Reflections on the Joint Module «Comparative Studies in Adult Education and Lifelong Learning»
Edited By Regina Egetenmeyer, Paula Guimaraes and Balázs Németh
This volume places the development of the Joint Module «Comparative Studies in Adult Education and Lifelong Learning» (COMPALL) in the context of international development in higher education and adult education. Based on this framework, the authors discuss the development of the joint module in terms of its institutional and didactical structure as well as participants’ motivation and diversity. The book is divided into three parts: (1) Internationalisation in Higher Education, (2) Internationalisation of Higher Education: The Case of Adult Education, and (3) Internationalisation of Higher Education: The Example of COMPALL.
COMPALL Blended learning path: Online, on-campus, and intensive phases (Krisztina Fodorné Tóth)
Abstract: Blended learning is a suitable learning form for several kinds of learners, including international groups made up of students from different levels, countries, and institutions. The COMPALL blended learning path is a combination of different approaches and tools, which contains also a certain possibility of flipped classroom process.
Blended learning definitions and framework
Blended learning is one of the most flexible forms of learning: it is suitable for multiple learning groups (Garison, Vaughan, & Norman, 2008), it is good for differentiation modes, and it can maintain the required levels of ICT support. There is more than one definition of blended learning, depending on the specific approach. There are four main concepts, each based on a different point of view (Stacey & Gerbic, 2008):
1. To combine forms of instructional technology with face-to-face, instructor-led training.
2. To mix modes of web-based technology (learning management system, live virtual classroom, streaming video, audio, and text, interactive online games) to accomplish a certain educational goal.
3. To combine different pedagogical theories/approaches to produce an optimal learning outcome.
4. To combine instructional technology with job tasks to create a real-world effect of learning and working.
The two most common approaches are 1 and 2, which put instructional technology at the centre of learning support. Nowadays, as web-based or even web 2.0 and mobile internet technologies have become the dominant technologies, we can combine those approaches into one, based on various forms of digital (online) instructional technologies mixed with face-to-face, instructor-led training.
In e-learning history (Holmes & Gardner, 2006), there are many examples of approaches 1 or 2 in the area formerly known as computer-supported instruction or computer-supported learning. After ICT and internet penetration reached a certain level (in terms of the numbers of regular users and websites), it was called web-based education. One form of this was spread mainly through higher education←173 | 174→ institutions, where educators and students started to use learning management systems, learning content management systems, and later community-based websites. Regular classes were still held still face to face, but between sessions, educators and students communicated via learning management systems and/or community portals, and assignments and other assessment tools were mostly transferred to digital channels. This is how traditional means of education were supplemented by digital network tools. But as these tools came to the front not only as learning supporters but also as essential parts of everyday life, electronic learning support started to produce its own methods and aspects (Bonk & Graham, 2006). One aspect is based on a very old pedagogical approach known as learning by doing (or learning by activity). Networked users can identify themselves and fellow users mainly by their visible activities, so learning by doing in the digital space is not one of the competing educational approaches but the natural way of learning. Accordingly, in digital and networked learning, we can build more on students’ activities than when using traditional instruction materials (like textbooks and lecture notes) or multimedia-based approaches that mostly consist of providing study materials (like recorded class lectures). That is why educational games and apps became extremely popular in the last few years. Besides, a relatively recent and not very widespread educational method, the flipped classroom, found its way to the spotlight.
Although there is not on exclusive model for it, the basic idea of the flipped classroom (Tucker, 2012) is to flip the traditional instructional approach: with the help of teacher-created interactive study materials (quite strongly built on recorded online videos), instruction that used to occur in a classroom setting is now accessed at home, in advance of class. As a result, class can be the place to work on issues, problems, and advanced concepts, and to engage in collaborative learning. Both online study time and face-to-face classes can be resourceful and activity-based in a most effective way. Although originally created to help absent students catch up with class lessons, the flipped classroom approach proved much more useful for present students as well. Today, many forms of flipped classroom are known from early high school to higher education. It seems particularly suitable for intensive courses and trainings where a short, very rich and busy face-to-face phase is combined with other learning phases when participants and contributors do not actually meet (Herreid & Schiller, 2013).
