Learning Motivation and Long-Term Retention Essay

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¶ … Learning Motivation and Long-Term Retention Through the use of Web-Based Learning Frameworks and Methodologies


Creating a strong catalyst of continual learning often requires educators to move beyond the constraints of existing teaching frameworks to embrace entirely new ones. The long-held assumptions regarding didactic, highly repetitive teaching styles are being more openly questioned as the integration of in-class and Web-based instruction shows greater potential that traditional teaching strategies, especially in the areas of conceptual learning involved in math and science (Green, Gentemann, 2001). The pervasive adoption of the Internet as a communications and collaboration medium has led to this medium being engrained into many facets of student's, parents, teacher's and school administrators' daily lives. The progression of teaching platforms continues to accelerate, with Internet-based learning showing the potential to provide students with a more customized, tailored experience to their specific needs. The concept of tailoring in-class learning with online instruction and tutorials is providing instructors with the ability to tailor individualized learning programs to the specific needs of students. The learning strategy that encompasses these areas of learning theory is called scaffolding, or the supporting of online and offline student learning styles with the specific learning plans designed to address their unique strengths and weaknesses (Najjar, 2008).Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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Contrary to learning theories and frameworks that have as their impetus or catalyst technology, scaffolding and the advanced forms of Web-based learning (WBL) are predicated on the concepts of creating a foundation that enables long-term learning through transformational leadership in the classroom. Instead of relying on technology as a means to create a given educational platform and creating a myriad of programs to get students online to adopt it, the combining of scaffolding and WBL techniques look to infuse a strong sense of learning autonomy, mastery of the programs, and purpose in learning materials (Greenwood, Horton, Utley, 2002. These three core concepts of autonomy, mastery and purpose are the anchor points of successful long-term learning programs (Ahlfeldt, Mehta, Sellnow, 2005). By designing scaffolding or individualized learning programs in conjunction with autonomy, mastery and purpose, the more complex, abstract concepts of mathematics, science and physics can be more effectively mastered by students over time. The design of courses in these more abstract, complex areas of study are most effective when they provide students with a high degree of control over the online learning experience, specifically concentrating on replication of content and lessons over time (Greenwood, Horton, Utley, 2002). Studies indicate that students gain a greater sense of autonomy and mastery over complex subjects when online learning platforms and systems allow them to continually review and iterate key steps in complex learning areas. The greater the level of interactivity of learning tools that can both be customized by the instructor to provide scaffolding or individualized learning programs, the greater the motivation to improve and see improvement in individualized scores (Najjar, 2008). The extent to which these scores are kept confidential between the student and instructor, the degree of customization of the online learning environment have a direct effect on the adoption and continual use of the learning tools (Basile, D'Aquila, 2002). This relates back to the concepts of autonomy and mastery, where online learning tools that provide students with an opportunity to take control of and manage their online environment effectively can lead to significant gains in long-term learning and retention of complex concepts (Sherif, Khan, 2005).

Nurturing and continually reinforcing a learning culture of autonomy, mastery and purpose is being accomplished through the use of both online-only and hybrid in-class and online classes, with the latter showing the greatest potential in courses that had been taught with inflexible pedantic structures in the past. The use of scaffolding strategies in the context of hybrid course structures has shown potential for providing student with greater autonomy and agility in defining their own learning environments online (Green, Gentemann, 2001). The instructor becomes a facilitator and partner to learning in these scenarios, and also defines the scaffolding strategies for each student as well (Najjar, 2008).

The overarching framework used to integrate these concepts of scaffolding, hybrid course design and the core values of autonomy, mastery and purpose together is often the Web-Based Learning (WBL) framework, created by Dr. Badrul Khan (Khan, 2003). Dr. Khan's WBL Framework is extensively used throughout academic and commercial applications of Web-based learning strategies. What makes this specific framework noteworthy above a myriad of others is how effectively, and pragmatically it places the student at the center of the learning strategies programs and experience (Khan, 1997). The overarching goal of the WBL Framework is to create a highly cohesive network to support student's specific learning styles, strengths, and pace of comprehension over time. Its eight dimensions are deliberately designed ot orchestrate the many types of learning needs students have and give instructors the ability to customize learning strategies for students. The eight dimensions of the model include audience analysis, content analysis, goal analysis, medium and design analysis, organization and methods and strategies for attaining long-term learning goals and objectives (Khan, 1997). Taken together these eight factors lead to a flexible learning platform that can support individualized, highly tailored learning strategies (Najjar, 2008).

2. Theory and Practice

Studies showing the reliance on a hybrid learning strategy of combining on-class and online instruction is more effective than traditional in-class alone. This is because the traditional didactic approaches to requiring rote memorization often deprive students with greater insights into how complex concepts are interrelated with one another (Greenwood, Horton, Utley, 2002). Clearly the era of didactic teaching is waning as advanced use of online collaboration and communication tools are teaching students how to better combine their unique strengths to turn their class projects into a long-term learning experience (Beard, 2002). This is especially the case in a study of 151 students enrolled in a traditional class and 49 enrolled in the same course online., the online course had lectures on electronic bulletin boards, a portal and also available via CD-ROM and on shared network drives. The online discussion rooms could be reserved and used whenever students needed them, and also provided for virtual blackboards for real-time information sharing (Navarro, Shoemaker, 2000). The results showed that students were more effective at collaborating and communicating with the online tools as many of them had time pressures that made meeting outside of class very difficult. This was one of the key factors that emerged from the analysis at a statistically significant level, yet the most compelling factor was the fact that students held each other to accountability and performance online where everyone could immediately see who was contributing or not, complete with statistics showing the most frequent contributors to the group's success (Navarro, Shoemaker, 2000). The peer pressure within this specific study showed that each student wanted to be seen as a major contributor to the groups' learning success and also wanted to have a "score" associated with their contribution which earned them enhanced credibility and respect with their peers in the class (Navarro, Shoemaker, 2000).

A study based on a computer programming course was completed using the WBL Framework as defined by Dr. Badrul Khan (Khan, 2003) that compared the academic performance of students who were taught with face-to-face lectures relative to those that were taught online using the WBL Framework as defined by Dr. Khan. The students who were taught online using a course design based on the WBL Framework in conjunction with scaffolding strategies for individualized learning outcomes performance better on both midterm and final exams (Navarro, Shoemaker, 2000). Scaffolding was shown to significantly improve test grades on lab programs, group or shared projects, midterms and final projects. The results also showed that online collaboration and communication increased significantly as student leaders emerged from the groups, often offering to help others with their more challenging homework assignments (Navarro, Shoemaker, 2000). This was surprising in that computer programming courses and advanced sciences classes are often highly competitive and isolated student behavior often leads to communication and project Collaboration breakdown even in entry-level courses as well. Yet the impact of a shared workspace online continually created a shared experience where students would regularly communicate using both computers at home and at school. The eight factors or components of the WBL Framework as defined by Dr. Khan had created a level of trust and transparency and dependency on de facto student leaders that otherwise would not have emerged (Navarro, Shoemaker, 2000).

3. Multiple Perspectives

There are just as many studies that indicate online learning leads to a lack of focus on the most critical areas of a course and the tendency of students to socialize instead of getting to work on their course projects. The most effective learning platforms that are built on the WBL Framework as defined by Dr. Khan have components that reflect student's progression towards learning and can be configured to nurture and encourage students to become de facto leaders of their student teams (Khan, 1997). Dr. Khan's work on these aspects of his framework… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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