Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Strategic Design in Online Education: Skill Streams in Courses

In the last post I suggested to you that in dealing with cognitive skills as outlined by Bloom that there is a needed change. The environment that Bloom first developed his hierarchy for does not quite fit or take advantage of an online environment. Due to the very nature of the environment on the Internet, the end goal for students is no longer to gather information for the instructor and then demonstrate the knowledge of information through assessment. There is more information on the Internet than what a teacher could accumulate in all of his or her formal education and the ability of students to find and reproduce it requires very little thought at all. In the post information age where our students are very comfortable with the Internet, the emphasis on the scales of information collection vs. process skills has shifted more to the process skills. It is not to say that students do not have to have basic foundational knowledge in whatever discipline they choose to follow but this foundation knowledge is a means to an end.

In order to create a culture of innovation within our societies, it must start at what we see as important for the education of children. We can not treat all children as if we have taken all from a specific mold which has up to this point been the foundation of the old industrial model of education.
Instead we need to educate students how to think, how to believe that they are capable of creating new knowledge and skills, and that our societies value their contributions to building the future.

With this in mind, what I am going to describe to you are some thoughts on the design of online courses that I think are essential to making "thoughtful engagement" an attitude in the learning style of online students. the thoughts that I offer are far from polished but if they get you think "what if..." and inspire you to offer suggestions for refinement then much has been accomplished that is of value. You see, in order for students to demonstrate this attitude, they need you as an instructor to model it for them and being willing to share your discoveries and challenges. These thoughts arise out of a frustration that I had experienced in the brick and mortar school and now find it creeping into the design of online courses. When we try to transfer what worked well in the brick and mortar school into an online environment, we also end up transferring some of our faulty  design issues along with the potentially good ideas.

One of these problems is that when a particular skill set is introduced to students and a dedicated set of exercises to reinforce the idea, we fail to draw connections to the next skill to show how it relates to the previously learned skill. In other words, in the exercises following we don't emphasize to students that we are building a skill repertoire which they will then focus on a specific issue that they will deal with at a time in the future. Students start to see each of these necessary skills as separate entities that are not connected. The problem is we need to have a framework of identified skills that we want students to master in a course but we don't prioritize and arrange these skills as building on the skill that came before. Part of the problem is a guilt that teachers sometimes feel if a student is struggling. We don't want the student to fail mastering the skill and in many western societies students are not to experience failure. Therefore, we have a habit of reminding the student of the nature of the previously learned skill.

So, how can we deal with this in an online environment? The following rough diagram is a display of ideas that might address this problem through a construct that I call "skill streams". The actual explanation of objects in the diagram will be detailed in page #2

mind mapping software

No comments: