sábado, 24 de octubre de 2009

How to humanize an online language learning environment

Task 4.2.6 Assessed Written Assignment 4

The Right Environment For More Humanized Online Language Learning
The Web offers online language students the perfect technology, but sometimes not the right environment for more humanized online learning where learners can be uniquely identified, content can be specifically presented, and progress can be individually monitored, supported, and assessed. Nevertheless, technologically speaking, language teachers are making rapid progress towards more humanized learning on the Web using adaptive technology. However, missing still is a whole-person understanding of how individuals learn online (Dotson, 2003), more than just how they process, build, and store knowledge. Cognitive solutions designed for the classroom solutions and facilitated by the teachers are often not enough to meet the individual needs of online language learners.

It is important to offer an alternative perspective about language learning on the Web that supports individual differences from a more personal level. There must be more discussion among teachers on issues such as the sources for individual language learning differences, specific reasons why some learners may be more self-directed or self-motivated than others, and design guidelines that have to do with the dominant influence of emotions, intentions, and on social aspects on online language learning. These insights from teachers can offer simple ways to enhance and evaluate contemporary online instructional designs so that they support personalized needs and instill the right habits for improved online language learning and performance.


Teachers who deal with problems or issues usually associated with online language learning environment should aim at seeking new perspectives for understanding individual differences and personalized language learning on the Web, because after years of research focused on primarily cognitive models, experience has shown that these solutions have often proved unpredictable and unstable, especially for online language learning (Reeves, 1993). What is needed is more reliable theoretical foundations that look at the person as a whole in order to set and accomplish personal short and long term challenging goals that maximize the students’ efforts to innovate and reach personal goals and that help them commit to make bigger efforts to discover, elaborate, and build new knowledge and meaning in terms of language learning.

Learners’ needs, desires, and intentions as well as emotions and feelings are attributes that are more stable over different online learning situations. Consequently, online language teachers should realize that conventional cognitive solutions are not enough. They must discover the need to increase their focus on the affective factors that influence language learning. In this context, the purpose should be to examine higher-order human characteristics and psychological influences on learning since this perspective leads to an examination of the dominant impact of emotions and intentions on the cognitive process of the students (Hargreaves, 2009). Online instructors should therefore take more into account vital relationships between key psychological factors (affective, cognitive, and social) which influence language learning differently; also critical links between online language learning environments, learning differences and learning ability, and supportive online language learning environments that match individual learning differences.

Today's teachers and online language environments designers alike must seek more sophisticated learning theories based on proven research showing how the human brain works and understand how individuals really learn because this will lead the way for personalizing or adapting online language learning environments and instruction. An important consideration in humanizing online learning is determining dominant or higher-level sources for individual learning differences. This involves understanding how the brain's emotional system influences cognitive processes or how different learners think and learn (Reeves, 1993). Much of the present understanding on individual learning differences remains focused on cognitive interests and mechanisms for information processing and knowledge building, but consideration of an important piece of learning is missing, since cognitive solutions often overlook fundamental whole-person learning needs such as the dominant influence of emotions and intentions that is crucial for self-directed and self-motivated language learning. The cognitive aspect generally supports traditional online teacher roles where an online instructor manages emotions, intentions and social issues.

Traditional cognitive classroom solutions are not always viable solutions for the language learner. Online learners need to want and intend to become more self-supporting and self-directing learners, independent of the instructor (Reeves, 1993). There are many students who come from classroom environments that are not equipped to handle online language learning environments. Online teachers must recognize the online learning ability gap and provide solutions that consider the whole-person perspective so that they can really help the online language student to gradually move to a more successful, self-directed online language learning. It is a pity to see that still a good number of today's language learners are conditioned to rely on their online instructors. Schools require a more sophisticated understanding of the student as a human being and his/her psychological characteristics of learning to change this conditioning (Weiss, 2002). Online language learning must be transformed into learning the helps learners want to improve their performance and negotiate constant improvement and change, independently, passionately and productively. More humanized, personalized learning is a step that has to be taken in this direction. As schools decide on next-generation e-learning alternatives, they need to first understand the dominant power of emotions and intentions on language learning, and second, seek humanized solutions that use this understanding to revolutionize the presentation of language learning (Weiss, 2002).

As a conclusion, it is important that online teachers come up with suggestions that contribute to more successful online language learning and a greater understanding about fundamental learning differences influenced by human affective influences. When teachers design an online course with only a universal type of learner in mind, all with similar emotions and intentions, they unintentionally set learners up for frustration and possible failure. If teachers become more serious about providing good online language instruction for learners, they must provide multiple ways to provide instruction and environments so that all learners will want to learn on the Web and continue to have opportunities for success. The benefits of humanizing online language learning to individual differences address important human issues such as frustration, lack of confidence, mistakes, impatience, reactions, and boredom. Instructional design for online language learning should address the unique sources for learning differences from a whole-person perspective. Online language sessions should emulate the instructor's experienced, intuitive ability to recognize and respond to how individuals learn differently, foster interest, value, as well as encourage more self-motivated, self-directed learning and a more humanized solution to individual differences.



References

Dotson, Tim (2003). Why Johnny Won't Post. Converge Online. Retrieved from
http://www.centerdigitaled.com/converge/?pg=magstory&id=65480 [Available as
an E-resource]

Hargreaves, S. (2009). Humanizing language teaching. Retrieved October 20, 2009, from http://www.hltmag.co.uk/oct09/index.htm

Palloff, Rena and Pratt, Keith (2007). Building Online Learning Communities, Wiley.

Reeves, T. (1993). Pseudoscience In Computer-Based Instruction: The Case of Learner Control Research, Journal of Computer-Based Instruction, Vol. 20, No. 2, pp. 39-46.

Snow, R., & Farr, M. (1987), Cognitive-Conative-Affective Processes in Aptitude, Learning, and Instructi: Conative and Affective Process Analyses. Vol. 3, pp. 1-10, Hillsdale, NJ, Erlbaum Associates.

Weiss, R. (2002). Humanizing the online classroom. Retrieved October 21, 2009, from http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/101523966/abstract

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