Let’s go on an Adventure

Doering, A. (2006). Adventure Learning: Transformative hybrid online education. Distance Education 27 (2). pp. 197-215.

Despite the unnecessary introduction of a new term (“adventure learning”), this article provides a concise and clear vision of an instructional model with solid grounding in contemporary learning theory and immediate practical application in the classroom. Doering positions adventure learning as an online course taken in the classroom while “teachers are facilitators” (differentiated from the other hybrid model where students take a face to face class augmented with online instruction outside the classroom). Combining collaboration and reflection to transform students into the authentic practitioners of Shaffer’s epistemic games, adventure learning relies on real-time community and fantastic (unknown) environments to provide student motivation.

The seven elements of adventure learning provide the practical application:

  1. begin with a researched curriculum grounded in problem-solving and based on learning outcomes
  2. provide collaboration opportunities among students, peers, experts, and content
  3. utilize the Internet for delivery
  4. provide authenticity with media and text from the field (emphasis is mine)
  5. provide synchronous opportunities
  6. offer pedagogical guidelines (for the teacher)
  7. captivate students through adventure

An interesting variable which is mentioned but insufficiently explored in the research is the importance of teacher-teacher interaction.

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CSCL: The Way Ahead

Resta, Paul. (2007). Technology in Support of Collaborative Learning. Journal Educational Psychology Review, 19(1), 65-83. doi:10.1007/s10648-007-9042-7.

This article shows that CSCL encompasses several familiar models (social constructivism, cognitive apprenticeship, and situated cognition) and also offers new avenue to explore (distributed cognition, activity-network theory). The article provides a welcome clear distinction between cooperative and collaborative learning:

  • collaboration – interaction involving mutual engagement within ill-structured domains as a lifestyle
  • cooperation – interaction involving division of labor within well-structured domains to produce a product

The majority of the paper uses a practical framework from Biggs (pre-existing variables that provide the context; process variables that take place in the learning event; product variables that are the outcomes) to produce six recommendations for future CSCL research:

  1. Recommendation 1–Provide detailed data for replication
  2. Recommendation 2–Focus on unique affordances
    • Technological literacy
    • Enhance cognitive performance
    • Flexibility of time and space
    • Engagement
      • Academic: but can individuals achieve outside the group?
      • Higher order thinking: but is this a direct result of CSCL?
      • Student satisfaction: but is their preference for face to face?
      • Group products: can individuals produce equivalent products in a different group?
      • Group cognition: CSCL offers transparency but does that automatically equate to learning?
  3. Recommendation 3–Apply f2f collaborative techniques to online
    • Group size should be 3 or 5 and heterogeneous to offer diverse perspectives
    • A sense of community is critical (but how is social presence increased?)
    • Group support systems are 29% more effective than f2f
    • Task structures must balance between some structure (to avoid information overload) and too much structure (which reduces interaction)
    • Group leadership: online interaction doesn’t evolve without coaching and modeling, especially at the start, but this implies a group leader is automatically the group facilitator
    • Meaning making (the collaborative construction of knowledge through social negotiation) relies on:
      • Grounding which requires learners to add to their common ground by establishing the mutual belief that all have understood
      • Collaboration which should lead to a convergence of meaning
      • However, students may converge too early (by relying on the teacher for authority?)
      • In addition, students often don’t interact (because it’s required?)
    • Knowledge – different than work (task) because it uses intentional goals. Knowledge practice is distinct from acquisition and participation
    • Time – how much scaffolding responsibility can be transferred to students?
  4. Recommendation 4–Research on student characteristics
    • student engagement with cognitively complex ideas is not common (could be due to lack of interest–this is homework after all)
    • prior knowledge is the most important variable determining quality of contributions (and thus we should build on prior knowledge)
  5. Recommendation 5–Research CSCL design elements
    • students may not understand system features (or maybe it’s because this is homework or because they don’t know what’s expected)
  6. Recommendation 6–Research organizational issues

PBL design of Alien Rescue

Because students see no value in what they are asked to learn, they “tune out”and never own that knowledge. PBL seeks to address this value proposition by creating authentic situations that students care about. PBL develops skills in 3 areas:

  1. problem definition (critical) and problem solving (trial and error?)
  2. reflection (can this be done with blogs or social networks?)
  3. deep understanding

Alien Rescue implements 3 implementations of PBL:

  1. anchored instruction
  2. goal-based scenarios
  3. cognitive flexibility (multiple learning perspectives in ill-structured domains)

Alien Rescue uses cognitive tools to support the scaffolding that PBL requires (which I think is equivalent to leveling up in games); these tools:

  1. support cognitive and metacognitive processes;
  2. share cognitive load by supporting lower-level cognitive skills to free up resources for higher order thinking;
  3. allow learners to engage in activities that would be otherwise out of their reach; and
  4. allow learners to generate and test hypotheses in the context of problem-solving.

Alien Rescue incorporates PBL design features:

  • situating the problem
  • complex problems with tools
  • multimedia formats for different learning styles
  • expert guidance from multiple perspectives
  • interrelated knowledge through links

The lessons from the learners were enlightening:

  • The expert tool brought self-study inline with expert actions (expected) although another Alien Rescue article suggested that students did not like the loss of control that occurred when the expert tool was used.
  • A tool that supported activities otherwise denied to students proved too popular; students over-used the tool, requiring a design change that made the tool availability a reward.
  • The version that includes expert stories (which seem distinct from the expert tool) to scaffold learning produced significantly better near transfer and far transfer results.