Sunday, January 23, 2005

Rehumanizing the E-Learning Space Can Be Easy

Rehumanizing the learning space doesn't have to be complicated or "Super-Tech." In the early days of online education, individuals thought that the best way to rehumanize a distance education experience was to try to replicate the appearance of a classroom. Many departments decided to tape their professors as they delivered lectures, and to deliver them over the internet. The other approach was to create PowerPoint presentations that were then synchronized with slides and contained a space for synchronous chat.

Play the Podcast

These were classic “talking heads” – mindnumbingly boring to an audience used to Hollywood and video games. Even worse, that solution was terribly expensive and had a shelf life of about 18 months – until the next generation of hardware or software came along.

What happened? Even when the program administrators could overcome the technical difficulties, they found that the students were, in these settings, passive learners. There was a lack of meaningful interaction.

What is “meaningful interaction” anyway?

Meaningful interaction takes place

a) when communities of practice are developed, where people engage in supportive activities (answering each other’s questions, etc.);

b) when on-demand skills acquisition takes place in order to perform a task – for example, you go out to an archive and download an article that helps you accomplish your homework task;

c) when guidance and positive reinforcement is received by an instructor who has learned to “listen” very well in the virtual environment.

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