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Designing distance learning for the 21st century: Constructivism, Moore’s transactional theory and Web 2.0
Blekinge Institute of Technology, School of Computing.
2012 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year))Student thesisAlternative title
Designing distance learning for the 21st century : Constructivism, Moore’s transactional theory and Web 2.0 (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

Distance learning has been playing an ever more influential role. Yet there remains little rigorous academic research into distance learning pedagogy, lacking of serious study in management, delivery and organization of distance learning has destabilized the field. Recently, the boom of Web 2.0 has made websites a lot more intuitive, interactive and interesting; Web 2.0 is also widely used in distance education. Study of distance education as a result sometimes has been misdirected, instead of understanding and solving the real issues facing distance education, research in the field devoted entirely to technology usage discarding the very issue of effective education in distance context. In other words, instead of pursuing technology-relevant policies we focus on technology-driven policies. This thesis starts by reviewing learning theories and arguing for the case of why one is more suitable for distance learning than others. The author argues that constructivism, which favors a dynamic learning process, encourages people to interact, share ideas and bounce ideas is the more effective learning theory. But deploying constructivist pedagogy into real life is difficult. We need more concrete ideas as to how to organize distance learning, a framework to benchmark distance education, to evaluate distance education. That is where Moore’s transactional theory which actually derives from constructivist pedagogy comes into the picture. Moore pointed out 3 key areas of distance education: dialogue, structure and learner autonomy. Moore argues that by having enough constructive dialogue, flexible structure catering individualism and a high level of learner autonomy to execute learning; we can reduce “distance” in distance education. Moore is equally concerned about pedagogy as he is about technologies and he has incorporated into his theory how technological changes have influenced the way distance education has been delivered for the better. This is the brilliance of Moore’s, he has not sided with either pedagogy or technology, he observed the rise of technology and the influence it has on distance education but refused to see technology as the sole factor that makes distance learning more effective or reduces “distance” in distance education. The linkage between constructivism and Moore’s theory is of significance although it is only barely acknowledged in Moore’ writing. The magnitude of this connection is that first it highlights that the work that Moore has done has been based on strong theoretical pedagogy, his contribution is that he has simplified a grand ideology into something that can be applied in the class room. Also he has succeeded in refining elements of constructivism into working variables for quantitative research. His theory is still highly relevant today but his analysis of technologies’ roles has not yet included the latest explosion of technologies in the post-1993 age: the Internet, the booming Web and especially the new Web 2.0. The aim of this thesis is to extend his analysis to these new technologies. We studied how the explosion of Web 2.0 services have been facilitating rich dialogue among peers, teachers and learning materials, allowing more individualization to educational settings and structures. Also Web 2.0 lowers the barrier to participation and content generation and thus would be expected to encourage learner autonomy. A large part of the thesis has been dedicated to literature review. This is because the author believes that in order to improve distance education, it is necessary to first understand learning theory to know when and how people learn, and explore the nature of distance education to see the differences between distance and non-distance education, and then have a comprehensive plan to implement distance education, and evaluate that plan. The implementation bit is of course a practical project; the author used a real-life course at Umeå University where students from various backgrounds signed-up to learn about how Web 2.0 can be leveraged to enhance distance education. A constructivist approach was adopted so we had a chance to see how it actually turned out. We used Moore’s transactional distance theory to evaluate the impact of introducing Web 2.0.

Abstract [sv]

In my thesis, I have discussed the role of distance-learning and have discussed how constructivism makes better education, Moore’s analysis that distance education is naturally education and thus what makes education makes good distance education. Better education according to Moore is when you can reduce “transactional distance” by influencing its makeup dialogue, structure and learner autonomy. I also looked at examples of where Web 2.0 has been successfully applied to reduce “transactional distance” grounded in Moore’s theory. I looked at the humble historical context of distance-learning and the spectacular achievements that distance-education teachers and students despite all those forces against change. I discussed the development of distance-education to become what it is today. I believe technologies are part of the solution but also we need strong pedagogy and a rigorous framework to guide it. The discussion of constructivism vs. objectivism showed the contrasting differences as well as certain overlapping elements of both ideologies. I believe constructivism was the pedagogy of the 21st century which involves a great deal of personal reflection, interaction among course peers and teachers as well as a shift in how education must be organized. Moore’s theory of transactional distance is grounded in constructivist pedagogy but has his fair share of genius thought. First, he convinced us that distance education is also education because the distance in distance education or what Moore called “transactional distance” also exists in face-to-face classroom education, to make better distance learning means to reduce “transactional distance”. Second, his ability to benchmark an operational framework to organize distance education and measure transactional distance as a result or influencing the three variables dialogue, structure and learner autonomy. His work has been proved by Saba (1994) with dynamic systems modeling as well as questioned by few critics of his poor theory construction as well as unconvincing empirical data gathered from a few studies. However, Moore’s theory of transactional distance is still the prominent theory and Moore himself a leading figure in the field. Transactional theory is realized by a new wave of highly interactive web technologies built on the architecture of openness and participatory. This plays well into constructivism of build a virtual learning community for collaborative learning. We looked at a prime example of employing Web 2.0 technologies for better distance education by Kane and Fichman (2009). The benefits of instruction activities that otherwise would not be possible without Web 2.0 have been analyzed and evaluated using Moore’s variables to yield a positive result. I also demonstrated a personal experience being part of a distance learning course at Umea University in Spring semester 2010 where we all learned about distance learning in the modern age and apply constructivism pedagogy and Moore’s transaction theory distance in evaluating the course. Understanding the theory makes me a better student because I know what makes effective learning and also further confirm my belief in the mandate of distance education, a distance education for all because you can’t learn individually. Kane and Fichman (2009) have surprised me to the extent of their creative ideas of applying Web 2.0 in education such as the idea of crowdsourcing and peer review by wikis. Able to use technologies especially in a live environment such as the course at Umea University gave me a real sense of gaps between theory and practice.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. , 53 p.
Keyword [en]
Constructivist, Constructivism, Moore’s transactional theory, Moore, transactional theory, distance learning, Web 2.0
National Category
Information Systems
URN: urn:nbn:se:bth-5707Local ID: diva2:833104
Author: Tran Huy Duc Mobile: 00-84-1283 27 47 09 Address: CC23 Truong Son St, Ward 15, District 10, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam E-mail: ductranhuy@yahoo.comAvailable from: 2015-04-22 Created: 2012-11-07 Last updated: 2015-06-30Bibliographically approved

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