What is the role of discourse, collaboration and technology for distributed learning in online courses?
Last week we talked about the three main theories of learning which are behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism. These theories have been at the forefront for decades prior to the emergence of today’s technology, which has changed the sharing, development, and the way we think about knowledge (Siemens, 2005). With the evolution of technology, it has changed how we communicate, collaborate and learn as a society both formally and informally. McAuley, et.al. stated, “Digital technologies have affected the former (creative processes) largely in terms of the exponentially higher speed with which knowledge is created and the resulting volume” (p.38.)
The connectivist theory subsequently emerged with a varied belief in how people acquire knowledge. The connectivist believes that learning rests in a diversity of opinion, may reside in non-human sources, and connections are critical to continue learning (McAuley, et.al., 2010). This theory poses that things such as computers, can hold knowledge as well.
In it’s early development distance learning was primarily behaviorist-constructivist, with information being passed with little discourse between teacher to student and student to student (Graham, L. & Jones, A). I took an Alaska History course in the late 90’s or early 2000’s, in which I had to do readings ever week, watch video tape at times, and write research papers, then mailed each lesson in to my instructor upon completion. There was no communication with other students, and not even really any with the instructor besides grades. With current technology communication has opened up around the globe, which has really affected how distance and online courses have been administered.
In today’s world knowledge is changing and growing rapidly. McAuley, et.al. stated, “In this context it becomes extremely difficult, if not virtually impossible, for an individual to maintain currency with the state of the art in a particular field”(p.38). They go on to say, “Instead of sharing only their knowledge as is done in a typical university course, they share their sensemaking habits and their thinking processes with participants” (p.40). … report that the Net Gen is “… the first generation to grow up in the digital age, and that makes them a force for collaboration” (p. 82). With the next generation of learners coming up, I would expect online learning to sky rocket as a result of the increase in technology and the availability of the Internet.
Harasim, Linda (2012-03-22). Learning Theory and Online Technologies (p. 82). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
McAuley, A., Stewart, B., Siemens, G. & Cormier, D. (2010). The mooc for digital practice. The University of Prince Edward Island. Retrieved from: http://www.edukwest.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/MOOC_Final.pdf
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from: http://www.ingedewaard.net/papers/connectivism/2005_siemens_ALearningTheoryForTheDigitalAge.pdf