Online Discussion Boards

Online Discussion Boards: The Practice of Building Community for Adult Learners

For full text: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis The Journal of Continuing Higher Education in 2017, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/ DOI: 10.1080/07377363.2017.1274616.

Abstract

“Online education continues to grow, and the application of theory to practice becomes increasingly important as practitioners examine the impact technology has on e-classroom interaction. Adult students, in particular, look for interaction that is collaborative and student-centered. A common area for dialogue within the online classroom is the discussion board or forum, yet despite the large amount of research that has been conducted on the use of discussion boards, many online classrooms fail to effectively use the board to encourage social interaction and learning. This review of literature summarizes the research around best practices and strategies within the practice of online learning, specific to the roles of the instructor, the student, and the course design of the discussion board. Constructivist techniques used to foster communication and a sense of community help administrators and educators build environments for active user engagement. This literature review assists the practitioner to apply research-based techniques to improve the online discussion board.”

Keywords: online learningadult studentsonline discussion boardsconstructivist theoryinstructional design

Covelli, B. (2017). Online discussion boards: The practice of building community for adult learners. The Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 65(2), 139-145. Taylor & Francis. DOI: 10.1080/07377363.2017.1274616

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Guest post: What is nano-learning?

This post is provided by guest blogger, N. Heidi Hess, current student in the MS Training and Development program

Earlier this year I was introduced to the idea of nano-learning. One of the biggest challenges we face in learning is simply time. How do we find time or even make time for learning? How do we sell stakeholders on investing time into training? Nano-learning may offer some solutions.

While most training modules start at about fifteen minutes in length, nano-learning refers to shortening training to about two minutes. An expert in adult learning, Malcolm Knowles explained “the perfect teachable moment as the intersection of a small question with a great small answer” (Masie, 2006). In these moments, we are ready to learn and be receptive to that learning. These moments need not be buried in hours of tedious highly technical training, but very simple, short, and direct to the point training that can be delivered electronically when the learners are ready to receive it. Training of this sort might be in the form of a power point, an infographic, a white paper, a printable job aid, a youtube video, or an interactive activity. Two minutes may not be enough time, but it seems quite reasonable to ask retail employees to spend five minutes reviewing a quick course to help improve performance. Ideally, employees would even be able to learn on a computer on the sales floor between customers so that the training may immediately be put into use.

While any minimalists reading this may be celebrating, the rest of us may be struggling. How can we possibly fit complex information into short bursts? If we look at training in a modular format and focus on one learning objective per module, the idea becomes more achievable. We can still train complex topics by focusing in on one idea at a time. A more complex topic will just require more modules versus a less complex topic that may require something as simple as an infographic. Look for the greatest small answer you can find.

Reference:

Masie, E. (2006, January). Nano-learning: Miniaturization of design. Chief Learning Officer, 5(1), 17.

Instructor Satisfaction & Online Learning

This post is provided by guest blogger, Randy Canale, graduate student University of St. Francis, MS Training and Development program

With the explosion in popularity of online learning, more institutions and learners are taking advantage of the convenience and other benefits of this type of training. However, are instructors satisfied in this environment? In a recent article, Dr. Dietrich discusses the Online Instructor Satisfaction Model (OISM), the five factors this model uses to determine instructor satisfaction and suggests five ways to increase instructor satisfaction. In conclusion, the author points out that a satisfied instructor is more motivated and effective in delivery and this results in a more satisfied student. Online instructors should be proactive and use this model to increase their satisfaction with online teaching.

I recommend this article for anyone who conducts online training sessions. The OISM factors provide typical considerations that impact instructor satisfaction. I could sum them up as interaction, support and ownership. Dr. Dietrich (2015) makes it clear that these all impact instructor satisfaction. The suggested ways to increase instructor satisfaction are briefly described and would be a good source of self-help for anyone interested in improving the effectiveness of their delivery and their contentment level with teaching online. These suggestions enable a motivated online educator to increase and maintain their online teaching satisfaction level.

