Content Delivery or Learning Experiences

Great content delivery is an adequate form of education, but is there more? Do you have experiences of sports coaching or studying where a teacher just gave you raw information and then left you to your own devices? Do you have experiences of teachers leading you through a process of reflecting on information and applying it to your own situation?

I believe that great content should always be one part of our educational environment. It is a very important part, but just one part. How we structure and package our delivery will make the difference between whether we have great content, or great experiences of learning.

Here is a silly little example. Pretend that the picture is a video lecture, presentation or reading that you think has very good information.

Great content

Option 1: Great content

What if we were to use this example as part of an intentionally created learning experience? We could make an attempt to draw a student in, through their own past experiences, and then use these a tool to help them to understand. We could provide space for the student to reflect appropriately on the content, and to apply it to their own lives. We could also provide a space for students to share in the experience of the entire class by posting responses to, and reflections on, the great content.

Option 2: Great content as part of a learning experience

Option 2: Great content as part of a learning experience

Trying to set up a deeper educational experience will take some extra time and thought, but this gives a space for students to think more deeply about what they are learning.

 

Advantages of this type of learning experiences:

  1. Students get to apply information immediately.
  2. Students are able to learn from other students in the class by seeing their comments.
  3. Seeing how they apply it to their own lives also gives you immediate feedback on whether or not they are actually learning from the materials.
  4. Lecturers and tutors are able to model engagement with the content through their own comments.

Reflection

  • Can you think of anything where you have learnt through immediate reflection and engagement? How were those learning experiences?
  • Do you see any problems with this style of learning experience?

Feel free to use the comment section that should appear below.

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Online Tutorials: push through to learn great things

As I write the draft for this blog post I am struggling through a tutorial using Adobe Connect, it is coming from the USA, and quite frankly, I am surprised that I am still signed in. I have discovered that on this internet connection I can stream a YouTube video smoothly, but I can’t listen to smooth audio in this tutorial. Adobe connect is supposedly the best online tutorial software available, and for me it is not working.

At Cornerstone conducting tutorials via Google hangouts, and have really struggled with some aspects of them. At the same time, many students who are not able to come in to campus have found the tutorials to be very helpful. Some have especially appreciated the ability to watch recordings of the tutorials.

What I have learnt tonight is that even when technical things go wrong, we can still learn a lot. An engaged learner, somebody who actually wants to learn, will be able to gain important information even from the glitchiest tutorial.

We have struggled with:

  • Poor connections
  • Not being able to hear one presenters
  • Not knowing all of the technical aspects of this software.

Perhaps it is not our Institution or our software alone that are struggling so much. There is perhaps another systemic issue at play that hampers the delivery of great webinars and online tutorials in South Africa. Either way, here is a summary of some lessons learnt.

What I have discovered through this 1.5 hour struggle:

  • As I am listening to bits and pieces, and seeing bits of slides, I am getting links to valuable content and hearing snippets of good stuff.
  • It is frustrating that the audio comes and goes, but I am able to have a space to think and work while this lesson is going on in the background ever now and then.
  • Even a glitchy tutorial can be valuable, it becomes what the student makes of it.
  • Visuals communication is very important when presentation is not smooth.

Some important resources and ideas that I have found as a result of this:

Stay tuned for the next few blogs based on important lessons I learnt through this seminar that went so badly.

Does academic study have meaning without experience?

Experience does add meaning and purpose to academic studies.

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It is incredibly important for us to create ways in which students can connect their academic learning to real life situations. Some sort of “experiential learning” is essential for this. Bemidji State University has developed a teacher training programme in which distance students are required to do service in the community that is related to the subjects they are doing.

While we at Cornerstone Institute require certain practical modules, we do not require a practical/service aspect within each and every module. Bemidji State University has had amazing results through requiring a service aspect from students’ second semester of study, right through to the end of studies.

We may not want to require students, for every module, to do some sort of service within their communities. We do need to make sure that there is a bridge between studies and real life. We need to ensure that students are applying what they learn in real world, every day, often mundane situations.

Some things to consider:

  • Service allows students to apply what they are learning to things that are important to them.
  • Service give an opportunity for students to explore calling/vocation.
  • Service creates future connections between students and community organisations.
  • Reflection on experience gives students opportunity to incorporate what they have learnt into a new understanding of who they are in relation to academics and their world.

Some questions:

  • How can we ground our academic content in concrete experiences of life?
  • How can we encourage reflection on that experience?
  • How can we facilitate opportunities for students to apply our theory to things that are important to them, to their life, and to their community? 

See this article for a deeper reading: https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/EQM04110.pdf

Online really can be better

When a skilled online facilitator teaches a well-written online course, the opportunities for learning are incredible, even better than traditional learning, also known as a face-to-face (f2f) class. This is the radical truth proposed here: that online education can be better than traditional classes.

This is the sentiment of Lehmann and Chaimberlin in their 2009 book Making the Move to e-learning. They believe that a well run e-learning course is able to engage students more, remain more current, more convenient, more flexible, etc. 

It seems that e-learning, or distance education, is able to result in learning that is deeper. Not because the student necessarily sat in a class listening to the lecture, but because they were given space to ponder, think, and then engage, as well as sitting and listening to a lecture as many times as they want.

It seems that e-learning, distance education, really can be better for students than traditional in class education. 

For a better description find this book somewhere (like EBSCO) and give it a read.

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The story so far

I have been working on and off on a Counselling and Life Skills module for the past year, struggling through various issues and non-issues. I was working for a while with somebody else, and am now working on my own. I developed for e-learning contact, and now for distance as well as contact. I drank coffee to help me work, and now I am drinking coffee that doesn’t seem to help me work.

Deadlines have been set and removed, but now, it seems that the final deadline will eventually come. Methodology and technology has changed, and is now (hopefully) in its final form. Now I have to begin to formulate the final version of this module, for what is hopefully going to be (more or less) the final mode of delivery.

I must re-think units and outcomes, re-look at the assessments that I will be using and re-look at the course material. This is where I should begin to see the module come together into a final  form.

Join me in the wrestling as I put this module together, as I continue staring in to the beautiful distance.