Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Building Irresistible Engagement: Part II--Creating An Effective Learning Culture

Most organizations, if asked, will state that they do have a learning culture within their organization. With affirmations such as these there are some important questions that should be asked which requires honest organizational introspection:

"Given the fact that we live in an age of information and learning, what does an effective learning culture look like? Do we have a learning culture within our organization that is in sync with the global digital economy or are we still doing things the way that we have always done things?"

To answer such questions, we need to look at the differences between traditional learners of the past and 21st century learners. The employees who will help a 21st century business organization flourish are ones who have grown up with the internet and all the tools it offers. It is these employees who will seek harmony in the ways that they learn within a business organization with the natural ways that they pursue informal learning in their everyday lives. The following simple chart gives the comparison, keeping in mind that the characteristics described are true for both formal learning organizations and business organizations seeking to establish an effective learning culture.
Traditional Learning Culture Within Business Organizations

Training within business organizations have followed a template approach for many years. Some characteristics of this approach would be:

  • Training sessions for employees carried out by a trainer or a small group of trainers using a standard presentation approach.
  • Standard training approach imparted information for the purpose of upgrading employee knowledge and skills in regards to company products and services that was individualized according to the role of the employee.
  • With the introduction of MicroSoft Office, PowerPoint was often used to present needed information. Employees were expected to take notes, ask questions and then use what was learned in their respective roles within the organization.
  • Motivation to employee compliance used the "carrot or the stick" approach
  • Later, with the introduction of multimedia and interactive technology, employees were allowed limited participation in training by "clicking on screen buttons to move to the next self-guiding slide".
If you look closely at these characteristics and the comparison chart above you will notice that it fits a type of learner who was required in a different age. It is not the type of learner or employee who is going to be useful to a 21st century, connected business organization that wants to innovate and compete in the global market place.

Transforming the Learning Culture in a Business Organization

Transforming a dated learning culture to one that is in sync with the nature of 21st century learners  or employees means that the hierarchical organizational structure needs some revision. The learning culture needs to be something that all members of the organization are intimately involved in from the CEO to the lower levels in the chain of command. If a goal is to have employees contribute in meaningful ways to company innovation, then there needs to be structures in place that nurture collaboration, problem solving, employee initiated innovative ideas and as much communication laterally as vertically in the chain of command.
It also means a re-definition of traditional roles within an organization so that they are more in sync with the demands of a global digital economy that moves at a much greater rate than in the past.

"What, specifically, needs to be added and what would the new roles encompass?"

One point that should not be underestimated is the growing importance of an organization's ROI to the effectiveness of the learning culture that anchors it. This is an age of multi-level learning with global access to knowledge that is growing exponentially. We can no longer maintain the stataus quo and expect to survive.

Next... Adding more specifics to the new pattern for learning cultures and also application to formal higher learning organizations..

Monday, October 26, 2015

Building Irresistible Engagement in the Age of Distraction: Part 1- Starting the Fire!

In this digital age where so many online and real life stimuli compete for our attention, there is a need to define and focus on what will engage our learners in a consistent and meaningful way in immersive E-Learning. What we need to do is to metaphorically speaking, "start a fire" in online education. When you consider the characteristics of a fire, you can see how this might apply to immersive E-Learning. Consider these points:

  • People are drawn to fire. When they look at it, it engages their attention for long periods of time without any external motivation being applied.
  • People looking at a fire often lose track of time; it consumes their interest
  • The fire initiates more than just the intellect but also the emotions, imagination and creative impulses of  a person. Within the fire, our mind sees and interprets which allows our imagination to flow
  • The fire may also stimulate the necessary physiological conditions that lend themselves to personal introspection.

"How does this relate to building irresistible engagement? "

In order to answer this question, we need to be fully aware of the problem that exists with 21st century learners today.

