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Pedagogy In Distance Learning

The rapid advances in educational technology has allowed for the growth of collaborative Distance Learning experiences unconstrained by time and space. Even so, students do not learn from technology; they learn from competent instructors who have been trained to use effective interactive strategies to support Distance Learning outcomes. The purpose of this paper is: • To define Pedagogy and Distance Learning. • To introduce different Pedagogical models. • To examine the role and practice of Pedagogy to enhance Distance Learning environments, and finally, • To conclude with a critique approach.

Introduction Pedagogy can be defined as the art of teaching. It refers to the strategies, methods and styles of instruction. The adoption of technology adds another element in course design to consider. To produce, effective online learning and teaching requires a comprehension of the processes by which students learn and interact with technology. The term Distance learning refers to computer based or correspondence based training which incorporates technologies that support interactivity beyond what is normally provided by a single computer or a single faculty for that matter.

Further, it can refer to an approach that facilitates and enhances learning through the use of computer and communication technology, such as personal computers, Digital Televisions, Mobile Phones, Internet, email, and collaborative software. Distance learning continues to be popular because of its ability to provide greater convenience, time flexibility and self-paced learning to students while avoiding travel time and cost. It can also accommodate learning styles not suited to traditional classroom instruction.

Distance Learning is founded on the latest research and evaluation studies that demonstrate that school improvement programs that employ technology for teaching and learning yield positive results for students and teachers (U. S. Department of Education). Further, Distance Learning can potentially transform education by providing high-quality educational experiences available to those whose location, economic, and personal constraints have prevented them from pursuing their educational goals (Cheese, 2003). Pedagogical Models Gilly Samon’s 5 Stage Pedagogical Model

Salmon has proposed a highly practical five-stage model based on her own research. The first two stages of Salmon’s model focus on acclimatising the learner to the online environment and developing a supportive social environment. The third stage ‘information exchange’ is characterised by learners interacting with course materials and activities online and providing each other with further resources. In the fourth stage, ‘knowledge construction’, we see learners working collaboratively sharing ideas, posing problems and challenging each other in a spirit of enquiry.

The final stage leads participants to take responsibility for and reflect on their own learning. The role of the tutor – the moderator – is essential to the design and implementation – supporting, encouraging, focusing to ensure all learners meet the intended outcomes. Laurillard’s Conversational Model Professor Diana Laurillard, developed a conversational model, based on earlier theories of Vygotsky, in which dialogue between tutor and student is seen as central to learning. Laurillard stresses that, for higher level learning, dialogue must take place at both a theoretical and practical level.

This not only enables students to link theory with practice (which is sometimes difficult to achieve in many subjects), but also allows the tutor to evaluate whether or not he or she has set appropriate tasks for the student. One of the major characteristics of this model is the way in which the student and tutor interacts. In face-to-face teaching, many of these interactions are so spontaneous and intuitive that they can be overlooked in the design of technology supported teaching. Therefore Laurillard made these interactions explicit. Technology can support these interactions in the following ways.

It can be: Narrative – This involves the telling or imparting of knowledge to the learner Communicative/discursive – The tutor supports processes where students discuss and reflect upon their learning. Interactive – This is based on the outcome of the learning. The tutor provides feedback to students based on the outcomes of tasks students undertake in order to help consolidate learning and improve performance. In addition, the tutor uses this information to revise what learning has occurred and, if necessary, change the focus of dialogue, which is actually an adaptive approach.

Pedagogy in practice: Constructivism Constructivism is an educational theory that emphasizes hands-on, activity-based teaching and learning during which students develop their own frames of thought. It is based on three basic principles: (a) Learners form their own representations of knowledge (b) Learners is achieved through active experience as well as occurs when this exploration uncovers inconsistencies between current knowledge representation and learners’ own experiences. And

(c) Learning occurs within a social context, with interaction between learners, peers and other members of the learning community. The learner’s knowledge is viewed as adaptive while the role of teachers is to challenge the child’s way of thinking (Gredler, 2001) . Distance Learning is best supported by learner-centered approaches that allows for numerous interactions. As a result, effective teaching with technology demands a shift in instructional practices from a teacher-centered lecture approach to a more constructivist approach (Jonassen, 2000).

The role of instructors shifts from that of transmitting knowledge to the new role of facilitators, guides or coaches. As guides, teachers incorporate mediation, modeling, and coaching and provide rich environments and learning experiences for collaborative learning (Sharp, 2006). Gibbons and Fairweather (1998) noted that the use of computer technology helps students to interact with more complex materials . Further, computers allow teachers to act more as coaches and facilitators using a learner-centered style of teaching.

Gallant (2000) states: “the constructivist approach and all its methods can be used well with various technologies when each technology – be it print, audio, or computer conferencing – supports active learning and enables the teacher to act as a guiding partner” (p. 74) . Pedagogy above Technology The power of technology to support learning lies not so much in the technology as in what instructors do with the available technologies (Rogers, 1999). Therefore, teachers should provide intellectually powerful and technologically rich environments for students without undermining sound pedagogical practices (Anderson & Becker, 2001) .

