Get students fired up with scenario-based eLearning

Robert H Schuller Quote-800

Want to get students fired up about learning? Then present a problem and ask them for a solution. Scenario-based instruction will grab your student’s attention and keep them engaged in the learning experience. In this post, I will give some definitions of scenario-based learning, identify some of the benefits it offers, and explain when to use it in your online course.

What is it?

According to Clark and Mayer (2012), scenario-based eLearning is

“an instructional environment in which the learner assumes a role to make decisions or take actions to resolve a work-related situation.”

Rooted in situated learning theory (Lave & Wenger, 1991), participants use critical thinking to solve a real-world problem. This leads to “knowledge activation.”

Seker (2016) validates scenario-based instruction design as a tool to promote self-regulated language learning strategies:

“…they provide situated learning driven from the relevant problems to the context of learners (Brock, 2003; Naidu, 2010; Parrish, 2004).”

What are the benefits?

  • Learners must engage!
  • Learning becomes concrete as students face real-life problems.
  • Learners must apply existing knowledge to a problem.
  • Learners must assess the problem, develop a solution, and know why they came to the decision.

As students explore new information and topics in a real-world situation, they must demonstrate critical thinking skills and the application of knowledge to complete the scenario-based eLearning activity (Kelly, 2015).

When should I use it?

Well, what do you want your students to learn? Your answer to this question should help you identify when scenario-based learning is right for your course.

In the discussion forum of the online course that I teach, I use scenario prompts. Students are asked to put themselves into the shoes of historical actors in order to understand the challenges that those people faced in their time. This helps them understand why decisions were made. In these discussion forums, students must consider what they know as well as the varying perspectives of their peers in order to arrive at a conclusion.

Try it out!

The scenario example below was built in PowerPoint—a tool that everyone is familiar with! The Branched Scenario Template was a free download from eLearning Heroes. I used the 3 C Model of Scenario Building (Kuhlmann, 2017) to identify the problem and solution as well as the consequences of the scenario.

In the scenario, Scott Fillmore, an employee of Seeking a Change, LLC, is faced with a customer service complaint. To select the best response to the problem, the learner must apply conflict management skills that were acquired in a recent company training module. Complete the scenario yourself by opening this link to the PowerPoint file.

Scenario 1 Dissatisfied With Customer Service

How did you do? In the future, I would like to explore using this type of activity to create what Cathy Moore calls memorable mini-scenarios to add further value for learners. I hope this quick-and-easy scenario-based eLearning activity inspires you to create your own!

References

Clark, R. C., and Mayer R. E. Scenario-Based e-Learning, Center for Creative Leadership, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central. Created from springarboruniv-ebooks on 2017-06-19 14:23:46.

Culatta, R. (2015). Conditions of Learning (Robert Gagne). Instructional Design.org

Culatta, R. (2015). Situated  Learning (J. Lave). Instructional Design.org

Kelly, R. (2015, September 24). Scenario-based learning in the online classroom. Retrieved June 23, 2017, from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/scenario-based-learning-in-the-online-classroom/

Cathy Moore. (2011, October 12). How to create a memorable mini-scenario [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://blog.cathy-moore.com/2011/10/how-to-create-a-memorable-mini-scenario/

Seker, M (2016). Scenario-based instruction design as a tool to promote self-regulated language learning strategies. Sage Open.

author-tara

Improve Your Course Content: Active Voice

Content is difficult to read on a screen. If you want students to engage with your online course, you need to improve the cognitive load. The best practices used for writing for the web include active voice, positive tone, the inverted pyramid, chunking text, bullet and number lists, and descriptive headings. In this post, we’ll examine how to improve the readability of your course using active voice.

Woman Writing
This royalty free image is from pexels.com
Academic writing often slides into passive voice. Let’s be honest, we’ve all rearranged sentences to reach a word count requirement. Passive voice allows us to remove first person bias, but it makes the sentence more complex (the object happens to the subject). The reader must rearrange the sentence in his or her mind to understand it. If your content is too complex, the reader might give up.

In internet terms: tl;dr (too long, didn’t read).

Active voice is clear, concise, and easy to understand; it’s one of the best ways to improve writing. According to Strunk and White (2000):

“The habitual use of the active voice […] makes for forcible writing.”

