Distance learning as alterity: facilitating the experience of variation and professional information practice

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Lee Webster Andrew Whitworth


Informed learning (Bruce, 2008) is a pedagogic framework that aims to enable students to use information to learn through the experience of variation in the relational frame. The research described in this paper comes from a larger project called Stewarding and Power In Digital Educational Resources (SPIDER) and we describe how the mixing of campus based and distance students has been used to enhance informed learning within a postgraduate degree unit. The original contribution is to investigate the specific impact of ‘alterity’ (Linell, 2009) on the experience of variation. Online group tasks mixed campus and distance students together and we studied the various ways that students used information to learn. Evidence from discussion board posts supports our claims that discussion board activities enable dialogues and that diversity within the learning community enhances learning through alterity. We conclude that online learning has much to offer information literacy education, whether used alone or when campus based and distance students are given online tasks to do together. This paper brings new insight to the field of information literacy education by showing how distance learning brings a distinct quality to information literacy pedagogy, as it provides specific opportunities for learners to teach each other and then make critically-informed judgements about contexts, information and technology with which they are unfamiliar. We suggest that similar pedagogic approaches could be adopted in other disciplines and contexts. Given the increasing diversity present within higher education, such approaches are potentially very valuable. 

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How to Cite
WEBSTER, Lee; WHITWORTH, Andrew. Distance learning as alterity: facilitating the experience of variation and professional information practice. Journal of Information Literacy, [S.l.], v. 11, n. 2, p. 69 - 85, dec. 2017. ISSN 1750-5968. Available at: <https://ojs.lboro.ac.uk/JIL/article/view/PRA-11-2-4>. Date accessed: 14 aug. 2022. doi: https://doi.org/10.11645/11.2.2231.
Research articles (peer-reviewed articles)