The Audacity to Explore: Using Critical Inquiry to Examine Podcasts as a Learning Event

Team 1: Terra Aartsen, Lisa Gedak, Owen Lloyd, Kathy Moore, Leigha Nevay

As part of LRNT526, Inquiry into Contemporary Issues in Learning Technology, we were asked to participate in a learning event using a technology of our choosing.  Our group decided it would be beneficial to select a learning technology that was free to users and available through most devices (e.g., laptop, tablet, smartphone) to ensure broad accessibility.  We quickly agreed on podcasts since each team member was familiar with the podcast technology, having listened to some type of podcast previously.  After reviewing several lists of podcast publishers, we chose the University of Oxford’s podcasts as we were interested in an academic podcast from a recognized and respected institution. We selected the Futuremakers podcast as it seemed to fit nicely with the interests of the team members.

Podcasting is aggressively entering mainstream markets with more competitors and information resources for listeners (Pratt, 2019).  One of the great advantages of podcasting is the opportunities this technological medium provides; listeners have the opportunity to learn on the go, research topics, receive inspiration, or simply just stay up to date with current events (Berlanger, 2005; Fang, 2019; Hew, 2009; McLoughlin & Lee, 2007).

In addition to general research into podcasting as a medium, our group researched the pedagogy of podcasts and the impact of this technology on learning (Berlanger, 2005; Edirisingha & Hew, 2009; Meyer & Gordon, 2014; Salmon, 2007).  Our initial research revealed many positive accounts of podcasts as a learning tool, with Chester et al. (2011) reporting that “students generally perceive podcasts to have enhanced their learning, and consider the recordings as more crucial to the learning experience than attending lectures” (p. 236).  Further, podcasts can offer learners an alternative to classroom lecture attendance (Chester, et al., 2011; Brookes, 2010; Parson, Reddy, Wood, & Senior, 2009), as well as offering teachers the option of using primer podcasts as a pre-lecture learning tool (Goldman, 2018).

As a result of this initial research, the members of our team have decided to pursue the following lines of inquiry in our individual projects:

  • Terra will explore the use of primer podcasts to enhance classroom learning;
  • Owen will investigate podcasting’s suitability to improve access to learning by identifying how it reduces the impact of learning barriers like low bandwidth, limited access to new hardware technology, and limited access to traditional learning spaces;
  • Kathy will explore the use of podcasts for training purposes; specifically to train volunteers. This will also include looking at the social equity of podcasts given the requirement of a device should the learner wish to listen remotely;
  • Lisa will investigate the effectiveness of podcasts in supporting learner variability through the lens of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework and guiding principles; and
  • Leigha will explore the abundance of podcast technology. Specifically understanding the impact of having too much information and what path to navigate ensuring a credible and reliable educational experience.

The learning event we chose to begin our inquiry-based learning is the Futuremakers podcast “Is AI good for our health?”.  Hosted by Peter Millican, the podcast explores the societal and ethical impacts of the use of  A.I. in healthcare, as well as the implications for the general public and their perception of what is a definitive diagnosis.  The structure of the podcast is conversational with the guests Paul Leeson, Alison Noble, and Jessica Morley.  Each person is well-qualified on the subject of Artificial Intelligence (AI), allowing for an educated conversation on the topic.

As our group selected podcasts primarily due to their accessibility, we decided that each team member would listen to the podcast in a different way to test the different learner experiences: Lisa would listen using Apple TV, Owen would listen using an iPod while on a run, Kathy would listen using a PC, Terra would listen on car radio streaming from an iPhone, and Leigha would listen on a smartphone.

After all group members had completed the learning event, we discussed our different experiences and the ease of accessing the podcast; all that was required was access to the internet, either to download the episode before listening or to stream it live.  This points to one limitation: podcasts could prove to have an accessibility issue for those with limited internet access. There was an instance where the episode stopped streaming through Apple TV and the team member was required to start from the beginning.  This type of interruption could cause listeners to simply stop listening to the episode or lecture, simply because they may not want to start from the beginning again. Our group also discussed the accessibility of podcasts to those with disabilities. Some podcasts provide captions so that individuals with a hearing impairment or a different disability can still enjoy the lecture, but this isn’t always available.

After discussing our individual experiences with each mode of delivery of the podcast, we moved to the impact of podcast technology on education.  This was our first step into our critical inquiry. Next, we will begin to explore our individual critical inquiries to analyze how this technology will work with our various topics of choice.

