Sunday, January 14, 2018

My New Distance Learning Definition Mindmap



     It's been awhile since my last post so I'd better catch up.  I'm in a new class at Walden called Distance Learning.  It is covering the meat of why I started this program so I'm looking forward to where this takes me.  With that in mind, let's look at distance learning, just a little.
     Distance learning has been defined differently by different people in the same historical timeframe.  This is due to the way the individual uses distance learning and the technology they employ.  Over time those definitions evolve as technology and the way it is used evolves.  Distance learning was defined by Simonson as “institution-based, formal education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors” (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015).  This is the newer definition because it involves telecommunications.  Yet distance learning was around generations before telecommunications. 

     I started taking distance courses about 30 years ago with an electronics correspondence course.  I mailed the lessons in and received feedback by mail.  At that time this scenario was my definition of distance learning (Laureate Education, n.d.).  The military did not afford me the opportunity to go to school full time and online courses were not available as home computers were just starting to become popular.  I took a few college courses in the traditional classroom setting over the next few years and finished an AS degree through a local community college before retiring from the military.

     After retiring I started working for a major forklift manufacturer.  After several years they afforded me the opportunity to take classes towards a degree.  Online courses had come about and advanced quite a bit by then.  The demands of my job made it difficult to take traditional classes but online classes were a good alternative.  The first couple of classes were difficult because I needed to adjust to a self-disciplined study regimen.  After adjustment, they became easier to manage.  I discovered that online classes covered all of the subjects of the degree.  This was most impressive when I took chemistry.  Conducting experiments at home, discussing the results, and comparing notes with classmates changed my definition of distance learning profoundly. 

            Walden University is my latest stopover in the pursuit of a Master’s in Instructional Design.  The format is similar to that of Empire State.  The familiarity has been helpful because the discussions and assignments have followed what I have done in the past.  Technology has been the biggest difference between Empire State and Walden.  I have been using several Adobe programs in the assignments and projects, programs I was unfamiliar with prior to this degree program.  The great advantage with Adobe is that the programs can be used together to form a project.  This is an area I am just scratching the surface of and hope to dig deeper into as the degree program progresses.  Again, my definition of distance learning continues to grow as I employ more technology.

     Technology is the largest factor in redefining my definition of distance learning for the future.  The company I work for has an excellent training department.  The instructional designers (IDs) work with e-online courses, converting existing courses and developing new ones for different groups within the company.  We are looking into developing courses using virtual reality (VR) technology. Currently VR training is available for lift truck operators.  We are designing courses for technicians.  These will allow the tech to point to different parts of the truck to obtain parts breakdowns of those parts.  It will aid the tech in determining the root cause of a symptom.  The overriding motivation behind developing this technology further is economic (Moller, Foshay, & and Huett, 2008).  It can save the technician valuable time in determine and repairing problems with equipment, which will save the company money.  I am glad the company is looking ahead and embracing newer technology as it becomes available.  I look forward to seeing what the future holds beyond these developments.

References

Laureate Education, P. (Producer). (n.d.). Distance Education [Motion Picture].

Moller, M., Foshay, W., & and Huett, J. (2008, May). The Evolution of Distance Education: Implications for Instructional Design on the Potential of the Web. TechTrends, 52(3), 70-75.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and Learning at a Distance, Foundations of Distance Education, 6th Edition. Charlotte: Information Age Publishing, Inc.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Reflection on Learning Theories


Here's some thoughts on the course I am finishing.  I learned a lot and thank Dr. Artino and my fellow learners for helping me gain a lot from this course.  I wish you well in your future endeavors and look forward to continuing this educational journey with many of you.
Many years ago I was taught learning styles, such as hands-on (tactile), visual and auditory.  These relate to how people learn and remember things.  They relate to the method of instruction that appeals to a particular individual.  I remember that when we read in order to learn something, such as how to make bread, our retention is about 10%.  It increases to about 25% if we add an auditory component, such as someone reading instructions to us.  If we watch someone perform the task our retention is up above 50% and when we perform the task with someone retention is around 90%.  So we taught that when developing training around a topic, the training should incorporate all of the learning styles to increase retention.  We did not teach that the training should be interesting or that it should motivate the learner.  The learners had all of the motivation they needed because they were assigned (ordered) to the training.  This was my adult introduction to learning.  When I went through instructor training I learned how to keep my hands out of my pockets, keep one hand behind my back while pointing with a straight hand towards the object I was discussing.  It was very rigid. 

