The Six Levels of Change: Why the Distinctions Are Important

The Six Levels of Change: Why the Distinctions Are Important

The previous post described six levels of change where the cyberization of education is happening. What is the basis for these distinctions, and why are they important?

Life resource vs. learning resource -- The main distinction between these two is one of intent. We are learning creatures; we learn through communicating, socializing, entertainining and being entertained, informing and being informed. We learn many things informally without thinking much about it, or at times without even meaning to. But sometimes we learn with more intent in mind. We use learning resources intentionally; we learn from life resources incidentally.

Learning resource vs. education resource - Although learning and education are sometimes equated, the distinction between the two is important. Education is society’s means of transmitting, preserving, and renewing its core knowledge to its members. There is an individual dimension, but society created education to benefit the greater social good as well as its individual members. Learning is the means by which an individual makes sense of one’s life, experience, society, and the universe. The individual dimension is more prominent, although all learning has a social dimension since we are also social creatures. In practice, the distinction between these two is quite clear in most cases.

Education resource vs. information, communications, and management (ICM) delivery - This distinction is important because ICM delivery is where educational institutions become more involved on an administrative level. Teachers and students tend to make the decisions about which education resources to use, but decisions about the use of online technologies used for ICM delivery are generally made institutionally and administratively.

This distinction is particularly important for two main reasons. First, the use of online technologies for formal ICM is one of the main pathways to cyberizing education. Even institutions which have resisted offering online courses or programs have readily embraced the use of online technologies for formal ICM, for instance attractive portal web sites for information and marketing purposes, or learning management systems to communicate information. Second, ICM delivery is also often a ‘steppingstone’ toward offering online education. Some college faculty use what could be called a “blended education lite” approach for their courses: using a learning management system or other web portal to post syllabi, announcements, assignments, and other course information, while using classroom time for the “real” teaching and learning. However, it’s a small step from there to using the learning management system’s built-in functions, or one or more of the many proliferating web-based social networking tools, to start doing some of the teaching and learning activities normally done in a classroom such as online discussion, communication about group projects, or other student assignments. Then, post a short video or podcast here, a powerpoint slide presentation ‘mini-lecture’ there, and soon a full-fledged blended course emerges.

ICM delivery vs. instructional delivery -- This distinction is important because it’s often the big dividing line which many teachers and faculty, and some administrators, do not want to cross. The main obstacle has been, and to a large extent remains, the issue of perceived quality which is often based on philosophical differences, as illustrated by these two quotes from a March 2010 article about online education in San Diego:

“Online learning is the new normal - and it’s almost becoming a preference.”
-- Andrea Henne, Dean of Online and Distributed Learning, San Diego Community College District

“The philosophical question that needs to be grappled with is, what does it mean to have a UC-quality course, and how do you preserve that notion of quality in the online course material?”
-- William S. Hodgkiss, Scripps Professor of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego

Clearly, the adoption of online instructional delivery for undergraduate and graduate study is a line which faculty at many institutions are still reluctant to cross.

Instructional delivery vs. improved teaching and learning - This distinction is important because the evolution of online education thus far has focused primarily on providing access to educational opportunities, but its enormous potential to improve the quality of teaching and learning has only begun to be realized. If the first era of online education was focused on access, the emerging era has the potential to be focused on quality...

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