Saturday, April 14, 2007

Online Learning

Sharing by Dr Teo Yong Hwee (LETS/TFL Branch) on 13 April 2007 @ P2-1

Online learning

  • What is it? What's the definition? Maybe I missed out the first slide? Maybe it's intentionally left out for us to conclude what it is after the 2 hour session?

  • Here's a list when I type "Online learning" definition in google search.

  • Indeed, some common terms/words that keep appearing are "elearning", "online", "environment"... so it's simply learning via the internet. Of course, here sounds vague, as it does not describe (or set any condition) what kind of learning environment it is, and how it drives learning? What are the unique or desirable elements, characteristics of such environment? Of course, next question is, who learns best in this kind of learning environment?
Value-add of web resources

  • This have been re-iterated... whether during the critique sessions, or meetings, or workshops (when we started to 'preach' that after having internalised)... and now...

  • The emphasis: Interaction among the 3 entities - Content, Instructor, Learner. I thought this is really short and sweet.

Classroom Teaching vs Online learning

  • One difference pointed out is clear: Classroom teaching is mostly teacher-lead whereas online learning is really in the hands of the learner and as a result, the "made" of learner is critical here, whether it is going to be successful or not.

  • The other is time: In classroom teaching, it's bounded by the 'curriculum time' (or period) allocated to the subject (ie. 30 min in a day, or 5 periods in a week). It is 'fixed' amount of time, we can't stretch... (of course, the primary classroom could possibly exercise more flexibility since the same teacher teaches two or more subjects with the same class). The biggest gain of an online learning environment is, it allows learning take place anytime, anywhere and of course, as Dr Teo put it across nicely, it fits into inculcating the Lifelong learning attitude and building an online Community of Learners. Well, I think it is a yes and no: Yes, technology has given us the room to stretch and come together; from a teacher's perspective, it stretches the 'learning environment' to manage on top of something they still cling on dearly too... ie. teacher-led instruction - so, I foresee some concern in selling online learning with this 'advantage' being put upfront.

  • The web offers, not just a lot, but enriched materials: The full range is almost available via the internet - virtual simulation, multimedia, interactive materials, and other productivity & assessment tools that provide feedback to learners immediately. This is what teachers can't do - to monitor everybody's learning at the same time and giving immediate attention/feedback. Yes, I agree with this. Like the old saying, "A picture speaks a thousand words", so do the resources in the internet!

  • Another point brought up is - because it offers "time", therefore provides a platform for highly reflective activities. Agree! It allows time for the brain to process and type in the thoughts, and thoughts lead to more thoughts... am going through it personally. Of course this leads to the next point, what kind of people are suitable for online learning?

What learners are suitable for online learning?

  • Self-motivated, self-disciplined - realised that "self" comes first? Yes, it largely depends on how self-driven the learner is.

  • This also comes with maturity of the learner, apart from something that comes naturally. As Dr Teo pointed out - age matters. Lower primary pupils may not fit into this mode of learning that well as their attention span is short and easily distracted by things around them. Of course, we can interpret the reverse, when kids are attracted to something, they would indulge in it... so shall I say, it depends on how the media engages the learner, too! One real life example is when children are attracted to a cartoon, they would sit in front of the TV all day long! Of the media plays the critical role in engaging the learner, then it does not mean that older children can take on to online learning that well. Of course, to enhance the 'self-driven-ness', a reward system can be introduced (if not a demerit system?). Again, it still depends on how engaging the resources are or the activity is. Isn't it?

  • Visual learners. The internet provides media that helps the visual learner to learn better because they can see better, they can manipulate the different objects virtually (eg. virtual science lab to conduct an experiment)

  • Social learners. There are 2 points of view. Perhaps it's where the "Digital Immigrants" vs the "Digital Natives". The face-to-face interaction is normally the preferred mode of "Digital immigrants" - that's the human nature, isn't it? Hence, to the digital immigrants, online learning platform forces them to communicate through another platform... there it goes, the verbal cues (that SK pointed out)... yes, the body language tells a lot more, the tone of the voice communicates the "lines in-between"... though the written language has been "enhanced" by the emoticons. Hence, this platform reduces the 'social' level among people. On the other hand, to the digital natives, it's so much easier and quicker to communicate online... they could stay up in the middle of the night to chat... so, a new kind of community is born! They are highly social in such online community!

  • Learners of course have to possess the necessary computer skills and have access to internet.

  • Of course, the ability to read and write independently is necessary... otherwise, how to understand what others say and respond accordingly?

Online Pedagogy

Considerations when designing Online Learning

  1. Select a pedagogy, based on learning outcome, learner, context, teacher beliefs

  2. Design content, activities for each learning outcome

  3. Determine type of interaction needed for each activity

  4. Select the type of tool

Hey, do you notice - the tool comes last?

Choice of Pedagogy

An interesting way to remember that:

  • If there is only 1 right answer - the behaviorist (didactic) approach will suffice. One example is to learn to photocopy the 2 page document using a photocopier. Basically, there are only 2 ways - manually or using the automated feature. It does not call for special examination of ways to 'do' it.
  • When there is no complete right answer, the constructivist approach would be appropriate.

Constructivist Pedagogy

It is based on learner's experience + It requires learners to collaborate and work with each other (hence, group work) + the nature of projects are authentic.

  • Resource-based learning: Pupils use various types of web resources to learn. As they go through and work on these resources, they develop information skills. They are actively engaged in learning as they use the resources to learn, to solve problems. (eg. WebQuest)
  • Collaborative Learning: Role play, discussion are common characteristics. The web serves as an interactive medium instead of a delivery mode (compared to resource-based learning). Learning is a social process as it calls for interaction (social constructivist approach). It fosters active learning that can lead to reflection and deeper understanding. Here, the teacher does not provide answers. As a result, pupils may experience frustration as there could be so many possibilities. Some would even question, how this approach matches to the mode of assessment, though the introduction of project work has factored in the interactive processes. The teaming matters! One interesting point brought was, a heterogeneous group will generate more learning, as compared to one whereby learners of the same kind (and those who know each other well) come together. So, like-mindedness may not be beneficial here. Oops! Here, we celebrate diversity?
  • Project-based Learning: The process is driven by the end-product.
  • Problem-based Learning: It comes in the form of a ill-structured problem. Learners have to find information to solve (incorporates resource-based learning). They go through the process of identifying the problem and eventually find a solution to it. The by-product could be products such as powerpoint slides that's used to present the solution. Perhaps, one example could be an experiment that goes wrong - despite the fact that learner follows the procedure. This will lead them to investigate other non-routine problems.
  • Narrative-based Learning: Using stories adn mode of telling them. Examples of application: History, models, cases.
  • Situated Learning: Learning is situated wihin a culture and context and it is incidental. It takes time to 'reinforce' the idea... and in the course of doing so, one learns and moves on to the application stage. People learn best through 'legitimate peripheral participation (ie. apprenticeship. An example is the 'midwives' stories - since young, children of the midwives would hear their stories day-in-day-out... as they grow older, they start helping out with simple chores like getting materials, etc... and move on to more 'important' tasks... and eventually, through the years of observation and 'apprenticeship', they acquire the necessary skills. Another example is cognitive apprenticeship - that happens in the classroom (more often), when the teacher talks aloud while solving the sum... pupils listen... and it's reinforce over time... and that helps pupils to learn better.
  • Pedagogy Approaches @ edu.MALL


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