How is learning presumed to occur within the context of Web 2.0?
It’s simple. Web 2.0 provides the availability of resources and the opportunity for interaction, which in turn support social learning and the constructivist approach. This is not to say that independent or individual learning cannot or does not occur online. It just means that there are now other options available. Interaction occurs with the material, with peers, with the instructor/facilitator (see Garrison’s Community of Inquiry Model) who acts as a guide and resource (as opposed to the content expert frequently found in the classroom).
It sounds great in theory, doesn’t it? There have been ample comments in the discussion pertaining to what Learning 2.0 should or could be and what it actually or usually is, however. Truthfully, I added that one of my most difficult challenges as a learner studying adult and distance education is reconciling the chasm between what is presented as best practice and what is provided for my own learning experience. To me, this divide is explained by change, by new and different.
Liberated from the limitations of time and place, Web 2.0 allows us to interact whenever and wherever access and a device are available. Learning is no longer confined to a classroom with an expert and provided only to those found to be acceptable candidates, which was previously seen as the only option available. Not only that, but information is no longer limited to print form – newspapers, magazines, books, libraries. When was the last time you picked up a phone book to look up a number or address? Do you even have a residential phone line anymore?
So, now that access and the availability of resources are no longer controlled(?), anyone (who wants to) can learn. The problem rests in assumptions. Assumptions that learning cannot occur outside of a classroom with a content expert. Assumptions that learning is the same online as it is in the classroom – that a recorded lecture can simply replace a live lecture – and that there is nothing more to consider. Of course, the next question we have to ask is how effective is that lecture for learning to begin with?
What’s missing in this equation is the leveraging of the unique capabilities of the online environment for the purposes of teaching and learning. Study distance education and you’ll quickly learn about the flexibility of the delivery method, as well as the complexity (and expense) of team design and the necessity to match technology to support learning objectives. An online component may add value to any program of formal or informal study. However, whether a single activity or a complete course, the design must reflect consideration of the online learning environment, both the capabilities and the challenges found there.