- th EUROPEAN CONFERENCE E-COMM-LINE 2003, Bucharest , September 25-26 ,
aspects of e-learning and blending learning methods
Hamburg, Institut Arbeit und Technik, Wissenschaftszentrum Nordrein-Westfalen,
Dr. Lindecke, Gelsenkirchen, Germany
I.E.R., Eindhoven, Holland
approaches, particularly collaborative ones, have many advantages but
their use raises also questions like the social ones. The
IAT carried out some research in this context on collaborative learning
and blending methods and about effects of e-learning on the roles and
relationships of the learners and trainers within German and European
projects together with the organization
“The Internet is revolutionizing all parts of society, but its
impact on education is just beginning to be understood. “ said the
Web-based Education Commission in the year 2000, when still the beliefs
in the potencies of the Internet were as vast and high as its hype.
And indeed, forms of Internet-based learning (e-learning) do
offer the “affordance” of online socialization and networking. Which
means in a sense also that this technology too enables or creates a next
opportunity for a further social component.
The past and present e-learning approaches using multimedia
demonstrate many advantages of e-learning like flexibility (in time and
place), needs-oriented learning, a wider facilitating of searching
information and learning content on the Internet. Besides that they can
have also an additional function to conventional learning like
computer-supported acquisition, distribution and creation of knowledge.
However, also some disadvantages of e-learning have been
identified such as lack of peer contact and interaction, high initial
costs for preparing multimedia content of learning materials and also
substantial costs for it’s maintaining and updating, as well as the
need for flexible tutorial support. And exactly those important soft
factors of traditional learning like cooperation and personal contact
tend to »get lost« in e-learning concepts. Most of the existing
approaches on the e-learning do not consider such disadvantages and in
particular the missing of actual, face-to-face social interaction.
Based on recent pedagogical and social research as well as on
technical developments of the other day, e-learning platforms have been
developed (3rd generation – Leister et al., 2001) which try
now to focus on the social aspects of learning. An important facet in
this is to support collaborative learning in virtual communities and to blend learning methods in order
to make also the change from traditional classrooms to e-learning easier
for the users.
The IAT carried out some research on collaborative learning and
blending methods (Hamburg et al., 2003) and about effects of e-learning
on the roles and relationships of the learners and trainers within
German and European projects. One of these is the cooperation project ÖFTA:
Consequences of new Internet-based education technologies supported by
the ministry of School,
research and Technology of North-Rhein-Westfalia (NRW). This research has been done together
with the organization ‘Arbeitszeitberatung Dr. Lindecke’and I.E.R., Eindhoven.
In this paper some results are presented. The following chapter
concentrates on the changing roles of teachers and participants in
e-learning. The next part analyses collaborative learning as a concept
which includes social aspects of learning.
Changing Roles of Teachers and Participants / Learners
An important change as well implicitly as explicitly
of the tasks and roles of
both the central actors in learning processes, the teachers and the
learners, is involved with the establishment of computer and internet
aided learning structures (e-learning). E-learning as a variant of
self-governed learning requires »new« abilities and capacities of
teachers and learners, that contain as well opportunities as risks.
2.1 From trainers to education advisors and process moderators – the
changed role of the teachers
The figure below summarizes the main differences with regard to
the roles of the teachers between the »traditional« concepts of
teaching and the concepts of self-governing learning. Defined in
headlines it can be put into the formula: teachers versus advisors of
learning processes. It is
the task of the teachers in the traditional
concepts of learning to determine the teaching ends and to offer it so.
In e-learning the learners take over the role of
(equally entitled) partners -a change from a vertical into a horizontal
relation- with whom a learning contract is concluded which purport is
determined by both parties together.
Traditionally it was the role
of the teacher to give the learners ideas and to hand them solutions
patterns; in autonomous learning the trainers have to aim on the
contrary to mobilise the solution finding capabilities of the
Finally the traditional concepts of learning were inciting to an
extrinsic motivation and to teachers who were acting in learning
according their self-consciousness. The self governing learning incites
on the contrary to the intrinsic motivation as well as to a
self-consciousness, in which the aspect of advising is in the limelight.
1: The role of the teachers
in self governing learning
Graf/Motamedi 2000: 154)
In other publications the role of the teacher is even further
alienated from the »traditional« role of the trainer. Teachers are not
just moderators, but they have to take over „the introducing,
moderating and motivating role of a learning process supervisor and so
that of an education advisor in the broadest sense“
2001: 110). The trainers are made responsible in this notion
increasingly for the preparation and the updating of the proper phase of
training. The preparation of the seminars as well a control of the
transfer can be moderated – in particular by using interactive media
– e.g. by tele-tutoring. This development means for the trainers at
one hand an increase of tasks; at the other hand it can induce an
overcharging as well. For this reason learning platforms are
increasingly criticised in the USA, because they can overcharge the
learners by their continuous presence and their individual appeal (cf.
Conclusion: the starting point is that the trainers loose their
position as „omniscient mediators of knowledge“ and give it up in
favour of moderation- and advising tasks and activities. Henceforth
lesser knowledge abilities are required from trainers but more abilities
and capacities that lay in the activation of potencies of other people
– the learners – . The trainers need of course in e-learning in
completion to these „advising- and activation abilities“ also media
capacities. (cf. also Hohenstein/Poetsch 2001: 111 , as also Hagedorn o.J.).
listeners to active learners – the roles of the participants
Also learners do need media capacities to use e-learning for
their own learning processes. Besides they are multiply challenged as a
matter of course in the framework of „self-governing“ or „autonomous“
The central thesis of self-governing learning is that everybody
who wishes to learn something he or she
·choose themselves the themes they are interested in,
·adapt the speed of learning to the difficulty of the learning content and
·take up contact with the supervisors or other learners the moment they
feel it meaningful (cf. Projekt SeGel).
