Towards a Theory of Online Learning

Towards a Theory of Online Learning explained the framework for what an online learning theory might look like by examining three categories: model, principles on how people learn, and interactions.

I found the article to be very helpful because the framework provided a template on how to plan and develop an online course.  The first category stated that the model could be either instructor-led or student-led. Preliminary ideas for my course project included an online tutoring service for reading comprehension or an online English course used as supplemental resource for independent study.  The student would be second language learners but the exact level would still need to be determined.  Between the two models, an online course that’s instructor-led seems to make more sense being that the students will likely need help to regulate, manage, and monitor their studies.  Even during an independent study, I envision students going to a learning center, where they could get assistance from an instructor or staff member.

The second category stated that four principles should be embedded within the course activities to facilitate learning.  Learning occurs when it is: student-centered, knowledge-centered, community-centered, and assessment-centered. When considering my project, a course that’s community-centered seems to be the most challenging.  From personal experience, a tutoring service often enroll students at different times and so group work would be difficult because of differences in the starting period leading to different topics.  An independent study may also experience a similar difficulty because as the name implies, students independently even if they are at the same location. To resolve this, it might be good to restrict or reorganize the enrollment period.  Nonetheless, the topic should be further reviewed to better understand how class would be carried out, particularly the independent study and other methods for creating a sense of community.

The third consideration were the interactions. The article listed six different possible interactions but the three that were the most critical were student-teacher, student-student, and student-content. An online course should incorporate each of the interactions and these should be organized in a regular manner to provide consistency.  Each unit could then be constructed using this model as the framework but also plug in other activities to add variations.  Among the listed interactions, a student-student interaction would be the most challenging, and it should be further reviewed to see if this is possible or makes sense in this type of learning environment.


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