forms of e-learning emphasize creation of online content and the migration of
passive old forms of teaching and learning to the web. Canned lectures,
presentations, course notes and self-study online are often the default
pedagogies of choice. Adopting these methods provides e-learning developers and
adopters with cost savings largely by reducing the role of the teacher and
replacing human interaction with computer mediated learning experiences.
should come as no surprise that learner's themselves do not find this experience
I think e-learning "content" is important I'm convinced the market
demand side of e-learning is for more "active" forms of learning. I
thought it might be interesting to explore pedagogical alternatives to lecture
and presentation - approaches that reinsert the "human" back in to the
is the study of how people learn and, by extension, how to teach. Pedagogy
actually refers to how children learn, and andragogy to how adults learn, but
most people use the word pedagogy to refer to both. The wonderful thing is we
actually know quite a bit about pedagogy and andragogy.
colleagues Tom Calvert, John Nesbit, and I recently co-authored a chapter called
"Learning in an e-Connected World" as part of a book "The
e-Connected World". John wrote an excellent summary on Pedagogical
Approaches and Models of Learning, breaking learning theories down into roughly
three classes. The:
behavioural and information processing theories, and
constructivist and socio-cultural theories
think a basic understanding of these theories is so essential to online learning
I've taken the liberty to include a portion of Tom's writing from that chapter
instructional models used in most of the schools, colleges and universities
around the world can be regarded as pre-theoretical. They assume that learning
takes place when information is transferred from the instructor and from
instructional materials to the learner, as, for example, when a learner
receives information in a lecture. It has been known for some time that
one-way presentation of information does not effectively sustain the attention
of most learners for more than a few minutes. Learners often must copy notes
during a lecture to study at a later time. This practice tends to postpone
learning to a time and place where there may be no instructional support.
classical behavioral and information processing theories of learning
introduced analytical models in which a complex learning goal is broken down
into simpler components. They emphasized the importance of interaction and
feedback, and served as the foundation for systematic approaches to
instructional design. Instructional design methodologies have been widely
applied to the development of self-paced, individualized courses in distance
education, military training, and corporate training. Computer-based learning
programs using multimedia are often designed on principles originating in the
behavioral and information processing theories. Although many computer-based
learning applications of this type have been highly effective, only minor
gains in learner achievement can be reliably obtained by this approach.
theories underlie the instructional models used in most schools, colleges, and
universities around the world. In simple terms, it is assumed that learning
takes place when information is transferred from the instructor and from
instructional materials to the learner. This can be accomplished when a
learner receives information in a lecture, for example. The role of the
teacher consists of setting learning goals, planning learning outcomes,
preparing and sequencing learning materials, delivering instruction to
learners, assigning activities, evaluating the student's products, and giving
feedback. The behavioural theory, based on a stimulus-response model, assumes
that learning takes place when associations are strengthened between a
stimulus and a correct response. While almost any learning environment will
make some use of methods which can be explained in terms of these theories,
there is strong evidence that virtual learning environments can be more
effective if they do not try to recreate the classical information
transmission of the lecture model.
and socio-cultural theories gained in influence throughout the 1980s and 90s
as alternatives to the classical learning theories. These theories are an
alternative to the classical learning theories and were developed following
the work of Piaget and others in the '50s and '60s; they have gained
popularity in the '80s and '90s. Constructivist theorists do not believe that
knowledge is a constant for each object or event, but rather that it is
constructed by individuals as they interact with an object or an event in
relation to their past experiences, their beliefs, and their current mental
constructivists, learning is the process by which information is transformed
into personal knowledge. Socio-cultural theories extend these basic principles
to the development of the collective knowledge of a community as contrasted
with the individual's development of knowledge within the community. In a
learning environment based on constructivism, teachers serve as coaches and
guides and learners are given significant cognitive responsibilities:
analysis, synthesis, problem-solving, and creativity. It is believed that
learner activities should be authentic, that is they should be realistic,
meaningful, and relevant to a community of practice, complex, and information
the theory how can we move away from the default approach of trying to create
lectures and course notes online?
then are my suggestions for online pedagogies for active learning:
very first online course I ever took was "Enjoying Wine". Over a
period of weeks we moved from learning about types of wine glasses, how to serve
wine, and types of grape varietals to actually sampling champagne, white wine,
red wine, port and dessert wines.
