The Best Way For Implementing Teaching Purpose

Do you remember that awesome college professor? You eagerly waited for his lectures and once he entered the lecture hall time passed very quickly. The professor made your college life better, right? Then there was that terrible professor. During his lectures, time crawled. You disliked his lectures and you couldn’t even grasp much of what he taught. Generally, every professor has a methodology of approaching students and this influences their college experiences. Psychologists recommend mixing different approaches according to an average age of a group of students. This article discloses the most popular models that enhance implementing teaching purpose.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Apple, Google, Microsoft And The Looming Global Crash

This article ponders what key aspects of the most recent Annual Reports of the 'big three’ (i.e. Apple, Microsoft and Google) might actually mean when considered against a backdrop of a likely looming global crash of our present-day fiat monetary system; it then posits what the implications might be for eLearning in general.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Critical Thinking In Spidery Prose

This rather whacky 7th geek article has been written with a good dollop of artistic freedom. It features a she-spider and he-spider starting off on the wrong foot and then winding up strangely talking about virtual reality and augmented reality. Throughout the article nevertheless, there are actually some critical-thinking moments of clarity upon which the reader might dwell.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Is Something Missing From E-Learning?

What Is Missing From E-Learning?

Background to the article: My main observation of going through the formidable and very informative process of achieving, for instance, the UNIQUe E-Quality label of the former European Foundation for Quality in E-Learning (EFQUEL) or achieving quite recently, for example, the E-xcellence Associates’ label of the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU), is how reputable e-learning accrediting bodies prefer to view e-learning generically, subsuming it within the context of the institution. Moreover, this view is resonated in the detailed recommendations made in the following two policy documents: (1) The HEFCE  revised approach to e-learning strategy for enhancing learning and teaching through the use of technology, and (2) the UK Quality Assurance Agency  higher-education strategy for flexible and distributed learning.

But, is such an approach to e-learning certification creating a situation where the wondrous and complex forest of the human heart can’t be seen for the pigeonholing trees? Or put another way, isn’t something very important about humans missing from such classifications of e-learning?

Introductory Dialogue

Did you know that according to Google, the spelling of e-learning with a hyphen is apparently more than 10 times more frequent than the spelling of elearning without a hyphen?” I say to myself.

Yeah, and so what?” I reply.

I prefer the hyphenated spelling. And if you believed, as I do, that the human spiritual heart can blow the universe up with flowery love-might, you would too,” I say to myself.

What the hell are you talking about?” I reply.

The hyphen separates the human learner from the ‘e’, and I’m not that interested in the ‘e’ unless it helps me to understand how the human actually learns. And for me, the only learning that is valuable is learning that leads to flowery love-might being spread throughout the universe.

Is E-Learning Quietly Taking Over?

If one were to peruse the increasingly exhaustive requirements stipulated by the growing number of prominent e-learning accreditation bodies, one might surmise quite quickly that e-learning benchmarks for learning institutions have become remarkably multifaceted encompassing the institutional strategic plan, curriculum design, course design, course delivery, staff support and student support. Furthermore, universities to a greater extent are now offering fully online undergraduate and postgraduate degrees; for examples click here to see a fairly up-to-date list compiled by the DLIT Unit in October 2015 of  fully-online master-degree offerings in UK-universities .

The scandent stems of e-learning have therefore been creeping their unrelenting way up into institutional crevices achieving a tighter new-is-good-but-newer-is-even-better chokehold. Are we not in the name of progress now experiencing the most monstrous teacher-student transmogrification in human history? I mean this ‘newfashioned e-learning thing’ has only really been kicking arse over the last 10 years or so, and ‘us’ humans have been teaching and learning in ‘the folklore way’ for apparently approximately 200,000 years. So isn’t the wry e-face of e-learning inevitability smiling approvingly and saying tauntingly, “I know you can’t survive without me now”?  Isn’t powerfully disruptive e-learning artificial intelligence, particularly in the form of AI tutors, also going to pop out of this Pandora’s e-box of wonders and wizardries soon, and then what?

