Tuesday, November 29, 2011

74_Six Principles to Consider

When Teaching Meets Learning: Design Principles and Strategies for Web-based Learning Environments that Support Knowledge Construction
Oliver, Ron
available at: http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/coffs00/papers/ron_oliver_keynote.pdf

It has been a while since my last update on these readings. And I know people have been reading and checking these articles. Hope the suggestions for further reading are helpful to those who embark in the journey of planning, designing and delivering online learning experiences.

This article, although slightly older in nature, bases its suggestions on the true understanding of constructivism for learning. It states with interest, passion and great literary support, how the change in delivery between F2F learning, and even Distance Learning to online learning is much more than just the use of accurate tools to store, manage and organize content. The telling of the story for learning of the more traditional approaches, the ones that both teachers and students have so nicely become accustomed to, is a different "story".

From the set sequence of activities and decontextualized access to definitions and pre-set, often abstract assessment tasks, which relied heavily on the presence of the teachers as the guiding hand all along the journey,  students are led to embrace the more constructivist mode of learning, where they build their way through the new information until it is knowledge they have owned all along.

The table on page 3 of the article, between the old and the new assumptions for the different delivery methods is also an important contribution and reason for reflection that the article mentions. It is stated, once again, that constructivism focuses on the learning as a process not a product. And processes are hard to define and often do not match even amongst similar content areas delivered in similar fashion.

The article states that not only instructors find it difficult to adjust to these new assumptions in the online learning environment, but also students. The delivery of lectures and set of step-by-step instructions is much easier to abide by and follow, than open-ended questions and ill-designed problems, that are subject to interpretations and need to take ownership of responses with highly and more sophisticated ways of thinking. Amongst the suggested characteristics of effective online courses  the following are proposed:

  • the ability through devices and structures of the course for students to feel and perceive the teacher presence even though learner-control is elicited and supported at all times
  • plenty of meaningful resources - setting up pathways to discover reliable resources while providing strategies to discern important information from irrelevant content
  • select and construct meaningful contexts for learning - this is probably one of the hardest steps of teaching and learning online
  • select learning activities ahead of content and make them connect deeply with the goals of the learning
  • use ill-structured tasks - open-ended responses should be present throughout the course
  • provide support - remember that most often support comes from peers and peer-directed activities
  • use authentic tasks
The article concludes by stressing the fact that there cannot be a one-way prescriptive fashion to set up online learning environments, as this would contradict the very nature of the constructivist assumptions on which online learning is based upon.