The Power of Predicting

Pretesting has been shown to improve students’ retention

By Heather Morton
Senior Editor, MindEdge Learning
When I first started working as a senior editor at MindEdge, I was baffled by the company’s routine reliance on pretests. Why test students on material they have not yet studied? Their performance on a multiple-choice pretest, I thought, would lead either to discouragement (“I’m obviously not qualified to take this course”) or to complacency (“Why bother completing the module?”).
taking a pretest
Unsurprisingly, there turns out to be an evidence-based foundation for this pedagogical practice. Research shows that students who have completed a pretest retain 10 percent more information than students in a similarly situated control group who haven’t. Furthermore, there is some evidence that forcing students to predict an outcome—essentially what a pretest does—helps them engage more with the material, leading to better discussion-board postings.
Pretesting falls into a larger category of predicting, the act of having students forecast future information: how a novel will end, the effects of an economic factor they have not yet studied, how a formula might be modified to take into account another influence on profit.
Experts have several theories about how and why predicting works:
Pretesting increases students’ interest in the material that follows. Imagine you’re watching a curling match for the first time. If you’ve been forced to predict a winner in the match, you will pay closer attention to what follows. You might wonder if the techniques you saw on the ice led to the win or loss of the team you chose. Similarly, when you see information on a topic you were tested on in the pretest, you might look for information that explains why your answer was correct or not.
Pretesting helps students recognize what they should pay attention to. Novices in a field rarely have an intuitive sense of what information is important. In literature classes, for example, students may note that a character went out for a walk after dinner (unimportant) while failing to notice that other characters are addressing him as “sir” (important). A pretest primes students to focus on certain aspects of a topic. A pretest that asks about the social class of a character will direct students’ attention to information that reveals class while they are reading the novel—including how the character is addressed by others.
Pretesting primes retrieval, aiding students’ ability to connect new knowledge to old. This theory is a bit more technical. One of the most important ways we remember information is through its connection to other information. As a writing teacher, I see this most clearly with words that are only partially known. A student who has heard “benign” will connect it to “tumor” and know that a “benign tumor” is the best kind of tumor to have. She will know that long before she knows what the word “benign” means on its own. Our brains use a network of connections to store and retrieve information. “Tree” will be connected to “leaves,” “tall,” “plant,” “wood,” “forest,” “deciduous” and a host of other information we have on the topic. It turns out that we learn new information more easily when we have connected it to an already-existing network. A pretest asks us to ransack our minds for information on an unknown topic. This activation of previous knowledge allows us more easily to connect and retrieve the new information we are about to learn.
Experts caution that in the studies showing the effectiveness of prediction, students were provided immediate feedback on their predictions. Our use of prediction, therefore, should follow that model: it’s easier to remember the wrong guess you made on the pretest rather than the right answer you learned several days later. To ensure that you are harnessing the full power of prediction for your students, make sure the course provides feedback shortly after the prediction.
A pretest, of course, is not the only opportunity to mobilize the learning power of prediction. Here are some other ways a course can use the power of prediction to improve student retention:

  • In a finance course, a video might pause after a real-world problem is presented and ask students to predict which formula is most appropriate to solve it. Students choose the formula from a multiple-choice list. The video continues and reveals the formula the professor chose.
  • In a writing course, students might read the first draft of a paper and then write into a text box their prediction of the three most important issues the writer should fix in the next draft. What the instructor is looking for in the next draft is revealed and explained immediately after.
  • An art history course introduces the Baroque period by displaying side-by-side works of art depicting the same Biblical story from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Students are asked to post to a discussion board about how the Baroque piece differently renders the Biblical story.

Because predicting can be incorporated into a variety of technological applications and applied to almost any field, it is another powerful and versatile tool to boost your students’ learning in an online environment.


Footnotes

1 Lang, James M. Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2016, pp. 46-47.
For a complete listing of MindEdge’s courses about online learning, click here.


Copyright © 2018 MindEdge, Inc.

