Defining the Problem Situation
With the development of the ICT system, the traditional learning environments are in the process of developing new virtual spaces designed for learning. Participants have to adjust to new methods of communication and learning with teachers and peers through a differently organized learning environment. The emergence of virtual learning environments, however, is not entirely subject to technological advancement, but to the necessity of introducing wider opportunities for adult students, or individuals who plan to combine work and study. Virtual communications can be based on various combinations of multimedia platforms and telematics tools. The educational technologies, therefore, should be taken into closer consideration to understand how they relate to the social domain of education. In this respect, Amiel and Reeves (2008) insist, “educational technologies are often viewed not only as solutions to real or perceived inadequacies of traditional instruction but also as tools for reducing the inequities in educational opportunities around the world” (p. 28). However, the rapid development of distant learning questions the existence of real-classroom environments in terms of schedule flexibility and quick information exchange (Barajas & Owen, 2000). At the same time, the virtual system allows students to widen their access to unpublished materials and lectures, as well as to online courses. This opportunity can improve the quality of education and provide further perspectives for its development.
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Expressing and Describing the Problem Situation in the Real World Context
To illustrate the picture of the problem, it is purposeful to define the connections that can be created while combining traditional and virtual learning environment by highlighting the problems that exist in each realm. In holistic terms, analysis of virtual environment must account for such elements as new technology, learning materials, and virtual lectures. However, distant learning environment fails to consider constructivist or learner-centric perspective as compared to the traditional approaches to an academic process.
Aside from technological aspects of the problem, the deficiencies in both virtual learning environment and traditional learning environment are affected by social-economic factors. In particular, these processes can contribute to the improvement of the problem situation as soon as the elements are considered within the framework of pedagogic effectiveness and institutional restructuring. Failure to respond to the linguistic, academic, and cultural diversity of the modern world can put creating systems under the threat of low economic, social, and pedagogical efficiency. Therefore, it is purposeful to analyze and synthesize various contexts of education and system research to identify a generalized approach to answering the above-presented situational needs.
Root Definition Stage
Pitfalls of both systems can be solved by introducing alternatives path of reconciling the above-presented concerns and needs, including schedule flexibility, pedagogical efficiency, learner-centred approach, and institutional restructuring. To understand how both systems can coexist independently by fruitfully contributing to each other, it is necessary to define the educational system as a techno-social dimension within which participants can obtain knowledge. Specific attention here should be placed on developing a learner-centred approach in the sphere of distance education because this type of learning environment is deprived of direct, face-to-face communication. The proposed alternatives can involve the following:
- Applying extant knowledge and approaches through the usage of traditional delivery techniques in a virtual environment;
- Reevaluation of the concept of distant learning through introducing disciplines that will shape the basis of operational management and exploration of external factors. In this particular case, ICT systems can shape the ground of a multidisciplinary approach (Barajas & Owen, 2000). In particular, they can create the equilibrium by integrating the developer and the participants of the project. The new project of learning process transformation should also be supported by theories that consider human aspects, including social learning theory (Alexander, 2001).
- Consideration of institutional factors that challenge the introduction of the learner-centred approach into a virtual realm;
- Creating new educational paradigms supporting the cross-cultural environment and underlining students who should stand at the core of the distance learning opportunities;
- Adjusting real-life realms to the virtual learning environment through the identity of social and cultural situations;
- Reinterpreting the nature of learning resources and materials and introducing video and audio courses can as efficient as written records. Students, therefore, can record their video answers to the exam questions.
In general, all the proposed alternative solutions are aimed at integrating traditional learning approaches to distant education. Similarly, educational technologies should also be regarded as viable tools for promoting learning techniques. In this respect, Amiel and Reeves (2008) insist that educational technology should be understood “as a process rather than artefacts” (p. 31). Therefore, the above-presented solution about the necessity to shift the existing educational paradigms is an obligatory condition. Indeed, a new vision on the role of technology in education can promote debates on the value of educational tools.
Changing educational paradigms could imply the shifts in the following domains:
- Introducing learning technologies and new concepts in learning and teaching;
- Changing the concept of teacher-learner interactions;
- Understanding the nature of learning materials;
- New patterns of pedagogical design in the virtual learning environment;
- Planning, development and implementation issues of distance learning;
- The emergence of new teaching strategies.
