Developing a framework for teaching open courses

Online-Kurse, so der Autor, spielen sich irgendwo zwischen MOOCs, universitären Kursen, die für Interessierte offen stehen (”open boundary courses”), sowie traditionellen, geschlossenen Kursen ab. Eine zentrale Herausforderung für das Design von MOOCs besteht deshalb in der Suche nach der richtigen Balance zwischen Offenheit und Struktur. Vor diesem Hintergrund und mit Blick auf seine eigenen Erfahrungen als MOOC-Facilitator, beschreibt Alec Couros, Professor an der University of Regina, sieben “challenges” und “strategies”.

Sie werden von einem schönen Zitat (Douglas Thomas und John Seely Brown) eingeleitet: “The new culture of learning actually comprises two elements. The first is a massive information network that provides almost unlimited and resources to learn about anything. The second is a bounded and structured environment that allows unlimited agency to build and experiment with things within those boundaries.” 
Alec Couros, Open Thinking, 7. Juli 2015

Active Learning In Online Training: What eLearning Professionals Should Know

Active Learning In Online Training

In 1991, Charles C. Bonwell and James A. Eison stated in their report Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom that active learning is about “involving students in doing things and thinking about what they are doing. (…) When using active learning students are engaged in more activities than just listening. They are involved in dialog, debate, writing, and problem solving, as well as higher-order thinking, e.g., analysis, synthesis, evaluation.” In other words, active learning describes an ideal learning process, as deep engagement with the training material is by far the most effective way to enhance knowledge retention.

4 Active Learning Benefits

Let us take an analytical look at the benefits of active learning:

  1. It addresses to different learning needs.
    An instructional design that promotes active learning engages learners from the very first module as all eLearning activities are by default designed to promote interaction with the eLearning content. Active learning gives learners the opportunity to explore for themselves, "experimenting" with the eLearning content, which enhances knowledge retention.
  2. It reinforces important skills, such as critical thinking and decision making.
    Self-exploration makes it unavoidable for learners to enhance their critical thinking and decision  making skills, as from the plethora of information offered, they need to learn how to evaluate what is important and what is not. Therefore, they gradually become agents of their own learning. A good instructional design, based on active learning, gives learners the opportunity to visualize immediately the consequences of their actions. Interactive branching scenarios and problem-based learning are ideal for enhancing critical thinking and decision making skills in eLearning.
  3. It boosts learner motivation and performance.
    Without any doubt, the fact that learners are given a choice on how to proceed with the eLearning content enhances their intrinsic motivation, as they are free to select the learning path they prefer, which is also closer to their personal interests. This has also a positive impact on their performance as they get immediate feedback for their actions.
  4. It creates a strong sense of community through peer-to-peer interaction.
    The fact that an instructional design based on active learning mainly focuses on self-exploration of the eLearning content does not necessarily mean that learners do not interact with their peers. On the contrary, social learning activities based on online discussions help learners to share experiences and good practices about the topic under study and draw their personal conclusions about the ideal course of action. Peer-to-peer interaction is also necessary in eLearning activities based group projects.

3 Active Learning Best Practices

Effective active learning depends on the ability of the online course facilitator to understand the essence of the eLearning course and then create an environment where learners can analyze, synthesize, evaluate and apply the information offered. Here are 3 of the best ways to put active learning into practice:

  1. Online debates.
    Online debates reveal the complexity of issues and help learners understand that polarized, black and white thinking is rarely, if ever, the right way to resolve a dilemma; instead, it stunts progressive thought. During online debates learners are broken out into two groups that research, develop, and present opposing viewpoints on a topic. This allows them to take responsibility for their performance, as they need not only to develop their logical reasoning skills to defend their position, but also to make decisions about how they will use what they are learning. Furthermore, online debates reinforce their ability to adapt, as opposing views are rarely predictable and learners are able to rebuild their positions after hearing the other side.
  2. Brainstorming. 
    Brainstorming is about thinking of alternative possibilities without judgement, in a comfortable environment. It involves working together as a group and encourages creative thinking and risk taking in order to generate new ideas and solutions, no matter how unclear or ineffective. In brainstorming, there are no “wrong” answers or suggestions; on the contrary, weak points are considered great opportunities for developing a deeper understanding of the topic in question in a highly supportive environment, which increases engagement levels.
  3. Problem-based learning.
    In this active learning practice, problem-based assessments present cases and examples that are relevant to learners and encourage them to turn theory into practice by applying what they are learning to real world situations. Problem-based learning motivates learners to develop their problem solving, critical thinking, and analytical skills; moreover, it offers opportunities for effective team work, as collaboration is highly encouraged to generate more ideas and solutions.

