The notion of learning models: past and current approaches

These are personal notes from a presentation given by Dr. Stylianos Hatzipanagos at the E-Developers Workshop on the 14th of December 2012. Dr Stylianos Hatzipanagos is the Head of e-Learning at the King’s Learning Institute (KLI). The presentation focused around the evolution of learning models. 

In their first years, Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) tried to replicate the conditions of the physical world (i.e., the non-interactive lecture theatre) completely ignoring the affordances of the new on-line, interconnected, digital realm. Two of the most common models were the transmission and constructivist models.

The transmission model assumes that there is a body of knowledge that people need to acquire. This is put at the forefront, allowing people to interact with it. In the constructivist model, knowledge is the result of interplay between external stimuli and internal interpretation.The goal of the learner is to acquire the “correct” interpretation.

However, by applying and experimenting with these models, educators soon realized that there is no specific causal relationship between teaching and learning. Their focus then turned to activities and Instructional Design. Instructional design is considered the process of defining desired learning outcomes, selecting content/actions for learners and organizing assessment. A final step which should be taken into consideration but (unfortunately) is usually ignored is: revising instruction in light of student reactions to content. In other words, adopting an iterative cycle of educational design and practice.

Learning activities can include: VLEs, searching the web, finding and evaluating resources, synthesising work, discussion forums, social media, manipulating data, constructing a wiki, listening to podcasts etc. The main goals of these activities should be:

  • Communication, community building
  • A need to motivate students and engage them – authenticity is a strong motivator, relevance, context, connection to the real world
  • Learners should be informed of expected  learning outcomes as soon as possible
  • Teachers should tap into students’ prior knowledge and use examples
  • Allow students to apply knowledge, reflect on what they’ve learned and extend their understanding.

On the subject of learning outcomes, it is wise to avoid goals which are general, non-measurable and subjective (i.e., open to interpretation). Learning goals should be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-oriented.  More information on SMART criteria here.

Contemporary educational experts approach the subject of pedagogy through what is defined as Learning Design. The main aim of this process revolves around planning and structuring a sequence of learning activities. This process involves the teaching practitioner, assisting them in more easily articulating their envisaged design.

Another popular learning model is the iCare model. iCare stands for:

  • Introduce the topic: not just the learning outcomes
  • Connect: not just content
  • Apply: through activities, exercises
  • Reflect: through discussions
  • Extend: provide supplemental or advanced material

iCare is an eLearning tool-kit for distance learning, helping staff in designing courses for on-line learning. Entire courses can be constructed according to iCare principles. For more details on the iCare model, click here.

What’s in store for the future of Learning models?

The new generation of VLEs will utilize special functions with which to understand learner behaviour and interactions through learning analytics and big data. Systems will utilize this information for personalized, appropriate feedback and support. New methods of assessment could include pre and post testing of student knowledge, imbuing a sense of progress and enabling the comprehension of and connection with prior knowledge. Finally, learning models should be able to capture the general attitudes of learners towards learning, focusing on the enrichment of student experience.

More information:

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