Is online learning a distinct paradigm?

Stephen Downes argues that it is in his response to a claim to the contrary. He cites an essay he wrote in 1998 and notes that:

Even in 1998, it was clear that transactional distance mediated by a computational network would result in some characteristic features or properties of online learning. These properties are not definitive of online learning in the sense that they are necessary and sufficient conditions, but they define a cluster with fuzzy boundaries in a space of possible types of learning, forming what Wittgenstein would call a family resemblance.

He also provides several links to other material in support of his stance and argues that online learning is entering a new era:

The normal use of ‘paradign’ is usually that intended by Kuhn, the idea that an undertaking now qualifies as what may be defined as ‘normal science’, with a relatively clear problem-space, a generally accepted experimental methodology, a commonly accepted taxonomy of terms and concepts, and a generally accepted set of underlying assumptions. Online learning, as I have desscribed it here, and as practiced by thousands, probably tens of thousands, of instructional designers and technologists around the world, satisfies all of these conditions. So much so, indeed, that in my own writing I have taken to describing it as ‘traditional online learning’, focused as it is on measuring learning outcomes, employing learning design workflow processes, and using technology and other specifications as defined by IMS or SCORM.

So much so, indeed, that I have in recent weeks been using the term ‘e-learning 2.0’ [ Link ] to designate a set of newer initiatives characterized by a fuller embrace of the network model of learning (this term is not unique to me [ Link ]). I have done so because the traditional model of online learning contains enough vestiges of traditional classroom and distance learning that it is tempting to react as Saba does, to begin to think that there’s nothing really new happening here, that the use of computer technology does not really introduce any new affordances, doesn’t really force us to reconceptualize what it is that we are doing, doesn’t really offer, indeed, an alternative to what has gone before.

(Via OLDaily .)

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