New learning environments

Our final #EDENchat of 2015 focused on new learning environments, namely MOOCs, flipped classrooms and blended learning methods. It was one of the busiest we have seen, and the archive of the conversation can be viewed here. Those who participated shared their experiences of MOOCs and flipped learning both as teachers and as learners. One of the key discussion points was around the nature of these approaches and their effectiveness as learning environments. Some debated the merits of MOOCs, high attrition rates and the legitimacy of participating without completing a course. An inevitable comparison was made between the earlier cMOOCs (which were largely connectivist and student centred in their ethos) and the later xMOOCs (which are more commercially oriented and arguably less student centred). The merits and limitations of these are debated in finer detail here.

Other issues were raised around student motivation and the impetus required to sustain focus when away from tutors/parent institution. There were calls to provide students with incentive to persist in their studies through enhanced forms of interaction (with content, other students and teachers) and more authentic learning and assessment activities. Some raised the issue of lurking and peripheral participation, but the point was also made that wherever there are open and free events, we will find those who lurk in the background.

The final question asked whether new learning environments such as MOOCs, flipped classes and blended learning represented a new or emerging pedagogy. Opinion was divided on this, but what do you think? You views are welcome in the comments box below.

Generally the Twitter timeline was fast moving and thought provoking. We plan to continue to momentum of this chat series and have already started putting together a programme of #EDENchat sessions for 2016. The dates and topics will be announced on this blog and on the EDEN website soon.

Photo by Mark Brannan on Flickr

NB: #EDENchat is supported by the European Distance and E-learning Network

Creative Commons License
New learning environments by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


David Hopkins said…
My first full #EDENchat's last night, and a wonderful mix of experiences and perspectives from everyone involved. Thanks Steve for facilitating.

In answer to the "The final question asked whether new learning environments such as MOOCs, flipped classes and blended learning represented a new or emerging pedagogy" question ... I'll repeat my tweet:

"A6 no, just new/different direction of same approach based on new/different tools available #EDENchat @timbuckteeth" -

I believe that change has happened, and some of it has been quite dramatic. But, now the fuss has/is dying down and we're seeing these changes in the light of experience I think we're just seeing a progression of concepts rather than out-and-out change. Learning is still learning. Teachers are, for the most part, still teachers, in the same way that students are, for the most part, still students, albeit with more and easier access to knowledge, alternative opinions, and greater distractions.

I hope that helps, and thx again!
Steve Wheeler said…
Great that you were able to join us last night David and thanks for your contributions. I tend to agree that learning is still learning, but I would argue that teaching is changing - or at least the role of the teacher is changing. It has to do so really, if we are to advance pedagogy. We have new tools and we have new opportunities. In forms of learning where the students spend long periods away from their tutors and their parent institutions, the environment is differenyt, motivation levels are not as high and the separation from peers may also be a significant factor. In my experience as a 'distance teacher' I have had to adapt my role and perform new functions I previously may not have needed to perform in traditional pedagogy. For example, my responses needed to be more explicit, due to reduction of social cues. I needed to be more focused and concise in my communication with students too. I would be interested in your, and other people's views on this and hopefully we can explore this question in future chats and discussion.
Jude Sanders said…
I was interested in your reflection on distance teaching. I've also reflected extensively on my experience of distance teaching and learning. I agree with much of what you say above but I wonder if, rather than requiring the teacher to perform new functions instead, teaching at a distance provides an opportunity to use approaches they already had knowledge of but hadn't thought to use. Because of the absence of social cues, distance learning requires the teacher to be more thoughtful in their approach and think more carefully about how to have an impact on students learning. It forces the teacher to bring their skills to the forefront and think more from a pedagogical perspective rather than just following the tried and tested routines of folk theories and tacit knowledge. I'm not sure the pedagogical techniques have really changed but perhaps teaching at a distances forces you to actually use more of your pedagogical repetoire than traditional teaching. For example without face to face interaction more attention needs to be given to how to support and guide learning, especially which questions to ask (how and when to ask them) and the activities to use to guide learning. Teachers also need to consider how to perform traditional teacher functions e.g. feedback and assessment and questions such as how to achieve formative assessment and how to provide constructive and formative feedback need to be answered. These are great opportunities for teachers to re examine their practice and reflect critically on what works and why.

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