Identifying the Building Blocks of Education


Though being rather basic, the theory of self-regulated learning requires significant efforts from both the learner and the tutor. According to the existing definition, the phenomenon of self-regulated learning presupposes that the learner defines the course of further information acquisition, the pace, at which the latter process occurs, and the elements, which the learner in question considers important for gaining proficiency in the target subject (Gero & Hanna 2015). To be more exact, self-regulated learning is the “active constructive process whereby learners set goals for their learning and monitor, regulate, and control their cognition, motivation, and behaviour, guided and constrained by their goals and the contextual features of the environment” (Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick 2006, p. 202). It should be born in mind, though, that the concept of self-regulated learning is often confused with meta-cognition. While the latter should also be taken into account when defining the phenomenon of self-regulated learning, metacognition should be viewed as a step towards gaining the necessary skills instead of a thing in itself. Meta-cognition, in its turn, is traditionally identified as “the conscious awareness of cognitive control processes” (Zeidan et al., 2010, p. 598).

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Learning to Learn

The theory suggests that self-regulated and self-directed learning styles can be adopted by a student successfully as soon as the learner understands the basic steps of information acquisition as an individual process occurring in their mind., In other words, the participants have to understand how they learn and memorise information before developing certain learning patterns and becoming independent as learners.

The theory of self-regulated learning incorporates several basic concepts, such as “self-concept, self-esteem, social comparisons, emotions, values, and self-evaluations” (Shunk & Zimmerman 2012, p. vii). The above-mentioned qualities are the building blocks for developing learners’ independence, which help create the environment that will motivate one to learn and encourage the learner to acquire and train new skills. The fact that self-regulated learning requires that the learner should give a full account of their weaknesses and strengths also deserves to be brought to instructors’ attention. Hence, for self-regulated learning to have any effect on the proficiency of the student, who decides to adopt the given model of learning, the learner must be self-aware.

The benefits of the above-mentioned approach are obvious. Not being dependent on the teacher and, therefore, enabled to shape the learning process to make it meet their needs fully, learners will have an opportunity to acquire the necessary skills in a manner as expeditious and successful as possible. The approach under analysis also allows learners to develop the skills of lifelong learning by prompting them to realise that, to retain their competency rates high, they will need to upgrade their skills consistently. Therefore, the participants of the meta-cognition process start understanding that they will have to carry out the learning process throughout their life or, at the very least, their careers. In other words, the learning process based on meta-cognition provides learners with an insight on the issue of lifelong learning, reinforcing the importance of a consistent upgrade of their skills and knowledge base.

The challenges of meta-cognition, or learning to learn, are also very numerous, the problem of helping students analyze the processes that occur at a nearly unconscious stage being the most basic one. Indeed, in a range of cases, learners carry out simple assignments in an unconscious manner, the sequence of the steps that they take to solve a basic task barely registering on their radars. Despite having certain advantages, such as serving as the basis for accumulating new knowledge and training new skills, the specified phenomenon is also likely to cause major problems in the course of meta-cognition, as it is practically impossible to analyse as a combination of routine actions.

Therefore, the implementation of the meta-cognition theory must be carried out with the help of several essential tools. First and most obvious, detailed explanations and instructions must be provided to learners by the teacher. Thus, the frame for the lesson is set and the students are capable of identifying the area that they are going to study within the next hour. In addition, the teacher must help learners link the subject matter to their prior knowledge. Thus, the acquisition of the respective knowledge and skills becomes possible.

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OCL: Chapter Summary

With the advent of the 21st century as the era of information technology, the entire landscape of learning has been altered significantly, a range of innovations have opened a gateway to testing new approaches towards education, as well as the strategies for enhancing the process of students learning. More importantly, the approaches towards online learning as a concept have been introduced. The OCL (online collaborative learning), being the brainchild of the scholars, who suggested the idea of online education, can be viewed as the groundbreaking approach in helping learners develop the required skills and promoting not merely fast knowledge acquisition, but also lifelong learning through metacognition. Presupposing the acquisition of collaborative skills and the development of proficiency in the required domain from learners’ being unconscious about their ignorance to the learners’ habitually using the necessary skills, the process of OCL enables students to not only learn efficiently but also share their experience, therefore, enhancing the process of learning.

