The Future of Distance Learning – Reflection

Five years ago I still had a computer that required at least two people to carry, and took up the entire surface of my desk.  I would turn the power on and leave for a cup of tea while it booted-up—a solid fifteen minutes.  I had intermittent Internet connection.  I had never heard of  Web 2.0 technologies.  My perception of distance learning was such that it was adequate for a self-paced, asynchronous, single courses, but not for a degree program.  Although I was aware of online degree programs, I had reservations about their credibility and validity.  That was only five years ago!

And here I am in 2013 (only five years later), totally immersed in an online degree program, at a fully accredited institution, receiving a robust, challenging and engaging education, adapting to numerous educational technology tools, interacting with a diversely talented group of learners and faculty, in my own time, from anywhere, and actually enjoying the learning process – all enabled through technological advancement: high-speed internet connection, sophisticated computers, mobile devices, learner-friendly course management system, pedagogically sound instructional design, and expansion of web 2.0 technologies.     Has my perception changed?  Most definitely—and favorably.

Technological advancement, particularly in the last five to ten years, has greatly influenced the status of online education today.  (Hall, Keppel, & Bourne, 2011, p.2) assert that, “Digital technologies have massively widened access to learning. Internet platforms, enhanced by real-time sound and video streaming, high-quality digital images and limitless volumes of text files, now offer a compelling alternative to the conventional classroom.” They further note that the “diminishing costs of both technology and connectivity” is providing academic institutions the opportunity to enter the online education market without the barrier of competition.  And as the number of institutions offering online programs grows, potential students will start to recognize and accept the “legitimacy” of online education.

5, 10, 20 years from now. . . .

In the next five to ten years, the perception of online learning will become more favorable.  Advancement in educational and communication technologies coupled with the education reform movement has already enabled expansion of virtual public schools, an indication of support and acceptance.  See report at The Center for Education Reform.  In higher education, Sloan Consortium (2012) reports “nearly one-third of all students in higher education are taking at least one online course.” Furthermore, “65% of institutions now say that online learning is a critical part of their long-term strategy.” Sloan Consortium (2012).  Acceptance and support is clearly growing.

The generation of learners in ten to twenty years from now will become fully accustomed to online education throughout their learning experience and will view it favorably.  To them, there would not be a distinction between traditional and online learning, since both would have integrated seamlessly and effectively.  Education will just be “education.”  The current generation of learners will also have adapted to online learning greatly through programs that are interactive and engaging, and course management systems that are even more intuitive and simple to navigate.  They will have a positive perception of online education.  Online learning will also have expanded to most regions of the developing nations.  For most in the developing nations, the lack of educational infrastructure (facilities, materials, qualified teachers, transportation) is one of the reasons preventing access to education today.  Online education will be one solution.  Access to technology and connectivity will be less of a barrier than it currently is.  Read “Ten trends in technology use in education in developing countries that you may not have heard about.”  Interestingly, as I am writing this, it occurred to me that to most learners in developing nations, who would never had had any education, online learning may be their introduction to education, and they will accept its legitimacy right from the start since they would not have had any other form of education to compare it to.  I also believe that the open courses movement by organizations such as the Open Courseware Consortium will play a significant role in the accessibility and provision of free education, particularly in the developing nations.

Watch “Build a School in the Cloud” a compelling and inspiring TED presentation by educational researcher Sugata Mitra.

Improving societal perceptions of distance learning. . . .

As an instructional designer, I can help improve societal perceptions of distance learning by educating people (potential students) about online learning: what it means, what role they play, and the benefits it presents, perhaps through webinars or workshops in my local community.  Another way I can help is by introducing potential learners to open courses such as those offered through Coursera and the African Virtual University and encouraging them to try it out.  While the Sloan Consortium (2012) reports growth of student enrollment in online education, it indicates that acceptance of online learning by faculty lacks similar growth.  I think that providing faculty the training, support, and tools they need for implementing online learning is essential.  As an instructional designer, I need to collaborate with faculty to help them recognize the crucial role they play in the online learning environment, as well as assist them in effectively designing and delivering their courses.

Continuous improvement in the field of distance education. . . .

In order to contribute to the improvement of distance education, my own continued professional development is essential.  Joining a community of practitioners and online learners, taking courses, and pursuing a career in instructional design and/or volunteering my services are ways to keep informed of trends and methodologies in the field of instructional design. And in the process, I have the opportunity to identify areas for improvement.  Through research and collaboration with fellow instructional designers, and academic and corporate professionals, I can explore in depth the distance education theories discussed in (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Svacek, 2012, Chap. 2), and potentially refine/expand the theories so as to enable instructional design that is highly engaging and effective.  Additionally, I like to take an active role (as a volunteer or an employee) in national and international organizations, such as, the World BankUNESCO, and The 50×15 Foundation, in their efforts to minimize the digital divide and promote equal access to education—online education, globally.

Marta

References

Hall, M., Keppel, M., & Bourne, J. (2011). Learning Technology and Organizations: Transformational Impact. Sloan Consortium. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks. 15(4). Retrieved on March 2, 2013, from http://sloanconsortium.org/jaln/v15n4/learning-technology-and-organizations-transformational-impact

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education. (5th ed.). (Chap. 2). Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc.