"homework" each week involved purchasing a couple of bottles of a
specified type of wine and then smelling, taste testing and recording
observations in the discussion area of the online course and with the course
tutor. What was interesting for me was the way the sense of smell and taste were
incorporated into an online course.
tended to do my course work at the end of my work day, just before dinner. I'd
bring my "homework" to the dinner table and discuss what I was
learning with my wife and kids. Sharing my learning with my family was social
and fun making for great dinner conversation. Pedagogically we know that
verbalizing your learning with others helps you retain and apply it.
taste of ice cold champagne with popcorn on a hot summers day and the smooth
complexity of port are but two of the wonderful sensory experiences I first
experienced with this course and continue to enjoy to this day.
learning goes online students can not only have access to course materials and
content but, in my view even more importantly, each other. Pedagogical
approaches that have students learning online in an autonomous self-study
fashion unnecessarily create a kind of impersonal, isolating environment. Its
far more exciting to pedagogically bring students together online by creating
collaborative peer-to-peer cohorts. One of the things learners like most is
learning from each other.
based learning provides opportunities for students to learn not just from course
materials and an instructor but from each other too. At its most basic
peer-to-peer cohorts provide an opportunity for sharing of expertise, support,
and help. I can speak from experience in saying that the bonds and friendships
that form online are equally as powerful as those formed face-to-face. Having a
cohort of fellow students you can turn to when you are stuck with a homework
problem or even thinking about quitting is a resource essential to success.
and instant text messaging are basic learning technologies for collaborative
cohorts. More advanced collaborations can be supported through list servs,
synchronous online meeting rooms, and discussion forums.
Text Based Discussion
think threaded text based discussion is one of the most successful and effective
online pedagogies for active learning available. Pedagogical use of discussion
involves structuring learning activities that require students to discuss and
collaboratively investigate course material.
a lecture or presentation the number of students who actively participate is
small - typically restricted to a few keeners who put up their hand with a
question or comment. In an online threaded discussion, participation can be
structured to include everyone, jacking participation levels way up and creating
a much more active experience for everyone.
based discussion is an easy entry, low threshold application. Virtually everyone
is willing and accustomed to communicate online by typing messages. In addition
the asynchronous nature of threaded text based discussion allows time for
reflection and crafting of a thoughtful response. Even those who are too shy to
speak out in a class situation can find their voice in online discussion.
needs to be structured and facilitated. Typical pedagogical approaches for
structuring discussion have students not only making their own postings in the
discussion forum but also reading and commenting on others postings.
Facilitation can be provided by students themselves (with appropriate
preparation and guidance) or by the instructor.
experience of threaded discussion is that it provides for a rich range of
multiple perspectives and tends to drive learning deeper than the superficial
surface information gleaned in a lecture. There is something truly wondrous when
a discussion thread "takes off" generating an outpouring of response.
Online students everywhere are all familiar with posting something and then
eagerly checking back regularly to see who has read and commented. This kind of
discussion is highly engaging and motivating.
are lots of different discussion forum learning technologies. For large scale
use with hundreds of postings it helps if the discussion forum is
"threaded" where postings are typically indented if they are a reply
to an earlier posting. Threading facilitates searching, tracking and management
of the discussion.
has a long history as a pedagogical practice including its use among indigenous
cultures. Weblogs, or blogs for short, are a contemporary online form of this
tradition. While blogs still have yet to make their way into common online
learning use, they will.
make online self-publishing easy and accessible to all. Typically written
informally as a form of daily journal, blogs combine web links, commentary,
musings, and analysis. Blogs convey the authors personality and are frequently
used to capture what I think of as "learning moments" - the daily a-ha's
we all have.
have immediacy and little if any lag time. By that I mean that they typically
recount events and learning happening "right now". There is no waiting
12 months to get something published or weeks waiting to get through some
editorial process of approval.
are raw, powerful and personal. They frequently provide analysis or commentary
on world or web events not provided by mainstream media.
feeds allow blogs to be readily syndicated and distributed. Using an aggregator
it is now easy to subscribe to a series of your favourite blogs and have the
content from those blogs automatically fed to you and updated on a regular
basis. You get the latest blog content without having to search out and visit
each site individually yourself.
become interactive by cross-referencing each other and by providing a "trackback"
capability. I've even been experimenting with group blogs rather than an
look forward with great anticipation to seeing the creative ways blogs get
incorporated into online learning.
interesting derivative of text based discussion is voice based discussion.
