Journal of Geography in Higher Education Volume 28, Number 1, ISSN 0309-8265
Geographers are fully engaged in the debate surrounding the impact of new information and communication technologies (ICT) and there has been a proliferation of research on the impact of ICT on geographical education. This includes analyses of how ICT may affect geographical learning paradigms (Hill & Solem, 1999; Rich et al., 2000; Solem, 2000) and the role of multimedia in enhancing learning and teaching in geography (Castleford et al., 1998; O'Tuathail & McCormack, 1998; Lemke & Ritter, 2000; Vincent, 2000; Reed & Mitchell, 2001; Johnson, 2002; Shroder et al., 2002). Specific studies on ICT and geography higher education include discussions on the value of web-based resources (Gardner, 2003), the role of virtual fieldtrips (Stainfield et al., 2000) and cultivating study skills in web-based environments (Goett & Foote, 2000). Furthermore, there is a considerable and growing body of research exploring how online learning can enhance higher education more generally (Ehrmann, 1995; Bennett et al., 1999; Housego & Freeman, 2000; Speck, 2000; Davenport, 2001; Carmichael & Honour, 2002; Lapadat, 2002; Mason, 2002; Singh et al., 2003). The results of such studies are mixed. Lapadat (2002), for example, takes a positive view, stressing that the interactive nature of online learning fosters constructivist learning environments in which the learner's conceptual development occurs through practical experience, discussion and problem solving. By contrast, Speck (2000) is more critical, arguing that the academy has embarked on the commercialization of online courses without giving sufficient attention to training and academic integrity. Yet despite this expansion of work into the virtual geographic world, less has been written about the potential of ICT as a medium of research for geographers in higher education. This is surprising given the great methodological potential and versatility they can provide for educational research: they have the ability to mitigate the distancing of space; they are useful in internationalizing research without adding costs to the funding body; and they can be used to contact groups often difficult to reach, such as the less physically mobile (Paciello, 2000). The limited uptake of online methods is partly due to the perceived technical expertise required to use them. The aim of this paper therefore, is to disseminate information on the use, strengths and weaknesses of online research methods, in the hope of increasing research capacity within the geographical international community.
Madge, C. & O'Connor, H. (2004). Online Methods in Geography Educational Research. Resources. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 28(1), 143-152.