Personal Honours Project - Learning about Learning (1)

After my tutorial with Chris and Andrea last week, it was time to backtrack once again from generating concepts and begin to research more about how to create learning communities.

Constructionism learning was a very interesting topic for me and it was time for me to get a refresher of how it could be applied successfully in a digital setting. MediaMOO being based in a digital text based setting allowed rooms and objects to constantly be constructed and reconstructed by participants. This is a good example of constructionist ideas to virtual reality environments. 

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As recommended by Nick Taylor at Guru's Day, I took a look at what kind of experience FutureLearn were offering for learning. They offer a selection of courses from leading universities that give "depth without depth" - the basics of the topic without fully exploring the ideas. They're accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop and are designed to fit learning around your life. In short, FutureLearn is everything I would aspire to create as my final product.

FutureLearn believe that learning should be an enjoyable, social experience and this is why the courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you're learning with others. They believe that this helps you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas. Discussions are evenly actively encouraged throughout the course and FutureLearn implements steps in the course that the users have to take part in to progress. If users find other users that they have meaningful discussions with, there's a following system to keep track of who you interact with. 

I looked at some of the feedback FutureLearn received about their service:

Ana 21 - found that the social side of FutureLearn gave her the confidence to talk to new people; "I was a part of a community from all over the world."

Job 30 - Interactivity on the course is really important - by putting his views out there and people reacting to his thoughts, this got his thinking process moving.

John 64 - "I am learning purely for pleasure. FutureLearn is an alternative for reading and watching the TV"

Alys 83 - "Learning has kept my mind active at a time when I needed my mind to be active"

Penny - the ability to have and share an opinion to access other people's opinions that allows her to "rejoin the thinking world"

Seline 23 - wanted to take the initiative to continue learning. Finds the learning process empowering.

As recommended by Andrea too, I looked at self-assessment learning. This type of learning requires students to reflect on their own work and judge how well they've worked in relation to assessment criteria. Reflection is the key to self-assessment and students must have an understanding of the criteria that they gauge their performance. Graphic organisers are be used to enhance self-assessment and this method helps organise learnt knowledge in a way that makes the relationship between the individual items of knowledge clear.

Graphic organisers fit with my idea of taking a highly visual approach for displaying how much the user has learnt during their learning sessions, as well as mapping their learning journey while using the app.

I took a look at how to create effective learning communities and according to the Vanderbilt University Centre of Learning, the best learning communities draw from these 4 principles:

1. Learner-centred - these type of environments pay careful attention to the knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs that learners bring. New knowledge is usually built on existing knowledge. 

2. Knowledge-centred - takes the need to help students learn the well-organised bodies of knowledge that supports understanding and adaptive experience. A strong foundation of the basics will give students a solid base on which to build further learning.

3. Assessment-centred - provides formal and informal opportunities for feedback focused on understanding to encourage and reward meaningful learning. Feedback is fundamental to learning.

4. Community-centred - fosters norms for people learning from one another, and continually attempting to improve. They are encouraged to be active, constructive participants.