Archive for February, 2010

Reflections on Learning Theories and Instruction Course

February 26, 2010

As I consider what I learned in the Learning Theories and Instruction course, a few things stand out. I was able to confirm a few existing beliefs about how people learn. I learned that a social aspect to online learning is necessary to keep adult learners properly engaged. I understand more about the way that I learn. And I believe that I have a good foundation for my further studies in Instructional Design.

Some beliefs that were confirmed by this class include the need for real world examples, the poor match between memorization and complex problems, and the need to have motivated learners. Real world examples help students store instructions in their long term memory by providing multiple connections to prior memories. Real world examples also facilitate recall and transfer when trying to apply instructions to new and similar tasks. My next confirmed belief is that rote memorization does not work for complex problems. Complex problems have many variables and nuances that cannot be practiced and rehearsed and memorized. Students need problem solving skills and conditional thinking methods that allow them to apply previously learned instructions to new problems. Finally, students learn better when motivated. They focus better, retain more, and study harder. The piece that is somewhat new to me is the role that the instructor can play. Previously I considered motivation to be mostly internal and now I realize that the instructor can employ methods to foster motivation.

The biggest surprise for me in all of our reading is the need for, and effectiveness of, a social aspect to learning, particularly online learning. I know of a company that has online training modules that employ PowerPoint slides with embedded videos and interactive Flash elements. They are aesthetically pleasing and contain excellent technical information, yet they receive low grades from students. I now believe this is because there is no interaction in these online training modules. The students do not interact with a facilitator or other students. While watching a module, the students do not have anyone to talk with nor any way to ask for further explanation of a difficult subject. The modules do not provide feedback when an exercise is completed.

While I now believe that social interaction is important in online learning, I see it as a large challenge within my organization. We have many users with over 1 million copies sold worldwide of our CAD software package. While it would be relatively easy to place learning modules online, it will be quite difficult to provide instructor support in multiple languages and multiple time zones. Maybe the courses will have to be structured so that the interaction between the students is the most important social aspect. I think this will be a challenging endeavor and I look forward to it.

As for my own learning process, I understand that the rote memorization tactics that I used in grade school to score well on tests do not reflect my learning style today. I employ a more cognitive approach to learning now. I do not just learn the meaning of a word, I try to understand its use within a sentence or document. To learn a new software application, I do not simply memorize the list of functions and locations of the toolbar buttons. I learn the application by using it to create something meaningful. I need to use the application in my daily work or often for a hobby so I can become proficient in its use.

As I look forward to furthering my instructional design career, I believe that this course will be a great foundation. I have to admit that I was skeptical early on. The first chapter in our course text briefly talked about the history of learning theories and frequently interrupted the text with many citations. The second chapter talked about how the various parts of the brain store and retrieve memories. I found both chapters difficult to read and I questioned how this was all going to relate to instructional design.

As the course progressed, however, I began to see the relevance for my understanding of instructional design. Some key points include:

  • It is necessary to vary the learning theory based on the learning task. Behaviorist learning works well for simple associations and cognitive learning works well for more complex problems.
  • It is not critical to vary the learning style to meet the student’s needs. A student’s learning style changes depending on the material being presented and research continues to be done to understand the relevance of individual learning styles.
  • As stated previously, it is important to include real world examples and a social aspect to learning.

I look forward to the next course, Instructional Design, to start putting all this theory into practice planning better courses.

My Learning Style

February 21, 2010

In Week 1 of my Learning Theories and Instruction class, we were supposed to examine how we thought we learned. My discussion focused on how I used to learn as a high school student with lots of memorization and repetition. I am no longer the same person I was in high school and I no longer learn in the same fashion.

As an adult learner, one of the biggest keys for me is motivation. I attempted to learn Spanish several times over the past 10 years because we have some large Spanish-speaking neighborhoods nearby. I tried books and CDs in the car and I was never able to make much progress. Why not? I don’t think it was because I am unable to learn a new language. Gardner talks about multiple intelligences and how most learners have the capacity to expand on their knowledge in many ways. I believe it was because my motivation was low. It would be nice to learn a new language but it was not necessary for me to do so. It was not required for my job or my family life and so I never dedicated myself to the task.

By contrast, I enjoy learning things that will help me in my role as a training specialist. I attend more seminars than others in my group. I investigate ways to get more from our authoring tools. I am pursuing this Instructional Design and Technology Certificate because I predict that our training group will have to change from traditional instructor-led, lecture-heavy teaching to something else soon.

Another think I’ve learned is that I learn best by solving real-world problems. When a problem comes up at work, colleagues often turn to me to help them resolve the issue. I read the help, search the Knowledge Base, and try various solutions until the correct solution appears. For me it is like working on a jigsaw puzzle. The research and trials are enjoyable and I feel a sense of completion when I find the solution.

Finally, this class has taught me a lot about the value of being connected to many sources of information. I am amazed at the wealth of information available in blogs. I find myself jumping from one link to another, unable to stop reading more about the changing role of technology in the classroom. I am pleased with the number of articles and eBooks we were introduced to in this class. Hopefully I can read the remainders of some eBooks, such as Dimensions of Adult Learning: Adult Education and Training in a Global Era [Foley, G (Ed.). (2004)]. We were assigned only 2 chapters of this 17 chapter book and I think there will be more helpful information within. I also find myself employing technology to take notes of important facts and details so I can recall them later in the years following this course. In the old days, a pile of looseleaf sheets in a three ring binder was sufficient. Now, using an iPhone app such as Evernote, or a workstation based tool such as Microsoft OneNote, allows me to write reminders to myself that are easily sorted into different folders and quickly searched for reminders of key information.

So I’m throwing away my flashcards and discarding old notebooks. I have a new, connected way to learn and I am excited about the possibilities moving forward.

Connectivism – Reflections on MindMap

February 7, 2010

As I think about my Mind Map, I am immediately struck by the number of connections that come from the past few months. I purchased an iPhone in November that has added informative podcasts and connectivity wherever I go. My daily commute to work is now filled with world news and technology information. This class added a number of blogs and eBooks and also added a social network of classmates who I can learn with. When I started this class, I expected my learning environment to include only a textbook and video lectures. I never expected this many connections to assist my learning.

Another revelation is how easy it is to acquire knowledge when I have questions. Resources include emails to my instructor, general posts for the instructor and students to see, and searches in the Walden University library to find answers within eBooks. Another source that I just considered is the technical resources section of our class that helped us learn to create our own blog and Mind Map. Those technical resources saved me many hours of searching for answers on the internet.

The last observation I have about my Mind Map relates to the connections I have made to get me where I am in my learning journey. My family encouraged my passion for math and science which led me to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). The career center at WPI helped me find my technical support job at SolidWorks. My role as Training Specialist encouraged me to pursue this Certificate of Instructional Design and Technology. And this class added a number of connections as stated earlier.

Going forward, I hope this Mind Map will continue to grow. I’ve added so many connections recently and am excited to see what other connections I will add with more courses and access to other instructors and colleagues.

Connectivism – MindMap

February 4, 2010

For this week’s assignment for class, I created a MindMap. I tried to think about all of the connections that help my learning these days and influence how I arrived in my current career as a trainer. I’ll post more later in this week to explain more about some of the items in this MindMap.

MindMap

Joe Rousseau's MindMap


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