For Course Designers, It’s All About Retention

Designing to help students remember what they learn

By Heather Morton
Senior Editor, MindEdge Learning
The good news for those of us who work in the field of online education is that the low-cost, flexible alternative of online instruction continues to attract increasing numbers of students, even as college enrollment overall is down.1 Furthermore, we can feel good about our work: plenty of research supports the efficacy of online learning.2
students rarely walk out of class, but there's no social pressure to keep a browser window open.
The bad news is that online courses face one significant hurdle that face-to-face learning does not. That’s the ability—and tendency—of learners to click away from the course at the first feeling of difficulty. Students rarely walk out of class, but there’s no social pressure to keep a browser window open.
This liability of virtual education has implications for course design; instructors need to ensure that the learning experience is as frictionless as possible. But there is a deeper tension here, between what feels comfortable to the learner and what leads to genuine learning.
It turns out that a number of techniques shown to increase retention can feel difficult to students, decreasing the likelihood that they’ll stick around.
One of these uncomfortable-but-fruitful learning practices is called ”interleaved practice,” which is practice that varies the skills being exercised. Interleaved practice is more effective than the comfortably familiar “massed practice” which is, essentially, doing a lot of the same type of problem.
Unfortunately, our educational system is dominated by massed practice. In elementary school, children are given 20 pairs of fractions to multiply, one after another, in one sitting. In basketball, athletes practice shot after shot. In piano, a student plays the same measure repeatedly until it’s right. Massed practice leads to quick mastery and, more importantly, the quick feeling of mastery that learners associate with a successful learning experience. Students look for that same feeling in their online courses.
In fact, research suggests that all this repetition does not lead to greater long-term mastery. In a famous study, one group of eight-year-olds practiced throwing beanbags into a bucket three feet away. Another group practiced throwing beanbags into buckets two and four feet away. Then both groups were tested on how well they threw a beanbag into a bucket three feet away. The result? The group that practiced throwing the beanbag varying distances did significantly better than the group that practiced only on the target distance of three feet.
How can you explain to a student that this course will never give him any practice at the actual task he's being asked to perform?
Based on these test results, a successful course in throwing a beanbag three feet would have the learner practice throwing it two and four feet, instead. But how can you explain to a student that this course will never give him any practice at the actual task he’s being asked to perform?
Luckily, other research does not support the idea that students become good at tasks by never practicing them. Rather, these studies suggest that switching tasks frequently leads to a better understanding of each one individually. This is the power of interleaving.
But this power is hard-won. It’s difficult. It doesn’t feel to the learner as though she’s mastered anything.
In Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, Peter Brown, Henry Roediger III, and Mark McDaniel recount a study in which two groups of students were asked to calculate the volume of four geometric figures. One group was given multiple problems at a time on a single figure, while the other was given the same practice problems in no particular order. During the practice, the group working on the massed problems (problems only testing one type of volume calculation at a time) performed significantly better on the calculations, but on a test a week later the massed problems group averaged 20 percent correct, while the interleaved group averaged 63 percent correct.3
While learners are right to say that repetition leads to quicker mastery, that mastery fades more quickly. So how does an instructional designer negotiate the divide between a positive learning experience—one that keeps students around—and a beneficial learning result?
Into the breach comes “spaced practice,” a learning strategy that calls for practices to be broken up into shorter sessions, over a longer period of time. A course can offer learners the massed learning they appreciate and then gradually space out the practice and review, interleaving the new topic with older ones. The act of forgetting (a little) and then retrieving the new information or skill cements it in long-term memory. The quick boost to short-term memory that is massed practice will gradually shift to the more permanent long-term memory.
Say you are designing an art history course that teaches students the characteristics of different periods. After presenting the characteristics of Renaissance art, you might have students explain how a few particular works of art exemplify the period (massed practice). The next task might be to pick out the seven Renaissance paintings from among a group of 14 paintings.
However, after students have completed a unit on the Baroque, they should be asked to differentiate Renaissance artworks from Baroque artworks from those that are neither. After the unit on the Baroque, students’ knowledge of the Renaissance is likely to be fuzzy. Interleaving Renaissance and Baroque works will sharpen their knowledge of the Baroque period while it shifts their knowledge of the Renaissance from short-term to long-term memory. After each new period, students can be asked to review Renaissance art in the context of recalling an increasing number of periods.
As designers, we want our students to enjoy our classes and feel a sense of mastery. But we also want to set them up for long-term success. A good instructional designer works to keep students on the page—and to make it worth their while to have been there.