5 Tips To Use Active Learning In Online Training

How can active learning be applied to an online environment? Most importantly, how can your employees benefit from it during their online training? Here are some tips that may help you in integrating active learning into your online training course:

  1. Use a variety of learning strategies.
    According to the Multiple Intelligences theory, different people learn in different ways. One of the most effective ways to promote active learning is to follow a learner-centered approach, and then incorporate multiple learning methods into it. Consider combining online discussions with thought provoking quizzes, role playing with storytelling, and problem solving exercises with compelling images and graphics; this way, you will meet different learning needs and easily engage all of your learners, whether they are auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and so on.
  2. Follow a mistake-driven learning approach.
    To put the brainstorming idea to practice, you need to find ways to help your employees develop their critical thinking skills without the fear of failure. Consider taking advantage of mistake-driven learning by creating a series of eLearning scenario questions that offer room for making mistakes and encourage your audience to focus attention on the eLearning content in a risk free environment.
  3. Encourage collaboration.
    Social learning
    is a great way to put active learning into practice, as it creates opportunities for discussing ideas, as well as collaborating on group projects and presentations. Generate online discussions on an online forum or on social media where your employees can freely express themselves, share their ideas and concerns, compare their notes, and discuss the key points of their online training. Just remember to establish a netiquette for appropriate participation and effective online communication.
  4. Focus on interactivity.
    The more the interactive elements of your online training course, the greater the degree of active learning. There is a variety of ways to integrate interactivity into your eLearning course, from simple drag and drop interactions to fascinating eLearning games and high quality videos. Even a typical, static presentation can be interactive, as long as you choose the right authoring tool to help you transform it into a dynamic medium.
  5. Connect your online training course with the real world.
    No matter how well designed your online training course is, it will not be of much use if it is irrelevant to your employees. One of the biggest benefits of active learning is that it allows your audience to apply what they are learning; thus, always remember to create fitting examples, suitable cases, and relevant problems to be addressed and solved. Use reality-based scenarios, demonstration videos that clearly explain work procedures, and eLearning simulations that inspire your employees to analyze their own problem solving strategies. This way, you will make sure that your audience stays focused and engaged, as information is always better retained when it can be put to use.

Now that you know how active learning works and how to integrate its practices into your online training course, you may be interested in learning if your online training is effective. Read 8 Tips To Measure Your Online Training Effectiveness and find out how you can make the most of your training budget and offer your employees the training they need to succeed.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

6 Strategies For Popularizing eLearning Within Organizations

Popularizing eLearning Within Organizations  

One concern that I hear Learning and Development and Human Resources executives express is the declining interest and participation of employees in their corporate eLearning programs. In many cases, after the initial excitement of the launch of eLearning initiative is over, employee participation starts going down. Very few employees opt for the eLearning courses, and many of those who subscribe do not complete them. Here are 6 strategies for popularizing eLearning in order to draw employees towards the corporate eLearning initiatives:

  1. Gamify eLearning.
    Transform the eLearning initiative from a Learning Management System implementation to a fun and exciting experience for the employees. Gamify the learning process; assign points / credits to the courses and accumulate these points into the accounts of the employees as they complete the courses. Form teams within departments and let the teams compete for their eLearning scores. Publicize top achiever teams and individuals regularly and also reward them at the end of the year quarter.
  2. Socialize eLearning.
    eLearning typically tends to be a private affair between the Learning and Development department and the employee or the Learning Management System and the employee. This tends to make eLearning initiatives quite dull and boring, particularly the self-paced programs. Open up the eLearning initiative allowing employees to post questions, provide responses, and rate questions and responses. Allow virtual communities to be formed and community members to create and publish eLearning capsules. Assign points for every question, response, and learning capsule that is well perceived by the community members. Such points can be accumulated by employees to receive rewards and recognition.
  3. Allow access to the content through tablets and smartphones.
    Giving access to eLearning content through tablets and smartphones can lure Field Force employees into eLearning. Employees on the move access most of their everyday transaction systems via their tablets and mobile devices. Why should eLearning be an exception?
  4. Shorten learning content duration.
    Long hours of eLearning content that lacks interactivity and engagement make it tough for learners to complete eLearning courses. The learning experience becomes just mechanical. Also, Field Force employees engaged in sales and customer service can easily get distracted and find it hard to dedicate 30-60 minutes of their free time for Learning and Development. Companies that have reduced eLearning content duration, say to 5-10 minutes learning capsules, have seen much better acceptance and higher completion rates, especially among Field employees. A few companies have even tried SMS-based learning, where small information bytes are being sent via SMS every morning to the Field Force followed by an SMS question later in the day. Employees might miss or ignore the first SMS, but are forced to refer to it when they have to respond to the question before the end of the day.
  5. Use scenarios, situations, and case studies.
    Make use of real life situations and scenarios to explain theories and concepts while designing your eLearning course. Scenarios and situations are much easier to relate to and retain the concept. Keep assessments based on case studies so that learning can be reinforced through application of theories and concepts rather than conventional questions that check the retention of theories and general concepts.
  6. Create game-based and simulation-based eLearning.
    Convert the eLearning content into a game or a simulation of a real life scenario. For example, a course on “Managing Irate Customers” can be designed as a simulation, where the learner is presented with the situation and the course progresses based on the choices made by the learners. This makes the whole learning experience interesting and highly engaging.


