Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Interactivity-Centric Blended Learning

We showed this graphic for the first time at DevLearn 2008 Conference & Expo at the Fairmont San Jose. The conference theme was, in keeping with its Silicon Valley venue, learning in a Web 2.0 world.

The topic of the talk was “Fostering Interactivity in the Classroom, Self-paced eLearning and Informal Learning.”

Although the graphic shows interactivity driving three learning modalities, there are important differences in the way interactivity drives these . To explore the differences, we only need to understand what is unique in each modality.

In classroom learning, learners are addressed as a group, all at once. Thus, group dynamics plays an important role. Everyone needs to keep pace with each other and the instructor. This means synchronization is critical.

In e-Learning, each learner is addressed separately, and learns at his or her own pace. Here, the key is engagement. It is easy for learner to get distracted, and e-learning designers endeavor to prevent this. Also, the instructor is absent from the scene at the time of learning, so the instructional designer carries a greater weight on his/her shoulders at the time of designing.

In informal learning, social interaction is pivotal. Peer learning thrives on people talking to each other. However, their interaction needs a learning context. If there is no context, there’s no learning.

The rest of the talk explored how these important differences manifest themselves in each modality. In classrooms, interactivity takes the form of facilitated group activities. In e-learning you will see non-trivial human-computer interactions, now popularly known as interactivities. Informal learning thrives on embedded social interactions, which make online interaction happen in a learning context.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Speaking Engagements in London and Paris

After spending two weeks in London and Paris, my interactions with elearning professionals have left me even more convinced about the need for embracing new technology to advance learning.

At the Olympia 2 Conference Center in London, the topic of my talk was “Unleash the Potential of Learning Interactions and Informal Learning.” The occasion was the Learning Technologies 2008 Conference.

Globally, eLearning occupies an increasing portion of the total learning delivered but still there are concerns about learner disengagement and non-completion. The root causes of learner boredom are traced to the lack of interactivity, learner isolation and content obsolescence. Some of the existing technology can address these concerns, but not in a scalable and economical way.

The audience participated well, and most of the discussion centered around two questions.

  1. How to leverage rapid interactivity technology to create high level learning interactions
  2. How to uncover the potential of social interactions as a tool for content enrichment using available technology

Next week, it was the Palais des Congrès in Paris where iLearning Forum 2008 met. Here, things were a bit different, because I don’t know French. Fortunately, the talk was fashioned as a joint presentation between myself in English and Peter Isackson of InterSmart Communication in French. Here our game plan was to:
  1. Discuss some existing Web 2.0 techniques and tools for collaborative learning
  2. Uncover the value that informal learning could bring to self-paced online Learning.
  3. Introduce the concept of Contextual Informal Learning interactions for better learning outcomes with FlockPod
  4. Illustrate the potential of social interactions as a tool for content enrichment

People are increasingly using social networking tools on the internet to share ideas, information and opinions and to connect to one another. Similar Web2.0 inspired collaborative tools could really change the face of online Learning.

An oft-quoted study by CapitalWorks revealed that over 80% of learning on the job occurs through informal means. And yet ‘informal learning’ is one key ingredient missing from self-paced online learning as we know it today.

A question then is, how can Web 2.0 inspired social interactions be introduced in the context of online learning?

Blogs, wikis, podcasts, social bookmarks, forums and other technologies may lead to learning, but they alone are not sufficient in addressing this problem. Important questions remain unanswered: How to ensure that informal learning happens ‘in the context’ of self-paced online content? How to ensure that interactions follow a structure conducive to learning? Better yet, how to ensure that interactions lead to content enrichment?

For best learning outcomes social interactions must fulfill these conditions:
  1. Take place in the context of the presented course page
  2. Allow learners to contribute and voice opinions
  3. Provide educators the flexibility and control over interactions as well as content.

Social learning tools could have many applications such as collaborating on internal projects, threaded discussions on a topic, group assignments, peer support, hand-raising and debates, just to name some.

Dr Isackson and I addressed these issues and provided an illustration of the new exciting social interaction pod technology as a solution.