Footnotes

1Straumsheim, C. A Volatile but Growing Online Ed Market. Inside Higher Education, May 2017. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/05/02/report-finds-growth-volatility-online-education-market/
2Most recently, a meta-analysis of research by the U.S. Department of education. The report contrasted online to face-to-face education and found students in an online environment had modestly better outcomes. Evaluation of Evidence-based Learning Practices in Online Learning. U.S. Department of Education, September 2010. https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf
3Brown, P, Roediger III, H., McDaniel, M. Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Belknap Press: Harvard University Press, 2014, pp. 49-50.
For a complete listing of MindEdge’s courses about online learning, click here.


Copyright © 2018 MindEdge, Inc.

Teaching online

This MindEdge Learning infographic highlights the vital role played by the instructor in online learning.

In online learning, the instructor plays a vital role in the learning process.

Initially, the instructor must establish a welcoming environment for learners. The instructor constantly observes, monitors, and provides feedback on learners’ work, as well as coaches and critiques learners. He or she guides discussions and can leads online video and chat sessions.

The instructor may hold virtual office hours to meet with learners and facilitate peer review sessions between learners. Some instructors occasionally give online mini-lectures in order to encourage the learners’ mastery of concepts.

When the instructor takes on the above roles, learners will benefit from online learning in multiple ways, including:

  • Sharpened technology skills
  • Empowered and self-directed learning
  • Improved critical thinking skills
  • Demonstrated mastery of concepts and competencies
  • Improved collaborative and team skills
  • Enhanced social skills

The instructor also reaps certain benefits from the online learning process, such as:

  • Engaged learners
  • Learners’ mastery of concepts and competencies
  • Improved course completion rates
  • Enhanced personal satisfaction with teaching
  • Sharpened technology skills
  • Accelerated professional growth

In an optimal online learning environment, both the learners and the instructors will benefit from a process that includes important involvement and engagement from the instructor.


Copyright © 2016 MindEdge, Inc.

Closing the 2 Sigma Learning Gap


We see a significant opportunity to use what we know about learning and the latest technology tools to dramatically improve student performance—to close the 2 Sigma Learning Gap.
This gap was identified by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom. He and his fellow researchers found that the average student who was tutored one-to-one using “mastery learning techniques” performed two standard deviations (2 Sigma) better than students in a classroom. (Simply put, mastery learning techniques insist that students achieve mastery of knowledge and skills before proceeding to the next stage of learning.)
Bloom argued that one-on-one instruction would be “too costly for most societies to bear on a large scale,” and his proposed solution was to uncover those key variables in instruction that could be tweaked to improve student performance and then applied broadly.

https://learningworkshop.mindedge.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/2sigma_gap.jpg

The top six factors for improvement researchers uncovered (in rough order of importance) were the following:

  • Tutorial instruction
  • Reinforcement
  • Feedback-corrective
  • Cues and explanations
  • Student classroom participation
  • Student time on task

There has been a significant amount of experimentation and testing of these factors in the classroom and, increasingly, in online environments. In his initial paper, Bloom suggested that technology might be one way to scale mastery learning.

MindEdge’s approach

We design MindEdge Learning online courses and simulations to leverage technology to apply those six factors. We’ve integrated them into the five pedagogical tools best suited for adult learners. Those tools are:

  • Assessments
  • Gamification
  • Whole-Part-Whole Learning
  • Narrative Learning
  • Adaptive Learning

When we create courses, we look at how to best reach the learner employing these tools, with Bloom’s factors in mind.

