Sunday, June 22, 2008

Teaching Adults: Is it Different?

In this article, we are going to see how adult learning is different from the way children learn. How is pedagogy different from androgogy? What are the four principles of adult learning and how to put these theories into practice?
First, let us see who is as an adult learner. Wikipedia says an adult learner is a socially accepted person who is involved in any learning process. Learning process can be any type of formal education, informal education or corporate-sponsored education. Teaching includes four elements learner, educator, subject matter and technique.

Let us see why adults learn. There can be very many reasons. Some of them are listed below:
· To keep up with the growing competition
· As part of job training
· For financial growth and benefits
· For self-improvement
· To acquire new skills

Now let us know about adult learning theory, Malcolm Knowles (1978, 1990) is the theorist who brought the concept of adult learning to the fore. He determined the principles of androgogy. Let us quickly know the differences between androgogy and pedagogy.
What are the principles of adult learning?
• Adults need to know why they need to learn something
• Adults need to learn experientially
• Adults approach learning as problem-solving
• Adults learn best when the topic is of immediate value
In simple words, learning material for the adults should be motivating, it should be experiential or practical, and it should have problem solving approach and should be of immediate value. Now let us look at each of the principles with examples to make it more precise and clear.

Motivational Learning:
• Learning should be meaningful
• The learner should be able to see the end-result of any training program
Example: You might attend a certain training program because if you perform better you might get a hike in your salary.
Look at this scenario to understand it better.
You are working in ABC Company. A training program has been scheduled, where you will be trained on MS-Word Application. Let us see the reaction of different employees who are short listed to attend the training program. These people had the following opinion for the training program as shown in the image below.
Experiential Learning:
• Learners should be asked to learn by exploring
• It is highly effective in corporate training
• Learners learn by doing
Example: A new application has been launched. You need to familiarize with it. You learn by exploring.
Look at this scenario to understand it better.
Rita works as a front office executive in a mobile store. She has to attend a training program where she will be taught how to handle customers. Two of the participants are asked to volunteer to role-play, one as front office executive and the other as a customer. The following piece of conversation took place between both of them.

Problem solving:
• Solving any problem drives learning
• This principle works best for medical students
• A problem is posed so that the students discover that they need to learn something new before they can solve the problem
Example: Medical students are asked to practice operating on dead bodies and then they actually operate live beings.
Look at this scenario to understand it better.
You are working as a trainee call centre executive in a certain company and as part of training program you have to learn how to handle complaints of various customers. To proceed further with this you need to know what do you know, what are you being asked? Now look at the problem-solving cycle to gain a better understanding.

As given in the diagram, you need to take the required action. That is you need to deal with the customer, listen to his/her problem. In the second step, you need to plan how to resolve the problem. In the third step, you need to reply the customer but you also need to check with your superior whether you are heading into the right direction or not before actually performing it.

Immediate value:
• The training program should have direct bearing upon their job
• The training program should be able to step-up the job search process
Example: You would learn certain application only when you will benefit from it immediately.
Look at this scenario to understand it better.
Assume that you and your colleagues are part of a training program, which involves receiving training on typing lesson. Look at what some of the people in that organization had to say.

Now let us see how to put these principles into practice:
• Lay down clear objectives of the course (need and motivation)
• Inform how they can make the most of training (motivation/immediate value)
• Just do not present learning materials but pose problems so as to induce learning (problem-solving)
• Include assessment and provide immediate feedback
• Offer reward or certificates after the successful completion of the course (immediate value)
• Give real life examples, simulation (experiential)
• Use diagrams wherever needed
To wrap up:
• Learning is a continuous process and is motivation driven
• Adults learn to keep up with the growing need of the industry and to compete
• Adults learn better where they are asked to express their experiences and prior knowledge

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Instructional Designing Process

I have seen people involved in the eLearning industry who are not quite aware of what goes into designing an eLearning course. People usually complain that ‘this course is horrible’, ‘oh I think the audio is too fast’, ‘Oh God who has designed this course? Don’t they know we already know this?’

