In their article in USDLA’s Distance Learning for Educators, Trainers, and Leaders Maria Puzziferro and Kaye Shelton ask questions regarding online education and distance learning that we as educators in online courses and programs should be asking ourselves as we review our courses and programs for quality.
One assumption that they question is “how do we define student or learning centered and students are in control of their own learning (pp 10). this made me stop and think..it is easy to assume that this latest “buzz word phrase,” of the day drives the direction of online education today and education in general. If we can say that our courses, programs and services are student or learner centered..then job done..we are meeting the needs of students. But do we really know what this means? does the student? Does your educational institution or organization have a common agreement regarding what learning/student centered means and does it matter? or are these just good PR buzz phrases? Here are some various definitions of the terms and the institutions who use them…
… the learner-centered classroom instruction, greater emphasis is given on the meaningfulness of knowledge. Students acquire knowledge to address real-life issues and problems.
In the learner-centered classroom, the students are actively involved in seeking out knowledge.
in the learner-centered classroom, the importance of right answers is overshadowed by the importance of creating better questions. Thus, assessment tools vary to embrace the multiple facets of learning. Besides paper tests, there will be portfolios, and others.
…in the learner-centered paradigm, assessment is intertwined with classroom instruction. The results of a test are used to discover learning difficulties. The functions of the assessment are to diagnose learning problems and to encourage better learning.
Premises of the Learner-Centered Model
- Learners are distinct and unique. Their distinctiveness and uniqueness must be attended to and taken into account if learners are to engage in and take responsibility for their own learning.
- Learners’ unique differences include their emotional states of mind, learning rates, learning styles, stages of development, abilities, talents, feelings of efficacy, and other academic and nonacademic attributes and needs. These must be taken into account if all learners are to be provided with the necessary challenges and opportunities for learning and self-development.
- Learning is a constructive process that occurs best when what is being learned is relevant and meaningful to the learner and when the learner is actively engaged in creating his or her own knowledge and understanding by connecting what is being learned with prior knowledge and experience.
- Learning occurs best in a positive environment, one that contains positive interpersonal relationships and interactions, that contains comfort and order, and in which the learner feels appreciated, acknowledged, respected, and validated.
- Learning is a fundamentally natural process; learners are naturally curious and basically interested in learning about and mastering their world. Although negative thoughts and feelings sometimes interfere with this natural inclination and must be dealt with, the learner does not require “fixing.”
Emphasis is on using and communicating knowledge effectively to address enduring and emerging issues and problems in real life contexts.
Professors role is to coach and facilitate. Professor and student evaluate learning together.
Teaching and assessing are intertwined.
Assessment is used to promote and diagnose learning.
Emphasis is on generating better questions and learning from errors.
Desired learning is accessed directly through papers, projects, performances, portfolios and the like.
Approach is compatible with interdisciplinary investigation.
Culture is cooperative, collaborative, and supportive.
Professors and students learn together.
(retrieved from http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/instruction/assessment/dictionary/learnercentered.html 01/3/10)
The most current term that I hear bandied about is “self directed learning..” exactly what is self directed learning and what does it mean for students?
(retrieved from http://www-distance.syr.edu/sdlhdbk.html, 01/3/10)
What is quality in online education, what should we be measuring and evaluating?
There are new paradigms in education that should be considered in evaluating the online course or program. How does that course or program engage the students, provide them with opportunities for synthesis of the materials, critical thinking, multi “everything,” validates their learning, provides for opportunities of natural and designed collaboration, communicate across multiple modalities to multi dimensional/diversified audiences? How do we measure how students create content that is pertinent to the outcomes of what they need to learn, how they are teaching and learning with others. How the use of PowerPoint is applied in an online course suddenly doesn’t seem so important as we prepare students for working, accessing information, communicating, and collaborating in a fast paced global society. Finally we must ask ourselves why it is so compelling that we
“control” our students. Why must we funnel their access to content through our ‘filters,” and why do actually think we are really exerting any control any way.
So how do we define quality and does it make sense to measure the quality in online education against that of face to face..in my opinion that is a cop out…we should stretch the boundaries of where technology can take us in online education by expanding our definition of what that means outside of the parameters of face to face education. There is so much more that we can do with technology, increasing the amount of time that a student spend reviewing online content, researching on their own, and multi-modalities of delivery that meets an individual student’s needs.
It has been asserted that students, who have been dissatisfied with the content in their courses have actually reviewed the content in similar open courses available on the web. they do this in order to supplement their face to face and online courses.
So then what is the role of teachers, faculty, and administrators. This is the disruption of education that is occurring, we don’t know, our roles are in transition. Do students and learners need us, can the tools of technology facilitate and define what student need to learn …will technology remove the education “middle” ground of delivery in much the same way that the music industry has been disrupted, cable televisions, newspapers, and publishing. I ponder that in order for the ideal definitions of “student centered learning” and self directed learning to be achieved the educational institutions, the teachers, and administrators have to be removed from the equation?
As an educator I acknowledge that my profession is changing, when the student or consumer defines how to validate what he or she has learned and that validation is widely accepted then our educational institutions have been disrupted. While I am excited by change, as always ..I am apprehensive and selfishly concerned how this change will impact me.
McCombs, B. L., & Whisler, J. S. (1997). The learner-centered classroom and school: Strategies for increasing student motivation and achievement. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.