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Vicarious Learning

Vicarious Learning
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Author(s): John R. Lee (University of Edinburgh, UK)
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 7
Source title: Encyclopedia of Distance Learning, Second Edition
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Patricia L. Rogers (Bemidji State University, USA), Gary A. Berg (California State University Channel Islands (Retired), USA), Judith V. Boettcher (Designing for Learning, USA), Caroline Howard (HC Consulting, USA), Lorraine Justice (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong) and Karen D. Schenk (K. D. Schenk and Associates Consulting, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch334


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In computer-based learning, we often find ourselves addressing our technology to an unexpectedly complex Web of issues in learning and instruction. Understanding what is going on may require us to take a step back and look at some more fundamental theoretical issues. This is the position we find ourselves in with the application of “vicarious learning”. On the face of it, this is the simple concept of accumulating a collection of records of learning experiences, which other learners can also use to learn from. Such a concept is apparently similar to observational learning, or to various notions of re-usable learning knowledge-bases. However, the specific suggestion we address here is that vicarious learning is a distinct idea that may have its own implications, particularly for distance learners and others whose access to normal learning dialogue is limited. In this article, then, we begin with a discussion of the general concept of vicarious learning, and its close relationship to the role of dialogue in learning. We use this understanding to motivate the application of vicarious learning in computer-based learning systems, and argue, against specific objections, that these systems show benefits that will be especially relevant for the groups mentioned above.

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