Sloan Consortium (2012). Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011.  Retrieved on March 2, 2013, from http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/going_distance_2011

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Converting to a Distance Learning Format

Converting a face-to-face course to an online format is not simply a matter of “dumping” the existing course to online.  (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).  It requires careful and systematic analysis that incorporates the components of a successful learning system: “the learners, the content, the method and materials, and the environment including the technology.” (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 152).  Converting a face-to-face course to a blended format adds to the complexity because the designer has to ensure the online and the face-to-face version of the course complement each other, that the activities are integrated seamlessly.  In their findings of best practices approach to blended course design (McGee & Reis, 2012) noted that a blended course “integrates the best of face-to-face and online learning” (p. 3).  Moreover, when both are integrated “in an appropriate and creative manner, the possibility to become fully engaged in a sustained manner is increased exponentially.” (p. 3).

Use Your Best Practices Guide to help you in successfully transitioning your face-to-face training program to a blended distance learning format.

References

McGee, P. & Reis, A. (2012). The University of Texas at San Antonio. Blended Course  Design: A Synthesis of Best Practices.  Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks (JALN). 16(4). Retrieved on February 22, 2013 from http://sloanconsortium.org/jaln/v16n4/blended-course-design-synthesis-best-practices

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education. (5th ed.).  Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc.

 

My analysis of an Open Course

Carefully pre-planned and designed. . . . .

MOOC MOOC is an open course about open courses.  MOOC stands for massive open online course.  The first session of the week-long course was conducted in August, 2012, and the second session in January, 2013.  This open course, delivered through the Canvas Network open online learning platform, appears to have been carefully pre-planned and designed for a distance-learning environment.  The course home page clearly guides the learner through the content and navigation of the course management system.  Included in the design are icons that represent each day of the week.  Clicking on an icon leads the learner to the course content and activities for the specific day.  Each day’s activities incorporate various methods of learning strategies ranging from reading and discussions to creating short videos and tweets.  Multiple individuals present the course – a different presenter for each day’s content. The presenters are teachers and students, supporting the notion that we are all learners and teachers in some ways.  I thought this was interesting and effective for a couple of reasons: 1) it accommodates different learners’ preferences.  One form of presentation may be more appealing to one learner while a different form benefits another learner, and 2) because the material is presented by “peers” students may feel more connected to the learning (topic) and recognize its relevance to their own daily lives, thereby increasing the transfer context, “the way in which the knowledge will be used by students.” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p.157).

Follows online instruction design recommendations. . . . .

The course follows many of the recommendations for online instruction noted in (Simonson et al., 2012) to accommodate varying needs of the learners.  Included in the design are utilization of multimedia, functional links, user-friendly navigation throughout the course management system (CMS), “clear guidelines for interaction” and discussion assignments that “facilitate meaningful cooperation among students” (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 179).

Maximizes active learning. . . . .

Active learning is evidenced (and highly encouraged) through the various forms of interaction and collaboration methods offered in the course:  threaded discussion, reflection through blogs, YouTube video lectures, creating short movies, tweeting, Google Docs sharing, RSS feeds, and/or any other mode of communication as noted by one of the presenters – “we’re all encouraged to…..communicate every which way with each other all week”  (Morris, 2013).  Each day entailed different tasks the students needed to complete.  For example, the Sunday tasks asked students to complete a student profile, read the recommended materials, participate in discussion, submit a blog, and participate in an informal gathering via Twitter (Morris, 2013).

My open thoughts. . . . .

Based on my observation of the course as a “lurker” (not a participant) I thought the design was brilliant.  It was simple in appearance and structure, yet the assignments seemed to stimulate complex thoughts and discussions, potentially creating the opportunity for more thoughts and discussions. Issues of assessment and learning outcomes, and of when and where we learn are some of the issues presented that have left me contemplating what learning means or should mean.  Perhaps it is not the time bound, institutionally accredited, credential-granting process I strive for.  Perhaps it is.  Perhaps it is the continuous process or journey that I encounter in my everyday life.  Perhaps it is not.  Perhaps it is the collective experience I observe in my learning community.  Perhaps it is not.  Perhaps it is mastering a specific skill or perhaps not.  Or perhaps it is a culmination of all these things.  There is no definitive resolution to these thoughts; I am, simply, open to discussion. . . . .

Marta

References

Morris, S. M. (2013) – Hybrid Pedagogy’s MOOC MOOC. Sunday. The Truth about MOOC MOOC. Retrieved on February 9, 2013, from https://learn.canvas.net/courses/27/wiki/heres-what-to-do-on-sunday

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education. (5th ed.).  Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc.

Selecting Distance Learning Technologies

The scenario – a new automated staff information system was recently purchased by a major corporation, and needs to be implemented in six regional offices. Unfortunately, the staff is located throughout all the different offices and cannot meet at the same time or in the same location. As an instructional designer for the corporation, you have been charged with implementing a training workshop for these offices. As part of the training, you were advised how imperative it is that the staff members share information, in the form of screen captures and documents, and participate in ongoing collaboration.

The proposed solution – the scenario presents the challenge of training employees located in different places and at different times necessitating the distant-time (DT) and distance place (DP) instruction/training approach; trainees/employees must be able to choose “when and where to learn and when and where to access instructional materials.” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012, p.10).  In addition, collaboration among the staff is critical. The technologies proposed therefore, need to allow for greater interaction and collaboration among trainees (employees) to enhance the learning experience. Additional consideration is the level of complexity, in terms of user-friendliness, of the technology.  I am proposing two technology tools that are sophisticated yet easy to use, and provide a highly collaborative environment. Let’s check them out.

Schoology – is a cloud-based instructional technology, a course management system (CMS).  Schoology facilitates collaborative learning by securely connecting learners in various locations and various time zones, with an intuitive, easy-to-use collaborative interface.  It allows integration of various multimedia (web 2.0) for discussions, assignments, sharing of documents/files, and for other aspect of the learning process, thereby, fostering the “essence of learner-centered” instruction. (Simonson, et al 2012, p.129).  Its features include: video/audio recording, customizable course WebPages, aggregated calendars, rich text editor, integration with other applications (Google Apps for example), and native mobile applications (for learning on the go).  (Schoology, 2013).  Watch Schoology’s brief introduction video below.