COMPALL blended learning model
At first glance, the COMPALL model of blended learning is a typical example of approach 1 of blended learning: a combination of online learning forms (via a learning management system and professional online network sites) and face-to-←174 | 175→face instruction phases. Beyond that, however, its main pedagogical approach is closer to the flipped classroom than to ‘traditional’ blended forms. In the so-called joint-module methodology, adult education professionals adopted various teaching approaches to reach out to students from several European and even non-European countries (Egetenmeyer, Schmidt-Lauff, & Boffo, 2017). The Strategic Partnership COMPALL developed a joint module in “Comparative Studies in Adult Education and Lifelong Learning”. Seven European partner universities are integrating the joint module into their master’s and doctoral study programmes on adult education and lifelong learning; in addition, participants from various non-EU universities help enrich content, methodology, and research results.
The learning process has three different sections:
1. Preparatory phase: on-campus preparation completed with an online tutorial phase through a commonly used learning management system (Moodle – WueCampus) for students at all partner universities.
2. Intensive phase: a two-week face-to-face instructional phase (Winter School at the Würzburg, Germany, campus), based mainly on international seminars and group work.
3. On-campus activities at each partner institution; optional publication by doctoral students and colleagues.
Each phase of learning support works with a different methodology based on different content. The sections have their own methodological toolkit designed to serve the pedagogical goals of each phase.
The Winter School, as a central part of the learning process, offers topics on international policies in adult education and lifelong learning as well as comparisons on selected issues within adult education and lifelong learning. During the preparatory phase, students are taught through on-campus sessions in four main areas:
• introduction to and overview of the Joint Module COMPALL;
• issues in European and international policies in adult education;
• issues in adult education in their local and national contexts;
• analytical strategies for performing comparative studies in the field of adult and continuing education.
The areas represent the primary goal of this phase: to equip students with suitable preparatory content and analytical skills for their comparative study and assignment, the required comparative essay. During the preparatory phase, each student is asked to choose more issues within the field of (comparative) adult and continuing education that they would like to investigate in more depth.←175 | 176→
This session has a face-to-face and a distance learning part. The former is a preparatory course built into the curricula of the partner institutions; the latter is supported by online tutorials, which are currently being developed in a joint effort by all partner universities. The COMPALL expert group developed a certain content structure and multimedia design pattern for all online tutorials, based on pilot pieces and student evaluations. Each online tutorial provides an introduction to a basic topic (e.g. European policies regarding adult education) in the form of an introductory video, a reading assignment (a policy document or scientific paper), and a reflection video. They are designed to build on students’ current knowledge, including their actual language skills. The introductory video is designed to get students interested in/curious about the reading assignment1.
To this end, the video is connected to the text but does not repeat its content. It frames the text by giving students an idea about the broader discourse around the topic into which the text gives an insight. It also provides guidance for analytical reading by offering questions or tasks for students to keep in mind when reading the text. The video includes many graphical elements (slides based on pictures, figures, graphs, and animations), also showing the instructor (professor, educator). After watching this video, students read the text and answer the tasks/questions provided with the text. The texts help students reflect on the specific topic and serve as analytical material for answering the questions or working on the task. The reflection video wraps up students’ work and helps them understand what they have learned. It leads them through the result of their analysis, giving them an impression of their learning results (not by providing answers but by outlining the main learning outcome students have achieved). Based on this, all participants prepare on campus by writing a transnational essay on one of the selected issues in adult and comparative education.
The Würzburg Winter School is made up of two main parts (Egetenmeyer, Schmidt-Lauff, & Boffo, 2017)
• Lifelong Learning Strategies in Europe (first week): participants learn through international classes, discussions, field visits, and reflections based on role plays. Online tutorials serve as preparation and starting points for this phase.
