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Authenticity in learning: transactional learning in virtual communities

Maharg, Paul (2004) Authenticity in learning: transactional learning in virtual communities. In: 35th ISAGA Conference: Bridging the gap: transforming knowledge through gaming and simulation, 2004-09-06 - 2004-09-10.

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For experiential professional learning to succeed, a number of key qualities require to be present. Foremost among these is that of authenticity. The concept, however is a deeply contested one. An authentic activity has reference to context, motivation, task, feedback, social interaction, social presence and much else. Just how these factors interact with each other is still uncertain, but it is clear from the literature that the factors require to be carefully managed in any curriculum that involves e-learning. This brief paper suggests ways in which electronic experiential learning can deploy these and other factors to enhance professional legal learning. The paper will consider the paradox that 'electronic experience' is mediation of experience at two removes. However I shall argue that the electronic environment is not a hindrance but can actually enable authenticity as well as communication. Electronic mediation of experience can enable richer and more complex role play and personal engagement arising out of experience than would otherwise be possible using more conventional media. In the use of an extensively developed virtual community with professional law students at the Glasgow Graduate School of Law we have found that what we call 'transactional learning' is an essential conceptual tool to enable professional legal learning within a virtual learning environment (VLE) and to facilitate task authenticity. The paper describes the VLE, how it is used, and how it can be used in academic courses and for professional learning.