Some basic assumptions about e-learning challenged

Tony Bates, e-learning & distance education resources, Mar 10, 2011
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I echo Tony Bates's assertion that the Journal of Distance Education's policy of 'publish when ready' is "admirable". And now that they have RSS feeds I've subscribed to them (they're indexed next to the other edubloggers).

The current post refers to E-Learning: Confusing Terminology, Research Gaps and Inherent Challenges by Sarah Guri-Rosenblit and Begoña Gros. The article "should be required reading for proponents of open educational resources," argues Bates, because "The authors take a strong, empirically-based research approach that challenges for instance the assumption that students will become self-learners merely by providing excellent content." Maybe so, but a careful reader should be able to find the gaps in the argument. Nobody is saying people start learning all by themselves, not even the authors vaguely cited (Candy, 2004; Dede, 2005; Oblinger, 2003; Veen, 2005) as proponents of this view). What students can do without teachers is not properly documented; bare assertions of failure (eg., "Very few, if any, independent students benefitted from the MIT materials.") are unsubstantiated. Etc. So all you self-learners out there, don't just read this paper uncritically; be sure to map the claim rebutted to the evidence placed against it.
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