ELT 7008: Activity 9 - Real-life Situations Discussion
Discuss the use of activities that relate to real-life situations as a springboard for collaboration. What do these activities offer by way of promoting collaboration? Give an example. 300 - 400 words

A learning environment which incorporates learning activities based on real-life situations are authentic learning activities associated with the constructivist learning theory (Palloff & Pratt, 2007). As stated by Woo, Herrington, Agostinho, and Reeves (2007) "according to the theoretical principles of social constructivism, well-designed and well-operated courses focused on authentic activities should meet the expectations of meaningful interaction that contribute to student growth and learning" (p. 3). The ability for learners to work collaboratively is an essential element of the constructivist-based e-learning environment as stated by Piki (2009) "collaborative learning is based on the tenet that knowledge is constructed socially while people interact and exchange experiences, information, and ideas" (p. 459). The ultimate goal of learning is for students to achieve their goals and for the learning activities to be meaningful which requires learners to be actively engaged in the learning process which includes activities directly related to the real world as "people learn better when they are actively engaged in learning tasks that are directly related to their needs and interests" (Correia, 2008, p. 2; Palloff & Pratt). According to Woo et al. "within a learning environment built around authentic activities, students have their own roles similar to those found in a real-world team at work, at play, or in other collaborative social contexts" (p. 2).

Real-life situations serve as a catalyst for collaboration given students are motivated by solving real-world problems which require collaboration given "success is not achievable by an individual learner working alone. Authentic activities make collaboration integral to the task, both within the course and in the real world" (Lombardi, 2007a, p. 3). Piki (2009) further noted that "motivation plays a key role in successful collaboration initiatives – in educational and business settings alike" (p. 464). Real-life situations within the learning environment are predicated on authentic activitieswhich are valued by learners (Windham, 2007). It is essential to design courses which include real-life situations as "authentic learning typically focuses on real-world, complex problems and their solutions, using role-playing exercises, problem-based activities, case studies, and participation in virtual communities of practice" (Lombardi, 2007a, p. 2).

Instructors need to develop activities related to real-life in order to allow learners to connect and experience first-hand situations which will be encountered later in life including collaborative papers, small group problems, dialogues of inquiry, blogs, wikis, WebQuests, and simulations (Palloff & Pratt, 2007). As mentioned by Schmeil and Eppler (2008) the use of 3D virtual environments such as Second Life are another option which promote collaboration and provide a sense of presence as well as space lending a more realistic representations of persons and interactions to authentic learning activities. Several benefits to learners, and for instructors who incorporate real-life situations into the learning environment, exist:

The e-learning environment provides multiple opportunities for learners to utilize technology which serve to enhance the authentic learning activities of courses (Lombardi, 2007a; Palloff & Pratt, 2007). Courses which incorporate real-life situations benefit learners and are supported by the constructivist learning theory as noted by Chin and Williams (2006) in the statement: "learning is acquired through opportunities for reflection and active construction of knowledge as well as by means of social interaction and collaboration" (p. 19). The learning experience is more meaningful for learners who participate in authentic activities which leads to increased student engagement and learning achievement as stated by Bender (2005) "when students love what they are learning, the process feels meaningful, they retain the information better, and the experience motivates them to learn more (para. 1). Authentic learning activities motivate learners and support a collaborative learning environment given that "students must be stimulated and motivated to consider the essence of the material being presented and translate that into personal meaning that can be shared and collaboratively confirmed" (Garrison, 2006, pp. 25-26).

Take a few minutes to view the YouTube videos by Curtis Bonk as well as reviewing the resources and references used to complete this assignment as they provide a solid background to better understand how authentic learning and collaboration are interwoven.

Hands-on Experiential Learning by Curtis Bonk

Coordinating Problem, Project, and Product-Based Learning by Curtis Bonk

References and Literature Review Resources

Bender, T. (2005, April/May). Role-playing in online education: A teaching tool to to enhance student engagement and sustained learning. Journal of On-Line Education 1(4). Retrieved from http://innovateonline.info/pdf/vol1_issue4/Role_Playing_in_Online_Education-__A_Teaching_Tool_to_Enhance_Student_Engagement_and_Sustained_Learning.pdf

Bonk, C. (2010a, September 21). Coordinating online project, problem, product-based learning [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/OVh_xvR_F2Y

Bonk, C. (2010b, September 21). Hands-on experiential learning [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ-KxORhDEg

Chin, S., & Williams, J. (2006, March). A theoretical framework for effective online course design. Journal of Online Teaching and Learning 2(1), 12-21. Retrieved from http://scholar.googleusercontent.com/scholar?q=cache:DBCitQmkIOYJ:scholar.google.com/+online+collaboration+and+real-life+situations&hl=en&as_sdt=0,38

Corriea, A. (2008, April/May ). Moving from theory to real-world experiences in an e-learning community. Journal of Online Education 4(4). Retrieved from http://innovateonline.info/pdf/vol4_issue4/Moving_from_Theory_to_Real-World_Experiences_in_an_e-Learning_Community.pdf

Garrison, D.R. (2006, February). Online collaboration principles. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 10(1), 25-34. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

Haythornthwaite, (2006, February). Facilitating online collaboration. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 10(1), 7-24. Retrieved from

Jarvela, S., Volet, S., & Jarvenoja, H. (2010). Research on motivation in collaborative learning: Moving beyond the cognitive-situative divide and combining individual and social processes. Educational Psychologist, 45(1), 15-27. doi:10.1080/00461520903433539

Lombardi, M. (2007a, May). Authentic learning for the 21st century: An overview. In D. Oblinger (Ed.), Educause Learning Initiative [White paper]. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3009.pdf

Lombardi, M. (2007b, July). Approaches that work: How authentic learning is transforming higher education. In D. Oblinger (Ed.), Educause Learning Initiative [White paper]. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3013.pdf

Oblinger, D. (2007, July 30). Authentic learning: some great examples [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/blog/dianao/Authenticlearningsomegreatexam/167100

Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Piki, A. (2009). Portraits of Learners: An ethnographic study of computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) practices. Proceedings of the 8th European Conference on e-Learning, 458-465.

Schmeil, A., & Eppler, M. (2008, January). Knowledge sharing and collaborative learning in second life: A classification of virtual 3D group interaction scripts. Journal of Universal Computer Science 14(3), 665-677. Retrieved from http://www.jucs.org/jucs_15_3/knowledge_sharing_and_collaborative/jucs_15_03_0665_0677_schmeil.pdf

Sontag, M. (2009, April/May). A learning theory for 21st century students. Journal of Online Education 5(4). Retrieved from http://innovateonline.info/pdf/vol5_issue4/A_Learning_Theory_for_21st-Century_Students.pdf

Swan, K., & Shih, L. (2005, October). On the nature and development of social presence in online course discussions. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 9(3), 115-136.Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

Wallace, P., & Maryott, J. (2009, June/July). The impact of avatar self-representation on collaboration in virtual worlds. Journal of Online Education 5(5). Retrieved from http://innovateonline.info/pdf/vol5_issue5/The_Impact_of_Avatar_Self-Representation_on_Collaboration_in_Virtual_Worlds.pdf

Windham, C. (2007, September). Why today's students value authentic learning. In D. Oblinger (Ed.), Educause Learning Initiative [White paper]. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3017.pdf

Woo, Y., Herrington, J., Agostinho, S., and Reeves, T. (2007). Implementing authentic tasks in web-based learning environments. EDUCAUSE Quarterly 30(3), 36-43. Retrieved from http://www.utsweb.net/instructional%20design%20resources/implementing_authentic_tasks_in_web.pdf