Analyzing Scope Creep


 

Analyzing Scope Creep

Scope creep plagues most projects and is a major reason for time and cost overrun (Lynch & Roecker, 2007). It is something I have been well acquainted with for years, although I did not realize it had a name and could be controlled. Scope creep refers to the uncontrolled changes in a project that are outside the defined project plan (Lynch & Roecker, 2007). Scope creep is a natural tendency of both client and team members to add to the project in order to improve the final product (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer, 2008). My observation is that creative team members and perfectionists tend to be exceedingly adept at incorporating scope creep into any project with the best of intentions. Being creative with strong perfectionist tendencies, I find I am often my own worst enemy when it comes to scope creep.

This week our assignment is to analyze a project with issues related to scope creep. Although targeted to readers in a comparatively narrow interest group, a blog is a public forum, which I feel limits my discussion of projects that divulge proprietary information or client confidentiality. In light of this constraint, I want to share and analyze the scope creep of a personal project, a do-it-yourself redecorating of my kitchen. The need being addressed was updating the kitchen before a wedding shower. The scope was limited to removing outdated red wallpaper in the kitchen, eating area, and adjoining hallway and then painting the walls a lighter color that would flow with the adjoining rooms. Two weekends were allowed for the project, one for removing the wallpaper as well as priming the walls and the second for painting. The budget was adequate for the paint and rollers needed and my husband was available to help.

The first scope creep issue was an unanticipated. When removing the wallpaper three additional layers of old wallpaper were discovered. These had to be removed before painting or the seam lines would show. To allow for the additional work time, we decided we could maintain the timeline by rearranging the evening schedules for the following week to finish the paper removal and priming to bready to paint as planned on the second weekend.

That might have worked, except for another unanticipated scope issue. The bottom layer of wallpaper had been glued to unprimed sheetrock at the time the house was built. It was very labor intensive to remove and unfortunately some of the sheetrock’s fiberboard came off with the paper, leaving a very uneven surface. This required mudding to level the surface, as well as sanding and further coats of mudding and more sanding. In addition to being extremely messy and involving extra clean up time, this issue extended the schedule a week past the original timeline.

As the walls began to look better the old counter began to look worse. It too needed to be updated. Granite counter tops and a tile back splash were considered, but would not fit within budget constraints. They were relegated to a future project. However, as a temporary cosmetic improvement painting the counter tops was added to the scope of the project. It appeared to be a simple four-step process that could be completed within the course of a week, which would leave a week before the shower date. Although this item added another week to the original timeline, it was only a moderate increase in the budget to purchase special primer, paint, and a sealer. According to Portny, et al (2008), projects using new approaches pose increased risk to completing a project product on time and within budget. This proved to be the case. The first step, sanding, went well. The second step, priming the counter top seemed to go well. However, after letting the primer dry for 24 hours, the painting began and an unexpected problem appeared. All the brush strokes in the primer showed and looked awful when covered with the paint. When the paint dried, we had to re-sand the counters and re-prime them using a small foam roller. When the primer dried in another 24 hours, it was smooth enough paint the counter again. After another 24 hour drying time we applied the sealer, which led to another change in scope.

Never having applied acrylic sealer to counter tops, I rolled the sealer with a foam roller as the instructions recommended. When it did not look even I rerolled the area just as I would when applying paint to the wall. Unfortunately this caused large areas cloudy streaking. Hoping it would look better as it dried, I waited out the 48-hour curing time. It still looked terrible. The best affordable option seemed to be to try again. This involved purchasing a third can of primer and paint, taking two days of vacation from work, and sanding every thing back down to begin again. The counters did turn out well after the third attempt. The kitchen was finished in time for the shower, although the counter tops were still in the curing stage and acquired a few marks from heavier objects that were placed on them.

“Scope control involves trying to contain changes to a project when that is possible and managing changes when they occur” (Lynch & Roecker, 2007, p. 96). In reflecting on this project, I feel we managed the unanticipated changes that occurred, but could have controlled the expansion changes better. While this was an informal project, adapting a formal change control process would have made dealing with the scope creep more effective and less distressing. According to Portny, et al. (2008), the purpose of a change control system is to: (1) review requested changes; (2) identify potential impact of changes; (3) project how the impact will change the performance, schedule, and budget; (4) evaluate the advantages and drawbacks of the changes; (5) evaluate alternatives; (6) institute an approval process; (7) communicate changes; (8) ensure proper implementation; and (9) prepare summary reports of change impact to the project. In my decorating project it would have been helpful to identify the potential impact of the painting the counter before the shower and how associated risks could impact the performance, schedule, and budget. Evaluating alternatives as well as potential drawbacks and advantages would have also been beneficial. Doing so would have probably provided the objectivity to see that painting the counters should have been a separate project that could have been done after the shower without costing the steep price of two vacation days.

 

References

Lynch, M. M., & Roecker, J. (2007). Project managing e-learning: A handbook for successful design, delivery, and management. London: Routledge. Copyright by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Communicating Effectively


Communicating Effectively 

In project management, communication that is clear, concise, and focused keeps everyone on target (Stolovitch, n.d.a). In fact, effective communication, “sharing the right message with the right people in a timely manner,” is the key to successful project management (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008, p. 357).  However, communication is not a one size fits all process and can take various forms that must be tailored to fit the needs of each stakeholder (Stolovitch, n.d.b; Achong & Budrovich, n.d.).

This week we viewed multimedia program “The Art of Effective Communication” in which a piece of informal communication was presented in three different modalities. The written text, audio, and video formats contained identical wording, but each modality could be perceived with different nuances of interpretation. In essence the content of the message is a request for a missing report the author needs to finish her own report by a deadline. Each communiqué communicated a polite and respectful message in a professional manner. My impression of the message modalities was not what I expected.

“Conventional wisdom tells us that face to face communication is more effective than other types of communication such as telephone or email” (People Communicating, 2010, para. 1). Communication is not just words, but is includes the spirit and attitude behind the words (Stolovich, n.d.a). Video communication is almost as effective as face-to-face communication because it also provides “words, facial expression, gestures, body language, [and] tone of voice as cues” (People Communicating, 2010, para. 1). “Body language is a form of communication that is performed subconsciously. It occurs almost constantly, and will almost always give the correct impression that a person has of someone else, the environment, or the situation at hand” (Types of Communication, n.d., para.2).

