- What are the new dimensions that the cultural differences bring into the learning? How do the cultural differences support and/or hinder learning? What are the benefits that the free exchange of knowledge and experiences bring to the university education?
- What type of social relationships emerge in the real and virtual environments? How and why are they created and maintained?
- What is the content and the purpose of the communication between students in the real and virtual environments?
- What are the factors influencing the learner's commitment and motivation in the hybrid learning environment?
The final objective of the research was to combine the two perspectives described above to produce a definition of the roles and responsibilities of various actors needed in the hybrid learning environments from the learner's perspective. This would result in the network design that is meaningful and motivating to the learner.
The research activity was composed of two components: a desk research with literature review on the relevant areas of existing research results, and the qualitative research of the experiments carried out in the Humanities project.
The literature research covered various relevant areas in pedagogy, communication, sociology and technology as follows: cognitive models of learning; didactic models applicable in collaborative learning environments, cultural differences, communication processes and social relationships relevant in collaborative learning environments; and research on introducing ODL and telematics based learning in organisations.
The qualitative research of the experiments carried out in the Humanities project studied: the inhibiting and enhancing factors related to the various technology configurations and telematic services used; actor roles, relationships and interaction processes of a networked model of hybrid learning environment.
Hybrid learning environment
Humanities is a European project which aims at introducing and developing a structure of virtual mobility, through telematics-based distance learning, addressed to students of human science faculties. Since mainstream universities tend to be reluctant to accept new methods and approaches, a gradual and context-based implementation is proposed in the Humanities project, instead of a pure open distance learning - the hybrid model.
Courses in hybrid model are composed of two parts: first, the traditional face-to-face component and, following that, a module applying open distance learning methodology in combination with local group activities. The learning path is not linear, but shifts from one model to another and, therefore, the teaching approach and situations will alternate correspondingly.
The differences between this kind of learning environment and a traditional university environment are mainly in the ODL part of the courses, where a new pedagogical approach is introduced to students and learners. The approach in open and distance learning is learner-centred, emphasising the flexibility of learning, as well as the autonomy and independence of the learner.
The ODL approaches of Humanities differ from the traditional university teaching also in that modern telecommunication technologies are used for teaching delivery and student interaction. The technical configurations used in the Humanities project were: satellite broadcast television, video-conference, audio-conference and computer mediated communication via Internet.
Learning process in hybrid environment
The design of learning process in hybrid environment is based on learners centred approach. The two corner stones of the approach are: the cognitive learning model that describes a complete learning process; and the pedagogical approach that links the aspects of learning, teaching and technology.
Cognitive learning model
Learning is understood here as an activity during which the learner builds his or her interpretations and models of the reality by reflecting the learning experience with his or her former knowledge. Thus learning happens if he or she accepts (through learning materials, interaction and tuition) new interpretations and models replacing his or her old interpretation of the reality. The model is presented in the picture 1 (see e.g. Engeström 1982)
Picture 1. Cognitive learning model
The motivation for learning starts from the conflict between his/her existing knowledge and the reality - the learner finds out that (s)he can not tackle the different challenges faced with the his/her knowledge. Thus (s)he seeks different methods to acquire a better method to interpret reality and undertake tasks. Basically this motivation guides the learner in the selection of the courses and learning contents.
The motivation must be strengthened during the learning process by providing also possibilities not only to apply the learning content to practice, but also by providing possibilities to reflect the learning content with other learners, professionals, experts and academics (tutors, teachers).
To organise the learning process in the hybrid environment the above described cognitive learning model can be integrated with a pedagogical approach that has four dimensions: the didactic functions that can be related to the different phases of cognitive learning model, pedagogical method for presenting the learning content, the social form of organising the student groups, and the telematic means used to support the interactions of the actors.
The picture 2. presents the main components of the pedagogical approach used in the course design for hybrid environment.
Picture 2. Components of the pedagogical approach.
The three main pedagogical approaches used in the Humanities courses are: individual study, telelectures with distant interaction, and collaborative learning.
Individual study is the prevailing study method in the open and distance learning approaches for adult learners. As the term indicates, a learner studies individually the learning materials at a time and place chosen by the learner. A learner needs to be highly motivated to be successful in individual study.