Employing the learning tools

Assessments, for example, can be a vital tool in achieving Bloom’s mastery learning. Research shows that students who are continuously questioned about what they’ve learned perform better. Indeed, initial testing taps into the counterintuitive concept of “learning by failing.” Diagnostic assessments can personalize learning and help students focus on mastering challenging topics. Assessments address the Bloom factors of Reinforcement, Feedback-corrective and Cues and explanations.
Gamification—using game design elements in educational contexts–can engage and challenge the learner in different ways. Learning feels more personal when playing or competing, and educational research supports the value of “learning by playing.” Students who gravitate to a game environment are likely to spend more time engaging with the educational content. Gamification addresses the Bloom factors of Reinforcement, Feedback-corrective, and Student time on task.
Whole-Part-Whole Learning (WPWL) presents students with an overview of learning content (Whole), then guides them through the specific components of that knowledge or skill (Part), and then asks them to recreate that content (Whole). A pedagogical approach that has been adopted by adult educators, WPWL helps provide context and slows down the learning process. It addresses the Bloom factors of Reinforcement and Student classroom participation (in an online setting, the process of recreating the Whole can be structured to mimic classroom participation through instructor-led discussions or video conferences, or collaborative group work).
Narrative Learning (NL) engages students through case studies, scenarios, and simulations and asks them to apply their learning. We’ve found that students respond well to the real-world relevance of NL, and research suggests that humans are hard-wired to learn through story-telling. NL addresses the Bloom factors of Reinforcement, Student classroom participation, and Student time on task.
Adaptive Learning (AL) is the tool with the greatest promise for closing the 2 Sigma Learning Gap. It directly offers tutorial-like help that personalizes instruction and focuses on individual learning challenges. Students are helped through difficult topics by individualized scaffolding, varied content presentation, and iterative drills and problem solving. We’ve found AL works best in combination with the other teaching methods we employ—it’s best to offer learners a variety of approaches. AL addresses the Bloom factors of Tutorial instruction, Reinforcement, and Feedback-corrective.
The following chart summarizes the way MindEdge employs these tools and their impact on students and how they relate to Bloom’s six factors.

Pedagogical tool Approach Impact on students Bloom factors
Assessments (formative/
diagnostic)
Students respond to low-stakes questions throughout the learning process.
  • Personalizes
  • Frames the learning
  • ‘Learn by failing’
  • Reinforcement
  • Feedback-corrective
  • Cues and explanations
Gamification Students learn through games and interactive exercises.
  • Personalizes
  • Engages
  • ‘Learn by playing’
  • Reinforcement
  • Cues and explanations
  • Student time on task
Whole-Part-Whole Learning (WPWL) Students are presented with an overview of learning content (Whole), then guided through the specific components of that knowledge or skill (Part), and then asked to recreate that content (Whole).
  • Frames the learning
  • Develops cognitive skills
  • ‘Learn by reconstructing’
  • Reinforcement
  • Cues and explanations
  • Student classroom participation (modified)
Narrative Learning (NL) Students are engaged through case studies, scenarios, and simulations and asked to apply their learning.
  • Makes the learning relevant
  • Taps into narrative structure (conflict/
    resolution)
  • ‘Learn by story’
  • Reinforcement
  • Feedback-corrective
  • Student classroom participation (modified)
Adaptive Learning (AL) Students are helped through difficult topics by individualized scaffolding, varied content presentation, and iterative drills and problem solving.
  • Personalizes
  • Targets common instructional pain points
  • ‘Learn by focus’
  • Tutorial instruction
  • Reinforcement
  • Feedback-corrective

 

Closing the gap

Initial meta-research studies have suggested that online learning matches or exceeds traditional classroom instruction, although certainly not by 2 Sigma levels. We’re confident that when the pedagogical tools are applied correctly, more significant improvements in student performance are possible. MindEdge Learning’s academic partners have seen completion rates and test scores improve in course with these tools.
Our experience with adaptive learning in several difficult undergraduate courses (Composition, and Critical Thinking) suggests that students welcome the personalized tutorial-like focus (with 95% of students finding the AL segments helpful). As part of our commitment to data-driven analysis, MindEdge Learning continues to explore ways to better capture the effects of different approaches on student performance–and closing the 2 Sigma Learning Gap.
 


Jefferson Flanders is president of MindEdge Learning. He has taught at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, at Babson College, and at Boston University.
 

