Cultural Dimensions of E-learning

Culture determines not only how one thinks, how one behaves and reacts to what happens around him/her but also what one grasps as essential to learn. Cultural effects on learners’ experience can be profound, particularly in the era when the size and scope of cross-cultural online learning is growing. Vatrapi (2008) holds that cultural perception affects social behavior, cognitive processes, the way s/he deals with e-learning technologies and the knowledge received from e-learning system. Therefore, with the rising popularity of global e-learning courses, it is indispensable to design and instruct effective e-learning programs that culturally accommodate the learners’ preferences and learning outcomes (Rogers and Wang 2009). This blog post will outline the cultural aspects of designing online learning environment by explaining the following models: Three dimensional ADDIE model (Thomas et al 2002); Multiple cultures model (MCM) (Henderson2007), and Cultural adaptation process (CAP) model (Edmundson2007). But firstly, I will outline three key and basic areas of online course design that can be leveraged to support cultural diversity: Access, content and pedagogy.

Students have to be able to access the experience and the knowledge. As this relates connectivity and technology, students have to get online, access the course website, download the types of files that course requires. Access also involves scheduling. The times when classes begin, assignment deadlines, requirements for responses, awareness of policies, all these can affect student participation in an online course. Language also appears to be an access issue. Courses mean to offer a variety of tools for communication, synchronous or asynchronous, written or oral. Access also involves interface design issues. That is students from different academic traditions need clear structure to navigate the content (Al-Hunaiyyan et al., 2009).

Content needs to be relevant, as it is directly related to student motivation. Instructor uses examples, case studies from a variety of different cultural contexts. It is difficult for instructors to know exactly what is appropriate for students. Thus, course researches should be developed together with students contributing to the core class resources.

Pedagogy support diverse learners and should create opportunities for meaningful interaction and build community. Humanizing the online environment, creating student introductory pages, offering various communication tools provide opportunities for students to collaborate a meaningful content. Besides students come from different academic cultures and using a variety of pedagogies increases the likelihood that content will be familiar to some extent which can make students feel more comfortable (McFayden et al. 2004).

 

Culture-based e-learning models

A number of models have been proposed that could help designers of learning to consider the effects of culture on learners’ experiences. Thomas et al. (2002) enriched iterative and multi-directional approach to the traditional ADDIE (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate) instructional design model with the third cultural’ dimension. Three variables- intention, interaction and introspection- form the basis of this ‘cultural’ dimension. Intentional parameter of learning reveals that there is intention to examine the project methodically before advancing it and this pushes the designer to consider and make their cultural bias explicit. The interaction element incorporates collaboration of instructional designer, subject matter expert and the user during the whole model stages to assist to cultivate culturally sensitive product. Lastly, introspection means that the e-learning designer goes through internalizing his/her thoughts toward the cultures represented in the instruction (Thomas et al. 2002).

Henderson (2007, p.131) suggests a‘multiple cultures model’ (MCM) which enables educators to deliver ‘culturally-specific knowledge’ to students while conforming to the elements from the emerging academic, industry and global cultures. By concentrating on the integration of epistemological and cognitive aspects of global, national and minority cultures, Henderson (2007, p. 136) argues that students are able to be aware of how and why their own and the dominant epistemologies were constructed, what kind of effects they have on identity and how a variety of epistemologies illustrate (reveal) themselves in social, technical, medical theories.

Cultural adaptation process (CAP) model was presented by Edmundson (2007) as preliminary guideline connecting online course developers with different cultural profiles. This model assists to classify course complexity and culturally accommodate materials for specific student groups through the used content, delivery methods and communicational tools. ‘For utilizing CAP model, instruction designer would begin from left to right to identify the level of complexity, and from top to bottom for level of specificity. Five potential stages for cultural specification exist: Step 1: Evaluate course content; Step 2: Identify instructional methodology; Step 3: Classify media; Step 4: Identify learners and Step 5: Determine course adaptation plan; and each step contains four levels of complexity ‘(Edmundson 2007, p.267).

 

Above mentioned models cover only a small part of issues regarding the planning, designing and developing of culture based online education. The future research should continue for analyzing all cultural aspects of e-learning and producing effective cross-cultural learning initiatives.

 

Reference

Al-Hunaiyyan, A., & Al-Sharhan, S. (2009). The design of multimedia blended elearning systems: Cultural considerations. 3rd International Conference on Signals, Circuits and Systems, p. 1-5.