The phenomenon of OCL has not been recognised as an option for educating students up until the 21st century when opportunities for using an online environment for communication became open to practically everyone. It should be born in mind, though, that the OCL approach is not the only framework that has been designed for the use of online learners; according to Harasim, Online Distance Education, and Online Courseware (Harasim 2012) are also adopted as basic tools for acquiring skills and information in an online environment. Despite the opportunities, which the two latter models open for learners worldwide, it is the former model that is traditionally recognised as the most adequate and is generally favoured by educators, as it is one of the few that invite an opportunity for group education (Harasim, 2012)

The OCL model mentioned above suggests that the so-called “net generation” (Harasim 2012), i.e., the people, who are used to working and socialising in an online environment, should use its ability to communicate online as one of its major assets in the process of learning. Moreover, the OCL model integrated a vast variety of opportunities for enhancing the problem-solving processing education, boosting students’ mental capabilities through the integration of active group discussions in the learning process, galvanising learners’ abilities to acquire new skills with the use of the corresponding software, etc. More importantly, a more significant emphasis on communication has been put with the introduction of the online environment as the basic setting for collaborative learning. The new societal and educational needs dictated by the era of information technology require that the paradigm of learning should be shifted from the acquisition of information to the creation of knowledge (Harasim, 2013). Consequently, a new element has to be introduced into the process of collaborative learning at this point. Interpreted as cooperative learning, the element in question promotes knowledge acquisition through shared knowledge (Harasim 2012) and, therefore, requires that collaboration and discourse should be made the key pillars for online learning to be based on. The process of intellectual change in the realm of education, as well as the incorporation of the principle of collaborative and cooperative learning into the education process, presupposes that several basic steps should be carried out.

Even though in the design and development of the current OCL model, most credit should go to the technological innovations that the 21st century has to offer, it would be wrong to deny the significance of the learning theories that had already been in use before the invention of the internet and the creation of the OCL strategy. Specifically, Harasim mentions the necessity to deploy the key tenets of the adult learning theory, ACT–R and other theories into the framework of OCL as the building blocks for the new and improved learning theory (Harasim, 2012). Table 1 below displays the key differences between present-day learning strategies involving the use of the Internet and related information technologies.

Table 1. Learning Design Models (Comparison)

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Design Model Epistemology 20thCentury Learning 21stCentury Learning Academic Quality Flexibility
Transmissive Learning Objectivist In development state Moderate Moderate
Collaborative Learning Constructivist Non-existent Created and deployed into the classroom environment Exemplar High
Cooperative Learning Constructivist Non-existent Created and deployed into the classroom environment Exemplar High

As the table provided above shows, the significance of teaching students collaborative skills, which they can employ in the process of information acquisition, is crucial to the outcomes of the learning process. The cooperative learning process, in its turn, may spur the process of the acquisition of the necessary skills.

According to Harasim (2012), a proper understanding of a learning theory should also be viewed as a crucial part of developing the online learning approach that may enhance the process of online knowledge acquisition in learners. Particularly, the author warns about the dangerous misconception concerning learning theories being isolated from the actual process of information acquisition by learners. As Harasim warns, by delving from the learning theory, educators may face the threat of disrupting the online learning process and even affect the creative process negatively (Harasim, 2012). Seeing that theory is related closely to individualism and supposedly sparks creativity in students, the key theoretical tenets should be viewed from the perspective of epistemology, science, and the learning community (Harasim, 2012). The latter should be viewed as especially important for spurring the process of information acquisition and skills development in learners; according to the author, communication is essential for improving the students’ performance and promoting active learning among them. As far as the theory and epistemology are concerned, Harasim explains that the students must be engaged in the process of meta-cognition; in other words, they are supposed to be curious about not only the information that they learn but also the specifics of their learning.

Concept Map
Picture 1. Concept Map

While Harasim’s view on the subject matter is quite compelling, it would have been reasonable for the author to elaborate on the concept of the New Generation in a more detailed manner. Specifically, the significance of the concept of global citizenship for modern learners requires further discussion. There is no need to stress that the link between culture and education is very strong; therefore, the changes, which cultures all over the world are undergoing currently, as well as the alterations, which individuals experience in the course of becoming global citizens, needs to be addressed. For instance, although the process of developing the qualities of a global citizen is rather basic, the existence of certain culture related dilemmas is possible; herein the need to view the process of the tools allowing students to become global citizens lies.

Moreover, the link between the constructivist approach and the model of OCL needs to be explored deeply. Harasim admittedly touches upon the significance of constructivism as the basic theory for developing the model of OCL (Harasim, 2012), yet lack of insight on the importance of constructivism to the development of meta-cognition skills is admittedly overlooked.

Much to her credit, the author also describes different types of discourse, which a learner may come across in the environment of online learning. To be more exact, Harasim mentions that the learner will have to develop independence on several levels of academic performance (Picture 2), as well as gain new communication skills (Picture 3).