In Humanities, individual study forms a substantial part of the learner work. Especially in the learning of new study skills, individual study (and practise) is the main method of learning.
The teacher in the Humanities telelectures is located at a distant university. The lectures are delivered to other participating universities by satellite transmission or mailing of video tapes. The interaction with the teacher take place using telecommunication technologies such as e-mail, computer conferencing, audio- and videoconferencing. The interaction is in real-time and/or deferred time depending on the pedagogical design of the module.
The interaction through telecommunication technologies differs in many ways from the face-to-face situation. First, the interaction can take place at several points in time with reference to the telelecture: continuously during to the lecture, at certain "question periods" during the lecture, or after the telelecture at set time. Second, the medium requires either written (computer mediated methods) or spoken (audio- and video-conference) communication from the student. This affects not only the way the message is composed but the amount of personality it carries with. Third, students may not be able to communicate directly with the lecturer but the messages go through the local tutor or remote screener who addresses the lecturer.
The collaborative learning is based on small groups that may have local and/or distant members. The learning methods in collaborative learning are problem solving oriented and, besides the content related learning objectives, the students will learn also skills needed in group work and assessment. The basic element of the learning is the interaction between the members of the group. The distant members communicate using telecommunication technologies such as e-mail and audio-conferencing.
In a collaborative learning situation, the student needs to be active, independent, motivated and ready to take initiative and responsibility for the work.
Learners in hybrid environments
New dimensions of cultural differences for learning
Humanities is an European project, which has highlighted the cultural differences between the universities, their teachers and tutors as well as between students. However, the cultural differences do not follow only the differences between national cultures, as many of the differences (such as those between generations) can actualise within the same national or organisational culture.
The new dimensions for learning due to cultural differences can be approached according to the differences between the learner (and his or her culture) and the other entities within the hybrid learning environment (such a learning material providers, tutors, other learners etc.). The main differences can be categorised as follows:
- differences in national or regional cultures
- differences in professional cultures
- differences in organisational cultures
- differences between generations.
The differences of national cultures have been discussed widely in cultural anthropology and other cultural sciences - especially in the discussion of cross-cultural transfer and adaptation. Many recent writers have also discussed the differences in national cultures and their implications to cross-cultural activities (such as management and learning) in a practical manner. National cultures differ according to Geert Hofstede in the following dimensions (Hofstede 1991, 13-14):
- social inequality, including relationship with authority
- the relationship between the individual and the group
- concepts of masculinity and femininity: the social implications of having been born as a boy or as a girl
- ways of dealing with uncertainty, relating to the control of aggression and the expression of emotions
- time orientation: short-term orientation vs. long-term orientation.
The differences in national cultures have obvious consequences for learning. For instance, the learning material provider might have culturally different views in accepting social inequality, respecting the authorities in the society, in being individualistically oriented etc. compared with the learners.
The professional cultures differ also from one country to another. Within different cultures the different professions have a different cultural value and they are ranked differently; for instance, in some countries the service as a civil servant is highly ranked and highly paid as in contrary in other countries the work within the private sector is more appreciated. However, it should also be highlighted that some professions are more culturally biased than others (see e.g. O'Hara-Devereaux - Johansen 1994, 56-57). O'Hara-Devereaux and Johansen suggest that professions within areas such as finance, engineering and information systems are little or at least less culturally biased, as on the contrary professions within areas such as human resources, marketing and management are more culturally biased in the daily work. However, this implies also that people working or studying within these areas are understanding their environment differently.
These differences in professional cultures influence learning significantly. For example, learners having same profession (and thus professional culture) may understand each other better than learners from the same national culture. On the other hand, the differences between learners from different national cultures may even be strengthened by the impact of the professional cultures.
The differences in organisational cultures have been recently discussed in a wider manner, when the discussion of corporate cultures and their impact has been widening (see e.g. Deal and Kennedy 1982, Hampden-Turner 1994). The organisational culture has an impact on learning especially according to the different organisational cultures within the educational institutions and different home institutions of learners. The dimensions of, for instance, formality and centralisation might differ widely from a university to each other. The organisational culture of the French universities has been discussed widely by Bourdieu (see Bourdieu 1988). The picture Bourdieu paints, differs in many senses from the university practice in a number of European countries.