This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Research Writing Is Like Hanging A Screen Door

Why Research Writing Is The Same As Screen Door Hanging

Most universities offer a research methods course. Research methods courses are designed to develop the skill to research a topic and synthesize findings.

Recently, I put up a screen door on my back porch. I have a Ph.D. in Engineering Management from Old Dominion University, so how hard could this be? It was hard, but I am now proud to say that I am an expert at screen door hanging. I will proudly point out the three sets of different holes drilled into the wood frame where I placed the two different hinges wrong; three times. I have my proud self-made diploma, in my head, for finishing successful screen door hanging.

Screen door hanging and research writing is basically the same thing. We ask students to drill a few extra holes along the way in the wood to create a written class paper. We help them try not to overlook the simple things that keep the effort from being successful. In the end, we want students to learn something and be better for the experience.

  1. Finding the Topic.
    So, what leads to a good research paper? First, students need an effective topic. That seems impossible to many students. You can offer a list of past topics for a class, but it’s more effective to help students find a topic that they really want to understand or discover a little bit more about. Help students to avoid writing about a project that they are in charge of or how their military unit is hurting promotions and retention. If they are too close to a problem, they will be biased from the start and not have an open mind and do genuine research as a basis of facts. Give students an opportunity to share their topics and offer feedback. Great papers mean great reading time for you.
  2. Help Students to See More Opportunities.
    When I completed my PhD dissertation, my advisor, Derya, informed me that I had to have it published in a peer reviewed journal. So I summarized the 259 pages into an article and submitted and it was published. I thought I was done, but I wasn’t; she told me I needed to publish about 10 more times. My advisor rattled off a long list of article topics. It was then that I realized that a research paper is not about solving all the world’s problems, but about looking at the smaller aspects of a topic, not overlooking the simple things. So, when you next encounter the hard-headed student who wants to write a research paper that is too broad, ask them a few simple questions: What time frame does the topic cover? Is it too broad? What scope do you plan to cover?  One instance or instances around the globe? Asking these types of questions should help students see when a topic is too vast in scope to generate a meaningful paper. Keep asking the probing questions that will help them to find a good basis for some research. Those questions limit those extra holes in their research screen door paper.
  3. Beyond One Paper.
    Research papers are not an isolated product. That is why I stress that at the end of each research paper that the student includes a short paragraph on future research. I want them to see that their paper is important, but it is just one fish in a school of fish; each one similar but different. To really understand the whole mass of fish you need hundreds or thousands of fish, or research papers.

Focus is hard to hold onto. But once you help students to see the focus of the research, you help them open doors to many successful papers.

I am holding up a cup of coffee, to you, and now my metaphor of my success – a wonderful white screen door, that slams closed each time someone comes in or out. Sometimes I just open it to watch the spring-loaded hinges slowly take control and make that wonderful southern slamming noise.  Take time to appreciate the slamming noise of student success with research writing.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

World of Learning Conference 2015

World of Learning Conference 2015 is an essential two-day conference for all senior learning & development professionals.

A visit to the World of Learning Conference 2015 presents L&D professionals with an invaluable time and cost-efficient opportunity to share experiences and learn from others how to best overcome the hurdles and ensure you are delivering the solutions the business needs to stay ahead.

What makes the World of Learning Conference 2015 unique?

By combining extensive research with authoritative input from key industry figures, the conference programme provides an up-to-the-minute overview of the vital issues facing the senior L&D professional.

Featuring high-profile cases studies, interactive seminars and discussion forums, the World of Learning Conference programme focuses on the current issues of most concern to L&D professionals. You will come away with genuine and inspiring solutions for your day-to-day and long-term business objectives.

Who attends the World of Learning Conference 2015?

The World of Learning Conference 2015 is a must for anyone with high-level responsibility for learning and development, in particular:

  • Learning & development
  • Training solutions
  • Workforce & staff development
  • Organisational development
  • Talent management
  • Human resources
  • Management & leadership
  • Coaching & mentoring
  • e-Learning
  • Instructional design
  • IT training

The World of Learning Conference 2015 will be held at The NEC Birmingham, United Kingdom, on September 29-30 2015.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.