MI Picks is a pilot initiative to engage the McMaster community with recently published teaching and learning scholarship and its applications to practice.
Seven articles were chosen for this issue on the theme of negotiating time and space in online learning.
We were inspired by McMaster’s Fall 2020 Experience Survey recommendations on “reducing the [work]load”, as well as our own radically shifted sense and use of time and space while teaching and learning online. We were interested in seeing what the scholarly literature might say on these themes to affirm and provide insights into our experiences.
Together, these selected articles:
Summaries written/edited by: Alise de Bie, Elisa Do, Dani Pryke, Celeste Suart, Jee Su Suh, Emunah Woolf, and Vanessa Wong
Highlight: Have you been spending more time on recording lectures, answering students’ messages, and designing assignments this year? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. The authors of this paper suggest that e-learning has altered many dimensions of teaching in terms of time. This includes increasing the amount of time instructors dedicate to teaching. Additionally, many time-related challenges have surfaced during course delivery and in managing student engagement and interaction.
Reference: Jorge, M., & Baptista, N. M. (2016). The temporal properties of e-learning: an exploratory study of academics’ conceptions. International Journal of Educational Management, 30(1), 2–19. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEM-04-2014-0048
Highlight: Researchers conducted interviews with faculty and recent graduates involved with online social work programs. Interviewees described how online programs led to an intensification of their workload. Despite this, they also felt that the online environment sometimes allowed them to ‘slow down’ their scholarship by reducing the immediacy of communication, giving them more time to think things through. Attention was also drawn to concerns regarding the quality of online learning, and what this may mean from an equity standpoint.
Reference: Smith, K., Jeffery, D., & Collins, K. (2018). Slowing things down: Taming time in the neoliberal university using social work distance education. Social Work Education, 37(6), 691–704. https://doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2018.1445216
Highlight: Drawing on narratives from administrators, instructors, and students involved in the development and experience of online education at a UK university, this paper assesses the notion of flexibility in higher education. The author discusses how the increasing demand for ‘flexibility’ and ‘agility’ in the workplace is reflected in the institution. The author further explores subsequent implications for well-being, where students and instructors find themselves sacrificing sleep, and personal and social time in response to increased demands associated with ‘flexitime’.
Reference: Sheail, P. (2018). Temporal flexibility in the digital university: Full-time, part-time, flexitime. Distance Education, 39(4), 462–479. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2018.1520039
Highlight: This article relates to the theme of time and space through the author’s reflections on the science fiction novel, Ready Player One. The article moves across the temporalities of a dystopian future (2050s), recollections of the past (1980s pop culture and the author’s childhood), and the present-day reality of online learning. In doing so, it elaborates how the fictional virtual world created in Ready Player One can encourage transformation in contemporary online postsecondary education. The paper encourages reading fiction, remembering our personal histories, and engaging in creative writing as important practices of imagination and change.
Reference: Osvath, C. (2018). Ready Learner One: Creating an oasis for virtual/online education. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 14(1), n1. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1175849.pdf
Highlight: This article explores the importance of physical space for PhD students who do both academic work and care work in their home. Universities hold expectations of PhD students and the spaces in which they work, centering a “normative” and privileged PhD experience. The authors bring up questions of access and equity involved in these expectations . The paper highlights the creativity of students who balance both academic and care work and pushes back against the idea that balancing these kinds of work is a shortfall on the part of the student. This paper helps us think critically about the physical space of the home where PhD students complete both academic and care work. This is especially relevant in the COVID-19 context where many people have shifted to doing academic work at home and may also have care responsibilities. It may additionally help people find comfort in their own atypical study spaces and work settings.
Reference: Burford, J., & Hook, G. (2019). Curating care-full spaces: Doctoral students negotiating study from home. Higher Education Research and Development, 38(7), 1343-1355. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2019.1657805
Highlight: Asynchronous lectures, discussion posts and communication with instructors via email — these are just some of many possible differences that exist between in-person and online learning environments. Along with the adoption of different teaching strategies and methods of engagement, student workloads in the online environment may also differ. This raises the question of whether the average workload that students face is truly aligned with expected workload guidelines. Since previous literature on student workload has largely focused on in-person courses, the authors of this study specifically investigated workload in online courses.
Reference: Northrup-Snyder, K., Menkens, R. M., & Ross, M. A. (2020). Can students spare the time? Estimates of online course workload. Nurse Education Today, 90, 104428. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2020.104428
Highlight: Online learning is everywhere these days, with students engaging with both synchronous and asynchronous learning activities. But how do online student engagement patterns impact their learning? Using a quantitative analysis framework, Li and Tsai examine how different patterns of engagement with online resources correlate with learning performance. They also examine how trends in students’ motivation towards learning may play a role in online engagement.
Reference: Li, L. Y., & Tsai, C. C. (2017). Accessing online learning material: Quantitative behavior patterns and their effects on motivation and learning performance. Computers & Education, 114, 286-297. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2017.07.007