Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Authentic Elearning?

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
Sculpted Earth by Magnuz of Sweden - Badger
When a learner is in an environment that is relevant to what's being learnt, the likelihood for effective engagement is high. Learning by doing is supposed to be one of the most successful ways to learn.

Both these factors – the relevant environment and the doing – are thought to provide jointly the greatest incentive for a learner to take interest in what is to be learnt. They form the basis for what is referred to as authentic learning.

For as difficult as such situations are to establish and sustain in face-to-face situations, elearning environments can present major barriers to authentic learning that are almost impossible to overcome unless the elearning vehicles are in situ.

Typical examples of these are online tutors for word processing, graphics applications or other computer functions where the learner is involved in using mouse and keyboard to operate a tutorial directly relevant to the application.

I cite the Southern Hemisphere planisphere with a built-in tutorial as one example of an in situ learning vehicle in a junior Science elearning resource.

The examples given above are all very well, but unless a considerable component of what is learnt is transferable to other purposes, the learning acquired by the learner has limited use elsewhere. One of the characteristics of authentic learning is the transferability of the learning to other situations or disciplines.

Two examples where generic and transferable skills can be learnt are online instruction in touch-typing, and the use of a flight simulator as part of training to become an aircraft pilot.

Kallan and Tuxedo presenting a session in building in SL

Recently I was privileged to share in the facilitation of a session sponsored by ISTE, teaching people online to manipulate and assemble prims, the building blocks of Second Life (SL).

As well, part of the duties I perform as an ISTE docent in SL involves assisting and teaching newcomers to that environment by the use of text and voice chat. The learning facilitated in these situations is authentic.

People who come into SL need to acquire new skills. Most who stay to use that environment want to learn skills that can only be acquired online. But other than exercising skills in associated disciplines such as art and design, the skills I teach to newcomers are only useful in Second Life. And here is the conundrum associated with authentic elearning.

Apart from learning that is directly associated with the elearning application or platform, how is authentic learning achieved online?

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later


V Yonkers said...

One of the most difficult things to teach instructors new to elearning is how to create a learning activity that has definitive goals and yet is flexible enough to apply to multiple contexts.

This requires student generated activities within a strict structure. For example, I have my students develop their own lesson plans in which they need to identify a situation that the online learning can address, come up with learning goals, identify activities, assessment tools, and supporting information. This project is a negotiation in which students submit parts of the project for feedback. I have done the same for online marketing and international marketing projects in which students propose the project based on standards I have given them (2-7 pages long), then submit drafts along the way. In many cases, these are projects they use for their own work.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia!

And thanks for this. I wonder if you are talking about authentic learning here. One of the characteristics that I have identified about authentic learning is that teachers used to delivering learning are often not aware of what so-called authentic learning is all about.

I give an example here of learning to dig a ditch. Believe it or not, I have actually seen an e-resource which purports to teach how to dig a ditch. But the only time I learned about ditch digging properly was when I was thrown a spade and shown how to do it by an expert and then told, "Now you!" It was a salutary experience, but I learnt a lot.

Catchya later

V Yonkers said...

I would call it authentic because it is a project that they will then implement into their own work. I am there to support them as they create the product/project. However, it is important to have learning goals as they are going through the process.

V Yonkers said...

So here is an example of authentic learning in my opinion. My students are putting on an online conference on international business education. They have developed everything from the program to customer service to the technology used to the promotion. I have been there to guide them and I did give them the theme to the conference (as in the past when I've done this project it has taken them too long to come up with the theme). I also gave them benchmarks they must achieve to get a certain grade. However, other than that, they have done the work themselves.

However, the most important part to the authentic learning is the next step. After the conference, they will need to develop a presentation on what their strategies were going in as they did the work, what worked and didn't work, and how they will change it when they do it again. Just going through the process is not enough, that would be authentic experience. Having to reflect on what they just did (even if it is just to do it over again and try to do it better) gets you the "learning" part.

So back to your comment. You just digging using the spade is not enough if you are just digging around hap-hazardly for no reason at all (just because you were told to). But understanding what the goal is for your digging (dig a whole to plant something, dig a whole to find worms for fishing, etc...) and then trying out different ways to dig for that purpose (and learning different things as you go along) is important for authentic learning

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia

Thank you for your examples.

There is no doubt in my mind that when I was thrown a spade and shown how to use it AND given the opportunity to, I learnt more about digging a ditch than ever I would have looking at a computer tutorial on the same. I certainly was not digging around haphazardly.

I reiterate the words I used at the start of this post. "When a learner is in an environment that is relevant to what's being learnt, the likelihood for effective engagement is high. Learning by doing is supposed to be one of the most successful ways to learn."

Catchya later

V Yonkers said...

BTW, I hate when I reread my comments and can't edit them. For some reason, I don't seem to see the glaring mistakes I make until after I have posted. Of course I know the difference between whole and hole!!!!

I agree with your point. Often times as I was working with my students on this conference they would say, "Wait. This is a real conference?" They were so used to simulations that when it was real, they realized that they would have to take it more seriously. And they have as they feel more ownership towards something that is "real".