In my earlier posting on this topic, I noted that on-line learning resources tend to emphasize breadth, more than depth. I raised the question of how does one know what one has learned from browsing through a bunch of blogs, etc.
In a way, this new mode of learning is a regression. In the traditional classroom based mode of teaching, students were being exposed to organized, processed bits of knowledge (i.e. secondary sources) in terms of lectures and texts. Blogs and similar media seem more like primary sources, in various degrees of finished thought. This reminds me a bit of the process of doing research, which may suggest an answer to my question. But first, let me pose a few more queries:
Do we need to train students to use these new learning resources (wiki/blog/multimedia/etc.) to learn more effectively? If so, how do we go about doing that? Or do students intuitively know how to do this, since this is what they’ve grown up with? (To answer this, we probably need to figure out the assessment issue.)
Do these learning modes require more individual responsibility for learning, or do they just offer more options? When an instructor holds a class session there is an incentive for students to attend and even if they aren’t as prepared as we would like them to be, they are likely to learn something from the lecture/discussion. Now it is possible to learn on your own without interacting with the instructor or other students, by using the materials provided on your own, but it requires a great deal of motivation, and in the past this was shown to be a relatively inefficient way for large numbers of people to learn.
To facilitate universal education, the production process for teaching adopted the more efficient mode of instructor + texts + students. The instructor provided guidance (both carrot and stick), structure and expertise that were not previously readily available. The contemporary paradigm has been to seek ways to scale this model to larger and larger numbers of students. The quantity of educated folk has clearly increased though many would argue that the quality has suffered.
The new on-line mode of teaching/learning changes the paradigm back to what it was earlier. Does this require more individual responsibility for learning or does it just offer more options for students?
Okay, time to address the original question: How does a blog rider figure out what he or she has learned? Perhaps the answer is reflection–at times i find it’s important to take a time out and summarize what I think or what I can articulate from what I’ve learned. Isn’t that reflection? Some people think that reflection is all fluff, lacking in substance; something that student affairs folk do rather than faculty. But the point of reflection isn’t to be touchy/feely; rather, it’s to improve the content in the non-reflective part of education. Isn’t that a critical part of education, even for scientists? If this is the case, then teachers should be able to review the reflections to assess learning.
I realize there are lot’s of mine fields ahead to be sorted out, but this may be a start at least.