Sowing the Seeds of Learner Autonomy: Transforming the VLE into a Third Place through the use of Web 2.0 Tools

Fiona Carroll, R. Kop, C. Woodward

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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Learners, particularly adult learners, make choices as individuals about the level of control imposed by others on their learning. Indeed, the choice to study through an institution and tutor on a classroom based course or the choice to study on a course mediated through technology, will mean a different level of control being imposed on the learning process by different actors and on different aspects of the learning itself. This paper draws from these ideas to explore the concept of an online educational ‘place’ and the impact this might have on the learning experience. In detail, it will engage with the concepts of Oldenburg’s ‘Third Place’ (i.e. a place where people can gather beyond the realms of home and work), and Fisher’s ‘Information Grounds’ where people exchange information while participating in a specific activity. The paper is interested in the concept of learner autonomy and will primarily examine whether the creation of an online ‘place’ can play a role in the building of a teaching and learning model where the learners increasingly take control and share information. The case study documented in this paper is from a two year online adult learning programme. The emphasis of the study has been directed towards the development of a ‘third place’ where students can build up their confidence to take full control of their own learning experience. To encourage this ownership of knowledge, web2.0 technologies such as wikis, blogs, podcasts and social book-marking have been implemented to give students the opportunities to connect their learning to their particular experiences and thus personalise the learning. The focus has been on the development of a ‘place‘ where interactive and stimulating content is used to engage the student and encourage them to take control. To achieve this, close attention has been paid to the visual design of the virtual learning environment (VLE) as well as the strategic use of multimedia within the course material. Throughout the programme, collaborative activities have been emphasized to broker the development of a learning community. This paper will investigate the role of the tutor in developing autonomy in online learning and ask whether it is possible to turn a Virtual Learning Environment into an effective Third Place where students have the confidence to exchange information and build knowledge relating to the course.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008
Event ECEL-European Conference on e-Learning - University of Cyprus
Duration: 6 Nov 20086 Nov 2008


Conference ECEL-European Conference on e-Learning


  • vle
  • place
  • learner autonomy


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