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13 E-learning theories

E-learning theories are not new theories, but rather e-enhancements of existing learning theories (Mayes and de Freitas, 2004).
They form “sets of beliefs: about the nature of knowledge and competence, about the purposes of learning, about how learning occurs, about how people should and should not be treated, etc” (Goodyear, 2001, p.51)
Consecutive learning theories don’t replace each other, but complement each other, each contributing its legacy to learning.  Theories can be considered as various levels of aggregation, with associative/behaviourist approaches addressing observable factors, cognitive approaches focusing on the ‘detailed structures and processes that underlie individual performance’ and situative approaches taking into account the social and cultural aspects of learning (Mayes and de Freitas, 2004).
Activity designs are usually a blend of different learning theories.  Being aware of the main learning theories helps building a consistent design and clarifying what type of learning and interaction is intended.
An example provided by Goodyear (2001): It is not uncommon to find some members of a team believing that learners are poor at  organizing themselves and learn best by being fed information in small amounts, while other members of the team want to promote active, student-managed learning.
 
The table below summarizes key concepts of different learning theories and their implications for online learning, taken from the publications from Anderson, Mayes and de Freitas and Goodyear.
Associative/ Behaviourist approaches
Design principles
Looking for observable behaviour
Explicitly mentioning course outcomes
Behavioural objectives
Ability to test achievement of learning outcomes
Instructional Systems Design (ISD)
Decomposing learning into small chunks
Routines of organised activity
Learning hierarchies (controversial!)
Sequencing learning materials with increasing complexity
Giving direct feedback on learning
Individualized learning trajectories
Cognitive psychology (constructivism)
Types of memory (sensory – short term – long term)
Maximize sensations: strategic screen layout
Research on memory, perception, reasoning, concept formation.
Maximize sensations: well-paced information
Learning is active
Maximize sensations: highlighting main elements
Learning is individual (knowledge construction)
Relate difficulty level to cognitive level of learner: providing links to easier and more advanced resources
Use of comparative advance organizers
Use of conceptual models
Importance of prior knowledge structures
Pre-instructional & prerequisite questions
Experimentation toward discovery of broad principles
Promote deep processing
Use of information maps zooming in/ out
Cognitive Apprenticeship (Brown et al, 1989)
Interactive environments for construction of understanding
Metacognition (reflection, self-regulation)
Relate to real-life (apply, analyse, synthesize)
Learning styles (controversial!)
Address various learning styles
Cognitive styles
Let students prepare a journal
Dual coding theory
Use both visual information and text
Motivate learners (ARCS model)
Use techniques to catch attention, explain relevance,  build confidence and increase satisfaction
Situated learning (constructivism)
Personal knowledge construction
Personal meaning to learning
Situated learning: motivation
Relate to real life (relevance)
Holistic/ Systemic approaches
Conduct research on internet
Build confidence with learners
Identity development
Use of first-hand information (not filtered by instructor)
Communities of Practice (Lave & Wenger)
Collaborative activities
Fostering the growth of learning communities
Learning as act of participation
Legitimate (peripheral) practice, apprenticeships
Lifelong learning
Authentic learning and assessment tasks
Connectivism
Information explosion
Digital literacies
Learning in network environment
Keep up-to-date in field
Knowledge base
Multi-channel learning
Distributed learning
Build diversity, openness in learning (different opinions), autonomy
Personal Learning Environment
self-directed learning, just-in-time
Some comments on the table:
1. It’s difficult to draw sharp lines between these theories.  Some authors distinguish between cognitive constructivism (based on the work from Piaget) and social-cultural constructivism (based on the work from Vygotsky).  The work of Vygotsky formed the basis for the anthropological work from Jean Lave and the concept of ‘communities of practice’. The work of Engeström on activity theory forms a bridge between situative learning (with the activity system, it takes a more social unit of analysis than the individual) and constructivist approaches.
2 .Constructivism doesn’t really fit into the overview.  Goodyear (2001, p.75) mentions the following description of constructivism:
“…learning is a constructive process in which the learner is building an internal representation of knowledge, a personal interpretation of experience. This representation is constantly open to change, its structure and linkages forming the foundation to which other knowledge structures are appended….this view of knowledge does not necessarily deny the existence of the real world..but contends that all we know of the world are human interpretations of our experience of the world….learning must be situated in a rich context, reflective of real world contexts…” In other words, constructivism states that knowledge is relative and is different for every user.  Learning, in this position, means actively building a personal and contextualised interpretation of experience.

Constructivism – Jonassen et al 1999

Social Constructions – Vygotsky 1986

Activity Theory – Engeström et al 1999

Experiational Learning – Kolb 1984

Instructional Design – Gagné et al 2004

Networked and collaborative work – McConnell 2000

Learning Design Jochems et al 2004

 

Primary: presenting information

Secondary: active learning and feedback

Tertiary: dialogue and new learning.

References
Goodyear, P. (2001) Effective networked learning in higher education: notes and guidelines, Networked Learning in Higher Education Project (JCALT), Lancaster, CSALT, Lancaster University, [online] Available from:http://www.csalt.lancs.ac.uk/jisc/guidelines_final.doc(Accessed 28 May 2012)
Anderson, T. (ed.) (2008) The Theory and Practice of Online Learning, 2nd ed. Athabasca University Press.
Mayes, T. and de Freitas, S. (2004) Review of e-learning theories, frameworks and models, Bristol, The Joint Information Systems Committee, [online] Available from:http://www.jisc.ac.uk/uploaded_documents/Stage%202%20Learning%20Models%20%28Version%201%29.pdf(Accessed 28 May 2012).

Design-Based Research:A Decade of Progress in Education Research

I skim through the article Design-Based Research:A Decade of Progress in Education Research? by Anderson and Shattuck, noting in particular the section on iterative design

Bridging the chasm between design and execution

I found this article on design based research not only fascinating, but oddly synchronous with the MAODE (Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education) module I am currently doing – H809 Practice based research in educational technology – as my interest is in how we construct learning programmes for use through our various Internet connected devices.

‘DBR is a methodology designed by and for educators that seeks to increase the impact, transfer, and translation of education research into improved practice’. (Anderson and Shattuck, 2012. p. 16)

We are currently stripping down a couple of papers.

I can see that I will automate this process, do a review of who, what, when, why a paper is written. Then check as a skim read for other signs that make it credible for my interests (or creditable at all).

  • Being Situated in a Real Educational Context
  • Focusing on the Design and Testing of a Significant Intervention
  • Involving multiple iterations
  • Involving a Collaborative Partnership Between Researchers and Practitioners
  • Evolution of Design principles

In action research, the educator is both researcher and teacher
(Kuhn & Quigley, 1997).

This becomes inevitable. And is played out in just about anything we do if we think either that there is a problem with it or that it can be improved and we want to improve it. On the one hand as player and participant we are in the best position to understand what is going on, on the other we may be so adapted to certain behaviours and to the familiarity of a situation that we cannot see it with either fresh eyes or the eyes of an objective observer. These are techniques and attitudes that can be taught.

