June 22, 2012
Study Excludes Vital Elements of Online Learning Success
Babson University and Inside Higher Ed published a report, which is available as a free download, reveals an interesting chasm separating Administrators and Faculty when it comes to online education. After reading the announcement blog post on Inside Higer Ed, I felt that the role of technologists and support had simply been excluded from the announcement. However, quickly browsing the report the pattern of acknowledging only two players (faculty and admins) and leaving out designers and technologists is systemic throughout the study design.
This study report is based on two different surveys, supported by commercial partners mentioned in the ackknowledgements. Which would partly explain the obvious exclusion of Instructional Designers and Educational/Academic Technologists from the fundamental design of the study. The question that emerges is - are the commercial players in the online education space interested in maintaining the gaps in achieving quality online education by keeping Instructional Designers out of the picture? If the Utopia of Online Learning has only Administrators and Faculty, and is devoid of Curriculum Designers, Instructional Designers, Instructional Media Specialists and Academic Technologists, that picture is sadly inaccurate.
Other gaping holes pointed out in the comments, thanks to the statistically inclined readers is the response rate to the survey. Paul K, one of the respondents may be speculating correctly, when blaming the less than 10% response rate on the emotional design of survey questions: "Fear or Excitement" is discussed in a lot of detail.
So why really publish a report of this nature? What is the subliminal message being communicated by the sponsors and the study collaborators? Compared to the clinical trials studies and evidence reports backed by Big Pharma, the report will probably fail to help those who truly work in the trenches of online education. Education managers, designers and developers are significant factors in the emotional perception of delivering an online learning experience.
It is not surprising though. The sponsors of the reports sell enterprise solutions to administrators and the administrators need to get buy in from faculty. The operational aspects of making the technology work falls on faculty in understaffed institutions. Even the top campuses in the nation have scarce recognition of the organizational structure behind a successful online learning effort. So, my fellow instructional designers and technologists, I would like to know your response to this study. Was it inclusive of true performance factors for online courses or is it a subliminal sales pitch for more software and hardware?
October 16, 2007
Androgogy vs. Pedagogy: The Library as the peacemaker
[Source: Monograph, The Adult Learner (Knowles, 1998; ISBN 0884151158)]
Human learning is a vast field. Knowles book is a terrific attempt by him to wrap his head around, and lead the reader to do the same, in this field of knowledge transfer. A new theory is proposed, deservedly, from all his soul searching from Maslow to Carl Jung, trying to fathom human psychology before emerging out with his Androgogy Principles.
Androgogy is, crudely said, about the uniqueness of the learning in adults and it's implications, i.e. influence on design of instruction. An old classic, but quite an invigorating read.
I was sinking my teeth into this meaty concept of Androgogy and couldn't help reflecting. So far, in the middle of the book, I feel that Androgogy (adult learning) cannot be an institution separate from Pedagogy (child/youth learning). It can certainly be a prescribed way to approach and open minds of adults, but high class learning can take place in a pedagogical atmosphere.
To take one of Knowles' opening arguments in a chapter, he mentions how the great teachers of yore, i.e. Jesus Christ, Lao Tse, Confucious etc., were teachers of adults and not children. They were delivering instruction to minds which were quite occupied with daily chores, mores and mental blocks. Their approach to delivering what they delivered can be taken as the founding examples of Androgogy (I use Androgogy now to imply adult education learning models/theory and teaching styles). To extend the thread of these great teachers of masses, they did also profess their followers to rise beyond the characteristics that made them different than children. They urged them to return to the state of child-like innocence to truly absorb the message they professed.
In other words, although the approach to the new seekers was andrological by the ways of addressing their adult-issues, there was a constant reminder to rise above these adult-issues for efficient learning. Learning, where the rules of the games change BACK to pedagogy! The true masters did make it clear b alluding to purity of heart, purity of mind that the learners rid themselves of the adult-blocks.
