A common, and often accurate, perception of online courses is that they are boring for the learners. Recently, I was interviewing for a position, and at the end of the second hour I was asked, “What would you do in technical courses in order to make them more engaging for the learner?” It was actually the hardest question of the day to answer, as it can depend on the course itself. How I answered was by describing my process of aligning objectives, providing opportunities for practice, creating visually rich GUI’s and downloads. As I was answering, I was really thinking to myself, “But how do you ensure that the learners are engaged and aren’t bored out of their minds?” I haven’t stopped thinking about it, as it really is one of the most crucial questions an eLearning Developer can (and should) ask themselves.
There are many elements that I like to include in the courses that I build. For yearly compliance (such as Ethics) trainings, I prefer to allow the learner test out, rather than suffer through an hour long course. This isn’t always an option though, because most HR departments want legal proof that every employee has viewed each page, and passed the test. Supposing that’s the case, how would you make that course more engaging for the learners? My first inclination would be to suggest the use of professional, current photography; to use realistic scenarios that are specific to the company’s workplace; to provide a ‘choose your path’ style navigation so that the learners could see the repercussions of their choices; and to provide downloadable/printable resources of value for future reference.
Having had some experience with building engaging courses, and many that are less than, I was curious what other methods I would discover to engage my learners.
Having viewed the provided video tutorials, I searched the Auraria library for my topic. The search parameters I used were: online learner engagement; then I added adults; then I added asynchronous, 1/1/16-12/31/18, scholarly materials, discipline: education,
Lai, K. (2017). Pedagogical practices of NetNZ teachers for supporting online distance learners. Distance Education, 38(3), 321. doi:10.1080/01587919.2017.1371830
This article turned out not to be in line with what I was searching for. I added the word ‘adult’ to the search query, since this was for K-12 learners.
Covelli, B. J. (2017). Online discussion boards: The practice of building community for adult learners. The Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 65(2), 139. doi:10.1080/07377363.2017.1274616
The author suggests that discussion boards are a key component of online learning. If the instructor fails to consistently support constructivist theory, discussion boards won’t be useful, nor will they be supportive of learning.
Smith, S. P. (2017). Adult learners: Effective training methods. Professional Safety, 62(12), 22-25.
Emphasis on allowing adult learners to identify their own training needs, completing needs assessments with employees to ensure alignment, choosing proper delivery methods for the training, and assessment. The author states that the learners own experiences are the most important training took, and they must be involved in their own training.
Deschaine, M. E., & Whale, D. E. (2017). Increasing student engagement in online educational leadership courses. Journal of Educators Online, 14(1)
The test subjects were online graduate program students. The authors encourage teachers to learn the capabilities of their LMS, and to use all available features of it. They also encourage a great deal of interaction with the students where possible. They argue that students with a great deal of interaction are more engaged, and therefore better students.
Glenn, C. W. (2018;2016;). Adding the human touch to asynchronous online learning. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 19(4), 381-393. doi:10.1177/1521025116634104
This article spoke to long online courses, such as our graduate program. It contained great advice for the teachers here at CU Denver. The author emphasized the importance of a well-designed course, and clear support materials for learner success.
Dousay, T. A. (2016). Effects of redundancy and modality on the situational interest of adult learners in multimedia learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 64(6), 1251-1271. doi:10.1007/s11423-016-9456-3
The audience tested for this research is exactly the one I’m most familiar with: an hour long asynchronous course which is interrupted often, and a wide range of ages (25-65). They found that reading content to learners (narration) makes learners disinterested. Allowing learners to read content themselves stimulated interest, and it’s important to, “use short redundant phrasing when combining narration and text.”
Baldwin, S., & Ching, Y. (2017;2016;). Interactive storytelling: Opportunities for online course design. New York: Springer US. doi:10.1007/s11528-016-0136-2
The authors suggest providing options for users to explore different paths, and to keep things non-linear. They suggest that using stories combined with interactivity will increase curiosity and enjoyment for the learner. Specifically, to include not just text, but images, audio and video.
I feel as though I just discovered a whole new internet. This is my first course on research, and I didn’t realize how important peer reviewed materials were. I learned several things during my search. The first would be that you need to be pretty specific in what you are looking for, since there is such a massive amount of material to source from. I feel like the range of the 6 papers I downloaded was too wide, and I will need to narrow them a lot more for the final project. I read each of the papers completely, and found it interesting the wide range of tone. I had expected them to be quite stuffy. Perhaps because this is my field of interest, I didn’t struggle with digesting the majority of materials. There was one example that was written very conversationally (as compared to the rest), and another that was extremely technical. The second major thing I noticed was that all of the materials mentioned Constructivism Theory. I will be looking more into that theory with a renewed interest, as it appears to be the most popular approach when it comes to engaging online learners. While I didn’t learn any new methods for making my online courses more engaging (they touched on methods I am familiar with), I did learn a lot about the research process.
I recently used Camtasia to create a software demonstration for Trello. Trello is a productivity app and website, that is actually pretty amazing. I learned to use Camtasia by taking the course offered on Lynda.com.
You upload your image(s) and choose the artistic style, and they turn it into a piece of art. Below are the ones I made. The one of me is a little freaky because of the eye swirls, but I really like the way the other two turned out. You can even order prints:
Today I was driving home from a lovely brunch, and one of my neighbors was in front of me. At first, the I plate’s meaning didn’t register with me. I was engrossed in a This American Life episode, but then it went off like a lightbulb. Here I am, in my 40s, and feeling it, but not appreciating it. This week I’m having my birthday, and while I’m looking forward to a nice dinner with my friends, I have been subconsciously brooding about being a year older.