I once inherited a document written in 45 percent passive voice. I challenged myself to only use active voice (and succeeded). The good news is you don’t have to do that. As a general rule, your content should use under 10 percent passive voice.

In some situations, you might use passive voice to remove responsibility. The famous example is an organization using “A mistake was made” rather than “I made a mistake.” In this case, the abstract verbiage removes the blame from a person; however, this usage is the exception not the rule.

Active Voice Graphic
Examples of active and passive voice. Includes Subject + Verb + Object formula.
How to convert passive voice to active voice:

  1. Find the verb: If you see “to be” (am, is, are, was, were, been, etc.), the verb is in past tense—this causes passive voice.
  2. Simplify the verb or use a descriptive verb: Replace the active verb with the “Simple Present” version (see Purdue OWL, Verb Tenses). Another option is to use a more descriptive verb.
  3. Rearrange the sentence: The best way is to write Subject + Verb + Object. You might find this difficult at first. You’re already familiar with the current sentence, and you will need to think of another way to say the same thing.

It’s okay to write a draft in passive voice—just remember to revise!

Are you a subject matter expert, instructional designer, or course editor? Or do you write for the web? Leave your favorite tips for online content in the comments below.

References

Berry, C., Brizee, A., Angeli, E., & Ghafoor, M. (2017, June 2). Verb Tenses. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/601/01/

Strunk, W., & White, E. B. (2000). The elements of style. New York: Longman.

Three Ways to Become Student-Centered

Our eLearning Team is moving toward student-centered learning in our courses. This approach is often miles away from how the course existed in the past, or how the subject matter expert envisions the online course to be.

I have found three ways to help our team and SMEs move toward becoming student-centered in all of our course development projects.

First, provide onboard training for online/blended instructors. Next, build interaction into every course. And finally, establish and sustain teacher presence while facilitating the course.

1. Step into their shoes.

shoes_public-domain-pictures-1494403416XaB
Image used with a creative commons license.

At the conclusion of the faculty training course that I facilitate for my university, participants consistently express value gained from “being a student” in the course. This constructive approach to training creates a safe space for future instructors to experience the nitty-gritty challenges that their students will also face. This is what they tell me:

  • Initially they are faced with their own misconceptions about online education and are forced to make time management decisions during the first week of training.
  • They experience gratification that comes from timely instructor feedback and encouragement.
  • They discover asynchronous momentum that develops in the discussion forum, and begin to research, practice, and develop strategies to create and sustain this kind of phenomenon in their own courses.
  • They experience tools within the LMS for the first time, and recognize the value of a Wiki activity, a Reflection journal, and publishing a video reflection in the Blog.

Being a student helps them understand the reasons for decisions made in the course design, and highlights strategies they must employ for students to have a successful online experience.

2. Design interaction.

ARE YOU THERE
Created using Adobe Photoshop.

 

Researchers find that designing the course to include social presence is a sure way to become student-centered. Creating opportunities for interaction and communication among members leads the way for social presence, which Richardson and Swan (2003) describe as: “The degree to which a person is perceived as ‘real’ in mediated communication. (p 70).

Julie and Kenneth Kendall, from the School of Business-Camden at Rutgers University, believe that storytelling works well to enhance social presence in an online course. When designing an online or blended course, consider presenting a scenario, a story, or case study through video, audio, or text. Then, ask students to share their perceptions, and interact with one another over them.

The Kendall’s found that four highly valuable functions result from this type of interaction in an online course:

  • members get a feeling for what has happened (experiential),
  • the decisions made and consequences that follow are explained (explanatory),
  • concepts, policies and strategies are validated (validation), and members are guided to a preferred outcome leading to success (prescriptive). (Kendall & Kendall, p. 68).

When designing an online/blended course, be upfront about why you are student-centered and make every decision accordingly.

3. Work hard at communicating.

Adobe Spark(3)
Meme created using Adobe Spark; quote attributed to Roy Williams.

Lala Hajibayova, writes in “Student’s Viewpoint: What Constitutes Presence in an Online Classroom?” that the Community of Inquiry framework informs presence in a practical way by recognizing that both instructor and student contribute to learning. Three types of presence work together in the COI framework: cognitive presence, social presence, and teacher presence.

