Critical Academic Reflection #3

In considering the place of video curated libraries, I have mentioned the usefulness and accessibility of such instances (namely Lynda.com) for learning. I believed it was a good modality for learning something such as photographic composition and the instructor did a fine job of organizing the course into digestible chapters. Microlearning was also brought up in discussions as a very fitting approach which could fully utilize video-based learning, with the convenience of learning at one’s pace when one wants to. This has me thinking of what video curated libraries would not be as suitable for.

Many credential granting institutions now have courses that offer multimedia (usually video) resources. While there are online institutions that will grant some sort of credential for video courses, the general acceptance of the public and employers still has not taken place. Why is this so? It has been brought up in discussions of our MALAT cohort that simply completing a video does not necessarily mean a skill or knowledge has been attained. In fact, there is even the challenge of determining whether the registered learner is the one viewing the content (though some companies are using technology such as facial recognition to overcome this).

From my research thus far, while there are scenarios where video curated libraries are great for learning, such as with procedural knowledge and task-oriented training, I find that for higher order learning and more longer and thorough education, there must be more than just video to ensure that learners are cognitively still following along and still motivated to continue. Video is a great resource, but not the solution to all learning regimens.

Critical Inquiry Research Log #3

May 20th – May 26th 2018

Started this week with a deeper dive into the literature. Noticed that almost all of the articles I found (along with peer suggestions) focused on the post-secondary level. It may be my bias as I’m in a K-12 environment, but I feel that the lack of prominent research into cognitive load effects on video instruction at other levels is a concern as more and more secondary and even elementary educators are utilizing videos and other resources in their classrooms (and outside) which could have some serious repercussions on whether quality learning is taking place. An undergraduate student may respond differently to video lessons than an elementary school student.

On another note, I found some research that showed the presence of the instructor in the video (e.g., talking head) selectively increased cognitive load depending on the content being taught. So in addition to the content aspect I was looking at earlier, I’ve also started reading into interaction effects such as instructor visibility when teaching procedural knowledge (i.e., how to do something).

Taking into consideration the feedback I’ve gotten so far on my blog and assignments, it’s time to map out my critical academic reflective paper.

Critical Inquiry Research Log #2

May 6th – May 10th 2018

Focused on completing team presentation on curated video library Lynda.com (see below for our infographic).

May 14th – May 19th 2018

Viewed other team presentations on their respective modalities. Noticed that while modalities and issues examined were different, the strengths and challenges were very similar across the board. It seems many modalities use some form of video lecture and therefore the issues of cognitive load and access, among others were prevalent.

May 19th 2018

Completed Lynda.com course in Photography Foundations: Composition. Found it to be a good resource for those who wanted to learn photographic composition as an interest or brush up for more formal learning (see post Critical Academic Reflection #2 for more information). While there is a downloadable certificate at the end and the ability to post your completion on your LinkedIn profile, the lack of a formal evaluation piece leaves me wondering whether I’ve actually learned everything that’s been taught in the 5+ hour video course. I may take some pictures this summer to find out.

Time for actual research into the literature has been lacking, and therefore will be more prominent next update.

Critical Academic Reflection #2

Having completed Photography Foundations: Composition, I believe it is a good course for learners who are relatively new to photography, but have an interest and also some background knowledge as well. With some research into cognitive load, I have found that the course fulfills the balance between cognitive load and dynamic delivery. The group TEDdy Bears (specifically Stuart Reed) mention three best practices for video-based learning that I would like to assess here for the Lynda.com course.

Diagrams and Visuals – This is a very simple practice for the instructor to adopt as the course is about photography. Still photos and videos of scenes are used heavily to introduce concepts and prove points. Some compositional methods may be new to learners and showing an image may be the best way to get the thought process across.

Text – Text is actually not used for the most part and this may be because there were not any concepts that were self-explanatory. There were instances where the ability to be able to reference text might have been useful, but concepts are reinforced as you progress in the videos.

Audio/Narration – The instructor taught almost all the way through with narration and explaining what the learner saw throughout the videos. There were also videos of other learners learning in a classroom and discussing what they learned. Pacing of audio was very appropriate as the videos themselves were not too long (~5-10 minutes on average).