Types of discourse
Picture 2. Types of discourse

The above-mentioned types of communication skills will have to be used on several levels of online communication, including conversations with a single partner, group discussions, etc. As the table below shows, the learners will also need to come up with a basic strategy for time management to meet the requirements of the new academic environment. Although the idea of time independence may be viewed as an additional advantage of the online based learning approach, the specified characteristics of distanced education, in fact, may affect the learner’s performance negatively. Without a specific schedule to adhere to, students are likely to default on the completion of the key tasks, leaving the delivery of the assignments to the last minute. As a result, the quality of not only their work but also the skills that they learn will suffer. Herein the importance of adopting the basic principles of learner’s responsibility lie; as soon as learners recognise the importance of acquiring specific learning skills, they will be able to locate an efficient time management approach and incorporate it into their learning strategies so that they could pace their studying more elaborately.

 Communication skills in the online environment
Picture 3. Communication skills in the online environment

As Picture 3 shows, the online learning environment also presupposes that three key types of communication should occur in the process of learning. In other words, a student is supposed to partake in forum discussions (many-to-many communication), communicate with certain participants personally (face-to-face communication) and engage in the conversations within the forum in order to be the focus of a many-to-one conversation.

Personal Learning Theory

The course in question allowed a range of insights on the process of learning, with a range of theories having been identified and applied to the process of knowledge acquisition analysis. Particularly, the tenets of the theories such as the online collaborative learning theory (OCL) deserve to be mentioned.

Though shedding a lot of light on the process of learning in the contemporary online environment, the specified theory still needs further polishing in order to be applicable to practice and be used to solve actual learning problems, as well as design the environment for enhancing online students’ performance. Particularly, the issue of online discussions needs further improvements; while clearly having potential, the specified idea demands certain improvements.

First and most obvious, a set of rather rigid rules for online communication has to be introduced into the learning environment. There is no need to stress that modern online communication invites numerous opportunities for participants to use discouraging methods such as trolling, flaming, etc. (Bishop 2012), to upset the conversation participants and steer the communication process the wrong way, thus, depriving the participants of an opportunity to engage in constructive discussions. Herein the significance of teaching online collaborative skills lies (Gero & Hanna 2015).

The ground rules for online communication must be spelt out in the participants’ agreement that the students will have to sign in order to proceed to the forum and start the discussion. The above-mentioned agreement must incorporate the key rules for online communication safety, such as non-disclosure of the participants’ private information, the principle of mutual respect, the concept of attentive listening, appreciation statements, etc. (Gero & Hanna 2015). It is only after every single student realises the importance of collaborative communication that the discussion may commence.

The enhancement of the specified process may be carried out with the adoption of the so-called “task mental models” (Gero & Hanna 2015, p. 159). Helping learners get the general idea about the task and the tools that they will need to utilise in order to handle it, task mental models are bound to be rather efficient in the online learning environment due to the emphasis on analysis and clarifications that they presuppose:

Issues affecting the extent, to which task mental models are communicated within the team include making representations of the problem task, defining the problem, generation of ideas, production of explanations and clarifications, as well as analyzes and evaluations of solutions, and taking decisions. (Gero & Hanna 2015, p. 159)

In addition, though the significance of collaborative communication and information sharing is very high for the participants of online communication, the students must realise the importance of individual thinking.


The OCL environment demands that students should be able to recognise the necessity of sharing data and discussing information with peers; however, the exposure to consistent data sharing without the process being controlled by the teacher may give students the wrong idea about completing their assignments and the significance of individual thinking. Therefore, as a teacher, one must incorporate the appropriate instructional tactics, which will help students understand what they are required to do and inform them about the behavioural patterns that they are expected to follow.


Bishop, J 2012, The psychology of trolling and lurking: the role of defriending and gamification for increasing participation in online communities using seductive narratives, IGI, New York, NY.

Harasim, L 2012, Learning theory and online technologies, Routledge, New York, NY.

Gero, J S & Hanna, S 2015, Design computing and cognition ’14, Springer, New York, NY.

Nicol, D & Macfarlane-Dick, J D 2006, ‘Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice,’ Studies in Higher Education, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 199–218.

Shunk, D H & Zimmerman, B J 2012, Motivation and self-regulated learning: theory, research, and applications, Routledge, New York, NY.

Zeidan, F, Johnson, S K, Diamond, B J, Zhanna, D & Goolkasian, P 2010, ‘Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training,’ Consciousness and Cognition, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 597–605.

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