The Problem of Learning in Both the Corporate and Formal Education Environments

We are all products of our education. Whether you are a CEO of a Fortune 500 company or an esteemed university professor of an ivy league university, it is our life long education that has shaped us to what we are today and continues to direct the way that we think about things today that make up our personal and professional life. Throughout our educational lives, we have placed our trust in those who have structured our learning and put forth a vision of learning to guide those who were the designers. However, during this time of trust, perhaps we forgot to ask an important question, best expressed by the Latin phrase:

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"

Even in this 21st century, who is watching the guardians of education? We are products of education systems that formalized regimentation, conformity, and standards that the guardians of education said were important to healthy citizenship and would benefit all people. Yet, after several centuries, we still have illiterate masses in many countries, poverty, illness, wars and gross socio-economic disparities. 
"If education was to be the great equalizer, what went wrong?"

Educators and Trainers: The Paradox

Educators and trainers are some of the most intelligent and gifted people tasked with empowering the educational growth of learners but the simple truth is that educational and corporate organizations have grossly ignored or squandered the intellectual capital of these individuals. Instead of nurturing their talents, they have sought to control, micro-manage and task their time in such a way that these talents can not grow and like a healthy plant encircled by weeds, they wither and uncritically comply with their directives. How many L&D departments have been financially neutered as a result of a lack of vision?

Sir Kenneth Robinson is correct in stating that public education has systematically downplayed the importance of creativity to an enriched education and now that our societies are seeking to foster innovation both in the corporate world and formal education, we are faced with generations who have been systematically conditioned to keep buried any creative impulses unless called upon to be creative. This uncritical adherence to the dictates of the overseers of education has resulted in a generation that struggles to think for themselves without direction. This uncritical obedience was dramatically demonstrated in an experiment by a Yale Psychologist, Stanley Milgram in July 1961.


Building Irresistible Engagement in the Age of Distraction: Starting the Fire

Recognizing what we are up against, we need to build a fire of change in E-Learning both in the corporate and formal education environment. We have to be honest with each other and admit that the frameworks for our thinking about education need to change because they are not working and we are squandering a valuable resource that is found in this generation and in the coming generation. These generations are disconnecting from their education because they recognize that nothing of substance has changed in the vision and purpose of education. We need to take the responsibility of starting that fire of change and that begins with all of us who are professionals in this area going out of our way to put the word out and seek to develop collaborative networks based on a new vision and purpose of education.

So, to do my part, if you think that the points I am making are valid and should be discussed, share them globally using whatever social media at your disposal. Put a link to this blog on your website to spread the word. Conversations can't happen unless there is more than one person taking part in the conversation.

Next...Specifics on how to create and nurture the fire of irresistible engagement for learners

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Man vs.Technology: Two Solitudes?

There are some very interesting questions that we should ask about our relationship to the technology that we experience every day. Some of these questions would be the following:

"How do we relate to technology that comes into our life? Do we see the technology as something that is alien to us, frustrating; something that we fight with every day?"
Let me illustrate what I mean by this with a personal experience. During my years as an educator in "brick and mortar" schools, I held the position of being the site technology administrator as well as being a class room instructor. One day, while doing my rounds in the elementary school hallway (Grade 7-9 school), I came across a strange sight. A grade 5 teacher had her desktop computer on a cart in the hallway and was the using the key board to hit the top of the monitor while screaming at it the following:
"I hate you, I hate you! I don't want to know anything about you!"
The first thought that came into my mind was: 
"How do I talk this distressed lady down before she commits digital homicide or injures herself?"
However, as I reflect back, I recognize that this is the same type pattern of relating that many people experience and it is a reason why relevant change in educational institutions is slow to happen. We have been brought up to believe that these are tools to make our jobs easier but unfortunately what has not been impressed upon us is that we only have part of the formula. In living with only part of the equation, we have created a solitude that is counter productive.

The Greatest Technology Known to Man
A preeminent technology that is often not considered and is greater than any technology that exists and has existed, is the human mind. It is from the human mind that the rise of civilizations have been plotted as well as their downfall. The human mind is greater than the super cray computer despite the speed that it can perform functions at. The human mind can visualize, imagine and create.

