Nowadays in Uzbekistan in Internet and Web-based technologies have redefined the boundaries and pedagogies of distance learning by stretching its scope and deepening its interconnectedness. New learning interactions that were not perceived possible before can now be facilitated, such as the coupling of experts from around the world with novices, the instantaneous access to global resources, the opportunity to publish to a world audience, the opportunity to take virtual field trips, the opportunity to communicate with a diverse audience, and the ability to share and compare information, negotiate meaning and co-construct knowledge. Such activities emphasize learning as a function of interactions with others and with the shared tools of the community prompting (a) the emergence of pedagogical constructs and models such as distributed learning, open/flexible learning, asynchronous learning networks, knowledge building communities, and communities of practice, and (b) the reconceptualization of distance learning as the deliberate organization and coordination of distributed forms of interaction and learning activities to achieve a shared goal. This paper describes such models and their theoretical grounding and instructional implications for E-Learning contexts, and presents a theory-based design framework for E-Learning that capitalizes on the interaction between pedagogical models, instructional strategies, and learning technologies to facilitate meaningful learning and knowledge building.
E-Learning, like all instructional technology delivery environments, must be rooted in epistemological frameworks to be effective for teaching and learning. Theoretical constructs emerge from our assumptions or perspectives on knowledge. The implications of a particular perspective on constructing knowledge are significant in the application of theory and design associated with a specific instructional delivery mechanism. In order to better understand how grounded design can lead to effective and meaningful E-Learning, a review of the different perspectives or views on cognition and knowledge is in order. These perspectives include: the cognitive information processing view or “mind as a computer metaphor”, the parallel distributed processing view or “mind as a brain metaphor”, and the distributed or situated cognition view or “mind as a rhizome metaphor”.
Pedagogical models for e-learning
Open or flexible learning is a new approach to describing distance education where the emphasis shifts from delivering a pre-established curriculum to focusing on individual and local needs and requirements, and creating open learning places based on the here and now. Key principles of open learning are student centeredness and a focus on learning rather than teaching. Open learning provides students with flexibility and choice in meeting their educational goals. It can include a variety of non-traditional learning opportunities, such as: short courses, night courses, workshops, seminars, conferences, certificate programs, customized training packages, and degree-credit and non-credit distance education courses. Examples of open or flexible learning environments that rely on the use of Internet and Web–based communications technologies include knowledge networks, knowledge portals, asynchronous learning networks, virtual classrooms, and telelearning.
Distributed learning is described as education delivered anytime, anywhere, to multiple locations, using one or more technologies or none at all. When telecommunications media is utilized, distributed learning refers to off-site learning environments where learners complete courses and programs at home or work by communicating with faculty and other students through e-mail, electronic forums, videoconferences, and other forms of computer-mediated communication and Internet and Web-based technologies.
Learning communities are groups of people who support each other in their learning agendas, working together on projects, learning from one another as well as from their environment and engaging in a collective socio-cultural experience where participation is transformed into a new experience or new learning.
Communities of practice
Communities of practice are “groups of people informally bound together by shared expertise and passion for a joint enterprise”. The construct has become popular in the business community and in organizations that focus on knowledge as an intellectual capital. Communities of practice are different from formal work groups or project teams in that they are defined by knowledge rather than task, and members are self-selecting rather than assigned by a higher authority. Additionally, what holds a community of practice together over time is its members’ interest in maintaining the group and not project deadlines or job requirements. Over time, the activity and actions of the individuals engaged in the enterprise give rise to new and specific practices and processes that are shared by all members of the community. When the common purpose is learning, communities of practice can be described as “shared environments that permit sustained exploration by students and teachers enabling them to understand the kinds of problems and opportunities that experts in various areas encounter and the knowledge that these experts use as tools”.
Knowledge building communities
Knowledge building communities are learning communities in which communication is perceived as transformative (resulting in a new experience or learning) through knowledge sharing and generation. Participants in a knowledge building community “share a common goal of building meaningful knowledge representations through activities, projects and discussion” and the instructor or tutor “is an active, learning participant in the community”. A common goal of knowledge building communities is to advance and share the knowledge of the collective. Research teams in the scientific disciplines provide a prototypical example although knowledge building communities can also exist in other forms such as film societies or industrial firms. What is defining about a knowledge building community is a commitment among its members to invest its resources in the collective pursuit of understanding.
The emergence of these models has prompted the reconceptualization of distance learning as the deliberate organization and coordination of distributed forms of interaction and learning activities to achieve a shared goal. Specifically, E-Learning can be defined as an open and distributed learning environment that utilizes pedagogical tools, enabled by Internet and Web-based technologies, to facilitate learning and knowledge building through meaningful action and interaction.
Designing effective and meaningful E-Learning requires a grounded design approach. The E-Learning developer or instructor must have a reflexive awareness of the theoretical basis underlying instructional design and the ability to link theory to practice in a systematic manner. This paper presented a theory-based design framework for E-Learning that emphasizes the systematic and transformative interaction between pedagogical models, instructional strategies, and learning technologies consequently allowing the E-Learning developer or instructor to adopt a grounded design approach. In addition, it was argued that recent advances in Internet and Web-based technologies prompted the emergence of pedagogical models grounded in the situated cognition and constructivist views of knowledge necessitating the reconceptualization of distance learning as “an open and distributed learning environment that utilizes pedagogical tools, enabled by Internet and Web-based technologies, to facilitate learning and knowledge building through meaningful action and interaction”. Armed with this new understanding of distance learning and the theory-into-practice design framework that characterizes the instructional implications of situated cognition, E-Learning developers and instructors have the knowledge and tools to carefully craft E-Learning solutions and deliberately organize, coordinate, and enact distributed forms of interaction to promote meaningful knowledge acquisition.
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