Unit Two: Designing Learning Activities in a Professional Network
Target Objective: Learner will appreciate designing a social learning activity in a Web 2.0 social network such as LinkedIn.
Unit Learning Objectives
- Understand the importance and power of encouraging shared resources and collaborative ideas.
- Recognize that the design must support learner-control of choice and direction of ideas to be nurtured by the collective.
- Understand the opportunities for student group to connect with experts and professional organizations through the social networking site.
Designing a Learning Activity
As we discussed in Unit 1, a social network is highly interactive in nature. It provides a platform for close interactions. Designing an activity that involves learner-to-learner collaboration will afford the students the ability to share prior knowledge and build upon other's ideas, thereby rising above to bigger ideas as a collaborative learning community. A strong sense of community can be inspired through this new sense of interdependency and shared learning. A social networking site expands the collaborative to include individuals and experts outside of the classroom membership. Connections and ideas can be contributed from professionals in the field of study you are teaching. Professional organizations can serve as resources.
Another important aspect is learner control and contribution. A good learning activity encourages, yet does not script or dictate. Students choose what to contribute and what web resources to share with the collective. As they share with fellow learners discussions and elaborations begin and coalesce to larger conversations within the group activity. With generalized goals the instructor can plant the seeds for learner development of productive learning activities. The instructor's role is to facilitate, model, and co-learn with the student group. **see Unit 3 for more
Transational Distance Theory
According to Moore's transactional distance theory, transactional distance is the pedagogical distance of understanding and perceptions. The transactional distance is affected by three characteristics of the learning environment: dialog with the instructor, learner autonomy, and course structure or design. The interactive communication characteristics of web-based tools (such as LinkedIn) enhances the learner-instructor and learner-learner interactions, thus increasing the dialog. This in turn decreases transactional distance. The flexible design of the social space will decrease transactional distance by decreasing the structure of the learning environment. When creating learning activities in a web-based tool such as LinkedIn the activities should encourage learner autonomy by shifting more control to the learner for decisions and choices. This is the third characteristic that decreases transactional distance.
Read the article by Benson "Addressing the context of elearning: Using transactional distance theory to inform instructional design".
Choose an online higher education course that you have taught and/or developed. Identify one of the learning activities that would improve if the transactional distance was reduced. Reflect on and then journal your answers to the following queries:
- How would dialog, structure, and learner autonomy shift in a social web-tool environment?
- Could the web tool deficits discussed in this lesson be overcome or compensated for in the design and use of the web tool?
- How would the assets discussed change the learning activity experience for the students?
- How would the students' learning community be impacted?