Research strategies and SL as Knowledge Medium

On Wednesday, January 21st I participated in a Master Class on Learning 2.0 and Knowledge Media at Aarhus University.Terry Anderson (Athabasca University) and Simon Heilesen (Roskilde University) were guest lecturers, while my MIL colleagues Christian Dalsgaard, Jørgen Bang and Elsebeth K. Sorensen (Aarhus University) served as moderators. Six Master- and PhD Candidates from different Danish Universities besides me participated, four of us giving short presentations of our projects.

Anderson gave an interesting presentation entitled “Overview of Research Methodologies for Social Software Research”, which initiated quite a discussion on research methodologies especially within educational research. Anderson was critical of educational research asking what results in fact had been able to instigate real change in educational practices. This lead to a critical overview of three dominant research paradigms respectively Quantitative, Qualitative and Critical. Anderson quoted a study by Mary M. Kennedy (1999):

The findings from this study cast doubt on virtually every argument for the superiority of any particular research genre, whether the criterion for superiority is persuasiveness, relevance, or ability to influence practitioners’ thinking. (from Anderson’s presentation above)

According to Anderson, who also is the director of Canadian Institute of Distance Education Research (CIDER), there is a need for development of new research strategies emphasizing possibilities for innovation and change. Anderson pointed to Design Based Research (DBR) as a potential strategy. At ELL we have a strong tradition of employing Action Research (AR) based strategies, including DBR, which in my point of view is a variant of AR. Both strategies are:

  • Iterative
  • Process and utility oriented
  • Intervention driven
  • Collaborative
  • Multileveled
  • Theory generating

However, there are at least two major differences between AR and DBR, namely the role of the researcher and the role of theory. In DBR the researcher works closely together with the practitioners, whereas in AR – especially in educational research – the researcher quite often also is the practitioner studying his/her own practice as a participant/insider. In DBR the role of theory is clearly defined as the point of departure of the research process:

Design-based researchers’ innovations embody specific theoretical claims about teaching and learning, and help us understand the relationships among educational theory, designed artifact, and practice. (DBRC.2003:5)

In AR theory isn’t necessarily applied from the beginning of the research process but to a higher degree grounded by the practice in the different research cycles, thus making it a more open strategy. Still, in claiming this I want to stress that there are many different takes on AR strategies. See Raelin (1999) for a good overview of different action based strategies.

Heilesen proceeded with another interesting presentation on “Learning 2.0 – Conditions and potentials of the social web”. There are so many comments to be made on this topic, but one of the issues Heilesen addressed was the potential of using new digital social technologies as means to change conventional conference participation from a typical closed and time limited event to a more open and continuous activity – exemplified by the MetaverseU conference at Stanford, February 2008 (where both Heilesen and I participated ;-). Anyone who has participated in RL conferences knows that it can be a somewhat dreary experience based mainly on one-to-many communication, and in my personal experience it can also be quite difficult to expand the effect/outcome afterwards. This issue of “frustrating conferences” is currently being addressed by George Siemens and colleagues. Note the upcoming open, online conference on this topic and see Siemens, Tittenberger & Anderson (2008) for a really interesting perspective on this.

After the lunch break, I and three other candidates were asked to present our projects. Presenting a PhD project in 15 min. really is an ungrateful task making it quite difficult to convey a coherent and comprehensible impression. On the other hand, I have to admit that at this stage in my PhD research many of my ideas and thoughts still need to be qualified by further research and a Master Class can be a really good opportunity to discuss this kind of “work-in-progress”. In my presentation, I chose to focus on the possibility of using SL as a knowledge medium – primarily based on the preliminary findings of my 2. research cycle, which was conducted in November/December 2008.

One of the things, which were critiqued as being unclear in my presentation, was my use of the concepts respectful and radical remediation. Initially I was inspired by Tringham, Mills  & Ashley (2007) and their experiences from the Remediated Places Project, where they used these two concepts (elaborating on Bolter & Grusin.1999) as a way of describing different ways of remediating. Based on my own experiences from remediating a specific course via SL I do find these two concepts very useful in describing not only different ways of remediating places, but also people and practices. There is, however, no doubt that I need to further develop and qualify my work on this, so that I can convey a more coherent, and thus convincing argument on this.

All in all, it was a very inspiring learning experience to participate in this Master Class, so my concluding words will be thanking all the participants :-)



Bolter, J. & Grusin, R. (1999): Remediation. Understanding New Media. The MIT Press

Kennedy, M. M. (1999) The problem of evidence in teacher education. In: Roth, R. (Ed). The Role of the University in the Preparation of Teachers. (pgs 87-107). London: Falmer Press.

Raelin, J. (1999) Preface. In: Management Learning. Vol. 30(2): 115-125. Sage Publications

Example of my ELL colleagues using DBR in current research

Coto, M. & Dirckinck-Holmfeld, L (2008): Facilitating Communities of Practice in Teacher Professional Development. Networked Learning Conference Proceedings 2008.

Other relevant resources


Smith, M.K. (1996, 2001, 2007): Action Research. The encyclopedia of informal education.

Center for Collaborative Action Research

Action Research Resources

4 thoughts on “Research strategies and SL as Knowledge Medium

  1. Lars Bo Andersen January 23, 2009 / 1:31 pm

    Also thanks to you Marianne. Interesting subject you have. I might stop by your blog once in while to see how things are going with the respectful, the radical, and all that :)

    best regards,
    Lars Bo

  2. Mariis Mills January 23, 2009 / 2:17 pm

    You’re very welcome, Lars Bo :-)

  3. chimeraspider January 23, 2009 / 5:55 pm

    Thanks for your interesting summary of this meeting. This is a subject which interests me a lot as well as learning in SL. I’m very happy to see you pick up on our uses of Bolter and Grusin’s radical and respectful remediation. I’d be happy to follow up with you on this topic. My “real world name is Ruth Tringham, and my SL name is Ruth Galileo

  4. Mariis Mills January 23, 2009 / 8:48 pm

    Wauw, thanks Ruth – I really would appriciate discussing that :-) I’ll contact you asap …

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