Reference

Dietrich, D. (2015, February). Why instructor satisfaction cannot be ignored. eLearn Magazine, 2015(2). Retrieved from http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=2735931&emailsent=1&CFID=360029838&CFTOKEN=79618721

10 elearning trends

This post is provided by guest blogger, Trudy Sulita, graduate student University of St. Francis, MS Training and Development program

Ruby Spencer is the Director, Global Curriculum Development at PulseLearning. Passionate about all things training, she has designed, developed, and implemented synchronous and asynchronous training for a number of national and international clients, including CA Technologies, VMware, IHG and Bank of America. She states there are ten trends for elearning in the near future. These include: gamification (animation, narrative based games); corporate MOOCs or Massive Online Open Courses; personalized learning (puts the learners in control); M-learning (mobile-learning) and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device); augmented learning (augmented or virtual reality); API’s or Application Programming Interface (inbuilt instructions for applications to talk to each other); and wearable learning (smart watches) (Spencer, 2015).

I feel that the author’s assumptions of future learning forecasts are right on the target. With technologies changing minute by minute, learning should keep up with the changing climate. During the brief time I have been an online learner, technology has changed in leaps and bounds. I am looking forward to the learning methods and delivery techniques of the future.

Reference
Spencer, R. CTDP (2015, June 3). Top 10 elearning trends for 2015. eLearning Industry. Retrieved from: http://elearningindustry.com/top-10-elearning-trends-2015

Case Based Learning in Radiology Education

This post is provided by guest blogger, Nicole Fischer, CNMT, graduate student University of St. Francis, MS Training and Development program

There are many pathways that learners can take to fulfill knowledge gaps related to personal interests as well as professional endeavors. While much value is still placed on traditional face to face lectures, the implementation of innovative teaching strategies such as case based learning (CBL) has been implemented in medical curricula worldwide and shown great promise (Braeckman, Kint, Bekaert, Cobbaut & Janssens, 2014; Dolmans & Schmidt, 1996; Onyon, 2012).

Background

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) offers a number of Radiology certifications, however not all require a learner to participate in an accredited, structured learning program. According to their website, certification and registration of an individual is recognized after a set of standards have been achieved, typically through the demonstration of clinical competence and educational expertise as determined through a specific certification examination related to an area of study.

Typically, individuals interested in performing MR imaging first earn certification in Radiography through the ARRT. History has shown that these technologists then participate in on-the-job training to learn specific imaging procedures as well as face to face lectures with staff physicists to gain the didactic knowledge needed to pass the ARRT MRI Certification Examination. Therefore the purpose of this literature review is to review the use of CBL in health professions education programs and evaluate the perceived effectiveness with regards to the demonstration of clinical competence.

According to a review by Thistlewaite, Davies, Ekocha, Kidd, Macdougall, Matthews, Purkis & Clay (2012), CBL in health professional education was described as a form of inquiry based learning geared towards preparing learners for clinical practice. Furthermore, the authors discussed the importance of using authentic clinical cases to promote the application of learned theories to real life situations in an effort to assist with the integration of learning into practice.

Active Learning

            Active learning approaches have been shown to positively impact student performance (Braeckman et al., 2014; Thistlewaite et al., 2012). Learners must be challenged to acquire knowledge by means greater than attending face to face lectures in which they sit as a receptacle collecting information presented. Likewise, teaching strategies must be designed with learners in mind and focus on the need for learners to develop skills of inquiry, problem solving, critical thinking and clinical reasoning (Vittrup & Davey, 2010) as these skills are vital for all medical professionals including physicians, nurses and allied health staff.

Utilizing technology as a means to present learners with a clinical problem and provide time to consider the possible causes, effect and solutions, while utilizing a mentor’s guidance highlights ways in which CBL is effective and promotes learning (Thistlewaite et al., 2012). Likewise, opportunities for learning are enhanced when they challenge the basis of knowledge already established by the learner and encourage reflection of prior experiences (Vittrup & Davey 2010).

