At UCEM our pedagogy for online education is centred around the idea of participatory (or active) learning. Traditionally, education has taken a transmission-based learning approach where students are fed material by an expert – for example, by reading a book, or sitting in a lecture theatre and listening to a “sage on a stage”. By contrast, active learning is centred around activities. We believe that by creating meaningful activities that students find useful and engaging, we can help students to develop their skills and knowledge more deeply.
Perspectives to support active learning
Three of the major learning theories which have informed active learning in online education are constructivism, social constructivism, and cognitivism.
- Constructivism: Developed by Jean Piaget. By nature, humans interact with others and the world, with the result that they continuously build and reorganise their own knowledge in the form of mental maps/schemas. Experiences and group activities are used to promote the building of knowledge. Arguably works best in post-secondary education when learners are better able to use higher-order thinking skills.
- Social constructivism: Developed by Lev Vygotsky. As above, but with more emphasis on learning skills by observation and on group activities. Learning steers development so people can learn anything at any age/time. Individuals learn at different paces. UCEM’s Virtual Learning Environment, Moodle, is based on social constructivist pedagogy.
- Cognitivism: Learners are treated as having prior knowledge and backgrounds that can be built on. This originated in Gestalt theory, claiming the mind is active and always looking for meanings.
Educators around the world have used these pedagogies to create many different techniques and approaches to support learning and teaching. In our module design, UCEM use a number of different approaches, including: