learning process

As I explained in my post on our instructional design, quality content is merely the starting point of the the online learning process. An effective instructional design also requires an active engagement with challenging assignments embedded in a community of peers. Only by combining these three elements can we ensure that learners reach their destination: advanced learning outcomes.

The Elements of the Online Learning Process: Content, Context, Community

At iversity, we call the elements that work together to create an effective learning process the three Cs: content, context, community.

Three Elements Make Up the Online Learning Process

Content: A great online course comprises the full range of multimedia content from video and audio, to text, photographs, infographics, illustrations or even comics. Quality is key. But this doesn’t mean that everything necessarily has to be polished. Sometimes, something that’s a bit rough around the edges but authentic can work just as well or better (like a page from a notebook or a few snapshots taken in the street to illustrate a point with real world examples). What’s most important is that elements work well together and tell a story. More about this in another post on storytelling in online education.

Context: The second C refers to context. This often causes some confusion, because it is not quite as self-evident as the other two. Context refers to assignments. Why context? Because assignments require learners to apply their knowledge in different contexts. For example, in order to solve a case study, I have to take what I have learned – the knowledge I have gained from working through the content – and use it to solve a real or fictitious problem.

Community: While a few autodidacts are very good at teaching themselves, most of us find it a lot easier to learn together with others. That’s why iversity puts social learning front, right and center. Both the platform and the course design aim at fostering meaningful interactions between learners. The community provides the information, inspiration, feedback and motivation that are often key for effective learning to take place.

The Intersections = Traditional Learning Formats

The intersections of these elements represent the learning formats traditionally found on campus: self-study with a textbook, for example, which offers content and assignments; the lab section or tutorial where students come together to work on assignments in a group; and the seminar where they discuss the learning material amongst each other.

Taking this comprehensive approach to instructional design, which combines online all three core elements of the online learning process, allows our courses to cover the full range of Bloom’s taxonomy. (What this means exactly and why it is important for learning, comprehension and ROI, I will explain in my next post.)

P.s. This model is very much indebted to William Rankin who has mapped out this idea in a lot more detail in his overview on Dimensions of Productive Formal Learning.

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E-learning has been around now for two decades. In this time, it hasn’t earned a great reputation. When I tell people that I work in the online learning space, the reaction is rarely one of excitement. People who work in the corporate world usually tell me about the most recent compliance training they had to suffer through. “28 Clicks on “Next”, a few multiple choice questions, and that’s it.” The problem here is that working through content in isolation and without real challenges gives little cause for excitement. We need a new kind of instructional design for effective online learning!

The traditional approach to instructional design: elarning course = content

The iversity Approach to Instructional Design

Unlike other learning solutions that merely provide content, we at iversity understand learning as an active, social process. Education thought leader David A. Wiley summarised this point very well: „If high quality reusable content were all that were required to support learning, libraries would never have evolved into universities. That is to say, interaction with other human beings always has been and always will be an integral part of the learning process. This is especially true when learning of higher-order skills.”

Our fresh approach to instructional design: iversity course = learning process „If high quality reusable content were all that were required to support learning, libraries would never have evolved into universities. That is to say, interaction with other human beings always has been and always will be an integral part of the learning process. This is especially true when learning of higher-order skills.” David A. Wiley

That’s why iversity courses feature more than just content. As well as high-quality multimedia learning materials, all our instructional design combines challenging, open-ended assignments with a variety of ways for students to interact and learn with and from each other, such as the learning journal, a discussion forum and messaging feature. Students acquire knowledge in order to understand a certain topic, but must then apply it in different contexts, actively creating their own pieces of work while analysing and evaluating the work of others.

This kind of instructional design covers all steps of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning, allowing learners to reach learning outcomes they would not be able to reach with traditional corporate e-learning formats such as web-based trainings (WBTs). How exactly the approaches differ in this respect is something I will explain in a future post.

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