Sunday, June 15, 2008

Is on-demand learning more efficient?

A key to answering this question can be found in Marie Wallace's summary of adult learning characteristics. As pointed out in the previous post, Internet and Adult Learning, which addresses these point by point, almost every one of these characteristics can be effectively addressed via web based on-demand learning. The result is greater motivation and greater immediate applicability. What is not addressed in that discussion is whether there is value of being exposed to things that we would not navigate to.

I can think of any number of things that I would not have sought to learn that I did learn because some well meaning soul put it an a course that I did not appreciate at the time. So while on my day to day practice I might find on-demand learning more appealing, I would not prescribe to myself not taking any push courses from well regarded faculty.

For the above reason you will find me stressing that new learning portals should contain both push and pull content. While those portals should take into account the learners context and immediate needs, they should also provide learner awareness of other content and resources. Balance is key.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Internet and adut learning

Is the Internet/Web 2.0 turning adult learning on its head?

The answer is simple, No. The Internet is not ravaging adult learning theory, on the contrary, it is confirming what we already knew. Let's take Marie Wallace's points and see how they stack up against todays Web 2.0 and on-demand learning.

Adults are self-directed: What more self -direction than on-demand learning where adults can gather their own materials to meet their learning needs? And not only they are self directed towards their gathering of learning, now they are sharing that learning via wikis and blogs.

Take responsibility for their learning experiences: Again here, the fact that someone takes the initiative to go to the web search for appropriate learning experiences and engage in them proves this point. However, remember that adults are not as homogeneous as some would lead us to believe but here we are only commenting on those that do engage in today's Web 2.0 / on-demand learning.

Flourish when their abilities and life achievements acknowledged and respected: Well, on the web and adults is going to find such an environment of respect or they will just click away from one site and click onto another that does provide the respectful supporting environment they need and deserve. That is the benefit of the web, it is truly democratic, people vote with their clicks and their voices on the blogs.

Flourish when their abilities and life achievements acknowledged and respected: As I have searched for content on the web, and I am not an a-typical adult, I am automatically driven to content that relates to my life. As so as adults do this type of content searching they will flourish greater than in an old style push content course where the instruction might not have been as good a match as desired. Yes, Web 2.0 is assisting in the fulfillment of this mission.

Learn readily from their peers: Need I say anything here in this age of wikis, blogs, and messaging? Hardly...

Have formed a dominant learning style and know what it is: How many times have you clicked on a search result and gone to a site only to hit that “back” button and return to the search for something that best fits your needs. That is what is happing with Web 2.0 learning. Learners are truly in control and can seek what appeals to their learning style.

Want immediate and regular feedback: This will depend on what feedback is needed but as I see it there are plenty of chances for feedback on the web. If you want feedback on just about anything post in a blog... But for learners that are seeking a different kind of feedback there are self assessments and plenty of experiences online in addition to the traditional feedback one gets in courses or formal training which has not gone away, of course.

Are ready to learn when an event in their personal/professional life sparks "the need to know": The web is ideal for this. I can have a life event, walk to my computer, and find a learning activity that to match. This is irrespective of time and location. What would we do without search engines?... And interactive web has added to this as I can now go to message boards and find a number of opinions from around the world in addition to the learning experiences I can find on a search.

Marie Wallace said Adults may be "education wounded" from earlier pedagogical experiences and require "unlearning" to become an effective adult learner: What better way to heal wounds than to go to an environment that is truly different and that we truly control. In today's web I am the master of my learning. Forget the days when someone might have been victimized by an instructor that gave the learner no escape. As said above, today you can click your way to the learning environment that suits you.

So as we see, Web based learning is truly empowering and maximizes all those adult learning characteristics as identified by Marie Wallace. The challenge for educators now is how to produce the type of content that will best suit and maximizes the advantages of Web 2.0. In addition, there is much to be learned about how individuals learn.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Why is continuous learning important as we age?

Yes, it is true that now a days many jobs demand continuous learning. If for no other reason we need to learn just to keep up with technology and not to become irrelevant or ineffective but there is another reason. Even after retirement it is important for adults to continue to learn because the process of learning keeps the brain young.

Learning causes the brain to build new internal connections between cell assemblies. The more we learn the more connection we create the more agile the brain becomes making us able not just to recall what we have learned but to make new associations among concepts and develop new ideas.

The more we learn the more complex the brain connections become including more complex cell groupings, as well as, electrical and chemical transfers between those cells. It is the creation of these association and the increased electrical energy facilitated by chemical reactions that keep the brain agile. If for some reason one pathway become impassable others exist or are developed.

So keep your brain young! Keep learning. Its not just rewarding and increases your quality of life, it keeps you more mentally agile and younger.

More information about adult learning. There you will find a number of questions answered as well as a page full of links to articles on adult learning.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Adult e-learning expectations vs. reality.

Expectations of e-learning complementing and even substituting traditional education have been high, however, as mentioned in and articles entitled “An Integrative Model to Predict the Continuance Use of Electronic Learning Systems” reality has fallen short of expectations.

In this writers opinion, the reason is that very often current e-learning is made of adaptations of print or traditional classroom learning. Even the most innovative of teachers has trouble thinking a new.