Mingfong, Yam San, and Ek Ming (2010) identified four design characteristics that they suggest must be aligned to create effective interventions. These are:

  1. Frameworks for learning,
  2. The affordances of the chosen instructional tools,
  3. Domain knowledge presentation,
  4. Contextual limitations

(Mingfong et al 1020 p. 470).

Design practice—whether in the manufacture of cars or of fashions—usually evolves through the creation and testing of prototypes, iterative refinement, and continuous evolution of the design, as it is tested in authentic practice. (Anderson and Shattuck, 2012. p. 17)

“Research through mistakes.”  (Anderson and Shattuck, 2012. p. 17)

I came across this in the OU MBA module B822 ‘creativity, innovation and change’ – where mistakes are recognised as a test and a way forward, rather than a barrier to change or innovation.

Grayson Perry – is one of several artists and creatives who talk positively of mistakes. It’s how we learn.

Martin Sorrell – on mistakes in business

There are many others – a search ‘mistakes’ in this blog will find more.

Further Reading

Journal of the Learning Sciences, vol. 13, no. 1; Educational Researcher, vol. 32, no. 1; and
Educational Psychologist, vol. 39, no. 4.

REFERENCES

Anderson, T, & Shattuck, J 2012, ‘Design-Based Research:A Decade of Progress in Education Research?’, Educational Researcher, 1, p. 16, JSTOR Arts & Sciences IV, EBSCOhost, viewed 8 February 2013.

Mingfong, J., Yam San, C., & Ek Ming, T. (2010). Unpacking the design process in design-based research. In Proceedings pedagogy

Kuhn, G., & Quigley, A. (1997). Understanding and using action research in practice settings. In A. Quigley & G. Kuhne (Eds.), Creating practical knowledge through action research (pp. 23–40). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Looi, C.-K., Chen, W. the 9th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (Vol. 2). International Society of the Learning Sciences.

Anderson on meeting student needs

5 Aug 2011

Getting the Mix Right Again: An updated and theoretical rationale for Interaction. How to be effective and efficient in meeting diverse student needs. Terry Anderson (2003)

Wagner’s (1994) “reciprocal events that require at least two objects and two actions. Interactions occur when these objects and events mutually influence one another” (p. 8).

A comment left on a blog is therefore a reciprocal interaction, like an asynchronous discussion in a forum, as there are two people (subjects) with in respective cases two objects (the blog and the comment) and two actions (the writing of the blog, the composition of a response in the form of a comment).

This does not, as Anderson suggests, negate Daniel and Marquis’s (1998) definition of interaction needing to refer “in a restrictive manner to cover only those activities where the student is in two-way contact with another person (or persons)” (Daniel and Marquis, 1988, p. 339). In 1989 they could not have known how texting would develop into meaningful interaction between two or more people, or the way in which asynchronous discussion could occur online.

  • Sims (1999) argues that interactivity allows for learner control, adaptation of the learner program, various forms of participation and communication, and as aiding the development of meaningful learning.
  • Lipman (1991) and Wenger (2001) say that interactivity is fundamental to the creation of the learning communities.
  • Jonassen (1991) says that another person’s perspective is a key learning component in constructivist learning theories.
  • Langer (1989) says that interaction develops mindfulness in learners.

There is a history of interaction as a theory in education

  • Dewey (1916) from inert information from another to your own understanding and interpretation in your head.
  • Holmberg (1989) between tutor and student, whether postal or on the phone.
  • Laurilard (1997) interaction between tutor, content and students.

The difference between formal and informal learning.

One, Anderson argues, is purposively designed to have a learning outcome. Though I do wonder, based on a recent Elluminate session in which we considered a formal and informal learning design for teaching The Green Cross Code if the informal miss has greater impact, the shock of the unexpected when you are nearly hit … Or as a driver or passenger you nearly hit (or even do hit) another?

Since both formal and informal learning can result from interaction between and amongst students alone, or as result of interaction between student and content, the participation of a teacher cannot be a defining feature of an educational interaction. (Anderson, 2003)

Anderson, 2003 suggested that due to the increasing computational power and storage capacity of computers (Moore’s Law), their increase in functionality when networked (Metcalfe’s Law), and related geometric increases in a host of technical developments (Kurzweil, 1999) created opportunity to transform student-teacher and student-student interaction into enhanced forms of student-content interaction.

In a way the interaction with the content of various kinds in mixed ways that goes on in the head Dewey (1916) has been the goal of the developers of interactive learning all along, in the training context this has occurred as facilitator-led learning was gradually transcended by workbooks in the 1980s, video-led and interactive (on laser-disc then Interactive DVD before) in the 1990s before efforts occurred to migrate content and interactivity to the web from the 1990s.

The multiple interplay of Anderson and Garrison’s (1998) Fig. 1 rings true, though how content without a student or teacher interloper baffles me and in 2011 teacher in the broadest sense should take in all educators and ancillary stakeholders.

There is no single medium that supports the educational experience in a manner that is superior in all ways to that supported via other media.

Clark’s (1994), Kozma’s (1994) Russell (2000) and many others show that there is ’a complicated interaction between content, student preference and need, institutional capacity and preference, and teaching and learning approaches to learning’.

There is also evidence that many students deliberately choose learning programs that allow them to minimize the amount of student-teacher and student-student interaction required (May, 2003; Kramarae, 2003).

While Anderson (2003) concludes that there is ’a wide range of need and preference for different combinations of paced and un-paced, synchronous and asynchronous activity, and also a strong desire for variety and exposure to different modes and modularities of educational provision and activity.’

From these observations and from the literature debate, Anderson developed an equivalency theorem as follows:

Deep and meaningful formal learning is supported as long as one of the three forms of interaction is at a high level:

• Student–teacher

• Student-student

• Student-content

The other two may be offered at minimal levels, or even eliminated, without degrading the educational experience.

High levels of more than one of these three modes will likely provide a more satisfying educational experience.

This theorem implies that an instructional designer can substitute one type of interaction for one of the others (at the same level) with little loss in educational effectiveness – thus the label of an equivalency theory.

Student-teacher interaction currently has the highest perceived value amongst students, and thus commands highest scores.

There is some evidence to suggest value in “vicarious interaction,” in which non-active participants gain from observing and empathizing with active participants (Sutton, 2001; Fulford and Zhang, 1993).

Also Cox (2006) with a nod to John Seely- (2007) (both from week 2)

For planning or development purposes, designers are encouraged to build into their programs strategic amounts of each type of interaction, and to develop activities that will encourage this amount of interaction.

This interests me because I wonder if we could take the call-centre principal and apply it to social media, a collective engagement of substance.

At Athabasca University, Anderson writes, students had access (7 days a week, 12 hours a day) to call centre staff. They were equipped with FAQ databases, course syllabi, and a limited amount of content knowledge to answer a wide variety of student inquiries.

Would this help with retention?

It would contribute to engagement. It did contribute to deeper learning. Are we now saying that this interaction must come from fellow students? Or alumni groups in social networks?

I know that in the corporate sector Epic offer clients a ‘call-centre’ like service as they have realised that online interactive learning naturally throws up situations where students want to talk to an informed and sympathetic person. No one wants to be passed from pillow to post. I say this as an informed online learner who has not just had to sleep on a problem, but the nature of responses either send you to sleep or leave you wanting to bang your head against a post.

