Situated Learning Online: Profiling Learners by Theorized and Practical Learning-Context-Defined Role(s)

Situated Learning Online: Profiling Learners by Theorized and Practical Learning-Context-Defined Role(s)

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1573-0.ch007
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In online situated learning, enabled through enhanced information and communications technology (ICT), learning management systems (LMSes), learning content repositories, immersive virtual worlds, simulations, games, augmented reality enablements using mobile technologies, web meeting tools, digital libraries, and other software and hardware, target learners may be profiled based on the practical learning-context-defined roles: the functional roles, the defined target learning skills, the requisite interactions between learners, the interactions between learners and digital and analog artifacts and online environment, and others. This work explores defined idealized learning profiles in situated learning online.
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A long-term challenge of teaching and learning has been the issue of transferability of the learning, to enable learners to apply what they learn to new contexts in effective ways. (Another term for this is “generalizability,” to move from a specific application to a range of possible somewhat-similar but variant applications.) One potential solution has been enabling learners to acquire knowledge, skills, and abilities (and attitudes) [or “KSAs”] in various apprenticeships, practicums, work places, and other contexts of social “situatedness.” The situations are supposed to emulate the real world while providing learners the mentorship and support and safety of traditional classrooms. This bridging function is depicted in Table 1. Generally, beyond a place-based surrounding, situatedness refers to a situation as a “set of circumstances”; in a situated learning context, the various elements of situatedness then relate to a learning context that represents something of the real world and imbues the learning work with some authenticity.

Table 1.
Situated learning as a bridge between traditional learning and transfer to workplaces, real world, applied practices, and problem solving
Traditional “Ideal” (Idea-Based) ClassroomSituated Learning (as a bridge)Workplaces / Real World / Applied Practices / Problem Solving

Online, situated learning is enacted in a variety of different ways, with varying learning objectives, target learners, learning outcomes, and tactical uses of technologies. How the target learners are conceptualized has deep impacts on the design of the learning, particularly in terms of the efficacy of the bridging role of situated learning in enabling learners to apply the learning to work places and other contexts. In online learning, “situated learning” (in its various incarnations) is thought to enable learning benefits:

  • The creative use of the surrounding virtual and / or real spaces for learning,

  • Experiential learning practice using simulations and / or games,

  • More applied authenticity in the learning,

  • Enhanced levels of learning transfer to various contexts,

  • Increased social and other soft skills in the human-to-human and human-to-‘bot collaborations,

  • And others.

Effective instructional design in this case would involve the profiling of the target learners for this situated online learning. This work uses a synthesized mixed theory approach to propose an approach to profiling such learners.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Immersive Virtual Worlds: Persistent 3D spaces which enable rich intercommunications and interactions between peoples through humanoid avatars.

Problem-Based Learning: An authentic learning approach involving the solving of a problem (either close-ended or open-ended), often in a situated learning context, and sometimes in collaboration with other learners.

Habitable Learning Environments: Persistent virtual worlds enabling human expression through humanoid avatars with a range of interaction capabilities online.

Affinity Space: Spaces where people engage with each other around “shared activities, interests, and goals, not shared race, class culture, ethnicity, or gender” (Gee, 2004, p. 89)

Immersive Parasocial: One-directional follower relationship with another misperceived as a two-way relationship and enabled through the affordances of immersive virtual worlds.

Embodied: Within a physical body, including proprioception (engaged in the learning).

Experiential Learning: The acts of learning by doing and reflecting on those experiences.

Community Of Practice: A group of people based around a particular profession or practice, with neophytes and experts collaborating to co-learn (based on original research by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger).

Situated Learning Online: The practice of authentic learning in communities of practice interacting via information and communications technology (ICT), immersive games, immersive virtual worlds, social media, augmented reality software, and other elements.

Situated Learning: The act of learners engaging in “legitimate peripheral participation” in a “community of practice” with other individuals with varying levels of expertise.

Expertise: High level professional skill or knowledge.

Cognitive Apprenticeship: A learning process in which a novice or amateur learns from a master practitioner.

Learning-Context-Defined Role(s): The roles of co-learners as defined by the designed or in-the-wild learning context.

In Situ: “In the original place,” in position, in situatedness.

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