Motivation

            A number of studies have demonstrated increased confidence and motivation to learn as a result of participation in CBL (Hege, Ropp, Adler, Radon, Masch, Lyon & Fischer, 2007; Maleck, Fischer, Kammer, Zeiler, Mangel, Schenk & Pfeifer, 2001). The use of CBL can be useful for learners of all abilities as a means to identify gaps that exist in knowledge and may spark the desire to acquire more knowledge when gaps are recognized (Williams, 2005). As learners become more familiar with the structure and expectations of CBL, evidence suggests that health professions students enjoy the experience and believe they learn better as a result of participation (Thistlewaite et al., 2012).

Hege et al., discussed a number of aspects that should be considered when developing cases for learning which include usability of software, accessibility of cases or content and the relevance of the content or cases to the learner. This theory can be demonstrated in a study performed by Maleck et al. (2001) who reported on a case based teaching study using Radiology images in which interactivity was highly utilized and valued by the learners to whom it was offered. This format of teaching image interpretation demonstrated clear advantages when compared to utilizing multiple choice questions to assess image interpretation. It is believed that these findings are reflective of the nature and necessity to identify imaging findings in radiology (Maleck et al., 2001).

In addition, CBL when offered in an electronic format, has the potential to provide learning opportunities to users when it is convenient. Learners can access the content or cases and participate in self-directed, self-paced learning (Mishra, Snow-Lisy, Ross, Goldfarb, Goldman & Campbell, 2013).

Perceived Effectiveness

As has been discussed previously in this review, the effectiveness of CBL is contingent on the ability of the learner to link theory to practice through real-life situations. In a rather substantial study, Thistlewaite et al. (2012), evaluated 104 papers comparing the number and type of students involved, research methods used and the level of evaluation according to Kirkpatrick’s hierarchy (Kirkpatrick, 1967). The results of this study show that there is an emphasis on evaluating students according to levels one and two of Kirkpatrick’s hierarchy, student reactions and changes in attitude and knowledge as a result of participating in CBL. Their research did not however evaluate the effectiveness of CBL to influence changes in behavior, such as the demonstration of clinical competence.

A study performed by Ramaekers, Van Keulen, Van Beukelen, Kremer & Pilot (2012), evaluated the perceived effectiveness of a CBL program with regards to student competence in solving clinical problems. As a result of participation, learners in this program demonstrated increased competence in solving clinical problems as well as the ability to solve more complex cases than their counterparts within the same amount of time and with a similar level of interaction. While this research is only evaluating the competence of learners to problem solve in clinical situations, this demonstrated ability could carry over to the evaluation of clinical competence in the performance of radiology imaging studies as well.

Conclusion

CBL can serve as a springboard for critical thinking and promote in depth thinking to engage the application of knowledge gained as a result of participation in learning activities. The benefits of CBL will not only benefit individual learners, but rather, the medical institutions for which learners practice in and the patients in which these specific learners care for. The teams that learners are a part of within individual workgroups as well as interprofessionally may experience increased collaboration and teamwork. Finally, the health care system as a whole may benefit from the integration of CBL as physicians, nurses and allied health staff will have a greater understanding for procedures, processes and the manner in which patient care is delivered using today’s complex, multidisciplinary care teams.

References

Braechman, L., Kint, L. T., Bekaert, M., Cobbaut, L. & Janssens, H. (2014) Comparison of two case-based learning conditions with real patients in teaching occupational medicine. Medical Teacher, 36, 340-346.

Dolmans, D. & Schmidt, H. (1996). The advantages of problem-based curricula. Postgrad Medical Journal, 72, 535-538.

Hege, I., Ropp, V., Adler, M., Radon, K., Masch, G., Lyon, H. & Fischer M. (2007). Experiences with different integration strategies of case-based e-learning. Medical Teacher29, 791-797.

Kirkpatrick D. (1967). Evaluation of training. In: Training and development handbook. R. Craig & L. Bittel (Eds.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill. pp 131–167.

Maleck, M., Fischer, M. R., Kammer, B., Zeiler, C., Mangel, E., Schenk, F. & Pfeifer, KJ. (2001). Do computers teach better? A media comparison study for case-based teaching in radiology. RadioGraphics 21, 1025-1032.

