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Blended Learning – Interactions

In the corporate e-Learning world engaging interactions are becoming more important since a lot of what is produced is simply tell and test which leaves much to be desired with learners simply becoming less and less engaged.

I really do think collaboration is key to learning and constructive collaborative learning may not only help learners but also instructors reduce some of the burden of instruction. I really do believe the sum of the parts is much more than the knowledge of the parts themselves – my experience on my Masters proved this for me when I was collaborating with other students and producing work which would otherwise have been difficult.

Mitra(2007)’s wayfinding experiment showed how resourceful learners can be even without guidance but I do believe the guidance should be available even if many don’t use it, the idea of learners just wandering off into the wilderness and discovering everything they need to know is a little far-fetched and can cause significant anxiety – the correct balance is required. Scaffolding should be in place during the early sessions with it gradually being withdrawn until the learner is more independent. Salmon’s (2004) – (http://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html) model really brings it home and provides an excellent framework for addressing the various issues when teaching an online class – she also mentions motivation as a big issue and indicates that f2f sessions help.

The 4 models of education for these type of models are ;

  1. Atelier learning (John Seely Brown)
  2. Network administer (Clarence Fischers)
  3. Concierge (Curtis Bonk)
  4. Curator (George Siemens)

They all seem to move away from the very traditional expert to learner model and more towards one where the instructor is a facilitator and taking part in the learning and collaboration. We all have something to contribute especially as adults our life experiences can contribute to understanding concepts and material relative to other contexts. The models above indicate a variety of roles and I feel these roles are not mutually exclusive rather the instructor can use whichever role that is best for a given situation to encourage learners to engage and learn.

Depending  on where on Bloom’s taxonomy the knowledge being taught resides a greater understanding rather than simply recalling information may be the end goals. Technical information for instance simply requires recall and requires minimum interaction models between learners, trainers and even resources if we define interaction as a two way street.

Simply dumping a syllabus of a course online does little to encourage interactions – having an ice breaker or introduction of some sort where everyone gets to know each other is an excellent idea, this also lets the learner talk about themselves. If you are language learning at a basic level this would obviously be difficult but if the subject is management training or other soft skills or higher level language teaching then yes this is how individuals can get acquainted. Letting learners drive the learning is another key element so discerning their objective – what do you want out of the course? Why did you join? What attracted you to this course? – will help the instructor focus on areas of interest for a particular cohort. Some further thought will need to go into the assignments and assessments to see how interactivity can be increased and encouraged too.

The interactions for any f2f elements will be geared more towards practice and clarifying the learning that occurs outside of the classroom which is most probably online. A flipped classroom approach where online learning is supported by offline f2f meetings seems to be an excellent approach.

Interactions not only need to be encouraged but be integral to the assessment, this is not to say forced, but learner willingness to engage and thus motivate each other by example is key – and one way to achieve this is the carrot and stick approach being specifically spelt out at the beginning. The f2f session really needs to keep everyone on track and help encourage students to get on line and complete tasks. Group work and collaboration again helps everyone learn and builds on each participants experience and can be conducted online with the benefits of asynchronous communication and online resources.

 

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