It’s refreshing to be in a different arena and to learn that training should have a motivation factor built into it to get the learner to want to learn.  I’ve moved from learning styles to learning theories.  Where styles are geared more to the mechanics of training development, theories are geared to the Why of development.  The theories align with how I like to learn.  Behaviorism has a feedback system built into it which appeals to most people (Jeanne Ormrod, 2008).  We like to know when we are doing well as well as when and in what areas we need to improve.  This is how I like to start learning a new subject, especially one that I will be using almost immediately.  Cognitivism is the use of the brain in the learning process, based on the inputs it receives.  I like how Bill Kerr says that “It seems to me that each  -ism is offering something useful without any of them being complete….” (Atkisson, 2010).  There are several –isms and they all have value when used in the right scenario and with the right group of learners.  I find that I like each of the theories when used properly. 

Competency is a term that has gained ground over the years.  It refers to people’s aptitudes or mental strengths and is useful when developing training.  The training needs to relate to these “intelligences”, as they were called by Howard Gardner (Armstrong, 2009).  They are linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalist.  Gardner explained that each of us has each of these intelligences to varying degrees.  Some of us are stronger in one or two areas than the others but these intelligences can be improved on.  When we focus training in a weak area we can improve on it, just as we can make a strong area stronger.  When we are learning something new, we tend to want to learn it using training that favors our stronger intelligences.  We can learn using our weaker areas but that is not preferred.  As Dr. Ormrod said, “It is more productive to implement strategies to help people learn effectively than it is to try to design curriculum that appeals to a particular learning style” (Laureate Education, 2016). 

It really doesn’t matter how much I know about learning styles and theories if I don’t have a way to motivate the students to want to learn the material.  Motivation is key to getting students to learn anything.  The instructional designer needs to find a key to unlock their “want to” so the student will pay attention.  Their must also be a way to keep their attention.  This falls under the “what’s in it for me (WIIFM)” box.  Students need to know that the material will benefit them in some way.  For kids in school this usually falls into the category of “testable material.”  For adults the reasons are usually job/career related.  In either case, the instructional designer (ID) needs to get student buy in to keep them glued to the subject. 

This course has taught me that instruction needs to be designed to help people learn effectively.  It needs to appeal to the audience it is going to be delivered to.  Instructional designers should use the most up-to-date material available for the cost we can afford.  We should use the most modern technology we can to deliver the training, also for the cost.  We need to motivate our audience and ensure they understand the material we are delivering.  And we need to train in such a way as to help them retain as much of it as they can.  That is why we become instructional designers in the first place.  That is why we love this field.

References

Armstrong, T. (2009). Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom (3rd Edition). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Development.

Atkisson, M. (2010, Oct 12). Behaviorism vs. Cognitivism. Retrieved from woknowing.wordpress.com: https://woknowing.wordpress.com/2010/10/12/behaviorism-vs-cognitivisim/

Jeanne Ormrod, D. S. (2008). Learning Theories and Instruction. New York: Pearson Custom Publishing.

Laureate Education, P. (Director). (2016). Learning Styles and Stretegies [Motion Picture].

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Fitting the Pieces Together


In week one of the Learning Theories course we studied the first three learning theories: behavioral, cognitive and constructivist.  We dug into them and came up with examples of how and when each of them serve best in learning.  Since then, we have learned of three other learning styles that are more current than the first three: social learning theory, connectivism and adult learning.  Social learning is based on a reality that exists through social interaction, so learning is a social activity.  Connectivism is based on the premise that we cannot experience everything.  We need to rely on other information sources to help us make decisions.  Adult learning is the culmination of learning that is centered on adults.  It includes several learning styles and how to incorporate them.  These are all viable theories and apply to learning in different situations and with different individuals.  These learning theories apply to me in various learning situations.  As I mentioned in the beginning, I may run through several of these in learning a new piece of equipment or preparing to teach one. 

My preference has been experiential learning, from adult learning, for many years.  I tend to be a hands-on learner, when given a choice.  Often I start by reading and researching an equipment system before ever seeing it.  This allows me to become familiar with the different parts, how they interact and the specifications of the system.  When possible I like to learn more about it by watching videos of the equipment in operation.  When I get to work on the equipment I am better prepared by completing the first two areas.  This goes along with my first blog about the learning theories.  By reading about a new piece of equipment and watching videos on how it operates, I am applying what I already know from my background to a new piece of equipment.  This gives me a better understanding of it before I ever touch it. 

