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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.

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MAODE H800 A moment of enlightenment

28 July 2011

I would like to be studying an applied MAODE.

This should be a joint collaboration between the Institute of Educational Technology and the Open University Business and Law School.

applied is the operative word.

Not a Masters in Open and Distance Education, but an aMAODE.

18 months ago I signed up to the MAODE (I might have done an MA in Fine Art … for which I was qualified. Where would I be now?)

Never mind

My mother, tutored by Quentin Bell at Durham University in the 1950s, had me teaching fine art somewhere. (Our family for the last four generations seem not to generate progeny until they are at least in their third decade)

Maybe, e-Art?

I may pick this up next and become a e-learning verions of David McAndless.

Information is beautiful

Go Google.

24 months ago several friends signed up to an e-learning course with Sussex University. They are now constructing e-learning, I am not.

Why?

The difference, dare I suggest, is did I want to be a mechanic, or the engineer?

  • Can The OU be less precious and offer more of both?
  • My first ECA was an entirely practicle, commercial piece of e-learning that was shot down …
  • for being blended
  • and ‘of this world.’
  • It is all ‘of this world’.

It is only learning, not e-learning, but o-learning.

Only Learning.

P.S. It ain’t rocket science. As Martin Weller shows in his VLE book.

What we as potential practioners of online learnning is a dip in the training pool. As a Swimming Coach, and former competitive swimmer, what strikes me is that I am yet to stick my toes in the water.

Frankly, my concern, is that if I come up with another commercial e-learning project for an ECA it will like the other one be rubbished because the markers are looking for an academic paper, not a viable e-learning project.

This is where the tectonic plates of theory and practice meet. Is anyone on the MAODE doing it to become an academic?


From Drop Box

(Note to self a month later … it is applied. In every module, particularly H807 ‘Innovations in E-Learning’ we are constantly pressed to put e-learning in an applied context with which we are familiar)

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.

What’s the Web 2.0 role of the educator ?

Read Haythornthwaite (2008), ‘Ubiquitous Transformations’: Proceedings of the Networked Learning Conference, Halkidiki, 2008.

QQ1 What evidence is there of this shift towards taking responsibility for learning by the learners themselves?

There will be those who come to learning online who are used to being in control online, so they won’t feel like a pupil entering a classroom, a student in a lecture hall or tutorial, a stranger in a strange land. Rather they will feel it is their domain, at best a shared domain, more like a visit to the leisure centre than to an elitist institution where those in it have progressed as a result of proving their elite status.

‘Internet-based trends that emphasize contribution, conversation, participation, and community exercise a significant impact on learning.’ Haythornthwaite 2008:598

‘Participatory action has now spread to many aspects of daily life, often brought together under the label Web 2.0’. (O’Reilly, 2005). In (Haythornthwaite 2008:598)

It still matters for credibility of the qualification, evidence that you’ve done the work, evidence that you’ve picked the brains of and had your brain picked over by subject matter experts of a reputable established. It matters for the sake of guidance, perhaps the metaphor of railway tracks less appropriate given the freedoms afforded by the mobile internet, but even a kite-surfer has had to take instruction, purchase the right kit, maintain it, then seek and take advice from those wiser and more experienced.

I like the idea of the Learner Leader and picking up on the thinking of Cox on ‘participator learning’ and from John Seely-Brown learning ‘learning from the periphery’.

Where appropriate, participants come to shared definition of meanings through collaborative, conversational interaction.

Such emergent learning practices reinforce ideas from:

·collaborative learning theories (Bruffee, 1993; Koschmann, 1996; Miyake, 2007; Haythornthwaite, Bruce, Andrews, Kazmer, Montague, Preston, 2007),

·model what others have described as the learning behaviour of experts (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 1999; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1996).

In (Haythornthwaite 2008:601)

QQ2 Is Haythornthwaite’s account an idealised version of learner behaviour in your view?

‘These new media lay the foundation for radical transformations in who learns from whom, where, under what circumstances, and for what and whose purpose. In short, they indicate a transformation to ubiquitous learning – a continuous anytime, anywhere, anyone contribution and retrieval of learning materials on and through the Internet and its technologies, communities, niches and social spaces’. (Haythornthwaite 2008:598)

The reality is that we human beings have far more important, pressing and natural urges and desires that incline us towards those around us, and from communities with whom we find we have the greatest affinities. As young adults our intentions and outlooks may shift, but this would occur anyway, the internet offering, to use as 60s view of television, a ‘window on the world’.

This statement denies that learning takes place outside the classroom or away from formal texts. It has always been the case that substantially more learning goes on in the home, at play, from family and friends. All we’ve discovered, like the devices that many of us now carry around, is that we are always turned on.

‘E-learning’ signifies a transformation in learning rather than a transition from off- to on-line (Andrews & Haythornthwaite, 2007).

As Haythornthwaite indicates here, the technologies are not exclusive.

And as Wellman (2002) suggests the contexts in which transformation occurs are diverse, with each one having a different stance. Transformations that do not fit easily with utopian visions accompany distributed practices, including outsourcing, offshoring, disintermediation, and networked individualism (Wellman, 2001), each of which entails a general redistribution of processes and responsibilities to individuals.

The Pew Internet project (Horrigan, 2006) reports that 71% of the adult population surveyed turn to the Internet for science information because of its convenience, and only 13% because they feel it is more accurate.