This „variegated bouquet“ of chances for the learners that is
developed in these texts, neglects
partly that for making use of these chances a number of abilities are
needed for the learners to be able to learn self-governed and self
The particular individual must be able e.g.
·to grasp the need of learning and to develop his or her aims
·to plan and to prepare his or her own learning process
·to decide which things he or she can and wants to learn self-organised
and where in the process it makes sense to follow offers of
·to realise the learning process with the help of proper learning
strategies and to regulate the learning with the help of control- and
intervening strategies as well as to valuate the learning results
·to keep motivation and concentration up to the mark.
For this it is conducive that de
·develops a changed self-consciousness in self-governed and
·knows the own learning pattern, learning behaviour and individually
appropriate learning strategy
·knows as many as possible learning media and learning ways and can make
able use of these.
If someone does not have these
abilities at his or her disposal, than self-governing learning will end
quickly into learning frustration or will loose itself in arbitrariness.
In these new structures of
learning and learning media there is besides the danger of arbitrariness
also the danger that some people cannot profit from those requirements
of abilities of e-learning. All who have not learnt to learn, are
without instruction »delivered« to the requirements of self-governed
Apart from these problems
also another disadvantage can occur in e-learning. Qualification- and
continuing education seminars do not only function as an education as
such, but take over also many social tasks. These vary from awards for
employees up to the function that in seminars (held company wide)
contacts are made that also help to shape an entrepreneurial culture.
„However: In classical face-to-face
seminars not only the contents count, but also the meeting
with colleagues from other divisions or other companies. A great
disadvantage of e-learning is therefore in the opinion of every second
interviewed person that social effects have disappeared...“ (Hartmann 2002: 88).
The risks and dangers of
e-learning that follow from the disappearance of social relations and
contacts have led in the mean time to the situation that in the theory
and in the practice of e-learning is switched from pure »human being
– computer – interactions« to »human being – human being –
computer – interactions« (characteristic: Blended Learning, e.g. see
Interview 2003). A start that uses the social components of learning for
the realisation of effective e-learning concepts is that of
collaborative learning which is presented in the next chapter.
Social aspects of e-learning: collaborative learning
Different social aspects of e-learning from learning of social behaviour
to social interactions in learning processes have been researched
(Salmon et al., 1989).
Our focus in this part of the paper is on social interactions and
in particular on collaboration in learning processes as well as on
methods and on tools to support them.
It is known that through the development of virtual learning
environments (VLE), particularly Web-based
ones, the potential of the Internet and other media can be better used
to support a searching and
Important in this is to increase the social presence of the
learners and trainers in a VLEs e.g. by “transporting” various
issues of real-world environments in VLEs. Knoll and Jarvenpaa (1995) show that a combination of some
categories of skills like the following is required for an efficient
work in virtual environments similar with the work in real ones:
Another important researched factor when using virtual
environments is the impact of the lack of non-verbal and visual clues on
online interaction. Some participants regard this as having negative
feelings, others consider it to be a freedom. For getting the users
however a feeling of social presence, the VLE should support a variety
of interaction stimuli and cognitive orientation. The learners should at
least be informed who is present in the session, how the group is
composed and who participates actively in the learning process at the
moment. They need to recognize each other, to develop a sense of
direction on-line and they need some guide to judgment and behaviour.
A trainee reflected:
“For me, the key point from taking part in learning in a VLE is the
realization that I am not alone in the problem I encounter. This is
where this medium of communication and learning scores over all others.
Through reading the other messages you quickly find that whatever is
concerning you, others have faced the same problem and that gives you
confidence to carry on “ ( Salmon, 2000).
Experience shows that the participants in a learning process by
using VLE display all these feelings and needs immediately following
their gaining access to the system.
it is important that the e-moderators (trainers) help them by initiating
and supporting “chat” conferences and online socializing.
Another aspect is that when the trainees feel “at home” with
the online culture and reasonably comfortable with the technology of the
virtual learning environment, they move on to contributing. In this
context the (trainers) moderators should use their skills to ensure that
the participants develop a sense of community in the medium.
It is good to keep in mind that a learning community offers more
than the transitions of ideas and knowledge transfer: it first of all
offers a way of establishing connections.
the virtual learning community we use the definition of J. Preece (2000)
as consisting of :
Research results show that collaborative learning (e.g. by using
learning communities) compared to individual and competitive learning
scenarios brings students to a higher achievement level, raises their
problem-solving abilities, offers cognitive advantages to learners and
also has positive influences in enhancing the development of personality
traits. These are beneficial for future learning or future autonomous or
cooperative learning and working (Tozer et al., 1995).
In order to achieve such objectives, learning communities should
offer (Preece, 2000):
For producing an optimal learning outcome it is therefore
important to “blend” various pedagogical approaches (e.g.
constructivism, behaviourism, cognitivism), different learning modes
like real and virtual classrooms (e.g. web-based ones) and self-paced
and collaborative learning. A harmonious effect of learning and working
can be created by mixing instructional technology with actual job tasks.
Using blended learning benefits:
organisations to gradually move learners from
traditionally classrooms to e-learning, making change easier to accept
and to supplement or complement their existing (sometimes very expensive)
learning materials rather than replace them;
trainers and training designers to move small
sections of their materials online and to develop skills needed for
e-learning in small increments;
learners by choosing the way of learning
suitable to their abilities, objectives and wishes.
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