Hajibayova believes that teacher presence buoys both cognitive and social presence, holding all three together for a strong student-centered online environment. She discovered that students perceive teacher presence when they receive regular communication through varying channels. Think engagement in discussion forums, email messages, course announcements, timely feedback on assignments, and thoughtful responses to questions they have asked. (Hajibayova, p. 22).

It takes considerable time in the first week of a course to establish instructor presence. You will stay busy answering questions via email, posting announcements to clarify expectations, involving yourself in the first discussion forum to model the type of activity students will need to embrace. Once students can trust that you are there, you can ease off a bit and rely on key instructor functions built into the course, like grading, feedback, facilitating discussion, and interacting with students in the private journal. As one training participant in my course put it:

“Teaching online is not a weekend job.”

These are just three strategies for becoming student-centered when designing online and blended courses—of course there are many more!

Our team would like to hear from you – what strategies have you found to be successful, and why do you think they worked so well? Do you have a story to share about teacher presence? Interaction? Putting yourself in your student’s shoes? Leave a comment to start the conversation!

References

Hajibayova, L. (2016). Students’ viewpoint: What constitutes presence in an online classroom? Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 55:(1), 12-25.

Kendall, J. E. & Kendall, K. E. (2017). Enhancing online executive education using storytelling: An approach to strengthening online presence. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 15(1), 62-81.

Richardson, J., & Swan, K. (2003). Examining social presence in online courses
in relation to students’ perceived learning and satisfaction. Journal of Asynchronous
Learning Networks, 7(1), 68–88.

author-gwen

Motivation in Education: Attention

Engaged students at computers
This image has been shared under a creative commons license (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) via Jisc (https://www.jisc.ac.uk/blog/building-social-engagement-at-your-college-or-university-21-aug-2015).

In my last post, I introduced John Keller’s ARCS Model for Motivation. The ARCs model has practical application in face-to-face, online, and blended learning environments. To recap, Keller’s ARCS Model has four parts:

  • Attention
  • Relevance
  • Confidence
  • Satisfaction

This post focuses on how you can gain a student’s attention to increase and improve his or her motivation to learn.

Liao and Wang (2008) discovered that incorporating Keller’s ARCS model in instructional design and classroom instruction allows instructors to “early spot students’ learning problems and make an early instruction intervention to further appropriately modify teaching strategies to meet various learners’ needs” (p. 56).

Did you catch that? If used in course creation and instruction, Keller’s ARCS Model for Motivation helps teachers to be more aware of their students’ learning problems. This awareness helps you adjust the curriculum and your teaching style to meet their learning needs.

Gaining Your Student’s Attention

Chesebro and McCroskey (2002, p. 90) found that “making eye contact and smiling at students, calling them by name, and using vocal variety and appropriate humor” are effective strategies to increase and maintain students’ attention in face-to-face learning environments. The character, John Keating, exemplifies these teaching strategies in the film Dead Poets Society (Weir, 1989).

Morrison (2012) offers some key strategies to increase and maintain students’ attention in online and blended learning environments: “provide timely feedback on assignments, respond to students within 24 hours, include constructive and personalized feedback on assignments, craft a weekly message, acknowledge academic challenges, and comment strategically within the discussion boards.”

When my professors used these strategies, they increased and maintained my attention. In turn, my motivation to learn and do well in my classes increased as well.

For example, in my online MA in Strategic Communication program at Liberty University, one of my professors consistently responded to my questions within 24 hours or less. He provided timely and personalized feedback on assignments. His weekly announcements and videos prepared us for the topic(s) that week and reminded us of what was due. He asked questions and responded to students in the discussion board. By engaging students in the discussion board, my professor made the discussion lively and active—encouraging students to participate.

In my next post, we will discover practical ways to motivate your students by making your course content relevant to them in and outside of the classroom.

References:

Chesebro, J. L., & McCroskey, J. C. (Eds.). (2002). Communication for teachers. Pearson.

Jisc. (2015, August 21). [Gaining students’ attention]. Retrieved from https://www.jisc.ac.uk/blog/building-social-engagement-at-your-college-or-university-21-aug-2015

Liao, H.-C., & Wang, Y.-H. (2008). Applying the ARCS motivation model in technological and vocational education. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 1(2), 53-58. http://arbor.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1056387&site=eds-live&scope=site

love2b1. (2007, April 14). Dead poets society-3 [Video file]. Retrieved from
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EdWgsTUhmI

Morrison, D. (2012, August 31). How to motivate students in the online learning environment. Retrieved April 26, 2017, from Online Learning Insights website: https://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/
how-to-motivate-students-in-the-online-learning-environment/

authors-ann

I’m Wondering: Is There a Better Way?