In the first solitude we see technology as disconnected from us, alien to our understanding and even as a threat. However, when we add the human mind into the equation in the right order, our thinking about the relationship that we have to technology should go something like this:

"I see technology as an extension to my mind and the way that I think. It allows my mind to go into areas where I have not been before. It allows my mind to gather more information than I previously had and as a result, I can use my mind to dream, to visualize, to probe phenomena deeper, and to innovate. I want to explore what I see, solve problems that have not been solved and create what has never been created before. I have learned to work with technology in an intuitive way."

So, what does this have to do with E-Learning and innovation?
We need to change the way that we relate to technology. If we see it as disconnected from ourselves, alien and a threat then education will never be free of its institutional inertia; innovation will not become a natural mindset. How we approach learning about technology and experiencing it must not continue to be from the first solitude but instead should come from the second one where we enjoy a digital symbiotic relationship with the technology because it has its origins in the most powerful technology known to man, the human mind. Leonardo da Vinci was considered a genius but take a close look at what he created; they were products of a powerful and divergent mind. They started there first.
Is the human mind flawless? No, we have made extraordinary efforts to limit it, incapacitate it and make it conform to superficial boundaries.
If we truly desire that the generations coming be agents of change and creators of new knowledge and skillsets, then we need to change how we relate to the technology in our lives. In doing this, we enrich societies and build futures.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Effective E-Learning in the Age of Distraction

With all the advances in E-Learning that are on stream and coming on stream, we still have to overcome an important problem when it comes to learners. We have to come to terms with the fact that we live in a age of distraction. With the coming of advances in Wifi and mobile technology, the degree of distraction has taken on a whole new level. We are faced with an important question:

" How do we re-focus this generation and the next on the pursuit of effective E-Learning on a consistent basis and help them develop the necessary self-discipline to avoid the many online distractions that exist?"

 Problem #1: A Failure to Communicate

 What do I mean by a failure to communicate?  The failure to communicate is a failure to communicate in the same context that learners communicate everyday outside the halls of academia. Although higher education has incorporated the use of technology into their classrooms, they are still using technology within an outdated context. The idea of a lecturer standing at the front of a classroom as the "sage on the stage" instead of as a "guide on the side" is an element of a model for education that treated learners as "one size fits all widgets". Even if the instructor is using the most up to date technology in the classroom, if he or she is still using the approaches to teaching that belong to this out of sync model, then students will disconnect and will seek out distractions that are more in line with the way that they really live outside the classroom.

Therefore, the obvious next question is:

"How do we engage students in the learning experiences that we want to present?"

The following are potential ways to truly build engagement:

  1. Seek to create a true learning community where you, the instructor, include yourself in the learning experiences. Build a collaborative network within the learning experiences where learners may be tasked to work together instead of being a passive, disconnected audience. Build engagement by encouraging, inspiring and challenging learners to find real life solutions to complex real world problems.
  2. As an instructor stop treating social media as the enemy and a distraction from true learning. Social media is an important part of learner lives outside of the classroom. Instead learn about why learners find it so engaging. Take a look at your pedagogy and ask yourself whether or not this technology can be harnessed to enrich your learning experiences.
  3. Make learning a personal experience for learners. One of the areas that MOOCS need to work on is the personalization of learning in an online environment.
  4. If it is possible, get away from the straight row organization of the learning space. This type of organization is an element of the dated "assembly line model" of education.
  5. Make effective use of the blended learning concepts by stretching the learning network to include participants from other learning networks on the web. The purpose is to teach that collaboration is possible on a global scale and not restricted to the physical classroom.


Problem #2: The Myth of Multitasking

We also live in an age where people have been brought up with the formula:

Multitasking  = Increased Productivity

The maxim learned in past systems of education and business is that the more you multitask the more productive you will be. Cognitive Neuroscience suggests that this maxim really is wishful thinking.

