Archive for November 23rd, 2010

Nov 23 2010

Thought Question #4

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Learning online is not theoretically differently from classroom learning. As I deconstruct the various elements of a successful online experience, I begin to see elements of many of the learning theories we have analyzed in this course. However, it is possible that online learning might require the elaboration of some existing theories.

Elements required for a successful online learning experience: (bearing in mind that some technological determinism exists)

  • an easily navigated framework
  • clear statement of expectations
  • clear instruction on how to access knowledge (scaffolding) or construct it (constructivism)
  • the ability to access community or expert knowledge (ZPD)
  • the ability to share knowledge (distributed learning)
  • accessible and timely feedback (scaffolding and distributed learning)
  • appeal to multimodal learning
  • the ability to make learning meaningful (Ausubel) by transferring knowledge beyond the virtual world into other contexts (activity theory)

It seems to me that there are only two real innovations in web based learning – hypertext and social interaction on a global scale (web 2.0). The question then becomes “do these two innovations require the elaboration of a new learning theory or do they fit into existing learning theories?”

The easy answer for social interaction on a global scale is that it certainly fits into the category of Social Cognition. It provides the means for Distributed Learning enhanced by quasi instantaneous results to the learner’s queries. As for hypertext, I find answers in Scardamalia’s article about CSILE. Hypertext has allowed us to accelerate “knowledge building” in that it allows ideas to develop naturally (not linearly) as research can occur in any direction the learner chooses. This seems to be part of the scaffolding process that can be purposefully built in to online courses. If however it is not built-in, the learner still retains the option of accessing knowledge through his desired path.


Kanuka, H. (2008). Understanding e-learning technologies-in-practice through philosophies-in-practice. In T. Anderson & F. Elloumi (Eds.) Theory and Practice of Online Learning, Chapter 4 (pp. 91-118).

Scardamalia, M. (2004). CSILE/Knowledge Forum. Education and Technology: An Encyclopedia (pp. 183-192). Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.

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