Week 7 – IDT 875 Discussion

After reading this week’s articles, what is your current understanding in regards to designing leaner interaction and best practices to promote it? What more have you learned compared to what you had known before about learner interaction?

This week’s readings are in a lot of ways a self-reflection on how we feel about asynchronous learning in comparison to what the research finds. What the research suggests is that the jury is still in many ways out on web-based interactions, and while there are a number of promising proposals and methodologies there is little in the form of consensus on the best methodology for creating learner interactions in web based environments. And this got me thinking, in Swan’s article there is significant discussion over the concept that asynchronous learning and traditional classroom learning must have “No significant difference.” With the goal of learning effectiveness being “that online learning is at least equivalent to learning through the institution’s other delivery modes, in particular through its traditional face-to-face, classroom-based instruction…Interaction is key.” But this concept gave me great pause, mostly because are we sure classroom-based learning is inherently effective? If classroom-based learning was the true gold standard, why would there be a preponderance of 1 on 1 tutoring programs available in the market today? Why would so many individuals have a negative association with formal education? Also, is classroom-based learning even inherently interactive? Again, I’m not sure you can answer yes to all of those and if we cannot perhaps the effectiveness of training need not be measured in comparison to classroom-based instruction but perhaps based off of something different.

One of the most shocking things I’ve read during my time of study here at ODU is an article I was reading in regard to informal learning methodologies in the workplace. Here it is, “As much as 80 percent of learning in the workplace and elsewhere can be attributed to informal learning (Marsick and Watkins, 1990).”

80%. Damn.

Marsick and Watkins go on to point out the great majority of this learning is done not even consciously; examples include picking up on the norms of a business unit, direct or indirect apprenticeships, and trial and error with processes and tasks.

When I was reading the articles this week, especially the piece by Gao in which they highlight some of the issues with thread-based interventions, it dawned on me that perhaps we are looking at interaction the wrong way. Maybe, the reason classroom-based instruction is considered the “gold standard” is because of the informal interactions that are occurring in and around the class; the discussions happening in the two or three minutes before and after class, the walks to an from class with peers informally reflecting, the body language of people in class effecting the mood of the class, the jokes that learners share at the expense of the instructor. Could you accomplish all of these things in a web-based environment? Sure, especially with the dawn of social media, and to some extent it does happen with the group work we accomplish over the semester at times. But otherwise the interactions we are building into web based courses like those specified in the articles this week are all inherently on task, inherently formal, and perhaps that is having the unintended consequence of being not as effective in building lasting contextual relationships as is done in the informal events associated with classroom based instruction.

References

Davidson-Shivers, G. V. (2009). Frequency and Types of Instructor Interactions in Online Instruction. 18.

Gao, F., Zhang, T., & Franklin, T. (2013). Designing asynchronous online discussion environments: Recent progress and possible future directions: Designing asynchronous discussion environments. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(3), 469–483. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2012.01330.x

Hozum, M. (2015). Interaction, Structure, Social Presence, and Satisfaction in Online Learning. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, 11(3), 505–512. https://doi.org/10.12973/eurasia.2014.1324a

Swan, K. (2003). LEARNING EFFECTIVENESS ONLINE: WHAT THE RESEARCH TELLS US. 34.

Watkins, K. E., Ellinger, A. D., & Grant Wofford, M. (2013). Learning on the fly: Exploring the informal learning process of aviation instructors. Journal of Workplace Learning, 25(2), 79–97. https://doi.org/10.1108/13665621311299771

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