The effects that the differences in organisational cultures have on learning are met by the learners, for instance, in the design of learning and its support in hybrid environments as well as in approaching the different resources (teachers, tutors, technical support) within the home institutions.
Differences between generations have an impact on learning as well. Some recent work within sociology in various countries has highlighted how each generation differ not only according to style and manner, but also more widely in their goals of life. The differences between generations tend to be also stronger than the differences between national cultures or professional cultures (see e.g. Roos 1988).
In learning, the differences between generations can be observed mainly in the communication between learners and teachers, but also in the communication between the learner and the learning material. As the general goals of life differ between generations, it's natural that the behaviour and the style differ as well.
The above mentioned categories of cultural differences must be considered in the design of hybrid learning environments. Through proper design and careful division of labour between actors these differences can be turned from problems that hinder learning to mutually beneficiary resources for learning. However, if the different cultural features are not considered within the learning design and not internalised by all the actors in the learning undertaking, these differences generate "noise" which will also hinder the learning process.
Picture 3. Noise factors in multicultural learning process.The impact of these "noise factors" varies widely according to the learning situation. In European learning projects, understanding these factors offer also options to develop effectively the roles of different actors involved in supporting the learning process.
Social relationships in hybrid learning
Open and distance learning has often been discussed from the perspective of isolated learner, who must manage his or her learning only by the help of learning materials, occasional contacts with the tutors and occasional seminars or summer schools. In designing open and distance learning, isolated learners can be facilitated with proper learning resources by using a number of methods, e.g. appropriate design of learning materials, well-structured activities, tutorial help, technical support.
The quite high drop-out rates have been seen to be problematic in many institutions of open and distance learning (see e.g. Paul). Although in numerous studies (see e.g. Peters' paper) other reasons than purely learning design factors are mentioned by the learners as drop-out causes (such as personal life, stress etc.), there are also a considerable amount of reasons which can be returned to the learning design in new learning environments. The required new learning style, the lack of contacts with other learners, the uneasiness with (learning) technology, the missing tutoring and technical support quoted often as reasons, why learning is not optimal in unconventional settings.
The impact of other learners becomes crucial in social relationships of the learners especially meeting new areas. Often in hybrid learning environments, learners are simultaneously invited to learn a new subject area with a new learning method - in some international learning programmes even by a foreign language. Each of the changes per se would already be a major shift in the learning experience, but covering three major "paradigm shifts" at the same time can be too arbitrary for a single learner. Various learners might have a different learning profile as well as different ways to tackle with new learning modes. Although learning can be based on foreign learning materials, the impact of local tutoring and student support as well as of strong peer group have been seen vital for the learning success by the students (see e.g. Auvinen, A-M et alia) . The importance of the peer group seems to be very important, especially when a new learning method or technology is introduced.
However, the electronic communication, especially through media such as CMC (Computer-Mediated Communication) has been quickly changing the scene. The alternative approach of hybrid learning environment has been discussed, for instance, by Harasim (see Harasim 1989). Her research on an on-line distance education course showed that the whole pattern of interaction was changing: the dominating role of the teacher was reduced and the pattern of interaction on her on-line course was dominated by the students. Her research showed also that on-line discussions were not linear and that complex referencing occurred. Thus it can be claimed that the social relationships are different in the hybrid learning environment.
She also claims that on-line courses with a good design can generate a more equitable pattern of communication among class members, contrary to a typical face-to-face classroom communication structure, where participation rates are unequal. Other changes occur as well, such as that the communication focuses on the content of the message rather than on the messenger. One might also assume that each person has different interaction patterns on different platforms.
The new social relationships emerge in hybrid learning environments also between tutors and learners, and between learners and technical support staff. The role of tutors is often seen in supporting the study process of learners and providing him or her with different methods of study counselling and also in-depth area expertise. In some cases these functions are separated: some tutors concentrate on the study process counselling, others on area expertise. The role and the competence of the tutors must be clear for the learners to reach the optimal benefit, but the tutors must also be trained to facilitate and assist the learning process in new learning environments.