Reference:

2 Sigma Learning Gap: See: Benjamin Bloom. (1984). “The 2 Sigma Problem: The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as Effective as One-to-One Tutoring,” Educational Researcher, 13:6(4-16).
Assessments: ‘Learn by failing.’ See: Henry L. Roediger and Bridgid Finn, “Getting It Wrong: Surprising Tips on How to Learn, ” Scientific American, October 20, 2009.
Gamification: ‘Learn by playing.’ See: Juho Hamari, Jonna Koivisto, and Harri Sarsa. “Does gamification work?–a literature review of empirical studies on gamification.” In System Sciences (HICSS), 2014 47th Hawaii International Conference on, pp. 3025-3034. IEEE, 2014.
Whole-Part-Whole Learning: ‘Learn by reconstructing.’ See: R. A. Swanson and B. D. Law, “Whole-Part-Whole Learning Model.” Performance Improvement Quarterly, 2010: 6: 43–53.
Narrative Learning: ‘Learn by story.’ See: M.C. Clark, “Narrative learning: Its contours and its possibilities.” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 2010: 3–11.
Adaptive Learning: ‘Learn by focus.’ See: Jefferson Flanders, “Exploring the Iceberg: Why selective adaptive learning meets the needs of students.” EdTech Digest, June 10, 2014.


Copyright © 2015 Jefferson Flanders

MindEdge adds Open Badges

MindEdge Learning now issues Open Badges, an online standard to recognize and verify learning, for more than 100 of its courses and simulations offered on MindEdge Online.

MindEdge Open Badges can be earned through MindEdge Online (www.mindedgeonline.com).

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Badges Graphic Hi-Res 051915WK

Open Badges allow students and professionals to publicly share their skills, knowledge, and accomplishments online, which may help with future career and education opportunities. Learners can manage and share badges across the web from their Mozilla Backpack. (You can set up a free Mozilla Backpack at https://backpack.openbadges.org/.)

Learners who successfully complete their MindEdge course or simulation will earn MindEdge Open Badges. They can share their credentials online through social media and display them on resumes and transcripts.

“We see offering Open Badges to MindEdge learners as a way to help support their professional development and career aspirations,” said Jefferson Flanders, president and CEO of MindEdge. “It’s an attractive option for individuals who want to show they’ve mastered new skills and it will help organizations identify those who have the talents they need. We’re pleased to join the Open Badges movement.”

Open Badges are an innovative solution created by Mozilla with support from the MacArthur Foundation, Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC), and others. These digital credentials are verifiable, portable, and stackable. When Open Badges are issued, they have information “baked into” them, which enables institutions and employers to verify the issuer and check the criteria that the learner was required to meet to earn the badge. Organizations offering Open Badges include NASA, Disney-Pixar and others.


Copyright © 2015 MindEdge, Inc.

Online learning quotes (February 2015)

Here are some notable quotes about the world of online learning from the past several months.

On blended learning

“Blended learning, which once referred to use of computer and web-based training in class, has now evolved into a mammoth education program that merges traditional classroom-based instruction with technology enhancements such as electronic whiteboards, Internet devices, multimedia assistance, digital textbooks and online lesson plans.”
Suren Ramasubbu, Co-founder & CEO, Mobicip.com
SOURCE: “The Evolution of Blended Learning,” Huffington Post, February 12, 2015


On the future of MOOCs

“Reports of the death of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) may have been greatly exaggerated, but predictions of a pivot toward MOOCs that are more vocational in nature (as opposed to a pathway to a liberal arts degree) appear to have been right on target.”
Sonali Kohli, reporter, Quartz
SOURCE: ““The MOOC model attracting big money from investors,” Quartz, January 15, 2015


On suit over online closed captioning

“Advocates for the deaf and hard of hearing are suing two top-tier U.S. universities for discrimination due to lack of closed captioning in their online educational material.”
Katie Bascuas, Associations Now
SOURCE: ““Deaf Advocates Sue Harvard, MIT For Lack of Online Closed Captioning” Associations Now, February 20, 2015


