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Why i love the Constructivist Approach to (Online) Education

I completed my MBA from a top business school in Australia, not so long ago. In mid-2008, to be precise. But it feels like ages back. This is probably because of the rapid pace at which advancements in educational technology have changed the landscape of education dissemination. Let me explain…

My university learning experience was almost strictly, offline. We used the internet to conduct research for our coursework, use the online library resources or email fellow cohort members and subject matter experts (faculty). We had one class session a week, per subject (module), per semester. The practical component of each module was weighted at up to 50% of the total marks allocated to the module. Individual reports and projects and group case study analyses formed the majority of these practical assessments. Required reading or pre-reading for every class session was usually a big chunk of the prescribed text book, or a stack of case studies and articles (either handed to us by the facilitator in the previous session or we downloaded them from the online library). The final assessment component for every module was a open-book, open-web examination, which was written in a three hour time frame, within a classroom setting.

From a pedagogical delivery and learning standpoint, it was mostly uni-directional. Teacher to student. The learner was, for the most part, a passive receiver of information. Print media ruled over all else. Enter, the Constructivist approach.

Constructivism as a learning theory has been around for decades now. In the video below, John Abbott summarises the concept of constructivism very succinctly.

When applied to education, Constructivism forms the essence of a truly collaborative learning framework, where students are active participants in, and contributors to the knowledge-creation effort. The constructivist approach recognises that students do not learn strictly within the limited confines of an educational institution, but rather within the broader context of their personal lives (Reid-Martinez et al, 2009).

Today, educational institutions are building their own personalised online learning environments, and enabling students to become both producers and consumers of knowledge. Rather than individual reports and assignments, the focus is more on group discussion activities and assessment. The student is encouraged to share their thoughts, opinions and indeed research (primary and/or secondary research), which is then used to augment and renew content, so that it stays both up to date, and relevant! The knowledge-harnessing potential of such a collaborative learning schema is immense, infinite even. Add to this social media elements like instant messaging (chat rooms), “inboxing” and online groups, and knowledge spreads like wildfire. This is knowledge sharing at its best, and this is why i simply love the Constructivist Approach to Education.


About Kirtana Hariharan

Research Analyst, Global Operations @Knowledge Universe Programme Director @ Asian International College


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