Friday, November 21, 2014

E-Learners of the Future--Learning On the Edge--Part III-- Student and Instructor Skill Sets

In the last post I suggested to you that overcoming ingrained attitudes that do not synch with the online environment would be a struggle for some. There are those who try to rationalize away the idea that perhaps we are venturing into something new with the attitude that "there is nothing new in the way of learning under the sun" and that each technology generation is no different from the one that came before. In effect this is a plea to maintain the status quo in learning and learning environments. However, the facts that we have available to us suggest differently. No time in human history has knowledge in the various disciplines expanded exponentially compared to what is happening now. Learners have access to more knowledge via the world wide web than teachers could possibly teach them in many life times. Research into how the brain works in regards to how humans learn has revealed more that what we had known in previous decades and this research has to be a factor in transforming our pedagogy. To suggest that one age is no different from the next in terms of adapting new skill sets is naive at best. The online learning environment is decidedly different from the brick and mortar environment of last two hundred years and it is the skill set requirements for this learning environment that I wish to focus on in this post.

Harnessing the new technologies in the transforming of pedagogy is the key to the types of skill sets required. Lets consider some learning experiences that students might come across in an e-learning organization and then ask the question:

"What skill sets do students and instructors need in order to address this learning experience successfully?"

In posts in the past I have suggested to you that learning experiences need to be:

  • irresistibly engaging
  • make use of technologies that engage as many of the learners' senses as possible
  • be focused on learners dealing with real world issues in which they have an opportunity to receive relevant feedback from professional learning communities in the global networks
  • foster collaboration among learners
  • have learning objectives that are derived from a focus on Bloom's Revised Taxonomy
  • have strong mentoring resources
  • make use of the lessons learned from PBL and experiential learning
I also suggested that the use of simulations and real life scenarios be an integral part of student learning experiences. Here is a rough scenario description:

Scenario:  "Ebola and North American Response"
Task: "You and your fellow students are being enlisted to come up with workable protocols for dealing with the potential outbreak of Ebola in North America. You must devise a plan for hospitals to put in place that will enable them to quickly identify and deal with potential cases without creating undue stress on their resources and keeping medical staff safe from possible infection. You are on a time limit and must present your plan and defend its merits to a panel of professionals who have a stake in a solution."
Setting the Scene: "To work on this task, you will choose an avatar to represent you in the collaboration and then enter into a virtual reality immersive laboratory environment. Your teacher will monitor and control the simulation. Your teacher at any time may introduce a confounding variable in the shape of a "breaking news" flash which may require you to re-think your plan. While in the virtual lab you will have access to resources found on the web as well as mentors who will offer suggestions when asked but will not do your work for you. Your goal is to work collaboratively gathering, analyzing and synthesizing data to arrive at an innovative solution to the problem."

Getting a rough understanding of what students are being asked to do, we ask the question:

"What skill sets are required by students and instructors in order to accomplish the goal successfully?"

The traditionalist would say that there is nothing new here. In so doing they are forgetting that the environment is much different than the traditional learning environment and has a far greater and enriching reach. Starting with the student, I would suggest the following:

A/. Students: Getting use to the immersive environment is not something that comes naturally or that they have experienced before unless they have been involved in online worlds such as Second Life . Anyone who has put on the new version of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headgear will tell you that just getting use to the synchronization of what they are seeing and moving within a 360 degree immersive environment is a skill set that takes time to develop. To learn to manipulate objects in 3D space is something that in the past learners have associated with playing video games but now the focus is on solving real world issues as part of  an e-learning experience. The use of augmented reality technology governed by pedagogy is something that learners will experience in the near future.

  1. The idea of breaking away from the ingrained idea of separate compartmentalized disciplines and developing the skill of approaching problems from a cross disciplinary perspective is a new habit of the mind that needs to be developed by the learner and dealing with immediate feedback in regards to their solutions from professionals in cyberspace requires more thoughtful engagement than what has been expected from them before.
  2. Development of habits of the mind in which critical thinking is modified to fit the context of an online environment is an important re-focus. In the past the focus has been on students studying content prescribed by the departments of education and then being asked to regurgitate that content back to the instructor through assignments, oral examination and in written tests. Today, it is more important that students be able to analyze a presented problem, decide collaboratively which disciplines of knowledge will be needed to arrive at a solution, where to find the information in the online world, how to evaluate the information as well as the source of information, how, as collaborators, to identify each others strengths and harness those strengths to solving a real world problem and how to create new bodies of knowledge and skill sets.
The following infographic gives an overview of the nature of the habits of the mind we are talking about:


These are just a few ideas concerning the learner but what about educators and mentors? How do they fit in?

More in the next post.......

1 comment:

Glenn Drysdale said...

A very thoughtful, informative post! I do think that the skills needed in eLearning development are changing. IN my company, people are tired of the constant required courses visited upon them. I"m thinking about moving toward performance support concepts more, in the future.