In the modern world, where adults attempt to learn, the learning may or may not happen most efficiently. The con of embracing Androgogy too tightly might be the result that the adult-learner may get pampered, the standards of instruction and evaluations may fall. But that is a case when the instructors choose to let the learners get away. I have seen, so far, that by specifically not allowing separate standards for students in the executive degree programs (more scopr for Androgogy) and residential degree programs (more Pedagogically heavy), the faculty are challenging the adult learners to cope with the pedagogical framework. This is fair to all the students, residential or executive.
This is the place where the library can fill the necessary gaps in the imposed instructional method and the adult-learner's true capacity by making androgogical offerings in the form of supplemental instruction, higher accessibility to resources, better quality on-demand content and accomodation of learning style of the students.
On the faculty development front, the library would retrofit the pedagogical instructor's teaching style with enhancements inspired by androgogical teaching theories.
ps. As an after-thought, I realized that it is very easy for someone not familiar with the term, Androgogy, to associate it with less stringent educational standards. This is open to interpretation in my opinion. The open-ness and accomodation that Androgogy can provide to adults will help adults, but may make younger learners more lenient. So I feel that the strategies of adult learning applied to children may hinder their development. They do not have the life-challenges, so the accomodations may become a precursor to slower paced learning.
I remember, that I got better grades when I took 12 credit hours at grad school in a semester, than in the semester when I took 8 or 9. And I saw that the pressure of more work, at some equilibrium point, will produce higher quality work. Too little work is as counter-productive as too much work.
October 14, 2007
Seeds of e-Learning at a Research University
Bringing Online Learning to a Research-Intensive University
This case study out of UCD (University College Dublin) has a lot to relate to: UCD is a research university, just like us and the beginnings of a e-learning culture beyond the LMS are now taking root. This is published at learnmag.org
It is interesting to see that the faculty at the medical school did not want outside intervention in the form of assistance by instructional designers or e-learning specialists for translating snippets of animations, movies and graphics from their courses into a wholesome e-learning course.
I think in a situation like this, the faculty should position themselves as SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) and let the professionals take care of the course conversion process parts, i.e. Breaking up content into correctly portioned learning objects, designing testing and evaluation, recommending strategies, dealing with technology limitations and exploiting advanced features of the learning environment, which could take the SMEs years to figure out.
Read it all here:
Bringing Online Learning to a Research-Intensive University
ps. I discovered this article within hours of publication using my new Web 2.0 approach to content aggregation. Feeding trusted site RSS feeds into my iGoogle page which comes up whenever I start a browser. I am beginning to love RSS, finally useful in the way it was intended to be.
October 13, 2007
Rosenberg's Four Cs of e-learning success
I have been reading Rosenberg's book 'e-Learning' the past couple of days. Although it's audience is more of corporate execs who are strategists, it had some interesting pieces worth reflecting upon by in Instructional Technologist.
It is interesting how motivational coaches, gurus and consultants want to lay out knowledge in a nutshell: "The 11 mistakes to avoid when..." "7 ways to make _____ work" etc. They do have a lot of wisdom in them. So lets reflect on his four "C"s of e-Learning strategy success - Culture, Champions, Communication and Change in this blog post.
(Continued in extended entry)
Rosenberg's book focusses mainly on corporate e-Learning targetted towards the education of a corporate workforce. Appropriate strategies are suggested like any other management science book. Of these four Cs, Culture, as he comments ont it is not that applicable in our current scenario as we are a institution of higher education. A culture to learn about new things, via the internet flourishes in our institution and we are proud to be a part of it.
Champions are continuously and definitely needed. Most of the e-Learning infrastructure seems to flow from that seed group of individuals who are the 'early adopters'. There is no dearth of them in certain departments. However, the infectious enthusiasm does not permeate inter-departmental barriers effectively. Unless the champions are recognized on an inter-departmental level and rewarded suitably, the culture will not built. No culture ever builds itself.