Edmundson, A. (2007). The cultural adaptation process (CAP) Model: Designing e-learning for another culture. In A. Edmundson (Ed.), Globalized e-learning cultural challenges, pp. 267–290. Hershey, PA: Idea Group, Inc.

Henderson, L. (2007). Theorizing a multiple cultures instructional design model for e-learning and e-teaching. In A.Edmundson (Ed.), Globalized e-learning cultural challenges,pp. 130–153. Hershey, PA: Idea Group, Inc.

McFayden L. P., Roche, J., Doff, S., Reeder, K., & Chase, M. (2004). Communicating across cultures in cyberspace: A bibliographical review of intercultural communication online. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers Distributor.

Rogers, P. C., & Wang, M. J. (2009). Cross-cultural issues in online learning. In P. Rogers, & G. Berg (Eds), Encyclopedia of Distance Learning (2nd ed), p. 527-536. PA: IGI publishing.

Thomas, M., Mitchell, M., & Joseph, R. (2002). The third dimension of ADDIE: A cultural embrace. TechTrends, Vol. 46:2, p. 40-45.

Vatrapi, R.V. (2008). Cultural considerations in computer supported collaborative learning. Research and practice in technology enhanced learning, Vol. 3:2, p.159-201.

How Should Gamification Reshape Learning?

‘Gamification is the use of logical skills, game mechanics and game thinking outside of video games to engage users and solve real problems’ (Deterding 2011, p 9.). The idea is to make education more engaging and meaningful to students inside and outside of school. As video games become increasingly relevant in the lives of children and adults, regardless of gender, educators would serve to better motivate themselves using the same tactics video games used to reinforce and encourage further play.

In educational context, each stage or period of a game can be perceived as an instructional platform which the student has to succeed in. Each game stage contains numerous tasks for realizing pedagogical aims. The stages end with a final assignment which integrates all the abilities student has developed from the previous stages.If the last task is accomplished successfully, the student qualifies to the next level and secures a well-deserved victory. In this process, the game functions as a type of schooling in which each stage reminds class assignments and victory stands for getting grade. Is this approach effective?

This blog post will focus on the problems associated with original gamification from the aspect of the implicit and explicit nature of the tasks and stress the importance of the user-centered gameful design approach.

 

Student-centered gamification

Goal-oriented learning is mainly based on the goals set by teachers for controlling the environment in which the students learn (Jones 2013). Students can get bored of similar and predictable goals very easily which will lead to demotivation process. Goal directed learning in original gamification is restricted in terms of providing choices in learning. Alternatively, Nickolson (2012) argues that one of the ways to let students have more meaningful gamification experiences is to give them more freedom with selecting their own goals. For this purpose, he offers the theory of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) which can assist instructors to create course content relevant for various groups of learners. ‘The underlying concept of UDL applies to the creation of meaningful and user-centered gamification’’ (Nickolson2012, p.3). UDL comprises three strategies – ‘what’, ‘how’ and why’ strategies which are the major focus points of Gamification (Nickolson2012, p.3-4). The ‘what’ strategy is introducing various ways of presenting the content of learning. The ‘how’ strategy is designing different activities which help students explore and master the content of learning. The third ‘why’ strategy is offering an intrinsically satisfying motivational design in which students (players) become more engaged and motivated.

However, while using UDL, educators should not separate organization’s objectives from a player’s intrinsic motivation. Instead the focus of user centered gamification should be the integration of the goals set by teachers and the student’s own goals. This allows teachers to activate the intrinsic motivation of students using player-generated content.

 

The increasing focus on extrinsic rewards

As pre-packaged, neatly-structured gamification platforms have become an attractive way of instruction, undesirable effects of concentrating on extrinsic rewards have become more and more obvious. Due to the domination of ill-considered motivational logistics (mechanics), the students are doing the assignment to achieve the result rather than coming up with creative solutions (Wingman 2013). Original form of gamification psychologically undermines the behavior. The focus of the learning process is basically obtaining rewards; therefore, student interest is shifted from learning information to simply achieving the result as soon as possible. Furthermore, under this scenario, tasks function like drugs since the players become addicted to the desire to level up which triggers undesired behavior (Jiang 2011, p.4). ‘Extrinsic rewards make a student a spectator of progress rather than autonomous agent surfing the learning curve. They belittle the tasks by applying a value to them’ (Wingman 2013).

Nicholson (2012) points out that a key part of meaningful gamification design process is in the engagement and feedback loops. It is not a leadership board; but the content itself is where the learning process happens. A sense of development originates from informational feedback that approves the validity of three essential elements of ‘Drive’: autonomy, mastery and purpose (Wingman 2013). Thus instead of concentrating on external rewards as a key method of motivation, a new game mechanism should be designed and developed which integrates well into the non-game setting and creates relevant connections between aspects of the non-game activity and student’s goals and desires.