For these reasons, I expected the video format to be the most effective. However, in this instance that did prove to be the case. Although the video format contained the extra cues that effectively conveyed intent and feeling, the message communicated was not as effective as the text or audio version (Types of Communication, n.d.). The tone of voice and body language was pleasant, professional, and perhaps a bit too mild. In this case the body language and nonverbal cues lessened the impact of the message. I perceived that the report was needed, but I did not perceive a sense of resolve or urgency that would move the request to a priority on my to-do-list.

Audio communication lacks nonverbal cues since facial expressions and body language are not available for interpreting the message (People Communicating, 2010).  The listener “must focus on every word being said, and the tone of voice that is being used,” compensating “for the absence of nonverbal cues by adding more weigh to the words being said and the tone of voice being used” (People Communicating, 2010, para. 12). I would have expected the audio modality to be less effective than the video, but audio message in this case, presumably a voice mail message, was perhaps the most effective in the scenario. Tone of voice and word choice provide clues about relative importance or urgency in audio communication (Gradous, n.d.). The message was presented in pleasant profession tone, but seemed more direct, firmer, and a bit more serious than the video communiqué. For this reason, I would consider the request weighty enough to receive my serious attention.

Written messages lack tone of voice, facial expressions, body language and presence to help with decoding the meaning (People Communicating, 2010, para. 1). The text in email messages must be interpreted by word choice alone. To be clear and effective, written communication should (1) begin with a clear statement of purpose, (2) state the situation, (3) include possible solutions, (4) indicate if a sign-off is required, (5) specify the form of any required response, and (6) keep the tone business friendly and respectful (Stolovitch, n.d.a). In this scenario, the email met all the applicable criteria to be clear and effective by briefly stating the purpose, explaining the situation, including a possible solution, specifying the form of response, and keeping the tone professional and business friendly. As to effectiveness, I find the email to be less effective than the audio format and more effective than the video format. However, email is the format I would prefer for receiving requests of this nature because it can be saved and referred to as needed.

It would be difficult to discern which message conveyed the truest meaning and the intent of the message since we do not have access to the mind of originator. Assuming all three messages were from the same individual, the video message contains the most information for decoding the meaning. Because it provides the most cues, the video message in this scenario presumably conveys the truest meaning of the original intent, but it is not the most effective. Unfortunately, body language and nonverbal cues can communicate subconscious messages that do not pertain to the intent of the message and can actually detract or distract from communication. I think that is what may have occurred in this video communiqué.

A project manager must determine the type of communication that is most effective for the person receiving it, as well as for the content of the message and the situation. According to Gradous (n.d.), auditory learners normally prefer voice mail and visual learners prefer text. Achong and Budrovich (n.d.) recommend finding out the needs and preferences of each stakeholder and tailoring the communication strategy to fit the specific needs. From this exercise in communication, I concluded that there is not one best way to communicate with all stakeholders in a project. While video or face-to-face communication provides the most cues for interpreting a message, that is not always the most effective. Communication requires the project manager to consider the stakeholder’s preferences, the message content, and their own communication skill set before deciding on the modality of communication.

References

Achong, T. & Budrovich, V. (n.d.). Practitioner voices: Strategies for working with stakeholders [Video podcast]. Los Angeles: Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com

Gradous, D., (n.d.). Chart of comparisons. Retrieved from http://managementhelp.org/businesswriting/email-versus-voice-mail.htm

People Communicating (2010). Face to face communication. Retrieved from  http://www.people-communicating.com/face-to-face-communication.html

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Stolovitch, H. (n.d.a). Communicating with Stakeholders [Video podcast]. Los Angeles: Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com

Stolovitch, H. (n.d.b). Project Management Concerns: Communication Strategies and Organizational Culture [Video podcast]. Los Angeles: Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com

Types of Communication (n.d.) Communication through body language. Retrieved from http://www.typesofcommunication.org/communication/nonverbal-communication/communication-through-body-language/

Learning from a Project “ Post-mortem”


Learning from a Project “ Post-mortem”

A project postmortem is a procedure to evaluate and analyze positive and negative aspects of the process to learn from both successes and mistakes (Standard Time, 2013).  A postmortem may sound morbid, but it “is an extremely effective way to improve and establish best business practices” (Standard Time, 2013, para. 1).  According to Greer (2010), it is important to review and evaluate at the conclusion of a project in order to document lessons learned for future reference and avoid making the same mistakes. 

Brief Project Description

 For this assignment, I will review a recent project. The project involved collecting and cataloguing sermons, audio files, and videos of an outstanding pastor-teacher who passed away several years ago. The goal was to produce a jump drive of archived resources developed by this pastor to be marketed to pastors. Many items were produced before 1975 and needed to digitized or reformatted. The project had been discussed and was scheduled to be produced by early 2014. However, in mid December the client requested a prototype to be completed by January 15, 2012.

Question 1: What contributed to the project’s success or failure?

 It was a challenge to add this project to the scheduled workload during the holiday season, but it was completed according to the client’s email specifying what was to be prepared. We are pleased with the deliverables that were completed. They are accurately catalogued, digitized, and attractively presented and burned to DVDs to be mailed to the client. Our understanding was that the client’s organization was to add the materials to a zip drive and produce the accompanying marketing materials.

As we prepared to ship the materials to the client on the 10th, five days early, he indicated that we had not provided all the information initially discussed with our director. He also stipulated that we were to arrange the materials into specific folders on the prototype jump drive. This came as a surprise. Based on the client’s email, the only written request available, we had completed all that he asked. Our director understood that the client would add the material to the prototype jump drive and organize it in a meaningful manner, but this was not confirmed in writing. The confusion and last minute changes were extremely frustrating for two reasons. First, it was a challenge to complete the project as defined by the client’s original email specifications under the time constraints, adding more was not feasible by the requested date. Second, the digitizing and production of the additional material requested involves considerable expense, but there is not a budget, so we have no idea of the fiduciary constraints.

Question 2: Which parts of the project management process, if included, would have made the project more successful? Why?

The feasibility was discussed informally and the stakeholders decided it was feasible to produce the product by early 2014. A Statement of Work was not written. Had it been available, it would have avoided the confusion as to what was to be produced in the project.  The idea was conceived, but the plan was never effectively defined. According to Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer (2008), the Define Phase establishes the plan for the project and includes a “detailed description of the results to be produced,” a list of tasks, the roles of all team supporters, a “detailed project schedule,” a budget, and possible risks and assumptions (p.78). Had this been implemented the prototype development would not have been a surprise. If it was not in the initial project plan, it could have dealt was as scope creep. A detailed description of the results would clarify what was needed and a list of individual roles would have clarified member responsibilities. A list of assumptions would have added clarification to expectations.