Technology plays an important role in online learning, as it is the primary means of accessing information.  I utilize the Walden library extensively for researching journal articles and other documents relevant to the week’s topic.  The information would cost from other sites but is free to students.  Some of the other technologies I’ve been introduced to since starting this education road include blogs and twitter.  These are areas I’d heard about but never thought I’d use.  So I’m starting to catch up to my kids, even though I’m several generations behind it seems.  I’ve been using Word, PowerPoint and Excel for several years to record information and they are still relevant.  Now I’m recording on my blog, as that is where this is going.  It is really a quite interesting medium that I’ll keep going back to.  Thanks to Dr. Artino for introducing me to it and to him and my classmates for building my interested in it.  It’s still going to take some getting used to visiting it regularly, but I’ll put forth the effort.  Anyway, I’m starting to learn more about these technologies and look forward to jumping into others, such as eLearning.  Post again later.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Connectivism

Here's a mind map I drafted on my education network.  Below it are some thoughts on why it is drafted this way.

Connectivism deals with networks and how they help us learn.  My network consists of six major branches.  The first three, on the left, are my home base of people support.  Family is first.  Without them I couldn’t have started a degree program.  Most of my responsibilities after work revolve around them and they continue to be my biggest and best support network.  Then friends from church, of whom Tim is foremost.  I get a lot of support from work.  My boss helps me with the resources I need for class.  Terry takes classes at Walden in a different program and we encourage each other. 
Walden has many supporting people and features that have helped me through the first couple of courses.  My counselor helped me with enrollment and program.  My instructors have helped me by providing challenging and interesting material to study.  Fellow classmates encouraged me to think and respond to their questions and comments.  My internet network includes this blog, LinkedIn and Facebook.  These have been less helpful because I’m not too social.  This is an area I need to work on to get better at it.  Resources are the other-than-people aspects of my support network.  One of the foremost of these is the Walden library.  This is my source for all things class related when it comes to my study materials.  There is little that isn’t found there.  The other side of the chart is my home communications network so that I can get and post assignments to my classes.  Together these help me learn and grow with Walden.
Questions are handled in a couple of ways.  When I have questions for an instructor, there is a link to leave them.  The great thing about this link is that it is seen by all of my classmates, as well as the instructor.  My classmates can answer and add to the question.  The instructor’s answer and comments are seen by all.  The other area in which questions are asked is in the group discussions.  We ask questions of our classmates and they respond, often with questions of their own.  It is a great part of the course and where most of the learning occurs.
These pieces of my network fully support Connectivism.  Many people think you need to be in a face-to-face classroom to network successfully.  Not in today’s technology driven world.  Interface today occurs by such tools as Skype, conference calling, video chatting and webinars.  Discussing subjects in an online classroom can be as effective as in a room in a building.  Actually, one of the benefits of an online classroom is that I can think of how I want to word my answer as I write it.  Not so in a typical classroom.  Once I speak the answer it is out there for all to hear.  I’m just saying, with the way I speak before I think, the online room is much safer. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017


I was looking for some resources that highlight information processing theory and came across two that I think you’ll enjoy reading.  The first of these is an article found in Cornell University’s Human Ecology (Booker, 2013).  The url is from Walden’s library and is: http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=4283b221-7eb5-4ae8-8b7b-0dfa38a7e1a3%40sessionmgr4009&vid=3&hid=4210.

The cite for the article is: Booker, K. (2013). A Window Into the Brain. Human Ecology, 41(2), 4-7.

Dr. Valerie Reyna, a neuroscientist at Cornell’s Ithaca campus, uses MRI technology to map brain activity when we think and react to various stimuli.  This allows researchers to predict the areas of the brain that will react to certain stimuli and map those reactions.  They are looking at what happens in the brain when a person is experiencing various feelings, such as happiness and depression.  Dr. Reyna compares this use of MRI technology to study the brain to the use of microscopes to study cells.  This article is well written and provides good and interesting.  It provides information into a new use of MRI technology to help us understand what goes on in the brain when we have different feelings and think on different things.  An understanding of how different stimuli affect emotional responses can help us understand how the brain processes information.  We know that people learn and retain the information more when it is tied to emotions.  This insight may allow instructional designers to develop training that affects emotional responses, making the training more effective to learners. 

            The second article deals with the adolescent brain (Bessant, 2008).  The url is again from Walden library’s database and is: http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=4bdd40b8-42c5-44cc-a67e-41388273088c%40sessionmgr4006&hid=4210.

The cite for the article is: Bessant, J. (2008). Hard wired for risk: neurological science, ‘the adolescent brain’ and developmental theory. Journal of Youth Studies, 11(3), 347-360.

The article begins by saying that much of what research has said about the way the adolescent brain functions has been wrong.  Youth have been stereotyped as causing problems so they should be given certain responsibilities later in life.  The author, Judith Bessant,  disagrees with this, feeling that youth should be given the opportunity to learn from responsibility so they can make good decisions on their own.  Dr. Bessant brings in MRI technology on pp 351 to say that it may not show everything going on in the brain.  There may be activity that it is unable to register.  This doesn’t refute the first article but says that MRI technology cannot show us everything going on in brain activity.  Even when we observe parts of the brain firing synapses during an activity, the article states that there isn’t “a single one-to-one relationship between brain anatomy and mental experience of a behavior or perception” (pp 352). 