It looks like from a cognitive prospective, Lynda.com is fairly successful. As I mention in the beginning, some interest and background knowledge will help a learner complete the course. Interest and background knowledge are necessary for not just cognitive load purposes, but motivation. The cognitive load will be higher for a student who knows absolutely nothing about photography and has no interest as well. If that is the case, why would they be motivated to take the course? The onus is then on the learner to take a course that interests them and that they feel they can be successful in. If the course is marketed properly, then I think both learner and Lynda.com can benefit greatly.

Critical Academic Reflection #1

My past exposure to video learning has been limited to simple instructional how-to videos. I felt they were quite effective as they showed you how to do things as compared to reading up instructions. To that effect, the audio/visuals definitely help with practical day-to-day tasks such as baking a cake or tying a tie. While I knew courses that consisted of video-based learning existed, I had never taken one or thought that they would be rigorous enough to actually learn something beyond a rudimentary task.

Having been exposed to more modalities in not just LRNT 526 but in the MALAT program overall, I have found that there are many avenues for learners to experience video-based learning in different modalities. The curated video library (Lynda.com) that my group the DeeGees decided to explore has many courses from a variety of disciplines that span from beginning to expert targeting amateurs to professionals. Some courses even offer a form of credential at the end. The prevalance of these modalities has opened them up to more scrutiny. Academics have explored these modalities looking at various effects. The specific issue that I have decided to explore, cognitive load is a common topic.

With the days of textbook learning potentially being numbered, cognitive load and retention are important to assess. The interactions between student and teacher are also fundamentally changed in video-based learning. Assessing whether the learning has taken place and maintaining student engagement will be key in whether a curated video library can be a viable source of learning. I will comment further on my experience with Lynda.com in the course Photography Foundations: Composition in my next post.

 

Critical Inquiry Research Log #1

Here is the first entry into my critical inquiry research log. Assignment #1 Part 2 kept me quite busy, so this entry will most likely be longer than subsequent entries.

April 20th 2018

I chose cognitive load theory as my specific issue to explore within Lynda.com (instance of video curated library). In particular, I sought to find what factors play a predominant role in online video courses and if there was a general consensus on best practices in handling factors such as length and content. I also started exploring the Lynda.com course Photography Foundations: Composition.

April 22nd – April 26th 2018

Received feedback from Dr. Irwin DeVries encouraging the exploration of content as an important factor contributing to cognition. Also had blog comment discussions with Steve Minten and Stuart Reed on length effects and ideal length of instructional video and potential differences between Lynda.com and TedED videos. The factors video content and audience were brought up as well.

April 28th 2018

Started digging into literature relating to cognitive load and online media. As expected there is a lot of literature in this area. It was interesting to find that even within video learning there are various defined methods of delivery. For example, there are video-style lectures, such as talking head lecture, voice-over presentation, picture-in-picture, and Khan-style video lectures among others. Each of these methods have different effects on cognitive load by leveraging either more audio or visual information or both.

April 29th 2018

Began working through the videos of the Photography Foundations: Composition course. The instructor Ben Long was very clear and composed in his video lectures. The majority of videos at the beginning were of him with a static background giving theory behind photography. For someone like me who has no previous training, I found my attention drifting on a number of occasions. These videos were thankfully relatively short (<5 minutes).

May 1st 2018

Received feedback from Dr. Irwin DeVries on Assignment #1 Part 1. Recommendations to link my study with more literature explored in previous courses and be more explicit in my identification of cognitive load and how I plan on measuring it.

May 3rd 2018

Received a link from Gavin Sturgeon to a comparative study looking at the effects of instructor visibility and the type of knowledge being taught on cognitive load in video lectures. Yet more factors that contribute to cognitive load. This study along with a number of others used a cognitive load questionnaire for students to assess their mental effort in learning.

May 5th 2018

Continued viewing the videos in Photography Foundations: Composition. Subsequent videos showed more landscapes and photo examples to demonstrate the effects of what the instructor was teaching (e.g., balance, lighting). These lessons were easy to follow and each video was usually restricted to one concept. I believe this was good pacing and found myself retaining the lesson more easily with the format of one concept followed by a few examples.