 

In conclusion, meaningful gamification design of education needs to understand and integrate teacher’s objectives with the student’s intrinsic motivation and place player objectives over the goals of game designers. For this purpose, it is necessary for schools to substitute the original style of gamification with more user centered design since it creates a relevant game design philosophy which triggers student engagement by providing meaningful feedback and reinforcement for learners.

 

Reference

Deterding, S., Dixon, D., Khaled, R., &Nacke, L. (2011). From game design elements to gamefulness: Defining ‘gamification’. Proceedings from MindTrek ’11. Tampere, Finland: ACM., p 9-15.

Jiang, K. (2011). The dangers of gamification: why we shouldn’t build a game layer on top of the world. http://krystlejiang.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/the-dangers-of-gamification.pdf

Jones, S. (2013). Gamification vs. game-based learning – theories, methods, and controversies. Metro State University of Denver (MSUD) Symposium for teaching and learning with technology conference 2013. In Slideshare. http://www.slideshare.net/autnes/gamification-vsgamebased-learning-theories-methods-and-controversies-by-sherry-jones

Nicholson, S. (2012). A user-centered theoretical framework for meaningful gamification. Paper presented at Games+Learning+Society 8.0, Madison, WI.  http://scottnicholson.com/pubs/meaningfulframework.pdf

Wingman, P. (2013). Gamification – extrinsic vs. intrinsic rewards. In Slideshare. http://www.slideshare.net/playfulwingmen/gamification-extrinsic-vs-intrinsic-rewards-17681228

 

Fundamentals of Blended Learning

Since online learning is becoming a rapidly growing form of education, many of the traditional institutions and teachers utilize it in their classrooms. At the same time, the instructors do not reject the traditional, so called Brick and Mortar Education model, as it also provides students with important skills. Therefore, blended learning is becoming a new instructional design approach that institutions use to improve organizational efficiency and student achievement.

‘Blended Learning is the organic integration of thoughtfully selected and complementary face-to-face and online approaches and techniques’ (Garisson and Vaughan, 2008). That is blended learning is associated with convergence of the traditional face-to-face learning with distributed learning ideas and new technologies. ‘This type of learning is no more about reshaping and enhancing the traditional classroom that it is about making e-learning more acceptable’ (Garisson and Vaughan 2008). In regards to empowerment, technology can have the power to communicate with others, assess large amounts of information, review multiple viewpoints, and manipulate tools to help them be more productive. In education context it means an engaging and motivating atmosphere where learning is self-driven fostering both creativity and analytical thinking and preparing students with 21st century skills, that will prepare them for higher education and global workforce. In order to better understand a transitioning process of comprehensive, traditionally structured schools to a blended program, in this post, I will take a look at major indicators of blending learning and the general classification of blended learning models.

 

Major indicators of Blended Learning

A Strong connection between online and offline work. The works students complete online need to have a direct obvious connection to the work completed face-to face which could simply be supplemental or enrichment type of activity (Garisson and Kanuka 2004). What the student is doing in the online environment needs to inform what is happening in the classroom. For examples, online games can be a nice addition to the blended classroom if those activities are integrally connected to face-to-face classroom.

Increased student-student and student-teacher collaboration and increased student control over time, pace, place and path of learning. Delivering content and activities online typically gives students more control over their learning (Singh 2003). When information is online, students can access the content from home for review, or students viewing contents in class can revisit and replay that information. Students who need more time to process can take that time to really reflect before sharing their ideas in an online discussion. Teachers can post a variety of instructional materials and add multimedia and hence give students a choice as to the path they take to master a topic. Online classrooms provide students with more opportunities to share their thinking and appreciate the thoughts of their peers. In these environments, students increasingly look to one another for feedback as opposed to simply the teacher.

 

Blended Learning Models

The blended learning implementation goes through 4 phases including planning. During this phase, school leaders set goals and select or develop a school model. After planning decisions have been made, school communities can then implement and improve on their blended learning models. A recent study by Innosight (Stalker and Horn 2012) identifies 4 general categorizations of blended learning models: Rotation Model, Flex Model, Self-Blend Model, and Enriched Virtual Model

The Rotation Model engages “a program in which a given course or subject, students rotate on fixed schedules or at the teacher’s discretion between learning modalities, at least one of which is online learning” (Stalker and Horn 2012). For instance, in a class rotation model, students are divided into smaller groups and every 20 minutes the group may rotate between stations: one station is with the teacher, two stations are with the computer and fourth station may be guided practice. In this pedagogical setting, the instructor has the ability to monitor the whole class, manage behavior and maintain the class culture.

