#ocTEL Week 2 Only One Thing

May 14, 2014 in Blog post, Reader

I like this model, which I hadn’t come across before. I can see straight away where many of my students are and how I apply different strategies at different times. I’m going to enjoy thinking about this!

Approaches to learning

As we’ll see in Week 3, the notion of ‘learning styles’ is a contentious one. However, there is body of research in the ‘phenomenographic’ tradition, based on learners’ descriptions of their own experiences, which has made a distinction between three different approaches to learning – the ‘deep’, ‘strategic’ and ‘surface’ approaches. It’s not that the three approaches are mutually exclusive, but that when left to their own devices many students can be seen to have a leaning towards one over the others. What is generally accepted though, certainly in Western higher education, is that ‘deep learning’ is the ideal we should be striving to engage our learners in.

Approaches to learning

Source: Marton, F., Hounsell, D. and Entwistle, N., (eds.) The Experience of Learning: Implications for teaching and studying in higher education. 3rd (Internet) edition. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh.

Your task is to think about the general idea of ‘approaches to learning’ in relation to online learning. Questions for consideration are:

  • Have you seen any evidence of these different approaches in online contexts, e.g. in technology-enhanced courses you teach? How did these differences manifest themselves in terms of online learning behaviour?
  • Are you leaning towards one approach in particular on ocTEL, and if so why might that be? Perhaps you are employing strategies from more than one approach?
  • Are learners who tend to take a ‘surface’ approach likely to learn more or less effectively online versus face-to-face?
  • How might we encourage ‘deep learning’ in online contexts?

I’ve just checked out the link for this activity and come across what looks like a very interesting book. My heart sank somewhat as I initially thought this was the material we had to review for this activity and it’s only supposed to take about an hour. However, on closer reading of the instructions, this is not what we are expected to do and I can leave reading this book until the holidays (surface approach ?) ;-)

This activity asks us simply to think about “approaches to learning” as outlined in the 3 short paragraphs.

The only online course I currently teach is part of a blended-leaning course and has only been running for one semester. We don’t really have an active forum or chat facilities and most of the feedback about the online component comes through email or during the face-to-face part of the course. However, I think I can say that I have sensed all three of the approaches from different students and this can be seen in the types of questions and concerns they focs on – “What exactly do I have to do to validate the online modules?” “Will we be graded on such and such?” “Will topic X be in the final evaluation?” or “Where can I find out more about topic y?” or sharing personal experiences and reflections about the course material that validates or questions it.

I think in my approach to ocTEL I am applying a mix of approaches. I would like to think that my main approach is “deep” and that is certainly true to a certain extent although time constraints make it difficult to find the time for prolonged reflection on the content. However, this is a long-term investment and the deeper approach will take place over time as I reflect and exchange with colleagues over what I am learning here and how I/we can relate this to our specific context and needs.

I have surprised myself a bit by applying a strategic approach in relation to achieving badges. It’s the first time I’ve come across this system and I have found it surprisingly motivating in getting me to do activities in the way that the course requires. As I am doing this course off my own bat – it is not something that I was asked to do or required to do for or by my institution – I really don’t need to earn the badges. However, so far I am finding it quite stimulating and is helping keep me “on track”.

I don’t think learners who take a “surface approach” learn effectively and I don’t see how or why the fact of being online or face-to-face would significantly change this. I would have thought that the challenge is to draw learners into a “deep approach” by careful course design, whether this be face-to-face or online. I now realize that this is probably not the case with the online component I put in place last semester which probably allows students (orients them) to using a surface or a strategic approach. I need to rethink that one for next year!

The only way I can see of encouraging deep learning online is by providing the means of bringing the students’ own experience and knowledge into the process and allowing them to use this to critically evaluate the models and concepts the course covers and compare with the experience of other students on the course. This would entail a major rethink of the way the online modules are currently designed and also their function in the overall course structure.

Well, more work in perspective there ;-)

1 response to The open course you cannot fail…

  1. Dear Maren

    “Lurkers” vs “Silent participants”?

    Here are a few other terms that could be used:

    vicarious learners?
    silent participants?
    Non-public user?
    legitimate peripheral participator?
    virtual participant?
    marginal participant?
    passive observer?
    cognitive apprentices?
    potential member?
    proximate member?
    tacit member?

    See Let’s get more positive about the term ‘lurker’

    Which term best reflects the degree/ style/ of learning? If you read a book, but never talk about it, have you learned any less?

    Best wishes


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