Online voice board technology provides the opportunity to make a posting in a
discussion forum using audio recording instead of text. Voice based discussion,
like text based discussion, is asynchronous - you listen to others postings and
make your own posting without being "live". Pedagogically its use can
be structured in the same way as text based discussion.
based discussion provides an opportunity to get a sense of the personality of
the speaker and readily conveys emotion, humour and other subtle nuances. Even
more exciting is the ability to enrich the audio recording with other sounds
including music and environmental noises to embellish or make a point.
experience has been that voice based discussion has a slightly higher threshold
for adoption and use than text based discussion. Its asynchronous nature makes
it less conversational than a typical dialogue.
voice boards allow for multiple takes before saving so its tempting to carefully
craft and then read your posting. Interestingly making a voice recording by
reading often results in a posting that sounds monotone and stilted. Its far
better to extemporaneously speak in your own words and imbue your posting with
Polling and Feedback
is an essential pedagogical practice that dates back for thousands of years -
think Socratic method. Online polling tools provide great opportunities to
question, canvass and survey student opinions and positions on a whole variety
a poll so that it provides useful feedback is crucial and often tied to some
other aspect of the online learning experience. In May I facilitated a debate on
the globalization of education for the World Education Market. In advance of the
debate, in the World Education Market online community, I ran a poll asking
people to vote for whether they were "in favour of" or
"opposed" to globalization of education. At the same time in the
online discussion forum I asked people to submit questions that I could pose to
the debaters during the live face-to-face debate. Running the poll and getting
questions in advance provided invaluable context and material for the debate
Chalk technology uses student polling to give an
instructor real-time feedback on things like whether students are comprehending
the material and whether the pace of instruction is too fast or too slow.
think Webquests are a
fantastic pedagogical method for active learning. Developed by San Diego State
University professor Bernie Dodge Webquests recently won the Merlot
Editors Choice Award.
are inquiry-based activities where all the information and material the students
use is on the web. A typical webquest defines an activity for a group of
learners to explore whereby each student takes on a different perspective. The
group is required to follow a process, document their findings, and prepare a
an example, an Art Webquest might ask What is art? What is the purpose of art?
What are art styles? Members of the team could be asked to take on roles like an
artist, an art critic, an art historian, an art collector and review various art
schools - classicism, romanticism, expressionism, cubism, ...
and Product Based Learning
based learning has long been an effective pedagogical practice. I've seen this
approach also be very effective for what might be called "product"
university where I work has a fourth year undergraduate online course developed
by professors Jim Budd and Ron Wakarry where students are asked to work together
on an "integration project". As a capstone project requiring
interdisciplinary collaboration the integration project requires teams of
students to generate a vision of a next-generation interactive handheld or
autonomous product. Each team must design, develop and produce an operational
prototype based on an original concept. The new device must be a handheld or
autonomous device fit in a package not exceeding ten by four by two inches and
have a target retail price of less than tow hundred and fifty dollars.
kind of collaborative pedagogy requiring students to work together on a problem,
or in this case, product produces powerful learning.
wrote about games and simulations in last
month's column, so I won't belabour the point but clearly games and
simulations can not only be fun and engaging but a great pedagogy for learning.
some ways webcasts have much in common with traditional lectures and
presentations. Webcasts are typically "live" with students attending a
session featuring one or more key speakers in real time. But in some ways
webcasts go beyond a lecture/presentation or at least have the potential to go
basic list of features available in a webcast includes:
video, one way or two way
audio Voice-Over-IP, one way or two way
synchronized web browsing
handraising, yes/no buttons
delivered a fair number of webcasts over the past couple of years I've found the
best ones are those that actively seek to engage the audience. You can see from
the list of features available there is the potential to structure active
learning opportunities into the webcast. I helps to develop questions,
brainstorm activities, polls, and other activities that webcast attendees can
me online communities represent a fantastic opportunity to generate active
learning in a truly constructivist fashion. Furthermore they uniquely provide
opportunity for the socio-cultural development of the collective knowledge of a
community as contrasted with the individual's development of knowledge.
typical approach to creation of e-learning sinks 75-80% of available effort into
pre-creation of content prior to delivery of an online course. Many instructors
practically create a textbook online.
what if part of the responsibility for creating the content of a course was
turned over to the students themselves? What if pre-delivery development effort
went into not content creation but designing activities that engage students in
if students were enabled to "co-construct" the online course with the
instructor? Online communities provide basic scaffolding but then allow
community members to construct and interact.
am convinced online communities will become essential extensions to learning
management systems and other online learning technologies currently deployed in
support of e-learning. They extend the online experience to include informal as
well as formal learning opportunities.
what we know about "how people learn" is critical to ensuring the
creation of engaging learning experiences. As the e-learning market evolves I
expect consumers (students, learners) to become more insistent that their
learning experiences be active. If you are buying e-learning look for more than
simply content. If you are creating e-learning go beyond the lecture.
keenly interested in all forms of active learning and welcome e-mail from anyone
interested in sharing their active learning experience or approach.
Stacey, is an e-learning specialist in corporate and higher education working
in Simon Fraser University's
eLearning Innovation Centre (eLINC). Paul helps host & produce LearningTimes
an online community for education professionals. Contact: Paul
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