The focus of my research is how to enhance online learning and promote learner engagement in a large public sector organization. The client that I design curriculum for operates in a highly regulated and security conscious environment where new learners are exposed to this training as part of their on boarding to the organization. The learners will access their learning within a restricted online platform without access to the Internet. Therefore, their learning experience, including learning activities, will take place solely within that environment.
The theoretical framework (TF) that I intend to use to help guide my research is the technology acceptance model (TAM). The TAM focuses on two factors that may influence peoples’ acceptance of technology (Davis, 1989). The first, is perceived usefulness, which is defined as the end-user’s level of belief that the technology will improve their job performance (Davis, 1989). The second factor is, perceived ease of use, which is defined as the end-user’s level of belief that the technology will be easy to use. The research behind the TAM suggests that these factors may determine user behaviour (Davis, 1989).
I would also like to incorporate the connection between learner engagement and the community of inquiry (CoI). As you may recall, from LRNT528, the CoI frames learning as both an individual experiences as well as a collaborative one (Vaughn, Cleveland-Innis, Garrision, 2013). I would like to include CoI in the scope of my research to explore how it might affect learner engagement.
As the image I chose for this blog suggests, I’d like to explore this research with the mentality of thinking outside of the box. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
In my role as a learning designer at my organization, I design e-learning for external clients and their learners. My intention is to utilize the technology acceptance model (TAM) as the framework for my research. I believe the TAM framework is an excellent way for me to explore the areas of perceived usefulness (how a learner perceives the value of learning as it relates to their ability to perform in their job) and perceived ease of use (how a learner judges how easy an application or system is to use) (Davis, 1989).
Although I haven’t decided on a research question or sub questions just yet, my overall direction will be to research how e-learning can be designed to increase the level of engagement of learners. In conjunction with that I would like to include how this in turn will be of value to our clients from an employer perspective.
One of the ways I will be disseminating my research is to share it with my employer and peers as I am hoping it will prove to be a valuable resource in the work that we do. Another avenue I would like to pursue is the possibility of professional publications such as, trainingmag.com, td.org, and elearningjournal.com. However, this is very much a work in progress that I’m looking forward to refining during LRNT622 as my own thinking evolves and is enhanced by feedback/comments from our instructor, as well as my classmates.
In this course, Facilitating in Digital Learning Environments, we have been able to experience our learning…as learners, and, as facilitators. This offered us an opportunity that is uniquely experiential because of this dual perspective.
In this post, I’m revisiting my initial 3-2-1 blog on August 30, 2020 from a retrospective point of view to illustrate how my thoughts have evolved over the past four weeks.
3 thoughts or ideas about digital facilitation based on my course experience
Initially I questioned whether or not digital facilitation could be effectively interactive. As a result of my experience as a learner in the facilitation weeks designed by my peers, it’s abundantly clear that creative design practices can result in very engaging and interactive learning activities.
I also suggested that a moderated forum would act as a means to encourage engagement, despite the challenges of time and space. I’m pleased to say that the Mattermost discussion channels provided ample opportunity for me as a learner to fully connect asynchronously and synchronously. My team also modeled this approach successfully as part of our design framework.
And finally, in my original 3-2-1 post, I was concerned that virtual environments incline us to always be “on”. To be tethered somewhat to our online experience. And to some extent that was applicable from both a learner standpoint and that as a facilitator. However, I would suggest that with more practice, I would be able to navigate these challenges more effectively as this was a first-time experience for me.
2 questions about digital facilitation based on my course experience
Early on in this course, I was curious about the impacts of the pandemic on digital facilitation. As a result of this course, I would say that the accelerated learning imposed on educator’s world wide on a macrocosmic level was experienced by us on a microcosmic level. In that our experience as digital facilitators (and learners) were influenced by our collective experience of the pandemic in ways that are obvious on a conscious, as well as sub-conscious level.
So, my first question would be: In what ways are we adapting to digital facilitation not as a choice, but as one that is imposed on us, based on the restrictions of our new world?
And secondly: In what ways will we question and observe these adaptations as we collectively evolve in the next phase of the pandemic?
1 metaphor or simile about digital facilitation based on my course experience
It’s occurred to me that I’m not entirely sure if we’re evolving, as in progressing, or if we’re actually undergoing a different phenomenon altogether. Are we advancing? Or is the isolation caused by the pandemic, intended to force us to search for a deeper truth in our human existence? Big questions I think we should ask ourselves as the year of 2020, one of incredible transformation, winds down and our future emerges as hazy and unformed, awaiting us to define its shape.