Portny, et al. (2008), define the Start Phase, as the period in which tasks assignments are made and explained to the individuals performing the assignments. This was handled informally and went well based on the information at hand. However, it did not meet the client’s expectations. A project must be defined early in the process for the following phases to be successful. Since the project was not clearly defined, the Perform Phase in which the core work was performed (Portny, et al., 2008) was not complete on from the client’s perspective. During the Perform Phase, plans were compared to the email of items sent by the client as recommended by Portny, et al (2008). As part of this phase is keeping the stakeholders informed. It was in the process of keeping the client informed about the progress that the problems were realized. Unfortunately, it was too late to rectify the issues with in the specified time constraints.

The main lessons from this postmortem are vital. First, discussions and brainstorming between various stakeholders is important while conceiving the idea, but the discussions are often understood and remembered differently by various stakeholders. They must be summarized in writing and a Statement of Work written. Second, the project must be defined with a written plan delineating how the team will make it happen (Portny, 2008).  Without these processes in place, the following phases do not have a viable foundation for success.

References

Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Standard Time.  (2013).  Project postmortem guidelines. Retrieved from Southwest, Inc. website: http://www.stdtime.com/postmortem-projects.htm

Reflections on the Future of Distance Learning


Reflections on the Future of Distance Learning

 Online distance learning is currently the fastest growing form of education, roughly paralleling advancements in technology as well as reflecting changing paradigms in education and world view (Tracey & Richey, 2005). “Distance education emerged as a response to the need of providing access to those who would otherwise not be able to participate in face-to-face courses” (Beldarrain, 2006, p. 139). Distance learning is not a new phenomenon. It actually began in the 1800s. As early as 1833 a correspondence course was offered through a Swedish newspaper (Tracey & Richie, 2005).  From that beginning, distance education grew. As technology developed, new methods of delivery using the technology soon followed. Marconi’s invention of the spark transmitter in 1894 began the first wireless transmission, which later led to the use of radio, television, satellite television, and Internet to deliver course content (Tracey & Richie, 2005).  Today, distance learning impacts training and development at the corporate, higher education, and K-12 levels.

Perceptions of Distance Learning in the Future

In the future, I believe distance education will expand and be available to more people around the world as well as becoming as accepted as face-to-face education.  According to Beldarrain (2006), society’s mandate for distance education will continue to expand and gain acceptance.  Currently, from a cultural perspective, an online degree is not always accepted with the same value as traditional forms of education (Seibold, 2007). While society’s acceptance of distance learning tends to lag behind the actual need, it is gradually changing. Siemens (n.d.) perceives that acceptance of distance is learning is growing. He reports that acceptance is being fueled by the following factors: (1) an increase in widespread online media communication, (2) the growing notion that geographical separation is less significant each year, (3) more people are gaining experience with new technology tools,  (4) a growing sense of ease with online conversation, and (5) the ability to communicate with diverse ethnic groups (Siemens, n.d.). For example, the trend in work environments requires workers to “create and collaborate within the constraints of time and place” (Beldarrain, 2006, p. 150). These needs have incorporated the use of technology that allow increased use of online media, increased experience with technology tools, increased a sense of ease in online communication, and increased communication with diverse group due to globalization.

Another factor influencing the expansion and acceptance of distance learning is the change in the learners. Dede (2005) posits that “rapid advances information technology are reshaping the learning styles” for millennial and neomillennial learners (p.7).  “Current developments with technology and social software are significantly altering: (a) how learners access information and knowledge, and how (b) learners dialogue with the instructor and each other” (Siemens, 2008, p. 19). According to Prensky (2001), learners who have grown up with digital technology “think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors” (p. 1). Their experiences lead to different thinking patterns, habitually receiving information very rapidly, parallel processing, multi-tasking, preferring random access, and functioning best when networked (Prensky, 2001). “They have little patience for lectures, step-by-step logic, and ‘tell-test’ instruction” (Prensky, 2001, p.3). Prensky (2001) explains, these learners have been networked for most of their lives. “Networks have altered much of society, enabling access to content, experts, and global connections with fellow learners” (Siemens, 2008, p.19). As learners and technology change, instruction will need to change to provide effective learning. Distance learner environments offer effective solutions to keep up with the pace of rapidly changing knowledge and technology as well as meeting learner needs for active learning with interactive technology. “The ever evolving nature of technology will continue to push distance educators to use new tools to create learning environments that will prepare students to be life-long learners, who can solve problems through collaboration with global partners” (Beldarrain, 2006, p. 150).

Within ten years I think most people will accept online education as the equivalent to face-to-face instruction. I think distance-learning theories will be developed further and become mainstream philosophy for quality education. I think face-to face environments will incorporate even more blended instruction into the curriculum to improve the quality of learning for millennial learners. In higher education, the non-traditional student population is predicted to increase, so I envision more colleges and universities will incorporate more distance learning into their curriculum to meet the needs of this population segment (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008). Faculty buy-in issues as to being required to teach a course designed by someone else, compensation, workload, promotion, tenure, intellectual property rights, and course development will be resolved (Huett, Moller, Foshay, & Coleman, 2008).

In ten to twenty years, educators will continue to need to prepare students to compete on a global scale in order to meet challenges presented by society.  Many changes in distance education will have transpired. Just as those starting out with the first correspondence courses in the 1800’s could not imagine the changes in distance learning made possible by technology today, there will be changes we can not imagine in the future. However, distance learning models should be based on what learners will actually use and these models will need evolve along with changes in learner needs and ways they use technology (Moller, et al., 2008).

