Overcoming Time & Place Barriers
The tremendous impact that E-Learning has had on education and training has been achieved through use of online technology to support both asynchronous (self-paced) and synchronous (collaborative) learning events.
Asynchronous learning is self-paced — occurring at different times as determined by the learner. Self-managing learning events is how adult learners prefer to learn. Most importantly, asynchronous learning offers the dramatic economic impact of making curriculum available 24/7.
The essential dialogue of an instructor-student relationship can still be preserved in a self-paced, distance model if the tutorial is designed to include person-to-person contact through email, threaded discussion, phone and video.
Synchronous learning events are real-time — bringing instructor and student together at the same time in a live event. Synchronous learning involves social learning principles and dynamics, whether the interaction is one-one, one-to-many, or many-to-many.
Thus, our concept of the "classroom" has been expanded and transformed by new modes of collaborative learning.
Today a classroom can be physical, virtual or both. E-Learning makes possible new modes of collaborative learning that overcome distance barriers and logistical costs — providing dramatic economic savings. Because the internet is global, our classrooms can now be global.
The differences between asynchronous and synchronous learning events highlight the dynamics of how we learn:
- Style of cognitive processing:
- An introverted mode: reading, listening, viewing, thinking and self-direction
- An extraverted mode: social interaction, active listening, dialogue, thinking with others, collaboration, and cooperation
- Activities — which engage interactivity, feedback and guidance
- Presence or absence of other people (such as role-models, social reinforcers, and sense of community)
- Ways in which attention and motivation for learning are engaged
Designing a program to achieve specific learning objectives is almost always enhanced if the program combines both self-paced tasks and collaborative learning tasks. The following graphic shows an example of a learning activity sequence in a Blended Course that uses six different kinds of activities (blending synchronous and asynchronous learning events) — including both physical and virtual classroom live instruction.
Note how this course example overcomes time and place barriers by using online learning events. Cost and logistics difficulties are reduced by requiring only one physical classroom event. The classroom event is used to build a sense of purpose, social rapport and community. Follow-up learning events extend this use of community through virtual classroom, online peer support, and off-line peer mentoring. The WBT emphasizes the learning of concepts and practicing them in scenario quiz examples. The Simulation aims at providing skill learning and the practical application of the concepts that prepare the learner for transfer of knowledge and skills to the real world. The use of online simulations and assessment allow a higher level of practice and automated test scoring that cannot be easily duplicated in a physical classroom. Peer support and mentoring can utilize both online and offline modes.
The following chart illustrates the different kinds of learning activities or delivery modes that are available to the E-Learning designer. Choosing different delivery modes enables a course designer to overcome time and place barriers that will affect learning opportunity and logistical costs. Composing the right blend of these learning activities is the way to engage the learner most effectively.
Use this table of delivery modes to overcome time and place barriers. What learning events might you choose to optimally, and most cost-effectively, achieve the instructional objectives of a course you are planning?
©2003 Cognitive Design Solutions, Inc.