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Welcome to LRNT 526 – Inquiry into Contemporary Issues in Learning Technologies

  Welcome and course overview from course instructor

Welcome to the mid-point course in your MALAT program. This course is focused on contemporary issues in learning technologies. What do we mean by issues? Issues are problems or questions that are being raised about learning technologies, or challenges to existing assumptions or biases. For example, there are ongoing debates about the benefits or drawbacks around use of iPads in the classroom, data privacy for students, or AI and automation in education. There remain arguments about online learning or digital textbooks. This Educause overview gives many more examples. Writings on issues in educational technology vary in quality of argumentation and evidence, but nevertheless they illustrate how educational technology continues to invite questions, claims, counterclaims and controversy. These types of issues are the focal point of this course, and each of you will have the opportunity to identify and research an issue. The purpose is to enable you to make careful and informed decisions about the use of educational technologies in your setting and to arrive at well-informed and defensible decisions.

It is not the intent of this course to present a selection of issues and background information about those issues. Rather, you will find your own issues to study – and there are many to choose from. You will use a method called critical inquiry to examine the issue you select. Each issue will not just be discussed in the abstract, but rather studied in context, i.e. related to an example learning event, course or series along with the technology used for delivery. Examples of these could include MOOCs, open online courses, curated video libraries or reading lists, open textbooks or other substantive open educational resources, digital educational programs, educational games or apps, and digital simulations. Selected examples of these or other technologies will be investigated throughout the course at the group level, and each individual within the groups will also explore a unique issue of interest related to that learning event and technology.

It’s important to understand that this course will be somewhat different from the usual format. There is no overall set content to follow. Your progress, work and readings throughout the course will be driven mainly by the path you create for yourself and team, guided by the course instructions and schedule, feedback from your peers and guidance from your instructor.

Following is a general description of the course work structure; more details will be provided at appropriate places throughout the course.or through the menu at the top of this page.

Course work summary

  • Ongoing – readings both as assigned and as additionally uncovered during your research through the course
  • Team work:
    • Identify as a team a learning technology and related learning event, and deliver online presentation to rest of class
    • Some team blogging required
  • Individual work:
    • Develop individual learning plan leading to final critical academic reflective paper
    • Explore and participate in a learning event delivered with the technology your team has chosen
    • Maintain your contribution to the learning community by blogging, providing feedback on others’ blogs, participating in discussions, providing feedback on other team presentations
    • Participate in Collaborate sessions or review recordings if not able to participate


Readings are provided in the introductory section of the course and can be accessed from the menu above. There is little required reading identified in this course; however, you will be asked to review some readings in earlier courses in this program as well as find some of your own literature.

Teamwork: Early in the course you will form teams. Each team will choose an online or other digital learning technology to explore as a team; e.g., mobile tablets to support training in the workplace, or a MOOC. As part of studying the selected technology, team members will also participate in or explore an example of the technology being used in delivering a course or other learning event. For example, a team choosing to study mobile tables could decide on on tablet-delivered interactive video lessons focused on a new machine or process. For a team studying MOOCs, the focus could be on a MOOC-delivered course on Japanese history. Your team will stay with that chosen technology and learning event or course throughout the course. Each team will deliver a general presentation on their learning event and its delivery technology during the course. The presentation will include an online live discussion facilitated by the presenting team. Class members will also provide feedback after the fact via an anonymous web-based survey. Teams will occasionally update a team blog, with the purpose of sharing information about their work with the rest of the class. The sharing of the work among individuals and teams greatly enhances the exposure to ideas, issues and feedback in the limited time we have together.

A discussion about team formation and management will be held during the first Collaborate session of the course, with the assistance of Trish Dyck, Manager of Team Performance at Royal Roads. All course participants should be formed in teams by the end of day, Thursday, April 11. Any students not yet in teams will be placed in teams by the instructor after that date. Please note that due to occasional instances of students leaving or being added to the course after the start days, the instructor may need to request minor team rearrangements.

Individual work: Along with the teamwork, each individual team member will choose a particular issue related to the team’s selected technology and learning event or course to explore in more depth. For instance, a member of the team studying mobile tablets could select the issue of screen size or accessibility factors of units; a member of the MOOC team might select a question of Western bias in its perspectives on Japanese history. This part of the course work will require you to develop an individual learning plan that will form the basis for your explorations and end with a critical academic issue paper. The individual learning plan will help structure your approach to examining your chosen issue and its related opportunities, challenges and implications. You will gain hands-on experience using a critical inquiry approach to analyze this aspect of learning technologies. Through direct participation, a critical inquiry team process, interactive discussions, scaffolded assignments, and individual investigations, you will experience and become more in fluent in issues in the field. Blogging, providing feedback to others, participating in discussions and live sessions where possible represents a participation aspect that helps to build a learning community by sharing ideas and information. Blogging in particular helps encourage a practice of writing down your thoughts and sharing them with others.