Mishra, K., Snow-Lisy, D. C., Ross, J., Goldfarb, D. A., Goldman H. & Campbell, S. C. (2013). Evaluation of a case-based urology learning program. Urology, 82 (6), 1207-1210.

Onyon, C. (2012). Problem-based learning: A review of the educational and psychological theory. The Clinical Teacher, 9, 22-26.

Ramaekers, S., Van Keulen, H., Van Beukelen, P., Kremer, W. & Pilot, A. (2012). Effectiveness of a programme design for the development of competence in solving clinical problems. Medical Teacher, 345, e309-e316.

Thistlewaite, J. E., Davies, D., Ekocha, S., Kidd, J. M., Macdougall, C., Matthews, P., Purkis, J. & Clay, D. (2012). The effectiveness of case-based learning in health professional education. A BEME systematic review: BEME guide No. 23. Medical Teacher, 34, e421-e444.

Vittrup, AC. & Davey, A. (2010). Problem based learning – ‘Bringing everything together’ – A strategy for graduate nurse programs. Nurse Education in Practice, 10 (2), 88-95.

Williams, B. (2005). Case based learning – a review of the literature: Is there scope for this education paradigm in prehospital education? Emergency Medicine Journal 22, 577-581.

Online Teaching Tools for the Adult Learner

Check out my session from the Association for Continuing Higher Education (ACHE) 2015 national annual conference held this year in St. Louis, MO. Thank you to all who attended the session!

Abstract

Adult learners have unique needs, and the e-learning or online environment presents additional challenges.  Adult students seek return on their investment of time and money for education.  How do we meet these realities?  This workshop presents the unique learning needs of the adult student through the lens of adult learning theory. It addresses using adults’ experiences in a highly applied and meaningful way with e-learning tools to fulfill adult learner’s goals and desired outcomes.

Online Teaching Tools for the Adult Learner (emaze.com presentation)

Guest Post: 10 Signs You Were “Born to Train”

This post is provided by guest blogger, Wendy Frushon Tsaninos, alumna University of St. Francis, MS Training and Development program

While many employees may sigh loudly, roll their eyes, or make a scrunchy face at the mere mention of training, there are those of us who break into a wide smile, raise our hands to volunteer, and say, “Yay!”   We just have a passion for this process. Here are some lighthearted ways in which natural-born trainers reveal themselves.

  • You’re usually the one to read the instructions to the new board game and explain to others how to play. Only after the first full round do you start to relax, once everyone has demonstrated competency. You might even throw out a “How are you liking this so far?” to get a sense of what new training opportunities, er, board games would be fun for this group.
  • Your family members recall that once you learned how to read, you wanted to teach everyone how to do it too. Siblings, cousins, even the family dog. The dog was ok with it until you learned how to ride a bike.
  • When you are in line at the store and a cashier has to stop to figure out how to change the paper roll, ring in a special discount, or some other task, you have to hold yourself back from helping or grabbing the manual. After self-restraint has been achieved, you wonder about the training program that store has in place.
  • Whenever your parents asked you “what you learned in school today,” you answered in Fitzpatrick levels. You shared your opinion of the topic first. Next, you explained what you learned and casually remarked about avoiding or taking more of the subject’s classes “once I get to high school.” You made sure to tell them how you will “never use geometry” or how you are “going to try inventing a better ___” based on the experiment in science class. A few of you might have even thrown in ROI – “and then I will become a millionaire with my new design!”
  • You were way more savvy than the other kids since you knew how to identify your stakeholders at an early age. They had no clue about leveraging grandparent support for the family vacation or getting the school coach to advocate starting a new sports team. You then approached your parents and the principal with confidence…ready to go to Disney and be captain of the new badminton team.
  • You believe in those stock photos of business people in which they appear excited about the training they’re receiving. You think that’s what actually happens in your training classes. You allow no rain on your training parade.
  • When people like the dish you bring to a potluck, you don’t give them the recipe – you invite them over so you can show them how to make it.
  • After working with “the new guy” for a day, you ask for his evaluation of your training and what you could’ve done better. You are annoyed by any one-word answers and vow to create more open-ended questions for the next person you train.
  • You taught practical subjects to pretend participants in your imaginary classroom as a kid, so you could determine your success with post-training outcomes. You even held a graduation ceremony. Over in the other imaginary classroom, your sister was teaching her fake students about unicorn care. You’re a trainer and she’s a teacher now.
  • You have children named Addie and Sam.

