This study explores student views of various E-Learning tools as teaching and learning media in an online course for pre-service and in-service teachers. This chapter also examines the pedagogical applications of E-Learning tools in an online course. The capabilities of a system that allows meaningful interaction, reflection, personal identification, and a sense of community play a key role in the degree of social presence. This study highlights some key findings regarding the efficacy of E-Learning tools from student perspectives and make recommendations for future pedagogical practice.
Many models have been proposed to explain frameworks and important components of learning environments. A review of these models will provide a better understanding of how to achieve effective online learning.
Bransford’s Model of Learning Environment
Bransford, Brown, Cocking, Donova, and Pellegrino (1999) proposed a model for designing effective learning environments. The learning environment should be learner-centered, knowledge-centered, assessment-centered, and community-centered as shown in figure 1. An effective learning environment must be learner-centered so that the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs of the students are taken into consideration by the instructors. Learners often use their current knowledge to construct new knowledge. In a learner-centered environment, instructors would attempt to understand what students think, discuss their misconceptions, and integrate instructional strategies that can help learners to acquire new knowledge. Bransford et al. (1999) stated “Overall, learner-centered environments include teachers who are aware that learners construct their own meanings, beginning with the beliefs, understanding, and cultural practices they bring to the classroom” (p. 124). The teacher is the bridge that helps learners build new understandings.
Perspectives on learning environments (Adapted from Bransford et al., 1999, p.122)
An effective learning environment is knowledge-centered. It is not sufficient to only teach thinking skills and problem-solving skills. These abilities require well-organized knowledge that can be retrieved for the appropriate context. A knowledge-centered learning environment focuses on curriculum design in which students are expected to achieve desired learning outcomes. The curriculum should “help students develop interconnected pathways within a discipline so that they learn their way around in it and not lose sight of where they are” (Bransford et al, 1999, p. 141).
Good learning environments should also be assessment-centered so that students can have many opportunities to receive feedback for improvement. Assessment must reflect the learning goals. Assessment can not only help the students to improve their learning but also the instructors to revise their instructional approach.
Finally, effective learning environments should be community-centered, which share norms and value high standard learning. The norms include ways for learners to interact, receive feedback, and learn.
These guidelines provide a clear pedagogical framework for designing effective online learning environments. These principles are well-supported in the literature. However, for higher education distance learning, the role of the instructor is not clearly defined in this model. In addition, the attributes of technology are missing. The community of inquiry model by Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (1999) does address the roles of instructor, students, and learning in distance learning environments.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Pedagogical models: Pedagogical models are cognitive models or theoretical constructs derived from learning theory that enable the implementation of specific instructional and learning strategies. Examples of pedagogical models include anchored instruction, problem-based learning, cognitive apprenticeship, situated learning, and computer-supported intentional learning environments (CSILE).
Asynchronous communication systems: Technology tools that allow online learners to communicate with each other at flexible time at their own pace and space. Examples of asynchronous tools include Web-based discussion board, podcast audios and videos, weblogs, etc.
Teaching Presence: The design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes.
Social Presence: Social presence is originally defined as the “degree of salience of the other person in the (mediated) interaction and the consequent salience of the interpersonal relationships” by Short, Williams, & Christie (1976). Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (1999) later defined it as the ability of participants in an online community to project their personal characteristics into the community, thereby presenting themselves to the other participants as ‘real people.’
Cognitive Presence: The extend to which a student can construct meaning through sustained communication. Cognitive presence focuses on the importance of critical thinking and represents learning outcomes that meet the learning goals.
Synchronous communication systems: Technology tools that allow online learners to communicate with each other at the same time at their own space. Examples of synchronous communication systems include Breeze (a Web-based interactive video-conferencing system), Skype (an Internet-based audio-conferencing system), and Second Life (an Internet-based virtual world.)
Pedagogical applications of E-Learning tools: Pedagogical applications refer to the utilization of E-Learning tools that are based on pedagogical models, for example, the Web as the database for knowledge construction, the virtual worlds for role-playing, the Weblog for reflective learning, and video-conferencing for community building.
E-Learning 2.0: E-Learning 2.0 tools are characterized as tag-based, participatory, playful, social networking, and collaborative editing through tools such as blogs, wikis, RSS, podcasting, flickr, del.icio.us, and Wikipedia.