I loathe this kind of academic language.

This is where academics address each other, a PhD student to their sponsor perhaps. It puts students and the inquisitive mind at arm’s length.

This will change in the Web 2.0 world as this content gets an airing well-beyond its original place in a printed journal and with a few tags and comments gets spread rapidly across thousands rather than a handful of readers.

‘The equivalency theorem proposed in this paper is not as complicated nor as technically detailed as other theories relevant to distance education (e.g., Jaspers, 1991; Saba and Shearer, 1994). However, its simplicity allows it to function as an accessible heuristic for distance education delivery design’. Anderson (2003)

My highlights.

The choice of words then this massive compound-noun says to me this person is trying to sound clever, elitist and worthy of the academic status they aspire to. It is poor communication. Even the chunk of referencing sticks in the gullet. We should in theory reference every word we utter, as none are our own, all could be tagged back to someone, somewhere.

Clarity counts.

By quoting Wilson here Anderson reveals his motives. Sometimes academics what to coin a phrase or word: e-tivity (Salmon, 2002), sometimes a phrase: digital natives (Prensky, 2001, 2003, but read Jones to put this terms where they belong), sometimes a theorem, this one being ‘The Equivalency Theorem’.

Wilson (1997), Anderson tells us, described three functions that a good educational theory performs.

I’ll let you read the conclusion in the paper for these.

My interest is not in developing a theorem, my quest is for understanding that I may then apply.

An important paper, dense, chronological, logical, a great intellect chew.

Anderson (2003) ends with this:

‘I am convinced that many of these alternatives should be focused on creating the most cost effective and accessible alternatives that can scale to meet the burgeoning global demand for effective and affordable life-long learning opportunities. In most cases, these models will drastically reduce the amount of teacher-student interaction, and substitute it with increased student-student and student-content interaction. For many, this scenario is a frightening one, but one that is in keeping with our tradition of expanding educational access and opportunity, and thus not one we should abhor’.

Eight years on I feel like sounding him out.

Was he prescient? Where is he now?

The fact Anderson has missed is the greater desire for increased personalisation, learning tailor to the individual and increased interaction through social networks, with the knowledgeable as well as the ignorant (whether or not they are the person’s tutor or faculty academics).

Actually, the group I find silent are the tutors and academics.

They are too busy with their heads in their professional thoughts unable to offer up a piece of their minds without attaching a price or allocated time to it. Is this the difference between a professional musician and a busker?

REFERENCE

Anderson, T., and Garrison, D.R. (1998). Learning in a networked world: New roles and responsibilities. In C. Gibson (Ed.), Distance Learners in Higher Education. (p. 97-112). Madison, WI.: Atwood Publishing.

Anderson, T. (2003). Modes of interaction in distance education: Recent developments and research questions. In M. Moore (Ed.) Handbook of Distance Education. (p. 129-144). Mahwah, NJ.: Erlbaum.

Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

Fulford, C. P., and Zhang, S. (1993). Perceptions of Interaction: The critical predictor in distance education. American Journal of Distance Education, 7(3), 8– 21.

John Seely-Brown October 2007 webcast: http://stadium.open.ac.uk/stadia/preview.php?whichevent=1063&s=31 +My notes on this: http://learn.open.ac.uk/mod/oublog/viewpost.php?post=60469+The transcript of that session: http://learn.open.ac.uk/file.php/7325/block1/H800_B1_Week2a_JSBrown_Transcript.rtf

Jaspers, F. (1991). Interactivity or Instruction? A reaction to Merrill. Educational Technology, 31(3), 21 – 24.

Jonassen, D. (1991). Evaluating constructivistic learning. Educational Technology, 31(10), 28 – 33.

Jones, C (2010) A new generation of learners? The Net Generation and Digital Natives

Kurzweil, R. (1999). The age of spiritual machines. New York: Penguin Group.

Langer, E. (1989). Mindfulness. Reading, MA.: Addison-Wesley.

Lipman, M. (1991). Thinking in Education. Cambridge, UK.: Cambridge University Press.

Saba, F., and Shearer, R. (1994). Verifying key theoretical concepts in a dynamic model of distance education. American Journal of Distance Education, 8(1), 36 – 59.

Salmon, G. (2002) E-tivities: The Key to Active Online Learning, London, RoutledgeFalmer.

Sims, R. (1999). Interactivity on stage: Strategies for learner-designer communication. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 15(3), 257 – 272. Retrieved May 25, 2002 from: http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/ajet/ajet15/sims.html

Sutton, L. (2001). The principles of vicarious interaction in computer-mediated communications. Journal of Interactive Educational Communications, 7(3), 223 –242. Retrieved July 15, 2003 from: http://www.eas.asu.edu/elearn/research/suttonnew.pdf

Wagner, E.D. (1994). In support of a functional definition of interaction. American Journal of Distance Education, 8(2), 6 – 26.

Wenger, E. (2001). Supporting communities of practice: A survey of community-orientated technologies. (1.3 Ed.) Shareware. Retrieved Mar 12, 2003 from: http://www.ewenger.com/tech/

Wilson, B. (1997). Thoughts on theory in educational technology. Educational Technology, 37(1), 22 – 26.

Does technology diminish or enhance the role of the educator?

My son might be online playing World of War craft often, but so are two or three of his best mates.

From time to time they down tools (weapons, magic wands or whatever it might be) and head into town, or meet up to kick a ball around. Ditto my daughter whose use of the internet is exclusively to talk more with her immediate circle of friends.

This is real.

A colleague who has had the ‘social media manager’ tag at the OU has gone the full loop and is a ‘Communications Manager’ despite being online all day. I see her point, we differentiate new practices with new terms, but drop them once we see them in context.

It has happened sooner that I thought but there ought to be no need to different ‘learning’ from ‘e-learning’ as it is just learning that exploits new platforms and tools.

The human element is important.

Our human nature demands that we have physical contact with others. We are sociable, which interestingly has me spending increasingly amounts of time as a ‘social media manager’ in meetings or calling up people to meet face to face over lunch or a coffee.

I appreciate that the MAODE is all online.

I wonder however if this ‘purist’ point of view is sustainable or even desirable. Or do those who can and want to meet up do so anyway?

(Meeting a fellow MAODEr for the very first time a few weeks ago was odd. We felt we knew each other, there was no ‘ice to break’ as we’d worked on group tasks together in a previous module).

Not once have I imagined the technology making the genuine educator redundant i.e. someone whose modus operandi is to help students acquire knowledge and apply it, even to instill a life long love of learning with some tools and techniques to see them through.

If on a holiday to the Dordogne you came across a person from the Paleolithic painting in a cave would you leave him to it, or offer him your oils and sable brushes, or show him how to use a digital camera? (or her of course).

You don’t change the desire for self-expression, or capturing the world around you.

I know educators in their 80s who marvel at the Internet and the opportunity it offers to inform thousands.

Just think of an academic paper that in the past (and still) may be formally presented to a group of ten in the faculty, a group of thirty at a conference, then published … and quickly forgotten, compared to an age where such papers are presented face to face as described, but live through live streaming or a webcast to several hundred, then shared, copied and commented upon by thousands, and before it is even formally published may be gathering in a large readership?