Credit: Jonathan Jordan
This myth has now firmly entrenched itself in this generation and its effects can be routinely observed in the education systems and business communities of today. One reaction to failure to meet set standards when multitasking has not been to stop multitasking but to instead lower the standards or "cut corners" so that task commitments can be reported as being met. This is a sure path to mediocrity and in some critical disciplines the consequences can be catastrophic (ie: civil engineering).

The Question of the Efficacy of Mobile Learning and Micro Learning
Two of the most current entries into the E-Learning realm is mobile learning and micro learning. I bring these two entries up in a post on distraction because there exists the potential for the misuse of these ideas. It is extremely important, not to be too melodramatic, that the design of learning experiences with the idea of using these technologies be done in a thorough and thoughtful manner. It is important to remember that for learners seeking to further their education in the online world, that this is of great personal importance to them. There is the temptation to use these new technologies in superficial ways when it comes to learning and could result in deeper sustained learning not being achieved. The focus for these technologies should empower learning how to think on the web and not simply to gather snippets in an uncoordinated fashion. In its lack of design, the use of both of these technologies could become distractions.


A recent study titled: "Students' Mobile Learning Practices in Higher Education: A Multi-Year Study" by Baiyun Chen, Ryan Seilhamer, Luke Bennett and Sue Bauer (2015) demonstrates the need to change mindsets in the use of these technologies.

So, given the nature of the problems that we face as a result of this the entrenchment of this mindset, what is the solution?
[ If you think this article is worth sharing, please do so through social media!]

Next...Some Suggestions

Friday, October 16, 2015

Revisiting the Manhattan Project Scenario--Part II

One of the changes in a model that emphasizes the importance of learners becoming change agents, creators of new skillsets and knowledge is that the roles of the educator, trainer and instructional designer must change. The idea of the educator or trainer being the "sage on the stage" now changes to being the "mentor on the side" and more importantly, a co-collaborator and learner within the learning experience. This is the case for the Manhattan Project scenario. As was mentioned in the previous post, the educator, or trainer takes on the role of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer and his or her principal task is to interject events during the run of the simulation that will help measure responses that are related to group and individual learning objectives. Suggested unexpected events that could be interjected into the simulation are:


  1. General Leslie Groves, who directs the whole Manhattan Project, gives a news update that the Nazis have accelerated their time table for the development of the atomic bomb, which means that in order to beat the Nazis to the goal, the Los Alamos lab team will have x number of simulation time units that they have to come up with solutions, reduced.
  2. A funding cut has been introduced by the government which means the team must propose an alternate innovative solution to the current task that is more cost efficient.
  3. A moral issue has arisen dealing with the high percentage of loss of life that will occur in civilian populations as a result of them completing their work. Team members are called to present well evidenced arguments for both sides of the issue through collaborative discussion. They will then be required to take a position. They will have to present their arguments to Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer(the educator) and be prepared to defend their position vigorously under intense questioning.
  4. General Leslie Groves  announces an news update that reveals that a highly secret project in which Nazi nuclear scientists are to be kidnapped and brought back to the U.S. has somehow been leaked to the international media. The "Alsos Mission", as it has been called is resulting in angry responses from some nations. The team needs to come up with an alternate plan to slow down the Nazi atomic bomb program.

Some Innovative Simulation Design Considerations 

Running a Parallel Simulation Linked to the Uranverein Project: The number of learners involved in the Manhattan Project simulation could be increased but it is important to remember that according to theories on effective group dynamics, effective collaboration becomes problematic as the number of collaborators increases.
A potential and exciting alternative is to run two simulations at the same time that are linked to each other as a result of history. It was stated that in reality this was a tense race between the Manhattan Project and the Nazi secret weapons project called Uranverein. Following the same pattern as above, learners could take on the roles of key scientists in the Nazi program which would include:Kurt Diebner, Abraham Esau, Erich Schumann, Walter Gerlach and Werner Heisenberg(director).
A link could be introduced tied to interjection #3 above where the scientists could discuss the moral issue. 

