Category Archives: 2009/1-2


At the conclusion of the third year of publication of FormaMente, two outstanding international events in the field of distance education saw the participation of GUIDE Association. In fact, in the second half of this year, that celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 2nd ACDE Conference and General Assembly, “Open and distance learning for sustainable development” took place in July in Lagos, Nigeria and the ICDE Standing Conference of President took place in October in Shangai, followed by the ODE Global Forum.

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An academic perspective on research and being a researcher: an integration of the literature

This article provides an integrative review of the developing body of literature investigating academics’ ways of understanding research. The resulting review highlights implicit variation between different studies in the focus they have taken to addressing this research question, varyingly emphasising academics’ research intentions, questions, processes and/or outcomes. It is suggested that these four foci represent different dimensions of academics’ understandings of the nature of research. The review is followed by the report of an empirical study that brings these dimensions together in an integrated way by clarifying relationships between academics’ experiences of: research intentions (who is affected by the research), research outcomes (the anticipated impact of the research), research questions (the nature of the object of study), research process (how research is undertaken), and researcher affect (underlying feelings about research). The last dimension, researcher affect, has not been found in previous studies. This may be due to the focus taken in this study on ways of understanding ‘being a researcher’,  rather than ways of understanding ‘research’ per se.

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Grounded theory as a general research methodology

Since its inception over forty years ago, grounded theory has achieved canonical status in the research world (Locke, 2001, p. 1). Qualitative researchers, in particular, have embraced grounded theory although often without sufficient scholarship in the methodology (Partington, 2000, p. 93; 2002, p. 136). The embrace renders many researchers unable to perceive grounded theory as a general methodology and an alternative to the dominant qualitative and quantitative research paradigms. The result is methodological confusion and an often unconscious remodelling of the original methodology (Glaser, 2003). Given the various interpretations and approaches that have been popularised under the rubric of grounded theory, this paper addresses the important distinction between grounded theory as a general methodology and its popularisation as a qualitative research method. The paper begins with a brief overview of grounded theory’s origins and its philosophical foundations then continues by addressing the basic distinction between abstract conceptualisation as employed in classic grounded theory and the conceptual description approach as adopted by many qualitative researchers. The paper continues with a brief overview of the criteria for judging the quality of classic grounded theory and concludes by detailing its methodological principles.

Article originally published in The Grounded Theory Review, V. 7(2008), n.2, pp. 67-89

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Cultural differences in academic motivation goals: a meta-analysis across 13 societies

A meta-analysis of academic motivation focused on the relations between students’ achievement goal orientations and societal values and human development indicators. The authors analyzed relevant studies using either Andrew Elliot and Marcy Church’s (1997) or Michael Middleton and Carol Midgley’s (1997) achievement goal instruments separating mastery, performance approach, and performance avoidance goals, with 36.985 students from 13 societies. Ecological correlation and regression analyses showed that mastery goals are higher in egalitarian societies, whereas performance approach goals are higher in more embedded contexts and in less developed societies. Performance avoidance goals did not strongly relate to societal-level variables. The findings show that achievement goals are rooted within dominant societal values.

Article originally published in ‘The Journal of Educational Research’ V. 102 (2008), November/December,

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Culturally-responsive mathematics pedagogy through complexivist thinking

This paper uses a complexity lens to consider the pedagogical project of culturally responsive mathematics. Need for new and different theoretical perspectives for Aboriginal education arise from chronic underachievement among Canada’s Aboriginal students. Culturally responsive mathematics pedagogy as a complex learning system allows a different view into the interrelationships and necessary conditions between culture, education and society, a view that aims to open new possibility for curriculum development, Aboriginal schooling and cultural renewal, while ensuring success for students.

As part of the $11 million school project, the Band School Society negotiated with the Federal Aboriginal Affairs Ministry and the building contractors to include apprenticeships for Band members to join the work crew hired to build the new school. For an Aboriginal village of 2000 people and up to 80% unemployment, this was a great opportunity. Interested workers were invited to apply for the positions. All 15 of the respondents were hired immediately, and all needed mathematics upgrading courses to enter the apprenticeship training program. Skilled trades workers were in short supply in the community, and so future employment opportunities were virtually assured after completion of the school project. A local, non-Native adult education teacher was enlisted to run an evening prep course for these newly hired apprentices. The course offered focused training in mathematics skills needed by trades people, and indeed, these were prerequisite skills for entering the apprenticeship program. On the first night of class, eleven men and women arrived. By week two, the group had dwindled to six. When the course was completed at the end of eight weeks, two students earned completion certificates and formally entered the apprenticeship program.

