09. February 2015 · Comments Off on What I find puzzling, interesting, challenging about my work · Categories: My personal learning journey

Imaze‘m starting my Master’s degree study again and the first step of my first assignment is to think about my professional life and work identify a few areas or topics I find particularly interesting, puzzling or challenging or about which I feel passionate.

So here goes – some public free-writing:

1) I’m interested in how instructors could possibly dare to innovate when they are responsible for courses with hundreds of students.  What sorts of engaging activities can be planned for a formal, graded, non-MOOC course with hundreds of students? Is the secret to look at successful MOOC design and work with that? I’ve suspected this might be the case, it would be interesting to explore further. Interactive learning objects could provide some feedback, but in the end it’s about people. Can you get everyone engaging to the point where you feel confident they’re getting a quality learning experience in higher education when your course has hundreds of people? Even with tutorial groups, how do you manage that?
2) How do you help take people from being spoon-fed and used to top-down learning and help them to develop creative thinking skills? What people term “common sense” is often just pattern-making and information literacy. That’s what people need to be life-long learners, to be able to move up Bloom’s and apply information to new situations in creative ways. Do you throw them in the water and then teach them to swim? Do you throw them in the water and then arrive with a life raft? Do you teach them to swim first? Or do you point them to the water, suggest a few options such as snorkel gear, learning to swim or building a boat and let them figure out the best method? I’m learning towards this last.

3) How the hell can I break free from having to use an LMS with learners in formal learning situations so that I can track their access and use to ensure their work is “authenticated” properly? Dammit I think LMSs are like formal gardens with perfectly trimmed hedges, pre-set paths, formal fountains and every trace of wildness and passion stripped away. The tamed wolf. The castrated, toothless lion. It’s not where most of us live — and none of us should want to live there.  PBL intrigues me – how do you make it work with large, online learner co-horts? Can you put it to work to help people learn foundation knowledge?
4) What can higher education learn from the VET sector when it comes to crafting assessments that determine whether or not someone is getting what they need from their learning to help them achieve their professional goals? I came away from higher education largely thinking that it was all about figuring out what the instructor wanted and giving it to him or her so that I could get my piece of paper. The VET sector is about competency. It doesn’t ask that you understand something deeply or award on a scale – it asks if you can DO something to a certain standard.
5) What can technology do to support older learners (45+) who need to re-tool for the second careers they’re going to need? I know from previous research that older learners can excel their younger counterparts when their perception of their own self-efficacy is positive. So can or should we look at both the hardware and software available and re-tool or re-make devices that will be easy to use for slower, less sure fingers or the weaker eyes or the people used to getting 20-page manuals with their toasters?
6) What would an effective, engaging, accredited online course with no lecture or content summaries or reading lists look like? Educators focus so much on content. Some courses have wikis and group projects. Some have students teaching students. How much “foundation” knowledge does a learner need and does it vary from topic to topic? I wouldn’t want a surgeon who Googled his way through med school with no supervision, but neither would I want one who had to constantly be told what to do and when and who freaked out in new situations requiring quick decisions.
7) What are useful, authenticate-able assessments that don’t involve essays but do demonstrate knowledge and critical thinking in a relevant context and how soon in a learning program do you bring them in? Is it possible to do in a first year or foundation skills course? Would it have to be a course that was above a certain level of Blooms? 1 plus 1 can be taught with apples (or cookies). 

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