And this is done by nursery, primary and secondary school educators too.

You have an idea for a class, you share it and if it is liked, it is picked up and used in many ways by many different people.

Its no longer a case of saying, ‘I wish I had done that.’ With permission/creative commons, OER and all that, you can use the fruits of someone else’s efforts, tweaked and personalised of course.

I rather think it is an exciting time to be working in education.

Personally I hanker after contact though, to address, mentor and coach people, probably young adults.

Social Media is knowledge sharing – it is learning. Does it require a theoretical rationale?

Getting the Mix Right Again: An updated and theoretical rationale for Interaction. How to be effective and efficient in meeting diverse student needs. Terry Anderson (2003)

Wagner’s (1994) “reciprocal events that require at least two objects and two actions. Interactions occur when these objects and events mutually influence one another” (p. 8).

A comment left on a blog is therefore a reciprocal interaction, like an asynchronous discussion in a forum, as there are two people (subjects) with in respective cases two objects (the blog and the comment) and two actions (the writing of the blog, the composition of a response in the form of a comment).

This does not, as Anderson suggests, negate Daniel and Marquis’s (1998) definition of interaction needing to refer “in a restrictive manner to cover only those activities where the student is in two-way contact with another person (or persons)” (Daniel and Marquis, 1988, p. 339). In 1989 they could not have known how texting would develop into meaningful interaction between two or more people, or the way in which asynchronous discussion could occur online.

  • Sims (1999) argues that interactivity allows for learner control, adaptation of the learner program, various forms of participation and communication, and as aiding the development of meaningful learning.
  • Lipman (1991) and Wenger (2001) say that interactivity is fundamental to the creation of the learning communities.
  • Jonassen (1991) says that another person’s perspective is a key learning component in constructivist learning theories.
  • Langer (1989) says that interaction develops mindfulness in learners.
    There is a history of interaction as a theory in education
  • Dewey (1916) from inert information from another to your own understanding and interpretation in your head.
  • Holmberg (1989) between tutor and student, whether postal or on the phone.
  • Laurilard (1997) interaction between tutor, content and students.

The difference between formal and informal learning.

One, Anderson argues, is purposively designed to have a learning outcome. Though I do wonder, based on a recent Elluminate session in which we considered a formal and informal learning design for teaching The Green Cross Code if the informal miss has greater impact, the shock of the unexpected when you are nearly hit … Or as a driver or passenger you nearly hit (or even do hit) another?

Since both formal and informal learning can result from interaction between and amongst students alone, or as result of interaction between student and content, the participation of a teacher cannot be a defining feature of an educational interaction. (Anderson, 2003)

Anderson, 2003 suggested that due to the increasing computational power and storage capacity of computers (Moore’s Law), their increase in functionality when networked (Metcalfe’s Law), and related geometric increases in a host of technical developments (Kurzweil, 1999) created opportunity to transform student-teacher and student-student interaction into enhanced forms of student-content interaction.

In a way the interaction with the content of various kinds in mixed ways that goes on in the head Dewey (1916) has been the goal of the developers of interactive learning all along, in the training context this has occurred as facilitator-led learning was gradually transcended by workbooks in the 1980 s, video-led and interactive (on laser-disc then Interactive DVD before) in the 1990s before efforts occurred to migrate content and interactivity to the web from the 1990s.

The multiple interplay of Anderson and Garrison’s (1998) Fig. 1 rings true, though how content without a student or teacher interloper baffles me and in 2011 teacher in the broadest sense should take in all educators and ancillary stakeholders.

There is no single medium that supports the educational experience in a manner that is superior in all ways to that supported via other media.

Clark’s (1994), Kozma’s (1994) Russell (2000) and many others show that there is ’a complicated interaction between content, student preference and need, institutional capacity and preference, and teaching and learning approaches to learning’.

There is also evidence that many students deliberately choose learning programs that allow them to minimize the amount of student-teacher and student-student interaction required (May, 2003; Kramarae, 2003).

While Anderson (2003) concludes that there is ’a wide range of need and preference for different combinations of paced and un-paced, synchronous and asynchronous activity, and also a strong desire for variety and exposure to different modes and modularities of educational provision and activity.’

From these observations and from the literature debate, Anderson developed an equivalency theorem as follows:

Deep and meaningful formal learning is supported as long as one of the three forms of interaction is at a high level:

• Student–teacher

• Student-student

• Student-content

The other two may be offered at minimal levels, or even eliminated, without degrading the educational experience.

High levels of more than one of these three modes will likely provide a more satisfying educational experience.

This theorem implies that an instructional designer can substitute one type of interaction for one of the others (at the same level) with little loss in educational effectiveness – thus the label of an equivalency theory.

Student-teacher interaction currently has the highest perceived value amongst students, and thus commands highest scores.

There is some evidence to suggest value in “vicarious interaction,” in which non-active participants gain from observing and empathizing with active participants (Sutton, 2001; Fulford and Zhang, 1993).

Also Cox (2006) with a nod to John Seely- (2007) (both from week 2 of module H800 of the Masters in Open and Distance Education.

For planning or development purposes, designers are encouraged to build into their programs strategic amounts of each type of interaction, and to develop activities that will encourage this amount of interaction.

This interests me because I wonder if we could take the call-centre principal and apply it to social media, a collective engagement of substance.

At Athabasca University, Anderson writes, students had access (7 days a week, 12 hours a day) to call centre staff. They were equipped with FAQ databases, course syllabi, and a limited amount of content knowledge to answer a wide variety of student inquiries.

Would this help with retention?

It would contribute to engagement. It did contribute to deeper learning. Are we now saying that this interaction must come from fellow students? Or alumni groups in social networks?

I know that in the corporate sector Epic offer clients a ‘call-centre’ like service as they have realised that online interactive learning naturally throws up situations where students want to talk to an informed and sympathetic person. No one wants to be passed from pillow to post. I say this as an informed online learner who has not just had to sleep on a problem, but the nature of responses either send you to sleep or leave you wanting to bang your head against a post.

I loathe this kind of academic language.

This is where academics address each other, a PhD student to their sponsor perhaps. It puts students and the inquisitive mind at arm’s length.

This will change in the Web 2.0 world as this content gets an airing well-beyond its original place in a printed journal and with a few tags and comments gets spread rapidly across thousands rather than a handful of readers.

The equivalency theorem proposed in this paper is not as complicated nor as technically detailed as other theories relevant to distance education (e.g., Jaspers, 1991; Saba and Shearer, 1994). However, its simplicity allows it to function as an accessible heuristic for distance education delivery design’. Anderson (2003)

My highlights.

The choice of words then this massive compound-noun says to me this person is trying to sound clever, elitist and worthy of the academic status they aspire to. It is poor communication. Even the chunk of referencing sticks in the gullet. We should in theory reference every word we utter, as none are our own, all could be tagged back to someone, somewhere.

Clarity counts. It is an important part of communication.

By quoting Wilson here Anderson reveals his motives. Sometimes academics what to coin a phrase or word: e-tivity (Salmon, 2002), sometimes a phrase: digital natives (Prensky, 2001, 2003, but read Jones to put this terms where they belong), sometimes a theorem, this one being ‘The Equivalency Theorem’.

