Creating Engaging Learning Experiences

One of my classmates shared this slideshow on how to make online learning into an engaging process for students and I thought I would share it here. The presenter uses the Moodle platform, but the principles apply to many different environments.

Social Media for Learning

This week of learning through social media created a sharp contrast between the utility of the LMS (Learning Management System) used by my school and the free platform we enjoyed this week. If it were not for the convenience of grading tools, organizing assignments, and maintaining consistency of student experience, I would choose to learn via social media just about every time.

Social media is designed to be social. Information gets lost so quickly in the discussion boards on Canvas and Blackboard. The social media platform that we used (Schoology.com) brought forward the posts that I needed to see into a convenient newsfeed and was simple to navigate. It was also much easier to follow the threaded posts and upvote those things that I thought were important or interesting.

Notifications showed up whenever there was something new I needed to take care of and it was easy to interact with others in the predefined spaces. There was no boundary separating the information from the conversation. To me this seemed to create a more integrated learning experience.

In addition to these basic functions, it was simple to navigate to resources, easy to edit my profile, and there were other additional functions like blogging that were available if needed.

Despite all of this, I still feel like it will take some time for social media to overtake the entrenched learning management systems as the dominant platform for online learning. The reason for this is outlined in one of the thoughts we discussed this week:

It seems to me that there is a divide between learning and education. From our other discussion thread, it looks like many of us use social networks for learning on a personal level. When it comes to a more formalized learning experience, however, there are so many things to quantify that the simple interactions allowed by social networking tools are not sufficient for the classroom. Perhaps if learning facilitators could let go of the idea that every learner must go through the same experience and be measured by the same benchmark standards, then social networking tools could really be leveraged in a formal group learning setting. Until this changes, I think LMS will continue to dominate the distance learning scene.

Using Wikis in Education

As part of my class on learning and technology, I had the objective of creating a learning experience for my classmates that introduced them to wikis and blogs. With this wiki project, my partner and I wanted to give students the chance to experience building a wiki. If someone decides to use a wiki in their teaching field, we thought it would be important for them to understand what their students will go through.  After working together building the wiki, we can understand the process our students go through in using wikis for their learning.

After choosing a popular wiki platform, the challenge was how to design a week of learning that would be both accessible, but also valuable. We also wanted the project to have residual value to encourage a deeper level of participation. This reflection demonstrates the difficulties and hurdles we encountered in making this a successful project and includes some suggestions for future projects.

Looking back on the learning experience, I think it is possible that we made the project a little bit too complicated for the week-long time frame. Additionally, we were not necessarily prepared for the psychological hurdles that individuals would have to overcome to participate.

There are plenty of details on how to build a wiki, but very few on the thought process behind it. Participants in developing the wiki project incorporated information on how to create a successful wiki-building culture. However, this was an aspect that first escaped our notice. This is one benefit of the wiki: that it can expand organically in ways outside the scope of the initial authors.

Another challenge turned out to be that individuals have a very difficult time relying on their own judgement to delete the work of someone else and replace it with something better. It is difficult to create  a strong enough objective to empower individuals to do this.

Another challenge of using a wiki is that it forces every individual to take ownership of leading the project. There is no one individual who has more editing and creative power than anyone else. This may indicate that before a wiki can be successful individual class members need to be comfortable with their ability to work together toward a common goal.

Because of this, our class easily learned how to navigate the new platform for discussion, but did not have the necessary cultural background or thought process to make the most of the wiki functions. Yet despite this hurdle, everyone became familiar with the challenges and benefits of using a wiki for teaching.

To view the wiki project, please click here.

https://csuaetwikisblogs.wikispaces.com/