Digital Learning Environments and Student-Centered Curriculum in a University Context

Digital Learning Environments and Student-Centered Curriculum in a University Context

Sevinç Gülseçen (Istanbul University Department of Informatics, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-074-3.ch009

Abstract

With promises of rich information resources readily available, successful use of the World Wide Web (WWW) within an instructional setting is tied directly to a pedagogical approach that promotes Student-Centered Learning (SCL). SCL is based on constructivist approaches and has become an important theme in the educational theory and practice. Although SCL is not a new idea, new technologies developed for the Web and other Digital Learning Environments (DLEs) allow new forms of educational support to be facilitated, enabling new pedagogical concepts and enhancing learning. This chapter reports on an effort of empowering learners in the design of web-based teaching and learning in undergraduate programs in a Turkish university context.
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Background

Digital Learning Environments (DLEs) are technical solutions for supporting learning and teaching. A DLE can be educational software, a digital learning tool, an online study program or a learning resource and may thus consist of a combination of different technical solutions.

Constructivist theorists contend that learning occurs when learners actively construct their own knowledge and think reflectively when information and concepts are presented to them (Saunders, 1992; Tynjälä, 1999). Learner-centered (or student-centered) teaching is based on constructivist views and has become an important theme in the educational theory and practice. The emphasis in the constructivist-based education is on the activities of the learner (Lunenberg & Korthagen, 2003). In a SCL environment, learners have opportunities to identify their own learning needs, locate learning resources, and construct their own knowledge based on those needs. Learning is more individualized and less standardized. Although student-centered education is not a new idea, new technologies developed for the Web and other DLEs allow new forms of educational support to be facilitated, enabling new pedagogical concepts and enhancing learning.

Three primary propositions underlie constructivism (Saunders, 1992):

  • Knowledge is in our interactions with environment;

  • Cognitive conflict is the stimulus for learning;

  • Understanding is influenced through the social negotiation of meaning.

From these three propositions, a set of instructional principles that can guide the practice of teaching and the design of a learning environment have emerged. These principles are:

  • anchoring all learning activities to a larger task or problem;

  • supporting the learner in developing ownership for the overall problem or task;

  • designing an authentic task and the learning environment to reflect the complexity of the environment;

  • giving the learner ownership of the process used to develop a solution;

  • designing the learning environment to support and challenge the learners’ thinking; and

  • encouraging testing ideas against alternative views and alternative context providing opportunity for and support reflection on both what is learned and on the learning activity.

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