Adults want freedom and efficiency. They want just what then are looking for, when they needed, very focused, and “right sized”. One way of providing such learning is via the use of learning object focused knowledge on demand as opposed to traditional formats.

The idea being that I want to find what I need, when I needed, in digestible chunks, that I can navigate through at my convenience. That is very different from traditional learning or what is being pushed in many e-learning environments.

Hints for adult learning:

  • Create learning object based instruction.

  • Have each learning object be of manageable size (digestible and less than 5 minute per object).

  • Allow the learner to assess him/her self if desired and provide links from remediation to relevant learning objects.

  • Let the learner decide whether to follow the outline or search-and-learn by him/her self.

  • Pay attention to the interaction design and provide a reasonable degree of interactivity (leave the cute in favor of the effective).

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

New adult learning page!

A new adult learning page has been added to the site. Check it out of the following posting:

• What is adult learning?
• Why is adult learning different? Or is it?
• What are the principles of adult learning?
• Adult Learning Myths
• How adults are best taught online

The page is intended to be an overview on the adult learning area. More will be added to the site in the future.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Principles of Adult Learning

“Part of being an effective instructor involves understanding how adults learn best. Compared to children and teens, adults have special needs and requirements as learners. Despite the apparent truth, adult learning is a relatively new area of study.”

Here is a web page that will help you better understand adults learners but view it critically. As you read through adult theory you will find that many overstate aspects or a true only for certain adults. Still, each theory has something to contribute to the larger mosaic of adult learning.

Principles of Adult Learning.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Options in online learning

Adults have great new opportunities to study online, at their own pace, and even get life experience. It’s never been so easy to get degrees and certifications while still maintaining a job or other responsibilities. Many institutions offer such degrees and many of the programs are truly good in spite of earlier critics. Yet, when an unknowing adult does a search, unless he/she is persevering, the impression would be that there are only a few institutions that offer such degrees. This is no so.

There are a few institutions (do a fast internet search and you will know who they are), flooding the cyberspace. The problem is that a fast trip through cyberspace, including message exchanges, reveals a good number of upset customers from these aggressive online institutions.

If you or someone you know is looking for online education have do a thorough search. Don’t settle for the first set of cyber flooding institutions. Look at local colleges with online programs, they might not only provide you online flexibility but also other supporting services available on evenings and weekends. If you are looking at distant institutions, make sure they have experience in fully supporting students remotely. Go online and on message boards and see what people say about those institutions. Don’t believe the first person you chat with but if you keep chatting and the information is not positive, more on.

I am not saying you should study with one of the online universities or institutions flooding cyberspace with their advertisement, I am saying you should remember there are other options which might be as good or better that the ones so often featured through paid ads.

As an educator encourage your adult learners to do a thorough search and to be objective focused when searching, continuously asking “What can this program do for me and at what cost?” It’s an online learning juggle out there…

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Adult Learning a competitive necessity.

”Workforce education is a "diamond in the rough" and needs to be awakened to the public and legislators, says the newly appointed deputy director for Arkansas Department of Workforce Education.” from: New state deputy says workforce education: 'sleeping giant'

Two things are clear. First, America must find a way out of its current suicidal trade imbalance. Second, with an aging population competitiveness and innovation will come to a great measure from adults. We simply cannot move all jobs to India (and if we do we should start paying the company executive Indian wages).

Individuals, as well as employers, need to be concerned about their future. If they are not more productive than those in off shore locations, they will see their jobs off shored. It will not going be easy for adults given that young people are growing up with “crib side PC”. In addition, adults will have to be as good as or better than the kids off shore. What needs to be leveraged are the advantages provided by experience, cultural understanding and communication in tandem with contextually appropriate new skills.

To the adult educator all this means a need for more efficient and effective courseware. We need to put our creative thinking hat on and challenge ourselves and our employer to pilot new approaches. This is not an impossible task, it is a new reality. Greater productivity brought by education and innovation are the only weapon against off shoring. Yet this weapon is a hidden “diamond in the rough”, in George French’s words, as it might bring great new opportunities.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Adult Learning Myths

  1. Adult learning is inherently joyful
  2. Adults are innately self-directed learners
  3. Good educational practice always meets the needs articulated by learners themselves
  4. There is a uniquely adult learning process as well as a uniquely adult form of practice.

I'm not sure where many of the theoreticians were while developing their adult learning (andragogical) theories. In their world adults are always motivated learners. I'm not unusual but I can easily point to training sessions where learners did not come motivated. In fact, changing learner attitudes was what the first part of the training attempt.

Just as I can point to lack on joy and motivation, I can point to adult learners that preferred to be guided. I can also point to situations where the instruction did not meet the initial needs articulated by the learners because the instruction itself changed the learner's and their stated needs.

The point is that we should take the above myths are possibly true but not with the certainty many claim. If you allow for flexibility, or ambiguity you will be better prepared for the eventualities you might encounter.

What are the principles of adult learning?

Adults learn best when:

  • Their prior learning was rewarded (monetarily or with recognition)
  • The subject matter is relevant to their perceived needs (professional or other)
  • Interaction and dialog are possible throughout the instruction
  • Self direction is possible
  • Mistakes are seen as opportunities to learn
  • Critical thinking, creative thinking, and problem solving are part of the instruction
  • Practical experience is part of the instruction