Monday, February 22, 2016

Part II- Creating Opportunities for Effective E-Learning Communities

In the last post, I suggested that the previous industrial economy mindset was counter-productive and was impacting education in unfortunate ways. The challenge is to "dial back" the mindset of excessive consumerism driven by business values that consider greed as positive. In order to tackle the complex real world problems that are created by this mindset and ironically that actually make it difficult to conduct business globally, we need to recognize that a changed purpose and vision of education that is more in line with solving the pressing problems that we all face is essential.


"Even astute business people would agree that it is very difficult to conduct business in zones in the world where there is repeated cycles of civil war with the exception of being an arms dealer or those involved in reconstruction efforts during interludes."

With respect to change in education, the purpose of education changes from what it was in the past. Now the following might be a brief description of what we should be looking at:

  • The purpose of education is to create a generation of learners who will become agents of change in our societies using all the benefits of technology to solve complex real world problems.
  • The purpose of education is nurture the development of creators of new knowledge and new skillsets that are in sync with the needs of societies moving forward and enriching the quality of life for their citizens. Innovative thinking needs to be a natural skillset that needs to be encouraged and applied to all facets of the lives of individuals.
  • The purpose of education is to create online global learning communities that will serve business and formal education. Due to the global reach of such technology, the collaborative goals of such communities should be to make accessibility easier for the nations of the globe that are disadvantaged.

E-Learning--An Existing Obstacle

One thing that should be made clear is that it is not the technology that is the primary driver of needed change; it is a changed vision and perspective. As a support for this idea, a case in point is the attitude that learners have in taking E-Learning courses. Keeping in mind that even the most recent generation has been brought up and educated with the mindset of excessive consumerism, we find that they approach E-Learning as if it is a "buffet table" spread before them. They choose from a list of courses those that fit their immediate goals, fulfill the assignment requirements, get their grades and then leave. This is the pattern of the consumerism mindset but we are faced with the troubling question:

"If we seek to focus on the importance of collaboration as an important and desired skillset, then how can this be accomplished if each learner has an individualized mindset which runs contrary to the concept of a community of learners?"

If the goal is to nurture learners to be a collaborating group dedicated to solving complex real world problems, then the emphasis needs to change from "I" to "WE". A startling revelation that really needs to be considered critically is the fact that many E-Learning organizations still design their offerings using the dated industrial mindset. This mindset can be seen at work in discussion forums in LinkedIn when the discussion is about online courses.

 "The advanced technology can not disguise the mindset behind the design."

 This is a problem that high education still needs to address effectively. Too much of the present E-Learning presented to students in institutions of higher learning still focus on the accumulation and memorization of information and how effectively a student can regurgitate the favourite perspectives of their instructors. Even if they use advanced and flashy media presentation tools, it still does not change the substance of what learners are learning. It is also the reason that many learners disconnect from their learning because all it represents to them is a classroom exercise with no real ties to the outside world.

What we need to strive for in the design of effective E-Learning is "thoughtful engagement" of the learner. Design that focuses on the habits of the mind; that engages, challenges and teaches student how to think in an online environment is far better than the previous industrial mindset that stated that it is important to teach students what to think. However, it can't end at the walls of the class whether the real brick and mortar or even the online LMS! The changes to the learning experience requires that we foster not the concept of " the course" but instead a much more personal, relevant, online learning community that transcends the boundaries of an LMS.

"Does higher education get this or do they think that it is still technology that drives learning?"


Changing the Focus Through Agile, Adaptive and Collaboratively Based Pedagogy

Given the present state of E-Learning and the political, social, economic and moral events we see escalating which pose problems that seem to defy solutions, we have to ask a sobering question:

"Why don't we see more effective collaborative efforts in finding solutions to complex real world problems today? 


I believe that part of the problem is that developing collaborative skills with a focus on real world problems that learners can relate to is not a high priority in education and the collaboration that is encouraged, largely dealing with social issues, asks learners how they feel about what is happening but makes little effort to teach them the thinking skills required for them to become thoughtfully engaged with the topic with the idea that they can contribute to arriving at potential solutions that will be considered as a meaningful contribution by the society.

 So, what is the solution to this?

We do have a choice. We may continue on the path we are on and pretend that what we are doing involves thoughtful engaging collaboration or we can stop and ask ourselves: will we be able to live in a future created by our children who are receiving an education that reduces them to simply a bar code and discourages any attempt to be real change agents in a world that so desperately needs them to be engaged in change?

How, you ask? In my next post, I will detail suggested changes that need to be made that better reflect an agile, adaptive pedagogy required for the nurturing of online learning communities... The last word belongs to the BOSS.


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