Innovative trends of elearning


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Innovative trends of elearning

  1. 1. Journal of Cognitive Affective Learning, 4(2) (Spring 2008), 26-28. Copyright  2008, Oxford College of Emory University. 1549-6953/08   Innovative Trends in Learning Tools Cary T. Aplin, Instructor and Doctoral CandidateUniversity of Colorado.  Email:  Creating community in the classroom has been the traditional method of engaging students in a learning environment. The online environment is changing the concept of community fundamentally and rapidly. With the emergence of the internet and web-based technologies students are able to use innovative tools to gain experience in experimentation and action. Two promising and innovative tools are active collaboration and problem-based learning for the student to activate both the intellectual and creative mind. The purpose of this paper is to take a look at the environment and these two tools as a means to launching into further research for online teaching. As a university student, the world of online learning poses frustrating challenges. The challenges stem from an ever-increasing amount of information that must be processed and retained in a limited amount of time. When a student from this world of change signs in to an online class, he or she must form a new kind of community. This community is structured around tasks, goals, and assignments. However, to fully engage the student, learners must take the community to a deeper level. With the emergence of the internet and web-based technologies students are able to utilize innovative tools to gain experience in experimentation and action. Two promising and innovative tools are active collaboration and problem-based learning for the student to activate both the intellectual and creative mind. These tools can be applied to any classroom but have been found to be very helpful in the online environment by engaging learners in activities using the web as a resource (Chapman, Ramondt, & Smiley, 2005; Chye, Tan Tiong Hok, & Wee, 2004; Dalsgaard, 2006; Reiser & Dempsey, 2007).Active CollaborationCollaboration in classrooms has been regarded as essential for decades. Much research has been done to support the notion that work done by students together to achieve an academic goal is better than the work done by a student alone (McLoughlin & Luca, 2002). The term “active collaboration” refers to the instructional method whereby students work together toward an academic goal (Gokhale, 1995). The ability to reason, reflect, engage with others, develop the ability to think critically and grow independently is an important goal of not only educators but also members of the business community (Barron et al., 1995; Gokhale, 1995). According to Johnson and Johnson (1996) students working in groups retain information longer and attain higher levels of thought. Students who actively participate in groups and share learning are engaged in more discussions, are self regulating, and become better critical thinkers (Heller & Hollabaugh, 1992; Heller, Keith, & Anderson, 1992).Student collaboration also greatly increases the potential for learner success in an online environment (Barron et al., 1995; Bradshaw, Powell & Terrell, 2002; Dahl, 2004; Heller & Hollabaugh, 1992; Heller, Keith, & Anderson, 1992).  Heller, Keith, and Anderson report that using collaboration, groups show better problem-solving abilities and results than could be achieved by an individual. They also argue that collaborative learning in an online environment fosters the development of critical thinking. For many the ultimate goal of education is to enable students to become competent adults and life long learners, and for this reason there is a strong argument for electronically linking students with larger communities of knowledge (Brandsford, Brown, & Cocking, 1999). An online environment is, by its very nature, technology rich. The students in this environment become increasingly integrated with each other and the problems they solve through the cycle of discovery, testing, and feedback (Dahl, 2004; Preece, 2000; Reiser & Dempsey, 2007). Professors and students feel a sense of identity and affiliation as stakeholders in an environment where there is shared experience, knowledge, and experimentation in a new learning paradigm and environment (Chye, Tan Tiong Hok, & Wee, 2004). Problem-based LearningThe online revolution in education has required a new way of looking at the definition of a problem and the process by which a student solves a problem. The capacity for students to form connections between sources of information and a given problem is enhanced using online resources. Among educators, problem solving and problem-based learning are thought to be among the most important outcomes. Problem-based learning (PBL) is a tool for developing real-life problem-solving skills, while helping students obtain the knowledge and skills required in the workplace. In the past it has been difficult to offer learning that focused on complex problems and their solutions because they were too costly, dangerous, or difficult to manage in the classroom. The emergence of computer-driven technologies has changed the use and importance of PBL (Hannafin & Rieber, 1989). Developing lifelong learners should be the highest educational goal of the university and business communities for the future according to Chye, Tan Tiong Hok, and Wee (2004). The new challenge becomes designing creative and exciting real-world problems into the online learning environment (Barron et al., 1995). However, once achieved PBL allows the student to test and examine situations in better preparation for the real world outside of the classroom. Applying these skills is necessary for a successful life-long learner. “…[P]roblem solving engages higher-order skills and is believed to be among the most authentic, relevant, and important skills that learners can develop” (Jonassen, 1997, p. 86).Instructional designers are in high demand for the development of curriculum. Jonassen (1997) has engineered an experimental framework to help with an instructional design model. Describing problem solving as “more complex than the sum of its component parts,” Jonassen (1977, p. 65) has detailed the instructional design using the information processing theory. This includes steps for problem representation, review problem schema, searching for solutions, implementation of alternative solutions, and retrying until the process is successful.Future online classroom solutions will be easier and more engaging, and will have a larger impact on the student populace than complex technologies of the past (Driscoll, 2007). Through participating in projects with meaning beyond the classroom, the student increases cognitive skills necessary for smooth transition from the classroom to the professional world. Technology can provide exciting real world problems, enabling students to build mental pathways from current knowledge to deeper learning, and build local as well as global communities (Brandsford, Brown, & Cocking, 1999). Integrating Technology: Implications for Instructional DesignThe future of online environments is moving fast with the aid of technology and the internet. Curriculum design is more complex and demands more skilled individuals than ever. Learning the right set of skills to develop will be the challenge for all students who want to be part of the changes. There will be many tools to master, many approaches to research, and little time to get there. There are challenges and opportunities associated with any changing environment.Creating curriculum needs to include a new way of thinking about the technology for an interactive online learning environment. Technology offers the ideal way to connect students to people, students to places, and students to virtual laboratories. The challenge for education is to design technologies for learning that draw both from knowledge about human cognition and from practical applications of how technology can facilitate complex tasks in the workplace (Bradshaw, Powell, & Terrell, 2002). We have shaped our tools, but our tools are now shaping us (McLuhan & Bruce, 1989). Technology is changing and restructuring the way we live, how we exchange ideas, and how we learn within educational environments. The prevalence of online learning and information access is growing and educators, as well as instructional designers, are challenged to keep up (Reiser & Dempsey, 2007).  Cary Aplin is an instructor in higher education with progressive experience and responsibility since 1999 in classrooms and online environments specializing in technology and psychology. Currently she is working on a doctoral degree from the University of Colorado at Denver and the Health Science Center, in Educational Innovations in Technology. ReferencesBarron, B., Vye, N. J., Zech, L., Schwartz, D., Bransford, J. D., Goldman, S. R., Pellegrino, J., Morris, J., Garrison, S., & Kantor, R. (1995). Creating contexts for community-based problem solving: The Jasper challenge series. In C. N. Hedley, P. Antonacci & M. Rabinowitz (Eds.), Thinking and literacy: The mind at work (pp. 47-71). 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