Twenty-first century university students find it increasingly difficult to commit to regular face-to- face classes, yet real-time interaction and collaboration are often essential to achieving successful learning outcomes. The BlendSynch project explores solutions to connect twenty-first century students with twenty-first century higher education.

 About the project 

  • Aims: to identify, characterise, and evaluate technology-enhanced ways of bringing together on-campus and geographically dispersed students and engaging them in media-rich synchronous collaborative learning experiences;
  • Focus: desktop video-conferencing, web-conferencing and 3D virtual worlds;
  • Outcomes: a compilation of innovative practices, a capability analysis of the technologies and a framework for tool selection and use together with a collection of exemplar learning designs;
  • Collaboration: collaborative networks are an integral part of the project and will include a practitioner network, case-study partners, a reference group and other higher education stakeholders;
  • Cases: six case-study implementations will be identified, supported, monitored and evaluated to trial and refine the technology capabilities framework and exemplar designs while simultaneously generating practical guidelines for staff;
  • Outputs: a Handbook, webinar series and nationwide workshops.

 About the team 

Dr Matt Bower – Project leader

Matt is a Senior Lecturer in Technology in the School of Education at Macquarie University. He specialises in research and development relating to the innovative use of technology to enhance learning. His work spans the fields of learning design, technology enabled learning, teacher education, and computer science education. Matt has over 50 publications in the learning technology field, focusing on how Web 2.0 oriented learning designs that utilise technologies such as wikis, blogs, web-conferencing, virtual worlds, Moodle and LAMS can facilitate more interactive, meaningful and deep learning. Matt is an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Citation Award winner, the Chair of the Macquarie University Learning Technology Research Cluster, and leader of the Blended Synchronous Learning Project.
Professor Gregor Kennedy – Project team member

Gregor Kennedy is Director of eLearning at the University of Melbourne and a Professor in the Centre for the Study of Higher Education. He has longstanding research interests in contemporary learning design and emerging technologies, educational technology research and evaluation, interactivity and engagement in digital learning, 3D immersive virtual environments, and the use of learning analytics in digital learning environments. His critical, evidence-based investigations of ‘Net Generation’ students have provided significant insight into how staff and students use technology and emerging technology-based tools in higher education. He has designed educational programs and resources to support a range of educational contexts including face-to-face, fully online, self directed, group-based, mobile and blended learning environments, and is currently the Lead Co-Editor of the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology.
Associate Professor Barney Dalgarno – Project team member

Barney Dalgarno is the Associate Dean Curriculum Learning and Teaching for the Faculty of Education at Charles Sturt University. Barney’s research interests are captured by the overarching question, How can learning be improved through the use of technology? Recent topics include: uniting on-campus and distributed university students through media-rich real-time collaboration tools; the use of virtual worlds to provide simulated professional experience for pre-service teachers; the characteristics of the ‘Net Generation’ and implications for university learning and teaching; the relationship between interactivity and cognition in multimedia and 3D virtual environments; and pre-service teachers’ preparedness to use ICTs in their teaching. Barney is also currently grappling with theoretical questions associated with notions of ‘affordances’, ‘scaffolding’, and Mishra and Koehler’s TPACK framework.
Mark J. W. Lee – Project team member

Mark J. W. Lee is an adjunct senior lecturer with the School of Education at Charles Sturt University. Previously, he worked in a variety of teaching, instructional design and managerial roles at various private higher education and vocational education and training (VET) institutions. He has published widely in the areas of educational technology, e-learning and innovation in tertiary teaching, with 65 refereed papers, articles and chapters to his name. His current areas of interest include pedagogical uses of Web 2.0-based social software, mobile and pervasive computing technologies in education and training, digital games and simulations for learning, and academic staff development in the use of ICTs. Mark is the editor-in-chief of MERLOT’s Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, the editor-in-charge of special issues for the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning and an associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Education. In addition, he serves on the editorial boards of a number of prestigious international journals.

 About the reference group 

The Reference Group will play a pivotal role in helping to drive the implementation of the project to ensure it accomplishes its goals and has maximum impact on higher education practice and policy. It will provide advice on the implementation of each phase of the project and evaluate the quality of each phase.

Professor John Hedberg, Macquarie University
Professor Shirley Alexander, University of Technology, Sydney

Professor Belinda Tynan, University of Southern Queensland
Professor Geoff Crisp, RMIT University

 About the international advisory group 

The International Advisory Group is made up of eminent researchers and practitioners whose areas of specialisation collectively cover the various fields at whose confluence the project lies: synchronous learning technologies (in particular, video conferencing, web conferencing and 3D virtual worlds); online, distance and blended learning design; and computer-supported collaborative learning. The role of this group is to provide subject matter expertise to help guide and inform the various activities within each phase of the project.

Professor Richard Anderson, University of Washington, USA
Professor Terry Anderson, Athabasca University, Canada
Dr Paul Bishop, University of Glasgow, UK
Professor Nian-Shing Chen, National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan
Professor Chris Dede, Harvard University, USA
Professor Sara de Freitas, Coventry University, UK
Jonathan Finkelstein, LearningTimes, USA
Dr Michael Gardner, University of Essex, UK
Alan Greenberg, Wainhouse Research, USA
Dr Nicolas Guichon, Université de Lyon 2, France
Dr Valerie Irvine, University of Victoria, Canada
Bernard Horan, University of Essex, UK
Associate Professor Manu Kapur, National Institute of Education, Singapore
Professor Paul Kirschner, Open University of the Netherlands
Dr Tony Lawson, University of Leicester, UK
Dr Florence Martin, University of North Carolina, Wilmington, USA
Professor Elizabeth Murphy, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
Tim Neumann, Institute of Education, University of London, UK
Dr Yun Jeong Park, St Cloud State University, USA
Associate Professor Michael Power, Université Laval, Canada
Dr David Raymond, Institute of Air Navigation Services, Luxembourg
Reggie Smith III, Booz Allen Hamilton and United States Distance Learning Association, USA
Dr Maxine Swingler, University of Glasgow, UK
Dr Aiman Turani, Applied Science University, Jordan
Nicole Yankelovich, Open Wonderland Foundation, USA

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