Regrettably, we’re actually living in a global era of increasing transmogrification and decreasing collective common sense. It’s an era of cemented brains, mushy bigotry, marionette gestures, lamebrain economics, sledgehammer corporations, screwjob dreams, harrowing poverty, stupefying opulence, debilitating fear, cavity-search scrupulousness , sunless carbon-footprints, bail-in fleecing, iniquitous outsourcing, tearaway migration, peak everything, fiat to infinity, war on war, and a nutty patchwork of much more.

So What Is Missing From E-Learning?

Well drawing mainly on the EADTU quick scan, it’s not the institution's accessibility (disability) policy or accessibility in the openness widening-participation, virtual-mobility or lifelong-learning sense. It’s not flexibility in the retention-rate-any-time-any-place-study sense. It’s not the level of interactivity (student-to-content or student-to-student) or the amount of personalization. It’s not the products (curriculum design, course design and course delivery), support (staff and student) or management strategy vision and policy. It’s not the monitoring and implementation of emergent technologies and educational developments. It’s not the equipment purchase, software implementation or recruitment of staff. It’s not quality procedures, formatively and summatively assessed learning outcomes, regular feedback through self-assessment activities, guidelines concerning layout and presentation, or impersonation and/or plagiarism prevention. It’s not technical infrastructure maintaining the e-learning system is fit for purpose, meta-data-learning-resource labelling, student metrics, IPR policies, using OERs, single sign-on access, strong end-to-end encryption or production quality standards.

So What Is Missing From E-Learning (once again)?

Where is the laughter? Where is the aliveness? Where is the kinetic and tactile group experience?  Where is the camaraderie, the closeness, or the warmth of humans being together? Where is the body language, tone of voice, or the subliminal learning? Where is the kaleidoscope of everything humans have been doing naturally in the classroom before e-learning came along? E-learning is slashing mercilessly the teacher-student bond, and the introduction of AI-powered LMSs with AI tutors by some bright spark will morph things beyond belief.

But human-to-human teaching is not old-fangled, nor is it 'all-ego'; quite the contrary, the human teacher may be tweaking to some degree, knowingly or unknowingly, something in the human student heart. A correctly tweaked metaphysical human heart can climb the highest mountain, play the most intricate musical work, or formulate the most complex scientific principles; it might be the most powerful thing in the universe, and if all the human hearts got tweaked at the same time, they might blow the universe up with flowery love-might.

So I’m looking forward to the day e-learning has really cool super-HD holograms (or some kind of teleportation option), so we can start doing things more like we have/had been doing in the classroom!

For more pictures by Dr Katarzyna Alexander, click here or here.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

3 Key Online Learning Validation Requirements

3 Key Requirements For Online Learning Validation  

Studying online does offer learners a world of benefits. It is a time and cost effective way of learning required skills and gaining relevant qualifications. However, there is still a fair bit of reluctance to consider online courses among some of the students-to-be: They tend to claim that many of the eCourses fail to replicate or substitute the traditional study experiences. Furthermore, online study (according to them that is) cannot be recognized as a full equivalent of face-to-face delivery and is therefore inferior. In this article, I am going to discuss online learning validation requirements.

Rome was not built in one day! It may take time to convince some of the skeptics of eLearning benefits. In the meantime, we need to ensure that our powers of conviction are based not only on utilizing a wide range of promotional tools, including traditional tools, but also on our ability to deliver an online experience that is in no way inferior to the traditional learning experience. In order to do so, we need to ensure that the online courses we are offering are compliant with the following 3 requirements:

