4. Examples of Project Activities

4.1. Some Research Issues

What are the advantages and disadvantages of different media mixes, CMC features, teaching techniques, examination modes, etc., within the broad scope of “ALN delivery?”  In other words, can ALN researchers gather data that convincingly answers questions about relatively better and poorer ways of “doing ALN?”  This is one of the most important objectives of the project, to assist researchers to be able to frame and carry out studies that will help faculty and universities to “do it better.”  We hope to first post suggested methods and instruments for studying such questions, and then be able to post a growing compendium of findings to guide practitioners.

For example, there are now a range of technologies available for supplementing asynchronous (any time, generally meaning different times) interaction online with synchronous (same time, different place) online interaction (text chats, audio, video conferencing, whiteboards, etc.)  There are also a set of “pervasive,” wireless technologies (web-ready computers in your car, your pocket, maybe in your eyeglasses or built as chips in your body) that are emerging that might support more truly “anytime anywhere” interaction.  What happens when one introduces such technologies into an otherwise ALN course for use in  required or optional synchronous sessions or assignments?  How can they improve ALN effectiveness, and what modes of use have more problems and disadvantages than advantages?  The proposed Web Center for Learning Networks Effectiveness Research can help researchers learn what is out there to be studied, and how other researchers are studying it.  A growing compendium of findings, posted in a timely manner,  can help faculty and faculty development programs to decide which of these emerging synchronous multi-media technologies they should consider incorporating into their courses.