The importance of technical support for hybrid learning environments has been studied inadequately. However, in various learning projects utilising new information and communication technologies, the role of technical support is crucial. Technical support staff are facilitating, for instance, the whole communication process (provision of access to e-mail, WWW etc.).
The learners participating in European ODL courses can have different sources of motivation. A number of different theories of motivation in adult learning have been displayed. Knowles (1990) relies on the work of Cyril Houge in explaining the motivation of adult learners and suggests that there are three types of learners which are
- goal-oriented learners, who use education and training for accomplishing fairly clear-cut objectives
- activity-oriented learners, who are seeking for social contacts and human relationships in learning
- learning-oriented learners, who seek knowledge for its own sake.
These types should be understood to be also complementary with each other. In European ODL courses the participants might have a clear goal(improved subject area knowledge), but they also are seeking for activity (and thus new international social contacts to relate their learning experience with other learners) and new learning experiences (by learning through new methods and technologies). In regard to the social relations in hybrid learning environments, the various types of motivation to join a learning experience must be recognised. If the different sources of motivation are not recognised, it can potentially build tensions between the learners as well as between learners and other actors.
The role of learners in a hybrid environment will thus change. The learners will have an active role in creating new learning resources, e.g. by using computer-mediated communication. The learners co-operate with each other to create unique learning resources through new mechanisms, such as electronic mail and bulletin boards (see e.g. Shneiderman 1992). Thus the social relationships within hybrid learning projects differ considerably from conventional face-to-face learning situations.
During the learning process in the hybrid learning environment the learner is in an active interaction with different parties (in selecting the courses, orienting to the learning, interpreting the content, developing new unique interpretations, evaluating the content, controlling the learning). Moore (see Moore 1989) has discussed the three different types of interaction: learner-content interaction, learner-instructor interaction, and learner-learner interaction. However, in modern tele-learning environments the learner-instructor interaction should be widened also to other actors, such as the learner-tutor interaction and the learner-technical support interaction.
The learners entering the hybrid learning environment have all different kinds of previous learning experiences. The hybrid learning environment might require additional learning skills, such as the ability to use different approaches to learning, appropriate to different learning tasks. Thus the learners without previous experience in hybrid learning might not be able to utilise all the resources offered (tutors, technical support, other learners) and can not fully benefit from the various resources provided.
The difference in learner interactions in a hybrid learning environment compared with conventional learning situations is that the learners are actively involved and that the creation of knowledge in the electronic classroom is a process whereby students and instructors interact with one another and with the course materials through medium of interactive written discourse (see e.g. Slatin 1992).
Many studies show that in hybrid environments the distribution method of lectures can be varying from the communication and dialogue method between teacher and students. In the Norwegian Trysil project the communication was relying on the improved audio connection, although the teaching was delivered through the video connection (see e.g. Klingsheim - Kristianssen, 1993). The removal of physical barriers for communication can also minimise the psychological barriers for interaction between the learners and the teachers as well as between the different learners.
In the hybrid learning environment the above mentioned interaction categories must be widened in two dimensions. First, there are additional actors involved, such as technical support of facilitator. Second, the face-to-face and ODL components of the hybrid model change the roles of the instructors, e.g. the local teacher is in the role of an instructor during the face-to-face module, whereas during the ODL module his/her role might be described more appropriately as a mentor.
The scheme in picture 4. presents the various actors and interactions from learners perspective and makes a distinction between the local (Home University) and distant actors which is the driving force of hybrid model.
Picture 4. Learner interaction in hybrid learning environment.
The role of various actors can also be approached according to their function in regard to the cognitive learning model. In the picture 5. the various actors and technologies utilised are displayed according to their actualisation in the learning process.
Picture 5. Learning model with actors and technologies.
Actors in hybrid learning environment
The Humanities learning environment has several levels on which the roles can be identified: learners, core actors, network (or supporting) actors, and enablers. It should be noted that some of the roles (notably the supporting ones) described below are required only in a situation where a hybrid model is new for universities. In subsequent implementations the roles may change or become obsolete.