Learning Objectives

The type of learning objectives involved in such a simulation involve such skill developments as:
  • creating effective arguments, researching verifiable evidence, evaluation of evidence with a focus on identifying bias, propaganda and simply opinion. 

  • collaborative team work through discussion with focus on coming up with solutions that are innovative and apply to real world issues germane to the time period.

  •  ability to take a position, defend it, anticipate counter-arguments and produce defences and effective communication of the position under the pressure of time and changing conditions.
An important consideration to take into account is that the learning objectives involve two levels:
(a) Those that emphasize collaborative group skills and (b) those that emphasize use of individual skills
The measurement of how well learners meet these objectives is an ongoing process throughout the life of the simulation and needs to be adaptable since ongoing personal and group data collection during the life of the simulation will dictate necessary upward adjustments as the simulation progresses.

The simple truth is that the learners who enter into a well designed immersive E-Learning simulation are not the same ones who exit. To prove the truth of this, it is advisable to add on a novel scenario that they enter at the end of the Manhattan Project scenario which becomes a proving ground to highlight the new skillsets that they have acquired. With respect to the idea of "Cause and Effect", two valuable skills that should become apparent is the learner's ability to track the consequences of an event and the ability to also work in reverse when presented with a scene containing clues to identify the causes of an event.
Next--Effective E-Learning in the Age of Distraction

Writing Simulations in Immersive E-Learning Environments: Revisiting the Manhattan Project Scenario-Part I

In writing effective simulations, it is important to tell a story that the learner feels that he or she has an effective role in. The decisions they make determines how the story unfolds. Their decisions are guided by a task in which they must rely on the talents or skillsets that each other bring to the defined task. It is through collaboration with each other that they are able to meet and overcome challenges along the way and also deal with unexpected variables that arise through the interjection of  unexpected factors by the instructor or mentor during the run of the simulation. At the very heart of simulations in an online environment is a very important concept that every student of world history understands, that being the concept of "Cause and Effect".

The Importance of Cause and Effect in the Development of Scenarios and Branching Scenarios

As we consider world history, the one constant construct is that all events in the history of the world are linked through the relationship of cause and effect. Some of the understandings that we can grasp about this relationship are:

  • One event can produce a ripple effect leading to multiple events. If we drop a stone in a still pool of water, the energy becomes visible in the ripples that move out from that one event and they impact on any objects on that pond.
  • Objects in that pond may respond to the impact of this event in a number of ways. If the objects are of great substance, they absorb the energy but nothing changes. An example of such objects are the monolithic institutions in our societies such as education. Education as an institution has withstood the advance of various movements for educational change over the last two hundred years but still maintains its status quo.
  • Objects in that pond may also respond by themselves becoming causal events moving out in a cascading effect to affect other objects. This cascading effect is what happens in simulations that use real world scenarios. The difference is that the events are represented by decisions that are made and the intelligent agents, the learners, use the feedback that they receive to exercise control over these cascading sequences.
  • The nature of the feedback received by the intelligent agents in an immersive E-Learning environment where virtual and augmented technology is used can come from a number of technological sensors if available or simply from the natural senses.
A necessary question is:

"What can students learn when this cause-effect relationship is properly integrated into the fabric of a real world scenario?"

To address this question, we return to a scenario that I wrote.

The Manhattan Project Scenario

Background: The time period is 1942 during World War II. Multinational physicists have been recruited to take part in a secret weapons project called the Manhattan Project. The group is spearheaded by Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer and includes other notable scientists as Dr. Albert Einstein, Dr. Enrico Fermi, and Neil Bohrs who laid the foundation for Quantum theory. The military adviser to the project was General Leslie R. Groves. The goal is to develop the first atomic bomb by collaborating with others who have different skillsets in your group before the Nazis who also have an atomic weapon program, complete the same goal.

Building the Immersive Environment:  The environment that learners enter into to do the work is an updated laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico, U.S.A. The learners enter in the role of one of the key scientists involved except for the role of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer which is assumed by the educator. An updated virtual laboratory may look like the following:

Updated Version of Los Alamos Laboratory

A new virtual technology, titled "Cave2", could also be considered as an immersive environment that would take a blended E-Learning approach since the use of avatars would not be necessary.


