Saturday, 20 March 2010

Role-based E-learning: A Guide to Designing and Moderating Online Role Plays (Paperback)

A new book on role-based e-learning, from your truely, co-authored with Sandra Wills and Elyssebth Leigh will be available from Amazon from December 2010. From the Introduction:

This book offers an overview of a form of blended e-learning which provides students with authentic learning experiences through role-based activities. It describes a particular approach to learning design that places learners in roles requiring them to collaborate and communicate about actions and decisions within authentic scenarios created in online environments. The chapters offer advice, information and examples for educators moving role play into blended e-learning contexts and to those who are unfamiliar with role play. The book demonstrates in a practical ways how role-based e-learning builds on the pedagogical power of role play in face to face situations and shows how to add value to e-learning via wholly online and/or blended contexts.
Whilst this Introduction defines online role play in contrast to the more familiar mode of face to face role play, Chapter 1 Games, simulations and role plays positions this role-based e-learning alongside recognised learning designs such as problem-based learning and case-based learning and illustrates its connections with other online modes such as simulations and games. In addition it provides a more in-depth look at the educational rationale for role-based e-learning.
The three authors each have over twenty years experience with designing and researching role-based e-learning allowing them to describe examples of how role plays have developed over that period and been adapted as e-learning evolved. Altogether the book offers a comprehensive and non-technical introduction which is heavily informed by practice as well as research.

The book cites twenty-five examples, contributed by a network of international colleagues (listed in Appendix A). Examples cover a range of disciplines including: Education, Engineering, International Relations, Media, Journalism, Public Relations, Communications, Business, Environment, Health, Law, Language, Economics, History, Politics, and Geography. Many of these examples are described individually in Chapter 2 Examples of role-based e-learning to illustrate the possible similarities and differences and to compare the approaches of different role play designers from across the world.

Examples in Chapter 2 are referred to throughout the book and are labelled Example 2.1, Example 2.2 etc. In addition each chapter contains one or two examples relevant to the chapter’s theme and these are labelled according to their chapter number. The full description of Example 3.1 occurs in Chapter 3 but may be referenced in brief elsewhere in the book by citing its label (Example 3.1) in case the reader needs the full description again.

Appendix B contains a set of reflective questions for readers to use in reviewing each chapter. If this book is being used as a textbook in an education or design course, this appendix might lay the groundwork for group work and online discussion between learners. Appendix C describes a free role play available for educators to try with their classes.

A large part of the book is a practical guide to designing online role plays. Quality learning outcomes from this e-learning design depend on practical design choices. These decisions about design are overviewed at the conclusion of Chapter 2 and then described in detail in the next three chapters: Chapter 3 Designing online role plays, Chapter 4 Designing the problem and Chapter 5 Designing the roles and rules.

The design decisions that impact assessment are explored in Chapter 8 Assessing learning in online role play. Not all online role play designs require participants to be assessed however the learning design does provide unique opportunities to integrate powerful and authentic assessment tasks.

Meanwhile design decisions that affect the implementation and running of online role plays are explored in two chapters: Chapter 6 Moderating online role play and Chapter 7 Platforms for online role play.

A significant feature of role-based e-learning is that role play is a co-created learning activity. Once the educator has designed the initial scenario and roles, the remainder of the learning activity is further developed by the participants via typed dialogue in discussion forums. The success of this partnership between the learners and educators depends heavily on the experience and skill of the person running it, in this book called the Moderator.

Although cost-saving is not a primary reason for advocating online role play, co-creation also means that role-based learning can often be a low-cost educational technology, as outlined in Chapter 7, Platforms for online role play. Whilst the pioneering development of online role play has been text-based, and there are many advantages in this, online role play is now poised to engage with the exciting potential of Web 2.0 applications which support easy sharing of user-generated, multimedia content.

Innovation in teaching can be a time-consuming and risky venture therefore Chapter 9 Evaluating and researching online role play provides advice and support to educators needing to know that their design is effective, efficient, and easy to use. Examples and techniques in the chapter provide the evidence base for deciding whether it was worth the time and effort and what aspects could be improved next time.

The book concludes with a look at what impact current trends in e-learning may have on the future for role-based e-learning. While future development will of course be influenced by changes in the type of technology and how we use it, Chapter 10, Future trends for role-based e-learning, also looks at the potential impact of advancements, based on research, in both the way the learner-educator relationship is viewed and the role of educational institutions.

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