The basic model and pattern for European ODL projects and the role of different actors can be described in more precise terms as follows (see picture 6).
Picture 6. Actors in European ODL network.
The actors described above have different roles - there might also be several actors one role (for instance, many different learning material providers) or one actor having several roles.
In a hybrid learning environment the learner interacts with
- learning material (reflects his/her previous learning and knowledge with the material, undertakes activities and exercises)
- other learners (reflects with other learners the content of the teaching (undertakes potentially small-group activities)
- tutor (reflects with tutors the learning content and seeks applications for his/her studies and previous experience, links the learning content with the "reality")
- teacher (reflects with teachers the learning content and seeks applications for his/her studies and previous experience, links the learning content with the "reality")
- technical support (providing the needed technology, ensuring the smooth use of given technologies).
The purpose of European ODL projects is to provide for the learners high-level education regardless of time and space. This mode of learning provision requires not only a new approach from the learners but also a new approach in identifying the key actors as well as in organising their work towards the common goal.
The rest of this chapter will focus on the core and supporting actors that have been identified as key players in a successful implementation of the hybrid model developed in the Humanities project. The approach has been developed in close co-operation with the TeleScopia project.
The discussion will not include the enablers, which are actors resourcing and facilitating trans-European learning activities. The enablers include, for instance, different national governments, the European Union, teleoperators etc. The enablers are often providing the wider framework (e.g. through legislation, financing and telematic services) for European ODL projects.
The most used delivery system for university education is still what can be defined traditional: the learners are located in a well-defined space (usually in a classroom) with a teacher providing a face-to-face lesson. The teacher spends a lot of time with groups of learners meeting them several times in a week.
In the ODL modules of Humanities, the role of student changes considerably from the traditional teaching situation, as the student will be placed in the centre of the learning process. The teacher is physically absent, especially during and after the ODL module, and the study group is managed by a tutor. The students will be more independent and autonomous, and they will study at least part of the time on their own. The learning materials will be in an open learning format and include the use of telematics.
The hybrid learning environment may be a disorienting experience to students used to traditional classroom situations. To avoid this, demo seminar is preceded by a preparation module in which students are trained for learning in the ODL modules. Furthermore, tutors are carefully trained to help students during the whole course.
The responsibilities of different actors towards an individual learner in the Humanities project are summarised in Annex 2.
The core actors have a crucial role to play in the success of the learning effort. Usually these functions are performed close to the student at his or her home institution. In an European project, such as Humanities, some actors (such as other learners, teachers and even some tutors) are separated from the learners in terms of time and space. However, these remote actors can provide the learners with a new approach according to the content and interpretation of the learning content.
Tutor is a key role of the hybrid model. There are two types of tutors in the Humanities courses: the local or Home-University tutor and the distant tutor working in another university.
The main responsibilities of Home-University tutor is the management of study group and the organisation of local learner support. Therefore, the tutor must have a good ability to advise the TSG on the possible options provided in the environment, to counsel the TSG to explore the needs, to provide feedback and comments for the students. Tutors are not necessarily experts in the subject matter content of the course but have a basic knowledge of it.
The tutors will help students in developing new learning skills required in the hybrid environment. They have a basic knowledge of the technologies that will be used.
The role of local tutors varies in the different modules of the Humanities course. In the face-to-face module, the tutor may not play a major role, but is a very important actor before, during and after the delivery of the demo seminar as a reference and stimulus for the study process.
The distant tutor develops the activities for the interaction between students and between the students and the teacher delivering the demo seminar. Tutor support is carried out partially at distance during the telelectures and collaboration between students of different universities.
There are two types of teachers in the Humanities course: the local and the distant teacher. The local teacher is responsible for the planning and organising the Humanities course at the university level, including the teaching in the face-to-face module. Local teacher's role changes from instructor to more like a mentor during the ODL module.
The demo seminar lectures are delivered by distant teachers via telecommunications means. The teacher will be at remote location from learners' place of study, and learners will interact with the teacher via technologies such as audio conference, video conference, and/or e-mail.