  • Validity of the eLearning qualifications.
  • Reproducibility of the online assessments.
  • Reliability of the eLearning systems.
  1. Validity of the eLearning qualifications.
    Just like with traditional training program, it is essential for learners to be rewarded with a valid qualification/certificate that is going to be recognized by both industrial and academic bodies. If an online course leads to a University degree or an industry qualification that is an equivalent of its face-to-face delivered counterpart, its validity is unlikely to be questioned by anyone. For example, in Australia we have many online providers of training courses. The ones offering accredited degrees and certifications are by far the most popular ones. Just like in a traditional learning environment, an online MBA from a country’s leading University is likely to attract a lot of interest among the learners but websites that offer to teach “business administration skills”, but have no recognized awards to offer are usually doomed to fail. Obviously, there are exceptions from this “rule”… but they only confirm the rule!
  2. Reproducibility of the online assessments.
    Another reason some employers may feel skeptical about recognizing online qualifications is concerns about validity and fairness of the assessments, since students are not being “observed” while undertaking tests or exams. It leads to a perception that online assessments are easy to cheat with. Not only it compromises reputation of the courses delivered, but it also brings a shadow of doubt on integrity of the genuine learners undertaking the online assessments. Even if their pathways to the online qualifications are fair and square, cheating-friendly or oversimplified assessments will make their proficiency levels unverifiable and easy to dispute. Reproducibility of the eLearning outcomes (aka online assessments) refers to ensuring that the eGraduates are capable of clearing all of the assessments irrespectively of whether they are offered online or offline. Online exams and quizzes should be by no means easier than the ones students are facing in a traditional learning environment and cheating opportunities should be minimized. One of the proven approaches to validating online courses involves making arrangements for students to undertake at least some of the assessments under real-time supervision. For example, Open Universities Australia (leading Australian provider of online University and College programs) ensures that all of the courses (while the training/teaching delivery is fully online) incorporate at least some exams or tests that take place at specified examination venues where students are deprived of cheating opportunities.
  3. Reliability of the eLearning systems.
    State-of-art interactive technologies are instrumental in making an online course appealing to the learners. After all, it is those technologies that have potential for compensating for the lack of face-to-face interaction. Even more importantly, at no point should the technologies fail to fulfill their purpose. Some of the typical eLearning system failures to occur are: Losses of online quiz results/online assignment submissions, malfunctioning online resources, access difficulties/user authentication problems to name a few. While almost all of the training providers are using online tools, to supplement the learning experience, courses involving blended delivery (both online and offline) can attempt to compensate for the technology failures through other features (e.g. entertaining lectures and study activities on campus). However, for the online providers, such failures translate into absolute disasters both in terms of the course administration and and keeping the students satisfied.

To sum up, online training providers must invest considerable time and resources into designing their courses and tailoring these courses to the learners’ needs both in terms of user-friendliness and content. eLearning is no different from any other industries with customers wanting to have attention and support around the clock. Given that even many marriages are made online these days rather than in heaven, lack of face-to-face contact with fellow students and trainers is not a significant obstacle to overcome. Your online course will be appealing as long as the learning experience is no inferior and the qualifications obtained are recognized!

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

2016 Instructional Design Trends Compass Experiences, Ecosystems, and Evaluation. Oh My!

In the 2015 Compass, I shared instructional design trends along with calls to action for L&D professionals. I included calls to action because so often our industry predicts trends, yet provides little information about what to do about them.

This year, I’ve decided to do things a bit differently. I picked three big topics that I think warrant more consideration and focus in 2016 (and beyond): experiences, ecosystems, and evaluation. Let’s call them the three Es of 2016.

Experiences: Create Them!

User experience (UX) has always been a necessity for web design and software design, and it has growing significance in learning solutions design. The reason? Our learners, who are avid web and software users, now have expectations related to experience. They have been influenced by the ways in which devices, software, and websites are designed, and they expect similar experiences. They want intuitive, personalized, engaging interfaces with clean visual designs. They also expect to find what they need quickly, when they need it, and use it... quickly. Years ago, I attended a keynote address by Sir Ken Robinson, a leading speaker and writer on creativity and innovation in education and business, and he coined a phrase that resonated with me and has influenced my designs. The evolution of information-gathering, he said, has created a culture that says, “I don’t have all minute!”