Wilson (1997), Anderson tells us, described three functions that a good educational theory performs.

I’ll let you read the conclusion in the paper for these.

My interest is not in developing a theorem, my quest is for understanding that I may then apply.

An important paper, dense, chronological, logical, a great intellect chew.

Anderson (2003) ends with this:

‘I am convinced that many of these alternatives should be focused on creating the most cost effective and accessible alternatives that can scale to meet the burgeoning global demand for effective and affordable life-long learning opportunities. In most cases, these models will drastically reduce the amount of teacher-student interaction, and substitute it with increased student-student and student-content interaction. For many, this scenario is a frightening one, but one that is in keeping with our tradition of expanding educational access and opportunity, and thus not one we should abhor’.

Eight years on I feel like sounding him out.

Was he prescient?

Where is he now?

The fact Anderson has missed is the greater desire for increased personalisation, learning tailor to the individual and increased interaction through social networks, with the knowledgeable as well as the ignorant (whether or not they are the person’s tutor or faculty academics).

Actually, the group I find silent are the tutors and academics.

They are too busy with their heads in their professional thoughts unable to offer up a piece of their minds without attaching a price or allocated time to it. Is this the difference between a professional musician and a busker?

REFERENCE

Anderson, T., and Garrison, D.R. (1998). Learning in a networked world: New roles and responsibilities. In C. Gibson (Ed.), Distance Learners in Higher Education. (p. 97-112). Madison, WI.: Atwood Publishing.

Anderson, T. (2003). Modes of interaction in distance education: Recent developments and research questions. In M. Moore (Ed.) Handbook of Distance Education. (p. 129-144). Mahwah, NJ.: Erlbaum.

Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

Fulford, C. P., and Zhang, S. (1993). Perceptions of Interaction: The critical predictor in distance education. American Journal of Distance Education, 7(3), 8

– 21.

John Seely-Brown October 2007 webcast: http://stadium.open.ac.uk/stadia/preview.php?whichevent=1063&s=31

My notes:

http://learn.open.ac.uk/mod/oublog/viewpost.php?post=60469

The transcript of that session:

http://learn.open.ac.uk/file.php/7325/block1/H800_B1_Week2a_JSBrown_Transcript.rtf

Jaspers, F. (1991). Interactivity or Instruction? A reaction to Merrill. Educational Technology, 31(3), 21 – 24.

Jonassen, D. (1991). Evaluating constructivistic learning. Educational

Technology, 31(10), 28 – 33.

Jones, C (2010) A new generation of learners? The Net Generation and Digital Natives

Kurzweil, R. (1999). The age of spiritual machines. New York: Penguin Group.

Langer, E. (1989). Mindfulness. Reading, MA.: Addison-Wesley.

Lipman, M. (1991). Thinking in Education. Cambridge, UK.: Cambridge University Press.

Saba, F., and Shearer, R. (1994). Verifying key theoretical concepts in a dynamic model of distance education. American Journal of Distance Education, 8(1), 36 – 59.

Salmon, G. (2002) E-tivities: The Key to Active Online Learning, London, RoutledgeFalmer.

Sims, R. (1999). Interactivity on stage: Strategies for learner-designer communication. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 15(3), 257 – 272.

Retrieved May 25, 2002 from: http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/ajet/ajet15/sims.html

Sutton, L. (2001). The principles of vicarious interaction in computer-mediated communications. Journal of Interactive Educational Communications, 7(3), 223 –

242. Retrieved July 15, 2003 from: http://www.eas.asu.edu/elearn/research/suttonnew.pdf

Wagner, E.D. (1994). In support of a functional definition of interaction.

American Journal of Distance Education, 8(2), 6 – 26.

Wenger, E. (2001). Supporting communities of practice: A survey of community-orientated technologies. (1.3 Ed.) Shareware. Retrieved Mar 12, 2003 from: http://www.ewenger.com/tech/

Wilson, B. (1997). Thoughts on theory in educational technology. Educational Technology, 37(1), 22 – 26.

Tutor as host – its your party and your responsibility to make it work

This from Mary Thorpe (2009)

If face-to-face is the answer, how do you  replicate the combination of informal and formal discourse opportunities that characterise the face-to-face campus. (Crook and Light, 2002)

The answer is in social networks such as Linkedin being alerted every time someone in your circle updates, or adds friends or writes something, though different, there is at least an inclining of this meeting serendipitously around the water-cooler, or passing in the corridor. Also the random offering up of ‘people you might know’, even if they haven’t instigated it.

This is beyond face-to-face, but designed to replicate the chance encounter that makes up human interactions.

In Diaryland (1999) a similar trait is offered as within a set number of 75 friends you always know who has updated i.e. who is active and therefore around and more inclined to engage. All that matters is this sense of sharing the same space. It matters therefore that you are present often enough to be someone in this environment and that the affordances of the platform alert others to your presence.

The debate over the differences between face-to-face are dry

Why hybrid?

What community?

As the two worlds are now so familiar to many people, this is like saying, what is the difference between the Rugby Club and the Bridge Club.

There is no other difference. The means of engagement are ultimately the same, between one person and another. Like everything as you become familiar with these platforms, and as your friends are online too, you accept their presence or otherwise as if you have bumped into them walking the dog or a conference.

This isn’t revolution, it is barely even evolution, it is us being people with a bunch of different tools as we crafty humans have done for millenia.

‘Technologies, such as social networking, can be used to construct personal learning environments designed by the learner precisely in relation to their interests and goals across a range of practice boundaries.(Anderson and Dron 2007)

Better still you start to allow tools like Stumbleupon and Zite to do this for you, by feeding in a specific, tailored profile you can get these aggregators to draw down who you are and feed back intelligence.

The day we don’t trust it we drop these tools like a hot-potato and go somewhere else.

They CANNOT afford to get it wrong.

I signed up in error to MY LIFE, I say this because I only wanted to trial it on a monthly basis. The moment I was on the phone was the moment I was reimbursed, which actually is a sound thing.

This expression, this test of ‘trust’ might be enough to take me back (except that I feel the entire idea was mine in 2001).

‘Technology self-evidently involves tools, understood as both the physical resources and practical skills required to make use of them, but to focus primarily on the tool or the virtual space would be to make a categorical error, mistaking a component part for the system as a whole (Jones and Eshault, 2004)

We still use pen and paper, we still talk to each other face to face, we may even share how we are getting on with our parents over Sunday Lunch.

This isn’t replacement technology, it is hyper complementary technology, it is as convenient as having a hanky on which to blow your nose, no more. You pull out your smartphone to share a thought. Or in my case at 3.10am I get up, doodle an idea for a video production and then stick up a discussion question to a number of Linkedin groups.

Serendipity

Thinking of my late grandfather’s garage with all its tools, the context would be the mix and combination of tools, some complimentary, some one offs, and the space (once he’d rolled the car out of the garage). Most importantly it would include him, both actively engaged in a task and from my point of view, someone who was always keen to pass on skills and insights.

