I wanted to take the opportunity to try to identify and explain some of the elements of this course using learning theories and complex learning methods. This being my first comprehensive online instructional experience I would like to take some time to understand it a bit better.
It is often difficult to reverse-engineer a learning experience (especially one as complex as this) and to identify cleanly the ways in which theory has played a role in informing design decisions. However, I would like to make an attempt at identifying elements from learning theory as I have come to understand them.
There are a few instances of behaviourist concepts included in this learning experience. The ones I could identify were the requirement to post and respond to peers’s posts each week. By placing a requirement on the students to participate in the discussions a certain behaviour is brought about and learning is facilitated. What I find interesting is how this behaviourist tactic leads to learning as defined under other learning theories namely constructivism. Other than these elements, the course doesn’t make heavy use of behaviourist concepts.
With humanism’s conception of learning aside, there are definitely some elements of humanism included. The course staff and especially Edward held the students with positive regard and helped provided direction and support for students who were largely seeking out instructional goals they defined for themselves.
There seem to be many elements of constructivism included in this course. Under constructivism learners are presented with learning environments where they construct their own knowledge (rather than being transmitted knowledge to store in the mind). This certainly seems to be an underlying basis for the weekly reflections where students are encouraged to draw connections between what they already knew and what they have just learned and are encouraged to apply what they have learned in the context of their own problems.
There are a few elements of the course that draw on connectivist elements. Throughout the course a learning network developed between the students who searched for and shared digital resources and build connections between initially disparate information sources. And these were connections that were enabled by the digital nature of this course.
Problem Based Learning
Although, strictly speaking the course does not use PBL as defined in the literature, it does make use of many PBL elements. Students solving an instructional problem is one of the central elements in the course. In contrast to the way PBL was presented in the literature where the problem is defined by the course leaders, in this course the problem was sought out by the students. After defining the problem that was to be tackled, students were left to largely rely on their own and their peers’s ingenuity (though not entirely) to find the necessary information and to come up with a solution for their problem. The course leaders also took on a facilitative and supportive role in helping to guide and direct students to relevant sources of information and ideas that could possibly help students in their endeavour to find a solution to the problem.
Practice and Feedback
As students practice applying concepts from learning theory and research to real world contexts the course staff provides the students with encouraging and supportive feedback to facilitate learning.
The main mode of assessment in this course seems to be authentic assessment. Students are encouraged to tackle a real-world instructional problem and then are required to create a portfolio documenting their progress. It is this portfolio that is then assessed to judge the learner’s ability in identifying and solving instructional problems. The portfolio seems to be the central aspect of the course. This mode of assessment is opposed to a written test and provides direct evidence of the learner’s to handle the targeted task.
The main take-away from this analysis seems to be that designing a successful learning experience will most likely incorporate many different elements from various learning theories. The key is not mastery and application of one particular theory but in the adept application of diverse elements to create a cohesive and effective learning experience.