References

Bauder, D., & Ender, K. (2016). Using Multimedia Solutions for Accessing the Curriculum Through a UDL Lens. 1134–1139. https://www.learntechlib.org/primary/p/173088/

Berlanger, Y. (2005) Duke university iPod first year experience final evaluation http://cit.duke.edu/pdf/reports/ipod_initiative_04_05.pdf

Brookes, M. (2010). An evaluation of the impact of formative feedback podcasts on the student learning experience. Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism Education (Oxford Brookes University), 9(1), 53–64. https://doi-org.libresources2.sait.ab.ca/10.3794/johlste.91.238

Chester, A., Buntine, A., Hammond, K., & Atkinson, L. (2011). Podcasting in Education: Student Attitudes, Behaviour and Self-Efficacy. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 14(2), 236–247.

Edirisingha, P., & Salmon, G. (2007). Pedagogical models for podcasts in higher education. figshare. Conference contribution. https://hdl.handle.net/2381/405

Fang, W. (2019, December 24). Why Do People Listen to Podcasts in 2020? Retrieved from https://www.listennotes.com/podcast-academy/why-do-people-listen-to-podcasts-in-2020-5/

Hew, K. F. (2009). Use of audio podcast in K-12 and higher education: A review of research topics and methodologies. Educational Technology Research and Development, 57(3), 333-357. http://sttechnology.pbworks.com/f/Hew_(2008)_Use%2520of%2520Audio%2520Podcast%2520in%2520K-12%2520and%2520Higher%2520Education.pdf

McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. (2007). Listen and learn: A systematic review of the evidence that podcasting supports learning in higher education. In C. Montgomerie & J. Seale (Eds.), Proceedings of World Use of audio podcast in K-12 and higher education 355 123 Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2007 (pp. 1669–1677). Chesapeake, VA: AACE

Meyer, A., Rose, D.H., & Gordon, D. (2014). Universal design for learning: Theory and Practice. Wakefield, MA: CAST Professional Publishing.

Parson, V., Reddy, P., Wood, J., & Senior, C. (2009) Educating an iPod generation: undergraduate attitudes, experiences and understanding of vodcast and podcast use, Learning, Media and Technology, 34:3, 215-228, DOI: 10.1080/17439880903141497

Pratt, S. (2019, January 30). 13 Predictions for Podcasting in 2019. Retrieved from https://blog.pacific-content.com/13-predictions-for-podcasting-in-2019-d52e7ed536ed

Leading Change in Digital Learning Environments

Before taking this course (and this program), I believed that anyone working in education could take a leadership role in digital learning.  All it would take is a passion for learning, some hard work, and anyone could lead the path to digital change.  While passion for learning is important, I now think it takes more than hard work to create a successful digital environment (which is a very different place than a seated environment).  One must understand the inner workings of digital learning and the theories behind the environment.

As I complete courses in MALAT, I realize more and more that this is a specialized field for which we are training.  It is complex since we must learn to navigate technical issues and personnel issues.  Education is never only about the content it is also about the people in, either the physical or electronic, room.  The care for the people portion does not diminish in the digital environment, if anything the need is greater.  The leader plays a larger role in this segment of learning than I initially realized.  As stated by Castelli (2016), “sharing experiences and admitting mistakes shows the human side of leaders” (p.223).  If the leader can show his/her human side to the team members they might show their human side to the students.  In my first blog post for this course, I discussed the idea of an adopting a reflective practice (Moore, 2020, para. 4).  Now that I am near the completion of the course, I believe even more in that practice.  As the implementation of changes occurs, it is critical to look back and see what worked well and what needs improvement.  Without that reflective piece, it would be too easy to repeat errors and miss repeating the positive actions.  No one wants to do that!

At this time, I am not in a leadership role; as a result, it is a challenge for me to lead digital change.  A practice I have adopted is to make changes in my own responsibilities, ensuring that I am making the changes for the right reasons (based on data, need, organizational goal, etc.).  When the time arises that I am in a leadership role, I plan on looking back to the information in this course to help me make the best decisions possible.  I hope to use an adaptive leadership style, as described by Khan (2017), as it is a flexible style.  Motivating the team is as important as understanding the technology and the data.  A strong piece of adaptive leadership is remembering to inspire the team.

