24 September, 2008

Locus of Control

This article from 'Inside Higher Ed' discusses an issue pertinent to the debate around Locus of Control in Blended Learning; a consideration we have begun to address within a number of CPD courses in Edge Hill's Faculty of Health.

The issue of Locus of Control is often avoided (or even frowned upon), but perhaps the debate is becoming more pertinent in an age where HEIs compete for every last student. The debate basically suggests a shift in Locus of Control in blended learning settings, from a Tutor-controlled blend, to a Learner-controlled blend - creating/enforcing/allowing a greater sense of ownership for learning (on the learner's part). Traditionally, it is the academic who determines what parts of a course must be accessed face-to-face, and what 'extension activities' can be through e-learning means, and so the amounts of choice is minimal.

e-Learning promised flexibility. Is this really flexible?

Being involved in any such debate and seeing the different viewpoints is interesting;

Academic managers are certainly in the 'For' side, due to the obvious benefits of recruiting wider audiences, which basically translates to 'more money'!
Then we have the Faculty based champions of e-learning, who genuinely seek to use technology to enhance learning and teaching, and see the possibilities afforded by the developments of Web 2.0, and consequently e-learning 2.0 (yes you all know who you are!).
From a CPD perspective, Employers also sit in the 'For' crowd. Nursing trusts 'send' employees on CPD courses, which translates into time away from wards, which means less man (or woman)-power on the ground. By shifting the locus of control, such learners can access content from a work PC (if by chance they are hooked up with a decent connection, and of course, a firewall that doesn't block everything and anything (is that asking too much?)).

Many people on the ground (not all, but many academics) are shouting for the 'against' side, as they simply do not have the time or technical expertise to create engaging and stimulating content that warrants online access (in opposition to the face-to-face session). Similarly, the 'againsters' (?) believe their students are not technically capable to access materials in such a mode (i.e. too old) or educationally immature (i.e. too young). The notion of educational maturity is a debate which stretches beyond this post, but nonetheless applies equally to the academic as it does to the learner. Some also believe that online learning cannot make up for the interaction within classrooms (see the comment in the article from Dr J, Asssitant Director, Student Services at Florida Gulf Coast University, at 9:41 am EDT on September 23, 2008).) I must say that these viewpoints are becoming more of a minority, and are likely unfamiliar with e-learning theory (with little experience therein).

Andy Guess' article from 'Inside Higher Ed' highlights the willingness, and perhaps educational maturity of many learners to take more responsibility and ownership without having to travel to classes. Afterall, much of contemporary education subscribes to Social Constructivist theories whereby such ownership is a clear objective, and where learners are provided opportunity to find, select, critique, share, and create knowledge, opposed to traditional rote learning 'chalk and talk' approaches. The capabilities for this through use of the Internet and Web 2.0 are endless.

In my opinion, this is the future of learning and teaching, and the worries of many academics (many of which I share) can be tackled through consideration of different conditions to, for example, create and harness a larger Community of Practice that could ever be possible in face-to-face environments.

So, shifting the Locus of Control onto the learner... Possible? (un)Desirable? Over to you...

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