Wonder-thinker pixabay

I spend a lot of mental energy wondering.  I wonder if I did this … I wonder why they did that … I wonder if others wonder.  I often find myself wondering what helps people learn – including myself.  For example, I’m not very mechanically minded.  I have spent a lot of sleepless Christmas Eves trying to assemble that awesome present that looked fantastic in the store.  I often wonder if there is a better way for me to learn.

 

Could I be more effective if I attended a class on Some Assembly Required or perhaps watched a YouTube video of Super Handyman? Maybe I should pick up a copy of Assembly for Dummies on my next trip to the hardware store.

Wondering-instructions pixabay

Seems I am not alone.

One of the first studies asking the questions I asked above was conducted in the 1940’s by the US Army who had a bunch of guys who needed to learn basic calibration procedures in a short time.

They wondered if it would improve the process if they used a variety of ways to teach.  They tried three different methods – the traditional classroom, a book and a film.  After the trainings, they evaluated each group and found no significant difference in outcomes between them.

Sixty-four years later.

Years later the introduction of the personal computer and the World Wide Web gave rise to an explosion of online education.  Back in the 1990’s when I began developing online courses I wondered if online learning could be as effective as the familiar traditional classroom.  Others wondered the same thing.  In 2004 a meta-analysis report from Bernard and colleagues accumulated many research studies where they compared learning in face-to-face classes to online courses.

The majority of differences were quite small – meaning that just as in the Army research – learning was equally effective from face-to-face and online versions.  With the considerable evolution in technology since 2004 – like the smartphones and cloud-based technologies – I wonder if this is still true.

The US Department of Education wondered the same thing.

In 2010 the US Department of Education did another meta-analysis. This report summarizes experimental comparisons among purely face-to-face, purely online, and the new kid on the block – blended instruction.  Just like in 2004, this study concluded online learning was as effective as conventional classroom instruction and neither significantly outperformed the other.

Wondering-blender pixabayHowever, this time they found blended instruction to be significantly more effective than both online and face-to-face.

Blended? I wonder why.

What is it about blended instruction making it more effective?   I wonder if it’s simply because blended learning allows students to do passive activities like listening asynchronously at home and use face-to-face time for reinforcing interactions.

Maybe it’s because blended learning caters to different learning styles, like visual or kinesthetic.   Or could it be because it allows delivery of content through a variety of mediums?  I really wonder if it might be because blended gives the faculty time to be more creative making learning more interactive and fun.  I wonder if the truth might be that all of these factors contribute to making blended learning one of the most effective ways for students to learn.

So much to wonder about.   

Resources

Bernard, et al (2004). How does distance education compare with classroom instruction? A meta-analysis of the empirical literature. Review of Educational Research 74, 379-439.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online Learning: A Meta-analysis and review of online learning studies, Washington, D.C., 2010. https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf

Images: used with permission from www.pixabay.com (creative commons licenses).

author-gary

Form an Online Connection: Part 2

This post is the second in a series titled, Form an Online Connection. Part 1 was published March 9, 2017. 

In my last post, Form an Online Connection, Part 1, you read about using your voice to connect with students. This time, the focus is on using your eyes. In a face-to-face course, students have the benefit of being in the same room with the instructor. This makes it possible to observe body language, vocal tone, and facial expressions. Valuable connections are made as the professor looks into each student’s eyes and allows them to return the gaze.

Open your eyes.

Bhat, Chinprutthiwond, and Perry (2015) hypothesized that videos allowing students to have eye contact with the instructor and to view non-verbal signals contribute to better student engagement in the online environment.

It’s true; direct eye contact can be very captivating. In the online speech course I teach, I post “coaching” videos to demonstrate certain speaking techniques. Not only does this allow me to model the expected behavior for my students, it gives me the opportunity to make one-on-one eye contact with each learner. Students are often quite apprehensive about giving speeches, so with my first video (posted below), I try to alleviate their fears, give them solid tips, and connect with them on a personal level.

Use a free tool.

