Earlier in the summer, a number of my classmates and I had the honour to participate in a video chat with Dr. George Veletsianos (2020), faculty member of the School of Education & Technology at Royal Roads University, Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology, and Commonwealth of Learning Chair in Flexible Learning. He’s an extremely accomplished researcher and it was a gift to have the opportunity to engage him in conversation about his experiences.
During our conversation he was kind enough to answer many of our questions, but there was one topic that really resonated with me. My classmate, Mike MacKay, asked Veletsianos where he should start his research into how Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR) impact transformative learning. Mike was concerned, due to the newness of this technology, that there may not be much research connecting these two concepts. The answer was really interesting.
Veletsianos presented the idea that performing a literature review to establish the existing knowledge on a specific topic is similar in structure to an onion (31:38). The specific research question that you’re looking to answer could be considered the very innermost layer of the onion. This is where you’ll be looking for previous research that specifically speaks to the topic you’re pursuing. In Mike’s example, this would be research looking for a connection between AR/VR and transformative learning. Once you’ve read the literature that covers your specific topic, your attention should turn to less direct, but related research… moving to more outer layers of the onion. Again, turning to Mike’s example, rather than looking directly at the connection between AR/VR and transformative learning, it would be appropriate to look at how else AR/VR has associated with learning in general. At the same time, it would make sense to read the foundational research on transformative learning, entirely separate from AR/VR. In this way, you as the researcher, will develop an extremely robust understanding of the available knowledge regarding your topic, and you’ll likely be able to identify a gap in that knowledge where you can fit in and begin developing a path for your own study.
It was my pleasure recently to have had the opportunity to listen to Clint Lalonde (2018), Associate Faculty at Royal Roads University in the School of Education & Technology, and Manager of Education Technologies at BCcampus, while he presented on Open Education and Creative Commons licenses. As both an educator and a media professional, I’m fairly well versed in copyright and the appropriate attribution of borrowed materials, but he did bring some ideas to my attention that I had not yet been exposed to. There were a couple of points that really stuck out to me as worthy of presenting here. Those points include the Five Rs of Open Education Resources (OER) and the TASL (pronounced “tassel”) acronym for Creative Commons attribution.
The Five Rs of OER
While I have used the concept of Open Education in my own teaching, I was doing so without my knowledge. It was super interesting to learn much more about the concept and I was particularly keen to hear about how one might categorize a learning material as an Open Resource. During this pre-recorded presentation, Lalonde described a rule one could follow to categorize a piece of learning material as an Open Resource called the Five Rs of OER (24:32). The Five Rs are represented by the following…
In order for a resource to be considered Open, it’s important that the student be able to retain that resource. It’s becoming increasingly common for textbook publishers to sell students access to online textbooks rather than a hardcopy of the book. The online textbook brings many advantages such as supplemental resources, practice quizzes, and more, to assist in deeper learning of a topic, but unfortunately when the license period purchased by the student expires, access is relinquished. This practice underlines the importance of a student’s ability to retain access to a resource used in their education in perpetuity.
The next R refers to the idea of reusability of a particular resource; that the student will be able to continue to make use of it over time. While describing this privilege, Lalonde referred to a concept called the “Reusability Paradox” (26:20). He asserted that a good piece of learning material has context to whatever knowledge the educator is presenting to the student, but if that resource is to be reusable over time, then it requires that it be without context. Lalonde then went on to show that this Reusability Paradox is avoided through application of the next R.
The Reusability Paradox introduces the importance of a student’s ability to revise a resource so that it continues to be of use over time. I’m fairly confident that we all have a textbook sitting on a dusty bookshelf from a course taken years ago that is no longer relevant. The use of online learning resources brings not only the ability to share, but the ability to make revisions to that resource to ensure its lifespan and versatility as a reliable tool is drastically increased.
Another important attribute of an Open Resource is the ability to combine it with another. An educator’s ability to remix resources into a new work, again, drastically increases the versatility of that tool. If an educator should be presented with the need to combine a chapter from one textbook with a chapter from another to adapt it to a new context, this should be allowable without any fear of repercussions from the creator of either resource.
Finally, educators should be able to make use of these resources. The ability to redistribute an Open Resource ensures that a certain piece can be copied or reprinted for use in a class without any concerns of copyright infringement. This way, educators can provide their students with the knowledge they need, without the burden of additional expenses on learning materials. This is so important in a world where the costs of higher education are already so restrictive.
Later on in his presentation, Lalonde introduced this useful acronym to remind users of the necessary attribution requirements when making use of content with a Creative Commons license (43:00). The TASL acronym represents the following requirements…
T – Title – Meaning the title of the piece A – Artist – The name of the creator of the piece S – Source – Users must include the source from which the piece was drawn L – License – Users must present the nature of the license associated with the piece, as illustrated in the image at the top of this page.
Curiously absent from the acronym is the additional requirement that users include a description of any adaptation to the work, if the license allows for it.
In preparation to do my research, I first have to consider how to focus my time and energy, both of which are limited resources. With that idea in mind, I can’t read all the literature on a given topic, but rather, I need to focus my attention. In order to do that, I need to develop a strong research question that will narrow my field of vision. With that idea in mind, two concepts to keep in mind while developing a good research question are…
Find a focused topic
Find a Focused Topic
In order to point the efforts of my research in a specific direction, I need focus. Booth, Colomb, Williams, Bizup, and Fitzgerald (2016), all university English professors, pointed out that “Without that focus, any evidence you assemble risks appearing to your readers as little more than a mound of random facts” (p.34). As I consider the idea of focus in a research question, I can’t help but compare it with photography, a subject with which I’m more familiar. Photography is a subtractive art. Our world is one filled with chaotic imagery and a skilled photographer understands that in order to capture a compelling image, one must remove the distractions and focus on a narrow field. The photographer subtracts the majority of what is presented in order to isolate a specific image. I see the development of a research question as a similar endeavour. If I were to have interest in learning, for example, about the use of glass in architecture, there would be a mound of information to go through and I would spend far too much time coming to a vague conclusion. Now, if I were to focus my attention instead on the use of stained glass in 15th century gothic architecture, I would have a much more narrow field of vision and my time spent researching would be far more productive.
Be Open Ended
Once you’ve determined your topic, you should narrow it down even further with a good open-ended question such as “How”, “What”, or “Why” (“What Makes,” 2014). An open-ended question is important so that you don’t immediately hit a brick wall. Again, I see a similarity with a technique I’ve used in my professional experience. When conducting an interview for radio or television, it’s important that we stay away from asking “yes” or “no” questions. If I were to ask my interviewee if they were having a good day, they may just answer “yes” or “no” and I’m back to asking another question without moving my program along. If I had done my research beforehand and knew they were having a good day, I would do better by asking them to tell me why they were having a good day. Now I’ll get a much more interesting and thoughtful response. If I apply this technique to my example research topic established in the previous section, it could lead to an even more specific and thought provoking question. My question, then, might be… How did the use of stained glass in 15th century gothic architecture impact religious ceremonies? Now I’m getting somewhere…