Situated Learning Versus Network Learning

Learning refers to the process of acquiring new or modified knowledge, skills, behaviors, values or preferences. There are a number of approaches to learning that have been developed over the years but this paper discusses only two of them; situated learning and network learning. Each of the two learning approach has both benefits and limitations. This essay discusses in depth the benefits and limitations of situated learning and network learning approach, outcome of situated and network learning approach and the roles of a teacher in both situated and network approach of learning. Situated Learning Situated learning is a learning approach developed by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger in the early 1990s. The approach builds up on one developed by Dewey, Vygotsky, and others who claim that students usually get to learn more by being actively involved in the learning process. According to Stein, “Situated learning revolves around creating meaning from daily life’s happenings” (1998 para. 2). Lave & Wenger holds that the amount of information absorbed in a learning process has everything to do with the learning environment (1991). According to Lave & Wenger, situated learning is the best approach in learning activities such as field trips, Cooperative education and internships (1991). Field trips allow students to learn from unfamiliar environments, and cooperative education such as music lessons, drama sessions and sports allow students to learn by fully interacting with the surroundings when learning. Laboratory practical is another example of learning activity best for situated learning and allow students to learn through active participation in practical lessons (Lave & Wenger, 1991). According to Lave and Wenger (1991), situated learning approach helps learners to apply the theoretical knowledge they acquire to solve complex problems in day-to-day lives. This approach also focuses in a community of learners who acquire knowledge and use it in solving problems that are in their surroundings. Against the many prevalent views of learning, Lave and Wenger in situated learning theory holds that learning is an integral and inseparable with social interactions (1991). Active participation of students in situated learning give students an opportunity to acquire as much information as possible and they in turn use it to solve life problems. Situated learning approach provides an environment that allows students to learn and remember a lot of information. The success of situational learning is pegged on social interaction and kinesthetic activity. Situational learning is different from network learning which holds that knowledge is acquired through virtual interactions between learners and teachers. Stein (1998) is of the opinion that situational learning is based on daily interactions and is best achieved through social interactions. Stein (1998) adds that “learning is not separated from the world of actions, but exist in robust, complex, social environments made up of actors, actions, and situations” (para. 3). Situational learning works best in disciplines such as engineering, medical science, manufacturing and space technology just to mention a few. Benefits of Situated learning According to Lave and Wenger (1991), situated learning utilizes the learner’s prior knowledge on a given subject. Albeit the terminologies used in situated learning might be new, the ideas are well known to learners. Situated learning proves that education is a process of living and not a preparation for the future. The teachers in situated learning make the subject easy by mentioning first what the student knows about the subject. In situated learning, knowledge acquired can be applied in similar contexts. Students in this learning approach do not only absorb knowledge but also learn about the conditions for applying the knowledge they have acquired (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Situated learning approach allows students to see the implications of the knowledge they Situated learning is beneficial in the sense that places learners in realistic setting where socially acquired knowledge is often valued (Wright, 2013). Individuals should therefore endeavor to learn in ways that are natural to their level of intelligence. Limitations of Situational Learning Albeit situational learning has a significant number of benefits, it has some limitations as well. To begin with, learners can only get hands-on experience through established standard procedures and operations (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Because life is full of unexpected situations, the standard procedures of solving a problem might never help a student in real life. This learning approach does not also indicate ways in which a student can apply their knowledge to solve uncommon problems. The approach is orchestrated in a way that only addresses common life problems. Situated learning fails to address how knowledge acquired can be applied in solving other life problems (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Additionally, for trainers to effectively deliver in situational learning approach, they need to be equipped with extensive real life experience which might not be the case for majority of trainers. Some trainers are limited in experience and therefore this is a challenge (Nimmo, 1998). Situational learning is an expensive approach to implement. According to Lave and Wenger (1991), situated learning requires a lot of financial and structural input in order to achieve its set objectives. A major shift in the school systems and teachers also need to be made to accommodate situated learning approach. Network Learning Approach Network is referred to as connection between two entities. Network learning encompasses use of communication technology to foster collaborative processes, and interactions. Network learning is an instrumental aspect in most institutions of higher learning today and students build knowledge through discussions with peers, teachers and tutors. Social interaction in network learning is poor and has risen concerns on how best the trainers can interact with the trainees during online learning (Mackey & Evans, 2011). The biggest challenge that is yet to be addressed is that interaction in network learning only involves the online course community. Emphasis is only laid on the course community instead of other informal learning networks beyond the online course. According to Seimen (2004), “within the formal online course there is a tendency for community formation to be an adjunct of the course content, rather than the community itself driving learning interactions and determining salient content and resources” (p. 1016). The only kind of interactions students might have in network learning is that centered on content and curriculum and the end of a course marks the end of the interactions between students. In network learning, both understanding and experience are always in constant interactions (Hudges, 2011). Learning is as a result of social interactions and occurs naturally outside formal training Learning cannot be separated with social interactions, making meaning, and belonging to a community. Network learning does not only look at the design of the learning environments but also the learning potential of emerging technologies. Benefits of network learning Network learning more often referred to as online learning has been on the rise due to the ever growing technology. It has a lot of benefits compared to situational learning approach and among them are as follows: Network learning is a cost effective approach to learning. Network learning is as cheap as free and only requires internet connection. The two networking entities in this case teachers and students require internet connection in their individual computers for learning to take place. In network learning approach, the trainer uses synchronous programs which are cheap to install in managing the class. Network learning saves on money which could have otherwise been used to rent a building and pay utility bills. Network learning advocates for self-spaced learning. Which allows both students and trainers attend classes from anywhere