 

An ID Can Promote Societal Perceptions of Distance Learning

Cultures do not change quickly. As with organizational change, long held perceptions and convictions of a society about effective education change slowly. An ID should serve as a change agent by implementing effective change strategies with clients, potential students, and other interested parties. An ID will encounter resistance to distance learning. “Resistance is natural” (Gullickson, 2009, p. 8). Since resisters are always present, it is “wise to accept them, to plan for them, and, indeed, to love them” (Michelman, 2007, p. 3). “Resistance to change involves efforts to block the introduction of new ways of doing things” (Hitt, Miller,  & Colella, 2009, p. 498).   ID should be prepared to address resistance to distance education assertively without being defensive or agressive (Dawson, 2012). Change strategies involve a three fold process of unfreezing, moving, and refreezing (Hitt, et al., 2009, pp. 492-493). The first phase involves awakening the to the need for change and a rationale for relinquishing the status quo.  The next stage is the transition period. The change agent must provide evidence that supports the possibility of successful change, a compelling vision, remove constraints, and “shift behavior to implement the change” (Hitt, et al., 2009, p. 494). The final phase locks in the new changes.  While this process must happen for society as a whole, it has to happen one individual at a time. The ID can make a difference one client, student, or conversation at a time. While society’s acceptance of distance learning tends to lag behind the demand, it will gradually change as it is exposed to effective, high quality distance education.

“For instructional design and technology, this is a ‘stand and deliver’ time (Huett, et al., 2008, p. 66). The challenge facing the ID is not just to develop the field, but to provide educational products of sound professional design and develop performance based definitions of quality (Huett, et al., 2008). If expectations of public and policy makers are not realized, credibility will be damaged (Huett, et al., 2008). As an ID, I will try to meet this challenge and be a positive force for continuous progress in the field of distance education. I plan to do so by designing high quality online instruction based on sound theory of distance education and best practices for online learning environments.  I will serve as a change agent when needed. To potential students, I will explain the positive and negatives of distance learning and along with the attributes a learner needs to succeed in a distance-learning course. When designing instruction, I will include clear instructions and expectations and provide orienting content to help learners adjust to the CMS interface and technology tools. “If the most important training is that which is actually used by learners” (Moller, et al., 2008, p. 75), then that is what I what to design.

References

Beldarrain, Y.  (2006). Distance education trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration.  Distance education, 27(2), 139-153.

Dawson, R. (2012, December 22). Employer perceptions. [Discussion group comment]. Retrieved from the Walden University EDUC 6135-2 Distance Learning discussion group: https://class.waldenu.edu/

Dede, C. (2005). Planning for neomillennial learning styles. Educause Quarterly, 28(2), 7-12.

Glickson, B. (2009). Working with resistance.  Strategic Finance, 90(8), 8-10.

Hitt, M. A., Miller, C. C., & Colella, A. (2009). Organizational behavior: A strategic approach (2nd ed.). San Francisco: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Coleman, C. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 3: K12). TechTrends, 52(5), 63–6 7.

Michelman, P. (2007). Overcoming resistance to change. Harvard Management Update, 12(7), 3-4.

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 2: Higher education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66-70.

Prenskey, M. (2001, October). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1-6. Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Siemens, G. (n.d.). The future of distance education. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com

Siemens, G. (2008, January 27). Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers. [Presentation tp ITFORUM for discussion]. Retrieved from http://www.ingedewaard.net/papers/connectivism/2008_siemens_Learning_Knowing_in_Networks_changingRolesForEducatorsAndDesigners.pdf

Siebold, K. (2007). Employers’ perceptions of online education. Retrieved from

http://dc.library.okstate.edu/utils/getfile/collection/Dissert/id/…/74069.pdf

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Tracey, M., & Richey, R. (2005). The evolution of distance education. Distance Learning, 2(6), 17–21.

Converting a Traditional Program to a Distance Learning Program for a Blended Course


Converting a Traditional Learning Program to a Distance Learning Program for a Blended Course

This week our assignment was to create a best practices guide to aid the hypothetical trainer in the following scenario:

Scenario: A training manager has been frustrated with the quality of communication among trainees in his face-to-face training sessions and wants to try something new. With his supervisor’s permission, the trainer plans to convert all current training modules to a blended learning format, which would provide trainees and trainers the opportunity to interact with each other and learn the material in both a face-to-face and online environment. In addition, he is considering putting all of his training materials on a server so that the trainees have access to resources and assignments at all times.

Like any form of instruction, training in a distance learning environment requires planning and organization. However, you will find that the online portion of a blended course requires placing a greater emphasis on the initial planning (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). “The process of planning and organizing for a distance education course is multifaceted and must occur well in advance of the scheduled instruction” (Simonson, et al., 2012, p. 153). When planning the change in delivery, there are challenges you need to consider (Durrington, Berryhill, & Swafford, 2006). Some of the content used in a face-to-face environment will need to be revised for online use (Simonson, et al, 2012). “The focus of the instruction shifts to visual presentation, engaged learners, and careful timing of presentations of information” (Simonson, et al., 2012, p. 153).  It is necessary to consider issues dealing with time constraints and changes in classroom dynamics (Simonson, et al., 2012). The guide will helps structuring and organizing the online portions of a blended learning experience to maximize learning.

A main difference in the online portion of a blended course is a shift from the teacher-centered focus of the face-to-face classroom to a learner-centered focus of the online classroom (Simonson, et al., 2012). In planning distance learning the learner becomes the focus and instruction revolves around creating opportunities for the learner to engage in learning. A key consideration is that online learning must be active rather than passive. This will require incorporating interactivity in the online portion of the course (Simonson, et al., 2012). “Students demonstrate more positive attitudes and higher levels of performance when online classes are highly interactive” (Durrington, et al., 2006, para. 1). “Well-designed courses provide students with engaging learning experiences” (Simonson, et al., 2012, p. 194). Effective learning occurs when learners are engaged, and the nature of the learning online demands learners become engaged in the process of learning through interactive elements (Simonson, et al., 2012).

Here is a link to the guide.

References

Andresen, M. (2009). Asynchronous discussion forums: Success factors, outcomes, assessments, and limitations. Educational Technology and Society, 12(1), 249-257. Retrieved from www.ifets.info/journals/12_1/19.pdf

Durrington, V., Berryhill, A., & Swafford, J. (2006). Strategies for enhancing student interactivity in an online environment. College Teaching, 54(1), 190–193. Retrieved from http://www.redorbit.com/news/technology/433631/strategies_for_enhancing_student_interactivity_in_an_online_environment/

Mongan-Rallis, H. & Shannon, T. (2006). So many tools so little time presentation to classrooms of the future: Critical reflections on technology. Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Duluth website: http://www.d.umn.edu/~hrallis/professional/presentations/cotfsp06/indiv_tools/async_disc.htm