Well, people it is easy to play the blame game but you may not be aware of what goes into making an eLearning course. Hence, this article is devoted to the instructional designing process. Any kind of knowledge imparted in the digital format, is termed as eLearning. It replaces a teacher or an instructor and the learners can learn on his or her own. Instructional designing makes a boring learning experience into an interesting one. Instructional designers try to use the best possible strategy to transfer knowledge and ensure to maintain the quality of the training material.

In simple words, I can define instructional design process as the method of designing the overall learning material or the content for the target audience. However, before you launch an eLearning course as per the requirement, it goes through a number of steps. The following steps make the instructional design process a complete phase.
· Gather requirement
· Analyze those requirements/brainstorming session
· Perform learner/audience analysis
· Analyze the content
· SME Interaction
· Lesson Planning
· Deriving Instructional Strategy
· Storyboarding
· Giving instructions to the graphic developers and programmers
· Reviewing content/review cycle
· Corrective action
· Alpha launch of the course
· Releasing the final course

In the first step, you need to gather all the essential information you need to collect from the client in order to know about the course, what is the overall objective of the course and the like. In the next step you need to analyze those requirements, whether what is the client’s expectation from this course.

The next step is learner analysis. It is one of the important steps involved in the design process, wherein, you examine who is going to use the course material you are going to design. For this, you need to consider the age, educational qualification, prior learning experience of the learner and the like. In the content analysis step, instructional designers go through the content to familiarize themselves with it, to check whether the content, which the client has provided, is enough to design the training material or not. You may have to ask for further inputs in case the material seems to be deficient in information. You can also seek inputs from the subject matter expert better known as SME in consultation with the client.

In the next step, you need to write down the lesson objectives and sequence the whole content for the course. In the next step, you need to define the strategy for the course; whether you need to use animation, create instructor videos, simulation and the type of interactivities to be included and the like.

Subsequently, you make use of all the above steps to place the content in a template, in the form of a storyboard. In the ensuing step you give instructions to the graphic designer, whether what type of animation effect you want to incorporate in your storyboard and the like.
In the next step, you send the storyboard to the reviewer to have another look at it. You incorporate the changes in consultation with the reviewer. Then you send the course for alpha release and if there are no further issues, you go head and release the course finally for the client and the learners.

Phew! A lot goes into making an eLearning course, now folks think before you evaluate an eLearning course next time.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Future of eLearning in India

What is the future of eLearning in India? Is the educated mass of India aware of what eLearning is? Does off-campus education has an edge over traditional method of learning or students still prefer classroom teaching? Which is more useful in this growing competitive world? These are significant questions to consider and central to education system in India but none of us has an exact answer to any of these questions.

Learning is a continuous activity and in today’s competitive world skills get outdated within a few months. In order to climb up the ladder of success one has to keep on acquiring new skills on a regular basis. In India, the number of learners is growing rapidly but there is a dearth of competent teachers. At this point of time online learning, eLearning or CD-based learning, which is fast approaching in India, has emerged to supplement classroom teaching and provide learners just in time learning. Internet has brought people across the globe together. People can register for any university online and take up different disciplines without having to go to a different place. With the advent of different modes of education like online education and distance education, learning has become flexible, anytime and anywhere. It has become geography independent, learner centric and cost effective.

Of late, corporate sectors are embracing eLearning at a rapid pace. It is not only cost effective to provide training to employees via online training materials but it also saves a lot of time and employees can learn on the job without having to devote any extra time to hone new skills. Online learning materials come with various games and interactive ways to engage the learners. Therefore, the new mantra is ‘learn while having fun’. Fun games, quiz and other interactivity in eLearning study materials not only help learners to enjoy learning but in a way, it is trying to create a niche for itself in the traditional system of education. Simulation through games is proving to be a more successful mode of training rather than theoretical education.

To conclude, eLearning has a long way to go and it is quite possible to address various learning needs using online knowledge delivery systems. People who are involved in this industry should try to provide authentic training materials to sustain the faith of the educated mass in online education, only then eLearning and online education will thrive in India.