What Can We Do in 2016?

  • Get familiar with UX or, if you already have some background, brush up on or further your UX knowledge.
  • Design learning experiences that are tailored to the variety of devices learners use today. Designing for mobile phones is NOT akin to designing for a tablet, laptop, or desktop. People interact with each device differently and for different purposes, durations, etc.
  • To learn more about UX, I recommend this course from The Association for Talent Development (ATD): Essentials of User Experience (UX) Design for Learning.

Ecosystems: Build Them!

Technology has enabled more robust learning solutions and learning systems. Merriam-Webster’s simple definition of ecosystem is “everything that exists in a particular environment.” So a learning ecosystem is the entire learning and training environment, which might include e-learning, instructor-led training (ILT), virtual instructor-led training (VILT), mobile learning, social learning, performance support, online and offline resources, and more.

Dare I say that learning ecosystems are blended learning strategies on steroids? That is not to oversimplify this concept, but to put it into perspective for those who are unfamiliar with the concept of ecosystems.

What Can We Do in 2016?

  • Instead of building a single solution as “the” solution, roll out a suite of solutions and create a learning ecosystem. If an e-learning course is your primary solution, think about what could complement it. What are your learners inclined to use? What do they need? Performance support? Job aids? Social learning? Ask them!
  • To learn more about ecosystems, check out eLearning Guild’s Learning & Performance Ecosystem 2016 conference.

Evaluation: More than Just Beginning with the End in Mind

Evaluation can refer to a number of different tasks or strategies in our industry. Typically, when we talk about evaluation we are referring to how we evaluate learners’ comprehension via assessments and how we evaluate the solutions themselves via iterations and prototypes, usually against the scope, as defined in the statement of work (SOW). But do you align your learning solutions to strategies that are tied to business performance and outcomes? Do you ever evaluate them to this degree? Do you discuss key performance indicators (KPI) related to your solutions?

Brandon Hall Group’s The State of Learning & Development 2015 study states that “only 30% of companies say their learning strategies are highly aligned to business goals.” The study also notes that “the predominant driver of developing a strategy is to prioritize business needs and align them with HR and learning strategies.”

Just as we align assessments to learning objectives, so too should we align learning solutions with business outcomes. This type of alignment and strategic planning is gaining attention, and it deserves more of our focus. Those of us who have been in this industry a while know that L&D often operates in a vacuum (often not by choice), is not considered a strategic business partner, and is sometimes considered disposable. The continual evolution of our industry will hopefully shift this thinking soon.

In a recent ATD article, the authors note that “As a talent development leader, the days of being measured on the number of training hours produced are quickly waning. In the very near future, you will be measured on organizationally aligned results.” Business leaders may soon be asking L&D what value they add, and how their solutions align to business outcomes. Are you prepared for that?

What Can We Do in 2016?

  • I encourage you to read the executive summary of the Brandon Hall Group report mentioned above, and share it with your leaders. It’s an easy read with four findings and seven calls to action.
  • In addition to return on investment (ROI), consider return on expectations. If you thoroughly document expectations from stakeholders, clients, sponsors, and even your target audience, you will have a clearer definition of success to align with and evaluate against. ATD’s Evaluating Learning Impact Certificate touches on this and covers measurement and evaluation of the business impact of solutions.
  • Consider implementing (and maintaining) performance support when appropriate. According to Conrad Gottfredson, performance support is designed to improve business outcomes. Include it as part of your learning ecosystem, as noted above!
  • To learn more about evaluation, I recommend this course from ATD: Measuring Learning Results. (It’s online and it’s self-paced!)

After several years of instructional design trends focused on training deliverables—mobile learning, gamification, social learning—it seems our industry is starting to take a step back (and, at the same time, a strategic leap forward). These trends point to a focus on the bigger picture of the overall learning experience, how we align with and support business objectives, and how we ensure our interventions are effective.