On online certificates

“In a job market that is increasingly filled with job descriptions that didn’t exist a decade ago or less, workers and employers alike are recognising the value of online certificates…”
Rick Levin, CEO, Coursera
SOURCE: ““Coursera teams up with Google, Snapdeal to develop online courses,” Tech2, February, 14, 2015


On higher education resistance to change

“College and university administrators whose institutions exist to educate—share information with students—believe it’s ‘critical’ to use the greatest system for delivering information ever devised by man, but they’re getting resistance from employees who’d rather cling to the old-fashioned way.”
J.D. Tuccille, managing editor, Reason.com
SOURCE: “Professors Resist Attitudes in Higher Education Innovation,” Reason.com, February 10, 2015


On online career education

“Since 2012, most ed-tech companies have quietly rewritten their product promise from unbridled learning for learning’s sake to a path to a job or career goal — website copy now essentially says “jobs, jobs, careers, jobs.”
Shawn Drost, co-founder, Hack Reactor
SOURCE: ““A Wave Crests: Silicon Valley, Postsecondary Education And A Half-Trillion Dollars”, TechCrunch, December 16, 2014


Copyright © 2015 MindEdge, Inc.

Leading Online Discussions

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-two-concept-speech-bubbles-green-blue-dialogue-icon-d-image32260367
Leading an online discussion is both similar to and different from leading a classroom discussion. Instructors should be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each of these types of forums.
Online instructors must remember that students may be new to the subject matter and often need help in having productive conversations in discussion forums or virtual classroom settings.
Instructors can help facilitate these interactions by prompting learners when conversations stall or head off course. They may need to gently correct statements made in a group setting that are inaccurate or foster a misinterpretation of the material.
The best discussion topics encourage learners to apply what they have learned in the course content, either to what they already know or to new circumstances. Another approach is to ask students to take a position on a question and explain why they are doing so.
To spark collaboration among learners, instructors can ask students to jointly resolve a difficult question through discussion (in larger classes, some instructors use polling technology to surface the “winning” position.)
Here are tips from experienced online instructors for leading discussions, both in real-time and iterative modes.

  • Establish the parameters at the outset for appropriate discussion (parameters which might include civility, courtesy, respect for others, no use of profanity, etc.). This can be communicated through an initial post and/or in the course outline. You may want students to know that you reserve the right to edit or delete posts.

 

  • Connect topics with the readings and online materials but seek to challenge students to think critically and move beyond simple recall. For example, a discussion about the origins of the Civil War might be started by asking students whether or not the North and South could have found a compromise to avert war and what would such a compromise have looked like. This sort of question asks learners to synthesize and move beyond a simple recitation of what they’ve encountered in the course materials.

 

  • Encourage all learners to participate in online discussions by linking their involvement to grades or by providing other incentives.

 

  • Praise learner posts that contribute to a discussion.

 

  • Guide off-topic conversations back to the question at hand.

 

  • Ask students to describe their real world experiences (where appropriate) as a way of making the discussion more relevant.

 

  • Don’t feel the need to constantly interject yourself into the discussion—pick your spots judiciously.

When handled correctly, online discussions can engage and involve all the students in a course or class. Some students who don’t feel comfortable contributing in a classroom setting find online discussions more inviting. The more an instructor can do to encourage this participation, the greater pedagogical value this activity will have for learners.


Copyright © 2014 MindEdge, Inc.

Learning and Interactivity

touch screen on tablet computer
People often wonder what, exactly, counts as interactive learning, assuming that interactivity has to be high-tech and draw upon complex graphics and expert coding techniques. In reality, an interactive course may be high-tech, but interactive learning can describe any course for which the development team considers and plans interactions between the learner and content, instructor, and other learners rather than just presenting content with the hope that the learner will absorb it passively.
We know that learners must actively construct their knowledge by converting new information and new experiences into learning. They need to be engaged in their learning to facilitate making connections, and that engagement happens through interactions available to the learner.
There are three broad modes of interaction in education:

  • Learner-content interaction. The learner’s interaction with content such as course readings, videos, activities, and games.
  • Learner-instructor interaction. The learner’s interaction with the instructor, which may include written feedback, face-to-face presentation, and meetings conducted in person or via voice or video conferencing features.
  • Learner-learner interaction. The learner’s interaction with other learners, which might include discussion board assignments, peer review of produced work, or official or unofficial group study sessions.