Activity 3: Specific Issue Exploration

The online learning modality that was picked by my group (The DeeGees) was online educational video, more specifically the platform of Lynda.com. There is an abundance of online video based courses from a variety of organizations such as Khan Academy and Open Professionals Education Network. Some of these sites have very targeted audiences, whether it be K-12 tutoring or occupational professional development. Lynda.com purports to be a platform that provides training in software, creative and business skills (Lynda.com, 2018). Given the wide variety of topics and the varying skill levels needed to complete the courses, I would like to examine the effects of cognitive load theory on such a medium.

Cognitive overload is “when the degree of mental effort exceeds processing capabilities” (Bradford, 2011, p. 217). Audio and video information can provide more information at a given moment to the brain when compared to textual information. While this can be more efficient, it can also be overbearing when there is too much to absorb. Subject matter can also factor into cognitive load. For example, when someone is learning how to perform a task, it may be easier to learn visually. For something that is not task-oriented like learning history or technical information, it may be more beneficial to read text or have less audio visual media. The length of such media is also important as studies have shown that there is a limit to how much an individual can recall from video exceeding a certain length (Wong, Leahy, Marcus & Sweller, 2012).

So far in exploring briefly through the course Photography Foundations: Composition, I have found that the videos are relatively short in length (approximately 5 minutes on average). I believe this will help with reducing the cognitive load on a student. The topic of photography is relatively new to me and the course itself is targeted to beginners so it makes sense that the number of concepts and ideas introduced in each video is reduced. Of course, it remains to be seen whether these ‘short’ videos will introduce more complicated topics within the timeframe. What other factors should I consider in determining cognitive load?

 

References

Bradford, G. R. (2011). A relationship study of student satisfaction with learning online and cognitive load: Initial results. The Internet and Higher Education, 14(4), 217–226.

Lynda.com. (2018). About Us | lynda.com. Retrieved April 18, 2018, from https://www.lynda.com/aboutus/

Wong, A., Leahy, W., Marcus, N., & Sweller, J. (2012). Cognitive load theory, the transient information effect and e-learning. Learning and Instruction, 22(6), 449-457.

Final Reflection

Coming towards the end of LRNT 525, I do not believe that my leadership style has changed, but my views toward leadership have evolved somewhat. I still believe that adaptive and shared leadership is the way to go with most situations, but I have learned that actually going about enacting change in a leadership role is much more harder than it looks. The many stakeholders, organizational readiness, and other factors can be quite overwhelming. This may explain my general aversion to taking on leadership tasks, as I feel I have a lot to live up to. My expectations are now even higher for a good leader.

As I had mentioned in my initial post, my role as a research analyst is not officially a leadership position. Over time (even during the short period of this course) I have been afforded with a number of projects which have required me to display a degree of leadership. My view on shared leadership has prompted me to contribute more to the decision making even if I am not in the direct leadership position. I believe team input strengthens the decision making process which makes stakeholders and team members feel more involved and valued.

Enabling change in a digital learning environment can be difficult, especially for a large organization. Every facet must be treated like it is in an ecosystem where one modification can have implications on other aspects of the organization. In the future I will maintain the need to stakeholder consultation, and have a way to determine organizational readiness. While we must be vigilant throughout the process, by having stakeholder buy-in and a team that is prepared to enact the transformation; in my view half the battle is already won.

Project Management

A project involving technical change that I played a part in revolved around implementing a hybrid delivery model for adult students in traditionally face-to-face classrooms. While I was not in a leadership position, I worked closely with the project manager and was aware of the happenings during each phase (at least from Phase 2 when I joined the team).

The reason for implementing this program was to offer adult students more options in their studies to increase retention and successful outcomes. Clear goals were set out and an implementation plan in phases was established. It helped that the overall bringer of change was a Ministry which dictated a lot of the criteria in bringing in Hybrid learning (e.g., Learning Management System, course shells, etc.). Teachers were trained and brought onboard, but the student outreach could have been fleshed out more. At this point (Phase 5), there are still students who are not aware of the Hybrid delivery (even after being enrolled). I believe more buy-in would have created a more successful roll-out with less resistance from teachers and students. More information on the benefits of Hybrid learning could have been disseminated to the school population.