Given the circumstances that we are facing, I find it noteworthy that many people who do not speak highly of online learning are facing learning and/or teach digitally.  This course has supplied us with many tools to navigate this complicated realm.  I feel fortunate that I now have those tools and I will reach out to anyone I see struggling.  I may not be in a leadership role, but that does not mean that I cannot take what I have learned and help those around me.

Resources

Castelli, P. (2016). Reflective leadership review: a framework for improving organisational performance. Journal of Management Development35(2), 217-236.  Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/docview/1767544220?accountid=8056

Khan, N. (2017). Adaptive or Transactional Leadership in Current Higher Education: A Brief Comparison. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning18(3).  Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/3294

Moore, K. (2020). Attributes of a Leader [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://malat-webspace.royalroads.ca/rru0108/attributes-of-a-leader/

Don’t Tear the Sweater!

I work in a portfolio of a school within a post-secondary institution.  Often those of us at the portfolio level get an edict from management announcing new policies and it is up to us to find ways to implement them, making them work for our situation.  An example of this happened recently.  As a result of a safety audit, the decision came to implement a visitor sign-in procedure.  Until this time this was not part of the process when guests came to the classroom or to an event.  The problem in this situation was that there was not any communication about how to implement this change, the rational behind it, or any beneficial details.  The lack of shared information created a large barrier to implementing the change.  No one knew the expectations or the parameters, therefore people were creating their own systems and not sharing them with the other groups.  In this situation, the goal of the project caused many of the barriers.  Conway, Masters, and Thorold (2017) state “innovators should not just focus on user needs … they must also comprehensively map the system which they hope to change, employing a range of techniques to appreciate the complex dynamics at play” (p. 14).  The originators of this change did not follow this concept.

Without a map to follow, the type of system created was guests signing-in on paper.  Given the size of campus and the frequency of guests, I felt that a paper system was not an ideal solution and I suggested a digital option.  The barriers in this option, that I did not see when I brought the idea forward, included that many people felt the paper system would work perfectly adequately and we should take the easier path in order to accept the new procedure.  I have limited experience in leading change, and I felt that the digital system was clearly the correct option.  After going through the readings, I discovered that the lack of planning for this project contributed to the results.  The key players in the implementation did not know who the stakeholders were, or who was responsible for the process (i.e., who to go to with questions).  In order to overcome this barrier, I think the process would have benefitted from closer analysis.  I do not believe there was any data collected regarding the best method to use to implement the process.  Sclater, Peasgood, and Mullan (2016) present three elements of organising learning analytics, which are “the availability of data, the analysis and creation of insight, and processes that impact upon student success” (p. 34).  These components can apply to projects outside of the classroom environment as well and would have changed the outcome in this situation.

For this project, I received instructions on what needed to happen.  Should I ever be on a team who is rolling out a change similar to this one, I would like to take the time to have conversations with those involved (or a representation of the entire group) to ensure the solution fits the goal of the new process.  I think ensuring that step is complete will help those involve accept the new system and it will better function for the goal.

Cormier (2017) states “when you pull one string on that system to try and fix it, you tend to tear the sweater somewhere else” (para. 2).  In the situation I described here, I believe I may have torn the sweater elsewhere when I presented my digital solution.  I now know that in future situations I need to be more careful and take the time to get buy-in from the team, when presenting an idea with which they may not be comfortable.

References

Conway, R., Masters, J., & Thorold, J.. (2017). From design thinking to systems change: How to invest in innovation for social impact. Royal Society of Arts, Action and Research Centre. Retrieved from https://www.thersa.org/globalassets/pdfs/reports/rsa_from-design-thinking-to-system-change-report.pdf

Cormier, D. (2017, December 8). Our schools aren’t broken, they’re hard. [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://davecormier.com/edblog/2017/12/08/our-schools-arent-broken-theyre-hard/

Sclater, N., Peasgood, A, & Mullan, J. (2016). Learning analytics in higher education: A review of UK and international practice. Jisc. Retrieved from https://www.jisc.ac.uk/sites/default/files/learning-analytics-in-he-v3.pdf

Change Management in Digital Learning Environments

Change.  That word elicits emotions ranging from trepidation to exhilaration.  Change management theories can help leaders in digital learning environments guide their teams through changes, ensuring a successful implementation.  With the speed that technology is advancing, change is the norm rather than the exception. While there is no formula to enable a leader to manage change perfectly, there are tools available to help him or her when the need arises.