Planning for these interactions makes it more likely that the course you design will be effective. In fact, in Distance Education: A Systems View, Michael Moore and Greg Kearsley (2005) suggest that one of the most common reasons that distance education courses fail is that an inordinate amount of attention is placed on the presentation of information rather than on the cultivation of interaction between the learner and the course:

“Whether the primary communication medium is online or print, audio or videotape recordings, broadcasts or teleconferences, there is often an imbalance between the time and effort devoted to experts’ presentation of information and the arrangements made for the learner to interact with the content thus presented, and the instructor-learner interaction and learner-learner interaction that we have discussed. Simply making a video presentation or putting lecture material on a Web site is no more teaching than it would be to send the students a book through the mail.” (145)

To ensure that learners are learning deeply and actively, course developers and instructors need to work together to create courses with attention to the interactions we are asking of the learner. Best practice calls for an authentic “back-and-forth” with the learner, an approach which encourages active learning.


Copyright © 2013 MindEdge, Inc.

About the National Institute for Online Learning

NIOL_logo_final_300

Last week MindEdge Online added two courses on online learning from the National Institute of Online Learning (NIOL). It was a milestone for the Institute, which seeks to improve the quality and effectiveness of online learning, especially for adult learners, by promoting best practices and innovation in the field.

We founded NIOL last year for several reasons. First, we thought that MindEdge Learning had knowledge and expertise of value that we believed would be helpful for those involved in online education. MindEdge has developed effective online courses and simulations used by hundreds of thousands of students in higher education and the private sector. The Institute seemed to be an appropriate vehicle in that transfer of learning.

Second, in working with partners and new entrants to the field, we encountered somewhat of a gap between theory and practice—some of those tasked with designing and creating online courses did not have prior grounding in learning theory or much exposure to the technology involved. We think the Institute can help in educating those who want a deeper background in online learning.

Third, we wanted a place where those interested in educating adults would be able to find resources. While the recent emphasis on MOOCs and undergraduate online education is promising, we thought that the challenges of designing and creating online courses and simulations for adults continues to deserve focused attention.

For those reasons, and others, we decided it was time for NIOL. What can you expect from the Institute in the near future? NIOL will be focused on training, education, consulting, and advocacy.

The Institute will offer additional courses focused on various aspects of online learning, including instructional design, course development, and key technologies. By the end of 2013, learners will have the opportunity to earn NIOL’s Online Learning Fundamentals Certificate, awarded for the successful completion of the Institute’s twelve introductory courses.

NIOL will also release occasional white papers focused on relevant learning topics (including narrative and adaptive learning) and will host webinars on best practices in course and simulation design and on technology issues.

The Institute will also be establishing an advisory board of academics, practitioners, educators, and others interested in online learning to help us keep NIOL abreast of the latest developments in the field.

You can learn more about the Institute at the NIOL website, or you can contact me directly at MindEdge Learning (info@mindedge.com) with any questions or suggestions.


Jefferson Flanders, an author and educator, is president of MindEdge. He has taught at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, Babson College, and Boston University.
Copyright © 2013 Jefferson Flanders

Online Learning for Tech-Savvy Students

MindEdge Learning has released “Online Learning for Tech-Savvy Students,” a white paper on how educators and trainers are responding to new digital platforms. It can be downloaded by clicking here.

Online Learning for Tech-Savvy Students

“The growth of mobile devices—especially tablets and smartphones—means that students will increasingly expect online learning to be available on their technology of choice,” the white paper notes.

“Online Learning for Tech-Savvy Students” reviews best practices for adapting to this technology, including the introduction of blended learning, by focusing on the efforts of leaders in higher education, including institutions like Dartmouth College, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Maryland.

The white paper closes with some of the issues that MindEdge Learning has encountered in meeting emerging technological challenges and suggests some questions that should be addressed by those developing mobile learning.



Copyright © 2013 MindEdge, Inc.