dimecres, 1 de febrer de 2012

The belief of an e-learning approach that floats on Internet surface

Or why UOC’s Educational Model has 8 thematic axes?

One of the current handicaps of LMS (Learning Management System) and VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) is its closed design and configuration. There are some factors that allow us to explain it, at least in part, for instance:
  • Closed technological conception. LMS has been designed to use the specific standards of online education (IMS and SCORM), and often they are not compatible enough with the use of the universal ones, adopted by the majority of current web applications. It is one of the barriers that separate the VLE from the 2.0 tools, services and social nets.
  • Industrial conception of educational organization. The predominant way of organizing the courses and learning activities in online education –both in scholar and corporative context– replicates an industrial scheme. It broadly means that a course is equivalent to a closed set of people –a group– that has to reach the same learning objectives and has to have access to the same content –a curriculum– and that makes their activity confined to the same space –a classroom (or virtual classroom)–. This organization of educational activity in discreet unites conditions a particular architecture and formal structure of the LMS that is very difficult to modify.
  • Strong institutional and administrative dependence of VLE. To carry out the online training activity, educational institutions or corporations choose the LMS –open source or proprietary– more adequate for their goals, and install it featuring the structure and available functionalities for their necessities. When the installation is finished and the activity starts, the VLE is not flexible in introducing changes and customizing the teaching and learning tools and spaces by users. The key to changing something is on the hand of the institution proprietary and of the system administrators or technicians. So, students and teachers are not autonomous in adapting the learning spaces to the learning activity. (For more on these ideas see Severance et al. 2008, references below).
Reasons like the ones explained above do not help LMS and VLE become open and flexible spaces and environments. This makes difficult a development at the same speed as the rest of the tools, spaces and services of Internet.
Cover of the english version.
Despite the main LMS trends to add new features from the web 2.0 such as wikis, blogs, RSS, or social net tools, they continue being environments that work in an isolated way from the rest of the users of Internet activities. This does not help the application of learning methodologies based on closing the training activity to the personal and professional sets of the students daily life. To promote this pedagogical approach –it is necessary to acquire competences, not only single skills and knowledges– we need LMS to allow teachers and students to carry out their teaching and learning activities in a similar way to what they do in real life on Internet.

According to this idea, in 2009 the new UOC’s educational model had as an objective to have a wide range of methodological flexibility in order to host the huge variety of learning approaches of the UOC’s catalogue of courses and careers, without losing quality and coherence. Also, it was very important to introduce a mechanism to connect the ICT learning tools and practices to real and current Internet activities and to prevent the outdating of the system. The solution was the introduction of eight thematic axes on pedagogical approaches –learning activities and assessment– and on key innovation areas on ICT educational application, such as content management, mobility, communication or virtual worlds, with possible scenarios to illustrate each one.


Thematic Axes of UOC Educational Model
Application activities
Inquiry activities
Teaching materials
Content management
Textual content
Multimedia content
Asynchronous communication
Synchronous communication
Virtual classroom
2.0 Web spaces
Virtual worlds
Other devices
Assessment of learning
Assessment of competences

Table with the 8 axes of the UOC's educational Model.

The result was a third generation e-learning model (see Gros, B. 2011, figure 1 at references below) thought “to float over the Internet surface” and always connected with the evolution of technology and uses on the Net.
Three years after the publication, it continues being an interesting tool to guide e-learning innovation and inspire strategic lines, not only in the UOC context, but also in other higher education institutions, schools and organizations.

To supply the possible outdating of the thematic axes I recommend complementing it with some studies on future trends such as the Horizon Report.

References to learn more about it:

Gros, B. (2011). El modelo educativo basado en la actividad de aprendizaje. In Gros, B. (Ed.) (2011). Evolución y retos de la educación virtual. Construyendo el e-learning del siglo XXI. Barcelona: Editorial UOC. Online: <http://goo.gl/GUbxL>

Mas, X.; Gros, B; García, I. (2009). La evolución del modelo educativo de la UOC: un enfoque orientado a la adquisición de las competencias del siglo XXI. X Encuentro Internacional Virtual Educa. Buenos Aires, 9-13 November 2009. Online:<http://goo.gl/HlT8S> (Go to French version).

Severance, C; Hardin, J.; Whyte, A. (2008). The coming functionality mash-up in Personal Learning Environments. Interactive Learning Environments, 16:1, 47-62. Online: <http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10494820701772694>

The New Media Consortium (2011). The Horizon Repport. 2011 Edition. Online: <http://www.nmc.org/publications/2011-horizon-report>

Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (2009). The UOC's Educational Model. Evolution and Future Perspectives. Barcelona: UOC. <http://goo.gl/xpmlm>