The Flex Model involves the “content and instruction [being] delivered primarily through the Internet, students move on an individually customized, fluid schedule among learning modalities, and the teacher of record is on site.” (Stalker and Horn 2012). In this model, the students work mostly on the computers and a teacher of record might pull out a group of students for seminar, intervention or direct instruction.  Students in flex schools move at their own pace through an online curriculum and benefit from on-site support and application. The roles of teachers have been redefined to be coaches for students to help pull them out into different experiences whether it is group projects, or small group instruction.

In Self –Blend model, students take advantage of opportunities to take additional online courses to supplement their traditional face-to-face course. Self-Blending is often used by schools to develop learning, broaden course choices, provide Advanced Placement offerings or giving individual support to struggling students.

The Enhanced Virtual Model provides a “whole-school experience in which within each course students divide their time between attending a brick and mortar school and learning remotely using online delivery of content and instruction” (Stalker and Horn 2012). This type of approach is very attractive to the school instructors, since it provides a significant level of accountability and supervision which is difficult to achieve in a traditional online learning model. With the help of technology, a teacher of record can manage and create a favorable learning experience for students.

All these models are rethinking the traditional school, providing students with more control over their learning and giving students more targeted instruction.

 

Reference

Garrison, D. R., and Kanuka, H. (2004). Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 7, 95–105

Garisson, D. R. and N. D. Vaughan (2008) Blended learning in higher education. Framework, principles and guidelines. SanFrancisco, Jossey-Bass.

Singh, H (2003)  Building Effective Blended Learning Programs, Educational Technology, Vol.43, No.6, pp.51-54.

Stalker, H., & Horn, M. B. (2012). Classifying K–12 blended learning. Mountain View, CA: Innosight Institute, Inc. http://www.innosightinstitute.org/innosight/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Classifying-K-12-blended-learning2.pdf

 

 

 

 

Utilization of Connectivism into Social Networking Websites in the Example of Facebook

In this paper, I will try to introduce a perspective of integrating a Social Network website ‘Facebook’ into educational setting using Connectivism theory as a major pedagogical direction.

Students can be part of learning process in different places at different times; at work, in classroom, in community etc. Yet, in a conventional classroom setting, students sit passively, while instructors deliver a lecture. However, during the last two decades, this traditional approach to the pedagogical process has changed and students have followed both formal and informal methods to broaden their cognitive map.

In modern period, the changing ways of production and exchange of knowledge are key elements affecting the creation of the educational settings as well. In parallel, the current situation pushed educational scientists to explore up-to-date learning theories and models which could reveal the dynamics of educational processes (McWilliam & Haukka, 2008).

As an alternative theory, Connectivism attempts to portray learning as a construct in a highly networked era. Connectivism is a relatively new theory explaining the essential characteristics and specificity of the learning process in the digital age. Fundamentals of the theory were developed by George Siemens. According to Siemens and Tittenberger (2009, p.11), Connectivism refers to the view that “knowledge and cognition are distributed across networks of people and technology, and learning is the process of connecting, growing, and navigating those networks”.

Siemens (2004) assumes that the exponential growth of knowledge requires nonlinear models for study (process) and knowledge (state). Expanding access to knowledge in the age of network technology requires a revision of the way we teach and learn. In contrast to traditional notions, Connectivism is characterized by several fundamental views on the process of teaching and learning:

  • Teaching is a process occurring in an uncertain, vague and changing setting in which constant movement of fundamental elements happen. Therefore, the teaching process itself is unstable and dynamic and cannot be fully under the control of an individual (instructor).
  • Knowledge is not stored in the head of an individual and cannot be transferred to it through transmission channels. Knowledge is in the network, and the key skill required for cognitive activity in the modern world appears to be the ability to see connections, to recognize patterns and see the meanings between the areas of knowledge, concepts and ideas.
  • Cognition is the process of connecting ‘specialized sources of information’, the process of establishing a network that can be supported from the outside. This kind of integration of information nodes allows us to rise to a higher level of understanding.

Baggaley (2012) rehashes the Connectivism literature and comes to conclusion that Connectivism is a relevant theory for illustrating the recent need for re-evaluating the asynchronous instructional methods. Essentially, Connectivism advocates that teachers and students who share an online platform should interact and collaborate more directly and more frequently.