I decided to take a chance, and follow my neighbor home. I waited in his driveway, and said, “knock knock.” He responded with, “who’s there?” I knew for sure at that point that he was a kindred spirit. I told him that I was his neighbor, and where, and that I would love to take a photo of his plate. I told him that I am turning 43 this week. He (George) said, “Well, you know why I got that plate? Cause I am 88! I’m glad you liked it, and figured it out.”
I think I am starting to figure things out. Thanks George.
This week, in my Creative Designs for Instruction class, we watched a couple of amazing TED talks. Very few people think that they can draw well. I happen to be in that camp. My family is actually riddled with creative talent, and my family encouraged, recognized and helped develop our individual talents. Most of my childhood, I really loved drawing. I think it was around my Junior year in high school that I decided that I couldn’t. My mother is a very talented artist. She paints, sculpts, draws, woodblock prints, paper crafts, you name it… I remember, even when she colored in coloring books with me, my drawings were never as good as hers. So by comparing myself, I fell short. That’s all perspective. We can all draw, we just have our own styles. In fact, she probably has told me something similar herself. My inner dialogue/critic was just more noisy than her words of encouragement. I encourage you all to watch these two short TED talks, and participate with the speakers. You just need a couple pieces of paper and a pen.
It Was the Best of Instruction; It Was the Worst of Instruction
While sometimes dreaded by instructors, course evaluations are important for a number of reasons: materials become outdated, new organizational objectives are created, historical organizational objectives are updated, and student/organization needs change. Ideally, evaluations would occur at least yearly for each course and instructor, or as needed when major changes occur in an organization.
Have you ever wondered if you had a subconscious hidden bias? One of the topics we discussed in my Master’s class a couple of weeks ago (an ongoing and important discussion to have throughout a lifetime) was that of equity.
One of my fellow students shared this website, where you can anonymously, and at no charge, take quizzes to see how you are biased in your thinking. It was a very eye-opening and enjoyable experience. I highly recommend it to anyone that is curious and has 15 minutes to spare. http://www.tolerance.org/Hidden-bias
I’ve been working on a term project on how to hit the reset button on your career, and start over fresh. I have collected a bunch of quotes, that I’ve found inspirational over the years, and applied them to some of my photography. Feel free to download them, and use them in your own materials, if they resonate with you. -Cheers!
My life is so much fuller with my golden retriever Murphy. If you’re looking for a great organization to volunteer for, check out Golden Retriever Rescue of the Rockies (GRRR). Murphy wasn’t a rescue, but our next will be. We volunteer there at least once a month, walking the pups. http://www.goldenrescue.com/
I recently deleted Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram from my phone. I still have the accounts, I just won’t be posting to them from my phone, or surfing them as often. I’ve got my blog and portfolio set up to automatically post to my business Facebook page, and to tweet. This election cycle has been brutal. I was finding myself spending a significant amount of time watching people bicker on Facebook and Twitter, and I just couldn’t stand it anymore.
After watching this video for class: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxaI4_9xr-Y&feature=youtu.be, I removed the tags of my kids on FB. When they were here this summer, they commented that, “I always post the most embarrassing photos of them.” I had already removed the offending images, but I went ahead and removed all the tags as well. I figure if they want to be tagged in something, then they can add the tag themselves.
Another step I took was to clean up old photos on my business page of Facebook. There were a few old random events that I had photographed, and left all the best photos. I chose to clean those up, keeping only the best of the best. I plan to go through my photos yearly moving forward.
Care to share your thoughts on privacy and tagging? I welcome the discussion.
It took me a while to formulate my response to this assignment. I had a visceral reaction to it. I wanted to remove Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram from my phone. Then I watched the video, and something that Paul mentioned resonated with me: “Leaving the internet won’t fix your problems, wherever you go, there you are.”
I have noticed that whenever I feel bored, I start surfing my phone. There are so many other things that I could/should be doing. So I guess I’m addicted, in a way, to my phone. I hate being bored. My mom said, “I’m bored mommy” was my first sentence, and my dad swears it’s true. I love the idea of unplugging for a year. If I were to do that, I would want to go to some buddhist temple or something remote like that. I don’t think I could do that and still work.
Here’s the way I use social media, so that it remains a positive experience:
I choose not to let social media isolate me from my surroundings, and keep me from enjoying the small details. In fact, I feel closer to my family because they share photos and videos. I get to see my family, almost daily, while they live far from me.
It might have the ability to waste precious time and energy, but it can also make you more productive. As Paul says in the video above, he didn’t use his time away from the internet wisely. I think maybe it’s difficult for anyone to fill their days being productive. Your brain needs some down time and relaxation. Not every hour can be filled with something meaningful.
I do think that too much emphasis is placed on social acceptance. That’s a personal battle to have though. I like being liked, but my real friends are far more important to me than online acquaintances.
I don’t compare my life with my acquaintances. My mother brought me up under a simple rule: “Never try to keep up with the Jonses.” I live within my means, and focus on my own journey.
I try not to overshare (this one is tricky, as I tend to be very opinionated).
How about you? What are your thoughts on social media? Has it brought you closer to others, or do you feel it’s purely an addiction?