Next....Roles, interjected variables and adaptive, agile learning objectives

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Immersive E-Learning--Writing Simulations in the Context of Virtual Environments

Simulations, whether for business or formal education, are the most powerful ways to develop engagement and learning that is at a deep level and sustainable over the long term. The reason that we can assert this is because simulations are a form of experiential learning. Some characteristics that should be understood about simulations are:

  • Simulations represent a reality within which students can not only interact with elements within the environment such as gathering critical clues to solving a problem but also interact with other collaborators in real time.
  • Simulations are in fact "instructional scenarios" where the learner is placed in a "world" defined by his or her mentor/ trainer/instructor.
  • In simulations, the mentor, instructor or trainer controls the parameters of this "world" and uses it to achieve the desired instructional results. The mentor, instructor or trainer may also enter this world as an avatar to be called upon to help direct the thinking of the collaborators BUT not do their thinking for them.


Obvious But Necessary Questions

As in the design of any learning or training experience, there are some fundamental questions that need to be asked that act as a guide to writing irresistibly engaging scenarios:

  1. Who is your audience?  It is a well known maxim among instructional designers, corporate trainers and instructors that you need to know your audience. I would take this a step further and suggest that given the desire to nurture ongoing collaboration and problem solving that we need to develop in-house learning profiles of those who we would like to be engaged in the learning community of our organizations. This is especially true for the corporate community who want to position themselves favourably in the new digital global economy. As I have suggested previously, the person who you need to develop such a regimen is someone who has formal qualifications and experience in the art and science of how people learn. It should be someone who not only wants to work outside the box but someone who wants to eliminate the box altogether in order to further the goals of the corporate community that they are a part of.
  2. What should the learner be able to do at the end of the simulation? If there is no realistic follow up in which the learners have an opportunity to test their new skillsets and understandings, then you have wasted your time and resources. It is similar to what students use to say about school in which they were subjected to contrived exercises that had no further application beyond the walls of the classroom. This is the reason that students in deference to school often referred to the world outside of class as the "real world". The point is that you want acquired skillsets and understandings to be naturally incorporated into the way the learners think and approach problems.
  3. What are the learning objectives for the simulation? Again, the common sense view is that the objectives need to be stated within the context of what the organization hopes to achieve. The mistake is to believe that the learning objectives in this type of environment are static. Within a simulation that uses a scenario with branching scenarios, learning objectives need to be agile and adaptive to changing conditions.
  4. How will we measure success? Feedback is a crucial essential in such a learning experience on more than one level. It not only reveals the status of the students' learning but is also used during the simulation by the students to re-evaluate decisions and actions. Simulations are great for illustrating the concept of cause and effect. Assessment for learning is highlighted.

Simulation Writing Ideas

The following ideas are suggestions that I think will work derived from research:
  1. Write the ideal scene first. Use this as a foundation for the average and unacceptable paths.
  2. Use chunking to keep it short for the first time trying them.
  3. Make it conversational. This is where the importance of telling a story and allowing the participants to help develop the story through their actions and conversations becomes important. Personalities, as in real everyday conversation, come out through the interaction of the individuals in the simulation.
  4. Use feedback for more information. This could take the form of a "NEWS FLASH" which interjects a variable which impacts decision making. 
  5. Play characters off one another. This can bring out the best that collaboration has to offer. How do the participants resolve differences of opinion when they come to a cross road in terms of course of action?
  6. Make it FUN! There is a reason why young people seem addicted to video games and remember the smallest details of the decisions they made and actions they took. First and foremost, the games are written in such a way as to be fun for the participants to collaborate in.
  7. Use real world problems to establish in the minds of the learners that this simulation has meaning to me and I can contribute in a meaningful way that will help the organization I am a part of.
Next....Problem solving using the databases of professional sites

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Innovative Pedagogical Practices in Immersive E-Learning: Part III--Pedagogy and Virtual Technology

If we take the concept of immersive E-Learning to its ultimate transformation, we enter into the world of augmented and virtual reality environments. An important question to ask is:

"If we want to harness the power of the new virtual and augmented technologies to serve pedagogy, what will our pedagogical practices look like in this new learning environment and is it better than what we already have?"