This article is well written and covers how research is conducted and then applied to try to create a mold of how a typical you should react in a given situation.  The article points out that the research is conducted primarily in laboratory settings and does not take into account the differences in how a person is brought up, their background and culture.  These play significantly in how a person reacts in a given situation, thus the areas of the brain involved in a reaction.  They can be very different in a group of people.  There is no one map that fits everyone.  When research is conducted with bias built into it, the researchers can direct the outcome to fit those biases.  This is important to instructional designers because we design the training for adolescents.  We need to be careful not to take a particular piece of research or theory at face value and base our design philosophy on it.  As Dr Artino, my teacher in Learning Theories and Instruction at Walden University, mentioned in a discussion, “Just having a theory of learning doesn't automatically mean we now know how to teach or develop instruction”.  Theories change but instruction needs to be developed to engage the students so they want to learn it and so they remember it.  I recommend this article because of the insight it brings to adolescent learning.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Welcome to My Blog

This is my first blog attempt and I'd like to welcome you all to it.  Being new to the field of Instructional Design I have a couple of comments to make.

Instructional design has changed directions in the past few years.  When I was in school we used a chalkboard, film projector and took typing.  Teachers taught from a textbook, we wrote notes in a paper notebook and took tests on paper.  Research was done in the Encyclopedia Britannica and in the library.  Over 30 years later not much has changed in school instruction.  Students now take keyboarding instead of typing, use DVDs instead of film and do research online using the internet.  Much of teaching is still done by textbooks and taking notes.  It’s not because of the lack of available technology but because of a severe lack of applying available technology to the classroom.  The same applies to the corporate classroom.  We have added PowerPoint presentations and some of the slides even have animation.  Students need to work hard at paying attention to the material being presented so learning is difficult.  Much more is needed to keep student interest and to help them learn.  These instructional design blogs will help me develop material that will hold their attention and help them learn the technical material being presented.

            The first of these blogs is called Upside Learning and the url is https://www.upsidelearning.com/blog/index.php/2010/05/20/30-top-online-resources-for-instructional-designers-to-keep-up/.  This site boasts “30 Top Online Resources For Instructional Designers To Keep Up With” and offers a wealth of valuable information on different aspects of instructional design.  The individual sites range from technology to K-12 classroom help to corporate help.  I highly recommend this site as a starting point for instructional designers.  The layout is easy to follow.  Across the top you can choose from the following:  Home   eLearning (184)   Learning Management (3)   Mobile Learning (177)    All Categories.  The 30 online resources are displayed in a vertical list structure so you can scroll down and pick the link to the ones that interest you.  The blog offers bloggers to input information on helpful sites that may be added to the list.  The author, Amit Garg, includes his blog as one of the top choices, which was a nice humorous touch.  With so many resources in one location, this is a site I will visit often.

            The second site I found is Christy Tucker’s blog called Building Engaging Learning Experiences through Instructional Design and E-Learning.  The url is https://christytucker.wordpress.com/2010/07/06/instructional-design-and-e-learning-blogs/.  The site begins with a list of instructional designer sites.  These vary from sites specializing in elearning through games, corporate strategies, virtual learning and more.  Following the list of instructional designers is a list of elearning sites that contain much the same information as the previous list.  There are sites for elearning involving technology, virtual reality and several on how-to incorporate elearning into training environments.  Last on the list is a section called Workplace Learning which includes elearning applications in the corporate arena.  The site is like similar to my first choice in that it is laid out well and easy to navigate.  One of the things I found interesting about this site is the “Hire Me” link.  Nice plug.  Like my first choice, this site has many resources in one location. 

            My third choice is a blog by Shanthi Priya Marla called Top 5 Blogs on the Best Practices in Instructional Design.  The url is http://blog.commlabindia.com/elearning-design/best-blogs-on-instructional-design-practices.  The five blogs are each presented with an introduction followed by a link to learn more.  The blog ends with an endorsement on the five blogs by the author and asks for feedback.  I come from a background of using Powerpoint presentations to teach subjects.  One of the links I found interesting was written by Phani Madhav.  It was on using elearning instead of animated Powerpoints to teach.  Ironic.  As I move from Powerpoint presentations towards the elearning world, this site will be helpful.

            Overall, I found these sites interesting and educational.  The blogs are in an easy to navigate format, which is always helpful to those of us who are old school in computer savviness.  I hope you will check them out.