Where’re not talking about the adult population, we’re talking about specific cohorts of students who could just as well be in primary, secondary, tertiary or postgraduate education. Whilst in the adult population who go online 1% actively blog, in the undergraduate student population this rises to 34%.

The dominance of Google is waning; increasingly people using mobile devices (smartphones or tablets) use Apps to aggregate content. The choices are becoming more personalised and informed.

But as with many other utopian predictions about how the open nature of the Net will create arenas that transcend foibles of the physical world; our faults have followed us to cyberspace. (Levy, 2004, np). In (Haythornthwaite 2008:601)

QQ3 In the light of your own responses and experience, does this ‘new paradigm’ indicate the redundancy of the practitioner?

Or, on the contrary, does it indicate the need for a practitioner with in-depth knowledge of how new technologies can be harnessed and with the time to provide facilitation and support to students as they take on these new responsibilities?

Making the time to interact with students online (and off) and having this planned into the curriculum is important. More tutors are needed, not fewer as expectations rise about the degree of engagement with others. Tutors or teaching assistant, event students (not just PhD), ought to be paid to be online as a hollow forum, or tutor group that isn’t active delivers the poorer experience. My analogy is to think of it as opening a chain or restaurants; why do some work and other’s fail? The ingredients and the menu is the same, but the context (location and personalities) differ. Getting the mix right and having the flexibility and fluidity and will to alter things as it evolves is vital, but often lacking. Certainly the idea that students would pay a handsome fee and then self-educate has largely been dispelled. The shift is livelier and less formal, more akin to a summer school, or camp, with everyone potentially present. There are academics, particularly in higher education, who seem to lack any desire to teach, preferring to inform at arm’s length from the product of their research. Perhaps it is more than this, it is like meeting in Liverpool Street Station amidst the cacophony of everyone else’s online lives, then taking a group to a museum then a show while the individuals in the group try to work, try to enjoy a holiday, have their kids, dog and mother along for the trip, and are engrossed in a novel, game or TV show. The potential is to be distracted, or engaged, or to juggle between the two.

The answer is in the hubbub of the tutorial, or seminar, the forced taking of sides in a debate, or informed discussions in a forum. The arguments and scholarship is still there, it is simply lose of the shackles of print and that technologies 500 year dominance of education, which is fast ending. Haythornthwaite suggests something has changed; it has, we’re returning to a model that is pre-print, vibrant, engaged, and live and that plays to broader human attributes and skills.

As Haythornthwaite (2008:599) goes on to say, ‘New social skills, or perhaps older ones now transformed online, become essential for a workable online future’.

Such knowledge bases resemble more the already familiar communities of practice (Wenger, 1988) and educational disciplines that an open encyclopaedia.

REFERENCE

Brown, J.S. (2002) The Social Life of Information

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).

Haythornthwaite, C., Bruce, B. C., Andrews, R., Kazmer, M. M., Montague, R. & Preston, C. (2007). New theories and models of and for online learning. First Monday, 12(8). http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue12_8/haythorn/index.html

Horrigan, J. B. (2006). The Internet as a resource for news and information about science. Pew Internet and American Life Project. Retrieved July 5, 2007 from: http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Exploratorium_Science.pdf.

Levy, S. (Oct. 4, 2004). Memo to bloggers: Heal thyselves. Newsweek. Retrieved May 17, 2007 from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6098633/site/newsweek.

Wellman, B. (2001). The rise of networked individualism, In. L. Keeble (Ed.), Community Networks Online (pp. 17-42). London: Taylor & Francis.

I would like to be studying an applied MAODE

I would like to be studying an applied MAODE.

This should be a joint collaboration between the Institute of Educational Technology and the Open University Business and Law School.

applied is the operative word.

Not a Masters in Open and Distance Education, but an aMAODE.

18 months ago I signed up to the MAODE (I might have done an MA in Fine Art … for which I was qualified. Where would I be now?)

Never mind

My mother, tutored by Quentin Bell at Durham University in the 1950s, had me teaching fine art somewhere. (Our family for the last four generations seem not to generate progeny until they are at least in their third decade)

Maybe, e-Art?

I may pick this up next and become a e-learning versions of David McAndless.

Information is beautiful

Go Google.

24 months ago several friends signed up to an e-learning course with Sussex University. They are now constructing e-learning, I am not.

Why?

The difference, dare I suggest, is did I want to be a mechanic, or the engineer?

  • Can The OU be less precious and offer more of both?
  • My first ECA was an entirely practical, commercial piece of e-learning that was shot down …
  • for being blended
  • and ‘of this world.’
  • It is all ‘of this world’.

It is only learning, not e-learning, but o-learning.

Only Learning.

P.S. It ain’t rocket science. As Martin Weller shows in his VLE book.

What we as potential practitioners of online learning is a dip in the training pool.

As a Swimming Coach, and former competitive swimmer, what strikes me is that I am yet to stick my toes in the water.

Frankly, my concern, is that if I come up with another commercial e-learning project for an ECA it will like the other one be rubbished because the markers are looking for an academic paper, not a viable e-learning project.

This is where the tectonic plates of theory and practice meet. Is anyone on the MAODE doing it to become an academic?


From Drop Box

(Note to self a month later … it is applied. In every module, particularly H807 ‘Innovations in E-Learning’ we are constantly pressed to put e-learning in an applied context with which we are familiar)

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

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.

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