Marie-Hélène Budworth

Associate Professor of Human Resource Management, specializing in learning, development & motivation.

Marie-Hélène Budworth

New year, new class: Thoughts on e-learning

January 16th, 2011 · No Comments · Uncategorized

This past Friday I met the new cohort in the Master’s of Human Resource Management program.  The first day of a graduate class always marks the beginning of a journey.  Although I bring some outline of what I hope to accomplish over the term, our path is largely guided by the students in the group.  I went over the idea that knowledge is socially constructed on Friday.  The class itself is a clear example of this idea.  

On the first day of any class, I typically do a lot of talking.  It takes us at least that time to figure out the ‘norms‘ for the group.  However, once the class gets into a rhythm we all begin to share ideas and my role turns into that of a facilitator and organizer of information.  The class on Friday moved quickly away from a lecture format and into an idea exchange.  

Students are often asked to read material in preparation for class.  There are few of us who can read and absorb new and complex ideas after a single reading.  Discussions in the classroom allow us to interpret the readings, share interpretations with peers, and deepen our learning.  The knowledge is gained through an exchange or deepening awareness of how the material can be considered, shaped, and illustrated.  Then we can move toward applying the information to practical examples.  This process is a rough sketch of the social construction of knowledge and it represents the unique power of learning in social environments.  

I am in the midst of thinking through how we will teach a number of undergraduate courses online.  The question that comes to mind is how do we recreate this opportunity for social exchange using e-learning platforms.  The answer is actually pretty clear.  There are so many tools available for online interaction and students today have tremendous experience interacting with one another over these types of platforms.  I would suspect that with recent improvements in technology and communication, the ability to offer a more complete learning experience online will be enhanced.  Old online courses were static and relied on pre-recorded audio and powerpoint slides.  With youtube, chat rooms, discussion groups, wikis, videochat, and blogs, the possibilities for online learning are limitless.  Don’t misinterpret; I still see the value of group learning in ‘live’ real time settings.  However, I believe that the delivery mechanism no longer has to interfere with our ability to learn.  Social learning is possible in all kinds of learning environments.


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