• Comparing Lifelong Learning (second week): participants attend one comparative group session on a selected issue in adult education and lifelong learning. These issues include learning cities, learning regions, and learning communities and competencies in formal, informal, and vocational education and←176 | 177→ are moderated by international experts. Transnational essays are written for supporting this section. Results of these comparisons are presented to other groups at the end of the week.
Participants can be master’s and doctoral students. Doctoral students integrate the results arising from the comparative groups into their research for more in-depth comparison.
For help students and educators get oriented, the COMPALL project offers three online guides: one for universities about on-campus preparation, one for moderators and co-moderators about comparative groups, and one for participants about the whole learning process.
As an additional component, for developing and supporting group-based learning both in face-to-face and in distance learning settings, COMPALL uses a professional online network. This includes two types of community portal groups and the COMPALL website. The latter2 is a central navigation and starting point to help students get acquainted with the project and the learning process itself. Its information tool section3 is especially helpful in this regard, containing not only professional contents in adult and lifelong learning as well as comparative research material in that area but also a starting kit of specially selected preparation materials for the Winter School. Besides, students, educators, and partner experts can use the website to log in to learning management systems for online preparation, collaborative spaces, or professional online network community portal groups.
LinkedIn has been chosen as the online networking site for COMPALL. Here, the project maintains one public group for students, professors/educators, and experts working in the area of adult and lifelong learning to connect and collaborate, and one non-public group for the students, educators, and organisers of each Winter School. Besides these public and non-public LinkedIn groups, partner institutions or groups of students can contact each other through ad-hoc institutional or national community portal groups, but these are temporary and do not involve many participants. The LinkedIn groups are the platforms providing sustainable information, communication, networking, exchange, and research for participants and other individuals (especially experts) interested in international studies in adult and lifelong learning. The more specific targets of these groups are to create←177 | 178→
• sustainable (online) contacts based on (changing) professional profiles;
• a communication space for short-term announcements;
• an information space with sustainable information on international study and research opportunities in adult education;
• the possibility to use profile information to get an overview of Winter School participants;
• the possibility for participants to connect right away during the Winter School and to exchange information only between participants (without) professors;
• networking opportunities within and beyond individual winter schools;
• the possibility to connect COMPALL to other relevant stakeholders and networks, to ensure updated information.
The public LinkedIn group Professional Network for Adult Education and Lifelong Learning4 is used quite frequently by project members, mostly by students and other partner institutions. At the time of writing (July 2017), the group had 606 members with more than one hundred posts. Obviously, membership includes more than all past Winter School participants (students and educators), and participant numbers increase every day, regardless of the current phase of the learning process. There is at least one daily update (sometimes even more) of group posts, which ensures the group’s visibility in everyday LinkedIn data traffic. Apart from important links (to the project website, the information tool, other LinkedIn groups, etc.), contents shared in the group are related not only to the Winter School and other COMPALL events but also to international conferences, information about fellowships/scholarships, research projects, papers, professional newsletters, online presentations, and group members’ professional thoughts, comments, or even brief discussions about various adult education and lifelong learning topics.
Non-public groups, in terms of their content, members, and activities, are more closely and exclusively related to current Winter School cycles. Students and educators start joining during the preparatory phase, and the group exclusively consists of current Winter School participants, educators, and organisers. Although it is uncommon for participants to leave the group, group activity fluctuates depending on which phase of the learning process students and educators are in. In the preparatory phase, this is the second (or sometimes first) platform for students to get in touch with each other and to get acquainted with the project. Therefore, every piece of practical information regarding the learning process and especially Winter School events are shared here in advance. Questions are also←178 | 179→ answered here by the coordinators. During and shortly after the intensive phase, the Winter School LinkedIn group is also busy with participants’ communication. After the end of the Winter School cycle, the group is still maintained (meaning there are more Winter School groups on LinkedIn: one for each year), but activity levels eventually go down – participants contact each other more regarding specific issues such as a current project, research, or other type of professional cooperation (for example, there is a very successful long-term collaborative project between Delhi and Pécs participants).
