The Situation on Online Learning

Today I was asked, is online learning situated, in what context and how can it be supported? I am not quite sure how to respond to this question; my first mind says yes, but for some reason, I want to say no. To generate a concrete answer, I suppose I must explore these questions.

I think online learning and collaboration can offer significant benefits, if it is within an operational community, its purpose meets the interest of the learner, but most importantly if the learner is participating. I suppose a person can learn from the sidelines through observation. Similar to second language acquisition, it takes time. The first step for any learner is to build the courage to join a community and possibly even more time to participate in a community to hold a functional role. Yes, learning can be situated, but in the right community, meaning continuous interactions are taking place. For example, members are pushing each other’s development, and most importantly the learner can apply concepts from their online community to their real-life community and vice versa.

What makes situated learning special is the connection it brings by including others in the learning process. In general, learning with others especially friends is fun. In fact, who doesn’t like fun! The social learning aspect is terrific because it can include an element of ZPD (Zone Proximal Development). ZPD is all about scaffolding one’s learning and in a learning community viewing others learning/trying something new, in my opinion, elevates the on-looker’s development at least by observation alone. I would also like to think, viewing what and how others learn can activate a monkey see, monkey do action type. This is risky because success can increase encourage, but failure may also discourage. However, in the right online learning community, a person’s failure will not last long as the essence of a community of practice is refinement, encouragement and social learning.
Well, by the looks of my response above, online learning is situated. I think it is all about belonging to the right community suitable to the needs of the learner. If the community and learner do not have a common interest minimal learning may take place.

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