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Open Source Websites


Open Sources Websites

Sebastian Thrun launched Udacity.com as a 21st-century university offering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s). According to Thrun (2012), MOOCs offer “the potential to make higher education more available, more affordable, and more responsive to employer’s needs than traditional university degrees” (Vanderbilt, 2012, p. 97).  While that statement could fuel significant debate, MOOCs do make higher education more accessible and affordable by offering self-paced courses online; most are tuition free.  Thrun believes online education needs “new thinking – new ways of presenting information that maximize the Internet’s potential as a teaching medium” (Vanderbilt, 2012, p. 98). Thrun believes that “learning occurs when people think and work” and that learning is about mastery rather than grades (Vanderbilt, 2012, p. 99). Thrun considers most MOOC’s available to be “very boring and uninspirational” (Vanderbilt, 2012, p. 98).  An analysis of a course at Thrun’s Udacity 21st-century university should demonstrate what he considers interesting and how to maximize the internets potential. The following analysis is of CS253 Web Development at: http://www.udacity.com/view#Course/cs253/CourseRev/apr2012/Unit/4001/Nugget/7001

Designed for Distance Learning

The course appears carefully planned and well designed for distance learning.  First, an overview with a short videocast introduces the instructor and scope of the course is provided for students interested in enrolling. The overview page provides a brief summary of the course and what the participant will learn as well as a brief synopsis of pre-requisite skills necessary for the course.  This allows the participant to decide whether the course might be relevant. The overview page also links to a comprehensive series of frequently asked questions.  Second, although the classroom layout is more informal than a degree program, such as Walden would use, it seems to function well for the course purposes. The course is divided into seven units and a final exam. The content is delivered in a series of interactive videocasts; the number varies from 24 to 49 per unit. Rather than a talking face delivering a lecture, content is presenting by a hand writing on a whiteboard. This incorporates both the auditory and visual channels, and seems to be very effective for focusing attention on key concepts. Following each unit is a “Problem Set” module that contains an activity to evaluate learning. Instructions for the activities are clear and provided by interactive videocasts. The final exam is project based, requiring the construction of a wiki from code. The classroom interface provides a tab to a discussion forum, a wiki, announcements, and a progress tracker.

The course follows some of the recommendations for online instruction as listed in the course textbook. Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvabeck (2012)  list the following as fundamental recommendations for online course:  (1) “avoid ‘dumping’ face-to-face content onto the web,” (2) “organize the course and make the organization  and requirements clear to students,” (3) “keep students informed constantly,”  (4) determine course outcomes and structure activities to achieve those outcomes, (5) “test applications, not rote memory, (6) “integrate the power of the web into the course,” (7) “apply adult learning principles with non-traditional  students,” (8) extend course readings beyond the text (or replace the text), and (9) train the students to use the course web site” (pp.134-137).

Recommendations Followed

The content does not appear to be a face-to-face course dumped online. The course is well organized. While the course organization is not explained in detail it is presented in a clear, self-explanatory format. Frequently asked questions (FAQ) can be accessed  on the overview page for additional help. Although a student new to online classes might find the interface difficult without more explicit directions, it is very unlikely that a student enrolling in this course on web design would encounter any difficulty. It appears the instructional designers effectively thought out the desired course outcomes and structured the activities in each unit toward achieving those outcomes. The activities at the end of each unit and the final exam address the application of learning by requiring students to design web applications rather than testing rote memory. The course integrates the power of the web by the use of interactive videocasts, discussion boards, wikis, progress tracking, as well as training students on developing web applications. Several adult learning principles are applied. The course provides flexibility so learners can work at the own pace, juggle work and family along with the course, and they can apply the skills learned to work or personal life as relevant (Simonson, et al., 2012).

Recommendations Not Followed

The course requirements are not very clear. There does not appear to be a syllabus and it would take a quite bit of exploring to find out the grading procedures. There is a section for announcements. However, the last announcement is over five months old so students do not appear to be informed constantly. No course readings were observed, and there is not a course textbook. The videocasts deliver the content, and could be said to replace the course textbook. However, this could be weakness of the course for those wishing guidance on further information. There is not any training for students on how to use the course website. Some information was available in the FAQ in the course overview.

Activities Implemented to Maximize Learning

The course designer implemented activities to maximize learning. The activities focus on developing websites and web applications by learning code. Student-to-student interaction seems to be limited in this course. This type of work is more individual than collaborative in nature. The activities appear to be very effective for practicing and building applications without student-to-student interaction. Although a discussion forum is available, it is used for questions on the class assignments and functionality, which does not allow well-designed discussion assignments facilitating higher cognitive processes (Simonson, et al., 2012).

Simonson, et al. (2012) asserts that guidelines for best practices in online learning are abundant in current literature, but many of those are not based on careful research. This course does not meet all of the common threads of best practices that have emerged according to the text. Yet, for the subject matter being taught the delivery and activities are effective. The course is self-paced and informal in nature and provides effective activities to give an adult learner the tools to learn web design.

References

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson

Vanderbilt, T. (2012, December). Class uprising. Smithsonian, 43(8), 95-100.

Applying Distance Learning Technology


This week, I will look at distance learning technology to enhance distance learning in a specific scenario. I have decided to explore technological options for a series of safety training modules to be provided to adult learners requiring training at different times.

Instructional Scenario: Asynchronous Training

“In an effort to improve its poor safety record, a biodiesel manufacturing plant needs a series of safety training modules. These stand-alone modules must illustrate best practices on how to safely operate the many pieces of heavy machinery on the plant floor. The modules should involve step-by-step processes and the method of delivery needs to be available to all shifts at the plant. As well, the shift supervisors want to be sure the employees are engaged and can demonstrate their learning from the modules.”

Instructional Needs:
• Stand alone modules
• Asynchronous delivery
• Learner engagement
• Evaluation in which employees can demonstrate their learning

Instructional Solutions

One key objective in designing learning experiences is to get learners to think critically and technologies should be used to this end (Anderson, et al., n.d.). Critical thinking about safety practices will be important to engage employees in learning how to operate equipment safely. One way to do so would be to introduce content via video. After viewing content about proper safety procedures, additional video scenarios could be used portraying violations safety procedure with opportunities for students to identify the problem and discuss the safe way to handle the situation. Depending on the time allotted by the supervisors in this scenario, ongoing discussion forums might not be practical. Some possible technical solutions for this series of training modules would be video streaming, discussion boards, interactive maps (charts), mind maps, and online evaluation.

Instructional Technologies

Two instructional technologies, video streaming and mind maps, stand out as being particularly relevant for effectively designing these modules.