Guest Post: What is nano-learning?

This post is provided by guest blogger, N. Heidi Hess, current student in the MS Training and Development program

Earlier this year I was introduced to the idea of nano-learning. One of the biggest challenges we face in learning is simply time. How do we find time or even make time for learning? How do we sell stakeholders on investing time into training? Nano-learning may offer some solutions.

While most training modules start at about fifteen minutes in length, nano-learning refers to shortening training to about two minutes. An expert in adult learning, Malcolm Knowles explained “the perfect teachable moment as the intersection of a small question with a great small answer” (Masie, 2006). In these moments, we are ready to learn and be receptive to that learning. These moments need not be buried in hours of tedious highly technical training, but very simple, short, and direct to the point training that can be delivered electronically when the learners are ready to receive it. Training of this sort might be in the form of a power point, an infographic, a white paper, a printable job aid, a youtube video, or an interactive activity. Two minutes may not be enough time, but it seems quite reasonable to ask retail employees to spend five minutes reviewing a quick course to help improve performance. Ideally, employees would even be able to learn on a computer on the sales floor between customers so that the training may immediately be put into use.

While any minimalists reading this may be celebrating, the rest of us may be struggling. How can we possibly fit complex information into short bursts? If we look at training in a modular format and focus on one learning objective per module, the idea becomes more achievable. We can still train complex topics by focusing in on one idea at a time. A more complex topic will just require more modules versus a less complex topic that may require something as simple as an infographic. Look for the greatest small answer you can find.

Reference:

Masie, E. (2006, January). Nano-learning: Miniaturization of design. Chief Learning Officer, 5(1), 17.

eLearning – Beyond the Buzz

eLearning –Beyond the Buzz

The concept of eLearning is hot. Blogs, wikis, tweets and even journals are proclaiming the rise in eLearning as one of the fastest growing phenomena in higher education, or so it seems. Computer-based education has actually been around a long time. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign introduced a computer-based Education Research Laboratory project in 1959 (Lepi, 2012; SAM, 2012). The University of Alberta Department of Medicine offered early versions of online courses in 1968 (Lepi, 2012; SAM, 2012). The University of Phoenix opened its online doors in 1989. The University of St. Francis in Joliet, Ill. launched its fully online MBA in 1997. These brave instructors and administrators were pioneers in eLearning education! So folks, eLearning is not new. There just happens to be much more bandwidth these days, and it seems everyone wants to jump on board.

So moving beyond this latest hype surrounding eLearning, let us focus on the tactics of eLearning. There has so many tools to produce effective synchronous and asynchronous learning modules, but most of us who are teaching in the medium are not doing enough to incorporate these tricks of the trade into our course designs. And the tricks mean more than simply linking to a YouTube video or recording an opening introductory audio “welcome to class” recording. The advantages of eLearning are that we can incorporate features into an online course that do not even exist in the face-to-face format. eLearning provides us with the ability to interact using writing collaboration tools (i.e. GoogleDocs), real-time interactions between instructors and students (i.e. webcasts), learner-created resource guides (i.e. wikis) and much, much more.

The eLearning buzz needs to push the envelope a bit more. The eLearning buzz should be about: are we doing it well?

References:

Lepi, K. (2012, November 12). Who actually started online education? Edudemic: Connecting Education and Technology. Retrieved from: http://www.edudemic.com/online-education-starters/

SAM. (2012, October 9). 11 early online education pioneers who paved the way for today. [blog post]. Avatargeneration. Retrieved from: http://www.avatargeneration.com/2012/10/early-online-education-pioneers-who-paved-the-way/