I’ve been reading through some of my past papers in the MDE (Master Distance Education) program that I’m in at Athabasca University. I decided to post all of them by course up here, starting with my introductory course.
I was a bit worried going back to school after a long time away, but things turned out alright. Better than alright, as I loved it right from the start. The 601 intro course was three papers (click on titles for download):
- Critical Review of Predictors of Learning Satisfaction in Japanese Online Distance Learners
- Critical Review of Future Directions for Distance Education
- Adapting a Distance Language Course into a Distance Language Language Learning Program
The course was mainly an introduction to the history and main ideas of DE. I was surprised at the time at how old a lot of the articles were, but I guess that’s the nature of acquiring the basics. Anyway, I tend to find more worth in the older, bigger picture stuff.
The two critical reviews were simple, and the final assignment was not very polished. There’s not much to note. I’ve been thinking of this final assignment of late, though, as even at the time I wrote it, it seemed incomplete. These days I wonder if the MOOC course design is what was missing in a idea like this. Reading back on this paper now, it almost seems as I was describing a MOOC design, without even knowing what it was yet. The structure seems simple, but there’s a lot that can be done with it, much more than what’s being done now. Too often I find the trend is to back away from control, assuming students already know how to best learn for themselves.
The part of paper number 3 that stood out to me at the time was the section on theory. I think that has stuck with me the most:
Garrison also writes about control of the learning process as a central idea, defining control as “the opportunity and ability to influence the educational transaction.” (Garrison 2000) For constructivist language study, the shifting between learner control and teacher control can be considered on a micro level. For example, even within a single asynchronous or synchronous conversation, on any topic that interests the student, the attentive teacher can weave in and out of control, stopping to correct mistakes, mirroring speech with corrected or colloquial language, guiding the subject into deeper vocabularic and meta-language directions, or, conversely, choosing to verbally back off, allowing for higher learner control through practice, questions, languaging (Swain 2006) and topic exploration. This melting together of means and content relies heavily on sound teacher training and support, a strong design aspect of this Distance Language course.
The idea of control should be a central issue for all education, in terms of educating students to learn effectively for themselves. But when the content is also the medium, as it can be Language Learning, it is even more important. In this case, it also becomes a matter of access.