Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Learning Community in Learner Paced Distance Education

I work in a learning center where the majority of students are using the self-paced versions of our courses. This link is to a study done at Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada...

...a university that supports continuous intake and learner pacing in its undergraduate programs. Athabasca University is investigating the feasibility and effectiveness of adding collaborative and cooperative learning activities to this model. The report summarises a study of learner interactions in the context of learner paced courses delivered by the University. ...the study reports on interviews with Athabasca University faculty and external distance education experts, describes results from an online survey of undergraduate students, and documents how these findings may be operationalised at the University. An extensible model of community based learning support is proposed to utilise new social computing capabilities of the web, and to permit learner-learner interaction in a scaleable and cost effective manner, while retaining learner pacing.

The study report proposes a learning community model. "...The model developed during this study describes one way of learning that accommodates student desire for increased autonomy and freedom." Here are some of their concluding comments:
Emerging Internet based technologies create opportunities for new types of learning communities that allow learners around the globe to study at their own pace, yet engage in meaningful interactions with others - in essence, allowing them "to have their cake and eat it, too." The model presented in this paper...incorporates these two elements. To realise and capitalise on new forms of learner paced education will require an ongoing commitment to innovation, experimentation and reflective study of our work, but it is within our grasp. ...evidence of the need for more research focusing on more complex educational models and designs that account for the diverse needs of different learners, at different times, engaged in different contexts and studying different disciplinary content.

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