 Second Life, Open Sim and other virtual environments have given us a glimpse into how we can interact with other participants in a created environment. However, the question that challenges us is how can such technology enrich our pedagogical practices so that we achieve "true learning communities" both within the corporate setting and the setting of formal education?


A point that has been made in the past and bares repeating is that our pedagogy can not remain as a static entity in the evolving world of immersive E-Learning. It must be agile, adaptive and keep the purpose of education in clear sight. Just like exploring a new land for the first time, the augmented and virtual environments require that learners acquire new skill sets that will allow them to collaborate in a new virtual environment. Movement and lines of communication in a new environment are essentials.

One of the better means of making use of virtual technology in the design of learning experiences is through simulations that combine problem based learning with the benefits of experiential learning. It would be naive to believe that this does not involve challenges as the following chart indicates:

Credit: Cynthia Cologue(Institute for Advanced Studies)

If we are to move into more innovative pedagogies that utilize virtual and augmented technologies, then we need to design irresistible learning experiences that capitalize on what these environments have to offer. In a previous set of posts in this blog titled: "The Search for the Emerald Key", I created a scenario that was a narrative adventure that unfolded as result of decisions made by the collaborators. It had the following characteristics:

  • Collaborative problem solving
  • Branched scenarios based upon decisions made by the participants
  • Altered role of the educator to take on the role of a mentor who could be called upon a limited number of times and then only responds to questions with other questions to re-focus the thinking of the participants. The educator also was given the power to interject confounding unexpected variables into the scenario while in progress to test the problem solving ability of the participants under stress conditions involving time limits and suggested consequences of actions.
  • Ongoing assessment both on an individual basis and on a group basis
  • Involvement of Instructional Designers, Game Designers, Learning Principles experts and trainers as part of the assessment team who assess the participants.
  • Ongoing feed back for the participants during the scenario and after the scenario.
  • A branching scenario at the end which is completely novel and unexpected where the collaborators can test out their new skillsets.
  • Connections to other global networks
  • Learning to access and analyze multiple online global databases as a team tasked with solving a problem
When you consider the introduction of Google Classrooms and Microsoft's Hololens, you can start to connect the dots and realize that the big players in technology have E-Learning in their sights.
We already have technology to create virtual worlds in such programs as Unity 3D, Cryengine3 and Daz which is an excellent program for creating avatars and which also has a wealth of resources created by media artists so that you don't have to do everything from scratch. We can learn much from the serious game design industry and its benefits to E-Learning can be clearly seen.

We can draw some conclusions in regards to immersive E-Learning and virtual technology. Some of these conclusions might consist of the following:

  1. Four pedagogical approaches can be discerned within the context of a virtual world which are: (a) Associative (transmitting information), (b) Social Constructivist (forming ideas by discussion), (c) Connectivist (emerging from interaction between people), and (d) Cognitive (problem solving).
  2. Game based scenarios offer benefits over both more restricted and more open ended approaches.
  3. Virtual worlds which were much over-hyped as educational tools at the beginning are starting to reach the mainstream as useful when it comes to productivity.
  4. Appropriate design is crucial and the designs will involve: (a) task-and game-based scenarios in the fashion similar to that which I have shown in the "Search for the Emerald Key", (b) closely linked to situations that students and professionals will meet in "real life". The experiences have to go beyond just entertainment. They have to be meaningful and lead to growth for the individual, and (c) learning through collaboration

Next--Tips on Writing Simulations for Immersive E-Learning

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Innovative Pedagogical Practices in Immersive E-Learning: Part II--Open and Social Pedagogy

At the core of innovative pedagogical practices is the requirement that these practices encourage effective, focused collaboration across global networks. One suggestion that addresses the effectiveness of collaboration is the concept of "open pedagogy".