Article originally published in ‘Complicity:  An International Journal of Complexity and Education’, V. 5 (2008), n. 1  pp. 33-47,

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Machine Learning: a crucial tool for sensor design

Sensors have been widely used for disease diagnosis, environmental quality monitoring, food quality control, industrial process analysis and control, and other related fields. As a key tool for sensor data analysis, machine learning is becoming a core part of novel sensor design. Dividing a complete machine learning process into three steps: data pre-treatment, feature extraction and dimension reduction, and system modelling, this paper provides a review of the methods that are widely used for each step. For each method, the principles and the key issues that affect modelling results are discussed. After reviewing the potential problems in machine learning processes, this paper gives a summary of current algorithms in this field and provides some feasible directions for future studies.

Article originally published in ‘Algorithms’, V.1 (2008), n. 2, pp. 130-152, © 2008 by the authors; licensee Molecular Diversity Preservation International, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open-access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (

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Applications of semantic web technology to support learning content development

The Semantic Web is based on ontology technology – a knowledge representation framework – at its core to make meaning explicit and more accessible to automatic processing. We discuss the potential of this technology for the development of content for learning technology systems. We survey seven application types demonstrating different forms of applications of ontologies and the Semantic Web in the development of learning technology systems. Ontology technologies can assist developers, instructors, and learners to organise, personalise, and publish learning content and to discover, generate, and compose learning content. A conceptual content development and deployment architecture allows us to distinguish and locate the different applications and to discuss and assess the potential of the underlying technologies.

Article originally published in ‘Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects’, V.5 (2009),

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Pragmatic Research Design: an Illustration of the Use of the Delphi Technique

The creation of wealth is an important issue in any society, and entrepreneurship is regarded as an important catalyst in the creation of new wealth. This presents a challenge to develop entrepreneurship successfully. An important site for the development of entrepreneurship is higher education. The challenge however, is that there is a lack of a general understanding on how to educate students for entrepreneurship. In addition, current thought and practice on entrepreneurship education is historically biased, implying that graduates are essentially prepared for the past instead of for the future. From the perspective of higher education, the problem is how to develop current students to be entrepreneurial in the future. What is needed is to project into the future and then to develop an understanding of what should be taught as well as how it should be taught today.

A versatile research technique that can assist in achieving this objective is the Delphi technique, as it is used to conduct futures research or research into areas where knowledge is incomplete. The Delphi method is a type of group interview, using the collective opinion of knowledgeable experts. The technique makes use of several rounds of data collection and feedback to create a consensus of opinion.

Making use of the Delphi technique, research is being designed that will formulate expert-based strategic guidelines on entrepreneurial education within the South African higher education sector. The aim of this paper is to illustrate the research design considerations that arise in the use of the Delphi technique for this purpose and how they are addressed.

The main characteristics of the Delphi are presented and arguments for the use of the Delphi within a constructivist paradigm are discussed. Practical issues related to the design of the Delphi, panel-member selection, and the formulation of panel questions, are examined. In illustrating these design considerations, the paper demonstrates a pragmatic approach to research design as well as the importance of creating coherence between the research question, the research paradigm, the research method and its use, encouraging research practitioners to adopt a more systematic, deliberate and philosophically-based approach to research design.

Article originally published in ‘The Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods’, V. 6 (2008), n. 2, pp. 95-102,

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TIPS T-learning to Improve Professional Skills for intercultural dialogue

TIPS ‘T-learning to Improve Professional Skills for intercultural dialogue’ is a two-year Leonardo da Vinci project co-funded by the EU Lifelong Learning Programme. The project started in November 2007 and will finish in October 2009. The purpose of the project is to support cultural mediators around Europe to improve their skills and competences through the T-learning approach, an integrated methodology exploiting the potential of E-learning, M-learning and TV-learning.

The TIPS T-learning system hosts various tools to encourage both interactivity (e.g. self-assessment quizzes) and interaction (social software). TIPS beneficiaries will benefit from an on-line course supported by a mixed methodology where E-learning is supported by M-learning and TV-learning. The triple system exploits the benefits of distance learning tools and specific learning objects are developed for each tool offering a solution to compensate for any weaknesses that might be present in the other methodologies. Thus ensuring high quality interaction, portability, multimediality, simulations and no limits of space and time. These intrinsic qualities of the TIPS system are expected to positively impact cultural mediators’ learning process by promoting customized training able to fit different learning styles.

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