In the given scenario, the instructional designer will deliver the training through Schoology.  The design will include a discussion board where employees can ask questions and/or share ideas about the workshop, videos or graphics that demonstrate the use of the new system, assignments, and simulation exercises/activities, and/or tests to assess the employees’ progress in the training.  Each employee/trainee will create an account (user id and password) for access to Schoology, and attend the workshop from anywhere, anytime, and on any device, eliminating the concern over conducting the training at the same time and the same place.  For examples of application of Schoology, check out Schoology deserves stamp of approval (Atlas, 2012), and Palo Alto Schools Just Bet Big On Schoology (Edick, 2012).  Additionally, you may want to read about case studies and success stories of using Schoology here.

Teambox – is a cloud based collaboration tool.  Described as “the box to rule all boxes” (Endler, 2012) in Information Week, Teambox is a combination of a dropbox and a project management tool. It offers versatile functionalities for efficient collaboration (synchronously or asynchronously) among teams via group chat, conversations (discussions), wiki-style pages, note taking and emails all using rich text (bolding, italicizing, etc.), images, videos, files (including screen captures), and documents.  Teambox supports various mobile devices for “productivity” on the go.  The system is multi-lingual, and customizable to meet the client’s needs. Its interface is easy to use, thus minimizing learner’s/user’s frustration with adaptation of the technology. Documents and files can be shared with others even if they are not a Teambox user. It seamlessly integrates with Google docs, Gmail, and Google Calendar.  (Teambox, n.d.).  Here are several case studies indicating the successful application of Teambox.

In the given scenario, Teambox would be where employees share project documents and files, create and manage tasks, collaboratively create and/or edit documents, and set up live group chats – all relevant to the workshop/training.  To begin using Teambox each employee/trainee will need to create an account (user id and password) in Teambox.  The College of Agricultural Sciences department at Penn State University has created an excellent “how to” guide for users of Teambox.  Click here to see the page.

One of Bates’ proposed “golden rules” for the use of technology is that “interaction is essential.”  (Simonson et al, 2012, p.173).  Teambox provides sophiscated and efficient interaction functionalities. For the given scenario, schoology and teambox complement each other; while schoology addresses the “instructional” aspect, Teambox augments the collaboration requirements (for training, and work).

Thank you,

Marta

References

Atlas, B. (2012). Schoology deserves stamp of approval. The Oracle. Retrieved on February 13, 2013, from http://gunnoracle.com/2012/10/schoology-deserves-stamp-of-approval/ 

Edick, H. (2012). Palo Alto Schools Just Bet Big On Schoology. Edudemic. Retrieved on February 13, 2013, from http://edudemic.com/2012/01/schoology-revisited/

Endler, M. (2012). One Box To Rule Them All. Information Week.  Retrieved on

January 24, 2013, from http://www.informationweek.com/cloud-computing/software/8-cloud-tools-for-road-warriors/240142591?pgno=7

Endler, M. (2012). One Box To Rule Them All. Information Week.  Retrieved on January 24, 2013, from http://www.informationweek.com/cloud-computing/software/8-cloud-tools-for-road-warriors/240142591?pgno=7

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and Learning   at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education. (5th ed.).  Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc.

Schoology (2013). Why Schoology. Retrieved on January 24, 2013, from https://www.schoology.com/learning-management-system.php

Teambox (n.d.). The most complete collaboration tool. Retrieved on January 24, 2013, from http://teambox.com/

Defining Distance Learning. . . .

A big surprise to me in this week’s learning resources in the evolution of distance education has been the “century old” age of distance education.  (Post University, n.d.).  My furthest recollection of the concept only dates back to the 70’s.  I didn’t even know the term “distance education” but vaguely remember the term “correspondence study”.  It was in the late 80’s, after immigrating to the United States that I became familiar with the concept and term of “distance education.”

Personal experience. . . .

My own experience in distance education (as a student), which I have also been referring to as online learning, began not too long ago, in 2008, when I enrolled in a Project Management Certification program.  Since then, I have enrolled here at Walden’s Instructional Design program, and in a self-study Arabic language learning program.  While the first two qualify as “distance education”, I learned this week that the latter, self-study program, even though it has the four components of distance education discussed in Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek (2012) “institutionally based, separation of teacher and student, interactive telecommunications, sharing of data, voice, and video” (p. 33), it is considered “self-study at a distance” not “distance education”.  (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.).  It seems the distinguishing factor may be the credibility represented by a diploma or a degree in “distance education.”

Just before this course. . . . .

My definition of distance education, prior to this course had similar elements as those described in Simonson et al (2012) noted above, except that my definition of “institution” included, and still does, individuals (teachers, tutors, or other professionals who may not necessarily be associated with formal institutions).  In addition, I considered, and still do, “self-study” online/virtual programs as distance education. For example, my Arabic language program, which I have been taking for almost two years now is institution based, my teachers and I (other students as well) live in different locations and different time zones, I can interact with my teachers/tutors and other students through the students’ forum.  Interactivity within the instruction is also built into each lesson and exercises.  Data, voice and video are shared.  So to me, it is distance education.

Revised thinking. . . . .

