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Tuesday, April 22, 2008


As i come towards the end of my period of study, I have a clear model of how I believe online learning can be successfully delivered to adult distance learners. Having worked successfully through this model with a group of eight lecturers here at my university and around twenty students in separate online courses, i hope to continue to work on the model and its application to further enhance the lot of the adult distance learner and those engaged in professional development.

There are many influences on the model. As a starting point the model embraces the “seven principles of good practice in undergraduate education” as outlined by Chickering and Gamson (1987)1 At the heart of this teaching model is the use of an online synchronous classroom using web conferencing software, supported by a community orientated learning ethos that utilizes Web 2.0 technology. The underlying theory that drives the model is what can be described as constructo-connectivism, where formal learning activities are driven by a constructivist approach to teaching and learning, whilst a connectivist approach is taken in utilizing web 2.0 technology to facilitate the informal learning that occurs in the learning network and the acquisition of personal knowledge management skills which are invaluable in the digital era of the twenty first century.
To reflect the nature of this teaching model it has subsequently been named as the Synchronous Community Orientated Reflective and Experiential 2.0 model (SCORE 2.0). Conceptually the model is aligned with Race's 'ripples' model of learning2 . The online synchronous classroom is at the core and is the catalyst to drive the learning. This is where the motivation (the want) is created and reinforced. From here learners participate in intersession tasks (the doing) and then go on to consider what they have learnt through further discussion in a learning network and through posting entries to a reflective blog (the digesting). Throughout the whole process due to the nature of web 2.0 technologies there is opportunity for teacher-student interaction and student-student interaction (the feedback). Note also that the online synchronous class itself is a microcosm of this model of learning. Guiding and shaping the teaching and learning strategy is the community of inquiry model by Garrison and Anderson (2003)3 with the important emphasis on teaching presence, social presence and cognitive presence.
This model of online learning has been developed for the individual lecturer or ideally a programme team that enjoys building rapport with students and values dialogue with students. There are two very simple aims 1) to invigorate the process of online distance learning, making it an enjoyable, engaging and motivating experience and ii) to maximize the learning. Developed with adult distance learners in mind, the model has the potential to be used effectively for staff development purposes both on and off line.

1. Chickering, Arthur and Stephen C. Ehrmann (1996) Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever AAHE Bulletin, October, pp. 3-6.
2. Race, P. (2001) The lecturer's toolkit - A practical guide to learning, teaching and assessment (Second edition) London: Kogan Page.
3. Garrison, D. R. and Anderson, Terry (2003) E-Learning in the 21st Century: a framework for research and practice London: RoutledgeFalmer.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Higher Education, Work based learning and Web 2.0

After reading David Gray’s (2001)[i] “A Briefing on Work Based Learning” this document picks up on the main points that characterize work based learning (WBL) and briefly explores their relationship with higher education and web 2.0 technology.

Work based learning and its value
Three common understandings of the term work based learning are:
  • Learning for work e.g. work placements on a sandwich degree programme (may be referred to as work placed learning)
  • Learning at Work e.g. in house training or personal development programme
  • Learning through work with formal accreditation
Understanding 1 (even though it as a long history at higher education level) and understanding 2 are not usually assessed or accredited. For higher education (in consultation with employer organizations and the employee) the newer understanding 3 brings with it the role of providing academic rigor by way of i) defining appropriate learning outcomes, ii) effective teaching and learning strategies and iii) valid and reliable assessment.
If these three elements are met then the work based learner will more likely be in a position to reap the satisfying rewards of self fulfillment and self development which will be important in motivating them during the period of a course. For work based learning to be of value to an employer organization, then at the end of the learning process, amongst other things they may like to see that the learner has i) acquired specific skills ii) demonstrated general problem solving skills iii) demonstrated ability to be creative in generating ideas, in addition to iv) a mechanism to identify what level of skills and ability an individual has achieved. With the advent of e-learning in general and web 2.0 technology in particular, Higher education is in a position to take advantage of the ease of use and flexibility of 21st century learning tools to i) improve communication between all three parties ii) provide opportunities for learners to present and externalize their knowledge iii) engender a dialogic framework that can easily elicit feedback from tutors, employers and the wider world and iv) foster the development of a learners own personal learning environment and personal knowledge management skills to enhance their development as a lifelong learner.
This last point may have additional resonance with employer organizations that have a mindset of a learning organization, as they will be looking to go beyond isolated programmes of learning and look to embed systems which encourage learning and will benefit the whole organization as an ongoing way of being. This sort of organization will ideally have structures in place that encourage individual participation, create opportunities for interaction and create mechanisms to share ideas so that a culture of learning from each other ensues.
Differences between WBL and classroom learning
David Gray refers to Raelin (2000) who argues that work based learning is different to classroom learning in a number of important ways:
  1. Work based learning is centered around reflection on work practices
  2. Work based learning views learning as arising from action and problem solving within a working environment.
  3. Work based learning requires not only the acquisition of knowledge but the acquisition of meta-competence – learning to learn.
For these reasons and the fact that the adult learner is perceived to be self-directed, has personal experience and motivation to bring to the table of learning assessment methods for work based learning need to be reflected in a student-centered, problem-based approach rather than formal examinations that characterize traditional assessment methods. With this in mind assessment methods could include:
  • Self and peer assessment
  • Assignments and projects
  • Portfolio building
  • Presentations
  • Practical assessment of professional competence in the workplace
In addition it’s important to note that “the link between a learner’s objectives and the outputs of learning can be bridged through the use of learning contracts”. Gray (2001)1
With employers having an investment in the learning of work based learners and the benefits that this will offer in the future this further “underlines the need for developing the higher level skills of analysis, evaluation and synthesis as well as the ability to be an independent learner”. Gray (2001)1
WBL and Web 2.0
Web 2.0 technology sits nicely within a student centered, problem based approach learning and the socio-constructivist approach that this implies. There are many web 2.0 technologies that can become home for student developed resources; The staple web 2.0 tools will be Blogs for reflection, wikis for collaboration and resource management and e-portfolios for presentation of knowledge, ideas and the products of the learning process. Also in this connectivist age in addition to their own Personal Learning Networks, there should also be a role for an institution or employer initiated web 2.0 based learning network which can help to facilitate the informal and incidental learning that can be so useful.

[1] Gray, D (2001) A Briefing on Work Based Learning LTSN generic centre Learning and Teaching Support Network

Monday, April 07, 2008

More of my Blogging

During the course of my study I have also been contributing to the DMU pathfinder blog. The pathfinder research project of which I am a participant is investigating the use of web 2.0 technology throughout the institution. I have made 20 contributions to this blog. My contributions can be found here . I have included a list of my blog titles and categorised them in the list below for your reference.
· Another Digital Resource
· Cool CatTeacher Blog
· Passion Based Learning
· Staff Engagment - show them this!! - Thanks Nick Allsop
· Students 2.0
Web 2.0 Tools
· 90 days free use of online Survey Software
· Betty Collis Seminar - "Wikis: Flavour of the month or the tool that can change learning
· Google Calendar
· Reasons to use Ning
· Social Bookmarking - Are you doing it, if not why not?
· YouTube
Web 2.0 Learning and Education
· Bob, weave and procrastinate, but you can't hide
· Britt Watwood's Posts - - College 2.0
· Burnout
· Give me a 'learning' network anyday
· Learnadoodledastic: Community Building, Learning Networks and all that Jazz
· mobilicious
· The most influential blog of the year - Edublog Awards 2007
· Web2.0: Security, Privacy, Safety & Legalities
· Facebook Research

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