Associate professor and author of ‘The Digital Classroom’, Steve Wheeler talks about blended learning in the interview with Foradian Technologies.
About Steve Wheeler
Steve Wheeler is Associate Professor of Learning Technologies at Plymouth University, in South West England. Originally trained as a psychologist, he has spent his entire career working in media, technology and learning, predominantly in nurse education (NHS 1981-1995) and teacher education (1976-1981 and 1995-present). He is now in the Plymouth Institute of Education, at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.
Steve is a global educator, teaching online, and on a number of undergraduate and post-graduate teacher education programmes in the UK and overseas. He researches into technology supported learning and distance education, with particular emphasis on the pedagogy underlying the use of social media and Web 2.0 technologies, and he also has research interests in mobile learning and cyber-cultures. Steve is regularly invited to speak about his work and has given keynotes and invited lectures to audiences in more than 30 countries across 5 continents. He is currently involved in several research programmes related to technology supported learning, digital praxis, social media and handheld technologies.
Steve is the author of more than 150 scholarly articles, with over 3000 academic citations and is an active and prolific edublogger. His blog Learning with ‘e’s is a regular online commentary on the social and cultural impact of disruptive technologies, and the application of digital media in education, learning and development. It currently attracts in excess of 60,000 unique visitors each month.
Between 2003-2013 Steve was chair of the Plymouth e-Learning Conference, and between 2008-2011 was also co-editor of the journal Interactive Learning Environments. He serves on the editorial boards of a number of learning technology and education related open access academic journals including Research in Learning Technology (formerly ALT-J), the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL), the European Journal of Open, Distance and e Learning (EURODL) and Digital Culture and Education. He has served on the organising and executive committees of a number of international academic conferences, including ALT-C, ICL, EDEN, IFIP and AICT.
In 2008 Steve was awarded a Fellowship by the European Distance and E-learning Network (EDEN), in 2011 he was elected to serve as a member of the Steering group of EDEN’s Network of Academics and Professionals (NAP), and in 2014 was elected as the chair. Between 2008-2013 he also served as chair of the influential worldwide research group IFIP Technical Committee Working Group 3.6 (distance education) and is author of several books including The Digital Classroom (Routledge: 2008) and Connected Minds, Emerging Cultures (Information Age: 2009). He lives in Plymouth, on the South West coast of England.
Q: Tell us about how formal education is different from blended learning?
Steve: Blended learning used to be about the mix of local and remote study, that is, traditional and distance education. Increasingly, the boundaries of the geographical locations of learners is blurring. What used to be blended is not multiple mode learning, with students learning using a variety of personal and institutional tools. The challenge now is not to define blended learning, but to harness the power of the technologies to promote good learning, whether it is formal or informal.
Q: What is the basis of deciding a course structure in blended learning?
Steve: The basis for selection used to be decided by the institution. Now we witness students deciding for themselves what and where and how they wish to learn, and at what pace and in what mode they wish to achieve it. Personalised tools such as the mobile phone, increased access to the Web and Social Media and the advent of new (or old made new) approaches such as the Flipped Classroom and Massive Open Online Courses are all blurring the boundaries even more.
Q: What are the difficulties in blended learning?
Steve: There are no difficulties if the student drives the process.
Q: How blended learning can meet the demands of international education?
Steve: All forms of learning can meet some of the demands of international students, but no method can fully meet the demands. We should now see blended learning as a hybrid of many modes of learning, including local/remote, synchronous/asynchronous, institutional/student led, formal/informal and personal/social to name just a few.
Q: How Learning Management Systems plays a vital role in blended learning?
Steve: Learning Management Systems are problematic, especially if used in the traditional manner. We need to ensure that the LMS is no longer used to push directed and didactic forms of learning, but instead can be seen as a part of a much wider ecosystem of tools, technologies and environments where learners can explore many modes of learning, finding access to education at any time, in any place and by any means.
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