Issues regarding identity -practice/familiarity

Trust and authenticity (checking/verification) ‘Students may not take up the opportunities offered, or may do so to little good effect.’ (Thorpe, 2008:122) ‘Asynchronous conferencing for example has fostered both utopic and dystopic views of its potential (Haythornthwaite 2006)

The importance of the beginning of the course the same as in face-to-face, you only have one chance to make a good first impression.

‘That particular aspect of getting everybody involved right at the very beginning really sets the scene for the rest of the course.’ (Thorpe 2008:123)

Tutor as host.

A good start is forgiving. A poor start is far harder to retrieve. The problem institutionally is if your are overwhelmed by students. Are there enough tutors? Are there even intermediaries to step in? ‘The design in effect performs a mix of compulsion and engineered interaction that combines formality with informality.’ (Crook and Light, 2002)

Too much of either is a killer. Overly familiar and talking about pets and holidays in the middle of a forum puts your off. So do course materials on the rare occasion with The OU when it is if your are interrupting the conversation between a couple of professors who have developed their own private language that only means something to each other. (This isn’t far from the truth). ‘The potential for expansive learning’ (Tuoni-Grohn and Engestrom, 2003)

We all want our heads cracked open like a part-boiled egg. ‘This is learning that crosses the boundaries of different activity systems, expanding involvement with others and developing both individual and collective learning’. (Cole and Engestrom 1993)

I call it Pixie dust over Object 3.

Object 3 must be the moment Dyson and his team come up with the airstream device. Innovation, inspiration and originality is there in front of us, like Macbeth’s dagger, tantilizingly before our hands.

So talk to Lady Macbeth and your colleagues, let it out, share your thoughts, make the dagger real, You may find it’s more of a tickling stick.

‘A context has to be reconstructed and participation invited through the use of activities, structured formats and textural genres operating at various levels.’ (Thorpe, 2008:130)

I no longer think this is the case. We aren’t creating false or mimicking landscapes or environments online, rather we know what these environments are and behave accordingly.

This comes with experience, it IS NOT, and has NEVER BEEN GENERATIONAL.

I am not the only forty something who despite my children being infront of a computer before they could walk have vastly more experience of the internet and computers than they do. I challenge them to keep up or catch up, indeed, I am quick to run after them if I think they are discovering something I too have not tried.

Ask me for evidence, research by educational institutions in the UK, US and Australia, that debunk Generation X and Digital Natives as utter TOSH.

Engestrom (2007) emphasizes the importance of learning across multiple activity systems where knowledge is being developed across many sites, from the formal academic context through practioner-focused websites and fora to the workplace.

Technologies, such as social networking, can be used to construct personal learning environments designed by the learner precisely in relation to their interests and goals across a range of practice boundaries (Anderson and Dron 2007)

True.

But like an allotment you might start as an idea, the worth comes from putting in some time and effort.

A hybrid mix of community and network. (Thorp, 2008:129)

Yes, like weeds in the allotment and a few cacti on a tray of sand in the shed.


Where in the world wide web 2.0 are we with tertiary education?

A pedagogy of abundance explains a good deal and changes everything

A pedagogy of abundance

This forms a chapter in Martin Well’s new book.

If you are studying the Masters in Open and Distance Education MAODE (any module) with The OU you need to read this.

Weller takes us through a series of clearly expressed, persuasive steps, a brief history about the more recent shifts in education and how Web 2.0 changes everything.

I conclude that the nature of learning is reverting to its natural, un-institutionalised and a pre-formal classroom based model, whereby you learn on the fly vicariously, turning to groups and individuals of your own choosing, exploiting the abundance of the web to inform and connect, an apprentice of anything, perhaps even at times with a tutor or fellow students, in an experience that is more akin to that of a governess to child, or tutor to older student or expert and scholar.

Boyer (1990) established what scholars do

1) Discovery

2) Integration

3) Application

4) Teaching

It intrigues me that this set of activities or practices is precisely what one does in social media:

1) Seeking out through research those ‘spheres of influence’ where the discussions are generating something fresh and pertinent, that is informed, even scholarly and that you proactively integrate this ‘sphere of influence’ which might be an individual (blog, podcast, video) or a social media platform group, into your own online ‘realm of thinking’ through bookmarks, joining a group (and engaging in its vortex).

2) Engaging tentatively in some forums.

3) From observation on the periphery (Seely-Brown) to growing levels of participation you gain the confidence to apply what you understand to the degree that you too in turn not only express your thoughts in blogs, forums and discussion groups, but

4) find yourself teaching others, itself a learning experience.

Weller implies that to understand what could happen in education we ought to consider the shift in the way in which we purchase digital artifacts compared to the physical object, that just as the abundance of music, movies and books in digital form has altered our behaviours regarding shops and shopping, so the ready availability of digitised learning materials is inevitably altering the way students view and purchase education.

We are moving from a model based on the economics of scarcity to an economics of abundance.

Here, though Weller doesn’t offer it, a brief consideration of how centres of learning formed in the distant past is of value.

How students gathered around a scholar, then as the technology made possible, books containing information and scholarly thought were gathered into collections. The student and educators had to be physically present and thus our university towns were formed.

The formation of and subsequent success of establishments such as the Open University (begun 42 years ago) shows that separation of student and campus was possible where the technology and logistics meant that through books, TV, radio, tapes, and subsequently DVDs and the Internet the learning experience could be divorced from the campus. This dependence on the physical artifact is now dissolving too, the expense is no longer represented in the book, indeed the idea of a collection of many chapters in one place is challenged as the Internet allows far greater tailoring of content to the learning object.

Is this not a return to a more natural way of doing things?

Should we be turning for input here from to the social anthropologist and educational psychologist here?

Have we ever learnt in units of engagement that endure through the entire contents of a book in one sitting?

I wonder if the cook book as a model for e-learning is an apt one?

Chris Anderson (2008)

The future modus operandi might be to give away ‘90% of a product to earn 1 %’.

The logic of accepting the way in which digital stuff is created, marketed and sold implies that the ‘long tail of higher education’ (let’s keep kids at school for now), will give much more control to the student purchasing their education; that niche and tailored learning will be desired.

Of far greater worry, unless you and your institution are readily able to embrace change as an early adopter, is that modules themselves, like a set of wikipaedia pages offered in a myriad of personalised sequences, can be assembled like a set of smart Lego bricks by the learner themselves making substantial parts of an institution’s functions redundant. Indeed, being able to slot in up-to-date content, easily achieved beyond the confines of a module, is indicative of a weakening in the relationship between institution and student. There is less dependence on specific course materials when most references can be sourced with ease.

Even the social aspect of the campus based education is challenged

Think of it as a form of tourism, education as an opportunity to socialise, be entertained and to entertain, then this can be done online.

(Don’t we all go to university as undergraduates for the ‘crack’?)

The gap between the physical and the virtual experience has closed.

Can learning be purchased, consumed and certified like an eBook from Amazon?

Should the Milton Keynes Campus of the Open University be taking greater head of the vast distribution warehouses of Amazon on the other side of the M1?

Do you need the expert if their insights can be purchased through various forms of asynchronous communication? (a book)

Or their synchronous insights and expertise supported by the hour through a webinar or Skype-enabled tutorial?

If the sphere of influence is reduced to that of professor and scholar, as that between a piano teacher and pianist do we need the institution at all?

