Consider what Anderson means when he describes the attributes of learning in terms of being learner, knowledge-, assessment- and community-centred.
After reading several peer posts pertaining to the idea of practicing a balanced approach between these attributes, I can’t help but play devil’s advocate. While I agree that one would strive to attend to all four types of learning interaction however, balance is something that rarely works in real-life practice.
According to Anderson, online courses should demonstrate an “awareness of the unique cognitive structures and understandings that learners bring to the learning context” (2008). Thus, a carefully orchestrated imbalance might be required depending on preconditions, social and cultural needs as well as teaching and learning goals. If for example, a particular context or domain relies heavily on or blossom through a certain kind of interaction, then a wider use of this type of interaction ensures the activity is situated and has practical application. On closer inspection, Anderson never mentions balance but rather describes these attributes of learning as “four overlapping lenses” (2008). Anderson also states that “meaningful learning can be developed as long as one of the three forms of interaction (student-teacher; student-student; student-content) is at very high levels” (2008).
The danger in declaring a balanced approach to all interactions is that this can inadvertently lead to generalization in one’s approach. Generalization does not cater to need and context. Generalization can inadvertently result in mediocrity. I remember expressing this concern in my other class of this being the “all-in-one-printer phenomena” where design and function is equally poor in all aspects in an attempt to fit everything in. Special attention paid to interaction types (as they relate to the knowledge domain in contemporary use) should partially inform decisions of how to best support the learning need.
Anderson’s model proposes to do this by “tracing the interactions expected and provided for learners through […which] one can plan for and ensure that an appropriate mix of student, teacher, and content interaction is uniquely designed for each learning outcome.” This clearly communicates the context-specific nature of each application. This is inclusive of difference and implies a fresh and creative approach every time. To me, this is the ideal use of the four lenses. Also what I meant by “the knowledge domain in contemporary use” is not how the type of learning or interaction is currently being taught, but rather how these types of learning and interaction are occurring in the real-world where the topic is currently applied in active practice.
Considering this approach, we can extend our networks and contexts as educators by continually researching the topic/domain we are teaching to find and assess the most relevant mediums, interactions and learning practices rather than relying on established or outdated methods. This is supported by Anderson’s statement that “teachers must learn to develop their skills so that they can respond to student and curriculum needs” (2008). I’ve witnessed this take place in post-secondary interaction, industrial and communication design disciplines out of necessity for these programs to stay bleeding edge. It’s exciting to think of what this might look like implemented in other fields.
Anderson, T. (2008). Towards a theory of online learning. In T. Anderson & F. Elloumi, Theory and practice of online learning. Athabasca University. Retrieved here.