Studying an Open University module by nature is situated within a group of learners and tutors, this naturally evolves into learning community.
The success of such a community is dependant on the group dynamics such as how the forum activities lend themselves to discourse, how the tutor draws out discussion and the ability and confidence learners have to engage with such discourse.
Personally, the benefits if learning within a community is sharing knowledge/experience with fellow learners and making sense of course material, literature and new concepts from shared perspectives. Learning alone would cancel out the shared understanding and reduce the richness of my learning journey significantly. There is also the peer-supporting element of the community, getting help and advice from co-learners helps to build a stronger sense of community and this bonds learner more closely.
The Ludwig-Hardman and Dunlap 2003 model is far too supportive of learners and does not provide the authentic learning environment learners really experience when arriving in a new environment and discovering new forms of communication. I would also argue taking learners along such a supportive route is stifling their own pursuit of experiential learning, as McLoughlin states ‘To foster effective learning, it is important to make sure that the learners are not just exposed to inert facts and information, but they are afforded an experience that enables them to plan, act and reflect’ (2002pp.157). Doing this within the course environment and at point of need then becomes meaningful and relevant. Salmon also supports this view by stating ‘offering face-to-face sessions to try and instruct new participants in all the features of the platform and then to expect them to be able to take part successfully is not a good idea’ (Salmon 2002 pp. 14).
Having the resources to help students at point of need is a matter the course team should build in (or link to) by default at the start of each online course. The course tutor should ensure such resources are used by students who are less confident, while at the same time allowing the more confident learners to help with this support. Thus, such a model helps to support the notion of community and learning happens in a far more evolving manner.
Ludwig-hardman, S., & Dunlap, J. (2003). Learner Support Services for Online Students: Scaffolding for success. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, vol. 4, issue 1. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/131/211
McLoughlin, C. (2002) ‘Learner support in distance and networked learning environments: ten dimensions for successful design’, Distance Education, vol.23, no.2, pp.149–62.
Salmon, G. (2002) E-tivities: The Key to Active Online Learning, London, RoutledgeFalmer.