On open-ended and learner-managed courses

Coomey and Stephenson says: “technology of online learning appears to facilitate a migration from traditional didactic modes to more learner-managed learning modes if teachers and designers wish to take such a journey” (p 49). That is, with the internet it has become possible to design a course that is more learner-oriented. One could say that the internet is a good place for open-ended and learner-managed courses because it is in itself open-ended (Coomey and Stephenson, p 41f). But it’s also obvious that with the internet it has become very difficult to find the best path for each and everyone and you have to know a lot of things on what’s going on out there in order to feel comfortable. And that goes for an  instructor as well. So one of my first suggestions if I should create such a course will be to specify the learning outcomes and make it clear that an important outcome of such a course is to learn how to create a useful order out of a chaotic internet, an order that fits one’s own learning path. This will be demanding for a teacher, she or he have to seriously take this questions into consideration and make instructions for how to create such an order.

But I personally have difficulties with courses that are too much open-ended and learner-managed. I do not think they are appropriate for a university, but works well as a way of realizing the so called (in swedish) “tredje uppgiften”; that is the task to popularize research done by academics and make it available to all interested people. I find what Coomey and Stephenson says for the SE quadrant difficult to apply to swedish university standards. They say: ”In this sector the learner is in control of the overall direction of the learning, including learning outcomes and longer terms goals (p. 46). I don’t think it’s possible to even start such a course in a Swedish course system.

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