In my work as a Learning Designer, I design e-learning curriculum for external clients. The administration and facilitation of the e-learning is actually done by the client’s Learning and Development personnel. As a result, for the purposes of this blog post, I am outlining how I would utilize the community of inquiry (CoI) model if I were the facilitator.
I will begin with a definition of what the CoI is. It is”…a group of people who come together, have a discussion, reflect on those discussions, and then come up with some kind of new understanding, or new meaning, based on the critical discourse and the reflection that happens” (Lalonde, 2020, 1:20). In conjunction with this definition, for reference, the CoI model is comprised of three, distinct categories, which are: social presence, cognitive presence and teaching presence. In this post, I will use this definition, along with a brief exploration of facilitation strategies, that I believe will effectively engage learners in online communities in each of the three categories.
“Social presence is the ability of learners to project their personal characteristics into the community of inquiry, thereby presenting themselves as ‘real people’” (“The community inquiry”, n.d.). To enable learners to do this, I would encourage them to model my behaviour by posting an introductory video and a profile at the onset of the course. Additionally, learners would be prompted to participate in online forum discussions throughout the course (Anderson, 2017).
I would develop cognitive presence by posing questions and inviting discussion/feedback from the learners and encouraging them to resolve and apply what they learn in the context of their roles. In so doing, the dynamic of critical thinking that is a crucial component of cognitive presence is demonstrated by the learner (Anderson, 2017).
The role of facilitator in the category of teaching presence is characterized by “…appropriate amounts of interjections through direct instruction, so as to maximize development of cognitive presence without reducing opportunities for knowledge construction by students” (Anderson, 2017, para. 17). Thereby, empowering an authentic collaboration between learners and the facilitator.
Ultimately, creating a CoI based course involves the integration of all three categories, which allows for an organic exploration of the course materials by inviting the learners to co-create their learning experience.
Following the course outline, I’ve structured my post in three subsections with regard to the topic of digital facilitation.
It can be incredibly creative because of its technological affordances, but not always very interactive, unless a facilitator intentionally incorporates this element in their design.
I believe it’s important to encourage interactivity that is robust and defies the challenges of asynchronous engagement. An example this would be a forum that is moderated by the facilitator and allows learners to participate outside the boundaries of time and space.
My third, and last thought, relates to the image I chose. I’ve observed that virtual environments can be a daunting from the standpoint of a lack of the ability to remove oneself from the increased expectation to engage online. Lately, I’ve been intentionally shutting my laptop and phone off. This development is particularly ironic as I enrolled in the MALAT to upgrade my skillset in digital learning. I’m curious to see how the evolution of my career aspirations align, or realign, as a result of my personal experiences as a learner, and designer.
Has the pandemic changed the landscape of digital facilitation forever?
If so, what’s the silver lining of the impacts?
For me, as an extroverted introvert, the amount of ‘face time’ with my colleagues, both at work, and in the MALAT program, since working virtually beginning in March has proven to be challenging. You always have to be ‘ON’ and that’s difficult for many people. So, this picture of a cat, with Zoom fatigue resonated.
For this unit’s reflection, several questions were posed, I have selected two to structure my thoughts.
What was the most surprising thing that you learned by participating in the design thinking process and designing and developing your digital learning resource?
One of the most surprising things that I learned about participating in the design thinking process is that this way of systems thinking is something that resonates very strongly for me. As it helps me to break down the bigger picture into smaller pieces, thereby understanding the context of the system and its individual components. It has therefore been very helpful for me to engage in the structured approach to develop my digital learning resource (DLR). It’s something that I will call upon in the future to utilize the same approach in the work that I do as a learning designer.
What reflection channels and processes do you prefer (in addition to, or instead of blog posts) to support your lifelong learning?
With regard to reflection channels and processes it has become quite apparent to me that although I appreciate the purpose of a blog and its potential value for me, there are other avenues that are more beneficial. Typically, I like to engage in conversation with my peers about the readings in order to confirm my understanding and perception as well as hearing theirs for comparison. It enables me to clarify my understanding and also offers a lot more exploration and depth because of their shared experience.
The OpenLearn (n.d.) resource provided in this unit’s readings proved to be an excellent source of information. Especially if it were included in the program earlier on. Of particular interest to me was the inclusion of Atkins and Murphy’s (1993) cyclical model (Figure 1). I think this model sums up the factors of perception, particularly with the inclusion of challenging assumptions because without that step, our final outcome(s) to any thinking process are inherently biased.
My experience in LRNT527 has been an enlightening one that has illuminated blind spots in my current design approach as well as pointing out areas for future exploration. For example, I naturally seek out feedback from my subject matter expert(s) (SME) and colleagues on a regular basis. However, it has tended to be a rather unstructured approach, and moving forward, as a result of this course, I can see the value of incorporating more rigour to further enhance these collaborative partnerships.
