University of Alicante (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN12 Proceedings
Publication year: 2012
Pages: 6366-6373
ISBN: 978-84-695-3491-5
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 4th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 2-4 July, 2012
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Learning Management Systems (LMSs) and Learning Networks (LNs) are particularly suitable for lifelong learners as these systems are online social networks designed to support formal as well as non-formal learning. Lifelong learners want to learn what they need, when they need it and at a place and pace that suits them. However, formal education is geared by fixed installments and assessment. These two approaches can be met by relaxing the deadlines for the first and adjusting them for the second. Thus, we could combine the heterogeneous background of non-formal learners, with those that need to meet the demands of traditional curriculum-based formal education. In both cases, the learner needs to be put central. Moreover, learners in a LN and in an LMS need to rely on learning through and with others, by sharing knowledge. That this is a feasible option is shown by the positive effects of collaborative learning and peer tutoring in formal education, as well as the interest in social learning in the digital era. However, these systems needs to provide learner support services to tackle obstacles that arise due to the lack of interaction structures and organizational structures that otherwise come naturally with a formal educational setting. A peer support service that assists learners in finding the most suitable peer for their request is one of the required learner support services. In this paper we argue why social learning and peer support are relevant to learners in a Learning System, be it formal or informal. We describe our peer support model based on the notion of ad hoc transient groups and present findings of empirical studies that used prototypical implementations of this model. In the first prototypes peer selection criteria focused on content knowledge, peer assessment, course content sharing, proximity, and /or randomly created assessment contribution. As collaboration tools –wikis, discussion forums, workshops, instant messaging and self and peer assessment were used. In one study, both in formal education and in Learning Network conditions, the peer support systems were successful in that selected peers provided decent answers. However in another study we encountered problems: learners failed to use the peer support systems to ask questions and seek for assistance; and, although sufficient participants were recruited beforehand, many never responded when the experiment actually started. As a consequence, peers who were paired with learners, either randomly appointed by the systems or through direct designation by lecturers, and never showed up, the consequence was a high level of dissatisfaction and frustration. This shows how important it is that learner support services not only provide the means to interact with others but also provide the affordances that stimulate and motivate the learners to engage in meaningful interactions.
Collaborative learning, social learning, support learning.