My revised definition now includes Massive Open Online courses (MOOC), such as those offered through Coursera and Khan Academyas distance education.  Although currently only 2.6% of institutions of higher education offer open online courses, 9.4% are in the planning stage.  (Sloan Consortium, 2012).  It seems a small number but it also shows the program is gaining popularity.  My prediction is that open online courses will continue to grow and become accessible to a wide range of learners and that students in the program will gain wider acceptance and recognition of their skills/education. Dr. Daphne Koller, professor at Stanford University and the co-founder of Coursera presents a compelling argument on the need for open course learning, not just as a service to students but also as a way of understanding how people learn. (TED, 2012).  Check out her presentation, “What We Are Learning From Online Education”  

Distance learning therefore, in the context of my definition of distance education then means adaptability to learning technologies, developing organizational and time management skills, participation in the learning community (sharing and contributing ideas/opinions), embracing individuality and yet acknowledging diverse opinions and learning from those opinions, and recognizing and accepting the open-ended nature of learning – continuous/dynamic not static.

Future vision. . . . .

Conceptually, the world is getting smaller; connections are made instantaneously thousands of miles across the globe with millions of people.  And because of this ability to form instantaneous connections, socially, academically, and/or professionally, distance and time are becoming less relevant, and will, even more so, in the future as our reliance on communications technology deepens. Whether in the classroom or outside, learning and teaching online/virtually/on the web (learning and teaching communications technology) will be fully integrated in all levels of education, and will be widely accessible. And so I envision that the word “distance” in “distance education” will become obsolete.  Our definition of “education” in general will not be limited to skills and knowledge gained from the confinement of classrooms (online, distance, traditional) but will expand to embrace John Dewey’s philosophy of education – “Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.”  (goodreads, n.d.).  The focus will not be in obtaining credentials but in nurturing our individual abilities and integrating what we learn in the process of our daily lives.  Technology will continue to play a critical role; not just in the physical (hardware/software) sense but in its purpose to connect people and enable the presentation and sharing of diverse thoughts, opinions, and expertise, where “the learner is the teacher is the earner.” Siemens (2006, p.54). Knowing Knowledge.

MindMap vision of future distance learning. . . . .

Future Vision

I look forward to your comments.
Thank you,

Marta

References:

goodreads (n.d.).  John Dewey quotes. Retrieved on January 11, 2013, from http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/42738.John_Dewey

Laureate Education Inc., (n.d.) – Video presentation. Distance Education: The Next Generation.

Post Univeristy (n.d.). The Evolution of Distance Learning in Higher Education. Retrieved on January 15, 2013, from http://www.evolution-of-distance-learning.com/#box4

Siemens, G. (2006). (p. 54). Knowing Knowledge.  Retrieved on January 12, 2013, from http://www.elearnspace.org/KnowingKnowledge_LowRes.pdf

Sloan Consortium (2012) – Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education  in the United States.  Babson Survey Research Group. Retrieved on January 10, 2013, from http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/changing_course_2012

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012).  (p. 33). Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education. (5th ed.).  Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc.

TED (2012). Daphne Koller. What we’re learning from online education. Retrieved on January 12, 2013, from http://www.ted.com/speakers/daphne_koller.html

Reflection – Learning Theories and Instruction. . . . . .

Various scholars on Education, both past and present, have regarded Education as a continuous, ongoing learning experience intertwined with our daily lives.  Lindeman, E. (1926) – “….education is life—not a mere preparation for an unknown kind of future living.”  The Meaning of Adult Education. (p. 6).  Siemens, G. (2006) – “Learning is continual.  It is not an activity that occurs outside of our daily lives.  We have shifted from life stopping when we learn; going to school for two-four years, while not working….to learning in synch with life; constant, ongoing—accretion level.“ Knowing Knowledge (p.47).   Dewey, J. (1916) – “From the standpoint of the child, the great waste in school comes from his inability to utilize the experience he gets outside while on the other hand he is unable to apply in daily life what he is learning in school. That is the isolation of the school—its isolation from life.” Meridian, A Middle School Computer Technologies Journal.  The common theme among these scholars, Education is not nor should it be a separate entity from other aspects of our lives is an affirmation of my understanding of Learning Theories and Instruction, and of my own view on what education is or should be.  In the following paragraphs I discuss four components related to my understanding of Learning Theories and Instruction:  1) surprising or striking observations about how people learn, 2) how understanding of my own learning process has deepened, 3) the connections between learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation, and 4) how this course will help me further my career as an Instructional Designer.

What I found strikingWhat really surprised me was the extent to which the psychology of Behaviorism (particularly Operant Conditioning) is deeply rooted not only in education but also in other aspects of society; businesses, government, religion institutions, and even in family structures.  Dan Pink in his book Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us notes, “…other animals also respond to rewards and punishments, but only humans have proved able to channel this drive to develop everything from contract law to convenience stores.” (p. 17).  He further goes on to say “…this general approach remained intact—because it was, after all, easy to understand, simple to monitor, and straightforward to enforce.” (p. 19).  Despite the reality that every person is different and that each one has a unique ability, style for learning, and personality, I am amazed at how we have progressed this far in education by adhering to (mostly) this conformity mode of learning.  This demonstrates the persistence and tenacious nature of human beings in trying to satisfy their curiosity, and their needs (in this case, those obtained via education).   While the Behaviorism approach has served us well in the past, and is still applicable to some aspects of society today, clearly when it comes to education I view it as the least effective theory.  As I have discovered through this course (in numerous sources related to education), my sentiment is also shared by many scholars (including those I referenced in this paper), educators, as well as parents—and fortunately, changes are taking place in the educational ecology.   One example is The Big Picture Learning—whose mission is “…to lead vital changes in education, both in the United States and internationally, by generating and sustaining innovative, personalized schools that work tandem with the real world of the greater community.”   Another example is the Sudbury Valley School in Farmington, Massachusetts that promotes Individuality and Democracy as a way of life.

