Saturday, May 02, 2009

eLearning Infrastructure: A Model

(Note: This continues the development of my ideas about an early learning educational platform.)

Building a learning community not only requires us to think about how we structure the interaction, we also have to think about how we structure the learning. In these figures I conceptualize a model for how learning might be structured in elearning settings.

The general idea in this model is that learning is structured from quick solutions or answers to more complex learning experiences that engage people in problem-solving and deeper explorations of ideas.

Next, I have tried to think about the continuum of learning experiences that would fit into this framework. In this second figure I have tried to identify the range of instructional methods that would fit into this learning infrastructure.

The most elemental forms of learning would seem to be questions and answers. Online this is often referred to as "frequently asked questions." (See previous discussion of "FAQS.") This format has been used a a variety of learning situations and seems like a good place to begin building a learning structure. FAQs do not have to always be text. There can be audio and video "answers" to questions just as easily as there can be "text" answers to questions. The next step in this structure would be increasing the length or depth of answers to questions in a sequence. A simple version of this idea would be a short article composed of a string of FAQs that would describe a more complex topic. Next, I use the term "microlearning" activities to refer to simple interactions with learners. Here I am thinking about quizzes, surveys, true-false tests, and so forth.

The next stage begins to put learners in each other's company so that they begin to learn together. The previous material is generally designed as individual learning. I have chosen the term "peer discussions" for this next phase. At this moment in time the discussions would probably take place in social networking sites in which participants would be invited to talk to each other (in a semi-guided fashion) on topics relevant to the educational activity or subject of study.

The final level in this model is a stage in which "feedback" is added to the learning process. Although it is possible for "peer discussions" about a topic to result in feedback to students, this stage explicitly adds the idea that learners are given tasks, activities and assignments in which they will get feedback about their ideas, understanding and mastery of a topic. I have chosen not to refer to this level as "graded and tested" but rather to emphasize "feedback." Although "grades" are often given in situations, the purpose is to provide a "summary" of the feedback.

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