I had the opportunity to discuss change implementation in digital environments with three individuals who have experience with this field.  Two of these individuals work in government and one works in post-secondary.  These conversations contributed to the ideas behind the infographic (figure 1) regarding change management along with literature on the topic, and my experiences with change.

“A good room set-up can’t make the class succeed by itself, but a bad room set-up can make it fail” (Feldstein, 2017, para. 5).  While this quote does not directly address change in digital learning environments, it does connect to it.  Often change is for the best or required due to adjustments in surrounding variables; without a well-planned execution, no matter the value of the change, it can fail.  Digital environments come with added challenges since much, if not all, of the team is inaccessible face-to-face.  If the change is unsuccessful, the effortless choice is to blame the change without looking at each component.  If this occurs, it takes a strong reflective practice to discover what happened.  According to Catelli (2016), reflecting on events can help leaders learn about the people they have on their team, and how events affect their industry (p. 217).  Providing leaders with strong tools to use, including to encourage empathy and learning throughout the process as indicated in the infographic (figure 1), will help provide a good (figurative) room set-up, increasing the probability of successful implementation.

The importance of clear and frequent communication was a common theme in the conversations with those in my network (J. Brown, personal communication, February 21, 2020; K. Mart, personal communication, February 17, 2020; F. Peermohamed, personal communication, February 20, 2020), ensuring its place in my checklist.  Al-Haddad & Kotnour (2015) also believe that communication is key to creating an atmosphere so “content, people, and process [come together to] lead to successful change” (p.244).  By keeping communication open between levels of staff (i.e., top-down and bottom-up), the entire team remains informed regarding the impact of each step on the environment (F. Peermohamed, personal communication, February 20, 2020).  Communication also facilitates answering What’s in it for me? which helps staff members know more about the change, the benefit to them, their work, and their productivity.

Mart and Peermohamed discussed the value of the change model they use, Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement (ADKAR) (K. Mart, personal communication, February 17, 2020; F. Peermohamed, personal communication, February 20, 2020).  As they explained this model, I realized that it has a lot in common with Theory O (Biech, 2007, para. 6) as each one focuses on participation between the organization, the leader of the change, and the staff members.  If used in a digital learning environment, these theories encourage team members to work with the change.  Weiner (2009) posits that when team members accept the change, regardless of the reason, they are more apt to accept the transformation.

The team on which Brown is a member does not use a change management theory (J. Brown, personal communication, February 18, 2020).  In listening to her describe what is taking place, I believe the leader applied systems theory (Biech, 2007, para. 3) to implement the digital change across two organizations; also, the team consists of members from both organizations, resulting in change for both systems.  Early in the project, the leader of the team engaged the members in an activity, in a face-to-face setting, which encouraged empathy throughout the project (J. Brown, personal communication, February 18, 2020).  Once the members returned to their home site, the activity connected them and provided the necessary tools to continue the work surrounding the change, following systems theory (Beich, 2007, p. 3).

Leading digital change is a challenging task.  In order to have a successfully implemented change, leaders need to have tools available throughout the process.  Based on my conversations with two leaders of digital change management and one member of an ongoing team experiencing digital change, teams, by nature of the knowledge, skills, and personalities of the members, have differing needs.  It is up to the leader to select and apply the best tools and approaches to ensure success.

Figure 1

References

Al-Haddad, S., & Kotnour, T. (2015). Integrating the organizational change literature: a model for successful change. Journal of Organizational Change Management28(2), 234-262. Retrieved from https://doi-org.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/10.1108/JOCM-11-2013-0215

Biech, E. (2007). Models for Change. In Thriving Through Change: A Leader’s Practical Guide to Change Mastery. Alexandria, VA: ASTD

Castelli, P. A. (2016). Reflective leadership review: A framework for improving organisational performance. The Journal of Management Development, 35(2), 217-236. doi: http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/10.1108/JMD-08-2015-0112

Feldstein, M. (2017, May 28). A flexible, interoperable digital learning platform: Are we there yet? [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://eliterate.us/flexible-interoperable-digital-learning-platform-yet/

Weiner, B.J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science, 4(67). doi: 10.1186/1748-5908-4-67

Leading Change

Change is a constant in every setting.  Work.  Education.  Personal.  Change affects every aspect.  It each circumstance, someone is leading the change; in professional settings it is typically the leader (i.e., boss) or someone who feels passionately about the change (i.e., a team member).