Understanding of my personal learning process — Priorto this course, unaware of any learning theories or styles, I adopted to whatever mode of instruction was presented to me at different stages of my life.  In the educational setting, I learned strictly through rote memorization.  Although I did very well, in terms of grades, very little of what I learned in school (undergraduate college) applied to my professional or personal life.  I viewed the process of my education as a task to be endured. Today, studying at Walden, and having a greater understanding of Learning Theories and Instruction, I have come to view learning as a relevant—applicable to real life situation, and a joyous journey.  I have discovered that the principles of Malcolm Knowles’ Andragogy—self-directed learning, and autonomy heighten my motivation to learn.  (Conlan, Grabowski, & Smith). (2009).  And as a self-directed learner, I seek the guidance of a More Knowledgeable Other (MKO) when needed.  Vygotsky, L. (1896-1934).  I now recognize the effectiveness and importance of each learning theory and style.  There is no one best theory for everything—each serves differently in different learning situations.  However, one that resonates with me the most is Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence (MI) Theory.  The MI theory posits that humans possess various intelligences, (seven to nine intelligences) and that it is “….the utmost importance that we recognize and nurture all of the varied human intelligences, and all of the combinations of intelligences.”  Howard Gardner in Armstrong, T. (2009).  Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom. (p. 5).  As I noted in Week Six’s discussion, what appeals to me about the MI theory is its potential in fostering individuality in the learning environment.  I believe that I am most creative, and learn effectively when I feel free to be who I am, when I am able to apply my intelligence(s).  In addition, exposure to various intelligences of others in a Multiple Intelligence theory learning environment can further enhance my learning experience.

Connections between learning strategies, learning styles, educational technology, and motivationLearning Theories are strategies that are “…a source of verified instructional strategies, tactics, and techniques.  Knowledge of a variety of such strategies is critical when attempting to select an effective prescription for overcoming a given instructional problem.”  Ertmer & Newby (1993). (p. 51).  Each learning theory serves different learning situations.  Behaviorism is best for learning that requires memorization.  Cognitivism serves us well in critical thinking.  In Constructivism we look for meaningfulness, and in Social Learning for real world learning.  Connectivism opens the door for network learning while Adult Learning focuses on self-direction.  In addition to understanding of the learning theories and their purposes, Instructional Designers need to recognize the different learning styles of each learner.  Dunn and Perrin (1994) described learning styles as “the way in which each learner begins to concentrate on, process, and retain new and difficult information.  That interaction occurs differently for each individual.”  Gilbert, J. E., & Swanier, C. A., (2008) Learning Styles: How Do They Fluctuate?  Some learners are visual while others favor verbal.  Some learn by reflecting and yet others by acting.  Understanding the learning styles is essential for Instructional Designers in identifying their learners’ preferences, and thereby, designing instructions accordingly.  When learners’ preferences are addressed in a learning environment the learners are more likely to feel encouraged and motivated to learn.  To further facilitate learner’s motivation Instructional Designers can incorporate the Keller’s ARCS Model in their design.  In this model, the design includes elements that: attract the learner’s Attention, has Relevance to the learner, build learner’s Confidence, and lead to learner Satisfaction.  Specifically, the ARCS motivational design process includes: “knowing and identifying the elements of human motivation, analyzing audience characteristics to determine motivational requirements, identifying characteristics of instructional materials and processes that stimulate motivation, selecting appropriate motivational tactics, and applying and evaluating appropriate tactics.”  Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivational Design.

Educational technology is essential in facilitating learning.  From the quill and parchment of the 6th Century, to the typewriter of the 20th Century, to the iPad of the 21st Century, technology continues to play a crucial role in the learning environment.  The types of technology application may vary from one theory to another and from one style to another.  But primarily educational technology (in the 21st Century) enables learners to access information, and to communicate with other learners and instructors.  In an online program, technology is the means by which the learning itself is conducted—learning will not be possible without it.  It is therefore imperative for Instructional Designers to ensure the online program design is simple, organized, and learner friendly.

Furthering my career in the field of Instructional DesignLearning Theories and Instruction has enhanced my knowledge in several ways:  I have overcome my prejudice towards the “blog” realm, and my anxiety over “blogging” and in fact come to enjoy the task a great deal.  The discussion format of the class has provided me the opportunity to voice my opinion in a scholarly manner.  My communication skills—written and verbal have improved.  And I have gained exposure to educational technologies I never knew existed, such as, the Mind Mapping tool MindNode.  In addition, as a result of the class assignments in this course, I have discovered invaluable learning resources—websites like Thirteen Ed Online, for example.   I have gained exposure to some ordinary and extraordinary people in the field of education, the psychology of motivation, and the Brain.  One example is Jill Bolte Taylor, the Brain researcher who studied her own stroke as it happened.   Most importantly however, this course has strengthened my belief that we are all different, each of us learns differently, and that the collective uniqueness of learners makes for an authentic learning environment.  As an Instructional Designer, I realize that I need to transcend any prejudices I may have towards the abilities, challenges, or styles of my learners in order to design instructions that address each learner’s needs effectively.  In this course I have been able to identify my own learning process and preferences.  As I noted in Week One’s discussion, understanding my own learning process is important in order to: 1-reinforce those which produce optimal learning experience or enhance or change those that do not; and 2-recognize the similarities and differences between my learning process and those of others (perhaps those I may instruct in the future), so that I can design learner-centered instructions.  As I further my career in the field of Instructional Design, I will no doubt be incorporating my newly acquired skills, the concepts of learning theories and instructions (along with common sense), and educational technologies to effectively design instructions.

