Online Education Theroy

This past summer I enrolled in Chris Lott’s ED 654 Digital Citizenship course of which several of my current classmates have also taken and will be familiar with the methods that Lott incorporated in this online course. This course used a mixed of pedagogy strategies, with the higher tendency for two of the four theories outlined in Ally’s chapter, “Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Learning” from the  assigned readings. The course was very engaging for me from the very first time I logged into the course site. As I move towards being a novice learner to becoming a more experienced learner, the methods used in this class matched my interest, my energy and my motivation, and challenged my critical thinking and analytical ability. Had I not felt prepared and confident or hesitant about making mistakes, I could see where this experience might have been overwhelming and daunting.

Using Ally’s (2008) summary of three educational theories, “Behaviorists’ strategies can be used to teach the what (facts); cognitive strategies can be used to teach the how (processes and principles); and constructivist strategies can be used to teach the why (higher-level thinking that promotes personal meaning, and situated and contextual learning.)” along with a definition of Connectivism from Learning Theories (Links to an external site.), “Connectivism is a learning theory that explains how Internet technologies have created new opportunities for people to learn and share information across the World Wide Web and among themselves,” Lott created an environment of learning activities that took advantage of the best of these four theories.

Behaviorist

Explicit outcomes Sequenced learning materials Feedback
The expectations for student participation in the course were very clear. You were expected to make learning decisions for yourself within given parameters along with encouragement for thinking outside the box (however you personally define that) as long as you were doing so in the public where the cohort could see and perhaps share in your experience. Each main part of the course had a collection of assignments that you could choose from to demonstrate your understanding of the main themes in the course. The first collection was pretty specific and subsequent collections allowed for more creativity Each of the themes was introduced and basic information about that theme was given to use as a starting point and so that the cohort all had the same base knowledge. Supporting feedback from the instructor was given on a regular basis along with occasional feedback from the cohort.

Cognitivist

Pre-Instructional questions Chunked materials Reflection and relationships
Each of the main parts began with some kind of thought provoking statement, media piece or tweet. There were five main parts to the course based around 4 main themes in the course. Within each part, there were collections of assignments. Collection options included opportunities for reflection on the theme as well as metacognition on the individual’s learning while working through the material.

Students were asked to create several mindmaps throughout the course to expose relationships between concepts.

Constructivist

Application to practical situations Collaboration and cooperative learning Meaningful activities to apply and personalize information
Assignments within Collections were open enough that students could individually choose their audience, format, complexity and often a targeted research area to fit the student’s real-life situation. Collaboration within the cohort was at times required when it came to giving feedback and encouraged when it came to working on an assignment together. The main focus was that you were doing and sharing in the open. A requirement of the course was to create your own domain and subscribe to a hosting service. We each created our own learning space and had a lot of leeway when choosing how to demonstrate our understanding.

Students were encouraged to find their own resources based on their interest or on the grade level that the student was currently teaching.

 

Connectivism

I’m using the definition from the contributors at Learning Theories (Links to an external site.), because it resonates the most with me as a more useful definition then as it was first introduced and as the Connectivism theory has evolved.

Exploration/Research Identification of important vs. unimportant information Connecting with cohort and a wider world wide audience
Basic information was given as a starting place, but we were encouraged to find our own experts in each of the themes that was of personal interest or related most to our disciplines. We were encouraged to ask for approval for variations on topics as long as we could justify and support our own decisions. Because we were given responsibility for finding our own research to supplement the given materials, we needed to be able to determine the validity of the research and experts we chose in order to validate our own submissions. This tenet is also one of the very important elements of being a good digital citizen so having these skills  were doubly important. Because we were publishing several posts a week and we were sharing them publicly on Twitter, on  several occasions, the cohort had reciprocal conversations with those outside the sphere of the course. There’s nothing better than to have the author you are writing about chime in on your blog to give clarity to a question you raise or to have that author “favorite” your tweet about them or their work.

Resources

Ally, M., (2008). Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Learning. The Theory and Practice of Online Learning, 2nd ed. 15-44.

Connectivism (Siemens, Downes). Learning Theories. Retrieved 9/9/2016  from https://www.learning-theories.com/connectivism-siemens-downes.html (Links to an external site.).

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