Video Steaming
Streaming media is the audio-visual content that is played while being downloaded on to a computer or other digital device. “Thus, an Internet user does not have to wait for a video clip to download fully as it allows watching the clip as the footage downloads” (CT4 Learning, 2012, para. 1). The use of streaming video shifts responsibility for learning to the student and gives access to instructional materials when and where they are needed (CT4 Learning, 2012). Students can access the media and proceed at their own pace, rewind and repeat, and review as needed. For this course, complex content could be provided in small chunks based on the steps in the safety process. Learners could observe safety procedures videoed live or animated demonstrations. According to the Edgar Dale’s (1946) Cone of Experience, the more realistic and less abstract is always better (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). In this situation animated video would probably be most effective because it reduces extraneous details. An ID should “be only as realistic as needed in order for learning to effectively occur” (Simonson, et al., 2012, p. 92).

Hosting can be an issue when using streaming video. TeacherTube is one possible solution. TeacherTube works like YouTube but is limited to educational topics for all learning levels (CT4 Learning, 2012). Videos are available at http://teachertube.com/videos.php.

TeacherTube

Video streaming is a technology that is effective for all ages. NeoK12, operates on the premise that children learn best by seeing and doing. They provide streaming media resources as well as other educational interactive activities for K-12 at http://www.neok12.com/. Khan Academy is a not-for-profit who aims to provide “a free world-class education for anyone anywhere” (Khan Academy, n.d. para.1). Their video library covers K-12 math, science, and the humanities in finance and history. “Each video is a digestible chunk, approximately 10 minutes long, and especially purposed for viewing on the computer” (Khan Academy, n.d. para.5). Khan Academy is available at http://www.khanacademy.org/.

Concept Maps
A concept map, also called mind maps, would be an effective technological tool to engage students in learning as well as providing an assessment of their comprehension of safety procedures. A concept map “is a form of an outline with ideas and pictures radiating out from a central concept” (Budd, 2003). Concepts maps can be used in multiple ways as a “graphical representation of the relationship among terms” (Vanides, Yin, Tomita, & Ruiz-Primo, 2005, p.27). One way Vanides, et al. (2005) used a type of concept map was to provide students with the terms (concepts) and asked students to “connect a pair of concepts with a one-way arrow, then label the arrow with a word or short phrase that describes the relationship between the two connected terms” (p. 27). The connected terms provide a sentence or proposition (Vanides, et al., 2005). Another application requiring more analysis and synthesis from the learner is the open-ended use of concept maps in which students construct their own map structure (Vanides, et al., 2005). According to Vanides, et al. (2005), concept maps provide learners with the opportunity (1) think about the connections, in this case cause –effect relationships in safety procedure; (2) “organize their thoughts and visualize the relationships between key concepts in a systematic way” which in this scenario would allow them to engage in thinking about various situations and safety procedures; and (3) “reflect on their understanding” (p. 27-28). Concept maps elicit more high-order cognitive processes, such as explaining and planning which will reinforce learning.

Dr. Stout uses concept mapping as an assessment technique in the college classroom. She provides information on how to use concept maps at http://youtu.be/Gm1owf0uGFM. An example of mind mapping software is Mindmeister. The Mindeister website blog provides examples of how mind mapping is being used around the world. An interesting post available at  www.mindmeister.com   discusses the success of using mind mapping with 12 years (Meister Labs, 2012).

References

Anderson. R., Anderson, R., Linnell, N., Pervaiz, M.,  Saif, U., &  Videon, F.  (2009). Collaborative technologies in international distance education. Retrieved from  http://cct.cs.washington.edu/publications/papers/CSCWD09.pdf

Budd, J. (2003). Mind maps as classroom exercises. Retrieved from http://www.legacy-irc.csom.umn.edu/faculty/jbudd/mindmaps/mindmaps.pdf

CT4Learning Manual. (2012). Streaming media in the classroom. Retrieved from http://www.ictmanual.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=49:streaming-media-and-the-classroom-&catid=56:streaming-media-&Itemid=309

Khan Academy. (n.d.) Learn almost anything for free. Retrieved from the Khan Academy website: http://www.khanacademy.org/about

Meister Labs. (2012). Mind mapping in the classroom using Apple iPad. Retrieved from Mindmeister website: http://www.mindmeister.com/blog/2012/05/03/mind-mapping-in-the-classroom-using-apple-ipad/

NeoK12. (2012). NeoK12. Retrieved from http://www.neok12.com/

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson

Vanides, J., Yin, Y.,Tomita, M., and Ruiz-Primo M. (2005). Using concept maps in the ccience classroom. Science Scope, 28(8), 27-31. Retrieved from http://www.stanford.edu/dept/SUSE/SEAL/Reports_Papers/Vanides_CM.pdf

Distance Education


Distance learning is not a new phenomenon. It actually began in the 1800s. As early as 1833 a correspondence course was offered through a Swedish newspaper and other correspondence courses developed in Europe (Tracey & Richie, 2005). The first formalized correspondence school began with the establishment of the Phonographic Correspondence Society in 1843 (Tracey & Richie, 2005). Hermods, “one of the world’s largest and most influential distance teaching organizations,” was founded in 1898 by H.S. Hermod (Tracey & Richie, 2005, para. 3).  Correspondence study began United States in the late 1880s when Anna Eliot Ticknor founded a correspondence course encouraging study at home engaging more than 10, 000 students within 24 years (Tracey & Richie, 2005). The University of Chicago incorporated correspondence study in 1890 and a daily newspaper in Pennsylvania began offering a correspondence course for miners in 1981 (Tracey & Richie, 2005). Marconi’s invention of the spark transmitter in 1894 began the first wireless transmission, which later led to the use of radio by educational institutions in the 1920s, television in the 1930’s, and the first college credit courses offered by television in the 1950’s (Tracey & Richie, 2005). Satellite television was introduced in 1960 and technology has developed rapidly since that time. Computer technology and the availability of the Internet have changed distance learning since the 1980s (Tracey & Richie, 2005).