and anytime? Most network learning programs can be taken when needed. Reading materials are set up using Trainersoft to create a module-based design which allows a student to go through smaller chunks of training that can be used and absorbed for a while before moving on (Meade, 2005). Network learning saves on time. Time which learners could have otherwise used to commute to class is saved through network learning approach. Network learning allows learners to go through training from anywhere and at any convenient time. According to (Gee 2008) network learning is 50 percent faster compared to traditional courses. Learners in this approach have an option to skip the information that they already know and progress to the issues they need training on. Limitations of networked learning Despite the numerous benefits of network learning, the approach still has a number of limitations. Among the limitations are: Network learning calls for a high degree of discipline ((Wang, 2013). One of the benefits of network learning is that it allows for self-spaced. Although a student enjoys space, they are at risk of internet distraction during the training session. If a student needs to watch a video online for instance, he or she will do it and miss on the information the teacher is giving. If a student again wants to take a break from the material, he or she can do that without anyone having to notice. The inherent freedom in most cases translates to no learning as most students are not disciplined. Network learning lacks flexibility. It is difficult for teachers to teach complex skills and competencies through network learning as it lacks flexibility. A business student who chooses this approach to learning will miss out on crucial skills which are more often required in the day-to-day operation of a business. Such students are beaten performance wise by those who embraced traditional learning approach. Network learning due to its nature limits learning because students cannot freely ask questions and obtaining clarification. Network Learning is slow in evaluation. After the development of a network learning course, it takes a lot of time to make any necessary. Unlike situated learning which takes lesser time to make changes, network learning approach takes a significant amount of time to make changes and therefore the system can easily become obsolete. Outcome of situated learning approach As a result of situated learning approach, close relationships are formed between the learners and teachers (Lave and Wenger, 1991). Situated learning has a significant relationship with learners’ performance and individual differences. According to Lave and Wenger (1991), social interactions influences the learning outcomes. Situated learning is built on professional relationships which help students be in a better position to solve problems efficiently than in any other learning approach. Social interaction and collaboration are prerequisites in situated learning and as a result, learners become actively involved in a “community of practice”. As students’ moves from the periphery of a community to its center, they become more active and engaged within the culture and as a result, they become experts (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Outcome of network learning Networked learning forms a community with poor social relationships. The community includes learners who are in different regions connected by the network. Network learning results to an evidence-based approach to measuring of students’ performance and teachers’ accountability. In network learning approach also, the teacher evaluates the student’s achievement by comparing the learning outcome and the assessment content (Bradford et al. 2013). Role of teachers in situated learning In situational learning, the teacher plays a number of roles. The first role is to ensure that all the students are actively involved in a learning activity. To achieve this objective, a teacher needs to establish good professional relationships with the students (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Since situational learning is based on relationships, lack of good relationship between teachers and students hinder effective learning. Secondly, it is the role of a teacher to ensure that the lesson is tailored according to the student’s requirements. The teacher does this by following the training cycle that entails, identifying learning need, planning and design, delivering of objectives, assessment and ends with evaluation. The teacher does not introduce new ideas but builds on knowledge that is known by students (Stein, 1998). Thirdly, a teacher has a role of providing a positive learning environment so that learning objectives are met with ease (Gee, 2008). The teacher encourages social interactions during the learning session so that the students acquire knowledge to solve life problems. Role of teachers in Network learning Teachers in online learning perform three tasks simultaneously: managing the group, managing activities and managing the learning. Teachers in situated learning have the following roles. Imparting knowledge to students (Dalli, 2012). The professional educator is responsible for transmitting knowledge to students. The educator therefore should prepare prior to the learning session for efficiency purposes. Leading discussions. The teacher leads discussions through various ways such as asking open-ended questions, giving examples, defining terms, guiding students and enabling active participation of students (Brennan, 2007). Acts as a consultant and responds to student’s concerns (Wright, 1992). For learning to be effective in online approach, the teachers need to be enthusiastic, empathetic, organized and well versed with skills to manage students. In summary, situated learning was developed by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger in the early 1990s. Situated learning is of the idea that for effective learning to take place, there must be active participation between teachers and learners. Situated learning focuses on acquiring knowledge in order to solve real life problems. Situated learning approach has advantages such as, utilizes learner’s prior knowledge, knowledge acquired can be used in similar contexts, and places learners in setting where socially acquire knowledge are valued. The limitations of situated learning include: learners can only get hands-on experience through established standard procedures, professional educators need to be equipped with extensive real life experience, and it is an expensive approach to learning. Network learning approach requires use of communication technology to foster collaborative processes, and interactions. Network learning is a common phenomenon in most institutions of higher learning today. The benefits of network learning include: it is a cheap learning method, advocates for self-spaced learning, and saves on time. The limitations of network learning are as follows, students need a high degree of discipline, lacks flexibility and there is a high possibility of students cheating in exams. The outcomes of situated learning are a community made up of learners, teachers and the learning environment. In situated learning approach, students become more active and engaged within the culture and as a result, they become experts and students gain knowledge to solve real life problems. In network learning however, the outcomes are different as communities involve networked computers, students and teachers all who are in different locations. Network learning encourages leadership in schools and across the network. Network learning encourages people to participating in collaborative groups and interacts with colleagues during learning. The roles of teachers in both learning methods are significantly different. Teachers in situated learning for instance ensure that students are actively involved in learning, ensure that the lesson is tailored according to the student’s requirements and provide a positive learning environment for students. In network learning on the other hand, teachers impart knowledge to students, lead discussions and act as consultants: responds to students concerns.

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