The above-presented means are essential for developing and researching an open system of distance education because it manages to reconsider such important issues as teaching technology, virtual learning, and globalized markets. What is more important is that the new project offers a variety of cultural, ethical, technological, and intellectual property issues that need to be resolved. The development of open system projects, therefore, should focus on a new curriculum that brings in innovation into current bodies of knowledge delivered through both traditional and virtual learning approaches.
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Developing the Model
The proposed model should premise on a multilevel hierarchical scheme embodying a complex synergy of the traditional educational system and information system. A new realm, therefore, offers an open learning model within which learners and teachers are expected to exchange materials and promote new teaching and learning strategies. The project of an open learning system has several analogous sub-systems presented the research by Al-Badowi (2009). In particular, the researcher is concerned with ensuring a flexible learning framework through the application of soft systems methodology to understand the challenges of social and economic environments.
Apart from educational needs, the new paradigm will require a new outlook on market needs that should be resolved to proceed with the project. The application of the soft systems methodologies provides a wider perspective of what solutions can be implemented to the problem situation to avoid the above-presented challenges.
To implement the model, the following issues should be concerned:
- Developing a new curriculum that would consider video and audio materials a priority. Certainly, such an approach is experimental and, therefore, a survey should be conducted before the new strategy is implemented;
- Understanding the needs of the target audience and adjusting the new paradigms to these needs;
- Presenting an open model of communication. It implies that both teachers and learners should be involved in active communication. There should be a strict schedule using which learners can make inquiries concerning various issues;
- Developing a new system for performance assessment is also a challenge that needs to be addressed. In this respect, the model can imply additional costs and resource spent on improving the assessment scheme.
Contrast and Compare
An in-depth analysis of the problem situation and the evaluation of the proposed model open learning in distance education accounts for all the components introduced in a new solution mechanism. To begin, the development of a new curriculum based on video and audio materials can introduce traditional strategies of conducting lessons. At the same time, introducing new forms of communication, teachers should undergo specific training programs to adjust to a new virtual learning environment, which deviates from the established scheme in the problem situation. Therefore, this issue should be reconsidered.
The learner-centred approach implies a specific focus made on communication and social interaction. In this respect, the development of new pedagogical schemes and the introduction of schedule should contribute to the implementation of an open system. The development of a learner-centred approach is also possible through the implementation of social learning theories within the virtual learning framework. In this respect, changing patterns of distance education from the self-directed and isolating environment to an interactive realm is possible through modelling and communication (Alexander, 2001). In this respect, the role of distance teacher is to capture students’ enthusiasm, curiosity, and energy and provide them with skills that would help them become self-directed learners. Also, the opportunities for face-to-face interaction via online devices have been widened significantly while eliminating communication constraints.
Feasible and Desirable Change
Considering education as a socio-technical system is a new paradigm and, therefore, both teachers and learners should reconsider their understanding of education in terms of goals, purposes, and techniques. The proposed model, therefore, introduces information systems and computer disciplines that can adjust the extant body of knowledge to a new realm. The task of teachers and learners is to acquire skills that would allow them to accommodate quickly to the emerged changes. Indeed, readiness to change is another condition under which the proposed model can be effective.
Further analysis of the open system of online educations explores the authoritative level implies the governmental structures that should be involved in resolving the issue. They should have sufficient grounds for implementing the above-presented model. In other words, it should produce the advantage of the existing online and traditional delivery systems. The suggested scheme is much more beneficial in terms of all the examined factors (learner-centred approach, flexibility, and pedagogical efficiency and institutional restructuring). Once again, specific emphasis should be placed on the relocation of financial resources and restructure of existing systems.
Action to Improve the Situation
Exploration of the proposed model reveals feasible possibilities for implementing to a real situation because of all of the examined problem situations can be improved and promoted to a new, more efficient educational paradigm. Since education should constantly change, the given research can advance understanding of how distance learning can further be developed and improved.
Alexander, L. M. (2001). Social Learning Theory and Distance Education: Compatible and Incompatible Constructs? Perspective on Physician Assistant Education. 12(4), 267-269.
Al-Badowi, A., (2009). E-Learning Designing and the Implementation in the Light of the Australian Flexible Learning Framework: The Syrian Virtual University Roadmap to Success. Internet Applications and Web Applications and Services. 413-417.
Amiel, T., & Reeves, T. C. (2008). Design-Based Research and Educational Technology: Rethinking Technology and the Research Agenda. Journal Of Educational Technology & Society, 11(4), 29-40.
Barajas, M., & Owen, M. (2000). Implementing Virtual Learning Environments: Looking for Holistic Approach. Educational Technology & Society, 3(3), 39-53.