Networked Collaborative Learning: social interaction and active learning
ABSTRACT For some time now, the sustainability of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) has largely been regarded in economic and organisational terms. However, the achievement of high quality in TEL depends on attention being focused first and foremost on pedagogical considerations. Whenever these remain in the background, the result is almost invariably the same: passive, individual study of educational materials. Such content-driven approaches are widely held to be cheaper, and are therefore commonly adopted. But they almost always lead to limited quality learning since they deprive the process of its other crucial dimension, namely social interaction.
The social dimension is particularly vital in university teaching, where there is a strong need for direct teacher-learner contact and where the teacher has ample scope for adopting a variety of strategies, especially interactive ones, to support learning. However, the same could also be said of any context in which education is not merely a “coaching” process but rather one designed to foster the acquisition of high-level knowledge and professional competencies. Here, learning must encompass both vertical interaction with domain experts and horizontal interaction with the group of peer learners engaged in the course. This facilitates professional development based on the exchange of experiences and good practices.
Fostering the social dimension of learning in TEL means treating the network not merely as a means for distributing learning materials but more generally as a resource that facilitates distance interaction between learner and teacher and among students within online learning groups.
Such approaches rarely result in cost reductions for course organisers, and in some cases actually demand higher investment. This poses the question as to why TEL should be adopted in university education: to enhance the social dimension of learning and thus improve instructional quality or to streamline organisation-logistics and thus reduce costs. Undoubtedly, TEL offers strong potential in either case but this book argues that the pedagogical sustainability of TEL is proportional to the quality of learning it can deliver. And high quality levels can be reached mainly by enacting active and collaborative learning processes, especially if these hinge on intense social interaction between learners, teachers, tutors, and domain experts.
Such social interaction is often hampered by logistical and organisational problems, especially at university level. Consequently there has been a tendency to see network technology as a possible means for strengthening this dimension. This potential has fuelled interest in exploring new approaches to TEL based on the kind of active and collaborative student-centred learning that distinguishes Networked Collaborative Learning (NCL).
In this book we will seek to further our understanding of the factors, motives and results that can lead a teacher to adopt NCL-based strategies. We will examine the added value they offer for enhancing learning processes and the implications they have for course design, management and evaluation.
A number of case studies will be examined that exemplify the organisational and communicational modes entailed in NCL. These will help to shed light on the various roles that the teacher assumes when adopting different teaching strategies for reaching expected learning outcomes.
Through these case studies, we will also take a special look at evaluation, an issue widely held to be one of the most problematic aspects in applying NCL effectively. We will see how coordinated design of learning and assessment activities can ensure that each is in tune with the other. When appropriate methodologies are applied, technologies offer enormous opportunities for evaluating the learning of contents, the individual’s contribution to group work, and the level of cooperation that each group applies to the tasks it is set.
While NCL is certainly not the only option open to a teacher looking to adopt TEL, it nonetheless offers enormous potential for innovating teaching approaches. One way it does this is by leveraging the technologies and forms of communication that students are now accustomed to using in their daily lives.
That said, NCL is undeniably a double-edged sword. One the one hand it can yield high quality learning and enhanced satisfaction on the part of learners and teachers alike. On the other, however, it calls for careful planning, and can only be introduced with suitable preparation and training, especially in the design and management of online learning activities.
This points to the wider issue of professional development for academic staff, something that plays a critical role in the pedagogical sustainability of NCL. The role of the e-teacher is not one that can be improvised; it must form an integral part of the teacher’s overall professional growth. This does not simply mean acquiring sufficient know-how to introduce technology in support of habitual teaching practices. Rather, it means totally rethinking and revising those practices.
Full-textDOI: · Available from: Guglielmo Trentin, May 07, 2014
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ABSTRACT: In order to design learning solutions that effectively embed face-to-face and online dimensions, it is crucial to identify the key components underpinning hybrid solutions. Furthermore, once these components have been identified, there is the need to clarify how to recombine them to meet a specific learning objective. The paper aims to highlight the role of network and mobile technologies (NMTs) in enhancing the particular characteristics of hybrid solutions (HS) with a view to (a) potentiating/enriching the teaching/learning processes, (b) exploiting the varied opportunities it offers for their observability, and hence for their monitoring addressed to formative and summative assessment. The article will emphasize how this potential can only be captured by solidly integrating the process of teaching/learning design with that of monitoring and assessment. After a brief overview of hybrid solutions in higher education, a possible breakdown of HS into its key dimensions (onsite/online/individual/collaborative learning) will be proposed. The aims is to understand how the characteristics of those dimensions can be used to enrich/potentiate both the teaching/learning and the assessment processes. The role of NMTs in supporting and fully exploiting the special features of HS will be explored using concrete examples. The third part of the article will address the question of how to combine and/or use singly the various components of HS, providing guidelines for applying the HS dimensions to the specific goals of the teaching path and to the activities which are functional to the achievement of learning goals. To conclude, the emerging contexts and evolutionary models of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) will be discussed as an example in line with the proposed HS model.
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ABSTRACT: Education has been subject to a process of continuous educational reforms. The aim of this study was to explore teachers’ abilities to adapt to these reforms and to find out how this process of continual reform related to their identities as teachers. The study used a narrative research approach. The data for this research were based on the narratives of practising teachers registered for a postgraduate teacher education programme, and on interviews. Since change was a key concept, the theory of adaptive expertise was used to interpret the data. The study proposed a conceptual model that explained the relationship between teaching and the learning context, adaptive expertise and teacher identity in an ever-changing educational environment. The research pointed to some of the implications of a lack of consultation with teachers in the formulation of new policies, and recommended interventions with a view to developing adaptive expertise.Africa Education Review 02/2014; 11(1):59-76. DOI:10.1080/18146627.2013.853567
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ABSTRACT: Nel proporre agli studenti attività di gruppo tese a favorire l'apprendimento di gruppo all'interno di spazi ibridi di apprendimento, viene spesso da chiedersi quale sia il rapporto fra quantità di informazione e quantità di conoscenza che fluisce nell'interazione sia fra i membri del gruppo, sia con le fonti esterne di informazione e conoscenza. E ancora, quali fasi di processo collaborativo finalizzato allo sviluppo di un elaborato sono a più alto indice di flusso di conoscenza e quali invece a più alto indice di flusso di informazione. A queste domande ha cercato di dare una risposta l'esperimento descritto in questo articolo e che ha visto protagonisti un gruppo di 66 studenti universitari.01/2014; DOI:10.3280/ERP2014-001001