Online learning: it is all about dialogue, involvement, support and control -according to the research
This is an old literature review of 100 papers looking at examples of online technology to try to explore the different approaches to help staff identify the best on for them. The conclusions are still relevant but they do lack the later dimension of increased social networking with the wider world – see connectivism.
The result of the study is four dimensions that connect tutor control/student control and open/closed tasks. The general drive is that locating the course design within these scales will help with the design and delivery of the course.
What’s interesting is these quadrants aren’t as clearly defined as they are now, there is a greater divide between the different approaches to online education, open learning is much further way pedagogically and philosophically than training type courses. There also lacks the blended learning dimension that mapped the link between f2f and online worlds.
Below are a few notes of particular findings from citations that might be useful
Here are a few of the most interesting papers and their general conclusions.
• Students won't engage with online debate just because they are told to or it is there Bonk, Angeli and Hara, 1998; Funaro, 1999; Mason, 1998
• To be successful online debate needs to be embedded into the course Gregor and Cuskelly (1994)
• These papers describe frameworks of online dialogue to help stage the process Beaudin (1999) and Bonk (1999)
• Structure the process, students won't if it is too time consuming Wilson and Whitelock (1998). Note you could challenge this, if it is absorbing and motivating enough in its design then students will loose sense of time
• The role of the tutor needs to be made clear Vizcarro (1998)
• Students used to more traditionally delivered courses seem to expect more traditional feedback and are frustrated if they do not receive the level of attention they expect.
It’s interesting to reflect here on how much of this has and will change the generations of students become more used to online communication
• Develop a strong workgroup mentality within the community (Rimmershaw, 1999)
• Student who are not used to taking control of their own learning will fight against the process or become disengaged Oliver (1998)
The report then breaks down the research in to 2 by 2 grid. This is to help staff to see where they position themselves in terms of these area and what advise comes from the literature that supports these
• teacher-controlled, specified learning activities;
• teacher-controlled, open-ended or strategic learning;
• learner-managed specified learning activities;
• learner-managed, open-ended or strategic learning
The north-west quadrant (teacher determined, task specific)
Everything is tied down and controlled and for this area to work you need a lot of technical support for students (Alexander, 1999; Bonk and Cummings, 1998) and to make online participation a requirement and use ace to face sessions to review discussions (Funaro, 1999)
The north-east quadrant (learner determined, task specific)
This is where online tasks are developed but there is autonomy in the types of engagement. This area might include simulations Schlais, Davis and Thomson (1999) or problem based learning within the f2f lecture time (Bonk, Angeli and Hara, 1998; Gregor and Cuskelly, 1994)
You would need to keep groups small (Alexander, 1999) and give them clear roles and aims (Barros et al, 1998). Teach them how to behave online (Hackman and Walker, 1995; Marjanovic, 1999). And provide strategies that create dialogue and sharing (Bonk, Angeli and Hara, 1998). Students get credit for debate or active dialogue (Gregor and Cuskelly, 1994) and become motivation when they realize that their work will be displayed (Bonk and Dennen, 1999).
The south-west quadrant (teacher-determined open-ended strategic learning activities)
This areas structures the learning environment to promote co-operation within groups (Ewing, 1999) and provides examples and instruction of ways to work online in groups (model ways to have a lively dialogue) (Funaro, 1999). For instance keeping dialogue on topic through carefully designed questions, guidelines for learners, and online summaries (Beaudin, 1999) and categorize messages, summarize threads of discussion (Advaryu et al, 1999).
The south-east quadrant (learner-managed, open-ended activities)
Personal goals ('reasons for being there') are as important as specific learning outcomes. The role of the tutor, and the amount and level of tutor participation, should be clearly defined (Lewis and Vizcarro, 1998). Embed prompts and other ways for students to interact with the content in order to make the thinking process clear (Henderson et al, 1998). Provide synchronous events (along with asynchronous events) to maintain student enthusiasm and a 'real time' sense of participation (Mason, 1998). Develop criteria for students to assess each others' work (McConnell, 1995). Remember that 'free for all' open discussions do not usually work (Mason, 1998). Provide guidelines and carefully designed questions (Beaudin, 1999). Create a structure to make teams collaborate (solve problems through a voting system; write collaborative assignments by dividing tasks into sections) (Marjanovic, 1999). Beware that learners could become so involved in browsing that they might not be thinking about the learning related to specific subject matter (Ewing et al,1999).