In this paper, I have addressed four components related to my understanding of Learning Theories and Instruction: 1) what I found surprising or striking observations about how people learn, 2) how understanding of my own learning process has deepened, 3) the connections between learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation, and 4) how this course will help me further my career as an Instructional Designer.  I started this paper emphasizing the notion that Education is not (or should not be) separate from the other aspect of our lives.  For education to be in synch with other aspects of a learner’s life, the learning environment must be structured in a manner that fosters the “crystallization” of each individual learner’s intelligences.  Armstrong, T. (2000).  Theories of Multiple Intelligences.  To support this notion, I have addressed the factors an Instructional Designer must consider, and approaches he/she can take in designing an environment that provides optimal learner experience.  The most important factor an Instructional Designer must consider is the learning style differences of his/her learners.  (Laureate Education Inc., 2009).  By identifying the learner’s style, the Designer can tailor instructions to the individual learner by employing the applicable theories and/or strategies.  Moreover, to foster learner’s motivation, the designer can incorporate Keller’s ARCS model in the instructions.

As I conclude my reflection, I want to share a quote from Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

Where my Instructional Design career will take me exactly I cannot be certain.  Wherever it may be though, I look forward to becoming a contributor in the positive transformation of our world.

Thank you for reading and best wishes to all my classmates.

Marta

References

Armstrong, T. (2000). Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom (2nd ed.).  (Chap. 1-2).  Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum.

Behaviorism – http://www.learning-theories.com/category/behaviorist-theories

Big Picture Learning – http://www.bigpicture.org/about-us/

Cognitivism – http://www.learning-theories.com/category/cognitive-theories

Constructivism – http://www.learning-theories.com/category/constructivist-theories

Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., & Smith, K. (2003).  Adult Learning.  In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology.

Retrieved March 25, 2012.

Dewey, J. (1916) – quote retrieved from Meridian – A Middle School Computer Technologies Journal, Authentic Learning: A Practical Introduction & Guide for

Implementation.  http://www.ncsu.edu/meridian/win2003/authentic_learning/. Retrieved, April 21, 2012

Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective.             Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50–71. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Journals.

Freire, P. (1968). Pedagogy of the Oppressed  –  http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/41108.Paulo_Freire. Retrieved April 21, 2012

Gilbert, J., & Swanier, C. (2008). Learning styles: How do they fluctuate? Institute for Learning Styles Journal [Vol. l].

http://www.auburn.edu/~witteje/ilsrj/Journal%20Volumes/Fall%202008%20Volume%201%20PDFs/Learning%20Styles%20How%20do%20They%20Fluctuate.pdf

Gardner, H. (2003, April 21). Multiple intelligences after 20 years. Paper presented to the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.             http://www.pz.harvard.edu/PIs/HG_MI_after_20_years.pdf. Retrieved April 1, 2012

Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivational Design – 

http://teachinglearningresources.pbworks.com/w/page/19919538/ARCS%20Model%20of%20Motivational%20Design.  Retrieved April 21, 2012.

Knowles, M. (n.d.). Andragogy – http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-knowl.htm

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2009). Learning Styles and Strategies (video).

Lindeman, E. C. (1926). The Meaning of Adult Education. (p. 6).

Mind Node (Mind Mapping application) – http://www.mindnode.com/

Operant Conditioning – http://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html

Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. (pp. 17, 19). New York, NY:  Riverhead Books

Siemens, G. (2006). Knowing Knowledge. (p. 47). http://www.elearnspace.org/KnowingKnowledge_LowRes.pdf.  Retrieved April 21, 2012

Social Learning – http://www.learning-theories.com/social-learning-theory-bandura.html.

Sudbury Valley Schools – http://www.sudval.org/

Taylor, J. B. (2008). Stroke of Insight – Ted presentation video –  http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html

Thirteen Ed Online – http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/

Vygotsky, L. (1896-1934) –  McLeod, S. A. (2007). Simply Psychology; Vygotsky. Retrieved 22 April 2012, from http://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html.

Fitting the Pieces Together. . . .

Writers Block!  I always experience it—some days more intensely than others.  Writing this blog was one of those intense blockage times.  Try as I might, my brain refused to cooperate—for three whole days.  I was starting to panic but finally, the moment of “epiphany” arrived at 7:59 A.M. on Friday..…whew!  This week has been somewhat stressful for me.  And when I am overly stressed I don’t function well, my creativity is blocked, and consequently my learning is affected.  And so to the question “How do you learn?”, I definitely learn best when I am not overly stressed.  This blog summarizes what I have already addressed throughout the last seven weeks through my discussion posts and through the Learning Matrix: my view on how I learn, my learning preferences, and the use of Technology in my learning process.  I hope you find it informative.

One size does not fit anyOne….

At the beginning of this course, in Week 1, here is how I described my learning process:  “As I examined my personal history of learning, I realized that I had to adapt to the methods of learning that were available and applicable throughout the different stages of my life.  Furthermore, the environment I grew up in (culture, language, political situation) has greatly influenced how I learn.”  Today, in Week 7, almost at the end of the course, I still believe this to be true.  However, the greatest revelation in my understanding of the learning process has been the recognition that:

  • different learning theories and styles exist and that each theory and style serves in different learning  situations
  • no one theory or style is the absolute best
  • each learner is different and each learns differently
  • understanding my own learning process is important in helping me identify and nurture my learning preferences
  • understanding my own learning process helps me recognize the similarities and differences (of my learning process) with other learners

Furthermore, as I noted in my MindMap blog in Week 6, everything that facilitates my learning: essential tools, guidance from MKOs, support from family, friends, and colleagues, my extracurricular and social activities are all the pieces that make my learning whole and possible.  My attitude, values, purpose for learning, life experience, and environment—both people and non-people are all factors that affect and influence how and what I learn.