Local technical supporter
In each university there is a technical support person that helps the teachers, tutors and students in setting-up and using the technical facilities required in the demo seminar, such as satellite reception, video- and audio-conferencing, computers, and telecommunication networks.
The amount of technical support provided by technician varied from university to another, i.e. a technician may be available continuously, or there is only limited access. In the latter case, the tutor has a more important role as a technical supporter.
A local co-ordinator has the responsibility to co-ordinate the activities at the university or department level. An university level co-ordinator is a preferred approach, but some universities may have a co-ordinator for each discipline area involved with Humanities.
Several different types of actors may play the role of local co-ordinator. In some cases the local co-ordinator is a person from a unit outside the participating departments, such as media or technology centre, or the international relations office. In other cases the co-ordinator may be the local teacher responsible for the course that the demo seminar is part of.
Learning material provider
Learning material providers are various types of organisations external to the project partnership, such as publishers, TV companies, specialised learning material producers, universities.
In the first phase of the project, the Task Forces played a major role in adopting and delivering common support materials that were used in the demo seminars. Materials for local modules are identified and delivered by each university individually.
Technology / service provider
The technology and/or service provider is responsible for providing the technology and related services to be used in the demo seminar.
Several types of actors may play the role of the technology / service provider for a university, such as specialised unit of the university (e.g. technology or media centre), telecom operator, private telecommunications service provider. The technology providers used locally are identified individually be each university.
The role of the network actors is twofold; on one hand they are working as learning project facilitators and as interpreters between the enabler level and the learning institution level. However, they can have also an independent role in creating new links between different actors and in creation of partnerships and joint actions.
The main challenge is how the different learner needs can be addressed in European ODL projects. In a network environment the efforts must be concentrated on creation of such processes and tools which are useful for the different actors in serving their learners. Basically the network learning operations require
- joint tools and techniques
- joint processes
- joint technology platforms.
In a network environment these approaches must be shared or several approaches must be provided.
The key for successful trans-European learning projects can be seen in provision of joint approaches, tools, techniques, processes and technology platforms to address the five main actors (see picture 7).
Picture 7. Main actors in a hybrid learning environment.
The main denominators in a networked environment for learning material provision can include, for instance
- joint competence and learning needs analysis to enable the right targeting of the learning materials
- flexible organisation of co-production and division-of-labour in learning material production
- provision of several alternative approaches to address the same learning problem.
The main denominators in a networked environment for home institutions for learners can include, for instance
- provision of trans-European platforms of sharing and exchanging (learning) experiences
- clustering the learners to workable (virtual) learning groups
- provision of group tutoring.
The main denominators in a networked environment for tutors can include, for instance
- standards and tools to undertake tuition and student support
- provision of trans-European platforms for tutors, mentors and coaches for sharing and exchanging their experiences
- joint training and professional development programs.
The main denominators in a networked environment for teachers can include, for instance
- standards, tools and guides to undertaken teaching in hybrid learning environments
- provision of trans-European platforms for teachers and tutors, for sharing and exchanging their experiences of hybrid learning environments
- joint training and professional development programs.
The main denominators in a networked environment for technical support can include, for instance
- joint technical specifications and standards
- joint technical trans-European platforms
- provision of service standards for technical support
- provision of tools to address issues, such as copyright, exploitation rights, translation etc.
The main factor is, however, that the added value brought by networked operations in every area and for each actor must outbid the working mode of the single institution operation.
The main responsibility of the network co-ordinator is to ensure that the different core actors are working towards the same main directions and towards same goals. For this work a number of tools and techniques are needed to ensure a joint service interface with the learners. Thus the ideal of successful European ODL project should be an undertaking during which the learners would receive the same level of service despite their location and the time they attend the course. To enable this ultimate service goal, the responsibility of the network co-ordinator is obvious in bringing the different actors together also on a European scale.
In the case of the Humanities model, the responsibilities of the network co-ordinator are specifically related to the overall telematics design and ODL implementation design of the hybrid model.
According to the functions of the network co-ordinator, it is crucial that the different performance criteria of the course and the different tools and techniques to be used by different projects partners are fixed. However, this implies also that the ways and means to reach these criteria or to use these tools and techniques are flexible.