Advaryu, S, Tzy-Peng, K and O'Grady, G K (1999) Online Role-Play: Facilitating an online asynchronous environment, Conference paper, Fifth International Conference on Technology Supported Learning, Online EDUCA, Berlin.
Alexander, S (1999) Selection dissemination and evaluation of the TopClass WWW-based Course Support Tool, International Journal of Educational Communication, 5 (4), p283.
Barros, B, Rodriguez, M and Verdejo, F (1998) Towards a model of collaborative support for distance learners to perform joint tasks, in The Virtual Campus: Trends for higher education and training, eds F Verdejo and G Davies, Chapman & Hall, New York.
Beaudin, B (1999) Keeping online asynchronous discussions on topic, Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 3 (2), http://www.aln.org/alnweb/journal/jaIn-vol3issue2.htm
Bonk, C J (1999) Breakout from learner issues, International Journal of Educational Telecommunication, 5 (4), pp 387-410.
Bonk, C ) and Dennen, V P (1999) Teaching on the Web: With a little help from my pedagogical friends, Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 11 (1), pp 3-28.
Bonk, C J, Angeli, C and Hara, N (1998) Content Analysis of Online Discussion in an Applied Educational Psychology Course, unpublished manuscript, Center for Research on Learning and Technology Report, Indiana University at Bloomington.
Bonk, C J and Cummings, J A (1998) A dozen recommendations for placing students at the center of Web-based learning, Educational Media International, 35 (2), pp 82-89.
Ewing, J M, Dowling, J D and Courts, N (1999) Learning using the World Wide Web: a collaborative learning event, Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 8 (1), pp 3-22 Ewing, J M (1999) Enhancement of student learning online and offline, http://www.norcol.ac.uk/departments/educas/JimEwing/webversion/studentlearning/htm
Funaro, G M (1999) Pedagogical roles and implementation guidelines for online communication tools, ALN Magazine, 3 (2).
Gregor, S D and Cuskelly, E F (1994) Computer mediated communication in distance education, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 10, pp 168-81.
Henderson, L, Putt, I, Ainge, D and Combes, G (1998) Comparison of students' thinking processes when studying with WWW, IMM and text based materials, in The Virtual Campus: Trends for higher education and training, eds F Verdejo and G Davies, Chapman & Hall, New York.
Marjanovic, O (1999) Learning and teaching in a synchronous collaborative envi-ronment, journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 15, pp 129-38.
Mason, R (1998) Models of online courses, ALN Magazine, 2 (2), http://www.aln.org/alnweb/magazine/alnpaga.htm
McConnell, D (1995) Learning in Groups: Some experiences of online work, Springer-Verlag, Berlin. Ogborn, J (1998) Cognitive Development and Qualitative Modelling, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 14, pp 292-307.
Oliver, R (1998) Training teachers for distance education programs using authentic and meaningful contexts, International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 4 (2/3), p 147.
Rimmershaw, R (1999) Using conferencing to support a culture of collaborative study, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 5 (3), pp 189-200.
Schlais, D, Davis, R and Thomson, K (1999) Linking Good Neighbors and Faraway Friends into a Shared Student Centered Learning Environment, European Association of International Education (EAIE), Fifty-third Annual Conference, Maastricht.
Sloffer S, Duber, B and Duffy, T M (1999) Using Asynchronous Conferencing to Prompt Critical Thinking: Two implementations in higher education, unpublished manuscript, Center for Research on Learning and Technology Report, Indiana University, Bloomington.
Wilson, T and Whitelock, D (1998) Monitoring the online behaviour of distance learning students, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 14, pp 91-99.