The theories discussed in this week’s readings, specifically those mentioned by Biech (2007) can help lead the ever-changing environments.  Even though Biech published these theories in 2007, I think they still apply to what we have today.  Biech’s (2007) Complexity Theory specifically seems appropriate for our current environment since it address the interlocked nature of many realities converging in one situation.  I do not think that we need new theories since our environment is different than it was at the time of creation of the current theories.  It is our responsibility to find ways to implement the existing philosophies and apply them now.  The number of theories would become uncontrollable if we created a new one for every environmental change!

I do not have much leadership experience, but I have been on several teams with both good and bad outcomes for change implementation.  The idea of change readiness (Weiner, 2009, p. 4) as always intrigued me, but I did not know how to encourage that readiness on a team.  My current organization does not spend much time or effort on change readiness; as a result, the announcement of changes come as gospel.  It makes it much harder to accept changes when they appear in an instant rather than having some time to ask questions and become familiar with the new idea.  If I ever take on a leadership role, I would like to remember to implement readiness techniques when change is on the horizon, while understanding that it is not always possible, especially if I become a leader within my current organization.

As this program focuses on digital environments, I often find that I take face-to-face experience and imagine a digital equivalent.  When it comes to change management and leadership in the digital world, I think that it is that much more important than in the face-to-face world.  Communication is key when managing any change, when that change is happening in a digital environment it is critical.  Digital environments come with the complication of missing facial expressions and tone.  In order to manage change, leaders need to create an open environment where team members can discuss the upcoming change(s).

“Some of the most promising organizational changes … require collective, coordinated behavior change by many organizational members” (Weiner, 2009, p. 6).  This statement is true in all environments, digital or not.

References

Biech, E. (2007) Models for Change. In Thriving Through Change: A Leader’s Practical Guide to Change Mastery. Alexandria, VA: ASTD

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

Attributes of a Leader

“Wisdom is the capacity to think through the consequences of decisions; reflection causes the activity of thought to occur” (Ackoff as cited in Castelli, 2016, p. 220).

Reflection is becoming more and more common in today’s society, as it allows individuals to consider events, lessons learned, and how the experience will affect future actions.  While reflection is particularly useful for students, we can all apply it as part of our day-to-day lives as lessons occur long after we leave formal educational settings.  I have found that leaders appreciate personnel who can apply a reflective practice, but what I have not seen as much are leaders who lead by example and implement reflection as part of their role.  As a team member, I appreciate it when a leader can look back on an event and consider what went well and what needs improvement.  Castelli (2016) defines reflective leadership as “the consistent practice of reflection, which involves conscious awareness of behaviours, situations and consequences with the goal of improving organizational performance” (p. 217); therefore, reflective leadership does not only affect the leader as a person, but it also has an impact on the organization.  After reading the assigned articles this week, I find that I can connect with the reflective leadership theory both as a non-leader (currently) and as a potential leader (future), in synchronous and asynchronous environments.  As changes are commonplace within digital environments, adopting a reflective practice can only help leaders to navigate the changes with those on the team.

Digital environments require strong leaders, though it seems that the assumption in society is that digital environments can make do with any strength of leader.  Leaders in digital environments have a much larger space in which to lead their teams and those spaces are continually changing (Sheninger, 2014, para. 6).  As these changes come, leaders must be able to manage those changes while still creating a positive environment for the learners or team members.  Fortunately, there are theories that can help.

The leaders I have admired the most are those who can take situations and find the best solution in the moment, while involving the team as much as possible.  I know that accomplishing that is not always feasible, but as a member of the team I feel valued when the leader takes the time to find out if I have any ideas.  In my experience, the only leaders who are able to take that step are those who are comfortable in their role and have a good relationship with the team.  These attributes are components of reflective leadership.

A recent activity asked me to rate attributes of leaders; here are the top five attributes I think a leader should have: competent, caring, honest, dependable, and fair minded.  As I read the articles, I realized that many leadership types can have these attributes which tells me that leadership theories and styles can blend depending on the leader and what he or she feels is important.  As I further consider the above listed attributes, I realize that most professionals have them.  That idea makes be wonder why everyone cannot make a good leader.  If one has the attributes of a strong leader, would that not automatically make them a strong leader?  Sadly, in my experience, the answer is no.

