An Outline of “Traditional” versus “Connected” Learning

(In revising our faculty development Online Learning Experience (OLE), I worked up a simple table to contrast approaches to online learning, with tweaks from Tom Woodward.  I’m posting it here so I have an easy place to point to.  Perhaps it can be of use to others, too.)

A Connected Learning approach can be contrasted with a more traditional approach to online learning in the ways outlined below.  This is an oversimplified heuristic device, of course.  Real world courses exist along a continuum, incorporating various features of both approaches.  Still, by comparing these approaches you can see the relative emphasis each places on varying pedagogical goals.

“Traditional” “Connected”
Information Focus
Focus is often on information retention and restatement.
Skills Focus
Focus is on “learning to learn” and helping nurture life-long learning skills in a networked world with abundant information.
Instructor Driven
Instructor typically sets the agenda for all topics and work to be done
Student Driven (partially)
As part of the assignments, student is expected to find ways to apply new skills and knowledge to topics of ongoing student interest. The onus is more on students to prove their competencies.
Standardized, Traditional Assignments
Work often:

  • involves multiple choice quizzes/exams
  • writing assignments in response to instructor questions
Innovative, Experimental Assignments
Work often:

  • is project-based
  • leverages multimedia elements
  • has an external audience/purpose
  • uses self-reflection as a major component in proving growth/competency
Emulate Face-to-Face Classroom
Approach is often an attempt to replicate face-to-face experiences, especially through lectures, discussion forums, and, sometimes, synchronous video seminars.
Be “Of the Web”
Approach is to create distinct learning experiences that take advantage of the Internet’s unique capabilities and involve experimenting with assignments.
Work Privately

  • Work often takes place within closed course management system.
  • Courses are isolated from each other.
  • Students lose access to course material shortly after the course is completed.
Work Publicly

  • Much of the work (though not necessarily all) takes place on the open web, often via individual web sites (a.k.a. “blogs”) that are aggregated to a course site.
  • Student work across multiple courses “lives” on their own blog sites, which they control.
  • Students have continued access to the course site after the course is completed.
Standardized Assessment
Emphasis is on working alone, privately, on standardized assignments intended to produce similar results. Identity authentication, cheating, and plagiarism become significant concerns.
Individualized Assessment
Emphasis is on sharing (often collaboratively-created) distinctive work with classmates and the broader world to make a contribution and to be open for potential feedback and dialogue. The unique nature of the assignments and work make identity authentication, cheating, and plagiarism less of a concern.
Assignment as Disposable Practice
Assignments are used only as material for assessment. Work produced can be “thrown away” at the end of a course. Competency is implied through grades.
Assignment as “Real”
Assignments are used for assessment while also often making a contribution to be shared publicly. Work produced can be archived online on publicly-viewable sites and in student e-portfolios.
Standardized, Faculty-Independent
Once created, standardized courses can almost run themselves. They can be efficiently scalable to high-enrollment classes, especially if they rely on automatically-scored multiple-choice exams. The faculty role is less central and potentially expendable, for example, with publisher-created courses intended to be simply managed rather than taught.
Unique, Faculty-Dependent
Most courses are distinctive, requiring extensive faculty monitoring, assessment, and feedback on the unique assignments being completed. This relatively labor-intensive approach makes faculty central to the teaching process and limits the scalability of some features.

(Postscript:  Tables are old-school and often don’t work well on WordPress but I like them nonetheless.  This was done using the TablePress plug-in, which seems to do a decent job of making a table attractive and manageable.)


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