Being who YOU are…..

The ideal learning environment for me is one that fosters the learner’s individuality (uniqueness) in the learning process.  As I noted in my Week 6 discussion, I believe that learning (academic) should be in sync with other aspects of our lives.  Siemens, G., Knowing Knowledge (2006), (p. 47) states, “Learning is continual.  It is not an activity that occurs outside of our daily lives.  We have shifted from when we learn……to learning in synch with life; constant, ongoing.”  We exhibit our individuality in other aspects of our lives and are most creative when given the opportunity to be ourselves.  Extending that individuality to the learning environment can maximize the learning process.  And so to me, the Learner-Centered approach of Multiple Intelligence Theory has the potential to do just that—foster the uniqueness of the learner and facilitate the “crystallization” of the learner’s intelligence(s).  And so far, I consider my learning experience at Walden University very much aligned with my preferences.

Can’t do without it….. 

Almost everything in my learning process requires the use of technology in some form—Word Processing, Email, Internet access (via computers or mobile devices) for information, networking, and connecting with others for learning.  My education here at Walden University would not be possible without the use of technology.  The use of one technology progressively leads me to the discovery of another awesome tool.  Online learning (technology dependent) has enhanced my communication skills by fostering interaction with my classmates and instructor through the discussion posts, blogs, and email.  Technology has provided me a forum where I can share my opinions, knowledge, and experience—which otherwise may not have been possible in a traditional learning environment.  Discussions on whether or not technology is making us more human or less human continue—some in favor of technology, others against it.  My personal belief is that it depends on how and what technology is used for.   For learning, it is essential.

Amber Case, a Cyborg Anthropologist who “…studies the symbiotic interactions between humans and machines” makes her case on how technology is making us more Human.   Enjoy her presentation video from TED.

Thank you for reading.  I look forward to your comments.

Marta

References:

Amber Case – Biography http://www.ted.com/speakers/amber_case.html

USciences – http://www.usciences.edu/teaching/Learner-Centered/

Howard Gardner, Multiple Intelligences and Education – http://www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm

Siemens, G., Knowing Knowledge (2006). (p. 47) – Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/KnowingKnowledge_LowRes.pdf

Simply Psychology – http://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map

It takes a village. . . .

Thank goodness for my Network!

As I constructed my Mind Map, the depth and breadth of my dependence on my network quite surprised me.  It reminded me of the African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.”  It takes my whole network to help me learn. The visualization further reinforces the necessity of networks; both human (friends/family/peers) and non-human (digital tools/books) for effective self-directed learning. This network has radically changed the way I learn today from the way I learned before.

Twenty years ago, when I was in college, my primary—and most of the time the only network was my instructor.  My source of information for understanding/learning the course material was limited to the class lecture notes and textbooks.  Access to the instructor outside of school hours was not feasible, particularly to adult students, working full time and attending school in the evening.  School libraries (where most of supplemental sources were available) catered to the full time students’ schedule, which was, primarily the daytime hours.  So, if I did not understand the subject being taught—well, too bad!  By the time I graduated (grueling 9 years), I pledged never to return to school unless I could do it full time.  Little did I know that technological leap would “boldly” take me where I had never gone before!

Leaping twenty years forward—the birth of the Internet has made it possible for me to pursue a higher education.  This technological leap has allowed me access (and communication) to sources I never conceived possible.  The capacity and opportunity to direct my own learning has become unprecedented.  I have access to a computer—crucial.  I have an abundance of information at my disposal, via the Internet, through Walden, YouTube videos, blogs, articles, books, social media sites, emails, classmates, and discussion boards.  I can consult with friends, family members, and colleagues for the information I am looking for.  They may not necessarily know the answer but undoubtedly they can direct me to a source (a network) where I can get the information.  My instructor is always available for guidance, support, and feedback.  Should I encounter computer (hardware/software) problems, technical support is a phone call away.  Sometimes it is unfathomable to think how far and fast we have progressed technologically.

My network learning has also heightened my independence for learning—meaning that I have the option to decide which source to pick and how to use the source for learning.  I have more flexibility and convenience.  For the most part, I choose the best time and place to conduct my learning (within the given course parameters).  I also realize that with self-directed learning, I bear a greater responsibility of ensuring that I learn.

Apple all the way…..

I like simplicity.  And so far, nothing beats the intuitive, uncluttered, responsive, and user-friendly design of Apple computers to facilitate productive learning (or working).  In terms of software, for the most part I use Microsoft Word, and Outlook (Entourage).  I used MindNode for the first time in this assignment.  I am looking forward to learning the Adobe package commencing with our Instructional Design course next semester.

My Network and Connectivism…..

My network is my reference source so that the information I need for learning does not all have to reside in my head—I don’t need to memorize it and know it all at once.  But when I need it, I know where and how to get it.  As Siemens (2006) noted, “The externalization of our knowledge is increasingly utilized as a means of coping with information overload.  The growth and complexity of knowledge requires that our capacity for learning resides in the connections we form with people and information, often mediated or facilitated with technology. “

One of the principles of Connectivism is that “learning and knowledge rest in diversity of opinions.”  Davis, Edmunds & Kelly-Bateman (2008).  I believe this to be true.  My network consists of a diverse group of individuals with different experiences, knowledge, and social/cultural backgrounds; and each network has its own network (separate from mine).  And so, the potential for the amount of information available at my disposal and the capacity to “know” is astronomical.

