The goal of this chapter is to illustrate how the concept of authentic learning can be implemented in a web-based distance course. We present a collaborative e-learning scenario, inspired by socio-constructivist and situated learning theories, which encourages authentic learning. Developed as the main learning scenario of a graduate distance education course, it requires students to participate asynchronously in a simulation of an online scientific conference. We describe the learning scenario, the technological environment developed to implement this scenario, as well as some results of a course evaluation completed by students.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Instructional Engineering: Instructional engineering refers to the whole cycle of a learning system (e.g. a course, a module, a study program, etc.), from the initial analysis of the learning problem and context to the design, development, implementation, and evaluation of the learning system. The term “instructional engineering” is somewhat equivalent to the term “instructional design”, although the term “engineering” highlights more explicitly the fact that the process borrows some characters of the one used to design products or services in engineering disciplines (e.g. systematic and systemic processes, search for coherence, of efficiency, and efficacy, etc.).
Authentic Learning: As synthesized by Rule (2006), the concept of “authentic learning” refers generally to learning activities involving (1) real-world problems that mimic the work of professionals in the targeted knowledge domain; (2) open-ended inquiry, thinking skills and metacognition; (3) discourse among a community of learners, and/or (4) learner empowerment through choices to direct their own learning in relevant project work.
Situated Learning: Situated learning refers to an educational paradigm which stipulates that learning occurs in a socio-cultural context. Thus, the term « situated » refers not only to the immediate context of learning but to the whole culture in which the learning situation takes place and which structures the cognitive activity of the learners. Learning takes place when learners interact with others and with concrete and symbolic tools, artefacts, and social practices in use in their cultural context.
Metacognition: “Metacognition is a term used to describe people’s knowledge and regulation of human cognition. Strictly speaking, metacognition refers to cognition about one’s own cognition (…). Metacognition (…) differs from cognition in that cognitive skills are those that help a person perform a task; metacognitive skills are those that help a person understand and regulate cognitive performance” (Schraw, 1998, p. 91).
Virtual Forum: A virtual forum is a web-based tool for asynchronous discussions among a group of participants, usually centered on specific topics.
Socio-Constructivist Learning Theory: Socio-constructivist learning theory emphasizes the role of interactions and collaboration between learners as well as between learners and the teacher or other members of the community in knowledge construction.
Community Of Practice: “Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavor.” They are “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Wenger, n.d.).