In order for leaders and followers to have the required relationship to make an organization run (either business or education), they need to have a shared goal.  Khan (2017) introduces the idea of transactional and adaptive leadership theories (p. 178).  I think that in a digital learning environment, it is best to follow the adaptive theory.  So much of online work relies on relationships and adaptive leadership allows leaders to utilize those on the team to keep the processes that are working and adopt changes for those that are not.  Khan states “[no] leadership theory can address all required actions in contemporary education institutions, but that adaptive leadership is flexible, takes into account current complexities, and is highly motivating for followers” (Khan, 2017, p. 182).  There is no all-powerful way to be a good leader.  Leadership is a work in process and the style or theory adopted by the individual can change depending on the team members or the set tasks.

References:

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

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

Sheninger, E. (2014). Pillars of digital leadership. International Centre for Leadership in Education. Retrieved from http://leadered.com/pillars-of-digital-leadership/

It is like Magic…

A good Instructional Designer (ID) is like a magician.  He/she can take a situation and change or modify it while not having to be in the physical space or know every detail.  As I was reading Ertmer’s and Newby’s (2013) article, I realized that IDs can design courses for subject matters in which they have no experience by applied the right educational theory (p. 45).  As I discussed in a previous blog post, the title Instructional Designer was new to me when I started MALAT (Moore, 2019, para. 2).  I realize now that my initial perception was that an ID had to have experience in the field in order to create a successful design.  After reading more about the IDs’ roles and tools, I now see that by appropriately applying theories to designs it allows students to change throughout their learning, thus absorbing information and converting it to knowledge.  Just like magic.  Granted, there is more to it than magic, but a well-designed course can feel like it to the students.

As innovations come into the field, it is the responsibility of IDs and educators to balance the changes while keeping the goal of educating learners in mind (Moore, 2016, p. 425).  Since changes and innovation are constant, new ideas on how to focus on the goal will make IDs and educators stronger.

What are the best ways to guarantee students are at the centre of every design?

References

Ertmer, P., & Newby, T. (2013 Online). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 43-71.

Moore, K. (2019), Virtual Symposium 2019 [Blog post].  Retrieved from https://malat-webspace.royalroads.ca/rru0108/173-2/

Moore, R. L. (2016). Developing distance education content using the TAPPA process. TechTrends, 60(5), 425–432.

Innovation

When you hear the word innovation, what is the first thought that comes to your mind?  Innovation does not apply to all change.  There are times when change means an addition to software, moving a physical item, or introducing a completely new technology.  In my experience, I have found that when people hear the word change, it causes concerns about what is to come.  However, sharing the word innovation gives people hope that something better is coming.  Innovation and change can, and do, work together, as Dron stipulates, “innovation and change tend to happen at the edges between communities when people are able to shift between systems, communities, and disciplines” (Wenger as cited in Dron, 2014, p. 523).  Technology is a common area for both change and innovation as new designs come forward on a regular basis and anyone who works in education needs to aware of the effects (be they large or small) on learners (Dron, 2014, p. 260).  Reading about this topic made me wonder, who is responsible for managing the waves of innovation and change that come into the world of education?  Who is there to ensure the students have a smooth experience in amongst all the new ideas and tools?

References

Dron, J. (2014). Chapter 9: Innovation and Change: Changing how we Change. In Zawacki-Richter, O. & T. Anderson (Eds.), Online distance education: Towards a research agenda. Athabasca, AB: AU Press.

Risk and Learning

Introduction

“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).

Context 

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.

Problem Statement

We reviewed the results of our design thinking process and discovered the following key points:

  1. Adult learners in online formal learning environments can struggle to take intellectual risks and to be actively engaged in their learning.
  2. Misdirected challenges such as technological frustrations, lack of efficient communication, and lack of connection with peers can cause strain on adult learners.
  3. 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.

Prototype

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.

Component details:

  1. The beginning of each module includes a concise, informal video from the instructor summarizing details.
  2. The anticipated time frame in which the instructor will reply to posts is clearly published (e.g., within 24-hours).
  3. 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.
  4. When students post questions in the LMS, they have an option to identify their posts as low, medium, or high level of importance.
  5. Synchronous sessions would include a photo of the participant, when video is not engaged, rather than a generic image.

Questions

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:

  1. Do you feel that our prototype helps to promote safe learning environments for learners  to take intellectual risks while minimizing elements that constrain learning?
  2. What problems do you foresee?
  3. 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

References

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/