The champion for SPH came from a certain department and his interdepartmental colleages took the risk to go out on a limb and try new technology. However, if a study was done to do a frequency count of e-Learning and sync/async technology use, the e-Learning champion's department will be a distant first with very few enlightened lights in other departments.
Communication of institution-wide strategy that will involve e-Learning, to the institutional community is critical. Communication that comes from the top in a timely fashion inspires ideas and high quality content. Last minute delegation creates projects that are doomed from the start and insecure team-members worry more about the end-game of pointing fingers rather than deliver productively and professionally. Artificially flavoured emails glorifying work progress and collaboration are vital indicators that a project needs to be rethought and re-directed. I have seen some excellent vision, mission and execution in this first experience of being a team-member of a world class degree program that embraced blended learning. There was a champion from the faculty side, leading the cultural shift in measured steps to minimize risks. He communicated the vision and strategies to all team members and looked after the end-product's quality which lead to a successful pilot with lesser glitches and more student satisfaction than one can practically expect from a pilot program.
and finally... Change.
Change, when heralded by sandboxed efforts of measured risks, is easier to bring about. None the less, it is still difficult to change perceptions. But the motivational line was: If 30-year users of acetate film transitioned to the half-baked PowerPoint of the earlier years, people will similarly accept podcasting, clickers and other Web 2.0 tools. I think the response has been better than just acceptance. This semester i see a bunch of faculty not just accepting, but, with a little training, independently setting up their powerpoints to use classroom-response systems (clickers) and become stand-alone podcast producers. This is because they love their jobs, their students and are not shy to ask questions.
Overall, I feel there is no better place for witessing change management, other than an institution of higher learning. The motivations, culture and resources stimulate experimental projects that ultimately live on to become regular services. This is what the informatics wing of the Public Health Library & Informatics aims to achieve: support the fostering of a successful e-Learning implementation.
June 27, 2006
Trends in Social Software by Burton Group
At first, I thought how can one spend 44 pages of writing effort on a loose and vagabond topic like Social Software (SS), but being in the coming thick of design of a social networking application, my ears were perked and I waded through paragraphs of cliches. But its not such a bad effort. In fact, I liked the definitions, survey of current services/products and authors' notes on SS (Flickr, delicious etc.).
The trend within actual corporations has been quite quiet. McDonalds and Avon think they may be able to garner some value via blogs which mashup corporate agenda and personal speak. However, I wonder who was the airplane company employee fired for blogging out loud.
Anyways, the report says, as far as larger institutions are concerned to put SS on the emerging technology list. i.e. Strong reasons do not exist to jump right into public social bookmarking or blogging. However, use the technologies with specific applications.
I have always been saddened by the fact that 'blogging' loses its charm when its treats the world as its audience. Blogging to an established audience provides impetus to use the tool and use it well. Like the McDonald's blog is done by their VP, who is a PhD and talks about nutrition and quality of food (yeah :~). But an established audience brings out quality in communication via these mass social cannons of opinions that blogs are. I remember reading somewhere during the dawn of blogging "Any lunatic hiding behind a fancy template can produce a blog..." - implying the lack of quality. In Higher Ed, if teachers ask students to blog (or use any other SS) with exposure to assessment and/or grading - then the quality game becomes exciting. Google Jockeying is one such example of a vagabond classroom trend being tamed by the instructors for pedagogical benefit [See 7 Things You Should Know About Google Jockeying].
Another application of SS that struck me was usability studies. I have seen website design/redesign discussion spread out over months without much to see. If the content-owners decide to be flexible about content placement and navigation design, they can base it on SS use on their sites. e.g. Allowing the audience to tag what they like and then reviewing the toplevel navigation links based on the folksonomies (tag clouds) generated would be helpful in design.
The report recommends: 'Allow your IT developers to use "Ruby on Rails / AJAX"'... mmm... a good comment but totally out of context, maybe. Just maybe.