Audio transcript

Recorded by George Roberts, OCSLD, Oxford Brookes University

What is learning? Whenever we investigate a modified term such as "open learning", "deep learning", "surface learning" or "e-learning" or "mobile learning" or "blended learning", etc., we need to look at the root element independently.

So, ask yourself, what is learning?

There is a discussion forum that goes with this little talk. I have posted the question there. Why don't you post an answer in reply and enter into the discussion? As long as you are honest with yourself, I do not think there can be a wrong answer to this question.

There are many conceptions of learning. Not all of them are the same. People have different understandings of what learning is.

The wider question of "difference" will come up several times in this course. Difference - and what we do with it - will prove to be one of our key challenges as teachers supporting students in their learning. There are different approaches to learning; people have different learning preferences, there are even different understandings of the fundamental nature of knowledge.

But, back to learning.

You may see in the discussion forum what people have written about their understanding of learning. For example:

  • Learning is having a new understanding
  • Learning means being able to do something that you couldn't do before
  • Learning means having new facts
  • Learning is about a change in your mind.

Conceptions of learning might be broadly grouped into two broad categories:

  • Learning as a process
  • Learning as a product.

Learning as a process means that it is something you do; and probably something that you do with other people.

Learning as a product means that it is something that you have; and probably something that you have that is shared with other people.

And, for the purposes of this course, I want to introduce a third conception of learning:

  • Learning can be a subject of inquiry in its own right.

Learning can be a branch of Psychology, a branch of Philosophy; a branch of the broader discipline of Education.

Learning and teaching are not exactly the same thing. Just as there are different conceptions of learning there are different conceptions of teaching.

Why don't you go back to the forum and answer the question for yourself. What do you think teaching is?

Here, in this talk, I am indulging in a little piece of didactic teaching: that is, I am telling you what I think learning and teaching are. I have also provided a little introduction to discovery learning, through the discussion forum. Through the forum you can discover what other people think learning and teaching are.

Also associated with this talk there is a wiki with some references and links to other resources (mostly open educational resources) about learning and teaching. All of these will be able to provide you with opportunities to discover more about teaching and learning.

In this wiki you are invited to add links to your own favourite open resources on learning and teaching. This is a dynamic, collaborative exercise in sharing knowledge as a group. In fact, sharing knowledge as a group - or perhaps a community - is one of the themes that underlies this course.

In the opening synchronous online classroom session (23 May, 2012, 1500-1700 BST), which will be recorded we will look at another term, which is fundamental to this course: "open". What does "open" mean, especially in the context of "open learning" and "open academic practice" and "open educational resources". How are "sharing" and "openness" related?

As a teacher, you will be concerned with supporting learning.

For me, one of the best ways to do this is to begin by recognising that there is difference. People learn differently. People teach differently. People have different fundamental understandings of what it means to know. You will have students who learn well from
your preferred teaching style. But, you may also have students who just can't "get on your wavelength", who have a different approach to learning than you do. Recognising that there is difference, and that differences can be categorised, and then that categorical thinking can be used to develop different strategies or approaches to teaching will enable you to support more learners more effectively.

Through this course we will have some opportunities to look at different ways of teaching and learning. But ,we cannot hope to do it all in 50 hours spread over five short weeks. We hope to provide an introduction to the subject of teaching and supporting learning in higher education. And, maybe to spark or to rekindle a fascination (and maybe even a love affair) with teaching and learning. 

Last modified: Wednesday, 16 May 2012, 07:19 AM