Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Friday, May 04, 2012

Learning Resources

It's been my experience that anyone who has been studying well, anything is always trying to determine if they are going about their study in the most efficient way possible. That question leads us to areas such as learning theory and resources.

Below is a guest article by Estelle  Shumann on learning resources. While the target is more of a general audience, I think the readers here at Cook Ding's Kitchen will find it very useful. Enjoy.

Online Learning and Constructivism
The constructivist view of education can be contrasted with the objectivist view, which has traditionally dominated formal education. The objectivist view of learning says that knowledge can be transmitted from teacher to learner with the help of lecture, instruction, and practice. Reality, in this view, is made up of a body of facts. Different views and understandings are discouraged, experiences and different contexts of individuals are disregarded, and the individual is seen as a passive recipient of factual material. Emphasis is on teacher-control and learner-compliance.

The constructivist view emphasizes the active role of the learner. It emphasizes things besides facts, and suggests that our views of the world are in continuous flux, building on past experiences. Constructivist learning at its best involves active self-directed cognizing by the learner; the teacher, if present, is more of a guide.

Online degree programs can cater to individuals’ need to build their own knowledge,  and in that sense it can be regarded as a constructivist approach. But if the structure of an online learning environment is fairly rigid, relying on lecture and online discussion and using pre-ordained inflexible metrics to determine student learning success, it is more in tune with the objectivist mode.

It has been shown in several studies that it is difficult to foster active online discussion in an online course. Architects of such courses tend to feel that those who participate actively are the students who are truly learning, while the quiet students are merely ‘lurkers’ relying on the thoughts and the efforts of others. But the expectation that students will respond to fixed discussion questions about course material is not a constructivist expectation. Lurkers may not trust the situation, or they may be even more engaged in the course than those who actively discuss, using their time to reflect rather than respond. Teachers must resist the need to always see evidence that students are learning and trust that lurkers are learning on their own terms.

Online classes, aimed at transmitting a certain body of information, with specific syllabi, and fixed assignments, all assembled under the authority of a powerful instructor who assigns grades, may not be constructivist learning environments at all. Khan Academy, a free online resource, is an example of a delivery method that helps students learn at their own pace, and build knowledge based on their own specific experience. Khan Academy may be used in the classroom, in which case the teacher does take on the role of guide, even though he or she may use a dashboard to see individual students’ progress. Khan Academy’s ten-minute videos are followed by “modules” so students can monitor their own progress, and the classroom setting is not necessary.

Other free online learning resources are Harvard’s Open Learning Initiative and the Open Culture website, both contain entire courses with the click of a mouse. While these courses are structured, the learner is completely free to direct his or her exposure to the material, and will not be graded or asked to respond in any prescribed way.

Incorporating constructivist learning  methods into education may require many changes to our current system, expectations and attitude. Some of the possibilities for change are reflected in the newest constructivist models for online learning. They offer a range of rich learning platforms. If successful in the long-term constructivism may profoundly change the common view of what learning is and could be.


The Strongest Karate said...

An interesting, and well written, discussion of learning methods and online learning.

I, myself, have taken one online course in history. Chosen because it is a favored topic. I enjoyed the textbook but the required interaction and thread discussions felt contrived and halfhearted.

Rick Matz said...

I think just as eBooks are going to wreck the text book racket, online learning will disrupt the "higher education" racket.

walt said...

"...always trying to determine if they are going about their study in the most efficient way possible."

My hunger for knowledge is way out of proportion to my capacity to ingest it! Much less, to properly digest it ...

Rick Matz said...

There's a ton of things I am interested in, but only so much bandwidth. I prefer to set some things aside so that I can study others.

Paul said...

Pals, I don't like courses (never did!), they were mostly boring, on-line or otherwise. Yet I like to think and experience and I like to ask questions. I'm more onto problem solving nowadays, I got a problem, I search for information, and in most cases for practical issues (like when my browser once being took over by some hacking software, like I needed to do presentation using Powerpoint for the first time, like I wanted to check up the side-effects of my medication [never trust nowadays' professionals without cross-referencing!]...), and in most cases I found them for free in the internet!

Having said that, whenever I want to read some decent books or embark on some serious learning, most often I can't get them for free over the internet, which is quite understandable...:):)

Rick Matz said...

Regarding books, you can find many of the classics for free online. At low cost for various ebook formats you can find a LOT of stuff that's worthwhile to read. Of course, not everything is available in an electronic format.

There's still a place for physical books though.