Friday, October 5, 2012

Cool Technology vs. Good Learning Design

An interesting thread in one of my LinkedIn discussions regards a poll. The question was:

Have we strayed from basic adult learning principles in favor of “cool” technology?
Responses as of October 3 were:
  • No, we are enhancing (26%)
  • No, we are on target (10%)
  • Yes, we have strayed (42%)
  • Yes, we are going for cool factor (15%)
  • Don't know (5%)
Jacinta Penn commented in her blog post about the poll that no one brought up the fact that "some people never used good learning principles in the first place." This is true both in face-to-face situations such as academic courses and workshops. No one can tell me that having someone stand in front of a large group of people and drone on and on with an occasional PowerPoint slide of bulleted points  interspersed represents good pedagogy. In these cases, I'm often reminded of Ben Stein's segment in Ferris Beuller's Day Off.

I have seen elearning courses that greatly resemble this approach. They are linear in design, largely text-based, with a few YouTube videos thrown in for good measure. They often include the bullets from the PowerPoint presentations without any explanation. Learners have little choice but to progress from one page of text to the next.

As I develop my online courses and modules, I keep good pedagogy in mind:
  • Chunk information into small pieces
  • Provide a variety of ways for the learner to gain information
  • Built in formative and summative assessment to check understanding and reflect on what they are learning
  • Keep it simple--less text the better
  • Easy to use and navigate--intuitive, accessible design, guidance when necessary
  • Incorporate visual examples
  • Relate to real life--authentic learning usually with scenarios
  • Keep the content relevant and at the right level for the learner
  • Make the learner interact with the screen or make decisions
  • Educational focus--even though may include "game-like" approaches
This approach recognizes the interdependence of ‘design’ (of e-learning materials and environments) and ‘teaching’, in that I am able to incorporate a wide range of learning opportunities in the design. The technology allows me to accomplish my goals. I no longer have to provide a linear  elearning experience.  I have learned a lot from the Articulate Community (E-Learning Heroes) blogs, forums, and award-winning course examples.  Not only does Tom Kuhlman discuss the technical aspects of developing courses, but he also incorporates pedagogical best practices.

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