Online learning is the subject of much current debate. There are some that argue it is the "wave of the future" or "an inevitable evolution within educational teaching and training" (Horizon Report, 2008; Shea, Pickett, Li, 2005; Stoerger, 2008). Others would argue that it is an experiment that has failed and that is detrimental or too costly (Attwood, 2009; Bennet, Maton & Kervin, 2008; Thompson, 2009). I tend to believe the former, in part due to my experience with a course management system (CMS) called Moodle (www.moodle.org) and two recent offerings of an introductory course in music therapy.
Online learning also takes place in a variety of formats. Initially, online learning was simply the addition of a few links to information on the internet, in a course that took place in a traditional institutional environment. This evolved into hybrid learning environments where students were educated in both a traditional environment, part of the time, and part of the time in an online environment. Quality and quantity on online learning was highly dependant upon the instructor motivation and institutional support. More recently, courses offered in a digital or online environment have been created. Students may never set foot in a "traditional" classroom, achieving their degree requirements through online discussions, readings, projects and presentations (i.e. Microsoft Learning - Online Course. Website available at: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/training/format-online.aspx).
This last form of online education necessitates a variety of different and unique relationships from those found in a traditional classroom setting. In an online classroom/course, the instructor is viewed more as a collaborator rather than the sole source of knowledge and expertise. Indeed, students may be part of constructing their own knowledge about a subject, assisted by their peers and the instructor/guide (AllthingsPLC website, n.d.; DuFour, 2003). Secondly, there is a new relationship in terms of how, when, and where material pertinent to a particular topic is shared. Students are no longer restricted to "office hours" or "classroom hours", but rather can participate in both dedicated and non-specific periods of time. This is exemplified by a frequently cited credo of "Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere" (Coleman, S., 2005). Indeed, students may be in an entirely different geographical and chronological location compared with their fellow students and the instructor. Finally, there is an immediacy to the education that was not possible previously. Whereas student previously had to wait for an instructor to grade, and then post, marks on a quiz or examination on-line environments allow for instantaneous and direct real-time feedback from peers and instructors alike. This can be accomplished through self-marking quizzes, and a variety of digital mediums such as wikis, blogs, and social networking sites such as Twitter.
Online environments have also brought about a significant change in the ways in that research findings, opinions, and knowledge about a particular subject are distributed to a wider public audience. The creation of "open access journals", "open courseware", "open textbooks", and projects such as Google Books has moved knowledge from a specific location, such as a university or institutional library, to a non-specific location where anyone can access this information. Traditional institutions are being encouraged to establish "digital repositories" where created materials can be reused, repurposed, and shared. Finally, the creation of flexible copyright protection, through organizations such as Creative Commons has enabled creators of new digital materials the flexibility to share information without the loss of control over ownership that a creator might see when material is plagarized or "borrowed" without permission.
How does this all relate to the Music Therapy Educational Collaborative Project? I'll continue the discussion in my next posting!
P.S. If you have a "sexier" name that MTECP, please feel free to suggest it :-)
Attwood, R. (2009, June 4). Questions of cost and usefulness dog e-learning. Retrieved on June 13, 2009 from, http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=406838&c=1
Bennett, S., Maton, K., & Kervin, L. (2008). The 'digital natives' debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), 775.-778.
Coleman, S. (2005). Why do students like online learning. WorldwideLearn. Retrieved on July 17, 2009 from, http://www.worldwidelearn.com/education-articles/benefits-of-online-learning.htm
DuFour, R. (2003, May). Building a professional learning community. American Association of School Administrators. Retrieved on June 17, 2009 from, http://www.aasa.org/publications/saarticledetail.cfm?ItemNumber=2909&snItemNumber=950&tnItemNumber=1995.
Horizon Report. (2008). The Horizon Report: 2008 Edition. A collaboration between The New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) an EDUCAUSE program. Retrieved on June 16, 2009 from, http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2008-Horizon-Report.pdf
Shea, P., Pickett, A., & Li, C. (2005). Increasing access to higher education: A study of the diffusion of online teaching among 913 college faculty. The international review of research in open and distance learning, 6(2).
Stoerger, S. (2008, June). Book Review - Collaborative learning: Two perspectives on theory and practice. International Review on Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(2). Retrieved on June 16, 2009 from, http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/497/1072.
Thompson, E. (2009, June 3). Dumbest Generation? Professor blames technology. USA Today [Online edition]. Retrieved on June 3, 2009 from, http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2009-06-03-dumbest-generation_N.htm.