Adventure Learning: Authentic online learning

Students and teachers gain valuable real-world experiences online.
Students and teachers gain valuable real-world experiences online.

Adventure learning (AL) is a recent framework used for designing and developing online learning. This AL approach engages teachers and students using a blended approach in the delivery of authentic, adventure-based narratives.

The blended, online, and web-delivery approaches to online learning in K-12 classrooms are growing rapidly as teachers and students have increasing access to the internet and teachers are becoming well-versed in the use of web-based technologies. Online learning is here to stay and there is much concern about the quality of distance education design and delivery, with numerous studies offering models for effective technology implementation and integration.

Today, good design and pedagogy mixed with the latest technologies affords many opportunities for learners within and outside the classroom, including motivational approaches such as Adventure Learning.

What is Adventure Learning?

Adventure Learning (AL) is a hybrid distance education approach that gives students opportunities to explore real-world issues through authentic learning experiences within collaborative learning environments. AL lets students explore content by fostering authentic learning experiences within a hybrid online environment; moreover, AL allows learners separated by distance and time to connect with one another while giving them access to resources and opportunities for interaction with the real world.

Within AL, students are posing questions; researching problems with experts and colleagues within their classroom and throughout the world; experiencing the world through numerous media; and ultimately sharing their findings in virtual spaces with peers from around the globe.

In other words, students’ learning processes involve pursuing answers to their own questions while experiencing the world first-hand rather than memorizing rote facts from textbooks.

The AL framework, grounded in 6 years of designing, developing, delivering, and researching AL environments, identifies the following principles of a successful AL program:

(a) the identification of an issue and respective location of exploration
(b) a researched curriculum grounded in problem-solving that guides the progression and evolution of the AL program
(c) collaboration and interaction opportunities between students, experts, peers, explorers, and content
(d) education that is adventure-based
(e) exploration of the issue, environment, local population, culture, and additional relevant factors that provide an authentic narrative for students and teachers to follow
(f) design and utilization of an internet-driven learning environment for curricular organization, collaboration, and media delivery
(g) enhancement of the curriculum with media (photos, video, audio, etc.) and text delivered from the field in a timely manner
(h) synched learning opportunities with the AL curriculum and online learning environment
(i) pedagogical integration guidelines and strategies for the curriculum and online learning environment.

These nine principles are used collectively as a guide for teachers and instructional designers who wish to provide transformative AL opportunities for students within an online distance education experience.

GoNorth! Adventure Learning Series

The GoNorth! Adventure Learning Series is a five-year circumpolar program focusing on assisting K-12 learners to engage in a standards-based curriculum while explorers and educators travel live via dog sleds to the Arctic regions of Canada, Russia, Alaska, Scandinavia, and Greenland.

The project is grounded in a 500-plus page inquiry-driven curriculum that is rewritten annually to focus on the current region of travel, the people of this region, and the environmental issues they are facing. In tandem, the travel experiences and observations of the team are delivered to the online learning environment that classrooms use to hold real-time conversations with international experts, peoples of the native culture, and the team itself.

In addition, teachers and students can interact with the team and with other classrooms via blogs, video feeds, collaboration zones, photographs, and 360-degree QuickTime virtual reality movies.

Laura Ascione
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