And in a world where all qualifications are not the same even if they have the same name, is the only outcome that matters for the individual, their job and how they consequently perform (or if it is an MBA how their business performs)?

If the same learning outcomes are offered, using largely the same set of materials in a sequence that is logical and engaging and will in any case be far more challenged or enabled by the context in which the student is learning, then surely the deciding factor is price and the only way to decide on which price to pay has to be a combination of the depths of your pockets and the perceived and actual desirability of the brand.

If Harvard Business School, for example, as the Mercedes of business schools, can now offer, like the car manufacturer, a range of products to suit different pockets, all with the same brand values and distributed with ease over the Internet, then how do others compete?

Or what if its star product, once limited by the physical limitations of a campus and the manageability of a cohort can be purchased by thousands?

Perhaps in a growing market, with significant demand, space remains for many players and new players. However, as any Internet search shows, if you are learning online the deciding point, exactly as a purchase of a packet of Cornflakes, comes as you reach up to the shelf and select product B rather than product A. Might it be, that having been the only product for several decades, the Open University’s ‘product A’ is competing with a rich alphabet of alternatives, many written and supported without doubt if you look at the lists of academics and personal by people who were originally taught by or taught at The OU.

If the model is to give away the digital object and make money on the physical then Oxbridge, Ivy League and other campus based institutions could potentially increase their intake 12 fold by running all courses online, with physical presence limited to three one week long residential sessions.

The College turns into a B&B with the residents changing every week, rather like the turn around days you have at a resort.

At no stage is contact with fellow students, tutors or the college itself ever diminished, as everyone is readily contactable thanks to a smartphone and a laptop. Likewise distance learning Institutions such as The OU to compete with these upstarts should offer a campus based experience by creating permanent bases strategically all over the world.

  • Freemium
  • The Long Tail

If we think of education as music, then we have two forms, the folk form inexpensively delivered in homes and community spaces and the elite form of the expert or most popular performer in access-restricted palaces and assembly halls. Whilst historically we have seen the music industry of the last century as the democratisation music, in hindsight, with the Internet, even this looks like a restrictive practice, holding purchasers back by the schedule of production, distribution and sales.

Books are going the same way as CDs; as both are formats for learning materials, is it not simply the case that with lectures, tutorials and assessment online, that there is an expectation from all quarters that we can have it all, anywhere, any time? And that this can be achieved by any institution. It isn’t difficult to digitise content, you simply don’t go to print. Brand, like purchasing Cornflakes, the price and what you can afford is the only differentiator.

An instructivist model

 

 

While access to expertise remains rare, we have access to journals, videos, blogs, podcasts, slidecasts, also discussion forums, comments, and blogs. Weller (2011)

And these experts, certainly in distance learning institutions, are often bound only, like the students, by lengthy threads to remote locations. Their reputation, the weight of their knowledge a product of those parts of their thinking that has been published for public consumption. It then comes down to the quality of learning experience through tutors, online and other support. We should think of each online module as a virtual game, with all those ins and outs and possibilities thoroughly tested for the experience; exactly, in fact, as occurs in the Institute of Educational Technology at The OU.

Siemens (2005) considers the shift to greater control by the learner rather than the institution.

Constructivism, social constructivism and now connectivism are the learning paradigms. If education at close quarters in the Oxbrdige tutorial, involves dialogue, reflection and critical analysis, these are the same qualities that can be achieved online at less cost and at greater convenience.

The essence of learning

Conole (2008) Web 2.0 the collective and the network.

As in the physical world with its cliques and networks, from old school-tie to Free Masons, so online, despite our desire to exploit the ability to connect, there are controls and limits. You cannot wade in and exchange with much authority, the hero expert author of the books or papers yiu have come to admire. Seely-Brown and others are right to consider how all of us, unwittingly or deliberately, first engage as an apprentice of some sort. We must begin on the periphery. If dropped into the heart of things too soon our ignorance will mean we have no purchase at the centre and centrifugal forces will cast us aside. As one commentator is right to point out, the Internet is the real world. A movie, or novel is fiction, but online with increasing ease, we behave in just the same way with someone a thousand miles away as someone sitting opposite us.

Web 2.0 = niche communities, social purposes, collective political action, amateur journalism, social commentary.

Just as we can have the successful, recognised and respected amateur journalist and amateur sports coach, so surely can we have the amateur academic, if only in the sense that none of these people are paid. We can all surely think of professional journalists, coaches and academics who are amateurish in their words, actions and thoughts. Just as there are successful ‘citizen journalists’ even the ‘amateur novelist’ who self-publish are there not likely to be ‘amateur scholars’ even tutors, anyone with that vocational desire to share their thinking in order to develop the knowledge of others? Have we not reached a stage with the plethora of quality content online and the multitude of groups that you could join, that you could learn a great deal to a high academic standard or level of performance, entirely for free both in cost terms and the constructs of an educational institution. You may not have the piece of paper at the end of it or the letters after your name, or indeed the title before your name, but when did any qualification qualify you to do something with it?

Seely-Brown and Adler (2008) talk of this shift to participation and demand-pull.

They talk of education being:

  • Free
  • Abundant
  • Varied
  • Easy
  • Socially based Connections light

Organisations (Shirky 2008)

User generated content

In a world of abundance the emphasis is less on the creation of new learning materials than on the selection, aggregation and interpretation of existing materials. We don’t need more, we need systems that let us draw in the freshest and most significant content on the fly. Dare I also suggest that just as music is easily copied and shared for free, that course content, and the learning design can just as easily be lifted and reconstituted?

Weller 2011 i.e. New learning content becomes the remit of students who through the abundance of stuff and connectivity generate new content.

The trick is to isolate those places where people of a like-minds gather. You cannot join more than a handful of groups and take part and so contribute or gain anything. The tasks therefore becomes to find or form such groups.

Barrows and Tamblyn (1980) problem based learning.

Is identified as the old way of learning. That you present a problem then teach a way to solve it.

Wenger (1998) the social role of learning and apprenticeship as ‘legitimate peripheral learning’

Bacon and Dillon (2006) Communities of practice.

Siemens and connectivism.

The real issue is user-based content. Eric Schmidt, CEO Google.

More content is generated and put online in any two days in 2011 than was created, published or broadcast between the development of the first means of mass distribution, the printing press and the coming of the Internet. We do in our millions, with extraordinary ease, in 48 hours what had taken some 600 years to do.

REFERENCE

Weller, M. (2011) in Spanish Journal of Pedagogy, 249′ pp223-236

Anderson on meeting student needs online

Getting the Mix Right Again: An updated and theoretical rationale for Interaction. How to be effective and efficient in meeting diverse student needs. Terry Anderson (2003)

Wagner’s (1994) “reciprocal events that require at least two objects and two actions. Interactions occur when these objects and events mutually influence one another” (p. 8).

A comment left on a blog is therefore a reciprocal interaction, like an asynchronous discussion in a forum, as there are two people (subjects) with in respective cases two objects (the blog and the comment) and two actions (the writing of the blog, the composition of a response in the form of a comment).