Zisow (2000) states: “I am convinced that the greatest factor affecting whether a teacher does or does not use technology in the classroom, is teaching style. Technology is merely a tool. Whether it is used or not depends on a teacher’s motivation and desire to use new tools” (p. 36). Reil and Becker (2000) argue that authentic use of technology transforms teacher’s roles, learner’s roles, conceptualization of knowledge and the process of teaching and learning, and assessment. Therefore, teachers play a great role when teaching with technology.

Reil and Becker state: “Teachers who assume a professional orientation to teaching are far more likely to have made high investments in their own education, to have constructivist-compatible philosophical beliefs about education to develop the instructional practices that are related to their beliefs and to integrate computers into their classrooms in ways that support meaningful thinking and the sharing of ideas with their peers” (p. 34). Technology is pedagogically neutral and can therefore be applied to any instructional practice that an instructor may prefer to use in the classroom.

Even so, the choice of Distance Learning tools should reflect rather than determine the pedagogy of a course. The selection of education approach or philosophy is, needless to say, more important than the selection of the technology itself. A focus on mere technology may not help to transform classroom practice and enhance student learning; sound constructivist practices that focus on teaching first and technology second could possibly lead to effective Distance Learning practices that support student learning. Designing meaningful Distance learning environments

Appropriate and meaningful Distance Learning environments should be able to support interaction with and manipulation of the exploration environments constructed, support strategic searches, have an intentional attempt to achieve cognitive objectives and enable students to engage in dialogue with other learners and with instructional systems (Janssen & Rohmer-Murphy, 1999) . Designing constructive Distance Learning environments involve: first, creating a problem – project space that presents learners with an interesting, relevant and engaging ill-structured problem to solve.

Secondly, consider defining the problem by describing all the important details of the context in which the problem will be solved. Thirdly, consider ways in which the learners will present this information. Ideally, teachers should provide learners with resources (information banks) that will assist them such as text documents, graphics, sound resources, video, and animations, related to the subject area of investigation.

In addition, teachers should help learners to organize information, such as hypermedia programs, in the learning environment in such away that it supports their learning . Teachers should also provide related cases to the problem that students can build knowledge from to be able to solve the current one as well as build ways for providing these resources to them on the Distance Learning environment. One good practice is to design activities such as visualization tools that will help learners understand the problem.

In addition, various cognitive tools such as semantic organization, dynamic modeling, information interpretation, knowledge building, and conversational tools that can support learner’s exploration, articulation, and reflection in the environment should be incorporated in the design to enhance student learning. Teachers should provide access to conversation and collaboration tools and create ways that students can collaboratively work together as they share information in the process of solving the problem.

Some ways that this can be done is through the creation of chats, UseNet groups, or provision of computer conferencing opportunities to facilitate dialogue and knowledge building among the community of learners. Vrasidas and McIsaac (2001) argue that the teachers should structure the learning environments so as to have the opportunity to model expert behavior to students in constructivist uses of technology-based teaching and learning in their disciplines. Conclusion

It is important for each campus to sit down and evaluate critically its vision and values regarding this dynamic trend of learning. Questions of larger purpose include: What are the best practices of Distance Learning? What can support these best practices; what student and faculty characteristics facilitate success in Distance Learning environment and how can these traits be developed? (Cheese, 2003). Constructivism theory reflects one of the best styles of teaching and learning values in current education practices.

Even so, constructivism coupled with appropriate Distance Learning practices would require special skills in learning and interaction design. Constructivist teachers encourage students to question their thinking and learning strategies while students become expert learners as they learn how to learn. In addition, they are likely to inspire students to explore new ways of knowledge construction while performing the role of a guide, mentor or facilitator. Reference : Anderson, R. , & Becker, J. (2001). School investments in instructional technology.

Teaching, Learning, and Computing Report, Report 8. Retrieved February 25, 2006, from, http:// www. crito. uci. edu/tlc/findings/report_8/startpage. htm Cheese, P. (2003). What Keeps Universities from Embracing e-Learning? Retrieved May 20, 2006, from http://www. elearningmag. com/ltimagazine/article/articleDetail. jsp? id=74867 Gallant, G. (2000). Professional development for web-based teaching: Overcoming innocence and resistance. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 88, 69-78. Gibbons, A. S.

, & Fairweather, P. G. (1998) Computer-based instruction: design and development. Gredler, M. E. (2001). Learning and Instruction: Theory into Practice. (4 th ed. ). New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc. Jonassen, H. D. (2000). Computers as mind tools for schools: Engaging critical thinking (2 nd Ed. ). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Janssen, D. H. , & Rohrer-Murphy, L. (1999). Activity theory as a framework for designing constructivist learning environments. Educational Technology: Research &Development, 47 (1), 61-72.

Real, M. & Becker, H. (2000). The Beliefs, Practices, and Computer Use of Teacher Leaders. AERA presentation, New Orleans, April. 2000. Retrieved June 20, 2006, from http:// www. crito. uci. edu/tlc/findings/aera/ Rogers, A. (1999). The origins of a global learning network. Retrieved May 25, 2006, from http://www. gsn. org/gsh/teach/articles/feb99_article. htm Sharp, V. (2006). Computer education for teachers: Integrating technology into classroom Teaching. (5th ed. ). New York: McGraw-Hill. U. S. Department of Education.

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