My first experience with distance learning was in 1970 while taking a correspondence course on government through the University of Texas. It was an extremely unengaging list of reading assignments and questions to answer. When complete, these were mailed to a professor for grading.  While I do not remember how effectively I learned the material, I was never even tempted to take a correspondence course again! During the 1990s, while home schooling my children, I used distance learning in varying degrees during middle school and high school grades. The programs included videos of class sessions, lesson plans, evaluations, and textbooks. We found that watching the class session was actually of limited value except when new concepts were explained and homework was graded. As long as they mastered the content, I allowed my kids to skim through the classes listening to what they needed.  I also felt that some of the classwork was just busy work, which did not further relevant learning. This was eliminated from their assignments. I have also taken some online courses that were basically textbooks online with very little interaction beyond quizzes and a final exam. They were effective for learning skills related to web design and computer programs, but not for higher cognitive processes such as critical thinking and problem solving. They did adequately solve the learning need I had at the time. I also earned paralegal certification through an effective online program before starting my Masters at Walden.

Prior to this course, I did not give any thought to a formal definition of distance learning. Basically, I would have classified any course that was presented apart from a face-to-face classroom as distance learning. In essence my definition has not changed too dramatically; it is just more refined and explicit than my original thoughts.

Definitions of distance learning are still emerging as the field continues to evolve. It appears that distance learning can be divided into formal and informal categories. In the formal realm, distance education seems to be clearly defined.  It can be distinguished by four components: (1) an institutional base, (2) separation of student and teacher, (3) use of interactive telecommunications, and (4) sharing of learning experiences in a learning community of learners, teacher, and resources (Simpson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). In defining distance education Grenville Rumble (1989) noted “there must be a teacher; one or more students; a course or curriculum that the teacher is capable of teaching and the student is trying to learn; and a contract, implicit or explicit, between the student and teacher or the institution employing the teacher that acknowledges their respective teaching/learning roles” (Simpson et al, 2012, p. 35). Keegan (1996) combined multiple definitions to a composite definition based on five elements: (1) quasi-permanent separation of student and teacher; (2) influence of an educational organization in planning, preparing of content, and student support services; (4) technical media used to connect teacher, students, and course content; and (5) quasi-permanent absence of the learning group (Simpson et al, 2012).

In reflecting on multiple definitions of distance learning, I feel distance learning goes beyond the definition of distance education and includes informal types of distance learning as well. Distance learning can meet diverse needs that do not merit a degree or certification by effectively and efficiently resolving an education based learning problem. For this reason, I define distance learning as any structured learning experience in which the learners and instructor are separated by geographical location and possibly time and intellect, and in which telecommunications are used to present course content and for communication between learners and instructor. Obviously in formal distance education the structuring of the learning experience would be institutionally based leading to a degree or certification. Informal distance learning might not be structured by an institution or lead to certification or a degree.

Definitions will continue to emerge due to globalization, unpredicted changes in society, the rapid in increase in knowledge, and advances in technology (Moller, Foshay, & Hulett, 2008a). Richard Clark stated in the Review of Educational Research that “media are mere vehicles that do not directly influence achievement” (Simpson et al, 2012, p. xviii). This seems to be a relevant thought to apply to distance learning. Just because it exists, distance learning in not necessarily effective or efficient. Unfortunately, a wide range of quality in distance learning is available. A challenge for ID professionals will be to evolve the field of distance learning with “products of sound professional design practice to lead the e-learning enterprise” (Moller, et al., 2008a, p. 70).  I think distance learning will continue the current explosive growth in many sectors in the future (Moller, et al., 2008a). Just as those starting out with the first correspondence courses in the 1800’s could not imagine the changes in distance learning made possible by technology today, there will be changes we can not imagine in the future. However, based on current needs and trends, I envision more high quality professional training, developments in both methodology and technical tools, and possible professional certification for instructional designers to produce high quality transformative distance leaning experiences (Moller, et al., 2008a). As more understanding is gained on structuring knowledge for greatest impact, knowledge structures can be used to develop more powerful strategies (Moller, et al., 2008a). Distance learning models should be based on what learners will actually use and these models will evolve along with changes in learner needs and ways they use technology.  In higher education, the non-traditional student population is predicted to increase, so I envision more colleges and universities will incorporate more distance learning into their curriculum to meet the needs of this population segment (Moller, et al., 2008b).  As issues regarding course quality, faculty training, salary, workload, intellectual property rights, and promotion and tenure are resolved, I think faculty buy-in will increase (Moller, et al., 2008b). At the K-12, I think we will see “more research designed to inform decisions about online learning” through the examination of curriculum specific instruction (Huett, Moller, Foshay, & Coleman, 2008, p. 64). I think we will also see expanded course offering and more virtual schools. Of particular interest to me will be the possibility of public school distance learning for home school students. The need for training and educational solutions will continue and probably expand with the rapid increase of knowledge, globalization, and developing technology; distance learning hold promise (Moller, et al., 2008b). However, distance learning is not a quick fix. As educators and ID professionals we need “to exploit those possibilities intelligently and systematically” (Huett, Moller, Foshay, & Coleman, 2008, p. 66).

Distance Learning map

References

Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Coleman, C. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 3: K12). TechTrends, 52(5), 63–6 7.

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008a). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 1: Training and development). TechTrends, 52(3), 70–75.

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008b). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 2: Higher education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66-70.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Tracey, M., & Richey, R. (2005). The evolution of distance education. Distance Learning, 2(6), 17–21.

Welcome to my blog!


Welcome to my blog!

I am a wife, a mother of adult children, grandmother of one adorable new grand daughter, a graphic designer, and an educator with a passion for learning. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education and I am currently pursuing my Masters in Instructional Design and Technology at Walden University. As a member of the baby boomer generation learning new technology usually poses a bit of a challenge, but I love trying! This blog is part of an assignment, but I look forward to continuing to pursue and engage in meaningful conversations about education, learning theory, instructional design, and distance learning.

My current distance learning course is one I have eagerly anticipated. During the 19 years of home educating my children, I incorporated distance learning in varying degrees during middle and high school. Although I was impressed with the effectiveness during that time, I have found distance learning, as presented through Walden University, to  be extremely effective for myself as an older adult. So effective that I am convinced that it is superior to many face-to-face classes for constructing new knowledge through the process of analyzing, synthesizing, and applying new information as well as greater recall and more effective transfer. I look forward to exploring how to develop effective online learning strategies and course content.

Reflections


Reflection

Over the years, I have put considerable thought into how learning and language develop and continue to find it an intriguing subject. It was a surprise to discover all the learning theories have been developed since my undergraduate studies in the early 1970’s. According to Knapp  (2007), learning is not one thing.  “Each _ism is offering something useful without any of them being complete or stand alone in there own right” (Kerr, 2007). The many layers and functions involved in learning explain the diversity in learning theories. Each learning theory has relevance since no one theory explains all of the learning process. By analyzing and synthesizing the various tenets of the theories, it is possible to comprehend more of how learning occurs.