There was a limited collaborative approach where stakeholders were consulted on what was coming, but as this was a Ministry directive, the actual implementation was fairly set in stone. As a Board we worked towards adapting this change to our students’ needs as we knew the same implementation plan would not work for every institution.

I had arrived to the process later in the game, so I may have missed this step, but I feel there needed to be more consultation before implementation and not just consultation during. When all parties are informed and make contributions, you reduce the amount of surprises during the transition and can come up with more innovative methods as you progress to the next stage.

Assignment 2: External Scan

Piktochart of digital change in three different organizations

Over the course of my consultations with members of my professional network I was able to explore how leadership approaches change to a digital environment in three different organizational structures. The three organizations I was exposed to were a public school board, private college, and a private sector company in the construction field. While each of these settings were different, they all had similarities, most notably the fact that the decision-making process was top-down with little input from staff. The approach could be described by the power leadership theory where those with the might have all the control (O’Toole, 2008).

At the public school board, input from staff was more difficult due to the sheer size of the organization, but key members of the transition team still felt out of the loop and ill-prepared for the changes that came with transitioning to hybrid learning. Over time, staff and students alike adapted to the process and a system was established albeit more piecemeal than teachers would have liked. More communication and ongoing support was cited as necessary for staff buy-in and would have greatly assisted in a smoother transition. In short, the organizational readiness which includes task demands, resource availability, and also situational factors (Weiner, 2009) were not properly assessed.

The transition to an online modules-based course at the private college was also a process that lacked consultation. The college had decided to go with a course divided into modules that could be completed online, forgoing the in-class teaching delivery model. This was believed to cut costs such as textbooks and training for instructors as instructors would be facilitators versus teachers in this new model. They would only be called upon when there were questions by students. The college was under the assumption that any instructor would be able to assume the role of facilitator as all the material needed for the students would be online. In reality, staff had challenges answering certain questions from students and in turn students had challenges completing the modules. Leadership was not mindful or aware that staff would encounter these issues. The confidence that instructors have in their knowledge needed to be built up by leadership (Castelli, 2015) to support the learning of the students. Over time staff and students adapted to this new model but there likely would have been fewer challenges had staff been consulted on how the new delivery model would be phased in and what was the best way to facilitate the learning for the students.

The company in the construction field had wanted to transition to online safety training. After completing modules online, tradespeople would get their safety accreditation. This decision was made by the owner unilaterally as this was a small company where the boss made most decisions on his own. While the transition was completed, the staff member who was in charge of the transition was saddled with a tight deadline and limited resources to complete such a process. This was coupled with the pushback and resistance from labourers who were less technologically proficient and felt that they were forced to change to this new system. Weller and Anderson (2013) note that change can happen even with resistance, “but it requires strategic direction, leadership and is not done quickly”. More time and planning would have assisted in this process.

My own approach to leadership has been that of shared and adaptive leadership. While it is possible to lead in a manner where those that have the most power dictate what happens, these examples have shown that challenges arise when implementing a major overhaul such as a shift to a digital learning environment. Employees are not motivated and they feel forced to comply when they are not consulted or the rationale has not been explained to them. Each of the organizations could benefit from reflective leadership which allows for a more motivated workforce, renewed interest and effort, and improved performance in working towards the change (Castelli, 2015). Also in each of the situations, there were unexpected outcomes which could have been remedied by an adaptive approach that assesses the changes in environment and manages the situation accordingly (Khan, 2017). The three lessons learned, involving more communication, support and time show adaptive and shared/collaborative leadership which will guide my future leadership endeavours.

 

References

Castelli, P. (2016). Reflective leadership review: a framework for improving organisational performanceJournal of Management Development35(2), 217-236.

Khan, N. (2017). Adaptive or Transactional Leadership in Current Higher Education: A Brief ComparisonThe International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning18(3).

O’Toole, James (2008). Notes Toward a Definition of Values-Based LeadershipThe Journal of Values-Based Leadership1(1).

Weiner, B. J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for changeImplementation Science4(67).

Weller, M., & Anderson, T., (2013). Digital Resilience in Higher EducationEuropean Journal of Open Distance and E-Learning16(1), 53-66.