The evolving nature of teaching and learning
The nature of how teaching and learning is carried out is constantly evolving based on the ever-changing dynamic between multiple variables. Technology is perhaps the fastest evolving variable in a learning system. The advent of computers and the Internet have brought about drastic change to all facets of life, including education, and new technologies are being developed at lightning speed on a daily basis. Embracing web and media technologies for education requires a paradigm shift. Distance education is best achieved when it is learner-centered rather than teacher-centered. In this model the teacher becomes more of a guide on the sidelines rather than a sage on stage. The implication is that students are active participants in their own learning rather than passive listeners. This active learning approach enables students to “own” their newly acquired understandings.
Common Sense View Of Online Learning Environments
It is useful to think of learning environments as complex adaptive systems that evolve constantly based on the interactions amongst the various agents within, and sometimes from without, the system. As a student, it is useful to have a basic understanding of the role you play within the learning environment (complex adaptive system) in order perform proactively and efficiently. This leads to being effective (success). Think of students as agents, of teachers as super agents with special abilities, and content and technology as special agents. Now think of all the ways the various agents interact with each other! Where do you fit in? How should you perform to live up to your role in the system?
Successful Distance Learners Tend To Have The Following Traits*:
- Are highly motivated self starters
- Are self-disciplined
- Are hands-on learners who like to be involved in driving their own learning process
- Have access to a reliable computer, and have a contingency plan in the event of technology failure (technology will fail at some point, don’t panic)
- Are comfortable communicating in writing
- Possess good meta-cognitive skills
- Have basic computer literacy skills, or are not timid about learning new technology
- Are very adept at managing their time
- Are able to work individually and as part of a team
- Are able to perform candid self-evaluation
- Have a can-do attitude
Do not worry if some of the traits just mentioned seem intimidating to you. What is most important in becoming a successful distance learner is that you have an open mind, are motivated to give it your best effort, and that you devote plenty of time to do the readings and assignments in your courses. This investment on your part will result in the achievement of those traits that will enable you to continue on successfully in you academic quest.
* This list is adapted in part from University of Illinois & the Illinois Online Network.