It is a known fact that in the 21st century, the means of generation and dissemination of knowledge vary significantly. We can even argue that a new source of collective intelligence appears to be cyberspace. Yet, the internet has evolved into which is often referred to as Web 2.0 technologies. It is a series of technological improvements allowing a person to follow the changes in knowledge and learn the most updated version of knowledge. Without going into an analysis of the term, I will emphasize the main feature of Web 2.0: With the help of a wide variety of web-related communication technologies such as blogs, wikis, online social networking, virtual worlds and other social media forms, the users are no longer passive consumers, instead they have become active generators of information.

Among these Web 2.0 technologies, Facebook is the most common known social network website aiming people to communicate with their friends and exchange multimedia-based information conveniently. As of March 2013, Facebook has more than 1.2 billion of users around the world. Fifty percent of total users actively login the site every day. The percentage of millennials (15-34 years old) that use Facebook is 66%. Size of user data that Facebook stores is more than 300 petabytes. There are about a billion of locations (pages, groups, activities etc.) in Facebook where users interact with each other. The average number of friends per Facebook user is 130 (Statistic Brain 2014).

The beneficial aspect of Facebook for education is that it can easily and inexpensively be used without substantial support from universities. Although the resources presented by Facebook to students are free, they possess significant functions for educational purposes. Learning through Facebook helps students form 21st century skills related to not only locating information but also processing it and creating new information based on it.

Moreover, it develops communication skills, reinforces participation as well as social commitment, bolsters peer support, and ensures realization of education based on collaborative strategies. All the listed features make Facebook as an excellent platform for understanding and implementing the Connectivist learning theory.

A notable illustration in this field was introduced by Heather Haverback of the Towson University. She created The Facebook Group titled ‘Female of 324 Reading Methods Group’ for having social interaction with teacher candidates in a reading class. This group functioned as a platform for delivering relevant information, discussing relevant issues, critically analyzing opinions, asking questions and supporting viewpoints. Besides, the researcher proposed the establishment of book clubs for encouraging students read, engaging in book debates and utilizing social networks for sharing readings (Haverback 2009, p. 34). Haverback also stressed that the social networks might be beneficial for the modules like History and Literature, arranging cultural guides, and programming applications.

Convincing proof of the necessity of social interaction in the learning process is presented in the study by Richard Light from Harvard. Light discovered that one of the strongest factors for student success in education is the ability to create or participate in small study groups. According to him, students, who studied in groups at least once a week, were better trained in the subject than students who were doing so individually (Light 2001). Therefore, in social learning process, the teachers’ focus should be shifted from subject content to the interaction of students around which this content is based.

Social networks facilitate the development of e-learning and the whole education process offering new technical and methodological solutions. For example, in October 2010, the London School of Business and Finance has initiated the transformation of traditional classroom teaching to on-line education with the help of world-wide famous social network website ‘Facebook’. Students from all over the world can sign up for online lessons absolutely for free and take classes at their own pace. Study programs are recorded in a high-quality video format. In addition to viewing the lectures, students can maintain connection with the teaching staff; participate in discussion panels to which leaders of various business and finance industries are also invited. Technical realization of this idea was simple. School specialists designed a special application for «Facebook» – LSBF Global MBA ™ http://apps.facebook.com/lsbfglobalmba/. Thus on the basis of existing application product (Facebook), a very accessible and understandable system is created.

To summarize, Facebook can be used to improve communication by allowing students to easily message teachers and other students with questions and by getting involved in group discussions, hence improving the quality of collaborative learning process; it can become news source by posting status updates or following other media and prominent leaders. Therefore, in order to draw on the benefits of Connectivist principles, it is important to inform both learners and instructors about the usage of social media websites.

 

Reference

Baggaley, J. (2012). ‘Thesis and antithesis’. Distance Education, 33(1), 117-123.

Haverback, H. R. ‘Facebook: Uncharted territory in a reading education classroom’. Reading Today, 2009.

McWilliam, E. & Haukka, S. (2008). ‘Educating the creative workforce: New directions for twenty-first century schooling’. British Educational Research Journal, 34(5), 651–666.

Richard J. Light. Making the most of college: students speak their minds. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved on 14 June 2010 from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Siemens, G. & Tittenberger, P. (2009). Handbook for emerging technologies for learning. Retrieved on 25 July 2011 from http://umanitoba.ca/learning_technologies/cetl/HETL.pdf

Statistic Brain (January 1, 2014). ‘Facebook Statistics’ viewed 22 March, 2014 http://www.statisticbrain.com/facebook-statistics/.