The goal of "open pedagogy" is to capitalize on the talents that collaborators bring to the task or challenge of real world problems. It means that the collaborators are open to each other when it comes to dialogue from a cross disciplinary perspective. Conole(2013) in his work on open pedagogy titled: "Designing for Learning in an Open World" pointed out that open pedagogy has the following eight interconnected and dynamic attributes:

  • technology that is participatory (Web 2.0 and mobile) - includes social media and applications  used by mobile devices;
  • people who have trust in others’ work, are confident and demonstrate openness;
  • innovation and creativity – involves spontaneity and a willingness to adopt another view and different approaches;
  • sharing of ideas and resources freely so that knowledge and materials can be disseminated;
  • connected community so that practitioners can network and become part of a community of practice;
  • learner-generatedness – facilitating learners’ contributions by enabling and encouraging them to create and share information, resources and ideas;
  • opportunities for reflective practice –  initiated by participation in critical analysis of practices, professional learning and connection with others’ perspectives; and
  • peer review – the open critique of others’ work and scholarship.

 Another important characteristic of the collaboration that should be considered is that it is also social in nature. Social pedagogy is an important element that addresses the effectiveness of the online, cross networked collaboration. Bass and Elmondorf (2015) in a white paper titled: "Social Pedagogies" defined  social pedagogy as:

" ... design approaches for teaching and learning that engage students with what we might call an “authentic audience” (other than the teacher), where the representation of knowledge for an audience is absolutely central to the construction of knowledge in a course."

One of the great goals of E-Learning that is often missed is that the learners should have a real world audience in which to enter into discourse with concerning the new knowledge and skillsets that they have arrived at through collaboration. In other words, they need a testing ground for what they have created so that they may receive feedback and perhaps refine their thinking.

Some important characteristics of social pedagogies should be:

  • Focus on the importance of "authentic learning". According to Bass and Elmondorf (2015), authentic learning activities have "real world relevance", set problems for students that are "ill defined" and complex, provide opportunities for students to examine and address the task from multiple perspectives, and give students ample opportunities to collaborate, reflect on their learning, and integrate their knowledge in various ways.
  • Focus on "learning traits" that emerge from authentic learning situations. It has been hypothesized that social pedagogies are particularly effective at developing traits of "adaptive expertise", which include the ability of the learner to use knowledge flexibly and fluently, to evaluate, filter and distill knowledge for effect, to translate knowledge to new situations, and to understand the limits and assumptions of one's knowledge. Equally important is the cultivation of certain attitudes and dispositions characteristic of adaptive experts, including the ability to work with uncertainty, adapt to ambiguity or even failure, and to feel increasingly comfortable working at the edge of one's competence.
If you consider the points above and what has been stated in previous posts in this blog, then you realize that these mindsets and ingredients can make an immersive E-Learning approach very effective.

Bass and Elmondorf (2015) summarize the nature of social pedagogies in the following manner:

" Social pedagogies are ways of seeing how acts of communication and representation connect authentic tasks to learning processes, learning process to adaptive practices, practices to learning environments and intellectual communities, and how the constellation of these elements help students integrate their learning by connecting to larger contexts for knowledge and action."

At the heart of these pedagogies is the goal of creating "true learning communities" in E-Learning organizations now and in the future. The problem that we need to overcome is the prevalent consumerism mindset that has defined how we design and conduct learning experiences both in the corporate setting and in formal educational organizations for a number of decades. In a digital world where we want to nurture and grow new innovators, the balance needs to change from overt consumerism to emphasis on the creating of new knowledge and skill sets. It is these agents of change who will collaborate to solve complex real world problems. One of the essential keys to this happening is in educating learners so that they acquire "habits of the mind" that are more in sync with the demands of the new global realities.


Next----The emergence of pedagogy based on advancements in virtual technology