To make further opportunities for collaboration more effective, participating students are encouraged to fill in their community (LinkedIn) profile regarding professional data in as much detail as possible. Coordinators suggest a structure for participants’ profile, including particular data types such as institution, location, research topics, language proficiency, and contact information. Although sharing profile data effectively facilitates cooperation, making students aware of personal data protection is very important, too. That is why students may also choose not to create a personal LinkedIn profile. Students are asked to be aware that sharing information online means losing some control over it, and to consider whether sharing their particular data is safe enough for them or not.
Figure 1: COMPALL Online Offers
Flipped classroom elements in the COMPALL blended learning process
As stated above, the flipped classroom methodology has a few common elements independent of the particular circumstances and individual methods of each learning process (Bishop & Verleger, 2013). These are noticeable in the COMPALL blended learning model as well, although this model is not an explicit form of flipped classroom. One of these elements is flipping the processing of primary content and the work on tasks: the former is done by students mainly during the preparatory phase and through online channels. Online tutorials are a pure expression of this approach, with additional interactive use of professional online network groups. The latter takes place in the intensive phase in the form of expert-moderated comparative groups. As a result, the combination of content-based interactive online preparation and task- and communication-based face-to-face learning leads blended learning methodology towards an extended flipped classroom process.
According to participants’ feedback and evaluations, the COMPALL model of learning and instruction, by trying to articulate different teaching approaches, channelling them into a flexible and activity-based learning process, and maintaining a sustainable cooperation pattern, seems to succeed in reaching students and professionals from multiple countries and disciplinary traditions. Furthermore, it has become a working model for supporting efficient project-based learning and group work across various cultures and institutions.
Bishop, Jacob / Verleger, Matthew A.: “The flipped classroom: A survey of the research” 120th ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition 2013, retrieved 10.6.2017, from www.asee.org/file_server/papers/attachment/file/0003/3259/6219.pdf.
Bonk, Curtis J. / Graham, Charles R.: The Handbook of Blended Learning: Global Perspectives, Local Design. John Wiley & Sons: San Francisco 2006.
COMPALL Homepage: https://www.hw.uni-wuerzburg.de/compall/startseite/, retrieved 19.09.2017.
Egetenmeyer, Regina / Schmidt-Lauf, Sabine / Boffo, Vanna: “Internationalization and Professionalization in Adult Education: An Introduction” In: Egetenmeyer, Regina / Schmidt-Lauf, Sabine / Boffo, Vanna (eds): Adult Learning and Education in International Contexts: Future Challenges for its Professionalization. Peter Lang: Frankfurt a. M. et al. 2017, pp. 9–21.←180 | 181→
Garrison, Randy D. / Vaughan, Norman D.: Blended Learning in Higher Education: Framework, Principles and Guidelines. John Wiley & Sons: San Francisco 2008.
Herreid, Clyde Freeman / Schiller, Nancy A.: “Case studies and the flipped classroom”. Journal of College Science Teaching 42(5), 2013, pp. 62–66.
Holmes, Bryn / Gardner, John: E-learning: Concepts and Practice. Sage: London et al. 2006, pp. 35–76.
LinkedIn group Professional Network for Adult Education and Lifelong Learning: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8445381, retrieved 19.09.2017.
Stacey, Elizabeth / Gerbic, Philippa: “Success factors of blended learning” In: Hello! Where are you in the landscape of educational technology? Proceedings ascilite Melbourne 2008, retrieved 10.6.2017, from http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/melbourne08/procs/stacey.pdf.
Tucker, Bill: “Flipped classroom”. Education Next 12(1), 2012, p. 1, retrieved 10.6.2017, from http://educationnext.org/the-flipped-classroom/.←181 | 182→ ←182 | 183→
1 All videos are available as Open Educational Resources over https://www.hw.uni-wuerzburg.de/index.php?id=196082
2 Cf COMPALL homepage: https://www.hw.uni-wuerzburg.de/compall/startseite/, retrieved 19.09.2017.
3 Cf COMPALL subpage: https://www.hw.uni-wuerzburg.de/compall/information_tool/, retrieved 19.09.2017.