Ultimately, the process of exploring our DLRs throughout the duration of LRNT527 has proven to be very valuable as it has given me the opportunity to explore an initial concept through a series of activities, which in of itself is an iterative process. As a result, in my opinion, this has created an environment that has fostered design thinking that has continually undergoing further focus and refinement with regard to its execution, while simultaneously the DLR itself has taken shape. For me this realization is an important one as it illustrates how effective, and efficient a design thinking approach is.
Before enrolling in the MALAT program I had never heard of the term MOOCs. And until my teammates and I selected a MOOC, from Coursera, as our learning activity, I had never enrolled in one either. It quickly became apparent that MOOCs are indeed massive, which is only matched by the enormity of critical issues that can be explored in the study of this learning environment. During my initial research and analysis phase it emerged that there are many topics that are important to consider. But what resonated most strongly for me was the issue of privacy and security as they relate to our digital presence.
The dilemma, of course: is how do we engage in the richness that the Internet offers while keeping ourselves safe from the dangers that are ever present as well? Otherwise the fear of the potential risks of MOOCs, and other valuable learning resources, may actually inhibit learners from taking advantage of them. The big question for me has become: how do we ‘play’ safely in our global learning environment?
With regard to MOOCS, and Coursera, registration consists of your first and last name and an email address, which appears innocuous enough. As Peterson (2015) notes however, “Inside the course […]the data observed is extensive” (para. 8) which may include a user’s IP address and possibly their geographic location. As a potential outcome, the imagined risks become exponentially much more dangerous. But, is the alternative to avoid the Internet all together? To learn in a bubble? No.
Instead, I believe that as educators, we have an important role to play in helping learners understand what the risks are to better equip them to practice measures to protect their digital identity. Additionally, the protection of learners’ private information should be regulated exactly the same, regardless of the learning environment. In that, only what is necessary data should be collected (Marshall, 2014). Just because the online environment affords us the opportunity to acquire significant amounts of data, it does not mean that we should, much less exploit it (Watters, 2014).
We believe this beginner-level course was an appropriate choice to examine openness and accessibility as its subject is of almost-universal appeal during the Covid-19 pandemic (Anderson, 2020). MOOCs have been trumpeted as a learning medium accessible to all: “The appearance and proliferation of massive open online courses (MOOCs), which are open to any Internet user, in 2011 was supposed to completely erase the boundary of unequal access to acquiring and assimilating knowledge” (Semenova & Rudakova, 2016, p. 229).
Mind Control: Managing Your Mental Health During Covid-19 is offered as a free course. This is laudable, but it must be noted that Coursera does derive a tangible benefit from learners’ registration: they are now Coursera members. This gives Coursera an opportunity to market other courses which are based on their freemium model: enrollment is free but other elements including official acknowledgement of course completion requires payment: “Paid courses provide additional quizzes and projects as well as a shareable Course Certificate upon completion” (Coursera, 2020). This is at odds to the original intention of MOOCs to offer educational offerings to people who are disadvantaged, since “MOOC advocates suggested that MOOCs could include people who were traditionally excluded from higher education” (Lambert, 2019). While over forty million people have taken its classes online, Coursera is far from an idealistic venture: the company has been valued at over one billion dollars (Lunden, 2019).
Joordans’ Mind Control: Managing Your Mental Health During Covid-19 offers an accessible learning experience on a number of fronts:
it is relatively short requiring less than eight hours of effort;
it is broken up into easily digestible parts;
it uses plain language.
The approach of the instructor is affable and disarming, which supports the inclusionary philosophy of MOOCs. However, there are questions to be asked about Mind Control’s delivery medium of online video. People’s access to bandwidth and devices continue to dictate educational opportunities in an increasingly digital age and global economy. Pulling back and looking at the larger digital divide created by socio-economic conditions, there are deeper issues that require policy changes to address historic economic and political disadvantage (Grace, Stratton, & Fonseca, 2019). Critics of MOOCs posit that advances in technology have not made them any more accessible, leaving the digital divide intact, despite promises to democratize education. “In fact, Coursera (2013), a leading producer of MOOCs, confirms this discrepancy reporting high participation in North and Central America and Europe, but no recognizable participation on the continent of Africa, West and Central Asia, and the post-Soviet states” (Mathews & Landorf, 2016, para. 29).