This course has deepened my understanding of my personal learning process. Gilbert & Swaner (2008) quote Dunn and Perrin’s (1994) view of learning styles as “the way in which each learner begins to concentrate on, process, and retain new and difficult information” (p. 2).  After studying the learning theories, I find I still process new information the same way I did when I began this course. Visual and kinesthetic modes are still my. Associating new content with information already known has been the way I learn and the way I have taught students. While my preferred learning styles and information processing have not changed, I have acquired the cognitive scaffolding to evaluate how I learn from a more expansive perspective.

My personal learning process is explained by two theories that were new to me, Constructivism and Connectivism. Constructivist theorists view knowledge “as not being imposed from outside people but rather formed inside them” and assume learners must actively construct knowledge for themselves (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, 2008, pp. 184). In constructivism learners actively internalize, modify, and construct meaning (Ponticell, 2006). According to Siemens,

Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired and the ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. Also critical is the ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday (Siemens, 2005, para. 24).

Although I realized learning occurred through social interaction, I never considered it a major factor in learning, nor realized how much of my learning involves networks. In fact,  networks have changed the way I obtain knowledge.

Adult learning theory also explains my personal learning. Conlan, Grabowski, and Smith, (2003) posit that adults learn best through four types of learning experiences:  Action Learning, Experiential Learning, Problem Based Learning, and Self Directed Learning. According to Knowles in his Theory of Andragogy, learning occurs for adults: (1) when they are involved in planning and evaluating; (2) when they use experience as a basis for learning activities; (3) when subjects are relevant to their life, and (4) when learning experiences are problem-centered (Conlan et al., 2003).

There is a strong connection between learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation “A learning theory explains underlying the psychological processes that influence learning,” and “usually includes a set of assumptions about key aspects of the learning process that can be used to generate hypotheses which can then be tested empirically” (Arturo, 2011, para. 1). Learning theories answer the following questions:

(1) How does learning occur?

(2) What factors influence learning?

(3) What is the role of memory?

(4) How does transfer occur? And

(5) What types of learning are best explained by the theory? (Ertmer and Newby, 1993, p. 53)

Each learning theory has it’s own merits, and is valuable for not only understanding how learning occurs, but for designing learning experiences. “As people acquire more experience with a given content, they progress along a low-to–high continuum” (Ertmer & Newby, 1993, p. 67). The progression is from (1) behaviorist theory: knowing what, rules, facts, and operations; to (2) cognitivist theory: knowing how, extrapolating from “general rules to sspecific cases;” to (3) constructivism: tasks demanding high levels of processing, advanced knowledge acquisition, “constructing knowledge and meaning from experience and collaboration” (Ertmer & Newby, 1993, p. 62, 67).

Learning style refers to a learner’s preference that “differ[s] in regard to what mode of instruction or study is most effective for them” (Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer, & Bjork, 2008, p. 105). To learn effectively, the learner has to want to learn (Ormrod, n.d.); a learner has to be motivated. Motivation, whether intrinsic or extrinsic  is complex; learners have different amounts of motivation and different types of motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000). The type of motivation depends on “the underlying attitudes and goals that give rise to action—that is, it concerns the why of actions” (Ryan & Deci, 2000, p. 54). Differing learning styles and motivational needs should be considered when designing instruction. Offering multiple methods to convey content can enhance learning. Also using educational technology offers a variety of ways. In reference to Connectivism, learning takes place “at the intersection of prior knowledge, experience, perception, reality, comprehension, and flexibility” (Davis, Edmonds, Kelly-Bateman, 2008).  Likewise, designing effective instruction involves the intersection of learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation.

As we come to the close of this course, my greatest surprise is how much I am learning after being out of school for almost 40 years. Since biological changes that accompany aging decrease memory (Cercone, 2008), I was anxious as to whether it would be possible to pass a course. Previously, my education was in traditional, passive classrooms (Cercone, 2008) and involved predominantly rote learning for objective tests. Much of that learning was lost after exams because it was never integrated, synthesized, and applied to real world situations. The learning strategies involved in online classes have opened a whole new world of learning possibilities. It feels as if a part of me has come to life again with the mental stimulation that learning new content provides. This has made learning about learning even more relevant. Each learning theory provides valuable insight into how learning occurs and how it occurs somewhat differently in individuals and at various ages. Not only the learning theories we have studied, but the instructional techniques incorporated into Walden’s online classrooms will play a crucial role in all instruction I design in the future.

References

Arturo, Anthony. (2011, November 5). A note of caution. [Disussion group comment]. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=6051995&Survey=1&47=10484268&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1

Cercone, K. (2008). Characteristics of adult learners with implications for online learning design. AACE Journal, 16(2), 137-159.

Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., and Smith, K. (2003). Adult learning in M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved 29 Nov. 2011 from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Adult_Learning

Gilbert, J., & Swanier, C. (2008). Learning styles: How do they fluctuate? Institute for Learning Styles Journal [Vol. l]. Retrieved from http://www.auburn.edu/~witteje/ilsrj/Journal%20Volumes/Fall%202008%20Volume%201%20PDFs/Learning%20Styles%20How%20do%20They%20Fluctuate.pdf

Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Connectivism

Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, constructivism: comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 59-71. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com

Kapp, K. (2007, January 2) Out and About: Discussion on Educational Schools of Thought Retrieved from Kaplaneduneering website: http://www.kaplaneduneering.com/kappnotes/index.php/2007/01/out-and-about-discussion-on-educational/

Kerr, B. (2007, January 1). _isms as filter, not blinker. [Blog message]. Retrieved from  http://billkerr2.blogspot.com/2007/01/isms-as-filter-not-blinker.html

Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2008).  Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition).  New Jersey, NY: Pearson.

Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning styles: concepts and evidence. Journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 9 (3), 103-119.

Ponticell, J. (2006). Theories of learning. Encyclopedia of Educational Leadership and Administration. Sage Publications. Retrieved 22 Nov. 2011, from http:/sage-reference.com/view/leadership/n338.xml

Ryan, R. M. & Deci. E. L., (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Retrieved from http://mmrg.pbworks.com/f/Ryan,+Deci+00.pdf

Siemens, G. (2005, Jan). Connectivism: a learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning. Retrieved from http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Jan_05/article01.htm