This does not, as Anderson suggests, negate Daniel and Marquis’s (1998) definition of interaction needing to refer “in a restrictive manner to cover only those activities where the student is in two-way contact with another person (or persons)” (Daniel and Marquis, 1988, p. 339). In 1989 they could not have known how texting would develop into meaningful interaction between two or more people, or the way in which asynchronous discussion could occur online.

  • Sims (1999) argues that interactivity allows for learner control, adaptation of the learner program, various forms of participation and communication, and as aiding the development of meaningful learning.
  • Lipman (1991) and Wenger (2001) say that interactivity is fundamental to the creation of the learning communities.
  • Jonassen (1991) says that another person’s perspective is a key learning component in constructivist learning theories.
  • Langer (1989) says that interaction develops mindfulness in learners.

There is a history of interaction as a theory in education

  • Dewey (1916) from inert information from another to your own understanding and interpretation in your head.
  • Holmberg (1989) between tutor and student, whether postal or on the phone.
  • Laurilard (1997) interaction between tutor, content and students.

The difference between formal and informal learning.

One, Anderson argues, is purposively designed to have a learning outcome. Though I do wonder, based on a recent Elluminate session in which we considered a formal and informal learning design for teaching The Green Cross Code if the informal miss has greater impact, the shock of the unexpected when you are nearly hit … Or as a driver or passenger you nearly hit (or even do hit) another?

Since both formal and informal learning can result from interaction between and amongst students alone, or as result of interaction between student and content, the participation of a teacher cannot be a defining feature of an educational interaction. (Anderson, 2003)

Anderson, 2003 suggested that due to the increasing computational power and storage capacity of computers (Moore’s Law), their increase in functionality when networked (Metcalfe’s Law), and related geometric increases in a host of technical developments (Kurzweil, 1999) created opportunity to transform student-teacher and student-student interaction into enhanced forms of student-content interaction.

In a way the interaction with the content of various kinds in mixed ways that goes on in the head Dewey (1916) has been the goal of the developers of interactive learning all along, in the training context this has occurred as facilitator-led learning was gradually transcended by workbooks in the 1980s, video-led and interactive (on laser-disc then Interactive DVD before) in the 1990s before efforts occurred to migrate content and interactivity to the web from the 1990s.

The multiple interplay of Anderson and Garrison’s (1998) Fig. 1 rings true, though how content without a student or teacher interloper baffles me and in 2011 teacher in the broadest sense should take in all educators and ancillary stakeholders.

There is no single medium that supports the educational experience in a manner that is superior in all ways to that supported via other media.

Clark’s (1994), Kozma’s (1994) Russell (2000) and many others show that there is ’a complicated interaction between content, student preference and need, institutional capacity and preference, and teaching and learning approaches to learning’.

There is also evidence that many students deliberately choose learning programs that allow them to minimize the amount of student-teacher and student-student interaction required (May, 2003; Kramarae, 2003).

While Anderson (2003) concludes that there is ’a wide range of need and preference for different combinations of paced and un-paced, synchronous and asynchronous activity, and also a strong desire for variety and exposure to different modes and modularities of educational provision and activity.’

From these observations and from the literature debate, Anderson developed an equivalency theorem as follows:

Deep and meaningful formal learning is supported as long as one of the three forms of interaction is at a high level:

• Student–teacher

• Student-student

• Student-content

The other two may be offered at minimal levels, or even eliminated, without degrading the educational experience.

High levels of more than one of these three modes will likely provide a more satisfying educational experience.

This theorem implies that an instructional designer can substitute one type of interaction for one of the others (at the same level) with little loss in educational effectiveness – thus the label of an equivalency theory.

Student-teacher interaction currently has the highest perceived value amongst students, and thus commands highest scores.

There is some evidence to suggest value in “vicarious interaction,” in which non-active participants gain from observing and empathizing with active participants (Sutton, 2001; Fulford and Zhang, 1993).

Also Cox (2006) with a nod to John Seely- (2007) (both from week 2)

For planning or development purposes, designers are encouraged to build into their programs strategic amounts of each type of interaction, and to develop activities that will encourage this amount of interaction.

This interests me because I wonder if we could take the call-centre principal and apply it to social media, a collective engagement of substance.

At Athabasca University, Anderson writes, students had access (7 days a week, 12 hours a day) to call centre staff. They were equipped with FAQ databases, course syllabi, and a limited amount of content knowledge to answer a wide variety of student inquiries.

Would this help with retention?

It would contribute to engagement. It did contribute to deeper learning. Are we now saying that this interaction must come from fellow students? Or alumni groups in social networks?

I know that in the corporate sector Epic offer clients a ‘call-centre’ like service as they have realised that online interactive learning naturally throws up situations where students want to talk to an informed and sympathetic person. No one wants to be passed from pillow to post. I say this as an informed online learner who has not just had to sleep on a problem, but the nature of responses either send you to sleep or leave you wanting to bang your head against a post.

I loathe this kind of academic language.

This is where academics address each other, a PhD student to their sponsor perhaps. It puts students and the inquisitive mind at arm’s length.

This will change in the Web 2.0 world as this content gets an airing well-beyond its original place in a printed journal and with a few tags and comments gets spread rapidly across thousands rather than a handful of readers.

‘The equivalency theorem proposed in this paper is not as complicated nor as technically detailed as other theories relevant to distance education (e.g., Jaspers, 1991; Saba and Shearer, 1994). However, its simplicity allows it to function as an accessible heuristic for distance education delivery design’. Anderson (2003)

My highlights.

The choice of words then this massive compound-noun says to me this person is trying to sound clever, elitist and worthy of the academic status they aspire to. It is poor communication. Even the chunk of referencing sticks in the gullet. We should in theory reference every word we utter, as none are our own, all could be tagged back to someone, somewhere.

Clarity counts.

By quoting Wilson here Anderson reveals his motives. Sometimes academics what to coin a phrase or word: e-tivity (Salmon, 2002), sometimes a phrase: digital natives (Prensky, 2001, 2003, but read Jones to put this terms where they belong), sometimes a theorem, this one being ‘The Equivalency Theorem’.

Wilson (1997), Anderson tells us, described three functions that a good educational theory performs.

I’ll let you read the conclusion in the paper for these.

My interest is not in developing a theorem, my quest is for understanding that I may then apply.

An important paper, dense, chronological, logical, a great intellect chew.

Anderson (2003) ends with this:

‘I am convinced that many of these alternatives should be focused on creating the most cost effective and accessible alternatives that can scale to meet the burgeoning global demand for effective and affordable life-long learning opportunities. In most cases, these models will drastically reduce the amount of teacher-student interaction, and substitute it with increased student-student and student-content interaction. For many, this scenario is a frightening one, but one that is in keeping with our tradition of expanding educational access and opportunity, and thus not one we should abhor’.

Eight years on I feel like sounding him out.

Was he prescient? Where is he now?

The fact Anderson has missed is the greater desire for increased personalisation, learning tailor to the individual and increased interaction through social networks, with the knowledgeable as well as the ignorant (whether or not they are the person’s tutor or faculty academics).

Actually, the group I find silent are the tutors and academics.

They are too busy with their heads in their professional thoughts unable to offer up a piece of their minds without attaching a price or allocated time to it. Is this the difference between a professional musician and a busker?

REFERENCE

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