MOOCs are characterized by a content divide in terms of language access, and consequently inherent cultural biases. The course, Mind Control: Managing Your Mental Health During Covid-19 was just this week translated into Spanish, Hungarian, and Serbian (Personal communication, Steve Joordens, April 16, 2020). Such translations are done not professionally, but voluntarily by course participants, which lends itself to questions surrounding the authenticity and quality of the content that reaches non-English speakers: what is potentially lost in translation. A recent study conducted by Grace, Stratton, and Fonseca (2019) examined the creation of MOOCs’ language content, establishing that “English language courses account for over three-quarters of all courses available to users…[While] five languages of instruction, English, Spanish, French, Chinese, and Arabic account for 95 percent of all courses” (p. 2004).
Whereas “MOOC advocates suggested that MOOCs could include people who were traditionally excluded from higher education” (Lambert, 2020, Introduction, para. 2), Lambert identifies gaps in the literature with respect to MOOCs inclusion that deal with lack of research on vulnerable populations (unemployed, refugees), indigenous communities, as well as gender inequalities in MOOC education (Lambert, 2020). Haber (2014) touches on some issues and controversies surrounding MOOCs (such as user demographics, high drop-out rates, credit-earning, demands for MOOCs, security, openness). According to Rohs and Ganz (2015), socio-economic status of learners has a direct impact on their educational practices and skills (including their self-directed capacities for learning) and can further deepen educational gaps.
MOOCs such as Mind Control offer the promise of delivering quality education to the masses: “The shimmery hope is that free courses can bring the best education in the world to the most remote corners of the planet” (Pappano, 2012, p. 2). However, there are real issues which take some of the shine off this bright high-tech star. The digital divide that socio-economic conditions around the world have created, specific to online learning, have deep roots that require national policy changes to adequately address historic economic and political disadvantage (Grace, Stratton, & Fonseca, 2019).
Mathews, S., & Landorf, H. (2016). Developing a framework to evaluate the potential of global learning in MOOCs. New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development,28(4), 3-14. doi:10.1002/nha3.20157
Rohs, M., & Ganz, M. (2015). MOOCs and the claim of education for all: A disillusion by empirical data. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 16(6), 1–19. doi: 10.19173/irrodl.v16i6.2033
Semenova, T. V., & Rudakova, L. M. (2016). Barriers to taking massive open online courses (MOOCs). Russian Education & Society, 58(3), 228-245.
My teammates Earl, Jeff, Leigh, Marta and I have decided to explore the world of massive open online course(s) (MOOCs). In our case, specifically we are looking at a course that focuses on helping people stay mentally healthy during the quarantine. Given our current global circumstances this is, of course, a very interesting and timely topic. As our team blog will speak in more detail about the course, I will not go into it here, in depth.
From my personal experience, as I do not have first hand knowledge of MOOC courses I was eager to find out more. Already I have learned that there are courses offered for free, while others are available for at various costs. I have also learned that there is the possibility of downloading content and storing it on secure servers, which is an intriguing possibility that may alleviate the privacy concerns inherent in my organization due to the significant amount of personal information we obtain from our members.
As I wrote in my blog post this past November, “… as we move increasingly towards a mobile workforce” (Reid, S. 2019), the trend only four months ago was clear. However, no one could have predicted that that my organization would officially announce the decision to mandate working remotely for over 60 per cent of staff on March 19, 2020. Very quickly, it became apparent that the need for online learning resources had increased exponentially. However, the risks of cyber security were still pertinent, perhaps now more than ever. And so, once again, I faced the dilemma of availability of open learning versus security, but now, with an added sense of urgency which, may in fact, fuel and add traction to gain quicker acceptance of open learning at my organization. As Meister (2015) notes with regard to the findings from Leveraging MOOCs and Open Learning Assets In The Workplace survey, which “…found that 44% of our sample were interested in both creating their own Corporate MOOCs as well as planning a strategy for curation of open learning assets.” Therefore, it would appear the appetite was there and has likely increased due to the challenges that face educators as a result of the coronavirus quarantine.
In light of that, and my conversation with our course professor, I am keenly interested in researching the possibility of utilizing MOOCs to create a community of practice at my organization as a foundational piece to meet the emergent, and future learning needs of staff. This possibility is supported as Bates quotes Smith (2003) “…communities of practice affect performance..[This] is important in part because of their potential to overcome the inherent problems of a slow-moving traditional hierarchy in a fast-moving virtual economy” (2019, p. 188). As this is an excellent synopsis of the tension I am experiencing, I look forward to what will develop through my continued exploration of this topic in LRNT 526.
To that end, I invite your input, and ideas as they relate to your various experiences. And if there are any articles that you have come across in your research that are salient to this area, please do feel free to share them.