If this sounds daunting, remember, bigger challenges mean more opportunities for creativity and innovation! I’m excited to work strategically with my L&D partners to tailor our instructional design approach—from learning ecosystems to each individual microlearning—to help learners progress in their careers and help businesses grow and thrive.
Wishing you an exciting, innovative year of instructional design!

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Distance Learning: Still A Distant Possibility?

Is Distance Learning Still A Distant Possibility? 

The modern day classroom is a 300 year old legacy of the British Empire: They needed to manage a global enterprise without telephones or computers. What they needed was people with the exact same training and skills; people who could read, write, and do arithmetic – enter the school. This is a system that has endured the test of time (apart from the British extremely well in managing their empire).

In fact, if one were to look at classroom constructs even in prestigious universities likes MIT, not much has changed in the past 60-70 years in terms of the pedagogy of teaching.

The only possibly innovative thing we did was to introduce the concept of distance learning into our teaching systems. Sir Isaac Pitman started that with shorthand class through correspondence and the University of London started the first degrees through long distance.

And we have been able to marry the two methodologies beautifully in the current times – classroom and distance learning model.

Advances in technology have made it possible for us to deliver education in an innovative manner.

The Khan Academy is being used as a means to tutor children at home with classes as a practical application platform. edX and Coursera point to a changing paradigm in education – a free quality product available anywhere, anytime and for anyone . Sugata Mitra’s “Whole in the Wall” experiment teaches us that children left alone with tech will learn on their own which kind of addresses the one big deficiency in the education system – lack of good teachers. Using the online, anywhere, and always available channel, teachers have the ability to reach students in places and in numbers hitherto thought not possible. And students in turn are able to get quality education at their pace from the best teachers sitting in the comfort of their own surroundings.

Strangely enough, MOOC has significant traction with the older working population. They like it because has a “learn at your own pace” philosophy as well as spares them the embarrassment of sitting in classroom with much younger people without the same ability to match their learning curve.

Criticism against MOOC has been the low completion rates of the courses at 4-5%. The way I would read that is that many more people who are gathering skills; people who would never have gone to a class. Plus one cannot wish away the free nature and quality of the courseware of the MOOCs from the foremost universities in the world.

Schools and colleges are learning and will soon learn to weave the online and offline models to evolve an effective learning experience for all. The discipline of a deadline coupled with the flexibility of studying anytime should prove to be a winning combination. Distance education needs to be moved in to the mainstream of education and delivered in an integrated manner along with other more accepted forms of education.

At a social development level, as part of its “Education for All” objective, UNESCO has identified ICT as an important method of intervention to address this gap to bridge the 770 million adult literacy gap across the world. This again calls for innovative thinking on content and delivery making the distance model an ideal one.

Some areas that should be leverage a variation of the distance learning model in India could be:

  • Skill augmentation and development: Supplementing the existing ITIs and other institutes for vocation training courses.
  • Literacy for all: Helps deliver standardized education for all.
  • Higher and continuing education using courses from top schools and universities across the world.

The model of the future seems to be a hybrid of what we have been used in terms of the classical approach to teaching on the one side and then a bouquet of learning options across various media and devices that be a woven together to create a composite whole.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

At The Heart Of An Educator

The Educator And The World Of Learning

As the light of a new day on Earth began to seep through the blinds, he looked up at the ceiling and started to ponder the human world, and how it had got to be so shitty. Was it simply steely Chaos Theory exposing the fractal mathematical properties of accumulated and proliferating human greed, or was this the work of an evil entity feasting on human suffering, shattered-dreams, and freedom?

Hey, chill out, the day’s just starting,” he said to himself. “It’s simple, in life, some fail, and some succeed. You know, it’s survival of the fittest. Just try to struggle through. It’s really not that bad. Anyway, most people are too busy worrying about who hasn’t liked them on Facebook to notice. They don’t really care about that kind of stuff. So stop being so negative”, he said back to himself.