At the appropriate time early in the course each student will schedule a 1-1 meeting with the instructor to discuss their selected issue and approach.

There are a lot of moving parts in this course and the team work starts early so it is important that you review the schedule and the assignments to get a sense of what is required and by when.

Learning Outcomes

Create a learning plan that defines an issue for inquiry.

  1. Conduct and share a critical analysis of area inquiry.
  2. Critically reflect on your learning experience as outlined in your learning plan.

Stay Connected

To the instructor:

  • Email: irwin.1devries@royalroads.ca
  • Twitter: @irwindev
  • Text and phone: 778-998-5556 (please text before calling to arrange a time)
  • One-on-one or team online video meeting: Make an appointment with the instructor via email, text or Twitter

To the team coach Trish Dyck

To the class via the General Discussion Forum in Moodle (use this forum to ask course-related questions of the instructor that may be shared for the benefit of the whole class).

To each other via the course blog and your own WordPress blogs using Feedly. Don’t forget to add the ‘LRNT 526 Posts’ OPML file and the ‘All Comments’ OPML file to your Feedly.

To your team for this course on the team signup sheet and on the Team Forum on Moodle.

There will be bi-weekly Collaborate sessions to touch base and cover specific topics and questions generated by the class. They are held Mondays, 7 PM Pacific time and recorded for those who can’t attend. On statutory holidays the sessions will be held Tuesday instead.

#RRUMALAT is the Twitter course hashtag

About Critical Inquiry

You will be asked to adopt a mindset of critical inquiry throughout the course. Early in the course you’ll be assigned a reading about this topic, but in brief these are some of the the main elements.

  • Self-directed exploration with guidance. Rather than have the course provide all or much of the information you need to complete your course work, both in your team and individually you will be required on your own to identify issues, develop questions and seek out the necessary information to provide critical analyses and generate solutions or recommendations. Your instructor is available as a resource and guide as needed. This is a necessary skill-set to support your success in the second year of the program, where you will be expected increasingly to identify issues, pose questions and generate your own research pathway and conclusions.
  • Critical analysis. You will be challenged to ask critical questions about the issues and surrounding research you uncover. For the resources that are provided, or which you identify in your research, you will discuss and question assumptions, learn more about the background and underlying controversies, and investigate what others are saying about the issues before coming up with your own conclusions.
  • Examples of questions that might be asked in a critical analysis:
    • How are decisions made to implement the technology? How is it used at institutions?
    • Describe the technology platform: how is it typically described in the literature, educational press, popular media? What technologies does it use? What is its history? What media are or can be incorporated?
    • Describe the developer/provider. Are they both the same? Who is funding it? What is the motivation of the provider? What is their background? What is their expertise in the relevant field? What is their claim to credibility?
    • Explore access. What does it take to access it? How can it be viewed or otherwise participated in? What facilities and equipment are needed to access it? To whom might it open up access and why? Who might be restricted from accessing it and for what reasons? What is the licensing – how can it be used or repurposed? What are the limitations on what others can do with it to adjust it for their own purposes?
    • Where is it housed? Who owns and maintains it? Who owns the data? What is the business model? Who can control what?
    • How is the issue you have identified evident in this technology and/or learning event? What was your experience of exploring or participating in it?
    • Academic value. What are its claims as to being a valid way to learn? What type of professional accreditation or academic credit is available to participants (if applicable). How is the quality made evident? What is the credibility of its technical and academic developers? Where is the research to support it? What do the critics (if any) say?
    • What interests you about this learning event and technology? What concerns you? What further questions need to be asked?
  • Ill-structured problems. Many complex questions and problems are not neatly packaged for systematic analysis. More often than not, when you dig more deeply into issues you will find more complexity than originally understood, including incomplete and conflicting information, as well as differing perspectives based on political positions, public or private settings, economic and social backgrounds and other factors. An example of an ill-structured problem would be the issue of homelessness and the many ways the problem setting is framed by different interlocutors and their backgrounds. A single, complete and fully packaged solution will likely never be achieved because the problem can be viewed framed in so many different ways. Yet professionals are called upon to devise strategies and respond to public expectations and accountabilities regardless.

The first Collaborate session of the course will provide a further overview and discuss these concepts, among other topics.

Team dynamics

As this is the midpoint course in the MALAT program, this course will also involve some building of team knowledge and skills in preparation for year 2. You will have an opportunity to work with Trish Dyck, Manager of Student Performance to dive deeper into team dynamics, capture your learning about teamwork to this point, talk about additional tools and resources, and learn how to ensure you get the most personal learning to take back into your professional world.

This process consists of the following elements:

  • A discussion at the introductory Collaborate session April 8, 7:00-8:00 PM which during which Trish will join us, encourage intentional team foundational building, remind everyone of the resources you have available, and an overview of other elements in the course.
  • Use of an online, formative team assessment tool that teams may choose to participate in. However, teams that choose to participate must include all members.

More information will be provided in the session.


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