Discussion: March 14-23, 2005
Summing-up: March 24-25, 2005
Moderators and Summarisers:
William R. Klemm
Texas A&M University, USA
Internet-based training and education typically relies heavily on the use of Web “bulletin boards,” also often called “discussion boards.” The purpose of such boards is to allow learners to post opinions or to respond to questions provided by the instructor. But what these boards do NOT do seems to go unrecognized.
And just what is it that discussion boards do not do? In general, we can say that discussion boards do not exploit the full range of opportunities that can be provided for interaction among learners and between learners and instructor. Contemporary models of exemplary pedagogical practice include constructivism and cooperative learning. Neither of these are supported well by discussion boards, but are well supported by the seldom-used environment of shared-document Web conferencing. In shared-document conferencing, learners work with application files such as documents, spreadsheets, and Power Point presentations. They can check these out and make changes in the files, provided that they have the requisite application software on their local PCs.
Constructivist learning requires students to build their own knowledge and understanding, typically by doing some task and producing some kind of deliverable. The deliverable could take the form of a report, a plan or recommendations, a literature review or Web quest, a data sheet, problem-solving exercises, insight challenges, a presentation, Web pages, portfolios, or other tangible materials that emerge as learners construct their understanding of the required subject matter. How can a learner do that with a discussion board?
Cooperative learning requires a group of learners operating as a team to help each other learn. Paradoxically, though seldom used in E-learning, cooperative learning works better on-line than it does in face-to-face classrooms. The reasons include: 1) All students can find the time to do their share of the work. No longer do they have the excuse of conflicting work or study schedules; 2) Thinking is more focused and clear because everything is done in writing; 3) Everybody is more accountable. Everyone sees what everyone else is doing (and not doing); 4) All inputs are organized and archived for later review and update.
For a group to share documents and application files on-line they could simply e-mail the files to each member of the group for their inputs, revisions, and edits. However, this means that there are as many versions of the file as there are members of the group. As a file goes through multiple edits by multiple group members, it can quickly become impractical to track the versions and incorporate the ideas from all versions into a single final file. In the shared-document world, all files are maintained as single copies on a file server. Unlike the “messages” in a discussion board, the shared-document files can be full-featured, multimedia files that members of the group can check out for insertion of new data and text, editing, and annotation. The advantages include:
This is intended only as a brief introduction to constructivism and cooperative learning, enough I hope to get us started in this discussion. For those who wish to explore my writings on the application of constructivism and cooperative learning to E-learning, a reading list of some of my papers is appended.
So why are these models of good instructional practice so seldom used in E-learning? And what can we do about it? These are the themes of this on-line forum. Hopefully, the input of the respondents will help to identify the causes of the problem and in so doing suggest ways to advance teaching practices in E-learning environments.
Several questions for discussion seem to emerge. I invite the discussion participants to submit their views and insights on the following:
Klemm, W. R. 2005. Use and mis-use of technology for online, asynchronous collaborative learning, p. 172-200. In Computer-supported Collaborative Learning in Higher Education, edited by Tim S. Roberts. Idea Group Publishing. Hershey , Pa.
Klemm, W. R. 2002a. Software issues for applying conversation theory for effective collaboration via the Internet. Proceedings of the 2002 International Conference on Advances in Infrastructure for e-Business, e-Education, e-Science, and e-Medicine on the Internet. July 29-Aug. 4, Rome , Italy .
Klemm, W. R. 2002b. Extending the pedagogy of threaded-topic discussions. The Technology Source. Sept/Oct
Klemm, W. R. 2002c. FORUM for case study learning. J. College Science Teaching. 31 (5): 298-302.
Klemm, W. R. 1998. Eight ways to get students more engaged in online conferences. The Higher Education Journal. 26 (1): 62-64.
Klemm, W. R. 1998a. New ways to teach neuroscience: integrating two teaching styles with two instructional technologies. Medical Teacher. 20: 364-370.
Klemm, W. R. 1998b. Using computer conferencing in teaching. Community College J. Res. & Practice. 22: 507-518.
Klemm, W. R. 1996. Enriching computer-mediated group learning by coupling constructivism with collaborative learning. J. Instructional Science and Technology. March. Accessible on-line at http://cwis.usq.edu.au/electpub/e-jist/klemm.htm.
Klemm, W. R. 1995. Computer conferencing as a cooperative learning environment. Cooperative Learning & College Teaching. 5 (3): 11-13.
Klemm, W. R. and Snell, J. R. 1994. Teaching via networked PCs: what's the best medium? Technological Horizons in Education Journal. 22: 95-98.