thoughts on Anderson’s theory of online learning (2008)

It seems I owe Prof. Anderson an apology:

“A learner-centered context is not one in which the whims and peculariaties of each indivdual learner are unqiuely catered to. In fact, we must be careful to recognize that learner-centered contexts must also meet the needs of the teacher, of the institution, of the larger society that provides support for the student and the institution, and often of a group or class or students. For this earson I have argued elsewhere that this attribute might more accurately be labeled ‘learning-centered'” (2004, p. 35)

Glad we agree. Still don’t understand why Anderson persists on using learner-centered rather than learning centered.

Earlier, in the same chapter, Anderson attributes to Wilson three functions of robust learning theory: it/they allow us to envision new worlds, help/s us make things, and keeps us honest.  I would add a fourth: lacks any obvious internal contrictions in relation to key terms.

Anderson also highlights knowledge-centered (automacy at the expert level and self-reflection), assessment-centered (with assessment for learning as well as measuring performance, and community-centered where the de facto individuated experience of a learner is purposefully embedded within a space where interactivity is not merely available but positioned to maximize learning.  These concepts–particularly of the learning community–are reflected in the design for my course–hence their emphasis in my research design.

I also find his differentiation between student-student, student-content, teacher-content, content-content, and student-teacher interactions of great value. (pp. 43-48). Here’s where I see these occurring in my course:

Student-student: comments on blogs, iterative discussions each week, one small group task, offering learning technologies that facilitate synchronous interactions

Student-content: We don’t “go through” the readings; instead students are tasked with a situation or problem that is relevant to the readings of a unit or module. The onus is on the students to ask for clarification–from anyone in the community.

Teacher-content: I have written much of the course materials, including many learning activities. Thus every single piece of content in my course is aligned with one or more aspects of the course design.

Content-content: There is a self-directed Elearning Toolkit for the course. Students elect which aspects of the toolkit to explore, but substantive engagement with the toolkit seems to correlate with student performance on summatively assessed assignments. All readings align with at least one other learning activity.

Student-teacher: I provide timely and substantive feedback, though I’m more inclined to use a Socratic approach (questions and validation more than answers), and I try to avoid “ping pong pedagogy”: every student question is answered by me so students sit back and wait for me to answer everything rather than offering answers to their peers.

I’m enjoying the opportunities here to drill down deeper into material I’m ostensibly expert in!

Reference

Anderson, T. (2008). Towards a Theory of Online Learning. In: T. Anderson & F. Elloumi (Eds.), Theory and Practice of Online Learning. Edmonton AB: Athabasca University. Accessed online October 10 2010 http://www.aupress.ca/books/120146/ebook/02_Anderson_2008_Anderson-Online_Learning.pdf

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