February 21, 2011
Social Media may fail if percieved as a non-credit burden
Active learning, especially social media enabled active learning warrants credit. Logan Rath's The Effects of Twitter in an Online Learning Environment article underscores this important point.
There is a temptation to insert social media without mulling over the life-cycle of eLearning components: planning, design, deployment and evaluation. If there is no feedback or concrete rubric for grading social media participation, students will naturally gravitate away from using those components. Its true not just for social media, but non-social elements, like discussion boards.
So how to assign value and assess twitter participation? One can take clues from assessment frameworks for discussion boards and translate them into grading twitter participation. One such framework is Susan Levine's framework for graduate level instruction (2002). (See p 353 of Theory of The Theory and Practice of Online Learning, second edition)
January 21, 2011
Checklists and Human Error Reduction: Lessons for Learning Design
The Checklist Manifesto is white hot on the non-fiction bestsellers list. Atul Gawande, the author was promoting the book on the Colbert Report last week, demolishing a myth about Van Halen’s preference to have brown m-n-ms removed from their backstage room bowls. It wasn’t a high maintenance demand, but an item sneaked into a concert prep checklist, which included stage safety. So when the brown MnMs are found in the bowl, it means critical safety checks were eliminated and the stage may collapse unto itself.
Cut to about 10 years ago, as I sat in a Work Study class, as a part of my Industrial Engineering training. Our good hearted professor professed something about checklists that would burn into my mind forever, until the day Atul Gawande sat down for that chat with Colbert. We were taught to avoid checklists in manufacturing settings as they were proven to be condescending. Workers and supervisors found them insulting to their intelligence: something left to life-and-death situations only, like flying an airplane. Curiosity to rediscover a simple and powerful (and maybe pricky) tool led to a rediscovery, which was long due. And surprisingly neither my good hearted professor or Atul Gawande were wrong about checklist. They were just talking about different kinds of checklists.
The checklists most experienced workers would find insulting to their intelligence are read-do kind of checklists, where one would read every step, do it and then move to the next item in the list. There is another kind of checklist -- the do-check kind. Here, there are checkpoints where the worker or team are supposed to stop and check if the preceding steps were done or not. This frees up professionals to keep moving through their tasks without having to pause at every step. It also frees them up from any sequence enforcement, where it is not needed.
Do-Check checklists emphasize an important point about well designed checklists: They are not recipes (although recipes are probably a subset of the checklist universe). Thinking about how do checklists work in complex work situations, is that it is more a collaboration and communication tool, rather than an error prevention tool. Collaboration or Complex Work checklists are success tools, rather than failure prevention tools when the mapping is done to modern day distance and online learning.
In most models of online learning, asynchronous collaboration has some role. Asynchronicity suffers from challenges similar to lack of communication in a synchronous team work. This component of successful distance learning is acknowledged in learning models like the Community of Inquiry Model (Anderson). Social presence is one component to overcome distance and time asynchronicities in collaborative work. Let’s look at an idea of how this may work in a 100% asynchronous course.
Instead of spoon-feeding steps for successful submission of exercises, a check-do checklist will help the student to ensure that it has met the expectations of that specific assignment in terms of content and format.
Read-do checklists are also highly relevant to self-directed learning. We have been using To-Do lists which are Read-Do type checklists to ensure that the necessary learning modules are consumed by a student in a particular order, within a particular time-frame.
For an instructional designer / eLearning specialist, the application of checklists would entail deciding (a) where can checklists eliminate lengthy or un-readable instructions and (b) what kind of checklist is necessary (Read-do vs. Do-check).
April 13, 2010
Neuro Web Design: Slideshare + Audio from the Author
I had been meaning to summarize the exciting book I read recently, called Neuro Web Design, which has some amazing lessons for instructional design in general for adult learners. I highly recommend reading it to understand how the human attention, cognition and retention work in general. Here is the narrated slideshare presentation from Susan Weinschenk, the authoress of this concise yet powerful literature survey of applied neuropsychology.
February 17, 2010
Google Wave, HTML5 and Flash
I have been using Google wave for it's wiki like features, and not so much for collaboration. I have used it just once to collaborate. A couple of us friends planned a road trip last Christmas. I demoed the playback of the wiki to show how nicely the entire brainstorming process for the trip was shown by Google Wave.
I use it 8 hours a day at work to manage my notes and to-do items. I use Exchange for all serious calendering and communication, and google wave in it's preview mode is no challenger to MS Exchange. Yet.
This 3 month exposure gave me a non-mission critical, yet "always-on, hands-on" experience with this technology. The features I use are the wiki nature of the main wave, and the ability to track changes and revert to previous versions. I do not use the threaded discussion feature, because, I don't collaborate much. I feel the two features should be mixed with extra care for the sake of sanity.
So ask me, vic, why not just use a wiki? It's because of a great feature under development for Wave: embedding publicly.
In the future I would be able to seamlessly embed waves as content pages in LMSs and other websites. My team will have one dashboard to collaboratively manage content and that looks quite attractive to me for team content management. The functionality does exist now, but it's not mainstream enough like embedding a YouTube video. You need to add HTML / JS code to your webpage... not ideal.
The apparent memory management glitches led to a discussion of Steve Job's recent comments on Flash, Apple Inc and HTML 5*. Jobs had recently made it clear that the mystery plug in that causes a majority of crashes is in fact flash. This revulsion to flash is a concern for flash developers and flash content managers (all of us?). Apple looks forward to HTML 5 which will eliminate needs of flash shells for playing video or loading up a boatload of plug ins to handle media content. last time I checked, HTML 5 is at least 10 -15 years away** and Apple is working around this problem by making flash content run as a separate thread and not bring down the entire application with it. It may not appear as a separate app like it does on the iPhone. Adobe too will not throw in the towel and is bound to come up with better flash players.