For the content of the trans-European tele-learning courses, the network co-ordinator should be able to establish in co-operation with the different actors joint (fixed) performance criteria. The fixed performance criteria are enabling the utilisation of different resources on a European-wide basis (such as using foreign tutors and mentors and communication with other learners). However, it should be flexible according to different institutions and individual learners, how the courses actually are studied (flexibility of time and place).
For the instructional approach and resources as well as course delivery and logistics joint approaches must be agreed by the different actors, and this process should be facilitated by the network co-ordinator. Thus the main approaches should be fixed (such as the methods of teaching, core media used etc.), but it must be flexible according to different institutions and individual learners, how additional resources are used and utilised.
For supporting activities of the project (such as intellectual rights, copyright, marketing etc.) the main policies must be fixed on a project level. Thus policies according to copyright, potential commercialisation and marketing should be fixed, but the actual methods how different actors are undertaking these tasks must be flexible according to their own environment.
In all the main criteria and main policy approaches must be fixed and jointly agreed by the different actors, but the implementation of these criteria and policies in action must be flexible according to the different actors who work in their respective environments.
Task Forces within Humanities
For each discipline area a Task Force, made up of one leader university and 2 to 4 others, is nominated. The Task Forces are responsible for the scientific aspects, the content design and the delivery of the ODL modules. The Task Forces will also identify the support materials for the ODL module.
Each member university of the Task Force will deliver a specific part of the demo seminar on distance.
The learning process in the hybrid learning environment differs fundamentally from conventional university studies. This new process requires support by a number of actors, such as tutors, other remote learners, technical support. The actualisation of the need to utilise these resources can vary from learner to learner, but it is obvious that a wider number of services must be available for the learner to support his/her learning process.
Within European countries there is a wide variety of different learning styles and strategies. The course design can not always facilitate the various approaches and thus the role of learner's home institution and in general those support action performed close to him/her are of great importance.
The cultural differences between different learners, teachers, and tutors are crucial features within multicultural learning programmes. The major shifts between cultures, including national, professional, organisational, generations' cultures, have to be considered carefully in the design of the learning programmes and courses. If these differences are not recognised, the transparency of any learning programme will remain poor.
The role of learners in hybrid learning environments is at its best as the role of a learning material producing actor. The learners have new methods available (such as computer-mediated communication) not only to produce essays, reports and exams, but also to distribute and actively discuss them with other remote learners. The communication in hybrid learning environments differs from conventional learning environments, and there is evidence that also the interaction pattern changes when entering hybrid environments. Without the active support to various actors the change of the learning paradigm is impossible.
Perspectives for future research
The hybrid learning environment, especially the aspect of virtual mobility, is still missing its theoretical framework. Although a number of experiments have been undertaken, there is not much fundamental research available on the learning processes in hybrid learning environments and the role of various actors in facilitating the learning process.
Mobility per se has been declared by the European Union and national governments to be an important dimension of common Europe, but there is relatively little research on the impact of student mobility to their learning and their future career development. Thus mobility works today rather as a political preference instead of a well-proven pedagogical approach to enrich the learning experience of an individual. The theory as well as the practice of student and teacher mobility requires more research, not to speak about the linkages of mobility and new learning environments.
Numerous cross-cultural learning studies have covered problems of localisation, translation and adaptation of courses and learning programmes, but there is only little research available on multicultural course and programme co-production. In many cross-cultural studies the emphasis is on adapting a given course to a new environment, but co-production by several equal partners has not yet been covered widely. Both the cross-cultural as well as the multicultural approach require new skills for teachers, learning material providers, tutors, technical support etc. The requirements for new multicultural skills to facilitate learning are still to be studied.
The new paradigm of learner interaction in hybrid learning environments is a relatively new issue. There are some well-documented studies on the impact of electronic mail and computer-mediated communication on learners. However, these studies concentrate usually on one medium only and reflect the learner interactions through the given medium. The role of the different actors for learner interaction, the types and models of learner interactions, and the actualisation of interaction needs in hybrid learning environments require more research. This research has also a very practical need - each actor supporting the learning process must have a better understanding of the learning process in new learning environments.
