E-Learning Generations

Since I’m interested in learning management systems, I thought Stephen Downes did a great job distinguishing between how generation zero and generation one view online learning – is it more about the content or the interaction? It’s a fascinating topic I never considered when thinking about the evolution of technology.  He thoroughly explained how MOOC’s bring the two generations together. Downes describes how selecting content relevant to one’s personal preferences and context allows students to create an individual perspective (Downes, 2012). He further argues that in a connectivist course, working with content does not mean memorizing the information, but engaging in the “process of creation” (Downes, 2012). Stephen’s ability to weave generational history and online learning together was enlightening to say the least.

However, I keep referring to self-directed learning theory every time I read about online learning because most of the literature suggests that learners in a virtual environment operate at a high level of self direction and instructors act as facilitators as opposed to teachers. Most college freshmen in my classes need lots of guidance, direction, and support from me as their teacher/advisor. So how does online learning in the 21st century work with less autonomous learners? I struggle to relate the readings to my student population.

I kept going back to Downes’ ideas about learning management systems and agree that they are content focused. I use the archaic Blackboard mainly as a tool to deliver content to my students. I am interested in Downes’ e-learning 2.0 theory.  E-learning 2.0 is based on the fourth generation of technology, otherwise known as web 2.0, which explains how content management systems interact with social networking sites. Social networking sites are actually cloud storage sites that store my personal data or as Downs describes it – “data being applied to networking” (Downes, 2012). I specifically googled Elgg since I had never heard of them and Downes called it “novel technology to this day.” Elgg is a social network software for education. The software gives companies the components to create its own online social environment through blogging, filesharing, networking, etc. I couldn’t help but think – could this be a knowledge sharing platform? Like I shared in my intro blog, I’d love a platform that is capable of capturing tacit knowledge of employees. A place where employees can quickly go to find information shared by colleagues. I like the idea of “in time learning” – needing to know something when the time arises. In a typical work day, employees like myself are so busy and don’t take the time to learn something new until presented with a problem. The quick solution could be to use Elgg as a knowledge sharing platform. A byproduct of knowledge sharing could also be connectivity and creating a sense of online community. A social networking site that is controlled through the organization is definitely a novel concept that has tremendous possibilities from an HRD perspective. I will admit my google research was limited to Wikipedia and the Elgg company website. Perhaps I’m not thinking of it in the right terms, but this is how I could envision a content management system interacting with networking sites from a corporate ed perspective.



6 thoughts on “E-Learning Generations

  1. I think most freshmen are used to how they were treated in high school, so it is hard to make the transition to college at first, hence the hand-holding. I believe that as they get more comfortable in their surroundings and the freedom they experience can help them grow. Of course there are the exceptions, students who struggle with the structure difference between high school and college and some students who excel from day one.

    You mentioned “time learning”. Whenever I hear this phrase I think of the internet. It is so easy nowadays to just look something up if you don’t know it. I know I’ve searched on how to fix different things on the internet or to figure out how something works. Sometimes it is hard to imagine what like was like before the internet. How did we ever survive? 🙂

    • Thanks, Katie, for your insight. I agree that so much can be researched online very quickly. What I mean by “time learning” is that knowledge that a coworker may have about a particular program that isn’t posted anywhere online or isn’t in a training manual you can quickly reference. Where is that common knowledge captured? I think it could be searchable through a knowledge management system. I’m mainly thinking of in time learning from an organizational learning perspective.

  2. Mary, I have very little experience with the orientation courses given to freshman (i.e. College 101, etc.). Are any sort of self-directed learning topics covered in these courses? Any online learning? And are there any programs (I am thinking specifically of required ones like I knew were at Randolph-Macon when I was a student there) for freshman that are struggling?

    • Yes there are – especially for the business students I advise. They are required to take 4 online 1-credit courses on digital literacy skills. For example they have to take courses on Microsoft excel, word, & database. Freshmen overwhelming complain about the self-paced nature of the courses. They are pass/fail. You only pass if you get an 80% on one test(scheduled by you when you’ve completed the modules at your own time). Students have until the end of the semester to get the modules and tests completed. I created a success guide for them but freshmen still find it challenging to not be in a course given step by step instruction by the instructor.

    • Yes, part of me thinks it can be taught and part of me thinks a lot depends on age and stage of life. As an advisor, I try to help build student’s self-efficacy, their belief they can achieve their own educational goals. We try out goal setting, design action plans, and put in place time management techniques to help them get acquainted with how to map out their own learning. It’s a steep learning curve coming straight from secondary ed. It takes lots and lots of practice. That’s also why I think our ability to be self directed learners comes with age and maturity. As college students grow, develop, and gain more life experiences, their SDL skills are greater.

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