But deep down, he knew none of that was true. He knew that for most, life was a slaughter house of unfairness and disappointment. He knew that Newtonian law of human action and reaction in an evil system might one day have its indiscriminate way too.

At which point, he got out of bed, grabbed his mobile, and on his way to the kitchen, he tried, as usual, to imagine what the news might be that day. He’d grown sick of the corporatist wars, the displacement of peoples, the rape of cultures, the slaughter of the innocent, the growing poverty, the barbaric loss of human potential, and most of all, he had grown sick of the lies. Democracy had ensured that the right questions would never be asked. Democracy had ensured that there would be Mickey-Mouse-money, deep-state-puppeteers, freedom-loving-bombs and oil-dependent-BTU-calories. Democracy had also ensured that the political world would mostly be a pantomime of bought-off, smooth-talking, smart-moving, narcissism-belching, and smile-guiling politicians.

At that moment, he felt the time for his morning dump was fast approaching. He sat down on the cold toilet seat and wondered where the hero was. He wondered where the man or woman of substance was. He wondered where the incorruptible, fearless, and human-loving problem-solver was. And as he grabbed another wet wipe, he declared fervently that one great mind could change a lot, that one great mind could change the world, that one great mind could unleash a transcendental human.

He then strangely scoffed at himself as he washed his hands. And as he got ready for work, he said to himself, “I’m not trying to suggest that what you just said about that one-great-mind-thingy in the toilet was idealistic drivel, or a Lord-of-the-Rings-pastiche for that matter. Please don’t think that for a moment. But you really need to mention the role of the educator vis-à-vis the commercialization of education, and student indebtedness”. That day, however, he wasn’t feeling sad, angry, frustrated, or helpless, he actually felt powerfully optimistic. He understood big changes were coming to the world, and he understood big changes were coming to the world of education too. He hoped in this new world creative mental skills would trump hollow social skills. He hoped in this new world of cataclysmic upheaval, real, honest, and loving people would turn things around too.

Thereupon, he left home, got into his car, and drove to work. As he weaved his car around arrogantly-irresponsible mobile-multitasking drivers, he started supposing what might lie at the heart of an educator, and then, he started saying the following:

At the heart of the educator lies sadness and anger at the state of the world. At the heart of the educator lies a violent love to undull the dulled and unglaze the glazed. At the heart of the educator lies an unseen hero of humanity in chains. At the heart of the educator lies a learner's bud that might flower, that might free, that might spread human love throughout eternity.

For him, there were no summative or formative packaged grades first. For him, there were no questionable factory-production-line can-do statements of supposed ability first. For him, there were no committee-idealized 21st century thinking skills first. The world needed real brawny crap-stirring brains. And for him, education meant nothing, pedagogy meant nothing, eLearning meant nothing without the heart of the educator. For him, designing the next forum discussion, the next recorded lecture, or the next course meant nothing without the heart of the educator. “And many media-pumped and tattoo-inclined students might agree with that too”, he thought.

Well that at-the-heart-of-the-educator-stuff was all very moving and noble”, he said to himself as he got out of his car and walked to his office. “But, really?”, he said to himself sarcastically. At that point, he walked up the stairs thinking he was sick of number-crunching publishing, and sick of trying to convince people he might have something important to say. It seemed, to him at least, that he would be nothing more than a grainy brushstroke on the heap of a crappy age. As he entered his office, he decided rather impulsively to say hello to the learning technologists in the adjacent office.

Hi everyone!”, he said.

Hi!”, they said back to him.

As he walked back out of the office, he paused momentarily, and said “It’s great working with you!

When he had gone, one learning technologist turned to another and said “That was weird”.

Maybe he’s trying to get us to record those Moodle training films in Camtasia again”, said the other learning technologist nervously.

No shitting way”, said another.

Maybe he’s just trying to be nice”, said yet another learning technologist as she munched into her delicious Greek cheese pastry.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.