Another principle of Connectivism is that of information Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge). Davis, Edmunds & Kelly-Bateman (2008).  In my prior learning environment, the learning materials available to me were primarily course textbooks that were usually outdated.  By the time, I graduated, most of what I had learned, particularly in the Computer Science discipline, had become obsolete.  By contrast, in today’s learning environment, the latest and the greatest information is just a Google (or a network) away.  As yet, another tenet of Connectivism states, “Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.” Davis, Edmunds & Kelly-Bateman (2008), it is critical to form networks—I might even suggest that it is unavoidable.

Thank you for reading.  I look forward to your comments.

Marta

References:

Connectivism – A learning theory for today’s learner – http://www.connectivism.ca/about.html.

Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008).  Connectivism.  In M. Orey (Ed).  Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology.  Retrieved March 25, 2012.

Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008).  Connectivism:  Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/523/1103

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: Learning as Network-Creation http://elearnspace.org/Articles/networks.htm

Siemens, G. (2006).  Connectivism, Learning Theory or Pastime for the Self-Amused?” http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism_self-amused.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map

Brain. . . . . the Ultimate Project Manager!

I had completed a different version of this blog this morning and all ready to go….then suddenly, in the middle of breakfast preparation a light bulb went on!  My goodness–the brain is the Ultimate Project Manager of the human body!  And so, I completely re-wrote my blog.  It just goes to show you that the brain is constantly adjusting to find the best possible method to respond to a given situation.  I hope you find this blog informative.

The role of a Project Manager is to ensure an assigned project is completed on time, within budget (rarely happens by the way), and within a specified timeframe.  PMBOK – A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (2008).  Likewise, our brain’s function is to ensure all stimuli received are responded to accordingly.  Just FYI – I am also a Project Manager (PMP).

There are five main process groups in Project Management and I have attempted to explain them in parallel to the brain’s functions.

Initiation – this is the beginning of a project—someone (the sponsor) says, “Let’s do this.”  I equate this stage to a stimuli the brain receives (for example, a person/body going outside in the winter without adequate clothing and feeling cold).

Planning – at this stage the Project Manager along with stakeholders of the project figure out what needs to be done and by whom.  The brain at this stage figures out who (Neurons, Synapses, Glial Cells, for example) would carry what signals to alert the body/person that he/she needs to take action to combat the cold.

Implementation/Execution – this is the stage where all the work/tasks to complete the project are actually performed.  The brain at this stage is executing the necessary functions to prevent the body from freezing to death–the person/body is in the process of putting on a sweater, a coat, gloves, etc.

Monitoring/Controlling – the Project Manager basically ensures no one is “slacking off”.  The brain at this stage ensures all parts are functioning according to specifications, so that the person/body has taken steps and will not freeze to death.

Closing – here the Project Manager says, “I’m done.  Here’s your project.  Let’s go on to the next one.”  This is also the stage where “lessons learned” are documented so they are not repeated in future projects.  The brain also says, “You’re warm.  Next time around you know what to do to protect yourself from getting cold.”

Whereas a Project Manager, can only manage a handful of projects simultaneously, the brain manages thousands (perhaps more) projects (tasks) simultaneously to ensure we survive….it’s just Wow!   Further investigation on the topic of learning and the brain,  led me to the websites below that I thought are worth sharing.

A directory of links to learning and the brain, and cognitive information processing theory – The website, Educational Psychology Interactive – Dr. William G. (Bill) Huitt is a directory to Educational Psychology links.  The materials are categorized into four sections: Websites, Readings, Videos, and Topics.  Selecting anyone of these options will display the directory page from where you can select the topic you want to explore.  For example, under Websites, it lists websites organized by topics, such as “Introduction to Education” and lists the website links for that subject.  Furthermore, that same subject is listed under Readings, and Videos.  For example, “Introduction to Education” has a website section, readings section, and videos section.  You can select whichever means works for you.  As the name Educational Psychology implies, the site contains a multitude of links to education and learning.  It’s not fancy but I like it and will continue to use this website throughout my Learning Theories and Instruction course.  I hope you find it useful as well.

Sharing knowledge is a beautiful thing.  And that is why I love TED – Ideas worth spreading.  This website is “a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.”  Subject matter experts present their ideas on “Technology, Entertainment, Design.”  I like this website because it is a place of collaboration among people from all over the world, sharing knowledge that they believe is “worth spreading”.   For our topic this week, I found three presenters, on the website, whose ideas are definitely “worth spreading”.   Enjoy!

Brain Rules by John Medina – Dr. “John Medina, author of “Brain Rules” and “Brain Rules for Baby,” is a developmental molecular biologist and research consultant. He is an affiliate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He is also the director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University.  Dr. Medina’s complete profile.

This site is simple and uncluttered in design.  Dr. Medina provides brief and simple audio, text, and video descriptions of his “Brain Rules”.  His Rules touch upon factors that affect our Brain and gives advice on caring for our Brains.  The website also contains Dr. Medina’s blogs that are relevant to the Brain.  I find this website useful for the blog content and the videos.  You might want to check it out too.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to your comments.

Marta

References:

http://www.ted.com

http://www.brainrules.net

http://www.drjilltaylor.com/

http://www.pmi.org

http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/index.html

Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning Theories and Instruction (Laureate custom edition). (2009). Chap. 2, “Learning and the Brain” (pp. 27–36 and 45–46). Chapter 3, “Cognitive Information Processing Theory”.  New York:  Pearson

A guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge: PMBOK Guide. 4th ed.  Project Management Institute, Inc.  Newton Square, PA