Instructors may conveniently record from their webcam, phone, or another device. The recording can then be uploaded to YouTube and a link embedded in the course. In addition to appearing on camera, a professor may find value in sharing what is on their computer screen (think: documents, websites, images, PowerPoint slides). Screencast-o-Matic is free software that allows anyone to record up to 15-minutes of content.

HERE ARE A FEW TIPS ON WHAT TO DO AND HOW TO DO IT:

What kind of videos can you share with students? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

IDEA 1: Provide a brief review of the prior week’s learning.

  • Recap the highlights of the week by emphasizing key concepts.
  • Clarify topics with which students may have struggled.

IDEA 2: Model how students are to implement a particular concept and/or complete an assignment.

  • Visually demonstrate the steps students need to take in order to be successful.
  • Appear on camera, but also use screen-sharing software so you can illustrate with examples.
  • Record yourself doing the task. If it’s a speech class, give a speech. If it’s a math course, solve a problem.

The main thing to keep in mind is to appear relaxed and personable.

Look directly into the lens of the camera. While it may feel awkward to you, your students will perceive that you are looking into their eyes.

Smile and use good vocal variety. Speak as though you are having a one-on-one conversation.

Keep your recording short and sweet. If it’s too brief, students won’t see the value; if it’s too long, they will tune out.

Although personal interaction may seem easier in the traditional classroom than it does in cyberspace, a little creativity and planning can result in a valuable online connection between the instructor and student through the use of video.

References

Bhat, S., Chinprutthiwong, P., Perry, M., & International Educational Data Mining, S. (2015). Seeing the Instructor in Two Video Styles: Preferences and Patterns.

Boling, E., Hough, M., Krinsky, H., Saleem, H., & Stevens, M. (2012). Cutting the distance in distance education: Perspectives on what promotes positive, online learning experiences. The Internet And Higher Education, 15(Special issue of the American Educational Research Association’s online teaching and learning special interest group), 118-126. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.11.006

El Mansour, B., & Mupinga, D. M. (2007). Students’ Positive and Negative Experiences in Hybrid and Online Classes. College Student Journal, 41(1), 242-248.

Wolff-Hilliard, D. d., & Baethe, B. b. (2013). Using Digital and Audio Annotations to Reinvent Critical Feedback with Online Adult Students. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 80(2), 40-44.

author-michelle

Motivation in Education: Overview

motivation-imageMotivating students is one of the most difficult tasks for a teacher. Don’t believe me? How many students are like Jeremy in this Zits Comic? A student’s motivation does not rely solely on his or her own effort, but also on the teacher’s behavior and the way he or she presents content. John Keller understood this when he created his ARCS Model for Motivation in 1983.

As a student studying to be a professor, I cannot stress enough the impact Keller’s ARCS model has had not only on my motivation to learn but also on the way I plan to teach and motivate others. Keller’s ARCS Model can be practically applied in face-to-face, online, and blended learning environments. The model has four parts:

  1. Attention
  2. Relevance
  3. Confidence
  4. Satisfaction

A combination of the four elements increases and maintains student motivation in and outside of the classroom. Teachers can use attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction in their classrooms to help students become motivated, remember the content, and do well in class.

In his research, Dupont (2012) noted that Keller’s motivation principles:

“have been shown to be valid and stable over the years in virtually all cultures and at all levels of education, even though there are many differences in the practices used to achieve them” (p. 28).

The key phrase is “there are many differences in the practices used to achieve them.” The world of education is changing. Face-to-face is no longer the only type of learning environment and students’ learning styles are ever-changing. More and more students seem to be psychomotor (hands-on) learners rather than cognitive learners. Teachers need to be aware of these trends and adapt their instruction accordingly, depending on the subject that they teach and the students they are teaching.

Remember, there’s a myriad of ways to implement and apply Keller’s ARCS Model in your teaching style and lesson plans. Over the next few posts in my Motivation in Education series, we’ll look at each of the ARCS components so you can think about how you can implement and apply each of them in your learning environment—whether it’s face-to-face, online, or blended.

References:
DuPont, J. S. (2012). Nursing faculty motivation to use high-fidelity simulation: An application of Keller’s ARCS model (Order No. 3547010). Available from ProQuest Central; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1267836282). Retrieved from http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1267836282?accountid=12085

Scott, J., & Borgman, J. (2016, January 3). [Motivation in education]. Retrieved from http://zitscomics.com/comics/january-3-2016/