“Information becomes education when it is shared” (Moore, 2019). In order for adult learners to take intellectual risks and be actively engaged in their learning, they need a learning environment that provides support and positive challenge. As online learners studying instructional design, we followed the Stanford University’s d.school design thinking process to identify shortcomings and propose a prototype for improving current learning management systems (LMS).
We considered our experiences as both teachers and learners in online learning environments to identify our problem statement and develop our prototype. Our focus is to promote a safe place for intellectual risk-taking and active engagement through the lens of adult learners in formal fully-online learning environments.
Our backgrounds include formal face-to-face and online teaching, administrative support, and face-to-face and online learning. We are currently online students in the Master of Arts in Learning and Technology program at Royal Roads University.
We reviewed the results of our design thinking process and discovered the following key points:
- Adult learners in online formal learning environments can struggle to take intellectual risks and to be actively engaged in their learning.
- Misdirected challenges such as technological frustrations, lack of efficient communication, and lack of connection with peers can cause strain on adult learners.
- Learning environments should create a balance between providing a safe environment where learners can have confidence to engage in intellectual risk taking, while minimizing the challenges that do not offer positive learning opportunities.
These elements led to the problem statement below:
Reducing the ineffective challenges of online learning promotes user-centered learning in formal online learning environments by increasing learners’ potential to not only learn program content, but also gain confidence within a digital learning environment.
According to Crichton and Carter (2017), if students receive an abundance of information, their ability to work with the content is hindered and they resort to seeking exactly what is expected of them, rather than absorbing the information (p. 25). We are proposing a prototype that addresses ineffective challenges, such as an overload of information, and promotes user-centered learning. As a result, we propose a number of modifications to current LMSes.
- The beginning of each module includes a concise, informal video from the instructor summarizing details.
- The anticipated time frame in which the instructor will reply to posts is clearly published (e.g., within 24-hours).
- An informal space is available from the first day of the program, similar to a student lounge, which offers students a casual environment to share their thoughts. Program faculty and administrators would not have access to this space.
- When students post questions in the LMS, they have an option to identify their posts as low, medium, or high level of importance.
- Synchronous sessions would include a photo of the participant, when video is not engaged, rather than a generic image.
Recognizing that learners must move beyond their comfort zone in order to fully engage in the learning and that comfort levels vary for each learner, we are seeking feedback and feedforward from our readers regarding the following:
- Do you feel that our prototype helps to promote safe learning environments for learners to take intellectual risks while minimizing elements that constrain learning?
- What problems do you foresee?
- What modifications would you propose?
“Risk is inherent in learning” (Koh, Yeo, & Hung, 2015, p. 95). In taking our own risk as learners, we welcome your comments. We will reply to all responses received before December 4, 2019 at 11:59 pm PST.
Co-authored by K. Moore and S. Ruth
Crichton, S. & Carter, D. (2017). Taking Making into Classrooms Toolkit. Open School/ITA
Great Schools Partnership (2014). Student engagement. Retrieved from https://www.edglossary.org/student-engagement/
Koh, E., Yeo, J., & Hung, D. (2015) Pushing boundaries, taking risks. Learning: Research and Practice, 1(2), 95-99, DOI: 10.1080/23735082.2015.1081318
Moore, K. (2019. October 13). The Printing Press and Education [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://malat-webspace.royalroads.ca/rru0108/the-printing-press-and-education/
Stanford University Institute of Design (2019). A Virtual Crash Course in Design Thinking. Retrieved from: https://dschool.stanford.edu/resources-collections/a-virtual-crash-course-in-design-thinking
Strohmeyer, D. (n.d.). Intellectual risk taking [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://lessonsforthelearned.org/index.php/independent-learning-overview/intellectual-risk-taking/