Essential Question: What is the role of discourse, collaboration, and technology for distributed learning in online courses?
With the Internet, today we are able to take any type of class when we want and where we want. This has led to a growth of learners online. The role of discourse, collaboration, and technology for distributed learning would depend on the type of class you are taking and the way that the instructor is running the class.
At least three distinct models have been commonly subsumed under the title of “online learning”: Online Collaborative Learning (OCL), Online Distance Education (ODE), and Online Courseware (OC). The three approaches each use the Internet and the Web for education but in significantly different ways and with major differences in learning theory, learning pedagogies, and learning technologies (Harasim, 2002). In addition, Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCS, have been used to deliver distance education (McAuley et al., 2010).
“OCL refers to educational applications that emphasize collaborative discourse and knowledge building mediated by the Internet; learners work together online to identify and advance issues of understanding and to apply their new understanding and analytical terms and tools to solving problems “ (Harasim, 2002). This is the kind of class that I am taking now. We are building our knowledge through the tools we are using, such as our blogs and web meetings where we talk about our readings. The role of the instructor is key: the teacher structures the discussions into small or large groups around knowledge problems (Harasim, 2002). Our instructor posts readings each week for us and answers any questions and concerns we have. She is also there for when we have to conduct the class and gives us suggestions if we need them. When I was reading about this, our class popped in my head and I had an “Aha!” moment. I was like we do this; this is how our class is conducted. “Online Collaborative Learning (OCL) is proposed here as a new theory of learning that focuses on collaborative learning, knowledge building, and Internet use as a means to reshape formal, nonformal, and informal education for the Knowledge Age” (Harasim,2012).
“Online Distance Education or ODE is primarily based on traditional 19th- and 20th-century correspondence education models, but replaces postal-mail delivery with the cheaper, faster and more efficient email delivery of course materials and tutor feedback” (Harasim, 2002). This makes me think of classes that people would take where they would get their assignments by paper through the mail. I took a class like this a long time ago. This was what we used to call a “Correspondence Class.” When I finished an assignment, I would mail it in, and they would email the next assignment to me.
Online Courseware or OC (also known as Online Computer-Based Training) refers to the use of courseware (pre-packaged content) that a learner accesses online (Harasim, 2002). This would be classes that students take that have a set of assignments that students have to follow on the computer. They then would send in the work electronically once they have completed an assignment.
Massive Online Open Courses, or MOOCs, are accessible to large groups of students and tend to involve less direct instruction from a professor. MOOCs integrate the connectivity of social networking, the facilitation of an acknowledged expert in a field of study, and a collection of freely accessible online resources (McAuley et al., 2010). MOOCs generally do not require payment of a fee; a student just needs access to the Internet. Lower levels of cost and accountability have led to lower completion rates under this delivery method. I have heard of these classes but have never taken one myself. I would like to take a Spanish language class via a MOOC, but I never have enough time. One of these days I will take one of these classes.
One of the theories that goes with online learning is Connectivism. The starting point of connectivism is the individual. Personal knowledge is acquired through a network, which feeds into organizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network, and then continue to provide learning to the individual. This cycle of knowledge development (personal to network to organization) allows learners to remain current in their fields through the connections they have formed (Siemens, 2014). Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era. More and more students are going to take classes online. They may choose the form or forms of any of the class types mentioned above, but I know that the number is just going to keep increasing. People are now seeing the benefits of taking classes online. I know I do, and I plan to take more distance classes to help me in my field of education.
Harasim, L. M. (2012). Learning theory and online technology. New York, NY: Routledge.
McAuley, A., Stewart, B., Siemens, G., & Cormier, D. (2010). The MOOC model for digital practice.
Siemens, G. (2014). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age.