Some of the elements - such as learning material production, media selection, tutoring, support - of hybrid learning environments have been sufficiently covered in studies of ODL. However, the role of technical support has been very scarcely discussed in contemporary research. Technical support is often building the lifeline for the learning process in hybrid environments, and its role will become even more crucial in the future. The widening variety of technologies available, different applications within major technologies, and the aspects of connectivity and compatibility increase the importance of appropriate technical support for the learning process. As the technical support plays a more important part in the daily learning, one should also study the mechanisms how, when and why the need for technical support actualises within the learning process.
Actions to be taken before, during and after the course
The different actors have varying responsibilities in an European learning project. Compared with the conventional university course setting, some of these responsibilities are different. The table below summarises the actions the different learners and the main core actors should undertake before, during and after the European ODL courses.
Design the course outline
Collect the comments of the course and adjust the course outline
Provide technical tools and instructions for use
Schedule the course
Train the tutors
Assist the home institutions
Provide a framework of learner assessment
Support the home
institution with regard to technology, tutoring
Nominate a contact
person who is constantly available for actors below
Ensure proper course provision in the future
Collect user feedback
according to user needs
Inform learners about the course contents and
Ensure that the chosen technology works
Facilitate tutors and learners
Encourage continuous contacts between learners and tutors as well as between different learners
Inform about further possibilities in telelearning
Develop institution's own mechanism of running courses in hybrid environments
Distribute information and experiences of hybrid learning within the institution
Ensure that the learners have appropriate background for the course in terms of
- use of technical tools
- home institution support
Maintain frequent contacts to learners and be constantly available
Facilitate group work
Facilitate learners with support materials
Exchange experiences with other tutors
Motivate learners to participate to new courses
Give feedback also
Evaluate his/her own work and suggest adaptations to course to actors above
Analyse joint training
Identify right project
Identify and locate right
partners and actors
Locate different appro-
priate joint funding
Train key actors
Establish quality and monitoring systems
according to marketing,
intellectual rights etc.
Allocate joint resources
Monitor project plan
and link with all the
Inform enablers, other
networks and core
actors of the project by
reporting and contacts
Assist actors in their
marketing etc. actions
cation between diffe-
Summarise and report
findings for different
Provide reporting of
joint financial resources
Evaluate the project and
provide feedback to
further actions to be
Facilitate the commer-
cialization and distri-
bution process of the
Propose a organizatio-
nal structure for further
actions to be taken
Get acquainted with the hybrid learning environment
Get comfortable with the technologies used
Plan the learning content also in regard to the media
Ensure the input of other locations for the course
Communicate with other key actors
Test and validate the teaching approach
Collect feedback of the teaching style and approach
Communicate actively with tutors
Follow the learner feedback through different media
Communicate with colleagues the experiences of hybrid learning environments
Develop the teaching style according to feedback collected
Develop further division of labour between different actors
Roles' responsibilities to learner in the humanities project
Main actor providing the learning environment for the students
Booking/subscription/purchase of telematic technology and services
Administration of courses/studies
Political support to tutor/teacher for resources (if needed)
Facilitating communication among actors
Monitoring the progress of all activities
Collaborative activities in local group
Collaborative activities in virtual group
Local TSG management
Learner training for telematics and ODL
TSG activity design (content - technology - pedagogy)
Moderation (audio/video conference, Internet)
- initiate, maintain, summarise discussion
- feed-back (with teacher/mentor, peer tutors)
Selection of tutor
Selection of learners
Selection of learning materials
Delivery of local modules
"Mentoring" (during ODL modules)
Production of a lecture (with the help of AV production team)
Delivery of a lecture
Interaction - answering questions
Set-up of technical facilities
Task force / ODL module
Design of telelectures (content - technology - pedagogy)
TSG activity design (content - technology - pedagogy)
Identification and delivery of common learning materials
Overall telematic service design and production/subscription
Overall ODL design
Telematics and ODL methodology support to Task Forces
Specialised telematics support to universities
Training and support of tutors, teachers in telematics and ODL
Learning material provider
Usually (a member of ) Task Force
Provision of required technology and services
Liaise with the subscriber (university, telematic design group)
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