- Group learning in distance learning environments
Comments: This annotated bibliography is a small group of articles and sites that I thought interesting and helpful in order to understand what cooperative learning is, its pros and cons in education and the challenges in promoting it in class whether face to face or online.
Through them I came to the conclusion that group based learning is a very valuable learning strategy that can foster learning gains for both the individual and the group. Though it is not in itself an innovation in face to face learning environments, it is only possible in distance learning since the development of more synchronous CMCs.
In nowadays society learning is more a dynamic and a group oriented process. The act of learning, sharing information is changing due to the new technologies and the different ways they allow people to communicate and engage in learning ( formal , informal or non-formal) .
Learning communities are established based on the social networks. Within them people can learn quickly by participating actively and contributing with his/ her own knowledge or experience both in a collaborative and in a cooperative way.
Innovation is important and learning quickly and efficiently to give adequate response to the challenges is imperative. This is best achieved in learning communities through group work. The nature of knowledge is also changing, because the rhythms in which society advances are faster and faster and increasingly demanding. Knowledge that is now up to date will in the very near future be old fashion and useless.
Learning in discussion groups is also a very efficient way of learning because while people are discussing , they are putting forward their insights, doubts and are making the learning process visible to other people. With this cooperation, the group members can profit from each other findings and also learn how to learn. There aren’t bad learning strategies in themselves , but there are strategies that work better in particular contexts.
With the nature of knowledge changing so rapidly and irreversible so do the learning strategies change. Some change implicitly. For instance young people nowadays are multitask – they can do many things at the same time – and bricoleurs – have the ability to find something and are able to build something else they need or find important -. Some learning strategies are to be learn and improved in more formal learning contexts. However learning is regarded as a never-ending process. Thus, everyone must update their previous knowledge and move on to adapt to new jobs or simple new ways of doing things.
As for the instructional design of cooperative learning based courses they are quite demanding because encouraging cooperative learning methodology is a difficult skill. However, they are feasible and the new group communication technologies open many new and challenging possibilities for delivering knowledge and making it.
Reference bibliography and sites
Knowing Knowledge by George Siemens ( 2006 ) ( last accessed Feb.7th)
I think it is worth reading, because it brings some interesting insights to the way communication and the learning process is changing and how important cooperation and learning networks are in our society today and in the future.
It attempts to redefine the concepts of information , knowledge, learning and teaching.
All knowledge is information but not all information is knowledge”
The focus of the book is on knowledge but it has some very interesting points of view regarding the way people communicate and learn in our society today. Words like sharing, networks, connectivism come hand in hand with individuals, personal, self.
As in the cooperative freedom theory, the role of the CMCs are of capital importance to make it all possible.
In this article entitle Cooperative Learning the term ” cooperative learning is defined and based on a wide bibliography the author defends that there is much to be learnt and substantial learning gains by interacting in group work namely higher productivity and personal achievements and improved social skills. Although this article is not referring to distance learning in particularly , it is worth reading because it face to face group interaction as similarities with distance learning group interaction as we can see from the conclusions drawn by Alan Dennis and Joseph Valacich in the article Rethinking Media Richness – Towards a Theory of Media Syncronicity (1999) published in Proceedings of the 32nd Hawaii International Conference on System .( last accessed Feb. 7th)
In this article the authors discuss the characteristics of different media and the way they allow group work to be done more efficiently and they come to the conclusion that group performance will improve in time not only because gradually group members become more proficient in using different CMCs but because they establish relationships and methods of work. The emphasis in the relationships is crucial for a task to be accomplished successfully.
In a short monograph entitled Cooperative Learning: Increasing College Faculty Instructional Productivity by David W. Johnson ,(1992) the relevance goes to the instructional design of cooperative learning. Teacher’s instructions to lead and encourage group work are here discussed and cooperative learning is defined clearly:
To be cooperative, a group must have clear positive interdependence, members must promote each other’s learning and success face to face, hold each other personally and individually accountable to do his or her fair share of the work, use appropriately the interpersonal and small-group skills needed for cooperative efforts to be successful, and process as a group how effectively members are working together. These five essential components must be present for small-group learning to be truly cooperative.
Furthermore, the author argues that cooperative learning is not the easiest way to teach but it is certainly one of the most productive.
A list of the forty-four gains of collaborative online learning made by Ted Panitz can be consulted at http://www.gdrc.org/kmgmt/c-learn/44.html. This list offers a wide view on the different type of skills that are involved in group work and collaboration and wich will eventually be developed through this form or learning. This item was last accessed in Feb. 7.
But although this teaching/ learning technique seems to be quite a treasure of skills development, implementing it isn’t not easy. Many mistakes can be made by teachers even with the best of intentions. In the article Cooperative Learning Methods: A Meta-Analysis, by David W. Johnson, Roger T. Johnson, and Mary Beth Stanne (2000) published a set of conclusions on what can go wrong with this methodology.
Here is a list of the most common obstacles to effective cooperative learning and teaching. In spite of the obstacles mentions cooperative and collaborative learning are being developed within learning communities.
In the article Connectivism –A learning theory for the digital age (first publishedin dec.2004/ updated in 2005) George Siemens analyses briefly the most representative learning theories – behaviorism, cognitivism and construtivism, and points out their inadequacy to today society learning requirements. However, connectivism seems to be more adequate and more in tune with those requirements. The need to learn in real life contexts which are by its very nature more messy and complex. The need to be always innovative and creative. Connectivism by its own characteristics helps foster different ways of acquiring knowledge within a learning community. Although “the starting point of connectivism is the individual”, the learning process is developed within a learning community in a never ending circular movement that goes from the individual to the community and from the community to the individual. And ” This cycle of knowledge development allows learners to remain current in their field through connections they have formed”. This feature is particular important to meet the need of being always up to date. Some key thoughts in this article are:
“Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today”
“When knowledge is needed but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill.”
Life long learning is required. So, how can individual be up-to-date and manage all this requirements with their personal and family life? That is challenge for higher education institutions.
In the article, published in DEOSNEWS
Vol. 3 No. 2, Cooperative Freedom: An Online Education Theory
, Morten Paulsen (1993) presents an adequate solution for this challenge: By making the most out of communication technologies and group based learning ( learning communities) it is possible to draw course design models where there is a balance between freedom – freedom of access, medium, pace, space and content – for the student and group cooperation. How can this be achieved in online education? Many procedure will have to be changed in order to make this possible. But the important is that this is possible and feasible. In this article the author explains how is this feasible and which procedures must be changed from the institutional and teacher’s part to provide the foundations to implement cooperative freedom.
Another interesting an worth while reading article about the advantages group based learning and the way younger people learn – the digital generation- that supports the value of group based learning through the use of CMCs is Growing Up Digital – How the web Changes, Education and the ways people learn by John Seely Brown . Here some interesting concepts such as learning ecology, help-mentors, multitask, bricoleur are put forward and discussed in a new light. In this article the author presents some experiences and studies done to search for effective learning ways and he reaches the conclusion that group based learning, small discussion groups are one of the best learning strategies both for younger and adult people.
An interesting blog regarding these isues is Connectivism by George Siemens.
This entry was updated and reformulated as required to comply with the assignement for unit 4 , activity 1